Natalie Portman and Yuval Noah Harari in Conversation

Natalie Portman and Yuval Noah Harari in Conversation

– Our speakers really don’t
need any introduction, so I’m really actually not going to give them an introduction, but just to say that
it is a great privilege of this job that every now
and again we get to bring together people who have not met, but who have admired each other
from afar for a long time, and that is certainly the
case for this evening. Natalie Portman, as you all know, is an award-winning, Academy
award-winning actress. She’s also an environmentalist, very deeply committed one, and a Harvard alumni. Her credentials in many,
many fields run very deep. Yuval Harari’s books have
sold absolutely millions. We are so delighted
that there’s a new one. Another treat of reading that
lies in store for all of you. Without further ado please give them the most enormous welcome
to Natalie Portman, and Yuval Noah Harari. (audience applauding) – Thank you, thank you. I’m so honored to be here talking to you, and thank you for pouring
me water, gentlemanly. So we talked about how the
most sort of obvious connection between us, may be for other people, would be that we both were born in Israel. So I’m interested in how
you think your origins have influenced you as a
historian, as a thinker. – I think we were both
born in the myth factory of the world, like a
place that specializes introducing extremely powerful stories for good and for bad. And when you live in such a place, you just cannot ignore the enormous power of the human imagination,
the enormous power of stories to move the world. So I guess that, you know,
maybe I would have written the same books even if I had
been born in Australia or China maybe not, but certainly I think that living in a place where at least recently people have been killing each other by the millions over fictional stories makes you see the world
in a very particular way. – No absolutely, and that aspect of
fiction has so much to do with what you talk about and of course what I do in filmmaking telling stories. And I’m interested in what you
think the role of fiction is in history and historical,
in the way you put things together too. – Well now certainly
Hollywood is competing with the Holy Land for the
title of the main story factory of the world, and it’s almost as powerful. And yeah I mean it’s really
my perception is that in the end the economists
and the engineers, and the soldiers, they are
very often just working to realize something that came
up in the mind of some poet. And this is also why there is so, I think there is a huge responsibility on the shoulders of
poets and screenwriters and actors and artists that you think that oh we just entertain people, but this is not the case. It goes much, much more deeply. It provides the kind of
scaffolding for people to make sense of their individual lives and of their collective
lives and good stories create a very good world
and problematic stories create a very problematic world, and the human ability to create fictions on the one hand is responsible
for all our amazing achievements as a species,
but also to so much harm that we have done to ourselves
and that we have done to other animals that as far as we know I would say one of the
main differences as far as we know between us and the other animals that they can’t create
these kinds of fictions but their lives and
death is often determined by the stories that this
particular ape species is able to tell and believe. – Can you talk more
about how you think that that storytelling has made us survive or how that has helped humans to thrive? Like how’s it been a
survival tool? Storytelling? – It simply enables cooperation. I mean the key issue is how do you get complete strangers to trust one another. Trust one another enough
in order to cooperate and to cooperate can
mean to build a prison or to build an army or to build a hospital or to build a school. In all cases you’re dealing
with lots of strangers cooperating towards a common goal, and the trust is again in the end trust is always based on
believing in the same story, so thousands of years ago, two strangers meet in the jungle, and they want to trade instead of fight. So they don’t know each other, so how do you trust
somebody you don’t know. You realize that you’re actually family. You have some mythical ancestor that hey your ancestor
is also my ancestor. So we are actually both, we are both descendants of Abraham. We have the same ancestor. We are actually brother and sister and once you get over that hurdle we are not now strangers. I mean in reality we are strangers. We don’t know anything about each other, but in our imagination we
are brothers and sister. We belong to the same family, and then we can trust, and if this sounds very, very primitive then you just need to take
out the currency notes of most countries today in the world, and you will see the same
thing, the same ancestors. Like if in the United States
so you go to a supermarket and you meet a stranger,
we don’t know this person and you want to buy bread
or bananas or whatever. And you take out this piece of paper, hey you see this ancestors
George Washington these, you know, we are the same. And because we both
believe in the same story, we can trust each other and it works. And it works when the story
comes from the Holy Land about Jesus and God and whatever, and it can work when the
story comes from Hollywood. And you know it’s not a
coincidence that now that I travel a lot around the
world and when you meet somebody very often we try
to look for a TV series that we both watched. Hey I also watched it. So suddenly we kind of like, you know we have some common story
together and it breaks the ice. – What’s the difference between a story that people believe in and a story that people just watch and know is fictional, but relate to in some way like a TV show in terms of like a connecting tissue. – There is no clear line. I mean the the whole thing
works by being a bit opaque, by being a bit cloudy
and misty and unclear. When we think about it
kind of retroactively or philosophically, we think
that the world is divided quite clearly into, okay there is fiction and there is reality but usually they just get mixed together, and when you watch a
movie so for 90 minutes if the movie is good, you forget it’s just a fictional story. If you constantly remember hey
it’s just a fictional story it’s just actors, they
rehearse this scene 50 times and shoot it again and again and again. And then stitched it together and then it’s not a good movie. You are not really getting
caught up in the story, and it’s the same with
something like football. To really enjoy it you
need to forget for again at least 90 minutes that
you know this is just fictional rules that who said, that the most important
thing is to get the ball into into the goal, who said? If you think like that
you won’t enjoy football. So you need to, you know
the suspension of disbelief it’s like the first
thing that they teach in almost any art school or
any school about literature. It’s suspension of disbelief. – Yeah it’s always mysterious
to me in literature that when there’s a fictional book that seems too autobiographical, everyone says oh it’s just
she’s writing about herself. It’s not really fiction and
then when there’s a story that’s nonfiction, but it
doesn’t totally adhere to facts people say oh they’re straying from it, and it’s like of course everything is some version of fiction. – I remember I think it was in the UK a couple of years ago,
there was this huge outcry. They wanted to stage
something from Harry Potter, like the Harry Potter
theater show or something, and they wanted to have a
black person playing Hermione. And there was this huge
outcry “No you can’t do that. “Hermione is white.” And people went over I think the entire seven volumes, it’s seven right? – [Natalie] I think. – The entire seven volumes
and they found one place, just one place where the
text indicates clearly that something about
Hermione hiding in the woods on a moonlit night and
the moon rays fall upon her white skin, something like that, they found the one place
in the entire seven volumes that and no you have
to stick with reality. You don’t mind people
flying on broomsticks. You don’t mind you know all these things, but no, no, no she has to be white. (Natalie laughs) – Yeah I love, you write in
the book about how certain religions tend toward
choosing specific facts from their texts. That if you look in old
Jewish texts for example you can find very erotic passages and even images in– – [Yuval] In synagogues. – In synagogues and yet
current religious Judaism is all about female modesty. Why do you think that so many religions, so many people within
different religions tend toward the conservative facts as
opposed to the evidence that they can find in the past that is more loose or open
sexually, morally whatever. – It’s a kind of arms race that everybody wants to
be like more orthodox and more pious than the other, and there is this tendency
to think that the most strict I am the closer I am to God somehow. But he’s very strict. So you see along the centuries that you draw a line and then you draw a line just behind it, just
to be on the safe side. So nobody crosses this line. We will draw another line just on and it gets you know like with, as you said in the ancient
in ancient synagogues that were excavated by archeologists, you often find images of women on the floors in mosaics and on the walls. I mean today in at least
in orthodox synagogues in Israel, it would be
blasphemous and sacrilege to have any, I mean in many
religious neighborhoods you can’t even have, when
you have advertisements it’s only men and boys. Like there was a famous case
that they made advertisement for a new neighborhood or something. So you know you have these new houses and then happy families
and the happy families it was just men and boys. Because you can’t show,
not only in the synagogue, you can’t show, and when
you go back 2000 years to the rabbis who wrote
the Mishnah and the Talmud, they prayed in synagogues with
images of women on the floor and on the walls, and so yes you have this escalating arms race. – And you talk also
about, you write about the use of metaphor in religion compared to meditative practice where you
talk about breath is breath as opposed to in religion
