Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari --
A swash-buckling account that begins with the origin of the 
species and ends with post-humans

by  Galen Strawson
      The Guardian, Thursday 11 September 2014 07.30 BST    

Human beings (members of the genus Homo) have existed for 
about 2.4m years. Homo sapiens, our own wildly egregious 
species of great apes, has only existed for 6% of that time 
-- about 150,000 years. So a book whose main title is 
Sapiens shouldn't be subtitled "A Brief History of 
Humankind". It's easy to see why Yuval Noah Harari devotes 
95% of his book to us as a species: self-ignorant as we are, 
we still know far more about ourselves than about other 
species of human beings, including several that have become 
extinct since we first walked the Earth. The fact remains 
that the history of sapiens -- Harari's name for us -- is 
only a very small part of the history of humankind.

    Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
    by Yuval Noah Harari

Can its full sweep be conveyed in one fell swoop – 400 
pages? Not really; it's easier to write a brief history of 
time -- all 14bn years -- and Harari also spends many pages 
on our present and possible future rather than our past. But 
the deep lines of the story of sapiens are fairly 
uncontentious, and he sets them out with verve.

For the first half of our existence we potter along 
unremarkably; then we undergo a series of revolutions. 
First, the "cognitive" revolution: about 70,000 years ago, 
we start to behave in far more ingenious ways than before, 
for reasons that are still obscure, and we spread rapidly 
across the planet. About 11,000 years ago we enter on the 
agricultural revolution, converting in increasing numbers 
from foraging (hunting and gathering) to farming. The 
"scientific revolution" begins about 500 years ago. It 
triggers the industrial revolution, about 250 years ago, 
which triggers in turn the information revolution, about 50 
years ago, which triggers the biotechnological revolution, 
which is still wet behind the ears. Harari suspects that the 
biotechnological revolution signals the end of sapiens: we 
will be replaced by bioengineered post-humans, "amortal" 
cyborgs, capable of living forever.

This is one way to lay things out. Harari embeds many other 
momentous events, most notably the development of language: 
we become able to think sharply about abstract matters, 
cooperate in ever larger numbers, and, perhaps most 
crucially, gossip. There is the rise of religion and the 
slow overpowering of polytheisms by more or less toxic 
monotheisms. Then there is the evolution of money and, more 
importantly, credit. There is, connectedly, the spread of 
empires and trade as well as the rise of capitalism.

Harari swashbuckles through these vast and intricate matters 
in a way that is -- at its best -- engaging and informative. 
It's a neat thought that "we did not domesticate wheat. It 
domesticated us." There was, Harari says, "a Faustian 
bargain between humans and grains" in which our species 
"cast off its intimate symbiosis with nature and sprinted 
towards greed and alienation". It was a bad bargain: "the 
agricultural revolution was history's biggest fraud". More 
often than not it brought a worse diet, longer hours of 
work, greater risk of starvation, crowded living conditions, 
greatly increased susceptibility to disease, new forms of 
insecurity and uglier forms of hierarchy. Harari thinks we 
may have been better off in the stone age, and he has 
powerful things to say about the wickedness of factory 
farming, concluding with one of his many superlatives: 
"modern industrial agriculture might well be the greatest 
crime in history".

He accepts the common view that the fundamental structure of 
our emotions and desires hasn't been touched by any of these 
revolutions: "our eating habits, our conflicts and our 
sexuality are all a result of the way our hunter-gatherer 
minds interact with our current post-industrial environment, 
with its mega-cities, airplanes, telephones and computers … 
Today we may be living in high-rise apartments with 
over-stuffed refrigerators, but our DNA still thinks we are 
in the savannah." He gives a familiar illustration – our 
powerful desires for sugar and fat have led to the 
widespread availability of foods that are primary causes of 
unhealthiness and ugliness. The consumption of pornography 
is another good example. It's just like overeating: if the 
minds of pornography addicts could be seen as bodies, they 
would look just like the grossly obese.

At one point Harari claims that "the leading project of the 
scientific revolution" is the Gilgamesh Project (named after 
the hero of the epic who set out to destroy death): "to give 
humankind eternal life" or "amortality". He is sanguine 
about its eventual success. But amortality isn't 
immortality, because it will always be possible for us to 
die by violence, and Harari is plausibly sceptical about how 
much good it will do us. As amortals, we may become 
hysterically and disablingly cautious (Larry Niven develops 
the point nicely in his description of the "Puppeteers" in 
the Ringworld science fiction novels). The deaths of those 
we love may become far more terrible. We may grow weary of 
all things under the sun -- even in heaven (see the last 
chapter of Julian Barnes's A History of the World in 10½ 
Chapters). We may come to agree with JRR Tolkien's elves, 
who saw mortality as a gift to human beings that they 
themselves lacked. We may come to feel what Philip Larkin 
felt: "Beneath it all, desire of oblivion runs."

