Governments are one of the last strongholds of an undigitized, linear sector of humanity, and they are falling behind fast. Apart from their struggle to keep up with private sector digitization, federal governments are in a crisis of trust.
At almost a 60-year low, only 18 percent of Americans reported that they could trust their government “always” or “most of the time” in a recent Pew survey. And the US is not alone. The Edelman Trust Barometer revealed last year that 41 percent of the world population distrust their nations’ governments.
In many cases, the private sector—particularly tech—is driving greater progress in regulation-targeted issues like climate change than state leaders. And as decentralized systems, digital disruption, and private sector leadership take the world by storm, traditional forms of government are beginning to fear irrelevance. However, the fight for exponential governance is not a lost battle.
James Hughes : “Great convo with Yuval Harari, touching on algorithmic governance, the perils of being a big thinker when democracy is under attack, the need for transnational governance, the threats of automation to the developing world, the practical details of UBI, and a lot more.”
In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Yuval Noah Harari about his new book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. They discuss the importance of meditation for his intellectual life, the primacy of stories, the need to revise our fundamental assumptions about human civilization, the threats to liberal democracy, a world without work, universal basic income, the virtues of nationalism, the implications of AI and automation, and other topics.
Yuval Noah Harari has a PhD in History from the University of Oxford and lectures at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, specializing in world history. His books have been translated into 50+ languages, with 12+ million copies sold worldwide. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind looked deep into our past, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow considered far-future scenarios, and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century focuses on the biggest questions of the present moment.
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For millennia, our planet has sustained a robust ecosystem; healing each deforestation, algae bloom, pollution or imbalance caused by natural events. Before the arrival of an industrialized, destructive and dominant global species, it could pretty much deal with anything short of a major meteor impact. In the big picture, even these cataclysmic events haven’t destroyed the environment—they just changed the course of evolution and rearranged the alpha animal.
But with industrialization, the race for personal wealth, nations fighting nations, and modern comforts, we have recognized that our planet is not invincible. This is why Lifeboat Foundation exists. We are all about recognizing the limits to growth and protecting our fragile environment.
Check out this April news article on the US president’s forthcoming appointment of Jim Bridenstine, a vocal climate denier, as head of NASA. NASA is one of the biggest agencies on earth. Despite a lack of training or experience—without literacy in science, technology or astrophysics—he was handed an enormous responsibility, a staff of 17,000 and a budget of $19 billion.
In 2013, Bridenstine criticized former president Obama for wasting taxpayer money on climate research, and claimed that global temperatures stopped rising 15 years ago.
The Vox News headline states “Next NASA administrator is a Republican congressman with no background in science”. It points out that Jim Bridenstine’s confirmation has been controversial — even among members of his own party.
Sometimes, flip-flopping is a good thing
In less than one month, Jim Bridenstine has changed—he has changed a lot!
After less then a month as head of NASA, he is convinced that climate change is real, that human activity is the significant cause and that it presents an existential threat. He has changed from climate denier to a passionate advocate for doing whatever is needed to reverse our impact and protect the environment.
Bridenstine acknowledges that he was a denier, but feels that exposure to the evidence and science is overwhelming and convincing—even in with just a few weeks exposure to world class scientists and engineers.
For anyone who still claims that there is no global warming or that the evidence is ‘iffy’, it is worth noting that Bridenstine was a hand-picked goon. His appointment was recommended by right wing conservatives and rubber stamped by the current administration. He was a Denier—but had a sufficiently open mind to listen to experts and review the evidence.
Do you suppose that the US president is listening? Do you suppose that he will grasp the most important issues of this century? What about other world leaders, legislative bodies and rock stars? Will they use their powers or influence to do the right thing? For the sake of our existence, let us hope they follow the lead of Jim Bridenstine, former climate denier!
A journalist, a soup exec, and an imam walk into a room. There’s no joke here. It’s just another day at CrisprCon.
On Monday and Tuesday, hundreds of scientists, industry folk, and public health officials from all over the world filled the amphitheater at the Boston World Trade Center to reckon with the power of biology’s favorite new DNA-tinkering tool: Crispr. The topics were thorny—from the ethics of self-experimenting biohackers to the feasibility of pan-global governance structures. And more than once you could feel the air rush right out of the room. But that was kind of the point. CrisprCon is designed to make people uncomfortable.
“I’m going to talk about the monkey in the room,” said Antonio Cosme, an urban farmer and community organizer in Detroit who appeared on a panel at the second annual conference devoted to Crispr’s big ethical questions to talk about equitable access to gene editing technologies. He referred to the results of an audience poll that had appeared moments before in a word cloud behind him, with one bigger than all the others: “eugenics.”
Before I started working on real-world robots, I wrote about their fictional and historical ancestors. This isn’t so far removed from what I do now. In factories, labs, and of course science fiction, imaginary robots keep fueling our imagination about artificial humans and autonomous machines.
Real-world robots remain surprisingly dysfunctional, although they are steadily infiltrating urban areas across the globe. This fourth industrial revolution driven by robots is shaping urban spaces and urban life in response to opportunities and challenges in economic, social, political, and healthcare domains. Our cities are becoming too big for humans to manage.
Good city governance enables and maintains smooth flow of things, data, and people. These include public services, traffic, and delivery services. Long queues in hospitals and banks imply poor management. Traffic congestion demonstrates that roads and traffic systems are inadequate. Goods that we increasingly order online don’t arrive fast enough. And the WiFi often fails our 24/7 digital needs. In sum, urban life, characterized by environmental pollution, speedy life, traffic congestion, connectivity and increased consumption, needs robotic solutions—or so we are led to believe.
“The recent launch of the SpaceX rocket Falcon Heavy is a good illustration of the entry of efficient and innovative private players into an arena long considered the preserve of national governments. But this does not mean that national competition in outer space is disappearing. If anything, it is actually accelerating in Asia. China’s growing space prowess is leading to a space race with India and Japan, which are beginning to pool their resources to better match Beijing.”
“The last few years have seen a wide range of reports from governments, think tanks, consultancies and academics exploring how the future of work might look. Many of these have revolved around the impact technology, and especially AI, might have on how (and indeed whether) we work.
The latest effort, from Bain’s Macro Trends Group, takes a slightly broader view and examines not just the technological landscape but also demographic and economic forces.”