Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
Author: Harari, Yuval Noah
Harari, Yuval Noah. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Harper, 2016. Kindle file.
Notes by: Jacopo Perfetti.

1    The New Human Agenda
The same three problems preoccupied the people
Famine, plague and war were always at the top of the list.
For generation after generation humans have prayed
but they continued to die
concluded that famine, plague and war must be an integral part of God’s cosmic plan
but in the last few decades we have managed to rein in famine, plague and war.
these problems have not been completely solved, but they have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges.
We don’t need to pray to any god or saint to rescue us from them.
And it actually works.
For the first time in history, more people die today from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals combined.
If we are indeed bringing famine, plague and war under control, what will replace them at the top of the human agenda?
The Biological Poverty Line
Let’s start with famine, which for thousands of years has been humanity’s worst enemy.
About 2.8 million French –15 per cent of the population –starved to death between 1692 and 1694, while the Sun King, Louis XIV, was dallying with his mistresses in Versailles.
Mass famines still strike some areas from time to time, but they are exceptional, and they are almost always caused by human politics rather than by natural catastrophes.
In France, for example, 6 million people (about 10 per cent of the population) suffer from nutritional insecurity.
Yet nutritional insecurity isn’t famine,
people don’t die because they have not eaten for weeks on end.
in most countries today overeating has become a far worse problem than famine.
In 2014 more than 2.1 billion people were overweight, compared to 850 million who suffered from malnutrition.
Invisible Armadas
After famine, humanity’s second great enemy was plagues and infectious diseases.
Until the modern era, humans blamed diseases on bad air, malicious demons and angry gods, and did not suspect the existence of bacteria and viruses.
Spanish Flu. Within a few months, about half a billion people –a third of the global population –came down with the virus.
Altogether the pandemic killed between 50 million and 100 million people in less than a year. The First World War killed 40 million from 1914 to 1918.10
During the last century humankind became ever more vulnerable to epidemics, due to a combination of growing populations and better transport.
However, both the incidence and impact of epidemics have gone down dramatically in the last few decades.
In particular, global child mortality is at an all-time low: less than 5 per cent of children die before reaching adulthood. In the developed world the rate is less than 1 per cent.
This miracle is due to the unprecedented achievements of twentieth-century medicine,
SARS, for example, initially raised fears of a new Black Death, but eventually ended with the death of less than 1,000 people worldwide.
Biotechnology enables us to defeat bacteria and viruses, but it simultaneously turns humans themselves into an unprecedented threat.
The same tools that enable doctors to quickly identify and cure new illnesses may also enable armies and terrorists to engineer even more terrible diseases and doomsday pathogens.
Breaking the Law of the Jungle
wars too are disappearing.
Throughout history
peace was a temporary and precarious state.
during the twentieth century violence caused only 5 per cent of deaths, and in the early twenty-first century it is responsible for about 1 per cent of global mortality.
Nuclear weapons have turned war between superpowers into a mad act of collective suicide, and therefore forced the most powerful nations on earth to find alternative and peaceful ways to resolve conflicts.
as knowledge became the most important economic resource, the profitability of war declined and wars became increasingly restricted to those parts of the world
where the economies are still old-fashioned material-based economies.
In consequence, the word ‘peace’ has acquired a new meaning.
Today we think about peace as the implausibility of war.
future technological developments might set the stage for new kinds of war.
Over the last seventy years humankind has broken not only the Law of the Jungle, but also the Chekhov Law. Anton Chekhov famously said that a gun appearing in the first act of a play will inevitably be fired in the third.
Since 1945, however, humankind has learned to resist this temptation.
terrorism is a strategy of weakness adopted by those who lack access to real power.
terrorism is a show. Terrorists stage a terrifying spectacle of violence that captures our imagination and makes us feel as if we are sliding back into medieval chaos.
In most cases, this overreaction to terrorism poses a far greater threat to our security than the terrorists themselves.
They may provoke us, but in the end, it all depends on our reactions.
if people continue to suffer from famine, plague and war, we cannot blame it on nature or on God.
It is within our power to make things better and to reduce the incidence of suffering even further.
history does not tolerate a vacuum. If incidences of famine, plague and war are decreasing, something is bound to take their place on the human agenda.
One central project will be to protect humankind and the planet as a whole from the dangers inherent in our own power.
When the moment comes to choose between economic growth and ecological stability, politicians, CEOs and voters almost always prefer growth.
The most common reaction of the human mind to achievement is not satisfaction, but craving for more.
The Last Days of Death
In the twenty-first century humans are likely to make a serious bid for immortality.
human life is the most sacred thing
imagine Christianity, Islam or Hinduism in a world without death
for modern people death is a technical problem that we can and should solve.
And every technical problem has a technical solution.
If traditionally death was the speciality of priests and theologians, now the engineers are taking over.
The writing is on the wall: equality is out –immortality is in.
People will have much longer careers, and will have to reinvent themselves again and again even at the age of ninety.
Its great achievement has been to save us from premature death, and allow us to enjoy the full measure of our years.
The Right to Happiness
The second big project on the human agenda will probably be to find the key to happiness.
Scepticism about the afterlife drives humankind to seek not only immortality, but also earthly happiness.
Countries measured their success
not by the happiness of their citizens.
Even the welfare system was originally planned in the interest of the nation rather than of needy individuals.
You fought for your country when you were eighteen, and paid your taxes when you were forty, because you counted on the state to take care of you when you were seventy.
In the twentieth century per capita GDP was perhaps the supreme yardstick for evaluating national success.
But nowadays thinkers, politicians and even economists are calling to supplement or even replace GDP with GDH –gross domestic happiness.
After all, what do people want? They don’t want to produce. They want to be happy.
is only the means, not the end.
even if we are somewhat happier than our ancestors, the increase in our well-being is far less than we might have expected.
How do you bring joy to a bored, overpaid and overweight engineer?
It appears that our happiness bangs against some mysterious glass ceiling that does not allow it to grow despite all our unprecedented accomplishments.
The glass ceiling of happiness is held in place by two stout pillars, one psychological, the other biological.
On the psychological level, happiness depends on expectations rather than objective conditions.
we become satisfied when reality matches our expectations.
The bad news is that as conditions improve, expectations balloon.
On the biological level, both our expectations and our happiness are determined by our biochemistry, rather than by our economic, social or political situation. According to Epicurus, we are happy when we feel pleasant sensations and are free from unpleasant ones.
The only thing that makes people miserable is unpleasant sensations in their own bodies.
People are made happy by one thing and one thing only –pleasant sensations in their bodies.
The biochemical system rewards actions conducive to survival and reproduction with pleasant sensations. But these are only an ephemeral sales gimmick.
lucrative jobs, big houses, good-looking partners –seldom satisfy us for long.
Some may say that this is not so bad, because it isn’t the goal that makes us happy –it’s the journey.
Humans too may prefer the excitement of the race to resting on the laurels of success.
Alas, the exciting sensations of the race are as transient as the blissful sensations of victory.
Like the rats pressing the pedal again and again,
need a new kick every day.
yesterday’s challenges all too quickly become today’s tedium.
Forget economic growth, social reforms and political revolutions: in order to raise global happiness levels, we need to manipulate human biochemistry.
a growing percentage of the population is taking psychiatric medicines on a regular basis,
but also to face more mundane depressions and the occasional blues.
In 2011, 3.5 million American children were taking medications for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
Maybe we should modify the schools rather than the kids?
People have been quarrelling about education methods for thousands of years.
Today, for the first time in history, at least some people think it would be more efficient to change the pupils’ biochemistry.
The biochemical pursuit of happiness is also the number one cause of crime in the world.
The state hopes to regulate the biochemical pursuit of happiness, separating ‘bad’ manipulations from ‘good’ ones.
Manipulations that threaten stability and growth are banned.
Hence no matter how many blissful or exciting sensations I may experience, they will never satisfy me.
as long as people crave pleasant sensations without actually experiencing them, they remain dissatisfied.
The biochemical solution is to develop products and treatments that will provide humans with an unending stream of pleasant sensations,
The Buddha’s suggestion was to reduce our craving for pleasant sensations, and not allow them to control our lives.
for the capitalist juggernaut, happiness is pleasure.
The Gods of Planet Earth
In seeking bliss and immortality humans are in fact trying to upgrade themselves into gods.
humans will first have to acquire godlike control of their own biological substratum.
You could buy for yourself the strength of Hercules, the sensuality of Aphrodite,
The upgrading of humans into gods may follow any of three paths: biological engineering, cyborg engineering and the engineering of non-organic beings.
Yet one thing remained constant: humanity itself.
the deep structures of the human mind remain the same.
So we may well think of the new human agenda as consisting really of only one project (with many branches): attaining divinity.
people often misunderstand the meaning of divinity.
think more in terms of Greek gods or Hindu devas rather than the omnipotent biblical sky father.
Certain traditional abilities that were considered divine for many millennia have today become so commonplace that we hardly think about them.
Homo sapiens is likely to upgrade itself step by step, merging with robots and computers in the process, until our descendants will look back and realise that they are no longer the kind of animal
Can Someone Please Hit the Brakes?
This is what we fear collectively, as a species, when we hear of superhumans. We sense that in such a world, our identity, our dreams and even our fears will be irrelevant, and we will have nothing more to contribute.
But we cannot hit the brakes,
Firstly, nobody knows where the brakes are.
Since no one understands the system any more, no one can stop it.
Secondly, if we somehow succeed in hitting the brakes, our economy will collapse, along with our society.
