Homo Deus
Homo Deus

Homo Deus

For the first time in history, more people die today from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals combined. (Location 125)

Tags: the modern world is good, obesity

Note: We have mostly erradicated the issue of starvation,plagues and war

Mass famines still strike some areas from time to time, but they are exceptional, and they are almost always caused by human politics rather than by natural catastrophes. There are no longer natural famines in the world; there are only political famines. If people in Syria, Sudan or Somalia starve to death, it is because some politician wants them to. (Location 162)

Tags: famine, the modern world is good

Note: There are no longer natural famines in the world

Until the modern era, humans blamed diseases on bad air, malicious demons and angry gods, and did not suspect the existence of bacteria and viruses. People readily believed in angels and fairies, but they could not imagine that a tiny flea or a single drop of water might contain an entire armada of deadly predators. (Location 205)

Note: People blamed the spread of disease on bad air or the gods. They did not know it came from bacteria in water or carried by fleas

However, both the incidence and impact of epidemics have gone down dramatically in the last few decades. In particular, global child mortality is at an all-time low: less than 5 per cent of children die before reaching adulthood. In the developed world the rate is less than 1 per cent.11 This miracle is due to the unprecedented achievements of twentieth-century medicine, which has provided us with vaccinations, antibiotics, improved hygiene and a much better medical infrastructure. For example, a global campaign of smallpox vaccination was so successful that in 1979 the World Health Organization declared that humanity had won, and that smallpox had been completely eradicated. It was the first epidemic humans had ever managed to wipe off the face of the earth. In 1967 smallpox had still infected 15 million people and killed 2 million of them, but in 2014 not a single person was either infected or killed by smallpox. The victory has been so complete that today the WHO has stopped vaccinating humans against smallpox. (Location 249)

Tags: the modern world is good

Note: Humans have won the war against smallpox

Despite the horrendous toll AIDS has taken, and despite the millions killed each year by long-established infectious diseases such as malaria, epidemics are a far smaller threat to human health today than in previous millennia. The vast majority of people die from non-infectious illnesses such as cancer and heart disease, or simply from old age.17 (Incidentally cancer and heart disease are of course not new illnesses – they go back to antiquity. In previous eras, however, relatively few people lived long enough to die from them.) (Location 280)

Tags: pandemic, the modern world is good

Note: Very few people die from infectious diseases. Most die from diseases such as cancer, heart disease and old age

In 2012 about 56 million people died throughout the world; 620,000 of them died due to human violence (war killed 120,000 people, and crime killed another 500,000). In contrast, 800,000 committed suicide, and 1.5 million died of diabetes.23 Sugar is now more dangerous than gunpowder. (Location 326)

Note: 620000 people die every year from violence. 1.5 million die from diabetes

Nuclear weapons have turned war between superpowers into a mad act of collective suicide, and therefore forced the most powerful nations on earth to find alternative and peaceful ways to resolve conflicts. (Location 330)

Note: Nuclear weapons help prevent war as all countries would suffer huge losses

the global economy has been transformed from a material-based economy into a knowledge-based economy. Previously the main sources of wealth were material assets such as gold mines, wheat fields and oil wells. Today the main source of wealth is knowledge. And whereas you can conquer oil fields through war, you cannot acquire knowledge that way. Hence as knowledge became the most important economic resource, the profitability of war declined and wars became increasingly restricted to those parts of the world – such as the Middle East and Central Africa – where the economies are still old-fashioned material-based economies. (Location 332)

Note: Economies have shifted from being material based to knowledge based. It is thus less profitable to take over another country

terrorism is a strategy of weakness adopted by those who lack access to real power. At least in the past, terrorism worked by spreading fear rather than by causing significant material damage. Terrorists usually don’t have the strength to defeat an army, occupy a country or destroy entire cities. Whereas in 2010 obesity and related illnesses killed about 3 million people, terrorists killed a total of 7,697 people across the globe, most of them in developing countries.25 For the average American or European, Coca-Cola poses a far deadlier threat than al-Qaeda. (Location 373)

