The Rich Roll Podcast – Yuval Noah Harari on Why Clarity is Power

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Key Takeaways
  • Algorithms are beginning to know us better than we know ourselves
    • There are positives – Netflix gives us movie recommendations, and Amazon tells us what to buy, but soon we’ll be asking Google who to date, what to study in school, and which career to pursue
    • And there are potential negatives – What happens when a big data algorithm can not only predict people’s feelings, but also knows a person better than his or her feelings indicate?
      • If this system can predict and understand your feelings so well, it will probably be able to manipulate your feelings
  • “The job market landscape ahead of us, will be fairly hectic. The automation revolution will not be one single watershed event. Every 10 years you are likely to lose your job, or your job is going to be completely transformed by the new wave of machine learning wizardry. If you want to stay in the game, you will have to reinvent yourself, and not just once, but repeatedly.”
  • Our education system is very outdated – We need to invest more in learning how to learn, emotional intelligence, and mental flexibility
    • However, we just don’t yet have a scalable model yet for how to teach these thing
  • Climate change can only be solved with global cooperation
  • “The most important thing about meditation – being able to see reality as it is, to tell the difference between what is really happening, and what are just stories generated by the mind”
Intro
  21 Lessons for the 21st Century
  • “In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power”
    • It used to make sense to say “information is power” – this was true when information was scarce
    • But now we’re flooded with enormous amounts of information – we don’t know how to make sense of it all
    • “In this age, clarity is more important than ever before. We need to know what to focus on.”
  • “It’s become increasingly more difficult to discern truth from fiction, reality from obfuscation, and to navigate our lives with that sense of clarity” – Rich
  • Fake news is not a new phenomena
    • What is new – we are surrounded by devices designed to hack our brains, which was never possible before
The algorithms are beginning to know us better than we know ourselves…
  • “We are now hackable animals” – Until today, no one could really hack us
    • “Humans are extremely complicated animals, but they are not infinitely complicated”
    • Algorithms don’t need to know us perfectly, they just need to know us better than we know ourselves 
      • We are very close to the point (or perhaps we’re already here), where someone like Amazon will have an algorithm like this
  • But think about the positives
    • Using an algorithm that knows you better than you know yourself…
      • Biometric sensors could constantly monitor your body for signs of ailments/sickness and immediately alert you when something is wrong
      • Amazon can suggest books you’d like that you never would have discovered
      • Netflix can recommend TV shows you’ll love
      • A dating service can tell you who you should date
      • Another service could suggest which major you should study in college or which career path you should pursue
  • But how could this go wrong?
    • What if the information that the biometric sensors are collecting on you, gets into the wrong hands?
      • Just imagine if North Korea forced every citizen to wear Oura Rings all the time
        • What if the ring was able to figure out that your heart rate increases, out of anger, every time you look at a picture of Kim Jong Un?
        • Shameless plug – use code “podcastnotes” for $50 off your own ring, not valid in North Korea
    • “Think what Stalin would have done if he had these kinds of biometric technologies”
  • “We tend to think of this age of technology as being in its adolescence, but I think we’re really in its infancy” – Rich
    • We really have no idea what life will look like in 50 years
  • Other effects of AI
    • We’ll start to become opaque to the AI decision making process
      • “As the world becomes more complicated, as the pace of change increases, most people will just not be able to understand what the hell is happening”
      • We’ll ask more questions like – “Why did Netflix recommend this?” or “Why did this credit card reject me?” …but we won’t know the answers 
    • More and more power will be handed to the algorithms

Big Data Hearkens the End of Humanism
  • Humanism – the belief in the supremacy of human feelings
    • A humanist believes human feelings are the ultimate authority 
      • Think – “the voter knows best”,  “the customer is always right”, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, “just follow your heart”
    • The highest ideal of education, according to humanism, is to teach people to think for themselves
  • All this is now threatened – what happens when a big data algorithm can not only predict people’s feelings, but also knows a person better than his or her feelings indicate?
    • If this system can predict and understand your feelings so well, it will probably be able to manipulate your feelings
      • It will be able to change whether or not you like or dislike something
  • What will be the effects of this?
