‘Homo Deus’ Foresees a Godlike Future. (Ignore the Techno-Overlords.)

Jennifer Senior in The New York Times:

BookIn a nub: “Homo Deus” makes the case that we are now at a unique juncture in the story of our species. “For the first time in history,” Harari writes, “more people die today from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists, and criminals combined.” Having subdued (though by no means vanquished) famine, pestilence and war, Harari argues, we can now train our sights on higher objectives. Eternal happiness. Everlasting life. “In seeking bliss and immortality,” he writes, “humans are in fact trying to upgrade themselves into gods.” If you’re acquainted with the story of Icarus, you know that these prideful efforts don’t tend to end well. Harari imagines that in attempting to refine ourselves to utter perfection — the logical apotheosis of humanism, whose history and evolution he traces over many pages — we will destroy humanism itself. Our slow creep toward the uncanny valley has already begun. We take pills that change our affect and select embryos with the best odds for optimal health. Google has an offshoot, Calico, whose modest mission is to slow the aging process. Throw in advancements in biological and cyborg engineering, and our radical transformation, in Harari’s view, seems quite feasible.

“Relatively small changes in genes, hormones and neurons,” he points out, “were enough to transform Homo erectus — who could produce nothing more impressive than flint knives — into Homo sapiens, who produce spaceships and computers.” Why should we assume that Sapiens are the end of the evolutionary line?

Yet a question arises: If we aren’t at the end of the line, what comes next?

More here.