Homo Deus: Are We God?

Good morning Nerdies, and welcome to Rubbish Talk.

Today I am going to breathlessly talk about Homo Deus, a wildly captivating and exceedingly speculative theory postulated by the atrociously intelligent Yuval Noah Harari

WOA!! WAY . TOO . MANY . adverbs-slash-jective !

I know!

I just wanted to show you how high I deemed this book.

Because, DAMN! What a mind-blowing book!  

Let’s get on with it!

What’s this fuzz I made about?

Harari was originally known for his another mind-blowing book that he egged in 2011 but first published in English in 2014, Sapiens. Rumor (Read: Wikipedia) has it, he was virtually nobody before Sapiens, and then BOOM, he became well-known worldwide after the book had been out.

Sapiens covers a comprehensive humankind evolution history. Or in plain English, it’s about our history since those days when we were apes until today when we are assholes.

Meanwhile, Homo Deus is a forecast of what would happen to our world or to us if this new digital era are to culminate without any major hindrance.

The book is a prophecy of humankind’s future, or as Harari puts it, A Brief History of Tomorrow.

So, if you’re wondering which one should you read first, entirely basing on the historical timeline I suggest that you read Sapiens first. I suppose reading Sapiens first will give you a better understanding of Harari’s perspective that he’s basing his prediction on.  

What does the future hold for us?

According to Harari’s conjecture, there’s a sensible probability that Homo Sapiens (Read: we) are going to extinct in the future.

Future here is not the future we used to know. Since circa the last century, technological advancement has been going on in such an unprecedented speed that now we basically live in dog years. Thereby, in this epoch, future means 30 years from now.  

This brand new digital age is so shiny and intoxicating that it’s blinding us. Twenty-first century quickly becomes a time when new is always best and old means backward.

Step by step, we trumped major threats to humankind’s survival; first wars, and then flu, and eventually we also put famine to end almost completely. We’ve changed the harsh world into our cozy home.

Now that we conveniently live in peace and have Mc. Donalds in immediate access nearly everywhere we live, we put our precious time to fix finer, more individual problems. Your heart vein is clogged up? Have a ring attached to it, and live longer. Don’t want the hassle asking people around for direction? Have a map app smarter than you that can track wherever you are, and never get lost again! Even cancer is no longer a huge scare like it used to be!

Apparently it’s in our DNA to never be complacent with ourselves. First we made our lives free from threats, then we produced as many of our kind as we could, and then, good became the new bad. So we started to upgrade our lives. This upgrading process has been getting more and more sophisticated, that now we are in the middle of doing or being something so progressive that no one knows what will be of us or of this earth in the future.

In Homo Deus, Harari dares us that if we keep going on this track, whatever species that will thrive through the twenty-first century might not be us. Looking at the way how things go, it could be some mishmash Homo Cyborg or just plain Cyborg.

It’s an argument. And therefore it’s in its nature to be challenged.

Today we are the latest God, we possess the power to do and take whatever we want to and from the earth and its other inhabitants. We decide which direction this world would go. Though also comes with the power we have such a superior ego that won’t let us believe that we, the designer, the administrator of this world, are going to extinct. So naturally, many people take Harari’s hypothesis as ludicrous. And these people are called optimists. They argue that on the contrary of what Harari surmises, we are about to face our best days.

If you’re interested in knowing the other side of this contention, Steven Pinker is the most eminent optimist on this subject (that I know), and his most profound work is Enlightenment Now.

As a matter of confession, I haven’t read that book. #LOL

Given time slots and reading pace that I had and was born with, I read a shorter piece of Pinker’s mind instead. I read a debate record titled Do Humankind’s Best Days Lie Ahead between the optimists which were represented by Steven Pinker and Matt Ridley, and the pessimists’ side delivered by Alain de Botton and Malcolm Gladwell.

I hate to say this but I suggest you not read that book. For two reasons. First one is thickness-wise the book looks more like a booklet than a real book. Which means the book(let) entails not enough analysis on such a complex dispute. And second reason, in my opinion, the debate is closer to a belligerent discussion than a substantial dialogue. I was expecting much more meat and less aggression in the talk to be honest.

Fortunately, beside Pinker’s real book, you can also listen to Pinker’s speech on Ted Talk.

