Although man of us don ’ t need to lose too much sleep over bears these days, modern life does present plenty of other reasons for concern: terrorism, climate change, the rise of A.I., encroachments on our privacy, even the apparent decline of international cooperation.In his fascinating new book 21 Lessons for the 20th Century, the historian Yuval Noah Harari creates a useful framework for confronting these fears.
Keep this in mind the next time you start to doubt whether we can solve a global problem like climate change.
Our global cooperation may have taken a couple of steps back in the past two decade, but before that we took a thousand steps forward.So why does it seem as if the world is in decline?
As it should.Here ’ s another worry that Harari deals with: In an increasingly complex world, how can any of us have enough dat to make educated decisions?
But he does insist that life in the twentieth century demands mindfulness—getting to know ourselves better and seeing how we contribute to suffering in our own lives.
This is difficul to mock, but as someone who ’ s taking a course on mindfulness and meditation, I found it compelling.As much as I admire Harari and enjoyed 21 Lessons, I didn ’ t agree with everything in the books.
imply having information won ’ t offer a competitive edge; knowing what to do with it will.Similarly, I wanted to see more nuance in Harari ’ s iscussion of data and privacy.
If science is eventually able to give that dream to most people, and large numbers of people no longer need to work in order to feed and clothe everyone, what reason will we have to get up in the night? It ’ s no criticism to say that Harari hasn ’ t produced a satisfying answer yet.
In the eantime, he has teed up a crucial global conversation about how to take on the roblems of the 21st century.This originally appeared in the New York Times Book Review.