All the notes were taken directly from the source mentioned!
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Humans have two types of abilities – physical and cognitive. In the past, machines competed with humans mainly in raw physical abilities, while humans retained an immense edge over machines in cognition. Hence as manual jobs in agriculture and industry were automated, new service jobs emerged that required the kind of cognitive skills only humans possessed: learning, analyzing, communicating and above all understanding human emotions. However, AI is now beginning to outperform humans in more and more of these skills, including in the understanding of human emotions.
We don’t know of any third field of activity – beyond the physical and the cognitive – where humans will always retain a secure edge.
It is crucial to realize that the AI revolution is not just about computers getting faster and smarter. It is fueled by breakthroughs in the life sciences and the social sciences as well. The better we understand the biochemical mechanisms that underpin human emotions, desires and choices, the better computers can become in analyzing human behaviour, predicting human decisions, and replacing human drivers, bankers and lawyers.
Vaunted ‘human intuition’ is in reality ‘pattern recognition’. But human brains are far from perfect, they rely on heuristics, shortcuts and outdated circuits adapted to the African savannah rather than to the urban jungle.
Two particularly important non-human abilities that AI possesses are connectivity and adaptability.
Self driving car example:
For example, many drivers are unfamiliar with all the changing traffic regulations, and they often violate them. In addition, since every vehicle is an autonomous entity, when two vehicles approach the same junction at the same time, the drivers might miscommunicate their intentions and collide. Self-driving cars, in contrast, can all be connected to one another. When two such vehicles approach the same junction, they are not really two separate entities – they are part of a single algorithm. The chances that they might miscommunicate and collide are therefore far smaller.
And if the Ministry of Transport decides to change some traffic regulation, all self-driving vehicles can be easily updated at exactly the same moment, and barring some bug in the program, they will all follow the new regulation to the letter.
More than 90 per cent of accidents are caused by very human errors: somebody drinking alcohol and driving, somebody texting a message while driving, somebody falling asleep at the wheel, somebody daydreaming instead of paying attention to the road. Self-driving vehicles will never do any of these things.
We will have many more options: You don’t like what the IBM doctor told you? No problem. Even if you are stranded somewhere on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, you can easily contact the Baidu doctor for a second opinion.
Nurses, in contrast, also need good motor and emotional skills in order to give a painful injection, replace a bandage, or restrain a violent patient. Hence we will probably have an AI family doctor on our smartphone decades before we have a reliable nurse robot.
Even artists should be put on notice. When we come to evaluate art, we tend to judge it by its emotional impact on the audience. Yet if art is defined by human emotions, what might happen once external algorithms are able to understand and manipulate human emotions better than Shakespeare, Frida Kahlo.
Of all forms of art, music is probably the most susceptible to Big Data analysis, because both inputs and outputs lend themselves to precise mathematical depiction.
No human DJ could ever hope to match the skills of such an AI.
What about exploring new musical tastes and styles? No problem. You could easily adjust the algorithm to make 5 per cent of its choices completely at random. Over time, by monitoring your reactions, the AI could even determine the ideal level of randomness that will optimise exploration while avoiding annoyance, perhaps lowering its serendipity level to 3 per cent or raising it to 8 per cent. Whether you want to wallow in self-pity or jump for joy, the algorithm will slavishly follow your lead.
Alternatively, if you don’t trust yourself, you can instruct the algorithm to follow the recommendation of whichever eminent psychologist you do trust. If your boyfriend leaves you, Facebook will treat you to an individualized song about that particular bastard rather than about the unknown person who broke the heart of Adele or Alanis Morissette.
Algorithms could prove even more adept at producing global hits than personalized rarities. By using massive biometric databases garnered from millions of people. In order to enter the art market and displace many human composers and performers, algorithms won’t have to begin by straightaway surpassing Tchaikovsky. It will be enough if they outperform Britney Spears.
So what do we do instead?