Tags: fear, terrorism

Note: Terrorism is a strategy of fear. Less than 10,000 people die per year because of terrorism

Terrorists are like a fly that tries to destroy a china shop. The fly is so weak that it cannot budge even a single teacup. So it finds a bull, gets inside its ear and starts buzzing. The bull goes wild with fear and anger, and destroys the china shop. This is what happened in the Middle East in the last decade. Islamic fundamentalists could never have toppled Saddam Hussein by themselves. Instead they enraged the USA by the 9/11 attacks, and the USA destroyed the Middle Eastern china shop for them. Now they flourish in the wreckage. (Location 383)

Tags: terrorism

Note: .terrorism

The physicist Max Planck famously said that science advances one funeral at a time. He meant that only when one generation passes away do new theories have a chance to root out old ones. (Location 508)

Tags: science, quotes, favorite

Note: it takes the passing of a generattion to make room for the ideas of the next

happiness depends on expectations rather than objective conditions.

We don’t become satisfied by leading a peaceful and prosperous existence. Rather, we become satisfied when reality matches our expectations.

The bad news is that as conditions improve, expectations balloon. Dramatic improvements in conditions, as humankind has experienced in recent decades, translate into greater expectations rather than greater contentment. If we don’t do something about this, our future achievements too might leave us as dissatisfied as ever. (Location 644)

Tags: hedonic adaptation, expectation, favorite

Note: Your happiness depends on your expectations

To attain real happiness, humans need to slow down the pursuit of pleasant sensations, not accelerate it. (Location 761)

Tags: happiness

Note: We need to slow down our pursuit of pleasant experiences to have happiness

The Buddha’s suggestion was to reduce our craving for pleasant sensations, and not allow them to control our lives. According to Buddha, we can train our minds to observe carefully how all sensations constantly arise and pass. When the mind learns to see our sensations for what they are – ephemeral and meaningless vibrations – we lose interest in pursuing them. For what is the point of running after something that disappears as fast as it arises? (Location 765)

Tags: desires

Note: Buddha suggests we reduce our cravings for pleasure

The upgrading of humans into gods may follow any of three paths: biological engineering, cyborg engineering and the engineering of non-organic beings. (Location 784)

bioengineers will take the old Sapiens body, and intentionally rewrite its genetic code, rewire its brain circuits, alter its biochemical balance, and even grow entirely new limbs. They will thereby create new godlings, who might be as different from us Sapiens as we are different from Homo erectus. (Location 791)

Note: Bioengineering will look to rewrite our genetic composition

Cyborg engineering will go a step further, merging the organic body with non-organic devices such as bionic hands, artificial eyes, or millions of nano-robots that will navigate our blood stream, diagnose problems and repair damage. (Location 793)

Homo sapiens is likely to upgrade itself step by step, merging with robots and computers in the process, until our descendants will look back and realise that they are no longer the kind of animal that wrote the Bible, built the Great Wall of China and laughed at Charlie Chaplin’s antics. This will not happen in a day, or a year. Indeed, it is already happening right now, through innumerable mundane actions. Every day millions of people decide to grant their smartphone a bit more control over their lives or try a new and more effective antidepressant drug. In pursuit of health, happiness and power, humans will gradually change first one of their features and then another, and another, until they will no longer be human. (Location 871)

Note: We are upgrading ourselves slowly, granting greater and greater access to technology in our lives

No clear line separates healing from upgrading. Medicine almost always begins by saving people from falling below the norm, but the same tools and know-how can then be used to surpass the norm. (Location 918)

Note: Once humans start healing they will then move to upgrading

Suppose a genetic test indicates that your would-be daughter will in all likelihood be smart, beautiful and kind – but will suffer from chronic depression. Wouldn’t you want to save her from years of misery by a quick and painless intervention in the test tube? And while you are at it, why not give the child a little push? Life is hard and challenging even for healthy people. So it would surely come in handy if the little girl had a stronger-than-normal immune system, an above-average memory or a particularly sunny disposition. And even if you don’t want that for your child – what if the neighbours are doing it for theirs? Would you have your child lag behind? And if the government forbids all citizens from engineering their babies, what if the North Koreans are doing it and producing amazing geniuses, artists and athletes that far outperform ours? And like that, in baby steps, we are on our way to a genetic child catalogue. (Location 958)

