From Pre-Modernity, through Modernity, to Post-Modernity – Video with Dr. Marc Gafni
In this video excerpt from the Summer Festival of Love 2018, Dr. Marc Gafni paints a historical overview of how humanity landed in this critical moment, where we have all the power in the world but lack a story to give it meaning in a way that evolves us all.
Stay tuned for the new Online Course with Dr. Marc Gafni to be launched soon: Our First Steps as “Homo Amor”. The course was recorded during the last Festival of Love in Holland and is being produced right now. It will be launched on our CIW Programs Platform.
Dr. Marc Gafni:
We’re ready? We’re ready? Yeah? We have a little drum roll in the house. Drum roll in the house. Yes, drum roll in the … oh my God. Here we go, and…
You think by the way, what we’re about, the conversation we’re about to have all week, you think this conversation is happening everywhere, it should be. It should be happening at the best conservative think tanks, and the best liberal think tanks of Europe, and Asia, and America. It should be happening at the leading university departments all over the world. But it’s not.
This is the conversation that everyone knows needs to happen, but it hasn’t happened in a real way since the Renaissance. That’s a very big deal. When I make an assertion like that … So, I’m trust able on some things. I don’t make casual assertions. I’ve spent my life hanging out way too many wild central nights with books. Till 5:00 in the morning I’ve plowed through thousands and thousands of volumes in my life. This conversation is not happening. It’s the single most important conversation we can have, which is after all of the deconstruction, Postmodernity. How many people have heard the term Postmodernity? Anyone?
Postmodern, postmodern means really simply. This postmodern moment which says that all the earlier stories of the past were wrong. Postmodernity says that pre modernity meaning up to the Renaissance. The great traditions, the great religions, up to the Renaissance these guys got it wrong in a really bad way. Voltaire leads modernity with the cry: remember the cruelties. The great evil of pre modernity that was unleashed through the power of sanctioned official religion. So, Postmodernity critiques the hell out of pre modernity, but forgets to make a distinction.
It forgets that actually in pre modernity, there were two different kinds of things happening. In pre modernity there were deep, shared depth structures. Structures of depth, which actually understood something about the cosmos, that were shared by all the great traditions. Then there were exterior structures of ritual, in which every tradition said we got it right, this is the way you go to heaven. We got to kill you. We go to a higher heaven by killing you. Then there’s no redemption since Augustine outside of the church, but Dali Lama Tibetan Buddhist lineage says the same thing.
There’s a Jewish version of it, and there’s a Muslim version of it. There’s even a Sufi version of it, despite the fact that we hide it. Meaning all the pre modern traditions basically said I’ve got a direct line to God, goddess. She told me how to do it. She also told me she wants to be monogamous just with me. Just me. She is only making love with me. Anyone else who wants to actually make love with her, is actually fornicating in the temple, and should be killed by the jealous husband, which is the religion. It’s a big deal. That’s the basic structure of pre modernity. Pre modernity is God monogamy.
God married me, and Hosea the prophet says, anyone else who interferes in that relationship is an adulterer, and therefore should be stoned. As adulterers in pre modernity, appropriately were described in all the great traditions. So wow, that’s the shadow of pre modernity. But people identified pre modernity with the shadow. As we’re going to see through the week there’s a lot more than the shadow. There’s always shadow, and light. There’s also great light in pre modernity, great wisdom, great depth in the ancient traditions. We got to know how to find them, and how to distinguish between the surface structure.
Everyone get what I mean surface? Any words not clear stop me. When I say a surface structure you get what I mean. A surface structure is a ritual, it’s a way you got to eat this food, don’t eat that food. My land is holy, your land is not holy. It’s a cosmic vending machine. You know what a vending machine is? It’s a cosmic vending machine God, and only I have the coins that will go in to get out the goodies. That’s the shadow of pre modernity, but it’s light is deep, and profound, and gorgeous. That’s pre modernity.
Modernity, along comes Da Vinci and tells this new story. Modernity gets wildly critiques pre modernity in all the ways we just described. Modernity says not about God. God is not at the center. Goddess is not at the center. The human being is at the center, and human power, and human creativity, and human reason. It’s beautiful in the scientific method, and shared access to knowledge. It’s not one profit who knew knowledge, one guru who then transmits it to everyone else. The guru model that we have in modernity in our day to day still lives, even in the western world, and imported from the east comes from pre modernity.
