It is a strange thing: we acknowledge the generally social nature of our species, but resist acknowledging the specifically social nature of our intel

Graph Minds - by Venkatesh Rao - Ribbonfarm Studio

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2022-05-14 12:00:08

It is a strange thing: we acknowledge the generally social nature of our species, but resist acknowledging the specifically social nature of our intelligence.

Traditional accounts of human sociality focus on aspects like shared care of offspring, collectivized security from predators, game-theoretic cooperation around shared resources, “social contracts” to foster peaceable coexistence, and so on. In these accounts, collective thinking behaviors are treated as epiphenomena at best, and pathologies at worst.

We like the idea of dissolving individuality when it comes to playing together, fighting together, laboring together, feeling together, praying together, dreaming together, or dancing together — all behaviors that involve some intelligence in varied narrow senses, but are not primarily about thinking. But we are extraordinarily wary of the idea of thinking together, even though we obviously do a great deal of it (you’re doing it with me right now).

In my random readings on these themes over the years, I have hardly ever encountered a thought along the lines of “It is adaptive for humans to band together into collectives because it allows more powerful collective intelligences to emerge.”

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