From a book that tries to convince us that life nowadays is much better than before to a book that warns us about the cost of trying to create super humans, here are four books you must read this year:
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
Yuval Noah Harari
A follow up on his excellent book, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” (2011), where he ingeniously mapped significant events in the course of human evolutions and how they have shaped the modern lives of homo sapiens, Harari’s masterful sequel predicts the end for the sapiens species. The next human species will be better, stronger, healthier, closer to Superman. On top of that, our current obsession with data and our universal faith in the power of algorithms will also result in an omnipresent data processing system. In other words, humans will put an end to their own species by creating better ones, or the ones so-called gods.
The Gene: An Intimate History
Another book that explores our obsession with rewriting the future of our own species. Mukherjee, whose book “The Emperor of All Maladies” won a Pulitzer Prize in 2011, went on a hunt for the biologists who have dedicated their lives to decipher the codes in our algorithm-like genomes. His vivid writing style imagines us being flies on the wall of the labs where all the discoveries, including the controversial ones, took place. While he argues that our genomes do not make our identity, Mukherjee also believes that in the near future, we will be able to edit our own genomes to suit our own needs.
Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future
A book that makes you feel better by championing both modernity and humanity. Norberg argues that the world right now is a much better and safer place than it was decades ago despite whatever 81 per cent of Donald Trump’s supporters think – in contract, they are convinced that life has grown worse in the past 50 years. The development of science has given us access to state-of-the-art life conveniences which are accessible to most people all over the world; it also has given us access to better health cares which means our life expectancy is longer; our brain’s cognitive evolution, where we get better and better at imagining abstract things, has also made us smarter – humans IQ are higher too – much better at imagining the lives of others, how it feels to be in other people’s shoes, which makes us become more tolerant (the abolition of slavery, the acknowledgement of gay rights, the erosion of India’s caste system, smaller and less-frequent wars and the steeply declining number of homicide). The biggest worry is still global warming, but the author of the book believes that humanity will find a way to prevent this particular cause for our extinction from happening.
Indonesia Etc: Exploring the Improbable Nation
One of the best books ever written about our nation, Pisani’s accounts of her travels across the Indonesian archipelago is a fine hybrid between travel essays and a profound and thoughtful study of a country formed by people who inhabit more than 6000 of its islands. Her tone is non-judgemental, and her observation keen. What refreshing about this book is reading her discoveries about the less-travelled parts of Indonesia. Having lived in the country for many years, she’s not always in awe of new findings, but at the same time, she also doesn’t sound like a tired expat who has grown out of the novelty of the differences in his or her new country, wishing everything were more like how they are in their first country home. A highly recommended if you’re looking for a good and proper primer on Indonesia.