1705391679 Yuval Noah Harari Netanyahu has built a coalition of messianic

Yuval Noah Harari: “Netanyahu has built a coalition of messianic fanatics and opportunistic villains”

Mud is an important word in the life of Yuval Noah Harari (Kiryat Atta, Israel, 47 years old). As a child, he says, he lived in a house surrounded by a lake. There he played soccer, watched the animal species that landed in the area, and built castles with the wet earth, even though they eventually sank into the mud. Then I had to remain somewhat immersed between contradictory feelings and concepts that were paradoxically connected. Perhaps for this reason, he sometimes tends to use terms that resonate in his subconscious and, although they have nothing to do with his childhood ideals, they nevertheless evoke certain unpleasant sensations. “Part of the problem today,” he says, “is that we get stuck in a lot of information that we can't process, and most of what we feed on is junk information.”

That's why he also ventures a piece of advice for us: “Just like with food, we stuff ourselves with junk information.” We need a diet. We need to measure the parts of the information we absorb.”

Nutrition is also a word with weight in Harari's life. It's vegan, although not ultra. When he visits his mother and she thinks of adding goat cheese to a cake, he eats it. His strict job and the time determine his life. He is doing well, as we saw during his last visit to Madrid last May. There he spoke to hundreds of Sanitas employees for half an hour in the morning about the future of health in the tapestry factory. With his high voice and his ability to decipher complex concepts in front of audiences of all kinds, he assured that we are facing a new era in this field: “The technological revolution leads us not only to cure the not sick, but to cure the “To improve the health of the healthy.”

However, judging by what Harari said hours later that afternoon at the Ateneo de Madrid during the presentation of the VIII Global Youth Leadership Forum, one wonders to what extent it is worth keeping the analysis at an optimal level: “If “ “We don't regulate.” “If we start using new information technologies soon, we will lose control over our lives,” he said. And so, between the advent of the apocalypse and the confirmation of the best advances and advances within our reach, the Israeli philosopher has built his engagement with the times in which we live not only in his work – in particular with three bestsellers – more than 45 million copies , including Sapiens, Homo Deus or 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, mainly in his lectures, conferences and public debates.

Harari is a star of world thought. Between these two extremes, aware of the yin and yang that he balances in his life and his philosophy, I dared to ask him already at the end of his day in Madrid, under the portrait of Manuel Azaña in the Ateneo, sitting opposite his face and surrounded from three members of his team when he was optimistic. “I try to be realistic,” he then replied. “I don't consider myself a pessimist who thinks that we are doomed and have no way out, because then what's the point of trying to do something?” But on the contrary, an optimist believes that on In the end everything will work out by itself and does not take responsibility for anything. The truth is that we face enormous challenges, but in the times we live in we have enough knowledge and resources to solve them.”

Yuval Noah Harari, at the Ateneo de Madrid.Yuval Noah Harari, at the Ateneo de Madrid. FRANCIS TSANG

The last war in the Middle East had not yet broken out at that time. But in the middle of the conflict, we asked him again. Harari had mobilized against Benjamin Netanyahu's government's attack on democracy in his country and the situation has not diminished his criticism: “He is not guilty of Hamas' attack.” But it has failed to prepare the country for war “, he says. “He has ruled almost continuously since 2009 and unfortunately has systematically put his personal interests above national interests. “He built his political career by dividing the country and weakening all state institutions that did not serve him blindly.”

Protesting against Netanyahu became a central theme of their activities. “I feel very committed to this situation. In a way I never thought possible. So much so that in the spring I found myself in the middle of a square in Tel Aviv giving a speech to thousands of people. “When the fire surrounds your house and you wonder what it would be like to live in a dictatorship, you have no choice,” he told us last May. Especially when your work is based on freedom of expression and you are forced to write not very pleasant things about politicians or business leaders… “To think that one day you can wake up and that freedom has disappeared, that we are in 2024…” I may come close to overcoming the last democratic elections in the United States or allowing the Israeli government to destroy judicial independence, freedom of thought and human rights. That forces me to react.”

Over the past year, Harari says, the situation of democracy under siege in his country has worsened. “Netanyahu built a coalition of messianic fanatics and opportunistic villains focused on ignoring the many problems we face, including deteriorating security, and instead focusing on hoarding unlimited power for themselves,” denounces he now. “To pursue these goals, they pursued highly divisive policies, spread conspiracy theories about public institutions that opposed their policies, and branded dedicated service elites as destabilizing traitors.”