And if the government forbids all citizens from engineering their babies, what if the North Koreans are doing it and producing amazing geniuses, artists and athletes that far outperform ours?
The Paradox of Knowledge
This is the paradox of historical knowledge. Knowledge that does not change behaviour is useless. But knowledge that changes behaviour quickly loses its relevance.
The more data we have and the better we understand history, the faster history alters its course, and the faster our knowledge becomes outdated.
Today our knowledge is increasing at breakneck speed, and theoretically we should understand the world better and better. But the very opposite is happening.
Consequently we are less and less able to make sense of the present or forecast the future.
A Brief History of Lawns
the present is just too different from the past. It is a waste of time to study Hannibal’s tactics in the Second Punic War so as to copy them in the Third World War.
Historians study the past not in order to repeat it, but in order to be liberated from it.
Studying history will not tell us what to choose, but at least it gives us more options.
Movements seeking to change the world often begin by rewriting history, thereby enabling people to reimagine the future.
This is why Marxists recount the history of capitalism; why feminists study the formation of patriarchal societies;
They aim not to perpetuate the past, but rather to be liberated from it.
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.
A Gun in Act I
The following chapters discuss how humanism –the worship of humankind –has conquered the world.
in the twenty-first century we are likely to push humankind as a whole beyond its limits.
The same technologies that can upgrade humans into gods might also make humans irrelevant.
The future described in this chapter is merely the future of the past
The real future
might be completely different.
To understand all this we need to go back and investigate who Homo sapiens really is, how humanism became the dominant world religion and why attempting to fulfil the humanist dream is likely to cause its disintegration.
The first part of the book looks at the relationship between Homo sapiens and other animals, in an attempt to comprehend what makes our species so special.
the second part of the book examines the bizarre world Homo sapiens has created in the last millennia, and the path that took us to our present crossroads.
The third and last part of the book
describes our current predicament and our possible futures.
PART I      Homo Sapiens Conquers the World
2    The Anthropocene
The world is populated mainly by humans and their domesticated animals.
2    The Anthropocene / 1330
wildlife populations have halved
2    The Anthropocene / 1335
call the last 70,000 years the Anthropocene epoch: the epoch of humanity.
2    The Anthropocene / 1345
Instead of fearing asteroids, we should fear ourselves.
2    The Anthropocene / 1352
Now humankind is poised to replace natural selection with intelligent design, and to extend life from the organic realm into the inorganic.
The Serpent’s Children
2    The Anthropocene / 1400
Most of us automatically see animals as essentially different and inferior.
2    The Anthropocene / 1401
This is because even our most ancient traditions were created thousands of years after the end of the hunter-gatherer era.
2    The Anthropocene / 1410
What lessons does the Bible draw from the episode? That you shouldn’t listen to snakes, and it is generally best to avoid talking with animals and plants.
2    The Anthropocene / 1414
Many animist cultures believed that humans descended from animals, including from snakes and other reptiles.
2    The Anthropocene / 1428
animists saw humans as just another kind of animal,
Ancestral Needs
2    The Anthropocene / 1433
The advent of farming produced new waves of mass extinctions, but more importantly, it created a completely new life form on earth: domesticated animals.
2    The Anthropocene / 1436
Today more than 90 per cent of all large animals are domesticated.
2    The Anthropocene / 1450
domesticated animals have inherited from their wild ancestors many physical, emotional and social needs that are redundant on human farms.
2    The Anthropocene / 1459
For animals and humans alike, agriculture changed selection pressures almost overnight, but it did not change their physical, emotional and social drives.
2    The Anthropocene / 1468
A young hunter who risked his life chasing a mammoth outshone all his competitors and won the hand of the local beauty; and we are now stuck with his macho genes.
2    The Anthropocene / 1495
This is the basic lesson of evolutionary psychology: a need shaped thousands of generations ago continues to be felt subjectively even if it is no longer necessary for survival and reproduction in the present.
2    The Anthropocene / 1496
Tragically, the Agricultural Revolution gave humans the power to ensure the survival and reproduction of domesticated animals while ignoring their subjective needs.
Organisms are Algorithms
2    The Anthropocene / 1509
emotions are biochemical algorithms that are vital for the survival and reproduction of all mammals.
2    The Anthropocene / 1511
the twenty-first century will be dominated by algorithms.
2    The Anthropocene / 1513
An algorithm is a methodical set of steps that can be used to make calculations, resolve problems and reach decisions.
2    The Anthropocene / 1514
An algorithm isn’t a particular calculation, but the method followed when making the calculation.
2    The Anthropocene / 1537
The algorithms controlling vending machines work through mechanical gears and electric circuits.
2    The Anthropocene / 1537
The algorithms controlling humans work through sensations, emotions and thoughts.
2    The Anthropocene / 1563
Beauty means ‘good chances for having successful offspring’.
2    The Anthropocene / 1563
When a woman sees a man and thinks, ‘Wow! He is gorgeous!’
2    The Anthropocene / 1564
they are doing something similar to the automatic vending machine.
2    The Anthropocene / 1566
Within a few milliseconds the algorithms convert tiny cues in the male’s external appearance into reproduction probabilities, and reach the conclusion:
2    The Anthropocene / 1579
one core emotion is apparently shared by all mammals: the mother–infant bond.
2    The Anthropocene / 1590
It took scientists many years to acknowledge this.
2    The Anthropocene / 1591
Not long ago psychologists doubted the importance of the emotional bond between parents and children even among humans.
2    The Anthropocene / 1594
Childcare experts warned that children who were hugged and kissed by their parents would grow up to be needy, egotistical and insecure adults.
2    The Anthropocene / 1602
Only in the 1950s and 1960s did a growing consensus of experts abandon these strict behaviourist theories and acknowledge the central importance of emotional needs.
2    The Anthropocene / 1607
mammals can’t live on food alone. They need emotional bonds too.
2    The Anthropocene / 1617
Thus both the meat and dairy industries are based on breaking the most fundamental emotional bond in the mammal kingdom.
The Agricultural Deal
2    The Anthropocene / 1622
How did farmers justify their behaviour?
2    The Anthropocene / 1624
They justified their actions in the name of new theist religions, which mushroomed and spread in the wake of the Agricultural Revolution.
2    The Anthropocene / 1639
Theist religions, such as biblical Judaism, justified the agricultural economy through new cosmological myths.
2    The Anthropocene / 1652
God gave an eternal soul only to humans.
2    The Anthropocene / 1700
all agricultural religions
2    The Anthropocene / 1700
found ways to justify human superiority and the exploitation of animals
Five Hundred Years of Solitude
2    The Anthropocene / 1727
During the Agricultural Revolution humankind silenced animals and plants, and turned the animist grand opera into a dialogue between man and gods.
2    The Anthropocene / 1728
During the Scientific Revolution humankind silenced the gods too.
2    The Anthropocene / 1728
The world was now a one-man show.
2    The Anthropocene / 1753
the Scientific Revolution gave birth to humanist religions, in which humans replaced gods.
2    The Anthropocene / 1753
While theists worship theos (Greek for ‘god’), humanists worship humans.
2    The Anthropocene / 1754
The founding idea of humanist religions such as liberalism, communism and Nazism is that Homo sapiens has some unique and sacred essence that is the source of all meaning and authority in the universe.
2    The Anthropocene / 1759
because modern science and technology give humans powers that far exceed those of the ancient gods.
2    The Anthropocene / 1773
why is it ethical for humans to exploit and kill pigs?
2    The Anthropocene / 1775
and why are we certain that an AI could never acquire it?
3    The Human Spark
Homo sapiens is the most powerful species in the world.
3    The Human Spark / 1784
Homo sapiens also likes to think that it enjoys a superior moral status, and that human life has much greater value than the lives of pigs,
3    The Human Spark / 1785
Is human life more precious than porcine life simply because the human collective is more powerful than the pig collective? The United States is far mightier than Afghanistan; does this imply that American lives have greater intrinsic value than Afghan lives?
3    The Human Spark / 1800
The belief that humans have eternal souls whereas animals are just evanescent bodies is a central pillar of our legal, political and economic system.
3    The Human Spark / 1801
It explains why, for example, it is perfectly okay for humans to kill animals for food, or even just for the fun of it.
3    The Human Spark / 1807
There is zero scientific evidence that in contrast to pigs, Sapiens have souls.
Who’s Afraid of Charles Darwin?
3    The Human Spark / 1813
According to a 2012 Gallup survey, only 15 per cent of Americans think that Homo sapiens evolved through natural selection alone, free of all divine intervention;
3    The Human Spark / 1822
Why does the theory of evolution provoke such objections, whereas nobody seems to care about the theory of relativity or quantum mechanics?
3    The Human Spark / 1829
The theory of relativity makes nobody angry, because it doesn’t contradict any of our cherished beliefs.
3    The Human Spark / 1831
In contrast, Darwin has deprived us of our souls.
3    The Human Spark / 1831
If you really understand the theory of evolution, you understand that there is no soul.
3    The Human Spark / 1834
The literal meaning of the word ‘individual’ is ‘something that cannot be divided’.
3    The Human Spark / 1837
My personality, wishes and relationships never stand still, and may be completely transformed over years and decades. But underneath it all I remain the same person from birth to death –and hopefully beyond death as well.
3    The Human Spark / 1839
Unfortunately, the theory of evolution rejects the idea that my true self is some indivisible, immutable and potentially eternal essence.
3    The Human Spark / 1840
According to the theory of evolution, all biological entities –from elephants and oak trees to cells and DNA molecules –are composed of smaller and simpler parts that ceaselessly combine and separate.
