What do Americans unknowingly take for granted?
21 lessons for the 21st century
Harari, Y. N. provides in his book "21 lessons for the 21st century " exciting perspectives on history and possible future developments. Here are some quotations from it again. The following paragraphs, which are also particularly relevant to the topic of crisis prevention, are particularly exciting:
Providing people with more and more specific information is unlikely to make matters any better. Scientists believe that better science education can dispel misconceptions, and opinion leaders hope to influence public opinion on issues like Obamacare or climate change by providing the public with accurate facts and expert reports. Such hopes are based on a misunderstanding of how people really think. Most of our views are shaped by collective groupthink rather than individual rationality. And out of loyalty to the group, we hold to these beliefs. If you bombard people with facts and thus make their individual ignorance visible, this shot could backfire. Most people don't like too many facts, and they certainly don't like feeling stupid.
The power of groupthink is so ingrained that it is difficult to break through, even when the resulting views seem profoundly arbitrary.
We are used to this situation, so we take it for granted, when in reality it is most surprising.
Because one should actually assume that conservatives are much more concerned about the preservation of the old ecological order and the protection of the areas, forests and rivers of their ancestors. On the other hand, progressive people might be expected to be more open to radical changes in the landscape, especially when the goal is to accelerate progress and raise human living standards. But as soon as a partisan dividing line has been drawn on these issues due to various whims of history, it has become second nature for conservatives to dismiss fears of polluted rivers and disappearing birds as exaggerated, while left progressives fear any destruction of the old ecological order.
Even scientists are not immune to the power of groupthink. In this respect, scientists who believe that facts can change public opinion may themselves be victims of scientific groupthink. The scientific community believes in the effectiveness of facts, which is why those who are loyal to this community continue to assume that they can win public debates by throwing the right facts about them, although empirical evidence suggests the opposite . Similarly, the liberal belief in individual rationality may well be the product of liberal groupthink.
But the problem of groupthink and individual ignorance affects not just ordinary voters and customers, but presidents and company boards as well. They may have tons of advisers and huge intelligence machinery, but that doesn't necessarily make things any better. It is extremely difficult to find out the truth when you are in control of the world. You just have too much to do. Most political leaders and business moguls are constantly employed. But if you want to study a topic in depth, you need a lot of time, and above all you need the privilege of being able to waste time. You have to experiment with unproductive paths, explore dead ends, create space for doubt and boredom, and allow small seeds of knowledge to flourish and bloom only slowly. Those who cannot afford to waste time will never find the truth. Worse still, great powers inevitably distort the truth. Because power means above all to change reality and not to see it as it is. When you have a hammer in hand, everything looks like a nail; and when you have great power in your hands it all looks like an invitation to meddle. Even if you somehow overcome this urge, the people around you will never forget the huge hammer that you are holding in their hands. Everyone who speaks to you will have a concern, conscious or subconscious, so you can never have complete confidence in what people say. No sultan can ever be sure that his courtiers and subordinates are telling him the truth. Great power thus functions like a black hole that curves the space around it. The closer you get, the more distorted everything becomes. Every word becomes extremely difficult as it enters your orbit, and every person you meet is trying to flatter or appease you or want something from you. People know you don't have more than a minute or two for them, and they're afraid to say something inappropriate or confused, so they prefer to use empty catchphrases or the most hackneyed clichés.
Revolutionary knowledge rarely makes it into the middle, because the middle consists of already existing knowledge. The custodians of the old order usually determine who gets into the centers of power, and they usually weed out those who have irritating, unconventional ideas with them. Of course, they also filter out an incredible amount of junk.
Unfortunately, the story doesn't give a discount. If the future of humanity is decided in our absence because we are too busy feeding and looking after our children with clothes, we and they will not be spared the consequences. This is downright unfair; but who can say the story is fair?
Terror works by pressing the fear button deep inside us and taking hostage the private imaginations of millions of individuals.
Big data algorithms could create digital dictatorships in which all power is concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite, while most people suffer not from exploitation but from something far worse - insignificance.
The book is by no means intended to present all of the effects of the new technologies. Even if they hold numerous wonderful promises, my main concern here is to make the threats and dangers visible. Since the companies and entrepreneurs leading the technological revolution naturally tend to praise their creations, it is left to sociologists, philosophers, and historians like me to sound the alarm and explain how things can go terribly wrong .
Much of the book deals with the deficits of the liberal worldview and the democratic system. That has nothing to do with my opinion that free democracy is particularly problematic; rather, I believe that it is the most successful and adaptable political model that people have so far developed in order to cope with the challenges of the modern world.
After getting into myself a little, I decided to put the free discussion over self-censorship.
I: The technological challenge
People are more likely to think in stories than facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better.
But since the global financial crisis of 2008, people around the world have increasingly lost faith in the liberal narrative. Walls and firewalls are back in vogue. Resistance to immigration and free trade agreements is growing. Allegedly democratic governments are undermining the independence of the judiciary, restricting the freedom of the press and viewing any form of opposition as treason.
People have always been far better at inventing instruments than at using them wisely. It is easier to regulate the course of a river by building a dam than to predict all of the complex consequences this will have on the general ecosystem. Similarly, it will be easier to redirect our streams of thought than to predict what it will do to our personal psyche or our social systems.
Donald Trump warned voters that Mexicans and Chinese would take their jobs away from them and that they would have to build a wall on the Mexican border as a result. However, he never warned voters that algorithms would steal their jobs, nor did he suggest building a firewall on the California border.
It is much harder to fight insignificance than it is to fight exploitation.
Democracy is based on Abraham Lincoln's principle, which reads: "It is possible to fool all people for some time and some people at all times, but never to fool all people all of the time."
Yet liberalism has no overt answers to the biggest problems we face: ecological collapse and technological disruption. Liberalism traditionally relied on economic growth to magically resolve difficult social and political conflicts. Liberalism reconciled the proletariat with the bourgeoisie, the believers with the atheists, the natives with the immigrants, and the Europeans with the Asians by promising each a bigger piece of the pie. As long as the cake kept getting bigger, that was possible. But economic growth will not save the global ecosystem - on the contrary, it is the cause of the ecological crisis. And economic growth will not solve technological disruption either - because it is based on the invention of more and more disruptive technologies.
Towards the end of the 20th century, every generation - whether in Houston, Shanghai, Istanbul or São Paulo - enjoyed better education, better health care and higher incomes than the previous generation. In the coming decades, however, thanks to a combination of technological disruption and ecological meltdown, the younger generation should be happy if they are not significantly worse off than their predecessors.
The next few decades could therefore be characterized by intensive self-examination and the formulation of new social and political models.
