GLENN: So one of my communist progressive friends just wrote to me this morning. He said, "This is crazy what's going on. Last night, after the firing of Donald Trump (sic), the thing that seemed so crazy was moments after the firing, everyone on both sides was expected to switch sides and have a perfectly reasoned and thoughtful statement for doing so." How true. Mike Lee will be joining us here in just a moment at the top of the hour to talk about that and the firing. He has an interesting perspective.
We're talking to Yuval Harari. He's the author of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.
I want you to talk a little bit about democracy and the free market. And you say it will collapse once Google and Facebook show us a better way to know ourselves, and authority will shift from individual humans to network algorithms. You just kind of mentioned it there, but tell me what that means exactly.
YUVAL: It means that they -- as they gather more and more information about us and have the computing power to analyze all that information, they can make more and more decisions on our behalf. And people will increasingly just rely on -- on -- on these systems to make the most important decisions of their lives.
It starts to happen today, with very simple things. Like, you -- you want to find your way around the city, so you increasingly trust Google Maps and not your own instincts. You reach an intersection, your gut feeling says, "Turn right," but Google says, "No, no, I have better information. Turn left." And you learn from experience to trust Google.
And then very soon, you lose the ability to find your own way around the city because it's a use it or lose it situation. You lose the ability.
GLENN: Man. Ray Kurzweil and I talked about this. I said, "Ray, if you can upgrade yourself, you're going to lose just remembering things." We've already done this. We can Google anything. We lose the ability to reason. We lose the ability to think. He said, "No, you'll just use that space for other things." I don't think so.
You, for instance, I have security -- I have 24-hour security. When my security is not with me, it is almost impossible for me to function outside because I've lost the sense of normal situational awareness.
GLENN: You know what I mean?
GLENN: And you lose -- you lose that, and you don't realize how important just that simple situational awareness is.
JEFFY: Big time.
GLENN: But it goes away.
YUVAL: Yeah. And the same thing will increasingly happen with more important decisions, like you need to choose what we study at college. So previously, you rely on your own feelings and on the influence of your family, friends, and so forth. But increasingly, people will just ask Google or Facebook, hey, you know me much better than my mother. And you know the university and the job market much better than my friend.
So what do you say? What should I study? And it's an empirical question. If people will receive good answers, they will increasingly trust these systems, until they will reach a point that they can't make any important decision by themself because they lost the ability.
GLENN: Oh, my gosh. And that's when we turn into pets.
The -- you tell a story about Gorbachev coming over to London. And he notices that there's no bread lines. And he asks, can you put me in charge of -- who is in charge of bread? Because we can't really get this working in the Soviet Union.
And this is an example of the old way of doing things and the really old think of the Soviet Union. And this is kind of what you're talking about, how the information in the Soviet Union, they couldn't process all of that in a central bank.
Now we can.
YUVAL: Yeah. I mean, in a way you can think about it as kind of perfect communism. There is a theory that communism in the end failed because they couldn't process all the information fast enough and efficiently enough. And in order to plan, say, the bread supply for the Soviet Union, just so much information about hundreds of millions of people, that they just couldn't do it. And the free market worked much better because it decentralized, it distributed the -- the process of -- of gathering information and making decisions, basically everybody makes their own mind.
But theoretically, if you reach a point when you have enough information and enough computing power, you can create a central system of decision-making, which will actually work better than individual choices.
GLENN: Okay. So now this is where we -- this is where the rubber meets the road. I believe that, and I believe that is almost the free market system, almost. I mean, it is predictive in its nature. It's putting the resources where the resources need to go because it's predicting the human behavior. But at some point, where is the dog, and where is the tail? And the other part is -- and this is critical -- you talked about that -- that worthless class. You -- part of the reason why the Soviet Union failed is because you no longer had a drive to seek, to learn, to expand. And communism really took that human spark and in many cases, snuffed it. How do we not snuff that spark?
YUVAL: That's a big question. And, again, part of the problem is that you could preserve a creative elite. I mean, the problem is not with the elite. The problem is with the masses. The real danger -- I mean, if you talk about, say, medicine -- so you will always or at least for the foreseeable future, you will need extremely creative researchers to discover new medications (inaudible), or whatever. But you won't need the average general practitioner, the average doctor in the front line, because you would have a much better doctor on your smartphone. And this is likely to happen in more and more fields. So creativity will be preserved, but it will be the monopoly of a very small elite.
GLENN: How do ... Go ahead. Go ahead.
YUVAL: The big problem is what will happen to the masses. Now, in the 20th century, even in the most brutal dictatorships, the elite still cared about the masses because it needed them. Even if you look at Nazi Germany. So Hitler and the Nazis, they cared a lot about the education and health and welfare of the average German worker because they knew, they will not have a strong army and they will not have a strong economy unless they have millions of poor Germans who serve as soldiers and as factory workers. But in 50 years, you won't need that because you will have all the robots and AI and so forth to fuel your factories and armies.
