In my last post I talked about an article where Professor Harari said that humans will be “God-like Cyborgs” in the next 200 years. You can read that post here, and I have attached the article here as well.
I would like to focus on the other side of the article, as there are quite a few interesting ideas explored in this very short article. In my last post I mostly talked about how humans could actually become cyborgs and the medical applications of doing such. Basically I did not agree with his sentiment of only the wealthy will become these cyborgs, but again you can read the whole post the link is above.
In the rest of the article he talks about society and how humans have built it on fake principles. What he means by that, well I will let him explain:
Prof Harari said humans had become such a dominant species because of our ability to invent ‘fictions’ which held society together, such as religion, money and the idea of fundamental human rights, which have no basis in nature.
“What enables humans to cooperate flexibly, and exist in large societies is our imagination. With religion it’s easy to understand. You can’t convince a chimpanzee to give you a banana with the promise it will get 20 more bananas in chimpanzee heaven. It won’t do it. But humans will.
“Most legal systems are based on human rights but it is all in our imagination. Money is the most successful story ever. You have the master storytellers, the bankers, the finance ministers telling you that money is worth something. It isn’t. Try giving money to a chimp. It’s worthless.”
“God is extremely important because without religious myth you can’t create society . Religion is the most important invention of humans. As long as humans believed they relied more and more on these gods they were controllable.
“But what we see in the last few centuries is humans becoming more powerful and they no longer need the crutches of the Gods. Now we are saying we do not need God just technology.”
There is a lot going on in those statements so let’s dissect them. For the most part I agree with everything he said, but I do not want to get into religion bashing just yet. Let’s start with his idea that our moral code and human rights and how they have no place in nature. He is right, in nature there is nothing fair about it. The weak are killed, in society the weak are protected, or they believe they are protected. This goes back to the age old argument by Hobbes of the Social Contract. Basically that states that we give up some of our absolute freedoms to live peacefully in a governed society. The problem with this is that according to Harari is that it is all based on lies and falsehoods, and for the most part I would agree with him.
In nature these things have no precedence. As he stated you cannot persuade a monkey to give you the banana in hand for the promise of 20 in monkey heaven, it will never work. In that regard I think he is absolutely right, but I also think that he is taking for granted that humans want to live in a state of nature where these rules would no longer apply. I doubt any rational person would give up these falsehoods he speaks of to live in a lawless state of nature. While I agree with him that they are more or less fake, they are so ingrained into our society and our lives that they are seemingly real and trying to convince people otherwise would be a monumental task. They have been around for centuries and trying to unlearn something like that is near impossible.
Now, saying that even though this is engrained in our society, it was built on a falsehood I would certainly agree with. I also agree with his claim that these factious beliefs are one of the reasons we have been so successful as a species. This is where religion plays a major role. Despite its many faults religion has done an excellent job of unifying our species at times when we could have easily died out and been forgotten.
I think this portion of his argument is quite viable as humans transition into the next phase of our evolution. Again I do not think this will happen overnight, but in the timeframe given (200 years) I think religion could see a serious decline. I do not think it will ever disappear completely, it is simply too powerful for that. Rather I think it will simple evolve with us. I believe that technology will start to fill that void of those that are not religious. I do not think that people will worship technology in the same sense, but I think that as we figure out more and more about our world religion, in the traditional sense, has a smaller and smaller place. In all honesty I think it has served its purpose in getting us to this point, now it is time for religion to change or risk extinction. I also think that the facts support this as well. Church attendance is way down and continuing to drop, it is safe to say that the fear of God is no longer scary and in my opinion necessary.
I have often said that whether or not God exist is irrelevant, I do not think it matters one way or the other. What is fascinating is that we mere mortals think we know what an all-powerful omnipotent being wants us to do, that is laughable in my opinion. I liken us to ants scurrying away from a boot, the one wearing the boot neither cares or notices the ants existence, I would think we would be viewed the same way by an all-powerful being. Still I think religion will evolve in the coming years, I think it has to if it wants to survive.
Money is also an interesting point that the professor makes. In a state of nature money holds no value, but we humans often times give silly things extremely high value such as gold and diamonds. The funny thing is that neither are valuable or help one survive in a state of nature, in fact both would be equally worthless. We have put this value on these things because they are shiny and “rare.” I will say that gold does serve some other purpose outside its shininess. It is an excellent conductor of electricity and it does not rust or corrode. Still in a state of nature those properties are near worthless. Paper money is worthless as well. In a state of nature, where there are no laws, no anything, if your neighbor kills a dear to feed his family, do you think he will accept $200 to buy some of the meat, even if you have excellent credit? I highly doubt it. That is just an example proving what the professor is saying.
I don’t really have a point other than to reiterate what the professor says. We have built our society on a fallacy, a very well-constructed fairytale, the most fantastic in all of human history, and we have all bought into it. Now let’s be honest, I think it is for the best, it is just interesting how the human mind works and how we have accepted these things as absolute truths, when they could not be further from that.