Review :

It's Life as we know it, Jim! (But don't ask what it means).

'A wise old man was asked what he learned about the meaning of life. 'Well,' he answered, 'I have learned that I am here on earth in order to help other people. What I still haven't figured out is why the other people are here.'

As Harari explains:

"We are now living in an age of information explosion the last thing people need is more information. What they really need is somebody to arrange all of the bits of information into a meaningful picture - and this is what I try to do."

Following on from Sapiens and Homo Deus, both of which were entertainingly accessible, this investigation of our species has a more personal approach, yet is just as vigorously researched and remarkably impartial.

There are so many fascinating insights that I wanted to highlight in this book that it is hard to chose examples, and many are frightening to contemplate, such as:

'Globalisation has certainly benefited large segments of humanity, but there are signs of growing inequality both between and within societies. Some groups increasingly monopolise the fruits of globalisation, while billions are left behind. Already today, the richest 1 per cent owns half the world's wealth. Even more alarmingly, the richest hundred people together own more than the poorest 4 billion. This could get far worse'.

However I'm sure that contributors to Goodreads will particularly enjoy the section on the importance of literature, especially for aficionados of SF :-

" it is equally important to communicate the latest scientific theories to the general public through popular-science books, and even through the skilful use of art and fiction. Does that mean scientists should start writing science fiction That is actually not such a bad idea. Art plays a key role in shaping people's view of the world, and in the twenty-first century science fiction is arguably the most important genre of all, for it shapes how most people understand things like AI, bioengineering and climate change. We certainly need good science, but from a political perspective, a good science-fiction movie is worth far more than an article in Science or Nature.".

On the whole, the message Harari imparts is a positive one and he does offer some hope for the survival of our species. At the end of the book he describes his own personal way to discover a 'firm ethical ground in a world that extends far beyond my horizons, that spins completely out of human control, and that holds all gods and ideologies suspect'
This is the book I will pass on to my grand daughter when she is of an age to wonder why our world is the way it is. In fact, I think it is essential reading for every human being on this planet.

Update: Many thanks to the publisher for granting my wish of reading an ARC via Netgalley

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