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21 lessons for the 21st century-Book review

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Usama Shahzad Cheema

‘A wise old man was asked what he learnt about the meaning of life; ‘Well,’ he answered, ‘I have learnt that I am here on earth in order to help other people. What I still haven’t figured out is why the other people are here.’ – Harari narrates in the book while exploring the meaning of life.
The meaning of life in the 21st century is the debate that I found most engaging but concurrently most contradictory and disputed in this book. While voyaging the meaning of life, the writer ruthlessly criticised almost all the religions and ideologies like fascism, communism and communism (accompanied that you also get to know these ideologies) and blatantly advocated secularism as the sole saviour for the modern world. As is conspicuous, the writer’s approach to the meaning of life is subjective, and every individual holds the liberty to dissent with his ideas, so do I.

Chapter by chapter, the writer unfolds the mysteries emerging in the contemporary world due to the consolidation of Information-technology and biotechnology and denounces it as a substantial challenge for humankind in the present century. Technological advancement at a ground-breaking pace is undoubtedly an impending challenge because of the accompanying menaces of mass-unemployment, disillusionment, and digital dictatorships, etcetera. But no well-grounded solutions for these problems have been argued in the book, and the pathway to rescue humankind has been largely left open-ended.

Emphasising the change in the world due to these hardly-noticed advancements, Harari has precisely and rightly quoted,

“If the future of humanity is decided in your absence; because you are too busy feeding and clothing your kids, you and they will not be exempt from the consequences. This is very unfair; but who said history was fair?”

Terrorism, war and immigration are among other intriguing issues in the twenty-first century that have been elucidated in the book.

In my opinion, even though the writer has rightly presented these issues as prominent predicaments for the modern world but he has downsized the issues. Probably the dimensions of the issues of the 21st century are much broader, and the writer had a limited number of pages.
Last but not least, global problems need global answers, so the writer has urged adopting a global approach and embracing humility about oneself or one’s ideology, religion or nation, rightly saying that you are not the linchpin of the world.

As a whole, the writer’s subjective approach at times and inadequate exploration of the global issues are frailties of this book. Not to mention the scarcity of any viable solution for almost all the global problems highlighted. Regardless, the writer must be accredited for initiating the debate about the unforeseen future of humanity, and this debate is substantial to eliminate the existential threats that humankind is facing in the twenty-first century.
‘The greatest crimes in modern history result not just from hatred and greed, but even more so from ignorance and indifference.’

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