« Making Sense with Sam Harris

#201 — May 1, 2020

2020-05-01 | 🔗

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Yuval Noah Harari about the Covid-19 pandemic and its future implications. They discuss the failures of global leadership, the widespread distrust of institutions, the benefits of nationalism and its current unraveling in the U.S., politics as a way of reconciling competing desires, the consequences of misinformation, the enduring respect for science, the future of surveillance, the changing role of religion, and other topics.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
I Here we have all know Harare evolve, For again, thank you for inviting me again. I think the last time we spoke, I think it was. We did alive event in San Francisco. I really enjoyed, and then we had done up one podcast before that, but now the The entire world has been pushed off a cliff since we last met so first before we get into big picture topics, How are you doing hurry weathering the pandemic for we'll find, I think, away from me, my husband to yourself isolating in our house
And it's difficult because we can't meet our family and friends and so forth, but now we have lost our job or business gent collapse we actually working harder than ever knew many of your friends and family members have lost their jobs or businesses. So we know we are one of the lucky ones: yeah yeah, it's a difficult time- and you know you look ahead and less worried about the epidemic itself, but the economic and political consequences could be really got a stroll figure if we don't get a handle on it. So it's yeah, it's quite a worrying time. That's what I want to talk to you about Israel has been pretty aggressive in their handling of this right. If I'm not mistaken, how would you compare Israel to the rest of the developed world in terms of how to proceed?
Well, you know if you measure, just in terms of how many sick people how many dead people than we are doing very well, but in other turns the situation is quite quite bleak. I mean the economic crisis is very severe. Political situation is even worse. We see I'm in each started away before there, the corona virus. It's been a very tumult to see or politically with three elections, wonder when this crisis began, the unelected Prime Minister try to use the excuse of fighting grown, a virus shut down the elected parliament and rule, basically the dictator with emergency decrees. Luckily, this was a voted. There was enough push back from the media from the public and from the political parties, so parliament was reopened in some kind of democratic balance. Was reinstated,
but we still don't have a government and There are lots of frightening things happening like giving the secret police the authority to set up surveillance of really citizens again on their excuse, the fire fighting the epidemic. Not against surveillance. I just don't think that this would be in the hands of the secret police near here without most of our listeners will be familiar with your work, just Roma people you, you have written now, three books that have been especially influential, the sapiens, homo deus and twenty one lessons for the 21st century, and your background is is as a historian, but you bring a really wonderful interdisciplinary approach to
big questions of human life and the maintenance of civilization? And where is all this go in, and this includes really everything that human beings could conceivably care about, and yet medicine so much here that is in your we'll house, in terms of the kinds of things that we need to change. Should maintain struggle to reign agenda of many people are viewing this pandemic part from all the obvious pain. That is producing and when will produce economically and politically many of us who are viewing, as a an opportunity to really reset society on some basic level if we can seize this opportunity, so I guess before we get to any of the silver linings we might find hairless weight into the darkness. What problems has this pandemic exposed, in your view, across the board politically, technologically, socially and obvious
You know anybody me logically, but just how are you view in this, as a dissection of all that we haven't put right in society may be. The biggest problem has to do with the situation of the international system. We are seeing a complete land of global leadership, a complete lack of, though there is no global plan of action either to fight the epidemic itself or to deal with the economic crisis. In previous cases like this, in the last few decades, the United States has taken up the role of global leader, whether within the ball, Ip Danica, twenty fourteen fifteen, or whether it's in the global financial crisis of two thousand and eight. The. U S is some is this kind of an anti leadership position trying to undermine the few organizations that, like the World Health Organization, that our trying to organise some kind of global response
And this is not something you this is a continuation of yours policy of the last of the last few years. Basically, I think in twenty sixteen, the United States in the election united they came to the world and said: look we resign from the job of global leader. We just don't want it anymore, from now onwards, we care only about ourselves because no longer any friends in the world, it has only interests and the whole. Single, Say America. First. And you know Now- America's first in the number of dead people and sick people and very few follow american leadership not on, because of the record of the last few years, but also because the world is also lost faith in american competence, and if you look at the way that the United States is dealing with the epidemic at home, and you say well maybe it's a good thing that they are no longer leading the world and there is nobody really to fill the vacuum left by the? U S
Oh you that you will use. We do see some level of global cooperation in especially the scientific fields, with the sharing of information and their common efforts to understand the epidemic, to understand the best ways to treated to isolate people to develop a vaccine. So there is this, are there is some hope there, but, generally speaking, the level of international cooperation is is far from over. Then, would have been expected to LA could have been hoped for and again. This is not something you. This is a legacy of the changes that Sir not only the U S but all over the world. In the last few years, we ve seen the rise of extremism, Journalism and isolationism and hold this course of telling people There is an inherent contradiction between nationalism and globalism between loyalty to your nation,
global solidarity and leaders not not only trumpet so both on our role in the writing of the right wing parties in Europe telling people that you, of course you have to choose national loyalty and reject globalism, and now we are paying the price for it. Is that really? There is no contradiction between national? globalism, because nationalism. Not about taking foreigners. It's about loving your compatriots, and there are many situations like a pandemic in which, in order to really take care of your compatriots, you have to cooperate with foreigners. Yet there is no contradiction here. You know if the law is the french invent. The first vaccine against grown a virus. I would like to see american patriots coming saying not another. No, we want to take this facility. Foreign vaccine, seen french vaccine will waiting until there is a patriotic american vaccine, and only then we take it