People have lost faith in the old tales but do not yet have new ones.
Worker is more than just a gradual one. Two particularly important non-human skills that artificial intelligence possesses are connectivity and updatability. Since people are individuals, it is difficult to connect them together and make sure they are all up to date. Computers, on the other hand, are not individuals and can be easily integrated into a single flexible network. So it is not about replacing millions of individual human workers with millions of individual robots and computers. Rather, individual people will likely be replaced by an integrated network.
Therefore, when thinking about automation, it is wrong to compare the skills of a single human driver with those of a single self-driving car, or that of a single human doctor with those of a single AI doctor. Rather, we should compare the capabilities of a collection of human individuals with the capabilities of an integrated network.
For example, many drivers are not familiar with the constantly changing traffic rules and often break them. In addition, since each vehicle is an autonomous entity, if two vehicles approach an intersection at the same time, the drivers may misinterpret their intentions and collide. Self-driving cars, on the other hand, can all be connected to one another. When two such vehicles approach the same intersection, they are not really two separate entities - rather, they are part of a single algorithm. The chances that they will communicate incorrectly and collide are therefore much lower. And if the Department of Transportation decides to change any traffic rule, all self-driving cars can easily be updated at exactly the same time, and unless there is a bug, they will all follow the new rule to the letter.
It is similar in the health sector: when the World Health Organization discovers a new disease or when a laboratory produces a new medicinal substance, it is almost impossible to keep all human doctors in the world up to date with these developments. If, on the other hand, you have ten billion AI doctors in the world - each of whom monitors the health of a single person - they can all be updated in a split second, and they can all communicate with one another their experiences with the new disease or drug. These potential benefits of connectivity and updatability are so enormous that in at least some work areas it might make sense to replace all people with computers, even if, on an individual level, some continue to work better than machines.
Now, you might argue that by moving from individual people to a computer network, we lose the virtues of individuality. For example, if a human doctor makes a wrong diagnosis, he is not killing all the patients in the world and is not blocking the development of all new drugs. Conversely, if all doctors are really just one system and that system makes a mistake, the consequences could be catastrophic. In fact, however, an integrated computer system can maximize the benefits of connectivity without sacrificing the benefits of individuality. You can run numerous alternative algorithms over the same network, so that a patient in a remote jungle village not only has access to a single reliable doctor via smartphone, but actually to 100 different AI doctors, whose relative performance is continuously compared.
Thanks to learning algorithms and biometric sensors, a poor villager in an underdeveloped country could receive far better medical care via his smartphone than the richest person in the world receives today in the most advanced hospital.
So it would be just insane to block automation in areas like transportation and healthcare just to save human jobs. After all, we should above all protect one thing, namely people and not jobs.
For example, replacing human pilots with drones has destroyed some jobs, but created many new jobs in maintenance, remote control, data analysis and cybersecurity. The US armed forces need 30 people for an unmanned Predator or Reaper drone to travel over Syria, and at least another 80 people are needed to analyze the wealth of information it provides. In 2015, the US Air Force lacked sufficiently trained people to fill all of these positions, and ironically, it faced the paradoxical problem that the unmanned missiles could not be manned.
The problem with all these new jobs, however, is that they presumably require a high level of specialist knowledge and therefore will not solve the problems of the unskilled unemployed. Creating new jobs for people might prove easier than retraining people so that they actually fill those jobs. In earlier waves of automation, workers could typically switch from one routine job that did not require great skills to another.
Therefore, despite the creation of many new jobs for people, we could see a new "useless" class emerge.
Teams made up entirely of people - such as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson -, usually develop permanent hierarchies and routines that last for decades. But a human investigator who teams up with IBM's Watson computer system (which gained fame in 2011 when it won the American television quiz show Jeopardy!) Will find that every routine is an invitation to disruption and every hierarchy an invitation to revolution. Yesterday's assistant could turn into tomorrow's manager, and all protocols and manuals have to be rewritten every year.
An important milestone was December 7th, 2017, when a computer did not defeat a person in chess - that would have been really no news - but the AlphaZero program from Google won over the Stockfish 8 program. Stockfish 8 topped the computer chess rankings in 2016. It had access to centuries of accumulated human chess experience and decades of computer experience. It could calculate 70 million positions per second.AlphaZero, on the other hand, only managed 80,000 such calculations per second, and its human creators hadn't taught it any chess strategy - not even the standard openings. Instead, AlphaZero used the latest machine learning principles and practically taught itself chess by playing against itself. Nevertheless, the newcomer AlphaZero won 28 out of 100 games against Stockfish, and another 72 ended in a draw. So he didn't lose a single game. Since AlphaZero hadn't learned anything from humans, many of its successful moves and strategies seemed unconventional to humans.
Guess how long it took AlphaZero to learn chess from the ground up, prepare for the games against stockfish and develop his brilliant instincts? Four hours.
AlphaZero went from complete ignorance to creative mastery in just four hours without the help or guidance of anyone.
The AI revolution will not be a classic watershed after which the labor market will regain a new equilibrium. Rather, we will be dealing with a cascade of ever greater disruption.
Technology is never deterministic, and the fact that you can do something doesn't mean you have to do it.
But even with sufficient government support, it is far from clear whether billions of people can reinvent themselves again and again without losing their emotional balance. Thus, if, despite all our best efforts, a significant portion of humanity is forced out of the labor market, we must explore new models for post-labor societies, post-labor economies, and post-labor politics. The first step is to honestly acknowledge that the social, economic and political models we have inherited from the past are inadequate to face this challenge.
Some may think that people will never become economically irrelevant because even if they cannot compete with artificial intelligence in the workplace, they will always be needed as consumers. However, it is far from certain that the future economy will at least need us as consumers.
In fact, computers and algorithms no longer only function as producers, but also as customers. In the stock market, for example, algorithms are gradually becoming the main buyers of bonds, stocks and commodities. It is similar in the advertising industry, where the most important of all customers is an algorithm: the Google search engine algorithm.
Google's algorithm has a very fine and sophisticated sense of taste when it comes to "ranking" the websites of ice cream sellers, and the most successful ice cream sellers in the world are those who the Google algorithm lists at the top - not those who that produce the tastiest ice cream.
These models should be based above all on one principle, namely to protect people and not jobs. Many jobs are boring drudgery and not worth saving. Being a cashier is nobody's lifelong dream. We should therefore concentrate on meeting people's basic needs and protecting their social status and self-esteem.
The communist plan to instigate a working class revolution may in fact be out of date, but why shouldn't we keep trying to achieve the communist goal by other means?
