« Making Sense with Sam Harris

#138 — The Edge of Humanity

2018-09-19 | 🔗

In this episode of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Yuval Noah Harari about his new book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century.” They discuss the importance of meditation for his intellectual life, the primacy of stories, the need to revise our fundamental assumptions about human civilization, the threats to liberal democracy, a world without work, universal basic income, the virtues of nationalism, the implications of AI and automation, and other topics.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Today, I'm speaking with Yuval Noah Harari Paul has a phd in history from the University of Oxford, and lectures at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he special this in world history, his books translate into over fifty languages, and these books are sapiens. A brief history of humankind Amadeus, a brief history of tomorrow and his new book, which we discussed today is twenty one lessons for the 21st you've. All is rather like me and that he spends ' out time worrying out loud he's, also a long term meditator. I don't know. If there's a connection there, there was so much. Talk about. There is much more in the new book, then we touched, but we touched a lot where she started talking about the importance of meditation for his intellectual life. We talk at the primacy of stories, the knee
to revise our fundamental assumptions about human civil location and how it works the current threats to, democracy What a world without work might look like universe, basic income the verge use of nationalism. Now you've all had some surprising views on that. The implications of ai and automation and several other topics so for the delay. I bring you Yuval Noah Harari. Thank you and so and thank you to rivers, Cuomo.
Amazing. So you've heard this from me before. If you into an event or listen to events, podcast, but I may get older here, but it really doesn't get old to say. I can't tell you what an honor it is to put a day on the calendar and have you all? I mean I it's it's just astonishing to me that this happened. So thank you to you all for coming my own lab. Thank you. Thank you so Are you have these books that just steam roll over all other books- and I know 'cause. I write books, so he wrote Sapiens, which is kind of about. History of few, which is really about the history of
manatee? And then you wrote home audio switches about our far future and now you've written this book. Twenty one lessons for the 21st century, which is which is, about the present. I can't be the only one in your publishing world who notices that now. You have nothing left to right about so good luck with that career of yours. So so how do you describe what you do, because your historian The one thing that you and I have in common is that we have a a reckless disregard for the boundaries between disciplines. You just touch so many things that are not straightforward history. What how do you think about your intellectual career at this point Well, my definition of history is that history is not the study of the past. It's the study of change, how things change, and yes, Ma'Am
most most of the time you look at changing in the past, but in the end, all the people who lived in the past of dead and they don't care what you write or say. Call them if the past is anything to teach us, it should be relevant to the future into the present. To also so might be tight b. You touch biology and and technology and I followed the questions and the questions don't recognize these disciplinary boundaries and as the story, maybe the the most important lesson that I've learned of the story is that you then animals, and if you don't take this very seriously into account, you can't understand history. Of course, I'm not a biologist I also know that humans are very special kind of animal. If you own no biology, you will not understand
things like the rise of Christianity or the reformation of the Second World war. So you need to go beyond just the biological basis, but you if you ignore this? You can't really understand anything yeah. The other thing we have in common, which gives you to my a very unique slant on all the topics you touch is an interest in meditation and and a sense that our experiences in meditation have changed the way we we think about problems in the world and and questions like it was just what it means to give that live a good life or even the even whether the question of the meaning of life is an intelligible one or a valid one or a one? That needs to be asked how.
Do you view the influence of of the contemplative life on your your intellectual pursuits? I couldn't have written any of my books, signed sapiens or home windows, so twenty one lessons with all the experience of meditation us, partly because of just what I learned about the human mind, our full deserving the mind but also pointed because you need a lot of folks in order to be able to summarizes the whole of history into like four hundred pages n meditation gives you that these kind of of ability to really focus my understanding of at least the meditation that I practice is that the number one question is: what is reality? What is really happening to be able to tell the difference between the stories that the mind keeps Jen
waiting about the world about myself about everything and the actual reality and is what I try to do when I meditate- and this is also what I tried to do when I write books to help me and other people understand what is the difference between fiction and reality. Yeah yeah yeah. I want to get it that difference, because you use these terms in slightly idiosyncratic ways so like, I think it's possible to either be confused about how you use terms. Like sorry and fiction, for instance, the way you talk about the primacy of fiction, embassy of story, the way in which our concepts that we I map on to reality, don't really quite map onto reality, and yet they are none. The less important that is in a way that you, you don't often
bag in your a real taters I've view of what's happening here I mean it's not it's like you're you're you're, giving people the epiphany that certain things are made up like I like the concept of money right like the the idea that we have dirty paper in our pocket. That is worth something right. That is a convention that we've all agreed about, but it is a it's an idea. It only works because we agree that works by you. The way you use the word story and fiction rather often seems to denigrate these things a little bit more than I'm to do when I'm not. I don't say that there is anything wrong with it, our stories and fiction. So L, wonderful thing, especially if you want to get people to cooperate effectively. You cannot have a global trading network unless you agree on money and you can
You cannot have people playing football or baseball or basketball or any other game unless you get them to agree on rules, that's quite obviously we invented they did not come from Heaven. They did comes from physics or biology, we invented them and nothing wrong with people agreeing accepting. Let's say for ninety minutes: the story of football, the rules of football- that, if you score all this is that the goal, the goal of the whole game and and and and so forth, the the problem begins only been people forget that this is only a convention. This is only something we invented We re s confusing it with kind of this is real reality. This is the real thing and in football it can lead to people to hooligans, beating up each other or killing people, because
these invented. The game end on a on a high level. It can lead to you know to world wars in general, science, in the name or fictional entities like gods and nations in currencies that we've eight. No, there is nothing wrong with these creations as long as they serve us instead of us serving them. What would you acknowledge that there is a a distinction between good, stories and bad stories yeah. Certainly stories of the one of the ones that the three services that help people to tell Papa other beings better align for minutes, it's as simple, as that I mean, of course in real life, it's much more complicated
to know what will be helpful in in what north and so forth. But a good starting place is just to have this basic ability to tell the difference between fiction and reality between our creations and what's what's really out there. Surely, when, for example, are you need to change the story or a story which was very aimed adopted this to one condition? Our is less a doctor when you come to
Shin, which is, for example, what they think is happening now with the story of the thunder on the wrong syllable, democracy, the two ones, probably one of the best stories ever created by humanity, and it was very adopted to the conditions of the twentieth century, but it is less and less adopted to the new realities of the twenty first century and in order to kind of reinvent the system, we need to acknowledge that, to some extent it is based on the stories we have invented rise with. So when you talk about something like human rights being a store,
or affection, that seems like a a story or a fiction that shouldn't be on the table to be fundamentally revives right, like I like that, that's what people begin to worry that to describe these things as stories or fictions is to suggest passively. I don't think you would you do this explicitly, that all of this stuff is made up and therefore it's all sort of on the same level, and yet there's Clearly a distinction between. Is it a distinction you make in your book between dogmatism and the other efforts we make to justify. Our stories renders their stories that are dogmatically and religion has more than its fair share of these, but their political dogmas there you're dogmas of all kinds of nationalism. The can be anchored to dogma. And the mode of assert my dog, my is, is to be doing so
without feeling responsible to counter arguments and demands for evidence, and- and This is why, whereas something like human rights, we can tell in additional story about why we value this convention right like we. We don't have to be a magical story, doesn't doesn't have to be that we were all imbued by our creator with these things, but we can give. We can talk, for a long time, without saying it's just so to justify that convention, you all rights is is, is is a particularly problematic and also interesting case. First of all, because the whole story I mean we are very happy with you, discrediting the stories of all kinds of religious fundamentalists and all kinds of thrives somewhere in ancient people, but our story. What don't touch that extends? What you mean by week, because it's still, I guess we both of the people- I don't see anybody here, it's it's could be just empty chairs and then and recordings of laughter
I assume that the people here most of them, this is. Our story. The second thing is that we live in a moment when liberal democracy is under a severe attack, and this was not so I wrote CVS, I felt myself. We writing these things back in two thousand eleven, two thousand and twelve, and now it's much more problematic it. I find myself one of the difficulties of living right now as an intellectual as a thinker, that you kind of I'm kind of torn apart by the imperative to explore the truth to follow the truth, wherever it leads me and the political realities of the present moment end of the needs to engage in in in in very important political battles, and this is one of the costs. I think
of what is happening now in the world. There is each restricts, RO ability all of freedom to truly going deep and explore the foundations of all four of our of our system, and I, I still feel the importance of of doing it, of questioning even the foundations of liberal democracy and all human rights, simply because I think works as we have defined them since the eighteenth century, the I'm not going to survive the tests of the twenty first century yeah. It looks really unfortunate that we have to two in get thirteen gauge of these two front bottle.