This is obviously nonsense. I could find you those patriots there in my twitter feed, yeah, and this also did so. This is one level the international level and, of course, we are seeing a lot of problems also internally in many countries and Basically, this is again a kind of the pay day for developments. It began long before corner virus internal divisions within countries. Whether written India will you have all these conspiracy theories that hinder extremists are blaming the epidemic of Muslims saying that this is a muslim conspiracy, that you have Koran a virus. Terrorists deliberate spreading the virus among Hindus what do you see in the? U S and in several other countries, when there is just not enough trust in public authorities to have a car, a consistent policy. You know in normal times a country can fund
or a government can function when only half of the population believes it. You know you have it. Creation, when you have a leader, half of the population says I'm busy. Anything this person says, if you says, of the sun, rises in the west and setting the east? I believe it. And you have the other half thing. I want to believe a single word disperse. Anything if he says it took last week was for I still adopting it your end as bad as it is It can function for a while in kind of normal times, but in a pandemic you need it cooperation of a hundred percent of the population. You can't deal with it with just fifty percent, so this makes it much much more difficult to deal with it. Yeah. It was so I mean there's so many threads here and we can pull out and the whole tapestry starts to move the way you started it with this failure of of US leadership. I know I find it especially depressed
it is a kind of national humiliation which is compounded by the fact that something close to half of american society either doesn't care about it or is so delusional as to think that we have distinguished ourselves well during this crisis, and this has been a part of the personality cult of tromp. Obviously, but it also it's this pervasive mistrust of institutions which you have just flagged with the fact that the media is so despised and mistrust and again Trump has something to do with that. But you know it's the other institution, science and scientists and
dependence or or integration with the rest of the world, and it is, as you point out there is this notion that there's a zero sum contest between national pride and a more cosmopolitan integration with the rest of the world, but the problem it seems as if there, the really some tensions here that are hard to bear. Once and understand, and if you don't trust the media and if the media is pitched into a perpetual frenzy reaction to all of the assaults. On truth, they come out of the Trumps mouth the administration there really are like a genuine failures of sense making that should kindled doubt there's, no one who is more alarmed by.
From than I am, but I, when I see the Miss calibrated attacks on him in our best newspapers, you know even I can see that the media sometimes gets a wrong, and all of this being amplified on social media, where we really have people just unable to come in contact with a common reality, give you Couple of examples here that comes to mind is, as you were, speaking about other this Well, you ve made in many of your books that in a glass Whoa problems require global solutions right or not We too have an american solution to climate change were not can have an american solution to a global pandemic, but there is this tension, but- mean globalization and self sufficiency, which has been exposed quite painfully by this pandemic and just look at the supply chain. The fact that we can't even produce Q tips anymore on demand because we're so rely. On China to produce them and when you look at that reliance in the context of the
very real political tensions between this case America, China, it seems right to be concerned about outsourcing, are our interest rupture to them, one in an environment where they can turn hostile. In a moment, the extreme example would be if she and are produced all of our bullets right now. Just imagine what a war with China looks like when they want suppliers would bullocksmithy concern of that sort, doesn't have to be motivate xenophobia or isolationism, they're, not notice, all so anyway. I've, please sir, tread of thread that needle horrors, no harm again. I think that two people, when they say the word Globalization of globalism. They ve been so many different things, some people, they think maybe
about the economic implications and supply chains and having all these multinational corporations becoming far more powerful than nation states and having zero obligations to citizens in any country, because they can just avoid paying tax as with all kinds of tricks and so forth- and this is a kind of globalization that I personally am not very fond of- and diving, it's perfectly sensible for countries to try to have better control of their essential supplies, and certainly it's very important that the corporations would pay their taxes in the sand. Of their activities and a you know, woman you wanna be able to function without switched distance and without police and without schools. So you definitely need to not everything is in the cloud. There are many things in the ground and you should pay for them.
For me when I think about globalism and globalization, and that the main thing is really about the sharing of information. The sharing of knowledge the having common values and common interests, and this should be that this shouldn't candied can be separated from the economic issues and I think that if you look at what is happening in a place like the United States, I really don't think this is a clash between nationalism and globalism, really happening in the: U S and in Britain and in several other meal in many other countries is actually the unravelling of nationalism itself. There is a lot of talk about the rise of nationalism in recent years, but as he story- and I see really it in a very different light- usually the best sign that you're, seeing as an upsurge of nationalism, is a lot of conflicts between nations
like a century ago. The first World war was an indication that nationalism is really on the rise. When you look the world of the last few years. You actually see few conflict certainly violent conflict between countries. The main conflict are actually within Countries what's unravelling is the kind of internal national community. I think it is fair to say that today, Americans hate and feel each other far more than they hate and fear. The Russians or the chain is the biggest fear eastern neighbours or model metaphorical neighbours and This is not a sign of an upsurge of nationalism,. Similarly, if you look at that breaks in the debates in Britain there, then the chances of the breadth of the bright star Things tat will come to blows within themselves. I think a far higher than in war between Britain and France So I wouldn't really talk about it.