3    The Human Spark / 1854
the theory of evolution cannot accept the idea of souls, at least if by ‘soul’ we mean something indivisible, immutable and potentially eternal.
3    The Human Spark / 1855
Natural selection could produce a human eye, because the eye has parts. But the soul has no parts.
3    The Human Spark / 1865
Evolution means change, and is incapable of producing everlasting entities. From an evolutionary perspective, the closest thing we have to a human essence is our DNA, and the DNA molecule is the vehicle of mutation rather than the seat of eternity.
Why the Stock Exchange Has No Consciousness
3    The Human Spark / 1869
Another story employed to justify human superiority says that of all the animals on earth, only Homo sapiens has a conscious mind.
3    The Human Spark / 1871
the mind is a flow of subjective experiences, such as pain, pleasure, anger and love.
3    The Human Spark / 1877
The stream of consciousness, in contrast, is the concrete reality we directly witness every moment.
3    The Human Spark / 1880
Every subjective experience has two fundamental characteristics: sensation and desire.
3    The Human Spark / 1880
Robots and computers have no consciousness because
3    The Human Spark / 1881
they feel nothing and crave nothing.
3    The Human Spark / 1886
And what about animals? Are they conscious?
3    The Human Spark / 1893
In the seventeenth century Descartes maintained that only humans feel and crave, whereas all other animals are mindless automata,
3    The Human Spark / 1894
When a man kicks a dog, the dog experiences nothing.
3    The Human Spark / 1899
In the early twenty-first century there are still plenty of people who argue that animals have no consciousness,
3    The Human Spark / 1945
The best scientists too are a long way from deciphering the enigma of mind and consciousness.
The Equation of Life
3    The Human Spark / 1951
why do humans have subjective experiences of hunger and fear?
3    The Human Spark / 1963
Countless domino pieces can fall one after the other without any need of subjective experiences. Why do neurons need feelings in order to stimulate one another,
3    The Human Spark / 1973
According to current biological theories, our memories, imaginations and thoughts don’t exist in some higher immaterial field. Rather, they too are avalanches of electric signals fired by billions of neurons.
3    The Human Spark / 1980
Philosophers have encapsulated this riddle in a trick question: what happens in the mind that doesn’t happen in the brain?
3    The Human Spark / 1981
If nothing happens in the mind except what happens in our massive network of neurons –then why do we need the mind?
3    The Human Spark / 2007
The autonomous car successfully stops at red lights, bypasses obstacles and keeps a safe distance from other vehicles –without feeling any fear.
3    The Human Spark / 2031
there is a crucial difference between mind and soul
3    The Human Spark / 2031
Whereas the existence of eternal souls is pure conjecture, the experience of pain is a direct and very tangible reality.
3    The Human Spark / 2052
Maybe the life sciences view the problem from the wrong angle.
3    The Human Spark / 2052
They believe that life is all about data processing, and that organisms are machines for making calculations and taking decisions.
3    The Human Spark / 2054
In the nineteenth century, scientists described brains and minds as if they were steam engines.
3    The Human Spark / 2054
Because that was the leading technology of the day,
3    The Human Spark / 2065
Today we know of a far more sophisticated technology –the computer –so we explain the human psyche as if it were a computer processing
3    The Human Spark / 2067
But this new analogy may turn out to be just as naïve.
3    The Human Spark / 2100
According to the Turing Test, in order to determine whether a computer has a mind, you should communicate simultaneously both with that computer and with a real person, without knowing which is which.
3    The Human Spark / 2103
If you cannot make up your mind, or if you make a mistake, the computer has passed the Turing Test, and we should treat it as if it really has a mind.
3    The Human Spark / 2109
Turing knew from personal experience that it didn’t matter who you really were –it mattered only what others thought about you. According to Turing, in the future computers would be just like gay men in the 1950s.
The Depressing Lives of Laboratory Rats
3    The Human Spark / 2113
we can return to the question of whether other animals have minds.
3    The Human Spark / 2117
The fact that dogs can be party to emotional relationships with humans convinces most dog owners that dogs are not mindless automata.
3    The Human Spark / 2120
Everything a human does
3    The Human Spark / 2121
might in theory be the work of non-conscious algorithms.
3    The Human Spark / 2134
the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness.
3    The Human Spark / 2143
Many business corporations also recognise animals as sentient beings,
3    The Human Spark / 2166
experiments on rats
3    The Human Spark / 2167
presuppose that rat behaviour is accompanied by human-like emotions.
The Self-Conscious Chimpanzee
3    The Human Spark / 2169
Another attempt to enshrine human superiority accepts that
3    The Human Spark / 2170
animals have consciousness, but argues that, unlike humans, they lack self-consciousness.
3    The Human Spark / 2171
they are not aware that the depression or hunger they feel belongs to a unique entity called ‘I’.
3    The Human Spark / 2179
Even when they seem to remember the past or plan for the future, they are in fact reacting only to present stimuli and momentary urges.
The Clever Horse
3    The Human Spark / 2234
When I donate money to a beggar,
3    The Human Spark / 2235
Do I really care about the beggar, or do I simply want to feel better myself?
3    The Human Spark / 2264
Homo sapiens surely has some unique ability that enables it to dominate all the other animals.
3    The Human Spark / 2271
it is quite clear that neither intelligence nor toolmaking by themselves can account for the Sapiens conquest of the world.
3    The Human Spark / 2276
when we examine the historical record, we don’t see a direct correlation between the intelligence and toolmaking abilities of individual humans and the power of our species as a whole.
3    The Human Spark / 2284
Instead, the crucial factor in our conquest of the world was our ability to connect many humans to one another.
3    The Human Spark / 2285
Humans nowadays completely dominate the planet not because the individual human is far smarter and more nimble-fingered than the individual chimp or wolf, but because Homo sapiens is the only species on earth capable of co-operating flexibly in large numbers.
3    The Human Spark / 2288
But if humans had not learned to cooperate flexibly in large numbers, our crafty brains and deft hands would still be splitting flint stones rather than uranium atoms.
3    The Human Spark / 2289
how come the ants and bees did not beat us
3    The Human Spark / 2290
Because their cooperation lacks flexibility.
3    The Human Spark / 2291
they cannot reinvent their social system overnight.
3    The Human Spark / 2293
Social mammals such as elephants and chimpanzees cooperate far more flexibly than bees, but they do so only with small numbers of friends and family members.
Long Live the Revolution!
3    The Human Spark / 2299
Victory almost invariably went to those who cooperated better
3    The Human Spark / 2306
Revolutions are usually made by small networks of agitators rather than by the masses. If you want to launch a revolution, don’t ask yourself, ‘How many people support my ideas?’ Instead, ask yourself, ‘How many of my supporters are capable of effective collaboration?’
3    The Human Spark / 2346
Ceauşescu and his cronies dominated 20 million Romanians for four decades because they ensured three vital conditions.
3    The Human Spark / 2346
First, they placed loyal communist apparatchiks in control of all networks of cooperation,
3    The Human Spark / 2348
Second, they prevented the creation of any rival organisations
3    The Human Spark / 2349
Third, they relied on the support of sister communist parties in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe.
3    The Human Spark / 2359
Though numerous and enthusiastic, the crowds did not know how to organise themselves.
3    The Human Spark / 2360
power passed to a small group of political players whose only asset was good organisation.
3    The Human Spark / 2371
The masses who risked their necks in Timişoara and Bucharest settled for scraps, because they did not know how to cooperate
3    The Human Spark / 2373
A similar fate befell the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.
3    The Human Spark / 2375
it is one thing to bring 100,000 people to Tahrir Square, and quite another to get a grip on the political machinery,
3    The Human Spark / 2376
when Mubarak stepped down the demonstrators could not fill the vacuum.
3    The Human Spark / 2378
Hence the revolution was hijacked first by the Brotherhood, and eventually by the army.
3    The Human Spark / 2379
The Romanian ex-communists and the Egyptian generals were not more intelligent or nimble-fingered than either the old dictators
3    The Human Spark / 2380
Their advantage lay in flexible cooperation.
3    The Human Spark / 2380
They cooperated better than the crowds,
Beyond Sex and Violence
3    The Human Spark / 2386
If these accomplishments resulted from some unique essence that each individual human has –an immortal soul, say –then it would make sense to sanctify human life.
3    The Human Spark / 2387
Yet since these triumphs actually result from mass cooperation, it is far less clear why they should make us revere individual humans.
3    The Human Spark / 2405
Sapiens just can’t have intimate relations (whether hostile or amorous) with more than 150 individuals.
3    The Human Spark / 2407
Whatever enables humans to organise mass-cooperation networks, it isn’t intimate relations.
3    The Human Spark / 2423
Sapiens don’t behave according to a cold mathematical logic, but rather according to a warm social logic.
3    The Human Spark / 2423
We are ruled by emotions. These emotions, as we saw earlier, are in fact sophisticated algorithms that reflect the social mechanisms of ancient hunter-gatherer bands.
3    The Human Spark / 2441
People are egalitarian by nature, and unequal societies can never function well due to resentment and dissatisfaction.
3    The Human Spark / 2444
Yet once you observe the behaviour of human masses you discover a completely different reality.
3    The Human Spark / 2444
Most human kingdoms and empires were extremely unequal, yet many of them were surprisingly stable and efficient.
3    The Human Spark / 2458
Because large numbers of people behave in a fundamentally different way than do small numbers.
3    The Human Spark / 2467
All large-scale human cooperation is ultimately based on our belief in imagined orders.
