Yuval Noah Harari
|Alma mater||Hebrew University of Jerusalem (BA)|
Jesus College, Oxford (MA, DPhil)
|Known for||Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2011)|
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2015)
21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018)
|Institutions||Hebrew University of Jerusalem|
|Thesis||History and I: War and the Relations between History and Personal Identity in Renaissance Military Memoirs, c. 1450–1600 (2002)|
|Doctoral advisor||Steven Gunn|
Yuval Noah Harari (Hebrew: יובל נח הררי [juˈval ˈnoaχ haˈʁaʁi]; born 1976) is an Israeli author, public intellectual, historian and professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of the popular science bestsellers Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014), Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2016), and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018). His writings examine free will, consciousness, intelligence, happiness, and suffering.
Harari writes about a "cognitive revolution" that supposedly occurred roughly 70,000 years ago when Homo sapiens supplanted the rival Neanderthals and other species of the genus Homo, developed language skills and structured societies, and ascended as apex predators, aided by the agricultural revolution and accelerated by the scientific revolution, which have allowed humans to approach near mastery over their environment. His books also examine the possible consequences of a futuristic biotechnological world in which intelligent biological organisms are surpassed by their own creations; he has said, "Homo sapiens as we know them will disappear in a century or so".
In Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Harari surveys human history from the evolutionary emergence of Homo sapiens to 21st-century political and technological revolutions. The book is based on his lectures to an undergraduate world history class.
Yuval Noah Harari was born and raised in Kiryat Ata, Haifa District, Israel, as one of three children born to Shlomo and Pnina Harari. His family was a secular Jewish family. His father was a state-employed armaments engineer and his mother was an office administrator. Harari taught himself to read at age three. He studied in a class for intellectually gifted children at the Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa from the age of eight. He deferred mandatory military service in the Israel Defense Forces to pursue university studies as part of the Atuda program but was later exempted from completing his military service following his studies due to health issues. He began studying history and international relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem at age 17.
Harari first specialized in medieval history and military history in his studies from 1993 to 1998 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He completed his D.Phil. degree at Jesus College, Oxford, in 2002, under the supervision of Steven J. Gunn. From 2003 to 2005, he pursued postdoctoral studies in history as a Yad Hanadiv Fellow. While at Oxford, Harari first encountered the writings of Jared Diamond, whom he has acknowledged as an influence on his own writing. At a Berggruen Institute salon, Harari said that Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel "was kind of an epiphany in my academic career. I realized that I could actually write such books."
Harari has published numerous books and articles, including Special Operations in the Age of Chivalry, 1100–1550; The Ultimate Experience: Battlefield Revelations and the Making of Modern War Culture, 1450–2000; The Concept of 'Decisive Battles' in World History; and Armchairs, Coffee and Authority: Eye-witnesses and Flesh-witnesses Speak about War, 1100–2000.
His book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind was originally published in Hebrew in 2011 based on the 20 lectures of an undergraduate world history class he was teaching. It was then released in English in 2014 and has since been translated into some 45 additional languages. The book surveys the entire length of human history, starting from the evolution of Homo sapiens in the Stone Age. Harari compares indigenous peoples to apes in his fall of man narrative, leading up to the political and technological revolutions of the 21st century. The Hebrew edition became a bestseller in Israel, and generated much interest among the general public, turning Harari into a celebrity.[failed verification] Joseph Drew wrote that "Sapiens provides a wide-ranging and thought-provoking introduction for students of comparative civilization," considering it as a work that "highlights the importance and wide expanse of the social sciences."
Harari's follow-up book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, was published in 2016 and examines the possibilities for the future of Homo sapiens. The book's premise outlines that, in the future, humanity is likely to make a significant attempt to gain happiness, immortality and God-like powers. The book goes on to openly speculate various ways this ambition might be realised for Homo sapiens in the future based on the past and present. Among several possibilities for the future, Harari develops the term dataism for a philosophy or mindset that worships big data. Writing in The New York Times Book Review, Siddhartha Mukherjee stated that although the book "fails to convince me entirely," he considers it "essential reading for those who think about the future."
Harari's book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, published on 30 August 2018, focused more on present-day concerns. A review in the New Statesman commented on what it called "risible moral dictums littered throughout the text", criticised Harari's writing style and stated that he was "trafficking in pointless asides and excruciating banalities." Kirkus Reviews praised the book as a "tour de force" and described it as a "highly instructive exploration of current affairs and the immediate future of human societies.”
In July 2019, Harari was criticised for allowing several omissions and amendments in the Russian edition of his third book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, using a softer tone when speaking about Russian authorities. Leonid Bershidsky in The Moscow Times called it "caution—or, to call it by its proper name, cowardice", and Nettanel Slyomovics in Haaretz claimed that "he is sacrificing those same liberal ideas that he presumes to represent". In a response, Harari stated that he "was warned that due to these few examples Russian censorship will not allow distribution of a Russian translation of the book" and that he "therefore faced a dilemma," namely to "replace these few examples with other examples, and publish the book in Russia," or "change nothing, and publish nothing," and that he "preferred publishing, because Russia is a leading global power and it seemed important that the book's ideas should reach readers in Russia, especially as the book is still very critical of the Putin regime—just without naming names."
