TED Dialogue: Harari on the new political divide: Nationalism vs. globalism

How can we understand what is happening politically in the world currently? In a brand new format called TED Dialogues Chris Anderson interviews Yuval Noah Harari, author of "Homo Sapiens" and "Homo Deus". The historian with a knack for the future explains the political turmoil the world - and especially the West - has been facing recently...

According to Harari people have lost their story. People stopped believing in that narrative of economic globalization & political liberalization, and "if you don’t have a story you don't know what’s happening".

The old divide left vs. right has been replaced by global vs. national/local, so we need new models or ways of thinking about the global economy/ecology and national policy. Two options present themselves: nationalize the economy or globalize the political system. The political system in its current states is broken, it doesn’t empower the ordinary person anymore. The first reaction of people is then: if something doesn’t work, let’s go back. People feel ‚we’ve lost it’ so let’s go back to where we were before, where we felt secure. That can’t work but it’s the gut feeling.

Why can’t nationalism (such as ‘America first’) work? Harari argues: Nationalism is not at the right level to tackle climate change or the coming technological disruption (AI, 3D printing, robots, bioengineering…). The issues that matter today don’t take place at the national scale: “It’s not the Mexicans or the Chinese who will steel the jobs but robots and algorithms, so unless you want to build a wall between California and the rest of the world the wall between the US and Mexico will be really ineffective.”

There is a basic imbalance in the political system – it’s very hard to do good (reduce income inequality for example) but very easy to do harm (push the button, start a war…) – that is why the political system remains a very big concern, even if technological progress drives a lot of things

Identity is always problematic, because it’s always based on fictional stories (beyond a handful of people) that sooner or later collide with reality. Modern nations are imagined communities. The most important questions for Harari as a scientist and as a person is “how to separate fiction (nation, money, gods, corporations – they rule the world now) from reality. The best test for him is: if it can suffer it is real. “If you can really understand what suffering is this will also give you the key to understand reality is”.

The size of the natural group of homo sapiens is not more than 150 people. Everything beyond that is narratives & large institutions. The feeling of alienation & loneliness of people & not finding their place in the world: the chief problem is not capitalism but people have become disembodied / distanced themselves from their bodies & senses. More and more attention goes to screens (TV, computers, internet, mobile…). So Harari thinks part of the solution is not nationalism but to re-connect with your body – you will feel much more at home in the world, too.

A very insightful and illuminating interview with a passionate Chris Anderson, and a passionate Harari - highly recommended: