Read the first part here:
Famine, War, and Death is dead. What’s next? Homo Deus. [part1]
This is Yuval Noah Harari’s sequel to how humans conquered the world, how europeans were lucky to have horses and how…
In short, we no longer need to fight to survive, so what will we fight for?
What is next for humanity?
When the year comes that a tiny % of the global population are affected by famine, wars or disease, what will they all do? It seems unlikely that advancement will stop. So what direction will we focus?
Yuval thinks 3 directions have already been defined:
The Pursuit of Immortality
Fear of losing immortality
These will have huge implications on the people of the future. Immortality means nothing can kill you, but these people will be a-mortal — they won’t die unless something/one kills them. If you know you will not die of old age and can continue to be youthful you will unlikely take as many risks doing things we consider to be normal.
“We mortals daily take chances with our lives, because we know they are going to end.” If trekking, jumping off a boat into the sea or even crossing the road could take away an infinite life from you, would you do it?
If you can live to 150 years, will you still stay with just one group? Coming near the end, your memories of raising your children will be 120 years old.
If you can live to 150 years, can you imagine the change of life in that time and how you would have to stay current? Can you imagine having a boss who was born in the Victorian era and who won’t retire for a couple of years more?
Yuval doesn’t think so, but it will be challenging and will take a long time. We will need to work out how to slow ageing, keep the brain healthy as well as our bodies and have control of cell reproduction.
But as long as people die, people will want to help and hence is why Yuval defines it as the first goal of humanity now.
The Pursuit of Happiness
Jeremy Bentham declared that the sole aim of the state is to enforce that “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong”.
Education, Health and Welfare were simply tools that increased GDP and power of the states. Education made people more prosperous and able, healthcare kept them that way, and welfare ensured loyalty.
Otto von Bismarck — creator of the first welfare state in 1871, unifier of the German Empire, and a key part of late 19th century peacetime — reasoning behind the idea of state pensions and social security was the ensure loyalty.
None of this is happiness.
This has begun to change but it still is common for suicide rates to be dramatically higher is countries which have a much greater quality of life.
And it is evolutions fault. Yuval says, if there was ever a squirrel that achieved once it ate a nut it achieved an everlasting sensation of bliss, it would have surely died very quickly. It would have no drive to do anything and as such fail evolutions test. As such, he concludes, there is nothing that will content us — unless we rig the system with science.
He points to the growing us of psychiatric drugs that many people today use. That stigma is breaking and perhaps will the the solution to finding the balance of excitement, tranquility and contentment.
The Pursuit of Divinity
You may see a theme with the previous two goals; humans are aiming to elevate ourselves above the struggles of the nature and evolution. No room will be left for disease, suffering or harm; instead, man is god.
This is the ultimate goal, to have dominium to control and be free.
Yuval says there are three ways humans will upgrade to gods: biological, cyborg or non-organics.
Biological — Man’s command of Genes
We will not wait for natural selection, if it is even still valid. We will do it for ourselves. In truth, we already have.
In 2019, a Chinese doctor lied to ethics boards and completed a CRISPR gene editing work on IVF cells which lead to twins being born which could be resistant to HIV. He, which is also his name, was trying to replicate a mutation that occurs in “approximately 10% of Europeans”. His work received wide condemnation as it had been done without true ethics oversight, without informed consent and without strong scientific basis. Plus, other scientists have pointed out that the changes he has made has likely also resulted in the twins being more susceptible to other diseases.
Despite this first misstep, there will likely be a day where designer babies are a real concept.
Additionally, our mastery of the chemical world will allow us to control emotion, habit and achievement. Who wouldn’t want a pill to help them focus with no side effects?
Cyborg — Man‘s command of Machine
At the same time of integrating new genes, we are also integrating machines. Neil Habbison [pictured above] already has; the device can see colour (he can’t) and it vibrates at high frequency his skull.
Already we are quite happy with the idea of professions controlling joysticks which do things somewhere else. Think bomb defusal or Nuclear rod control.
Well, wouldn’t it be less clunky if we could directly interact with machines in our mind. Elon Musk thinks so, as do a number of others @ Neuralink and other companies.
Extrapolating from this, it seems possible that physical presence will no longer be needed, or moreover, presence will be possible everywhere. Yuval points to this:
“Why should a cyborg doctor hold a surgeon’s scalpel by hand, when she could connect her mind directly to the instrument?”
The only thing cyborg engineering is limited by is the brain; it assumes the brain is the only thing we can’t leave behind.
Non-Organics — Man’s control of Man
Once we have control of man’s being we can throw away biology. Biology is fragile, faulty and ageing. To leave it would turn man into God.
Man would be Omnipotent (all powerful to do what they like), Omniscience (all knowing) and Omnipresent (always present).
At this point, we can do anything so why try to predict that future, Yuval writes.
He goes further to say, as we start on this journey we will be changing the individual in ability but also their minds and desires hence prediction is impossible.
Homo Sapiens (literal translation of Wise Man) will disappear and leave in its place Homo Deus (God Man). The scary thing is that that the God Man may not have a link to a biological species of life. The God Man could be purely digital.
Yuval does point out that he is not saying we will achieve this all by X date. But he argues it is not the completion that will cause changes. Every try, every fractional improvement will change life to be unlike anything we have.
If you went to the year 3000, you would be irrelevant
We may well live under water, but unlike the Busted Song, there is much doubt that even walking around would make any sense in a world where we are genetically edited, or the body is simply a battery for the brain or everything could be done with the power of thought.
“In an upgraded world you would feel like a Neanderthal hunter in Wall Street”
Even if the inhabitants of the year 3000 are not Homo Deus, they will be closer to it than they are to you. They will likely age much slower, work in completely different ways, behave completely differently socially.
But human progress is not linear, the difference from Neanderthal to now is around 40,000 years. We would meet around 120 people in a lifetime (to surplus of 80,000 if you believe interview questions), farming won’t be invented for another 32,000 years, metal won’t be melted for 35,000 years.
There is no controller of economic or human progress, nobody can know everything, and no one can stop it.
Yuval points out that everything in our society requires growth and there will always be people who will want to invest and buy in improvement. Any person will look to improve something of their life and others will follow.
This goes for things and for us. There is no line between health and improvement. If you can design a baby to not have autism, is it not a good idea to stop a predisposition for obesity? Even if you disagree, many will not and then next generation will be improved and will look to improve again.