What is life
“Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide no escape from reality”.
For lyrics written almost 42 years ago, they sure are spot on, at least in this case. In the a16Z Podcast: Brains, Bodies, Minds and Techno-religions, host Sonal Choksi and co-host Kyle Russell interview University of Jerusalem Professor of History (specifically Macro History and Relationship between History and Biology), Yuval Harari.
The podcast is just under 45 minutes long and in the first 10 minutes, I had 8 pages of notes. So brace yourselves, we are about to dive into some heavy shit.
Author and dreamer
Harari is the author of two books, Sapiens and Homo Deus. In both books, Harari has explored the relationship between humans, evolution and technology, but in his most recent book, Homo Deus, he focuses his view forward.
In “Sapiens”, he gave a pretty amazing overview of how we came to be the life forms that we are, the evolution that took place and what had to happen for us to get here.
In his new book, Homo Deus, Deus meaning two, he looks at where we are going, and to say it’s every sci-fi writers’ wet dream is putting it mildly.
The actual authority
To be fair, this podcasts covers a vast range of topics relating to and resulting from the “post humanist era where authority is shifting away from humans” and over to machines but Choksi seems particularly interested in Harari’s take on the derivation of “authority” and its implications on market place and the work force once this shift is complete.
Choksi, Russell and Harari, all seem to acknowledge the source of “authority” in the past and agree on where it will come from in the future.
In speaking of “authority”, the question posed is, where have we derived our power?
Paradigm shift of power
The answer is simple enough for everyone who has studied history. For the entirety of humanity, we have derived our power from God or from God to Ruler to regular Joe. Harari comments on these beliefs as “shared illusions/false realities/shared fictions that have kept humanity together”, giving the example of the U.S. tradition of swearing in Officials on a bible which he deems as “full of fictions and errors.”
But then Choksi poses the question, what will be the next thing we believe in?
Harari foresees a rise of “techno- religions”. Beliefs in machines or data as opposed to a God or human, citing Socialism as the first techno-religion because Marx and Lenin pushed the idea that machines would create the paradise we sought, on earth.
The flow of data
In the group opinion, authority will come from data. Harari goes even further to ask the question to bring everything full circle, “what is reality”?
In his opinion, reality is just the flow of data.
But going back to where that puts human-kind once the machines are the authority – because of their ability to process data and the automation or singularity is reality (well more so than this reality), Harari believes we must change our economic models so that humanity doesn’t become obsolete, “for when people are not just unemployed, but unemployable”.
Potential iRobot future
Overall this podcast gave a very interesting and incredibly terrifying overview of the problems humanity will face once machines outsmart us in the next 20 to 100 years.
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Make sure to bring a warm blanket and hot coco a la’ Sheldon and maybe have someone sing “Soft Kitty” to you because you are going to freak the hell out after it.