a16z Podcast: Brains, Bodies, Minds … and Techno-Religions

Evolution and technology have allowed our human species to manipulate the physical environment around us — reshaping fields into cities, redirecting rivers to irrigate farms, domesticating wild animals into captive food sources, conquering disease. But now, we’re turning that “innovative gaze” inwards: which means the main products of the 21st century will be bodies, brains, and minds. Or so argues Yuval Harari, author of the bestselling book Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind and of the new book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, in this episode of the a16z Podcast.

What happens when our body parts no longer have to be physically co-located? When Big Brother — whether government or corporation — not only knows everything about us, but can make better decisions for us than we could for ourselves? That’s ridiculous, you say. Sure… until you stop to think about how such decisions already, actually happen. Or realize that an AI-based doctor and teacher will have way more information than their human counterparts because of what can be captured, through biometric sensors, from inside (not just observed outside) us.

So what happens then when illusions collide with reality? As it is, religion itself is “a virtual reality game that provides people with meaning by imposing imaginary rules on an objective reality”. Is Data-ism the new religion? From education, automation, war, energy, and jobs to universal basic income, inequality, human longevity, and climate change, Harari (with a16z’s Sonal Chokshi and Kyle Russell) reflect on what’s possible, probable, pressing — and is mere decades, not centuries, away — when man becomes god… or merges with machines.