21 Lessons for the 21st Century

by Yuval Noah Harari


·       Humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers or equations, and the simpler the story, the better.

·       People ask ‘Who am I?’ and expect to be told a story. The first thing you need to know about yourself is that you are not a story.

Inner world

·       In the past, we humans have learned to control the world outside us, but we had very little control over the world inside us. We knew how to build a dam and stop a river from flowing, but we did not know how to stop the body from ageing. We knew how to design an irrigation system, but we had no idea how to design a brain. If mosquitoes buzzed in our ears and disturbed our sleep, we knew how to kill the mosquitoes; but if a thought buzzed in our mind and kept us awake at night, most of us did not know how to kill the thought.

·       The revolutions in biotech and infotech will give us control of the world inside us, and will enable us to engineer and manufacture life. We will learn how to design brains, extend lives and kill thoughts at our discretion. Nobody knows what the consequences will be. Humans were always far better at inventing tools than using them wisely.

·       Emotions are not some mystical phenomenon – they are the result of a biochemical process. Hence, in the not too distant future a machine-learning algorithm could analyse the biometric data streaming from sensors on and inside your body, determine your personality type and your changing moods, and calculate the emotional impact that a particular song – even a particular musical key – is likely to have on you.

·       Homo sapiens is just not built for satisfaction. Human happiness depends less on objective conditions and more on our own expectations. Expectations, however, tend to adapt to conditions, including to the condition of other people. When things improve, expectations balloon, and consequently even dramatic improvements in conditions might leave us as dissatisfied as before. If universal basic support is aimed at improving the objective conditions of the average person in 2050, it has a fair chance of succeeding. But if it is aimed at making people subjectively more satisfied with their lot and preventing social discontent, it is likely to fail.

·       Referendums and elections are always about human feelings, not about human rationality.

·       We usually fail to realise that feelings are in fact calculations, because the rapid process of calculation occurs far below our threshold of awareness.

·       When the biotech revolution merges with the infotech revolution, it will produce Big Data algorithms that can monitor and understand my feelings much better than I can, and then authority will probably shift from humans to computers.

·       The key invention is the biometric sensor, which people can wear on or inside their bodies, and which converts biological processes into electronic information that computers can store and analyse. Given enough biometric data and enough computing power, external data-processing systems can hack all your desires, decisions and opinions. They can know exactly who you are.

·       When you force yourself to laugh, you use different brain circuits and muscles than when you laugh because something is really funny. Humans cannot usually detect the difference. But a biometric sensor could.

·       Most people don’t know themselves very well, and most people often make terrible mistakes in the most important decisions of their lives. Even more than algorithms, humans suffer from insufficient data, from faulty programming (genetic and cultural), from muddled definitions and from the chaos of life.

On Democracy

Democracy is based on Abraham Lincoln’s principle that ‘you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time’. If a government is corrupt and fails to improve people’s lives, enough citizens will eventually realise this and replace the government. But government control of the media undermines Lincoln’s logic, because it prevents citizens from realising the truth.

On Jobs

·       Most people in Birmingham, Istanbul, St Petersburg and Mumbai are only dimly aware, if at all, of the rise of artificial intelligence and its potential impact on their lives. It is undoubtable, however, that the technological revolutions will gather momentum in the next few decades, and will confront humankind with the hardest trials we have ever encountered.

·       The technological revolution might soon push billions of humans out of the job market, and create a massive new useless class, leading to social and political upheavals that no existing ideology knows how to handle.

·       We have no idea what the job market will look like in 2050. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, for every job lost to a machine at least one new job was created, and the average standard of living has increased dramatically. Yet there are good reasons to think that this time it is different, and that machine learning will be a real game changer. Humans have two types of abilities – physical and cognitive. In the past, machines competed with humans mainly in raw physical abilities, while humans retained an immense edge over machines in cognition. Hence as manual jobs in agriculture and industry were automated, new service jobs emerged that required the kind of cognitive skills only humans possessed: learning, analysing, communicating and above all understanding human emotions. However, AI is now beginning to outperform humans in more and more of these skills, including in the understanding of human emotions. AI can outperform humans even in tasks that supposedly demand ‘intuition’. We don’t know of any third field of activity – beyond the physical and the cognitive – where humans will always retain a secure edge.

·       What brain scientists are learning today about the amygdala and the cerebellum might make it possible for computers to outperform human psychiatrists and bodyguards in 2050.

·       AI doctors could provide far better and cheaper healthcare for billions of people, particularly for those who currently receive no healthcare at all.

·       Replacing all human drivers by computers is expected to reduce deaths and injuries on the road by about 90 per cent.

·       The human care industry – which takes care of the sick, the young and the elderly – is likely to remain a human bastion for a long time. Indeed, as people live longer and have fewer children, care of the elderly will probably be one of the fastest-growing sectors in the human labour market.

·       Alongside care, creativity too poses particularly difficult hurdles for automation. We don’t need humans to sell us music any more – we can download it directly from the iTunes Store – but the composers, musicians, singers and DJs are still flesh and blood. We rely on their creativity not just to produce completely new music, but also to choose among a mind-boggling range of available possibilities.

·       Nevertheless, in the long run no job will remain absolutely safe from automation.

·       Instead of humans competing with AI, they could focus on servicing and leveraging AI. The job market of 2050 might well be characterised by human–AI cooperation rather than competition. 

·       The problem with all new jobs is that they will probably demand high levels of expertise, and will therefore not solve the problems of unemployed unskilled labourers. Consequently, despite the appearance of many new human jobs, we might nevertheless witness the rise of a new ‘useless’ class. 

·       By 2050 a ‘useless’ class might emerge not merely because of an absolute lack of jobs or lack of relevant education, but also because of insufficient mental stamina.

·       By 2050, not just the idea of ‘a job for life’, but even the idea of ‘a profession for life’ might seem antediluvian.

·       The rise of artificial intelligence might push most humans out of the job market – including drivers and traffic police (when rowdy humans are replaced by obedient algorithms, traffic police will be redundant). However, there might be some new openings for philosophers, because their skills – hitherto devoid of much market value – will suddenly be in very high demand. So if you want to study something that will guarantee a good job in the future, maybe philosophy is not such a bad gamble.

·       In the lives of all people, the quest for meaning and for community might eclipse the quest for a job.

Humans as Consumers

Some may argue that humans could never become economically irrelevant, because even if they cannot compete with AI in the workplace, they will always be needed as consumers. However, it is far from certain that the future economy will need us even as consumers. Machines and computers could do that too. Theoretically, you can have an economy in which a mining corporation produces and sells iron to a robotics corporation, the robotics corporation produces and sells robots to the mining corporation, which mines more iron, which is used to produce more robots, and so on. These corporations can grow and expand to the far reaches of the galaxy, and all they need are robots and computers – they don’t need humans even to buy their products. Indeed, already today computers and algorithms are beginning to function as clients in addition to producers. In the stock exchange, for example, algorithms are becoming the most important buyers of bonds, shares and commodities. Similarly in the advertising business, the most important customer of all is an algorithm: the Google search algorithm.

Basic Human Needs

·       Universal basic income proposes that governments tax the billionaires and corporations controlling the algorithms and robots, and use the money to provide every person with a generous stipend covering his or her basic needs. This will cushion the poor against job loss and economic dislocation, while protecting the rich from populist rage.

·       Alternatively, governments could subsidise universal basic services rather than income. Instead of giving money to people, who then shop around for whatever they want, the government might subsidise free education, free healthcare, free transport and so forth.

On Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data

·       The real problem with robots is not their own artificial intelligence, but rather the natural stupidity and cruelty of their human masters.

·       When you apply to your bank for a loan, it is likely that your application is processed by an algorithm rather than by a human. The algorithm analyses lots of data about you and statistics about millions of other people, and decides whether you are reliable enough to give you a loan. Often, the algorithm does a better job than a human banker. But the problem is that if the algorithm discriminates against some people unjustly, it is difficult to know that.

·       At the highest levels of authority, we will probably retain human figureheads, who will give us the illusion that the algorithms are only advisors, and that ultimate authority is still in human hands. We will not appoint an AI to be the chancellor of Germany or the CEO of Google. However, the decisions taken by the chancellor and the CEO will be shaped by AI. The chancellor could still choose between several different options, but all these options will be the outcome of Big Data analysis, and they will reflect the way AI views the world more than the way humans view it.

·       We hardly invest much in exploring the human mind, and instead focus on increasing the speed of our Internet connections and the efficiency of our Big Data algorithms. If we are not careful, we will end up with downgraded humans misusing upgraded computers to wreak havoc on themselves and on the world.

·       Have you seen those zombies who roam the streets with their faces glued to their smartphones? Do you think they control the technology, or does the technology control them?

