This course is part of the Contemporary China Studies Programme Summer Sessions 2018, and is taught in Shanghai, China in collaboration with Fudan University. Taking Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari's brilliant 'Home Deus. A Brief History of Tomorrow' as the core text, this course takes an in-depth look at the challenges that our societies and political systems face in the 21st century and juxtaposes Western and Oriental (Chinese) perceptions and ideas to those challenges.
Not too long ago It looked like science was capable of delivering solutions to all the problems the world was confronted with. Technology makes it possible to feed all inhabitants of planet Earth. Developments in medical science create successful treatment of almost all known diseases. It looks like in the near future war will be a phenomenon of the past. However, a second look reveals that new serious problems have emerged and that those new problems have been for a big part caused or created by scientific developments themselves. To mention only two: ‘Robotisation produces an unfair division of labour’. ‘Digitalisation offers unrestrained power to internet companies. It looks like those problems affect the foundations of the western welfare state. They have grown into a real challenge for democracy as it has developed in the west over the last centuries. It is more than challenging to confront western with eastern (Chinese) approaches of these problems.
The Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari wrote a brilliant book with illuminating reflections on these problems. His Homo Deus. A Brief History of Tomorrow exists of three parts.
In Part 1 ‘Homo Sapiens Conquers the World’ he tries to explore the relationship between Homo sapiens and other animals, in an attempt to comprehend what makes our species so special. The relationship between humans and animals is in his view the best model we have for future relations between super humans (cyborgs) and humans.
In Part 2 ‘Homo Sapiens Gives Meaning to the World’ focusses on the bizarre world Homo sapiens has created in the last millennia and how he did come to believe in the humanist creed. What are the economic, social and political implications of this creed? How does it shape our daily life, our art and our most secret desires?
In Part 3 ‘Homo Sapiens Loses Control’ our early 21st century predicament and our possible futures are described beyond mere philosophising and idle future telling, as Harari calls it. A description of our smartphone use, dating practices and job market is presented. Does the search for immortality, bliss and divinity shake our belief in humanity? And if humanism is in danger, what might take its place?
Harari’s book serves as the core text of the course. A critical reading of Harari’s book asks for background knowledge that will be delivered in the daily lectures. It is clear that that background knowledge cannot be provided by one scientific discipline only, but is to be found in input from a variety of scientific disciplines like economy, (political) philosophy, social sciences (psychology and sociology) and biology. So the course as a whole is extraordinary because of its multidisciplinarity and as a unique meeting point of western and Chinese approaches. The course includes an excursion to one or two Chinese companies.
Dr. Bas Levering
In case you apply for two consecutive courses at CCSP Summer Sessions in Shanghai, you will receive a discount of 20% on the tuition and housing fees of the second course.
Contemporary China Studies Programme