“It is not that the Apocalypse is around the corner and that The End is almost near. The Truth is I just do not understand what is happening around the world!”- A small tribute to Dr. Yuval Noah Hararri.
Human Life is all about the fight between Attainment versus Realization. Yuval Harari sums this struggle saying humans have this remarkable panacea to know and not know at the same time. Mostly humans don’t think about something so they never know about it…e.g. if we demand the ultimate truth, we may realize Adam and Eve is a myth. Very rarely do humans however demand the ultimate truth (introspect). Given the acceleration in AI, BIO-CHEMISTRY and HUMAN STUPIDITY in our 21st Century, it is about time we did!
Introduction – So the secret is finally out! Humans are fundamentally a type of robot race. Last 30 years our brain scientists have been furtively conducting research on this Holy of Holiest Grail. AI is now beginning to outperform humans in learning, analyzing, communicating and understanding human emotions! Our scientists have made breakthroughs in understanding human biochemical mechanisms to replace human drivers, bankers and lawyers, says Dr. Harari. Very soon you and I shall find ourselves in state of suspended animation. “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” nudges us furtively to imagine so.
Scientists are the most humane community on Planet Earth. This enlightened community is deeply saddened that even the “third field” of human activity- that of cooperation and collaboration- has failed. The 21st Century global disequilibrium at micro and macro levels reasserts the truth in this experiment. It appears the imperfectness of biochemical algorithms of human brain- billions of neurons calculating probabilities within a split second-can and must be replaced by the swifter ‘pattern recognizing’ AI algorithms. Very soon current AI research will enable better performance than existing human emotions, desires and choices. This means Planet Earth will be operated sooner than later by AI. Humans will stand-by as substitutes when necessary or generally allowed to retain a modicum of assured food, clothing and shelter livelihood. In essence humans have failed with their intuitions and feelings. And from our food wastage, ecological disdain and other forms of exploitations, it is very evident our algorithms have outlived the needs of Planet Earth. So we must go! This is one Harari prediction.
It is accepted that human skills for joint operations have far exceeded the capacity of any other mammal. History is proof of such mastery. Religions, wars and revolutions, even when based on fiction and wild stories, had united millions of people to make them stronger and more focused on what/how to do and even what/how not to do. And much like the geese flying in the picture above, humans had sustained systems and processes for hundreds and thousands of years. But, given the geo-technology we have harnessed in the 21st Century, how do we create our Road Map beyond 2030? Harari creates a predicament and challenges us no end in the process!
This said, perhaps in 21st century the times are transforming faster than our hitherto adaptive abilities to complacently usher in sensible attitudinal and behavioural modifications. We observe disruptions in traditional living patterns from within. It appears attitudinally being unfair, intolerant and just as bad as the mafia, can and does provide success to many. More often than not, personal revenue improvement programs (PRIPs) based on greed, power and revenge are calling the decision making processes. The challenges Harari writes involve Homosapiens’ infatuation with PRIP over the AI algorithmic enabled general revenue improvement programs, mixed with doses of the invigorating bio-chemical combinations! This is more in sync with Mother Nature.
Our Survival Problem is not limited to the emerging Climatic Change-Reality is we need green transport, low carbon services, eat less meat to prevent further degradation of our soils and release of methane into the atmosphere. In truth we ALL need to adapt total behavioural changes. These call for collaboration and given the ‘secular’ times, liberal doses of compulsion at family, social, government and diplomacy levels as well for adaption. But Harari reminds us human stupidity has been an enigmatic factor in making of our history. Can our bipartisan leaders and kept ‘ignorant’ masses unite in crisis situations that even they cannot predict or interpret? In such calamity would leaders role-playing as ‘adversaries’, unite when they MUST to ‘save’ the human race? Or would they use AI as an easier option to creatively exploit?
21st Century heralds yet another paradigm shift in our evolution. No, we are not charged in a “Storming of the Bastille” fervour nor regurgitating a Russian and Chinese Revolutions for example. We are instead very happy with easy attainments of wants (not needs) through the prisms of our aspirational smartphones and smart talking. The gap between the “as-is” level of consciousness and our “to-be” consciousness levels of life (realization) is ever on the rise albeit for more sensuous than sensitive reasons! Millions are addicted to the values shared within the “for, by and of the people” cacophony in the Social Media. But even as speed and decisions are expedited to meet our wants, a ‘sinister’ digital world has emerged to choke our sensibilities in perpetuity! The paradox is we are most unprepared for this Future Shock that has materialized. Dr. Harari places all our cards on the table very effusively to gauge, judge but not decide. The decisions are left to his readers. Yes, for a change we need to trigger our neurons judiciously!
