21 Lessons for the 21st Century

21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Book - 2018
Average Rating:
Rate this:
With Sapiens and Homo Deus , Yuval Noah Harari first explored the past, then the future of humankind, garnering the praise of no less than Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, to name a few, and selling millions of copies in the over 30 countries it was published. In 21 Lessons for the 21st Century , he devotes himself to the present.

21 Lessons For the 21st Century provides a kind of instruction manual for the present day to help readers find their way around the 21st century, to understand it, and to focus on the really important questions of life. Once again, Harari presents this in the distinctive, informal, and entertaining style that already characterized his previous books. The topics Harari examines in this way include major challenges such as international terrorism, fake news, and migration, as well as turning to more personal, individual concerns, such as our time for leisure or how much pressure and stress we can take. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century answers the overarching question: What is happening in the world today, what is the deeper meaning of these events, and how can we individually steer our way through them? The questions include what the rise of Trump signifies, whether or not God is back, and whether nationalism can help solve problems like global warming. Few writers of non-fiction have captured the imagination of millions of people in quite the astonishing way Yuval Noah Harari has managed, and in such a short space of time. His unique ability to look at where we have come from and where we are going has gained him fans from every corner of the globe. There is an immediacy to this new book which makes it essential reading for anyone interested in the world today and how to navigate its turbulent waters.
Publisher: [Toronto] : Signal, 2018.
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780771048852
Branch Call Number: 909.83 HAR
Characteristics: xix, 372 pages


From Library Staff

The third book in Harari's loose trilogy of non-fiction titles sees the popular author focusing on the present as his topic of interest. The book provides an almost instruction manual for the 21st century focusing on the major issues that concern us today including terrorism, fake news and migrat... Read More »

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jun 25, 2019

This book provides a very deep insight into the pros and cons of our society in the 21st century. The author does a very good job of comparing each lesson and reality. One of them I was particularity interested in was that schools should teach more on how to think, not what to think. Personally, I agree with this stance as knowledge can easily be obtained, but thinking is a skill, which takes time and effort to master. Memorization of knowledge simply doesn’t fit our society, but we continue to do it. We spend years of our childhood cramming likely useless information into our brains without questioning if we will ever need it. Ever since the internet and computers were invented, knowledge carrying people and books were obsolete. Therefore, the current education model is incredibly outdated and needs revision. Another lesson I believe was important was that automation will inevitability replace human workers. An example the author provides is that impaired and overworked truck drivers account for a lot of traffic accident and if they were replaced with autonomous drivers then accident rates would decrease.

I think this book is a great read for young people looking for context in society. As a student, I have learned lots from this book. I rated this book a 10/10 because of how well it explains how to succeed in society.

Apr 28, 2019

21 Lessons for the 21st Century is truly a depressing, disturbing, frightening book. If Mr. Harari is right, the 21st century is not something I want to experience. As challenging as things are right now, he predicts they will get much worse in so many ways. If he is right, there is virtually nothing we can do about it. (I sincerely hope he is dead wrong.)

The first section of this book is called The Technological Challenge. It is horrific. I attended a conference in March at which a speaker on Artificial Intelligence predicted that large percentages of jobs that exist today would be gone in the next 7-15 years. Mr. Harari agrees, but says it will not stop there. He predicts constant and continuing disruption in the job market for the foreseeable future, such that most people will not have jobs at all (because many jobs will be replaced by machines, and the few jobs that exist will be too sophisticated for most people to do), and those that do have jobs will have to reinvent themselves every few years (which will screw up their mental health). Cheap unskilled labor will be worthless. How will people survive? He talks about universal basic income, but that is challenging to implement, especially where it may be most needed. After all, could people agree on what is basic? And what is universal?

What will give purpose to people’s lives? Why will people want to get up in the morning if there is no meaningful work (or even unmeaningful work)?

