Homo Deus, one more journey to human desolation
ذ. محمد لهلال / Homo Deus, one more journey to human desolation
Homo Deus, one more journey to human desolation
By Mohammed Lahlal
One of the books that has triggered controversy in the milieu of intellectuals recently is Homo Deus by the Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari after his best-seller Homo Sapiens. Homo Deus projects the future of humanity in a dystopian fashion. It imagines a future in which everything is determined through the advancements in info technology and biotechnology. The author contends that with these advancements, scientists will be able to manipulate genes, hormones and neurons and “recreate” humans. Therefore, humans will be able to live much longer and in the distant future death would be seen as a mere “technical problem” that can be fixed to produce the immortal human. It is the age of the new faith “Dataism” and algorithm hegemony in which all aspects of life will be reconsidered and reengineered towards the “creation” of the super-human, totally different from the human species we have known through history. In this imagined world, there is no such soul as it is scientifically undetectable in humans, and no human free will, everything is reengineered to yield wanted results. Artificial intelligence will largely supersede human faculties, and its omnipresence and omniscience will affect human vision of life, emotions, work nature, among other vital things. These are some ideas prophesied by the author in his book; why does this kind of writing appeal to some readers and intellectuals? And what is the philosophy behind? How can we reorient intellectuals to repurpose the use of science and technology and redefine the meaning of life?
In the midst of confusion and disorientation humanity have slid into in our modern age, people are prone to accept assumptions that herald the dystopian fate of mankind on this planet. They would likely hail eccentric views and interpretations of their past, present and future, mainly if they are colored with achievements of science and information technology. Many films were produced to feature the apocalyptic end humanity is veering to and the super-power of machine that would outstrip human capacities and be in control of his destiny. This picture is also unfortunately translated in video games that millions of children watch on daily basis. The fear mongers are not aware they add more anxiety to a miserable humanity and stoke more violence for survival because there is always someone or something there to threaten one’s life and security. This does not mean we are against developments in science and technology, but what is the direction?
When you navigate the ideas floated in Homo Deus, you will find out that nothing has changed with respect to the underpinning philosophy. It is again positivism and Darwinism that form the basis of interpretations and future projections. Homo Sapiens are seen as extension to other sapiens who had disappeared, and due to the evolutionary process, man is seen as steering towards disappearance to let the place for the super-human, the making of algorithm idol under the aegis of “Dataism”, the new religion. Religion as professed by mankind will disappear and this is exactly what positivism preaches, belief in only what is scientifically verifiable and alienation of metaphysics and theism. This of course will put into question all moral values set by religion to make them susceptible to conflicting interpretations which will generate more confusion and social disunity.
Repurposing science and technology
It is taken for granted that science and technology should be used to serve the interest of humankind. Great technological and scientific achievements have generally been a blessing to mankind in a variety of fields, for instance in medicine, the deadly diseases and protracted pandemics which used to cause so many deaths are no more a threat, though the challenges are still high to tackle new pandemics, and covid 19 is an example. The physical toiling has been replaced by sophisticated machines that do the job with more accuracy and fast. Communication is no more a problem as the world is reduced to a tiny village where people interact through a worldwide web. However, ethical and moral questions raise in parallel with these advancements. If we have to pursue this course of scientific and technological development, we should be aware not to fall in making the means an end, in other words we should repurpose the means to serve the interest of humanity in all aspects of life. Scientists and technology experts should be responsible as not to cross the limits of their field of study to provoke people’s beliefs and moral values to picture that science and technology is able to transcend and challenge them. Driven by passion and arrogance, some scientists had indulged in provocative animal cloning experiment to extend it to human cloning, but they succeeded only in stoking more turmoil and triggering public indignation.
Redefining life destination
The scientific and technological feats should not eclipse the meaning of human life and destination. If as imagined by the author the super-human will be one day immortal, what is then the meaning of life and what is the ultimate end? The existential questions will remain unanswered and the author leaves the destination so obscure for coming generations to deal with. We are the creation of God, the Almighty, and God has delegated man to build civilizations and establish justice on earth and worship Him as He is the Creator, the Sustainer, the Life-Giver and God resurrects his creation to the Judgment Day to reward and punish accordingly. Who else can set such clear path and destination than God, Exalted is He? God, the Almighty, says in the Quran: “So, when they had forgotten the warning they had received, We opened the gates to everything for them. Then, as they reveled in what they had been given, We struck them suddenly and they were dumbfounded.” (al-An’am, 44). The gates to sciences and technology are opened to unbelievers, but as they indulge in rebellion against God’s religion and use their instrumental minds to defy God’s commands, they will mislead humanity and drag it to more confusion, desolation and purposelessness.
As a conclusion, instead of expending more efforts in addressing the real issues affecting humanity such as the prevalent poverty, climate degradation, wars, pandemics and diseases, some scientists and intellectuals, inspired by mythical anecdotes and driven by whimsical passion, divert to sensational unusual interpretations of history and fictitious predictions. No way out of the conundrum humanity is ensnared in is possible unless we return to the true Revelation of God which puts humanity on the path of stability, peace, and gives the genuine sense of direction.