Meaning I’m the person with the great experience, and get close to me, and you’ll access the experience. Is that wrong? It’s not entirely wrong. Hang out with great people is always a great idea. Hang out with people do great music, and hang out with people do great silence. Fantastic idea, but no one has a direct line. That’s what modernity said. Modernity said we got to democratize governance. Everyone gets to vote. Like wow. Modernity introduces scientific method, and an entirely new vision of what it means to be a human being, in which if we use our reason we will access nature. Nature is essentially not governed by a God above, but it’s essentially separate, discrete objects.
Know how each object works. Measure the object. Don’t just classify it. Aristotle said classify. Modernity said measure, measure the object. Measure all of the individual objects, and you will actually produce knowledge like the world has never seen. Was modernity right? Anyone? Absolutely. That breakthrough, that demystification of nature, that disenchantment of nature where we begin to say, “No, no, no, actually there is a big universe. The universe is made up of inert … You know the word inert. Inert means dead. It’s not living, it’s not pulsing, it’s not … It’s inert.
It’s dead matter. It can be analyzed. Every individual piece of the inert matter can be analyzed. You put together all that knowledge, and you will actually be able to put a man on the moon, which is what we did. It’s a big deal. So, modernity debunked pre modernity, and then showed that it worked. It had enormous success. Modernity is a raging success story, in the sense that it was able to produce modern medicine. All of modern medicine comes from a rejection of Galen pre modern medicine, and actually an analysis of each part of the human body.
All of modern science comes from a precise analysis of how atoms are supposed to work. All of classical physics, upon which modern science is based, and classical chemistry, is this gorgeous story of modernity. Then we hit the atom bomb. Then we hit the second shock of existence, where we realized that all of our power can actually destroy the world. We realized that Francis Bacon’s promise of progress that would bring enormous happiness didn’t work. Not even the slightest. Did you know that 800,000 people committed suicide last year.
We’re approaching rapidly a million people committing suicide a year. Twice as much as violent death. Twice as much as traffic accidents. Almost a million suicides a year right around the world. Why? For those million suicides that worked, you exponentialize the attempted suicides, the covered up suicides, and the lives lived in quiet, and horrific desperation. Great Britain just appointed a minister of loneliness. Putnam wrote the book Bowling Alone. That sense of being desiccated, and being separate from, being not part of. I’m wildly successful, but I just don’t feel fundamentally happy.
I’m just basically not happy. I could be in a relationship, I could not be. I’m doing my work, but that great promise of Jeremy Bentham, happiness right? We’re going to be happy. We’re going to get out of the cruelties of pre modernity, and we are finally going to be happy. Life, liberty, and the great pursuit of happiness. We have been pursuing happiness for several hundred years. Maybe it’s because we keep looking for it behind us, that it thinks we’re going the other way and it runs in the other direction right? We haven’t found it. We haven’t found it. How many people get that? Just in our own lives? Just check in for a second.
Happy is not simple. It’s not contentment, you get it? We’re not talking about contentment. I’m talking about an experience, a daily experience of radical aliveness, and joy that permeates your life. You feel on fire. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to have hard moments. It doesn’t mean you don’t deal with stuff, but you have a basic experience of radical aliveness and joy as the essential default of your life. How many people in the world do you think can say that about themselves in modernity? How many? It’s a big deal right? Just ask yourself. I’m not going to ask for a show of hands. Just ask yourself.
Can you actually say to yourself honestly that your default experience is radical aliveness, and joy? That was the promise of modernity. Post modernity came along, and deconstructed modernity. That’s called deconstruction. Does everyone get that? Deconstruction means postmodernity said, all those modern promises that were made for joy, they were actually secret agendas at play, which Foucault called the hidden agendas of power. Power, accumulating wealth of the few at the expense of the many.
You write a book. You spend 10 years writing it. You bring it to the publisher. You get seven percent. The publisher gets 90% what happened? You’re a factory worker. You distributing all of your energy all through the day, and you get paid how much a year? A very small group of people at the top of the chain make profit. There’s this structure that didn’t quite work. Communism didn’t solve it obviously. Marx got something right though. Marx said there’s something wrong with the system in an essential way. Capitalism isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do. Some of our friends John Mackey tried conscious capitalism, which is great. Let’s try and make capitalism a little better.
He did a good job, but there is a basic problem in the system. The basic problem in the system is it’s not quite working. People aren’t happy. The levels of depression, of disease, of mental illness, of suicide, of just a basic, lingering sense. Is this all there is plagues the entire system of modernity, and postmodernity comes along and says, “All of modernity’s claims of meaning were wrong. They made them up. It was just a grab for power.” That was the great deconstruction. Postmodernity did good things. It said, “Okay, all the people that got marginalized, let’s get them in.”