But at the set with you with the same moment, we have to defend these ideas from people who look at them from the perspective of nostalgic fantasies, but they don't even they want to go back from the 18th century and at the same time we have to also go forward and think what it means what the GNU scientific discoveries and technological developments of the 21st century really mean to the core. Ideas of what What the human rights mean when you are starting to have super units. The super humans have super human rights. What is the? What is the right of freedom, We know when we have now technologies that undermined the very concept of freedom, we kind of when we created this whole system or not, we
somebody back in the 80s they did back in, eight one in nineteen century we gave sells all kinds of philosophical discounts, well, not really going deeply enough in some of the key question like what do? Humans really need, and we settled for answers like just follow your heart yeah- and this was this- was good enough just Joseph Campbell. I blame Joseph Campbell follow your bliss no, but follow your heart. The voter knows best. The customer is always right. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder all the slogans they. We're kind of of covering up for not engaging more deeply with
question of what is really human freedom and modern humans really neat ends are in this for the last two hundred years. It was good enough, but no to just follow. Your heart is becoming extremely day service and problematic when problematic. When there are corporations in organization chains and governments out there, but for the first time in history can hack your your in your heart might be now a government agent and you don't even know it so telling people in two thousand and eighteen just follow your heart is in much much more dangerous advice than in one thousand seven hundred and seventy six yeah. So, let's drill down on that circumstance. So we have this claim that liberal democracy is one under threat and two
who might not even be worth maintaining as we currently conceive it. Given the technological changes that are upon us or will be upon us, so it is worth maintaining it's just becoming, and more difficult given by. Presumably, there are things about liberal democracy that are serious, bugs an not features in light of the fact that, as you say, if it's all a matter of putting every Your boat and we are, we are all part of this massive psychological where were gaming ourselves with algorithms written by some people in this room too, to not only confuse us with respect to what in our best interest but the very tool we would use to decide what's worth wanting is being hijacked, there's one thing to to be wrong about how to meet your goals. It's another thing to have the long goals, not even know that it was hard, where
zero is for cognition and emotion if all of this is susceptible to outside influence which Ultimately, we need to embrace, because there is a possibility of influence in ourselves in ways that open vistas of well bean and peaceful cooperation that we can't currently imagine right, or we can't see how to get to so it's it's not like. We have to want to go back to when there was no quote hacking of of the human mind. Every conversation is an attempted hack of somebody else's mind right, so we're just getting it's getting more subtle. Now, it's just it. You know throughout history, other people and governments and churches and so forth, all the time trying to to hanky and to influence you and to manipulate you. They just weren't, very good at it
Because humans of just so incredibly complicated and therefore for most of history, this idea that I have an inner arena which is completely free from external manipulation. Nobody out there can really understand, what's happening within me. Special you are and how special and what I really feel and how I really think, and all that it was. It was largely true and and therefore the belief in in the autonomous self in free will and so forth. It made practical sense, even if it wasn't true and the level of ultimate reality on it, optical level. It was good enough, but, however complicated the the human entity is
We are now reaching a point when somebody out there can really hack it now they want. It can never be done perfectly We also so complicated, I'm under no illusion that any corporation government or organization can complete I understand it that this is impossible, the young would stick or differential. The critical threshold is not perfect. Understanding the threshold is just better than me, then the key inflection point in history, the history of humanity, is the moments when an external system can reliably on a large scale, understand people better than they understand themselves, and this is not an impossible mission, because so many people don't truly understand
themselves very well know? Similarly, with the whole idea, is my wife the whole idea of shifting authority from humans to algorithms, So I trust the algorithm to recommend tv shows for me, and I is the algorithm to tell me how to drive from mountain view to this place this evening and eventually, I trust the algorithm to tell me what to study and wear to work, and home too, date and home to marry and who to vote for how do you say? No? No! No. That won't happen. Becaus will be all kinds of mistakes and glitches and bugs and the algorithm will never know everything and it it can't do it and, if the yard next week is the algorithm to trust the algorithm. To give us ready the algorithm. It needs to make perfect decisions, then, yes, this will never happen
but that's not the yard. Stick. The algorithm just needs to make better decisions than me about what study in what we believe in and so forth, and this is not so very difficult because, as humans we often tend to make true mistakes even in the most important decisions in life, yeah yeah I promise this will be uplifting at some point So, let's finger on the problem of the precariousness of liberal democracy and there's so many aspects to this, maybe just to add one more thing to this precariousness. The idea is that systems have to change again as a story, and this is all
yes, I mean you couldn't really have a functioning liberal democracy in the middle ages, because you didn't have the necessary technology. Liberal democracy is not these feature, no ideal that can be realized anytime, anyplace any the roman empire in the third century. Take the kingdom of France in the 12th century: let's have a liberal democracy there. No, you don't have the technology, you don't have the infrastructure, you don't have what it takes. It takes communication. It takes education, it takes a lot of things that you just don't have, and it's not just a bug of liberal democracy, it's true of any social, economic or political system. You could not build a communist regime in 16th century Russia, I mean you can't have communism without trains and electricity and radio, and so
both because in order to make all the decisions Centralni, you slogan is that you work they take. Everything, and then they re distribute according to needs. Each one works according to their ability and gets according to their need. The key problem. There is really problem of data processing. How do I know what everybody is producing How do I know what everybody needs, and how do I shift the resources taking wheat from here and sending it there in? century? Russia? When you don't have trains? When you don't have radio, you just can't do it. So, as the technology changes, it's almost inevitable that the social, economic and political systems will change
so we can't just hold on. No. This must remain as it is. The question is: how do we make sure the changes are for the better and not for the worse? Well by that, yard stick now might be the moment to try communism in earnest. And can do it now right, so you can all tweet. Yuval Noah Harari is in favor of communism, I didn't say I think. I mean we had a moment in the sun. That seemed how delusion delusionally to be kind of outside of history. You know the first moment in my life, where I realized I was living in history was september- was two thousand and one, but before that it just seemed like the people to write books with titles like the end of history. And we sort of knew how this was going to pan out, it seems liberal values, were
to dominate the character of a global civilization. Ultimately, we were, we were going to fuse our horizons with people of. However, desperate background you know, someone in a village in Ethiopia was eventually going to get some version of democratic, liberal notion of human rights and the the primacy of rationality and the utility of science. So it's religious fundamentalism. Was going to be held back and eventually pushed all the way back and irrational economic dogmas that had proved there, that they're merely harmful would be pushed back and we would find increasingly orderly and amicable, collaboration among more and more people. I think as we would get to a place where war between nation states would be less and less likely
the point where, by analogy a war between states, internal to a country, the United States a war between Texas and Oklahoma, just wouldn't make sense right? How is that possibly going to come about? yeah exactly exactly so, but now we seem to in a moment where much of what I just said we were taking for granted and can't taken for granted. There's a rise of populism, there's or is seen a fallback strand to our politics, that is just the popular TA, be both and in the U S and May in Western Europe, and this anachronistic nativists reaction is are, as you spell out in in your in your most recent book is b
kindled, by totally understandable anxiety, around technological change of the story that what we're talking about people who are are sensing that the only source of xenophobia and and populism, but there many people who are sensing in the prospect of their own irrelevance, yeah, given the dawn of this new technological age. What are you most concerned about in this present on nothing irrelevance, he's he's going to be in a very big problem. It's already fuels. Much of what we see today with the rise of populism is the fear and the justified fear of irrelevance if, in the twentieth century, the big struggle was against exploitation
then in the twenty first century for a lot of people around the world. The big struggle is likely to be against the relevance, and this is a much much more difficult struggle. A century ago slow. You felt the the common person there always These elites exploit now, you increasingly feel as as a common person but they're all these elites, but just don't need a that much worse on on many levels. Look both psychologically and politically, it's much worse to be irrelevant, then, to be exploited spell that out why? Why is it worse on the first of full, because your completely expendable. If, a century ago, you mount a revolution against exploitation,
then you know that if, if things went bad comes to worse, they can't shoot all of us because they need us who's going to work in the factories who's going to serve in the army's if they get rid of us as a motivational poster I'm going to get printed up, I'm not sure what the graphic is, but they can't shoot. All of us if you're irrelevant. That's that's not the case. Your total expendable and again we we are often a vision of the future is colored by the recent past. The 19th and 20th century were the age of the well, the masters ruled and even authoritarian regimes? They needed the masses? so you have these mass political movements like Nazism and like communism and even
somebody like Hitler or like Stalin, they invested a lot of resources in building schools and hospitals and having vaccinations for children and the sewage systems and and and and teaching people to read and writes, not because he telling the story was so nice guns, but because they knew perfectly well that if they wanted, for example, Germany, to be a strong nation with a strong army and a strong economy they need, Millions of people, common people to serve as soldiers in the army and his workers in the factories and in the office is so some people could be expendable and could be scapegoats like the Jews, but on the whole you couldn't do it to everybody, 21st century. There is a serious danger that more and more people will become
relevant and therefore full also expendable. We already see it happening in the armies that, whereas The leading armies of the 20th century rely find on recruiting millions of common people to service common soldiers only the most advanced armies. They rely on much smaller numbers of highly professional soldiers and increasingly unsophisticated and autonomous technology. If the same thing, prince in the civilian economy. Then we might see a similar split in civilian society. Well, you have a relatively small, varying capable professional, eat a relying on very sophisticated technology and most people just as We are already today militarily irrelevant. They could become economically and politically relevant.
