There is a dialectic between a traditional impulse and a progressive impulse. The traditional impulse basically says: I think there were a lot of wise people for a long time—wise and smart people—who thought about some of these things more deeply than I have, who fought and argued, and that the systems that made it through evolution, that made it through, made it through for some reasons that have some embedded wisdom in it that I might not understand fully, and it makes sense for me to kind of have, as my null hypothesis, my default, trusting those systems. They wouldn’t have made it through if they weren’t successful, didn’t work. And likely, the total amount of embedded intelligence in them is more than I’ve thought about this thing. Without knowing it, that’s the traditional intuition. The progress intuition is: collective intelligence is advancing, built on all that we have known. We’re discovering new things, and we’re moving into new problem sets where the previous solutions could not possibly be the right solutions, because we have new problems. So we need to have fundamentally new thinking. Obviously, these are both true.

from Artificial Intelligence and the Superorganism (2023)

Portrait of Daniel Schmachtenberger

Daniel Schmachtenberger

Social Philosopher and Systems Thinker

Daniel Schmachtenberger is a founding member of The Consilience Project, aimed at improving public sensemaking and dialogue. The throughline of his interests has to do with ways of improving the health and development of individuals and society, with a virtuous relationship between the two as a goal. Towards these ends, he’s had particular interest in the topics of catastrophic and existential risk, civilization and institutional decay and collapse as well as progress, collective action problems, social organization theories, and the relevant domains in philosophy and science.

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