Sapiens and Homo Deus and Buddhism
I just read these two books by Yuval Noah Harari .
From his writings and credits to Goenka he seems to be very pro Buddhism, as well as this claim saying he spends 2 months a year meditating in retreats. The Buddhist Way to Happiness | Asian Tribune
I like the way he presents human history in Sapiens, highlighting that homo sapiens had been a destructive force of nature well before the agricultural revolution sets in. The tone he uses is neutral, and can be useful to understand just how God died in the west, Humanism becomes the default religion we have now and increasingly, we are transitioning to the Data religion and/ or techno humanist (modifying humans).
It’s amazing to see just how pervasive these religions are in determining our discourses, including as I see it, how we Buddhists tends to use humanism in our presentation of Buddhism to newcomers. Humanism is the belief in humans, that God is dead, and meaning is found in our feelings. Data religion goes into that human experiences is worth nothing if not shared. Hence by writing this, I inherently am participating in the Data religion.
Science and religion works well together, and that religion is the one providing the value judgement to what should people do, science merely is able to determine the facts better than many ancient religions. Many facts humanism belief is also being stripped away by science, as we are not individuals, but dividuals (no self in the human mind and body). The way he defined soul/ self vs the mind is very clear. The mind is what we experience in pain, suffering etc. The brain is merely the electrical signals corresponding to it. It’s possible to have a brain to do just what humans do, to think, react etc, but the subjective experiences seems to be redundant in it. If the brain alone can make the body back away from the fire and boiling water, why the need for a mind to experience the pain? So there’s a difference between mind and brain.
And the mind and body are not an immortal soul, the thing which God based religions depends upon is first taken out by science, then the individual self, is taken out by science, replacing us to be algorithms, which computers can do much better than us, making homo sapiens obsolete in the new Data religion.
I also like how he can present animal suffering as logically as possible, that scientists now lean towards saying that animals too have sentience, feels suffering and without evidence to the contrary, should remain so, so the burden of proof to people who thinks that animals are automatons should be on them to proof it, not otherwise.
The great battles of ideology between liberalism, communism, and evolutionary liberalism (Nazis, techno improvement of humanity) are described well, and that’s why a lot of people nowadays are liberals. The liberals won not because it’s inherently good, but because decentralized data processing (free market) is the one which can keep up with data flow of this time and age. Increasingly, AIs can do a better job at allocating goods, predicting feelings etc, until we might as well not trust our feelings (like the Humanist religion ask us to do), but to trust in the algorithm. Waze route suggestion is one example, if you follow your own feelings on which road to take instead of taking waze’s suggestion of which road to minimize travel time, more often than not, you find out you spend more time following your feelings.
Many religions cannot keep up with the new changes in the world, so they react rather than create the new world. So this might be relevant to us Buddhists. Buddhism had benefited much from the fall of the God based religion (God is dead), and rise of humanism for the last 300 years for us to be able to spread the Dhamma well.
In the upcoming Data religion, what challenges awaits Buddhism? No one can truly know on their own, too many knowledge, data to analyze and the best way to do it is decentralized data processing, thus sharing this with you all.