If artificial intelligence and 3D printers actually take over the tasks of the people in Bangladesh and Bangalore, then the income that previously flowed to South Asia will now fill the coffers of a few tech giants in California. Instead of economic growth improving the situation around the world, we could see immense new wealth accumulate in high-tech centers like Silicon Valley as many developing countries collapse.
Homo sapiens is just not made for contentment. Human happiness depends less on objective conditions and more on one's own expectations.
In everyone's life, the search for meaning and community could push the search for a job into the background. If we can manage to tie a common economic safety net with strong communities and meaningful activities, the fact that we are losing our work on algorithms could in fact prove to be a boon. A much more terrifying scenario, however, is that we lose control of our lives.
Referendums and elections are always about human feelings, not human rationality.
Feelings guide not only voters, but politicians as well.
Rather, emotions are biochemical mechanisms that all mammals and birds use to quickly calculate probabilities of survival and reproduction. Feelings are not based on intuition, inspiration, or freedom - they are calculated.
If any ancient ancestor's feelings made a mistake, the genes that determined those feelings weren't passed down to the next generation. Feelings are therefore not the opposite of reason - they embody evolutionary rationality.
Within a few decades, big data algorithms that are constantly fed with huge amounts of biometric data could monitor our health around the clock.
People are going to get the best health care history has ever had, but that's why they are likely to be sick all the time. Something is always wrong somewhere in the body.
There is always something that can be improved.
watch while we watch TV. When we've finished watching Quentin Tarantino's entire cinematic oeuvre, we've probably forgotten most of it. But Netflix or Amazon, or whoever the TV algorithm belongs to, will know our personality type and will know which emotional buttons to press on us.
Now one can list all of the many problems associated with algorithms and conclude that people will never trust them. But that's a bit like listing the disadvantages of democracy and concluding that no sane person would ever advocate such a system.
As soon as artificial intelligence makes better decisions than we do about our careers and maybe even our relationships, our perception of humanity and life will have to change.
To date, these discussions have had shamefully little impact on actual behavior, because in times of crisis people all too often forget their philosophical views and instead follow their emotions and gut feeling.
Like all mammals, it uses emotions to make quick decisions about life and death. We inherited our anger, fear and lust from millions of ancestors, all of whom passed the strictest quality controls of natural selection.
Given that human drivers kill more than a million people each year, this is a perfectly manageable task.
But as soon as we decide according to a moral standard in the labor market - that it is wrong to discriminate against black people or women, for example - we can assume that machines implement this standard better and comply with it more strictly than humans.
Of course, it will not be very easy to write code to evaluate applications, and there is always the risk that the engineers somehow program their own unconscious biases into the software. But if we discover such bugs, it is probably much easier to fix the bugs in the software than to expel people's racist and misogynistic prejudices.
We have seen too many science fiction films about robots revolting against their human masters, running amok in the streets and massacring everyone. But the real problem with robots is quite the opposite. We should be afraid of them because they are likely to always obey their masters and never rebel.
Now, of course, blind obedience is not bad per se as long as the robots serve well-meaning masters.
The real problem with robots is not their artificial intelligence, but rather the natural stupidity and cruelty of their human masters.
In a tragicomic incident in October 2017, a Palestinian worker posted a picture of himself at work next to a bulldozer on his private Facebook account. Under the picture he wrote: "Good morning!" An automatic algorithm made a small mistake when transcribing the Arabic letters. Instead of "Ysabechhum!" (which means “Good morning!”) the algorithm read the Arabic letters as “Ydbachhum!” (which means: «Kill them!»). Israeli officers took him because there was suspicion that the man might be a terrorist and that his bulldozer ran over people
Security forces immediately fixed. He was released when they realized the algorithm had made a mistake. But the Facebook post was deleted anyway. You can never be too careful.
Democracies distribute the power to process information and make decisions among many people and institutions, while dictatorships concentrate information and power in one place.
Given the technology of the 20th century, that was simply inefficient. Nobody has the ability to process all the information quickly enough and make the right decisions.
In fact, artificial intelligence could make centralized systems far more efficient than decentralized systems, because the more information it can analyze, the better the machine learning works. If you concentrate all the information that affects a billion people in one database, regardless of all data protection concerns, you can train algorithms much better than if you respect individual privacy and only have partial information about a million people stored in the database.
Democracy in its current form cannot survive the amalgamation of biotechnology and information technology. It will either have to radically reinvent itself, or people will live in “digital dictatorships” in the future.
So instead of collective discrimination, we could face a growing problem of individual discrimination in the 21st century.
Intelligence is the ability to solve problems. Awareness is the ability to feel things like pain, joy, love, and anger. We like to mix the two, because in humans and other mammals, intelligence goes hand in hand with consciousness. Mammals solve most problems by feeling things. However, computers solve problems in a completely different way.
Just as airplanes fly faster than birds without ever developing feathers, so computers can solve problems much better than mammals without ever developing feelings.
Consciousness is so related to organic biochemistry that it will never be possible to create consciousness in inorganic systems.
In the decades to come, we will probably not be dealing with a robot rebellion, but rather with hordes of bots who know better than our mothers what emotional buttons to press on us and who use this striking ability to tempt us to lead and sell us things - regardless of whether it's a car, a politician or an entire ideology. The bots could find our deepest fears, feelings of hatred and cravings and use this inner lever against us.
If we're not careful, we end up with stunted people who, with the help of improved computers, do immense damage to themselves and the world.
But property is the prerequisite for long-term inequality.
Large parts of humanity have undoubtedly benefited from globalization, but there are signs that inequality is growing, both between and within societies. Some groups are increasingly monopolizing the fruits of globalization while billions are left behind. Even today, the wealthiest one percent owns half of the world's wealth. Even more alarming, the richest one hundred people together own more than the poorest four billion.
And it could get worse. As already shown, the advance of artificial intelligence could destroy the economic value and political power of most people.
At the same time, improvements in biotechnology could make it possible to translate economic inequality into biological inequality.
The two processes - biotechnology coupled with the rise of artificial intelligence - could therefore work together to split humanity into a small class of superhumans and a huge underclass of useless Homo sapiens.
This already dire situation could get worse because if the masses lose their economic importance and political power, the state could lose at least some of the incentive to invest in their health, education and welfare. It is most dangerous to be superfluous.
The future of the masses will therefore depend on the goodwill of a small elite. Perhaps that goodwill will last for a couple of decades. But in the event of a crisis - for example
a climate catastrophe - it would be quite tempting and not particularly difficult to just throw the superfluous people overboard.
Seen in this way, the current populist resentment against "the elites" is well founded.
