Superdemocracy: issues and opportunities

Reader feedback on the book Sustainable Superabundance has highlighted the topic of superdemocracy as having both issues and opportunities.

One issue raised is that it’s reckless to submit decisions on the future of transhumanist projects to the collective decision of the populace. The populace as a whole is unlikely to have sufficient sympathy with transhumanist objectives, and will lack an appropriate degree of understanding.

Instead of seeking collective approval for such projects, it will be better, in this line of thinking, to find ways in which these projects can take place autonomously.

To quote from one early reader, Samantha Atkins, from a discussion thread on Facebook:

The book pins its hopes on a “superdemocracy” with no clear limits on the areas that democracy has power over. It posits saner, much wiser people as necessary to make it work when we have no means to produce this miracle. It believes too much in the collective and imho will produce a wold of stagnation waiting for the collective to decide or give permission…

I believe that much less government and more real freedom of the people to innovate and find the solutions is the key to fastest progress to our joint dreams. I think government, with the ability to force decisions on people, should be severely limited in the areas it can touch…

We transhumanists are a small minority. Even in our own circles a proposition as simple as ending aging being a good thing can only garner perhaps 70% support. I have actually seen this vote taken in transhumanist groups with such results. So how can we really expect to sway entire countries and more in a superdemocracy toward our values across majorities? I think the more realistic hope and plan is for the freedom to act without waiting for the majority to agree.

These (along with many other thoughtful comments in the same thread) raise valid concerns. So let me offer some responses.

The four ‘supers’

A good starting point is with the idea of adding a social dimension to the set of areas of human life that concern transhumanists.

The four supers

This addition was discussed at the TransVision 2017 conference in Brussels, in a session that reviewed the Technoprogressive Declaration which had been agreed three years earlier at TransVision 2014 in Paris.

Here’s an extract from the official agreement from the 2017 conference:

Alongside the well-known transhumanist intentions for superlongevity, superintelligence, and super wellbeing, we additionally emphasise the importance of “super society” – by which term is implied improvements in resilience, solidarity, and democracy, whilst upholding diversity and liberty.

The agreement went on to emphasise how the practice of democracy needs to be transformed and renewed:

We envision a renewal of democracy in which, rather than the loudest and richest voices prevailing, the best insights of the community are elevated and actioned.

A vital function of democracy is for political representatives to be periodically held to account, thus ensuring they keep in mind the wellbeing of all citizens rather than just the desires of an elite; also of great importance is that democracy involves peaceful transitions of power.

A healthy democracy requires a free press and independent judiciary, and will be assisted by the wise application of technological innovation.

In the few months after TransVision 2017, I put the finishing touches on my book Transcending Politics (which published in February 2018). In the process, I opted to give more prominence to the word “super-democracy” than to “super-society”. I gave this definition in the first chapter of that book:

super-democracy: the active involvement of the entire population, both in decision-making, and in the full benefits of transhumanism.

And from the same chapter, here’s the explanation about “The four ‘supers'”:

As in the short video “An Introduction to Transhumanism” – which, with approaching a quarter of a million views, is probably the most widely watched video on the subject – transhumanism is sometimes expressed in terms of the so-called “three supers”:

  • Super longevity: significantly improved physical health, including much longer lifespans – overcoming human tendencies towards physical decay and decrepitude
  • Super intelligence: significantly improved thinking capability – overcoming human tendencies towards mental blind spots and collective stupidity
  • Super wellbeing: significantly improved states of consciousness – overcoming human tendencies towards depression, alienation, vicious emotions, and needless suffering.

The technoprogressive variant of transhumanism in effect adds one more “super” to the three already mentioned:

  • Super democracy: significantly improved social inclusion and resilience, whilst upholding diversity and liberty – overcoming human tendencies towards tribalism, divisiveness, deception, and the abuse of power

Beyond present-day politics

It’s one thing to say that transhumanism should seek the positive transformation of social power dynamics. It’s another thing to seek collective decision-making.

