Yuval Harari: Where Lies the Future Of Homo Sapiens? | JD Guest

2017-05-11

The year of 2050 will see an integration of you and your mobile phone. Installed inside your body, the mobile phone will be able to monitor your heart rate, blood pressure and brain activity through biometric technology all day long.

The year of 2050 will see more precise algorithms. Human beings, due to inability to handle big data, may perhaps have to release the power to artificial intelligence.

The year of 2050 will also see a broader gap between the rich and the poor. The emerging artificial intelligence will exacerbate the situation and disenable most of people from working. 

The year of 2050 will witness algorithms being more independent from human beings. Their deep-learning capability will be further matured, which may even keep their inventors from understanding their decisions. 

……


These guesses come from a contemporary scholar, Yuval Harari, who observes the fate of human beings from a historical perspective and thereby attracts huge attention from the world.

Human beings have never stopped exploring in their future. In 2012, publishers from many countries were vying to introduce Yuval Harari’s book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which has now been published in nearly 30 languages. 

Yuval Harari is a professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He, as a young man, ponders and attempts to answer a much-discussed question in the research of human history: we can understand where we are going only after we know where we are from. 

Is the Homo Sapiens History Going to End? 

In the near future, we will probably see the following imaginations coming true:

1. The gene of loyalty can be built into the embryo, preventing people from cheating on their partners;

2. Those who lose their arms, with bionic arms transplanted, will become powerful “Hulks”;

3. With artificial brains constructed by computer, people can talk, act and think like those normal ones…

Among these imaginative cases, those referring to bioengineering, biomimetic engineering, and inorganic life engineering can not only change human beings, but also rebuild the structure of human society. As Yuval remarked, in the future, homo superiors may be created, which will bring huge changes to the ethic, social and political orders of human beings. They will replace homo sapiens, sounding the death knell for human beings.

Before the year of 2012, Yuval knew only bioengineering, biomimetic engineering, and inorganic life engineering in regard of subversive technologies; yet in 2017, he indeed feels a bigger threat posed by human beings themselves. 


Will Homo Sapiens Lose the Power of Control? 

In recent years, human beings have made great achievements in artificial intelligence, bio and genetic technology, which makes Yuval believe that overcoming the problem of death is merely a technical issue. While human beings are always good at solving technical issues. 

Meanwhile, Yuval also believes that the two pillars supporting happiness are rooted in psychological and biophysical dimensions. Psychologically, peaceful and prosperous life is far from satisfactory, as people will not be satisfied until all their expectations are met. Biophysical, however, both expectations and happiness are controlled by biomechanics rather than economics, society and political surroundings. 

Nowadays, biotechnology is able to provide human beings with permanent happiness. In the future, if we want to be happy, we only need to take a small pill to enable our biomechanics. In this way, human beings will be equipped with the ability to create and destroy anything, a decisive turn from “homo sapiens” to “Homo Deus”. 

However, will it develop in this wonderful path? Yuval finds a fatal deficiency in this well-developed plan. 

Biotechnology and artificial intelligence are developing simultaneously. As human beings know more about their own physical structure, artificial intelligence is having a better understanding of human as well. In this process, human beings are to gradually lose the power to make decisions. Three phases lie here for the relations between computer and human beings: first, the algorithm is a prophet offering people advice, but human beings are still the decision makers; second, the algorithm becomes our agent which informs us of a general guide and principle before we handle the issues, and will solve small problems automatically; third, the algorithm is then crowned and human beings have to listen to its order whatsoever. 

In the future, algorithm may decide on everything and thus grasp a comprehensive understanding of human beings. Will it become a threat to us? We do not know the answer yet. By then, human beings might never understand artificial intelligence, just as animals unable to understand us. 

At that point, some people are probably free from the control of algorithms. They are the elite who can control algorithms. Algorithms will be unable to understand these people or know their needs, thus making these people the owner of the future world. They stand behind the algorithm system and make the most important decisions. Let’s wish they can maintain the dignity of human beings. 


Will Algorithms Rule the World?

In fact, an increasing number of people are now rejecting this ever technicalized world. 

Some people refuse to use mobile phones, WeChat or other communication tools for fear of being kidnapped by technology, though their original intention is only to avoid wasting time. They decrease in number but increase in determination. 

These people are those composing uncertainties in the future. Though the future in Yuval’s view is upsetting, he still expects it to be a positive one. The emerging artificial intelligence and biotechnology will change the world; even so, this is not the only ending we will see. What the book tells us is a possibility, not a destiny.

If feeling upset, we can then think and act in a new way, thus avoiding this possibility. Yet, our ways of thinking and acting are usually confined to the current ideologies and social system. It is hard to break away from traditions. This is what Yuval has always been working for: to help people broaden their horizon and perceive new choices.  

Therefore, Yuval asks three questions at the end of his new book Homo Deus: a Brief History of Tomorrow: 

1. “Is creature only a kind of algorithm? Is life only data?”

2. “Which values more, intelligence or consciousness?”

3. “When there is no more consciousness, what will happen to society, politics and daily life if algorithm with high intelligence understands us more than ourselves?”

How do you think of these questions? Are you looking forward to an opportunity of discussing with Yuval on the future of human beings?

On May 25, 2017, JD Capital·· Future Forum invites Yuval to offer us a wonderful and insightful elaboration on “Tomorrow of homo sapiens: when will algorithm rule the world”.


About 2017 JD Capital·· Future Forum

JD Capital is China’s leading comprehensive equity investment firm. Its Future Forum is one of the most high-end industrial activities in China’s equity investment sector, and thus guide of industrial trends. 

Participants of the Forum include renowned scholars, principals of China’s leading enterprises, representatives of major financial institutes, and high-end investors. On the Forum, scholars and representatives will deliver keynote speeches and attend round-table discussions on economic situations and investment trends. JD Capital will by then introduce philosophy and strategies in terms of equity investment. 

2017 JD Capital·· Future Forum will be held on May 25. It is also the Third JD Capital Forum. On this Forum we invite:

1. Yuval Harari, the world-famous Israeli writer and historian, author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: a Brief History of Tomorrow. He will lead us to see the future of Homo sapiens;

2. Cai Lei, president of JD Capital, who will share with us his ideas on global investment trends under the topic of “World Structure and China’s Future”;

3. Other renowned experts and entrepreneurs, who will discuss on heated topics like “industrial integration”, “One Belt and One Road” and “new economy” with eyes on the future.

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