What’s important though.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which side you stand on this topic, the subject is intriguing and compelling by itself, thereby it won’t hurt anybody really to get to taste a morsel of it. Even opposing my opinion by perusing that booklet will actually give you some idea on the matter. But better read the real book, Of Course!

Writing-wise

When it comes to writing skill, I think it is the one thing that matters the most in fiction. But in non-fictional literature, it is that one thing that gives the WOW effect when we realize that the author is just not impossibly knowledgeable but also has an insane writing skill.

And Harari is exactly THAT kind of author. If you think history is boring, maybe it’s not the history that’s boring, maybe the one who’s blabbering about it who’s boring. Because I found out through Harari’s books, that one can actually recount and explain history as if it’s a gossip! Yes, I swear his books are that juicy, provocative and engaging!

One thing that I thought was Harari’s best writing trait was his way to turn every complex matter into the easiest thing to understand. I was glad that one didn’t have to be smart to read his books, otherwise I wouldn’t be here talking about them!

Last thing, before I say goodbye.

This last piece is for you who are a true believer in the merit of sales number.

Based on Come and see Yuval Noah Harari at Brand Minds 2019 !, Harari’s books are sold 12 million copies worldwide and translated into 50 languages (by 2019). These are history books, and it’s freaking 12 million! I can write 10 pages long advertising these books, but a single me can lie. Unlike those 12 million people (discounting those who borrowing and not buying) who surely can’t!

Finally, you’re at the end of this endless post, and if you read every word I’d written, here’s 12 million thank yous for you!

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Michelle Obama as a Friend: Becoming

I am an ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey. And sharing my story I hope to help create space for other stories and other voices, to widen the pathway for who belongs and why

Michelle Obama

Hi, Nerdies!

 

It’s time for the famous Becoming, an autobiography of Michelle Obama.

 

The fact that Becoming became a best-selling book in only two weeks after launching illustrates how much people adore Michelle Obama better than anything else can.  

I knew that a memoir was a place where people got personal, but I didn’t know that you could get this personal like how Michelle did in her book.

To me, Michelle always came across as a self-possessed and confident person. Like whatever comes, she’ll know what to do kind of person. I thought she was the kind of woman who’s always on top of things, who would segway from duty to duty smoothly, and kept the perfect balance of work and family at all times.  

I’d never thought she too could have her own insecurities or uncertainties. She looked so tough and strong, it’s like I wasn’t even sure if Michelle Obama had ever cried before.

But she turned out to be as normal as any other woman could be. And she wasn’t afraid to show it. That’s what makes Becoming totally worthwhile.

 

Becoming Me.

As a child, had you or had you not ever been asked this question:
What do you want to be when you grow up?

Michelle told Oprah on Super Soul Conversation, that this frequently asked question bothered her. In her opinion, the question suggests that a child is ought to know what his dream is, like it is a finite thing. Michelle herself though, rather considers that in life, one is supposedly confronted with an endless phases of becoming someone or something.

Hence the title, Becoming.

In the book, Michelle sort of divides her hitherto life journey into three big chapters, Becoming Me, Becoming Us, and Becoming More.

In the first chapter, Becoming Me, the message that I suppose Michelle is trying to get across is how her childhood life was not much different to ours. That she comes from a family that is similar to ours.

I was particularly taken aback when I read about the time when Michelle stopped being a lawyer after she realized that that kind of life wasn’t for her. First of all, I didn’t know that she stopped being a lawyer at all. And second of all I had no idea that she took herself as a person who wasn’t cut out for lawyer-life. And I thought achieving that level of career she must have had relished it. How little did I know about her before this book really?  

I was also astonished knowing that she was once living a life driven by the ambition of checking boxes and powered by a thing as cliché as money. I really wasn’t expecting that from her at all.

Anyway, after that.

Having overcome a load of hesitation, she eventually resigned from being a lawyer when she was almost 30 years old. That decision alone, at that kind of age, deserves an applause. And she only got more courageous from that moment on. She subsequently started working for a semi non-profit organization which should have been sort of her dream job. But then, not having the income she needed became another problem. How did she react then? Just go read the book. #winkwink

The hope is I guess, through this part of her life she would inspire us not to balk on a change, no matter how drastic it is. Instead, having regrets is what we should be afraid of.

