The future could see the world’s human data, delivered through the rising power and reach of artificial intelligence, in the hands of a powerful few — a recipe for a dystopian tomorrow populated by “hacked humans,” says Yuval Noah Harari. The world-renowned author tells Anderson Cooper nations must begin cooperating to prevent this by regulating artificial intelligence and the collection of data across all nations. The interview with Harari will be broadcast on 60 Minutes, Sunday October 31, at 7 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
Harari says the countries and companies that control the most data will control the world.
“The world is increasingly kind of cut up into spheres of data collection, of data harvesting. In the Cold War, you had the Iron Curtain. Now we have the Silicon Curtain, that the world is increasingly divided between the USA and China,” Harari tells Cooper. “Does your data go to California or does it go to Shenzhen and to Shanghai and to Beijing?”
Harari, a history professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, published his first book, “Sapiens,” in 2014; it was a global bestseller. He has since published two more books with futuristic themes, “Homo Deus” and “21 Lessons for the 21st Century.” The three books together have sold 35 million copies in 65 languages.
He has been warning people of a not-so-distant future of incredible change, saying the artificial intelligence at work today through algorithms will only strengthen its grip on humans.
“Netflix tells us what to watch and Amazon tells us what to buy. Eventually, within 10 or 20 or 30 years such algorithms could also tell you what to study at college and where to work and whom to marry and even whom to vote for,” says Harari.
And he points out, the pandemic has opened the door to even more intrusive collection of our data.
“It’s data about what’s happening inside my body. What we have seen so far, it’s corporations and governments collecting data about where we go, who we meet, what movies we watch. The next phase is surveillance going under our skin,” he warns.
“Certainly, now we are at the point when we need global cooperation. You cannot regulate the explosive power of artificial intelligence on a national level,” says Harari, who tells Cooper what he feels needs to be done. “One key rule is that if you get my data, the data should be used to help me and not to manipulate me. Another key rule, that whenever you increase surveillance of individuals you should simultaneously increase surveillance of the corporation and governments and the people at the top. And the third principle is that — never allow all the data to be concentrated in one place. That’s the recipe for a dictatorship.”
Harari says humans are at risk of becoming ‘hacked” if artificial intelligence does not become better regulated.
“To hack a human being is to get to know that person better than they know themselves. And based on that, to increasingly manipulate you,” Harari says.
There’s an upside to the rise of artificial intelligence, too, says Harari, but only if accompanied by regulation.
“The whole thing is that it’s not just dystopian. It’s also utopian. I mean, this kind of data can also enable us to create the best health care system in history,” he says. “The question is what else is being done with that data? And who supervises it? Who regulates it?”