Yuval Noah Harari – Israeli intellectual and author – at the World Economic Forum stated:
“The most important thing to know about the future is that humans will soon be hackable animals, animals that can be hacked. There is a lot of talk these days about hacking computers and email accounts and smartphones and bank accounts, but we’re actually entering the era in which it will be possible to hack human beings.”
Humans cannot be hacked the same way computers are hacked, but we can be manipulated, brain-washed, and mentally enslaved – this after all is what Social Media and big tech are seeking to do.
Harari went on to say “….You will not be able to hide from amazon, or from the secret police, or from coca-cola, as you surf the web or watch YouTube, or just walk down the street. The algorithms will be discreetly monitoring you and hacking you in the service of the government or a corporation or some organization. Maybe you still don’t know that you’re gay, but coca-cola already knows it, so next time they show you an advertisement they choose to use the version with the shirtless guy, and not the version with the girl in the bikini. And next day when you go to the shop you choose to buy coke and not pepsi and you don’t even know why you think you did it from your free will.”
A very important subject. And what is the “yogic” perspective?
Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
So, tonight’s topic Are Humans Hackable? What do you think? Or, it’s kind of like a, what’s that all about? Huh? Or what? Is it relatable? Yeah, a couple of people it’s relatable to. So what do you think? Do you think humans are hackable? Yeah. So you think humans are hackable. I think what it really depends on is your definition of hackable. What is a hack? So we’ll get to that in a moment.
But I’ve got a little couple of passages that I’ll read. This is from this guy Yuval Noah Harari. He’s an Israeli intellectual and author, and he spoke on this topic at the World Economic Forum. So he said
“The most important—”
This pretty heavy statement from the beginning;
“The most important thing to know about the future is that humans will soon be hackable animals, animals that can be hacked. There’s a lot of talk these days about hacking computers and email accounts and smartphones and bank accounts but we’re actually entering the era in which it will be possible to hack human beings.”
So that’s a pretty heavy statement. And as I said, it really is going to be dependent upon how someone actually defines what it is to be hacked, what is hacking. One of my problems with the way people talk about these things is the very imprecise language that’s been used. Like he’s talking about being able to hack a computer or somebody’s email or a cell phone, and then he’s saying you’re going to be able to do the same thing to humans. But actually later on when he discusses or gives more definition he’s not talking about the same thing. He’s talking about something else, and he’s using hacking in a different way, not a more benign way or something that’s kind of okay. No, just the opposite. It’s also a bit of a freakout, but it’s something quite different. I have this problem with the way people speak, and it’s been going on for quite a long time, trying to what I would call “humanize” robots and AI.
I mean there’s something else I’ll deal with at some point where they’re now training, using artificial intelligence, having robots that can actually become best friends of old people, particularly people with dementia. Well, they can talk to the robots, and the robots are going to talk back, and it shows that it actually has a real calming effect on them. But that’s all pretty dystopian, that people are going to be making friends with robots!?
I mean, I watched young people play with Siri when it first came out. I don’t know, what’s the equivalent on android? Whatever it is. They pick up their phone, they go, “Hey Siri, am I beautiful?” or just any kind of crazy stuff, and the computer, the technology is designed to respond in a way that will engage and entertain you. There’s a need to understand the limitations on AI. And I’ll just use an example of this automation of driving cars.
There’s billions, not hundreds of millions, billions of dollars being spent for self-driving vehicles. Massive inventions in technology. And what do you have? You fundamentally have visual sensors and something equivalent to, I’ll just say radar, meaning you send out a signal and it bounces back, and how long it took to go out and come back gives you an idea of the distance of that thing. And then you have—you just got a car with all this weird crap on it, this monumental thing on top. It’s just like—and it’s driving down the road, supposedly trying to make judgments.
AI will never get to the point—or maybe it will—where like, if I’m driving down the road, and I see a little child playing on the side of the road with a ball, and fumbles it, and it bounces out into the road, I look at the ball, where it’s going, and I look at the kid, and I try to make a judgment like really quick, really quick, is that kid going to run out after that ball or not. And this is all happening in milliseconds. And I kind of look at the — if the kids just kind of given up and, “Waaah, it’s my ball” then you kind of know that it’s not going to go anywhere. The kid’s just going to stay, and you’re pretty—you slow down and you’re careful and you’re keeping an eye on the kid as you go past. If you see the kid just kind of like look and look maybe in the wrong direction, really looking, and you can see them getting ready to run for it after the ball, and not watching what’s coming on the other side. And as a driver, I’m making all those kinds of judgments. And it’s kind of like, are you going to be able to develop AI to do all of that? And even then human beings make mistakes. There are accidents.
