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Hacking Humans

The conversation started with what Daniel Kahneman referred to as, "algorithm aversion"-- the idea that emotion is an inevitable component of human judgment, and the human race prefers it that way.

In the spirit of lively debate, Yuval Harrari responded by talking about, "superfluous people" who insist on changing the world around them, instead of changing the world inside them. It was a fascinating interview, with two dynamic thinkers.

Going back several centuries, there was a man (who came to be known as, "The Buddha"), who espoused a philosophy that was based on the notion that we would be well served to look inside, and change the world inside us, by (my take) learning to manage thought and emotion-- not by eliminating them, but rather, by observing them without judgment and letting thought or emotion pass, rather than rule our judgment or behavior.

Who knew? The Buddha may have been the original algorithm proponent, long before the term "algorithm aversion" was coined. And long before anyone even thought about artificial intelligence, or cyborgs. Long before machine learning and mind hacks. I'm well acquainted with the notion that there's nothing new under the sun, but connecting The Buddha to some kind of future cyborg reality? That's a mind-bender!

Turns out, dealing with thought and emotion is something that we humans have been wrestling with for millennia. With good reason, and also, with (more or less) good results. Societies have been built (when thought and emotion have been managed), and destroyed (when they have not). Granted, humans are not cyborgs and the impact of thought/emotion litters our history, but for the most part, we seem to have done more good than harm.

I, for one, embrace both the imperfection, and the struggle. And I hope that (as Kahneman predicts) the human race will not succumb quietly to cyborgs, artificial intelligence, or some other manifestation of hacked human beings.

Better we should train ourselves to deal with the ups and downs of thought and emotion, than give them up in pursuit of an efficient algorithm. Better we should focus on what's inside us, than what's around us.

Better we should meditate and be more mindful!


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