Yuval Noah Harari creates a useful framework for confronting these fears. While his previous best sellers, “Sapiens” and “Homo Deus,” covered the past and future respectively, his new book is all about the present.
Yuval first started with the failing global stories: communism, fascism and liberalism/capitalism. Capitalism has took over the modern world ever since fascism failed during World War II by promising a larger slice of the pie for everyone to solve difficult social and political conflicts. But it has no answer to ecological collapse and technology disruption since the essence of capitalism is the main cause of both issues. Yuval suggests modern world need to evolve a new social and political model to adapt to the world change. The book then unfolds by covering the following issues:
Work – the alerting question – will AI replace human? Even consumers could be AI (for example, Google engine algorithm consume the web pages). Working class might see a shift from exploit to irrelevance – communism comeback is hard if the mass lose their economic value (government could slow down automation) since there’s is no “working class" left. There’s a debate on to whether provide people with universal basic income (capitalist paradise) or universal basic services (communist paradise). But what is basic? Who defines that? Even then, people might feel more inequality and lack of social mobility when comparing to people on top with extra stuff.
Liberty – follow your heart only started recent centuries thing as liberalism dominates the world. Now, not long after that, it might transfer to following the algorithm.
Community – Industry revolution breaks the community. Core family still exists but not the community that used to tie people close. FaceBook announced their idea to build the community offline to solve social polarization. Yuval points out to achieve that, they have to do better at priority social concerns over financial interests and really bridge online to offline community.
Nationalism – human have turned clans and tribes into single nation. Not all culture fits in this mainstream structure. Nation cannot suffer. It is a fictional concept that simplifies the world to better control people. People are asked to sacrifice for their countries without questioning the authority. But what exactly are you sacrificing for?
Immigration – debates whether people should have the freedom to immigrate and host country should accept them and treat them no difference. The paradox of this issue is that host country enjoys the cheap labor but treat immigrants as second-class citizens.
Secularism – From an ethical perspective, monotheism was arguably one of the worst ideas in human history. What monotheism undoubtedly did was to make many people far more intolerant than before. The late Roman Empire was as diverse as Ashoka’s India, but when Christianity took over, the emperors adopted a very different approach to religion. Religion has no answers to any of life’s important questions, which is why there is no great following for a Christian version of agriculture, or a Muslim version of economics. “We don’t need to invoke God’s name in order to live a moral life. Secularism can provide us with all the values we need.”
Emotion – Human make life and death decisions based on emotions. Emotions are formed by million of neuron reactions that make decisions for us. Desires is one of the emotions. We don’t not free will to determine what desires we have – they’re merely biochemical mechanisms, even though we have free will to achieve those desires. Our feelings are all based on calculation for survival and reproduction.
Post-Truth – religious stories are fake news that are repeated 1000 times and became truth. We argue that platforms like FaceBook are manipulating news, showing only the ones that are to the viewer’s favor even that happens with other platforms as well such as TV. But real manipulation is to cover an entire massacre from the people like some authorities do.
Science Fiction – In Brave New World, the authority utilized biotech to make sure all people are content, optimized with joy so no there’s rebels. People are split into different classes before born to keep the society stable. So, what’s wrong with that view? Like John the savage said in the novel: “But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."
Education – don’t be controlled by the technology, know what you want in life before it knows better than you, and use technology to help you get it.
Meaning – life is not a story. There’s no story. It’s just way to simplify difficult choices and control that mass more easily, such as nationalism prompts people to do every thing for the country; and ancient people believe the story that everything they do is for the afterlife. “The Buddha taught that the three basic realities of the universe are that everything is constantly changing, nothing has any enduring essence, and nothing is completely satisfying. Suffering emerges because people fail to appreciate this … The big question facing humans isn’t ‘what is the meaning of life?’ but rather, ‘how do we get out of suffering?’ … If you really know the truth about yourself and about the world, nothing can make you miserable. But that is of course much easier said than done.”
Meditate – observe what’s real. Reality can suffer, fake cannot. Human desire is merely chemical reactions. “I have the free will to achieve my desires, but not the free will to control my desires." It’s obvious that Yuval adores Buddhism meditation and rise above egoistic obsession. In fact, it’s the only thing he mentioned useful and without contradicting opinion on it. He spent two hours per day and 30 days per year meditating and observe the reality. Through the observation, Yuval believes that Nation cannot suffer. Think about it, what is France? It cannot suffer, hence it is not a real entity and pure fictional. Lastly, we need to understand the mind more before AI figures us out.