IRAN, an upsurge of nationalism, its moral crisis, stolen it trying to redefine what it meant, what it means and how important it is her. Personally, I think it understood the right terms: nationalism. Has been one of humanity's best ideas or best inventions. Her again, not if you think about it, this hatred of foreign, that's that's the dream, thoughts of nationalism, but he doesn't have to go in that direction. In essence, nationalism is really loving your compatriots, enabling millions of people who don't really know each other to cooperate and to take care of each other. We are social animals, but for hundreds of thousands of years, society meant a very small circle of people. You actually know personally intimately, you know their names their personality, you meet them all. The time and
Then this is kind of energies to care about a group of, say fifty people a hundred and fifty people nations. Very very recent emergence of invention. In human evolution, only the last few thousand years, maybe five thousand years may be a bit more and then we must Well think about nations is that you cooperate and you care about millions of complete strangers, people that You have never met in your life You will never meet them in your life. You dont know them, but still you willing. For example, to pay taxes so that a stranger in different parts of the country would have Healthcare all would have good education and that's that the really good side of nationalism- and I think we should cherish that and protect that without falling into the trap that to be a good nationalist. You should also heat
foreigners who are not part of our nation, knowing in areas that in many cases to really take care of your compatriots, especially the twenty first century. You need to cooperate with the forerunners you. I think that the great distinction- and I share this concern about the breakdown of social cohesion, especially in the United States. Where am I most in touch when it. So this brings us to politics, and yet you are not bad in the New York Times not long ago. That term I wanted to reference, because it you say some things there, which you either I'm not sure I agree with, or at least there is a further distinction I would want to. Here is quoting you you right. Elections are not a method for finding the truth. They are method for reaching peaceful compromise between the conflicting desires of different people. You might find yourself sharing a country with people who you consider ignorant, stupid or even malicious, and they might think exactly the same view. Still do you want to reach a peaceful compromise with these people, or would you rather settle your disk
miss with guns and bombs, so as it stands, I totally agree with that and in this is seen as a method for resolving conflicts and desires, and this is what elections are about, but we could even say this is what Politics generally is about, and even democracy as a solution for that area when it works as a solution, for that but then you take issue with an analogy that Richard Dawkins used when he was objecting to the breaks it referendum. He just thought this was actually absurd. You asking the people of Britain who, in a most of whom had to go, go for what is breaks at after they have voted one way or the other is another quoting Richard. He says you might as well. A nation wide plebiscite to decide whether Einstein Goddess algebra right. I think Richard you know in his defence he even assented himself from voting on, said he at last night on a biologist, honoured and breaks it. So you know just matters what the effect of this is gonna be. So then you distinguish Edam.
Reconciling competing desires from a search for truth here and you're. Obviously aware of some of the difficulties I am tempted to point out here, but I can Learn is that there is. This really know bright line between truth, and ire when one considers the consequences of misinformation, and especially the kind of miss formation environment were now living and because we have people want what they want. Very often euro area or even always, because they think certain things are true. I knew they were wrong about specific things. They very likely wouldn't want what they currently want to meet. Fellow once, they're genuinely wants to kill Desdemona. And he actually strangled her with his own hands, but that's only because he was misinformed about her and and that's why it's a tragedy and what I see selves living through right now is a tragic dimension to our politics. We have people who are genuinely misinformed about sources of it,
and comic pain or climate science, or whatever it is, and their supporting politicians and policies. They seem in the end guaranteed to frustrate their real interests, and this obviously connects to populism and other political phenomenon so help me, Think this through yearning to some extent you're. Absolutely right. I will just say that, in the case of a fellow, it's wrong to strangle your sweetheart, even if she did indeed what what you think about what the other said she did. I mean, I think, the tragedies elsewhere in this case. It's not a problem of misinformation, but its tragic for him. When you take his point, you of it the reason why the tragedy for the character of Othello is that really he here been fatally misled, didn't take it I've been to ruin it. I don't want to go into that. Robert Zoellick will occupy that the rest of the hour. I think us, I would
Hey? That's the big problem is you know telling people that I know your real interests better than you know them and you're misinformed. So let me tell you what are your real interests are sometimes that that's the case, but it's a very shaky ground for a political system, very dangerous ground to have this kind of but only stick out to you that it is that I really know what your interests are better than you and, of course many people are misinformed, but that's truth of everyone, especially you noted understand. The desire is something very different from understanding the truth and part of the problem in society,
that's where I, where I stand, really distorts my might my vision of other people ends and of the social structure. So when it comes to again think what are the true desires of the best desires of people. I would be extremely careful about granting this to any privilege group think that. Yet when it comes to economics, economists are much better informed than any of us, and yes, they make mistakes, of course, but everyone makes mistakes and they have a mechanism for self correction to some degree. So once you define a political goal, and you have an argument about what is the best economic means to get there. Then. Yes, I dont think you should put it to a plebiscite or to an election. You should go to the experts, but when it comes to actually defining
go. What is the goal of society? I think, is extremely dangerous to to trust experts with was the definitions of the basic goals of society that they lack. The really too much information and their vision is distorted by their own self interests, and we know it's off from how many cases in history again in the dead it, he took a kind of a choice between two problematic roads, but I wish I think, the less it that the tar having a kind of
