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Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

YUVAL HARARI
2015

Having raised humanity above the beastly level of survival struggles, we will now aim to upgrade humans into gods, and turn Homo sapiens into Homo deus.

The New Human Agenda
  • Though hundreds of millions still go hungry almost every day, in most countries very few people actually starve to death. The incidence and impact of epidemics have gone down dramatically in the last few decades. This miracle is due to the unprecedented achievements of twentieth-century medicine, which has provided us with vaccinations, antibiotics, improved hygiene and a much better medical infrastructure. The era when humankind stood helpless before natural epidemics is probably over.
  • The third piece of good news is that wars too are disappearing. A growing segment of humankind has come to see war as simply inconceivable. Previously the main sources of wealth were material assets such as gold mines, wheat fields and oil wells. Today the main source of wealth is knowledge. And whereas you can conquer oil fields through war, you cannot acquire knowledge that way.
  • Future technological developments might set the stage for new kinds of war. In particular, cyber warfare may destabilise the world by giving even small countries and non-state actors the ability to fight superpowers effectively.
  • Famine, plague and war are no longer unavoidable tragedies beyond the understanding and control of a helpless humanity. Instead, they have become manageable challenges. Having secured unprecedented levels of prosperity, health and harmony, and given our past record and our current values, humanity’s next targets are likely to be immortality, happiness and divinity.
  • Having raised humanity above the beastly level of survival struggles, we will now aim to upgrade humans into gods, and turn Homo sapiens into Homo deus.
  • Throughout history, religions and ideologies did not sanctify life itself. They always sanctified something above or beyond earthly existence. Because Christianity, Islam and Hinduism insisted that the meaning of our existence depended on our fate in the afterlife, they viewed death as a vital and positive part of the world.
  • Modern science and modern culture think of death as a technical problem that we can and should solve. The hopes of eternal youth in the twenty-first century are premature. In truth, so far modern medicine hasn’t extended our natural life span by a single year. Its great achievement has been to save us from premature death. Medicine will need to re-engineer the most fundamental structures and processes of the human body, and discover how to regenerate organs and tissues.
  • The second big project on the human agenda will probably be to find the key to happiness. Scepticism about the afterlife drives humankind to seek not only immortality, but also earthly happiness. It appears that our happiness bangs against some mysterious glass ceiling that does not allow it to grow despite all our unprecedented accomplishments. The glass ceiling of happiness is held in place by two stout pillars, one psychological, the other biological. Happiness depends on expectations rather than objective conditions. On the biological level, both our expectations and our happiness are determined by our biochemistry. According to the life sciences, happiness and suffering are nothing but different balances of bodily sensations.
  • The only thing that makes people miserable is unpleasant sensations in their own bodies. If science is right and our happiness is determined by our biochemical system, then the only way to ensure lasting contentment is by rigging this system. We need to manipulate human biochemistry.
  • The biochemical pursuit of happiness is also the number one cause of crime in the world.
  • According to Buddha, we can train our minds to observe carefully how all sensations constantly arise and pass. When the mind learns to see our sensations for what they are – ephemeral and meaningless vibrations – we lose interest in pursuing them.
  • It seems that the second great project of the twenty-first century – to ensure global happiness – will involve re-engineering Homo sapiens so that it can enjoy everlasting pleasure.
  • Bioengineers will take the old Sapiens body, and intentionally rewrite its genetic code, rewire its brain circuits, alter its biochemical balance, and even grow entirely new limbs.
  • Cyborg engineering will go a step further, merging the organic body with non-organic devices such as bionic hands, artificial eyes, or millions of nano-robots.
  • Homo sapiens is not going to be exterminated by a robot revolt. Rather, Homo sapiens is likely to upgrade itself step by step, merging with robots and computers in the process.
  • Our future economy, society and politics will be shaped by the attempt to overcome death. It does not follow that in 2100 humans will be immortal.
  • Paradoxically, as we accumulate more data and increase our computing power, events become wilder and more unexpected. The more we know, the less we can predict.