Instead of humans competing with AI, they could focus on servicing and leveraging AI. The problem with all such new jobs, however, is that they will probably demand high levels of expertise, and will therefore not solve the problems of unemployed unskilled labourers.
But in 2050, a cashier or textile worker losing their job to a robot will hardly be able to start working as a cancer researcher, as a drone operator, or as part of a human–AI banking team.They will not have the necessary skills. Many people might share the fate not of nineteenth-century wagon drivers – who switched to driving taxis – but of nineteenth-century horses, who were increasingly pushed out of the job market altogether. How do you unionize a profession that mushrooms and disappears within a decade?
A closer look at the world of chess might indicate where things are heading in the long run. Many programs now routinely outperform human chess players not just in brute calculation, but even in ‘creativity’.
Change is always stressful, and the hectic world of the early twenty-first century has produced a global epidemic of stress.
Potential solutions fall into three main categories:
- what to do in order to prevent jobs from being lost;
- what to do in order to create enough new jobs;
- and what to do if, despite our best efforts, job losses significantly outstrip job creation.
Governments might decide to deliberately slow down the pace of automation, in order to lessen the resulting shocks and allow time for readjustments. Even if enough government help is forthcoming, it is far from clear whether billions of people could repeatedly reinvent themselves without losing their mental balance.
It is far from certain that the future economy will need us even as consumers. In the stock exchange, for example, algorithms are becoming the most important buyers of bonds, shares and commodities. Similarly in the advertisement business, the most important customer of all is an algorithm: the Google search algorithm. When people design Web pages, they often cater to the taste of the Google search algorithm rather than to the taste of any human being.
These models should be guided by the principle of protecting humans rather than jobs. Many jobs are uninspiring drudgery, not worth saving. Nobody’s life-dream is to be a cashier. What we should focus on is providing for people’s basic needs and protecting their social status and self-worth.
UBI proposes that governments tax the billionaires and corporations controlling the algorithms and robots, and use the money to provide every person with a generous stipend covering his or her basic needs.
A related idea proposes to widen the range of human activities that are considered to be ‘jobs’. Once we realize that taking care of a child is arguably the most important and challenging job in the world. Who would evaluate and pay for these newly recognized jobs?
Alternatively, governments could subsidize universal basic services rather than income. Subsidize free education, free healthcare, free transport and so forth. First we must start by defining what ‘universal’ and ‘basic’ actually mean.
Universal: American voters might conceivably agree that taxes paid by Amazon and Google for their US business could be used to give stipends or free services to unemployed miners in Pennsylvania and jobless taxi-drivers in New York. However, would American voters also agree that these taxes should be sent to support unemployed people in places defined by President Trump as ‘shithole countries’?
Basic: even if some universal support scheme provides poor people in 2050 with much better healthcare and education than today, they might still be extremely angry about global inequality and the lack of social mobility. Human happiness depends less on objective conditions and more on our own expectations. Expectations, however, tend to adapt to conditions, including to the condition of other people.
If we manage to combine a universal economic safety net with strong communities and meaningful pursuits, losing our jobs to the algorithms might actually turn out to be a blessing. Losing control over our lives, however, is a much scarier scenario. What we should worry about even more is the shift in authority from humans to algorithms, which might destroy any remaining faith in the liberal story and open the way to the rise of digital dictatorships. Reliance on the heart might prove to be the Achilles heel of liberal democracy. For once somebody (whether in Beijing or in San Francisco) gains the technological ability to hack and manipulate the human heart, democratic politics will mutate into an emotional puppet show.
We don’t feel the millions of neurons in the brain computing probabilities of survival and reproduction, so we erroneously believe that our fear of snakes, our choice of sexual mates, or our opinions about the European Union are the result of some mysterious ‘free will’.