the wafer is Christ’s body or the salt water and Passover for Jews is the tears of slaves where
there’s so much metaphor. Why do you feel that
the sort of literalism appreciating the thing for the thing it is is more helpful for you in meditation than its kind of comparison and religion? – Well in the meditation practice, at least the meditation I
practice is really about just being able to
observe reality as it is to really tell the
difference, what is real and what is just stories
and fictions and metaphors generated by my mind or
by somebody else’s mind, but you know people
sometimes pass their entire lives just within metaphors and fictions and never getting a
real glimpse of reality, and also I think leaving
aside the meditation practice as a story and I kind of
developed a horror of metaphors because what often happens
to metaphors in history they get solidified and rarefied
and become a thing itself and people forget where they came from. To give an example like you know, in religion so people talk
about salvation and redemption and eternity, but what is eternity? What is salvation? It’s too difficult for
most people to grasp and certainly to attain
so you have a metaphor, you have say a building,
a temple, a mosque, the Wailing Wall, the Western Wall which stands as a metaphor for eternity, as a metaphor for salvation
and people would go to the temple and okay so you
have a place standing in for this abstract very
difficult to grasp notion of eternity or for salvation, but what happens next? People forget it’s just a metaphor. They rarefy the metaphor. The temple really is salvation. The temple really is eternity and then what do you want to do? You want to possess eternity. Suddenly you can. If I can just get hold or
conquer this pile of stones I have eternity. I have salvation and then
people start fighting over these things, forgetting that hey this was just a metaphor. Don’t take it so serious. And it happened thousands of years ago. It happens today, but you know
the essence of holy places like temples or synagogues
or like the place we are here right now, is in the end it’s
about the human experience. It’s the idea that you go to a place and you experience peace
like we have a lot of anger in your life, you have a lot
of irritation in your life or hate or whatever and there is a place that you can go and experience
peace and feel better about yourself and also
be better to other people. And this is like you
know the essential idea of a temple or a mosque or a synagogue, but then what happens is
that some of these places become factories of hatred. Instead of going there
and experiencing peace people start fighting over these places you know which is very strange because you know this is
a dysfunctional temple. Like you have a car factory
that doesn’t produce cars. You don’t want it. So you have a peace factory
which for some reason produces wars and you
don’t want this factory. It’s broken. – There’s there’s a thing in psychology that you probably have heard about where people who are depressed
are more realistic. Like if you tell them a story, they will recount it more accurately and people who are not depressed
tend to change the story to make it more optimistic. Make things better so
there’s kind of this thing about how like being unrealistic actually is a way to make yourself happier. Do you find that taking reality as reality what you’re talking about seeing stones as stones and breath is breath is a bleaker vision of the world? – It takes out some of the color yes, but it brings back I think
more than it takes away because in the end you
know the greatest mysteries in the world we experience them every day. Consciousness is probably the greatest mystery in the universe. And it’s not some special experience of place or whatever. Just to understand pain,
to understand irritation to understand the experience of boredom, if we could really understand that this is the most interesting and the most amazing thing we know about in the entire universe, is this really miracle of consciousness and so I don’t think
I’m really giving up on the big things of the
world or of the universe. Yeah there is a tendency of the big things to be eventually very banal that I don’t know, I was a
specialist in the Crusades. This was like my first
when I began my career as a historian my special
field was crusades, crusader history. And I kept reading these
chronicles about the first crusade in 1096, all these
knights in shining armor leaving Europe to go to the Holy Land and conquer Jerusalem. And they had these
millenarian expectations that when we will get to Jerusalem the most amazing thing
in the world will happen like the end of time, the
second coming of whatever. And eventually it was just so banal like they fought and
they killed and they died for four terrible years
and endured terrible hunger and sieges and battles and
eventually conquered Jerusalem, and slaughtered all its
population and reached the holy places and you know
it was just like any other day. They woke up next day, they ate breakfast, they fought with one another. Somebody had stomach ache. It was just so banal. – The use of fiction backs
that in telling history and being a historian is and I wonder if you ever intentionally use
it to make points more clear. Like for example someone told me I studied psychology
in school so excuse me if many of my examples
are from psychology, but Oliver Sacks the sort
of popular psychologist, some of his case studies,
one of my professors told me, are not realistic, like
there’s one example of someone who has a disorder that they can’t, they kind of recognize
things from their shape, and they mistake a fire
hydrant for a child. And they said that would
never happen because you could still see the shape move and if something’s not
moving they would know it’s not a child. It’s completely unrealistic
and they approached Sachs about it and he said of course but you give an example that’s so clear that people remember it
and it stays more clearly in their mind so for medical students it’s a much better example even if it’s not really factually accurate because they’ll remember
that when they’re diagnosing someone, they’ll be like
oh the fire hydrant. Now is there any equivalent
in what you do where you shape something that might have a little fiction that you acknowledge but
it’s a clearer way to round your point? – There is always the temptation because it works very well. To a certain extent yes
I do it all the time all historians do it all the time, because we use stories and reality is just not built like a story. If you just try to tell reality as it is then you end up I don’t know
James Joyce writing Ulysses like the stream-of-consciousness
and a million things happening and nobody can, almost
nobody can finish the book. Or remember what is happening. It’s just our fortune and
misfortune as a species that we think in stories, so if you want to make a point you have to take the messiness of reality and cast it as a story. Otherwise people don’t understand, and we have now all these
you know discussions about for example climate change, that how to make the
general public understand what is happening, what is the enormity of the crisis we are facing. What is the evidence supporting it, what should we do? And the problem is that scientists, including climate scientists, they think in facts, in
numbers, in statistics, in equations, in graphs, all the things that make
most people like fall asleep. Or just not get it. If you really want to make
the public understand climate change, you need a story. So from this perspective
it’s almost inevitable, and even again you don’t, I mean there is a step further, which I try to avoid as much as possible, which in order to make
the story a little better let’s invent some of the facts. Let’s change some of the facts because it serves a good cause, and it will be a better
story, a more memorable story, and this is a constant temptation that I can’t promise that I never seen but I try not to. I try if the story is complicated so okay so it will be a bit more complicated. – Well one of the things that has most impacted me from your writing was an article that you wrote for the Guardian that is also
a chapter in 21 Questions. About the Theater of Terrorism. And I bring it up in every
Times Up meeting that I go to. Because I was really surprised and completely shifted
my perspective to see how you showed that the spectacle of 9/11 was the Twin Towers coming down and not the Pentagon, which
was the more classical military you know target that was hit that day. But the spectacle, this visual,
this image was so powerful across the world and then
using something like that for positives, for something
like climate change like how can we use that
concept of spectacle and how impactful it is
in today’s day and age in a positive way as opposed
to obviously a destructive way. – Yes so you know you have
the polar bear on this iceberg which is the iconic
image of climate change. And it’s a very powerful image. Now of course climate change
is not about polar bears. I mean it’s also about them, but it’s not the only thing, and still this is that iconic image because again this goes
from the birds to the apes. This is how the apes see
the world, so you must speak their language, if you just
give them a list of statistical facts you lose them. And you know the big
advantage of terrorists in the struggle for attention and attention is now may
be the most important resource in the world, and you have all these, a lot
of the political struggles today in the world, they’re actually struggles for attention. And again unfortunately
because of our evolutionary background, there is
nothing that grabs attention more than violence. So staging a spectacle
of violence captures the attention of people of the media more than anything else. This is like the simple
insight which underlies the whole phenomena of, the
phenomenon of terrorism. And they understood it and they use it. They create a spectacle of violence. They kill a handful of
people and make millions fear for their lives. It’s extremely effective. It hijacks our brains. It hijacks our own
evolutionary mechanisms. – How do you think that is
different from state violence? – State violence is very
often on a very large scale. You actually sometimes
kill millions of people. It’s not about, the fear is a by-product, but it’s not the main thing. Actually very often it’s the opposite. When states use tremendous
