AI and Biotechnology - Homo Deus Notes

Author Name: Yuval Noah Harari


I first picked up Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari at the spectacular Shakespeare & Company bookstore while on a trip in Paris in 2015. The book’s novel and thought-provoking exploration of how AI and biotechnology will shape the future of our species left an indelible mark on my perspective. Now, amidst the recent AI revolution that has propelled these topics to the forefront of public discussion, I felt I needed to revisit this work. I downloaded the audiobook with my trusty Libby App, courtesy of the Seattle Public Library, and used my Notion workflow to capture my notes per usual.

What stands our most to me are a few key points:

  • AI and biotechnology are on an inevitable course to reshape humans in the next hundred years, and its likely our current Homo Sapiens species will change dramatically such that we’ve evolved into something else.
  • The status quo ideologues of today such as democracy, human rights, the free market, and the concepts of individual dignity are likely to collapse as non conscious super algorithms cause us to question these values and surrender to more effective ways of living.
  • Dataism is likely the “techno religion” that will take on a pervasive role on our planet/universe. Dataism posits that organisms are algorithms and life is a data processing mechanism and that which processes data in a superior way will prevail. In the end, super algorithms are likely to devalue homo sapiens in the way we have devalued all other species on earth.

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Key Principles and Concepts

  • Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” delves into the potential future of humanity, focusing on the profound implications of technological advancements, particularly in the fields of AI and biotechnology.
  • Humans as Algorithmic Beings: Harari argues that humans are essentially algorithmic beings, with our feelings and experiences being the result of biochemical processes. This perspective challenges the notion of free will and suggests that we are not as unique or in control as we believe.
  • The Rise of AI and Biotechnology: The rapid advancements in AI and biotechnology could lead to the creation of “superhumans” and the potential obsolescence of the majority of the human population. As these technologies progress, we must carefully consider their implications and work to ensure that they benefit all of humanity.
  • Harari explores the shift from traditional religious and humanist ideologies to a new paradigm called “dataism,” which places value on the accumulation and processing of data above all else. The author challenges our understanding of what it means to be human in an age of rapid technological change.
  • Dataism: The New Religion: Harari introduces the concept of dataism, a new ideology that values data processing above all else. As we increasingly rely on data-driven systems, it is essential to consider the ethical implications and ensure that these systems align with our core values and promote the well-being of all individuals.
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Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

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Personal Insights and Application

  • Homo Deus” challenges our understanding of what it means to be human and the role of consciousness in our lives. By recognizing the algorithmic nature of our thoughts and behaviors, we can work towards developing a more objective understanding of ourselves and others.
  • As we navigate the future of humanity in the face of rapid technological advancements, it is crucial that we engage in ongoing learning and discussion about the implications of AI and biotechnology on society. This book serves as a valuable starting point for these critical conversations.
  • To further explore the concepts presented in “Homo Deus,” consider applying the insights to your own life and work. Reflect on how AI and biotechnology may impact your industry, and consider the steps you can take to prepare for and adapt to these changes.

Challenges and Opportunities of AI and Biotechnology

  • The rapid development of AI and biotechnology will likely outpace our ability to fully understand and regulate their implications. It is essential that we work to bridge this gap and ensure that these technologies are developed and implemented responsibly.
  • While there is a risk of widening inequality as only a select few may have access to the benefits of these technologies, there are also tremendous opportunities for solving global challenges, such as disease, poverty, and environmental degradation. By proactively addressing these challenges, we can work towards a future that benefits all of humanity.


  • Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” offers a thought-provoking exploration of the potential future of humanity, challenging our assumptions about consciousness, free will, and the nature of being human in an age of AI and biotechnology.
  • This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the implications of technological advancements and the future of our species. By engaging with the ideas presented in “Homo Deus,” we can better prepare ourselves for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Key Quotes