In the long term, such a scenario could even “de-globalize” the world if the upper caste unite in a self-proclaimed “civilization” and build walls and trenches to seal themselves off from the hordes of “barbarians” outside.
Perhaps in some parts of the world your children should be taught how to write a computer program, while in other parts of the world it is better to teach them to draw quickly and shoot immediately.
But the data giants are likely to have very different, higher goals than any previous attention-grabber. Your real business isn't selling ads at all. Rather, by hijacking our attention, they are able to accumulate tons of data about us that is worth far more than the income from advertising. We are not their customers - we are their product.
In the medium term, this hoarding of data opens the way to a radically different business model, the first victim of which will be the advertising industry itself. The new model is based on transferring power from humans to algorithms, including the power to
Choosing and buying things.
A popular app may lack a business model and even lose money in the short term, but as long as it sucks data out, it could be worth billions.
At present, people are happily giving away their most valuable asset - their personal information - in exchange for free email services and funny cat videos. This is somewhat reminiscent of tribes in Africa and of the Native Americans who unwittingly sold entire countries to the European imperialists in exchange for colorful pearls and cheap jewelry. Should
are instructed. Humans and machines could merge so completely that humans can no longer survive when they are disconnected from the network.
As much as we should fear the power of big corporations, history shows that we do not necessarily fare better in the hands of overpowering governments.
II: The Political Challenge
Physical communities have a depth that virtual communities will never reach, at least not in the near future.
We have lost our ability to pay attention to what we smell and taste. Instead, we are absorbed in our smartphones and computers. We are more interested in what happens in cyberspace than what happens on the street outside.
When something exciting happens, the gut feeling of Facebook users is to pull the smartphone out of their pocket, take a picture, put it online and wait for the likes. Meanwhile, they hardly notice what they are feeling themselves. Rather, what they feel is increasingly determined by the online reactions. People who have become alienated from their body, senses, and physical environment can easily feel isolated and disoriented. Opinion makers often attribute such feelings of alienation to the disappearance of religious and national ties, but what is more important in this case is the fact that people have lost touch with their own bodies. For millions of years they lived without religions and without nations - in this respect, they can probably also exist without them in the 21st century. But they cannot live happily when they are no longer connected to their bodies. Anyone who no longer feels at home in their body will not feel at home anywhere in the world.
Realize community vision.Historically, corporations have never been the ideal vehicle to lead social and political revolutions. A real revolution sooner or later requires sacrifices that companies, their employees and their shareholders do not want to make. That is why revolutionaries found churches, political parties and armies.
Just as in nature different species struggle for survival according to the merciless laws of natural selection, so throughout history civilizations have clashed again and again, and only the "fittest" survived to tell about it. Anyone who overlooks this gloomy fact - be it liberal politicians or unworldly engineers - does so at their own risk.
War spreads ideas, technology and people far faster than trade.
Numerous guerrilla troops and terrorist organizations have succeeded in founding new countries or conquering existing ones. But they always only succeeded in doing this by accepting the basic principles of the political world order. Even the Taliban sought international recognition as the legitimate government of the sovereign country of Afghanistan. No group that rejects the principles of world politics has so far gained permanent control over any significant territories.
Despite the wars in Syria, Ukraine and various other hotspots around the world, fewer people died from human violence in 2016 than from obesity, car accidents or suicide.
Unfortunately we have become so used to this achievement that we take it for granted. That's one of the reasons people are playing with fire again.
As soon as this feedback loop crosses a critical threshold, it will inevitably gain momentum and all the ice in the polar regions will melt, even if people stop burning coal, oil and gas overnight. In this respect, it is not enough that we recognize the danger we are facing. The key is that we really do something about it now.
That may sound like science fiction, but the world's first clean hamburger was made from cell cultures in 2013 - and then consumed. It cost $ 330,000. Four years of research and development brought the unit price down to $ 11, and within another decade it is believed that industrially produced clean meat will be cheaper than slaughtered meat.
There is no nationalist answer. As in the case of climate change, the nation state is simply the wrong framework for dealing with technological disruption.
If even one country decides to embark on a high-risk but also extremely profitable technological path, other countries will be forced to do the same, because no one can afford to be left behind.
Each of these three problems - nuclear war, ecological collapse, and technological disruption - are, on their own, enough to threaten the future of human civilization. But together they add up to an unprecedented existential crisis, which not least has to do with the fact that they are likely to reinforce and mix one another.
If the ecological crisis intensifies, the development of high-risk, promising technologies will likely only accelerate.
We have a global ecology, a global economy and a global science today - but we are still trapped in national politics. This discrepancy prevents the political system from effectively addressing our main problems.
But it is precisely their great interpretive talent that puts religious leaders at a disadvantage when they compete with scientists. Scientists too know how to let five be straight and bend evidence, but ultimately the hallmark of science is a willingness to admit failures and take a different course. Because of this, scientists are gradually learning how to grow better crops and make better medicines, while priests and gurus are just learning how to find better excuses. Over the centuries even the true believers have noticed this difference, which is why religious authority in more and more technical fields has waned. That is also the reason why the entire world has increasingly become a single civilization. When things really work, everyone does them.
Humanity today is a single civilization, and problems such as nuclear war, ecological collapse and technological disruption can only be solved on a global scale. On the other hand, nationalism and religion still divide our human civilization into distinct and often hostile camps.
Some Europeans are calling for Europe to close its gates: are they betraying the multicultural and tolerant ideals of Europe, or are they simply demanding sensible steps to prevent a disaster? Others demand that the gates be opened even wider: do they believe in Europe's central values, or are they guilty of burdening the European project with impossible expectations?
So, for some clarity, it might be helpful to think of immigration as a deal with three basic conditions or clauses: Clause 1: The host country accepts immigrants. Clause 2: In return, immigrants must adopt the host country's core norms and values, even if that means giving up some of their traditional norms and values. Clause 3: If the immigrants integrate sufficiently, they will become full and equal members of the host country over time. "They" become "we".
Precisely because Europe upholds tolerance, it cannot let in too many intolerant people. True, a tolerant society can
Cope with small illiberal minorities, but when the number of such extremists exceeds a certain threshold, a society changes radically. If Europe takes in too many Middle Eastern immigrants, it will end up looking like the Middle East.
If immigrants are indeed guilty of incorrigible intolerance, sooner or later many liberal Europeans who still advocate immigration will turn to bitter opposition to it. Conversely, if most immigrants turn out to be liberal and open-minded in their attitudes towards religion, gender and politics, this will take some of their most important arguments out of the hands of those who oppose them.