Tags: newsletter, bioengineering, favorite

Note: Great example of the slippery slope to bio engineering

This is the paradox of historical knowledge. Knowledge that does not change behaviour is useless. But knowledge that changes behaviour quickly loses its relevance. The more data we have and the better we understand history, the faster history alters its course, and the faster our knowledge becomes outdated. (Location 1019)

Note: Knowledge that changes behaviour losses its relevancy quickly

the study of history aims above all to make us aware of possibilities we don’t normally consider. Historians study the past not in order to repeat it, but in order to be liberated from it. (Location 1039)

Note: The study of history makes us aware of possibilities we dont normally consider

Only a string of chance events created the unjust world we know today. If we act wisely, we can change that world, and create a much better one.’ (Location 1053)

The idea of nurturing a lawn at the entrance to private residences and public buildings was born in the castles of French and English aristocrats in the late Middle Ages. In the early modern age this habit struck deep roots, and became the trademark of nobility. Well-kept lawns demanded land and a lot of work, particularly in the days before lawnmowers and automatic water sprinklers. In exchange, they produce nothing of value. You can’t even graze animals on them, because they would eat and trample the grass. Poor peasants could not afford wasting precious land or time on lawns. The neat turf at the entrance to chateaux was accordingly a status symbol nobody could fake. It boldly proclaimed to every passerby: ‘I am so rich and powerful, and I have so many acres and serfs, that I can afford this green extravaganza.’ The bigger and neater the lawn, the more powerful the dynasty. If you came to visit a duke and saw that his lawn was in bad shape, you knew he was in trouble. (Location 1060)

Tags: newsletter

Note: Lawns are a status symbol. They showed nobility were rich enough to have land dedicated to grass and servents to maintain it

This is the best reason to learn history: not in order to predict the future, but to free yourself of the past and imagine alternative destinies. (Location 1108)

Tags: history

Homo sapiens does its best to forget the fact, but it is an animal. (Location 1137)

Note: We are animals!

People are usually afraid of change because they fear the unknown. But the single greatest constant of history is that everything changes. (Location 1159)

Tags: change

Note: People are afraid of change, and everything changes .change

Whereas the Agricultural Revolution gave rise to theist religions, the Scientific Revolution gave birth to humanist religions, in which humans replaced gods. While theists worship theos (Greek for ‘god’), humanists worship humans. The founding idea of humanist religions such as liberalism, communism and Nazism is that Homo sapiens has some unique and sacred essence that is the source of all meaning and authority in the universe. Everything that happens in the cosmos is judged to be good or bad according to its impact on Homo sapiens. (Location 1606)

Note: the scientific revolution paved the way for humans to replace gods

Whereas theism justified traditional agriculture in the name of God, humanism has justified modern industrial farming in the name of Man. Industrial farming sanctifies human needs, whims and wishes, while disregarding everything else. (Location 1610)

Note: Industrial farming only considers humans needs and nothing else

doctors have recently managed to communicate with such patients using fMRI imaging. They ask the patients yes/no questions, telling them to imagine themselves playing tennis if the answer is yes, and to visualise the location of their home if the answer is no. The doctors can then observe how the motor cortex lights up when patients imagine playing tennis (meaning ‘yes’), whereas ‘no’ is indicated by the activation of brain areas responsible for spatial memory. (Location 1924)

Humans nowadays completely dominate the planet not because the individual human is far smarter and more nimble-fingered than the individual chimp or wolf, but because Homo sapiens is the only species on earth capable of cooperating flexibly in large numbers. Intelligence and toolmaking were obviously very important as well. But if humans had not learned to cooperate flexibly in large numbers, our crafty brains and deft hands would still be splitting flint stones rather than uranium atoms. (Location 2124)