Now that sounds like a a real risk, we're running but the, but but it's the normal into questions about what is scary about that don't hold up, given the right, construal and expectations about human? Well being and was like what we know, what people are capable of doing when they are irrelevant, because aristocrats have done that for centuries, I mean there people who have not had to work in every period of human history, and they had a fine, all time. You know, shooting pheasant and inventing Weird board games and and yeah and, and then, if you add to that some more sophisticated way of finding. Well being you know, so it's up will be taught people in the store philosophy and how to meditate and good sports and there's no. It's no written that life is only meaningful if you are committed to something
you would only you only will do, because someone is paying you to do it right. Definitely I mean there is a worst case in a best case scenario, in the best case scenario, People are relieved of all the difficult, boring job nobody really wants to do, but you do it because you need the money right, and you're relieved of that, and the enormous profits of the automation, revolution of shirt shared between everybody and you can send your time your leisure time on exploring you're, still developing developing yourself doing all told meditating, while playing sports or developing communities, the wonderful scenarios that can be realized, the also some terrible scenarios that can be realized. I mean I, I don't think
There is anything anything inevitable. I mean the technology, the technological revolution, which is just beginning right now it can go in completely different directions. Again, if you look back at the 20th century, Then you see that with the same technology of trains, electricity and radio, you can build a communist dictatorship or uh this regime or liberal democracy. The trains don't care, they don't tell you what to do with them an they they they can be used for anything you can use them, for they don't object, and it's the same ways with ai and biotechnology and all the current technological inventions. We can use to build really paradise or hell. The one thing that is certain is that we are going to become far more powerful than ever before. Far more powerful than we all know. We are
We going to acquire the abilities of creation in some sense, even greater abilities than what was traditionally ascribed to most Gaunt's list we all if you look, for instance, the creation story in the Bible. The only things that young women is to create our organic entities and we are not on the verge of creating the first. You know Ganic entities after four billion years of evolution, so in this sense, will even on the verge of all performing the biblical God in creation, and we can do so many different things with ways that some of them can be extremely good. Some of the complete extremely bent our this is vice
so important to have these kinds of conversations, because this is maybe the most important question that we are facing, what to do with these powers yeah. So norms or stories or conventions or fictions concepts. Ideas do you think stand in the way of us taking the right path here. Mister take we've sort of alluded to it without naming it. Let's say we could all agree that universal basic income was the the near term remedy for some splosion of automation and irrelevance. You look skeptical about yeah. I have two difficulties with universal basic income, which is universal. Basic income is fine, but universal in basically they're ill defined, most people when they speak about universal basic income. They actually have in mind national basic income
they think in terms. Ok, we will tax, Google and Facebook in in California and use that to pay unemployment benefits of to give free education unemployed, coal, miners in Pennsylvania, an unemployed taxi drivers in New York. The real problem I'm not going to be in New York the real problem. The greatest problem is going to be in Mexico in Honduras, in Bangladesh, and I don't see in american government taxing corporations in California. And sending the money to Bangladesh to pay unemployment benefits. There. Um This is really the the automation over there. There's are clapping to stop us from pain. Those with a low variance in the audience. Now we've built over the
must be generations a global economy and the global trade network, and the automation revolution is likely to unravel the global trade network and hit. The weakest links the hardest right. So you will have enormous new wealth. Enormous new wealth created here in in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, but you can have the economies of entire countries just collapsed completely, because what they know how to do it. Nobody needs to. Anymore, and we need a global solution for this. You also, if you be for universal, you mean global, taking money California in sending it to Bangladesh, then yes, this can work, but if you mean national, it's not a real answer, and the second problem is with basic. How do you define what are the basic needs of a human
now. It is scenario in which a significant proportion of people no longer have any jobs, and they depend on on the universal basic income or universal basic services, whatever they get vachon to go beyond that? This is this. Is the only thing they're going to get then? Who defines what is the basic needs? What is basically, location, easy, transliteracy or also coding, or everything up to Phd or playing the violin who designs and what is basic health care. Is it just? I mean, if you're looking fifty years to the few
and you see genetic engineering of of of your children and you see all kinds of treatments to extend life. Is this verb monopoly of a tiny elite, or is this part of the universal basic package and who decides so It is the first step. The discussion we have now about universal basic income is an important first step, but we need to go much more deeply into understanding what we actually mean by universal and by basic right. Well, it was a lot. Let's imagine that we we begin to extend the circle either coincident with this. This rise in affluence and a because it on some level if the technology is developed, correctly, we are talking about pulling wells out of the ether right, so so automation and an artificial intelligence that there's more, that the pie is getting bigger and
question is how generously or wisely we will share it with the people who are becoming irrelevant, because we don't need them for their labor anymore. Let's say we get better at that than we currently are. But I mean you, you can imagine that we are going to be will be just to realize that we need to take care of the people in our neighborhood in San Francisco, and we will be slower to realize we need to take care of the people in Somalia, but maybe we'll just these lessons of the hard one will realize if we don't take care of the people in Somalia, a refugee crisis, unlike any we've ever seen, will will hit us in six months right so that, like with, would be. Some completely self serving reason why we need to eradicate famine or some other large economic problem elsewhere. But
Presumably, we can be made to care more and more about everyone again, if only for out of self interest. What are the primary impediments to are doing that human nature long? It is possible, it's just very difficult. I think we need for a number of reasons To develop a global identities, a global loyalty loyalty to their hall of humankind into the hall of Planet earth. So this- and this is a story that becomes so captivating that is super,
needs other stories, the gym to say nothing came out. I don't think we need to abolish all nations and cultures and languages and just become these homogeneous great goo all over the planet. No, you can have several identities and royalties. At the same time, people are ready to eat. Now they they had a throughout history. I can be loyal to my family, to my neighborhoods, to my profession, to my city and to my nation at the same time and there's sort of there are conflicts say between so if my loyalty to my to my business and my loyalty to them to my family, so I hate to think hard. Sometimes I prefer the interest of the family. Sometimes I prefer the interest of the of the business. So you know that's life. We have these difficulties. Life is not always easy. So I'm not saying, let's abolish all other identities now on we're just citizens of the world, but we can add this kind of food, of loyalty to their previous letters and
You know, people have been talking about it for thousands of years, but now it's really becomes a necessity because now facing three global problems, which are the most important problems of humankind, and it should be obvious to everybody that they can only be solved on a global level from global corporation. These are the allure of climate change and technological disruption should be obvious to anybody, the Yukon soul of climate change. On a national level. You can't build a wall, a gains, rising temperatures are rising sea levels. Are you no country, even you know, states or China. No country is ecologically indypendent. They no longer indypendent countries in the world. If you look at it from an ecological perspective.
