Yuval Noah Harari on the power of data, artificial intelligence and the future of the human race – @60minutes
2021-10-31 19:19 (EST) – Anderson
When Yuval Noah Harari published his first book, “Sapiens,” in 2014 about the history of the human species, it became a global bestseller, and turned the little-known, Israeli history professor into one of the most popular writers and thinkers on the planet. But when we met with Harari in Tel Aviv this summer, it wasn’t our species’ past that concerned him, it was our future. Harari believes we may be on the brink of creating not just a new, enhanced species of human, but an entirely new kind of being – one that is far more intelligent than we are. It sounds like science fiction, but Yuval Noah Harari says it’s actually much more dangerous than that.
Anderson Cooper: You said, “We are one of the last generations of Homo sapiens. Within a century or two, Earth will be dominated by entities that are more different from us than we are different from chimpanzees.”
Yuval Noah Harari: Yeah.
Anderson Cooper: What the hell does that mean? That freaked me out.
Yuval Noah Harari: You know we will soon have the power to re-engineer our bodies and brains, whether it is with genetic engineering or by directly connecting brains to computers, or by creating completely non-organic entities, artificial intelligence which is not based at all on the organic body and the organic brain. And these technologies are developing at break-neck speed.
Anderson Cooper: If that is true, then it creates a whole other species.
Yuval Noah Harari: This is something which is way beyond just another species.
Yuval Noah Harari is talking about the race to develop artificial intelligence, as well as other technologies like gene editing – that could one day enable parents to create smarter or more attractive children, and brain computer interfaces that could result in human/machine hybrids.
Anderson Cooper: What does that do to a society? It seems like the rich will have access whereas others wouldn’t.
Yuval Noah Harari: One of the dangers is that we will see in the coming decades a process of– of s– of– greater inequality than in any previous time in history because for the first time, it will be real biological inequality. If the new technologies are available only to the rich or only to people from a certain country then Homo sapiens will split into different biological castes because they really have different bodies and– and different abilities.
Harari has spent the last few years lecturing and writing about what may lie ahead for humankind.
Harari at Davos in 2018: In the coming generations we will learn how to engineer bodies and brains and minds.
He has written two books about the challenges we face in the future — “Homo Deus” and “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” — which along with “Sapiens” have sold more than 35 million copies and been translated into 65 languages. His writings have been recommended by President Barack Obama, as well as tech moguls, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg.
Anderson Cooper: You raise warnings about technology. You’re also embraced by a lot of folks in Silicon Valley.
Yuval Noah Harari: Yeah.
Anderson Cooper: Isn’t that sort of a contradiction?
Yuval Noah Harari: They are a bit afraid of their own power. That they have realized the immense influence they have over the world, over the course of evolution, really. And I think that spooks at least some of them. And that’s a good thing. And this is why they are kind of to some extent open to listening.
Anderson Cooper: You started as a history professor. What do you call yourself now?
Yuval Noah Harari: I’m still a historian. But I think history is the study of change, not just the study of the past. But it covers the future as well.
Harari got his Ph.D. in history at Oxford, and lives in Israel, where the past is still very present. He took us to an archeological site called Tel Gezer.
Harari says cities like this were only possible because about 70,000 years ago our species – Homo sapiens – experienced a cognitive change that helped us create language, which then made it possible for us to cooperate in large groups and drive Neanderthals and all other less cooperative human species into extinction.
Harari fears we are now the ones at risk of being dominated, by artificial intelligence.