Your Chocolate Bar is more Likely to Kill you than Human Violence in 2019— Homo Deus
If you want to change your perspective on life, you can do 1 of 2 things: read Sapiens (or read my article about sapiens 😉) or read Homo Deus. These books have entirely transformed my view of the world and how the world works.
Warning: this book will entertain you but also terrify you once you realized how incredibly screwed we are. Like seriously, humans have some deep problems ahead of them.
Homo Deus helped me do more than just understand the world today and how it works. It also helped me understand the world of tomorrow… if we even have a planet by then lol.
The world has changed significantly over time.
We’ve approached one of the safest times in history.
We have over-the-counter medication for diseases that were deadly 100 years ago. Think about smallpox. In 1900 people would be dying of smallpox left and right. But today, smallpox is barely an issue.
We also have food. It’s crazy to think that there was a point in history where a little misfortune (like someone stealing your goat or severe drought killing your crops) could be the end of your family’s meals. Famines were a normal thing for most of history. If a family had crappy crops, they’ll also have a crappy income, which might mean cutting down on their meals.
A disease won’t be able to cause a potato famine in the 21st century because our technology has advanced to the point where we can avoid events like the Irish potato famine of 1845–1852. You can eat your MacDonalds fries in peace, safety and security.
Also in the 21st century, we have the smallest percentage of people ever malnourished or hungry in history. And as technology improves to maintain world hunger and nutrition, this percentage will go down even more.
“There are no longer natural famines in the world”… great! “there are only political famines. If people in Syria, Sudan or Somalia starve to death, it is because some politician wants them to.” … that’s not great.
The world is a crazy place. We don’t even realize how lucky we are in North America. There are places in the world where the government is set to starve you like Somalia or Kenya . Before it was mother nature starving you, now it’s your president.
Ok recap. We have better medical practices and better control of nature. We’re also living in one of the most peaceful times in history.
Humans have evolved such a long way. Imagine explaining what the internet is to someone walking down the street in New York in 1874. They probably would have spat on you and called you absolutely insane. Here we are, 2019, 3.4 B people on this thing “the internet”, 40% are teenagers.
Half of humankind is expected to be overweight by 2030
Less than 100 years ago, in the 1930s, people were barely making enough money to buy bread during the great depression. Now we’re fatter than ever.
What’s craziest to me is the fact that news broadcasters focus more on human violence and less on obesity and food-related diseases.
“ In 2012 about 56M people died throughout the world; 620,000 of them died due to human violence (war killed 120,000 people, and crime killed another 500,000). In contrast, 800,000 committed suicide and 1.5 M died of diabetes. Sugar is now more dangerous than gunpowder”
We hear about the stupidity of the human race all the time. But when did you last see the news headline “Big Mac kills teen in Atlanta”. Never. Because it’s bad for business.
In 2010 obesity-related diseases killed 3M people while terrorists killed 7,697. Governments are banning people because they come from countries associated with terrorism (which is a false stereotype), but they’re perfectly fine with companies like Coca-cola poisoning average Americans because it has a ton of sugar.
Humans can’t keep up with big corporations like coca-cola whose products are deadlier than terrorists. Who’s going to stop coke from operating? Probably no one.
The news is centred around bad stuff going on right now. But how often does the news talk about the bad stuff headed for the future? The fact that sugar’s killing us? Humans are getting informed of things like terrorism which is scaring people more than their rich chocolate cupcakes with a filling of caramel and peanuts, topped with peanut butter-marshmallow frosting, a drizzle of chocolate and more peanuts. And this is because terrorism is an immediate threat to humans. Unhealthy food is a long term effect, that often many people don’t think about.
Sometimes, we all need a fat slice of chocolate cake to cheer us up.
Humans are wired to deal with short-term threats. We are powered to protect ourselves in the moment, not in the future. That’s why people are more scared of shootings than their ice cream sandwich, but as safety continues to improve, maybe it should be the other way around?
Large sugar corporations are going to become the deadliest killers once we overcome world hunger and suicide. It’s slightly ironic that once we overcome hunger, people eating too much/ people eating unhealthily will become will become the biggest death threat.
Who knows if we’ll get to that point though. We might completely destruct the environment before that point, and we won’t have enough room to grow palm oil. Palm oil is used in many food products today, even some you wouldn’t expect (bread, instant noodles, vegan cheese…) it also makes up 8% of carbon emissions when factoring production and fossil fuels used to clear the land.
Death won’t matter if we have nowhere left to live
If we cure cancer, Alzheimer's, and heart disease, that would be great. However, there won’t be much use to that if we have nowhere to live. So far, humans have done an excellent job in completely destroying the environment. If we keep it up, we’ll have nothing left to destroy.
Remember the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs 66M years ago? It had the energy strength of 100 million nuclear bombs and caused the greatest mass extinction in history, the dinosaurs. Ya well, in about a century our impact on earth will surpass the impact of that asteroid.
Reading this book I was shocked at the things our species has done. We started off as insignificant apes, and in 70,000 years we manipulated the entire global ecosystem, and we’re entering the worst ecological disaster of all time. How reassuring.
