History Narratives with Yuval Noah Harari and Adam Grant

5. General

History Narratives with Yuval Noah Harari and Adam Grant

Welcome to the fifty-eighth edition of ‘3-2-1 by Story Rules‘.

A newsletter recommending good examples of storytelling across:

  • 3 tweets
  • 2 articles, and
  • 1 long-form content piece

Let’s dive in.

𝕏 3 Tweets of the week

Source: X

My son keeps trying to convince me to read more fiction. Maybe he should use this argument.

Source: X

Such a brilliant pic!


Ok, this is wildly inappropriate stereotyping, but you gotta admit it’s funny!

📄 2 Articles of the week

a. ‘It’s not so terribly strange to be seventy’ by Anne Lamott

This lovely piece by Anne Lamott (the author of ‘Bird by Bird‘) about her turning 70 is charming, funny and heartwarming.

As they say, age is just a number:

I think that I am only 57, but the paperwork does not back this up. I don’t feel old, because your inside self doesn’t age. When younger people ask me when I graduated from high school and I say 1971, there’s a moment’s pause, as if this is inconceivable and I might as well have said 20 B.C. That’s when I feel my age. But I smile winsomely because, while I would like to have their skin, hearing, vision, memory, balance, stamina and focus, I would not go back even one year.

She has such a unique yet simple way of putting things:

I know now that everyone is screwed up to some degree, and that everyone screws up. Phew. I thought for decades it was just me, that all of you had been issued owner’s manuals in second grade, the day I was home with measles. We are all figuring it out as we go. Aging is grad school.

PS: Long after I read the piece, my mind was humming the poignant Simon and Garfunkel song ‘Old Friends‘ (from which the article’s title is inspired)

b. ‘The Year AI Gets a Better Body’ by Mario Gabriele

This article was written at the beginning of the year, but still retains its readability.

It uses the classic ‘alien landing on earth’ framing device to indicate surprise at the fact that AI is kinda trapped in our smartphones:

If an extraterrestrial landed on Earth, they would find this set of affairs strange. Here, you have scalable, instantly available intellects capable of crushing LSAT examinations, besting Magnus Carlsen on the black-and-white, and teaching a lightly-hallucinated history of the Roman Empire, and you keep it where? (in a smartphone!) It’s as if each of us has been assigned a personal genius, but we choose to consult them through a letterbox.

So what kinds of devices are being worked upon to house the stupendous power of AI? One is a small device that pins to your shirt:

We are beginning to see early experiments that break new ground. Humane, founded by two former Apple operators, has seemingly created the most original product to date. The company’s first product is the “AI Pin”: a square computing badge with a small camera and a projector. It is navigated via voice and gesture commands and leverages modern AI models, having collaborated with OpenAI and Microsoft. Humane’s demo shows consumers using AI to write texts, summarize incoming emails, conduct live language translations, generate new playlists, and track the nutritional value of different foods against personal goals.

Then there’s a pendant:

Rewind’s AI “Pendant” is another original attempt. The makers of a popular AI productivity application that automatically records browsing activity to help you recall vital information have plunged into hardware manufacturing. The Rewind Pendant records what you say and hear in the real world – and can subsequently answer questions about it. If you want to recall the name of the rapidly growing startup your friend told you about or relive a meaningful conversation with a loved one, the Pendant will remind you.

Of course, there’s also the Apple’s Vision Pro and Meta’s Oculus.

In short, expect a lot of innovation and launches around AI-devices in the rest of the year.

I loved the concluding para – especially the Voltaire quote:

“If god did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him,” Voltaire once wrote. The modern AI reformation is engaged in precisely this kind of technological apotheosis. We are creating a new species and doing it in a peculiar order. We have started with the brain but neglected the body. We stand with a puddle of soupy intelligence in our hands, leaking through our fingers. We are pouring it into old shapes and old bodies. In 2024, we will begin to find new ones.