Note: Humans ability to cooperate in larg numbers allowed us to rise to our position of power

All large-scale human cooperation is ultimately based on our belief in imagined orders. These are sets of rules that, despite existing only in our imagination, we believe to be as real and inviolable as gravity. (Location 2303)

Note: All large scale human cooperation is based on imaginary orders

Yet over decades and centuries the web of meaning unravels and a new web is spun in its place. To study history means to watch the spinning and unravelling of these webs, and to realise that what seems to people in one age the most important thing in life becomes utterly meaningless to their descendants. (Location 2354)

That’s how history unfolds. People weave a web of meaning, believe in it with all their heart, but sooner or later the web unravels, and when we look back we cannot understand how anybody could have taken it seriously. (Location 2407)

Sapiens rule the world because only they can weave an intersubjective web of meaning: a web of laws, forces, entities and places that exist purely in their common imagination. This web allows humans alone to organise crusades, socialist revolutions and human rights movements. (Location 2412)

as long as Sapiens remained hunter-gatherers they could not cooperate on a truly massive scale, because it was impossible to feed a city or a kingdom by hunting and gathering. Consequently the spirits, fairies and demons of the Stone Age were relatively weak entities. The Agricultural Revolution, which began about 12,000 years ago, provided the necessary material base for enlarging and strengthening the intersubjective networks. (Location 2467)

Note: The agricultural revolution provided the base for intersubjective networks to grow

Prior to the invention of writing, stories were confined by the limited capacity of human brains. You couldn’t invent overly complex stories which people couldn’t remember. But with writing you could suddenly create extremely long and intricate stories, which were stored on tablets and papyri rather than in human heads. (Location 2522)

Note: Writing enables to have more complex stories

Anyone who has ever dealt with the tax authorities, the education system or any other complex bureaucracy knows that the truth hardly matters. What’s written on your form is far more important. (Location 2628)

Note: The truth doesnt matter. Whats written on the form matters

Yet in fact modernity is a surprisingly simple deal. The entire contract can be summarised in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power. (Location 3136)

In exchange for giving up power, premodern humans believed that their lives gained meaning. It really mattered whether they fought bravely on the battlefield, whether they supported the lawful king, whether they ate forbidden foods for breakfast or whether they had an affair with the next-door neighbour. (Location 3143)

We are not actors in any larger-than-life drama. Life has no script, no playwright, no director, no producer – and no meaning. To the best of our scientific understanding, the universe is a blind and purposeless process, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing. During our infinitesimally brief stay on our tiny speck of a planet, we fret and strut this way and that, and then are heard of no more. (Location 3150)

Tags: perspective, #newsletter, favorite

Note: Our time on earth is very brief and there is no higher purpose or meaning

stagnation resulted to a large extent from the difficulties involved in financing new projects. Without adequate funding, it wasn’t easy to drain swamps, construct bridges and build ports – not to mention engineer new wheat strains, discover new energy sources or open new trade routes. Funds were scarce because there was little credit in those days; there was little credit because people had no belief in growth; and people didn’t believe in growth because the economy was stagnant. Stagnation thereby perpetuated itself. (Location 3180)

Note: A belief in growth is required for credit. Without credit it is difficult to grow

Modern politicians and economists insist that growth is vital for three principal reasons. Firstly, when we produce more, we can consume more, raise our standard of living and allegedly enjoy a happier life. Secondly, as long as humankind multiplies, economic growth is needed merely to stay where we are. For example, in India the annual population growth rate is 1.2 per cent. That means that unless the Indian economy expands each year by at least 1.2 per cent, unemployment will rise, salaries will fall and the average standard of living will decline. Thirdly, even if Indians stop multiplying, and even if the Indian middle class can be satisfied with its current standard of living, what should India do about its hundreds of millions of poverty-stricken citizens? If the economy doesn’t grow, and the pie therefore remains the same size, you can give more to the poor only by taking something from the rich. (Location 3230)

