Yuval Noah Harari: A Neoliberal Marionette Puppet in the Dance Between Surveillance Capitalism and Chinese Communism
explanation follows in the end of this article
Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli historian and a professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of the popular science bestsellers Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014), Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2016), and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018). Harari is a philosopher of transhumanism, an international philosophical movement that advocates for the transformation of the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellect and physiology. Today I more and more believe that transhumanism is the main ideology behind The Matrix Conspiracy.
In his article, How Yuval Noah Harari Became the Pet Ideologist of the Liberal Elites, Danny Gutwein writes:
Why did Obama, Zuckerberg, Gates and Silicon Valley as a whole adopt Harari as their pet historian? One possible explanation for their efforts to spread his gospel could be the political benefit they hoped to extract from the close connection between Harari’s view that there is currently no serious alternative to the neoliberal package and the metanarrative he’s been weaving since “Sapiens” – which will be referred to here as the “Sapiens mythology.”
Today it would wise to add China as an AI superpower. China also has an interest in celebrating Harari as a pet ideologist. In his New York Times Bestseller, AI Superpowers – China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order, Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, one of the world's most respected experts on AI and China, reveals that China has suddenly caught up to the US at an astonishingly rapid and unexpected pace. In AI Superpowers, Kai-fu Lee argues powerfully that because of these unprecedented developments in AI, dramatic changes will be happening much sooner than many of us expected. Indeed, as the US-Sino AI competition begins to heat up, Lee urges the US and China to both accept and to embrace the great responsibilities that come with significant technological power. Most experts already say that AI will have a devastating impact on blue-collar jobs. But Lee predicts that Chinese and American AI will have a strong impact on white-collar jobs as well. Is universal basic income the solution? In Lee's opinion, probably not. But he provides a clear description of which jobs will be affected and how soon, which jobs can be enhanced with AI, and most importantly, how we can provide solutions to some of the most profound changes in human history that are coming soon. So, interesting enough, the solutions he provides, is not rebellion, but acceptance. Note that he is the former president of Google China, and lives in Beijing. His book is hardly written as a deeper going critique of China, since no one in China can escape censorship.
So, when I´m talking about a coming Matrix Hybrid between Western Consumer Capitalism and Chinese Communism this isn´t a prophesy. We already see the beginning. The Slovenian continental philosopher, Slavoj Žižek, sees the same: “capitalism doesn´t need democracy”, he says in an interview. He says that the economical globalization increasingly will be combined with stronger and more authoritarian national states. That is our future, and we already see it with Trump, Erdogan and Putin, as well as what is happening in China and India; an authoritarian capitalism. And he claims that the one who is the father of such a way of thinking is Lee Kuan Yew from Singapore. When Deng Xiaoping took the power in China in 1978, he went to the authoritarian Singapore and here he saw, how that system functioned. He then decided that it also should be like that in the the future of China, “and it works!” says Žižek. “But do you know what makes me pessimistic about that development? Slowly it happens – and this is very clear – that capitalism in lesser and lesser degree needs democracy.”
The so-called ”Californian Ideology” have emerged promoting a form of techno-utopia as a reachable goal. "The Californian Ideology" is a 1995 essay by English media theorists Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron of the University of Westminster (download). Barbrook describes it as a "critique of dotcom neoliberalism". In the essay, Barbrook and Cameron argue that the rise of networking technologies in Silicon Valley in the 1990s was linked to American neoliberalism and a paradoxical hybridization of beliefs from the political left and right in the form of hopeful technological determinism. This ideology mixed New Left and New Right beliefs together based on their shared interest in anti-statism, the counterculture of the 1960s, and techno-utopianism.
In my booklet, A Critique of the Simulation Theory and the Rise of Digital Totalitarianism, I have shown, that the main theses of transhumanism are invalid. But the problem is that most people don´t take transhumanism seriously. Because the transhumanists will try to get them forced through anyway. And we have seen that China and Silicon Valley both should be considered as superpowers that support transhumanism. And then we have a totalitarian, fascistic scenario, a dystopia where people are forced to live after perverted theories of the human nature (Frankenstein´s project, for example, goes wrong due to a mix of power ideals and lack of understanding human nature). And it is happening right now.