Sadly, Homosapiens have accepted the limitations of their emotions, desires and choices. At the micro levels of civic life and living, human happiness depend less on our conscious perception of objective conditions and more on the aspirations of government servants and politicians. The State does less on matters of needs of current Human Enlightenment. However, it is not that intentions for our Ruling Elite are entirely unclear when it comes to creating commercial advantage of situations! This enables their PRIP. We have observed the manufacturing and trading classes anticipate much ahead of actual demand. Each group is calibrating according to their personal interests at the business levels even as governments do the same on destructive issues such as wars, hegemony, lack of education, shelter with different genocide. The ‘nudge’ effect of behavioural economics pays more dividends to entrepreneurs and their henchmen than it does the lives of ordinary citizens. They extol “Consumer is the King” But what really happens to the consumers?
This said, it is unfortunate Homosapiens are evolving with complementary ignorance of the AI, bio-chemistry and ecological disaster reality. Our System does not have the intellectual capability to explain the dynamics. Psychologically, we are under-aged for the technology marvels happening. Our youth do not have entrepreneurial fire in the belly approach-which ignites a formidable bio-chemistry combination demonstrating an “I Can” attitude. They to learn by heart and rarely think out of the box. Thousands depend on the Placement Office of their Higher Studies Institutes for jobs. Fundamentally the struggle to survive has been stifled by Social Media. Is all this a larger pre-planned conspiracy theory?
As reward systems we have Social Media and fast living styles emerging in India. The real issues of survival have been pushed under the carpet at home, school, college and higher studies. Indeed there is more of “high” living and “simple” thinking patterns than vice versa. Schools i deep Nagaland are without qualified teachers. There is an Existential Crisis all around, cries Harari. Sad part of it very few are listening. Unless people reach out to many, many others through the Harari plot, even fewer will ever understand that an “Apocalypse” is at our doorstep. Much the manner we engaged with the Computer Age in the 1980s, it is time many more begin to listen to the Algorithmic Age. Dr. Harari couldn’t ask for more from his readers.
You can’t fool the entire World all the Time– Homosapiens’ evolution confirm their ethical and philosophical histories are depressingly vulnerable. There is no “ideal behaviour”. Harari insinuates we have reached a period when person’s value need be judged by her actual behavior than by religious affiliations. Unfortunately the ruling elite of our different countries have been so busy with PRIPs over GRIPs (this is the writer’s perspective) that they have remarkably discouraged scaling up psychological ages of the citizens. Curiously, a higher percentage of digital savvy youth is emerging in India and China now…to them and others Harari recommends beginning to understand the universe as a “flow of data” infested with “biochemical algorithms”, which ought to be linked to creation of a “huge data processing system…” It is hara-kiri to ignore the impact of this pattern. The Homosapiens’ dilemma is complacency- another form of weaker pattern recognitions by the neurons in our brains. And for human’s ignorance IS bliss!!
So as Computer Algorithms are created to independently manage without human interventions, expectation levels will be different. We can create an algorithmic integration of the best human brains specific to a ‘politician for example. For this we need to write a code dealing with moments of crisis by the AI politician. Now this algorithmic code could have the best of “Kant and Mills” with combinations of the traits of George Washington, Ambedkar, Bismarck, Thatcher and Ronald Reagan! The AI ‘politician’ would follow constitutional and ethical guidelines more judiciously than humans because AI cannot act on emotions and feelings. Such intrepid and exponential growth in AI and Biochemistry in controlling Homosapiens is already happening. But fewer and fewer Homosapiens comprehend- much like Nero’s playing the fiddle as Rome burnt! To this we need add the inferno of climatic changes and we have a double whammy! The Ruling Elites across the globe, feuding as they are on PRIP issues (exclusive to their own interests), have no marked desire to inform the citizens that this existential crisis is on.
