Introducing the book 21Lessons for the 21st Century
21 Lessons for the 21st Century is the third book of Yoval Noah Harari that focuses on the present and where we live. The author’s first two books, The Wise Man, examine man’s past and show how man became the ruler of the earth. The author’s second book, The God-Man, explored the future and sought to portray the ultimate destination of human intelligence and conscience. But this book – the third book of Yoval Noah Harari – deals with human issues now and in the near future.
Yoval raises a few important questions about this book and what it covers in the introduction:
What is happening now? What are the biggest challenges and choices today? What should we pay attention to? What should we teach our children?
Bill Gates, a fan and reader of Yoval books, writes of 21 Lessons for the 21st Century:
The human mind is always worried, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. However, if a bear comes to you, worry can save your life; These days, though, most of us do not have to worry about bears, because modern life offers many reasons to worry: terrorism, climate change, the rise of artificial intelligence, fake news, invasion of privacy, and even a blatant decline in global cooperation.
In this book, Harari provides a useful framework for dealing with these fears. According to him, the secret to ending our anxieties is not to worry, but to know what to worry about, how much to worry about, and how to prepare for a different future from the world in which we live.
The book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century explicitly examines the complex challenges of the present age and is therefore essential to reading.
Noah Harari has a doctorate in history from Oxford University, and his previous two books have sold more than 12 million copies and have been translated into 45 languages. Harari twice received the Polanski Prize in 2009 and 2012 for creativity and originality, and in 2011 he won the Mancado Military History Association Award for his outstanding articles in military history.
Book Summary 21 lessons for the 21st century
In the author’s previous books, the reader was somehow confronted with the story. A story that told the past and the future, but there is no historical narrative in this book, and the book consists of different lessons. As the title suggests, the book contains 21 lessons that emphasize the serious challenges of the present and the near future. These 21 lessons answer various questions, but what all these lessons have in common is the answer to the question, what is really happening in today’s world? And more importantly, what do these events mean?
The 21 lessons in this book are categorized into 5 sections. The first section addresses the technological challenge, which includes four chapters on de-idealization, labor, freedom, and equality. In the first part, the author emphasizes again that man pays more attention to stories and thinks about this issue, but the main point is that in today’s world, important and widespread world stories are disappearing. This is at a time when the integration of biotechnology and information technology is facing our greatest human challenges to date.
The second part of the book deals with the political challenge and includes the chapters on society, civilization, nationalism, religion and immigration. This section shows that the integration of biotechnology and information technology threatens the modern core of the values of freedom and equality, and that any solution to the technological challenge must be accompanied by global cooperation. But nationalism, religion, and culture have made it very difficult to divide human beings into hostile camps and to participate globally.
The third section, called Despair and Hope, includes the chapters on terrorism, war, humility, God, and secularism. This is perhaps the most challenging part of the book, and the author believes that despite unprecedented challenges and intense differences, if we control our fears and fall short of our beliefs, perhaps human beings can overcome problems such as terrorism and war.
The fourth part of the book is called 21 lessons for the 21st century truth, which includes the lessons of ignorance, justice, post-truth and scientific myth. In this section, Yuval asks, to what extent can we understand global developments and distinguish crime from justice? He shows that global processes have become more complex than anyone can easily understand. This section shows us how to understand the truth about the world and what we need to do to avoid falling victim to false propaganda and news. This section can be considered the most important section of the book.
The last section of the book, called Flexibility, consists of three lessons: Education, Meaning, and Meditation. Noah Harari has put together different threats in this section and has taken a more general look. Basic and thought-provoking questions are raised in this section. Who are we at a time when old stories have collapsed and no new story has been found to replace them? What should we do in life? What skills do we need?
In another part of the author’s introduction, which gives the reader a better view of the book’s issues, Yoval addresses the important questions he answers in the book. In this section we read:
Some chapters of the book reflect the human intellect and the rest highlight the vital role of human stupidity. But a very important question remains: What is happening in the world today and what is the deep meaning of these events? What does Donald Trump’s rise to power mean? What can we do about the epidemic of fake news? Why is Liberal Democracy in crisis? Has God returned to our lives? Is a new war about to take place? What civilization dominates the world – Western civilization, China or Islam? Should Europe open its doors to immigrants? Can nationalism solve the problems of inequality and climate change? What should be done to fight terrorism?
About the book 21Lessons for the 21st Century
At the very beginning, in the first sentence of the book’s introduction, the reader quickly realizes that the book has good professions to say. Professions that can be very helpful in this busy world. Noah Harari Yoval’s books have always been a challenge and always engage the reader. The first sentence of the introduction also shows exactly that we are facing a challenging book again. The first sentence of the introduction is: “In a world plagued by a flood of irrelevant information, transparency is paramount.” So here I suggest you if you are looking for transparency, do not miss reading this book.
In 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, we are faced with a vast amount of information that Yoval provides us with in its own unique style, so that the book is by no means boring or vague, all at the same time simplicity and clarity in front of you. But we must note that among the masses of information in the book, some are scientific facts or proven facts, and others are merely the personal opinions of the author. Not mixing the two will ultimately give the reader a better view of each of the lessons.
Another thing about the book is whether the topics in this book overlap with the author’s previous books. The answer to this question is “yes”, but if you read the books of the wise man and the god-like man and are satisfied with the writing and content of the books of Yoval, I strongly suggest you to read this book as well. Some of the contents of this book were briefly in the books of the wise man and the god-like man, but here each of them is referred to in more detail. Our other suggestion is that you have just read the first two books of Yoval, wait a while and then start reading this book.
21Lessons for the 21st Century
I should point out that the contents of this book may seem difficult or specialized to someone who has not read Yoval’s writings, but the fact is that the contents of the book are expressed in the simplest possible way and will undoubtedly overwhelm any reader. Naturally, we recommend everyone to read this book, but we especially recommend reading it to parents. Reading this book broadens each person’s horizons and helps them think about things we have never thought of before. It also makes us worry about things we may not have known existed before reading the book.
One final topic about this book is its translation. The translation of the book was done by Soodabeh Qaisari, which is a good and acceptable translation in general, but if we want to compare it with the translation of the books of the wise man and the god-like man, the weaknesses of this translation can be easily identified. The book’s editing could certainly have been better, but in any case, if the reader is interested in reading the book, the translation is satisfactory.
Excerpts from the book 21 lessons for the 21st century
Humans think more about stories than facts, figures and equations. And the simpler the story, the better. Each person, group and nation has their own stories and legends. (Book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Page 19)
In the long run, no job will be completely immune to automation. Even artists should be aware of this. In the modern world, art is usually associated with human emotions. We like to think that artists transmit inner psychological forces and that the whole purpose of art is to connect us to our emotions or to stimulate new emotions within us. Consequently, when we want to value art, we tend to judge it by the emotional effects it has on the viewer. But what if art means human emotions? What happens when external algorithms are able to understand and manage human emotions better than Shakespeare, Frida Kahlo, or Beyoncé? (Book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Page 44)
The more scientists gain a deeper understanding of how humans make decisions, the more likely they are to be tempted to rely on algorithms. Achieving human decision-making not only makes algorithms more reliable, but also makes human emotions less reliable. The more successful governments and corporations become in achieving the human performance system, the more we will be exposed to a barrage of clever manipulations, advertisements, and propaganda. (Book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Page 77)
When ISIS occupied large parts of Syria and Iraq, it killed thousands of people, destroyed historic sites, toppled statues, and systematically destroyed the symbols of previous regimes and Western cultural influence. But when his warriors entered the banks and found treasures full of American dollars emblazoned with American presidents and slogans in English praising American religious and political ideals, they did not burn the symbols of American imperialism. Because the dollar bill is revered in all religious and political divisions around the world. Although it has no intrinsic value – you can not eat or drink a dollar bill – the trust in the dollar and the wisdom of the federal central bank is so strong that even Islamist extremists, Mexican drug gods and North Korean tyrants share. (Book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Page 136)
The success or failure of terrorism depends on us. Terrorism will succeed if we allow our minds to be captured by terrorists and then react strongly to our fears. If we free our minds from the captivity of terrorism and then react in a calm and balanced way, terrorism will fail. (21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Page 206)
Humans seldom think only of themselves. We think preferably as a group. Just as raising a child requires the cooperation of a tribe, so does the invention of a device, the resolution of a conflict, or the treatment of a disease require the cooperation of a tribe. No one alone knows everything about building a church, an atomic bomb or an airplane. What set the wise man a little higher than other animals and made us lords of the earth was not our individual logic, but our unparalleled ability to think together in large groups. (Book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Page 268)
No one will listen to you when you try to explain the true complexity of war using accurate statistics and data, but a personal story about a child’s fate activates the tear ducts, boils blood, and creates false moral certainty. . (Book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Page 281)
In order not to lag behind the world of 2050, you will need not only to invent new ideas and products, but above all, to recreate yourself over and over again. (Book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Page 319)
If you really want to understand yourself, you should not identify yourself with your Facebook page or with your inner story. You have to see the real flow of body and mind. You will find thoughts, feelings, and desires appearing and disappearing for no apparent reason, just like the various winds that blow from one side to the other, tearing your hair apart.
And just as you are not the wind, so are you not a mixture of the thoughts, emotions, and desires you experience, and certainly not the pasteurized story you tell with foresight about these experiences. You experience them all, but you do not control them, you do not own them, and you do not own them. People ask, “Who am I?” And they expect a story to be told to them. The first thing you need to know about yourself is that you are not a storyteller. (Book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Page 365)
2- Introducing the book 21Lessons for the 21st Century in Aparat