Tag Archives: Homo Sapiens

Best books of 2016

   

I managed to read 25 books in 2016 and I hope to finish two or three during my Christmas break.

During 2016, I read the books listed below.

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
Focus by Daniel Goleman
Homo Sapiens by Yuval Harari
Homo Deus by Yuval Harari
Startup Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer
A Funny thing happened on the way to Enlightenment by Lenny Ravich
His life biography by Jak Kamhi
Arrested by Can Dundar
Blockchain Revolution by Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott
An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Education by Tony Little
Power of Palace: Geography, Destiny, and Globalization’s Rough Landscape by H.J. de Blij
Never Give Up: Jack Ma in his own words by Suk Lee
Germany: Memories of a Nation by Neil MacGregor
Confession of a Sociopath: A Life spent hiding in plain sight by M.E. Thomas
Facing with our own history by Emre Kongar
Acknowledging what is: Conversations with Bert Hellinger by Bert Hellinger
Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman
Blimey! from Bohemia to Britpop: The London Artworld by Matthew Collin
This is London by Ben Judah
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
When Breath becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
2014: The Election that changed India by Rajdeep Sardesai
Last night I Dreamed of Peace by Dang Thuy Tram
Memoirs of Ataturk’s Servant by Cemal Granda

Of course, you learn something from each book and each book has a relative value to each reader. If I were to suggest only three books to read from this list of great books, they would be the following:

  • Homo Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Harari
  • Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman
  • The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli

 Both books by Yuval Harari are great and I believe I have already given at least 40 volumes as gifts to my colleagues, friends and clients. In particular, Homo Sapiens is a must read. For those who have not read my review of these two books, here are the links:

http://haskanwrites.com/2016/02/book-review-sapiens-by-yuval-noah-harari/
http://haskanwrites.com/2016/12/book-review-homo-deus/ 

Incognito is also another great book which confirms that while most of us think that we know everything, our brain plays tricks and we are, in fact, missing a large part of the world. I also published a review of this book a couple of months ago.

http://haskanwrites.com/2016/11/book-review-incognito-by-david-eagleman/

Finally, The Prince by Machiavelli is a classic and I bought this book during my summer visit to Florence. I think this is the sort of book that you should read every few years.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone happy 2017!

I am sure 2017 will be much better in many ways than 2016!

Best of luck in 2017.

All the best from Galle, Sri Lanka.
Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Book Review: Homo Deus

After reading Yuval Harari’s book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind early this year, it was almost impossible not to read his next book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow as soon as it is published and I can get it.

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Homo Deus is the second book written by Harari and talks about the future of mankind. Since Deus is “God” in Latin, he argues in his book that a new religion called Dataism to raise and humans will not need gods anymore since we will very accurately predict what will happen or who will do what by the help of gather data.

The book starts with striking statistics about the past and the present. Almost three million people–15% of the French population–starved to death between 1692 and 1694.  Today, more people are dying of diabetes, which is linked to being overweight rather than a result of starvation.  According to Harari, in 2014 more than two billion people were overweight compared to 850 million who suffered from malnutrition. Half of humankind is expected to be overweight by 2030.

Some of the quotes from the book that I really liked:

“Sugar is more dangerous than gunpowder”

“We don’t 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”

Does the above quote remind you of someone?

“Historians don’t ignore objective factors such as climate changes and genetic mutations, but they give much greater importance to the stories people invention and believe”

Like in his first book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, in Homo Deus Harari emphasizes the power of stories whether they are true or not. Actually my interpretation is; the less likely they are true and superficial, the more likely the people will listen.

Another point Harari argues is that humankind’s definition of knowledge has kept changing since the Agricultural Revolution. We were simple creatures during this time, so knowledge for reading the scriptures and applying and applying our logic.

“Knowledge= Scriptures x Logic”

Then the Scientific Revolution came and everything focused on collecting data and trying to find meaning for the gathered data.

“Knowledge = Empirical Data x Mathematics”

Finally in 21st century, as much as we are confident about ourselves, we care more about our life experiences and our sensitivities.

Another provocative fact that Harari argues is that there is no free will, and that free will can be manipulated. With the help of technology and data, machines know much better than what we will do or choose. Harari argues that companies are using this to manipulate us. In other words, Harari says what you think you want to do may not be really what you want to do.

He strengthens these points in the following sentence: “We are about to face a flood of extremely useful devices, tools and structures that make no allowance for the free will of individual humans”

Fascinating and provocative! Isn’t it!?

