Goktug Yilmaz's Reviews > Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow

Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
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it was amazing
Read 2 times. Last read May 14, 2018 to July 12, 2018.

3 Keys:
- You can't experience something if you don’t have the necessary sensitivity, and you can't develop your sensitivity except by undergoing a long string of experiences.
- Dataism motto: If you experience something -> Record it -> Upload it -> Share it
- Stagnation and lack of belief in growth, leads to more stagnation. We need endless growth or we will fall to pieces.

- People are usually afraid of change because they fear the unknown. But the single greatest constant of history is that everything changes.
- Paradox of historical knowledge: Knowledge that doesn't change behavior is useless. But knowledge that changes behavior quickly loses its relevance. The more data we have and the better we understand history, the faster history alters its course, and the faster our knowledge becomes outdated.
- Peak-end rule: The overall pain level neglects duration and instead reflects only the peak-end rule. The narrating self doesn’t aggregate experiences, it averages them.
- Terrorism is a strategy adopted by those who lack access to real power. Terrorism works by spreading fear rather than by damage. Overreaction to terrorism poses a far greater threat to security than the terrorists themselves.

More people die today from:
- Eating too much VS Eating too little
- Old age VS Enfectious disease
- Suicides VS Killed

- As countries become richer, they become unhappier and their suicide rates increase.
- The average American uses 60x more energy than the average Stone Age hunter-gatherer. Is the average American 60x happier?
- Pleasant sensations quickly subside and sooner or later turn into unpleasant ones.
- The most common reaction of the human mind to achievement is not satisfaction, but craving for more.
- We don't become satisfied by leading a peaceful existence. We become satisfied when reality matches our expectations. The bad news is that as conditions improve, expectations balloon.

- Nobody can absorb all the latest scientific discoveries, can predict how the global economy will look in ten years, has a clue where we are heading in such a rush. Since no one understands the system any more, no one can stop it.
- If we succeeded in hitting the brakes, our economy will collapse, along with our society. Modern economy needs constant and indefinite growth in order to survive. That’s why capitalism encourages us to seek immortality, happiness and divinity. An economy built on everlasting growth needs endless projects.
- Free-market capitalism the most efficient way of long-term growth, so the rich and freedom of expression are protected, but ecological habitats, social structures and traditional values that stand in the way of free-market capitalism are destroyed.

- All instincts, drives and emotions evolved to meet the evolutionary pressures of survival and reproduction. When these pressures suddenly disappear, the instincts, drives and emotions do not disappear with them. At least not instantly.
- Sensations and emotions are algorithms. A baboon feels hunger, he feels fear and trembling at the sight of the lion, and he feels his mouth watering at the sight of the bananas. Within a split second, he experiences a storm of sensations, emotions and desires, which is nothing but the process of calculation.
- All mammals have emotional needs, and that their mental and physical health depends as much on providing for these needs as on food, shelter and medicines.
- Feelings are algorithms to help make the right decisions. Love, fear and passion encapsulate millions of years of practical wisdom. When you listen to your feelings, you follow an algorithm that evolution has developed for millions of years, and withstood the harshest quality tests of natural selection.
- When I donate money to a beggar, am I not reacting to the unpleasant sensations that the sight of the beggar causes me to feel? Do I really care about the beggar, or do I simply want to feel better myself?

- Homo sapiens is the only species on earth capable of co-operating flexibly in large numbers.
- After civil revolutions happen, the people cannot run the country and the command is usually hijacked by the military. Because they had flexible cooperation and cooperated better than the crowds.
- Humans are ruled by emotions. If I helped you hunt a wild chicken and you kept most of the chicken to yourself, I did not think: "Better a little than nothing at all." Instead my evolutionary algorithms kicked in, adrenaline and testosterone flooded my system, my blood boiled, and I stamped my feet and shouted at the top of my voice. In the short term I may have gone hungry, and even risked a punch or two. But it paid off in the long term, because you thought twice before ripping me off again.
- We refuse unfair offers because people who meekly accepted unfair offers didn’t survive in the Stone Age.
- People and apes are egalitarian by nature, and unequal societies can never function well due to resentment and dissatisfaction.
- Large numbers of people behave in a fundamentally different way than do small numbers. Especially in terms of egalitarianism. Most human kingdoms and empires were extremely unequal, yet many of them were surprisingly stable and efficient.

