Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Homo Deus

I've started reading Yuval Noah Harari's book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. He opens with some observations on how radically the world has changed in the last century or so. For most of the history of civilization, famine and plague cut huge swaths through populations.

About 2.8 million French – 15 per cent of the population – starved to death between 1692 and 1694, while the Sun King, Louis XIV, was dallying with his mistresses in Versailles.

Harari, Yuval Noah. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (p. 4). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

This was far from an isolated event. Even higher casualty rates afflicted Finland, Scotland, and Estonia at the time. Dozens of such catastrophic famines killed at similar rates in the much larger populations of China and India.

Plague was equally catastrophic. The Black Death killed 25% of the population of Eurasia. The diseases carried by European explorers killed 90% of the population of the Americas and similar percentages of Polynesian islanders. During World War I, Spanish Flu killed twice as many people as the war, including two of my then young aunts.