India is a stark example of these ever increasing gaps between the chronological and psychological ages of its citizens. Something went horribly wrong from 1980s in our commitments to Quality of Life Index. Here we have 650 million youthful human guinea pigs who are dancing to the tune of the aspirational products of ravenous Big Data enabled tele-com and other MNCs. They are least intrigued however by the “flow of data” infested with “biochemical algorithms”, which are being linked to create “huge data processing systems”. Simultaneously, we have disunited leadership which specializes in non-putmedownables against one another much to the detriment of national unity. The whole system is dogmatically complicated directed at attainment as opposed to realization. There is just no dharma. Surely we are most unfortunate to “live through this absolutely appalling state…and when it ends I pray it will have no repetition in living memory again …it’s been like the WWI- in trenches, without rules or honour. Brutal, unrelenting equivocation…” says a lamenting Social Media friend, also a representative voice of Indian sexagenarians of 2018.
Given Homosapiens potential to be deceptive, it is more than likely our AI and bio-tech revolutions will enable Ruling Elite to significantly control human minds. Harari is not triggering such thoughts within his readers. We all know the KGB, MI5, CIA, CBI, RAW and other spy agencies have access to data that reads our minds unabashedly. Google and Facebook are in abject collaboration. Ignorant Homosapiens permit this intrusion as it doesn’t directly bother them. Sensuously happy Parents, Teachers, Children, Employers and Employees are on same lower frequency psychological wavelengths. Our disdain is pathetic for our poorer brethren.
Unlike us, AI doesn’t possess feelings, emotions and gut instincts. They will always obey and never rebel. There is nothing wrong with blind obedience. Every human loves it. But what if the wicked and cruel masters (Ruling Elite) of the AI Robots are ethically corrupt and downright evil? Imagine if future governments in different countries of 2030 have access to killer robots?!
Philosophically, Homosapiens’ current situation begins to get more tenuous and complicated! In our Indian culture we are ever told “Your life is your karma”. Karma means action…life is of our making… We fix it so that what happens within us is determined by only us and nobody else…You are the master of your own destiny. You cannot decide what the world will throw at you, but what you make of it is 100% yours”!
Very contradictory state of dialectical materialism indeed! The more one reads Harari, the more penetratingly one is entering into one’s own self created science fiction story. There have been frequent storms in my tea-cup. This is not bad for me but it begets the next question- are we already at a stage where those who own data own our future? To quote Harari- “the merger of InfoTech and Biotech threatens the core modern values of liberty and equality. Any solution to the technological challenge has to involve global cooperation. But (hostile) nationalism, religion and culture (precariously) divide humankind”. Unreceptive Hostile camps abound indeed!
Given this scenario the reasonable senses within scientific community, the judiciary, the government officials, the professionals the doctors and nurses, the teaching community with the parents now become very significant to create an impossible critical mass. It is like a “Hotel California” ambiance Homosapiens have evolved into! But are we integrated enough socio-economic unit(s) to understand the magnitude of this evolution in the early spasms of 21st Century? We are all so erratic, so jealous, so greedy, so distorted and out so of sync with one another that it is well-nigh probable dissolution of Homosapiens is being enacted!! Unknown and unaware as we all are, our behavior at every micro/macro levels indicate very, very poor self-worth, vision, values and feelings. It is a weird ethical description of 21st Century Homosapiens.
It is a tough call to find unity in such disintegrating diversity. If only the Indian Ruling Elite had remained more faithful to Mahatma Gandhi and his ideals. The Road Map toward community realization is difficult target but attainment is far easier in our VUCA World. However, with sustained Gandhian nudges in education, upbringing, business and politics, India could have offered the World an alternative to the AI in this Mother of All 21st Century.
“Life begins at the end of our comfort zone” – The challenges are daunting. Harari asks “How do you live in an age of bewilderment, when old stories have collapsed and no new story has emerged to replace them?” And yet change is the only constant.
Homosapiens are caged animals, the Ben Hurs who are chained to the oars and rowing with every pound of energy and life to live on for retribution. What happens if they break open and begin to look for justice in this over-heated world scenario? Liberals and Nationalists must sit back to reflect for a while on this probability. We need empathy. But we may stare at guns! Can we consciously demand retributive justice to re-think, to uncover and discover the right approach in such paradoxical situations? Reading Harari’s “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” makes one nervous and jittery about our impending “Animal Farm” future!
Even a 25 degree enhancement in thinking among the movers and shakers of planet earth could assist uplifting the lives and living conditions of a few billion fellow humans. And with it, the Age of Realisation could rise to higher levels. Yes, such is the “here and now” of the more daunting horizon beyond our current comfort zones! A forcefully propelled, impartial and open-minded understanding of 21st century world dynamics at macro and micro levels could reassert our inherent humane ability for reconciliation with cooperative and collaborative living. Women are effective leaders than Men in all human circumstances. Men can be led but fail to lead effectively.
