Yuval Noah Harari discusses the future of humanity


When Yuval Noah Harari published his first book, “Sapiens,” in 2014 about the history of the human species, it became a global bestseller, and turned the little-known, Israeli history professor into one of the most popular writers and thinkers on the planet. Harari told us that it wasn’t the past of our species that was worrying him but our future. Harari thinks we might be in the midst of creating a new species of humans, one with greater intelligence than us. Although it sounds like science fiction at first, Yuval Noah Harari claims that this is actually far more dangerous.

Anderson Cooper – You stated, “We’re one of the last generation of Homo sapiens.” In a few decades, Earth may be controlled by aliens that are far more unlike us than chimpanzees. “

Yuval Noah Harari: Yeah.

Anderson Cooper – What is that? This freaked out me.

Yuval Harari: We will soon be able to re-engineer bodies and brains. This can happen with genetic engineering, connecting brains directly to computers or creating non-organic entities. Artificial intelligence is not dependent on an organic body or brain. These technologies are evolving at a breakneck pace.

Anderson Cooper : This creates an entirely new species.

Yuval Harari: It is an entity that goes beyond the boundaries of a species.

Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval Noah Harari is talking about the race to develop artificial intelligence, as well as other technologies like gene editing – that could one day enable parents to create smarter or more attractive children, and brain computer interfaces that could result in human/machine hybrids.

Anderson Cooper – What will that mean for a society? The rich may have more access than others, it seems.

Yuval Harari: We will witness a rise in inequality in the next decades. This is because it will be a new form of biological inequalities. Homo sapiens could split into several biological groups if the technology is only available to those who are wealthy or from certain countries. This happens because their bodies,– and abilities will be different.

Harari spent many years writing and lecturing about the future of humankind.

Harari at Davos in 2018: In the coming generations we will learn how to engineer bodies and brains and minds.

He has written two books about the challenges we face in the future — “Homo Deus” and “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” — which along with “Sapiens” have sold more than 35 million copies and been translated into 65 languages. He was recommended by President Barack Obama and tech moguls Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.

Anderson Cooper – You warn about the dangers of technology. Many people in Silicon Valley embrace you.

Yuval Noah Harari: Yeah.

Anderson Cooper : Doesn’t this seem like a contradiction to you?

Yuval Harari: It’s not easy for them to be afraid of what they can do. They have come to realize the enormous influence that they hold over the entire world. That I believe spooks some. That’s good. This is the reason they seem to be open to listen.

Anderson Cooper – You began as a historian professor. Which is your current title?

Yuval Harari: I am still a historian. History is not only the study and study of the past, but also the study of changes. It also covers the future.

Origin: “Sapiens “

01: 05

Harari got his Ph.D. in history at Oxford, and lives in Israel, where the past is still very present. We were taken to Tel Gezer, an archeological site.

Harari says cities like this were only possible because about 70,000 years ago our species – Homo sapiens – experienced a cognitive change that helped us create language, which then made it possible for us to cooperate in large groups and drive Neanderthals and all other less cooperative human species into extinction.

Harari believes that artificial intelligence is now threatening to dominate us.

Yuval Harari: Perhaps the most significant thing we face is a form of evolutionary divergence. Intelligence and consciousness have been a part of our lives for millions upon millions of years. The ability to experience emotions, such as pain, pleasure, love and hatred. Intelligence refers to the ability solve problems. Artificial intelligence or computers don’t possess consciousness. Their intelligence is all they have. Their intelligence is a different approach to solving problems than ours. Science fiction often assumes that computers will gain consciousness as they become smarter and more sophisticated. It’s actually much scarier than this. They will solve many more problems than we can, and without any conscious or emotional involvement.

Anderson Cooper : They will be able to control us.

Yuval Harari: Already they are gaining power.

Lenders routinely employ complex artificial intelligence algorithms in determining who is eligible for loans. Global financial markets are influenced by the decisions of machines that analyze huge quantities of data and make complicated calculations. Even programmers may not always be able to understand these details.

Harari believes that the nations and corporations that have the greatest control over data in the future will be those that dominate the entire world.

Harari describes his research

01: 29

Yuval Noah Harari: Today in the world, data is worth much more than money. These big companies paid billions to Instagram, WhatsApp and other services ten years ago. People wondered, “Are these crazy?” They pay billions for an application that produces no money. Why? It produced data.

Anderson Cooper : Data is the key.

Yuval Harari: It is becoming increasingly easy to break down the world into data collections and harvesting spheres. The Iron Curtain was the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. We now have the Silicon Curtain, which divides the USA from China. Where does all the data end up? Is it going to California, Shanghai or Beijing?

Harari worries that the pandemic may have opened up the possibility of more intrusive data collection including biometric data.