Even if we put all these points aside, there's no guarantee 
that amortality will bring greater happiness. Harari draws 
on well-known research that shows that a person's happiness 
from day to day has remarkably little to do with their 
material circumstances. Certainly money can make a 
difference --- but only when it lifts us out of poverty. 
After that, more money changes little or nothing. Certainly 
a lottery winner is lifted by her luck, but after about 18 
months her average everyday happiness reverts to its old 
level. If we had an infallible "happyometer", and toured 
Orange County and the streets of Kolkata, it's not clear 
that we would get consistently higher readings in the first 
place than in the second.

This point about happiness is a persistent theme in Sapiens. 
When Arthur Brooks (head of the conservative American 
Enterprise Institute) made a related point in the New York 
Times in July, he was criticised for trying to favour the 
rich and justify income inequality. The criticism was 
confused, for although current inequalities of income are 
repellent, and harmful to all, the happiness research is 
well confirmed. This doesn't, however, prevent Harari from 
suggesting that the lives lived by sapiens today may be 
worse overall than the lives they lived 15,000 years ago.

Much of Sapiens is extremely interesting, and it is often 
well expressed. As one reads on, however, the attractive 
features of the book are overwhelmed by carelessness, 
exaggeration and sensationalism. Never mind his standard and 
repeated misuse of the saying "the exception proves the 
rule" (it means that exceptional or rare cases test and 
confirm the rule, because the rule turns out to apply even 
in those cases). There's a kind of vandalism in Harari's 
sweeping judgments, his recklessness about causal 
connections, his hyper-Procrustean stretchings and loppings 
of the data. Take his account of the battle of Navarino. 
Starting from the fact that British investors stood to lose 
money if the Greeks lost their war of independence, Harari 
moves fast: "the bond holders' interest was the national 
interest, so the British organised an international fleet 
that, in 1827, sank the main Ottoman flotilla in the battle 
of Navarino. After centuries of subjugation, Greece was 
finally free." This is wildly distorted -- and Greece was 
not then free. To see how bad it is, it's enough to look at 
the wikipedia entry on Navarino.

Harari hates "modern liberal culture", but his attack is a 
caricature and it boomerangs back at him. Liberal humanism, 
he says, "is a religion". It "does not deny the existence of 
God"; "all humanists worship humanity"; "a huge gulf is 
opening between the tenets of liberal humanism and the 
latest findings of the life sciences". This is silly. It's 
also sad to see the great Adam Smith drafted in once again 
as the apostle of greed. Still, Harari is probably right 
that "only a criminal buys a house … by handing over a 
suitcase of banknotes" -- a point that acquires piquancy 
when one considers that about 35% of all purchases at the 
high end of the London housing market are currently being 
paid in cash. 

Illusions of Sapiens
by Tomichan Matheikal 

 How did man come to dominate the earth though there were 
 many other more powerful animals on the earth?  As I gather 
 from an article which introduced me to Harari's book, man 
 created stories which in turn created an immense sense of 
 cooperation among people. 

Let us understand that better.  The other animals don't 
create stories.  Man creates stories about many things like 
gods, nations, money, human rights, etc.  These are all 
imaginary entities given reality to by man's stories.  What 
does the thousand rupee note actually mean without the 
support of the story created by people about it -- stories 
about the equivalent gold in the Reserve Bank and so on.  
What do human rights mean, for example?  One group's rights 
are another group's nuisance.  Who decides the veracity of 
any of these?

The stories we create attract followers.  People love 
stories.  Stories unite people.  Stories are imaginative and 
emotive.  Soon the stories create their own rules.  Those 
who believe any story follow the rules dictated by the 
story.  Gods begin to dictate their own rules now.  Money 
dictates its rules.  A group of people begin to draw a line 
somewhere and call it the national boundary.  Nationalism is 
as very charming a story as religious beliefs. 