3    The Human Spark / 2468
These are sets of rules that, despite existing only in our imagination, we believe to be as real and inviolable as gravity.
3    The Human Spark / 2469
‘If you sacrifice ten bulls to the sky god, the rain will come;
3    The Human Spark / 2472
a business suit to signal ‘you can trust me,
The Web of Meaning
3    The Human Spark / 2482
Most people presume that reality is either objective or subjective, and that there is no third option.
3    The Human Spark / 2486
However, there is a third level of reality: the intersubjective level.
3    The Human Spark / 2487
Intersubjective entities depend on communication among many humans rather than on the beliefs and feelings of individual humans.
3    The Human Spark / 2488
Money, for example, has no objective value.
3    The Human Spark / 2499
The value of money is not the only thing that might evaporate once people stop believing in it.
3    The Human Spark / 2500
The same can happen to laws, gods and even entire empires.
3    The Human Spark / 2510
in truth the lives of most people have meaning only within the network of stories they tell one another.
3    The Human Spark / 2515
Meaning is created when many people weave together a common network of stories.
3    The Human Spark / 2518
People constantly reinforce each other’s beliefs in a self-perpetuating loop.
3    The Human Spark / 2574
People weave a web of meaning, believe in it with all their heart, but sooner or later the web unravels, and when we look back we cannot understand how anybody could have taken it seriously.
3    The Human Spark / 2580
This web allows humans alone to organise crusades, socialist revolutions and human rights movements.
3    The Human Spark / 2583
cats are able to imagine only things that actually exist in the world, like mice.
3    The Human Spark / 2583
They cannot imagine things that they have never seen or smelled or tasted –such as the US dollar, Google corporation or the European Union. Only Sapiens can imagine such chimeras.
3    The Human Spark / 2586
Sapiens use language to create completely new realities.
3    The Human Spark / 2590
No other animal can stand up to us, not because they lack a soul or a mind, but because they lack the necessary imagination.
3    The Human Spark / 2593
this ability to create intersubjective entities also separates the humanities from the life sciences.
3    The Human Spark / 2602
North Korea and South Korea are so different from one another not because people in Pyongyang have different genes to people in Seoul, or because the north is colder and more mountainous. It’s because the north is dominated by very different fictions.
3    The Human Spark / 2609
In the twenty-first century fiction might thereby become the most potent force on earth,
PART II      Homo Sapiens Gives Meaning to the World
4    The Storytellers
Animals such as wolves and chimpanzees live in a dual reality.
4    The Storytellers / 2627
Sapiens, in contrast, live in triple-layered reality. In addition to trees, rivers, fears and desires, the Sapiens world also contains stories about money, gods, nations and corporations.
4    The Storytellers / 2633
Humans think they make history, but history actually revolves around the web of stories.
4    The Storytellers / 2639
4    The Storytellers / 2639
gave Sapiens a huge advantage, because they allowed hundreds and sometimes even thousands of Sapiens to cooperate effectively,
4    The Storytellers / 2686
Yet Elvis was much more than a biological body. Like pharaoh, Elvis was a story, a myth, a brand
4    The Storytellers / 2738
Egyptians built Lake Fayum and the pyramids not thanks to extraterrestrial help, but thanks to superb organisational skills.
Living on Paper
4    The Storytellers / 2752
writing also made it easier for humans to believe in the existence of such fictional entities, because it habituated people to experiencing reality through the mediation of abstract symbols.
4    The Storytellers / 2804
Written language may have been conceived as a modest way of describing reality, but it gradually became a powerful way to reshape reality.
4    The Storytellers / 2805
When official reports collided with objective reality, it was often reality that had to give way.
Holy Scriptures
4    The Storytellers / 2814
As bureaucracies accumulate power, they become immune to their own mistakes.
4    The Storytellers / 2814
Instead of changing their stories to fit reality, they can change reality to fit their stories.
4    The Storytellers / 2816
For example, the borders of many African countries
4    The Storytellers / 2819
don’t reflect the wishes and struggles of local nations. They were drawn by European bureaucrats who never set foot in Africa.
4    The Storytellers / 2827
the borders drawn in Berlin hardly did justice to the geographic, economic and ethnic reality of Africa.
4    The Storytellers / 2831
When the written fantasies of European bureaucracies encountered the African reality, reality was forced to surrender.
4    The Storytellers / 2835
When schools began assessing people according to precise marks, the lives of millions of students and teachers changed dramatically.
4    The Storytellers / 2837
Marks are a relatively new invention. Hunter-gatherers were never marked for their achievements,
4    The Storytellers / 2846
Since both factories and government ministries became accustomed to thinking in the language of numbers, schools followed suit.
4    The Storytellers / 2850
schools soon began focusing on getting high marks.
4    The Storytellers / 2853
The power of written records reached its apogee with the appearance of holy scriptures.
4    The Storytellers / 2855
Priests wrote down not just the god’s property list, but also the god’s deeds, commandments and secrets. The resulting scriptures purported to describe reality in its entirety, and generations of scholars became accustomed to looking for all the answers in the pages of the Bible, the Qur’an or the Vedas.
4    The Storytellers / 2861
you cannot organise masses of people effectively without relying on some fictional myths.
4    The Storytellers / 2861
So if you stick to pure reality, without mixing any fiction with it, few people would follow you.
4    The Storytellers / 2869
Much of their power rests on their ability to force their fictional beliefs on a submissive reality.
4    The Storytellers / 2870
That’s the whole idea of money, for example.
4    The Storytellers / 2870
The government takes worthless pieces of paper, declares them to be valuable and then uses them to compute the value of everything else.
4    The Storytellers / 2874
If somebody protests that ‘These are just worthless pieces of paper!’ and behaves as if they are only pieces of paper, he won’t get very far in life.
4    The Storytellers / 2875
The same thing happens when the educational system declares that matriculation exams are the best method to evaluate students.
4    The Storytellers / 2879
If somebody protests that ‘The degree certificate is just a piece of paper!’ and behaves accordingly, he is unlikely to get very far in life.
4    The Storytellers / 2881
Holy scriptures work the same way.
4    The Storytellers / 2889
If someone protests that ‘This book is just paper!’ and behaves accordingly, such a heretic will not get very far in life.
4    The Storytellers / 2917
even though Herodotus and Thucydides understood reality much better than the authors of the Bible, when the two world views collided, the Bible won by a knockout.
But it Works!
4    The Storytellers / 2922
Fictions enable us to cooperate better. The price we pay is that the same fictions also determine the goals of our cooperation.
4    The Storytellers / 2923
the system may seem to be working well, but only if we adopt the system’s own criteria.
4    The Storytellers / 2956
History isn’t a single narrative, but thousands of alternative narratives. Whenever we choose to tell one, we are also choosing to silence others.
4    The Storytellers / 2963
How do you know if an entity is real? Very simple –just ask yourself, ‘Can it suffer?’
4    The Storytellers / 2969
The cause of war is fictional, but the suffering is 100 per cent real.
4    The Storytellers / 2970
Fiction isn’t bad. It is vital. Without commonly accepted stories about things like money, states or corporations, no complex human society can function.
4    The Storytellers / 2972
But the stories are just tools.
4    The Storytellers / 2973
They should not become our goals or our yardsticks.
5    The Odd Couple
stories about gods, nations and corporations grew so powerful that they began to dominate objective reality.
5    The Odd Couple / 2981
Unfortunately, blind faith in these stories meant that human efforts frequently focused on increasing the glory of fictional entities such as gods and nations, instead of bettering the lives of real sentient beings.
5    The Odd Couple / 2986
scientific theories are a new kind of myth,
5    The Odd Couple / 2987
Yet the comparison doesn’t hold water.
5    The Odd Couple / 2990
In contrast, scientific theories are not just a way to bind people together.
5    The Odd Couple / 2992
Antibiotics, unlike God, help even those who don’t help themselves.
5    The Odd Couple / 2992
They cure infections whether you believe in them or not.
5    The Odd Couple / 2998
Modern science certainly changed the rules of the game, but it did not simply replace myths with facts.
5    The Odd Couple / 2999
Myths continue to dominate humankind.
5    The Odd Couple / 2999
Science only makes these myths stronger.
5    The Odd Couple / 3001
Thanks to computers and bioengineering, the difference between fiction and reality will blur,
5    The Odd Couple / 3008
how does modern science relate to religion?
5    The Odd Couple / 3009
after 500 years
5    The Odd Couple / 3010
still don’t know each other.
Germs and Demons
5    The Odd Couple / 3013
All too often, people confuse religion with superstition, spirituality, belief in supernatural powers or belief in gods.
5    The Odd Couple / 3027
Religion is anything that confers superhuman legitimacy on human social structures.
5    The Odd Couple / 3050
Liberals, communists and followers of other modern creeds dislike describing their own system as a ‘religion’, because they identify religion with superstitions and supernatural powers.
5    The Odd Couple / 3052
In fact, it means only that they believe in some system of moral laws that wasn’t invented by humans, but which humans must nevertheless obey.
5    The Odd Couple / 3053
all human societies believe in this.
If You Meet the Buddha
5    The Odd Couple / 3070
just as the gap between religion and science is smaller than we commonly think, so the gap between religion and spirituality is much bigger.
5    The Odd Couple / 3072
Religion is a deal, whereas spirituality is a journey.
5    The Odd Couple / 3075
Spiritual journeys
5    The Odd Couple / 3076
usually take people in mysterious ways towards unknown destinations.