Harari also argues “In the 21st century we might witness the creation of a new massive class: people devoid of any economic, political or even artistic value, who contribute nothing to the prosperity, power and glory of society”  I personally did not get this point. Since societies are manipulated, how can they have this massive new class?

Some other provocative thoughts in the book are about collecting personal data.  Harari states “In the 21st century our personal data is probably the most valuable resource most humans still have to offer, and we are giving it to the tech giants in exchange for email services and funny cat videos”

“After 300 likes, Facebook algorithm can predict your opinions better than your husband or wife!

Yuval Harari is a young and great visionary writer. He definitely make my 2016 and led me to think as well as learn a lot!  He offers great opportunities for readers to think and learn. Harari’s Homo Deus is highly recommended.  His first book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is suggested as a prerequisite to Homo Deus.

I believe he will be in Istanbul on January, 25th which I am planning to fly and meet him in person!

Best Regards from Singapore.
Sukru Haskan

Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Book Review: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

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A couple of months back, I published my next five books to read and one of them was Sapiens. Since this week marked Chinese New Year (Gong Xi Fa Cai!), it was a great opportunity to read Sapiens over the four-day break. I will share some of the author’s own sentences with my own comments and I hope that you find it interesting enough to read the whole book.

The author, Yuval Harari, divided the book into four different parts according to humankind’s developments: the cognitive revolution, the agricultural revolution, the unification of humankind, and the scientific revolution.

“The cognitive revolution kick-started history about 70,000 years ago. The agricultural revolution sped it up about 12,000 years ago. The scientific revolution, which got under way only 500 years.”

The author argues that prehistoric humans were insignificant animals with no more impact than gorillas, fireflies and jellyfish, and our closest living relatives include chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans. Legends, myths, gods and religions appeared for the first time with the cognitive revolution.

The transition to agriculture began around 9500–8500 BC in the hill country of south-eastern Turkey, western Iran and the Levant. Yuval believes that the agricultural revolution was history’s biggest fraud since the average farmer worked harder than the average forager, and received a worse diet in return.

He names this fraud as the luxury trap by stating that, “The pursuit of an easier life resulted in much hardship, and not for the last time. It happens to us today. How many young college graduates have taken demanding jobs in high-powered firms, vowing that they will work hard to earn money that will enable them to retire and pursue their real interests when they are 35? But by the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children to school, houses in the suburbs that necessitate at least two cars per family and a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad. What are they supposed to do, go back to digging up roots? No, they double their efforts and keep slaving away.

He rightly argues throughout the book that worries about the future became major players in the theatre of the human mind.

So why study history? Unlike physics or economics, history is not a means of making accurate predictions. We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine.”

So true… Everything is happening because of a series of past events and it is important to evaluate the reasons and continue our lives accordingly.

The scientific revolution started with human beings accepting the Latin injunction ignoramus, in other words “We don’t know”. This is still a huge problem in many countries as people think they know everything. Instead, when you accept that you don’t know enough, it opens the door to investigate, observe and learn.

He explains the necessities of holding societies together in quite a comprehensive way and explains why scientific revolution took place in Europe rather than anywhere else.

“In 1500, annual per capita production averaged $550, while today every man, woman and child produces, on the average, $8,800 a year.” 

The scientific revolution has definitely increased our productivity, but has it really improved the overall satisfaction of our lives as well? The book also discusses this point in quite a nice way as well.

“Each year the US population spends more money on diets than the amount needed to feed all the hungry people in the rest of the world. Obesity is a double victory for consumerism. Instead of eating little, which will lead to economic contraction, people eat too much and then buy diet products – contributing to economic growth twice over.”

This is another sad fact of our age. Because our distribution of goods and services channels are not well developed (or maybe we don’t want to develop?) whilst many people suffer from famine, some other people battle against obesity.

He argues that there will not be a large-scale war in the future, which I don’t really agree with. He puts forward the argument that the economical benefits of peace are so great that countries will avoid a large-scale war. Even though the economic benefits of peace along with social benefits are huge, these benefits are being shared by only fraction of the world’s population. Due to this fact, I personally expect a large-scale war to arise from low income people if these issues are not addressed immediately.

He finishes his book with a question: “Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?”

Overall, the book enlightens us about the series of past events that took place in the history of the humankind and it helps us to think why certain institutions, beliefs and behaviour exist in our lives.

I rate this book 5/5 and recommend you to read it as well. Yuval Harari also has a website where you can watch his videos and even subscribe to his public courses.

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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