amount of violence in many cases they try to hide it. No, no, no nothing is happening. Don’t look here, don’t look here. We don’t want reporters. We don’t want journalists. Terrorists it’s just the opposite. Usually terrorism is the
strategy of very weak parties. They can’t use violence on a large scale. They would like to, but they just can’t. So they have just this
spectacle of violence and then they try to call
in yes come everybody. Come see, all the journalists,
all the reporters, TV camera, oh wonderful come here. We have a spectacle of
violence and we want to be in every TV set around the country. So it works very differently. The states are really powerful. Very often, they’re really powerful. They don’t want to draw
attention to their power. – And you write about
how, and we’ve talked a little bit about how
the women’s movement has achieved this change
rather recently without much violence and how unusual that is. What do you think, why do you
think that happens so late? Why do you think, I mean
obviously there’s still far, very far to go, but why do you
think that happened so late? And why do you think it was
successful without violence? – First we really need to
you know to stop a minute and think about the,
really the amazing change that the feminist revolution has done over the last century. And we saw little violence,
you know you have much much smaller changes in human society during history which required
tremendous amounts of violence, and this you
know for thousands of years all over the world different
religions, cultures, political systems, and
one thing is constant, which is the subjugation
in oppression of women. It’s the patriarchal system. To the degree that many
people thought that this is just natural and eternal. It’s just the way things
are, nothing can change it, and then within a relatively short time historically speaking of a century or two and with very, very little violence a tremendous change has happened. And we don’t really understand
how to account for it. Partly because we also as
scientists as scholars, as historians, we find
it difficult to explain the patriarchal system in the first place. Many people think that
there are obvious answers to the question why in
almost all large-scale human societies, women
had a much lower legal and political and
economic status than men. And actually we don’t have a good theory. – I have one (laughs). I don’t know if it’s good. Well it seems like it
balances out the biological superiority, can I say that? Not superiority but the
fact that we’re like the center of creation, you’re
the means of reproduction. (audience laughing) To control the means of reproduction you have to have some sort
of balance on that right? – It may be quite obvious why men would like to
control women’s bodies, women’s sexuality. What is not clear is how
are they able to do it? Because we have other species
including some of our closest relatives in nature the bonobo chimpanzees in which maybe the bonobo
males would like to control the female bonobos, but they just can’t. In bonobo society, networks
of females actually dominate the society. Now lots of people have
this very simplistic notion that men are simply stronger physically. So you know it’s a no brainer but actually this is a
very problematic theory because when you look at human societies, there is no consistent match between physical strength and
social and political power. In many cases there is
a huge mismatch there like in most societies
people in their 50s and 60s and 70s dominate people in their 20s even though people in their
20s are physically stronger. If you look at organizations, whether it’s the Catholic Church,
whether it’s United States, whether it’s the Mafia, so very often the Pope is not the strongest Catholic around. It’s not like they had this
big boxing championship of all the catabolic males in the world, and Francis defeated all the competition, so he’s now Pope. Even in criminal organizations very often the the Capo di tutti capi, the big boss he could be a man in his 60s who doesn’t go around beating people up but he has the power to tell
much younger and stronger men go and kill this guy and they obey. And usually social power
depends on social abilities. The ability to build alliances. The abilities to reach
compromises with potential allies. The ability to understand what
the other person is thinking either in order to reach
a deal or in order to beware of a trap and at least
according to folk psychology. I will be happy to hear
what you think about it, but folk psychology usually
argues that women are better than men in all these
things like understanding the viewpoint of somebody else,
instead of obsessing about what I think and what I want. So if if this is true, and
I’m not sure if it’s true, but if it is true that women
have superior social skills or at least some social
skills, it’s a very big riddle then why is it that human
society is dominated by these self-centered males and not by women with their superior
abilities to make alliances and which compromises and so forth because again if you
look at bonobo society male bonobos are significantly stronger than female bonobos, but the males don’t have strong networks
whereas the females have very strong networks, and this is what enables
them to dominate the society. – And so no one has come
up with any plausible– – There’s an entire
industry with theories about the origins of the patriarchal system, and why it has been so
robust and long-lasting, and why is it shaking and
in the last few decades there is no shortage of theories but there we are very far from having an evidence-based theory, which is accepted by the
majority of scholars. – That’s, I wanna talk
more about that later. You have a really
fascinating part of the book that talks about how fake news
has kind of always existed. And I’m interested in how you think this sort of biblical fake news that you’ve sort of touched upon is different than today’s
kind of intentional misinformation campaigns. – Well misinformation and propaganda have been there throughout history, the means are different. Again religion is an obvious place to go, and even religious people
will agree that all religions except one, are fake news. My religion is of course the truth. You go ask a Jew then
the Jew will tell you yes Judaism is the truth, but Christianity you know
all these stories about Jesus being the Son of God
and rising from the dead this is all fake news don’t believe that. Then you go to the Christian priest, he will tell you, no, no, no, no, this is honest-to-god truth. But all these stories of the Muslims about Muhammad being visited
by the Archangel Gabriel and the Quran being
dictated by God and all that this is all fake news. And you ask the Muslim, he will say the same thing
about Hinduism and so forth. And you don’t really need the
modern means of communication to spread fake news. People you know they blame
Facebook and social media and all that but if you live
in some small medieval village a thousand years ago, so
you don’t have Facebook, you don’t have a smartphone, but somebody comes along and
tells you hey do you know the old woman who lives by the forest? I just saw her flying on a broomstick. And within an hour you would
have an entire mob of people with torches and pitchforks ready to burn this woman to death. So this is you know fake
news medieval style. And so the means of spreading and creating the fake news change, but the phenomenon has been there throughout human history. – Right, the part of the
book where you talk about AI and basically our
technology kind of knowing how to manipulate us, so that our technology can
affect our decision-making so that we’re almost
automatons like being, it was very scary to me. And I was interested
because you had talked about how this has been a phenomenon forever. Why this is actually scarier than someone come into your village? Like why is this different if
we’ve always been manipulated and we’ve always thought our own decisions were our own decisions but
we’re actually influenced by a lot of people manipulating
us and telling us stories. Why is this different? – Because up till now the manipulation was rather rudimentary. Nobody could really
know what was happening inside your brain, so you
know they had folk psychology and folk sociology for thousands of years. You know which kind of stories make people do what kind of things,
but it’s very rudimentary and unscientific and this
was simply because nobody could really get inside your brain and inside your mind because
nobody understood biology well enough and nobody
had enough computing power you know to gather all
the data about you 24 hours a day and analyze it. I mean even if you lived
in the Soviet Union during Stalin or during Brezhnev era and you had the KGB follow you around 24 hours a day, the KGB didn’t have the kind
of brain science we have today. And the KGB did not have
like super computers. So you know you have all
this huge file on Natalie that we gathered for years, but who can read all that and analyze it? Now it’s a completely different situation. We are beginning to have
enough understanding of biology and enough computing power,
so that for the first time in history somebody, some corporations, some governments could be in a position to hack human beings in a systematic and large-scale manner,
which means that very soon somebody out there will know me better than I know myself and
will know you better than you know yourself. Now again it’s not completely new. There were cases before
that somebody knows you better than you know yourself. Very often we call this person mother. (all laughing) When I was you know three
years old or five years old my mother knew me better
than I knew myself. Understood my quirks
and my personality and what’s good for me and
what’s not good for me. And the good thing is that in most cases if you don’t grow up
in very abusive family then your mother has your best interests. So it’s good that she
knows you better than you know yourself because as a three-year-old you won’t survive otherwise. – You’re not angry, you’re hungry. That’s my rule for my kids. – But the problem is what
happens if you’re 30 years old and the president tells you
you’re not angry, you’re hungry. That’s far more sinister than when it comes from your mother. Or when Amazon tells you, you’re not really angry,