Similarly, when it comes to technological disruptions, the potential dangers of artificial intelligence and biotechnology should be obvious to everybody. You cannot regulate artificial intelligence on a national level if there is some technological development, you're afraid of like developing autonomous weapons systems or like doing genetic engineering you mean babies, then, if you want to regulate this, you need cooperation with other countries because, like the ecology, also science and technology, they are not. They are global. They don't belong to any one country or one government so if, for example, United States bands, genetic engineering on human beings aren't what prevented Chinese or the Koreans or the Russians from doing it, and then, if you
use down the line if the Chinese are starting to produce superhumans by the thousands he comes with a flock to stay behind, so they will break their own bent. The only way to prevent it's very dangerous arms race in the fields of a online in the biotechnology is through global corporation. Now it's going to be very difficult, but I don't think it's impossible. I actually gained a lot of hope, Fromm, seeing the strength of nationalism, because so that that's totally counterintuitive, because what the everything you just said in the space provided there's only one now and that solves the problem, which is world government on some level? but what cooperate? We don't need a emperor government. You can have good cooperation even with all the single emperor. Then we need some other tools to buy was to cooperate because we have
you know in a world that is as politically fragmented as ours into nation states, all of which have their domestic political concerns and their short time horizon. So you're talking about global problems and long term problems that can only be solved through global cooperation and long term thinking yeah, and we have political systems that are insular and focused on time horizons that don't exceed for the best case six years, and then we have the occasional semi benevolent dictatorship that can play at the game slightly differently. So what is the solution, if not just a fusing of political apparatus? At some point in the future, We, we certainly need to go beyond the national level to a level when we have real trust between different countries all of the kind you see, for example, in still in the European Union,
if you take the example of having a ban on developing autonomous weapons systems, so if the Chinese and the Americans today try to sign an agreement banning killer robots, the big problem there is trust how do you really trust the other side to to live up to the agreement, hey are using. This is much worse than nuclear weapons because, with nuclear weapons, it's very difficult to develop nuclear weapons in complete secrecy, our people are going to notice, but with any army the you are, the all kinds of you can do in secret and the big question is: how can we trust them and at present There is no way that the Chinese and the Americans, for example, are real. Going to be able to trust one another
Even if they sign agreement, every side will say: yes, we are good guys. We don't want to do it, but how can we really be sure that they are not doing it? We have to do it first but if you think about, for example, of France and Germany, despite the terrible history of these two countries in much worse, history, yeah, then the history of the relations between China and in the US? If, today the Germans come with the French they tell us the tale. The french trust us. We don't have some secret laboratory,
in the Bavarian Alps will redevelop killer robots in order to conquer fronts. The French will believe, and the French have good reason to believe them. They're really trust working in this, and if the french and Germans managed to reach the situation, I think it's not hopeless, also for the Chinese and the Americans. So is what explains the difference, because it is a shocking fact of history that you can just you can take these time slices that are you know forty fifty years apart, where you you know you have, the
the attempted rise of the thousand year Reich. Where do you to? Germany is the least trustworthy nation. Anyone could conceive of the most power hungry the most militaristic. You could say the same about Japan at that moment and then fast forward a few decades, and we have what I guess it's it's always vulnerable to some some change, but we have a just a seemingly, truly durable basis of trust. What is a as a historian? What what accomplished that magic and why is it hard to just The reverse engineer that, with respect to Russia or China or any other, there is a lot of hard work in the in the case of the Germans. What you can say about them is: they are very for real people. When, when, when they want to exterminate you, they do a very thorough job. And when they want to say I'm sorry, they also do it.
The federal judge I mean nobody said- I'm sorry- I made a mistake in uh throw way. Well, then, the Germans over the last uh couple of deck well, they did have a lot to apologize for yes and but there are other countries we have a lot of to apologize for and dinner do nearly as good a job, yes in apologizing, as the Germans sold with the they do deserve some credit in this respect. But well what I would like to to emphasize the need to go back to to why. I think that nationalism actually is assigned to be hopeful the strength of nationally, because and other people think that nationalism ease is natural to homo sapiens.
And you you it a lot these days. You know jeans, nothing can do about it. Nothing could be done about the strength of national emotions, and this is it. This is nonsense. Humans are social animals. This is true, but evolution adopted us to identify with a very small group of people whose chief characteristic is that we know everybody intimately. We are at the state by millions of years of evolution to feel loyal to one hundred people. We actually know intimately Nationalism developed only over the last few thousand years, which is yesterday morning in evolutionary terms and nationalism really demands something almost impossible of of these apes of us
To feel loyal to millions of strangers, but we have never met before we know nothing about as individuals, and never likely to meet and nevertheless feel so connected to them, solar, loyal them that we're willing sometimes to risk our lives for them in war or at the very least two, for example, pay taxes in order people on the other side of the country whom I've never met, and I don't know anything about them- we'll have a good education and in good health care. And nationalism managed to do that to make do you care about one hundred million people, you never met, and if we can do that, I think the distance from here to carrying about eight billion people you never met is much smaller
the distance we've already covered. If you, if you manage to get from a hundred people, you know to With million people, you don't know from there to eight billion people, you don't know it's still a distance, but it's a much shorter distance. Forgiving the place we started this conversation, it should be easily accomplished with the right hacking technology right in which it should just be able to manipulate ourselves in this, but find direction the just thing here, is that even if you spell out the path forward in the most hopeful and seeming utopian way that begins to it in most mind flirt with some terrifyingly Aldous Huxley like scenario where it's just your people are going to be
added into being benign right, like like, like It really is a tightrope walk to even envision a future to aim for utopian pictures of a possibility. We know it it is just that as the graveyard of everywhere every previous generations, yet whole dream, I'm not talking about utopian visions, I mean the best way to get people together is to find an enemy. This is this is what the trick of nationalism, and we now have three enemies. We have nuclear war We have climate change and we have technological disruption. And these are enemies, the threatened, almost every human being on earth, and we really need to your nine and- and you know this is a very practical thing. It's not of the elected to some some abstract theory like you're, going to have of an image from elections in in a couple of months.
Sold, I would say whenever a politician good again has a rally all have an interview to the price of the politician hall. Does he or she thinks that we are going to deal with nuclear war with climate change as me, and we think the logical disruption? What is their plan? Your articulating that admonishment in a country the has selected a person who no one can imagine answering that question in a in an intelligible way and when and when when. When I see no one, I mean even his supporters right, it's it's not like any it. My we are so far from even attempting a rational management of the problems you're talking about like not only are we not talking about it
Promoting to positions of greatest power and responsibility, people, we don't even think, could talk about those problems, but again it's not a guarantee of success, but we certainly need- and this is not only for the us- the truth of all countries- to to change the conversation- raise these questions more and more focus attention on these issues, your arm, whether this this will guarantee success, Knoll Box- this is the first step, but as long as the conversation gets bogged down
in things line, I don't know the immigration and whether to build a wall or not to build the wall and and and so forth. Then it's easier, I mean many of the of the of of the politicians today in the world. They have absolutely no vision for the future of humankind. You ask them what is your best case and worst case scenario for humankind in two thousand and forty and you really get nothing, but they are rarely asked these questions, and this is part just part, but an important part of what enables them to sell people nostalgic fantasies about the past. They keep talking about the past. Let's go back to the past because they are not really challenged to come up with a meaning.
Call vision for the future, and this is this is part of our responsibility as a public and his journalists and thinkers and so forth. To put these questions very forcefully on the people if they ignore it, ignore it, but at least people realize they ignore these questions. I mean if, when I looked at the twenty six in elections in the Usi was amazed at the questions were not even raised. It's not like Hillary Clinton was all the time talking about the Ai Revolution and Donald Trump was ignoring it. Everybody was ignoring it I mean the only reference to to this technology was Hillary Clinton's emails we'll email, nineteen. Ninety 1990s you still in It's not. I don't think it's a problem of just one part of the political spectrum. I don't really see almost anybody today.
On the right or on the left in the US or elsewhere, who really has a meaningful vision for the future of human coin. And it's the same when I looked at the the in Britain veterans? These issues were not even ready. I mean bridge, is one of the leaders of the world. It's one of the nuclear powers, it's one of the five permanent members of the Security Council and there was very little discussion all nuclear war in in in in reference to Brexit, there was very little discussion off we'll we'll brexit help us regulate artificial intelligence and bioengineering or not. This was not even a question was raised. Not only is it won't help, it just makes it much much more difficult if, if the
You breaks into twenty eight different countries, then it makes regulated a online or preventing climate change much much more difficult if he doesn't help at all right, so part of the necessary condition for for global collaboration is more and more political integration. Globally I mean. Is there some? radically local solution to this politically or is it or is it because there is no local you. It should be obvious. You you can do many things on uh. Local level in the even on the level of the city. You can make some Cisco, even more environmentally aware than it is. But box and it's very important, but it should be obvious that if it's only some from C school feats, only california- it's not really going to solve the problem with a bit of a certain meme's can spread and not to spread.
