Book review: 21 Lessons for 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari 

Yuval Noah Harari is a great contemporary historian and philosopher. In his books, he highlights the current challenges and issues in a friendly language and invites his readers to think more deeply.

In this thought-provoking book entitled “21 lessons for 21st Century” the writer Yuval Noah Harari specifically talks about present scenarios and predicaments of humanity and focuses on the immediate future of human societies while his other worth reading books such as Sapiens and Homo Deus mainly describe past and future of humanity.

This book is divided into 5 sections namely ‘The technological challenge, Political Challenge, Despair and Hope, Truth and Resilience’. In the very first part of the book, the writer argues about the technological challenge that is being faced immensely by humans in the recent age; as he exemplifies the twin revolutions in information and biotechnology which can not only remake and dominate our economies and societies but also our very bodies and minds. These revolutions in biotechnology and information technology would give off the control inside us and as a result, we will be enabled to manage and manipulate life. Moreover, he elaborates that a day would come about when artificial intelligence and mechanization will take the place of human beings, and ultimately humans will face the problem of paucity of jobs. Algorithms and artificial intelligence will likely make better decisions than human beings about careers and even relationships. He further indicates that globalization and technological breakthroughs will pave the way for rift and discrimination between countries resulting in the creation of unjust and unequal societies worldwide.

In the second part of the book, the writer analyzes the emergence and commencement of the global societies and boundaries of that community by identifying different ways in which tribal interest has divided humanity along nationalist, religious, and cultural lines. On one side he illustrates that in the coming decades’ human beings will possibly face a peril of ecological collapse as humans are destabilizing the global biosphere by changing the composition of the soil, the water, and the atmosphere which might destroy the foundations of human civilization on the other side he says about the disruptive technology that might change the very nature of humanity.

The third part of the book indicates that humans should not be frightened by destructive elements like terrorism, nuclear war and technological rupture, etc rather they must be humble and cognizant about such elements and views emboldening themselves to confront them. Besides, he expounds that in this 21st century we should not underestimate the stupidity of humans as they have been prone to engage in self-destructive activities like world war1 and world war2 where many people lost their lives. At the end of this part, he explains the term secularism clearly which we always misunderstand, and describes some trustworthy commitments of secular people like truth, compassion, equality, freedom, courage, and responsibility.

In the second last part of the book, Yuval Noah Harari illuminates the ignorance and unawareness of Human beings about technology, economics, and political dynamics by giving a solution to confess this ignorance. Furthermore, he expatiates truth and power supposing if you want power spread some stories, and on the other hand, if you want the truth you will have to denounce power.

In the final part of the book, he depicts that we need a comprehensive worldview and deepens our conscious level otherwise, we will be at loss at all. To understand the meaning of life we have to learn about our unique functions.

Eventually, this book 21 lessons for the 21st century written by a well-known author Yuval Noah Harari is a fascinating, commendable and informative book to read that nourished my understanding of the current issues and their solutions to find. He also vividly elaborates as mentioned above the unprecedented contemporary issues of the world like Nuclear war, Technological disruption, digital dictatorship, terrorism, and cataclysm of ecology with solutions. However, readers might disagree with the claims and conclusions of the writer but I found this book very enticing, delectable, and joyful reading and suggest everyone get benefit from it.

(Shairyar Baloch, department of English Studies, University of Punjab)


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