Author of the week
Yuval Noah Harari
Yuval Noah Harari has always been a big-picture thinker, said Matt Kettmann in the Santa Barbara, Calif. Independent. Long before the Israeli historian wrote Sapiens, his best-selling 2011 book about all of human history, he puzzled over the meaning of life—and the then teenage Harari was shocked that the adults around him couldn’t care less about such questions. “They were very worried about money, about careers,” he says, “but were completely nonchalant about the fact that they didn’t understand what life is all about.” Harari vowed to be different, but didn’t really get a chance to chase his passion until, after focusing on military history, he won tenure at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “Writing Sapiens and Homo Deus was, in a way, fulfilling the promise I made to myself as a teenager,” he says.
Homo Deus—currently another best-seller—predicts an unsettling human future, said Nate Hopper in Time. Though Harari sees us moving toward ending war, famine, and plagues, he admits that our computers and nanobots and other technologies might leave us with little work to do and thus strip our lives of meaning. Or at least of the old meanings. Harari also expresses confidence that we will soon focus more attention on engineering our happiness, on understanding our bodies and inner lives and cleaning out the bugs. “In the 21st century,” he says, “we are going to gain the power to control the world inside us. The danger is that we will misuse this power and end up with an internal ecological disaster—a complete mental breakdown.”