The other animals who don't create stories don’t also 
cooperate the way humans do to get followers for the story 
and to impose the story on others as the ultimate truth(s). 
 Moreover, the human brain is far more complex than the 
brains of the other animals and hence can make the 
cooperation to seem more necessary, meaningful and 

Illusions become absolute truths.  We live for them, fight 
for them, and may die for them.  That is the human being, a 
unique animal that sent thousands and thousands of other 
animals, animals without illusions, into extinction. html

Here, Srinath Perur
 interviews Harari over email on a range 
of preoccupations and ideas, including the problem of 
individual happiness, the future of humanity and, of course, 
in which historical period would Harari like to be born 

Your earlier work was on military history, but you've since 
shifted your attention to a much broader arena. What are a 
few 'big questions' of history that caught your curiosity 
and made you change? Were there other historians who 
inspired you in this regard?

The main question that interests me is the relation between 
power and happiness through history. Humankind has been very 
good at obtaining more power, so that today we are a 
thousand times more powerful than our ancestors. But are we 
also happier? That’s far less clear. It seems that humans 
are not very good at utilizing power to overcome suffering 
and to increase happiness. Why?

This relates to other big questions that I explore in the 
book, such as why men have dominated women in most human 
societies, for example. How did people come to believe in 
gods, in individualism, and in human rights? How did we all 
come to live in nation-states? How did capitalism become the 
dominant religion of the whole world? How is it, for 
example, that all the people in the world -- despite 
disagreeing about gods and political leaders – nevertheless 
believe in the same money? How come even Osama bin Laden, 
who hated American religion, American culture and the 
American political system, was quite fond of American 

When I began studying at university, I thought this would be 
the ideal place to try and answer such big questions. But I 
was disappointed. The academic world encouraged me to focus 
on narrower and narrower questions, and gave me the 
impression that one could not approach the big questions in 
a scientific way. And then I read Jared Diamond’s book, 
Guns, Germs and Steel, and it was a revelation. It showed me 
that it is possible to tackle the biggest questions of 
history and of human existence in a scientific way.

A central idea of your book is that it is homo sapiens' 
ability to cooperate on a large scale and in a variety of 
ways that has made the species dominant. You attribute this 
to our ability to imagine, to create and come under the 
umbrella of powerful shared myths such as laws, religions, 
money, country, etc. This is very plausible, but is there 
any way this can be shown conclusively?

There is ample evidence humans rule the world thanks to our 
ability to cooperate flexibly in large numbers. On the 
individual level, humans are not superior to other animals. 
If you put me and a chimpanzee together on a lone island and 
we had to struggle for survival, I would place my bets on 
the chimp. However, if you place 1,000 humans and 1,000 
chimps on a lone island, the humans will easily win, because 
1,000 chimps can never cooperate effectively. Almost all the 
achievements of humankind -- from building pyramids to 
flying to the Moon -- were the result of large-scale 
cooperation rather than individual abilities.

When we come to the question of what enables humans to 
cooperate flexibly in large numbers, things are a bit more 
complicated. The glue that connects many people together is 
made not from genes, but from stories. People don’t have 
innate instincts for mass-cooperation with strangers. But as 
long as many people believe in the same stories about gods, 
nations, money or human rights – they follow the same laws 
and rules. If you examine any large-scale human cooperation, 
you will always find some imaginary story at its base. Two 
chimps from different groups who meet in the middle of the 
forest cannot start trading, because they don’t trust each 
other. If I offer you a coconut in exchange for a banana, 
how can I be certain that you will not cheat me? Humans 
solved this problem by inventing money. Money is just a 
fictional story. You take a piece of worthless paper, and 
you tell everyone that it is worth a banana. As long as 
everyone believes this story, complete strangers can easily 
trust one another and trade with one another.

Are humans really the only ones who can create and spread 
such stories? It seems so. We have no evidence for money or 
gods among chimpanzees or wolves or elephants. You can never 
convince a chimpanzee to give you a banana by promising him 
that after he dies, he will go to Chimpanzee Heaven and 
there receive limitless bananas for his good deeds. Only 
humans can believe such stories. This is why we rule the 
world, and chimpanzees are locked up in zoos and research 
laboratories. But who knows. Perhaps further research will 
discover that chimps too have gods and money.

One of the striking things about your book is your 
willingness to see outside conventional boundaries of 
historical narrative. For instance, you've distinguished the 
condition of individual humans from that of humankind – one 
can thrive while the other suffers. History has 
conventionally been about kings, presidents, wars. You argue 
that not recognizing individual happiness is "the biggest 
lacuna in our understanding of history". How can this be 
rectified? What sources would we tap? Could you give 
examples where this has been achieved and changed our 
understanding of history?