It would be wrong to denigrate all anti-immigration opponents as “Nazis”, just as it would be wrong to accuse all immigration advocates of committing “cultural suicide”. Therefore, the immigration debate should not be conducted as an uncompromising struggle over some non-negotiable moral imperative. Rather, it is a discussion between two legitimate political positions that should be decided through established democratic procedures.
What could help Europe and the world as a whole to better integrate immigrants and keep borders open and minds would be less hysteria about terrorism. It would be extremely unfortunate if the European experiment in freedom and tolerance were thwarted by an exaggerated fear of terrorists. Not only would the terrorists have achieved their goals with this, it would also give a handful of fanatics far too much say when it comes to the future of humanity. Terrorism is the weapon of a marginalized and weak part of humanity. How did it happen that he dominated world politics?
III: Despair and Hope
Terrorists are mind control masters. They kill very few people, but still manage to terrify billions and shake huge political structures like the European Union or the United States. Since September 11, 2001, terrorists have killed around 50 people in the European Union each year, around ten in the USA, around seven in China and up to 25,000 people worldwide (mostly in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria). In traffic accidents, however, around 80,000 Europeans, 40,000 Americans, 270,000 Chinese and 1.25 million people die each year. Diabetes and excessive sugar consumption kill up to 3.5 million people annually, while air pollution kills around 7 million people. So why are we more afraid of terrorism than we are of sugar, and why are governments being voted out of office because of sporadic terrorist attacks rather than chronic air pollution?
By killing a handful of people, terrorists are causing millions to fear for their lives. In order to allay these fears, governments react to this theater of terror with a security show in which an immense arsenal of violence is displayed, up to and including the persecution of entire population groups or the invasion of foreign countries. In most cases, this overreaction threatens our security much more than the terrorists themselves.
If we are to fight terror effectively, we must first of all understand that none of what terrorists do can defeat us. We can only defeat ourselves if we react wrongly to the terrorist provocations.
The state has created a huge space free from political violence, and this empty space now functions as a resonance body that enormously amplifies the effects of any armed attack, however minor it may be. The less political violence there is in a particular state, the greater the public shock in the face of an act of terrorism. The murder of a few people in Belgium receives significantly more attention than the murder of hundreds in Nigeria or Iraq. So, paradoxically, it is precisely the success of modern states in preventing political violence that makes them particularly vulnerable to terrorism.
Therefore, terror awakens deep-seated fears of chaos and anarchy, and people feel as if the social order is on the verge of collapse. After centuries of bloody conflict, we have crawled out of the black hole of violence, but we feel that it is still there, patiently waiting to devour us again. A couple of atrocities - and we think we're falling back into that hole. In order to counter these fears, the state feels compelled to respond to the theater of terror with its own theater of security. The most effective response to terrorists is likely to be good intelligence and covert action against the financial networks that feed them. But that's not something that citizens can see on TV. Citizens witnessed the drama of the collapsing World Trade Center. And so the state feels compelled to stage an equally spectacular drama with even more fire and smoke. So instead of acting calmly and efficiently, he kindles a mighty storm that often makes the terrorists' wildest dreams come true. So how should the state deal with terror? A successful fight against terrorism should take place on three fronts. First, governments should focus on covert action against terrorist networks. Second, the media should look at things soberly and avoid any hysteria. The theater of terror cannot succeed without publicity. Unfortunately, all too often the media deliver this publicity free of charge. Almost obsessively, they report terrorist attacks and inflate their danger enormously, because reports about terrorism sell much better than reports about diabetes or air pollution. The third front is the imagination of each of us. Terrorists occupy our imaginations and turn them against us. Again and again we rehearse the terrorist attack on the stage of our minds - remembering September 11th or the most recent suicide bombings. The terrorists murdered 100 people - and made 100 million believe that behind every tree there is a killer. It is the responsibility of every citizen to rid his or her imagination of the terrorists and to be aware of the true dimensions of this threat. It is our own internal terror that is causing the media to obsessively report terrorism and the government to overreact. Whether the terror succeeds or fails depends entirely on us. If we allow terrorists to hijack our imaginations and then overreact to our own fears, then terror will succeed. If, on the other hand, we free our imagination from the terrorists and react with a cool head - then it will fail.
So while today's terror is predominantly theater, future nuclear terror, cyberterror or bioterror would pose a much more serious threat and require far more drastic government responses. That is precisely why we should be very careful to distinguish such hypothetical future scenarios from the actual terrorist attacks as we have experienced them so far. Fear that terrorists might one day get their hands on an atomic bomb and destroy New York or London does not warrant hysterical overreaction to a terrorist killing a dozen bystanders with a rapid-fire rifle or truck.
Of course, governments must monitor radical groups and prevent them from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, but they must weigh the fear of nuclear terrorism against other threat scenarios.
We can safely say, however, that the Americans and their allies with their war on terror not only caused tremendous destruction worldwide, but also caused what economists call "opportunity costs." The money, time and political capital invested in fighting terrorism did not go into fighting climate change, AIDS and poverty; there was no money to bring peace and prosperity to sub-Saharan Africa or to improve relations with Russia and China. If New York or London at some point sink into the rising tides of the Atlantic, or if tensions with Russia lead to an open war, the people could well accuse Bush, Blair and Obama of focusing on the wrong front.
It's hard to prioritize in real time, while it's all too easy to criticize the prioritization in retrospect. We accuse politicians of failing to prevent disasters that happened, but fortunately we are unaware of the disasters that never occurred.
Never underestimate human stupidity
The only successful invasion by a major power in the 21st century has been the Russian conquest of Crimea.
If the prerequisite for a successful war is that there is a lack of opponents who are ready to oppose the aggressor, this significantly limits the options available.
Indeed, when Russia sought to replicate its success in Crimea in other parts of Ukraine, opposition was much more intense, and the war in eastern Ukraine was stuck in an unproductive stalemate.
In fact, from a Russian perspective, all of his allegedly aggressive actions in recent years have not been the opening moves of a new global war, but rather an attempt to close unprotected defensive flanks. Russians can rightly point out that after their peaceful retreat in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they were treated like a vanquished enemy. The US and NATO took advantage of Russia's weakness and, despite promises to the contrary, expanded the Western defense alliance to include Eastern Europe and even some of the former Soviet republics. The West also ignored Russian interests in the Middle East, intervened under dubious pretexts in Serbia and Iraq and made it generally clear to Russia that it can only rely on its own military power if it wants to protect its sphere of influence against Western interference.