It is one thing to continue smoking despite general statistics that connect smoking with lung cancer. It is a very different thing to continue smoking despite a concrete warning from a biometric sensor that has just detected seventeen cancerous cells in your upper left lung. And if you are willing to defy the sensor, what will you do when the sensor forwards the warning to your insurance agency, your manager, and your mother?
Big Data algorithms: they have lots of hitches, but we have no better alternative.
We will learn from experience to trust them on more and more issues, and will gradually lose our ability to make decisions for ourselves. Within a year or two, they blindly rely on whatever Google Maps tells them, and if the smartphone fails, they are completely clueless.The ability to navigate is like a muscle – use it or lose it. The same is true for the ability to choose spouses or professions. Humans are used to thinking about life as a drama of decision-making. What will happen to this view of life as we increasingly rely on AI to make decisions for us?
Human managers may know and even agree that it is unethical to discriminate against black people and women, but then, when a black woman applies for a job, the manager subconsciously discriminates against her, and decides not to hire her. If we allow a computer to evaluate job applications, and program the computer to completely ignore race and gender, we can be certain that the computer will indeed ignore these factors, because computers don’t have a subconscious. There is always a danger that the engineers will somehow program their own subconscious biases into the software. Yet once we discover such mistakes, it would probably be far easier to debug the software than to rid humans of their racist and misogynist biases.
Change in decision making: Imagine the situation… you have bought a new car, but before you can start using it, you must open the settings menu and tick one of several boxes. In case of an accident, do you want the car to sacrifice your life – or to kill the family in the other vehicle?
AI will blindly follow the law– Do we really want a system in which the decisions of fallible politicians become as inexorable as gravity? We should fear them because they will probably always obey their masters and never the rebel.
Democracies usually outperformed dictatorships because democracies were better at data-processing. Democracy diffuses the power to process information and make decisions among many people and institutions, whereas dictatorship concentrates information and power in one place. Nobody had the ability to process all the information fast enough and make the right decisions. AI might make centralized systems far more efficient than diffused systems. As algorithms come to know us so well, authoritarian governments could gain absolute control over their citizens, and resistance to such regimes might be utterly impossible.
Not only will the regime know exactly how you feel – it could make you feel whatever it wants.
At the highest levels of authority, we will probably retain human figureheads, who will give us the illusion that the algorithms are only advisors, and that ultimate authority is still in human hands. We will not appoint an AI to be the chancellor of Germany or the CEO of Google. However, the decisions taken by the chancellor and the CEO will be shaped by AI.
Instead of just collective discrimination, in the twenty-first century we might face a growing problem of individual discrimination.
Consciousness is somehow linked to organic biochemistry in such a way that it will never be possible to create consciousness in non-organic systems. Consciousness is not linked to organic biochemistry, but it is linked to intelligence in such a way that computers could develop consciousness, and computers will have to develop consciousness if they are to pass a certain threshold of intelligence. There are no essential links between consciousness and either organic biochemistry or high intelligence. Hence computers might develop consciousness – but not necessarily. They could become super-intelligent while still having zero consciousness.
The economic system pressures me to expand and diversify my investment portfolio, but it gives me zero incentives to expand and diversify my compassion.
Liberalism always cherished political equality, and it gradually came to realize through globalization that economic equality is almost as important. For without a social safety net and a modicum of economic equality, liberty is meaningless. But just as Big Data algorithms might extinguish liberty, they might simultaneously create the most unequal societies that ever existed. All wealth and power might be concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite, while most people will suffer not from exploitation, but from something far worse – irrelevance.
Those who own the data own the future
In the last few decades, people all over the world were told that humankind is on the path to equality, and that globalization and new technologies will help us get there sooner.
Property is a prerequisite for long-term inequality. Improvements in biotechnology might make it possible to translate economic inequality into biological inequality. If new treatments for extending life and for upgrading physical and cognitive abilities prove to be expensive, humankind might split into biological castes. By 2100 the rich might really be more talented, more creative and more intelligent than the slum-dwellers.
