Brain-hacking: The next big nightmare

Brain-hacking: The next big nightmare

Yuval Noah Harari speculates about the dangers technology poses to the privacy of the mind.

New technologies are shifting global and strategic competitiveness in multiple domains, and while the world economy faces dark forecasts, so does the future of technology, and more so if you ask someone like historian, philosopher and best-selling author of ‘Sapiens’ and ‘Homo Deus’, Yuval Noah Harari.

Him, journalist Zanny Minton Beddoes, and Ren Zhengfei, Huawei Technologies CEO, took stage at the World Economic Forum’s 50th annual summit, and sparked a debate about what can be expected in the future of technology, where Yuval’s dismal view of a future in which all but a person’s soul could be lost shined once again, as he argued that the science fiction vision in which technology turns from a tool to a tyrant isn’t too far off from reality and the world that surrounds us today.

Harari, who is a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and publicly recognized as one of the world’s most innovative and exciting thinkers, warned  that technology would soon enable some corporations and governments to hack human beings, warning that the confluence of uncontrolled technology could bring upon “an unprecedented existential crisis” to humanity.

“There is a lot of talk of hacking computers, smartphones, computers, emails, bank accounts, but the really big thing is hacking human beings,” he explained. “If you have enough data about me and enough computer power and biological knowledge, you can hack my body, my brain, my life (…) You don’t need to send the soldiers in if you have all the data (…) Information and data open up the possibility of reaching a point where you know me better than I know myself.”

“You could control a whole other country with data. At which point you may ask: is it an independent country, or is it a data colony?” (…) “Imagine, if 20 years from now, you could have someone sitting in Washington, or Beijing, or San Francisco, and they could know the entire personal, medical, sexual history of, say, every journalist, judge and politician in Brazil,” said Harari at Davos.

Right now, he added, according to ZD Net, the race is on between state surveillance in China and surveillance capitalism in the US, nevertheless, big tech companies and politicians don’t mess around, as “San Francisco is now getting closer to Washington because they need government backing on this (Silicon Valley)”.

While Ren Zhengfei, Huawei Technologies CEO, did not rule out Harari’s dark view of the future, he did add that technology can work both ways, because despite that a government can use surveillance tools against its citizens, an individual can also develop surveillance tools to counter attack.

Yuval Noah Harrai has long worked on writing about the future of automation and many other technologies that are set to kick off the the future of work, previously writing that “The decisions we will make in the next few decades will shape the future of life itself, and we can make these decisions based only on our present worldview (…) “If this generation lacks a comprehensible view of the cosmos, the future of life will be decided at random.”

Click on the video bellow to see the complete chat and head to our Twitter page for more on the World Economic Forum’s 50th annual summit.


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Mason Davis
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