Unfortunately technology has numbed our brain pattern from the requisite blossoming. Sadly, whether we are rich or poor, enlightened or unconscious, we are ever nudged as very provocative animals. In fact many humans are walking predators much like the condemned Bing Cosby! The great mathematician Bertrand Russell (Nobel Laureate and philosopher) had tagged humans as “the cruellest animals on planet earth” in his book “Has Man a Future?” Even Einstein had marvelled at “Human Stupidity”. The times are for introspection.
Our Tragedy-We are living in an age when more people are dying of accidents, obesity and diabetes than wars and gun powder- asserts Harari. Sugar related diseases and depression are afflicting more and more persons. The Sadhguru, a pragmatic ascetic from southern India, has indicated that in India almost 15000 children below 15 years commit suicide each year and the numbers are not reducing. Hundreds of immigrants’ children in Europe are attempting the same also. Sadly, the tragic-comedy couldn’t get more laughable – in our quest for enhanced “satisfaction”/ “attainment” we are ignoring these signs of a “Wake-Up” call. And yet, we have a much larger War ahead engaging the minds of every consciously competent Planet Earth Citizen:- to trigger the others, less unconscious. Realization is what matters for Homosapiens and not attainment. And this is how Harari brings in messages in the final few chapters of his latest book.
Back to collaboration and cooperation- “Who am I? What should I do in life? What is the meaning of life?”-Asks Harari as he nudges the by now attentive ones to realize the unique “dharma” (read: duties) each possesses within this colossal cosmic cycle she gets born into. At the point prior to our birth we are unable to decide which nation, colour or creed we shall be born as humans. This approach has shades of Joseph Epstein in his small treatise- “Ambition”- where Epstein talks of our capability to distinguish the right from wrong, the fair from unfair. It is a fact as individuals we are thrust into such choicelessness situations as we grow from childhood to adulthood following our enigmatic births.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” -Desmond Tutu, clergyman (b. 7 Oct 1931)
Indeed we have reached a compounded log jam in our discussions. I have only two wish lists at reaching this bottleneck. First we must hand over the governance to the women around us. Women are far more capable to manage our current existential crisis situation. If the Lehman Brothers were only called Lehman Sisters, perhaps the 2008 sub-prime fiasco could have been averted! Secondly, I so wish it was so true that a more conscious and enabled Planet X is controlling our Planet Earth at this given time to provide a solution! And if my dream could be stretched further to imagine if an even more phenomenally powerful Planet Z is monitoring the behavior of the Planet X which controls our Planet Earth!Harari hand-holds his readers to Mediation and the healthy practice of Vipassana in his final chapter. These are the only Way Forward. Nothing else matters. Our choices are pre-determined, even forced by a set of circumstances that can be created. But we decide. We choose. The AI and interlocutory research developments in bio-chemistry offer a very complex and unpredictable Road Map ahead. Given current geo-political trends with IQ/EQ /SQ levels of human participations, it is difficult to reconcile if our present leaders and thinkers can at all craft and construct situations with flexibility and pragmatism in our Grave New World.
I wonder if by the very nature of this remotest of remote possibility my readers can trigger“look within” introspection. This is a 21st Century Reality Test. Such inner engineering processes are precisely what Harari insists upon for survival within the crazy future ahead of us! Readers who are not non-linear by thinking and execution will find this difficult to absorb this matrix.
Harari sure creates an uncanny feeling of what is to happen within me. Of course socio-economic processes will continue and trade wars sustained for the larger perspective fights for global hegemony among vulnerable powers. Homosapiens will die and others will be born-Hakuna Matata! Yes, we are in for interesting times up ahead where enjoying will only mean being very stupidly aware. All other perspectives will be boringly restricted. So Harari suggests meditation as a path out of this paradox we call life on Planet Earth.
Meditative processes are top of pop enablers to stimulate human bio-chemical processes. Homosapiens are incapable (perhaps incapacitated by their system) of fully understanding the totality of their individual ‘being’ and how they ought to do ‘what/when/how’ in newer situations in one lifetime. As we mess up outside our beings, let us at least try and discover a newer life and evolution from within our integrated inner self through introspection! Admittedly it has been very difficult in 21st Century to create the space for integrating human activities to build something newer. So let us begin as individuals practising to evolve beyond 21st Century!
Harari is not meant for persons who are peppily 24×7 active with healthy life-style habits. Such persons are already algorithmically optimal humans. Harari can be a different assessment for many others who have valued their contribution and have an audit approach to measure outcome and output. It is going to become exciting for the kids who are in their early thirties and younger still. Will they become freer Homosapiens than my generation? In such circumstances will the “all-encompassing globalization, this convoluted global business scenario be less dominated by market capitalization and the gospel of fierce competition” …which inter alia could increase “the quest for Creativity and Human Excellence...discouraging techno-economic pursuits with higher attention to the deeper and higher dimensions of life and work.”? The Challenge is thus on.
I am much bewildered by Yuva Noah Harari. I feel that my next article, for whatever worth, must deal a little bit more on relevance of Human Consciousness. After that I must pass out!
- His engaging three books: “Sapiens” (a brief history of humankind); “Homo Deus” (a brief history of tomorrow) and finally “21 lessons for the 21st Century” (Penguin Random House). He is a PhD in History from Oxford University, teaching at the University of Jerusalem. Through the pages of these books Dr. Harari has explored the past, present and future and bequeaths us enough ammunition to pass to our children.
- Realization gives us flexibility of awareness, consciousness and realization. It enables us to be tuned with Nature. Attainment disenables and disengages, making individuals, MNCs and nation-states sense ‘invincibility’. But the stark reality is that we must live collaboratively and in cooperation to be truly invincible!
- At the macro levels, global economic domination plays its role with the control of oil. The Middle East, Europe, Crimea, India Pakistan crisis are directly indirectly related to core economic concerns. On the other micro level, Musk, Google and others are already gearing up to meet the future contingencies. There are effective steps being taken by privately owned distribution major CESC Ltd, Kolkata to create 130 electric public charge stations in Kolkata, with an investment of INR 32.5 crores (75 INRs = $1 at today’s prices on 7th October 2018).Charging electricity reportedly required (if 30% of Calcutta’s vehicles convert to electric) -0.9 tera watt hour/annum and would yield revenue from sale of electricity from charging cars projected at INR 340 crores per annum. TERI sources separately say should 30% of vehicles in Calcutta go electric by 2030, an investment of INR 2073 crores in solar power could meet the charging need of 0.9 tera watt hour electricity. (Saturday, 6th October, 2018 Kolkata edition of The Times of India) Elon Musk, Zuckerberg, Google exhibit similar manifestations in larger scales. If you have money, aspirations are rewarded wholesomely to all fly-by-night operators.
- Prof. Partho S. Sengupta, “Principles and Practices of (modern) Management “-Vikas Publishing House, Amazon kindle where PRIP= Personal Revenue Improvement Programs; and GRIP= General Revenue Improvement Programs.
- Page 18 under “ALL THAT MATTERS” of the Sunday Times of India, 7th October 2018 carried the following headings by different well-recognized contributors – “Surgical strikes better for surgeon than patient”; “Don’t get your hopes for 2019. Governments change but life doesn’t”; “The IL&FS (another name for internal looting and frauding syndicate) saga tells us experts cannot be trusted”; “Why the Sabarimala temple verdict by the Supreme Court of India is an act of social engineering”.
- For all we know, the currently missing from China (& of Chinese origin), Interpol President Meng Hongwei, also of “Vice Minister” standing in China, may reappear several months later with trans-cranial implants in his
- Sadhguru advices–www.UnplugWithSadhguru.org. Across the world Sadhguru has over 9 million full time volunteers working on different welfare related causes. His Isha Foundation is based out of the Isha Foundation, Velliangiri Foothills, Ishana Vihar, Coimbatore in India.
- Children in Kolkata are indulging in self-injury and chatting on-line with self cutters to deal with stress and anxiety. They cut their arms in the same place repeatedly with blades, pocket knives, creating wounds that don’t heal. They display withdrawal syndromes. “More youth are reaching out for help”, says a professor in National Health of Mental Sciences and Neurology in Bangalore. Maladaptive ways of living have come in! (Reports The Times of India: 7th October 2018, Kolkata edition). These remind me of the old Beatles’ song “Eleanor Rigby”.
- “Creativity & Human Excellence in Management Education: a Personal Odyssey”: Prof. Sanjoy Mukherjee, Indian Institute of Management in Shillong, Meghalaya, India. Prof. Mukherjee expresses the exact opposite when he laments the downgrading of creativity and human excellence in 21st Century.