Greg Morris

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Yuval Noah Harari on the Story of Sapiens, the Power of Awareness, and the Brilliance of Bone-Conduction Headphones


  • this was an extremely humiliating, an important experience because it made me realise for the first time in my life that I have almost no control over my mind (Time 0:09:28)

It seems bizarre the first time you try out a guided mediation and you can’t concentrate on your breathing for more than a few moments. Utterly humbling, a bit of a shock, and I wonder how many people will give up here because they think this is failing. But it’s part of the process of mediation — a bicep curl for the mind.

Suffering vs happiness

  • The big question is how you liberate yourself and others from suffering. And this is also I think, the main theme of human history is most historians are focused on the question of power. If you take most history books and also most economic books and so forth, they're about power. They are not just, you know, a guide to how to get power, but about them. The history of power conflicts about power between two kings between two kingdoms, between two gods between two religions between two classes. These are most history books are about that, and it's an important power. (Time 0:23:01)

Is conflict ‘natural? Could it be that there is a certainly level of conflict and stresses needed for the body to function. It almost seems as though fighting for survival/appearance/levels of respect is innate.

  • Okay. What does all this mean in term? Of happiness and suffering. So Okay, so the Roman Empire rose to power did it actually make humans happier? Did it make the more miserable if it had no noticeable effect on, say, average happiness in the world, what does it matter whether they want a lost?  (Time 0:23:45)

Links to Power

  • you know humans are very, very good as a species, not all humans, but as a species. We are very good in acquiring more power, but we are not good at all in translating power in tow, happiness. And for me, the big paradox of history is that it's obvious we are thousands of times more powerful than people in the Stone Age. But it's not clear whether we are at all happier than they were. (Time 0:23:59)
  • Pain is suffering. I don't have enough money. That's that's the cause of my suffering. So now let's focus on getting more money or getting a medicine. And the mistake is that you don't really understand the deep causes and mechanisms of suffering. (Time 0:25:29)

There is a huge issue with the proximal cause being focused on instead of the actual cause. Understanding yourself and the ways in which we function internally can help with identifying the root of issues here.

  • It worked also to kind of remember what's really important for you in life for me. I think maybe, you know, on the personal level, I really want to understand life, to understand the world.  (Time 0:48:56)

I am starting to think that knowing yourself is one fo the most important things for life experience. I am not talking about a woo-woo notion of sitting in a cave or going away to discover yourself. But simply knowing who you are and what really makes you tick enables so much more understanding of the world around you. Allowing you to solve issues and get to root causes much quicker.

We need stories to survive

  • Chimpanzees can't cooperate more than, say, 50 or 100. That's about the limit. And then you know what enables us to cooperate in very large numbers. These things is our ability to invent and believe in fictional stories and fictional entities, all the big heroes of history. Almost all of them are fictional entities that exist only in our imagination. Only in the stories that we create nations, God's money, corporations, states the only place they exist is in the stories that we invent (Time 0:26:43)

I like the idea that money we use is just a. Story we tell each other and an agreement we make. Money doesn’t actually mean anything its just based on trust that this bit of paper, or more often than not this bit of data on a computer has a value equivalent.

  • I'm not against the stories. We need them. They are the basis for cooperation. But we should always remember we created them as tools to serve us. We shouldn't be enslaved by them. If a story enables people to cooperate well and thereby improve their lives, that's wonderful. But once you forget, it's just a story and you begin entire wars just in order to protect. To defend the honour off the nation or business to increase the profits of the corporation.  (Time 0:29:12)

Defending a nation or organisation is ultimately futile and gets to s stage where you wonder if people forget that the importance they feel about these types of topics boost really exist when you drill down the root of everything.

But we need something to believe in, something to work and strive for. However survival and taking care of our tribe has been replaced by a new car or fancy clothes. Stories sold to us, that we cling onto because we value the stories and accept them as our own.

Islamic fundamentalist Isis. They hated America. They hated American politics, American culture, American religion. But they had nothing against American dollars when they conquered. I don't know Mosul and enter the banks. They didn't burn the dollars that was there. They took them. They used them. So that's amazing that you can have such a level of trust, even between complete enemies and in my personal life.  (Time 0:34:13)

Life worries and the threats to our life.

  • look, for a big historical perspective, this is not so important, You know, if every person that dies in a terrorist attack is the entire world destroyed. But looking at the big picture from the history of the world, this is a very small affair. I mean, I can explain to you why terrorism gets so much attention. It's basically theatre. These people are experts in theatre, not in war, and they're very good at it, so they get so much attention. (Time 0:42:28)

Even war is sold though the story makers and angled any way they wish. History belongs to the victor.

