Posts Tagged ‘Harari’

The Purpose of Life: Harari, Gates, Yours Truly…

July 6, 2017

Get a GRRIP: Gates, Harari, Homo Deus, Debunked & Amplified:

Abstract: After describing a bit the work of Harari, who just sold 3 million books in China alone, we focus on what Bill Gates below sees as Harari’s main gist. Then I present my own version of the purpose of human life. I expand on the notion of raw realism, what I call GRRIP, the driver of human evolution.

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Yuval Noah Harari, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, writes the sort of books I would have like to have written myself, because of the many statements highly compatible with my philosophy. However, the gentleman is not the deepest form of thinker there is, so I still think my writings have meaning… Moreover, he and Bill Gates, who gives his opinion below, claim that the “purpose of life” consists into serving a superior class. I sort of agree, as long as said class is superior thinking, not a tiny minority of greedy individuals… 

Harari seesm to embrace what I believe is the reality one should all embrace, to optimize collective survival and happiness GRRIP: Grave Raw Reality Inevitable Principle: Raw Reality is a Grave thing, but it can’t be be avoided, so we may as well consider it to be a Principle (just like God is a Principle of power, GRRIP has even more power, see the White Phosphorus below…) As an Israeli, Harari lives in a grave reality, and Gates, as we will see, believes hard to find a purpose in life if all children have a nice life (I agree that’s a surprising point of view, especially considering Gates views himself as charity prone, not to say charitable!)

My take on it? The purpose of life is a vast generalization of what Bill Gates is trying to say. Starting from GRRIP, I conclude that:

THE MORE WE HOLD TO DEAR LIFE, THE MORE MEANING WE ARE PROVIDED WITH! This is why people like to do dangerous & crazy things! They are addicted to meaning! (Some may say that Camus opined a bit like that in his famous “Myth of Sisyphus“. Except Sisyphus is doing a boring task, whereas human beings in full are too excited by danger to be bored; I am not exactly recommending this, to live a life of danger and terror, I just say that this is the circumstances in which our species evolved, and thus, our brains become fully functional only then, and when such an environment is provided…)

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Harari Makes Statements I Have Made Forever:

“In the 300 years of the crucifixion of Christ to the conversion of Emperor Constantine, polytheistic Roman emperors initiated no more than four general persecutions of Christians. Local administrators and governors incited some anti-Christian violence of their own. Still, if we combine all the victims of all these persecutions, it turns out that in these three centuries the polytheistic Romans killed no more than a few thousand Christians. In contrast, over the course, of the next 1,500 years, Christians slaughtered Christians by the millions, to defend slightly different interpretations of the religion of love and compassion.”

Yuval Noah Harari, קיצור תולדות האנושות 

White Phosphorus Exploding Out Of A Shell Over Mosul, June 2, 2017. The Anti-Islamist Coalition Is Fighting Literal Abrahamism, An Intrinsically Let’s-Kill-Our-Children-For-Our-Boss religion. Hence the necessity to use pretty ugly weapons.

The reason for Christianism was to make average people into sheep so that Roman Catholic emperors and their class could terrorize and exploit the 99%. As Voltaire, himself definitively a part of the .1%, as he was personal friend of Louis XV, asserted:  

“Voltaire said about God that ‘there is no God, but don’t tell that to my servant, lest he murder me at night’. Hammurabi would have said the same about his principle of hierarchy, and Thomas Jefferson about human rights. Homo sapiens has no natural rights, just as spiders, hyenas and chimpanzees have no natural rights. But don’t tell that to our servants, lest they murder us at night.”

Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

[Nietzsche basically went lyrical on this idea already found in Voltaire, a century later. Let’s notice this in passing… So much for Friedrich’s originality…]

“Nothing captures the biological argument better than the famous New Age slogan: ‘Happiness begins within.’ Money, social status, plastic surgery, beautiful houses, powerful positions – none of these will bring you happiness. Lasting happiness comes only from serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.” (Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.)

And right history does not just teach the future, but feeds the imagination:

“This is the best reason to learn history: not in order to predict the future, but to free yourself of the past and imagine alternative destinies. Of course this is not total freedom – we cannot avoid being shaped by the past. But some freedom is better than none.”

Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

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Contrarily To What Harari Claims, Life Has A Scientific Meaning, However Modest:  

Of course I understand, and sort of approve, the following assertion:

“As far as we can tell from a purely scientific viewpoint, human life has absolutely no meaning. Humans are the outcome of blind evolutionary processes that operate without goal or purpose. Our actions are not part of some divine cosmic plan, and if planet earth were to blow up tomorrow morning, the universe would probably keep going about its business as usual. As far as we can tell at this point, human subjectivity would not be missed. Hence any meaning that people inscribe to their lives is just a delusion.”  (Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.)

