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Made You Think

May 1, 2018

“In the early twenty-first century the train of progress is again pulling out of the station – and this will probably be the last train ever to leave the station called Homo sapiens. Those who miss this train will never get a second chance. The main products of the twenty-first century will be bodies, brains and minds, and the gap between those who know how to engineer bodies and brains and those who do not will be far bigger than the gap between Sapiens and Neanderthals. In the twenty-first century, those who ride the train of progress will acquire divine abilities of creation and destruction, while those left behind will face extinction.”

In this episode of Made You Think, Adil, Neil and Nat discuss Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. This book can be considered a sequel of Sapiens. In Homo Deus, Harari summarizes what has been the source and reference of our specie decisions and make predictions on how data and algorithms will shift humans as the source of power in our history.

“Yet in truth the lives of most people have meaning only within the network of stories they tell one another. Meaning is created when many people weave together a common network of stories. Why does a particular action – such as getting married in church, fasting on Ramadan or voting on election day – seem meaningful to me? Because my parents also think it is meaningful, as do my brothers, my neighbors, people in nearby cities and even the residents of far-off countries. And why do all these people think it is meaningful? Because their friends and neighbors also share the same view. People constantly reinforce each other’s beliefs in a self-perpetuating loop. Each round of mutual confirmation tightens the web of meaning further, until you have little choice but to believe what everyone else believes.”

We cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Religion as a body of beliefs and shared
  • Anticipating Trump’s election with the help of Facebook
  • Humanism religion where humans replace Gods
  • Brain vs Mind, Intelligence vs Consciousness
  • Losing control over technology
  • Challenges in medicine to make us immortal

And much more. Please enjoy, and be sure to grab a copy of Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari!

If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to check out our episodes on Sapiens Part I and Part II, a summary of Human history that will shape how you think, as another lenses through which you can look at reality.

Be sure to join our mailing list to find out about what books are coming up, giveaways we're running, special events, and more.

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0:00 – Harari tries to write about the future but he knows there's no way to predict it. People in the ‘50s predicting flying cars and moon bases but nobody predicting the Internet. Communism example: it didn't take place effectively even if Marx predicted it. Narratives and stories affect how we view technology.

5:15 – It is much more acceptable to be critical about Social Networks today than it was 2 years ago. At the beginning everyone was considering only convenience. Privacy wasn't that much of an issue.

7:23 – Up until now the human agenda was: don't die, procreate, protect your tribe. The new agenda considers: how to become Gods. More power, more money, how we live forever.

8:12 – Humans collectively are concerned solving three things: Famine, Plague, War. All three seem to be controlled (until Black Swans happen) but they seem fragile.

12:58 – Modern Medicine has saved us from premature death, but haven’t extended our lives by that much. We would be able to lengthen our live spans if we can re-engineer the length of splitting cells.

16:03 – For people over 40, there's a high probability they’ll die because of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer, and suffer cognitive decline. The challenge with cancer, a disease of aging, is that its origin is not unique, there are many reasons one can get cancer. What happens when we become immortal or live much longer than we do today. Incentives to improve, competition against technology, and appreciation of life under eternal conditions.

25:00 – Historically we manipulated environment to fit us. In the future it seems we will try to manipulate us to transcend the environment. States regulating bad drugs that threaten stability and allowing and even encouraging those that strengthen social order and productivity. Overusing medical advancements not to cope with a disability, but to surpass the norm (Viagra example), creates a race to the bottom: if you are not cheating you are in disadvantage. Legalizing steroids.

30:04 – First part: How Homo Sapiens conquered the World. You can skip this part if you have read Sapiens or listened to our episodes on it (part 1, part 2). The modern manifestation of Religion, which is Humanism, is what this book focuses on. Progression: agriculture revolution gave rise to Teism religions. The scientific revolution gave birth to Humanism religion where humans replace Gods. We look humans as the source of power. Examples of Humanism: Liberalism, Communism, Nazism. “Everything that happens in the cosmos is judged to be good or bad according to its impact on Homo sapiens”

31:46 – Critiques to Humanism. Reliance that there's something special with humans. Mind or consciousness for modern religion is the equivalent of the soul for ancient ones. Brain vs Mind. The concept of mind doesn't square with anything scientific.

35:06 – Knowing exactly how the mind works, would affect our day to day living? Do we perform conscious choices under free will or are we subject to environment and past experience? How to interpret "negative" actions like murdering or hard ones like starting a company even when we don't need to. Free will as an evolutionary result to improve survivability.

