Yuval Noah Harari is widely accepted as one of the most influential thinkers of our time. His books have sold millions of copies around the world, landed on Barack Obama’s list of recommended reading while he was still president and the New York Times’ review for his latest work was penned by Bill Gates—on May 8 he will be in Hamburg on the OMR Conference stage. Why you do not want to miss his appearance this May:
Every year, the story plays out in a similar fashion: the run-up to the OMR Festival. We settle relatively quickly on industry actors, whose influence and success have helped shaped the industry, and then we struggle to find and agree upon a neutral industry observer whose outside wisdom and insights are poised to shape the digital universe like no one else. This year, history did not repeat itself. Because for 2019, there is no one more intelligent, more topical and more widely read than Yuval Noah Harari. The Israeli historian penned his first bestseller in 2014, and together with two subsequent publications, Harari has sold millions of copies around the world. His first work “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” has been sold more than 10 million times alone, and his 2016 release “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” has logged over 5 million copies sold. After analyzing the past, and then glimpsing into the future, he’s taking on the present with his latest book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century.” Harari’s works have impacted and influenced the absolute upper echelons of the influential, as none other than Bill Gates took the time to write the review for “21 Lessons” for the New York Times.
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“Harari is such a stimulating writer that even when I disagreed, I wanted to keep reading and thinking. All three of his books wrestle with some version of the same question: What will give our lives meaning in the decades and centuries ahead?,” , writes Mr. Gates in the aforementioned New York Times’ review for “21 Lessons.” And that is truly what lies behind Harari’s works: to get people engaged and thinking about the past, about the present and about where we go from here.
“21 Lessons for the 21st Century” deals with an even more pressing concerns: Is democracy failing? Are we on a collision course for WWIII? How can we fight fake news? Can nationalism and protectionism truly be effective means of combatting inequality and climate change? What lessons are we to teach our children? While “21 Lessons” provides the questions, it provides no answers. Its power lies in equipping readers with the intellectual tools to contemplate these issues in an informed manner. These lessons have resonated with world leaders, too, as Harari recently sat down with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss his book.
What can a (bestselling) historian teach us about marketing?
It’s a legitimate question: What relevance does Harari have in marketing circles that would make him a suitable speaker at OMR? “Artificial intelligence and big-data algorithms are predicated on massive amounts of data compiled in a single location. While the Germans and the Americans provide their citizens with privacy, the Chinese do not. How can countries compete with China in a technological race to arms without limiting the individuality and human rights of its citizens?,” asks Harari in a recent interview with German publication Stern. Finding answers to questions like these will be decisive for the entire marketing industry going forward.
In “21 Lessons” he discusses the twin revolutions of AI and biotech. “The twin revolutions in information technology and biotechnology confront us with the biggest challenges our species has ever encountered. The merger of infotech and biotech might soon push billions of humans out of the job market and undermine both liberty and equality.” While it is certainly up in the air if this bleak portrayal of humankind will come to fruition, what is certain is that the recent past is littered with companies such as Cambridge Analytica, who have hacked massive realms of data and used them to influence elections.
Yuval Noah Harari is just one of many top-quality thought leaders speaking on the four stages at OMR19. Check out our official page to see who else is on board and get your ticket here.