Amidst this populist strategy of the government, they preferred to keep their ears shut in the face of warnings from the security forces. “They have been constantly warned by the army and intelligence agencies that this policy puts the country at risk and undermines our ability to respond to external attacks. “They made fun of the experts and ignored all their warnings,” he says.

The deaf ears were so profound that, “to make matters worse,” says the philosopher, “when the commander-in-chief of the army asked for a meeting to brief Netanyahu on the extent to which his policies would affect him, the first minister refused national security compromised.” the meeting. And when Defense Minister Yoav Gallant sounded the alarm, he stopped it and was only forced to reintroduce it because of the public outrage that this decision caused.”

Amid all this blindness, Hamas attacked on October 7 to prevent something very concrete, according to Harari. “Israel was on the verge of signing a peace agreement with Saudi Arabia. The treaty was intended to normalize relations between Israel and the Arab world, improve conditions for the Palestinians and restart the peace process. This prospect of normalization has frightened both Hamas and Iran, its main backer. That's why the attack happened, that's why they carried it out so brutally against civilians and even filmed it. The aim was to disrupt the agreement and spread hatred that would destroy any chance of future peace,” he believes.

Despite everything, he calls on his government not to fall into a trap: “They should not put us in an endless war.” I hope that after Hamas is disarmed, this does not mean that future peace agreements will be thwarted, that Israel will become Saudi proposal, embarking on the path of pacification and recognizing that this can only be achieved if it brings with it the possibility of offering Palestinians a dignified life in their own homeland.”

But the target is moving away. The stubbornness of the Israeli government and the authoritarian tendencies of recent years made us fear the worst, and so it happened. “This behavior has undermined the power of the army and the state over the years. Israel has dubbed the military operation “Iron Swords.” But if you keep these swords in salt water, they will rust. No matter what one may think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the way Netanyahu's populist policies have corroded the State of Israel should serve as a warning to all democracies around the world. If you give power to populists, it can happen to you.”

It won't be because he's tired of warning about it. You have the opportunity to say it to the faces of the world's most influential leaders when you meet with them. The offices of certain officials are frequent on Harari's travels around the world, such as those of businessmen, foundations and think tanks… He is Silicon Valley's favorite guru. Maybe you haven't come up with an original thought of your own. But no one doubts that he has managed to summarize a large part of what is happening to us in this time of data-filled uncertainty. He did this in a work that tried to explain to us our past in Sapiens, the future in Homo Deus and the present in 21 lessons for the 21st century.

It is likely to seduce tech tycoons through the principles of counterpoint. He doesn't use a smartphone, although he has one, only for emergencies. It attacks the dangers of artificial intelligence and urgently calls for its global regulation, an initiative that the European Union has already taken. Dedicate two hours a day to meditation and retreat in complete silence according to the rules of Vipassana orthodoxy at least one to two months a year. When it comes to leaders, Harari questions fundamental concepts of political thought: from freedom to equality. He does not consider them to be products of an inalienable human right, but rather the work of his capacity for fiction, as he claims in Sapiens. This does not mean that we are dealing with an angry anarcho-illiberal, quite the opposite. As we have seen, he is increasingly committed to defending democracy.

She lives in Tel Aviv and maintains her headquarters in the offices of her company: Sapienship, which she founded together with her husband and manager Itzik Yahav. Before publishing Sapiens, he was a professor of medieval and military history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where, he says, in addition to teaching, he devoted himself to writing articles and studies that hardly reached anyone. While studying, among other things, the conquest of Mexico and devoting his time to the chronicles of Bernal Díaz del Castillo in his True History of the Conquest of New Spain, he tells us how Sapiens came to him. “At the same time, I was reading about chimpanzees for fun.”

Yuval Noah Harari.Yuval Noah Harari.FRANCIS TSANG

And he turned. He understood that he had to destroy his own writing method: “When you are involved in your doctoral work and write scientific articles, do it in a way that your colleagues like, with the code that you know they like. “I had to forget that and learn to rewrite it to make it accessible,” he says. He looked for influences. “It was very important for me to read the book Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. I'm changing my life. Not just when you think about how you write, but also what you write about,” he admits. “At university you are pushed to specialize. He showed me that as a scientist it's worth focusing on, but you have to broaden your focus to the history of the universe.” Another influence on Harari was Chimpanzee Politics by Frans de Waal. “It showed me that you can use a sense of humor, it was fun and at the same time you could learn a lot about the behavior of animals and people.”