A superior philosophical attitude requires more modesty about what the universe is really up to: suppose that it turns out we are the only civilization in the entire observable universe (as observed, so far). Would that make us delusional, if we attribute importance to ourselves? Arguably not!

“Purely scientific viewpoint”: for me, science is what is known with certainty. The purpose of life has not been studied enough to even guess what it could be to ponder some of its elements as certainties, this way or that. The purpose of life does not have any scientific meaning, but for one point which can’t be disputed: we are attached to it. All of use, but a few in extreme pain (physical or psychological).

As far as we can tell… human life has absolutely no meaning”??? Why does Harari insists life has no meaning? “Purely scientific”? So occupiers can kill the occupied in peace?

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Bill Gates read Harari and found him to his taste. The reason why will be unveiled. In both cases, to put it rather grossly, both life off the hog (Palestinians in one case, the world planet on the other). Here is Billy Boy:

What gives our lives meaning? And what if one day, whatever gives us meaning went away—what would we do then?

I’m still thinking about those weighty questions after finishing Homo Deus, the provocative new book by Yuval Noah Harari.

Melinda and I loved Harari’s previous book, Sapiens, which tries to explain how our species came to dominate the Earth. It sparked conversations over our dinner table for weeks after we both read it…Harari’s new book is as challenging and readable as Sapiens…

Homo Deus argues that the principles that have organized society will undergo a huge shift in the 21st century… the things that have shaped society—what we measure ourselves by—have been some combination of religious rules about how to live a good life, and more earthly goals like getting rid of sickness, hunger, and war. We have organized to meet basic human needs: being happy, healthy, and in control of the environment around us. Taking these goals to their logical conclusion, Harari says humans are striving for “bliss, immortality, and divinity.”

What would the world be like if we actually achieved those things? This is not entirely idle speculation. War and violence are at historical lows and still declining. Advances in science and technology will help people live much longer and go a long way toward ending disease and hunger.

Here is Harari’s most provocative idea: As good as it sounds, achieving the dream of bliss, immortality, and divinity could be bad news for the human race. He foresees a potential future where a small number of elites upgrade themselves through biotechnology and genetic engineering, leaving the masses behind and creating the godlike species of the book’s title; where artificial intelligence “knows us better than we know ourselves”; and where these godlike elites and super-intelligent robots consider the rest of humanity to be superfluous…

He argues that humanity’s progress toward bliss, immortality, and divinity is bound to be unequal—some people will leap ahead, while many more are left behind. I agree that, as innovation accelerates, it doesn’t automatically benefit everyone. The private market in particular serves the needs of people with money and, left to its own devices, often misses the needs of the poor. But we can work to close that gap and reduce the time it takes for innovation to spread. For example, it used to take decades for lifesaving vaccines developed in the rich world to reach the poor. Now—thanks to efforts by pharmaceutical companies, foundations, and governments—there are cases where that lag time is less than a year. We should try to narrow the gap even more, but the larger point is clear: Inequity is not inevitable.

In addition, in my view, the robots-take-over scenario is not the most interesting one to think about. It is true that as artificial intelligence gets more powerful, we need to ensure that it serves humanity and not the other way around. But this is an engineering problem—what you could call the control problem. And there is not a lot to say about it, since the technology in question doesn’t exist yet.

I am more interested in what you might call the purpose problem. Assume we maintain control. What if we solved big problems like hunger and disease, and the world kept getting more peaceful: What purpose would humans have then? What challenges would we be inspired to solve?

In this version of the future, our biggest worry is not an attack by rebellious robots, but a lack of purpose.

What if a happy, healthy life was guaranteed for every child on Earth? How would that change the role parents play?

…Like every parent, I want my children to lead happy, healthy, fulfilling lives. But what if such a life was guaranteed for every child on Earth? How would that change the role parents play?

Harari does the best job I have seen of explaining the purpose problem. And he deserves credit for venturing an answer to it. He suggests that finding a new purpose requires us to develop new religion—using the word in a much broader sense than most people do, something like “organizing principles that direct our lives.”

Unfortunately, I wasn’t satisfied by his answer to the purpose question. (To be fair, I haven’t been satisfied by the answers I have seen from other smart thinkers like Ray Kurzweil and Nick Bostrom, or by my own answers either.)…”

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Common Purpose We Found: Oppress and, or Exterminate Them, Subhumans!