5    The Odd Couple / 3077
spiritual seekers are not so easily satisfied. They are determined to follow the big question wherever it leads,
5    The Odd Couple / 3096
Often enough, the most important demand from spiritual wanderers is to challenge the beliefs and conventions of dominant religions.
Counterfeiting God
5    The Odd Couple / 3127
we can go back to examining the relationship between religion and science.
5    The Odd Couple / 3133
science always needs religious assistance in order to create viable human institutions.
5    The Odd Couple / 3133
Scientists study how the world functions, but there is no scientific method for determining how humans ought to behave.
5    The Odd Couple / 3135
Only religions provide us with the necessary guidance.
5    The Odd Couple / 3142
the Three Gorges Dam, it is clear that building it was an ethical rather than a purely scientific issue.
5    The Odd Couple / 3142
No physics experiment, no economic model and no mathematical equation can determine whether generating thousands of megawatts and making billions of yuan is more valuable than saving an ancient pagoda or the Chinese river dolphin.
5    The Odd Couple / 3144
Consequently, China cannot function on the basis of scientific theories alone.
5    The Odd Couple / 3169
religious stories almost always include three parts:
5    The Odd Couple / 3170
1. Ethical judgements, such as ‘human life is sacred’.
5    The Odd Couple / 3171
2. Factual statements, such as ‘human life begins at the moment of conception’.
5    The Odd Couple / 3173
3. A conflation of the ethical judgements with the factual statements, resulting in practical guidelines such as ‘you should never allow abortion,
Holy Dogma
5    The Odd Couple / 3263
Religions have the nagging tendency to turn factual statements into ethical judgements, thereby creating terrible confusion and obfuscating what should have been relatively simple debates.
5    The Odd Couple / 3264
Thus the factual statement ‘God wrote the Bible’ all too often mutates into the ethical injunction ‘you ought to believe that God wrote the Bible’.
5    The Odd Couple / 3274
Harris thinks all humans share a single supreme value –minimising suffering and maximising happiness –and all ethical debates are factual arguments concerning the most efficient way to maximise happiness.
5    The Odd Couple / 3278
According to Harris, Islamists, liberals and nationalists have no ethical dispute; they have a factual disagreement about how best to realise their common goal.
5    The Odd Couple / 3283
we cannot develop a universal measurement for happiness and suffering, and we don’t know how to compare the happiness and suffering of different individuals, let alone different species.
5    The Odd Couple / 3286
Indeed, are happiness and misery mathematical entities that can be added or subtracted in the first place?
5    The Odd Couple / 3290
Without the guiding hand of some religion, it is impossible to maintain large-scale social orders.
5    The Odd Couple / 3292
Hence you cannot understand the history of science without taking religious beliefs into account.
The Witch Hunt
5    The Odd Couple / 3296
Europe in the days of Columbus, Copernicus and Newton had the highest concentration of religious fanatics
5    The Odd Couple / 3299
If you travelled to Cairo or Istanbul around 1600, you would find there a multicultural and tolerant metropolis,
5    The Odd Couple / 3302
contemporary Paris or London, you would find cities awash with religious extremism,
5    The Odd Couple / 3304
And yet, the Scientific Revolution began in London and Paris rather than in Cairo and Istanbul.
5    The Odd Couple / 3308
Religion is interested above all in order. It aims to create and maintain the social structure.
5    The Odd Couple / 3309
Science is interested above all in power. It aims to acquire the power to cure diseases, fight wars and produce food.
5    The Odd Couple / 3310
science and religion prefer order and power over truth.
5    The Odd Couple / 3312
It would accordingly be far more correct to view modern history as the process of formulating a deal between science and one particular religion –namely, humanism.
5    The Odd Couple / 3316
We will dedicate the next two chapters to understanding the modern covenant between science and humanism.
6    The Modern Covenant
Modernity is a deal.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3322
Very few of us can ever rescind or transcend this deal.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3324
few try to understand what they have signed up to.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3326
The entire contract can be summarised in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3329
The cosmic plan gave meaning to human life, but also restricted human power.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3333
In exchange for giving up power, premodern humans believed that their lives gained meaning.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3335
it gave humans psychological protection against disasters.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3336
‘We all play a role in some great cosmic drama,
6    The Modern Covenant / 3340
Modern culture rejects this belief in a great cosmic plan.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3345
The modern world does not believe in purpose, only in cause.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3346
If modernity has a motto, it is ‘shit happens’.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3347
then humans too are not limited to any predetermined role. We can do anything we want
6    The Modern Covenant / 3350
No paradise awaits us after death –but we can create paradise here on earth,
6    The Modern Covenant / 3361
but there’s nobody out there to hold us to our promise.
Why Bankers are Different from Vampires
6    The Modern Covenant / 3363
The modern pursuit of power is fuelled by the alliance between scientific progress and economic growth.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3368
today everyone is obsessed with growth,
6    The Modern Covenant / 3384
The cycle was eventually broken in the modern age thanks to people’s growing trust in the future, and the resulting miracle of credit.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3385
Credit is the economic manifestation of trust.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3392
People consequently have even greater trust in the future, the economy keeps growing and science progresses with it.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3403
The most famous lenders in nature are vampire bats.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3405
In order to cope with the uncertainty of their life, the vampires loan blood to each other.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3408
However, unlike human bankers, vampires never charge interest.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3409
Nor do vampires use loans in order to finance new businesses or encourage growth
6    The Modern Covenant / 3412
Consequently, vampires don’t believe in growth.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3413
For millions of years of evolution, humans lived under similar conditions to vampires,
The Miracle Pie
6    The Modern Covenant / 3415
Evolutionary pressures have accustomed humans to see the world as a static pie. If somebody gets a bigger slice of the pie, somebody else inevitably gets a smaller slice.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3419
Modernity, in contrast, is based on the firm belief that economic growth is not only possible but is absolutely essential.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3420
problems such as famine, plague and war can only be solved through growth.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3421
summarised in one simple idea: ‘If you have a problem, you probably need more stuff, and in order to have more stuff, you must produce more of it.’
6    The Modern Covenant / 3427
If the economy doesn’t grow, and the pie therefore remains the same size, you can give more to the poor only by taking something from the rich.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3439
during the Cold War both capitalists and communists believed in creating heaven on earth through economic growth,
6    The Modern Covenant / 3458
Indeed, it may not be wrong to call the belief in economic growth a religion, because it now purports to solve many if not most of our ethical dilemmas.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3480
Unlike other religions that promise us a pie in the sky, capitalism promises miracles here on earth
6    The Modern Covenant / 3483
capitalism did make an important contribution to global harmony by encouraging people to stop viewing the economy as a zero-sum game, in which your profit is my loss,
The Ark Syndrome
6    The Modern Covenant / 3516
In order to ensure perpetual growth, we must somehow discover an inexhaustible store of resources.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3522
human economy can grow because humans can discover new materials and sources of energy.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3525
in truth, there are three kinds of resources: raw materials, energy and knowledge.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3525
Raw materials and energy are exhaustible
6    The Modern Covenant / 3526
Knowledge, in contrast, is a growing resource
6    The Modern Covenant / 3534
The greatest scientific discovery was the discovery of ignorance.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3535
they suddenly had a very good reason to seek new knowledge, which opened up the scientific road to progress.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3541
We therefore have a good chance of overcoming the problem of resource scarcity. The real nemesis of the modern economy is ecological collapse.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3571
When disaster strikes, the poor almost always suffer far more than the rich, even if the rich caused the tragedy in the first place.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3576
We talk a lot about global warming, but in practice humankind is unwilling to make serious economic, social or political sacrifices to stop the catastrophe.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3595
Most of the presidents, ministers and CEOs who run the world are very rational people. Why are they willing to take such a gamble?
6    The Modern Covenant / 3597
engineers could still build a hi-tech Noah’s Ark for the upper caste,
6    The Modern Covenant / 3598
The belief in this hi-tech Ark is currently one of the biggest threats to the future of humankind
6    The Modern Covenant / 3599
People who believe in the hi-tech Ark should not be put in charge of the global ecology, for the same reason that people who believe in a heavenly afterlife should not be given nuclear weapons.
The Rat Race
6    The Modern Covenant / 3610
Despite all our achievements, we feel a constant pressure to do and produce even more.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3611
It’s the modern deal, which we have all signed up
6    The Modern Covenant / 3613
In the modern world, we humans run the business.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3613
So we are under constant pressure day and night.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3620
modernity upholds growth as a supreme value for whose sake we should make every sacrifice and risk every danger.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3622
and to fear equilibrium as if it were the Devil.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3623
Yesterday’s luxuries become today’s necessities.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3626
Greed comes easily to humans.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3629
equilibrium is far more frightening than chaos,
6    The Modern Covenant / 3629
and because avarice fuels growth, it is a force for good.
6    The Modern Covenant / 3644
the modern deal promised us unprecedented power
6    The Modern Covenant / 3645
and the promise has been kept. Now what about the price?
6    The Modern Covenant / 3645
In exchange for power, the modern deal expects us to give up meaning.
7    The Humanist Revolution
The modern deal offers us power, on condition that we renounce our belief in a great cosmic plan that gives meaning to life.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3659
it is impossible to sustain order without meaning.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3663
Not only do we possess far more power than ever before, but against all expectations, God’s death did not lead to social collapse.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3665
God-fearing Syria is a far more violent place than the atheist Netherlands.
