GLENN: The main products of the 21st century will not be textiles, vehicles, and weapons, but bodies, brains, and minds.
In the book, Homo Deus, while the Industrial Revolution created the working class, the next big revolution will create the worthless class.
The way humans have treated animals is a good indicator of how upgraded humans will treat us. Democracy and the free market will collapse once Google and Facebook know us better than we know ourselves, and authority will shift from individual humans to network algorithms.
Humans won't fight machines or AI. They will merge with them. We are headed toward a marriage, rather than a war.
This promises to be a fascinating conversation. Yuval Harari. Author of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.
Welcome to the program, sir. How are you?
YUVAL: Hello. It's a pleasure to be here.
GLENN: You're over at -- you teach history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. You have a PhD in the subject from Oxford. And your book has now been translated into 40 different languages. You're on a whirlwind here.
YUVAL: Yes. I mean, it's quite surprising, even for me. I mean, ten years ago, I was a specialist in medieval history, writing about the crusade and things like that. And now I'm mostly talking about cyborgs and artificial intelligence and genetic engineering and things like that.
GLENN: So, Yuval, I'm fascinated by your book and your perspective and point of view. And we disagree on an awful lot of things. But I don't disagree what you say is coming. And I don't believe that the average American -- or the average citizen in Europe or Russia or wherever, understands what's coming in the next ten to 20 years.
They have -- they have no clue how -- how entire -- how life itself is going to be transformed.
YUVAL: Yeah. I think part of the danger -- we can discuss and disagree about the potential solutions, but first, we need to agree about the problem. It's real. It's there. And I am very concerned there's very little public discussion of these issues.
YUVAL: For example, if you looked at the presidential election in the US, there was a lot of talk about job loss to Mexico, to China, and so forth. But almost no talk at all about job loss due to automation.
YUVAL: And the replacement of more and more people by algorithms and computers and robots in the job market.
GLENN: So, Yuval, I have been saying this now for a while, and I don't think people have their arms around it. You know, when a president or a candidate or anybody anywhere around the world, a prime minister says, "We're going to get your jobs back," they're not coming back. They are being taken by progress. And the great minds of the world right now are not looking on how we can get a lower unemployment number. They're looking at a world that the unemployment number should be at 100 percent. Not 4 percent.
YUVAL: Maybe not 100, but, yes. I mean, in the next ten, 20, 30 years, we'll see, for example, self-driving cars and vehicles replacing taxi drivers and bus drivers and truck drivers and so forth. And robots replacing textile workers. But it's not just manual labor. Similarly, many doctors are likely to be replaced by artificial intelligence, that can diagnosis disease, better than any human being because it can simply go over immense amounts of biological data about you and your entire medical history in a way that no human being has any chance of doing. So you're talking not just about manual labor, but even doctors and teachers and lawyers, some of their jobs are also at risk.
GLENN: Tell me what you mean by, "While the Industrial Revolution created the working class, the next big revolution will create the worthless class."
YUVAL: Well, the danger is, as more and more jobs are being automated, people will be pushed out of the job market. And they'll not just be unemployed, they will be unemployable. Of course, some new jobs are likely to -- to be created, but it's not clear whether, say, a 50-year-old unemployed taxi driver or truck driver will be able to reinvent himself or herself as let's say a software engineer. In the past, when automation took away jobs in agriculture and then in industry, new jobs were always created to fill the gap. But people could make the transition. I mean, if you lost your job as -- on a farm and you moved to, say, Detroit or Dearborn and started working in a car factory, this was possible.
Similarly, if you lost your job in the factory and then you moved to working in -- as a cashier in Walmart, this was also possible because you moved from one low-skill job to another low-skill job. But now, if the low-skill jobs are disappearing and you have new jobs, let's say in Silicon Valley designing virtual worlds, you're not going to be able to make the transition because you don't have the necessary training.
And then we might see hundreds of millions of people being pushed out of the job market, and the creation of a completely new class of economically worthless people. I mean worthless of course not from the viewpoint of their mother or husband or children. Worthless from the viewpoint of the economic system and of the military system.
If you look at --
GLENN: Go ahead.
YUVAL: If you look at the military, you see that there, it's already happening. In the 20th century, the best armies in the world relied on recruiting millions of the millions of ordinary soldiers. But today, the best armies in the world rely on relatively small numbers of highly professional soldiers that need a lot of training. And they increasingly rely on sophisticated and autonomous technology, like drones and cyber warfare. So militarily, most humans today are already useless. If there is a war, there is nothing to do with most humans.
The same thing may happen also in the civilian economy.
GLENN: So this is where -- you know, my father died a few years ago. And he was in his -- he was in his 90s. And he -- he was born in 1926. And he said to me right before he died, he said -- he said, "Son, look at philosophy. Where has philosophy really grown? Are we different as people? People, ourselves, are we different than we were, you know, 2,000 years ago?" We still are kind of fighting exactly the same things. You know, it starts over with every generation, where you have to, you know, find yourself. And, yes, we're not cavemen. But we're still the same people on the verge of going bad. And he said, "Then look at technology, when I was born, we didn't even consider that we could go to the moon. Technology is -- is moving way past us, and we have to have deeper philosophical questions being asked and answered by ourselves and as a -- as a world, because it's -- it's -- the questions are becoming too big.
And what happens is, when man usually gets behind technology and you have people up at the top that think that they are God and you have a bunch of worthless people, things like genocide happen. How do we guard against worthless people?
YUVAL: Well, first of all, we need to realize that technology is not destiny. And technology is never deterministic. Some of the people who are very enthusiastic about technology, they tend to depict the future as kind of, this is the only thing that can happen. But it's never true. Every technology can be used in many ways. You cannot just stop all research in artificial intelligence or in genetics. But you can certainly influence what we will do with it.
To take a similar example, in the 20th century, we had a lot of new technology, like trains, electricity and radio and television and cars. You could use this technology to create a communist dictatorship or a Nazi regime of a liberal democracy. The trains and the radio didn't tell you what to do with them. This was really up to -- to humans and to their ethical and philosophical and political views.
And it's the same with artificial intelligence and genetics and so forth. We still have choices to make about it. And --
GLENN: I --
YUVAL: And I agree with you, that philosophy now is probably more important than ever before.
GLENN: Than ever, yeah.
YUVAL: Because we are becoming more powerful than ever before, and we need to answer some very deep philosophical questions in order to know what to do with that power.
GLENN: I use this term lightly, but I'm a friend of Ray Kurzweil. I've talked to him several times. And I have said to him -- and didn't mean this as, you know -- he took it in the spirit in which it was intended: Ray, the way you answer questions about, well, don't worry, it will only be used for the good and, you know, there is no death, and we're all going to be fine, and everybody is going to want to have this technology, and the worthless people, if you will, they'll want to get the upgrade. And there's nobody that's not going to want to buy into this system -- I said, "What makes you different than some of the really good Nazi do-gooders that were really in there saying, 'I really -- we're going to change the world with this,' but it went awry? You know, you're blind. You're blind to this."
And it's gravely concerning to me that there doesn't seem a lot of -- there doesn't seem to be a lot of, "Should we do these things? What are the ramifications of doing these things?" It's man just saying, "Oh, my gosh, we can do these things. Let's do it." I want to get your thoughts on that when we come back.
GLENN: So, Yuval, let me just restate that question that I asked you before we went into the break and state it this way: Where is the balance between a catastrophist and a -- and a utopian? Where is the correct place to fall on this. I'm -- I so love the technology that is coming, but I also have a pretty healthy fear of what it can mean.
YUVAL: I think it comes together. I mean, we want reality to be simple, that we have like bad technology and good technology. It just doesn't work like that. Every technology, as I said, can be used both for good and for bad. Take radio, because we're now on the radio. So you could use radio as Goebbels and Hitler and the communists did in the 1920s and '30s, to brainwash millions of people.
YUVAL: And you could use radio to enlighten them and to help create a healthy democracy, in which people are well informed about what's happening and in which people can view and air their opinions.
So radio itself, it is a great invention, or it's a terrible invention. It's neither. It depends what we do with it. And I think this should be the attitude towards the new inventions of our century.
GLENN: Okay. So, Yuval, we have about 90 seconds here. Then we have to take another quick break. Then we have more time on the other side.
YUVAL: Oh, okay.
GLENN: The -- the problem is, is we're in -- and I think people think this is a political left, right tension that we're feeling right now. It's a political war. I think everything is at its breaking point. It doesn't work anymore. Life doesn't work at this speed with the old structure. And so the whole thing -- it's like the Industrial Revolution. It's just about to flip. And that's the underlying tension that we're feeling. But those people who are in power right now, they're going to do everything they can to grab this technology and drag us back into dusty old concepts of control that are -- are nightmarish. Do you agree or disagree?
YUVAL: I think the old model just won't work. This is the one thing we can be certain about. None of the models we created in the 20th century to understand society and politics and to manage society and politics, they can't work anymore. We need something new. Yes, people will still try to grab control, but it will be a completely different kind of control. It could be far more scary.
Especially if, indeed, more and more control will shift away from humans to algorithms.
YUVAL: And more and more decisions will be taken, not by any dictator, but by a computer.
GLENN: Okay. So let's go there. Take a quick three-minute break, and then we'll come back there to -- what was it he said? No, it could be much, much more scary. Okay. I hadn't thought of that possibility yet. Homo Deus is the name of this book. A Brief History of Tomorrow. This is the book that every elite is reading.