I was somewhat chuckling: Harari sees a future full of plutocracy and a situation strangely reminiscent of Israeli ruling over dozens of millions of enslaved Arabs. Gates sees a future where the poor’s pain will be alleviated, if not elevated, by the gifts of the plutocrats (if we “assume we maintain control”, an interesting Freudian slip…). And where purpose is found even though so many people have stopped suffering! (No more role for parents if everybody is happy and fulfilled; apparently!)   

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Our Purpose: Survival, now clearly more challenging than ever:

Survive plutocracy, survive climate annihilation and general roasting of the biosphere, survive nuked tipped ICBMs from young cannibalistic maniacs, etc.

Looking at history of all civilizations, one can see that the number one danger is inequality, which affects both  mental and economic performance of a civilization. Inequality grows exponentially, and affects all dimensions of humanity. Inequality does not make the common people destitute, hungry and sick, it makes them stupid and immoral.

Exponential growth of inequality is the plutocratic effect, where an oligarchy, the government of a few, ends up ruling not just from wealth, but also from satanic means (thus the word “Pluto”; hence the notion of Pluto-power: Pluto-kratos). Time and time again, only a few brains end up doing all the thinking and ordering around, resulting not just in misery, but annihilation… Because a civilization where only a few think ends up completely stupid, and lacking purpose.

The “purpose” of the human species was always survival: survival of selves, survival of others we hold dear, survival of what we are attached to. There is no reason for this to change. Actually, with a quick march to ten billion humans, plenty of states making nuke in their basement thanks to laser enrichment, rising seas, runaway greenhouse (soon!), dying plankton, encroaching deserts, etc. survival will pretty much suddenly come back on the front burner.

The ilk of Steven Pinker, supported by ephemeral statistics, claim we have reached a new age of peace. However two things: we have a world oligarchy in place from control by the Permanent Members of the Security Council. That works as long as those don’t fight each other.

2)Moreover, such ages of self-satisfaction are always those of silly minds who go explore the seabed on foot, while the tsunami is gathering strength over their horizon. The more violent the catastrophe, the greater the calm before it strikes, precisely because those who could have done something to prepare and avoid it, were bathing in self-satisfaction.

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“Final Phase of Showdown”:

Donald Trump, made a discourse in Poland which mentioned the occupation of Poland by the Nazis and the Soviets, which brought the massacre of six millions at least, 20% of the Polish population, Trump mentioned the collaboration between Nazis and Soviets to massacre Poles: he mentioned the full stop of the Red Army in the suburbs of Warsaw, waiting for moths that the Nazis had finished massacring the Polish population of the capital. (Actually the collaboration between Nazis and Soviets was decades old,m and culminated in the Treaty of 1939, made public to try to prevent France, followed by Britain, to declare war to Hitler…)

“As the Polish experience reminds us, the defense of the west ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail,” Trump said. “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive,” he said. “Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?

The US president, in his sharpest criticism of Moscow since taking office, urged Russia to “cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes, including Syria and Iran,” and asserting that it must “instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself.

Defending civilization? An answer was provided by the US Islamist Linda Sarsour, a famous US pseudo-feminist who called a Jihad against Trump in the name of “our beloved Muhammad“. Another was provided by the cannibal leading North Korea, as he successfully fired North Korea’s first ICBM (InterContinental Ballistic Missile).  I call him a cannibal, as Kim provides dogs with his enemies, and benefactors. As food.  Alive.

Official accounts had young cannibal Kim “feasting his eyes” on the ICBM. No doubt the perspective of millions burned wet his appetite“With a broad smile on his face,” he urged scientists to send more “big and small ‘gift packages’” to the Americans, in time for Independence Day, according to North Korea state press. Kim was quoted as saying that the “protracted showdown with the U.S. imperialists has reached its final phase.

Senior U.S. and South Korean military officials warned that North Korea’s actions threatened peace. “Self-restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war,” Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, and Gen. Lee Sun-jin, chairman of the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement.

On a slightly less grim note, let’s observe that Harari teaches in Jerusalem, at the Hebrew University. In this particular context, the claim that humanity is threatened with bliss, immortality, and divinity will make at least half of the population sneer in dismay, not to say hatred. Some may well argue this is all a red herring, while the West Bank get progressively colonized, and the problem of Israeli Arabs, not solved…

In any case, the problems we have to solve quickly have never been so great, in the history of advanced life. Advanced life is going through one of its three worst mass extinctions. Arguably, advanced life is facing the worst mass extinction, ever: projections on CO2 rise and temperature rises are, potentially the largest, ever, since there are vertebrates and they wiggle.

Exciting and increasingly hot times…

Patrice Ayme’.

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