Transgender, gay, women, civil rights. Postmodernity said, “Forget about the promises of happiness, that was just a capitalist move to create a middle class, that would actually serve the wealthy. But what we need to do is, let’s enfranchise all the people got disenfranchised.” Fantastic, gorgeous, beautiful, holy right? But postmodernity forgot to give us a new story. This is the big sentence. You can press delete in everything I just said if that was too complex, or too fast, just press delete. Step in right here.
Postmodernity deconstructed the entire great story of modernity, and the story of pre modernity, but didn’t fill in with a new story. There was no new narrative of success. What does it mean to be successful? There’s no new narrative of sexuality. There’s no new narrative of relationship. There’s no new narrative of desire. There’s no new narrative of spirit. There’s no universe story. There’s no narrative of identity, and community. We’re left in this place, in which postmodernity deconstructed all of the early narratives, but didn’t provide a new narrative in their place.
The hardest part is done. Does everyone have a vague sense of what I mean by that? Give me a show of hands who followed some of that, most of that. Right? Okay? Okay.
We’re in this moment. We’re in this moment, we’ve got this grand deconstruction. There’s no stories. Then what happens is, we hit a crisis. We hit the biggest crisis we’ve ever hit in our lives, and let’s take a look at it. We’ve got no idea where we’re going. We got no idea where we’re going, and we’re in an exponential growth curve. Get what that means?
Our growth is growing faster, and faster, and faster, and we’re growing, and we’re growing, and we’re growing. We went from 150 years ago half a billion people on planet earth, now we have above seven billion. You with me? Then we’re extracting … You know what an extraction model is? I’m extracting from the earth resources. It took a billion years to create the resources, but I’m extracting the resources, and the last 100 years we’ve fished most of the seas. The fish that are left have mercury, and every problem that’s now entering into our bodies. We have what’s called peak phosphorous, and peak oil, meaning we’re losing essential access to core, natural resources that we need to power the planet.
The climate we’ll see in a second. A mess in every possible way. The gap between have and have not is getting wider, and wider, and wider, and wider. 17,000 children a day that are dying of starvation, or starvation related diseases. We don’t have a story of meaning. We’re left without a vision of where to go. We have this infrastructure problem. The infrastructure of our society is actually breaking down. Our banking, I don’t know how banking works. I could spend two hours on it, but banking basically works on your money goes into a bank, and they lend it out lots of times over.
Thank God no one goes to get their money out of the bank, because if you did the whole system would crash, which is part of what happened in 2008. But basically we’re lending money, lending money, lending money, assuming that it’s going to keep growing, and growing, and growing, and growing, and growing. In order to keep growing we got to keep making more, and more products. We’ve got to create artificial scarcity around products, which is why high tech products are still scarce. You can have high prices, even though there’s no scarcity. We’ve got a created scarcity of products to keep prices up. We have an exponential growth curve, which means it’s going to fall off.
We have a resource structure, infrastructure which is going to collapse on itself. We have a currency structure which is about to implode. We have this huge gap between have and have not widening all over the world. Actually all of our basic systems are in disarray, and they’re all happening at the same time. What’s going to be … What’s the vision? We have no story to get us beyond it. When this happened in the middle ages Da Vinci and his gang came, and they told a new story. They told a new story of what my identity was as a human being. What it means to form community.
What it means to love each other. How values work, how meaning works. Da Vinci tells this new story in a world filled with plague, and suffering is able to lift itself up, because the story was scientifically accurate, and it actually inspired … It became a strange attractor into the future. But now we’re at a moment of infrastructure breakdown, of governmental governance breakdown, of resources breakdown. Everything is breaking down in every part of the system. We’re not sure where to go. We’re trying to fix the system in any way we can, but leaks are breaking out all over the place. The potential, and I could spend 10 hours on this, I can stop here. But the potential of an all systems crash is actually right at the corner, right at the corner.
We just keep stopping the gaps, putting something into the dike to stop it. We try and make a slightly better capitalism, which is a great idea, but it doesn’t quite take us home. The socialist vision didn’t quite work, it didn’t have incentive. It didn’t take us home. Depression rises, and rises, and rises. Countries with most wealth have the highest depression, go to Finland. Most wealth available, most depression, most mental illness, most anxiety. Something is not working. We’re desperate for a new story.
Along comes a friend of ours Yuval Harari and writes a book a few years ago. I’m going to use that as the focus for the next five minutes.
