How do I begin this story? I met Blaise Agüera y Arcas in 2020 at the Hideout. The artist and entrepreneur Greg Lundgren organized the encounter and planned to publish its results in a MoM magazine called Sandwich. The magazine did not materialize and MoM closed its doors in September 2023. Nevertheless, our conversation was lively. It went everywhere—anthropology, philosophy, economics, and, most important of all, sociobiology—and revealed Agüera y Arcas's considerable intellectual investments outside of computer science. 

He was deeply interested in what made the human a social animal. In our cultural climate, it's hard to recognize the significance of an inquiry of this kind. We are accustomed to stories about great people, about bad life choices, and the supreme value of self-help. But this is the fact of the matter: We're actually pretty useless at individualism and exceptional at cooperation. 

Agüera y Arcas ultimately believes that AI is best understood from the biological position of human sociality, which, among mammals, is, as far as researchers know, unmatched in intensity.

The human brain evolved with (and to be with) other human brains. To understand how the mind really works, then, you must see it how operates in a group, not on its own. If AI is to come anywhere close to natural intelligence in the human form then it must be social. This is, I think, Agüera y Arcas's deepest insight, and it's also why he begins his inquiry into the present state of human sociality, Who Are We Now?, with human sexuality. Not the brain, but the brain in the body and with other like bodies. This is the embodiment of the social mind.

It's also very interesting that the most brilliant philosopher of 18th-century Britain, David Hume, also began his examination of human sociality with sexual union. But Hume's conception of sexuality was orthodox. Only a woman and a man existed in his maculate conception. This is not at all the case with Agüera y Arcas. Sex, in his conception, is all over the place. It's an energy that can't be cornered by just straight sex. Likewise, it may not be easy corner AI. Time will tell.

The text of the first encounter I had with Agüera y Arcas, edited by Elizabeth Wickham, is here.

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