In my theory about the Matrix Conspiracy I talk about five programming-technologies. One of them is neoliberal management theory (about management theory, see my articles: Management Theory and the Self-help Industry, Self-help and the Mythology of Authenticity and, A Critique of Coaching).
I will now document how the above-mentioned totalitarian scenario is enforced by neoliberal management theorists controlled by the Singularity University in Silicon Valley. As an example, I will show how they are influencing politicians in Denmark (the same is happening in all other countries). I will in that connection mention two Danish authors: Markus Bernsen (journalist), and Mads Vestergaard (philosopher).
Markus Bernsen has written a book called Danmark Disruptet (Denmark Disrupted). The book is about how Denmark without bigger consideration has let itself be caught by technology enthusiasm and a disruption and algorithm logic, where it is about being digital frontrunners and participate in the, primarily American, tech giants´ agenda. The logic is that this is what a small country like Denmark needs to live by.
In Denmark it was seen in connection with a new employment act. With the exception of two parties, all political parties backed up behind the law, which opens for surveillance of unemployed. In an attempt to face long time unemployment, the law opens up for that you feed the algorithms of the office with all kind of personal information, whereafter they can tell whether the unemployed is in danger of ending as long time unemployed. The law was voted without much debate, without much consideration, and – as it would turn out - without that the politicians behind the political majority quite had comprehended the range of the law.
Again it is important to mention China. In the time of writing this, we see heavy protests in Hong Kong against a new law which makes it possible for citizens to be prosecuted in China. Why? Because the citizens know China. And that China is fully in progress of reintroducing hard-core Communism, as for example the new introduction of re-education-camps. China does this at the same time as it is embracing capitalism, or rather: techno-capitalism. Just think about it for a moment instead of celebrating how China finally is “opening up.” We ought to listen to why there are so heavy protests in Hong Kong.
It might well be that Yuval Noah Harari (who uses postmodernism as a tool) has declared the grand narratives dead. But this has never happened in China. Yet, read what Harari has to say about China:
China seems to offer a much more serious challenge than Western social protestors. Despite liberalizing its politics and economics, China is neither a democracy nor a truly free-market economy, which does not prevent it from becoming the economic giant of the twenty-first century. Yet this economic giant casts a very small ideological shadow. Nobody seems to know what the Chinese believe these days – including the Chinese themselves. In theory China is still communist, but in practice it is nothing of the kind. Some Chinese thinkers and leaders toy with a return to Confucianism, but that´s hardly more than a convenient façade. This ideological vacuums makes China the most promising breeding ground for the new techno-religions emerging from Silicon Valley (which we will discuss in the following chapters). But these techno-religions, with their belief in immortality and virtual paradises, will take at least a decade or two to establish themselves. Hence at present China doesn´t prose a real alternative to liberalism (Homo Deus, page 313).
Danny Gutwein writes:
Alongside support for liberal elites, Harari’s new liberal story blatantly ignores the protest movements and the left-wing parties that have challenged neoliberal hegemony in the past decade. The liberal elites are part of a political bloc that the philosopher Nancy Fraser labels “progressive neoliberalism.” Pursued by Presidents Clinton and Obama, this policy harmed the material well-being of members of the seven lowest socioeconomic levels in the U.S. In reaction, some of them switched to support of Donald Trump. Fraser, who in contrast to Harari sees the liberal elites as the problem and not the solution, maintains that the true alternative to Trump is a “rejuvenated left” in the form of Bernie Sanders’ “democratic socialism.” To win the trust of the “working people,” Fraser emphasizes, the rejuvenated left will need to breach the false dichotomy between “emancipation” and “social protection” – in other words, to disconnect from progressive neoliberalism and uncover the conceptual and political divide between the two schools.
The same political logic that impels Fraser to call for a renewed left and to hone the differences between it and progressive neoliberalism, leads Harari to blur those differences. In fact, the obfuscation of social-economic inequality and the erasure of socialism is creating the illusory notion that the political struggle is being waged only between populism and liberalism, and therefore it appears that opponents of populism should hook up with liberalism, even if they are victims of its social-economic policy.