From the top down right so that we have this. There's no law that demands that there be a Starbucks on every corner, but by some. Comic magic. There is running. I miss is communism, got wrong. Communism imagined or one uh among the many things communism got wrong. It imagine that you you needed someone at the top to decide. There should be a shoe store over there, otherwise there's no way these people will figure out how to have shoes, so the economics does sort of the layer of economic incentive does float free of these political boundaries between countries, largely until we pray, wouldn't trust the free market. On that, I don't think the free market is going to solve climate change and I don't think the free market is going to solve it the immense challenges, but if it automation revolution- and when I look when I was using economics just as and as a one version of this- but you know, religious dogmatism is its own free market. Right
the ideas spread and by conquest, often historically, but also just by conversation and it's not a matter of nation states, coherent Christians across borders are still Christians. Then an affiliated in that way. So, be you don't a concern for finding global solutions to these most pressing problems spreading organically just at the level of ideas, any kind of pull any kind of political mechanism. That would would use wireless feature. I mean part of the idea of let's change the conversation it doesn't have to start from the president, and the Prime Minister is their fault too busy with the next elections are to worry about the but but but that seems I mean if again, this is kind of a naive perception and because I'm not a political scientist, I'm not a historian
It's not something. I've thought about a lot, but it just seems to Maine obvious naively so that having a political machine that is, by definition, calibrated to a four year time cycle, just is exactly the machine you can't have to implement a long term concern. And how do you think? How do we think about the next one hundred years? Think, for example, about the strength of religious ideas and religious emotions when it comes to elections, I mean, if you think, about whatever your thoughts are about pro choice and pro life. These are not matters of you know the economic cycle of the next euro to the people who are moved by
ideals of both sides, pro choice and pro life, they think in very deep existential terms about it. You can think in similar terms about the implications of genetic engineering soul on the real issue is the like: when you go to a it town meeting with a politician. He or she are running to be mayor or congressman or president what kind of questions you want. So you could ask questions about, immediate economic cycle. I just lost my job. Will I get a new job in the next year? You can ask long term more questions about things like abortion and you can ask long term moral questions about things like artificial intelligence climate change, so I don't think that by design eh,
aquatic system with a four year cycle of elections, rules aren't any any discussion or any serious impact of long term concerns what This seems to me, then that it's primarily a psychological problem, because we know this about ourselves. We have at least two aspects to this problem. One is that, whatever they can do, whatever the long term concern, no matter how much we can we, we agree that it is real. We just hyperbolic like discount, are concerned about the future, so is it is very hard to care about even your future self, who you know so you will be right. This is like the person who smoking cigarettes. Who knows that this is basically the worst and they can make for their health once they're captivated by that, I'm not sure people can be very worried that if we allow more immigrants in then
thirty years, my daughter will have to wear the burka, is a very long term. It's not happening, but people can project into the future and become extremely agitated and move, but by that vision. Similarly, people can be motivated. Buying off very good. I will I go to Heaven or hell. This is a very low term perspective and it can influence what you're doing right now or what? What how you vote right now, so I don't know how I got into a situation where you've all is now having to convince me that people care about religious what happens after death, so but yes, but this additional problem, so that the three concerns that are your top three are the one you have nuclear war, which is for for those who are paid to worry about it. We are at the most. The moment they have ever experienced with you get. You know, William,
talking about the prospect of nuclear war he's a scare This was during the cuban missile crisis, or virtually so I mean this is like this The problem has not gone away, not even slightly, and yet most people feel even with the recent colorful exchange is around this issue between Trump and North Korea or it or are you just the way? It degree which we worried about Putin? Most people feel the cold war is over and nuclear war is not really on the menu right climate change. We can't even agree that it's a thing on some basic level right and the the prospect of ai and automation to Jeanne humans, as I and arranging. Even our conception of what it is to be a person is, in many cases, just fund.
Think about right now, so it's just like this is this- is every Sci Fi Movie, where a a I goes wrong. This is just pure good fun and then there's either that many people in this room. I I think, imagined that the the fear he's over. There have been vastly overblown I've had you know whenever you get and there's the scared side of Silicon Valley that takes these concerns seriously, but then there are the people who say that you, you have no idea how hard it is to build anything intelligent. You know the chess playing machines not going to take over anytime soon. This is all for blown Elon. Musk is nuts, and this is just this is a non issue. This is the most sententious version of this is Worrying about danger today is like worrying about overpopulation on Mars right. So like it's like we're so far away from this being a reality. We don't even know what to worry about. You know it's like. We definitely need to be careful about what we worry about.
When I worry about a online, I usually don't worry about this- is that the typical science fiction scenario a I becoming conscious and then deciding to to exterminate all the Youmans or something like right, I don't think we're anywhere near or on the road to ai gaining consciousness. I think this whole business is rooted in a very deep fusion, just to correct a potential misunderstanding there who are most worried about AI. Are not worried that it will become conscious. It's just that it will become so competent. Right whether the lights are on subjectively eve or not the competence I mean for it to have a very big impact on the job market and through that on the economy and on on on the political situation, you don't need an extremely competent ai. You don't need general intelligence, most of the jobs that are in danger,
They don't involve general intelligence, whether it's driving a car or whether it's even diagnosing a disease. When you need to diagnose the disease, data comes in gets processed and then there is a diagnosis coming out. This is exactly the thing that a very little a, I am still likely to do much better than a human being most of the jokes with humans do today they involve just a tiny, tiny fraction of the human potential so to replace humans in gold. Jobs, you don't need a conscious ai, you don't need a general intelligence. You just need competence. Very limited field- and this is amazing- danger. I think the ds in in many cases
don't worry about the wrong things, but there are things to worry about, and this is part of of changing the conversation. But I think much more of the political debate say about the job market should focus on automation and run not on immigration. So you have politicians frightening people, that the Mexicans will take your jobs and then we should frighten people that the robots will take your jobs, mexican robots are even worse. Robots built in Mexico will come and take her job. All right. Well. On that note, I want to solicit questions from people who are building these robots, because there's a lot to talk about and and when the primary virtues of gathering like this physically is to be able to turn this into a kind of town hall and asks
tions as the MIKE server are moving out there. If we could you also the lights so that we can, we can actually see one I'll, just remind you that the questions at the very least effect the high rising tone at the end of the sentence. And your your your fellow so audience members will love you? If you keep it short and if you're anywhere near the back of a long line, we probably won't get to you and we apologize in advance. So but now, let's start over here. Thank you that MIKE is not yet hot. So let's try it here. Neither is that my alright! Well, our robot overlords are not not taking over anytime soon. If you can't get the mikes on check check yes, I heard you alright. So this is three sentences ends in a question,
answering these threats depends on collaboration, identifying the best ideas and arriving at a consensus with the current tech? now uh technological trends. This is symbol in the near future. It's just a matter of incentivizing engagement and such a system if we could perfectly quantify I all peoples abilities and all are perfectly connected, Would a meritocracy be more effective than a liberal democracy. Yeah there was a recent book which I haven't read is actually a disconcertingly tall, pile of books. I have
to read against democracy them of the people who are arguing that democracy itself is not the right system and that you know people who are not qualified to make decisions, probably on on these topics, shouldn't be promoting orange haired monstrosities into the oval office. What do you think about question in this story that every one should have equal input into how to steer this ship of civilization. I think there's a lot of confusion here between the ability to solve the problem and, and the priorities of society, one We have an agreement about what we want to do, what Define is a problem. What is our goal, then? The It makes absolutely no sense once if you, in an airplane, and everybody agrees that we want to lend this or safely. Then you
start having votes about whether to to turn the wheel here or there. You just have an expert at the wheel, hopefully and he'll she land the airplane, once you agree that if you have some disease you want to get rid of it, When you go to the expert, you don't have a vote between all the people in the hospital about what to do. But democracy kicks in, because in many many cases the the problem is, we don't agree What are the? What? What are the problems and what are the goals and when it comes to that There is no reason to give experts in a particular field more authority or more power than anybody else, but what the technology, allows for people to be identified as being more proficient in any given field
so again, once you agree on what is the problem and what is the goal, then? Obviously, you need to turn to the experts it's very good to have elites. I think it's a docking, Say that when I see when I'm sick, I want an elite doctor. When I went know, I want an elite pilot. There is very good have these elites, but when it comes defining what are the basic goals and what all problems? We are facing it's much, much more dangerous and difficult to just say: okay, let's some experts decide on that. But would you see if we could build a democracy where everyone had to pass some test of their knowledge of just the issues that were governing our politics so if you knew anything at all about trade or economics or be implications of of
back in one proposal or or one candidate or the other if, when tested, We could know that you knew nothing right. Why should Your vote cancel the vote of someone who was massively informed on all the issues and was intelligently to among the options? and and the goals and the goals and criteria that we've already agreed are real, because Human humans are two very large extent shaped and influenced by their personal experience, and it's very difficult to take that out the equation and if you give all the power to a small group of experts who launch we share the same experiences and they live in the same places and they have the estimate. But I think I think what he's imagine is not a small group of experts, but just a system of let's say we had a you know some
if we implement in our democracy online, you know so you could just vote from your house but before you yeah, I see where it's going. Yes, we should certainly experiment as we develop the ability to get to know people better. Then certainly there is room for such experiments, but they should be conducted very very carefully. That's that's the best I can say at the at this moment in three men that again the I'm most worried about the word perfect that you used any system that demands perfection won't work. So you what whatever system you have in mind, it should be imperfect. It should take into account.