but you’re just hungry. You need to eat this, trust me. – [Natalie] Buy this yeah. – Yeah and this is what we are going to, and it’s not you know
science fiction/fantasy. Actually I think that science
fiction is not drilling deep enough about this point,
there are some movies and novels that deal with it, but I think personally that
science fiction is may be the most important genre today, because it prepares people for dealing with the new challenges of
the 21st century like AI, but it usually focuses
on the wrong scenarios like the scenario of the
AI gaining consciousness and the robots coming to kill us. It is very unlikely. I’m far more concerned about
the robots coming to feed us and to sell us stuff, that the robots are
coming to sell us stuff. – They’ve already come to sell us stuff. – And they know how to
press our emotional buttons. So they’re very good at selling us stuff. – So do we throw away our smartphones? Is that the, does that help us? Does it save us? – No I mean it’s impossible
and also because you know much of the new technology
has wonderful promises. We don’t want to give
up all the good things that the internet and smartphones
have been doing for us. I met my husband on the Internet. So I don’t want to give it up. The internet has been good to me. But like with every technology, we need to make it serve our purposes instead of us serving its purposes. The problem is that for the first time we have a technology that can understand our purposes better than we do and can therefore manipulate it without our even realizing it. We have all this still myth of free will that everything we choose
is of our own free will and this is a myth that served us well for a couple of centuries but
now it’s becoming dangerous, because when people
believe that every decision they make reflects why
did you choose this? Oh this is my free will, then you are very uncurious
about what’s really happening inside your brain, inside your mind, and what kind of buttons
and levers are being pressed and you know as long as
nobody can really mess with your brain and your mind, then you can believe in free will and there is no harm, but once somebody has privileged access to your inner reality and it’s not you. It’s some corporation or government, then belief in free will
becomes very, very dangerous. The easiest people to
manipulate are the people who are convinced that their decision, I decided if it’s my free will. – Okay but if you don’t
believe in free will then how can you even
believe that you have the choice to be free of
it, of this stipulation? – No we have choices all the time. We have a will, we have
desires, we have choices. We just don’t choose
which desires to have. Our choices in this sense, they are not free. They are the result of an
enormous amount of influences genetic, environmental, and
increasingly technological. So you know a lot of people
think that if I don’t believe in free will then I will
just curl up in some corner and starve to death because but actually I find this
extremely liberating that the next thought
that pops up in the mind, the next desire that pops up in the mind, instead of rushing to identify with it, this is me, I chose it. You actually become more curious, hey where did this come from? Is it really my desire or was it planted or influenced by something– – It sounds like schizophrenia, to be like this is not my idea. That someone implanted it in my brain, like the government put
a radio in my brain. – Yeah but you know what was
schizophrenia 50 years ago is becoming reality. And it’s becoming (mumbles). – I need something stronger than water. I need like I need a whiskey or something. – So you know nobody
knows how to deal with it. I mean I don’t know how to deal with it. I just know that we have
to face this reality as whereas we enter an era
in which we are no longer black boxes, in which it is
becoming easier and easier for all kinds of entities. Again could be corporations,
could be governments, could be various organizations. To constantly monitor
us and thereby hack us not our smartphones,
not our bank accounts, hack our brains, our personality. They can know which,
you know you have today it’s not science fiction. You have today corporations whose advertisement campaigns are like precision-guided munitions. Like we need to find 16 year old girls with low self-esteem. This is the ideal
clientele for our product, and we now have an algorithm that can sift through big data gathered from YouTube and Facebook and whatever and we can locate the
16,728 16 year old girls with low self-esteem that we
can target for our product. And this is not science fiction. This is happening all the time. You know Analytica and
all that it drew attention to the political implications
of this technology and personally I think it’s
actually good it happened because it was a kind of wake-up call, and we still have time not a lot of time, but we still have some time
to do something about it. To realize what is the
implications of creating these kinds of technologies
to hack human beings. – And you talk about
global governing bodies kind of approaching these issues, and also corporations
these tech companies having sort of philosophers on staff ethicists, to deal with you know the
ethics of a self-driving car and things like that,
how would you design that sort of committee or what
would be your recommendations for these tech companies in
designing their technology to be responsible if they
want to be responsible, which I would hope many of them do. – Well it needs to come in
from various directions. We definitely need government
and international regulations about these things and many
of the greatest dangers, they can’t be regulated on
the level of a single nation or a single country. You need international
agreements on the good regulation of the most dangerous technologies. Otherwise it wouldn’t work because nobody would like to stay behind in an AI arms race. There is a lot of things
that corporations can do that engineers and technicians
and scientists can do. It’s just you know which
projects you choose to work on. At present a lot of these
big data surveillance algorithms, they survey
individuals in the service of corporations and governments. This is the usual direction, but there is nothing about technology that prevents us from
designing the opposite type of surveillance mechanisms. For example a big data AI algorithm that surveys the government
in the service of the citizens to make sure there is no corruption. You like surveillance so much why don’t we survey you? No, no, no, this is the red line, this no. And similarly you know you have all these big tech companies designing,
creating, engineering AI to monitor and survey us. You can design an AI sidekick that, yes it gets to know me even
better than I know myself. It gets to know my unique weaknesses but in order to protect me
from the hostile AIs out there that are trying to get me. There is no technical
reason why you can’t go in that direction and just
as you have an anti-virus for your computer, that at
least tries to defend your computer from all these
malware and Trojan horses, and so forth we can have
an AI that protects me from all these other AIs
that are trying to hack me and to manipulate me. It’s just a question
of what we choose to do with the new technologies. – But you also wrote the thing
that I’m really connected to about how we’re very good
at creating technologies and not very good at
predicting how it will be used. I’m paraphrasing poorly. You can probably elaborate more on it, but I’m just wondering if we accept that you know we can create
fertilizer that we think is gonna be a great thing
and feed all these people and then becomes the biggest
environmental disaster. We think we’re doing something
good that will save people that will help people and
ends up being a crisis or you know Twitter the
founders of Twitter recently expressed regret over
they thought bringing news to everybody quickly
would help save the world, and obviously it’s become very,
very negative in many ways although positive in other ways too. How do we create things when
so many good intentioned things have such negative impacts
that we can predict? There is no easy solution to that. It’s a question of
simplicity and complexity that it’s far simpler to manipulate things than to understand them. We sometimes naively think
that to really manipulate something you need to
understand all its complexity but it’s totally not the case. It’s much easier for example
to build a dam over a river than to understand the
complexity of the ecosystem and all the different
implications of building this dam. Or like the example that
you gave is the fertilizer that yes plants need more
nitrogen in order to grow. Wonderful we have this
chemical that provides nitrogen to the plants, but it
was easy for chemists not very easy but
relatively easy for chemists to synthesize this particular fertilizer, but to understand what
are the implications when large quantities of this
chemical are being washed into the ocean year after year
and what it will do to the fish and to the octopuses and
to the algae and so forth, this is so much more complicated. And it’s the same with Twitter
and it’s the same with almost every technology, there is this huge gap between manipulation and understanding. And I think the worst danger on this front is that we are about to gain the ability to manipulate the human
body and the human brain and the human mind long
before we understand the full complexity
especially of the human mind. So we are likely to start
changing, manipulating our internal reality without really understanding the full consequences which could lead to just as we now face an ecological disaster
in the outside world, we might face a kind
of mental eco disaster in the world inside us. And you know we are now conducting beginning to conduct these
huge experiments on billions of people and billions of
kids, nobody knows what are the consequences for example
of raising kids on screens. We just don’t know. We hope it will be okay. W hope we will middle through and so far you know so far so good, but we just really don’t know. – Something that you write
about as being one of the sort of central
tenets of your secularism is eliminating suffering. And then you also write very, you quote extensively and impactfully from Brave New World about how the Soma, the drug kind of takes
