Notes philosophy

Chapter 4: The Storytellers (Homo Deus)

The World of Stories

Humans experience the physical world, but also live in the world of stories (money, gods, nations, corporations). Technology in the next century will likely make these fictions more powerful.

Our ability to tell stories started during the Cognitive Revolution 70,000 years ago – when we could talk about things that existed in our imagination.

12,000 years ago, the Agricultural Revolution helped strengthen inter-subjective networks (people that shared the same fictions).

The Sumerian gods functioned as legal entities that could own fields, slaves, give and receive loans, pay salaries and build canals and damns. Today, the corporations do.

But the Sumerians had difficulty remembering details about their gods – until the invention of money and writing 5,000 years ago. This allowed them to collect taxes and establish kingdoms.

Because of writing, humans could organize societies in an algorithmic fashion. Algorithms explain what emotions are and how brains function. They can be a set of methodical steps to make calculations and resolve problems. People in illiterate societies make these calculations in their head. People in literate societies organize into networks, so that each person is a small step in a large algorithm – and it is the algorithm that makes important decisions (bureaucracy).

But it Works

Fictions allow us to cooperate better. The price we pay is that these fictions determine the goals of our cooperative system.

Proof of success for each cooperative system is defined by the goals that have been presupposed.

To a Muslim mullah, success would constitute an ever-growing Muslim population. For a school principle, it would be improved exam results, while for pharaonic Egypt, it would be taxation, irrigation, and pyramid construction.

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"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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