Reality & Fiction:
- Recording inaccurate data and descriptions can lead to bad decisions. Strive to produce more truthful descriptions.
- As bureaucracies accumulate power, they become immune to their own mistakes. Instead of changing their stories to fit reality, they can change reality to fit their stories.
- Reality is either objective, subjective or intersubjective. Intersubjective entities depend on communication among many humans rather than on the beliefs and feelings of individual humans. Most important agents in history are intersubjective. Money, has no objective value. Yet as long as billions of people believe in its value, you can use it to buy food, beverages and clothing.
- Sapiens rule the world because only they can weave an intersubjective web of meaning: a web of laws, forces, entities and places that exist purely in their common imagination. This web allows humans alone to organise crusades, socialist revolutions and human rights movements.
- People weave a web of meaning, believe in it with all their heart, but sooner or later the web unravels, and when we look back we cannot understand how anybody could have taken it seriously. With hindsight, going on crusade in the hope of reaching Paradise sounds like utter madness. Our belief in democracy and human rights might look equally incomprehensible to our descendants.
- The power of human cooperation networks rests on a delicate balance between truth and fiction. If you stick to pure reality, without mixing any fiction, few people would follow you.
- Belief in national and religious myths might cause the outbreak of war, in which millions lose their homes, their limbs and even their lives. The cause of war is fictional, but the suffering is real. This is why we should strive to distinguish fiction from reality.
- Fiction isn't bad. It is vital. Without commonly accepted stories about things like money, states or corporations, no complex human society can function. But stories are just tools and shouldn't become our goals. Corporations, money and nations exist only in our imagination. We invented them to serve us; why do we find ourselves sacrificing our life in their service.
- The more painful the sacrifice, the more convinced people are of the existence of the imaginary recipient.

- Agricultural Revolution gave rise to theist religions, Scientific Revolution gave birth to humanist religions, in which humans replaced gods.
- Founding idea of humanist religions like liberalism, communism and nazism is humans has some unique and sacred essence that is the source of all meaning and authority in the universe. Religion and ideologies are mostly the same thing, fictitious products of sapiens.
- Science only deals with facts, but religion never confines itself to ethical judgements. Religion can't provide us with any practical guidance unless it makes some factual claims too, and here it may well collide with science. Most important segments of many religious dogmas aren't their ethical principles, but rather factual statements. Many of the most heated religious debates, and many of the conflicts between science and religion, involve such factual claims rather than ethical judgements.

Religious stories almost always include 3 parts:
1.  Ethical judgements: ‘human life is sacred’
2.  Factual statements: ‘human life begins at the moment of conception’
3.  Merge of ethical judgements with factual statements, resulting in practical guidelines: ‘you should never allow abortion, even a single day after conception’

- Can't maintain large social orders without religion. Religion provides the ethical justification for scientific research and in exchange gets to influence the scientific agenda. You can't understand the history of science without taking religious beliefs into account. Scientific Revolution began in one of the most intolerant and religious societies in history.
- Source of meaning and authority was relocated from the gods to human feelings. Heaven and hell changed from locations to internal mental states.

Modernity: Humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power
- Modernity motto: ‘shit happens’
- On the practical level, modern life consists of a constant pursuit of power within a universe devoid of meaning. Modern culture is the most powerful in history, and it is ceaselessly researching, inventing, discovering and growing. At the same time, it is plagued by more existential angst than any previous culture.
- Modernity, is based on the firm belief that economic growth is not only possible but is absolutely essential. ‘If you have a problem, you probably need more stuff, and in order to have more stuff, you must produce more of it.’
- Road to growth was blocked because people believed that holy scriptures already contained all the important knowledge the world had to offer. Scientific Revolution freed humankind from this conviction. The greatest scientific discovery was the discovery of ignorance.

