The Human Atom

Harai starts the final section of his book by talking about our reliance on time. As human culture has changed, we have become more strict when it comes to being late. The examples he uses in the book are the assembly line and public transportation. We have transitioned from having nature as a focal point of human culture to market and state. Harari calls this nature family, and says the most “momentous social revolution” is the collapse of family and local community and their replacement by the state and the market. The building blocks of human society, families, were broken down by the industrial revolution into atoms. This was largely due to the power of the market, and how it was utilized by the state. Harari then starts an interesting and seemingly highly opinionated dialogue. He believes that the market and state directly encouraged young generations to separate themselves from family communities. They did this by offering employment, insurance, protection, and more. This is all very negative at first, but then he mentions how the individual was liberated by recognizing women and children as individuals and not property. On page 361, there are two cycles illustrated, first is the premodern cycle which values family and community, and the other is the state and market, or the modern cycle. These cycles are a completely new concept to me, but I don’t find myself skeptical because of how Harari presents his argument.


“History has still not decided where we will end up, and a string of coincidences might yet send us rolling in either direction”. While I’m more optimistic than that about the future, Harai makes a good point that we really are never that far away from salvation or disaster. This is especially true with the power of today’s weapons and economy. Historians can help us be successful in the future in various ways. We rely on computers to make decisions more than ever, but often mathematics can only “see” so much. A real human historian can use their own experience and knowledge to make a decision with humanity in mind. In my opinion, this is where historians will be the most useful as it’s not a job that can be easily automated. That being said, we have to fight to keep humans in these positions! A computer can process and collect data at insane speeds, but if that data can be interpreted in multiple ways, then you want that human context when handling it. While it is definitely more efficient to use computers for things, often times it is not the best choice when you need human context. I work on AI & automation, therefore I definitely have an obligation to consider these issues in order to create human-centric systems.