After all, collective decision-making has a bad track record – especially in recent times.

Indeed, incompetent government action has often slowed down or prevented good progress with the humanitarian initiatives championed by transhumanists and other futurists. Governments have imposed all kinds of unhelpful regulatory schemes.

But the vision I champion in my books isn’t for larger government. It’s for appropriate government. It’s for better government – keeping out of areas that don’t concern it, but getting involved when market forces are unable to find the best long-term solution by themselves. In other words, regulations and incentives only when necessary.

To quote from the section “Beyond present-day politics” in Chapter 3 of Sustainable Superabundance:

Alas, politics has often been a hindrance to positive technological progress. Politicians, wittingly and unwittingly, have imposed cumbersome legal restrictions on breakthrough innovations. They have elevated doctrinaire ideologues over evidence-minded pragmatists. They have re-routed funds from deserving causes to self-serving gravy train projects…

[But] when done well, politics involves wise, well-informed collective decisions about which new technologies and other social innovations should be restricted or steered, and which should be incentivised or encouraged. When done well, politics also ensures that such decisions are followed up, and are revised in a timely manner whenever necessary.

And from the agreement from TransVision 2017:

Systems for regulation of technology need to be adaptive and agile, rather than heavyweight and anachronistic.

Support for autonomous projects

A vital part of the above-mentioned agility is that subgroups of society should, indeed, be able to carry out projects of their own choice, without needing the explicit approval from an overall government.

I address the question of tolerating and enabling diversity at several points inside Chapter 4 of Sustainable Superabundance:

[The above core] principles, as stated, leave many questions unanswered. They define a broad envelope that can accommodate a multiplicity of different viewpoints. That diversity is, itself, something to cherish. Hence a seventh core principle: nurture and tolerate diverse opinions within the overall transhumanist framework

Groups of people who share particular enhanced skills and modes of practice will, understandably, seek some autonomy over decisions within their groups, freed from requirements for democratic approval by people in the wider community that have little understanding or interest in these modes of practice. This is similar to the principle of technocratic decision-making: there are domains of specialist knowledge (for example, medicine) in which decisions are best taken by the relevant experts rather than by a vote that includes non-experts.

But the chapter goes on to point out limits of any such autonomy:

Nevertheless, domains often interact with each other. Where the activities of one group of people, with one set of enhancements, interact with the activities of other groups of people, a broader democratic agreement needs to be reached.

The design of the overall transhumanist society therefore needs to enable the prosperous coexistence of subgroups with significantly divergent skills and practices.

I make no claims that the design of such a society will be easy. But I encourage transhumanists and futurists of all shades and stripes to engage in the discussion of the issues and opportunities arising.

A change in the public mood

Despite everything written above, the question still remains as to how transhumanists will be able to obtain agreement from the electorate as a whole to accelerate projects such as genetic modifications, radical brain enhancements, Drexler-style nanofactories, and whole-body rejuvenation therapies.

Wouldn’t it be better, people might ask, to create some kind of independent transhumanist state, adopting so-called transhumanist separatism?

My answer is that transhumanist projects should, in due course, go much faster (and more effectively) if they can tap into the wider resources of society as a whole, rather than being restricted to people in an isolated community.

I say this despite the opposition and (more often) apathy presently expressed by the majority of society towards transhumanism.

I say this because I foresee large changes in the public mood as the 2020s proceed.

Due in part to transhumanists speaking up in more engaging ways, the 2020s can become the decade of transhumanism: the decade in which more and more people become aware of the potential for human nature to be significantly improved by the application of technology – and see that potential as deeply desirable.

As I say in the first chapter of Sustainable Superabundance, “the few can become many”.

I realise this prediction will strike many observers as far-fetched. Let me finish this article with some words in defence of that prediction.