out everything that’s like worthwhile in life, you know
this feeling this lack of pain and takes away so much art and so much of what makes life life. And obviously there’s such
an equivalent with the opioid epidemic now and how obviously
there’s a goal of eliminating pain, but obviously it’s also
creating like a zombie nation for us in the US. How do you reconcile that
sort of tenet of trying to alleviate human suffering and of course other
sentient beings suffering, animal suffering with the necessity, I mean I believe in the necessity of having a spectrum that
you can’t experience the love without the possibility of that love of breaking up. You can’t experience the
joy of living without the threat of mortality. In my mind I mean maybe that’s an opinion as opposed to a truth, but
I’m interested in how you reconcile those. – The huge difference
between pain and suffering, very often suffering is I mean pain is a particular sensation in the body. Suffering is generated by the mind. Very often in reaction
to things like pain. The pain is pain, okay
I have pain in my knee. The suffering is when my
mind starts going crazy. I want to get rid of this pain, and it’s still there and
I want to get rid of it and this I want to get rid of it. There is something in reality and I don’t want it to be in reality but it’s there. This is the generation of suffering, so it’s something very
different from pain. If we just learn how
to live with the pain, it’s still painful but at
least some of the suffering goes away and it’s the same
with something like sadness. I mean if you’re sad and your mind goes I don’t want to be sad. I want to be happy, I want to be joyful, then the sadness also
turns into suffering, and then you also have the temptation, let’s take something to
eliminate the sadness. Let’s take a pill let’s watch a movie, let’s run away from the sadness. And you’re not only generating suffering for yourself in doing so, you’re also missing a large part of life. Life is definitely not just about joy and not just about pleasure. It’s also about pain and sadness, they have a lot to teach us. There can be a lot for example of depth in sadness and if you just
you know all your life just run away whenever
sadness brings its head up then you’re missing a large part of life. So when I talk about alleviating suffering I don’t mean just let’s find some pill that makes all the
sadness and all the pain and all the anger and
all the negative emotions just disappear from the world. It won’t work and if it does work well it will be a very
very different world than the one we know. – I’m also interested in how
you write about technology being able to create art or AI
being able to write music now and play chess creatively, but those examples are obviously very sort of mathematical examples. Do you think that extends to other arts that are less mathematical? Like writing a poem or you
know painting a painting? – Well it really goes to
the question of what is art, and I would be very happy to hear, I mean I’ve been talking all the time and I would be very happy to hear what you think about it but a very common understanding is that art is about inspiring human emotions, but in the end whether it’s painting, whether it’s theater, whether
it’s the movie or ballet or music or anything,
it’s in the end comes down to the human experience. We want to inspire maybe
joy, maybe sadness, maybe anger, maybe fear, you go to a horror
movie, you go to a drama, you go to a comedy, the
idea is let’s inspire a particular human emotion. Now if it is true that
the ultimate instrument that all artists are playing on is the human emotional system, which is the human biochemical system. There is a chance that
computers could become the best artists in the world, in
the sense of you want joy, I know how to press
your biochemical buttons to produce joy. You want to feel sad, I know
how to press your emotional keyboard to produce sadness. Maybe art is not about
inspiring human emotions but if it is there is
a case to be made that in the not-too-distant future computers will be so good in
manipulating human emotions that human artists will find it difficult to compete with them. And this is where I would
really like to hear your views on about both is it
really what art is about to inspire you in emotions and if it is, does it mean that maybe
quite soon a lot of artists will be out of work? – (laughs) You know I don’t
understand the technology enough to understand if
technology would be able to really replace art. Of course for music it seems plausible because music is so much pattern and math. It seems less plausible to me of course that something like
storytelling or painting that seems much more visceral, and not something that could
necessarily be like a product of an algorithm and be as effective as. But I don’t know and
it’s interesting to me that you say that consciousness is this sort of mystery, but
you have a real belief that emotion is this sort
of biochemical algorithm. How does that separate and how
do you think the subconscious which is also sort of a mystery but maybe somehow connects
between emotion and consciousness and it’s sort of woven
throughout as opposed to being like some layered thing. How does that relate
where something seems like something that can be hacked and something is a complete mystery? – Yeah I don’t know I mean
I think almost nobody knows. We don’t understand
consciousness well enough, so we don’t understand
what’s happening there, but we do again this is the
gap between manipulation and understanding. We don’t understand the mind, but we become extremely
effective in manipulating it. We do know how to produce emotions with greater and greater certainty, both in human collectives
and in individuals to the degree you know the most extreme cases is when in all kinds of medical procedures you implant electrodes in people’s brains, and you can like with almost
a hundred percent certainty you know that the doctor or
the scientist presses a button and the person feels joy or fear, and then the mind generates
a story why I felt fear like we know the answer why you felt fear because doctor X just pressed this button and it is connected by an
electrode to your brain to the center of the field
of the medulla whatever. So this is why you felt fear, but the mind, no, no, no, there is something
frightening about this scene. This person looks to me very shady and it comes up with a story. And so we don’t, again I don’t understand, we don’t understand,
but we can manipulate. – Right which is, I always
think of the falling reflex, you know when you fall asleep. That’s just a spinal cord reflex but somehow our brain makes the story that in our dream that we’re falling that makes us feel like we’re having that because of the story but
the impulse comes from your spine first and it goes right back to like our narrative tendencies that our narrative
tendencies seem to explain our own body’s reflexes
more than the other way. Like that behavior precedes intention as opposed to intention
preceding behavior. – Yeah and the danger is that
when you get to the point you can manipulate
people’s emotion so well, you know the political
implications are really horrifying. Because we know from
history that for example in order to get a population
to hate some group you basically need to hijack their, not just their fear system, but their disgust. Throughout history you see again and again this trick that the first
step towards ostracizing or persecuting or exterminating a group is you feel disgust towards them. Now disgust, the mechanism
of disgust evolved by evolution to protect us against disease against sources of
contamination like feces or an open wound or a corpse
or all kinds of vermin and things like that, but then humans in history discovered that you can actually hijack
these brain mechanisms and direct them not towards
these disgusting things, but against disgusting people, and again and again you see in history that people like are
compared with cockroaches, – [Natalie] Metaphor again.
– Or compared the disease, they are like cancer. They are a source of pollution, so you know even very
large groups of people like women have often been considered a source of pollution in many religions. Why can’t a woman be a rabbi? Why can’t a woman be a priest? Women are a source of pollution. – Why can’t you shake hands with a woman? – Yeah and this is hijacking. There is real pollution in the world. You know again feces, this is pollution, but woman isn’t. But people have found
out how to hijack the disgust mechanisms in the brain, and you know 20 years from now, you can do that in a very precise way to individuals and make them really feel disgust towards whatever you want them to be disgusted by, and this is extremely dangerous. – Yeah there’s something
in entertainment world that’s very related there. I’m sure you know about this, there’s sort of tracking
devices now on TVs. They track where your eyes
go so that future television or films can make different
stories for people depending on what they unconsciously
are paying attention to so that I think it’s
actually an Israeli developer who’s developing it, but one of my friends was telling me that it was just presented to her
that you know if you’re paying attention even you don’t realize
more to this handsome man the story will gear towards him, whereas if another
viewer is more interested in watching the cute little dog, the story will go and follow them. And it’ll be kind of a
choose-your-own-adventure but based on your things that
might not even be conscious to you, this kind of storytelling. And it’s something that’s
interesting in terms of the narratives and the
storytelling like your books are obviously being read all over the world. Movies and television from
my industry is being seen much more widely because if, but then there’s also sort
of a fracturing of narrative because there’s so much access, but there’s just so much more content too. So how do you feel that that
fractured narrative that that might now be targeted towards people will affect the way people
interact with each other because in a way you have a
bigger chance to share a story with someone in China, but you also have much less of a chance of maybe connecting to
someone sharing the story with someone next to you, because there’s now five