In Asia, the Philippines where I spent many years, if you’re driving a car, and you come to an intersection at reasonably good speed, and there are a number of cars approaching the intersection from different directions, what you do is you look at people’s eyes to see what their intent is, because nobody’s following the law. And the person that’s so determined to go through there, everybody else sort of like backs off and lets them go. And it’s kind of how they avoid accidents. And it’s sort of like, well how are you going to develop AI to deal with that?
And then you’ve got this idea: while a driver is driving down the road scanning the horizons, looking, taking all this stuff in, even just like subliminally, just sort of paying attention to things, they can look out the window and see the most amazing sunset or a beautiful rainbow, and feel particular kinds of feelings. Somebody can lean forward and turn on the radio, and a song comes up, and it reminds them of something really sad, a parent, or someone that they love that has just departed, and they can immediately—their eyes can tear up. They can begin to cry. Somebody can just glance over at the person riding with them in the car that they feel great affection for, or the kids in the back seat. Your AI can’t do all—it’s having a hard enough time just trying to focus on the road.
And to think that under certain circumstances AI can sort of like excel, if it’s very focused, like even playing chess: One of the greatest chess players of all times, Gary Kasparov, what’s the secret sauce for chess players—I mean, really good ones? They are able to see so many steps ahead. When somebody’s doing one move they can see perhaps 15, 20 steps ahead, where this is all going, and all the possibilities of where it can go if I do this. But then IBM came up with— what was it called? The Deep Blue or something—a supercomputer that could beat Gary Kasparov. And then it was kind of like, whoa! now what? Because once you’ve developed that AI to be able to look that far ahead, but that’s all it can do. It can’t look around the room at the same time and notice somebody’s dress or how attractive or unattractive they are. It can’t do anything else. It’s just focused in on this one particular task.
And so I feel that these discussions regarding like hacking human beings is misleading, and in and of itself can contribute to the overall confusion that everybody is sort of facing with things. So to me, it’s sort of like muddying the waters when you start talking about hacking human beings.
Can AI replace humans? Well in some places they can. They’re now developing burger flipping machines. Machines—I mean, and it’s just like, okay, what are you guys thinking here? I mean, what’s going to happen when you fully automate the workplace? Where are the people going to work? Not everybody’s capable of writing code and designing all kinds of incredible things. What are people going to do? And what about the fact that now government is going to lose all of this income tax revenue? You don’t pay tax on robots, only human beings, on their wages get taxed. It just opens up all this complexity.
So, yeah, on some very specific tasks and focused tasks, it’s true that AI and robots per se can replace human beings. But one should not think that they can do anything near what a human being can do.
So what does hack mean? Well, the definition that he—well the example that he was using of hacking computers and things, the definition that’s formally given, it means, “to gain unauthorized access to a computer system,” whether it’s a website, a network, “by manipulating code.” So when you use the word hack, in terms of hacking human beings, we don’t run on code, so hacking is not really an appropriate word, I feel, to use.
So, explaining himself, Yuval says,
“Now what does it mean to hack a human being? It means to create an algorithm that can understand you better than you understand yourself, and can therefore predict your choices, manipulate your desires and make decisions on your behalf, in order to control and manipulate you.”
So as soon as he comes out with this, then it’s kind of like, okay, this is true. While hacking is criminal, in that you’re breaking into somebody else’s property over the internet, by the use of code, to access secrets or things they may have on their computer, what he’s discussing here in many ways is worse. It’s breaking into your feelings, breaking into your emotions, breaking into your vulnerabilities in order to exploit you for money.
“The algorithms [he says] will not need to know you perfectly. This is impossible. Nobody can know anything perfectly. They will need to know you a little better than yourself, which is not impossible because most people don’t know themselves very well. Often people don’t know the most important things about themselves.”
So now we know what he’s talking about in terms of hacking. And of course, what he’s talking about is already going on. Every choice that you make, in terms of Youtube videos you watch, when you scroll through your social media, the stuff that you look at, you have been highly manipulated and unaware of it.
I mentioned (last week was it?) about that young Australian model who started modeling at 13. By the time she was 23 she was contemplating suicide. And after taking all the steps to do that, and then for one week before the assigned day and time that she was going to do it, she decided, “To hell with everything, I’m going to eat whatever I want. I don’t have to worry about getting fat.” So she’s just started eating, she said chocolate croissant with almonds in the morning, which she would never do before. They can’t. Then she went for a walk without her phone—like whoa shocking—a three-hour long walk, just taking it all in. And then she decided she had a shoot to do. She decided she wasn’t going to care what she looked like and how well she performed and posed. It was just like, just let loose and go do it and have some fun. And after a week of relaxing like this, she suddenly questioned, “What the hell am I doing contemplating suicide? And what has happened to me that I could even get to that space?” She started, now, an organization trying to help young girls who have been so manipulated by all of these apps and social media that it’s having a catastrophic effect on people’s mental health and well-being.
