Yuval Noah Harari
Harari in 2017.
|Alma mater||Hebrew University of Jerusalem|
Jesus College, Oxford
|Known for||Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind |
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
|Institutions||Hebrew University of Jerusalem|
|Thesis||History and I: War and the Relations between History and Personal Identity in Renaissance Military Memoirs, c. 1450-1600 (2002)|
|Doctoral advisor||Steven J. Gunn|
Frans de Waal
Yuval Noah Harari (Hebrew: ? ?, [ju'val 'noa? (h)a'?a?i]; born 24 February 1976) is an Israeli historian and a professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of the popular science bestsellers Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014), Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2016), and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018). His writings examine free will, consciousness, intelligence and happiness.
Harari writes about the "cognitive revolution" occurring roughly 70,000 years ago when Homo sapiens supplanted the rival Neanderthals, developed language skills and structured societies, and ascended as apex predators, aided by the agricultural revolution and accelerated by the scientific method, which have allowed humans to approach near mastery over their environment. His books also examine the possible consequences of a futuristic biotechnological world in which intelligent biological organisms are surpassed by their own creations; he has said "Homo sapiens as we know them will disappear in a century or so".
Yuval Noah Harari was born in Kiryat Ata, Israel, in 1976 and grew up in a secular Jewish family with Lebanese and Eastern European roots in Haifa, Israel. Harari is gay and in 2002 met his husband Itzik Yahav, whom he calls "my internet of all things". Yahav is also Harari's personal manager. They married in a civil ceremony in Toronto in Canada. The couple lives in a moshav (a type of cooperative agricultural community of individual farms), Mesilat Zion, near Jerusalem.
Harari says Vipassana meditation, which he began whilst in Oxford in 2000, has "transformed my life". He practises for two hours every day (one hour at the start and end of his work day), every year undertakes a meditation retreat of 30 days or longer, in silence and with no books or social media, and is an assistant meditation teacher. He dedicated Homo Deus to "my teacher, S. N. Goenka, who lovingly taught me important things", and said "I could not have written this book without the focus, peace and insight gained from practising Vipassana for fifteen years." He also regards meditation as a way to research.
Harari is a vegan, and says this resulted from his research, including his view that the foundation of the dairy industry is breaking the bond between mother cow and calf.As of January 2019, Harari does not have a smartphone.
Harari first specialized in medieval history and military history in his studies from 1993 to 1998 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He completed his PhD degree at Jesus College, Oxford, in 2002, under the supervision of Steven J. Gunn. From 2003 to 2005 he pursued postdoctoral studies in history as a Yad Hanadiv Fellow.
Harari has published numerous books and articles, including Special Operations in the Age of Chivalry, 1100-1550;The Ultimate Experience: Battlefield Revelations and the Making of Modern War Culture, 1450-2000;The Concept of 'Decisive Battles' in World History; and Armchairs, Coffee and Authority: Eye-witnesses and Flesh-witnesses Speak about War, 1100-2000. He now specializes in world history and macro-historical processes.
His book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind was originally published in Hebrew in 2011 based on the 20 lectures of an undergraduate world history class he was teaching. It was then released in English in 2014 and has since been translated into some 45 additional languages. The book surveys the entire length of human history, from the evolution of Homo sapiens in the Stone Age up to the political and technological revolutions of the 21st century. The Hebrew edition became a bestseller in Israel, and generated much interest among the general public, turning Harari into a celebrity.
His book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow was published in 2016, examining possibilities of the future of Homo sapiens. The book's premise outlines that, in the future, humanity is likely to make a significant attempt to gain happiness, immortality and God-like powers. The book goes on to openly speculate various ways this ambition might be realised for Homo sapiens in the future based on the past and present. Among several possibilities for the future, Harari develops the term dataism for a philosophy or mindset that worships big data.
His book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century was published on 30 August 2018. It focused more on present-day concerns. In Chapter Two he addresses the increasing number of people made unemployable by advances in automation and AI. He examines a universal basic income for every citizen regardless of their employment status as a measure to counter economic unemployment.
Harari also gives a free online course in English titled A Brief History of Humankind.
Harari is interested in how Homo sapiens reached their current condition, and in their future. His research focuses on macro-historical questions such as: What is the relation between history and biology? What is the essential difference between Homo sapiens and other animals? Is there justice in history? Does history have a direction? Did people become happier as history unfolded?
Harari regards dissatisfaction as the "deep root" of human reality, and as related to evolution.
In a 2017 article, Harari argued that through continuing technological progress and advances in the field of artificial intelligence, "by 2050 a new class of people might emerge - the useless class. People who are not just unemployed, but unemployable." He put forward the case that dealing with this new social class economically, socially and politically will be a central challenge for humanity in the coming decades.
Harari has commented on the plight of animals, particularly domesticated animals since the agricultural revolution, and is a vegan. In a 2015 Guardian article under the title "Industrial farming is one of the worst crimes in history" he called "[t]he fate of industrially farmed animals [...] one of the most pressing ethical questions of our time."
Harari summed up his views on the world in a 2018 interview with Steve Paulson of Nautilus thus: "Things are better than ever before. Things are still quite bad. Things can get much worse. This adds up to a somewhat optimistic view because if you realize things are better than before, this means we can make them even better."
Harari wrote that although the idea of free will and the liberal values helped consolidate, it "emboldened people who had to fight against the Inquisition, the divine right of kings, the KGB and the KKK", it has become dangerous in a world of a data economy, where, he argues, in reality there is no such thing, and governments and corporations are coming to know the individual better than they know themselves and "if governments and corporations succeed in hacking the human animal, the easiest people to manipulate will be those who believe in free will." Harari elaborates that "Humans certainly have a will - but it isn't free. You cannot decide what desires you have... Every choice depends on a lot of biological, social and personal conditions that you cannot determine for yourself. I can choose what to eat, whom to marry and whom to vote for, but these choices are determined in part by my genes, my biochemistry, my gender, my family background, my national culture, etc - and I didn't choose which genes or family to have."
Harari twice won the Polonsky Prize for "Creativity and Originality", in 2009 and 2012. In 2011 he won the Society for Military History's Moncado Award for outstanding articles in military history. In 2012 he was elected to the Young Israeli Academy of Sciences.
In July 2019 Harari was widely criticised for allowing several omissions and amendments in the Russian edition of his third book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, using a softer tone when speaking about Russian authorities.Leonid Bershidsky in Moscow Times called it "caution -- or, to call it by its proper name, cowardice", and Nettanel Slyomovics in Haaretz claimed that "he is sacrificing those same liberal ideas that he presumes to represent".