  • The paradox of historical knowledge: Knowledge that does not change behaviour is useless. But knowledge that changes behaviour quickly loses its relevance. The more data we have and the better we understand history, the faster history alters its course, and the faster our knowledge becomes outdated.
  • The best reason to learn history: not in order to predict the future, but to free yourself of the past and imagine alternative destinies.
  • Computers powerful enough to understand and overcome the mechanisms of ageing and death will probably also be powerful enough to replace humans in any and all tasks.
Homo Sapiens Conquers the World
  • Homo sapiens has managed within 70,000 years to change the global ecosystem in radical and unprecedented ways.
  • Evolutionary psychology: a need shaped thousands of generations ago continues to be felt subjectively even if it is no longer necessary for survival and reproduction in the present.
  • The twenty-first century will be dominated by algorithms. ‘Algorithm’ is arguably the single most important concept in our world. An algorithm is a methodical set of steps that can be used to make calculations, resolve problems and reach decisions.
  • 99 per cent of our decisions – including the most important life choices concerning spouses, careers and habitats – are made by the highly refined algorithms we call sensations, emotions and desires.
  • Hunter-gatherers had not seen themselves as superior beings because they were seldom aware of their impact on the ecosystem. Foragers had to constantly ask themselves what deer dream about, and what lions think. Otherwise, they could not hunt the deer, nor escape the lions. Farmers, in contrast, lived in a world controlled and shaped by human dreams and thoughts. Humans were still subject to formidable natural forces such as storms and earthquakes, but they were far less dependent on the wishes of other animals.
  • During the Agricultural Revolution humankind silenced animals and plants, and turned the animist grand opera into a dialogue between man and gods. During the Scientific Revolution humankind silenced the gods too.
  • The life sciences doubt the existence of soul not just due to lack of evidence, but rather because the very idea of soul contradicts the most fundamental principles of evolution. The theory of evolution cannot accept the idea of souls, at least if by ‘soul’ we mean something indivisible, immutable and potentially eternal. Such an entity cannot possibly result from a step-by-step evolution.
  • The soul is a story that some people accept while others reject. The stream of consciousness, in contrast, is the concrete reality we directly witness every moment. It is the surest thing in the world. You cannot doubt its existence.
  • Science knows surprisingly little about mind and consciousness. Nobody has any idea how a congeries of biochemical reactions and electrical currents in the brain creates the subjective experience of pain, anger or love. Despite the vast knowledge we have gained in the fields of mathematics and computer science, none of the data-processing systems we have created needs subjective experiences in order to function, and none feels pain, pleasure, anger or love.
  • The whole edifice of modern politics and ethics is built upon subjective experiences, and few ethical dilemmas can be solved by referring strictly to brain activities.
  • Some scientists concede that consciousness is real and may actually have great moral and political value, but that it fulfils no biological function whatsoever. Consciousness is the biologically useless by-product of certain brain processes. Consciousness may be a kind of mental pollution produced by the firing of complex neural networks.
  • Everything a human does – including reporting on allegedly conscious states – might in theory be the work of non-conscious algorithms.
  • Humans nowadays completely dominate the planet not because the individual human is far smarter and more nimble-fingered than the individual chimp or wolf, but because Homo sapiens is the only species on earth capable of cooperating flexibly in large numbers.
  • History provides ample evidence for the crucial importance of large-scale cooperation. Victory almost invariably went to those who cooperated better. Unified elites dominated the disorderly masses.
  • In order to mount a revolution, numbers are never enough. Revolutions are usually made by small networks of agitators rather than by the masses.
  • Threats and promises often succeed in creating stable human hierarchies and mass-cooperation networks, as long as people believe that they reflect the inevitable laws of nature or the divine commands of God, rather than just human whims.
  • Most people presume that reality is either objective or subjective, and that there is no third option. However, there is a third level of reality: the intersubjective level. Intersubjective entities depend on communication among many humans rather than on the beliefs and feelings of individual humans.
Homo Sapiens Gives Meaning to the World
  • Sapiens live in triple-layered reality. In addition to trees, rivers, fears and desires, the Sapiens world also contains stories about money, gods, nations and corporations. Prior to the invention of writing, stories were confined by the limited capacity of human brains. With writing you could suddenly create extremely long and intricate stories, which were stored on tablets and papyri rather than in human heads. Writing has thus enabled humans to organise entire societies in an algorithmic fashion.
