21 Lessons for the 21 Century

“Humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better.” — Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21 Century

21 Lessons for the 21 Century is the newest work of best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari, first published just few weeks ago. We learned about the past from Sapiens. We learned about the future from Homo Deus. And in 21 Lessons for the 21 Century we embrace the NOW.

It’s hard to form words to describe my excitement and adoration for this book. As previous books, it certainly doesn’t let you down. 21 lessons cover many interesting topics about truth and how we are post-truth species and how some fake news only lasted for 700 years… So what you’re getting now is nothing.

Book is divided in five parts. First part explores the technological challenges: you might not have a job when you grow up because the world is changing so fast and because many jobs will be lost and it is still uncertain whether new jobs would come in their place. How big data is always watching and what would happen in case of a digital dictatorship. We are not equal now and we’ll be less so in the future because who will own all the data?

Second part explores political challenges of 21 Century. Humans have bodies…or do we, as separation of online and offline world is decreasing. And the immigration. No one seems keen to emigrate to Russia. Third part of the book is called ‘Despair and Hope’ and it is more philosophical and already offers some answers on big global questions like terrorism, wars and religion.

“Truth and power can travel together only so far. Sooner or later they go their separate ways. If you want power, at some point you will have to spread fictions. If you want to know the truth about the world, at some point you will have to renounce power.”— Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21 Century

Fourth part is exciting because it combines truth and science fiction (just kidding…or not). We do not only groupthink, we are also post-truth species. If you think propaganda spread out by Putin or Trump is bad, just imagine how some fake news lasted for centuries. Or forever. And we get to science fiction. You love movies and series like The Matrix, Westworld and Black Mirror. I know I do. But all of them seem to imply that machines would take over or that our authentic selves are trapped somewhere.

Last part, funnily, because I always tend to think that Harari is a hopeless pessimist, gives some hope and advise. By learning to adapt fastly, you might survive as change is now the only variable you can trust. And also a lot can be learned by just observing the world.

Perhaps, unlike Sapiens and Homo Deus, this book did not shock me and completely alter how I see the world (Homo Deus made me love evolution theory and turned me into atheist from agnostic). 21 Lessons for the 21 Century is deeply thoughtful and it mainly questions big global trends, not as much giving direct answers. This was also much more personal as Harari questions Judaism and openly discusses him being married to a man as well and his personal journey on how he came to understand reality through meditation for example. It’s a bit repetitive on fictional stories we love to weave though I guess that’s essential here. I loved this and would give it 5/5 stars

“To run fast, don’t take much luggage with you. Leave all your illusions behind. They are very heavy.”— Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21 Century

How-To Read 21 Lessons for the 21 Century

1. Read, digest, think. And then think more. Maybe start meditation?

2. You should read Sapiens and Homo Deus before tackling this one although it’s great independently as well.

3. Not a book that will revolutionize your thinking, though definitely great tool for deeper reflection on the world.

Have you read it? Would you want to read it? Thoughts?

Old Man’s War

I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife’s grave. Then I joined the army.
Visiting Kathy’s grave was the less dramatic of the two.”
― John Scalzi, Old Man’s War

Old Man’s War is a military science fiction / space opera novel by American writer John Scalzi, published in 2005. His debut novel was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2006.

Good news first. Humanity has finally made it into interstellar space. Bad news: planets fit for life are very few and we have to fight for them against other alien races.

“Guns don’t kill people. The aliens behind the triggers do.”
― John Scalzi, Old Man’s War

Some minor spoilers in this review.
This sort of reminded me of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Except that obviously, there are some great big differences. Major one being:  It’s not about the kids! It’s about the old people! Har har har! And it’s a space opera so it doesn’t carry the same almost depressing tone like Ender’s game. The plot and even the very first lines of the book are amazing.On his 75th birthday, John Perry joins the army. And it’s not something uncommon. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF or Colonial Defense Force. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets. John Perry takes the deal.

This is why I picked up the book really ..It was very unique story blurb to read from Audible description of the book.  Life apparently just starts when you’re old. And so our John joins the army and gets a new, green, better body, a BrainPal he call “Asshole” and off he goes to fight battles with alien life forms.

“Many BrainPal users find it useful to give their BrainPal a name other than BrainPal. Would you like to name your BrainPal at this time?
“Yes,” I said.
Please speak the name you would like to give your BrainPal.
“Asshole,” I said.
― John Scalzi, Old Man’s War

Needless to say that I very much enjoyed this book. There were many reasons.  As so often in books, I adored the humorous style. And jokes of Perry that no one but him really got (happens to me all the time). Then there was the age factor. Perry was so tactful about everything and simply wise in many situations and there was little of this stupid arguing between the characters. I Iiked how aliens were written… I liked how people were written. Descriptions of personalities were awesome. And world and aliens were just unbelievable enough for them to be believable. Moreover, even though it is a space opera, it carried some quite serious observations and thoughts. For example, there was no diplomacy because CDF had basically decided that it’s too slow and it’s easier just to start a war… Perry also describes his feelings when he fights seemingly intelligent life forms and the whole book also questions what it is to be human really. And then because it’s war, many die…
BUT there are great plot twists!

Once again, I listened to this on Audible (It’s my new favorite app) and I really liked William Dufris’ performance. This will sound weird to those of you who don’t listen to audio books but he was good with both female and male voices and old and young voices. Moreover, I guess with good audio books you can’t quite tell what it was but you just like the performance.
I guess what I didn’t like was that it ended so quickly :(

4,5/5 stars

How-To Read Old Man’s War

1. If you love science fiction, read this (or listen to it), you’ll be very entertained. If you like space opera, you’ll love this.
2. Just 10 hours on Audible! (Or about 400 pages).
3. Easy kind of sciene fiction, surely as a scifi fan you’ll overanalyze everything anyway but good authors make it easy for you to overanalyze it.
4. There’s  5 more books to this series! (Ah I can’t wait tor read them.)
5. John Scalzi has this greatest blog called Whatever – This machine mocks fascists. It’s quite humorous.

Do not mourn me, friends
I fall as a shooting star
Into the next life

― John ScalziOld Man’s War