In November 2020 the first volume of his graphic adaptation of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Sapiens: A Graphic History – The Birth of Humankind, co-authored with David Vandermeulen and Daniel Casanave, was published and launched at a livestream event organised by How to Academy and Penguin Books.
In 2022, Harari's book, Unstoppable Us: How Humans Took Over the World, illustrated by Ricard Zaplana Ruiz, was published and is a "Story of Human History — for Kids." In fewer than 200 pages of child-friendly language, Harari covers the same content as his best-selling book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, but "he has simplified the presentation for this younger audience without dumbing it down." This book is "the first of four planned volumes."
Harari is gay and in 2002 met his husband Itzik Yahav, whom he has called "my internet of all things". Yahav has also been Harari's personal manager. They married in a civil ceremony in Toronto, Canada. He lives in a suburb of Tel Aviv.
Though he is an atheist, Harari has practiced Vipassana meditation since 2000 and said that it "transformed" his life. As of 2017 he practiced for two hours every day (one hour at the start and end of his work day), every year undertook a meditation retreat of 30 days or longer, in silence and with no books or social media, and is an assistant meditation teacher. He dedicated Homo Deus to "my teacher, S. N. Goenka, who lovingly taught me important things", and said "I could not have written this book without the focus, peace and insight gained from practising Vipassana for fifteen years." He also regards meditation as a way to research.
Harari is a vegan and says this resulted from his research, including his view that the foundation of the dairy industry is breaking the bond between mother cow and calf. As of May 2021, Harari did not have a smartphone.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, following former United States President Donald Trump's cut to WHO funding, Harari announced that he and his husband would donate $1 million to the WHO through Sapienship, their social impact company.
Harari is among the critics of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and is specifically opposed to the judicial reform plans of the thirty-seventh government of Israel. In a conversation with Lex Fridman in 2023 he said: "... And now the Netanyahu government is trying to neutralize, or take over, the supreme court, and they've already prepared a long list of laws – they already talk about it – what will happen the moment that this last check on the power is gone, they are openly trying to gain unlimited power".
Harari twice won the Polonsky Prize for "Creativity and Originality", in 2009 and 2012. In 2011, he won the Society for Military History's Moncado Award for outstanding articles in military history. In 2012, he was elected to the Young Israeli Academy of Sciences.
Sapiens was in the top 3 of The New York Times Best Seller list for 96 consecutive weeks. In 2018, Harari gave the first TED Talk as a digital avatar.
In 2017, Homo Deus won Handelsblatt's German Economic Book Award for the most thoughtful and influential economic book of the year.
In 2018 and 2020, Harari spoke at the World Economic Forum annual conference in Davos.
Harari's popular writings are considered to belong to the Big History genre, with Ian Parker writing in 2020 in the New Yorker that "Harari did not invent Big History, but updated it with hints of self-help and futurology, as well as a high-altitude, almost nihilistic composure about human suffering."
His work has been more negatively received in academic circles, with Christopher Robert Hallpike stating 2020 in a review of Sapiens that: "one has often had to point out how surprisingly little he seems to have read on quite a number of essential topics. It would be fair to say that whenever his facts are broadly correct they are not new, and whenever he tries to strike out on his own he often gets things wrong, sometimes seriously." Hallpike further states that: "we should not judge Sapiens as a serious contribution to knowledge but as 'infotainment', a publishing event to titillate its readers by a wild intellectual ride across the landscape of history, dotted with sensational displays of speculation, and ending with blood-curdling predictions about human destiny. By these criteria, it is a most successful book."
On 22 July 2022, American magazine Current Affairs published the article "The Dangerous Populist Science of Yuval Noah Harari", pointing out the lack of scientific support throughout his books: "The best-selling author is a gifted storyteller and popular speaker. But he sacrifices science for sensationalism, and his work is riddled with errors."
In November 2022, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called Harari a historian and a brand. They pointed out that the Yahav Harari Group, built by his partner Yahaf, was a "booming product cosmos" selling comics and children's books, but soon films and documentaries. They observed an "icy deterministic touch" in his books which made them so popular in Silicon Valley. They stated that his listeners celebrated him like a pop star, even though he only had the sad message that people are "bad algorithms", soon to be redundant, to be replaced because machines could do it better.
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Oh, that's actually a mistake on Wikipedia. It's a moshav. It somehow got around that I live on a moshav, which is some kind of socialist, collective community, less radical than the kibbutz, but one of the experiments of socialists in Israel like decades ago. And it's just not true. I live in a kind of middle-class suburb of Tel Aviv.