🎧 1 long-form listen of the week

a. ‘Yuval Noah Harari on what history teaches us about justice and peace’ on ReThinking with Adam Grant

Adam Grant and Yuval Noah Harari – two eminent scholars in conversation. Some great insights and lines in the episode.

Yuval Harari on why humans should focus on peace over any perceived sense of ‘justice’:

Yuval Noah Harari: Every piece in history needed compromises including compromises on what we understand as justice and one of the big differences between justice and peace is that, again, justice tends to be subjective. Every person, every people, every religion have their own definitions, whereas peace is much more objective. Are people being killed or not is, is not a matter of belief. Uh, this is a, a matter of reality.

Adam Grant: Are you saying then that we should care less about fairness and justice than we do?

Yuval Noah Harari: We should care about them very much, but we should be aware that it is impossible to create a completely perfect society, a completely just society, again, especially because different people have different concepts of what justice means, and ultimately, if we have to choose between justice and peace, I would go with peace.

Mr. Gandhi would be happy with the outcome of this research:

Adam Grant: … the empirical evidence I’ve read is, is really clear on this, right? That non-violent resistance campaigns are significantly more effective, uh, than, than violent resistance campaigns, even when, uh, you’re trying to overthrow an authoritarian government, which is extraordinary. I don’t know if you’ve seen the, the Erica Chenoweth research or not, but in their case, they study violent and nonviolent campaigns, every single one that happened over the course of more than a century, starting in 1900. And, we see actually that that peaceful resistance is more effective than violent resistance.

Animals fight for food and territory. Humans also fight over imaginary stories:

Yuval Noah Harari: …another thing that when people compare humans to chimpanzees or to wolves or to lions and so forth and say, you know, conflict is inevitable, one thing we should remember is that there is actually a difference there. Humans usually fight for different reasons than chimpanzees or wolves. Uh, among social animals, we do see a lot of conflict. Most conflict is either about food or territory. Humans, a lot of people think that humans fight for the same reason, that we also fight over territory or food, but this is not true, certainly not in the modern world. If I think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s not about food. There is enough food between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River to feed everybody. There is no objective lack of food. And, if you think about, you know, like the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it’s certainly not for territory. Russia is the biggest country in the world. It doesn’t lack territory. War is really about the imaginary stories in the mind. And, on the one hand, this is extremely tragic that, that even though there is no objective reason to be killing each other, people still do it. But, you can also read it in a hopeful way that, there is no objective reason to fight. And, if we can somehow sort out the fantasies in our mind, we can, then, live in peace.

I loved this framing of ‘dead people from the past holding our imagination captive’:

Yuval Noah Harari: I think we need to learn more history. And, not in order to remember what happened a hundred years ago or 500 years ago, and they did this to us and they did that to us, but to be liberated from, you know, you have all these dead people from the past (are) basically holding captive our imagination, our mind, our feelings and forcing us to continue their conflicts, their hatreds, their fear. Now, there, there are also wonderful things about the past. I’m not saying that we need to get rid of, of all of it. The idea is, you know, like we get this inheritance from, from, from the past. Like our ancestors are passing onto us this big suitcase full of things they accumulated and they tell us, we carried it for hundreds of years. Now it’s your turn. Now you carry this baggage. And, I think what we need to do is open the suitcase and sort it out. We don’t really have to carry everything that’s in there.

Adam Grant: Uh, that, that’s such a powerful way of putting it. It reminds me of one of my favorite memes, which says that traditions are just peer pressure from dead people.

I’ll end with this thought-provoking quote by Adam:

Adam Grant: …a lot of people… they’re too focused on the goal of basically making their ancestors proud when they should be more concerned about making their offspring proud.

That’s all from this week’s edition.

Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash

Decode Leadership Storytelling

Join the ‘3-2-1 by Story Rules’ newsletter and get an e-book that decodes the hidden storytelling structure used by Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

    Unsubscribe at any time.

    Get Storytelling tips in your Inbox

    Subscribe to the 'Story Rules on Saturday' newsletter

    Get a free e-book that decodes the hidden storytelling structure used by leaders like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
    Your infomation will never be shared with any third party