Yuval Noah Hariri’s best selling first book, “Sapiens”, set out the last 75,000 years of human history, finishing with the idea that homo sapiens has reached both the height and limit of its power. “Homo Deus” begins where “Sapiens” finishes: it is a brief history of tomorrow.
Hariri asserts that “Having raised humanity above the beastly level of survival struggles, we will now aim to upgrade humans into gods, and turn Homo sapiens into Homo Deus.” To support this claim, Hariri examines the factors which make homo sapiens unique. The uniqueness of the human species lies not in the fact that humans have emotions - animals like pigs or dogs have these; but in the idea that humans exceed these capacities through being able to encode complex algorithms. Hariri describes this as a “methodological set of steps that can be used to make calculations, resolve problems and reach decisions.” Whilst pigs are able to encode algorithms, Hariri argues that human ones are especially powerful. In this sense, we are merely sophisticated data-processing machines.
The evidence of this power is around us, as we have begun to overcome humanity’s worst problems. For instance, wars and famines are increasingly obsolete, whilst disease is on the retreat. Indeed, Hariri is highly optimistic about the capabilities that medical technologies will have in the 21st century.
The problem, however, is that other algorithms that we have built could be able to manipulate data more efficiently than we ever could. For instance, Hariri points out that governments find it extremely difficult to keep up with the pace of technological change. These data processing machines are much more efficient than states could ever be. In this sense, Hariri describes the “uncoupling” of intelligence and consciousness.
Right now, we are only at the start of a data driven transformation and for Hariri, there is little that we can do to prevent it from coming. Things are moving at such a pace that it is impossible to imagine what the world will hold in the year 2100. If intelligence is decoupling from consciousness, then this suggests that humans might, just like current animals, be at the mercy of possessors of superior intelligence that we ourselves have created.