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Gude Man

Homo Deus A Brief History Of Tomorrow
Do you think you control your own destiny? The real power lies with the networks.

We are entering a new era. Human nature is changing. Intelligence is disconnected from our consciousness. We create computer power that is so strong that the computer system will know more about us than we know about ourselves. If this is true, then what are we reduced to, or elevated to?

Israeli superstar Yuval Noah Harari created international waves with his book Sapiens. A Brief History of Humankind (2011), translated into more than 30 languages. Today, Harari travels around the world giving lectures and giving interviews. But he has not finished his project. Now he has written the book Homo deus, where he continues where he left off. This time he looks into the future. The book is not for the dark-skinned, who need to cling to traditional images of God. This is existentially challenging. There is speculation, but still based on research and projections.

Algorithms and life. The book's thesis builds on arguments from Harari's previous book. Since we, as a species, developed language, we have developed common frameworks of understanding around certain ideas, such as the idea of ​​a homeland, borders, religion and money. These are just fictional realities, according to the author, but at the same time it is precisely this that has enabled us to have a large-scale collaboration between millions of individuals.

We have ergo given our lives meaning. Today's ruling humanism has made man and his needs the dominant creation of the universe. We are constantly upgrading with plastic surgery and more. But that's just the beginning. We have managed to create such powerful artificial algorithms and computer systems that we can transform ourselves into something else. Through the artificial intelligence machines possess, we now even see an almost eternal life – hence Homo deus.

The computers / programs / robots we build have no emotions, no consciousness and thus not the intelligence we think of as human. But the super machines we created simultaneously "know" us better than we know ourselves. This is a form of intelligence, says Harari. Google doesn't care about us, but the system can process our choices and preferences so it knows what we want before we do it ourselves. It has a certain potential to change what it means to be human.

The Almighty. We are omnipotent, Harari argues, although he does not deny that we face major environmental challenges that need to be addressed. But we have overcome nature, in the sense that we control it, and we have solved many of our "old" problems. There is less war, there is less hunger, and there is less disease. In many ways we have achieved this by being information units, writes Harari. By allowing the information to flow as freely as possible, we as a species have come a long way. Even our emotions can be seen as information that flows between our nerve cells. And this machine will eventually help to control.

Machines and computer systems are in many ways more efficient than states. No government today can understand all technological innovations that are happening. The information should flow faster and freer. We're just at the start. Countries that do not keep up will be the losers, not least the Middle East.

Homo Deus is a kind of "end-of-story book".

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Impossible to predict the future. Homo Deus is kind «end-of-history-book». Changes are happening now so quickly that it is actually impossible to know what the future might actually be. 100 years ago, our great-grandfathers could imagine the world 100 years in the future, and have an idea of ​​what it would look like. But to imagine what the world will look like in the year 2100 is almost impossible, Harari claims. And we don't know at all what our task, or role, as homo sapiens will be. Maybe we have no role at all? And traditional religions have little to contend with, where they try to find answers in ancient writings written in a completely different time.

According to Harari, individuals will not be crushed by Big Brother, but they will disintegrate from within, tied to the information units.

But can we stop this? Not necessarily, says Harari. To believe that we control our own destiny is just a belief. We find real power in networks. Single individuals are weak. It is like groups that we are strong. Through companies, religions and states we become part of large interconnected networks. And we communicate through information flows. And it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand up to the wave of information.

What we get instead of what we perceive as the gifts of modernity, namely liberalism, democracy and personal freedom, is a new religion: dataism. It has many followers, and the most religious of them are in what we know as Silicon Valley, California. Here reigns information, it is the only source of value. We are what we contribute to by computer processes. The nice thing about this is that everything is available and that we can quickly access what we need, which is a keystroke away. our likes and our experience goes into a higher unit.

Old-fashioned dystopias were about individuals who were oppressed by the state, as in 1984 by George Orwell. According to Harari, individuals will not be crushed by Big Brother, but they will disintegrate from within, tied to the information units. If you lack scruples, are computer savvy and smart and are willing to let your personal identity be attached to machines, then you can become part of the new god class.

The pig and us. Oh my God! I think. This is scary. But: Harari does not say that these wildest predictions strike. The future, as mentioned, is completely impossible to predict. To help us understand where we might end up, the author uses a value-based image, and then as a warning. He refers to the human relationship with our livestock, and especially food-producing animals, such as cows, chicken and pigs (this was a point he also visited in the previous book, and as vegan he has strong opinions). Animals have emotions and intelligence. Nevertheless, we torment them in industrialized agriculture. It does not bother us notably, despite the fact that pigs are in small iron cages and piglets are separated from mother as they are born. The same can happen to us, says Harari, if the power of the machines becomes too great. As little as we care about the pigs' feelings and intelligence, "intelligent" machines will not care about our intelligence, if we stand in the way of the information flood. I don't know if I can get that picture to go up, but I realize we have to do something about the most out of industrial agriculture.

This is a content-saturated book. We are drawn through human development history, and that bit is worth the book itself. And it all builds up to the last third of 400 compact pages. That part is not necessarily cheerful reading, but challenges the intellect and can be read as a manifester's manifesto.

We must dare to control ourselves. The topic is of course also discussed in the society around us, including a seminar at Fritt Ord in October. Here, international experts emphasized that computers must be used to facilitate human intelligence, and not the other way around. The smart technology we are now going to consider must be "ecologically sustainable, socially acceptable and not least it must create a desirable situation for humans" as philosophy professor Luiciani Floridi says in the article "Intelligence in the time of bullshit" by Toril Aarseth in Ny Tid , November 2016.

Harari has a high star because he masters what he says homo sapiens are best at, namely telling a good story. Some critical voices believe that his previous book had a number of factual errors, and quick and superficial conclusions. I think it's impossible to tell big story without any errors and a few shortcuts. It does not go beyond credibility or enjoyment.

I do not have enough computer knowledge to be able to say anything about the professional in the last third of Homo deus. Personally, I think the Internet is a fantastic place to be, and all new medical knowledge makes life for our loved ones easier when they need assistance. At the same time, I look with deep skepticism at the "likes culture" and the almost biochemical addiction young people now have to social media. And when mothers and fathers walk down the street with their kids, their eyes deep into the iPhone screen, what do they see? The start of the Godhead?

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Andrew P. Kroglund
Kroglund is a critic and writer. Also Secretary General of BKA (Grandparents' Climate Action).

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