Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Yuval Noah Harari has written two books that analyze where humankind has come from (http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/12/sapiens-brief-history-of-humankind.html) and where we might go.  Thank goodness it is told with some humour because it is really very deep.  It delves into what makes us who we are.  You will be challenged to study yourself.  There are so many interesting insights in this book, but I can only highlight a few.

Analyses present realities, but always taking into account evolution that brought us here.  For example he points out that revolutions tend to be taken over by those previously close to power such as in Romania and even more recently in Egypt.  Coming through evolution is that humans have the advantage of organizing over all other life and those already organized have the advantage over the rest of humans.  Terrorists are too weak to use conventional methods, but the biggest danger is to over-react which is normally a part of the political process.

Looking to the future he sees that humankind is now able to view death as a technical problem, rather than a religious concern.  As we conquer one disease after another and go deeper into the root causes of aging we develop newer strategies.

Increasingly we view ourselves as the centre of the universe and the author notes that wildlife has been halved while domestic animals have multiplied and are more cruelly treated.  People are said to have souls, but animals do not.  Evolution takes away the concept of souls for humans.  New Zealand became the first nation (May 2015) to declare animals as sentient beings.

Cognitive revolution came when humans took advantage of their superior intelligence and began to organize on a bigger scale.  The process started about 70,000 years ago

Agricultural Revolution began about 12,000 years ago and allowed for concentrations of people and specialization.   Writing, invented by Sumerians 5,000 years ago allowed elites to control larger numbers of people and it might be said started data processing.

The Science Revolution started around 1500 and was initiated by the awareness of our ignorance.  Today we realize there is so much we don't know, but we are progressing at ever accelerating rates.

Trust is another key to success.  The best example is the credit system which has enabled economic expansion that has benefited everyone.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2012/06/are-you-trustworthy.html

DNA analysis is now available and becoming more affordable.  At this stage is often used to determine disease probabilities.  Manipulating genes is well established and likely to be fine-tuned.

The big question for me is free will.  The author cites several examples that demonstrate there is something behind every action.  Where do desires come from?  My advice is that to live the best life you must use whatever resources are available and take responsibility for every decision.  Yuval points out that Buddhist thinking is that cravings always lead to suffering.

We are all algorithms and we can easily be replaced.

Yuval point out that Google and Facebook know more about us that many people with whom we socialize.  Dataism is a new religion that will take over the world.  Anything that can be measured (they believe that is everything) can be used to make decisions.  It is likely that a very small elite would emerge in power while the rest of us for practical purposes would be thought of as useless.

The author admits nobody knows what the future will bring, but after laying out some possibilities he leaves us with three questions that will decide the future of humankind.

1.  Are organisms really just algorithms and is life really just data processing?
2.  What is more valuable--intelligence or consciousness?
3.  What will happen to society, politics and daily life when non-conscious, but highly intelligent
algorithms know us better than we know ourselves?

The two of his books I have read have been amongst the most profound ever.  To learn more about Yuval Noah Harari, visit http://www.ynharari.com

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