privileged elite, saying that I know I'm in a better position to understand your true desires than you are: that's far more dangerous, I would say, and its becoming more dangerous, neither twenty first century- and this was mine- maybe my main point in them in the New York Times article because of the new technologies for hacking human beings are, we believe we have had these discussions for thousands of years going back to ancient Greece and in yeah and China exactly these issues of do. Can we trust people to really know what's good for them, and I dont think that a lot has changed since the times of Socrates or Google Confucius, but nothing the changing, because we suddenly have a completely new technology to had human beings to understand. You means better than they understand themselves too
understand human desire to know what I want better then I know it's and also goes to manipulate what I wanted it goes together, and then you know that Question of what they really desire becomes more complicated than ever than ever. Basically I would say that too, to hack a human being, you need three things. You need a very good understanding of biology, specially things like brain lines, you need enormous amount of data and you need a lot of computing power until today. Nobody ever in history had any of these. Things if you are selling in the nineteen. Fifty nine forties, you can't you don't know enough biology. You don't really understand. What's happening in the human body, you dont have enough data every individual. You can't place a KGB officer to follow each and every soviet citizen. You dont have to happen
million KGB agents and even if you had, then the question would be who follow the two hundred million KGB officers, of course, and you dont even if you have all these agents following people you: don't have the computing power to make sense of all the information they gather? Basically, you in ancient following me. Writing a paper report about what they did today and then another human being has to read this report and processed it and reach some conclusions and the absolutely impossible. Now for the first time in history, it is becoming feasible for the new stuff. Of the twenty first century, you dont need two hundred million human agents. You have sensors needs human analysts to read paper reports. You have artificial intelligence that can go over all this immense data and analyze it ends
You are having more and more biological insight into what is actually happening in the human body in brain. You put all that together, you get the ability to know what people want better than they know it better than they would made to themselves. I often give this a personal story of my own experience we are coming out was realizing tat, gay only the age of twenty one now. If you ask me when I was fifteen, who do you want to have sex with it, then I would say with with it with a guy, even though this is probably they really wanted. I I didn't understand about myself similarly sounds- I mean how can you not know it? The fact is, I didn't know it when the global. Nobody here, if good, We know it when I was, I guess twelve was- should have been very obvious. You just collect not a lot of data on were my eyes go. Might you know when I want the beach and you could easily have told me
use before I understood it. What are my trousseau? she'll desires now believe me to live in a world when you know it's not the yeoman elite its. The Nobel Prize winners. It's not the professionals in the universities that no my desires better than me aren't you could no human system that systematically hacks all of us and knows our real desires around deep desires better than us, and therefore can also manipulator in ways which were completely impossible in previous ages. And I would say this is the biggest challenge to to democracy. Again, the challenge of misinformed people voting for the wrong politician, you know it's it's a problem, but it's a very old problem. The Greeks have dealt with it with more
It's not our most exist items less with deeds, not a new problem here that, in the new technology, create a completely new kind of problem. That I don't know. What is the answer to this issue?. Yeah. However, I share your concern about the effective technology and where All that's headed, that's obvious, a big conversation, but I am still stuck on this I leave the very low tech hacking of the human mind which happens reliably in so many places that that's right in the end, the spot where speaking about here, which is the politically utterly reliable response of so many people to being told that they're wrong that they don't they don't want what they think they want that they don't stand reality enough, even know what they want on specific points, and this need jerk revulsion now that this produces against expertise,
and you're, a hierarchy of information and a kind of this reading of of the ethics and pragmatic of aircraft, she's right or left when the New York Times admits mistake from one point of view, that's proof that there is no doubt in between the New York Times and bright Bart, say or you know, any other non journalistic source of information and there's just eight repudiation of all distinctions in formation space. They can allow us to reliably curate ideas and better data, and this is just strikes me as a genuinely difficult intellectual problem in certain cases where we just take there. You know our response to covered is very hard to know what is true, what is real, what should be motivating and our desires are truly. Calm enemy. Very few people want to die or have other people die unnecessarily and very few people.
Want to see the economy collapse. You know so more anchored to- same desires, but we have a very different perceptions of reach. Holiday, and the thing that that I find troubling Is there a reliable manipulation of people on this? I trump is the ultimate example of this, but based, likely, he manages to sell himself as a non elite person right. So he standing shoulder to shoulder with the common man. You know, even though everything in his life is gold plated and ass his name on it. He isn't a member of the elite in truth, he isn't actually because he really isn't ignoramus and a deeply on curious person who has never had much use for institutional knowledge. But what we have here is a inability to convince tens of millions of people with a single tweet that real institutions are completely bankrupt, weathers the press or medicine or
science in general and what you need to do is just keep poking Dick into the machinery of any fact based discussion and maybe all just wanna drink bleach or poured into your lungs or I may it is just as I entered there's nothing. Nothing is impossible now to promulgate as information. So anyway, that's the kind of chaos as something I'm still stuck with as we, I'm going to wait. Another president action to have two thousand eminent first of all the good. The good news is that in this emergency we have seen a lot of trust in science, any scientific authorities. Even unexpected zoos, solar quarters. Having given the record of the recent years, we saw many attacks on science and on scientific institutions, it's really amazing for me to see that in December, didn't in more