million TV shows to choose from. – Yeah that’s a very interesting question and a very interesting development. I don’t really know, I
mean so far the trajectory in history has been for thousands of years that there are fewer and fewer stories that more and more people share. If you think for example about mythology, so you know 5000 years ago, you have a different mythology in almost every village and every valley. And then gradually a very small number of mythological stories
took over the entire world. And we constantly see them and
hear about them everywhere. Even in non-religious
contexts they kind of become the basic metaphors and
the basic narratives for understanding the world. Like I don’t know I think I
mentioned Harry Potter before which I really like the books, so but some kind of a disappointment
for me came at the end that what will happen in the end. I want to know how will it end, and then what happens in the end. He dies, he comes back to life. – Spoiler (laughs). – He defeats the, saved the world. I’m sure I heard it somewhere before. You know it’s not a really original story. In the end we go for the
most familiar mythology, and this was not like that 5000 years ago. You had so many different versions and it’s the same way as fairy tales. When the Grimm brothers
in the early 19th century they went about collecting
German fairy tales. So there were like 200
versions of Hansel and Gretel. Like every grandmother in every village told the different story,
a little different story, and the Grimm brothers they decided okay, grandmother are from this village, this will be the canonical
story of Hansel and Gretel. And now you have, I don’t
know millions of people that know this story, just this one story. Just this one version. So we had this constant
more and more concentration, fewer and fewer stories
that everybody knows, and we are now seeing
a kind of divergence, a breakup for example
certainly in television that if 20 years ago certainly
when I was a kid in Israel in the 1980s, we just had one channel. So everybody saw the same show. There was nothing else. And now you have different
sections of societies watching very different shows. Where is it going? We’ll wait and see. – We’re going to, we just
have about 10 minutes left, that’s been so fascinating. I wish we could have gone on for hours. I’ve had hundreds of questions
and my god you are all smart. I think we’ve covered quite a few of them. so I think we’re only going to manage two, possibly three at the very most, but one and there’s been a
number of themes coming up and a lot of people have
wanted to speak about Me Too. So there’s a question from
a woman Coralie Sonik, who says in your opinion what
led women to share their story Me Too at this specific time in history? And Natalie we’d love to
hear your thoughts on it too. – Well Tarana Burke who
started the Me Too Movement clearly utilized technology
in a very powerful way that gave I think really gave women a sense of solidarity and
the safety in numbers. And we’re seeing it today with the very emotionally
impacting Kavanaugh hearings in Washington, in my country, which is very, very difficult to watch. But also very inspiring
because of the courage of people who have been silenced
for a very, very long time, and that you know I think
one woman inspires another and then it becomes a movement. And then people realize
that they’re protecting each other and protecting I think also, it was a revelation because
so many, so many people not just women were silent
about their experiences, that I think so people didn’t
realize how widespread it was. And people thought they were alone and the technology actually
made them realize that there were others like them, and not only others like
them but many times others with the same perpetrator, and I think also once
people realized that their silence could potentially
hurt other people they started to come out and
also that when they realized that their speaking out could
help support another person who had come forward to
help their credibility they also bravely came
out because unfortunately it is still so devastating
for people who come forward. Their lives are extremely
impacted and really they’re terrorized, they’re harassed. They have horrible, horrible repercussions for coming forward still
after all of this today. And so it’s very disheartening
to hear anyone say that women are coming
forward for their own benefit or to get attention or to, no one’s hired anyone
because they’ve come forward about a claim. So you really see the kind of sisterhood and solidarity and a decision to say that this is unacceptable and
now that it’s been revealed I think even to people who
are victims of this kind of behavior I don’t think anyone
realized how widespread it was and that’s been something
that’s been really revelatory in some of the women
who’ve come forward is, and men but some of the
people who’ve come forward some people’s reaction or
like Oh everyone’s had that. It’s a bad date and that
should be an example of how ubiquitous it is. Not that it’s okay but
that this is a widespread cultural disease that we are
living with and sickness. If every woman has had a date
with a guy who’s been too aggressive with her, that
she’s felt like she’s need to leave at some point,
then that’s a problem. Like that’s a problem that
is in our entire society and that doesn’t mean that
we need to punish all the men who have done that. It means that we we need
to change the behavior for everyone and show
our boys and our girls and those who identify in between that behavior is no longer something that we’re comfortable
with and to be aware of the other person and
their desire to care about the other person’s desire. Sorry that was a speech, sorry. (audience applauding) – [Moderator] Do you wanna
add anything there Yuval? – I don’t know why it started just now. Could have started you
know a hundred years ago in terms of the necessity. Probably wouldn’t have been
possible a hundred years ago, I would just say that
you know you have now all these people who say
well it’s gone too far. What I’m curious about whether
the people who now feel this urge well I must right now, I must write something
to the newspaper to say it’s gone too far, did you five years ago wrote
something to the newspaper to say that sexual
harassment is going too far. If not then why the sudden
urge to speak up about this? This is what I don’t understand. – I think we’re going
to have to wrap up in about five minutes, but
I have one last question. And it’s somebody who likes
to have the last word. It’s from God, and it says
have religions in general had a positive or negative
impact on humanity? Score it one to five where one is very bad and five is very good. (Natalie laughing) So both of you have to answer this one. (audience applauding) – Oh God, no you please. – I don’t know, two. (all laughing) It’s done some good definitely. I don’t think that I
mean that it’s all bad. A lot of the morality of humanity of art, of again the ability to make
people trust one another and cooperate is due to
the various religions, but they’ve also done a
tremendous amount of harm and certainly not all
religions are the same in terms of the amount of
good and the amount of harm that they have done, but
ultimately both in the past and also today, I don’t think
they are really necessary full morality or full
trust or full cooperation. In the end morality is about reducing suffering in the world. You don’t need to believe
in this God or that God in order to act morally. You need to have deep
appreciation of suffering. I do think that we need
spirituality as against religion in all times, in all cases
but for me spirituality and religion are totally different things. They are almost the
opposite of one another. Spirituality is about questions and religion is about answers. Spirituality is when you
have this big question like what is consciousness or what is the meaning of life or who
am I or what is the good? And you go on a quest to find out the answer to this question, and you have the courage, the willingness to go wherever this question takes you, because it’s very important to you. Religion is about answers. It’s when somebody comes
and says this is the answer. You must believe that. If not you will burn in
hell or we will burn you, and this invites the
antithesis of spirituality. And I think that in the 21st century, we need probably spirituality
more than ever before because a lot of spiritual questions and philosophical questions
are suddenly becoming practical questions. Questions about free will, about what is the meaning of humanity? What does it mean to be human? Which you know people argue
about for thousands of years but had very little immediate implications what you think is just you know
a pastime for philosophers. Suddenly it becomes a
question for engineers because we are able or
soon we will be able to start reengineering humans. So a question like what does
it mean, what does humanity mean, what is the essence of being human? It moves from the realm
of abstract philosophy to the realm of engineering. And this is why we need to engage with these kinds of questions far
more and even corporations like Google and Facebook and so forth, I think they really need philosophers. And they really need
experts on spirituality to understand what they are doing. Our religion on the other hand I think it has done whatever
good or bad it could have done for humanity. And it’s now losing more
and more of its power. It’s still very important
for people’s identity but most of its traditional roles, I mean in the past religion you know determined agriculture and medicine. If you are sick you go to the priests. If there is no rain you
go to the temple to pray and all these things have
been taken over by science and technology and the
engineers and the doctors, and what is left is really
defining collective identities for human groups. And in this religion is now mostly harmful I think because instead of
encouraging global unity, the main thing it does at present is to support tribalism and nationalism and prevent greater human collaboration. (audience applauding) – I think we might actually
have to end it there but thank you so much. That was the most fascinating,
brilliant conversation. You are both titans of intellect. Can I ask you just to give them all both a huge round of applause? (audience applauding)

