If you’ve ever wondered what Bill Gates reads, he has been publishing annual reading lists (for example, https://www.gatesnotes.com/About-Bill-Gates/Best-Books-2017 ). Earlier this year, I saw his summer reading list (https://qz.com/988136/bill-gates-book-list-2017-recommended-books-for-summer-reading/) and picked out Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari.
This is definitely an intellectual book that puts a unique spin on human history. It’s rated 4.4 out of five with 915 reviews on Amazon.com. Somewhat to my surprise, 65% of the reviews are 5 star; I thought it would be more controversial. The best description I can give is to quote the author from his conclusions on the final page (hence the spoiler warning) —
“Yet, if we take the really grand view of life, all other problems and developments are overshadowed by three interlinked processes.
- Science is converging on an all-encompassing dogma, which says that organisms are algorithms and life is data processing.
- Intelligence is decoupling from consciousness.
- Non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms may soon know us better than we know ourselves.
These three processes raise three key questions, which I hope will stick in your mind long after you have finished this book:
- Are organisms really just algorithms, and is life really just data processing?
- What’s more valuable — intelligence or consciousness?
- What will happen to society, politics and daily life when non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms know us better than we know ourselves?”
Organisms as algorithms? (I think I know why Bill Gates likes this.) This has some profound implications — if someday there are “highly intelligent algorithms” who will ” know us better than we know ourselves,” why will they need us? What will be come of the human race?
If this interests you (and it interests somebody more than Mr. Gates; it’s #17 on the Most Read list), check out all 450 pages to see how those conclusions were reached. It’ll really give you something to think about.