this places most people, They pulled the scientific authority more than anything else, and you know them. Clearest cases for me what's happening with religion in these knew that knowing in Israeli close down the synagogues they don't allow people to go to the wailing wall. They don't allow people to go together to pray. In IRAN they shut down the mosques. Are the Pope is telling the faithful to stay away from churches and all because the scientists so you know you look at the black then, and it was a completely different story. Yeah, so we have, I mean, inactivity, Valise Sophie. We need at least it's usually easy to be a bit optimistic about the present road. As our baselines is so low. Before taking I look at the black death yeah, I look at the black death in the fourteenth century. I look. There over nineteen crisis. In this way, will we made some progress in the last five hundred years
not only in scientists being able to really understand the epidemic, but also in the trust that people having these institutions. And you know in when the black death spread and the king of France. He asked the man the faculty of the University of Power, is the most prestigious university to write a treaties, get your best minds on this and tell me what's happening and they what the best minds of the faculty of medicine at the University of Paris and they published a report and according to then the problem, was basically astrological that, as far as I remember, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter wearing apparel the color, only negative bed conjuncture, which has caused the corruption of the earlier on earth. And this is what is causing the mortality of about between a third, and half of the population, in other words, people who disagreed in the University of Paris
and the minority report was that, actually, with the fault of earthquakes that released toxic gases from from the both of the earth, and this is what is killing the people and, of course you had the conspiracy theory of the day, which was the Jews, have poisoned the wells. So you had. A wave of programmes against the jewish communities are all over Europe, I think we have made some progress since I've been here and you're, forgetting the blasphemers who had their tongues cut out, because blasphemy had to be part of the problem and in the thing about about they their civil. The points you raised that, yes, we have some, desires like we don't want to die, we don't want the economy to crash, but another very commented desire people all over the world from all walks of life is to be right. That AIDS is very important for people to be correct
There are fundamental beliefs in life is very, very difficult with me that you're wrong people who do terrible things to others into themselves. Just not to admit that I made a mistake, I'm wrong- and you know, especially when it comes to the deep stories that give meaning to love Our mind is a factory creating stories that give meaning life and for many people, the worst thing that can happen to you ever is to find out that the story that you created or that somebody else created end and you you you view of adopted, and for years this has been done. Ben talk of how you understand your life, and this is what gives me to life, to admit that this story is fictional. It's it's full of arrows, it's full of mister
many people would prefer to die then to do that. All would prefer to drink bleach than to do that, and that's also very, very deep In the human psyche, in human time in humans shouldn't human history, and there, so many examples of the terrible things that people who do just to prevent admitting that they made a mistake, So in this sense, I'm it's not so surprising, what's happening again, the Asian composed of the middle ages, even gear, we ve made substantial progress in Indiana a bit. Ability and willingness to put these stories to the test here s. Why? On the topic of progress? Let's imagine why
sort of further progress we might make in the aftermath of this, whereas we even just process this problem, because they are the next twelve months or optimistically. Perhaps twelve, between now and the vaccine is a fair amount of uncertainty as to just at work normal life might be like, and even after that, seeing, even even if one were magically delivered in a much shorter I'm frame and that there are economic consequences. Be living with and just an opportunity to rethink how we, live individually and collectively and and there's a route I rewriting of norms and certainly an improvement to institutions that we could envision I'm tempted to ask you how you and your envisioning, or or hoping for a post covert world with respect to certain variables. One variable
It has been on my mind for several years at this point, but it's important seems quite heightened now and I think in the next year or it's it. Gonna dominate many other concerns and as the issue of of wealth inequality and the remedies for that, and the acknowledgement of it is a problem in and redistribution or something else as a remedy. And the way in which it interacts with the political polarisation and populous Eminem. All this, I think, is going to come to a boil fairly soon because being exacerbated by how people are affected by this pandemic. Gimme thought about wealth, inequality that it's bad did seats. I agree that is getting worse and I think we have. We have a choice here and generally I dont think that the future is inevitable. All did the future. There is one one obvious outcome to this crisis. These crisis gives us a lot of choices to make difficult
MRS, but those opportunities to to change the way the societies is built, and it all depends on the decisions on the political decisions that we take. We will take in the next twelve months. It is, as you say, and which is why I'm my basic understanding of their causing nineteen crises? It's not a health crisis is, above all a political crisis. We can deal with the virus again, it's not the black death. We have the scientific knowledge and the technological tools, overcome the epidemic itself. The real problems are in the realms of economics and politics and hear nothing is inevitable. It's all a matter of political choices, so I hope that people in the media would focus less. Then? You know the latest statistics about the number of sick people of the number ventilators in the hospitals and focus more on the political decisions. For example, governments
attributing enormous amounts of money? And it's a very big question who gets what? What is this money being used to say incorporations because of their mistakes, which were made long before this epidemic, is it being used to Finally, enterprises whose managers and owners of friends with this ministerial that minister is acute to save small private businesses. Restaurants, travel agents, who tells whatever that's a political choice that we need to do this. We need to supervise very very closely and we have to do it now, you know I people are so overwhelmed by this crisis, but in this situation of chaos, people tunnel vision haven't immense advantage. If the only do you care about in life is getting more power or getting more money. This is a perfect opportunity.