  • We do not become satisfied by leading a peaceful and prosperous existence. Rather, we become satisfied when reality matches our expectations. The bad news is that as conditions improve, expectations balloon.
  • Every day millions of people decide to grant their smartphone a bit more control over their lives or try a new and more effective antidepressant drug. In pursuit of health, happiness and power, humans will gradually change first one of their features and then another, and another, until they will no longer be human.
  • Capitalism did not defeat communism because capitalism was more ethical, because individual liberties are sacred or because God was angry with the heathen communists. Rather, capitalism won the Cold War because distributed data processing works better than centralised data processing, at least in periods of accelerating technological change.
  • Precisely because technology is now moving so fast, and parliaments and dictators alike are overwhelmed by data they cannot process quickly enough, present-day politicians are thinking on a far smaller scale than their predecessors a century ago. Consequently, in the early twenty-first century politics is bereft of grand visions. Government has become mere administration. It manages the country, but it no longer leads it.
  • 1.​Science is converging on an all-encompassing dogma, which says that organisms are algorithms and life is data processing. 2.​Intelligence is decoupling from consciousness. 3.​Non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms may soon know us better than we know ourselves. These three processes raise three key questions, which I hope will stick in your mind long after you have finished this book: 1.​Are organisms really just algorithms, and is life really just data processing? 2.​What’s more valuable – intelligence or consciousness? 3.​What will happen to society, politics and daily life when non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms know us better than we know ourselves?

Action Steps

  • Read “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” and use our book summary notion template to capture and organize your insights.
  • Engage in ongoing learning and discussion about the implications of AI and biotechnology on society. Share your thoughts and insights with others, and consider how you can contribute to shaping a future that benefits all of humanity.
  • Your organization is only as good as the data it processes. If you’re interested in building an AI application, we can help with product management, talent sourcing, change management, and more. Contact us to learn how we can support your AI initiatives.

Raw Notes

Here is a comprehensive list of the logic points discussed in the notes, along with some additional details for each point:

Humans search for immortality and divinity, but the book explores what humans will try to achieve, not necessarily what they will achieve.

  • The book discusses famine, plague, war, and the biological poverty line.
  • Humans have shifted from blaming divine anger to blaming incompetent humans for problems.

Knowledge has become the most important economic resource, rather than materials.

  • Coca Cola is considered more deadly than Al Qaeda.
  • Death is seen as a technical problem that can be solved.
  • Most forms of illness are considered technical issues.

The concept of being “amortal” vs. immortal is introduced.

  • Despite advances, it doesn’t mean humans are happier.
  • Happiness occurs when experiences match expectations.
  • Happiness is a biochemical process, not designed for long-term contentment.

Humans will gradually fuse with technology until they are no longer the same species.

  • In vitro fertilization is at the forefront of the eugenics project.
  • Once nuclear DNA can be replaced in embryos, it will open the floodgates for genetic modification.

The agricultural revolution led to the overthrow of animistic beliefs.

  • Sedentary lifestyles required a more powerful God to protect and help with problems.

A genetic arms race will develop among humans.

  • Even if individuals disagree with the ethics, they will participate to avoid being left behind.
  • Countries with fewer ethical concerns will lead the way.

Increased knowledge leads to less predictability and more discontent.

  • In the past, people could assume their children would follow similar life paths.
  • More sophisticated algorithms and computing power are needed to address concerns about unpredictability.

The humanist doctrine of feelings and their importance will collapse in an AI-controlled world.

  • Emotions are biochemical algorithms vital for the survival and reproduction of mammals.
  • No known algorithm requires consciousness to operate.

Intersubjective reality is a third level of perception, beyond subjective and objective reality.

  • Examples include money, gods, and nations.
  • People have difficulty accepting that their beliefs are intersubjective rather than objective truths.

Humans have reached their current state due to their ability to flexibly collaborate in large numbers towards goals.

  • Other species, like ants and chimpanzees, collaborate but not as flexibly or on a large scale.

Religion is not about spirituality or superstition, but about believing in unchangeable laws handed down from a higher power.

  • Religion provides superhuman legitimacy to structures and institutions.
  • Spirituality is seen as the enemy of religion.

Humanism is the dominant religion of the modern era.

  • The humanist contract involves giving up meaning in exchange for power.
  • Humanism believes in the importance of human feelings and experiences.

Dataism is a potential future religion that values data processing above all else.

  • Dataism is skeptical of human knowledge and emphasizes the supremacy of computer-based knowledge and data.
  • All life forms and societies are seen as data processing mechanisms.

The efficacy of a society’s data processing system determines its success.

  • Factors include the number and diversity of data processors, the connections between them, and the freedom of data flow.
  • The greatest sin in dataism is blocking the flow of data.

Humans may become obsolete as data processors, replaced by more efficient silicon-based algorithms.

  • Human feelings have been the best algorithms for maximizing survival, but this is changing.
  • As AI advances, humanist goals may recede, and humans may become mere data points in the cosmic data flow.

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