Quick notes jotted down after the splendid seminar / conversation between Yuval Harari (of “Homo Sapiens” and “Homo Deus” fame) and Thomas Friedman – not less well-know journalist for the NY Times – in the splendid setup of Westminster Methodist Central Hall.
The basic theme under discussion between the optimistic Friedman and the more grim Harari is the absence of a shared vision for the future of mankind at this precise point in time when the human race is arguably becoming more and more interconnected by a common anthropology, a hugely intertwined economy and -yes- by a radically disruptive technical progress. The problem is not ethical – it is epistemological. We cannot frame shared behaviors because we cannot articulate a common causality link in what is around us. We have no idea how human societies will look like in 20 years. In more and more countries the government is looking to the past. People in power repackage old mythologies and they are unable to provide a meaningful vision for the future. “China is the only place where government thinks in decades, not years” – Harari unsurprisingly shares with us. Just check the impressive reading list of Xi Jinping as evidence. You will find even Pedro Domingos book on AI.
A few powerful ideas from this wonderful talk:
- what are we supposed to teach new members of the human race when we are at total loss about the causality structure of our world?
- most people consider a luxury to be engaged in the global agenda, where AI, infotech and genomics are the next big shaping forces. But history makes no concessions. If you have no time or energy to be part of the global debate, there will be no mercy for you.
- there will emerge a global useless class with no valuable skills to be used in the productive process. The question is if our society will be able to do away with work as a form of self-awareness and purpose and replace with other meaningful form of endeavor?
- faster and faster digital globalization will trigger yet another tidal change to the social contract. You will be able to remain a lifelong employee only if you will be a lifelong learner. Self motivation divide will be the next big incoming divide. Lots of people have been brought up to do what they were told. They are still inhabiting a 1950ies mindset. This is all gone. Today it is the time for people that engage with their world, they are explorers and makers of it at the same time. Smart creatives.
Harari has a wonderful paper in Nature about all the points above, “Reboot for the AI revolution“. As a vindication, below image shows Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli performing on stage with Robotic Orchestra conductor Yumi on September 12, 2017 in Pisa, Italy.
It was a vibrant conversation. This is London – and this is being part of the global debate.