40:48 – Examples against free will. First mover concept. Regardless we have or not free will, we still are responsible for our lives. Punishment should be still used to protect society from bad not-free-will behavior.

46:34 – Deciding to do something is based on our own desires. But probably we never decided what our desires are. Concept of Intersubjective Entities. Money has value only because most of us believe we can trade with it. Life meaning exists only within the network of stories we tell one another.

51:55 – Second Part: How we measure ourselves. Physical things can be measured and interpreted unequivocally, but other concepts as school performance, change based on the yard stick we use. Intersubjective believe that living longer is better, instead of shortly and intensely. Science and religion viewed not as opposites but as complements of each other.

56:28 – Religion-Science dichotomy. Aiming to maintain social structure vs looking to acquire power to solve world problems like famine, diseases and fights.

1:01:04 – Development of Humanism. Liberalism (orthodox humanism): focus on the individual liberty. Two sprouting: Socialist Humanism (communism) which says human experience is shared among societies, and Evolutionary Humanism (Nazism) which focuses on the Sapiens supremacy. If Germany had won in WW2, we would see Nazism (Evolutionary Humanism) as a positive thing. What makes our morals true or objective.

1:07:26 – The trend towards Liberalism is a natural consequence of technological evolution. What happens when we begin this phase of transcendence? Many social developments seem to be sons of the current economic forces. Slavery ended and women gained the right to vote because it was better for the overall Economy, not because of a genuine interest of their lives. Governments give only people rights because they need them to pay taxes. Problems with UBI, incentives to become an artist or entrepreneur, and stability. Wars don't happen if there is no economical benefit.

1:13:20 – City States. City majors seem more important than State governors. Belong feelings to cities and not the country. When a Government is losing power it creates a conflict. City States would not exist as they existed in the past or as an equivalent to today's Countries. The rise of Digital Governments.

1:18:38 – Slow government is good because you don't want incompetence spreading fast. Big Companies are gaining Nations-like power. Google is much faster at predicting an epidemy than UK's Health System. The thread is Corporate regulations moving faster than Governments. Democracy looks like the worst kind of government, except all the other ones.

1:23:10 - Third Part: When humans lose control. Beyond Humanism. Individual vs Dividual: the Experiencing Self and the Narrating Self. Plato’s Rationality, Energy Spirit, Desires chariot analogy. Tech intelligence is/will be better than Human intelligence, but consciousness will be optional. Consciousness as an emergent property of processing speed. Current improvements in AI are geared to improve sales, rather than improving the solutions to our needs. Foretelling Trump’s use of Facebook in the 2016 political campaign.

1:30:33 – More and more our decisions are made by machines and data. Apps that decide for us: Uber and Diet apps examples. Letting machines monitor health parameters and suggesting habits. If we rely too much on others to make decisions for us, we lose that "muscle". The "attention helmet" makes people less patient to confusion, doubts or contradictions.

1:33:55 – Apps that shift from an Oracle service to an Agent service. Consult vs Entrust. Situations in which our trusted app would interact on our behalf: scheduling a meeting, job application, dating.

1:35:41 – Tinder on autopilot. Dieting app hooked up with a micro-needle patch that trace your blood glucose needle and prevents you from breaking a diet.

1:39:55 – Dataism, the New Religion. Data and algorithms will be the supreme force and we will trust them as the new Bible. Liberalism is completely challenged by Life Sciences. 3 points, I'm an individual, I've a single essence, myself is completely free. Science says we are just a set of bits dominated by algorithms. The tech sector seems to be unattached to the emotional consequences of the things they are arguing for. What do we care more, the objective truth data reality or the subjective experiences of individuals.

1:43:21 – Are emotions the result of data processing in the background? Moving more and more to data-based decision algorithms. Would you ask your Google Home / Alexa to move to NY?

1:50:03 – Dataism extreme form. Algorithms would own everything like corporations do today. Software eating the world. From the Data viewpoint, we can see our whole specie like a single processing system. The end goal of Data is to create the Internet of all things, a completely interconnected system of consciousness.

1:53:01 – “These three processes raise three key questions, which I hope will stick in your mind long after you have finished this book:

  1.  Are organisms really just algorithms, and is life really just data processing?
  2.  What’s 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?”

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