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How COVID-19 Is Exposing Problems and How Corrupt Individuals Will Take Advantage Of This Crisis | Yuval Noah Harari on Making Sense with Sam Harris

Check out the Making Sense Podcast Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • There is a complete lack of global leadership
    • “There is no global plan of action either to fight the epidemic itself or to deal with the economic crisis” – Yuval Noah Harari
  • In the Ebola epidemic and the financial crisis, the US acted as the global leader but now, “the US is kind of an anti-leadership position”
    • “America is first in the number of dead people and sick people” – Yuval Noah Harari
  • “Global problems require a global solution”Sam Harris
  • “The COVID-19 crisis is not a health crisis, it’s above all a political crisis. We can deal with the virus, again it’s not the Black Death. We have some scientific knowledge and the technological tools to overcome the epidemic itself. The real problems are in the realm of economics and politics.” Yuval Noah Harari
  • People who have tunnel vision will look at the crisis as an opportunity to gain more of what they want 
  • The media needs to report on what’s changing in the world today, not after the crisis is over to hold governments accountable
  • If the government can easily track its people, then people should be able to easily track the government too
  • There are fewer conflicts between countries, but more conflicts within countries
    • “I think it’s fair to say that today, Americans hate and fear each other far more than they hate and fear the Russians or the Chinese”Yuval Noah Harari
  • To hack a human being, you need 3 things:
    • A good understanding of biology
    • Enormous amounts of data
    • A lot of computing power
      • “Until today, nobody in history had any of these things…now for the first time in history, it is becoming feasible for the new Stalins of the 21st century”Yuval Noah Harari

Intro

Books Mentioned

Problems The Pandemic Exposed

  • There is a complete lack of global leadership
    • “There is no global plan of action either to fight the epidemic itself or to deal with the economic crisis” – Yuval Noah Harari
      • In the Ebola epidemic and the financial crisis, the US acted as the global leader but now, “the US is kind of an anti-leadership position”
  • “Global problems require a global solution”Sam Harris
  • “America is first in the number of dead people and sick people” – Yuval Noah Harari
    • Much of the world has lost fate in the US as a global leader because of its incompetence
      • “There is nobody really to fill the vacuum, left by the US” 
  • There is a ton of fake news reports and conspiracies
    • In India, Hindu extremists are blaming the epidemic on Muslims and believe that Muslim terrorists are spreading the virus
  • The supply-chain has broken down
    • The US can’t even produce q-tips because it’s so reliant on China
      • “It seems right to be concerned about outsourcing our infrastructure to them [China] when in an environment they could turn hostile in a moment”Sam Harris
  • There are fewer conflicts between countries, but more conflicts within countries
    • “The main conflicts are actually within countries. What’s unraveling is actually the internal national community.” – Yuval Noah Harari
      • “I think it’s fair to say that today, Americans hate and fear each other far more than they hate and fear the Russians or the Chinese”

Corrupt Individuals Will Take Advantage Of This Crisis

  • Wealth inequality is bad and is worsening
  • This crisis gives people an opportunity to change for the better
    • “It all depends on the political decisions that we will take in the next 12 months”  – Yuval Noah Harari
      • “The COVID-19 crisis is not a health crisis, it’s above all a political crisis. We can deal with the virus, again it’s not the Black Death. We have some scientific knowledge and the technological tools to overcome the epidemic itself. The real problems are in the realm of economics and politics.”
        • The media should focus less on the health aspect of the crisis and more on the political decisions being made
          • E.g.: Track where all the money the government is printing and find out where it’s going 
  • People who have tunnel vision will look at the crisis as an opportunity to gain more of what they want 
    • “If the only thing you care about in life is getting more power or getting more money, this is a perfect opportunity for you”Yuval Noah Harari
  • The media needs to report on what’s changing in the world today, not after the crisis is over to hold governments accountable
    • “If you wait until 2021, it’s basically like coming to a party after a party is over and the only thing left to do is to wash the dirty dishes. I mean trillions are being divided, distributed right now. In 2021, there will be nothing left to distribute.”Yuval Noah Harari
  • The government can easily track its people, the people should be able to easily track the government

Hacking Human Desire

  • Understanding desires is very different from understanding the truth
    • “Part of the problem in society is that where I stand really distorts my vision of other people and of the social structure” – Yuval Noah Harari
      • It’s hard to know the true desires of any group
        • With technology, we can oftentimes understand humans and their desires better than they can themselves 
  • To hack a human being, you need 3 things:
    • A good understanding of biology
    • Enormous amounts of data
    • A lot of computing power
      • “Until today, nobody in history had any of these things…now for the first time in history, it is becoming feasible for the new Stalins of the 21st century”Yuval Noah Harari
        •  “You put all that together, you get the ability to know what people want better than they know it”
  • A system designed to understand human behavior is also a system that can be used to manipulate human desire

Science & Beliefs

  • The crisis has made more people turn to science, even religious institutions are listening:
    • Israel closed its temples
    • Iran closed its mosques
    • Rome closed its churches
  • Our mind is a factory that creates stories that give meaning to our lives
    • Every human being wants their fundamental beliefs to be right
      • “It’s very, very difficult to admit that you’re wrong. People will do terrible things to others and to themselves, just not to admit that I made a mistake”Yuval Noah Harari
  • For a large part of history, people believed God decided when people died and that humans had little power of postponing death
    • Over the last few centuries, when medical science came along and started to understand the reasons behind death, people’s views on death changed dramatically
      • Today, people view death as something that needs to be fixed
        • People are turning to scientists, not prayer, to help treat COVID-19
          • “Medicine has shifted from the realm of religion to the realm of science”Yuval Noah Harari

Additional Notes

  • Nations are actually a recent invention; they have only been around for 5,000 years or so
    • “The remarkable thing about nations is that you cooperate and you care about millions of complete strangers, people that you’ve never met in your life…but still you’re willing, for example, to pay taxes so that a stranger in a different part of the country will have healthcare or have a good education.” – Yuval Noah Harari
  • Harvard has an endowment of $40 billion but still fired its non-essential staff
  • The cost of education has gone up faster than inflation by a large multiple
  • Students are graduating with thousands of dollars of debt
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Notes By Alex Wiec

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