  • It is the algorithm as a whole that makes the important decisions. This is the essence of bureaucracy.
  • Written language may have been conceived as a modest way of describing reality, but it gradually became a powerful way to reshape reality.
  • As bureaucracies accumulate power they become immune to their own mistakes. Instead of changing their stories to fit reality, they can change reality to fit their stories.
  • Fictions enable us to cooperate better. The price we pay is that these same fictions also determine the goals of our cooperation.vWithout commonly accepted stories about things like money, states or corporations, no complex human society can function.
  • It is often said that God helps those who help themselves. This is a roundabout way of saying that God doesn’t exist, but if our belief in Him inspires us to do something ourselves – it helps.
  • Thanks to computers and bioengineering, the difference between fiction and reality will blur, as people reshape reality to match their pet fictions.
  • Just as the gap between religion and science is narrower than we commonly think, so the gap between religion and spirituality is much wider. Religion is a deal, whereas spirituality is a journey.
  • Religion gives a complete description of the world, and offers us a well-defined contract with predetermined goals. Spiritual journeys are nothing like that. They usually take people in mysterious ways towards unknown destinations. For religions, spirituality is a dangerous threat. Religions typically strive to rein in the spiritual quests of their followers, and many religious systems have been challenged not by laypeople preoccupied with food, sex and power, but rather by spiritual truth-seekers who expected more than platitudes.
  • Though some scientific findings certainly undermine religious dogmas, science always needs religious assistance in order to create viable human institutions. Though science indeed deals only with facts, religion never confines itself to ethical judgements. Religion cannot provide us with any practical guidance unless it makes some factual claims too, and here it may well collide with science.
  • Even if all humans cherish happiness, in practice it would be extremely difficult to use this insight to decide ethical disputes, particularly because we have no scientific definition or measurement of happiness.
  • As long as we haven’t deciphered the mysteries of consciousness, we cannot develop a universal measurement for happiness and suffering,
  • Religion provides the ethical justification for scientific research, and in exchange gets to influence the scientific agenda and the uses of scientific discoveries. In theory, both science and religion are interested above all in the truth, and because each upholds a different truth, they are doomed to clash. In fact, neither science nor religion cares that much about the truth, hence they can easily compromise, coexist and even cooperate. Religion is interested above all in order. It aims to create and maintain the social structure. Science is interested above all in power. Through research it aims to acquire the power to cure diseases, fight wars and produce food.
  • The uncompromising quest for truth is a spiritual journey, which can seldom remain within the confines of either religious or scientific establishments.
  • Modernity is a deal. All of us sign up to this deal on the day we are born, and it regulates our lives until the day we die. Modernity can be summarised in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power.
  • The cosmic plan gave meaning to human life, but also restricted human power. Modern culture rejects this belief in a great cosmic plan.Life has no script, no playwright, no director, no producer – and no meaning.
  • The modern world does not believe in purpose, only in cause. If modernity has a motto, it is ‘shit happens’.
  • On the practical level modern life consists of a constant pursuit of power within a universe devoid of meaning. The modern pursuit of power is fuelled by the alliance between scientific progress and economic growth.
  • Credit is the economic manifestation of trust.
  • Evolutionary pressures have accustomed humans to see the world as a static pie. If somebody gets a larger slice of the pie, somebody else inevitably gets a smaller slice.
  • Modernity is based on the firm belief that economic growth is not only possible, but absolutely essential.
  • It may not be wrong to call the belief in economic growth a religion.
  • Since economic growth is allegedly the source of all good things, it encourages people to bury their ethical disagreements and adopt whichever course of action maximises long-term growth.
  • Capitalism did make an important contribution to global harmony by encouraging people to stop viewing the economy as a zero-sum game, in which your profit is my loss, and instead see it as a win–win situation, in which your profit is also my profit.