There are ample sources for the study of individual 
well-being, and in some cases this approach has already 
changed our understanding of history. The most notable 
example is the Agricultural Revolution. It is often said 
that the Agricultural Revolution was a great leap forward 
for humanity. And it is certainly true that the collective 
power of humans greatly increased thanks to agriculture. But 
recent studies have shown that the life of the average 
person actually became much harder.

For millions of year, humans have been adapted to hunting 
and gathering. Our bodies and minds were adapted to running 
after gazelles, climbing trees to pick apples, and sniffing 
around forests in search of mushrooms. Peasant life, in 
contrast, included long hours of plowing fields, sowing 
seeds, carrying water-buckets from the river, and harvesting 
cornstalks under a blazing sun. Such a lifestyle was harmful 
to human backs, knees and joints, and numbing to the human 
mind. In return for all this hard work, peasants usually 
received a worse diet than hunter-gatherers. Humans are 
omnivores, adapted to feeding themselves from dozens of 
species of fruit, nuts, tubers, herbs, mushrooms, mammals, 
fish, birds, reptiles, insects and worms. Peasants often 
kept themselves alive by relying almost exclusively on a 
single source of food, such as rice. They were consequently 
far more exposed than foragers to malnutrition and possibly 
even to starvation.

In addition to malnutrition, peasants were also far more 
exposed to infectious diseases. Most human infectious 
diseases originated in animals such as cows and pigs, and 
began to plague people only after these animals were 
domesticated. In addition, whereas foragers lived in small 
mobile bands and enjoyed ideal hygienic conditions, peasants 
and townspeople lived in crowded permanent settlements, 
which were parasite hotbeds.

The agricultural list of wows did not end there. 
Archaeological and anthropological evidence indicates that 
forager bands were more egalitarian, and offered fewer 
opportunities for one group of people to lord it over 
others. Agriculture opened the way for social 
stratification, exploitation, and possibly patriarchy. The 
bottom line is that even though the Indus Valley 
Civilization or the Mughal Empire were far more powerful 
than the ancient hunter-gatherer bands, the average peasant 
woman in Mughal India probably had a harder and less 
satisfying life than her ancient ancestor who lived in the 
Ganges Valley 20,000 years previously.

Indeed, even today there are hundreds of millions of people 
who live harder and less satisfying lives than ancient 
hunter-gatherers. What would you rather do: work for 12 
hours a day, 7 days a week, in a noisy, polluted and crowded 
factory, operating a machine that produces toys for European 
children -- or to go out to the forest to look for 

You've presented very convincing arguments for the overall 
well-being of foragers compared to peasants. Elsewhere, 
you’ve talked about our expectations always increasing, and 
thus it being possible that we're not any happier now than 
at other points in history. Would you prefer to have been 
born 20,000 years ago to live the intense, relatively 
uncomplicated life of an ancient forager? If you had the 
choice to be born again in any historical period, which 
would you pick?

As I am now 38 years old, I think it is too late for me to 
learn how to be a hunter-gatherer. I would probably die 
within a week from eating a poisonous mushroom or falling 
off a tree. I am a product of 21st-century civilization, and 
I would not feel at home anywhere else. But if I were to be 
born again in any historical period, without being able to 
choose my social status in advance, the age of the 
hunter-gatherers sounds like a good time to be born. Though 
being reborn in the 21st-century in a well-to-do family in 
the affluent West is perhaps a safer option, being reborn in 
a poor working-class family in Bangladesh or Brazil sounds 
far less attractive.

Another chance I would have liked to take was to be reborn 
in India of the 5th century BC, the era of Buddha. Of all 
the people in history, he strikes me as the one person who 
might really have understood what life is all about. I would 
really have liked the opportunity to meet him.

While many of us may lead rushed, unfulfilled, isolated 
lives thanks to the march of our species, we also have the 
means to question it. For instance, here you are pointing 
out that some of our most cherished institutions and beliefs 
are imagined. You also say that "true believers" are 
necessary for such ideas to retain their power. Here's a 
thought experiment: your book becomes so popular that a 
significant number of people question their true beliefs and 
weaken them. Nationalism is diluted; religion ceases to be a 
matter of life and death and no one is really afraid of god 
or hell; people come to see laws and money as mere 
conventions; and so on. Does this result in chaos, societal 
collapse and widespread uncertainty and unhappiness? Or 
would it be a John Lennon utopia? (Sorry if this is a silly 
question, but imagination is one of our species' strong 

Some conventional beliefs can be abandoned without 
descending into chaos. For example, for centuries many 
thinkers warned that if people stop believing in God and 
Hell, the result will be unbridled chaos, crime and 
violence. Yet contemporary Europe has largely abandoned 
these beliefs, and it is the most peaceful and orderly place 
in human history. Far more peaceful and orderly than the 
God-fearing and Hell-fearing Middle East.

