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#68- Reality and Imagination A Conversation with Yuval Noah Harari

 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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19 March 2017 17:35
 

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Yuval Noah Harari about meditation, the need for stories, the power of technology to erase the boundary between fact and fiction, wealth inequality, the problem of finding meaning in a world without work, religion as a virtual reality game, the difference between pain and suffering, the future of globalism, and other topics.

#68- Reality and Imagination A Conversation with Yuval Noah Harari

This thread is for listeners’ comments.

 
NL.
 
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19 March 2017 19:29
 

Interesting podcast, although I don’t have a lot to say as this one was outside the “zone of dynamic tension” for me - aside from a few predictable points like religion, I was in agreement for most of the time so little to do but nod along. Of course I can always muse for awhile on meditation, ha ha, so on that point, I wished Harari had talked about one-pointed concentration (or if not one-pointed, then at least selfless ‘flow states’) when he said that people wouldn’t ultimately find satisfaction in virtual worlds because they would have the character of addiction - a lot of craving and little satisfaction. I think it’s possible that as people do trial and error feedback with marketing new stimuli, we might actually create very positive states for all the wrong reasons, or at least confused reasons (confusing the enjoyment of a flow state or deeply focused attention with the object of attention - whatever highly tailored-to-human-minds video game one happens to be playing.)


Regarding the redundant workforce of a hypothetically totally automated world - maybe I am just naive, but it seems to me that this is one of those tale as old as time stories. Thus far, it tends to end the same way - humans featherbed, or create elaborate bureaucracies, or find that new scenarios create new, never before thought of employment needs, and so on. It is rarely in anyone’s best interest to have billions of unemployed and bored people, no matter how cool video games have become.

 
 
GAD
 
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19 March 2017 19:57
 

You are not authorized to perform this action

 
 
Nhoj Morley
 
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19 March 2017 20:03
 

Are you alerting us to a technical issue or is this a new meme?

 
GAD
 
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19 March 2017 20:45
 
Nhoj Morley - 19 March 2017 08:03 PM

Are you alerting us to a technical issue or is this a new meme?

I follow more threads then I post to, but now I can’t subscribe by the subscribe button because all I get is that error, so I just post it as posting to a thread subscribes one to it. Until the forum bug is fixed seeing that from me just means I am following the thread and may comment if it gets interesting.

 
 
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19 March 2017 20:53
 

That is an interesting solution. Could I trouble you to keep trying occasionally and let us know when it works? We have a whole swarm of bugs.

 
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19 March 2017 22:29
 
Nhoj Morley - 19 March 2017 08:53 PM

That is an interesting solution. Could I trouble you to keep trying occasionally and let us know when it works? We have a whole swarm of bugs.

Will do.

 
 
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20 March 2017 09:41
 

Does anyone else get the impression from The Boss’s voice and inflection that he is tangibly disappointed with some of these conversations? This one and the Peterson conversations were full of moments where a topic started to catch flight and The Boss would step in and give it an encouraging nudge. Then, instead of soaring to the heights of depth that The Boss craves, the guest coasts a few feet off the ground and skims to a total loss of momentum leading to a climactic “uhm”.

Other guests like Lawrence Wright leave him barely containing his sense of intellectual FUN.

I’ve seen Mr. Harari’s series of Slow Lectures from a Large Chair.
Mr. Harari focuses on the emergence of storytelling without considering an emergence of a capacity to perceive them.

 
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20 March 2017 18:48
 
NL. - 19 March 2017 07:29 PM

Regarding the redundant workforce of a hypothetically totally automated world - maybe I am just naive, but it seems to me that this is one of those tale as old as time stories. Thus far, it tends to end the same way - humans featherbed, or create elaborate bureaucracies, or find that new scenarios create new, never before thought of employment needs, and so on. It is rarely in anyone’s best interest to have billions of unemployed and bored people, no matter how cool video games have become.

There are already billions of bored people, and there are many people who are underemployed. I think that Harari’s prediction, if you can call it that, was that the ranks of the underemployed is likely to grow, while the growth of lower-level, lower-paying jobs will encourage ‘escapism’ into virtual worlds. It would not be a surprising outcome.