- What some people hope to get by studying, working or raising a family, others try to obtain more easily through the right dosage of molecules. This is an existential threat to the social and economic order, which is why countries wage a stubborn, bloody and hopeless war on biochemical crime.
- The state hopes to regulate the biochemical pursuit of happiness, separating bad manipulations from good ones. Biochemical manipulations that strengthen political stability, social order and economic growth are encouraged. Manipulations that threaten stability and growth are banned. As the biochemical pursuit of happiness accelerates, it will reshape politics, society and economics, and it will become ever harder to bring it under control.

- In pursuit of health, happiness and power, humans will gradually change their features, until they are no longer human.
- Increasing human power relied mainly on upgrading our external tools. In the future we'll be upgrading the human body and mind, or merging with our tools. The upgrading of humans into gods may follow 3 paths: biological engineering, cyborg engineering and engineering of non-organic beings.
- As a species we fear becoming irrelevant when we hear of superhumans. Our identity, our dreams and even our fears will be irrelevant and we won't have anything to contribute. Whatever you are today in an upgraded world you will feel like a Neanderthal hunter in Wall Street. You won’t belong.
- When you develop bionic legs that enable paraplegics to walk again, you can also use the same technology to upgrade healthy people. No clear line separates healing from upgrading. Medicine almost always begins by saving people from falling below the norm, but same tools can be used to surpass the norm.

- Emotions are algorithms and no algorithm requires consciousness to run.
- Turing: It doesn't matter who you really are, it matters what others thought about you. It won’t matter if computers will actually be conscious. What people think matter.
- There has been immense advance in computer intelligence, zero advance in computer consciousness. Computers in 2016 are no more conscious than in the 1950s. But humans are in danger of losing their value, because intelligence is decoupling from consciousness.
- Armies and corporations cannot function without intelligent agents, but they don’t need consciousness and subjective experiences. Intelligence is mandatory but consciousness is optional.
- If you enter medical school today in the expectation of still being a family doctor in twenty years, maybe you should think again. With such a Watson around, there is not much need for Sherlocks. (IBM)
- If your CT indicates you have cancer, how about receiving the news from a caring and empathetic machine that tailors its words to your personality type?

1.  Every animal is an assemblage of organic algorithms shaped by natural selection & evolution.
2.  Algorithmic calculations aren't affected by the materials of the calculator.
3.  There is no reason for organic algorithms to do things that non-organic algorithms can't.

- Experts have repeatedly declared that something will ‘forever’ remain beyond the reach of non-organic algorithms. But it turns out ‘forever’ often means a few decades.
- There will be be autonomous algorithms like angels that work for owners interest behind their back and make critical decisions. Ex: Cortana, Siri, Alexa.
- Once Siris evolve from oracles to agents, they might start speaking directly with one another, on their masters’ behalf. My Siri contacting your Siri to agree on a place and time for a meeting. A potential employer tells me not to bother sending a CV, but simply allow his Siri to grill my Siri. Or my Siri may be approached by the Siri of a potential lover, and the two will compare notes to decide whether it’s a good match, unknown by their human owners.
- As Siris gain authority, they may begin manipulating each other to further the interests of their masters, so that success in the job market or the marriage market may depend on the quality of your Siri. Rich with newest Siri will have advantage over poor with older versions.
- When everybody uses the same oracle, and everybody believes the oracle, the oracle turns into a sovereign. (ex: Waze)
- The system will understand us better than we understand ourselves, and will make most of the important decisions for us. The system will deprive individuals of their authority and freedom.
- Age of the masses and mass medicine is over. As human soldiers and workers give way to algorithms, at least some elites may conclude that there is no point in providing improved or even standard conditions of health for masses of useless poor people, and it is far more sensible to focus on upgrading a handful of superhumans beyond the norm.