First, changes in the public mood are by no means unknown in history. If a compelling set of ideas gains momentum, transformation in public expectations can take place increasingly quickly these days:

Second, people are generally more capable than we first think. When we have a bad encounter with someone who has a different opinion from us – for example, someone who rejects (or supports) the idea of anthropogenic climate change, or someone who rejects (or supports) the idea of the UK remaining within the European Union – we all too often decide that they are resolute idiots, beyond the reach of reason. However, in a friendlier, more supportive environment, surprising degrees of mutual understanding and agreement can become possible. Greater emotional intelligence can make all the difference.

People fearful of submitting a decision to a democratic process tend to be anxious about the degree of change that it is possible for members of the electorate to navigate. Can resolute opponents really turn into friendly supporters?

My answer is “yes”. With my transhumanist vision, I believe that we can all do better than the sorry norms of recent history. And we can get there step by step. Starting from today.

New complete book awaiting reader reviews

The dawn of 2019 marks four years since the original launch of Transpolitica (January 2015).

The dawn of 2019 also marks the first full availability of the book “Sustainable Superabundance: A universal transhumanist manifesto for the 2020s and beyond“.

All twelve chapters of this Manifesto are now awaiting reader review and feedback, ideally over the next 1-2 weeks. I’ll welcome any comments, on any parts of the Manifesto that catch your attention. You can make comments via this shared Google doc.

Depending on the feedback, the Manifesto is expected to be officially published around mid January – first as an ebook, and shortly afterwards in physical and audio formats.

For people inspired by any of the ideas in the Manifesto, the final chapter sets out “options to engage”.

TAM Graphic 12

For the opening chapter and links to all the other chapters, see here.

TAM Graphic 1

I’ve actually rewritten parts of every chapter over the last couple of months, as the overall flow of the message has become clearer to me. Even if you’ve read individual chapters before, you may find new inspiration from looking at the latest versions:

  1. Advance!
  2. Superabundance ahead
  3. Beyond technology
  4. Principles and priorities
  5. Towards abundant energy
  6. Towards abundant food
  7. Towards abundant materials
  8. Towards abundant health
  9. Towards abundant intelligence
  10. Towards abundant creativity
  11. Towards abundant democracy
  12. Options to engage

For comparison, Sustainable Superabundance has 54 thousand words, in the latest draft, whereas the previous Transpolitica book, Transcending Politics, has 142 thousand words. The new book is intended to be much more accessible.

On a personal note: 2019 will see, from me, a greater focus than before on activism rather than analysis. Of course, both are needed. But whereas before my energy was divided roughly 30% activist and 70% analyst, it will now be the other way round.

Similarly, I will put less focus on being a futurist and more focus on being a transhumanist.

I’m keeping an open mind as to the best organisational structures to assist these projects. I may shortly reboot or even shut down some organisations where I’ve previously invested my time. I may wind down my links with some communities and ramp up new links with others.

For the time being, I’m directing people to use the Transpolitica mailing list discussion group, https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/transpolitica.

Q4 update: Progress towards “Sustainable superabundance”

TAM TOC graphic 2

Over the last few months, the “abundance manifesto” book has been coming into shape.

Thanks to many useful discussions with supporters of the Transpolitica vision, the book now bears the title “Sustainable Superabundance: A universal transhumanist manifesto for the 2020s and beyond. The basic framework has evolved through many iterations.

The goal remains that the book will be short (less than 100 pages), easy to read, and contain compelling calls-to-action.

Of the twelve chapter in the book, seven are essentially complete, and the other five are at various stages of preparation.

This list contains links to copies of the chapters that are essentially complete, along with placeholders for links to the remaining chapters:

  1. Advance!
  2. Superabundance ahead
  3. Beyond technology
  4. Principles and priorities
  5. Abundant energy
  6. Abundant food
  7. Abundant materials
  8. Abundant health
  9. Abundant intelligence
  10. Abundant creativity
  11. Abundant democracy
  12. Engage?

For convenience, a more detailed table of contents for the first seven chapters is appended below.

