Notes from the recent conversation between Daniel Kahneman and Yuval Noah Harari
Daniel Kahneman on decision making:
In the present, people make decisions that are biased and noisy. Noisy means that they are unstable and they’re different from the judgment and decision that other people would make in the same situation.
It turns out that people make mistakes and the errors that people make in their judgments and decision are due just about as much or possibly more to noise than they are to bias. In recent years, the focus has been on bias in decision making, the problem of noise should attract more attention.
Completely removing noise from the judgment is impossible. Now some algorithms are taking over more and more functions and some professions are going to disappear. At the same time, we are still in a world where humans are making decisions and there’s a lot of antagonism to algorithms. There is a phrase “algorithm aversion”.
There’s no bigger problem than the possibility of human nature going to change or if human decisions are going to be superseded by non-human intelligence.
Daniel Kahneman on Artificial intelligence, business, and jobs:
The idea that with the advent of AI taking over many of the unskilled and some of the skilled activities, there won’t have much for the people.
The idea of universal guaranteed income being the solution strikes me as a bit of a fantasy. I don’t see this is coming and I don’t think it is a solution. I see a huge disruption. There is going to be a complete destabilization of the human condition and human society. This is not going to happen quietly and we have no idea.
When the rate of change is very rapid and then that requires adjustments. Human nature is not changing at the speed that it would need. There will be a lot of resistance and you have to anticipate that.
Think about an AI, we can imagine AI that gives better legal advice than lawyers when they can scan precedence, an AI that gives better diagnosis than physicians, that’s not very threatening but when you are thinking of an AI who can make better business decisions than business leaders, and you think of a business leader having to implement that AI or resisting implementing it. Then we are in for completely unpredictable events when that development occurs because leaders are not going to go quietly and in general human judgment is not going to go quietly. Many unforeseeable events are going to happen but we know that crises are coming.
Daniel Kahneman on changes occurring due to Covid-19:
I don’t see other movements where there are huge changes. We will recover but a lot depends on the virus, on whether we actually do come out. I don’t think it would necessarily be a profound change compared to the changes that were happening anyway.
Yuvan Noah Harari on Outcomes of Pandemic:
- There are two most important things to understand. The first is that nothing is deterministic. There are many potential outcomes to this pandemic.
- It all depends on our decision. We can decide to for instance to react to the pandemic through a global corporation and this will result in more cooperation and this will result in a more cooperative world afterward or we could decide to react to the pandemic by competition, isolation, and greater nationalism and this will be the world.
- The other main thing is that different people in different countries will have different outcomes. There is a lot of discussion on how the economy will emerge from the pandemic, a U shape recovery, or a V-shaped recovery. I think it will be a K shape recovery, some things going up sharply and some things going down sharply. For example, tourism is collapsing and digital industries are wealthier than ever.
- Some countries and regions will come out of this more powerful than before and some might be completely bankrupt.
- Humanity doesn’t have a single future or a single outcome. What should we teach our kids depends on who we are and where do we live. Some skills can be more helpful in one place than the others.
Yuval Noah Harari on change:
Two new things happening around us-
- For the first time in human history, we have no idea how the world will look like in a very short time. Throughout history, we always knew that whatever happens, the basics of human structure such as the job market, skills needed won’t change. But for the first time, we have no idea what the job market will look like, what skills people will need.
- For the first time in history, the deep structure of human beings is likely to start changing. We are the same animals we were in the middle age, we are still the same animals we were in biblical times or even the stone age. This is why we can easily connect to the works of art from thousands of years ago. Humanity- the body, the brain, the mental structure, mental structure of people are now open to greater and greater manipulation and it is a reasonable bet that in a century or two, our planet will be dominated by entities that are much more different than us than we are different from the neanderthals or even chimpanzees.
Yuval Noah Harari on Financial system and understanding:
Today, it’s fair to say that the number of people who really understand how the financial system works is less than one percent(a generous estimate) but in 20 years, the number of people who understand how the financial system works will be almost zero as the financial system will be so complicated, so fast, so dominated by then increasingly sophisticated algorithms that no human being will be able to understand what’s happening on the financial market.
Yuval Noah Harari on change and the possibility of error:
I am most worried about the fact that we have very little margin or error. Let’s look at previous big changes in history, the industrial revolution in the 19th century. There was a huge change in everything, in what people do for a living, where people live, in political structures. We also made mistakes but the world became a better place.
We don’t have a mountain of error in the 21st century. If we go on trying things and figuring them out, we won’t survive. This time, we need to get it right on the first go.
Yuval Noah Harari on innovation:
The big innovation which is changing the world more than anything else is the ability what I and other calls the ability to hack human beings, to decipher human beings. Throughout history, we didn’t have the tool to really understand how humans function, how they make decisions. To hack a human being you need a massive amount of data, especially biological data, and a massive amount of computing power to make sense of it.
Humans resist the idea that they are hackable, that somebody can really know me better and manipulate me but to survive, what’s happening right now, we need to come to terms with the fact that I personally don’t understand myself very well. But some other agents might be able to do it. To be in this sense, we need to be much more curious about ourselves and much less certain about our opinions, about our thoughts.
The human mind presents us a mirror and it forces us to see ourselves in a much more humble way and if we can accept this and embrace it, this can be a basis for a much better world but if we stick with a kind of egocentric and arrogant view of ourselves then it makes us extremely vulnerable to this new kind of technology.