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The Vrije Universiteit Brussel has awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa to historian Yuval Noah Harari. The author’s honorary doctorate is recognition of his many years of work on the history and future of mankind, and his critical thinking on technological evolutions. Prof Harari will receive the title at the end of January during a visit to Belgium. VUB rector Caroline Pauwels says that thinkers like Harari are of fundamental importance, “because science starts with questions, in the manner of Socrates. This is essential for the education and thus for the future of our children.” Harari will be in Belgium on 27 January at the invitation of Newsweek.
Harari was born in Israel in 1976 and today works at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His research initially focused on world history, with topics such as the relationship between history and biology or the differences between homo sapiens and other animals.
Today, however, his work focuses on the future of mankind in the 21st century and the role that technology will play in it. Harari predicts that technology and people will merge more and more, and the current interpretation of the concept of humanism – where man is regarded as an autonomous being with a free will – must therefore be redefined. Moreover, he points out that technology may lead to growing inequality, because wealthy citizens will have easier access to it. These themes have already been addressed in his bestsellers Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, which have sold 19 million copies worldwide.
The fact that Harari, as a historian, thinks about the future in such depth and from so many different perspectives makes him an ideal guide for the youngest generation of students. After all, it is today’s 21-year-olds who will help shape the 21st century. And it’s about much more than just technology.
“Harari is concerned about the danger of increasing inequality if we allow major technological players to take over all aspects of our daily lives,” says Caroline Pauwels. “Only well-informed and critical citizens have the power to persuade policymakers to take such evolutions in the right direction. In that respect, Harari’s insights can be particularly inspiring to our students, and relevant to just about any discipline.”
VUB is happy to dedicate the honorary doctorate for Harari to everyone who is now 21 in the 21st century. The honorary doctorate will be awarded prior to Harari’s lecture at the invitation of the Belgian Newsweek at the Lotto Arena in Antwerp on 27 January.