  • The traditional view of the world as a pie of a fixed size presupposes that there are only two kinds of resources in the world: raw materials and energy. But in truth there are three kinds of resources: raw materials, energy and knowledge. Knowledge is a growing resource – the more you use, the more you have.
  • The only sure way to stop global warming is to stop economic growth, which no government is willing to do. After centuries of economic growth and scientific progress, life should have become calm and peaceful. Despite all our achievements, we feel a constant pressure to do and produce even more. The modern world positively requires uncertainty and disturbance.
  • The Humanist Revolution: The antidote to a meaningless and lawless existence was provided by humanism, a revolutionary new creed that conquered the world during the last few centuries. The humanist religion worships humanity, and expects humanity to play the part that God played. Humanism expects the experiences of humans to give meaning to the cosmos.
  • Primary commandment humanism: create meaning for a meaningless world.
  • Humanism has taught us that something can be bad only if it causes somebody to feel bad. The fact that customers are buying implies needs and desires are being met. If some multinational corporation makes loads of money, it means that millions of people like its products, which implies that it is a force for good.
  • Modern humanist education believes in teaching students to think for themselves.
  • As the source of meaning and authority relocated from the sky to human feelings, the interior world – hitherto an insignificant enclave of crude passions – became deep and rich beyond measure. Angels and demons were transformed from real entities roaming the forests and deserts of the world into inner forces within our own psyche.
  • Humanism in Five Images:
    • Humanist Politics: the voter knows best.
    • Humanist Economics: the customer is always right.
    • Humanist Aesthetics: beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
    • Humanist Ethics: if it feels good – do it!
    • Humanist Education: think for yourself!
  • In medieval Europe, the chief formula for knowledge was: Knowledge = Scriptures × Logic. If people wanted to know the answer to an important question, they would read scriptures, and use their logic to understand the exact meaning. The Scientific Revolution proposed a very different formula for knowledge: Knowledge = Empirical Data × Mathematics. If we want to know the answer to some question, we need to gather relevant empirical data and then use mathematical tools to analyse them. Humanism offered an alternative: Knowledge = Experiences × Sensitivity. If we wish to know the answer to any ethical question, we need to connect to our inner experiences and observe them with the utmost sensitivity. You cannot experience something if you don’t have the necessary sensitivity, and you cannot develop your sensitivity except by undergoing a long string of experiences.
  • Humanism sees life as a gradual process of inner change, leading from ignorance to enlightenment by means of experiences. The highest aim of humanist life is to fully develop your knowledge through a wide variety of intellectual, emotional and physical experiences.
  • Socialists discourage self-exploration and advocate the establishment of strong collective institutions – such as socialist parties and trade unions – that aim to decipher the world for us.
  • Evolutionary humanism has a different solution to the problem of conflicting human experiences. It insists that conflict is something to applaud rather than lament. Conflict is the raw material of natural selection, which pushes evolution forward.
  • The main products of the twenty-first century will be bodies, brains and minds. Those who ride the train of progress will acquire divine abilities of creation and destruction, while those left behind will face extinction.
  • Islam, Christianity and other traditional religions are still important players in the world. Yet their role is now largely reactive. In the past, they were a creative force changing human political structures, social hierarchies and even gender relations.
  • A humanist civilisation will want to maximise human lifespans, human happiness and human power.
  • Attempting to realise this humanist dream will undermine its very foundations by unleashing new post-humanist technologies.
  • We don’t need any gods to limit our power and give us meaning – the free choices of customers and voters supply us with all the meaning we require. If the whole universe is pegged to the human experience, what will happen once the human experience becomes just another designable product?
Homo Sapiens Loses Control
  • Liberals value individual liberty so much because they believe that humans have free will. It is our free will that imbues the universe with meaning, and since no outsider can know how you really feel or predict your choices for sure. Attributing free will to humans is not an ethical judgement – it purports to be a factual description of the world.
  • To the best of our scientific understanding, determinism and randomness have divided the entire cake between them, leaving not even a crumb for ‘freedom’. The sacred word ‘freedom’ turns out to be, just like ‘soul’, a hollow term empty of any discernible meaning. Free will exists only in the imaginary stories we humans have invented.