 
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21 March 2017 08:15
 
Nhoj Morley - 20 March 2017 09:41 AM

Does anyone else get the impression from The Boss’s voice and inflection that he is tangibly disappointed with some of these conversations? This one and the Peterson conversations were full of moments where a topic started to catch flight and The Boss would step in and give it an encouraging nudge. Then, instead of soaring to the heights of depth that The Boss craves, the guest coasts a few feet off the ground and skims to a total loss of momentum leading to a climactic “uhm”.

Other guests like Lawrence Wright leave him barely containing his sense of intellectual FUN.

I’ve seen Mr. Harari’s series of Slow Lectures from a Large Chair.
Mr. Harari focuses on the emergence of storytelling without considering an emergence of a capacity to perceive them.

Listening is falling out of fashion.  Everybody wants to occupy the bridge and yet nobody wants to take part in properly maintaining the structure.  Any construction takes many hands and the more we get involved the more there is to celebrate the fruits of our labour.  Without thoughtful consultation we fail to upgrade and modify where necessary and that’s precisely where things are appearing to break down.  Leaving everyone stranded in a crumbling mess with the burden of rejoining everything from scratch.  Looking down at the disarray instead of up at the past efforts that provided a way to span the obstacles before us.  Then solving problems as they arise.  Aside from that it’s sometimes nice to simply marvel at the structure itself.  Merely for how aesthetically pleasing it is to the eyes.

 
 
NL.
 
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21 March 2017 13:04
 
Otto117 - 20 March 2017 06:48 PM
NL. - 19 March 2017 07:29 PM

Regarding the redundant workforce of a hypothetically totally automated world - maybe I am just naive, but it seems to me that this is one of those tale as old as time stories. Thus far, it tends to end the same way - humans featherbed, or create elaborate bureaucracies, or find that new scenarios create new, never before thought of employment needs, and so on. It is rarely in anyone’s best interest to have billions of unemployed and bored people, no matter how cool video games have become.

There are already billions of bored people, and there are many people who are underemployed. I think that Harari’s prediction, if you can call it that, was that the ranks of the underemployed is likely to grow, while the growth of lower-level, lower-paying jobs will encourage ‘escapism’ into virtual worlds. It would not be a surprising outcome.


‘Bored’ and ‘employed’ (or ‘actively engaged’) are relative terms, but in this particular instance I think the metric would be ‘as compared to the situations our minds evolved in’. And I don’t think billions of people are more bored or less employed than they were during the Paleolithic era, even though I think it’s at least hypothetically possible that they could be.


Maybe virtual reality will finally be the piece of technology that rots our minds for good. But I tend to be cynical, as people have been saying such things since (at least) radio was invented. Maybe it will be just the opposite - after exploring rich virtual worlds our great great grandchildren will have richer, more complex minds to bring to real world social interaction. I don’t claim to know but to me the answer is so hazy at this point that I’m not willing to bet on any one particular direction over another.

 
 
Otto117
 
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21 March 2017 19:03
 
NL. - 21 March 2017 01:04 PM
Otto117 - 20 March 2017 06:48 PM
NL. - 19 March 2017 07:29 PM

Regarding the redundant workforce of a hypothetically totally automated world - maybe I am just naive, but it seems to me that this is one of those tale as old as time stories. Thus far, it tends to end the same way - humans featherbed, or create elaborate bureaucracies, or find that new scenarios create new, never before thought of employment needs, and so on. It is rarely in anyone’s best interest to have billions of unemployed and bored people, no matter how cool video games have become.

There are already billions of bored people, and there are many people who are underemployed. I think that Harari’s prediction, if you can call it that, was that the ranks of the underemployed is likely to grow, while the growth of lower-level, lower-paying jobs will encourage ‘escapism’ into virtual worlds. It would not be a surprising outcome.


‘Bored’ and ‘employed’ (or ‘actively engaged’) are relative terms, but in this particular instance I think the metric would be ‘as compared to the situations our minds evolved in’. And I don’t think billions of people are more bored or less employed than they were during the Paleolithic era, even though I think it’s at least hypothetically possible that they could be.