Why is it so difficult for great powers to wage successful wars in the 21st century? On the one hand, this has to do with the fact that the nature of the economy has changed. In the past, economic wealth was mostly material, so it was relatively easy to get rich through conquest. Once you had defeated your opponents on the battlefield, you could cash in by plundering their cities, selling their citizens in slave markets, and confiscating valuable wheat fields and gold mines. The Romans prospered by selling captured Greeks and Gauls, and 19th-century America took off when it occupied California's gold mines and Texas cattle ranches. In the 21st century, however, only measly profits can be made this way. Economic wealth today consists mainly of technical and institutional knowledge and less of grain fields, gold mines or oil fields, and knowledge cannot be conquered through war. A
Of course, companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google are worth hundreds of billions of dollars, but that fortune cannot be violently taken.
But if the US attacks a country today that has even modest cyber capabilities, the war could be carried to California or Illinois in a matter of minutes. Malware and logic bombs could paralyze air traffic in Dallas, collide trains in Philadelphia and bring power to Michigan to a standstill.
Nuclear weapons and cyber war, on the other hand, are technologies that cause enormous damage and generate little profit. With these means you can destroy entire countries, but you cannot build large, profitable empires. In this respect, in a world where the saber is being rattled louder and louder and atmospheric disturbances are increasing, perhaps our best guarantee of peace is that the great powers have no recent examples of successful wars.
But even if war continued to be an unprofitable business in the twenty-first century, that would not give us an absolute guarantee of peace. Because we should never underestimate human stupidity. On a personal as well as a collective level, people tend to engage in self-destructive activities.
Human stupidity is one of the most important factors in history, but we often dismiss it as insignificant.
The problem is that the world is much more complicated than a chessboard and that human rationality is not enough to really understand it. In this respect, even rational leaders often do very stupid things.
People in Israel often speak of the "three great world religions" and mean Christianity (2.3 billion believers), Islam (1.8 billion) and Judaism (15 million). Hinduism with its one billion believers and Buddhism with its 500 million followers - not to mention Shintoism (50 million) and Sikhism (25 million) - apparently do not meet the necessary requirements.
All social mammals such as wolves, dolphins and monkeys have moral codes that have been adapted in the course of evolution to promote group cooperation.
Monotheism did little to improve people's moral standards - or do you really think Muslims are inherently more moral than Hindus just because Muslims believe in a single God while Hindus have many gods? Were the Christian conquistadors more moral than the pagan Native American tribes? What monotheism undoubtedly did was make many people significantly more intolerant than before, which contributed to the spread of religious persecution and holy wars.
In addition to such well-known names as Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, around 20 percent of all Nobel Prize winners in the natural sciences were Jews, although Jews make up less than 0.2 percent of the world's population.
The Jews may be a very interesting people, but if you look at the big picture, you see that they had a very limited impact on the world.
Unlike some sects who insist that they have a monopoly on all wisdom and goodness, one of the main characteristics of secular people is that they do not claim such a monopoly. They do not believe that morality and wisdom came down from heaven in a particular place and time.
Faith leaders often present their followers with a strict either-or decision - either you are a Muslim or you are not. And if you are a Muslim you should reject all other doctrines. Secular people, on the other hand, have no problem with diverse hybrid identities.
It is true that opinions differ when it comes to economic and political equality, but secular people fundamentally distrust all hierarchies that exist a priori.
People who are afraid of losing their truth tend to be more violent than people who are used to looking at the world from different angles. Questions that we cannot answer are usually far better for us than answers that cannot be questioned.
Especially in times of need - for example in the event of war or an economic crisis - societies must act quickly and decisively, even if they are not sure what the truth is and what genuinely compassionate action looks like. You need clear guidelines, catchy catchphrases and rousing battle cries. Since it is difficult to send soldiers into battle based on dubious assumptions or to enact radical economic reforms, secular movements are repeatedly turning into dogmatic creeds.
Whether we should regard Stalin as a secular leader therefore depends on how we define secularism. If we stick to the negative minimum definition - "secular people do not believe in God" - then Stalin was definitely secular. If we use a positive definition - "secular people reject all unscientific dogmas and are committed to truth, compassion and freedom" - then Marx was a secular beacon, while Stalin was anything but that. He was the prophet of the godless but extremely dogmatic religion of Stalinism. Stalinism is not an isolated incident. On the other side of the political spectrum, capitalism began as a very unbiased scientific theory, but gradually solidified into a dogma. Many capitalists keep praying the mantra of free markets and economic growth, no matter what the reality is. Regardless of the terrible consequences of modernization, industrialization or privatization, capitalist convicts dismiss them as mere “growing pains” and promise that all of this will be offset by a little more growth. Moderate Liberal Democrats were more indebted to the secular pursuit of truth and compassion, but even they sometimes abandon it in favor of comfortable dogmas. For example, when confronted with the chaos of brutal dictatorships and failed states, liberals often unquestionably trust the great ritual of general elections. They wage wars and spend billions in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and the Congo, firmly convinced that holding general elections will magically transform these places into more sunshine-rich variants of Denmark. And this despite repeated failures and regardless of the fact that even in countries with an established tradition of general elections, these rituals sometimes bring authoritarian populists to power and lead to nothing greater than majority dictatorships. Anyone who questions the supposed wisdom of general elections for these reasons will not end up in the gulag, but will probably receive a rather cold flood of dogmatic abuse.
Today, as we face the most important decisions in the history of life, I would personally trust those who admit ignorance rather than those who claim infallibility.
What gave Homo sapiens its edge over all other animals and made us masters of the planet was not our individual rationality, but our unparalleled ability to think together in large groups.
We think we know a lot more today, but in reality we know a lot less as individuals. We rely on the expertise of others for almost all of our needs.
We think we know a lot, even if we know very little individually, because we treat the knowledge in the minds of others as if it were our own.
the illusion of knowledge also has its downside. The world is getting more and more complicated and people don't even realize how little they know about what is going on.
People rarely notice their ignorance because they have locked themselves in an echo chamber of like-minded friends and newsfeeds confirming their own worldview, where their beliefs are constantly reinforced and rarely questioned.
Politicians are therefore in a bind. If they stay at the center of power, they will have an extremely distorted view of the world. If you venture to the margins, you will be wasting too much of your precious time. This dilemma is only going to get worse. In the coming decades the world will become even more complicated than it is today
The scavengers' sense of justice was structured to cope with the dilemmas that affected the lives of a few dozen people in an area a few dozen square kilometers. On the other hand, when we try to understand the relationships between millions of people across entire continents, our moral sense is overwhelmed. Justice does not just require a structure of abstract values, but also an understanding of specific cause-effect relationships.
o make no effort to know anything, remain in a state of blissful ignorance, and find the truth quite difficult for those who seek knowledge. How is it possible to avoid theft when the global economic system is incessantly stealing in my name and without my knowledge?