In countries such as France and New Zealand, with a long tradition of liberal beliefs and welfare-state practices, perhaps the elite will go on taking care of the masses even when it doesn’t need them.
In the more capitalist USA, however, the elite might use the first opportunity to dismantle what’s left of the American welfare state. Not just entire classes, but entire countries and continents might become irrelevant.
If data becomes concentrated in too few hands – humankind will split into different species.
If later in life you choose to disconnect, insurance agencies might refuse to insure you, employers might refuse to employ you, and healthcare services might refuse to take care of you. In the big battle between health and privacy, health is likely to win hands down.
Data is everywhere and nowhere at the same time, it can move at the speed of light, and you can create as many copies of it as you want. As much as we should fear the power of big corporations, history suggests that we are not necessarily better off in the hands of over-mighty governments.
The merger of infotech and biotech threatens the core modern values of liberty and equality. Any solution to the technological challenge has to involve global cooperation. But nationalism, religion and culture divide humankind into hostile camps and make it very difficult to cooperate on a global level.
Three threats to humanity:
- Nuclear war
Zuckerberg is certainly correct in lamenting the breakdown of human communities.
Any attempt to reconcile ‘the West’ with ‘the Muslim world’ is doomed to failure.
The planet is divided between about 200 sovereign states, which generally agree on the same diplomatic protocols and on common international laws. When you watch the Tokyo Games in 2020, remember that this seeming competition between nations actually represents an astonishing global agreement. Trust in the dollar and in the wisdom of the Federal Reserve is so firm that it is shared even by Islamic fundamentalists, Mexican drug lords and North Korean tyrants. Today, learned people throughout the world believe exactly the same things about matter, energy, time and space.
What does it mean to be European in 2018? It doesn’t mean to have white skin, to believe in Jesus Christ, or to uphold liberty. Rather, it means to argue vehemently about immigration, about the EU, and about the limits of capitalism.
Why don’t we call a plebiscite on whether E =MC2? Because its not that we care what individuals think, it is all about how they FEEL.
My ability to nevertheless feel loyal to this nebulous mass is not a legacy from my hunter-gatherer ancestors, but a miracle of recent history. Zealous nationalists who cry ‘Our country first!’ should ask themselves whether their country by itself, without a robust system of international cooperation, can protect the world – or even itself – from nuclear destruction. An all-out nuclear war threatens to destroy all nations, so all nations have an equal stake in preventing it.
Global warming, in contrast, will probably have a different impact on different nations.
As in the case of climate change, so also with technological disruption, the nation state is simply the wrong framework to address the threat.
If we want to survive and flourish, humankind has little choice but to complement such local loyalties with substantial obligations towards a global community.
We need a new global identity because national institutions are incapable of handling a set of unprecedented global predicaments. We now have a global ecology, a global economy and a global science – but we are still stuck with only national politics.
This mismatch prevents the political system from effectively countering our main problems.
Three types of problems:
- Technical problems. For example, how should farmers in arid countries deal with severe droughts caused by global warming?
- Policy problems. For example, what measures should governments adopt to prevent global warming in the first place?
- Identity problems. For example, should I even care about the problems of farmers on the other side of the world, or should I care only about problems of people from my own tribe and country?
Traditional religions are largely irrelevant to technical and policy problems. In contrast, they are extremely relevant to identity problems – but in most cases they constitute a major part of the problem rather than a potential solution. People’s identities are a crucial historical force.
Human power depends on mass cooperation, mass cooperation depends on manufacturing mass identities – and all mass identities are based on fictional stories, not on scientific facts or even on economic necessities.
Immigration as a deal with three basic conditions or terms.
- The host country allows to immigrants in.
- In return, the immigrants must embrace at least the norms and values of the host country even if that means giving up some of their traditional norms and values.
- If they assimilate to a sufficient degree over time they become equal and full members of the host country. They become us.