Feedback

Supporters of Transpolitica are invited to read through any parts of this material that catch their attention.

The best way to make comments on the content is via this shared Google document.

Once the book nears publication, a number of existing websites and communities will be restructured, to more usefully coordinate positive concrete action to accelerate the advent of sustainable superabundance.

Thanks in advance for any feedback!

Detailed table of contents

  1. Advance!
    • Time for action
  2. Superabundance ahead
    • An abundance of energy
    • An abundance of food and water
    • An abundance of material goods
    • An abundance of health and longevity
    • An abundance of all-round intelligence
    • An abundance of creativity and exploration
    • An abundance of collaboration and democracy
    • Time for action
  3. Beyond technology
    • Beyond present-day politics
    • Beyond present-day democracy
    • Beyond lowest common denominator voting
    • Beyond right and left
    • Beyond the free market
    • Beyond corporate financing
    • Beyond predetermined exponentials
  4. Principles and priorities
    • Nine core principles
    • Technocracy
    • Science
    • Transhumanism
    • Religion
    • Singularity
    • Exponential urgency
    • Technological determinism
    • Techno-optimism
    • Precaution and proaction
    • Diversity and inequality
    • Diversity accelerating
    • Coexistence
    • Human-like minds
    • Re-engineering natural ecosystems
    • Beyond hubris
    • Taking back control
  5. Abundant energy
    • Anticipating climate chaos
    • Taking climate seriously
    • Technology is not enough
    • Steering short-term financials
    • A battle of ideas
    • Beyond greenwash
    • A role for nuclear energy
    • A role for geoengineering
    • A wider view of environmental issues
  6. Abundant food
    • Population, onward and upward?
    • The legacy of Malthus
    • Necessity and innovation
    • In praise of biochemical innovation
    • More waves of innovation ahead
    • Towards feeding one hundred billion people
    • Risks posed by biochemical innovation
    • The move from harm to ruin
    • Rapid response
    • Beyond the profit motive
  7. Abundant materials
    • Approaching nanotechnology
    • Tools that improve tools
    • Waves and transitions
    • The fabrication of integrated circuits
    • 3D and 4D printing
    • New materials
    • Quantum computing
    • Nanomedicine
    • Six answers to scarcity
    • Risks posed by nanotechnology
    • Beyond the profit motive

 

Q3 sprint: launch the Abundance Manifesto

I’m writing to share early news of a planned pivot involving Transpolitica and/or the Transhumanist Party UK.

This pivot will taken place over the next few months. Progressing this pivot is the goal of the forthcoming Q3 sprint for Transpolitica.

The pivot is to place more focus on one particular idea: clarifying the forthcoming era of sustainable abundance. This will happen via the vehicle of a new document – a new manifesto – which (all being well) will be published as a short new book some time later this year.

I’ve been led to this change by reflecting on a number of developments over the last few months, including discussions at last Saturday’s London Futurists conference on Universal Basic Income and/or Alternatives. Another factor influencing my thinking is the responses to my book Transcending Politics. Whilst I’m pleased at the content of that book, I can see that many readers would prefer a simpler introduction to the subject.

Hence the new document, which bears the working title The Transhumanist Abundance Manifesto.

It is presently mainly text, but the idea is that it will contain graphics as well.

As you’ll see, the document contains a call-to-action. If you’re able to help improve the document – particularly the FAQ section at the end (which I envision will grow to at least one hundred questions over the next few weeks), please add your comments and suggestions in this Google doc.

The Manifesto is split into three parts:

  1. An opening invitation, “Advance!” (roughly one page of A4)
  2. Sections explaining “Abundance awaits” (roughly three pages of A4)
  3. FAQ (to form an extended appendix to the previous sections).

For ease of viewing, here’s a current snapshot of the first two sections.

The cosmos beckons

(Picture source: Genty on Pixabay.)