·       Those who own the data own the future.

·       If more money can buy the rich enhanced bodies and brains, with time the gap between rich and poor will only widen. By 2100, the richest 1 per cent might own not merely most of the world’s wealth, but also most of the world’s beauty, creativity and health. The two processes together – bioengineering coupled with the rise of AI – might therefore result in the separation of humankind into a small class of superhumans and a massive underclass of useless Homo sapiens.

·       Government regulation can successfully block new technologies even if they are commercially viable and economically lucrative. For example, for many decades we have had the technology to create a marketplace for human organs, complete with human ‘body farms’ in underdeveloped countries and an almost insatiable demand from desperate affluent buyers. Such body farms could well be worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Yet regulations have prevented free trade in human body parts, and though there is a black market in organs, it is far smaller and more circumscribed than what one could have expected.

·       If we want to prevent the concentration of all wealth and power in the hands of a small elite, the key is to regulate the ownership of data. 

·       Google wants to reach a point where we can ask it anything, and get the best answer in the world. What will happen once we can ask Google, ‘Hi Google, based on everything you know about cars, and based on everything you know about me (including my needs, my habits, my views on global warming, and even my opinions about Middle Eastern politics) – what is the best car for me?’ If Google can give us a good answer to that, and if we learn by experience to trust Google’s wisdom instead of our own easily manipulated feelings, what could possibly be the use of car advertisements?

·       Humans and machines might merge so completely that humans will not be able to survive at all if they are disconnected from the network.

·       The development of AI might result in a world dominated by super-intelligent but completely non-conscious entities.

On Communities

·       Unfortunately, over the past two centuries intimate communities have indeed been disintegrating. The attempt to replace small groups of people who actually know one another with the imagined communities of nations and political parties could never succeed in full. Your millions of brothers in the national family and your millions of comrades in the Communist Party cannot provide you with the warm intimacy that a single real sibling or friend can. Consequently people live ever more lonely lives in an ever more connected planet.

·       Physical communities have a depth that virtual communities cannot match, at least not in the near future. If I lie sick at home in Israel, my online friends from California can talk to me, but they cannot bring me soup or a cup of tea.

On Nationalism

·       The whole of humankind now constitutes a single civilisation, with all people sharing common challenges and opportunities. Yet Britons, Americans, Russians and numerous other groups increasingly support nationalistic isolation. After Hiroshima people no longer feared that nationalism would lead to mere war – they began fearing it would lead to nuclear war. Total annihilation has a way of sharpening people’s minds, and thanks in no small measure to this shared existential threat, a global community gradually developed over and above the various nations, because only such a community could restrain the nuclear demon.

·       While nationalism has many good ideas about how to run a particular nation, unfortunately it has no viable plan for running the world as a whole.

·       All previous attempts to divide the world into clear-cut nations have resulted in war and genocide.

·       Without a global trade network, all existing national economies will collapse. Many countries will not be able to even feed themselves without imports, and prices of almost all products will skyrocket.

·       As long as humans know how to enrich uranium and plutonium, their survival depends on privileging the prevention of nuclear war over the interests of any particular nation. Zealous nationalists who cry ‘Our country first!’ should ask themselves whether their country by itself, without a robust system of international cooperation, can protect the world – or even itself – from nuclear destruction.

·       If even a single country chooses to pursue a high-risk, high-gain technological path, other countries will be forced to do the same, because nobody can afford to remain behind.

·       A person can and should be loyal simultaneously to her family, her neighbourhood, her profession and her nation – why not add humankind and planet Earth to that list? True, when you have multiple loyalties, conflicts are sometimes inevitable. But then who said life was simple? Deal with it.

·       There is no contradiction between such globalism and patriotism. For patriotism isn’t about hating foreigners. Patriotism is about taking care of your compatriots. And in the twenty-first century, in order to protect the safety and security of your compatriots, you must cooperate with foreigners. So good nationalists should now be globalists.

·       Political dynamics within countries and even cities should give far more weight to global problems and interests.

·       As more and more humans cross more and more borders in search of jobs, security and a better future, the need to confront, assimilate or expel strangers strains political systems and collective identities that were shaped in less fluid times.