Tags: economy

The greatest scientific discovery was the discovery of ignorance. Once humans realised how little they knew about the world, they suddenly had a very good reason to seek new knowledge, which opened up the scientific road to progress. (Location 3340)

Note: The discovery of ignorance gave humans and good reason to seek more knowledge

Humanism thus sees life as a gradual process of inner change, leading from ignorance to enlightenment by means of experiences. The highest aim of humanist life is to fully develop your knowledge through a wide variety of intellectual, emotional and physical experiences. In the early nineteenth century Wilhelm von Humboldt – one of the chief architects of the modern education system – said that the aim of existence is ‘a distillation of the widest possible experience of life into wisdom’. (Location 3732)

No culture in history has ever given such importance to human feelings, desires and experiences. The humanist view of life as a succession of experiences has become the founding myth of numerous modern industries, from tourism to art. Travel agents and restaurant chefs do not sell us flight tickets, hotels or fancy dinners – they sell us novel experiences. (Location 3743)

Tags: humanism

Note: Humanism has a view of life being a series of experiences

liberal politics that believes the voter knows best. Liberal art holds that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Liberal economics maintains that the customer is always right. Liberal ethics advises us that if it feels good, we should go ahead and do it. Liberal education teaches us to think for ourselves, because we will find all the answers within. (Location 3860)

Note: Liberal politics advocates that the voter knows best .politicss

Socialist humanism has taken a very different course. Socialists blame liberals for focusing our attention on our own feelings instead of on what other people experience. Yes, the human experience is the source of all meaning, but there are billions of people in the world and all of them are just as valuable as I am. Whereas liberalism turns my gaze inwards, emphasising my uniqueness and the uniqueness of my nation, socialism demands that I stop obsessing about me and my feelings and instead focus on what others are feeling and how my actions influence their experiences. (Location 3912)

Note: Socialism looks at what others are feeling and how my actions effect them

Who was I apart from the angry bitter gnomes that populate my mind and drive me to failure because I’m too scared to try? And where did those voices come from?’7 Some of those voices repeat society’s prejudices, some echo our personal history, and some articulate our genetic legacy. All of them together, says Sally, create an invisible story that shapes our conscious decisions in ways we seldom grasp. What would happen if we could rewrite our inner monologues, or even silence them completely on occasion? (Location 4473)

Note: Inner voices shape our conscious decisions

One colonoscopy lasted eight minutes, at the worst moment the patient reported a level 8 pain, and in the last minute he reported a level 7 pain. After the test was over this patient ranked his overall pain level at 7.5. Another colonoscopy lasted twenty-four minutes. This time too peak pain was at level 8, but in the very last minute of the test, the patient reported a level 1 pain. This patient ranked his overall pain level at only 4.5. The fact that his colonoscopy lasted three times longer, and that he consequently suffered far more pain on aggregate, did not affect his memory at all. The narrating self doesn’t aggregate experiences – it averages them. (Location 4588)

the more sacrifices we make for an imaginary story, the more tenaciously we hold on to it, because we desperately want to give meaning to these sacrifices and to the suffering we have caused. (Location 4651)

A crippled soldier who lost his legs would rather tell himself, ‘I sacrificed myself for the glory of the eternal Italian nation!’ than ‘I lost my legs because I was stupid enough to believe self-serving politicians.’ It is much easier to live with the fantasy, because the fantasy gives meaning to the suffering. (Location 4676)

Tags: meaning, sacrifice

Note: We often attach meaning to sAcrifice and suffering to help us live with it

The more painful the sacrifice, the more convinced they will be of the existence of the imaginary recipient. A poor peasant sacrificing a valuable bull to Jupiter will become convinced that Jupiter really exists, otherwise how can he excuse his stupidity? The peasant will sacrifice another bull, and another, and another, just so he won’t have to admit that all the previous bulls were wasted. (Location 4681)

Tags: favorite

Note: The more painful the sacrifice the more we believe in the illusion. This is similar to hazing for intro to groups.