Anderson Cooper – What’s biometric data?

Yuval Harari: This is data that shows what’s going on inside your body. We have so far seen. Corporations and governments are collecting information about our movements, whereabouts, friends, and what we see. Next is the surveillance that goes under our skin.

Anderson Cooper : My wear a device that monitors my heartbeat and my sleep. It’s not clear where this information is.

Yuval Harari: The KGB agent is worn on your wrist freely.

Anderson Cooper : I believe it is in my favor.

Yuval Harari: It is. It’s more than dystopian. This is also possible. This kind of data could also be used to build the most advanced health care system ever created. What else can be done with this data? Who supervises? It is regulated by who?

Why Yuval Harari moderates

01: 38

Earlier this year, the Israeli government gave its citizens’ health data to Pfizer to get priority access to their vaccine. Individual citizens were not included in the data.

Anderson Cooper : What does Pfizer need the data from all Israelis?

Yuval Harari: To develop new drugs, you will need medical data. This is becoming increasingly important for the how–for medical research. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

Harari is often criticized for not offering solutions but does offer some suggestions on how to reduce data misuse.

Yuval Harari: The key principle is that data obtained should help me, not manipulate me. A key principle is that surveillance should be increased for individuals as well as the corporations and government officials. The third rule is to not allow data to accumulate in one location. This is the recipe for dictatorship.

Harari speaking at The Future of Education: Netflix tells us what to watch and Amazon tells us what to buy. Eventually within 10 or 20 or 30 years such algorithms could also tell you what to study at college and where to work and whom to marry and even whom to vote for.

Without greater regulation, Harari believes we are at risk of becoming what he calls “hacked humans. “

Anderson Cooper – What does this mean?

Yuval Harari: Hacking a person is to learn more about them than they do themselves. It can also manipulate your memory, allowing you to forget everything. All of your past activities. To analyze this data to find patterns and get a better understanding of your true self. I came out as gay when I was 21. It should’ve been obvious to me when I was 15 that I’m gay. It was blocked by something within my mind. If you look at a teenage boy today, Facebook or Amazon could know they’re gay before they did. This is based only on patterns and analysis.

Anderson Cooper : This is how you determine someone’s sexual orientation.

Yuval Noah Harari: Completely. What does this mean for someone who lives in Iran, Russia or another homophobic country? Anderson Cooper – When we think of data, most people associate it with companies that find out their preferences and likes. But the data you are referring to is much more.

Yuval Noah Harari: Like, think in 20 years when the entire personal history of every journalist, every judge, every politician, every military officer is held by somebody in Beijing or in Washington? They can be manipulated like never before.

Yuval Harari explains how he met his wife

01: 08

Harari lives outside Tel Aviv with his husband, Itzik Yahav. They have been together for nearly 20 years. Yahav was the one who took Harari’s lectures notes to a history class and persuaded him to make them his first book, “Sapiens.”

Itzik Yanahav: I listened to the lessons. It was so good that I could not stop thinking about it. It was obvious to me that this book could become a bestseller.

Yahav, Harari’s agent now, started Sapienship together. The interactive exhibit will allow visitors to explore the evolution of man and encourage them to consider the future.

Harari just released the second part of his graphic novel, “Sapiens.” He is also teaching ethics and philosophy courses for bioengineers and computer scientists at Israel’s Hebrew University.

Harari teaching: When people write code, they are reshaping politics and economics and ethics, and the structure of human society.

Anderson Cooper: When I think of coders and engineers, I don’t think of philosophers and poets.

Yuval Harari: Although it’s not true now, this should become more common as engineers are solving increasingly complex philosophical and poetical problems. You’re creating a self-driving vehicle, and the autonomous car must make ethical choices. A child suddenly jumps in front the car. The only way to stop the child from running over it is to turn to the side, and then be struck by a truck. Your own-owner, who was asleep in the backseat, might get killed. This is where you need to instruct the algorithm. You must solve the philosophical problem of who to kill.

Last Month, the United Nations proposed a moratorium against artificial intelligence systems that could seriously compromise human rights. Advisors to President Biden have suggested what they refer to as a “bill-of-rights” to protect some of these new technologies. Harari said that just like Homo sapiens learnt to collaborate with one another thousands of years ago we must also cooperate today.

Yuval Harari: Yes. We are now at the stage where we require global cooperation. The explosive potential of artificial intelligence cannot be controlled at a local level. It is not my intention to predict what might happen. In the hopes that people will act now to avoid the worst, I am trying to inform them about some of the most serious possibilities.

Produced by Denise Schrier Cetta. Associate producer, Katie Brennan. Broadcast associate, Annabelle Hanflig. Stephanie Palewski Brumbach edited.

(c) 2021 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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