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?