GLENN: So then how does one avoid the George Bernard Shaws of the world that say, "Sir or madam, line up in front of us. Justify your existence because we can't afford to take care of you anymore?" How does the person -- how does the worthless class have access to any kind of real health care, when they're not needed by anyone?
YUVAL: Well, some people say the answer will come from universal basic income, that the government will just provide them with a basic income to cover health services and basic education and food and so forth, even though they don't work. And they're not needed by the economy.
GLENN: That's crazy.
YUVAL: This may work in a place like, I don't know, Sweden or Denmark, or Switzerland. But in most of the world -- especially if I think about developing countries, like Nigeria or India or Brazil or Mexico, it won't work there. And, frankly, we have no idea how to solve this problem. And I think neither on the left nor on the right, there is today any real political vision of where humankind will be in 30 years.
GLENN: Zero. Zero.
YUVAL: You know, what will -- where will humankind will be in 2050? I don't hear a vision about that from anybody.
GLENN: I will tell you, I've talked to people in Silicon Valley, I've talked to people on Capitol Hill, and then I've talked to people in the middle of the country. Silicon Valley is -- is in a world of its own. It is so far ahead. And the rest of the world is -- the rest of the country from the political leaders to the -- the baker on Main Street, they're all talking about things like the firing of Comey. Well, that might be important today, in today's news cycle. But in ten years, that's nothing. We have to be preparing for what is coming and have this real conversation. And talk to the media elites, their eyes glaze over. They don't have any concept of what you're talking about in your book.
YUVAL: Yeah. I agree. The only place you hear people talking seriously about the future of humankind is Silicon Valley and places like that. And that's very dangerous. Because, yeah, they're very creative and intelligent. And most of them are also, you know, good people, good-hearted. But they don't represent anybody. And it's very dangerous to entrust the future of the entire human species in the hands of a few -- of you a small technological elite. And, you know, it's not a problem we can think about in 20 or 30 years. If you look, for example, at education, then this is a problem we need to think about today because the question is, if I have a son or daughter who begins school today and they are six years old, what should I teach them today so they will have a job in 30 years?
GLENN: So let me --
YUVAL: And nobody knows the answer.
GLENN: Let me give you a break. And come back. And see if you can come up with at least somewhat of an answer: What do we do with our kids? We'll do this here in a second.
GLENN: We're talking to Yuval Harari. Homo Deus. A book that I think every single person in this audience should read. A Brief History of Tomorrow. It will explain what's coming. It is not a science fiction book. But, boy, I'll tell you, you will read it and begin to understand why I have been talking about technology, technology, technology. Everything's about to change. And change in ways that you don't even begin to understand. It's why, even though I disagree with the -- with the minimum income, it's why we've talked about it on this show and have said, "We have to consider it." Until you understand what's coming, you won't know why we have to look at things and start to turn every stone over before our politicians -- looking to blame a loss of jobs on somebody -- say, "You know, it's this group, that group, or it's those evil people in Silicon Valley." Because they will look evil at some point.
Yuval, what do we do with our kids right now? Can you give any hint as, you know, college, no college, debt, what they should study, what -- what should we be doing?
YUVAL: Well, I guess most of what kids learn today in school will be irrelevant by the time they are 40 and won't help them much in the job market. The one thing they will definitely need -- I mean, nobody knows what the job market will be like. And precisely because of that, the one thing they will need is the ability to keep learning and to keep reinventing themselves throughout their life.
I mean, previously, life was divided into two main parts: The young person, you mostly learned. And then as an older person, you mostly made use of what you learned as a teenager or something.
YUVAL: But in the future, you won't have this division. If you want to stay in the game, you have to keep learning and changing throughout your life. And for that -- for that, I think the most important thing will be emotional intelligence and mental balance. It will be much more important than anything you can learn in a history lesson or mathematics lesson or chemistry lesson.
GLENN: So, Yuval, I'm really gravely concerned about this move of safe spaces and everything else. Because our universities are now beginning to teach the exact opposite. They're beginning to teach conformity. Conformity of thought. And it's the worst thing you could be teaching to this generation right now. Agree or disagree?
YUVAL: I completely agree. Because, again, it -- they will need to change more than any previous generation in history. And to adapt to change. And generally, people don't like that. Beyond a certain age -- when you're 15, you like change. But when you're 40, you don't like it. And in the future, you won't have much of a choice about it. And if people don't learn how to stay flexible -- and stay flexible, not just in the body, above all, in their minds, they're going to be in a very, very difficult situation. And, again, talking about the job market, we don't know what new jobs will appear, but they will most likely require creativity. Anything which is routine, a computer will be able to do better than humans.
GLENN: Yuval, I would love to -- if you're ever in the United States, I would love to have you come here personally. I'd love to spend some real time with you. And we'd love to have you back and delve some more into this. Your two books, Homo Sapiens and this one, Homo Deus, are remarkable, remarkable books. And I thank you for what you're doing. Thank you so much, Yuval.
YUVAL: Thank you for having me here. And if when I'm in the states, I'll be happy to -- to meet.
GLENN: Great. Thank you. Yuval Harari. The name of the book is Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.