Future is frightening as we contemplate a world with man making own destiny

The wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere kill far less people compared to lifestyle killers and death by choice, suicide, the writer points out. /Khalil Ashawi/REUTERS
The wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere kill far less people compared to lifestyle killers and death by choice, suicide, the writer points out. /Khalil Ashawi/REUTERS

The puzzle of the future has always perplexed succeeding generations. Older people wonder what the future holds for their children. If you are young, you wish you could see where you are going.

Oxford-trained historian Yuval Noah Harari published another seminal book in 2016 titled Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. He forecasts a future where man has killed all gods, and become a kind of god himself, hence the transformation from Homo sapiens (human being) into Homo deus (human god).

According to Harari, we have reached a point where science has unveiled the fictitiousness of all deities, and thereby revealing the power of humankind to determine its destiny. The belief that humankind is more powerful than deities is fuelled by the achievements of science in bettering the quality and longevity of human life.

In the year 1900, the average man in the world expected to live no longer than 40 years. Today (118 years later), life expectancy is 70 years. This is not the work of a deity; it is because of science.

Given that we humans were able to almost double our lifespan in 100 years, there are thinkers who truly believe that, in the next 100 years, science will make it possible to reach 150 years without aging. Those with money will afford regenerative medicine, and be able to buy back their youthful bodies. Today, this sounds like madness, just as those who died at the age of 40 in 1900 would have declared you mad if you told them that in 2018 people will live to 70.

Harari is right. Until late in the 20th century, most people in the world died mainly from three causes: famine, plague and war.

Due to misleading news from CNN, the BBC, Al Jazeera and other international channels, we continue to believe wrongly that famine, plague and war are still the largest killers today.

Harari tells the truth: "In 2012 about 56million people died throughout the world . war killed 120000 people, and crime killed another 500000 . In contrast, 800000 committed suicide, and 1.5million died of diabetes."

The wars you see on TV (in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere) kill far less people compared to lifestyle killers and death by choice, suicide.

Indeed, most people who commit suicide live in rich countries, and diabetes kills mostly those who can afford sugary food. Cola-Cola will never kill people who cannot afford it. If you wonder what will kill your children, they will most likely die from sugar or other lifestyle killers - not hunger or war. In parents' agonies about the future of their children, it is not how their kids will die; it is what kind of adults they will become.

This is an aspect Harari writes about: the impact of technology on the character of future societies.

Pay attention to teenagers around you; they don't want to have real conversations with real people. They prefer to chat on cellphones (on WhatsApp or other social media) with people who are not around them. If not on cellphones, teenagers isolate themselves watching TV all day long. This tells you that the society of the future will be a society groomed by TV and cellphones.

What kind of consciousness will drive such societies? What meaning of morality will cellphones produce?

There are people who think today's children are more intelligent than their parents simply because they navigate iPads better. The great thinkers of yore never used computers, yet we still marvel at the depth of their ideas. A whole hoard of young people can operate a cellphone with their eyes closed, but cannot make sense of social changes unfolding around them.

Here are fundamental questions: What will be the politics of homo deus? What will mitigate his self-destruction? What will save him from death by sugar or suicide? Such is our frightening future.

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