  • The notion that you have a single self and that you could therefore distinguish your authentic desires from alien voices is just another liberal myth, debunked by the latest scientific research.
  • There are at least two different selves within us: the experiencing self and the narrating self.
    • The experiencing self is our moment-to-moment consciousness. The experiencing self remembers nothing. It tells no stories and is seldom consulted when it comes to major decisions.
    • The narrating self is forever busy spinning yarns about the past and making plans for the future. Every time the narrating self evaluates our experiences, it discounts their duration and adopts the ‘peak-end rule’ – it remembers only the peak moment and the end moment, and assesses the whole experience according to their average.
  • If you want to make people believe in imaginary entities such as gods and nations, you should make them sacrifice something valuable. The more painful the sacrifice, the more convinced they will be of the existence of the imaginary recipient.
  • Our narrating self would much prefer to continue suffering in the future, just so it won’t have to admit that our past suffering was devoid of all meaning. Eventually, if we want to come clean about past mistakes, our narrating self must invent some twist in the plot that will infuse these mistakes with meaning.
  • The life sciences undermine liberalism, arguing that the free individual is just a fictional tale concocted by an assembly of biochemical algorithms.
  • Liberals uphold free markets and democratic elections because they believe that every human is a uniquely valuable individual, whose free choices are the ultimate source of authority. In the twenty-first century three practical developments might make this belief obsolete:
    • Humans will lose their economic and military usefulness, hence the economic and political system will stop attaching much value to them.
    • The system will continue to find value in humans collectively, but not in unique individuals.
    • The system will still find value in some unique individuals, but these will constitute a new elite of upgraded superhumans rather than the mass of the population.
  • For armies and corporations intelligence is mandatory but consciousness is optional.
  • Some economists predict that sooner or later unenhanced humans will be completely useless.
  • Humans have two basic types of abilities: physical and cognitive. As long as machines competed with us humans merely in physical abilities, there were countless cognitive tasks that humans performed better.
  • The idea that humans will always have a unique ability beyond the reach of non-conscious algorithms is just wishful thinking:
    • Organisms are algorithms.
    • Algorithmic calculations are not affected by the materials from which the calculator is built.
    • Hence there is no reason to think that organic algorithms can do things that non-organic algorithms will never be able to replicate or surpass.
  • As time goes by it becomes easier and easier to replace humans with computer algorithms, not merely because the algorithms are getting smarter, but also because humans are professionalising.
  • Over the last few thousand years we humans have been specialising, which makes it easier to replace them with AI.
  • AI is nowhere near human-like existence. But 99 per cent of human qualities and abilities are simply redundant for the performance of most modern jobs. For AI to squeeze humans out of the job market it needs only to outperform us in the specific abilities a particular profession demands.
  • In the twenty-first century we might witness the creation of a massive new unworking class: people devoid of any economic, political or even artistic value, who contribute nothing to the prosperity, power and glory of society.
  • The second threat facing liberalism is that while the system might still need humans in the future, it will not need individuals. The system will thereby deprive individuals of their authority and freedom. An external algorithm could theoretically know me much better than I can ever know myself. Then the algorithm will know best, the algorithm will always be right, and beauty will be in the calculations of the algorithm. People will no longer see themselves as autonomous beings running their lives according to their wishes, but instead will become accustomed to seeing themselves as a collection of biochemical mechanisms that is constantly monitored and guided by a network of electronic algorithms. For this to happen there is no need of an external algorithm that knows me perfectly and never makes a mistake; it is enough that the algorithm will know me better than I know myself and will make fewer mistakes than I do. It will then make sense to trust this algorithm with more and more of my decisions and life choices.
  • If you wish to obey the old adage and know thyself, you should not waste your time on philosophy, meditation or psychoanalysis, but rather you should systematically collect biometric data and allow algorithms to analyse them for you and tell you who you are and what you should do.
  • Humans will no longer be autonomous entities directed by the stories their narrating self invents. Instead, they will be integral parts of a huge global network.
  • People might abandon their own psychological judgements and rely on computers when making important life decisions, such as choosing activities, career paths, or even romantic partners. It is possible that such data-driven decisions will improve people’s lives.
