Really Know Yourself

Excerpt from "Why Fascism is so Tempting" by Yuval Noah Harari (TED 2018):

"What can we do to prevent the return of fascism and the rise of new dictatorships? 

The number one question that we face is: Who controls the data? 

If you are an engineer, then find ways to prevent too much data from being concentrated in too few hands. And find ways to make sure the distributed data processing is at least as efficient as centralized data processing. This will be the best safeguard for democracy. 

As for the rest of us who are not engineers, the number one question facing us is how not to allow ourselves to be manipulated by those who control the data.

The enemies of liberal democracy, they have a method: They hack our feelings. Not our emails, not our bank accounts—they hack our feelings of fear and hate and vanity, and then use these feelings to polarize and destroy democracy from within. 

This is actually a method that Silicon Valley pioneered in order to sell us products. But now, the enemies of democracy are using this very method to sell us fear and hate and vanity. They cannot create these feelings out of nothing. So they get to know our own preexisting weaknesses. And then use them against us. 

And it is, therefore, the responsibility of all of us to get to know our weaknesses and make sure that they do not become a weapon in the hands of the enemies of democracy. Getting to know our own weaknesses will also help us to avoid the trap of the fascist mirror. 

Fascism exploits our vanity. It makes us see ourselves as far more beautiful than we really are. This is the seduction. But if you really know yourself, you will not fall for this kind of flattery. 

If somebody puts a mirror in front of your eyes that hides all your ugly bits and makes you see yourself as far more beautiful and far more important than you really are, just break that mirror."

Harari, Y. N., Purcell, J., & Watzman, H. (2011). Sapiens: A brief history of mankind. London: Vintage Books. (authorlibrary)

Harari, Y. N. (2017). Homo deus: A brief history of tomorrow. London: Vintage Books.  (authorlibrary)