Look Inside
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3673
humanism reverses the roles, and expects the experiences of humans to give meaning to the great cosmos.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3674
According to humanism, humans must draw from within their inner experiences not only the meaning of their own lives, but also the meaning of the entire universe.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3675
create meaning for a meaningless world.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3679
People in London, Paris or Toledo in 1300 did not believe that humans could determine by themselves what is good and what is evil,
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3680
Only God could create and define
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3684
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3685
any meaning that depends on human opinion is necessarily fragile and ephemeral.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3688
Meaning and authority always go hand in hand.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3688
Whoever determines the meaning of our actions
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3689
also gains the authority
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3698
For centuries humanism has been convincing us that we are the ultimate source of meaning,
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3702
Rousseau held that when looking for the rules of conduct in life, he found them ‘in the depths of my heart, traced by nature in characters which nothing can efface. I need only consult myself with regard to what I wish to do;
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3708
Theoretically, the modern therapist occupies the same place as the medieval priest,
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3709
a huge chasm separates them. The therapist does not possess a holy book that defines good and evil.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3718
modern therapists merely help us get in touch with our own inner feelings.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3735
Humanism has taught us that something can be bad only if it causes somebody to feel bad.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3738
And if an action does not cause anyone to feel bad, there can be nothing wrong about it.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3844
Humanist Politics: the voter knows best.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3847
Humanist Economics: the customer is always right.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3850
Humanist Aesthetics: beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3854
Humanist Ethics: if it feels good –do it!
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3856
Humanist Education: think for yourself!
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3872
Today, in contrast, it is very easy not to believe in God, because I pay no price for my unbelief.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3875
If I believe in God at all, it is my choice to believe.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3877
the real source of authority is my own feelings.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3883
In medieval Europe, the chief formula for knowledge was: Knowledge = Scriptures × Logic.*
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3891
The Scientific Revolution proposed a very different formula for knowledge: Knowledge = Empirical Data × Mathematics.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3897
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3898
it could not deal with questions of value and meaning.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3899
God’s bidding, because scriptures said so. Scientists could not come up with such ethical judgements.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3900
No amount of data and no mathematical wizardry can prove that it is wrong to murder.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3906
As humans gained confidence in themselves, a new formula for attaining ethical knowledge appeared: Knowledge = Experiences × Sensitivity.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3908
we seek knowledge by spending years collecting experiences, and sharpening our sensitivity so we could understand these experiences correctly.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3910
experience is a subjective phenomenon that includes three main ingredients: sensations, emotions and thoughts.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3913
And what is ‘sensitivity’? It means two things.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3913
Firstly, paying attention to my sensations, emotions and thoughts.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3913
Secondly, allowing these sensations, emotions and thoughts to influence me.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3926
You cannot experience something if you don’t have the necessary sensitivity, and you cannot develop your sensitivity except by undergoing a long string of experiences.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3938
Every scientific yang contains within it a humanist yin, and vice versa.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3939
The yang provides us with power, while the yin provides us with meaning and ethical judgements.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 3939
The yang and yin of modernity are reason and emotion,
The Truth About War
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4014
For thousands of years, when people looked at war, they saw gods, emperors, generals and great heroes.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4015
But over the last two centuries, the kings and generals have been increasingly pushed to the side, and the limelight shifted onto the common soldier and his experiences.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4043
If you want to understand war, don’t look up at the general on the hilltop, or at angels in the sky. Instead, look straight into the eyes of the common soldiers.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4049
‘True, I am suffering. But the Pope and the emperor say that we are fighting for a good cause, so my suffering is meaningful.’
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4051
‘I am suffering –and this is bad –hence the whole war is bad. And if the kaiser and the clergy nevertheless support the war, they must be mistaken.’ 7
The Humanist Schism
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4057
Humanism split into three main branches.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4057
The orthodox branch holds that each human being is a unique individual possessing a distinctive inner voice
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4062
known as ‘liberal humanism’ or simply as ‘liberalism’.*
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4067
socialist humanism, which encompassed a plethora of socialist and communist movements,
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4068
evolutionary humanism, whose most famous advocates were the Nazis.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4147
Evolutionary humanism has a different solution to the problem of conflicting human experiences.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4148
conflict is something to applaud rather than lament.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4148
Conflict is the raw material of natural selection,
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4185
In his bestseller Black Hawk Down, the journalist Mark Bowden relates in similar terms the combat experience of Shawn Nelson, an American soldier, in Mogadishu in 1993:
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4188
Close to death, he had never felt so completely alive.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4191
he had no connection to the larger world, no bills to pay, no emotional ties, nothing. He had just been a human being staying alive from one nanosecond to the next,
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4199
The experience of war revealed to Hitler the truth about the world: it is a jungle run by the remorseless laws of natural selection.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4200
If you wish to succeed, you must not only understand the laws of the jungle, but embrace them joyfully.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4205
At first, he didn’t even have German citizenship. He was a penniless immigrant.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4206
When Hitler appealed to the German voters and asked for their trust, he could muster only one argument in his favour: his experiences in the trenches had taught him what you can never learn at university,
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4208
People followed him, and voted for him, because they identified with him, and because they too believed that the world is a jungle,
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4212
It should be remembered, though, that Hitler and the Nazis represent only one extreme version of evolutionary humanism. Just as Stalin’s gulags do not automatically nullify every socialist idea and argument, so too the horrors of Nazism should not blind us to whatever insights evolutionary humanism might offer.
Is Beethoven Better than Chuck Berry?
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4221
Experience no. 1:
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4222
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4225
Experience no. 2:
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4226
Chuck Berry at full volume: ‘Go! Go, Johnny, go, go!’
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4229
Experience no. 3: Deep in the Congolese rainforest,
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4229
a choir of girls singing their initiation song.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4232
Experience no. 4:
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4233
A wolf is standing on a hilltop, listening to the howls of a female in heat.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4236
Which of these four experiences is the most valuable?
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4237
If you are liberal, you will tend to say that
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4238
are all equally valuable, and all should be equally cherished.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4241
Beauty is in the ears of the listener, and the customer is always right.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4255
If you are socialist, you will probably agree with the liberals that the wolf’s experience is of little value. But your attitude towards the three human experiences will be quite different. A socialist true-believer will explain that the real value of music depends not on the experiences of the individual listener, but on the impact it has on the experiences of other people and of society as a whole.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4274
Whereas liberals tiptoe around the minefield of cultural comparisons, fearful of committing some politically incorrect faux pas, and whereas socialists leave it to the party to find the right path through the minefield, evolutionary humanists gleefully jump right in, setting off all the mines and relishing the mayhem.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4278
Just as humans are superior to wolves, so some human cultures are more advanced than others.
Electricity, Genetics and Radical Islam
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4387
China is neither a democracy nor a truly free-market economy, which does not prevent it from becoming the economic giant of the twenty-first century.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4391
the most promising breeding ground for the new techno-religions emerging from Silicon Valley
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4397
More than a century after Nietzsche pronounced Him dead, God seems to be making a comeback.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4397
But this is a mirage.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4400
Religion and technology always dance a delicate tango.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4401
Technology depends on religion, because every invention has many potential applications, and the engineers need some prophet to make the crucial choice
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4404
Without some religious convictions, the locomotives cannot decide where to go.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4405
On the other hand, technology often defines the scope and limits of our religious visions,
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4419
History is often shaped by small groups of forward-looking innovators rather than by the backward-looking masses.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4468
Before Marx, people defined and divided themselves according to their views about God, not about production methods.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4468
Since Marx, questions of technology and economic structure became far more important and divisive than debates about the soul and the afterlife.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4483
In the twenty-first century, those who ride the train of progress will acquire divine abilities of creation and destruction, while those left behind will face extinction.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4491
Christianity and other traditional religions are still important players in the world. Yet their role is now largely reactive. In the past, they were a creative force.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4496
Christianity was responsible for important economic and technological innovations.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4498
The Vatican was the closest thing twelfth-century Europe had to Silicon Valley.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4501
helping to found many of Europe’s first universities,
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4502
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4503
They are busy with rearguard holding operations more than with pioneering novel technologies,
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4508
Ask yourself: what was the most influential discovery, invention or creation of the twentieth century? That’s a difficult question, because it is hard to choose from a long list of candidates,
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4510
Now ask yourself: what was the most influential discovery, invention or creation of traditional religions such as Islam and Christianity in the twentieth century? This too is a very difficult question, because there is so little to choose from.
7    The Humanist Revolution / 4532
When genetic engineering and artificial intelligence reveal their full potential, liberalism, democracy and free markets might become as obsolete
PART III      Homo Sapiens Loses Control
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory
Like every other religion, liberalism too is based on what it believes to be factual statements,
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4562
Liberals value individual liberty so much because they believe that humans have free will.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4570
The contradiction between free will and contemporary science is the elephant in the laboratory, whom many prefer not to see as they peer into their microscopes and fMRI scanners.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4590
The sacred word ‘freedom’ turns out to be, just like ‘soul’, an empty term that carries no discernible meaning.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4599
If by ‘free will’ you mean the ability to act according to your desires –then yes, humans have free will, and so do chimpanzees, dogs and parrots.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4602
the question is whether they can choose their desires in the first place.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4605
These processes might be deterministic or random, but not free.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4610
I don’t ‘freely’ choose to think those thoughts that will make me vote Conservative.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4620
I don’t choose my desires. I only feel them, and act accordingly.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4630
In reality, there is only a stream of consciousness, and desires arise and pass within this stream, but there is no permanent self who owns the desires, hence it is meaningless to ask whether I choose my desires deterministically, randomly or freely.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4637
If organisms indeed lack free will, it implies we could manipulate and even control their desires using drugs, genetic engineering or direct brain stimulation.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4655
like rats humans too can be manipulated, and that it is possible to create or annihilate even complex feelings such as love, anger, fear and depression by stimulating the right spots in the human brain.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4702
People may well manipulate their brain’s electric circuits
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4705
if and when such manipulations become routine, the supposedly free will of customers will become just another product we can buy.