So he’s talking about, this guy, he’s talking about how large corporations spend billions to find out what makes you tick. And they’re developing technology so that when you’re on your phone or in front of your computer or any other device you’re going to be monitored. They can zoom in on a pulse in your face or the side of your neck and see if there is any alteration in your heartbeat.
I mean, you imagine a business executive going in to negotiate a big deal, and on the other side, there’s a guy that—he’s the CEO of another company and his supported staff who are there for the hard negotiation. And this guy has got like a little camera set up, and he’s got some techies on his team, and as the conversation is going on the techie guys are telling him, when he says, “No, that’s my final offer,” the techie guy’s going, “No, it’s not. He’s going to go down further.” Just from monitoring your biometrics! And this is what it means, this is what he’s referring to.
And what kind of a world are we going to be living in? I mean, right now you can turn your phone off, and it’s still in your pocket or with you, and you can be driving, you can be walking, you can be doing things; you get home, and you turn your phone on. All the data from when you turned it off is all stored on your phone. It’s still collecting data all the time, and as soon as you turn it on, immediately it’s sent to help the corporations further exploit you.
So he’s saying that we’re fast approaching the time when we will not be able to hide anything.
“You will not be able to hide from Amazon, or from the secret police, or from Coca-Cola. As you surf the web or watch Youtube or just walk down the street the algorithms will be discreetly monitoring you and hacking you in the service of a government or a corporation or some organization. Maybe you still don’t know that you’re gay, but Coca-Cola already knows it.”
I mean, he was talking about how, just by monitoring where your eyes look at an advertisement or a video and how long you linger in places—even if—like he uses himself as an example. He came out as gay, and he said he had no idea that that was going to be his orientation. He had no idea. But he said, if he was being monitored it would probably become obvious to someone that was monitoring you on this kind of level that’s being discussed.
“Maybe you still don’t know that you’re gay, but Coca-Cola already knows it, so next time they show you an advertisement they choose to use the version with the shirtless guy and not the version with the girl in the bikini. The next day when you go to the shop you choose to buy a Coke and not Pepsi, and you don’t even know why you think you did it. You think it’s from your own free will.”
There was another talk I saw of a woman really warning about this, how—She said it happens like this. You have—you’re communicating with someone, and you’re about to go out on a first date, and the amount of information they know about you is huge already. You’re about to go out on a first date, and you’re manifesting certain types of anxiousness. And so the person that’s now got that information about you is going to offer it, like instantly, to someone who’s maybe selling a really cool jacket or something. And this ad is going to pop up on your phone, in the colors that you like, and actually suit your complexion, with a message that you could look like a million bucks. You could look like a real cool person in this thing. And then the guy goes like, “Oh yeah, maybe I could. Maybe I should get this.” And they talked about the way they’re developing this highly persuasive advertising so that you’re going to end up living a life that’s not the product of free will, but is of massive manipulation.
We know that, from the yoga paradigm, we have this perspective—I mean the materialist who—the person that only—the scientists that only think that there is one type of energy in this world, a material energy, they are totally on board with this idea that you are completely hackable, that all of your emotions, desires, weaknesses, apprehension, everything can be exploited. But in the yoga system we understand that the paradigm is a little bit different. It’s not just that you have a body and a mind, but you are an eternal spiritual being occupying this. And of course, once you raise that idea, now you’re talking about consciousness: what is consciousness? and is consciousness hackable?
At the end of the day consciousness, pure consciousness, is not hackable. But it can be corrupted. It can be distorted. But one of the big problems is that most people are absolutely unaware of what is consciousness, where it comes from. Any discussions about a spiritual being, or a soul, or whatever is just like a territory that people don’t want to go to.
There’s a famous guy. His name is Robert Lanza. He’s an American scientist. He is considered to be the father, one of the fathers, of applied stem cell biology. Just hearing that’s going to spazz a lot of people out. What? What? What? He is a very dedicated scientist and author, and he has been instrumental in the development of many advances in modern medicine. His interests are, of course, in biology, but all the way to theoretical physics. Time magazine listed him as one of the most hundred influential people in the world, one of the top most influential scientists. And speaking on the subject of what distinguishes human beings, or life forms, from non-life, like a computer, and that being consciousness. He said,
“Consciousness is not just an issue [issue meaning, as in a major problem]… not just an issue for biologists. It’s a problem for physics.”
So when I say that, most people would go, how can—I can understand that when you’re studying living organisms, “How come they’re sentient, they’re conscious?” Physics! What’s consciousness got to do with that? He said,
“Nothing in modern physics explains how a group of molecules in your brain creates consciousness. The beauty of a sunset, the miracle of falling in love, the taste of a delicious meal, these are all mysteries to modern science. Nothing in science can explain how consciousness arose from matter.”
