Blaise Agüera y Arcas presents Who Are We Now?, in conversation with Lawrence Weschler

Wednesday
May 1st
6:30pm

 
McNally Jackson Soho
134 Prince St.
RSVP Required — see below
 

From leading AI researcher Blaise Agüera y Arcas comes an exploration of how biology, ecology, sexuality, history, and culture have intertwined to create a dynamic "us" that can neither be called natural nor artificial.

Identity politics occupies the front line in today's culture wars, pitting generations against each other, and progressive cities against the rural traditions of our past. Rich in data and detail, Who Are We Now? goes beyond today's headlines to connect our current reality to a larger more-than-human story.

At the heart of the book is a set of surveys conducted between 2016 and 2021, asking thousands of anonymous respondents all over the United States questions about their behavior and identity, and especially about gender and sexuality. The resulting window into people's lives is a bit like that of the Kinsey Reports, which scandalized postwar America more than 70 years ago. Today, the landscape is--in every sense--even queerer. Twentieth century heterosexual "normalcy" is on the wane, especially among young and urban people.

The landscape outside has changed too. After millennia of being fruitful and multiplying, we've strained, and exceeded, planetary limits. Domesticated animals far outweigh wildlife, and many species are in catastrophic decline. Yet curiously, our own population is poised to begin collapsing this century too, our fertility now curbed by choice rather than by premature death. Is this the end of humanity--or the beginning?

“A data-driven approach to understanding American identity—especially sexual identity—in 2023.” —Psychology Today

"With his new book, Agüera y Arcas reckons with grand questions of identity and technology, and the ways in which evolutions within both are shaping the world we live in." —InsideHook

"Toggling between the individual and the global, Who Are We Now? does an admirable job of asking questions more of us should be pondering." —Frontier Magazine


Blaise Agüera y Arcas is a leading Artificial Intelligence (AI) researcher, author and CTO of Technology & Society at Google. He is a winner of MIT Technology Review’s TR35 Prize and Fast Company’s Most Creative People Award, as well as a frequent speaker at TED and many other conferences. At Google, Agüera y Arcas leads a team working on fundamental AI research. His areas of focus have included large language models, smart devices, technology ethics, and privacy. Publicly visible projects he has led include Federated Learning, Artists and Machine Intelligence, Coral, and many AI features in Pixel and Android. In 2016, Agüera y Arcas wrote a widely read essay on the relationship between art and technology, and in 2017 he co-authored another popular essay on physiognomy and bias in AI as well as a refutation of claims that facial structure reveals sexual orientation. Some of this material has been incorporated into his book, Who Are We Now?, released in December 2023 via Hat & Beard Press. His debut novella, Ubi Sunt, published in 2022 and was a winner of the AIGA 50 Books 50 Covers Award.

Lawrence Weschler (born 1952, Van Nuys, California), a graduate of Cowell College of the University of California at Santa Cruz (1974), was for over 20 years (1981-2002) a staff writer at the New Yorker, where his work shuttled between political tragedies and cultural comedies. From 2001 through 2014 he was the director, now emeritus, of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, where he also taught a graduate course in “The Fiction of Nonfiction.” He has also been the artistic director, also now emeritus, of the Chicago Humanities Festival and was a sometime curator of Bill T Jones’ New York Live Ideas annual festival. Over the years he has been a contributing editor at McSweeney’s, The Threepenny Review, the Virginia Quarterly Review, and has contributed regularly to the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Vanity Fair, The Believer, Harper’s, and NPR. He is the author of coming on 20 books, including Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees (his life of artist Robert Irwin); Everything that Rises: A Book of Convergences; Vermeer in Bosnia, and most recently, his memoir of his 35-year friendship with the neurologist Oliver Sacks, And How Are You, Doctor Sacks? Meanwhile, for over a year now, he has been producing Wondercabinet: A Compendium of the Miscellaneous Diverse, his fortnightly substack.

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