Perfection, otherwise it just sets the bar so high that it's a recipe for disaster. The the word perfect was for the purpose of like a thought experiment, but I just wanted to say that this is this can be used for the purpose of. Creating yeah, oh god, I see the democracy is starting to speak here, hi um. First of all, thank you. So much for being here, there may have been amazing, given that, to some extent the way that we exist as people as nations, as potentially a world government, maybe to some extent, is a battle between the present version of myself and future mean or the battle between our nation and the future version of our nation, and then you could even save it for that's true for human civilization in general that if the post human is some to some degree at war with us, if that's the case, a
how many generations after you die. Do you care about and be how important is it to consider the implications of this battle? Thank you hum. I think the future is very important for the present Becaus. It's it. X. You realize very important things about what is important now. I would be alive in her hundred years or a thousand years, but when I what is important now it is influenced, by my understanding of the future, for example uhm. I have a very strong opinion or impression- that uh my state, my nation, Israel, will not exist in a thousand years and no nation, because he's in a thousand years
and this is one of the reasons why I tend to discount the important- the ultimate reality unimportance of nations right now, where there is a good chance it will still exist when I die so through all my life. I lived within this. Our system of the state of Israel, but knowing that it's in the not too distant future a couple of centuries at the most, not only this political nation, but the very system of nations, will disappear and the entities that will exist in that future would look back on credulous that people could actually take it so seriously. This makes me discount it already today, so this is why
the future is very important hello. My name is from Sacramento and I'm grateful to both of you for a great you've. All I know that you are vegan and you have written very compellingly about the treatment of animals and the way that technology has been used to harm them I'm wondering what your thoughts are with regard to how technology might be used in the future to create better relations with the rest of the species on our planet. For I think it's it's it's one of best hopes of, for example, I don't see how you can convince note, eight billion people to become vegan just by ethical and and and and and of our mental arguments. You can convince a certain percentage but not all and technological solutions like switching from slaughtered me to clean meat,
can provide the answer. If people are going, he'll want to stay, but the idea that order to have a stake you need to have a call we can get rid of. That idea will be easier than getting rid of the idea that I want to stay and this no longer science fiction, we already know at this stage when, if we want to think we can just grow a steak, Actually, I think he might be Uma Valeti, who is the CEO of Memphis Meats, is one of the pioneer in this area. I think not about you. In a surrounded by an army of angry vegans, but uh. This is a fascinating example of, of a psychological hang up. That is hard to train.
Form is what one of the big barriers to clean meet adoption, apart from just that that the effort to to get the cost down and bring it to scale is this sense that people have intuitively that meet produced in a lab that doesn't entail. The chaos and misery of a slaughterhouse is somehow creepy right. So, like give me a meatball, you tell me that it was grown in a perfectly sterile environment by good natured people in white lab coats. Most people think idk right. And then you say: oh no, sorry, that's not the meatball I was talking about. I gave you the one that was the product of the most horrific mistreatment of cows that were covered. Bacteria and viruses and staggering around in their own waste and then some brute slaughter. Callously that's exact.
Meatball. I want to eat here and yet so, but this is something this is an association to get over, and so it's like this is a very it's very odd to encounter that. Even among people who will totally acknowledge that getting figuring out some way to cancel this. Needless suffering and death of animals would be a great thing people, can adapt to almost anything in some countries. It will be more difficult than others. There are many places around the world when people are just now beginning to eat meat for economic reasons, As previously like your chinese peasant, you just eat rice, you can't afford to eat meat and we now for for every American that goes vegan there, maybe ten or a hundred Chinese that start eating meat n, at least that's markets on if they start with clean meet, you don't have to convince their about switching it's the first meeting
eat, so this this could be a very good place to start and most of what we eat at one another we had to get used to it. Every revolution, people had a difficult time adjusting to the idea that we had we had to eat this week, or this rice is most of our
point um. So I don't think that this is an impossible barrier right. Ok, so we were here yeah. I thank you both for your important work. I have a lot of admiration and appreciation for an organization you may have come across called eighty thousand hours that came out of the effective altruists movement and they specifically focus on advising people at any stage of their career, how they can orient or reorient towards making the largest possible positive impact on the world and humanities future. I'm wondering what you two might be able to offer to the audience tonight in terms of your specific thoughts on how students, young professionals established professionals again executive,
v, CS, Bitcoin billionaires tech leaders. All of that. What what can we do to create a flourishing humanity? Well, follow your heart. Clearly, thank you. It's a different advice. I mean there is no one size fits all. Oh, If your bill is a billionaire head of some big corporations are many things you can do that you feel just and college students, and then you can't I think what is important for everybody is to get to know yourself better Becaus. We are now entering the era in which we are. A animals and the all these corporations and governments and so forth,
Thank you, whether you are a student or a billionaire, and you need to run faster than these people or organizations that are trying to hack you. I mean it's the oldest advice in the book to get to know yourself better, but previously you did not have serious competition if, in the age of Socrates, Jesus or Buddha You said I don't have time for getting to know myself better, I'm too busy with my herd of goats or something then it was. You know you have to pray to pay a price, but you were still a black box to the rest of your money no are as we speak, we are being hacked and if you don't get to know yourself better than you become very easy prey for all these organizations and corporations and government. So this is one one important advice,
The second advice I can give is is joining organization. If you to make a real difference in the world, it's almost impossible to do it as an individual activist uh. Fifty people who work together our far far more powerful force in the world than fifty individual so whatever cause you believe in joining organization. This would be my second I sent in my third again very practical advice specially here with the coming elections is The questions we discussed earlier nuclear war climate change and technological disruptions. This should be at the top of the political agenda. So simply ask the questions. If you go to a town hall
meeting there is somebody aspiring for office to be a Congress where men Congresswoman just ask ask them: what are your views about regulating ai. What are your views about preventing the. If I elect I, what are you going to do to make it a bit less likely? that uh. We will end up with nuclear war or climate change or some technological dystopia. One of the great things about eighty thousand hours and the effective, altruism movement is that it's playing with the norms of philanthropy in ways that are changing peoples intuitions about just how to how to do good in the world. So this is a a I'm, not telling you anything, you don't know, but so will Macaskill the the moral philosopher who's been very influential in, and arguably the
the founders of the movement- it's not straight, but most people think that building wealth is antithetical to being good in the world amid synonymous with selfishness. But it's it's it's quite possible that who you are and you're set of talents. The best thing you could do is not volunteer in Africa. Best you can do is make a ton of money in some reasonably benign way and give a give it away to people who are doing good in the world or curing diseases or whatever so there's other norms of their norms in philanthropy that are clearly counterproductive. For instance, many people judge the effectiveness of a charity by the percentage of funds spent on overhead or on marketing, but there are charities that managed to raise ten fold for a good cause, What other charities can raise because they're spending much more on overhead and marketing
and charities are not incentivized they're not allowed to pay their ceos. What big corporations pay their ce and for that reason, people who are very wanted in these areas are forced to make a choice when picking career as well. Do I want to make it? of money working for a a real corporation. Or do I want to make a tiny fraction of that doing good in the world? judge, someone who's, making a ton of money at Apple say, but we do judge someone that they're making a ton of money at the Red Cross, because why is the Red Cross spending? So much on their ceo, but if the Red Cross wants to be as good as Apple arguably needs to incentivize people in this way. So I think the norms around philanthropy are shifting in interesting ways to a gentleman as a fairly serious
tater? I wanted to ask both of you if you would be willing to recount any particular particular from retreat, whether you're, sitting or not, um what kind of practices you were doing. I'm trying it's just recounting memories from retreat seems not useful here, but I guess I would say I mean we haven't touched. The top much people like when I can just say about that? One of the biggest dangers in meditation is the pursuit of special experiences here that it gets you distracted inside track from the real job which is getting just to know your mind, not in a special way like with fireworks or whatever,
getting to know your annoying boring destruct the destructive vine in its most mundane, and you know people they come out of a hopeful for say one hour sitting for the station and is the only artist greatly tatian. I was so focused. Everything was so peaceful and then they come out of an hour and then just was a terrible I don't know why a waste of these all right with Justin, wondering thoughts and and and and whatever- and this is just wrong- I mean the first thing is to just get to know your So if you sit for one hour with your mind, then it's all over the place. Lets your mind so I would say that, and I don't want to share any special experiences of meditation. I'll show so this, I think for one hour and my mind, is all over the place
I guess I would add that there's a an additional point that explains the logic of not caring about special experiences, because the goal of meditation is not to get more and more peak experiences, even though people are readily misled by their peak experiences. So the first time you meditate and it seems to be quote working because you have a highly non ordinary experience. You start out: not even realizing how distracted you are, then you get it.