·       It would be wrong of any government to force large-scale immigration on an unwilling local population. Absorbing immigration is a difficult long-term process, and to successfully integrate immigrants you must have the support and cooperation of the local population. The one exception to this rule is that countries are obliged to open their borders to refugees escaping death in a neighbouring country, even if the local population doesn’t like it. Second, though citizens have a right to oppose immigration, they should realise that they still have obligations towards foreigners. We are living in a global world, and whether we like it or not our lives are intertwined with the lives of people on the other side of the planet. They grow our food, they manufacture our clothes, they might die in a war fought for our oil prices, and they might be the victims of our lax environmental laws. We ought not to ignore our ethical responsibilities to people just because they live far away.

·       Saying that black people tend to commit crimes because they have substandard genes is out; saying that they tend to commit crimes because they come from dysfunctional subcultures is very much in.

On Ecology

·       In the coming decades, humankind will face a new existential threat: ecological collapse. For thousands of years Homo sapiens behaved as an ecological serial killer; now it is morphing into an ecological mass murderer. If we continue with our present course it will cause not just the annihilation of a large percentage of all life forms, but it might also sap the foundations of human civilisation.

·       Most threatening of all is the prospect of climate change. Our best scientific estimates indicate that unless we dramatically cut the emission of greenhouse gases in the next twenty years, average global temperatures will increase by more than 2°C, resulting in expanding deserts, disappearing ice caps, rising oceans and more frequent extreme weather events such as hurricanes and typhoons. These changes in turn will disrupt agricultural production, inundate cities, make much of the world uninhabitable and send hundreds of millions of refugees in search of new homes.

·       Unfortunately, as of 2018, instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the global emission rate is still increasing. Humanity has very little time left to wean itself from fossil fuels. We need to enter rehab today. Not next year or next month, but today. ‘Hello, I am Homo sapiens, and I am a fossil-fuel addict.’

·       The meat industry not only inflicts untold misery on billions of sentient beings, but it is also one of the chief causes of global warming, one of the main consumers of antibiotics and poison, and one of the foremost polluters of air, land and water. Within another decade industrially produced clean meat is expected to be cheaper than slaughtered meat. This could save billions of animals from a life of abject misery, could help feed billions of malnourished humans, and could simultaneously help to prevent ecological meltdown.

On Religion

·       Billions of humans still profess greater faith in the Quran and the Bible than in the theory of evolution; religious movements mould the politics of countries as diverse as India, Turkey and the United States; and religious animosities fuel conflicts from Nigeria to the Philippines. So how relevant are religions such as Christianity, Islam and Hinduism? Can they help us solve the major problems we face? traditional religions constitute a major part of the problem rather than a potential solution.

·       The victory of science has been so complete that our very idea of religion has changed.

·       The mark of science is the willingness to admit failure and try a different tack. That’s why scientists gradually learn how to grow better crops and make better medicines, whereas priests and gurus learn only how to make better excuses.

·       In the twenty-first century, the division of humans into Jews and Muslims or into Russians and Poles still depends on religious myths. So in the twenty-first century religions don’t bring rain, they don’t cure illnesses, they don’t build bombs – but they do get to determine who are ‘us’ and who are ‘them’, who we should cure and who we should bomb.

·       Religions still have a lot of political power, inasmuch as they can cement national identities and even ignite the Third World War. But when it comes to solving rather than stoking the global problems of the twenty-first century, they don’t seem to offer much.

·       Most people tend to believe they are the centre of the world, and their culture is the linchpin of human history.

·       Many religions praise the value of humility – but then imagine themselves to be the most important thing in the universe. They mix calls for personal meekness with blatant collective arrogance. Humans of all creeds would do well to take humility more seriously. Whenever they talk of God, humans all too often profess abject self-effacement, but then use the name of God to lord it over their brethren.

·       A ritual is a magical act that makes the abstract concrete and the fictional real. 

On Terrorism

·       Terrorism is the weapon of a marginal and weak segment of humanity. Terrorists are masters of mind control. They kill very few people, but nevertheless manage to terrify billions and shake huge political structures. Terrorists resemble a fly that tries to destroy a china shop. The fly is so weak that it cannot move even a single teacup. So how does a fly destroy a china shop? It finds a bull, gets inside its ear and starts buzzing. The bull goes wild with fear and anger, and destroys the china shop.

·       While present-day terrorism is mostly theatre, future nuclear terrorism, cyberterrorism or bioterrorism would pose a much more serious threat, and would demand far more drastic reaction from governments.

·       We accuse leaders of failing to prevent the catastrophes that happened, while remaining blissfully unaware of the disasters that never materialised.

On Human Stupidity

·       Never underestimate human stupidity.