Pro-immigrationists think that people have a right to immigrate to another land if they so wish, and host countries have a duty to absorb them, they react with moral outrage when people’s right to immigrate is violated, and when countries fail to perform their duty of absorption. Anti-immigrationists are astounded by such views. They see immigration as a privilege, and absorption as a favor.
Liberal values of tolerance and freedom, which imply that Europeans should show tolerance towards the immigrants too, and allow them as much freedom as possible to follow their own traditions, Anti-immigrationists accuse many immigrant groups – especially from Muslim countries – of intolerance, misogyny, homophobia and anti-Semitism.
Exactly how much time needs to pass before the immigrants become full members of society? As long as we don’t know whether absorption is a duty or a favor; what level of assimilation is required from immigrants; and how quickly host countries should treat them as equal citizens – we cannot judge whether the two sides are fulfilling their obligations.
Anthropologists, sociologists and historians feel extremely uneasy about this issue. Debate about immigration should not be conducted as an uncompromising struggle about some non-negotiable moral imperative. It is a discussion between two legitimate political positions, which should be decided through standard democratic procedures. This is what happened after 9/11, as Islamic fundamentalists incited the American bull to destroy the Middle Eastern china shop. Now they flourish in the wreckage. And there is no shortage of short-tempered bulls in the world.
Terrorists undertake an impossible mission: to change the political balance of power through violence, despite having no army. To achieve their aim, terrorists present the state with an impossible challenge of their own: to prove that it can protect all its citizens from political violence, anywhere, any time. A terrorist is like a gambler holding a particularly bad hand, who tries to convince his rivals to reshuffle the cards. He cannot lose anything, and he may win everything.
Today, a government may take a softer approach to domestic and sexual violence than to terrorism, because despite the impact of movements such as #MeToo, rape does not undermine the government’s legitimacy. Nuclear weapons and cyberwarfare, by contrast, are high-damage, low-profit technologies.
Human stupidity is one of the most important forces in history, yet we often discount it. The most important secular commitment is to the truth, which is based on observation and evidence rather than on mere faith.
The chief commitment of secular people is to compassion. The twin commitments to truth and compassion result also in a commitment to equality. We cannot search for the truth and for the way out of suffering without the freedom to think, investigate, and experiment. Secular people cherish responsibility. Just as some religious beliefs have benefited humanity, so also have some secular dogmas. This is particularly true of the doctrine of human rights. Secular science has at least one big advantage over most traditional religions, namely that it is not terrified of its shadow, and it is in principle willing to admit its mistakes and blind spots.
If you feel overwhelmed and confused by the global predicament, you are on the right track. Global processes have become too complicated for any single person to understand. How then can you know the truth about the world, and avoid falling victim to propaganda and misinformation?
You know less than you think. We rely on the expertise of others for almost all our needs. If you cannot afford to waste time – you will never find the truth. You need to experiment with unproductive paths, to explore dead ends, to make space for doubts and boredom, and to allow little seeds of insight to slowly grow and blossom. Individual humans – whether pawns or kings – will consequently know even less about the technological gadgets, the economic currents, and the political dynamics that shape the world.
When we try to comprehend relations between millions of people across entire continents, our moral sense is overwhelmed. Justice demands not just a set of abstract values, but also an understanding of concrete cause-and-effect relations. The problem is that it has become extremely complicated to grasp what we are actually doing when we buy a H&M T-shirt, for example.
In trying to comprehend and judge moral dilemmas of this scale, people often resort to one of four methods.
- to downsize the issue
- to focus on a touching human story, which ostensibly stands for the whole conflict.
- to deal with large-scale moral dilemmas is to weave conspiracy theories.
- to create a dogma, put our trust in some allegedly all-knowing theory, institution or chief, and follow them wherever they lead us.