    • The theme of irrelevance
      • “The robots are coming, they’ll take all the jobs, we’ll have nothing to do” – the simplistic way to think about this
        • The places that are automated first (like Bangledesh, Honduras, or Brazil) will get the worst of it – the places where it’s easy to automate what they do
      • New jobs will appear though (at least in certain areas)
        • People who write code will become more needed, also well as people who deal with all the data being collected
        • But soon, these jobs too will be automated and change very rapidly
      • “The job market landscape ahead of us, will be fairly hectic. The automation revolution will not be one single watershed event. Every 10 years you are likely to lose your job, or your job is going to be completely transformed by the new wave of machine learning wizardry. If you want to stay in the game, you will have to reinvent yourself, and not just once, but repeatedly.”
        • This is even more important as people live longer
        • As you get older, it will become more and more difficult to “reinvent yourself”
    • We don’t know what human life will look like, when more and more of the decisions are made by the algorithms on our behalf
      • We’ll no longer be making the big decisions (who to marry, what to study, who to date, what career to pursue), the algorithms will
      • “What will life look like, when whenever you come to a big decision, you just take out your smartphone and just say ‘OK Google, what should I do here?’
      • In more and more fields, we’re discovering it’s a good idea to listen to Google, Netflix, or Amazon (Google directs you, Netflix tells you what to watch, Amazon tells you what to order)
        • It’s this now, but in 20 years we’ll be asking the algorithms what to study, who to marry etc.
Free Will
  • “People definitely have a will to make choices, but these decisions don’t reflect freedom. They reflect a million different factors that we are unaware of.”
  • “If you believe in free will, you are extremely uncurious about the way you make decisions, about your own desires, and about your own mind. You just identify with what pops into your mind.”
The Education System
  • Our education system is so out of step with the time, especially as mentioned above, people will need to reinvent their skills more and more as years go on
  • “We don’t have an alternative model yet, at least none that are scalable”
    • We need to invest more in learning how to learn, emotional intelligence, and mental flexibility …..but how do you teach these things?
Why aren’t we talking about all of this?
  • “It’s always difficult to deal with future problems when you have more urgent business”
  • Everything is still in its infancy
    • The attention we have begun giving AI, has happened very fast
    • Sapiens didn’t even mention AI – in 2014 AI wasn’t really in the news
Global Climate Change
  • “It’s happening, it’s not some future scenario. We need to do something.”
  • “The only effective way to counter climate change is through global cooperation. Climate change cannot be solved on a national level.”
    • The small countries are at a significant disadvantage – no matter what they do to take us in the right direction, they won’t contribute much to the overall problem
    • “I don’t think it’s a coincidence, that almost all the people who deny the realities of climate change come from the nationalist right”
  • It’s difficult because some countries, might benefit from global warming
    • Countries like Russia, Iran, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia etc. have economies based on fossil fuels
  • Clean Meat
    • One of the main polluters and causes of climate change is the dairy and meat industries
    • There’s also the added problem of causing suffering to sentient beings
    • By producing meat from cells, we’ll be able to lessen this problem
      • 10 years ago this was science fiction, but now it’s a close reality
      • Yuval wrote the forward for htis book
    • “We have a dire crisis in the form of factory farming that’s wreaking ecological havoc on the world” – Rich
Veganism
  • Yuval describes himself as “veganish”
  • “The reason that brought me to veganism, is purely ethical”
    • “There is enormous suffering we are inflicting on sentient beings just to cure out fancies”
Meditation
  • Yuval meditates for two hours every day
  • “I could not have survived these last few years without meditation, without the peace of mind meditation brings. I couldn’t have written Sapiens without meditation.”
  • “The most important thing about meditation – being able to see reality as it is, to tell the difference between what is really happening, and what are just stories generated by the mind”
    • “The human mind is a factory of generating fictional stories about yourself, your family, your country, the world. It’s so difficult to tell the difference between the stories we invent and reality.”
  • Every year, Yuval does a long term silent meditation retreat (usually 30-60 days)
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