Our narrating self would much prefer to continue suffering in the future, just so it won’t have to admit that our past suffering was devoid of all meaning. (Location 4697)

Note: We continue suffering because we dont want to admit our previous suffering was in vain

The conscious experiences of a flesh-and-blood taxi driver are infinitely richer than those of a self-driving car, which feels absolutely nothing. The taxi driver can enjoy music while navigating the busy streets of Seoul. His mind may expand in awe as he looks up at the stars and contemplates the mysteries of the universe. His eyes may fill with tears of joy when he sees his baby girl taking her very first step. But the system doesn’t need all that from a taxi driver. All it really wants is to bring passengers from point A to point B as quickly, safely and cheaply as possible. And the autonomous car will soon be able to do that far better than a human driver, even though it cannot enjoy music or be awestruck by the magic of existence. (Location 4819)

An ordinary farm horse can smell, love, recognise faces, jump over fences and do a thousand other things far better than a Model T Ford or a million-dollar Lamborghini. But cars nevertheless replaced horses because they were superior in the handful of tasks that the system really needed. Taxi drivers are highly likely to go the way of horses. (Location 4825)

Tags: techadvances

Note: .techadvances Taxi drivers are likely to go the way of horses

The training of a human doctor is a complicated and expensive process that lasts years. When the process is complete, after a decade or so of studies and internships, all you get is one doctor. If you want two doctors, you have to repeat the entire process from scratch. In contrast, if and when you solve the technical problems hampering Watson, you will get not one, but an infinite number of doctors, available 24/7 in every corner of the world. So even if it costs $100 billion to make it work, in the long run it would be much cheaper than training human doctors. (Location 4897)

Note: Doctors scale very poory compared to Watson! It takes 10 years to train one doctor

When you phone customer services with a request or complaint, Mattersight routes your call by a clever algorithm. You first state your reason for calling. The algorithm listens to your problem, analyses the words you have used and your tone of voice, and deduces not only your present emotional state but also your personality type – introverted, extroverted, rebellious or dependent. Based on this information the algorithm forwards your call to the representative who best matches your mood and personality. The algorithm knows whether you need an empathetic person to listen patiently to your complaints, or a no-nonsense rational type who will give you the quickest technical solution. (Location 4925)

Tags: voice, call centre, customer service

Note: Call centre routes callers to agents most similar to their personality type

From a liberal perspective, it is perfectly all right that one person is a billionaire living in a sumptuous chateau, whereas another is a poor peasant living in a straw hut. For according to liberalism, the peasant’s unique experiences are still just as valuable as the billionaire’s. That’s why liberal authors write long novels about the experiences of poor peasants – and why even billionaires avidly read such books. (Location 5401)

Note: Everyones experiences are of equal value

The same logic operates on election day, when the vote of the poor peasant counts for exactly the same as the billionaire’s. The liberal solution for social inequality is to give equal value to different human experiences, instead of trying to create the same experiences for everyone. (Location 5406)

In the twentieth century medicine benefited the masses because the twentieth century was the age of the masses. Twentieth-century armies needed millions of healthy soldiers, and economies needed millions of healthy workers. Consequently states established public health services to ensure the health and vigour of everyone. (Location 5440)

Note: The health of the masses was important to ensure there were healthy soldiers

positive psychology has become the trendiest subfield of the discipline. In the 1990s leading experts such as Martin Seligman, Ed Dinner and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi argued that psychology should study not just mental illnesses, but also mental strengths. How come we have a remarkably detailed atlas of the sick mind, but no scientific map of the prosperous mind? Over the last two decades, positive psychology has made important first steps in the study of super-normative mental states, (Location 5598)

Note: Positive psychology is interested in mental strengths

However, it is not easy to think and behave in new ways, because our thoughts and actions are usually constrained by present-day ideologies and social systems. This book traces the origins of our present-day conditioning in order to loosen its grip and enable us to act differently and to think in far more imaginative ways about our future. (Location 6164)

Note: By understanding the origins of our current conditions we increase our freedom to change