- Bicentennial Man: Robin Williams in one of his best performances as an android who developes consciousness and creativity and raises to the courts of the future similar questions like the anti-slavery movement did to Greeks, Romans and the fathers of the 19th century enlightenment. Probably Asimov's most important book, because it raises questions which are not related to mankind's fear of being controlled or made obsolete by machines, but about the possiblity of machines being actually morally better than we as a species are.
- 8 talks on AI curated by TED: looking at AI from different angles, we recommend in particular the tech-sociologist's take of Zeynep Tufekci
With myself travelling in down under since three weeks and some more time to go, our 4M screening is interrupted due to an extended Christmas break. I want to draw your attention nevertheless to our past screenings, which are being recorded on mingong.org/4M, today with a special recommendation to our September selection:
Harari's enlightenment leaves us in darkness. God is dead. Liberalism a lie. Religions are mere power structures. Doesn't he have a positive vision to offer? Mankind has overcome poverty (= famine), disease and war; since it always wants more, mankind ventures now into battling death and wants to acquire for itself divine powers of creation and destruction. It will win that battle only by terminating itself through an upgrade from Homo Sapiens to Homo Deus: the self-engineered next step in evolution, probably a bionic big data life form of which we don't know what it will look like.
Harari must be - despite his eloquent writing - a truly miserable individual. Such is his suffering that he goes at great lengths to develop a masterplan for the history of tomorrow, a future without man and his pleasure seeking mind. Our thoughts, words and deeds reflect our values, our horizon and mindset. Harari is a brilliant but badly tormented mind; and he projects his personal suffering upon our entire species.
18th century philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach described Religion as the outward projection of human inner nature. The atheist data religion which Harari lines out is the projection of his mechanistic and life rejecting world view. How come that a man so bright does not see that he steps in the same trail he showed others to be wrong? The declaration of God's death and the usurpation of his place through man's own creation sounds like yet another religion which has already found many adherents: Harari's atheist global fan community.
God, though, is not the outer reality of Harari's or other man's perpetual ruminations. God is, in the words of Eckhart Tolle, an inner reality of being present like an empty vessel: Through the present moment, you have access to the power of life itself, that which has traditionally been called "God." As soon as you turn away from it [the present moment], God ceases to be a reality in your life, an all you are left with is the mental concept of God, which some people believe in and others deny. Even belief in God is only a poor substitute for the living reality of God manifesting itself every moment of your life. Those who have not experienced that state of mind fail to comprehend.
Erich Fromm on the other hand brilliantly explained in The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness that man in his existential drive to make sense of his life either turns towards mechanistic destructiveness or organic creativity, towards death or life. I am sort of amazed that Harari succeeds to pack paramount destructiveness into a body of beautiful creativity. It is though his eloquent summary of mankind's history, in particular in his first book Sapiens, where he excels in describing the unifying role of myths: the imagined hierarchies of religions, money and empires; not his vision of mankind's future. A genuine pessimist like him is probably the worst choice to operate as Delphi's oracle for a global 21st century audience.
Having felt like Harari until not too long ago, I wish him to find peace of mind. Maybe like Google engineer and life coach Chade Meng Tan who managed to turn his mind's default mode from utterly miserable to utterly happy. Harari might then realize that we are not only a Freudian, pleasure driven, instinctivist species, but have already the potential in us to grow into divine beings equipped with blissful biochemistry. The 19th century psychiatrist William James turned his interest towards the end of his career to the psychology of religion and concluded in his summary of about 2000 case studies in The Varieties of Religious Experience that there are sick souls which have to be born twice and sound souls which are only born once. Harari is a seriously sick soul and I wish for his timely rebirth.
Spread some happy history, Juval, your readers need it.