Homo Deus made me realize how incredibly fucked we are for the future of our planet. Let me list our biggest problems on earth right now and what we’re doing to solve them:
- Problem: transportation congestion. Specifically Public Transportation. What we’re doing to solve this: Hyperloop, self-driving cars, rockets, etc.
- Problem: cars using fossil fuels. What we’re doing to solve this: electric cars. Problem: other things using fossil fuels. What we’re doing to solve this: solar energy???
- Problem: cancer. What we’re doing to solve this(probably): genetic engineering
- Problem: drug discovery. Imagine a time before Advil. What would you have done when you had a headache? Muscle aches? An annoying partner? Work? A minor inconvenience? Advil is a miracle drug. But it took them 18 years to discover Advil. What we’re doing to solve this: Quantum computers to discover drugs quicker. Hopefully, they come up with more drugs so human beings can deal with mental breakdowns better
- Big Problem: putting a complete halt to climate change. What we’re doing to solve this: ??????????
- Problem: cutting down vital forests for desks and chairs and paper and farmland. What we’re doing to solve this: ?????????
- Problem: melting ice in the Arctic. Major cities (like Shanghai, Boston, Miami, Vancouver, Rome) are going to be submerged under water. What we’re doing to solve this: ?????????
- Problem: having enough food and resources for people in the future. What we’re doing to solve this: ?????????
Companies are scared to tackle climate and ecological related challenges because they’re so wide open. No one has a solution for them.
Climate change and its consequences are arguably the hardest problems we have right now. Yet, no one’s working on it because there is no economic reward.
“No one’s really working on the problem. Part of it is because people don’t have the ambition to go after it and the capital markets don’t reward this type of decision making” — Chamath Palihapitiya
Conclusion: we need to fix up our Anthropocene (human impact on the environment) because at this rate we might not have a planet by 2100.
Is human life more valuable than any other life form?
We seem to think so. We think we’re the centre of the universe. We think every species benefits for the sake of humankind.
What kind of logic is that? Do you think cows want to live their lives in small ass boxes just to be artificially inseminated, give birth and be milked all day long? What about ants? Is their meaning of life to be stepped on by human beings? And do wasps exist for the sole purpose to provide us with honey for our toast?
Humans are wired to be manipulative. We think we’re the most powerful beings in the world. That’s why when Sally hates Joanne, she’ll be fake friends with Joanne until Joanne says something mean about Karly, then Sally will turn her back on Joanne and tell Karly all about the stuff Joanne’s saying. The situation I described is a basic dilemma experienced by the demographic of teenage girls.
Instead of being upfront with each other, they will say stuff, cause drama, be secretive and manipulate.
And it’s not just 16-year-old girls that do this. I’m just way too familiar with the situation above. But, the entirety of human beings is manipulative (think of, I don’t know, the food industry).
If you can’t think of at least 5 examples of how humans literally suck, have you been living under a rock?
In case you need a refresher:
- Using animals to grow food (if this one wasn’t obvious enough) (definitely not one of our finest moments in history)
- Cutting down tropical rainforests for palm oil (killing the orangutangs 😢) and furniture (not ikea, though, they’re cutting down the Russian Old Growth Forests!)
- Completely killing the coral reefs
- Burning fossil fuels causing complete air pollution!
- Killing elephants for ivory
- Making exotic purses and coats out of sheep — because all sheep aspire to be a handbag, we’re doing them a favour (just kidding who tf wants to be a handbag)
- Trapping animals in cages so we can look at them. The idea of zoos is so weird. People pay money to look at birds and tigers in cages for their entertainment.
The list goes on… way on…
Humans are 0.01% of all life forms yet we’ve destroyed 83% of the wild.
There’s a difference between shitty people and good people doing shitty things.
If the cattle wrote the history books, oh man humans would be monsters. But they don’t, we write them. We read about Harriet Jacobs, an African American who escaped slavery in the south by living in a closet for 7 years. While a remarkable story, why don’t we learn about Bob the cow who escaped the slaughterhouse by sneaking out of his box at night. Both of these situations are similar, the Harriet Jacobs story seems more relevant. Humans and cows aren’t viewed as equals. Therefore between these stories, a human would vote the Harriet one more relevant.
Because Humans think they are powerful. That’s why we’ve manipulated thousands of animals and resources to benefit us. We think our lives are worth more than cows, therefore we can take advantage of the cows.
Here is one of my favourite passages from homo deus that applies this knowledge in trying to understand why we’ve taken over the world in such this way.
“There is no doubt that homo sapiens is the most powerful species in the world, and we dominate the rest. But the United States is far mightier than Afghanistan; does this imply that American lives are superior to Afghan lives? Yet the life of a child in the mountains of Tora Bora is considered every bit as sacred as the life of a child in Beverley Hills.”
- In conclusion, humans took over everything and everyone to benefit them.
- We think our species is super special, but we might not be.
We know embarrassingly little about the human brain
What is consciousness? Why do we feel anger? Do souls exist?
Google couldn’t tell you.
Humans have some special ability to manipulate coded somewhere in their DNA. We have the ability to dominate other animals. No one has a single clue as to what makes us so different.