Met a little more in you than you realize. Your mind is completely out of control, but then, if you persist, you begin to have these experiences where you touch the real concentration and Matt. The signature of that tends to be some very pleasant changes in what it's like to be you right in the nature of your experience, and then you begin to associate those transient changes with success in meditation, but the real goal, paradoxically, is to notice certain things about totally ordinary consciousness. There are liberating in aid a deep sense, and this is where the psychedelic have been incredibly useful for many of us, but this is where the there's a decent allergy between psychedelic experience and meditative experience, because with psychedelic experience
point is the pyrotechnics on some level and if you take acid, an nothing happens while you're going to fire your chemist right, but the center of the five meditative weight is recognizing certain things about the nature of ordinary consciousness, which are which don't get. They don't get freer of self. When you add the pyrotechnics of that yeah of the sort that you experience it in a psychedelic experience war, but you can experience in so called peak experiences in meditation because, again anything that comes your goals and what really looking for with meditation is something intrinsic to the nature of consciousness that you can rely on as a foundation for well being no matter what's happening. You know before anything changes you know. Is there a way to feel The sadness you been feeling for the last ten minutes to suddenly, recognize it as an appearance in consciousness? That is ok,
or well being in that moment, isn't predicated on not getting rid of the thing that is there, their physiologically or perceptually or as a matter of concepts. Anyway, that's that's a memory of past retreat. Hi SAM I'm a huge fan, I'm to the point that my husband's jealous. When I you, while I read your first two books and after finishing the first one I you can hope right, but I think that perhaps how's your c would you take the idea of you know humans being so obsessed themselves and humanism and all that phasing out the the human race. I know it's.
Or or at least reducing the human population through maybe birth control, or, as they say, to a manageable S lake. Friends are human. So I didn't like the human race to be phased out in anytime soon, We've done some good things. Also we're not we're not all dead, an and given the fact. We are here. We need to deal with our weaknesses and and all problems, and no just to to to wish them away the storm. Yeah s as a species. We've done some terrible things. Two other animals to the ecological system is oh and then also to ourselves, so we definitely need to do better, but I don't I think we are particularly mean or even
so cruel specie. We have just found more powerful if you gave. Nuclear wars and it's only nuclear weapons and so forth. The sheep, I'm not sure the world will be in a much better place. Uh. We only have just found more powerful. It's it's a bit like the difference between children and adults many people have this vision of children as being very good and in a sentence only this is not true, they can be extremely mean, but but usually they are not very powerful. So the of damage that they can cause is much more limited. Thank you, much for coming so I'm originally from Brazil, and we have an election coming in three weeks there and the guy who's leading the
She was very much a trump like character, who is being opposed very much the same way. That Trump was supposed to hear very inefficient way. A lot of people refusing to debate really that side of the turf very concerning for all of us are from there. Only last week here we saw the ban on versus New Yorker situation, I'm curious home or european. Where do we draw the line between you know giving some people who are not civil at all and giving them the stage versus engaging people who we truly disagree with, but we need to Engage with somehow otherwise the risk facing even worse consequences, it's very difficult to draw the line, but ideally I mean for a society to hold together
and I'm I'm not familiar with the political situation in in in Brazil, but generally speaking arm. If a society ease ease ease to continue functioning, it needs, you need the ability to talk to most of your neighbors and colleagues and and the family members, and this is also true of full, full full of the United States. An arm one of the worst for me. So I can make those big about ahead states, because I know the situation here B. Did it? Did you follow the controversy with the New Yorker invitation to Steve Bannon and metal? Okay, not at all? Okay, but generally speaking, if you reach a point when all conversation and fails, then the society is already so the fight that
The democracy comes with the work I mean, as I said, in the very beginning, democracy is not kind of further of Tennessee at its works. If we were any time, he needs some basic conditions to function. It needs a certain technologies. It needs a certain level of education. Any needs a certain level of concerns. Unfortunately, you cannot democracy. If, if you have a situation when there is no consensus about the most fundamental values of the society at the micro, sick can also function there. Democracies function only when you have this initial condition of consensus about the basics, and then you can build democracy on that. But if you don't have this initial condition, then democracy cannot
function, then it goes either in the direction of civil war or in the direction of separation or into of the direction of dictatorship, but it just doesn't work This is also why one of my fears for what is happening in the in the US is reaching a point when the there is simply no consensus, even on the basis. And, for example, I'm very concerned about the the the quote, for you teach me move off Trump, and especially so if the Democrats are a win, the Congress in the coming elections, which is a big if but if I'm very concerned, if there is a strong movement for impeachment, because if this succeeds, you will have a very significant part of the USA population which will lose no faith in the system. Now you can say whatever you want about Trump in about his supporters, but they're still part
society, though, still the that the neighbors, the colleagues that family members in in in some cases- and if you reaches a point when I say on on twenty five percent, thirty percent of the american population just loses their basic trust in the state we finally caught our men in the system kicked him out. They will lose all trust. So it's a very, very dangerous situation. What you're describing there's a kind of hostage crisis. So it is, you can have a political movement which just announces that it's sufficiently crazy. That is going to. I mean it's. It's it's basically we're talking about a a suicide bombing. It's like you can't reason with Maine. If you don't give me, I want you know, I'm going to blow the whole thing up. I mean, if ever for someone who advertised the need for some impeachment mechanism, it is
one like Trump, but the I put the but the idea that he has supporters who are so hard to talk to on this topic. Read that, at with respect to the reasons why you know he he should come under this scrutiny. The system is already broken down effects. The system is already broken down. If you've already reached this point, there is nothing there is nothing to be done. But I know, but I mean them be motivated by that fear- is to admit that the system is broken right, like like. If you know the key issue is, is trust you in large human assistance at at bottom run on trust, and- and this brings us back to the beginning of the talk today about stories and
and so forth, like something like the dollar runs on trust and also entire nations at bottom. If you, if there is no longer trust, then the only thing that can work is an authoritarian regime or it breaks down into civil war, or something like that, and we need to make every effort if there is still some trust, better preserve it. Then engineer a situation in which a significant Paul of the population loses all trust. Not I and I am not an expert on US politics of your sister, your maybe maybe it's beyond that point. Maybe it still look to bigger percentage of the population has already lost trust, and then it's very bad news that the first part of your questions interesting piece there, because
So what happened for those who weren't following it was the new Yorker David Remnick of the New Yorker invited Steve Bannon to the New Yorker Festival was planning to interview him on stage and it's you know anything about David Remnick. You know, he's no push over. I mean that would have been a very hard hitting interview, but the reactions by the people who hate Steve Bannon, both among the new Yorker readers and people who would attend the festival and fellow speakers of the festival, was so hysterical remnick in the new Yorker and also staff members of the New Yorker Remnick worker immediately backpedaled and disinvited Steve Bannon from the festival, and so this was the worst part. This is like most spectacular own goal on the left. Ever I mean it's like it's one thing to score an own goal, but it's another thing to do it with a bicycle. Kick into stand up. Put your hands up there
it was awful now you can certainly question the wisdom of having invited Steve Bannon First place. I that that's a legitimate judgment call but the idea mean he's, not a marginal figure. This is a person who has had immense influence over our politics. It's not like it inviting some random neo nazi and giving him a platform he would otherwise have, and there is a is a legitimately interesting and important conversation to have with someone like Steve Ban and the idea that the left and the New Yorker staff and the and the fellow contributors at festival had so little faith in the power of conversation. And the power of someone is educated and is laser focused as David Remnick to have his side of the conversation. The fact that so little faith that good ideas could triumph over bad ones or even just expose bad ones for an audience to see.