Who Are I?
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4713
Science undermines not only the liberal belief in free will, but also the belief in individualism.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4718
For liberalism to make sense, I must have one –and only one –true self,
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4721
If you look really deep within yourself, the seeming unity that we take for granted dissolves into a cacophony of conflicting voices,
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4722
Humans aren’t individuals. They are ‘dividuals’.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4782
at least two different selves within us: the experiencing self and the narrating self.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4782
The experiencing self is our moment-to-moment consciousness.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4787
the experiencing self remembers nothing. It tells no stories, and is seldom consulted when it comes to big decisions.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4788
Retrieving memories, telling stories and making big decisions are all the monopoly of a very different entity inside us: the narrating self.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4790
It doesn’t narrate everything, and usually weaves the story only from peak moments and end results.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4797
Every time the narrating self evaluates our experiences, it discounts their duration, and adopts the ‘peak-end rule’ –it remembers only the peak moment and the end moment, and evaluates the whole experience according to their average.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4799
Kahneman began investigating the experiencing self and the narrating self
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4816
it remembers only the average between the worst moment and the last moment.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4821
When the narrating self remembers the visit to the doctor, ten seconds of pleasure at the end of the visit will erase many minutes of anxiety and pain.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4837
Most of our critical life choices –of partners, careers, residences and holidays –are taken by our narrating self.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4845
the experiencing self and the narrating self are not completely separate entities but are closely intertwined.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4845
The narrating self uses our experiences as important (but not exclusive) raw materials for its stories.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4846
These stories, in turn, shape what the experiencing self actually feels.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4849
the experiencing self is often strong enough to sabotage the best-laid plans of the narrating self.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4853
When they say ‘I’, they mean the story in their head, not the stream of experiences they undergo.
The Meaning of Life
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4864
Borges asks a fundamental question about the human condition: what happens when the yarns spun by our narrating self cause great harm to ourselves or those around us?
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4866
One option is that nothing much happens.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4868
Another option is
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4869
to be completely disillusioned by the realities of warfare.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4870
third option,
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4872
the more sacrifices we make for an imaginary story, the stronger the story becomes,
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4874
In politics this is known as the ‘Our Boys Didn’t Die in Vain’ syndrome.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4884
After losing the first Isonzo battle, Italian politicians had two choices.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4885
admit their mistake and sign a peace treaty.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4888
Alternatively they could
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4889
go on fighting until victory is ours!’
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4890
So they fought a second battle, and lost another 40,000 men.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4899
It is much easier to live with the fantasy, because the fantasy gives meaning to the suffering.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4901
If you want to make people believe in imaginary entities such as gods and nations, you should make them sacrifice something valuable.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4903
A poor peasant sacrificing a priceless bull to Jupiter will become convinced that Jupiter really exists,
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4917
For the narrating self would much prefer to go on suffering in the future, just so it won’t have to admit that our past suffering was devoid of all meaning.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4918
if we want to come clean about past mistakes, our narrating self must invent some twist in the plot that will infuse these mistakes with meaning.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4924
the self too is an imaginary story,
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4929
in the end, they are all just stories.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4936
The narrating self tries to impose order on this chaos by spinning a never-ending story, in which every such experience has its place, and hence every experience has some lasting meaning.
8    The Time Bomb in the Laboratory / 4941
Humans are masters of cognitive dissonance,
9    The Great Decoupling
It’s time to examine the practical implications of these scientific discoveries.
9    The Great Decoupling / 4959
In the twenty-first century three practical developments might make this belief obsolete:
9    The Great Decoupling / 4960
1. Humans will lose their economic and military usefulness, hence the economic and political system will stop attaching much value to them.
9    The Great Decoupling / 4962
2. The system will still find value in humans collectively, but not in unique individuals.
9    The Great Decoupling / 4963
3. The system will still find value in some unique individuals, but these will be a new elite of upgraded superhumans rather than the mass of the population.
9    The Great Decoupling / 4966
technological developments will make humans economically and militarily useless
9    The Great Decoupling / 4969
Rather, liberalism succeeded because there was much political, economic and military sense in ascribing value to every human being.
9    The Great Decoupling / 4970
There was value to every pair of hands that could hold a rifle
9    The Great Decoupling / 5002
Cyber-wars, however, may last just a few minutes.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5026
Until today, high intelligence always went hand in hand with a developed consciousness. Only conscious beings could perform tasks that required a lot of intelligence,
9    The Great Decoupling / 5028
However, we are now developing new types of non-conscious intelligence that can perform such tasks far better than humans.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5030
which of the two is really important, intelligence or consciousness?
9    The Great Decoupling / 5032
at least for armies and corporations, the answer is straightforward: intelligence is mandatory but consciousness is optional.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5048
Some economists predict that sooner or later, unenhanced humans will be completely useless. While robots and 3D printers replace workers in manual jobs
9    The Great Decoupling / 5136
The most important question in twenty-first-century economics may well be what to do with all the superfluous people.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5147
Humans have two basic types of abilities: physical abilities and cognitive abilities. As long as machines competed with us merely in physical abilities, you could always find cognitive tasks that humans do better.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5152
Every animal –including Homo sapiens –is an assemblage of organic algorithms shaped by natural selection
9    The Great Decoupling / 5156
there is no reason to think that organic algorithms can do things that non-organic algorithms will never be able to replicate or surpass.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5161
‘for ever’ often means no more than a decade or two.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5209
As algorithms push humans out of the job market, wealth might become concentrated in the hands of the tiny elite that owns the all-powerful algorithms, creating unprecedented social inequality.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5251
In the twenty-first century we might witness the creation of a new massive class: people devoid of any economic, political or even artistic value, who contribute nothing to the prosperity, power and glory of society.
A Probability of 87 Per Cent
9    The Great Decoupling / 5285
several practical threats to liberalism.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5285
The first is that humans might become militarily and economically useless.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5289
The second threat facing liberalism is that in the future, while the system might still need humans, it will not need individuals.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5318
twenty-first-century technology may enable external algorithms to know me far better than I know myself, and once this happens, the belief in individualism will collapse and authority will shift from individual humans to networked algorithms.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5319
People will no longer see themselves as autonomous beings running their lives according to their wishes, and instead become accustomed to seeing themselves as a collection of biochemical mechanisms that is constantly monitored and guided by a network of electronic algorithms.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5439
with such a database at its disposal, Google could do far more.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5441
A system that monitors your bank account and your heartbeat, your sugar levels and your sexual escapades. It will definitely know you much better than you know yourself.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5446
Google will advise us
9    The Great Decoupling / 5449
And Google will answer: ‘Well, I know you from the day you were born. I have read all your emails, recorded all your phone calls, and know your favourite films, your DNA and the entire history of your heart.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5467
Liberal habits such as democratic elections will become obsolete, because Google will be able to represent even my own political opinions better than myself.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5503
study implies that in the next US presidential elections, Facebook could know not only the political opinions of tens of millions of Americans, but also who among them are the critical swing votes, and how these votes might be swung.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5507
How could Facebook obtain this priceless political data? We provide it for free.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5508
In the high days of European imperialism, conquistadors and merchants bought entire islands and countries in exchange for coloured beads.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5509
In the twenty-first century our personal data is probably the most valuable resource most humans still have to offer, and we are giving it to the tech giants in exchange for email services and funny cat videos.
From Oracle to Sovereign
9    The Great Decoupling / 5512
Once Google, Facebook and other algorithms become all-knowing oracles, they may well evolve into agents and finally into sovereigns.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5526
When everybody uses the same oracle, and everybody believes the oracle, the oracle turns into a sovereign.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5557
Devices such as Amazon’s Kindle are able to collect data on their users while they are reading the book.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5560
Soon, books will read you while you are reading them.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5563
Eventually, we may reach a point when it will be impossible to disconnect from this all-knowing network even for a moment.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5564
Disconnection will mean death.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5587
Reality will be a mesh of biochemical and electronic algorithms, without clear borders, and without individual hubs.
Upgrading Inequality
9    The Great Decoupling / 5589
So far we have looked at two of the three practical threats to liberalism: firstly, that humans will lose their value completely; secondly, that humans will still be valuable collectively, but they will lose their individual authority, and will instead be managed by external algorithms.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5592
the system will know you better than you know yourself, and will therefore make most of the important decisions for you –and you will be perfectly happy with that.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5593
it will, however, be a post-liberal world. The third threat to liberalism is that some people will remain both indispensable and undecipherable, but they will constitute a small and privileged elite of upgraded humans.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5597
most humans will not be upgraded, and they will consequently become an inferior caste, dominated by both computer algorithms and the new superhumans.
9    The Great Decoupling / 5608
what will be the fate of this solution once rich and poor are separated not merely by wealth, but also by real biological gaps?
10    The Ocean of Consciousness
The new religions
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5665
will emerge from research laboratories.
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5666
new techno-religions may conquer the world by promising salvation through algorithms and genes.
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5671
These new techno-religions can be divided into two main types: techno-humanism and data religion.
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5672
Data religion argues that humans have completed their cosmic task, and they should now pass the torch on to entirely new kinds of entities.
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5674
techno-humanism, which still sees humans as the apex of creation and clings to many traditional humanist values.
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5679
humans must actively upgrade their minds if they want to stay in the game.