61 thoughts on “Natalie Portman and Yuval Noah Harari in Conversation

  1. So women have never joined in on opressing women. Yeah it was only just men lol. Women are mot the only thing needed to produce babies. .

  2. Men work and protect women, while women are pregnant and take care of the children. That is what biologically happens. Blame mother nature.

  3. Good evening, the Online Course: A Brief History of Humankind was excellent. The issues explained in 21 lessons are of great significance for the future. Hence I suggest that an online course on 21 lessons for the 21st century would be a meaningful contribution to the flourishing of humankind. It will help understand the evolution of our contemporary society and what is at stake.

  4. אוייייש זה אדיר. בבקשה מהמעריצים- הרצאה אחת בלי המילה בננה 😂
    ואהבתי את ההתיחסות להארי פוטר 😻❤❤❤❤😲😍 הרמיוני 😂

  5. 1:18:52
    I don't think that morality is about reducing suffering, because if that were the case, then the most moral action someone could do would be to wipe out all life and thereby reduce all present and all potential future suffering to zero.

  6. Natalie Portman, with all due respect, is no match for an intellectual genius like Yuval Noah Harari. His ingenious insights were being constantly overshadowed by her lack of coherence and palpable insecurity.

  7. I thought it was interesting to observe the exchange on free will. It seems Harari acknowledges we have a choice, in spite of technology's emerging power.

  8. Everyone has been in the unfortunate position of this young Oscar-winning Harvard Grad and can empathize. Anyway, live and learn Ms. Portman. So Google Yuval Noah Harari- Russell Brand for a surprising hour where you will see both in a more lively exchange.

  9. Please don't make the comment section about Portman having a hard time interviewing Harari. And I understand it's another comment about this but if the alert works, then it could have even less noise. It's not like it's an easy task anyways.

  10. Wonderful conversation between the two of you! I appreciate what you're bringing to light! I also look forward to purchasing your last two books! Your first book 'Sapiens – A Brief History of Mankind' was absolutely captivating!

  11. Thank you, Yuval for your wisdom for humanity, which is much needed. I've been listening to almost all of your video clips. I have no doubt that your clear mind and wisdom has everything to do with your vipassana practice. I send you my book: The Four Noble Truths. I use the Buddha's model of the 5 elements, which constitute human life form of body-mind-spirit and the metaphor of 'Tom and Jerry' to help people to understand how our 'mind-consciousness' works. With this approach, we can be led to the solution as how to end our mental pain, which is the issue of vipassana. I hope you have a chance to browse through.

  12. If this interview didn't satisfy your cravings for amusement then watch this: be happy!

  13. Amazing mind. Note on AI producing better art than artists for the receiver/ viewer: Possibly yes. But I believe that art's main purpose is in the artist's making not the people's liking .
    It is by producing the work that an artist often learns/ grows/ heals…

  14. i think noah missed a huge point about religion. Religion including spirituality too.

    Let's think about it. All the things that gets us in excite right now will be done. Human reengineering, conscious explanation, robot industry or smt else. Everything that fascinating you will be done.

    And a huge question will be come again. What's the point of all that we did or doing or will done?

    noah doesnt answer the question of being, he is just skipping it and pretending like "oh, i answered all that, spirituality is the answer and reducing pain is the ultimate thing"

    This "reducing pain" slogan, What's the different point of that view from the other religious dogmas? what's the pain, why we should avoid or prevent pain? if all things going to be ultimate zeroness or nothingness, why we should care about pain? in the very soon end, it will be disappear forever, so we did all the things for nothingness. There is no meaning too.

    So noah is trying to spread another "religion-like" dogma and "reducing pain" its slogan. But there is no question has answered. Only thing is deferring.

  15. Biography
    Harari was born in Kiryat Ata, Israel, in 1976 and grew up in a secular Jewish family[3] with Lebanese and Eastern European roots in Haifa, Israel.[4] In 2002 he met his husband Itzik Yahav, whom he calls "my internet of all things".[5][6] Yahav is also Harari's personal manager.[7] They married in a civil ceremony in Toronto in Canada.[8] The couple lives in a moshav (a type of cooperative agricultural community of individual farms), Mesilat Zion, near Jerusalem.[9][10][11]

    Harari says Vipassana meditation, which he began whilst in Oxford in 2000,[12] has "transformed my life".[13] He practises for two hours every day (one hour at the start and end of his work day[14]), every year undertakes a meditation retreat of 30 days or longer, in silence and with no books or social media,[15][16][17] and is an assistant meditation teacher.[18] He dedicated Homo Deus to "my teacher, S. N. Goenka, who lovingly taught me important things," and said "I could not have written this book without the focus, peace and insight gained from practising Vipassana for fifteen years."[19] He also regards meditation as a way to research.[17]

    Harari is a vegan, and says this resulted from his research, including his view that the foundation of the dairy industry is breaking the bond between mother and calf cows.[4][20] As of January 2019, he does not have a smartphone.[21]

    Academic career
    Harari first specialized in medieval history and military history in his studies from 1993 to 1998 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He completed his PhD degree at Jesus College, Oxford, in 2002, under the supervision of Steven J. Gunn. From 2003 to 2005 he pursued postdoctoral studies in history as a Yad Hanadiv Fellow.[22]

    He has published numerous books and articles, including Special Operations in the Age of Chivalry, 1100–1550;[23] The Ultimate Experience: Battlefield Revelations and the Making of Modern War Culture, 1450–2000;[24] The Concept of 'Decisive Battles' in World History;[25] and Armchairs, Coffee and Authority: Eye-witnesses and Flesh-witnesses Speak about War, 1100–2000.[26] He now specializes in world history and macro-historical processes.