Bad as that is, it was not the worst thing he predicts. He thinks humans will give up any illusion of free will and personal decision-making (he argues that we do not really have free will anyway, that we are controlled by our biology), and all our decisions will be made for us by algorithms. We will all be required to wear biometric sensors that are monitored by tech companies, insurance companies, the government, etc. They will know everything we do, and everything we do can be manipulated. Humans will end up like domesticated farm animals. As overreaching as the tech companies are today, things will get worse (even worse than China and its existing social credit system, which is scary already).

There will be even worse economic inequality than today. And people will have no way to fight back, because they are essentially irrelevant. Machines and AI (and the rich people who own them) will control everything. The average person will have no power even over his or her own life.

The author also tears down anything we might believe in or anything that might give our lives meaning today, whether it be religion, education, knowledge, philosophy, one’s nation, creativity, art, music, etc.

His personal solution appears to be his two hours a day of meditation (which is his last chapter). Two hours a day!! That sounds unbearable to me!

Basically, he appears to predict that we will all end up a lot like the Borg on Star Trek: The Next Generation. We will be part of a collective, and “Resistance is futile.”

My response to this is:

1. I hope he is dead wrong about the future.

2. If he is right, I am glad I am as old as I am, so I will not have to live through all of this. It sounds miserable.

3. I am going to focus on enjoying every minute of my life right now, as “these are the good old days”. Whether or not he is right about the future, that is a good strategy! For now, we can still make our own choices about our own lives.

Apr 05, 2019

*** I would love if the library would order an audio cd copy of the book! ***

Mar 23, 2019

more warnings than lessons

Jan 30, 2019

I agree with others that this book raises interesting questions and definitely gets you thinking. But he really scratches the surface on many of his ideas. It serves as a good conversation starter but you need to look elsewhere if you want to look in-depth into the ideas he raises.

I also don't like Harari's overly pessimistic view on things. Our society can go in so many directions. He talks as if homo sapiens time on earth is basically done within a century. He could be right but his theories aren't any more valid than others. He's written a pithy book that is getting attention but other views are out there.

Worth a read.

Jan 17, 2019

This book, and others by this author - Sapiens and Homo Deus - have got resounding reviews. I borrowed and ‘read’ Homo Deus and 21 Lessons. Found both to be very shallow collections of everyday issues. For 21 Lessons, all that an engaged reader has to do is read the chapter headings and subtitles - and would not need to read the book. Opinions are just that; an unbiased understanding of the issue is crucial starting point. Reading the author’s view did not provide me any additional perspective on the topics. The ink and paper would have been better used elsewhere. Save your time - skip it.

Jan 16, 2019

If lined up on that now-ubiquitous media bias chart, this book would be left-of-center. Written in 2018 (and read/reviewed in Jan 2019) it has all of the major players in our headlines, so is, obviously, timely and apropos. As an historian, the author does well with parlaying today's goings-on into a wider-timeline perspective. Mainly the book raises interesting points, interesting perspectives and interesting conjecture/guesses. A good read.

Dec 20, 2018

The book is generally quite engaging and does discuss many very important issues. I found the historical, social and geopolitical commentary to be quite illuminating, but when he occasionally wanders out of his lane into more technological or scientific aspects he is much less convincing. The book also does drag a bit in the last couple chapters.

Nov 28, 2018

Very entertaining. Read and think...it is not required that you agree.

Take what you read here with a grain of salt. Harari is a historian, not a scientist or engineer. When his writings touch these topics, which is most of the time, it is implausible speculation, based on sensationalist guesswork by popular science journalists. Go through the chapter on Work, for example, and count how many sentences start with "What if." First, does anyone who knows what they're talking about think these what-ifs might come to pass, and second, I'm looking to you, Harari, to tell me what's going to happen, not ask me!

Worth looking into, but not as good as the previous two books, which were works of history. One might suspect it was written to capitalize on their success. Comes across as a sophomore bull session, or what we used to call mental masturbation, meaning that it feels good to think about, but it just doesn't get the job done, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at EPL

To Top