·       Politicians, generals and scholars treat the world as a great chess game, where every move follows careful rational calculations. This is correct up to a point. Few leaders in history have been mad in the narrow sense of the word, moving pawns and knights at random. General Tojo, Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il had rational reasons for every move they played. The problem is that the world is far more complicated than a chessboard, and human rationality is not up to the task of really understanding it. Hence even rational leaders frequently end up doing very stupid things.

·       One potential remedy for human stupidity is a dose of humility.

On Secularity

·       The most important commitment of secular people is to the truth, which is based on observation and evidence rather than on mere faith.

·       Secular people sanctify the truth wherever it may reveal itself – in ancient fossilised bones, in images of far-off galaxies, in tables of statistical data or in the writings of various human traditions. This commitment to the truth underlies modern science, which has enabled humankind to split the atom, decipher the genome, track the evolution of life and understand the history of humanity itself.

·       The other chief commitment of secular people is to compassion. Secular ethics relies not on obeying the edicts of this or that god, but rather on a deep appreciation of suffering. Secular people cherish scientific truth. Not in order to satisfy their curiosity, but in order to know how best to reduce the suffering in the world.

·       The twin commitments to truth and compassion among secular people result also in a commitment to equality.

·       Secular people are certainly proud of the uniqueness of their particular nation, country and culture – but they don’t confuse ‘uniqueness’ with ‘superiority’.

·       We cannot search for the truth and for the way out of suffering without the freedom to think, investigate and experiment. Secular people cherish freedom, and refrain from investing supreme authority in any text, institution or leader as the ultimate judge of what’s true and what’s right.

·       It takes a lot of courage to fight biases and oppressive regimes, but it takes even greater courage to admit ignorance and venture into the unknown. Secular education teaches us that if we don’t know something, we shouldn’t be afraid of acknowledging our ignorance and looking for new evidence.

·       Modern history has demonstrated that a society of courageous people willing to admit ignorance and raise difficult questions is usually not just more prosperous but also more peaceful than societies in which everyone must unquestioningly accept a single answer. Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question.

·       Secular people cherish responsibility. They don’t believe in any higher power that takes care of the world, punishes the wicked, rewards the just and protects us from famine, plague or war. We flesh-and-blood mortals must take full responsibility for whatever we do – or don’t do.

On Thinking and Decision-making

·       You know less than you think.

·       Behavioural economists and evolutionary psychologists have demonstrated that most human decisions are based on emotional reactions and heuristic shortcuts rather than on rational analysis, and that while our emotions and heuristics were perhaps suitable for dealing with life in the Stone Age, they are woefully inadequate in the Silicon Age.

·       Humans rarely think for themselves. Rather, we think in groups. What gave Homo sapiens an edge over all other animals and turned us into the masters of the planet was not our individual rationality, but our unparalleled ability to think together in large groups.

·       We think we know a lot, even though individually we know very little, because we treat knowledge in the minds of others as if it were our own.

·       People rarely appreciate their ignorance, because they lock themselves inside an echo chamber of like-minded friends and self-confirming newsfeeds, where their beliefs are constantly reinforced and seldom challenged.

·       If you want to go deeply into any subject, you need a lot of time, and in particular you need the privilege of wasting time. You need to experiment with unproductive paths, to explore dead ends, to make space for doubts and boredom, and to allow little seeds of insight to slowly grow and blossom. If you cannot afford to waste time – you will never find the truth.

·       In a world of excessive information, the last thing a teacher needs to give her pupils is more information. They already have far too much of it. Instead, people need the ability to make sense of information, to tell the difference between what is important and what is unimportant, and above all to combine many bits of information into a broad picture of the world.

·       The world has simply become too complicated for our hunter-gatherer brains. The contemporary world is too complicated, not only for our sense of justice but also for our managerial abilities.

On Post-Truth (fiction)

·       We are living in a terrifying era of post-truth, when not just particular military incidents, but entire histories and nations might be faked. Homo sapiens is a post-truth species, whose power depends on creating and believing fictions.

·       When a thousand people believe some made-up story for one month – that’s fake news. When a billion people believe it for a thousand years – that’s a religion, and we are admonished not to call it ‘fake news’ in order not to hurt the feelings of the faithful (or incur their wrath).

·       Branding often involves retelling the same fictional story again and again, until people become convinced it is the truth.

·       When most people see a dollar bill, they forget that it is just a human convention. As they see the green piece of paper with the picture of the dead white man, they see it as something valuable in and of itself. They hardly ever remind themselves, ‘Actually, this is a worthless piece of paper, but because other people view it as valuable, I can make use of it.’