I Smell Fear
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5791
at the beginning of the third millennium we face a completely different kind of challenge, as liberal humanism makes way for techno-humanism, and medicine is increasingly focused on upgrading the healthy rather than healing the sick.
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5792
Doctors, engineers and customers no longer want merely to fix mental problems –they seek to upgrade the mind.
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5794
manufacturing new states of consciousness,
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5821
We have more choice than ever before, but no matter what we choose, we have lost the ability to really pay attention to it.
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5823
we have also been losing our ability to dream.
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5827
dreams play a much smaller part in our lives, few people actively develop their dreaming skills, and many people claim that they don’t dream at all, or that they cannot remember any of their dreams.
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5845
Yet a life of resolute decisions and quick fixes may be poorer and shallower than one of doubts and contradictions.
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5848
Indeed, techno-humanism may end up downgrading humans.
The Nail on Which the Universe Hangs
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5855
what would happen once technological progress makes it possible to reshape and engineer our desires themselves?
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5864
Technological progress
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5864
doesn’t want to listen to our inner voices. It wants to control them.
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5869
In order to really listen to themselves, some people must first turn down the volume of the inner screams and diatribes.
10    The Ocean of Consciousness / 5906
The most interesting emerging religion is Dataism, which venerates neither gods nor man –it worships data.
11    The Data Religion
Dataism says that the universe consists of data flows, and the value of any phenomenon or entity is determined by its contribution to data processing.
11    The Data Religion / 5916
exactly the same mathematical laws apply to both biochemical and electronic algorithms. Dataism thereby collapses the barrier between animals and machines, and expects electronic algorithms to eventually decipher and outperform biochemical algorithms.
11    The Data Religion / 5928
Dataists are sceptical about human knowledge and wisdom, and prefer to put their trust in Big Data and computer algorithms.
11    The Data Religion / 5929
most firmly entrenched in its two mother disciplines: computer science and biology.
11    The Data Religion / 5986
capitalism won the Cold War because distributed data processing works better than centralised data processing, at least in periods of accelerating technological changes.
11    The Data Religion / 5987
The central committee of the Communist Party just could not deal with the rapidly changing world of the late twentieth century.
11    The Data Religion / 5998
‘Nobody is in charge of supplying bread to London.’ That’s the capitalist secret of success. No central processing unit monopolises all the data on the London bread supply.
Where Has All the Power Gone?
11    The Data Religion / 6010
as data-processing conditions change again in the twenty-first century, democracy might decline and even disappear.
11    The Data Religion / 6024
The governmental tortoise cannot keep up with the technological hare.
11    The Data Religion / 6026
Never in history did a government know so much about what’s going on in the world –yet few empires have botched things up as clumsily as the contemporary United States.
11    The Data Religion / 6035
In the twentieth century, dictators had grand visions for the future.
11    The Data Religion / 6036
Today it seems that leaders have a chance to pursue even grander visions.
11    The Data Religion / 6040
Yet flesh-and-blood politicians in the early twenty-first century,
11    The Data Religion / 6041
are nothing like their
11    The Data Religion / 6041
They don’t seem to plot any Brave New World. The wildest dreams of Kim Jong-un and Ali Khamenei don’t go much beyond atom bombs and ballistic missiles: that is so 1945.
11    The Data Religion / 6046
because technology is now moving so fast, and parliaments and dictators alike are overwhelmed by data they cannot process quickly enough,
11    The Data Religion / 6057
It is dangerous to trust our future to market forces, because these forces do what’s good for the market rather than what’s good for humankind or for the world.
History in a Nutshell
11    The Data Religion / 6073
we can also understand the whole of history as a process of improving the efficiency of this system, through four basic methods:
11    The Data Religion / 6075
1. Increasing the number of processors.
11    The Data Religion / 6076
2. Increasing the variety of processors.
11    The Data Religion / 6080
3. Increasing the number of connections between processors.
11    The Data Religion / 6083
4. Increasing the freedom of movement along existing connections.
11    The Data Religion / 6086
These four methods often contradict one another.
11    The Data Religion / 6094
the first phase of history involved an increase in the number and variety of human processors,
11    The Data Religion / 6098
The second stage began with the Agricultural Revolution and continued until the invention of writing and money
11    The Data Religion / 6104
The third stage kicked off with the invention of writing and money
11    The Data Religion / 6104
and lasted until the beginning of the Scientific Revolution.
11    The Data Religion / 6109
the fourth and last stage of history, which began around 1492. Early modern explorers, conquerors and traders wove the first thin threads that encompassed the whole world.
11    The Data Religion / 6115
democracy and the free market won because
11    The Data Religion / 6115
they improved the global data-processing system.
11    The Data Religion / 6121
If humankind is indeed a single data-processing system, what is its output? Dataists would say that its output will be the creation of a new and even more efficient data-processing system, called the Internet-of-All-Things.
Information Wants to be Free
11    The Data Religion / 6125
The supreme value of this new religion is ‘information flow’.
11    The Data Religion / 6128
Humans are merely tools for creating the Internet-of-All-Things, which may eventually spread out from planet Earth to cover the whole galaxy and even the whole universe.
11    The Data Religion / 6129
This cosmic data-processing system would be like God. It will be everywhere and will control everything, and humans are destined to merge into it.
11    The Data Religion / 6141
Like every religion, it has its practical commandments.
11    The Data Religion / 6141
First and foremost, a Dataist ought to maximise data flow by connecting to more and more media, and producing and consuming more and more information.
11    The Data Religion / 6143
Its second commandment is to connect everything to the system, including heretics who don’t want to be connected.
11    The Data Religion / 6147
We mustn’t leave any part of the universe disconnected from the great web of life.
11    The Data Religion / 6154
created a really novel value: freedom of information.
11    The Data Religion / 6156
Freedom of information, in contrast, is not given to humans. It is given to information.
11    The Data Religion / 6176
Dataists believe all good things –including economic growth –depend on the freedom of information.
11    The Data Religion / 6178
So if we want to create a better world, the key is to set the data free.
Record, Upload, Share!
11    The Data Religion / 6195
People just want to be part of the data flow, even if that means giving up their privacy, their autonomy and their individuality.
11    The Data Religion / 6197
a growing number of artistic and scientific creations are nowadays produced by the ceaseless collaboration of ‘everyone’.
11    The Data Religion / 6199
The individual is becoming a tiny chip inside a giant system that nobody really understands.
11    The Data Religion / 6204
This relentless flow of data sparks new inventions and disruptions that nobody plans, controls or comprehends.
11    The Data Religion / 6205
No one understands how the global economy functions or where global politics is heading.
11    The Data Religion / 6205
But no one needs to understand. All you need to do is answer your emails faster –and allow the system to read them.
11    The Data Religion / 6207
Dataists believe in the invisible hand of the data flow.
11    The Data Religion / 6208
connecting to the system becomes the source of all meaning.
11    The Data Religion / 6209
Humans want to merge into the data flow because when you are part of the data flow you are part of something much bigger than yourself.
11    The Data Religion / 6215
Dataists believe that experiences are valueless if they are not shared, and that we need not –indeed cannot –find meaning within ourselves.
11    The Data Religion / 6222
The new motto says: ‘If you experience something –record it. If you record something –upload it. If you upload something –share it.’
11    The Data Religion / 6228
We must prove to ourselves and to the system that we still have value.
Know Thyself
11    The Data Religion / 6251
If we develop an algorithm that fulfils the same function better, human experiences will lose their value.
11    The Data Religion / 6265
In the days of Locke, Hume and Voltaire humanists argued that ‘God is a product of the human imagination’. Dataism now gives humanists a taste of their own medicine, and tells them: ‘Yes, God is a product of the human imagination, but human imagination in turn is the product of biochemical algorithms.’
11    The Data Religion / 6274
The shift from a homo-centric to a data-centric world view won’t be merely a philosophical revolution. It will be a practical revolution.
11    The Data Religion / 6277
Ideas change the world only when they change our behaviour.
11    The Data Religion / 6305
The Google and Facebook algorithms not only know exactly how you feel, they also know a million other things about you that you hardly suspect. Consequently you should now stop listening to your feelings, and start listening to these external algorithms instead.
11    The Data Religion / 6308
Whereas humanism commanded: ‘Listen to your feelings!’ Dataism now commands: ‘Listen to the algorithms! They know how you feel.’
11    The Data Religion / 6324
Moreover, with the rise of machine learning and artificial neural networks, more and more algorithms evolve independently, improving themselves and learning from their own mistakes.
A Ripple in the Data Flow
11    The Data Religion / 6347
If Dataism succeeds in conquering the world, what will happen to us humans?
11    The Data Religion / 6348
In the beginning, it will probably accelerate the humanist pursuit of health, happiness and power.
11    The Data Religion / 6351
Yet once authority shifts from humans to algorithms, the humanist projects may become irrelevant.
11    The Data Religion / 6351
Once we abandon the homo-centric world view in favour of a data-centric world view,
11    The Data Religion / 6356
Dataism thereby threatens to do to Homo sapiens what Homo sapiens has done to all other animals.
11    The Data Religion / 6361
The yardsticks that we ourselves have enshrined will condemn us to join the mammoths and the Chinese river dolphins in oblivion.
11    The Data Religion / 6376
In the past, censorship worked by blocking the flow of information. In the twenty-first century, censorship works by flooding people with irrelevant information.
11    The Data Religion / 6377
People just don’t know what to pay attention to, and they often spend their time investigating and debating side issues.
11    The Data Religion / 6378
In ancient times having power meant having access to data. Today having power means knowing what to ignore.