In fact, it’s progressive neoliberalism that is the other side of Trump’s populism. Thus, deleting the rejuvenated left from the new liberal story that Harari weaves in “Lessons” serves liberalism and populism alike.
In her brilliant book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism – The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, Shoshana Zuboff explains how neoliberalism is a shelter for the rise of surveillance capitalism. She describes surveillance capitalism as a global system of behavior modification that threatens human nature in the twenty-first century just as industrial capitalism disfigured the natural world in the twentieth. Zuboff gave the paradigm its name. Now, as surveillance capitalism advances from Silicon Valley into every sector of the global economy, she brings its consequences to life. Vast wealth and power are accumulated in ominous new “behavioural futures markets”, where predictions about our behavior are bought and sold. But what starts with prediction ends with control. We find ourselves in the crucible of an unprecedented form of power, one that is distinguished by extreme concentrations of knowledge and no democratic oversight. It is in other words anti-democratic and totalitarian.
Zuboff´s comprehensive and moving analysis lays bare the threats to twenty-first-century society: a seductive “hive” of total connection that promises maximum certainty for maximum profit, but whose price is human freedom. With little resistance from law or society, surveillance capitalism menaces our present, and will dominate our future – if we let it. Harari advices us to do nothing, and just meditate.
Zuboff´s dark vision is, among others, based on a researcher like Alex Pentland from MIT – who gets research support from Google and other top firms – who seriously is talking about that we already live in a world, where private life, individuality and freedom rights, must be given up, because the behavioral changes now need to be so radical that we can streamline traffic, health, working procedures, etc. Humans are not individuals, but just pack animals among others, and they will – with a little push in the right direction – copy the actions of others. Therefore we can, via the omnipresent censors “tune” the whole society – for the common good. Not much different than Harari´s view on human nature.
That we have to do with a totalitarian ideology can be seen in how Zuboff was confirmed in, that the goal justifies the means for the tech giants, even by the use of very rough methods. In an article called, Microsoft quietly deletes largest public face recognition data set, Financial Times writes:
Microsoft has quietly pulled from the internet its database of 10m faces, which has been used to train facial recognition systems around the world, including by military researchers and Chinese firms such as SenseTime and Megvii.
The database, known as MS Celeb, was published in 2016 and described by the company as the largest publicly available facial recognition data set in the world, containing more than 10m images of nearly 100,000 individuals.
Among the usual celebs there were also a line of critics of the digital companies´ ways of gaining finance. Zuboff herself was among them. She had become a persona non grata in surveillance capitalism.
While all this happens in the Western world, China is just sitting and waiting until its AI power is large enough. Meanwhile, the Western world is destabilizing itself through postmodernism (which in its core is pure communist propaganda technique).
Note that Russia also is an active player in the systematic destabilization of the Western World. They also use new technologies such as cyberattacks and fake news. But they even have a special action group called 29155. It is a topsecret unity of agents specialized in “destabilization” in foreign countries. In the Spanish newspaper, El País, there was an article called Western intelligence services tracked Russian spy in Catalonia. The subtitle is:
Spain’s High Court is investigating whether a GRU official named Denis Sergeev, who carried out subversive actions across Europe and Asia, also tried to destabilize the region during its 2017 independence drive.
In October 2019, New York Times brought an article called, Top Secret Russian Unit Seeks to Destabilize Europe, Security Officials Say. It begins:
First came a destabilization campaign in Moldova, followed by the poisoning of an arms dealer in Bulgaria and then a thwarted coup in Montenegro. Last year, there was an attempt to assassinate a former Russian spy in Britain using a nerve agent. Though the operations bore the fingerprints of Russia’s intelligence services, the authorities initially saw them as isolated, unconnected attacks.
Western security officials have now concluded that these operations, and potentially many others, are part of a coordinated and ongoing campaign to destabilize Europe, executed by an elite unit inside the Russian intelligence system skilled in subversion, sabotage and assassination.