    His book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind was published in Hebrew in 2011 and then in English in 2014; it has since been translated into some 45 additional languages.[27] The book surveys the entire length of human history, from the evolution of Homo sapiens in the Stone Age up to the political and technological revolutions of the 21st century. The Hebrew edition became a bestseller in Israel, and generated much interest both in the academic community and among the general public, turning Harari into a celebrity.[28] YouTube video clips of Harari's Hebrew lectures on the history of the world have been viewed by tens of thousands of Israelis.[29]

    Harari also gives a free online course in English titled A Brief History of Humankind.

    Published works
    His book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow was published in 2016, examining possibilities of the future of Homo sapiens.[30] The book's premise outlines that, in the future, humanity is likely to make a significant attempt to gain happiness, immortality and God-like powers.[31] The book goes on to openly speculate various ways this ambition might be realised for Homo sapiens in the future based on the past and present. Among several possibilities for the future, Harari develops a term for a philosophy or mindset that worships big data.[32][33]

    Harari's most recent book is called 21 Lessons for the 21st Century and focuses more on present-day concerns.[34][35][36] It was published on 30 August 2018.[37][38] In Chapter Two he addresses the increasing number of people made unemployable by advances in automation and AI. He examines an universal basic income for every citizen regardless of their employment status as a measure to counter economic unemployment.

    Views and opinions
    Harari is interested in how Homo sapiens reached their current condition, and in their future. His research focuses on macro-historical questions such as: What is the relation between history and biology? What is the essential difference between Homo sapiens and other animals? Is there justice in history? Does history have a direction? Did people become happier as history unfolded?

    Harari regards dissatisfaction as the "deep root" of human reality, and as related to evolution.[17]

    In a 2017 article Harari has argued that through continuing technological progress and advances in the field of artificial intelligence, "by 2050 a new class of people might emerge – the useless class. People who are not just unemployed, but unemployable."[39] He put forward the case that dealing with this new social class economically, socially and politically will be a central challenge for humanity in the coming decades.[40]

    Harari has commented on the plight of animals, particularly domesticated animals since the agricultural revolution, and is a vegan.[4] In a 2015 Guardian article under the title "Industrial farming is one of the worst crimes in history" he called "[t]he fate of industrially farmed animals (…) one of the most pressing ethical questions of our time."[41]

    Harari summed up his views on the world in a 2018 interview[42] with Steve Paulson of Nautilus thus, "Things are better than ever before. Things are still quite bad. Things can get much worse. This adds up to a somewhat optimistic view because if you realize things are better than before, this means we can make them even better. "

    Harari wrote that although the idea of free will and the liberal values it helped consolidate "emboldened people who had to fight against the Inquisition, the divine right of kings, the KGB and the KKK", it has become dangerous in a world of a data economy, where, he argues, in reality there is no such thing, and governments and corporations are coming to know the individual better than they know themselves and "if governments and corporations succeed in hacking the human animal, the easiest people to manipulate will be those who believe in free will."[43] Harari elaborates that "Humans certainly have a will – but it isn’t free. You cannot decide what desires you have… Every choice depends on a lot of biological, social and personal conditions that you cannot determine for yourself. I can choose what to eat, whom to marry and whom to vote for, but these choices are determined in part by my genes, my biochemistry, my gender, my family background, my national culture, etc – and I didn’t choose which genes or family to have."[43]

    Awards and recognition
    Harari twice won the Polonsky Prize for "Creativity and Originality", in 2009 and 2012. In 2011 he won the Society for Military History's Moncado Award for outstanding articles in military history. In 2012 he was elected to the Young Israeli Academy of Sciences.

  16. 1:22:55 "the most brilliant fascinating conversation, your both titans of intellect". Really? How many books has Mme Portman written that inspired people?
    She did ok, and is nice looking. But don't say 'both titans of intellect'. One was present.

  17. 2 ignorant idiots, calling the bible – fiction stories. Such morons!
    Thousands of years ago, when the bible was written, there was no science or google and these people (our ancestors) have managed to capture so many eternal truths of life and reality, that without any microscope nor telescope. In a time when the word "history" wasn't even conceived, they started writing history in a book (in a non-scientific method because it wasn't invented yet) to help following generations learn and grow from there.

    Indeed, people may hold a lot of knowledge and they may be smart but that fact doesn't make them magically wise.

    natalie portman is a persona non-grata as far as I'm concerned, from Israel 🇮🇱
    "אנשים שלמדו דברים רבים מאמינים כי הם חכמים. אך רובם הגדול לא יהיו אלא בורים וחכמי שווא לא נסבלים בהלכות החיים."
    — אפלטון

  18. the answer why almost every society has a man on the top for me is simple – on the top is the most evil and insidious not the most strongest or clever, or social

  19. Hindu Ruthless Nationalists
    Muslim Jhadists
    Burmese Racist Buddhist Monks
    Christian Lords Army KKK
    Jewish Hardcore Zionists
    Socialist Communist Zealots
    Far-right Extremists
    Egotistical Evolutionists
    Narrow minded Creationists

    Mad fanatics in every ideology that give the majority a bad name. But it’s majority that stay quiet and let it happen.

  20. Yuval is great. Was a very intellectual conversation. But I think it could be a better meeting if both asked a equal number of questions to each other, for example, make Natalie Portman talk more about her knowledge and skills she have on cinema, art and social activism.

  21. This guy is the true messiah: "Now certainly Hollywood is competing with the Holy Land for the title of the main story factory of the world." // "Living in a place where, at least recently, people have been killing each other by the millions over fictional stories makes you see the world in a very particular way"

  22. גועל נפש העוכרת ישראל הזו.
    לא יכול לסבול את הפרצוף שלה שתלך קיבינמט עם חבריה המוסלמים

    וכדאי שתתחיללהתרגל ללבוש חיג'ב או בורקה, האם היא כבר עברה מילה נשית?

  23. Thinking of the "stories" we are told in the increasingly violent porn industry… very problematic stories…

  24. Translation. If you want people to understand Climate Change, you need to turn it into a religion. 🙂

    Perhaps the same with economics – lol

  25. If you will look at the history you will find out that many of the wars was for women, men and women coexist together all the history because every each side gave something different, man gave safety to women and women got children to the man

  26. Thank Zeus for the playback speed adjustment in Youtube! I like Natalie, but if I waited for her to formulate her thought,   I would have to shave again. I find 1.5x to be a good playback speed for both her and Yuval. The problem with her speech is that, like photons, it comes out in discrete quantum packets.
    It's like this: "Iwantoaskyou somethingabout what your opinionisonconsciousnessDoyou thinkweunderstandjusthow…"
    Also, I direct this to who ever adjusts the audio levels in this video. There are things called "meters" that display, in a visual way, the volume of the audio. If you watch these "meters" you can tell if something called the "levels" are good. The purpose of these meters and levels is to help assure that people can hear the conversation. 
    I know I am the first to inform you of these things. No one, no matter how low their IQ, could allow this discussion to be put out for broadcast. Perhaps the person is a theist, who hopes that by making the audio "levels" be incorrect, that people will not watch this video. There cannot be another explanation. It would be difficult to imagine anyone other than a clinically diagnosed mentally ill individual would think the volumes are ok.

  27. When can I order my Google ditch digger 2000. I heard if I order early I
    can get my repair robot X1 so I am covered when my digger 2000 goes

  28. Very mind opening. My brother is a developer in an AI tech startup in Japan, also working on self-drving car, who is a person who always want to learn but I dont think hes fully aware of the influence of wht hes doing and I will show him ur views abt this. Just a lil bit abt ur subject whether AI can replace Arts by humans I think to a certain extent it may but arts by humans will always have a stand, I think the main reason would be bc many ppl love arts bc its exclusive, theres an orginal exclusive human behind it, or a story

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