It is true, however, that without retaining some 
conventional beliefs -- such as money -- it is hard to see 
how large-scale human societies can function. So I think the 
aim should not be to completely abandon all our fictions. 
Rather, we should retain our more useful fictions, but at 
the same time be able to separate fiction from reality, and 
see reality very clearly. We should ask ourselves, "What is 
really real?" For most of history, people have been so 
obsessed with fictions such as nations, gods and money, that 
they lost touch with reality. A good way to separate fiction 
from reality is to ask, "Can it suffer?" A nation cannot 
suffer, even if it loses a war. A bank cannot suffer, even 
if it crashes. Humans, however, can suffer. Animals can 
suffer. The suffering may be caused by the belief in some 
fiction, but the suffering itself is real. I hope that we 
can retain the most useful fictions of humanity, but at the 
same time be in touch with reality, and thereby know how to 
make use of our power not to inflate some fictional entity 
like a nation, but in order to reduce real suffering in the 

I thought some ideas in the book had parallels with aspects 
of Hindu/Jain/Buddhist philosophy. The sense of compassion 
you show for animals being one, which makes some of your 
perspectives delightfully non-anthropocentric. The idea of 
shared myths being another. (I believe the word 'myth' has 
the same root as the Sanskrit ‘mithya’ or falsity, 
transcending which is the aim of many Eastern systems.) I 
later read an interview of yours in which you say you visit 
India every year for a Vipassana course. Could you say 
something about your connection to India and what meditation 
or Buddhism means to you? Are you conscious of how this part 
of your life may contribute to your work?

My view of history has indeed been influenced by Hindu, Jain 
and Buddhist thinking, and by practicing Vipassana 
meditation. One of the central ideas of Hinduism, Jainism 
and Buddhism is that "the world is an illusion". This 
strikes many people as an absurd proposition. In the book I 
strive to show that this is in fact a very accurate 
description of the world most humans inhabit. Most of us 
live in a world of nations, gods, business corporations, 
human rights and money, without noticing that all these 
things are in fact just imaginary stories that exist only in 
our own minds.

At home I practice meditation for two hours every day, and I 
come to India every year to take a long Vipassana course of 
30, 45 or 60 days in the Dhamma Giri meditation center [in 
Maharashtra]. For me, a crucial question is "What is 
reality? What is really real, rather just fictions in our 
own mind?" The best scientific method I have found to answer 
this question is Vipassana meditation. So far Western 
science has had great difficulty in researching the mind, 
because it has no method for direct observation of the mind. 
You can study the brain by using microscopes and fMRI 
scanners, but the brain is not the mind. The problem is that 
the only mind accessible to you is your own mind. You can 
never observe directly the mind of another person. And when 
you try to observe your own mind, it is extremely difficult 
to do so in a systematic and objective manner. Anyone who 
ever tried to do so knows how difficult it is to observe 
even the simplest mental processes for more than a few 
seconds without becoming distracted or overwhelmed. 
Vipassana is a method for observing the mind in a systematic 
and objective manner. Without the clarity I gained from 
practicing this meditation, I would not have been able to 
write this book.

There's evidence to show that for most of the last two 
millennia Indian kingdoms were prosperous, had skilled 
sailors and navigators, and had advanced metallurgy 
(Damascus steel, for instance). Yet, with the exception of 
small parts of South East Asia, Indian rulers didn’t attempt 
conquest. Would you say this was due to a lack of curiosity?

This is not unique to Indian rulers. It is true of many of 
the Chinese dynasties, of the Japanese shoguns, and of most 
other kingdoms and states in history. Although they might 
have had the ability, the Romans never attempted to conquer 
Scandinavia, the Persians never attempted to conquer 
Madagascar, and the Chinese never attempted to conquer 
Indonesia. Most Chinese rulers -- with the exception of 
Kublai Khan -- left even nearby Japan to its own devices. 
The real question is why modern Europeans caught a fever 
that drove them to sail to distant and completely unknown 
lands full of alien cultures, take one step onto their 
beaches, and immediately declare "I claim all these 
territories for my king!" These European expeditions are so 
familiar to us that we tend to overlook just how 
extraordinary they were.