 

Becoming Us.

Michelle has been answering the same question with the same answer over and over again, yet the very question is still hovering around us. When will Michelle run for president?

In the second section, Becoming Us, Michelle seems hoping to finally put this inquiry to rest once and for all.

And her answer still remains unchanged. It’s Never.

Us expecting Michelle to be the next president means also that we undermine completely the complexity and the tangible risks of politics. Most of us don’t understand politics well, yet we are anticipating Michelle to be involved in something that she understands very well yet can’t stand it.

Michelle’s ordinary life stopped when she replaced the Robinson in her name with Obama. Michelle couldn’t possibly explain it better than she did in her memoir, how marrying the Barack Obama had made a normal life simply no longer attainable.

Barack Obama was born different. He was born to lead a big change.

And the only reason Michelle agreeing Barack to run was because she couldn’t bear to be the one to stop him, to hinder him. She couldn’t help but feel small juxtaposed with the intensity of people’s hopes and the prospect of what the man was capable of doing.

Politics was her compromise, her sacrifice.

To be someone’s wife is essentially a sacrifice of identity. To let everyone including countless non-deserving ones judge your life at all times is a sacrifice of normality. And to let your kids be exposed to the harm of politics is too big of a sacrifice that not everyone can make.

Thereby, she was somehow waiting it to be over someday. And it finally did.

 

Becoming More.

Up to this point, we have been served with Michelle’s sides of story that we weren’t aware before. But now that we are at the brink of the end, it turns out, we also have some things that we’ve already known all along.

Like the fact that she is a best friend material.

Becoming is one of her ways to reach out to people. Sharing her story, it seems that she is hoping we could get the idea that life is pretty much the same to her as it to us. That she also fights the same battle as ours. That in a way, we are never alone in our fights.   

While I was listening to her narration of the book, I couldn’t help but picture Michelle and us girls in a den where we were keenly listening to her telling her life story.

And as if she was really our friend, she was empowering us through her narrative.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and see you next week!

Muhammad: The Prophet for Our Time

Muhammad_ Prophet for Our Time cover

A book by Karen Armstrong

In 2018, many people perceive Islam as a fearsome and provoking religion, which its believers are alleged of incorporating terror and atrocity into their creed. With this kind of worrisome yet prevailing accusation it’s only natural that Muhammad as the chief figure of Islam to be perceived as a man of war. Although Muhammad’s life story tells a different tale.

Muhammad: The Prophet for Our Time is a remarkable book. For what its worth, this book immediately made to my lifetime must read list (without question!).

Writing my opinion about this book I realize that it’s only right for me to confer both my personal conviction and creed of my environs first. I reside in Indonesia, a country which Islam is a major religion (above 90% of citizens are Muslims). Yet I was raised as a Christian (10% of citizens). These two facts have essentially shaped my faith by inducing myself to contemplate the one right belief to follow. And as of today, I am by all means agnostic.

Karen Amstrong wrote her book addressing Western world which is deeply affected by thus skeptic of Islam. Indonesia is not a Western country yet the context Karen brought in fits perfectly in this nation. Our politicians exploit religion based chasm among citizens to manipulate poll results all the time. As I write this article, people are ubiquitously insulting each other by offensively defending each religion on and offline.

Recently, a governor won his position by convincing otherwise neutral Muslims that it’s a reprehensible sin for a Muslim to vote for a Christian. This record belies the fact that one’s religion is totally irrelevant with his integrity. This event naturally spread insecurity among Christians in the nation hence the hatred in the air. This hostile situation is evidently tough to straighten out.

If you have ever read any of Karen Amstrong’s books, you would have known that Karen constantly asserts that Muhammad himself is not a man of war. Muhammad is in fact (she argues), a man of peace. I imagine that if people tried to understand Muhammad as hard as Karen did, we would have been able to avoid this debacle. It’s greatly ironic to think that Muhammad had strived for peace which many people who profess to be his believers had made it hard to achieve.

I suppose this book would be perfect for both Muslims and non-Muslims. Reading this book would help to emphatize with the Prophet, to rectify erroneous allegation, and eventually to establish harmony. Harmony which until today, has been nothing but utopic.

-Sky-