There are many other people are confusing, uncertain because their honestly looking for a way to come out of the crisis, improve the situation of the population solve the economic difficulties. If the only thing you focus on he's getting another billion dollars. This is a very easy time to do it if you have the right connections, so I hope that the public in different countries would really monitor but be aware that this is happening, and you can't wait until the crisis is over to look back and you what has been done? It has to be done in real time. If you wait, two twenty twenty one- it's basically like coming to a party after the parties over, and the only thing left to do is to wash the dirty dishes we, the trillions, are being defined. It distributed right now in twenty two and you weren't there will be nothing left to distribute so
have to really you know? There is a lot of talk of surveillance at these days, and people mostly think about monitoring individuals, whether they are sick or Norton, who you met and where you were, you went to break their chains of infection, but At the same time, we need very close surveillance of poisoning the decisions and who is getting what and, The same way it sighed turns out to be quite easy to follow others around and see what we do. It should be equally easy, too follow the governments and see you were to whom it gives the money. What are you thought about the future of education because you still work is professor part of the year. Don't you dare? I still teach at university now, I'm doing itself line with zoo now, which works better than I imagined tat its difficulties, but yeah. They continue to teach freckles,
the Sunday I commented on in my last back ass buddy. This, for me, was indicative of just how crazy and distorting financial incentive can be an environment where certain ethical decisions are seem to me to be still clearly you you have. Harvard University and down and of this endowment of any college, I think, probably in the world, this- certainly in the United States- has billion dollars, firing its non essential staff because of the pandemic and also taking government money which now they ve been forced to give back under embarrassment. It seems to me that a symptom of something to sell of lack of connection to the what should be the real mission of an institution like Harvard. There are certainly to the values of the institution, and I think many people are experience.
In a fairly hard reset in interest, how they think about the role of university and the economics obviously aiming at the cost of education, has gone up faster than in flight, and for many many years- and you have even a Those who have succeeded in life, you know by economic, standards, the common experience, the ubiquitous experience of the most fortunate people in our societies coming out of their period of education, with tens of thousands of or even higher, grids of thousands of dollars in debt, for which alone, among all the debts in human life, can't be discharged and bankruptcy release in the United States. What could education look like if I told you two years from now on? Education is very different. What do you think the main differences would be fine, I'm I'm teaching diversity, but I'm not really extraordinary
patients, why it's a bit difficult for me to say what I am experiencing at first hand. Is this shift to online teaching, which is likely to continue to some extent even after the crisis is over? This can lead to all kinds of dangerous directions in a lot of the experience of going to college. Doesn't happen in class. It happens during the brake time. I mean you're very often evening horror. I had. I hope I don't insult anybody, but evening however, the books thought only ninety versed in Jerusalem very the most important lessons are being told during the brake times your end ways. Each in courses online. It soon, of course, to our break times, but you're alone in your home. You don't meet the other students for a chance in the cafeteria, and I think that whatever happens to education,
We should always remember the very central role of the community and of the social interaction and find ways to preserve its even give its are more central role, more importance and also give any process that Go Digital really changes its its nature and again becomes much more open to surveillance, and monitoring? If you went to the University of Leipzig in EAST Germany, nineteen eighty Probably I don't know a quarter of the students were Stasi, age does informants, and you knew that, whatever you say class, whether you're, the professor of one of the students it will reported to the Stasi and this very nice experience, of course, But again, as I mentioned before the Stasi, then really analyze, effectively,
all the enormous amount of information that he got from all these agents. There is a wonderful film. I think it's called there for others of some here, it's great found. So anyway, there was this inability to process all the data. Now when university goes on line, and I teach my students in zoom. I tell you that you have to take into account that everything I say everything you say: he's being recorded and being stored somewhere and, unlike in life, igniting eighty Its being analyzed could be analyzed by I, which means that you have to be much more cars not necessarily about you know political issues, its more. See here. That's your entire life will become one long job interview that what
you do whatever you say at any moment during your life, inclines to breakdown owing break time could come to haunt you in views or ten years when we apply for some job and any eye, is going over your entire record. Not only all your remarks at the end of the year, but over everything and based on that, they decide whether they want to or not it's a question not only of your marks. It's really a question of your personality of the way you interact and saw the thought of your entire life. Everything you do at any moment is actually part of the job interview and also part of what goes into the system to decide where to accept you to university in the first place, because maybe everything was in school was also money towards and analyzed. This is
one of them. On the one hand, one of the most promising areas in education, because that is the promised the prize- is to have an education system that knows you personally and is caters tee, unique, individual strength and and and weaknesses, and you no, it's not a teacher with thirty students who travel aims at the lowest common denominator. A system that really norms you better than any teacher matter, even than than your parents and doesn't know how many people are afraid that this will just kind of amplify your previous listing tendency, but not necessarily you can actually challenge you. More than any human teacher in the world, don't you want to develop, your music need musical tastes, it will
no, the exact amount of triggers of new genres of music twinning yes, you do and will even know the right moment to do. It will follow you most state and will discover you will know when your open to lead about, in view of these deep genre, So there are enormous promises, but then also enormous dangerous, and I think that the language democracy also is education. This is that the biggest question. How would we deal in the educational system with these new abilities to happen human beings on the surveillance side. Isn't China already pushing pretty far in this direction with their social credit score system? Yet that's! That's you. To stop inside of it, you can eat it, has a u talk inside than any Stapi inside they stop you. Usually don't happen unless they also have a utopia inside
you re the really be carried out in order to convince people to going that dangerous direction and with the new surveillance technology? There are enormous positive promises otherwise there would be no no, no real danger who would like to do it now, if it's not really good for anything you Nick Boss, trims argument about what he calls turnkeys. Hotel terrorism? When you look at various forms of existential risk, any sort of just imagine that the not too far future, where we discover that certain Technologies are just so, easily used to destroy knowing of lives, and they can't be on invent that we now need a system of massive surveillance and very quick intrusion into people's lives. Make sure those technologies aren't used. Less aid becomes just trivially easy for anyone to weapon eyes ape a new virus that spreads like. Measles and has an eighty percent mortality rate while then in them