Harari is certainly doing his work destabilizing Europe and the Western world, namely by destabilizing its very identity, which originates in Greco-Roman philosophy. See my article, How Yuval Noah Harari Removed the History of Western Philosophy From His Transhumanist Propaganda Tale.
It is thought provoking, how the global spreading anti-intellectualism and postmodernism, precisely is trying to remove philosophy from people´s memory. Philosophy is namely the best tool we have for independent critical thinking.
So, we will see Communism in action once more, now globally. And China happily uses digitization.
In USA, though, there has begun to happen a counter-reaction against digitization. Shareholders in Amazon are now beginning to question the ethics of, that the tax shy tech giant is using enormous amounts of money in developing its surveillance technology. A technology which has been accused of being both racist and stigmatizing.
In San Francisco – the unofficial tech capital of the world – there are plans about a direct prohibition against using face recognition. Because, while the police believe that it is necessary and required, more and more are warning against moving transitions towards a surveillance society.
In that connection it is interesting that Nick Bostrom, who (apparently!) is a pessimist transhumanist, is out with a new thought experiment, and therefore a new kind of circular argument. He calls it, The Vulnerable World Hypothesis. I will not go deeper into it, since I already have shown the sophism of this kind of “argumentation”. But I will shortly describe it. Bostrom believes that it is sheer luck that we haven´t invented a technology that would destroy our world. Therefore, he suggests, we must establish a high tech surveillance society of Orwellian dimensions. Yes, you heard me right. First, he comes with a contrafactual hypothesis, and thereafter he suggests that we begin to take political action on the background on this hypothesis (which is building on a science fiction fantasy). He says that we must exit the “semi-anarchic default condition”, which we are in right now. He is quite open about that what he describes, is a high tech panopticon of the most extreme degree; that is: a global prison where we all are prisoners. But the alternative, he claims, is that our society will be destroyed. Here he puts up another sophistic thought distortion, namely a false dichotomy. False dichotomy is a misleading conception of possible alternatives. A dichotomy is a division in two alternatives. Often seen in the expressions Either/or – If/then, as for example: ”Either you are with us, or you are against us” – ”if I´m not always a success, then I´m a fiasco”. Similarly, someone who says that you must either believe that God exists or else that God doesn´t exist is setting up a false dichotomy since there is the well-known third option of the agnostic (download his article here).
It is unbelievable that this is what philosophy has turned into today, and it is scary that Bostrom himself in this way becomes a part of the danger he warns against.
Now, if we return to Bernsen´s article. In Denmark there is hardly any discussion about the warnings. Ok, the government has created a data ethical council and are willing to talk about responsible digitization, but it is at the same time working by full engines towards it.
In one of Bernsen´s great chapters, he tells about how the American tech giants Apple, Google and Facebook, under huge secrecy, have made their invasion in cities like Foulum by Viborg, Odense and Aabenraa. About Apple´s first soundings in Foulum, Bernsen writes: “The Americans began to visit the city regularly, and are lodging under false names.” Everything was secret and discreet and was surrounded by strange decisions until Apple´s billion-dollar investment was revealed. Only four people in the city council knew what was going on, says Flemming Gundersen, who was in the city council for the political party Enhedslisten: “I thought: is this really the way decisions are being made in Denmark when the big ones come and want to play?”
Apparently. Bernsen can´t go deeper into the case since it is blacked out. But he is convincing in his story about that something is hidden. Add to this that many people in Copenhagen would be surprised to know how staff is provided for free for Google´s Success Online-shop on Nørrbrobrogade Street 34: the tech giant coaches leaders to use the tech giant´s own tools, against that the local authorities deliver staff for free. Pure win-win, right?: the municipality of Copenhagen is accepting, and Google is entering deeper and deeper into the work of the municipality.
Bernsen describes our tech enthusiasm and absence of critical thinking (The Matrix Conspiracy is deliberately trying to eliminate critical thinking). He puts the date of the so-called disruption of Denmark to October 23, 2017, when the Singularity University was inviting to house warning for its Danish branch. Hordes of municipality leaders and private bosses paid up to $ 2500 for the entrance.
Bernsen sees this as an essential revival meeting.
