Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval Noah

Israeli History Professor, Author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Author Quotes

The brief golden age of the last half-century may turn out to have sown the seeds of future catastrophe. Over the last few decades, we have been disturbing the ecological equilibrium of our planet. New ways, with what seems likely to be dire consequences. A lot of evidence indicates that we are destroying the foundations of human prosperity in an orgy of reckless consumption.

The only God that the Romans long refused to tolerate is the monotheistic and evangelizing God of the Christians. The Roman Empire did not require the Christians to give up their beliefs and rituals, but it did expect them to pay respect to the empires protector gods into the divinity of the Emperor. This was seen as a declaration of political loyalty. When the Christians vehemently refused to do so, and went on to reject all attempts at compromise, the Romans reacted by treating what they understood to be a politically subversive faction. And even this was done halfheartedly. In the 300 years from the cruise vacation of Christ to the conversion of Emperor Constantine, polytheistic Roman emperors initiated no more than four general persecutions of Christians? Romans killed no more than a few thousand Christians in contrast, over the course of the next 1500 years, Christians slaughtered Christians by the millions to defend slightly different interpretations of the religion of love and compassion. The religious wars between Catholics and Protestants that swept Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries are particularly notorious.

Were it not for businessmen seeking to make money, Columbus would not have reached America, James Cook would not have reached Australia, and Neil Armstrong would not have taken that small step us of the moon.

Domesticated chickens and cattle may well be an evolutionary success story, they are also among the most miserable creatures that ever lived. The domestication of animals, was found in on a series of brutal practices only became cruel passing of the centuries? Egg laying hens, dairy cows and draft animals are sometimes allowed to live for many years. The price is subjugation to a way of life completely alien?s and desires? In modern cat in an industrial meat form easily after birth the Separated from its mother locked inside a tiny cage body. There the Spends its entire life ? about four months on average. Never leaves the cage, allowed to play with other cats even walk ? all so that its muscles will not grow strong. Soft muscles in a soft juicy steak. First on the Has a chance to walk, stretches muscles and such other cats only to the slaughterhouse. In evolutionary terms, cattle represent the most successful animal species ever to exist. The same time, they are some of the most miserable animals on the planet.

Humanism is a belief that Homo sapiens has unique and sacred nature, which is fundamentally different from the nature of all other animals and of all other phenomena? The rest of the world and all other beings exist solely for the benefit of this species.

On 24 August 1572? St. Bartholomew?s Day massacre, between 5000 and 10,000 Protestants were slaughtered in less than 24 hours? More Christians were killed by fellow Christians in those 24 hours than by the polytheistic Roman Empire throughout its entire existence.

The code of Hammurabi of 1776 BC? Asserts that Babylonian social order is rooted in universal and eternal principles of justice, dictated by the gods. The principle of hierarchy is of paramount importance. According to the code, people are divided into two genders and three classes: superior people, commoners and slaves. Members of each gender and class have different values. The life of a female commoner is worth 30 silver shekels and that of a slave woman 20 silver shekels, rose the eye of a male commoner is worth 60 silver shekels. The code also establishes a strict hierarchy within families, according to which children are not independent persons, or rather the property of their parents.

The only thing we can try to do is influence the direction scientists are taking. But since we might soon be able to engineer our desires to, the real question facing us is not ?what do we want to become?? but ?what do we want to want?? Those who are not spooked by this question probably haven?t given it enough thought.

Western culture, as it has evolved in Europe, is characterized by democratic values, tolerance and gender equality, whereas Muslim culture, should evolve in the Middle East, is characterized by hierarchical politics, fanaticism and misogyny. Since the two cultures are so different, and since many Muslim immigrants are unwilling (and perhaps unable) to adopt Western values, they should not be allowed to enter, less faithful meant internal conflicts and corrode European democracy and liberalism.

Ecological degradation is not the same as resource scarcity? Many call this process ?the destruction of nature?. But it?s not really destruction, it?s change. Nature cannot be destroyed.

Humans have sought to understand the universe at least since the Cognitive Revolution. Our ancestors put a great deal of time and effort into trying to discover the rules that govern the natural world. Modern science differs all previous traditions of knowledge in three critical ways: (a) the willingness to admit ignorance. (b) the centrality of observation and mathematics. (c) the acquisition of new powers? The Scientific Revolution has not been a revolution of knowledge, it has been above all a revolution of ignorance. The great discovery that launched the Scientific Revolution was the discovery that humans do not know the answers to their most important questions? The willingness to admit ignorance has made modern science more dynamic, supple and inquisitive than any previous tradition of knowledge.

Our medieval ancestors were happy because they found meaning to life in collective delusions about the afterlife? Yes. As long as nobody punctured their fantasies, why shouldn?t they? As far as we can tell, for purely scientific viewpoint, human life has absolutely no meaning. Humans are the outcome of blind evolutionary processes that operate without goal or purpose. Our actions are not part of some divine cosmic plan? Hence any meaning that people ascribe to their lives is just a delusion? So perhaps happiness synchronizing one?s personal delusions of meaning with the prevailing collective delusions? This is quite a depressing conclusion. This happiness really depend on self-delusion?

The Colts of the free market. Capital and politics influence each other to such an extent that their relations are both debated by economists, politicians and the general public alike. Ardent capitalist tend to argue capital should be free to influence politics, politics should not be allowed to influence capital. They argued that when governments interfere in the markets, political interests cause them to make unwise investments that result in slower growth? But in its extreme form, belief in the free market is as na‹ve as belief in Santa Claus. There simply is no such thing as a market free of all political bias.