presence of that knowledge and technology. Well, we need to know, you're doing with your hands at all times. Yet here It is easy to see how we can get ourselves into a predicament like that. You You know, that's the really kind of historians scenario, though all kinds of meat of the way the story is on the way there have been one of my favorite scenarios is simply that austerity shifting by a lot of small steps, imperceptibly from humans to other rhythms and humans. Quickly, just going along with that, because it's more convenient it's easier. It has a lot of advantages and if they wake up at a certain point and realise that today, that this is very dangerous, it is already too late. To reverse it ends. Actually, one of my favorite scenario is this is happening to the Chinese Communist Party. We tend to think about computers taking over
and the danger of all these technologies, usually the demographic setting like what will happen to the? U S: Face book wants to become the dictatorial government, but its interest. To think what could happen to the Chinese Communist Party if it gives too much power to the algorithms, How one of the most important functions within the Chinese Communist Party is to decide who gets promoted at least in the lower and middle ranks off there of the party appointments do you really by merit? I mean farmer, the same United States or ignoring many many democracies. But then the question is: how do you know who really has done well in his or her previous job and should be promoted and at present you have all these thousands upon thousands of party officials, or collecting and analysing data, but extremely tempting to just give it to an algorithm, which of course,
The younger will not choose the political role. Members the next german of the order of the Chinese Communist Party, but he he it will be given the power of the authority. To increasingly make decisions about the lower ranks of the party right. I have This vision that one day, the Would it be remembers, wake up and realise that the party has been taken over by their values off the other then, with appointed all the lower ranks, any say it, it's it's not what they wanted. Not what then visionaries too late to resist it, some Jewish off we're engineer will be blamed for hacking, the rights of the child, communist algorithm. In the end, neither the funny the it doesn't have to be human hacking here. It's just you know, you have machine learning that use, there are certain goals at the beginning, you know, we both rose paperclip yeah thought experiment,
but on a more kind of human level, that yes The algorithm was given certain parameters, certain matter instituted to make the decisions any land on the way and eventually created a party very, very different from what the big bosses wanted. Yeah there's, no doubt that something like that is happening: either an algorithm or just by the happens, the technology we're produce em. If you just look at what the effective social media on all of us, it does have the character of a psychological experiment that no one has really designed. We ve all submitted to it and its having its, whatever effect, its having and were occasionally worrying about it, but in a succumbing to it all the while it's not planned in advance okay. So, finally, how do you view the prospects?
of the role of religion. Changing- and maybe I know you, you have some thoughts on the way our attitude towards death might also shift here in the in the near term per hurry. Thinking about it are existential concerns in the three institutions that tend to Minister if we start, we wait with death and its connection to religion. Then of most of history. Certainly my favorite period of the middle ages, death was only present and the basic attitude to death was kind of land helplessness or resignation there guy besides when and why we die, and we humans have very little ability to outsmart death of two percent death and that's a world, but you know em at least a third of children never married to other to know because of childhood diseases or malnutrition anyway, when an epidemic like the black death came along. Nobody had
any real idea. What was happening? What was killing people in what could be done about it? So death was ever extremely important to people. It was really I would say, the main source of meaning in life was death. The most important events in your life, which gave meaning to everything you experience happened after you die, Only after you died you who were either saved all damned. Only after you died. We would you really understood what this was. All about. So basically, in a world without death, there is no. However, there is no health. There is no reincarnation soul. Religions like Christianity and Islam and the Hindu is them and so forth. Just makes absolutely no sense and What happened over the last few stop a few centuries is really amazing in the way that our attitude to death has changed, and it is to a large extent,
would see the result of the scientific revolution when signing came along, and especially the medical sciences, and started to really understand why people die. What is causing a bee demagogues what is causing infectious diseases and so forth, and human life expectancy jumped buying out from under forty two over eighty in the developed world today, Two things happened: first of all, death became a far less important part of life, the meaning of life, at least for many people for many ideology no longer comes from what happens to us after we die. If you, the most modern ideologies. They have completely lost interest in what happens to us after we die, I mean if you up you're still, if you ask yourself what happens to a communist after he or she dies or what happens to a feminist after he or she dies. I mean nobody ever even talks about it. It's no longer so important and our basic
you now is that death is increasingly just a technical problem. If people die it's because not of fair, divine will and not because of some of the forces of nature its because human failure, if their, if humans dying some accident than we search to blame or who too soon, because obviously but he made a mistake, and you see now is this: up endemic, I mean it's of our dude. My most of the world is very different from the black death, he don't raise our hands to God and implored him to do something and tell our selves that this might be a punishment from God from our misdeeds. No, we assume that humans have the power to overcome this to contain a bee Dennis and if we still have an epidemic. It's because somebody made a mistake
somebody screwed up big time. If you compare almost a tricky newsdealer and to the situation in the? U S, you dont tell yourself well, this is probably an indication that God loves the New Zealand yours and I want to punish Americans no, we say that there was a difference in the policies of the different governments, and if that is true, the. U S is really bad, then somebody made a mistake and the only question is who saw our basic attitude, which we now seen in this condemning he's a mixture. For me from resignation, we have shifted to a mixture of anger and hope, if somebody dies, we are angry because we assume it's some kind of human mistake and are also. We have hope that,
as in the case of this epidemic, everybody's hoping for the Black Sea everybody's asking when the vaccine will be ready, not if the vaccine will be ready, you're even in a context where there is no obvious human error, even if we were all behaving in, actually we were all New Zealand. We would view that the absence of a vaccine here as a problem to be solved by human ingenuity, it's not something to be prayed for. Basically, all of human misfortune on some level becomes an engineering problem to be solved and the factory and solve there's just because we're in this contingent place in human history where we just haven't produced they re Was it knowledge yet to solve it, but clearly the path forward is a matter of producing that knowledge, not waiting for some invisible agent to sort out our
worse. Yet even more so, we would tend to see it as a political issues, a political issue in things like budgets, there's yes, we would be like the knowledge, but we like the knowledge, because we didn't invest the money, the right place and we will check the records of past years, and why did we spend so much money on another resulting diet and didn't spend that money on research, team viruses in producing vaccines? So we would go the extra step off think even this evil The amount of knowledge we have is really the result of making them right or wrong. Political decisions were to invest our our resources. I thought that this about death and religion is, of course, tied to that's what we ve seen. Over the last few centuries is that one of religions shrank dramatically.
