Is there insight, Yuval?

Posted: 10/02/2018 by zandtao in BigTech, Buddhadasa, Insight
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A very interesting talk with Yuval Noah Harari, well worth listening to. But then disaster struck, I listened to Homo Deus, and realised how dangerous Yuval’s ideas are, how much BigTech want him. So before anything there is a:-

First of all Yuval talks of “stories”. These stories are the same as the stories which are the agreements described in Toltec knowledge by Don Miguel Ruiz in “The Four Agreements”. The 4 agreements of the title of the book are as follows:-

But the process of agreeing is at the basis of this Toltec description of society. Through our upbringing and education society imparts a number of stories, these stories are accepted by all and become part of everyone’s life – some enforced by law, most just enforced by agreement.

Yuval talks a great deal about what is real, and what is a story, and telling the difference; he importantly notes that society depends on our accepting these stories. He mentions money as a story that is accepted the world over. The concept of money is at the basis of our economic system, whilst the root meaning of economics might well be “laws of life” in truth it is “laws of money”; even in root meaning there is obfuscation. Because of the stories that have been told, whether agreed or not, how we see money is leading to great instability in our societies – war.

A society is based on trading, always has been – probably always will be. What do we trade? Products and skills. Conducting trade with these “raw” items is impracticable, so an intermediary measure (conduit) was introduced – money. Somehow society reaches an agreed valuation, termed market forces – although that is a loaded term, and products and skills are traded. This is reasonable, and might well be considered the real part of trading and money, using money to facilitate trade.

However money has taken on a life of its own, and the dangers of this life lead to day-to-day suffering. Instead of money simply being a mechanism of value for products and skills, most of trading is now imaginary, where the money does not represent products or skills but invented financial mechanisms. This story sounds ludicrous, and there has to be questions as to how agreement has been reached. The answer is simple, there has been no agreement, however there is a loose tacit agreement with the 1%-system that is termed economics. The world is held together with this story, suffering is caused, and this is tacitly accepted. This “story” is just an extension of the Marxist lack of confidence in the capitalism. It is very evident that if people were given the choice to agree with this economic system they would not, so we are not given the choice.

Yuval attributes his understanding of what is real and what is a story to Vipassana. What this meant to Yuval gave me a number of questions. Vipassana is generally accepted as the method of meditation – following the breath – as described by the Buddha, and it is also described as “Insight Meditation”. I did not hear Yuval use the word “insight”, and there was an appropriate time.

Jumping out of podcast order he spoke of the “robot takeover”. His fear of the “takeover” was at the basis of his second book “Homo Deus”. He discussed the useless class, again an intellectual misnomer of the use of the word class. Consider a dystopian class structure of the 1%, useful and useless. The separation of class into useful wage-slaves and useless would enable the continuation of post-robotic exploitation. There needs to be unity to fight this. Yuval discussed the US underclass, 20% in prison, perhaps suggesting a fear that this is the future of the useless.

However if this is the future of the post-robotic useless, it also spells the death of capitalism and the 1%-system. The 1%-system thrives on consumerism. If our 99% future is to become useless we will also not be consumers, and that will end the 1%-system that depends on consumerism. It is the circulation of money that creates the consumerism, and this requires the 99% to be consumers – to be wage-slaves. If we are not wage-slaves we cannot be consumers, and the 1%-system dies.

The 1%-system has a huge dilemma to face. Firstly it is undoubtedly the case that much labour can be more productively performed by robots – 24/7 with supervision. Robots will increase profits in the interim. But this will reduce the amount of money in circulation, and this will reduce 1%-profits.

Wage-slavery has to change from mindless labour, wage-slaves will have to be “creatively-ignorant”. This is the line that people like Ken Robinson were trying to walk – educating for creativity; I believe I recall Microsoft were also pushing this. For the 1% the creativity dilemma is “how do we promote creativity whilst keeping people as wage-slaves?”; this is what I mean by creatively-ignorant. If that dilemma is solved those people will become members of the dystopian “useful wage-slaves”.

But the dilemma is that creativity is primarily revolutionary. Creativity is the path, and the path ultimately is pro-nature – and therefore against the 1%-system. But it might work. Our educators in general at present accept the delusion that they are educating whilst they are primarily actually creating wage-slaves. Maybe education can change, produce the useful “creatively-ignorant”, and the 1%-system could survive.

But our wage-slaves are at present filled with factual content, and our education system has a tacit movement away from creativity. But if wage-slaves are expected to be filled with “creativity”, that makes everything so much more volatile. Such a dilemma.

There is another way that consumerism could continue but it requires a huge shift that would also threaten the 1%-system. Wage-slaves could work on socially useful jobs that would not produce profits for the 1%. There is so much work that could be done to improve life, but this work would fall under the category of caring as opposed to profit-making. We could care for the environment and infrastructure, we could care far better for people. But all of this would require money being taken from the 1% who only make profits based on finance and production. This they would resist.

