Concept 3: Superminds

The future will be determined by competition between superminds: groups of humans augmented by culture, institutions, communication technology, and Artificial Intelligence.

The term culture describes information that affects the behavior of individuals who acquire it from other members of their species through teaching, imitation, and other forms of social transmission. It is now increasingly recognized that humans have become the dominant species on Earth not through their individual intelligence, but through their ability to create and transmit adaptive cultural innovations (norms, institutions, technological know-how, etc.) through a process of cultural evolution (Henrich 2016).

The Information Age is facilitating two monumental changes in human organization and culture. First, digital communication technologies, such as smartphones and social media, are massively expanding our ability to organize and coordinate at scale. Second, creative software is radically changing how we create, store, and share cultural information (Acerbi, 2019). AI tools are facilitating new kinds of hybrid human–machine creative practices. Recommender systems are shaping how cultural information is disseminated. And generative AI software is even becoming an active “agent” in the culture generation process, via computer-generated artistic and technological inventions.

These two phenomena—cultural evolution and the information revolution—give primacy to emerging forms of human–machine collective intelligence. Consequently, it is likely that future human progress will be shaped by competition operating not among individual humans or groups of humans, but between hybrid human–machine collectives, or superminds (Malone, 2018). Hence, it is important to understand the drivers of collective intelligence (and stupidity) exhibited by superminds, as well as the dynamics of competition among superminds.

Key References

  • Acerbi, A. (2019). Cultural evolution in the digital age. Oxford University Press.

  • Henrich, J. (2016). The secret of our success: How culture is driving human evolution, domesticating our species, and making us smarter. Princeton University Press.

  • Malone, T. W. (2018). Superminds: The surprising power of people and computers thinking together. Little, Brown Spark.

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