·       To really enjoy football, you have to accept the rules of the game, and forget for at least ninety minutes that they are merely human inventions. If you don’t, you will think it utterly ridiculous for twenty-two people to go running after a ball.

·       As a species, humans prefer power to truth. We spend far more time and effort on trying to control the world than on trying to understand it – and even when we try to understand it, we usually do so in the hope that understanding the world will make it easier to control it. Therefore, if you dream of a society in which truth reigns supreme and myths are ignored, you have little to expect from Homo sapiens. Better try your luck with chimps.

·       If you want reliable information – pay good money for it.

·       If some issue seems exceptionally important to you, make the effort to read the relevant scientific literature. And by scientific literature I mean peer-reviewed articles, books published by well-known academic publishers, and the writings of professors from reputable institutions.

·       In the twenty-first century science fiction is arguably the most important genre of all, for it shapes how most people understand things like AI, bioengineering and climate change. We certainly need good science, but from a political perspective, a good science-fiction movie is worth far more than an article in Science or Nature.

·       Very few people read the latest articles in the fields of machine learning or genetic engineering. Instead, movies such as The Matrix and Her and TV series such as Westworld and Black Mirror shape how people understand the most important technological, social and economic developments of our time.

On Change

·       Change is the only constant.

·       In order to keep up with the world of 2050, you will need not merely to invent new ideas and products – you will above all need to reinvent yourself again and again.

·       By 2048, people might have to cope with migrations to cyberspace, with fluid gender identities, and with new sensory experiences generated by computer implants.

·       Change is almost always stressful, and after a certain age most people just don’t like to change.

·       The harder you’ve worked on building something, the more difficult it is to let go of it and make room for something new.

·       The Industrial Revolution has bequeathed us the production-line theory of education. In the middle of town there is a large concrete building divided into many identical rooms, each room equipped with rows of desks and chairs. At the sound of a bell, you go to one of these rooms together with thirty other kids who were all born the same year as you. Every hour some grown-up walks in, and starts talking. They are all paid to do so by the government. One of them tells you about the shape of the earth, another tells you about the human past, and a third tells you about the human body. It is easy to laugh at this model, and almost everybody agrees that no matter its past achievements, it is now bankrupt. But so far we haven’t created a viable alternative. Certainly not a scaleable alternative that can be implemented in rural Mexico rather than just in upmarket California suburbs.

·       In the past, it was a relatively safe bet to follow the adults, because they knew the world quite well, and the world changed slowly. But the twenty-first century is going to be different. Due to the growing pace of change you can never be certain whether what the adults are telling you is timeless wisdom or outdated bias.

On Sacrifice, Self-Exploration, Suffering and Life

·       The more people sacrifice for a particular belief, the stronger their faith becomes. This is the mysterious alchemy of sacrifice. Self-sacrifice is extremely persuasive not just for the martyrs themselves, but also for the bystanders.

·       The process of self-exploration begins with simple things, and becomes progressively harder. At first, we realise that we do not control the world outside us. Then we realise that we do not control what’s happening inside our own body. Next, we understand that we don’t even govern our brain. Ultimately we should realise that we do not control our desires, or even our reactions to these desires.

·       Humans usually give so much importance to their desires that they try to control and shape the entire world according to these desires.

·       If you really want to understand yourself, you should not identify with your Facebook account or with the inner story of the self. Instead, you should observe the actual flow of body and mind. You will see thoughts, emotions and desires appear and disappear without much reason and without any command from you, just as different winds blow from this or that direction and mess up your hair.

·       The most real thing in the world is suffering.

·       When I want something and it doesn’t happen, my mind reacts by generating suffering. Suffering is not an objective condition in the outside world. It is a mental reaction generated by my own mind. Learning this is the first step towards ceasing to generate more suffering.

·       If you want to understand death, you need to understand life. If and when you ever discover what holds life together, the answer to the big question of death will also become apparent.

·       Since that first course in 2000, I began meditating for two hours every day, and each year I take a long meditation retreat of a month or two. It is not an escape from reality. It is getting in touch with reality. When dealing with the mysteries of the human mind we should regard meditation not as a panacea, but as an additional valuable tool in the scientific toolkit.

Disclaimer: The key points of the book presented here are not a substitute for reading the book. To get the entire holistic message the author has offered requires reading the book.

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