Original Research - Special Collection: Challenging Building Blocks

Building the future in the 21st century: In conversation with Yuval Noah Harari

Anton A. van Niekerk
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 1 | a6058 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i1.6058 | © 2020 Anton A. van Niekerk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 April 2020 | Published: 20 November 2020

About the author(s)

Anton A. van Niekerk, Centre for Applied Ethics, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa; Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa


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Abstract

Yuval Noah Harari has proved himself to be one of the most prominent and accessible historians of the 21st century. He has not only popularised a so-called dialectic with the past but also encouraged speculation about the history of the future. This article critically engages with Harari’s revolutionary projections in an attempt to evaluate the lessons and concerns that one ought to take away from his work. More specifically, the ever-increasing achievements in the world of science and technology need to be balanced by humility. Homo sapiens are in the unprecedented position to shape their own evolution – thanks to what is often termed ‘the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ – and speedily move towards the emergence of a new kind of being. The very nature of being in such an unparalleled situation is that there now exists an unprecedented discontinuity between the past and present. With this in mind, is it even possible to make valid predictions about what the future holds in the manner that Harari does? Is it our responsibility to take on this task at all? These are some of the questions that this article grapples with as an impetus for suggesting provisional guidelines for humanity to follow when we inevitably take the future into our own hands.

Contribution: This article forms part of a collection that not only reflects on the origin and development of creation, but also on what the possible future might look like. It is based on historical thought and source interpretation that fits well with the intersectional and multi-disciplinary approach of this journal and collection.


Keywords

Algorithms; Harari; Historicism; History of the future; Homo sapiens; Longevity; Morality; Regulation; Responsibility; Story-telling

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