The greatest crimes in modern history resulted not only from hatred and greed, but much more from ignorance and indifference.
We are all accomplices in at least some of these imbalances, and we simply do not have the time and energy to pinpoint them all.
Humans can grasp the relationship between two wildboys, between twenty wildboys, or between two neighboring clans. Yet they are ill-equipped to understand relationships between millions of Syrians, between 500 million Europeans, or between all of the overlapping groups and subgroups on the planet.
In trying to understand and assess moral dilemmas of this magnitude, people often resort to one of four methods. The first is to "shrink" the problem:
The second method is to focus on a touching human story that appears to represent the entire conflict. If you try to explain to people the true complexity of the conflict through statistics and accurate data, you stand no chance; but a personal story about the fate of a single child activates the lacrimal glands, gets the blood flowing and provides false moral certainty.
The third way to deal with moral dilemmas on a large scale is to construct conspiracy theories. How does the world economy work, and is it good or bad? This is far too complicated to really grasp. On the other hand, it is much easier to imagine that twenty multibillionaires pull the strings behind the scenes, that they control the media and fuel wars in order to enrich themselves. These are almost always completely unfounded fantasies. Today's world is too complicated not only for our sense of justice, but also for our leadership skills. Nobody - not even the multibillionaires, the CIA, the Freemasons and the Elders of Zion - really understand what is going on in the world. In this respect, nobody is able to really pull the strings. These three methods try to deny the real complexity of the world. The fourth and final method is to develop a doctrine of belief, to trust some supposedly omniscient theory, institution, or leader, and to follow it wherever it leads us. Religious and ideological beliefs are still extremely attractive in our scientific age precisely because they offer us a safe haven in the face of the frustrating complexity of reality.
I know that when I equate religion with fake news, a lot of people may scream in outrage, but that's what it's all about. If a thousand people believe in any fictional story for a month - then it is fake news. If a billion people believe in it for a millennium - then we are dealing with religion and we are warned not to call this fake news, so as not to hurt the feelings of the believers (or to incur their wrath).
Time-honored religions weren't the only ones who used fiction to cement cooperation. In more recent times, each nation has created its own national mythology, while movements like communism, fascism, and liberalism created elaborate self-reinforcing creeds.
In addition to religions and ideologies, companies also rely on fiction and fake news. Branding often involves telling the same fictional story over and over until people believe it is true.
On the other hand, you can't organize crowds successfully without relying on some mythology. If you stick to bare reality, hardly anyone will follow you.
To this extent, in practice there is no strict separation between “knowing that something is just a human convention” and “believing that something is intrinsically valuable”. In many cases people are ambivalent or forget about this distinction altogether.
Humans have a remarkable ability to know and not to know at the same time. Or more precisely, you can know something if you really think about it, but most of the time you don't think about it, and therefore you don't know.
Human suffering is often caused by believing in fiction, but the suffering itself is quite real.
One of the greatest fictions of all is to deny the complexity of the world and to think in absolute categories of primordial purity as opposed to satanic evil. No politician is telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but some politicians are still far better than others.
Similarly, no newspaper is free of bias and error, but some newspapers make a genuine effort to find out the truth while others are brainwashing machines.
It is everyone's responsibility to spend time and effort recognizing our own biases and verifying our sources of information. As mentioned in previous chapters, we cannot examine everything ourselves. But that is exactly why we must at least be careful about what our preferred sources of information are - whether it is a newspaper, a website, a television station or a person.
If you want reliable information, pay good money for it. If you're getting your messages for free, it could be that you are the product.
The second rule of thumb is that if there is any question that seems particularly important to you, try to read the relevant scientific literature. And by academic literature, I mean serious articles, books published by reputable publishers, and the writings of professors from renowned institutions. Science clearly has its limits and has made many mistakes in the past. Even so, the scientific community has been our most reliable source of knowledge for centuries. If you think the scientific community is wrong about anything, it is certainly possible, but at least you should know the scientific theories that you oppose and have empirical evidence to support your thesis.
Humans rule the world because they can cooperate better than any other living being, and they can cooperate so well because they believe in fiction.
We believe that buying more and more things makes us happy because we've seen capitalist paradise with our own eyes on TV.
Hardly anyone should read the latest specialist articles in the fields of machine learning or genetic engineering. Instead, films like Matrix and Her or television series like Westworld and Black Mirror determine how people understand the most important technological, social and economic developments of our time. This also means that science fiction has to show significantly more responsibility in the way it depicts scientific realities, because otherwise it could convey wrong ideas to people or draw their attention to the wrong problems. As mentioned in an earlier chapter, perhaps the worst sin in science fiction today is that it likes to confuse intelligence and consciousness. As a result, it is overly preoccupied with a potential war between robots and humans, when in reality we should rather fear a conflict between a small elite of supermen whose power is based on algorithms and a vast underclass of disempowered Homo sapiens.
but that authenticity is a myth.People are afraid of being trapped in a box, but do not even notice that they are already there - namely in the box of their brain - which in turn is enclosed in a larger box - human society with its myriad of fictions. Whoever escapes the matrix will find nothing but a larger matrix.
Do you have any idea how many films, novels and poems you have consumed over the years and how these works of art have shaped and sharpened your idea of love?
If you think you can hit any delete button and erase all traces of Hollywood from your subconscious and limbic system, then you are kidding yourself.
Humanity is facing unprecedented revolutions, all of our old tales are falling apart, and no new one has yet emerged to replace them.
Of course, humans have never been able to accurately predict the future. But today it is more difficult than ever, because as soon as technology enables us to manipulate bodies, brains and souls, we can no longer be safe in any way - not even about things that were previously considered immovable and eternal.
Computers are experiencing an unprecedented revolution. Much of what children learn today is therefore likely to be irrelevant in 2050. Far too many schools these days are focused on cramming students with information. In the past this made sense because information was scarce, and even the leakage of existing information was repeatedly blocked by censorship.
All over the world people are just a click away from recent accounts of the Aleppo bombing or the melting polar ice caps in the Arctic, but there are so many contradicting accounts that it is difficult to decide what to believe. Plus, countless other things are just a click away, making it hard to focus, and when politics or science seem too complicated, the temptation is to turn to some funny cat videos, petty celebrity gossip, or cheap porn movies. In a world like this, more information is pretty much the last thing a teacher needs to convey to his students. The children already have way too much of it. Instead, people need the ability to interpret information, to differentiate between important and unimportant and, above all, to assemble many pieces of information to form a more comprehensive picture of the world. In fact, that was the ideal of Western liberal education for centuries, but to this day, even many Western schools have been rather negligent in trying to live up to that ideal.