That was the most depressing thing about that whole episode. Ok, first off, thank you both for being here and for those who work in technology space that myself it's great to have brilliant thinkers thinking about these problems and discuss them publicly and raising awareness of some of these things that we think about for a long time. Regarding the, I specifically there's a view that many of us have that we don't hear echoed very often, and I and I it's possibly because it's kind of further out his deeper thinking to get to But it's one that says that there are three possibilities. Right one is that we die every human is you know. Humans are gone two Is it a comes in his own and we become hello uses? Some point and three is that we find some way of working with it in the in a meaningful way right
and I haven't really heard anyone provide a an alternative to those, not in our current. You know reality. At least Do you have another view that I've not heard or if you agree with what I said, which I mean? Why are we talking about that we're going end up and how we get there. I think that the a I revolution in essence: he's really unstoppable. It's not like we're going to stop or research and development of artificial intelligence. It is going to to get better and better and it is going to outperform humans in more and more tasks and jobs and so forth. But what will be the consequences of that it's very hard to tell again, there are some utopian scenarios and there are dystopian scenarios and nothing here is inevitable,
another point is that you can have all the scenarios. At the same time, we are in the habit of speaking in the first person. Plural, we, but this is one of the biggest questions of all. Are we still maybe you want calling is about to split in two different groups: really different species, maybe with different futures. Some people will benefit immensely economically politically biologically thrown this revolution, and some people will be left completely behind and may lose everything it may. It may even become extinct and when it goes back to the practical questions like we
what should I teach. My kids depends where you live in some places. You should teach your kids to two two cold and play the violin. If you live elsewhere, you had better teach your kids, how to shoot a Kalashnikov. This Maybe there is no. We, again, this is one of the biggest dangers that we face is humankind, that we are about to disappear as a we and split into really different groups or even species with different futures. I'm sorry to say this is the penultimate question, so thank you think other time. Thank you. Thank you both for being here um. My question revolves around a return to the topic of identity that we talk.
Previously recognizing the need to sort of layer, a new, global or national identity on to the ones we have in order to best answer the pressing questions of humanity for the next fifty years, Francis Fukuyama came out two days ago with a book about identity politics, where he argues that identity politics is sort of an offshoot of the need for basic human recognition. He argues the identity politics is here to stay. How do you then record reconciled the human identity, politics aspects? How do you recognize? How do you reconcile the downward spiral of I? anti politics recently in the West Political, this discourse towards the ever fragmenting society towards the need for a new identity. In order to solve these problems- and you think this is possible without some sort of mass human catastrophe before the survivors figure out that they need to cooperate. He was always a major issue in in politics. The
Definitely not a new thing, and things are, you know, I'm a long term historian and original there was a medieval list so always compare things to how it was in the middle ages or how it was thousands of years ago, and usually the comparison is in our favor as bad as things look now they will it's much worse in the middle ages or in the stone age, now back, then you had like three hundred people who are human and the it is on the other side of the heel? They were not even human, so So we're in a better situation, despite the recent upsurge of
Liz, lemon tribalism and so forth. We are still far more cooperative today than in any previous time in history. If you think to take a nonpolitical example, your thing for the sound for about that and we'll we'll come in Russia a couple of months ago. So we gonna suite is the only species we got Argentinians and japanese and French together in a rush, we're playing games together. This is absolutely mind. Blowing, for me is a medievalist. I try to think well. What will that take to organize something like that one thousand years ago, it would have been absolutely impossible, not just Becaus people in your array, yeah. You know even that America existed and you did not have airplanes and ships to bring everybody together. But there was no single game that all people, around the world play and can agree
on a common rules. The fact that you know Japanese in Argentinians can agree on the rules for affordable arm, and this, I think is, is a wonderful sign off the ability of human being to go beyond you know, and I give this example, because the World Football Club cop end and the Olympics in Seoul, they are often understood of the picked it Is rival and national celebrations with all the flag waving and an old nation against nation, but there are actually amazing display of cooperation in agreement between humans. That give me at least some hope
So, I'm sorry this has to be the last one questions mostly for SAM. Since I mean you both have a lot of experience with meditation, but given your background in neuroscience, I was wondering to what extent do you think that the maximum amount of benefits someone can get from meditation is dictated strictly by their particular neuroanatomy and how? If at all, could we go about potentially testing for that scientifically? Well, my opinion on this isn't born of the neuroscience. We we are testing this near scientifically and there's there's a now fair amount of data on meditation and how far outliers differ at the level of neuroanatomy and neurophysiology from people who just who are novices use, so they take people learn to meditate in a in a paradigm over eight weeks and compare them to
roles were not meditating at all, but in the compare those people to people who spent ten or twenty or fifty fifty thousand hours in meditation, and there are our differences that have been characterized, but I think you've been under and the benefits of it without worrying about where you or anyone else sits on the spectrum of talent, or you know, good luck with respect to whatever, whatever the the variables are, the dictate someone Is there made it a little bit like physical exercise and we we know physical exercise is good for wherever you are on the spectrum of genetic gifts and environmental auspiciousness right. So, even if your in prison in solitary confinement for your misty And you've got bad genes right. We know that it would be good for you to exercise for a variety of reasons. You'd feel better you'd be healthier. You just
and even if you have certain injuries that you have to work around, so it's not straight for to say. Well, you know this. This specific exercise is good for you because you're, you know, you've got a shoulder. Say, there's still a work around and is this general principle that is kind of. Use it or lose it principle to your physical body and exercise is a net good for almost anyone in any situation, and there is there. Is that component with meditation? It's not like I mean there are people who have various logical conditions where you certainly wouldn't say, go on silent retreat for a month. This is going to be the greatest month of your life right. Did the people shouldn't do that, but it is just the fact that, most of suffering. If not all, of our real suffering is the product of us being lossed in his story. We're telling ourselves about about what just happened or what will happen. I mean all of
anxiety in our regret in our self concern, and I just just the fact that we are We're in a dream worry about. Most of us are in a dream, a waking dream every moment of our lives and an unless yours, you're, especially lucky. This dream has a has a negative character, much if not most of the time and This dream is trying to find reasons that are good enough to just surrender to the present moment and locate your well being you. If you line up all the variables you know it's it's it's your birthday, all your friends are coming over and you're. You know you've got your both you've got your wealth and you've been looking forward to this for a month and planning it, and everyone shows up food is right and the drinks are right. You've been looking forward to this and you're getting your gathering all the variables together and then you just presumably that's a
where you can say ha. This is at the present moment, is good enough and yet, as a matter of our attention, we're always missing the present moment because we're finding something is not quite right where, We're talking to ourselves. We can compare struggling, even understand, even understand what our best friend is saying to us, because is mind, is wandering. We haven't and our minds in any way that allows us to finally arrive in the present and the extreme cases aside. Virtually everyone benefits from being a. To notice the difference between being lost in thought and being simply aware of the sensory emotional display in consciousness and in the present right, just just just being able to it until you've noticed that distinction in this. This distinction goes by the name of mindfulness. Until you know, there's an option to break the spell of your of the conversation you're having with yourself and just be present. You are, by definition a
hostage of whatever thoughts are going to come all day long and when you see how thoughts to range your life, you know angry thoughts, make you angry and then you say angry things and then you're the angry guy in relationship with people who now no longer like you right and all of the consequences play out. It is in and it's a super power to be to be given a choice to just not be angry in the next moment, right, just a notice. Let that thought go and let that this cascade of you know the neural, because the article signature of anger just go. We need not await the deliverance is of a future science of the mind that tells us exactly what the differences are between people that account for differences here and and why it's good for us or or not it's there's alot like exercise, and you know one hundred years ago we knew exercise was good for us without knowing the physiology so that Sorry about that that was as long winded as it was, but we're now past the point of no turn. I have to say goodnight to all of you this please.
Thank you all for showing up. Thank you. If you find this podcast bible. There are many ways you can support it. You can review it. Itunes or Stitcher, or wherever you happen to listen to it. You can share on social media. With your friends, you can talk about it or discuss it on your own podcast or you can support it directly and you can do this, I subscribe in through my website at Samharris, DOT, org and there you'll subscriber only content, which includes my ask me anything up. So it's he also get access to advanced tickets to my live events as well as streaming video of some of these events, and you also get to hear the bonus questions,
Transcript generated on 2019-11-12.