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Byron Reese — How Humanity Functions as a Single Superorganism

We Are Agora: How Humanity Functions as a Single Superorganism That Shapes Our World and Our Future (book cover)

Could humans unknowingly be a part of a larger superorganism—one with its own motivations and goals, one that is alive, and conscious, and has the power to shape the future of our species? This is the fascinating theory from author and futurist Byron Reese, who calls this human superorganism “Agora.”

In We Are Agora, Reese starts by asking the question, “What is life and how did it form?” From there, he looks at how multicellular life came about, how consciousness emerged, and how other superorganisms in nature have formed. Then, he poses eight big questions based on the Agora theory, including:

  • If ants have colonies, bees have hives, and we have our bodies, how does Agora manifest itself? Does it have a body?
  • Can Agora explain things that happen that are both under our control and near universally undesirable, such as war?
  • How can Agora theory explain long-term progress we’ve made in the world?

In this unique and ambitious work that spans all of human history and looks boldly into its future, Reese melds science and history to look at the human species from a fresh new perspective. We Are Agora will give readers a better understanding of where we’ve been, where we’re going, and how our fates are intertwined.

Byron Reese is an Austin-based entrepreneur with a quarter-century of experience building and running technology companies. A recognized authority on AI who holds a number of technology patents, Byron is a futurist with a strong conviction that technology will help bring about a new golden age of humanity. He gives talks around the world about how technology is changing work, education, and culture. He is the author of four books on technology; his previous title The Fourth Age was described by the New York Times as “entertaining and engaging.” Bloomberg Businessweek credits Reese with having “quietly pioneered a new breed of media company.” The Financial Times reported that he “is typical of the new wave of internet entrepreneurs out to turn the economics of the media industry on its head.” He and his work have been featured in hundreds of news outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Entrepreneur, USA Today, Reader’s Digest, and NPR.

Shermer and Reese discuss:

  • What is an organism and what is a superorganism?
  • What is life?
  • Why do things die?
  • the origins of life, multicellular life, and complex organisms
  • What is the self?
  • emergence
  • consciousness
  • social insects: bees, ants, termites
  • Is the Internet a superorganism?
  • Will AI create a superorganism?
  • Is AI an existential threat?
  • Could AI become sentient or conscious?
  • the hard problem of consciousness
  • cities as superorganisms
  • planetary superorganisms
  • Are we living in a simulation?
  • Why are we here?

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This episode was released on March 2, 2024.

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