He write a book called Homo Sapiens. How many people have heard of the book? A few in the room, great. Write a second book called Homo Deus. These books are not – Homo Deus – the divine man. Homo Sapiens is the story of humanity. Homo Deus is in Harari’s terms, “The future of humanity.” Now stay with me, okay? Now we’re starting. We’re now officially starting. In this book, Homo Deus and Homo Sapiens, Harari tells a story, and that story is an utter disaster. It’s a beautiful book. He writes really well. It sold 8 million copies. The first one, which a book of its kind shouldn’t sell more than 20,000 it’s being read by Bill Gates, by Obama, by leaders all over Europe, all over Asia, all over the United States, and it’s being taken as the best vision of the new story.
Let me get a sense of what that Homo Deus means. The vision of Homo Deus is based on four premises. One, there are no truths that we can know about interiors. Meaning all the great systems of belief, were fictions. Those were fictions of pre-modernity, and they’re not available to us because they’ve been debunked by modernity. That’s his position. He argues that very forcibly and very powerfully, but much worse is where he says, we’re going. Remember the Hunger Games? Remember the movie Hunger Games? Anyone, Hunger Games? How many people saw Hunger Games? Essentially Homo Deus is about Hunger Games.
Homo Deus means there’s going to be a group of humans, who have the ability, the financial possibility, the financial clout, to actually access hacking their lives. They’re going to have a longer and longer lives. They’ll become some mixture of human with all sorts of bio hacks, and all sorts of cyber hacks, which is gradually happening. We’re already at the beginning of it. How many people walk around without their cell phone? No one. Just looking at your cell phone all the time. Your cell phones slowly becomes part of you. It’s the beginning of that process.
My cell phone’s always with me. I’m always checking it. That cell phone then gets built in. Then I get a chip and then … So he’s describing this process where over the next 20 years or so, next 20, 25 years, the wealthier you are, the more bio hacks you’ll be able to access, the closer you’ll get to some version of immortality, the longer you’ll be able to live and you’ll have a very small swath of the population living extremely long, extremely prosperous, extremely powerful lives, will actually become Homo Deus.
A very small part of humanity will actually access the power of the Roman gods. That’s actually where we’re going. That’s actually where technology’s going. Technology’s leaping forward in which a small of the upper crust of humanity, realizing all the problems that I just laid out, are actually building bunkers as it were literally all over the world, to actually check out, in one version of the other, when the system implodes and collapses. That’s actually happening in one way or the other in the systems of humanity, pretty much every place.
There’s this sense that in 20 years, 30 years, 40 years the entire system, exponentially changing very, very fast is going to look entirely different than it does today. Now I know you think I’m exaggerating. Okay, so I’m gonna, I’m gonna read you a little bit from Homo Deus. Alright, so in Homo Deus, he basically says the following, he says, “Number one …” And this is the book that’s being used to guide and create policy. He says, “Number one, there’s gonna be a loss of human economic value, and it’s the idea that humans will always have unique value beyond the non-conscious algorithms is wishful thinking.” Everyone get that sentence? “The belief that humans will always have unique value, beyond non-conscious algorithms is wishful thinking because organisms are just algorithms shaped by evolution, and because algorithmic processing is more powerful than anything the human mind can do.”
Wow! The way for technological unemployment, meaning we’re going to basically make most jobs obsolete in the next 30 or so years. “The way for technological unemployment has been paved by humans professionalizing and specializing in ways that lays the groundwork for machines to essentially take over. As human employment is eliminated, wealth and power become concentrated into the hands of a very small elite of the algorithm owning individuals.” This is not, Sci-Fi, this is not Isaac Asimov. This is Hunger Games, as what’s considered today, the most likely unfolding by the leading edge of intelligentsia around the world. This is not some strange, kind of weird, this is the most influential mainstream work being written and digested in the world today.
Let me read you a little bit more, “The algorithms themselves might even become more powerful than their owners. Just as corporations are their own legal persons and more powerful than anyone employed in them. Today, much of the planet is owned by non-human entities. These companies and nation-states operate in much the same as the Sumerian gods of old. The algorithmic future will make humans or at least ordinary humans in some way obsolete.” That’s a shocking sentence to write, if you write that sentence 25 years ago, the book would be burned.
This book is selling like wildfire, and almost every major corporate elite today, it’s required reading – in terms of where we’re going. Just stay with me. The second threat is that humans may matter in aggregate, meaning as a group, but not individually, because there’s certain Sciences that are being taken. These are bad readings of the Science, by the way, to suggest that we’re less unique individuals than just composites of different algorithms. Wow. Right? Unequal upgrades, splitting humanity into biological cases of the upgraded and the not upgraded. Is everyone getting this?