The pursuit of an easier life resulted in much hardship, and not for the last time. It happens to us today. How many young college graduates have taken demanding jobs in high-powered firms, bowing that they will work hard earned money that will enable them to retire their real interest when they are 35? By the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children school, houses in the suburbs that necessitate at least two cars per family, in a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad. Were they supposed to do, go back to digging up roots? No, the double their efforts to keep slaving away? Story of the luxury track carries with it an important lesson. Humanity search for an easier life released immense forces of change to transform the world in ways nobody envisioned or wanted. Such domesticated animals ? sheep, chickens, donkeys, and others ? supplied food and Karen meat, milk, eggs), raw materials (skins, wool) and muscle power. Transportation, plowing grinding and other test, hitherto performed by human sinew. Were increasingly carried out by animals. Most farming societies people focused on plant cultivation raising animals as a secondary activity. New kind of society also appeared in some places, based primarily on the exploitation of animals: tribes pastoralist herders.

When evaluating global happiness, it is wrong to count the happiness only of the upper classes, of Europeans or of men. Perhaps it is also wrong to consider only the happiness of humans.

Engineer completely inorganic beings? The Frankenstein myth confronts Homo sapiens with the fact that the last days are fast approaching. Unless some nuclear or ecological catastrophe intervenes, so goes the story, the pace of technological development will soon lead to the replacement of Homo sapiens by completely different beings who possess not only different physiques, but also very different cognitive and emotional worlds. This is something most sapience find extremely disconcerting. We like to believe that in the future people just like us will travel from planet to planet and fast spaceships. We don?t like to contemplate the possibility that in the future, beings with emotions and identities like ours will no longer exist, and our place will be taken by alien lifeforms is abilities dwarf our own? This is why the Gilgamesh project is the flagship of science. It serves to justify everything science does, Dr. Frankenstein piggybacks on the shoulders of Gilgamesh. Since it is impossible to stop Gilgamesh, it is also impossible to stop Dr. Frankenstein.

If people realized that human rights exist only in the imagination, isn?t there a danger that are tidy will collapse? ? And imagined order is always in danger of collapse, depends upon myths, and myths vanish once people stop believing in them. In order to safeguard an imagined order, tenuous in strenuous efforts are impaired? And imagined order cannot be sustained by violence alone. Criers some true believers as well.

Over the millennia, small, simple cultures gradually coalesce into bigger and more complex civilizations, so that the world contains fewer and fewer mega cultures, each of which is bigger and more complex. This is of course a very crude generalization, true only at the macro level. At the micro level, it seems that for every group of cultures that coalesces into a mega culture, there?s a mega culture that breaks up into pieces.

The currency of evolution is neither hunger nor pain, rather copies of DNA helix is. Just as the economic success company is measured only by the number of dollars in its bank account, not by the happiness of its ploys, so the evolutionary success is measured by the number of copies of its DNA. If no more DNA copies remain, BC since extinct, just as a company without money is bankrupt. If a species boast many DNA copies, it is a success and the species lurches. Such a perspective, 1000 copies are always better than 100.This is the essence of the agricultural revolution: the ability to keep more people live under worse conditions.

The revolutions of the last two centuries have been so swift and radical that they have changed the most fundamental characteristics of the social order. Traditionally, the social order was hard and rigid. ?Order? implied stability and continuity. Swift social revolutions were exceptional, and most social transformations resulted from the accumulation of numerous small steps? Over the last two centuries, the pace of change became so quick that the social order acquired a dynamic and malleable nature. It now exists in a state of permanent flux.

With rare exceptions, human brains are simply incapable of thinking through concepts like relativity and quantum mechanics. Physicists nevertheless managed to do so, because they set aside the traditional human way of thinking, and learn to think in new with the help of external data processing systems. Crucial parts of their thought process take place not in the head, but inside computers or on classroom blackboards. Although this system of writing remains a partial script, it has become the world?s dominant language. Almost all states, companies, organizations and institutions ? whether they speak Arabic, Hindi, English or Norwegian ? these mathematical script record and process data? Writing was born as the maidservant of human consciousness, but is increasingly becoming its master? The field of artificial intelligence is seeking to create a new kind of intelligence based solely on the binary script that computers.

Ever since the Cognitive Revolution, there hasn?t been a single natural way of life for sapiens. There were only cultural choices, from among a bewildering palette of possibilities.

Imagined order shapes our desires. Most people do not wish to accept order governing their lies is imaginary, but in fact every person is born into a pre-existing imagine order, and his or her desires are sheep from birth bites dominant myths. Our personal desires thereby become the imagine orders most important defenses.

Over time, states and markets used to their growing powers to weaken the traditional bonds of family and community. The state Senate?s policeman to stop family vendettas and replace them with court decisions. The market sentence hawkers to wipe out long-standing local conditions and replace them with ever-changing commercial fashions. Yet this was not enough. In order to really break the power of family and community, they needed the help of a fifth column. The state in the markets approach people with an offer that could not be refused. ?Become individuals,? they said. Marry whoever you desire, without asking permission from your parents. Take up whatever job suits you, even if community elders frowned. Live wherever you wish, even if you cannot make it every week to the family dinner. You are no longer dependent on your family or your community. We, the state and the market, will take care of you instead. We will provide food, shelter, education, health, welfare and employment. We?ll find pensions, insurance and protection.?? But the liberation of the individual comes at a cost. Many of us bewail the loss of strong families and communities and feel alienated and threatened by the power of the impersonal state and market wheeled over our lives.

The Discovery of Ignorance.

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Yuval Noah
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Israeli History Professor, Author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind