Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Yes, I am still pushing my favorite philosopher, historian and writer...and futurist

Yuval Noah Harari is my favorite historian and futurist. He has explained how civilization came about. Short answer, the ability to tell stories is what makes us human. Per his telling - and it makes sense - humans created civilization because we can tell stories. I missed this April article, but it is still very important.


We use stories to motivate or define ourselves. We can create a story that we are part of a country - even though that country is fake lines drawn on a map*. We create stories that colorful pieces of paper are worth something. We think billions or trillions of dollars in backs are "real money" - even though there is no tangible asset here. And we create stories for elections, why one politician is better than other. He's an atheist and would say we create stories to create or define God.

Here I use the term "stories" that doesn't mean false, it just means there are methods of communication for more than our immediate friends and family. Consider the story that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Whether right or wrong, this was one of the stories that motivated our attack on Iraq. Another story was that Saddam Hussien killed his people often and with little cause. This story was true and another justification for the attack.

Harari's take on AI is that it is a risk to humanity. Not because AI might launch weapons at us. Or because AI will take over our jobs. Harari believes that AI has been taught how to tell stories and we can't tell the difference. You don't have to imagine. 

AI already writes articles. In test one article not only was the article incorrect, the AI created and back-dated previous articles that supported the theory. So there is very little way to investigate if the story is true. If the details and back-up information is there, I would expect the story is true.

He explain's that people already believe (to me) stupid stories like the missives from Q. If AI or a very smart AI programmer decides to lie to people, these lies will overtake humans ability to tell the truth or stories we believe (like money is worth something).

It is an interesting thought. Harari's article is here.

* In Africa, European powers drew lines for borders that did not acknowledge that different peopled lived there, or that some areas where the same people live, there are different countries. Think Togo, Benin and Nigeria

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