Transformational Books – Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, by Yuval Noah Harari was published in the US in February of 2017. Homo Deus is the successor to Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Where Sapiens takes a look at the history of humankind to provide insight into who we are today, Homo Deus explores where we may be heading in the future – primarily the next 50 – 100 years.
Essentially, the premise is that as humans, we have conquered our traditional afflictions of famine, disease and war. So, what’s next? Harari suggests that our future efforts will address happiness, immortality, and a state in which we might attain god-like qualities – Homo Deus. He also examines what might follow a post-enlightenment, post-humanistic world populated by Homo Deus.
One of the ideas that I found most transformational was the discussion on inter-subjective reality. It’s not a new concept. Humans have been creating inter-subjective realities for 70,000 years. Nations, religions, money. These are all creations of societies that we accept as reality although they don’t exist objectively in reality. As the urgency of physical reality wanes, inter-subjective reality is emerging as an important and unpredictable force in our future. Cryptocurrencies, intellectual property, augmented and virtual reality all fall into this growing category. Technology is empowering societies to create inter-subjective realities at an unprecedented rate. How will we, as a society and as a species handle this?
It’s an important concept for marketing too. Companies are inter-subjective, as are brands. They exist only in our minds. Their usefulness is derived from a collective belief and acceptance of their existence and value. A marketer’s role is to mold that belief and to protect the perception and expression of that belief. It’s a powerful and insightful lens through which to view an organization. It’s also a lens that amplifies the moral and ethical responsibility of the marketing profession.
The Peak-End Rule
Another idea that I found transformational was the discussion of how our minds perceive experiences and the peak-end rule. As with intersubjective reality, the peak-end rule isn’t a a new concept. Harari uses it to illustrate how the way we experience the world is altered by the way that we are wired to experience it, and why we may choose to cede more of our decision-making to impartial algorithms. He asks the important question, “What happens to society when non sentient algorithms know us better than we know ourselves?”
Essentially, scientific experiments have found that the two hemispheres of our brain perceive experience differently. One half of our brain is the experiencing self which lives in the moment, while the other is the narrative self. Generally, the narrative self dominates, but it takes short-cuts. According to the peak-end rule, the narrative self averages the peak experience – positive or negative – with the end experience in registering a memory. It’s why a child remembers the candy at the end of the trip to the doctor’s office, while the prick from the vaccination isn’t as vivid.
For marketers, the peak-end rule emphasizes the importance of having clear beginnings and endings to customer experiences. This makes the impression of the experience easier to manage. It also demonstrates why concepts like service recovery, customer surveys and quarterly and annual business reviews are so important. It’s not only that you want feedback, but these events also create endpoints that can be used to manage the customers’ impressions.
Throughout the book, Harari challenges us with thought experiments that explore possible futures derived from our current trajectories. What does it mean to be human? Does being human matter? What does it mean to be happy? Is intelligence more valuable than consciousness? These are important and transformational explorations. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow makes a strong case that it’s important that we explore them now.
This article is the fourth in the category, Transformational Books. In 2018, I will write articles on the books that I complete during the year and explain how they had a transformational influence. If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, you can click on the affinity program link to Amazon.com in this article.