Mads Vestergaard´s book Digital Totalitarisme (Digital Totalitarianism) begins by pointing out some unpleasant stories which is rampant in Western medias about China, where the central government in Beijing has started to introduce face recognition and handing out points to citizens for good and bad behavior. The goal is to ensure, that only the good citizens can have access to certain privileges, especially bank loans.
Vestergaard shows how we in the West fear this reality, which we see on the other side of the globe and in science fiction movies. Nonetheless, great parts of what many are offended over when hearing about Chinese digitization, are already a reality in our own part of the world, and many of the same thoughts, which the Communist party uses to legitimize this digital control over the Chinese, are also existing in the Western World.
According to Vestergaard, the tendency to collect records about the citizens in order to control them isn´t something which comes from a certain Chinese culture, or only exists under totalitarian regimes. The tendency is rather the consequence of a state´s eternal need for controlling the citizens, combined with capitalism´s build in drive towards gathering and accumulating information, which can be turned into profit.
Our counterpart to the Communist party in Beijing, is the large tech giants in Silicon Valley. Vestergaard shows, how the most bizarre part of this business, especially the Singularity University, is spreading an anti-democratic future ideology, where tech entrepreneurs represent a Communist-like enlightened elite, who shall lead our society into perfection. The others of us just need to remain passive (this is precisely what Harari teaches with his Mcmindfulness meditation), while we reverently and thankfully give them our data. Naive decision makers, not least in Denmark, have uncritically led themselves be abused as useful idiots by these ideological extremists and have, for years, sung the song of all kinds of digitization as an unavoidable movement towards a lighter, but also still accelerating future. A surveillance industrial complex, as Vestergaard calls it, where state and market flows together in suspect digital partnerships.
As Vestergaard shows, then the digitization and collection of data, are namely not without consequences. It can be used as strong tools of social control, it invades the peace of private life, and it can help to cement already existent inequalities in society, which now need to be justified by numbers and algorithms. In the most extreme consequence it can reduce decision makers and citizens to marionets in a totalitarian and undemocratic system, where everything is transparent and registered – except the large tech companies and their algorithms.
The power monopoly of the Communist party in Beijing is justified by that it is the few in the top of the party, which have the knowledge which is necessary for that the nation can be led towards growth, wealth and harmony. The party is the vanguard of progress. In Silicon Valley the entrepreneurs on the market have taken over the Communist party´s role as the farsighted planners. The new entrepreneur-technocrats are in that sense the best suited to steer the society in the correct direction, because only they have seen the future and can plan after it. The role of the elected politician will hereafter be to avoid stopping the “progress.”
This model is what the Google commissioned rapport, Digitizing Denmark, is lecturing about. It says:
Regulation can’t be allowed to hinder or slow down economic and societal development (page 16).
Got that! This is directly an advice about restricting the citizen´s democratic influence and political self-determination.
The rapport is made by neoliberal management theorists from The Boston Consulting Group (download it here).
Unfortunately for this totalitarian renaissance, climate change is the biggest threat. But it is not a surprise neither, that transhumanists are, if not directly climate change deniers, then they are not so occupied with climate activism, as with developing new technologies. They are namely convinced that technology can solve the climate changes. In that connection it is noteworthy that US and China were among the big countries blocking the UN climate agreement in Madrid (read the article, US and China among big countries blocking UN climate agreement).
The collective ego-inflation of our time (the Faust syndrome) is based on extreme self-obsessed thinking. Once your thoughts spread themselves too far out in an extreme (for example exaggerated perfectionistic) the energy-system will compensate by seeking to bring itself back to the balance of the middle. The system does this by seeking over towards the opposite extreme (for example an exaggerated feeling of fiasco). That is: through a contra-balancing, a compensation. Here we speak from the second energy-law, that energy works as pendulum-movements. The more energy, which is invested in the one extreme of a pair of opposites, the larger the swing in the opposite direction will be.
What apply for the individual, also apply for the collective and for nature. You can therefore also observe this energy-law in groups, societies, world-images, yes, in all Mankind, and in the Universe. You can observe it in everything, which is movement and not unmoved being.