I suppose it depends on whether you think spending many hours hunting/fishing and food gathering would provide less time to be bored than buying your food at the supermarket. However, I don’t see why the metric should be the EEA, given that the choice of distractions or possibilities of escape from boredom are thoroughly modern. But I see your point: that it may not be a question of boredom so much as simply the attractive possibilities for diversion.

 
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22 March 2017 04:33
 

Plenty of people have full-time jobs in the new economy, jobs that are safe from automation:

- build your virtual farm and kill pigs with projectile avians.

Plenty of games are set up to provide the same, if not greater, sense of accomplishment than what most people get from a 9 to 5 jobs.

I don’t think that people will miss jobs which have little tangible impact for better or worse on the lives of other people.

 
 
LadyJane
 
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22 March 2017 06:53
 

The standard “housekeeping” that dominates the first several minutes of these podcasts seems to indicate Mr. Harris is compelled to address his feelings of a widespread misconstruing of the views expressed, during the podcasts, found on various forms of social media.  Allowing the podcast to proceed with the invited guest as planned without the preamble is another way to go.  The mention of past transgressions only casts an unnecessary and unfortunate shadow on the current conversation.  I don’t care about any of that.  I am here to hear the discussion they’re having here.  I think that is primarily what leads to the trepidation when entertaining these events.
   
There were about three or four moments during this podcast that had the potential to springboard into fascinating areas.  Areas that should compel us to explore them on the many pages available here at this forum.  And Mr. Harris is holding back for some reason.  The reluctance may be in anticipating the blowback and allowing that to inform which battles he’s willing to pick and choose.  Mr. Harari rejected the terms optimistic and pessimistic and then immediately turned around and referred to the concepts of good and bad.  It seemed like an appropriate moment to clarify what he meant by those terms and yet Mr. Harris refrained.  It’s hard to know what to make of that considering his listening skills are sharp as a tack. 

Without ascertaining the capacity for an audience to perceive what you are saying increases the likelihood of it failing to land.  Although, without asking an author the probing questions, using whatever methods of communication made available, how will they know when they are reaching an audience?  Which leads me to wonder where the line is between evaluating something critically and being combative for argument’s sake.

 
 
NL.
 
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22 March 2017 07:30
 
Otto117 - 21 March 2017 07:03 PM

I suppose it depends on whether you think spending many hours hunting/fishing and food gathering would provide less time to be bored than buying your food at the supermarket. However, I don’t see why the metric should be the EEA, given that the choice of distractions or possibilities of escape from boredom are thoroughly modern. But I see your point: that it may not be a question of boredom so much as simply the attractive possibilities for diversion.


I chose that standard because in terms of boredom causing mass instability, I think it would have to be outside the range of what a human mind is already acclimated to accommodate. Of course there’s probably a nature / nurture component but evolution seems like a good baseline as a rough guide. Humans may be ‘bored’, but not in a sense of the word that is unusual or extraordinary for us - we’re probably about as bored as we’ve always been (the one aspect that may well be quite different is the boredom that comes from social isolation - I do think that is a pretty new phenomenon for us, we evolved to live in groups.)


Anyways, I thought the heroin / virtual reality discussion was interesting because to my mind those would likely be two very different things. If we succeeded in inventing something like soma, or putting electrodes directly into our reward circuitry, well, if that was an accepted lifestyle it might really be the last generation of humans. Virtual reality, on the other hand, could impact our minds like the printing press or the internet, I would think. That might be a good thing (theory of mind and creativity exploding as people explored unprecedented new landscapes,) or a bad one (lack of social cohesion and carelessness as people became accustomed to interacting with virtual people of their own creation).

 
 
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22 March 2017 10:47
 

Harari’s talk of a future where people have no work, no meaning in life and who spend their days playing virtual reality games, is already here. This description fits a group called “The Oxy Electorate,” the majority of which voted for Trump this past election. It consists of primarily white men, unemployed, hooked on Oxycontin, who spend their days playing video games. They voted for Trump to upend the system, a system that they felt had dealt them a losing hand.

If this is the future, then, to quote Leonard Cohen: “I’ve seen the future, brother. It is murder.”

http://tinyurl.com/mwv5n9l

 
 
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