21 Lessons for the 21st Century - Yuval Noah Harari

21 Lessons for the 21st Century - Yuval Noah Harari

Are you ready for all the political and technological changes in the world? Discover the answers to today’s biggest issues and learn 21 lessons about them.

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Have you ever felt lost looking at the world and realizing how fast it is changing? Or were you desperate and anxious to notice how much information is being shared over the internet, and you can’t keep up? If the answer is “yes”, then the book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”, by Yuval Noah Harari, was made for you.

Believe me, all of these questions are part of a feeling that is much more common than you think.

This is so common that the author has put together in one work fundamental tips to help you better understand the contemporary world and all the transformations that it is going through and will go through in the next 30 years.

Join us in this summary, and definitely understand how to deal with all technological and political transformations!

The book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”

The book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” was written by Yuval Noah Harari in 2018.

Very up-to-date, this title contains 356 pages and is divided into 5 major chapters that propose a complete tour of the main issues and problems of the contemporary world.

Throughout the work, you can understand why fake news has risen, reasons that have led to fear of terrorism, and how technology is already transforming our lives and ways of working.

Who is Yuval Noah Harari?

Famous around the world, Yuval Noah Harari is a historian and author of several best-sellers such as Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.

Seeking to give an even more updated tone to his reflections on humanity, the author has specifically explored the issues of the 21st century in his latest book, as you will follow in this summary.

Why should I read “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”?

The book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” is for everyone who is confused by the changes the world has seemed to make in the last 10 years.

If you’re a professional or student looking to understand what you need to do to stay current even in such a fast-moving world, you'll find answers in this book!

What can I learn from “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”?

  • Technology has brought about irreversible changes, but it is not our enemy;
  • You can use technology changes in favor of your profession;
  • Understanding political changes in the world prevent us from being deceived;
  • All political changes are the result of the globalized world;
  • We are unlikely to see another great war;
  • The rise of extreme nationalist discourses is a risk to humanity;
  • Educating our children for the future is crucial.

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[Book Summary] 21 Lessons for the 21st Century - Yuval Noah Harari


The world is changing fast, and it’s not just you that feels it. The truth is that immersion in social networks and an ever faster working life gives us the chance to try to understand what is really happening to the world.

And one thing is fact: it doesn’t matter if you are fully informed or not, or if you are engaged in movements that are trying to bring about more positive (or negative!) changes in the world.

Even as you abstain and live completely below the world, everything that happens will affect your life and the life of your children.

Be it bad or good.

That means all the bad decisions made by politicians today will have an impact on the lives of your entire family, whether you like it or not.

And how to react to it? How to live the world more actively, or understand what to do with the tons of information shared daily on the Internet?

How to educate our children in this scenario?

These are delicate issues that will be addressed by the author Yuval Noah Harari throughout the work “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”.

Follow us on the next topics in this summary and check out all 21 lessons we can learn from the world in the 21st century.

The technological challenge

It's hardly ever easy to see the nuances of what is happening in the world, and perhaps not even the most knowledgeable person has realized the dangers that surround us since the latest financial crises and the rise of technology.

Of course, according to the author Yuval Noah Harari, seeing the potentials and risks of technology doesn’t mean you should demonize it. But the advancement of it is bringing important changes that are already transforming our whole life.

Being alert and ready for this process is crucial if you do not want to suffer from the negative consequences in the labor market, freedom and so many other sectors of our lives.

Lesson 1: The Disillusionment of the Technology World

Paradoxically, while technology has easily transformed our lives and peace seemed to predominate in the early 21st century, the truth is that we are facing an extremely frightened society.

So frightened that many countries that practice liberalism (and all its ideals of freedom) are seeing the rise of separatist or hateful ideas. This is the case in many European countries and the growing hatred for immigrants, for example, and the same is true in the United States.

As explained in the book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”, this confusion of ideas has allowed the rise of politicians with extreme positions, with speeches that may sound totally strange and even dictatorial, for depriving the freedom of expression and thought.

We are facing a completely disillusioned and fearful society, seeing social networks completely transform the spread of hate speech. One must keep this in mind when trying to understand the context in which we are inserted.

Lesson 2: Technology Has Transformed the Labor Market

Well, in the previous topic we talked a little about the disappointment of much of society. One factor that influences this aspect is the labor market and the various transformations that technology has provided.

Here, the author Yuval Noah Harari speaks a great truth: no one knows what the job market will look like in 10, 20 or 50 years. We don't even have a guess about which functions will still exist, and which ones will already be completely replaced by technology.

Lesson 3: Freedom

The author Yuval Noah Harari chronicles in his book, “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”, many reasons why technology, especially artificial intelligence (AI), is becoming increasingly efficient. In recent years, AI has even been able to simulate reasoning and learn much faster than humans.