Again. I know that many people today don't see it or all think it's it's it's going into reverse this foolishness becoming more important, but when you look at the big picture, their roles that that the plan is this: your people turned to religion have really really shrank over the last few centuries. In the middle ages. Medicine was, above all the realm of religion and religious leaders. If you read many of the sacred texts of humanity, you find that very often religious leaders, a very big part of their job is to be healers. I mean. I think that most of what Jesus does is you people is more a doctor, then, You know spiritual guide and too even the religious people they go to the doctor. Not today, He saw the rabbi or the Mueller when something goes wrong medically.
We, when all hope, is lost Only when the doktor says there is nothing to be done, then. Ok, you pray. When need constantly can't harmful. Why not births medicine has shifted. The real of religion to the ring of science, and this has happened too many other areas of activity only if there is not enough rain so turned to the engineers and you turn to the agronomist To find a solution may be the sign ice water from the ocean, maybe produce new strains of meat that can growth is less water, all kinds of things in the timetable. I believe the middle ages. You will turn to the priest due to pray for rain and the basic reason why these she happened is simply because science disapprove itself far superior in hearing people and are solving drowned.
And things like that, and the reason for that is that really brings us back to the beginning of our conversation is that science is far more willing to admit mistakes and try something else: the big expertise off alone religious leaders, he's not hearing and not falling droughts, but it's our finding excuses. They have been like the world champions in finding uses like there is no rain, so you do the rain, dance and still no ring soul Some of the priest would give you a very good excuse why, despite dancing, The rain down there is still no right. That's the real expertise of a lot of religious leaders, and over centuries people we realised that science is becoming better and better. With hearing people
Religion is becoming better and better at finding excuses, and if you re, you want to give you a disease, then you go to the doktor and that's why they're importance the scope of religion has a shroud, except in one place where it is still extremely important, and this is in defining our identity, and giving meaning love defining. Who are we to our they and what is the meaning of my existence? This is somewhere that science is a little to offer, so religion is still extremely important, and I dont think that this will change dramatically in the wake of coffee,
nineteen or in the coming decades, religions will change. That's for sure. I mean religions constantly change throughout history. They claim they are eternal, that they are unchanging, but Christianity today is the same as it was a thousand years ago in the time of Jesus, but the fact is that they constantly adapt to new, economic and political technological realities, and they are quite good at it. Otherwise they would have survived, and these will continue to happen in the twenty first century too. Has there been any thing about this experience that is altered your priorities personally at this point would risk to your career or your personal life. It is how you spend your time moment moment it certainly region
get me like so many other people of fear of the importance of social connections and intimate relations with people with friends with family. It's so what it really means most in the present situation is, you know just meeting friends not via zoom or some other online, gadgets or almost the telephone yetive forming their debts. That the main thing I have been thinking about many of the issues of the day in long before this crisis erupted. You saw in in this sense some I came, I kind of came to it prepared or baked or half baked he also many people, know this about you perhaps on everyone, but you you're somebody who's had a very long
and in meditation practice- and you spend a lot of time regularly on retreat and so on some level you have been preparing for this kind of disruption in your life has I have for a very long time, and I must feel, perversely lucky to be this comfortable in this kind of circumstance, psychologically yeah. My practice has been of enormous help in this north and see- and you know, after after spending sixty days incited for detention without any phones without talking to a body for two months since the last two months have been. You know, I think it's far easier, you haven't, you can read, you can pick up the phone and taught me somebody stole it's over, it's still in one of the things that make it possible for me to go, and these migration with rates is knowing that my loved ones, like my husband, my friends, my friend
there are safe and that the world is generally doing. Ok. Now it's it's it's very, very different. I mean I look at what is happening to the world and the other a lot of things to worry about here. So I don't have the kind of you, no peaceful, cocoon that I haven't communication with Greece while Evolve has been greatly get away. And a pike your voice is, as ever relevant, is hard to imagine what could have conspired to make it more relevant, but all of those dials have been turned to eleven. It seems so some early a great pleasure to speak with you again. So thank you for your time Thank you for inviting me and think for everybody listening and day. Let's hope do it again after this emergencies over. There is something else on the horizon near we'll have to talk about meditation someday. We ve the Amis that three times in a row and it and we can never get you accept next time, there is always something more urgent.
Transcript generated on 2020-05-01.