For example, right now Mankind is in an ego-extreme. This is reflected in numerous fields. Too much energy is invested in armament. Too many atomic weapons. Too much pollution. Too much unequal distribution of the treasures of the Earth. Too much unequal distribution of the food and fruits of the Earth. And first of all: too many people are too focused in their ego; they accumulate energy to their ego, to themselves; or to the family ego; to the national ego; or to ideologies.
This is the energy in one extremity. With necessity the energy will swing over in the opposite extreme. And this will not happen in a quiet way, when you consider the enormous moment, that is in the actual extreme, and it will happen quite simple: through pollution of the environment, through illness (aids, cancer and upcoming new illnesses), through crises, warfare, terror, through inner mass-psychotic collapses, and through natural disasters. Again, a lot of this is not my personal prophesy. We can witness it happening right now. Climate change is now a real issue. The problem is that we will not be able to stop it, because no one will be willing to be adjusted. It will therefore be adjusted in the hard way.
Let us, for pedagogical reasons, and as a conclusion, repeat this Harari quote from Sapiens:
Scientists studying the inner workings of the human organism have found no soul there. They increasingly argue that human behavior is determined by hormones, genes and synapses, rather than by free will – the same forces that determine the behavior of chimpanzees, wolves and ants. Our judicial and political systems largely try to sweep such inconvenient discoveries under the carpet. But in all frankness, how long can we maintain the wall separating the department of biology from the departments of law and political science? (page 263)
And my own answer in my Ebook, Yuval Noah Harari: The Historian Who Wanted to be Philosopher Instead of the Philosophers:
Think over that! Science needs to be politized! That´s precisely the scenario in Brave New World. This is simply scary. If Kurzweil´s [founder of the Singularity University, and “director of engineering” at Google], and therefor Harari´s, transhumanist theory of human nature, mixed with a relativism that removes the foundation of ethics and morals, is made into a political goal, we have a fascistic totalitarian scenario, were humans could be forced to undergo bioengineering experiments. In fact, as I will demonstrate in the end of this Ebook, this is already in progress. And this is the fundamental reason why Harari is carried to fame as he is, by an obscure Matrix elite.
So, there is in fact, as Dr. Kai-Fu Lee pointed out, a New World Order emerging: the world of Alternative History, Alternative Physics, Alternative Medicine and, ultimately, Alternative Reality. How, given the recent and sorry story of ideologically motivated conceptions of knowledge – Lysenkoism in Stalin´s Soviet Union, for example, or Nazi critiques of “Jewish science” – could it again have become acceptable to behave in this way?
Many transhumanists are atheists. Both Nazism and Communism were atheist ideologies (yes, also Nazism, despite its fascination with occultism - see my booklet, A Critique of Atheist Fundamentalism). To be an atheist should not be used in connection with these ideologies, but when we see how science now again is being abused as a means for reaching atheist ideological goals, the comparison should be made.
It is unbelievable that an Israelian historian like Harari, who even is a professor, has learned so little from history. His alternative version of history is showing the end of Homo Sapiens (wise man), and the beginning of Homo Deus (divine man). I will agree that we are facing the end of Homo Sapiens. But the idea of Homo Deus is, as I have shown, based on both scientific and philosophical invalid premises. So, we are not entering the era of Homo Deus, but the era of Homo Stultus (stupid man). Just read this quote:
In his new collection, Homo Stultus, Taxiarchis Mermiris used ink to create a hoard of brilliantly stupid people who, within the context of many different environments, are ready to show off their power and domination. You are welcome to use this article on Harari as a presentation to the gallery. Visit the gallery on this link: Homo Stultus, by Taxiarchis Mermiris.
Other related links:
The Californian Ideology, by Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron
The Vulnerable World Hypothesis, by Nick Bostrom
Digitizing Denmark – How Denmark Can Drive And Benefit An Accelerated Economy In Europe, by The Boston Consulting Group (commissioned by Google)
Links to related texts by me:
The Matrix Conspiracy (article)
Evolutionism – The Red Thread in the Matrix Conspiracy (free Ebook)
A Critique of the Simulation Theory and the Rise of Digital Totalitarianism (free booklet)