What can this mean in the long term when we raise other issues, such as Big Data and all the information that technology already has not only about us but about the world we live in?

After all, algorithms have much more information and can do much more efficient analysis than we humans, right? Could your political and management decisions be better than ours? So, there are no answers to that.

Lesson 4: Equality 

The process of globalization and advancement in technology has certainly made some groups, segments and even entire nations grow faster than others. Some of these countries monopolize much of this process.

And that can get even worse, making the world increasingly unequal.

The political challenges

Lesson 5: Community

The post-globalization world lives a paradox, even though many do not feel it. The truth is, we have never had such a great opportunity to build a large community and increase our chances of solving global challenges and problems.

However, while the internet and social networks can facilitate this process, the truth is that we have never been alone.

The author Yuval Noah Harari clarifies in his book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” that our sense of community, which has accompanied humans from the earliest ages, is weakened.

Lesson 6: Civilization

According to the author, one of the great political challenges we face today is what some call the “clash of civilizations”. The signs are clear in the civil wars, such as the one in Syria, the rise of the Islamic State, and all the political instabilities we have seen in the European Union.

Some historians believe that there is a perceived clash between Western and Eastern civilizations.

Lesson 7: Nationalism 

Why have we watched so many countries increasingly isolate themselves with exacerbated patriotism?

As explained by Yuval Noah Harari, patriotism itself is not a problem. But when it turns into an “I'm proud of my country because it is supreme and must crush everyone else” way of thinking, it becomes one.

It is from this kind of thinking that we have seen wars form.

Lesson 8: Religion

Well, we have already come to the conclusion that our world is full of political problems that make it difficult to unite for global issues such as global warming and so many others.

And this is where the author Yuval Noah Harari raises the question: okay, nationalism will most likely not solve any political and social issues at all. But is it possible that religions can?

You don’t have to think long and hard to come to the conclusion that, no, there is not much religiosity can do to solve the world’s major political and social issues.

The danger of religions lies in manipulating religious precepts to justify an opinion or decision. According to the book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”, this can even provoke a war if it generates an exaggerated nationalism.

Lesson 9: Immigration

As stated by the author Yuval Noah Harari, immigration is one of the great political issues of the 21st century. While the process of globalization has allowed us to communicate with cultures around the globe, the truth is that nations are increasingly isolated.

The immigration process, which drives millions of people out of their country in search of a better life, is creating tensions that could worsen even more in the long run.

The stability of many countries, especially in Europe, may simply crumble in the face of an inability to accept immigrant cultural differences.

This has grown anti-immigrant ideas, prejudice and intolerance. In many ways, this can be dangerous, even culminating in a collective hysteria for fear of terrorism.

Despair and Hope

In this chapter of the book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”, Harari shows that while we are so frightened of issues such as terrorism and wars that seem so imminent, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Nothing is as bad, not as scary, as we think.

Lesson 10: Terrorism

Terrorist attacks have been scaring us for at least a decade since the 2001 attack on the United States. But the truth is that all terror terrorism is pure mind control.

According to the author, the number of people murdered by terrorism is very small, but still, it seems to control political decisions of the United States and the European Union.

Terrorism enhances its own actions and promotes dread on purpose to gain control of the situation.

Terrorists hope to achieve their goals by encouraging countries to react extremely and make hasty fear-based decisions.

And that’s all they can do because they have so little power that they could never get into a real war (and win).

Lesson 11: War 

We have lived decades of peace since the end of the Cold War. However, it is certain that the rise of some speeches and politicians bring back the fear of war.

At this point, Yuval Noah Harari makes one thing clear: in the context of 1914 and 1939, going to war could mean increasing your economic and political power in the world. War brought great advantages for the elites.

As explained in the book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”, these advantages do not currently exist. War has economic disadvantages and can hurt the country that begins the long-term battle.

Lesson 12: Humility

Even with all that we have said, the author Yuval Noah Harari states that war is still possible. Human stupidity (and arrogance) is the cause of many mistakes and could provoke war.

The solution here is to nurture humility as a nation. We as individuals are not the center of the world, nor is our country.

Lesson 13: God 

Another way to avoid human stupidity and nurture humility is to stop using God's name to profess prejudice and segregation.

Above all, we can learn from the love of God by feeling more compassion, either for our own countrymen or for someone in a vulnerable situation in another country.

Above all, we can learn from love for God by feeling more compassion, either for our countrymen or for someone in a vulnerable situation in another country.

And the truth is, we don’t have to be religious to act morally or to love others.

Lesson 14: Secularism

The author Yuval Noah Harari explains in his book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” that the proof that we don’t need religiosity to follow morals is secularism.

It may be defined as a lack of belief in religions, but secularists define themselves as a group with a set of determined moral values.

In other words, you don’t have to start attending church to start exercising good moral values.


