Yuval Harari, author of “Sapiens,” on AI, religion, and 60-day meditation retreats

Tuesday 28 February 2017
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Yuval Noah Harari’s first book, “Sapiens,” was an international sensation. The Israeli historian’s mind-bending tour through the trump of Homo sapiens is a favorite of, among others, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barack Obama. His new book, Homo Deus, is about what comes next for humanity — and the threat our own intelligence and creative capacity poses to our future. And it, too, is fantastically interesting.&nbsp;<br><br>I’ve wanted to talk to Harari since reading Sapiens. I’ve had one big question about him: what kind of mind creates a book like that? And now I know. A clear one.<br><br>Virtually everything Harari says in this conversation in fascinating. But what I didn’t expect was how central his consistent practice of vipassana meditation — which includes a 60-day silent retreat each year — is to understanding the works of both history and futurism he produces. We talk about that, and also:<br><br>-His theory on how all large-scale collaboration is based on fictions, from mythologies and religions to nationalism to human rights<br><br>-Why he sees money as one of the greatest stories human beings have ever told<br><br>-Why he reads only 5-10 pages of a huge number of books<br><br>-His theory that human beings have moved from venerating gods, to venerating themselves, to venerating data — and what that means for our future<br><br>-How we treat other animals and what that might imply for how artificial intelligences could treat us&nbsp;<br><br>-Whether wide swaths of human beings will be rendered useless by advances in computing<br><br>-The ways in which a narrow idea of what intelligence is — and the way it relates to consciousness — is holding us back from understanding AI<br><br>This is one of my favorite conversations we’ve had. Enjoy!<br><br>&nbsp;<br><br>Books:<br><br>-Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, &amp; Steel<br>-Frans de Waal’s Chimpanzee Politics<br>-Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World

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