Death of Liberalism:
- According to the life sciences:
1.  Organisms are algorithms, and humans are not individuals, but are dividuals. Assemblage of many different algorithms lacking a single inner voice or a single self.
2.  Algorithms constituting a human are not free. They are shaped by genes and environmental pressures, and take decisions either deterministically or randomly, but not freely.
3.  External algorithm can know me much better than I can. Then the algorithm will know best, the algorithm will always be right.

- Three practical threats to liberalism:
1.  Humans will lose their economic and military usefulness, so the economic and political system will stop attaching much value to them.
2.  The system will still find value in humans collectively, but not in unique individuals. The system will know you better than you know yourself and will make most of the important decisions for you and you will be perfectly happy with that.
3.  The system will still find value in some unique individuals, but these will be a new elite of upgraded superhumans rather than the mass of the population.

- People will stop seeing themselves as autonomous beings and instead start seeing themselves as a collection of biochemical mechanisms constantly monitored and guided by a network of algorithms. For this to happen, there is no need of an external algorithm that knows me perfectly, it is enough that an external algorithm will know me better than I know myself, and will make fewer mistakes.
- Liberalism will collapse on the day the system knows me better than I know myself.
- We are suddenly showing unprecedented interest in the fate of lower life forms, perhaps because we are about to become one.
- You want to know how super-intelligent cyborgs might treat ordinary humans? Better start by investigating how humans treat their less intelligent animal cousins.

Dataism: Freedom of Information
- We can choose thousands of destinations for vacations. But we are likely to be playing with our phone instead of really seeing the place. We have more choice than ever before, but no matter what we choose, we have lost the ability to pay attention to it.
- In the past, censorship worked by blocking the flow of information. Now, censorship works by flooding people with irrelevant information. In ancient times having power meant having access to data. Today having power means knowing what to ignore.
- Capitalism won the because distributed data processing works better than centralised data processing, in periods of accelerating technological change.
- If humankind is a single data-processing system, its output will be the creation of a new and even more efficient data-processing system, called the Internet-of-All-Things. Once this mission is accomplished, we will vanish.
- We must prove to ourselves and to the system that we still have value. Value lies in turning experiences into free-flowing data.

- Dataist, sees the entire human species as a single data-processing system, with individual humans serving as chips. Human history is a process of improving the efficiency of this system:
1.  Increasing the number of processors. A city of 100,000 vs 1,000 people computing power.
2.  Increasing the variety of processors. Using several kinds of processors in a single system increases its dynamism and creativity. Peasant, priest, physician vs 3 hunter-gatherers.
3.  Increasing the number of connections between processors. Linking 10 cities will result in more innovations.
4.  Increasing the freedom of movement along existing connections. Connecting processors isn't useful if data cannot flow freely. Building roads between 10 cities won’t be very useful if they are robbed.

- Dataism commandments:
1. A Dataist ought to maximise data flow by connecting to more and more media, and producing and consuming more and more information.
2. Connect everything to the system, including heretics who don’t want to be connected. My body, cars, refrigerators, chickens and trees, all should be connected to the Internet-of-All-Things.
3. The greatest sin is to block the data flow. The freedom of information is the greatest good of all.

- When the car replaced the horse-drawn carriage, we didn’t upgrade the horses, we retired them. Perhaps it is time to do the same with Homo sapiens.
- Looking back, humanity will turn out to be just a ripple within the cosmic data flow.

Questions to remember:
1.  Are organisms really just algorithms, and is life really just data processing?
2.  What’s more valuable: intelligence or consciousness?
3.  What will happen to society, politics and daily life when non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms know us better than we know ourselves?
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading (Paperback Edition)
August 27, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read (Paperback Edition)
August 27, 2017 – Shelved (Paperback Edition)
September 7, 2017 – Shelved as: audio (Paperback Edition)
May 14, 2018 – Started Reading
May 14, 2018 – Shelved
July 12, 2018 – Finished Reading

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