Yuval Noah Harari on the Future of Humanity

Christiane Amanpour sits down with the renowned author of “Sapiens” and “Homo Deus” Yuval Noah Harari to discuss his latest work, and why the future is closer than we think.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Some people say sapiens. How did our species, the sapiens, it’s the title of your first book, how do we come to be dominant?

YUVAL NOAH HARARI: We are the only social mammals that can cooperate in very, very large numbers and in flexible ways. This is the of our success, very simply. Individual level, it’s the collective level. If you look at any large-scale human achievement, whether it’s flying to the moon or splitting of the atom of building the pyramids, this is the results of large-scale cooperation. And we are the only mammals that can cooperate on a very large scale because we are the only ones that can create and believe in fictional stories.

AMANPOUR: What do you mean? Because we are in this era of fact, fiction, fake. When you say our civilization and fiction and cooperation, what do you mean by that?

HARARI: I mean, the most obvious example is religion. That even religious people will agree that all religions except one are based on fictional stories.

AMANPOUR: You mean, expect their own.

HARARI: (INAUDIBLE). I mean, ask a Jew in Christianity, this is fake news. Ask a Christian and they will say Islam is fake news. And so, this true of all religions. It’s also true of nations. Nations exist only in our own imagination. And it’s also true of money and cooperations. The only place Google and Toyota exist is in the stories that our shamans, called lawyers, invent and spread around. And I don’t mean to belittle them, they are the most important thing in the world. If you can get millions of people to believe in the same fiction, it becomes the most powerful thing in the world because it enables them to cooperate effectively.

AMANPOUR: We live, it seems, in an era now of increasing discooperation, uncooperation. Our politics are very polarized in every country, not just in the usual suspects. Is that part of what will contribute to the demise of our species?

AMANPOUR: That depends. I mean, we are now gaining really divine abilities of creation. We are gaining the ability to reengineer and create life. And the big question is what will we do with the immense powers. And the only effective way to regulate our immense new powers, especially artificial intelligence and bioengineering, is through global cooperation. You cannot regulate A.I. or biotechnology on the level of a single country.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour speaks with New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin & Kate Kelly about Brett Kavanaugh; and author Yuval Noah Harari. Alicia Menendez interviews actress Jameela Jamil.