Nothing in science can explain how consciousness arose from matter! Well of course, we know it didn’t.
“Our current model simply does not allow for consciousness, and our understanding of this most basic phenomenon of our existence is virtually nil. Interestingly our present model of physics does not even recognize that this is a problem.”
So he was talking about, you know, you’ve got all these scientists that are making all of these intense observations, and when they create theories, and when they create mathematical formulas to explain things, none of it includes the effect of consciousness, in coming to understand this, and what role that plays, and what effect that has.
And of course, this all will eventually lead to the question of free will. What is free will? And what does it mean? Because, as that former guy was saying, if we’re all hackable animals it means we will never be able to resist. Just as a computer, on its own—you know, a computer runs on code. If you find the door that you can open into that code, and get into the computer with other code that’s going to do other things, the computer that’s been invaded, the code that’s been invaded, doesn’t even know the foreign code is there, doesn’t even know that it’s stealing stuff, that it’s doing stuff. If you think that a human being can be hacked to the degree that they can be fundamentally turned into a zombie, which is pretty much the direction that these people are going in the way that they’re thinking, then you’ve really missed out on a major point.
Is this stuff too far out? Or what? I mean, I think the average person, we don’t have a clue what we’re up against, what we’re actually facing.
Older people do not have the same type of problems that young people have. I mentioned in another talk—we were at a retreat in Whangamata, and I was talking about technology and the bad effect that it’s having, and one woman goes, “Well, it also is good. I came from Europe. I moved to New Zealand, and it’s fantastic for staying in touch with the family and everything,” and my response to her is, “Yes. When it’s used like that it’s amazing, but that’s not what young people do.”
Older dudes, they used to write letters, and put them in an envelope and address it, and get a stamp and put on it, and take it to the post office and mail it. And when email came along it’s like, whoa, that made life so much easier. And so the tendency for older people is just to look at it like as being a tool that you use, because they don’t expose themself in the same way that young people do.
And that is why the rates of mental illnesses, of depression, of suicide, is so catastrophically high amongst young people, because of the influence and effect that these things are having on people’s life.
So the big question is, “Are humans hackable?” The reality is, that we cannot draw comparisons to computers, innate insentient objects that are programmed with code. Computers don’t have emotions. They don’t have insecurities. They don’t have problems with body image. They don’t experience old age and sickness and death. And so it’s a whole different category. But if you ask—in asking, “are humans hackable?” if you’re asking, can we be influenced or even controlled in our consumption habits, our social habits, our value system (what we consider important or not), political decisions etc, can we be influenced, or even controlled in these areas, the answer is yes.
If you open yourself up to this massive array of computing power and technology that’s monitoring everything that you do—people don’t know, you know, when you click on—when you’re watching a Youtube video, and then you click on one of those ones on the side, how long it took you to do that, what happens to you after you click on it and it starts playing, whether you are going to keep watching it or dump it for something else, everything that you’re doing, down to the minutest little thing, is being monitored only for the purpose of exploiting you.
Can we be enslaved by someone who is constantly satisfying our desires, possibly after creating them? The answer is, yes. We can become hopelessly enslaved, thinking that we’re making all these free choices. “I decided to do that,” “I want to do that,” without any recognition of all these different influences that are affecting me. And of course, when we go down these roads of—down the road of examining all this stuff, it opens up all these questions now, regarding the purpose of life.
I think it’s beyond criminal that you can have people making decisions on a board of a corporation of how much money they’re investing in the massive development of technology that exploits the psychology of human beings, their weaknesses their fears, the things that give them the dopamine rush in the brain that sort of gives you the feel good feel, all for the purpose of trying to keep you more addicted, so that you can be more exploited—only for money! That’s the only reason they’re doing it, not to have power over you. Nobody gets off on just having the power. That doesn’t last long, but being able to milk you.
So these are very big questions, and when you don’t have a real spiritual foundation, when you don’t have another paradigm, when you just think the world here is all there is, and the body and mind is everything that there is, I’m sorry, you’re not going to have a very good outcome from that. And you’re going to be weak and easily exploited. The only way a person can be independent, resilient, is really by cultivating a deeper understanding of life and a recognition of our own spiritual identity.
Okay? Bit hardcore or what? It kind of shocks me that people aren’t shocked by what’s going on, and that people don’t rise up to do something. You have these detox camps where people go for a week or 10 days, and they’re not allowed to bring their phone. And it’s kind of like, “I’ve been detoxed,” then you come back and just dive into it again. And in that 10 days everything’s become more powerful, and exploiting you, because it’s happening so quickly.
Okay with that, thank you very much. And we will close out with a kirtan meditation. I’ll sing Aum Hari Aum.