Either way robots threaten the 1%-system, however the second way is a better way for humanity as a whole.

Yuval said the way forward for education is unknown. This is not the case. Promoting insight and creativity is a positive way forward for education in the time of AI, but this is not a way forward for the 1%-system.

But for me what is most interesting in the talk is the discussion of true essence. Yuval talks of discerning “what is” from stories, seeing through conditioning, seeing through delusion. “What is” is emptiness but there is emptiness that is the intellectual emptiness that is nothing or there is the Tao “the emptiness that is full” Tao te Ching (Ch11 and throughout). For me the understanding comes from Buddhadasa’s use of the word “voidness” and explanation.

This voidness is beyond understanding, it can be seen for what is, but it is not for understanding. But it is so important for people to see its function. For this I see voidness as sunnata, and created this meme based on my interpretation of Buddhadasa’s teaching:-

Using Yuval’s approach this meme can be understood as removing the stories around the attachment to the 5 khandas, removing the stories that “create” I and mine, and what is left is sunnata – true essence, the Tao, voidness, the emptiness that is full. Intellectually this emptiness gets reduced to nothing, but it is not nothing, it is voidness.

Through vipassana, insight meditation, we remove attachment to stories and then there can be insight. I could interpret Nibbana as the permanent removal of all stories, but I haven’t “attained Nibbana” to be certain of what I am saying. But I do feel that we can be fortunate to experience “Nibbana-glimpses” (nibbana-dhatu) along the way, Buddhadasa has said similar here. I consider this nibbana-dhatu can come to us through insight – to use Yuval vernacular – if we have removed all stories.

Whilst there is no doubt in my mind that Russell is not talking about this sunnata when he describes true essence, to me sunnata, voidness, is true essence. But this true essence has no characteristics of me (or the 5 khandas). From what I have heard Russell is searching for some Hindu Self, a kind of Wisdom-based essence or soul, that would transmigrate. To me there is no Russellness, no Self (anatta), only voidness. To begin with I searched for Self, a vague Russell-type notion. Once I came to Buddhism and then to Buddhadasa, that search for Self ended, and it became detachment – removal of attachment to I and mine, removal of attachment to the 5 khandas.

I dismissed Anne Phillips for her failure to consider true essence. Yuval dismisses true essence but it could just be he was rejecting Russell’s version. If not the Buddhist thought police need to work on him , after all he is practicing vipassana. [Later:- I initially wrote this with humour before I issued the Yuval warning.]

Russell discusses love, this is wonderful. Love is something to be discussed and revered. For me love is metta, one of the 4 Brahma-Viharas, highest vehicles, one of the purest forms humans can aspire to. To me these 4 Brahma-Vaharas are states to aspire to, being “near voidness”. When all the stories of love have been removed, often originating in Hollywood, then there is metta. This is worth seeking. When Russell discussed love, Yuval dismissed it because he looked historically at what had been done erroneously in the name of love. But Yuval was attaching to the stories and not helping Russell search for love. It sounds as if Russell at present is in a very good position with regards to love because of his partner and daughter. Whilst that love is still a story, even though it probably doesn’t feel so, that love is never forgotten, and will be with him all his life – with or without partner and daughter.

I am only discussing Yuval in terms of what I took from this Russell talk. I haven’t read either of his books, perhaps I should. This is how I originally ended this blog – before I issued the Yuval warning, but I downloaded “Homo Deus”. The title should have given it away “Man is God”. As can be seen above I gave Yuval the benefit of the doubt because he practised Vipassana – as I try to do, but that benefit was a mistake. Russell questioned about love, and was dismissed for historical reasons. That however need not have been a dismissal of essence, but listening to Homo Deus it was clear to me that Yuval was dismissing essence.

His “Homo Deus” talk began with examination of humanism in practice, and whilst each aspect of humanism he described had some truth his descriptions were incomplete – all seemed lacking. And then it completely knocked me aside when he put up a slide “Organisms are algorithms”, I switched off I couldn’t listen. It was all so clear then. For Yuval there is no essence, no sunnata. Without that we might as well be algorithms.

Another word for algorithms could be conditioning, cause and effect, this is fundamental Buddhism; conditionality – paticcasammupada. EXCEPT we can move beyond conditioning, and that is the essence of what the Buddha taught, of what Buddhadasa taught. We can move beyond conditioning, 4 Noble Truths – we can move beyond desire [desire – the cornerstone of conditioning – the driving force of conditionality, of cause and effect]. As far as Russell went Yuval had stuff to offer but Russell pointed to Yuval’s lack of understanding of essence. Yuval claims Vipassana but there is no genuine Vipassana without Right View and Yuval’s intellectual attachment to sankhara shows he has no right view.

Yuval has no insight. NO, there is no insight and he is dangerous. Hence the warning.

<– Previous Post “Anne Phillips” Next Post “Confusion” –>

Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.

Blogs:- Ginsukapaapdee, Mandtao, Matriellez.

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