Where are we headed as humanity? I rather enjoy books that look back, look the present in the eye and look forward. Jared Diamond’s books are a good read, giving pause. Collapse gives climate change a grim context. Alvin Toffler’s Futureshock I read when I was a teenager. I only remember the ‘Mozart on the run’ chapter now: we were playing music at ever faster speeds, he told us.

I have just completed reading Yuval Harari’s Homo Deus, having found it on my son’s bookshelf last year. A fascinating read, the book analyses trends in early 21st century science, thought and especially digital developments. There are twin theses: humans are not special, and we are moving towards a world (a galaxy?) in which humans (merely a set of algorithms) are either unnecessary or a means to an end for silicon – based artificial intelligence (AI) for which consciousness is an optional extra. Harari does not say that this de-humanised future is inevitable; he points to its possibility and implications for the present.

The book is large so I did not take it on my overnight trip for child health-related meetings in Johannesburg. I opened my Free Books app and started to read The Machine Stops by EM Forster that I had previously downloaded. There we are ‘in the Machine’, satisfied on a diet of all that we want (if we hadn’t been weeded out at birth), including tablets to establish emotional equilibrium and peace of mind. Humans live on their own, underground sequestered from each other. The surface is no longer fit for human habitation – climate change or pollution? We were happy with the Machine. We even give it god-like properties.

Climate change, elites working with AI to survive, then taken over by AI. 1909, 2016 – an artist and a social commentator/analyst/future gazer imagine and see a lot in common. Only connect.

For me as a Christian, I relish the double- even triple-think that going into Forster’s and Harai’s territory requires. AI would understand. Double-think, of course, is an invention of George Orwell in another dystopia – 1984. Perfectly legitimate and approved of by the authorities.