Many people assume that if a particular religion or ideology misrepresents reality, its adherents are bound to discover it sooner or later, because they will not be able to compete with more clear-sighted rivals. Well, that’s just another comforting myth. If all your neighbors believe the same outrageous tale, you can count on them to stand together in times of crisis. If they are willing to believe only accredited facts, what does that prove? In the case of a holy book, a true believer would say ‘I believe that the book is sacred’ while in the case of the dollar, a true believer would say only that ‘I believe that other people believe that the dollar is valuable’.
Why can’t humans abandon all myths and fictions, and organise themselves on the basis of consensual conventions such as the dollar? They hardly ever remind themselves ‘Actually, this is a worthless piece of paper, but because other people view it as valuable, I can make use of it.’ In practice there is no strict division between ‘knowing that something is just a human convention’ and ‘believing that something is inherently valuable’.
As a species, humans prefer power to truth. We spend far more time and effort on trying to control the world than on trying to understand it – and even when we try to understand it, we usually do so in the hope that understanding the world will make it easier to control it.
How to distinguish reality from fiction:
- First, if you want reliable information – pay good money for it.
- Second rule of thumb is that if some issue seems exceptionally important to you, make the effort to read the relevant scientific literature. And by scientific literature I mean peer-reviewed articles, books published by well-known academic publishers, and the writings of professors from reputable institutions.
The current technological and scientific revolution implies not that authentic individuals and authentic realities can be manipulated by algorithms and TV cameras, but rather that authenticity is a myth.
When you escape the matrix the only thing you discover is a bigger matrix.
Pain is pain, fear is fear, and love is love – even in the matrix.
Humankind is facing unprecedented revolutions, all our old stories are crumbling, and no new story has so far emerged to replace them. How can we prepare ourselves and our children for a world of such unprecedented transformations and radical uncertainties?
In such a world, the last thing a teacher needs to give her pupils is more information. They already have far too much of it. Instead, people need the ability to make sense of information, to tell the difference between what is important and what is unimportant, and above all to combine many bits of information into a broad picture of the world.
Many pedagogical experts argue that schools should switch to teaching ‘the four Cs’ – critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. More broadly, schools should downplay technical skills and emphasize general-purpose life skills. Most important of all will be the ability to deal with change, to learn new things, and to preserve your mental balance in unfamiliar situations. In order to keep up with the world of 2050, you will need not merely to invent new ideas and products – you will above all need to reinvent yourself again and again.
From time immemorial life was divided into two complementary parts: a period of learning followed by a period of working. In the first part of life you accumulated information, developed skills, constructed a world view, and built a stable identity. In the second part of life you relied on your accumulated skills to navigate the world, earn a living, and contribute to society.
‘Who am I?’ will be a more urgent and complicated question than ever before. This is likely to involve immense levels of stress.
Reconnecting neurons and rewiring synapses is damned hard work.
To survive and flourish in such a world, you will need a lot of mental flexibility and great reserves of emotional balance. You will have to repeatedly let go of some of what you know best, and feel at home with the unknown. Unfortunately, teaching kids to embrace the unknown and to keep their mental balance is far more difficult than teaching them an equation. Due to the growing pace of change you can never be certain whether what the adults are telling you is timeless wisdom or outdated bias.
As biotechnology and machine learning improve, it will become easier to manipulate people’s deepest emotions and desires, and it will become more dangerous than ever to just follow your heart. And once these algorithms know you better than you know yourself, they could control and manipulate you, and you won’t be able to do much about it. Authority will shift to them, so get to know yourself before they do.
When people ask about the meaning of life, they expect to be told a story.
It is striking to realize that scale matters very little. Some stories, such as Simba’s Circle of Life, seem to stretch for eternity. Other stories, such as most nationalist and tribal myths, are puny by comparison. Zionism holds sacred the adventures of about 0.2 per cent of humankind and 0.005 per cent of the earth’s surface during a tiny fraction of the span of time. The Zionist story fails to ascribe any meaning to the Chinese empires, to the tribes of New Guinea, and to the Andromeda galaxy, as well as to the countless aeons that passed before the existence of Moses, Abraham and the evolution of apes.