  • The new technologies of the twenty-first century may reverse the humanist revolution, stripping humans of their authority, and empowering non-human algorithms instead.
  • The shifting of authority from humans to algorithms is happening all around us, not as a result of some momentous governmental decision, but due to a flood of mundane personal choices.
  • In the twenty-first century the individual is more likely to disintegrate gently from within than to be brutally crushed from without.
  • The third threat to liberalism is that some people will remain both indispensable and undecipherable, but they will constitute a small and privileged elite of upgraded humans.
  • In the future we may see real gaps in physical and cognitive abilities opening between an upgraded upper class and the rest of society.
  • Twentieth-century medicine aimed to heal the sick. Twenty-first-century medicine is increasingly aiming to upgrade the healthy.
  • As human soldiers and workers give way to algorithms, at least some elites may conclude that there is no point in providing improved or even standard levels of health for masses of useless poor people, and it is far more sensible to focus on upgrading a handful of superhumans beyond the norm.
  • Unlike in the twentieth century, when the elite had a stake in fixing the problems of the poor because they were militarily and economically vital, in the twenty-first century the most efficient (albeit ruthless) strategy might be to let go of the useless third-class carriages, and dash forward with the first class only.
  • The new projects of the twenty-first century – gaining immortality, bliss and divinity – also hope to serve the whole of humankind. However, because these projects aim at surpassing rather than safeguarding the norm, they may well result in the creation of a new superhuman caste that will abandon its liberal roots and treat normal humans no better than nineteenth-century Europeans treated Africans.
  • In the coming decades new techno-religions may conquer the world by promising salvation through algorithms and genes. These new techno-religions can be divided into two main types: techno-humanism and data religion.
  • Data religion argues that humans have completed their cosmic task and should now pass the torch on to entirely new kinds of entities.
  • Techno-humanism sees humans as the apex of creation and clings to many traditional humanist values. Technohumanism agrees that Homo sapiens as we know it has run its historical course and will no longer be relevant in the future, but concludes that we should therefore use technology in order to create Homo deus – a much superior human model. Homo deus will retain some essential human features, but will also enjoy upgraded physical and mental abilities that will enable it to hold its own even against the most sophisticated non-conscious algorithms.
  • The humanist revolution caused modern Western culture to lose faith and interest in superior mental states, and to sanctify the mundane experiences of the average Joe.
  • Modern humanity is sick with FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out – and though we have more choice than ever before, we have lost the ability to really pay attention to whatever we choose.
  • It is likely that future upgrades to the human mind will reflect political needs and market forces.
  • When we mix a practical ability to engineer minds with our ignorance of the mental spectrum and with the narrow interests of governments, armies and corporations, we get a recipe for trouble.
  • Techno-humanism may end up downgrading humans. The system may prefer downgraded humans not because they would possess any superhuman knacks, but because they would lack some really disturbing human qualities that hamper the system and slow it down. Technological progress doesn’t want to listen to our inner voices. It wants to control them. The humanist recommendation to listen to ourselves has ruined the lives of many a person, whereas the right dosage of the right chemical has greatly improved the well-being and relationships of millions.
  • According to modern psychiatry, many ‘inner voices’ and ‘authentic wishes’ are nothing more than the product of biochemical imbalances and neurological diseases.
  • Once we can design and redesign our will, we could no longer see it as the ultimate source of all meaning and authority.
  • Techno-humanism faces an impossible dilemma. It considers the human will to be the most important thing in the universe, hence it pushes humankind to develop technologies that can control and redesign the will.
  • Dataism declares that the universe consists of data flows, and the value of any phenomenon or entity is determined by its contribution to data processing.
  • Capitalism did not defeat communism because capitalism was more ethical, capitalism won because distributed data processing works better than centralised data processing, at least in periods of accelerating technological change.
  • In the USA voters imagine that ‘the establishment’ monopolises all the power, so they support anti-establishment candidates. The sad truth is that nobody knows where all the power has gone. Precisely because technology is now moving so fast, and parliaments and dictators alike are overwhelmed by data they cannot process quickly enough, present-day politicians are thinking on a far smaller scale than their predecessors a century ago. Consequently, in the early twenty-first century politics is bereft of grand visions. Government has become mere administration.