The decisions we will make over the next few decades will be about the future of life as such, and we can only make these decisions on the basis of our present view of the world. If this generation lacks a comprehensive idea of the cosmos, the future of life will be decided at random.
Numerous specialist educators claim that schools should focus on teaching the four Ks - critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.
More generally, schools should place less emphasis on technical ability and instead focus on universally applicable life skills. Most important of all will be the ability to deal with change, learn new things and maintain mental equilibrium in unfamiliar situations.
If we want to keep pace with the world of 2050, we don't just have to invent new ideas and products - above all, we have to keep reinventing ourselves.
What exactly the changes will look like we cannot say with certainty, only that change itself will be the only certainty.
From time immemorial, life has been divided into two complementary parts: a phase of learning followed by a phase of work. In the first part of life, one accumulated information, developed skills, constructed a worldview, and built a stable identity.
The harder you've worked to build something, the harder it is to let go of it and make room for something new.
Since foreignness becomes the new normal, our past experiences, as well as the past experiences of humanity as a whole, will offer less reliable orientation. People as individuals and humanity as a whole will increasingly have to do with things that no one has ever been confronted with: such as super-intelligent machines, genetically modified bodies, algorithms that can manipulate our emotions with amazing precision, rapid man-made climate disasters and the compulsion to change jobs every ten years. What is best to do when faced with a completely unprecedented situation? How should you act when you are inundated with enormous amounts of information and have absolutely no way of absorbing and analyzing all of this information? How should one live in a world where total uncertainty is not a mistake but a basic characteristic?
Unfortunately, teaching children how to accept the unknown and maintain mental equilibrium is much harder than teaching them a physical equation or the causes of the First World War. Resilience cannot be learned by reading a book or listening to a lecture. As a rule, the teachers themselves lack the intellectual flexibility that the 21st century demands, because they are themselves a product of the old educational system.
Don't trust the adults too much. Most of them mean well with you, but they just don't understand the world. In the past it was relatively safe to follow adults because they knew the world well and it was slowly changing. But the 21st century will be different. With the increasing pace of change, you can never be sure whether what adults are telling you is timeless wisdom or outdated prejudice.
Technology isn't bad per se. If you know what you want in life, technology can help you get it. But if you don't know what you want in life, it will be all too easy for technology to set your goals for you and take control of your life. Especially because technology understands people better and better, in the end it could be that you serve them and not you. Have you seen those zombies running through the streets with eyes locked on their smartphones? Do you think they control the technology or does the technology control them?
Today, as biotechnology and machine learning get better and better, it is becoming easier and easier to manipulate people's deepest emotions and desires, and it is more dangerous than ever to just follow your heart. If Coca-Cola, Amazon, Baidu or the government
You may have heard that we live in a time when computers are being hacked, but that's only half the story. In fact, we live in an era where people are being hacked. Right now, the algorithms are watching us. They watch where we go, what we buy, who we meet. Soon they will be monitoring all of our steps, all of our breaths, all of our heartbeats.
And once these algorithms know us better than we do ourselves, they could control and manipulate us, and there wasn't much we could do about it.
In the end, it's a simple matter of empirical evidence: if the algorithms actually understand what's going on inside us better than we do, then the power will shift towards them.
But if you want to somehow keep control of your personal existence and the future of life, you have to be faster than the algorithms, faster than Amazon and the government, and recognize yourself before they do. To be quick, you shouldn't take too much luggage with you. Leave all your illusions behind They weigh heavily.
What kind of answer do people expect? In almost all cases, when they ask about the meaning of life, they expect to be told a story. Homo sapiens is a storytelling creature who thinks in stories rather than numbers or graphics and believes that the universe itself functions like a story, full of heroes and villains, conflicts and solutions, climaxes and happy endings. When looking for the meaning of life, we want a story that explains what it really is about and what my specific role in the cosmic drama is. This role makes me part of something bigger than myself and gives meaning to all of my experiences and decisions.
If you believe in a particular narrative, you will still be interested in the smallest details while remaining blind to anything that falls outside the scope of the story.
In most cases, surprisingly little is required to exhaust our imaginations.
Attempts to leave some kind of cultural legacy are rarely successful.
If we can't leave something tangible behind - like a gene or a poem, for example - isn't it enough if we just make the world a little better? I can help someone, and that someone will then help someone else - in doing so, I am doing my part for the betterment of the world and forming a small link in the great chain of kindness.
So a good story has to assign me a role and has to transcend my horizons, but it doesn't necessarily have to be true.
Most of the people who go on an identity hunt are like children on a treasure hunt. They only find what their parents previously hid for them. Second, not only our personal identities, but also our collective institutions are based on this history. As a result, it is extremely scary to question them. In many societies, anyone who tries to do this will be ostracized or persecuted. And even if that's not the case, it takes strong nerves to question the fabric of society. Because if the story is indeed wrong, then the whole world as we know it doesn't make sense. State laws, social norms, economic institutions - they could all collapse. Most of the stories are held together by the weight of their roof rather than the strength of their foundations.
Once personal identities and entire social systems are built on a narrative, it becomes unthinkable to question it, no matter what evidence it relies on, because its collapse would cause personal and social disaster. In history, the roof is sometimes more important than the foundations.
Of all rituals, sacrifice is the most powerful, because of all things in the world, suffering is the most real. It can never be ignored or doubted. So if you want to make people truly believe in any fiction, get them to make a sacrifice for that fiction. Once someone suffers for a story, that's usually enough to convince them that the story is true.
If you buy a used Fiat for 2,000 euros, you will likely complain about this car to anyone who wants to hear it. However, if you can afford a brand new Ferrari for 200,000 euros, you will be raving about it everywhere, not because it is such a great car, but because you paid so much money for it that you absolutely have to believe it is the most wonderful thing on earth.
While nationalism teaches me that my nation is special and that I have special obligations to it, fascism claims that my nation is superior to all others and that I have obligations to it only.
The meaning of life is not a finished product. There is no divine script, and nothing outside of me can give my life meaning. It is I who, through my free decisions and through my own feelings, charges everything with meaning.
Taken by itself, the universe is just a senseless hodgepodge of atoms. Nothing is beautiful, sacred or sexy - only people's feelings make it so. It is only human feelings that make a red apple seductive and a shit heap disgusting. If you take away the human emotions, there are only a bunch of molecules left.
One should be especially careful with the following four words: sacrifice, eternity, purity, redemption. If you hear any of these four words, all alarm bells should be ringing for you.
The more consciously you perceive yourself, the more obvious it becomes that nothing lasts even from one moment to the next.
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