(Audio) Homo Deus, by Harari

Sunday March 31, 2024

It feels like Harari got the advance for Homo Deus before really thinking it through. It's rambling, over-long, without cohesive thesis, and like a time capsule of science and tech news from 2014: Big Data! Watson! Quantified Self! Mild Accelerando flavor. I wish I'd read the Critical Reception section from Harari's Wikipedia entry and skipped this book.

My biggest gripe is probably that Harari argues (at length) that animals have consciousness, and that animals are algorithms, and then also claims without a second thought that algorithms implemented via computer have no consciousness.

Harari also makes the fairly common error of scientific exceptionalism: the belief that scientific ways of knowing are fundamentally distinct from all others. For the number of words he releases on related topics, this is frustrating.

Harari does say some reasonable things. I think he's correct in pointing out limitations in our understanding of consciousness. (I think this is such an interesting topic I wrote a short story about it.)

I also like Harari's phrasing around learning history in order to be liberated from it. But throughout the book, the moments of lucidity make the languid and ludicrous majority that much more unbearable.