  • Mixing godlike technology with myopic politics also has its downside. Lack of vision isn’t always a blessing, and not all visions are necessarily bad. It is dangerous to trust our future to market forces, because these forces do what’s good for the market rather than what’s good for humankind or for the world. Left to its own devices it may fail to do anything at all about the threat of global warming or the dangerous potential of artificial intelligence.
  • In a chaotic system tunnel vision has its advantages. The billionaires’ power is strictly proportional to their goals. When the world’s richest tycoons want to make another billion dollars, they can easily game the system in order to do so. In contrast, if they felt inclined to reduce global inequality or stop global warming, even they wouldn’t be able to, because the system is far too complex.
  • From a Dataist perspective, we may interpret the entire human species as a single data-processing system, with individual humans serving as its chips. If so, we can also understand the whole of history as a process of improving the efficiency of this system through four basic methods:
    • Increasing the number of processors.
    • Increasing the variety of processors.
    • Increasing the number of connections between processors.
    • Increasing the freedom of movement along existing connections.
  • The construction of the Sapiens data-processing system accordingly passed through four main stages, each characterised by an emphasis on a different method:
    • The first stage began with the Cognitive Revolution, which made it possible to connect vast numbers of Sapiens into a single data-processing network.
    • The second stage began with the Agricultural Revolution and continued until the invention of writing and money about 5,000 years ago.
    • The third stage kicked off with the invention of writing and money about 5,000 years ago,
    • The fourth and last stage of history, which began around 1492. Early modern explorers, conquerors and traders wove the first thin threads that encompassed the whole world.
  • If humankind is indeed a single data-processing system, what is its output? Dataists would say that its output will be the creation of a new and even more efficient data-processing system, called the Internet-of-All-Things. Once this mission is accomplished, Homo sapiens will vanish.
  • Just as capitalists believe that all good things depend on economic growth, so Dataists believe all good things – including economic growth – depend on the freedom of information.
  • People just want to be part of the dataflow, even if that means giving up their privacy, their autonomy and their individuality.
  • As the global data-processing system becomes all-knowing and all-powerful, so connecting to the system becomes the source of all meaning. Humans want to merge into the dataflow because when you are part of the dataflow you are part of something much bigger than yourself.
  • The new motto says: ‘If you experience something – record it. If you record something – upload it. If you upload something – share it.’
  • We must prove to ourselves and to the system that we still have value. And value lies not in having experiences, but in turning these experiences into free-flowing data.
  • Dataism adopts a strictly functional approach to humanity, appraising the value of human experiences according to their function in data-processing mechanisms. The Dataist revolution will probably take a few decades, if not a century or two.
  • The shift from a homo-centric to a data-centric world view won’t be merely a philosophical revolution. It will be a practical revolution. All truly important revolutions are practical.
  • Ideas change the world only when they change our behaviour.
  • For millions upon millions of years, feelings were the best algorithms in the world. Yet in the twenty-first century, feelings are no longer the best algorithms in the world. We are developing superior algorithms that utilise unprecedented computing power and giant databases. Consequently you should stop listening to your feelings and start listening to these external algorithms instead.
  • A critical examination of Dataist dogma is likely to be not only the greatest scientific challenge of the twenty-first century, but also the most urgent political and economic project. Even if Dataism is wrong and organisms aren’t just algorithms, it won’t necessarily prevent Dataism from taking over the world.
  • Dataism threatens to do to Homo sapiens what Homo sapiens has done to all other animals. Over the course of history humans created a global network and evaluated everything according to its function within that network.
  • If we take the really grand view of life, all other problems and developments are overshadowed by three interlinked processes:
    • Science is converging on an all-encompassing dogma, which says that organisms are algorithms and life is data processing.
    • Intelligence is decoupling from consciousness.
    • Non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms may soon know us better than we know ourselves.

See Yuval's website at www.ynharari.com



© 2020 Cedric Joyce