We live in a world of truths that are not so true, depending on the point of view. And that is a problem.

During the previous chapters of the book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”, Harari has traced a narrative that shows that not everything we hear on television or even in history books is so accurate and true.

Lesson 15: Ignorance

And the first way to deal with this whole situation is to accept that we know very little. In other words, we are ignorant about the history of our country and what is happening around the world.

Even if we read and consume as much content as possible about our political context, the truth is that we will never know the full details or the absolute truth.

Knowing that we are ignorant prevents us from falling and reproducing fake speeches. Acknowledging one's own ignorance means understanding that no truth is absolute and that there is always the other side of the coin.

And you need to be willing to hear it too.

Lesson 16: Justice

Well, if the truths we believe in may not be so real and absolute, what to think about our sense of justice?

Justice seems to be based on well-defined moral notions, but the problem arises when we realize that nothing is as black and white as it seems.

The author Yuval Noah Harari emphasizes in his book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” that each action generates a sequence of various ramifications, which can be analyzed as both unfair and fair, depending on how you interpret the situation.

Lesson 17: Post-truth

The result of a world in which you understand that not all truth is absolute and even the sense of justice may vary from country to country, or person to person, is the danger of post truth.

We are constantly mistaken and think that everything the newspaper tells us has the potential to be great fiction. Lack of trust in traditional media is fertile ground for conspiracy theories and hence fake news.

And believe me, fake news is not a recent advent, and what the long history of humanity shows us is that some fake news can last a long time – hundreds of years!

One way to counter impotence in such a context is to understand: yes, you must doubt the truths you hear in newspapers, WhatsApp groups, and any other media.

However, you should then look for information in many different media, gather data, and even legitimate scientific theories.

Lesson 18: Science fiction

Humanity is guided by stories, fictional or not. We work so hard because we want to have money to support a lifestyle we watch on television.

Similarly, many soldiers went to war dreaming of being part of a hero story, as they saw in books or in the movies. No wonder why the author states that the artist class of civilization is as important as that of engineers, doctors, and so many others.

In the 21st century, fiction that can lead us to the best way is science fiction. It can lead us to understand the technological issues we are having now and help us create in the real world what we idealize in the fantasy world.


Lesson 19: Education

In the face of such a world, the big question is: how do we raise our children if we don’t even know what the world will look like in 20, 30 or 50 years from now?

Today, we know more or less the kinds of skills we need to have to get a good job and prosper. But which ones will our children need to thrive, too, in the face of an increasingly technology-driven world?

One thing is a fact: all possible information is available on the internet. What your child needs is not to become an encyclopedia, because all they need to know is available in 2 clicks on Google.

As explained in the book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”, by Yuval Noah Harari, what we need to pass, in fact, is the ability to analyze all the information that is available.

What’s more, the world is changing fast, and it seems that this process will happen faster and faster in the coming years. Our children then need great flexibility and the ability to adapt to the scenarios the world will create.

Lesson 20: The sense of life

Many people need a great sense of everything they are living in and going to live. The way of the majority is to listen to the precepts of religions and great ideals already propagated by groups.

Well, it is possible to live a life of peace as a religious, but these beliefs preach far more chains and prisons than things we can actually do.

The author Yuval Noah Harari states that the best you can do is build your own meaning for life through self-knowledge and proper identity.

Lesson 21: Meditation

Here comes a path that can be followed by people who cannot find themselves in religions, and even for those who are already in one.

According to the book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”, one way to better understand not only yourself but also your context and the nuances of the world is through meditation.

It helps to understand how your mind works and what you need to do to make life sense.

Books about changes in society and innovation

In the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, author Yuval Noah Harari says that humans reflect on the scientific advances of the human species and states that today we are already a union of man and machine. He adds that we are moving towards a new species: the superhumans.

Author Ken Mogi explains in his book, Ikigai: The Secret Japanese Way to Live a Happy and Long Life, that the word ikigai is of Japanese origin and means, in free translation, “reason for living”. He says that everyone has an Ikigai, just find it.

Finally, Eric Ries, in The Lean Startup, explains that it is important that the word “innovation” be understood broadly. These could be original scientific discoveries, a new use for existing technology, the creation of a new business model, and so on.

How can I apply the ideas from “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”?

  • Do not despair of terrorist and war narratives: fear is what radical groups want;
  • Accept that you do not know everything and have an open mind for new information;
  • Escape fake news by taking a more analytical look at everything you read or see;
  • Don’t fill your child with information, Google can now answer anything for him. Instead, teach him how to interpret this information;
  • To better understand the world, consider meditating on yourself and the context in which you are inserted;
  • Flexibility and ability to adapt well to different contexts will be the differential of professionals in the coming decades.

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21 Lessons for the 21st Century - Yuval Noah Harari