Yuval Harari, author of “Sapiens,” on AI, religion, and 60-day meditation retreats

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By Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio streamed directly from their servers.
Yuval Noah Harari’s first book, “Sapiens,” was an international sensation. The Israeli historian’s mind-bending tour through the trump of Homo sapiens is a favorite of, among others, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barack Obama. His new book, Homo Deus, is about what comes next for humanity — and the threat our own intelligence and creative capacity poses to our future. And it, too, is fantastically interesting.
I’ve wanted to talk to Harari since reading Sapiens. I’ve had one big question about him: what kind of mind creates a book like that? And now I know. A clear one.
Virtually everything Harari says in this conversation in fascinating. But what I didn’t expect was how central his consistent practice of vipassana meditation — which includes a 60-day silent retreat each year — is to understanding the works of both history and futurism he produces. We talk about that, and also:
-His theory on how all large-scale collaboration is based on fictions, from mythologies and religions to nationalism to human rights
-Why he sees money as one of the greatest stories human beings have ever told
-Why he reads only 5-10 pages of a huge number of books
-His theory that human beings have moved from venerating gods, to venerating themselves, to venerating data — and what that means for our future
-How we treat other animals and what that might imply for how artificial intelligences could treat us
-Whether wide swaths of human beings will be rendered useless by advances in computing
-The ways in which a narrow idea of what intelligence is — and the way it relates to consciousness — is holding us back from understanding AI
This is one of my favorite conversations we’ve had. Enjoy!
Books:
-Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, & Steel
-Frans de Waal’s Chimpanzee Politics
-Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World

75 episodes available. A new episode about every 6 days averaging 78 mins duration .