  • even the people who deny climate change, they are not in favour of climate change. Just say it. It's not really doesn't happen, but with AI and bioengineering, there are some of the most powerful people and organisations and governments and corporations in the world. They are extremely busy making it happen faster, and it's also we don't have a framework (Time 1:34:57)
  • AI and bioengineering to change Homo SAPIENs and to create new kinds of beings that will be much more different from us than we are different from Neanderthals or from chimpanzees to give just one example, I think it is possible that we will create the first in organic life forms after four billion years off organic evolution. So again, it's not a destruction of our species. It's the changing of species into something else. (Time 1:30:45)
  • I don't think there is any chance whatsoever that people like us will just continue to have lives like us in 200 years that there will be in 200 years  (Time 1:37:17)

There is quite a few prominent people that have spoken out about the pursuit of AI but far more minds working towards it with little to no regulation. I am sure no-one intended the consequences of algorithmic time lines or computer code to decide your prison sentence, but almost all movements forward end up with unintended consequences — this needs far more attention than it gets.

Ai and Human Responses

  • One of the problems I realised it's that it's extremely difficult to share the really deep insights you have about life that very often they are in a nonverbal level. And in any case, my impression is that most of the inner world of most humans is never shared. (Time 0:52:24)
  • I've thought about a lot recently, which is it's quite unfair to expect other people to understand you fully when you don't understand yourself fully on your own. It's quite a quite an unfair expectation of people. (Time 0:53:50)
  • then you read a poem or you see a TV show. And yes, this is exactly what I'm feeling that I never knew how to communicate it. (Time 0:53:45)
  • the way that we will get so used to having these computers and robots that are very attuned to how we feel that we might become even more irritated with the humans who don't feel who don't react, who don't understand how we feel it don't reacting in the right way.  (Time 1:08:56)
  • that we might become even more irritated with the humans who don't feel who don't react, who don't understand how we feel it don't reacting in the right way. And then part of the problem is that so many people like everybody, often self entered. So I don't get what my husband is feeling because I'm too focused on my own, my own feelings. One of the reasons that computers could be better than humans in this is that they don't have feelings. The refrigerator doesn't have any expectations in life from you. It had no dreams, no found nothing. So the refrigerator could be 100% focused on what you feel. It has no feelings of its own, so it can't be insulted. (Time 1:09:29)

This is part of the problem in Algorithmic feeds, and “safes spaces” If everyone reacts the way you do to everything, you simply have no understanding of the points of view and react very badly when you come across them.

More and more we get used to social “friends” that we have built and dedicate less and less time to those that don’t behave as we think you should behave. We have no time for people that we have to make an effort to understand.

But there is no problem with this because it makes us feel great inside, we rate ourself higher because the AI understands us better and gives us the things we need. Keeps us happy, but destroys community with it.

Power And History

  • It worked also to kind of remember what's really important for you in life for me. I think maybe, you know, on the personal level, I really want to understand life, to understand the world.  (Time 0:48:56)
  • You know, it's I don't think it's a coincidence that you look at the whole span of human history and almost none of the important political leaders of humankind made a significant philosophical contribution to human thought. You have a few exceptions. I don't know Marcus Aurelius or something like that. But generally speaking, you would have thought that from their vantage point, they see something that ordinary mortals don't (Time 0:50:07)

What Should Family Life look like?

  • So how did humans live 50,000 years ago? And the answer is, we don't know. We have evidence from the Stone Age. We have tools, but the tools don't tell you what was the family structure. You have cave paintings, but one of the interesting things about cave paintings we've found found thousands and thousands of cave paintings from the Stone Age. There is not a single image of a family. There are a lot of mammoth. There are lots of horses. There are lots of ibex. There are some humans also mostly stick figures. But there isn't a single image from the Stone Age that you can say, Look, that's how they depicted a family. (Time 1:19:02)

Information Overload

  • big problems of the 21st century's people are flooded by enormous amounts of information. It's not like in the past when information was scarce and the problem was how to get it. Now it's the opposite and you just don't know what to pay attention to. (Time 1:25:34)

We can frame things so many different ways, that can all be true. The information has no agenda, it is the people that create the effects. Artistic, altruistic or more nefarious it is up to use to decide.

  • There is no camera hanging above plant earth, the camera of history, which point in a particular direction. And this is the centre of events. And this is the sidelines. You know, you can tell. The Second World War with Churchill is the main hero, Hitler and Stalin, appearing on some a few a few scenes and millions of Chinese that died in the war, never appearing at all. And you can do an entire World War Two movie, just about a single Chinese village. Now both are true, and what do you choose is not forced on you by the reality it reflects very often political and ideological and also artistic choices. (Time 1:17:32)