Our knowledge of the world is kinda like a Teenager writing a high school English exam. No one has a single clue as to what they’re writing on the paper, it is completely bullshitted. “What’s the theme of the story”, “Why is the hook significant and in which ways does it provoke emotion”, “How did the author characterize the mother in the story, use direct evidence from the text”: these are all very common English exam-y questions. I wrote an English exam a few days ago, and if I were to answer these exam questions truthfully I should’ve written down: “I don’t have a single clue”. Instead, I pulled stuff from thin air and just wrote a bunch of words on a paper without a clue to what I was saying.
Humans do this all the time. The act of bullshitting is so incredibly persistent. We’ve been using fossil fuels for years before realizing what they’re doing to the atmosphere, they just worked so we used them, blinded by their impact. Now we are well aware of how bad these substances are, and we still choose to do that but that is human stupidity not human bullshitting.
We’ve probably been bullshitting the foods we eat, too. Like who knows if wheat isn’t the most dangerous killer of all. We’ve been eating that grass for hundreds of years, maybe it’s the reason we age? Ok maybe not, but the point is at some period of time a human ate an ear of wheat and was like: “Yeah, ok let’s grow this everywhere because I think it will be good food for us”. And we’ve just adapted to that person’s logic.
We think we’re so special, but a lot of our greatest achievements happened by accident, such as Play-doh, X-rays and super glue. Imagine a world without playdoh. That would suck.
If some of the most revolutionary inventions were discovered by accident / propelled by accidents (let’s be honest, most of us were probably accidents) could that make humans accidental? Maybe the witch brewing the magical pot called the universe, accidentally added the wrong ingredient, homo sapiens.
Humans have so many problems, that’s why we’re upgrading ourselves
Humans → Humans 2.0
We are advancing ourselves more than ever imagined before. Want brain chips that put your memory in the cloud? No problemo. How about a bionic arm and leg controlled by your brain? Absolutely. Robots to monitor your inner body at all times? It’s possible.
With an increase in revolutionary technology, the gap between the rich and the poor will rise exponentially. People who can’t afford to make the latest software updates to themselves will fall behind to those who have the latest and greatest mental and physical abilities.
Soon, we will be able to rewrite the code to life with gene editing. It would be cool if we could edit parents to be more understanding, but that’s just a personal opinion. (I keep on throwing my mom and dad under the bus, don’t ground me 😳)
We are hacking humanity. Hopefully, we don’t screw it all up. No guarantees though.
The Population of what is currently teens is not ready to deal with the world’s issues.
Seriously. Who left it to MY generation to solve shit like cancer and climate change. We can’t even get these kids off fortnite when are they going to have time to cure cancer and remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
Homo Deus completely opened my eyes to what the future could possibly hold, and how technology is driving it. But I couldn’t help but admire how unprepared my generation is to deal with big problems that might occur in the future.
First of all, school. Schools don’t teach us how to solve important issues. Schools don’t even teach us what the important issues that need solving are. Don’t get me wrong, I have some really great teachers, but I just believe that the system needs to be readjusted (or completely reimagined whatever words you fancy).
Now, I’m beyond lucky. I have TKS. “ A human accelerator making unicorn people”. The whole point of TKS is to drive the next set of global leaders to solve the world’s biggest problems. So I’m set. But I can’t solve all the world’s issues because there are just way too many. There are so many people who are not as lucky as me: still trapped in the old system.
The school system supports careers like doctors, lawyers, and engineerings. However, in 15 years, it is very likely that these careers will be disrupted by AI. Just as my generation would be getting out of med school. Great timing.
I think it’s crazy how many people don’t understand the future. They’re so underprepared for it. Some of the smartest people I know are scared to be unconventional and solve the world’s problems. But when automation takes over mental jobs, and bioengineering takes over physical labour jobs, we’re still going to need problem solvers.
However, another wonderful human trait is procrastination. A good example where you can find tons of procrastination is school. Exam week specifically: you’ll see tons of students at the brink of procrastination. For me, school is nothing but procrastination and putting the least amount of work to get a good enough result. Because I want to centre my time on things that actually matter. I care about learning about interesting things (AI, CRISPR, BCIs) and solving hard problems. That’s so much more appealing than Canadian History during World War Two. So, I spend my time doing stuff that matters for me, while procrastinating school.
Procrastination isn’t always a good trait. Actually mostly it is not.
One of the worst things we, as a society, world, globe — whatever you want to call it, do is procrastinate is our problems. No one is actively working on a long term solution to climate change. No one. We’re just going to keep on procrastinating until it becomes an entirely unbearable situation, and we will be forced to deal with it. When this happens, no one’s going to have answers. Only a handful of people (TKS alumni 🙃) will actually have the tools and mindsets to deal with big, immediate issues. The rest of the world will have the tools and mindsets to dub a victory royal.
The world is a weird place. Packed with problems. I’m just beginning to understand them. Maybe you should try and understand them too. Read Homo Deus.
If you enjoyed this article, clap it and connect with me on LinkedIn. The third one to my Yuval Harari article series (21 lessons of the 21st century) is coming soon!