You almost can’t believe that you when you read it. Splitting humanity into biological case to the upgraded and the not will destroy the assumption of equality. That’s a cornerstone of liberal humanism.
Next, techno humanism. “Techno humanism sees Homo Sapiens as having reached the end of the line needing to be augmented to a new superhuman model Homo Deus. The new religion, Dataism, data religion, argues that humanity has reached the end of the line and it’s now time for a new entity to take our place. Dataism sees the universe as data flows and the value of any phenomena is its contribution to the data flow.”
And if you think that has nothing to do with you, imagine something happened to you and you didn’t post it on Facebook. Catch that for a second. You did something, but you didn’t post it on Facebook or Instagram or put it on the social media. You almost don’t think it happened. Everyone know what I’m talking about? Where did that come from? It sounds like what’s he talking about? He’s reading some weird fucked up thing here, but actually when you begin to realize that I’m attached to my cell phone, which has more power in it than the Pentagon computers had 25 years ago, and that today, in the millennial generation, if you do something and you don’t post it, meaning you don’t add to the data flow of the world -it’s not recorded in that way – there’s an actual experience that didn’t happen. What happened? These are just the first indicators of it, but I just want you to get, you can access this yourself.
This is not a kind of strange, and crazy vision. At the center, we have the sacredness of data. “In early humanism, people kept on believing in God by arguing that humans are sacred, but eventually the focus just sift it to humans. Today with Dataism, will argue for the sacredness of the Internet of all things because it serves human needs. As all data processing and accelerates this new system, the Internet of all things will emerge and the need for Homo Sapiens will vanish.
Like capitalism, Dataism is now mutating into a religion. In this view, humans are merely tools for creating the internet of all things that will eventually leave the planet and spread out to pervade the galaxy with an omnipotence like God, and this view, we must not leave any part of the universe disconnected from the Internet of all things.” To be disconnected is to be idolatrous. Google earth, will take a picture of wherever you live. There’s no place in the world which is not part and accessed by the Internet of all things.
“Just as free market believers trust in the invisible hand of the market, Dataists believe in the invisible hand of the data flow. Being part of this flow is what makes me alive. We’re part of something bigger than just ourselves.” Wow. Just want you to get it. Okay? When I first started saying it, I saw people rolling their eyes around the room. This is some weird what happened to them over this year? This weird, freaked out, kind of crazy thought. This is the central book. There’s dozens of others like it. I just picked one, but this vision of Homo Deus, does everyone just get a sense? Everyone got a taste of that for a second? How many people just got a taste of that? Just how many people got a taste of that?
Peter Diamandis, how many people here have heard of Peter Diamandis, or Ray Kurzweil? One or two or three or four in the room. Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil are always talking about new tech upgrades that you can get. New abundance, but they’re actually serving, you can take this amount of vitamins and this amount of injections and if you live another five years then you’re going to get to live another five years afterwards because the new medical advances, but all of these things, all of their descriptions of Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil cost a fortune.
They’re only available to the people with most access, with most information, with most connection, and I have to tell you a little secret and it’s a disturbing and frightening secret to me. Most of my good friends, most of my close friends are trying to access this world in some real way. I would say 95% of my good friends are part of a related to the Peter Diamandis, Ray Kurzweil world, and they’ve researched extensively life extension. They’ve actually diversified their assets in very particular ways. They’re taking 140 supplements a day. They’re injecting and various ways they’re beating to biohack, and these are regular run of the mill people. All of them CEO’s leading doctors. It’s happening literally now.
As we’re kind of living our lives, there’s a creeping annexation of humanity and it’s a shocking reality. What Harari basically says is, that there is no great human story. The premodern story, he says is wrong, that was pre-modern religions. That was off. Modernity, with its equal access to human rights and liberalism, and potential, and you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps and make it work. Well, he points out correctly, that’s actually not true.
Do you know that 90% of the people today who are wealthy were born from relatively upper-class people and 90% of the people who were poor were born from relatively poor people. The notion of social mobility worldwide is actually mythic, and this great drive of India and China to create their own middle classes will require the resources of several planet earths in order to fulfill it.
Where do we go? The Netherlands is prosperous. Brussels will do well. Some sectors of the United States. What about the rest of the world? We literally forget the rest of the world is in turmoil. Europe, I’m not even to start to talk about Europe, and where Europe is going to be in 25 years, but the impact of immigration is going to be on Europe. How that’s going to play out? It’s wild. It’s completely wild. Where are we going?
We are at this moment when we need a new story. We desperately need a new story.