Shortly after Columbus landed in America, news of his 
discovery reached the great empires of Asia -- the Ottoman, 
the Safavid, the Mughal and the Chinese empires. Yet they 
displayed little interest in this discovery. None of them 
made any attempt to compete with the Europeans for control 
of America or of the new ocean lanes in the Atlantic and the 
Pacific. Even puny European kingdoms such as Scotland and 
Denmark sent a few expeditions to America, but not a single 
expedition was ever sent to America from the Islamic world, 
India, or China. The first non-European power that tried to 
send a military expedition to America was Japan. That 
happened in June 1942, when a Japanese expedition conquered 
Kiska and Attu, two small islands off the Alaskan coast, 
capturing in the process ten US soldiers and a dog. The 
Japanese never got any closer to the mainland.

So the real mystery is not why Indian rulers supposedly 
lacked curiosity, but rather what drove the modern Europeans 
to such strange and unprecedented expeditions.

You live in the Middle East, where a lot of human history 
has played out. How does your geography affect your view of 
the world and the past?

My home country of Israel is on the one hand a 
technologically-advanced Western democracy, and on the other 
hand it is torn by religious and ethnic conflicts and 
surrounded by the greater chaos engulfing the entire Middle 
East. This gives me a double perspective on history. On the 
one hand, I have an insider's view of the Western world and 
of the current technological revolutions. On the other hand 
I am also highly conscious of the darker side of modernity, 
and of the powerful forces of traditional religions and 
national emotions.

Will humanity exist a thousand years from now?

That's a very easy question. A thousand years from now, 
humankind will not exist. This is very obvious. The more 
interesting and difficult question is whether humankind will 
exist 100 or 200 years from now. Given the pace of 
technological development, this too seems quite unlikely. In 
the next 200 years humankind will probably gain so much 
power, that if we do not destroy ourselves, then we will 
certainly have more than enough power to upgrade ourselves 
into completely different kinds of beings, which resemble 
gods more than humans. This is not science fiction. Most 
science fiction plots describe a world in which humans just 
like us enjoy superior technology such as light-speed 
spaceships and laser guns. The ethical and political 
dilemmas central to these plots are taken from our own 
world, and they merely recreate our emotional and social 
tensions against a futuristic backdrop. Yet the real 
potential of future technologies is to change humans 
themselves, including our emotional and cognitive abilities, 
and not merely our vehicles and weapons.

You probably know that the first demo of human brain to 
brain communication through the Internet was announced last 
week. This is along the lines of your predication for our 
species’ future. How do you feel about this trajectory of 
humans becoming gods/super-men? What could happen to make 
your prediction not come true?

The future is of course unknown, and it would be surprising 
if all the predictions made today are realized in full in 
the coming decades. History teaches us that what seems to be 
just around the corner may never materialize due to 
unforeseen barriers, and that other unimagined scenarios 
will in fact come to pass. When the nuclear age erupted in 
the 1940s, many forecasts were made about the future nuclear 
world of the year 2000. When Sputnik and Apollo 11 fired the 
imagination of the world, everyone began predicting that by 
the end of the century people would be living in space 
colonies on Mars and Pluto. Few of these forecasts came 
true. On the other hand, nobody foresaw the Internet. So all 
these predictions about the future should been seen not as 
accurate prophesies, but rather as stimulants for our 
imagination. What we should take very seriously is the idea 
that the next stage of history will include not only 
technological and organizational transformations, but also 
fundamental transformations in human consciousness and 
identity. And these could be transformations so fundamental 
that they will call the very term "human" into question. How 
long do we have? No one really knows. Some say that by 2050 
there will already be superhumans possessing divines 
abilities. Less radical forecasts speak of 2100 or 2200.

But given current technological advances, it seems 
unavoidable that in the not-too-distant future, humans will 
become gods. That is, humans will acquire abilities that 
were traditionally thought to be divine abilities. Humans 
will probably be able to live indefinitely, to design and 
create living beings at will, to re-design their own bodies 
and minds, and to link their minds directly to virtual 
worlds on the Internet. This will result in enormous new 
opportunities, as well as frightful new dangers. There is no 
point being optimistic or pessimistic about it. We need to 
be realists. We need to understand that this is really 
happening -- it is science rather than science fiction – and 
it is high time we start thinking about this very seriously. 
Most of the problems that worry governments and private 
citizens alike are insignificant by comparison. The global 
economic crisis, the Islamic State, the situation in the 
Ukraine -- these are all important problems, no doubt. But 
they are completely overshadowed by the question of 
upgrading humans into gods.


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