So he developed his own style, which was radically different from that of the applied doctoral student. A style of storytelling that has captivated tens of millions of people and fits into popular culture and high-level scholarship. Harari uses comics like Jabato to explain the Siege of Numancia or Harry Potter so that we can better understand the algorithms and disquisitions he examines. “My job is to build a bridge between this in-depth knowledge and the general public,” he says. And he doesn't mind if, like some experts who have tried to dismantle him, he is accused of scientific populism. “It's true and I don't think it's a bad thing. That's what my goal is focused on, the popularization of science. I have already written articles that have been read by about five people around the world. Now I study what other colleagues have done and write not to promote conspiracy theories, but to reach many more readers. Failure to address them creates a vacuum for lies to enter. If you lose that audience, others will pick it up.”

There are many scientists who don't know how to communicate their discoveries well, he says. “In this community you write with the weight of numbers, equations and facts. Jokes are not allowed, not even pranks… But it doesn't fit together, it doesn't resonate, because we are a species that is used to stories, we don't think about statistics in that key that captivates us.” That is the main theory of Sapiens. In his book, Harari argues that the species has managed to prevail in the world thanks to its ability to weave together fictions that have sustained entire communities over the centuries. “So if you want to explain the big issues, you need these tools to tell stories well. Stick to science and the latest discoveries, but translate them into a topic that is interesting and accessible to teenagers.”

But it doesn't just want to convince its readers in more than 60 languages ​​with often unaccommodating theories, such as that the Sapiens species prevailed against the Neanderthals because of the first genocide of humanity or that climate change is imminent. For us, it doesn't count as the first thing , but as a third. Attempts are also being made to influence those responsible. “I often advise them to keep their distance, meditate and find time and space for themselves,” he says. “We ask our leaders to give their all to us, but if they don't have the opportunity to think and calm down, they won't do their job well.” He's proven it. And to sum it up, he uses a modern parable that is accessible to everyone: “I often realize that if you don't have time to have a detailed conversation with them, nothing good or useful comes of it.” If you only have 20 minutes , you won't get any further. As soon as there is silence, they move on to the next step.” Fear of emptiness? “So you just stay in the clichés. The best ideas come when that silence occurs, when you get bored.”

Fear was formed against ourselves. Biologically it is not sustainable. That's why Harari hates the word exciting. “This is how the human body is structured. There are cycles of excitement, right, when danger arises or opportunities present themselves. But then you calm down. If you keep the organism in a continuous sequence from the beginning, it collapses. In the USA, the word “exciting” has become a star term: “Everything is exciting… even the greeting.” Not good. The compliment should be the opposite: that knowing you makes her very reassured.”

He tries not to go too far. Even if you are surprised by your own global success. “Yes, of course. My specialty is military history in the Middle Ages, so topics like the Catholic Monarchs and the unification of Spain or the Crusades… And by strange coincidences I talk about artificial intelligence… I didn't see it coming. I was leading a quiet life, few people came to my conferences, I published articles that hardly attracted anyone. I love history. If you give me the opportunity to choose a book about the Catholic Monarchs or Elon Musk, I'll choose Isabel and Ferdinand.”

His basis in compiling the books remains radically historical, based on his area of ​​expertise and his passion since childhood. “I was drawn to war, perhaps because we were surrounded by it in Israel and my father, an engineer, worked in the defense industry,” he recalls. Nevertheless, the first conflict that shaped him was that of the Malvinas: “Strange, isn’t it? I looked at the one that was furthest away.”

After celebrating the release of Sapiens in 2023 with a commemorative edition of 10 years of continuous success, he is currently busy with three volumes for children: his series entitled Unstoppable, which summarizes the history of the world. He is announcing something new for this year. “A new book that discusses artificial intelligence and information technology from a broad historical perspective. In fact, it contains more chapters about history than about Silicon Valley's progress. “In the end, I'm not a computer scientist, but a historian.” It still doesn't have a title: “It's the last thing I posted.” I'm more or less satisfied, but I avoid thinking about the title until the end, because the research process itself surprises me and takes me to other places. If you stick to an idea, where will you end up? If you know everything from the beginning, what's the point of starting? You don’t discover anything new.”

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