This theory of life as a never-ending epic is extremely attractive and common, but it suffers from two main problems. First, by lengthening my personal story I don’t really make it more meaningful. I just make it longer. Indeed, the two great religions that embrace the idea of a never-ending cycle of births and deaths – Hinduism and Buddhism – share a horror of the futility of it all.
So why do people believe in these fictions? One reason is that their personal identity is built on the story. People are taught to believe in the story from early childhood. By the time their intellect matures, they are so heavily invested in the story, that they are far more likely to use their intellect to rationalise the story than to doubt.
Not only our personal identities but also our collective institutions are built on the story. So how to make the story feel real? It’s obvious why humans want to believe the story, but how do they actually believe? Answer: rituals.
For many people in 2018, two wooden sticks nailed together are God.
You cannot see or hear France, because it exists only in your imagination, but you can certainly see the tricolor and hear the ‘Marseillaise’. So by waving a colorful flag and singing an anthem you transform the nation from an abstract story into a tangible reality.
Of all rituals, sacrifice is the most potent, because of all the things in the world, suffering is the most real.
Once you suffer for a story, it is usually enough to convince you that the story is real.
Most people don’t like to admit that they are fools. Consequently, the more they sacrifice for a particular belief, the stronger their faith becomes. The sacrifice is not just a way to convince your lover that you are serious – it is also a way to convince yourself that you are really in love. When you inflict suffering on yourself in the name of some story, it gives you a choice: ‘Either the story is true, or I am a gullible fool.’ When you inflict suffering on others, you are also given a choice: ‘Either the story is true, or I am a cruel villain.’ And just as we don’t want to admit we are fools, we also don’t want to admit we are villains, so we prefer to believe that the story is true. All the stories and gods in which people today believe – be they Yahweh, Mammon, the Nation, or the Revolution – are incomplete, full of holes, and riddled with contradictions. Therefore people rarely put their entire faith in a single story.
In itself, the universe is only a meaningless hodge-podge of atoms. Nothing is beautiful, sacred or sexy – but human feelings make it so. According to the liberal interpretation of the world, the truth is exactly the opposite. The universe does not give me meaning. I give meaning to the universe. In practical terms, those who believe in the liberal story live by the light of two commandments: create, and fight for liberty.
The first thing you need to know about yourself, is that you are not a story. Buddha taught that the three basic realities of the universe are that everything is constantly changing, nothing has any enduring essence, and nothing is completely satisfying. Suffering emerges because people fail to appreciate this.
People believe that there is some eternal essence somewhere, and if they can only find it and connect to it, they will be completely satisfied. This eternal essence is sometimes called God, sometimes the nation, sometimes the soul, sometimes the authentic self, and sometimes true love – and the more people are attached to it, the more disappointed and miserable they become due to the failure to find it. The Buddha advises: ‘Do nothing. Absolutely nothing.’
Be particularly careful about the following four words: sacrifice, eternity, purity, redemption. If you hear any of these, sound the alarm.
I didn’t understand why there was so much suffering in the world and in my own life, and what could be done about it. All I got from the people around me and from the books I read were elaborate fictions: religious myths about gods and heavens, nationalist myths about the motherland and its historical mission, romantic myths about love and adventure, or capitalist myths about economic growth and how buying and consuming stuff will make me happy.
The brain is a material network of neurons, synapses and biochemicals. The mind is a flow of subjective experiences, such as pain, pleasure, anger and love. Biologists assume that the brain somehow produces the mind, and that biochemical reactions in billions of neurons somehow produce experiences such as pain and love. However, so far we have absolutely no explanation for how the mind emerges from the brain. It might be worth working just as hard in order to understand our own minds. And we had better understand our minds before the algorithms make our minds up for us.
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