391 – Yuval Noah Harari: 21 Lessons for The 21st Century

“Right now, there is somebody out there who is trying to hack you. And not just one…”

WHAT!?

“Amazon is trying to hack you. Google is trying to hack you. Coca-Cola is trying to hack you and the Russians, the American government, the Chinese… They are all trying to hack you right now,” Yuval Noah Harari said on my podcast.

But there are different levels of hacking.

Amazon wants to sell you stuff. We all know that. But when does it start to get darker? And how can we protect ourselves?

I was asking Yuval because this is one of the things he writes about in his new book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century,” which Bill Gates recommended in a New York Times article last week.

Yuval is an expert in human evolution. Past, present and future. He writes international bestsellers about our species.

And no. Yuval does not know Bill Gates. I asked him. They’ve never spoken.

I’ve recommended his book, “Sapiens” more than any other book in the past 5 years.

Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama are also advocates of Yuval’s books.

That’s a quadfecta.

There’s a huge pyramid of research beneath each story Yuval writes about.

But it wasn’t always this way. He used to write about things nobody cared about.

“What happened in your life where you decided to be the smartest person on the planet?” I asked. “I feel like 8 years ago you must’ve had a tumor or a stroke. Because you were writing about knights and medieval fighting and then suddenly you write the three smartest books ever written.”

“One thing is that I got tenure at the university. “I could do whatever I wanted. And I no longer had to feel the publish or perish pressure.”

He’s a history professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“But a lot of people get tenure,” I said.

“Yeah, that’s true, but for many people it’s too late. By the time they get tenure, they forgot what they really wanted to do. And somehow, I still remembered.”

That’s how we got the trilogy: “Sapiens,” “Homo Deus” and “21 Lessons for the 21st Century.”

In the new book, Yuval explore so many topics: “the myth of free will,” the rise of robots, algorithms, hackers, how the Automation Revolution will impact the economy, your job, your quality of life and so on.

Plus, he also gives solutions. And they’re all worth contemplating. This interview is probably the most thought-provoking interview I’ve ever aired.

Here’s 3 things Yuval Noah Harari made me question:

A) Are we actually better off?

Yuval says “Life was much more colorful and rich 10,000 years ago.”

We foraged. We climbed trees. We weren’t sitting at desks or managing cash register machines. We were moving.

But history books have branded the Agricultural Revolution as a good thing. A “revolution.” But Yuval argues that farming and harvesting wheat was actually a negative to the species in many ways.

It’s both.

Positive: we can feed more people.

Negative: our diet changes to wheat-based instead of plants, vegetables, etc. And our brains might have shrunk as a result of us only be aware of the space around us and not the greater landscape, which lead to city-states and kingdoms and war. Because we fought each other for resources.

And Yuval says life as a hunter-gatherer is far more interesting than some of the mundane jobs of the 21st century.

And Yuval has other examples.

How many “revolutions” are actually net-negatives?

 

B) What happens if I’m not the main character?

Everyday, I think about my day. What am I going to do? What do I want to eat? Where am I going?

Yuval said, “Every time you change your perspective, you see a completely different world.”

“Don’t look at from the viewpoint of the king. ;ook at from the viewpoint of the peasant. Don’t look at from the viewpoint of the human. Look at it from the viewpoint of the cow.”

 

C) Is free will a myth?

Yuval says free will is a myth.

“People know so little about themselves,” he said. “Both on the biological level, certainly. How many people really understand their brains? But even on the psychological level… we have an entire profession of therapists who are just trying to help us get in touch with ourselves because it’s so difficult.”

Yuval says that free will only exists if you know what your will actually is. But if you everything want in life comes from school, your parents, cultural manipulation, advertising, propaganda, etc., then do you really have your own desires?

“Once you realize, no, my desires don’t reflect my free will, they reflect all kinds of processes on the biological level, on the psychological level, which I don’t understand, then you start being very curious about yourself.”

His book and this interview leads to so many new questions. Which is the essense of growth. Learning comes from wondering.

Yuval will make you young again.

He’ll make you curious again.


I release 3 minisodes to go along with the full interview. So  let’s say you don’t have a full hour. That’s ok. The minisodes are 5, 6, 7 minutes long. I always say that health isn’t just physical. It’s mental, it’s emotional (being around good people) and it’s creative.

Learning something new is part of health.

That’s what the minisodes are for. To help make learning easier. And more accessible.

Here are 3 with Yuval:

Someone Is Trying to Hack You [7 minutes]

 

Are We Actually Better Off? Questioning Evolutionary History…  [6 minutes]

 

The (Threatening) Promise of New Technology [5 minutes]

Links and Resources

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval’s course on Coursera

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