Review: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

June 1, 2020

Who is Yuval Noah Harari?

Yuval Noah Harari is a lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He specializes in world history and has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Oxford. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is his third best-selling book after, Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. The three books have totaled over 20 million copies sold globally. 

While I haven’t read his two previous books, they are well-regarded for describing where we came from and our future as a species. Therefore, his third book should compel us to analyze present narratives, the challenges that await humanity, and how we can prepare ourselves and our children today.

To learn more about Dr. Harari and his endeavors, visit https://www.ynharari.com/.

What you’ll learn in 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Dr. Harari describes three main challenges or concerns for our species within the 21st century. These are:

  1. Nuclear War and Mass Destruction
    • Some of the “lessons” contribute to conflicts all around the world. These conflicts and our inability to co-exist in some cases make this a real possibility.
  2. Advancements in the relationship between Artificial Intelligence and Biotechnology
    • Their merger may lead to the mass-replacement of jobs that exist today due to increased capabilities and no human error.
    • Their ability to understand humans and our desires may lead to increased conflicts involving our current understanding of liberty and equality.
  3. Ecological Catastrophe or Climate Change

Lessons & Narratives

The 21 “lessons” represent specific elements of society, such as war, religion, or immigration. They describe how each can either be part of the solution or contribute to one of the three major challenges. These lessons are not answers. You shouldn’t read this book to find any. However, you will find a framework for processing the advancements we make in each of the three categories above. On these “lessons,” Dr. Harari says they “…aim to stimulate further thinking and help readers participate in some of the major conversations of our time.” (4).

Additionally, Harari challenges the “stories” or narratives that have shaped the different lenses through which we perceive the world. These include religions, our values, and the ideas with which we have created our own narrative for our life and its purpose. 

Moreover, Harari describes that the flaws in our political systems must also be analyzed. Liberal democracy proved decades ago, to be the most appropriate political system (compared to Communism and Fascism) for encouraging the development of our species and achieving co-existence. Nevertheless, it too has flaws in dealing with each of these three major challenges outlined by Dr. Harari. 

Therefore, we must be willing to see the flaws of our society’s narratives to process the developments of this century objectively. Then, we will be able to think of ways to overcome or even avoid these three significant challenges altogether.

Final Verdict: 9/10

I loved 21 Lessons for the 21st Century and how Dr. Harari dissects the limitations of our worldviews. This book serves as a reminder that we process the news according to the stories we have chosen to follow (religión, political party, etc.). They all have their flaws, and only when we understand this can we contribute to the most important conversations of our time.

This book will challenge you to consider all of the narratives that guide homo sapiens and our decision making. If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, you’re in the business of problem-solving. So, it will behoove you to read Dr. Harari’s work and understand how to view the world to address our species’ most significant limitations.

I rank this book a 9/10! You can purchase the 21 Lessons for the 21st Century audiobook on Audible, or if you’re old school like me, the hard copy on Amazon.

Have you read any of Yuval Noah Harari’s work? Comment what you think, and if you enjoyed this article, you’ll love my other book reviews!

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One comment on “Review: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

  1. Always love Mariel’s reviews. Another great post TSB ????????