Q2 sprint: Political responses to technological unemployment

Technological Unemployment v2

Q1 recap

Before sharing some details about Transpolitica focus during Q2 2018, here’s a quick update on Transpolitica activities during Q1 2018.

Transpolitica has made good progress during Q1 with goals identified at the start of this period:

Priority project for Q2

As Q2 approaches, it’s now time to put into motion the first of a series of time-limited projects to dive more deeply into some of the specific key themes of a better politics.

Each such project will involve gathering, developing, reviewing, and then disseminating the best technoprogressive thinking on a given topic.

The first project in the series is “Political responses to technological unemployment”, carried out over three phases:

  1. Up to end of April 2018: mainly writing and collecting submissions – framing analyses, thought pieces, policy recommendations, etc
  2. Up to end of May 2018: more focus on group deliberation – where are the weak points and the strong points of our collective understanding, and how can we improve our understanding
  3. Up to end of June 2018: more focus on communicating our findings and recommendations, via publications, memes, slogans, videos, etc

Note that I am using the phrase “technological unemployment” to also include “technological under-employment” and “precarious employment”. (A better choice of words could be one outcome from the project.)

Starting points for this project (to avoid people re-inventing the wheel) include:

Depending on progress, possible outcomes of the project might include a PDF research pamphlet, a video, an improved set of pages on H+Pedia, a press release, a set of slides, and/or a public event (such as a meeting of London Futurists in June and the Humanity+ Beijing event in July).

Questions that need addressing

Key to the success of the project will be the identification of the areas most in need of better understanding. These are the “major uncertainties” where we should prioritise our focus.

For the moment, it seems to me that these areas include:

  1. Potential transition mechanisms from where society is today, to a new social contract in which a citizen’s income (to give one example) is in place
  2. Possible alternatives to a citizen’s income
  3. Strengths and weaknesses of various forecasts of scenarios for the development of technological unemployment
  4. The pros and cons of various ways of raising money to pay for a citizen’s income
  5. The possible role of decentralised technologies such as blockchain in the administration of a citizen’s income
  6. The possibility of an “Apollo scale” project to drive down the costs of all goods and services needed for a prosperous lifestyle
  7. International and trans-border considerations

If you think you know at least part of the answers to the above questions – or if you think there are more important questions to be addressing – please do become involved.

To become more involved in this project

The mailing group https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/transpolitica exists to to coordinate planning and execution of Transpolitica projects. To join the group, visit this page, and send a subscription request.

(There’s also a Transpolitica group on Facebook, but with a potential impending mass exodus from Facebook, it’s more important than before to use other means for project coordination.)

Tools for better politics?

Which solutions most deserve mention, in a list of “tools for better politics”?

Tools for better politics

As I’m reflecting on comments from reviewers of the draft chapters of the forthcoming book Transcending Politics, I’ve reached the view that I should add a new section, towards the end of the book, entitled “Tools well worth watching”.

This will fit well into Chapter 14, “Afterword”, which already contains a similarly-themed section “Communities well worth joining”.

If you have any suggestions or comments, either leave them in the Google Doc for Chapter 14, or as replies to this blogpost.

Ideally the list will include tools applicable to one or more of the systems described below (this is an extract from Chapter 1).

  • Transparency systems, so that the activity of public organisations and decisions are visible, and can be judged more easily and accurately
  • Fact-checking systems to determine more quickly and clearly, via an online lookup, if some information is misleading, deceptive, biased, or in any other way suspect or substandard
  • Thinking training systems to help everyone understand and routinely practice the skills of critical thinking, hypothesis formulation and testing, and independent evaluation of sources
  • Accountability systems to hold people and organisations to account whenever they pass on damaging misinformation – similar to how codes of conduct already operate in the fields of advertising and investment communications
  • Bridging systems to encourage people with strong disagreements to nevertheless explore and appreciate each other’s points of view, so that shared values can be identified and a constructive dialog established
  • Educational systems to keep politicians of all sorts informed, succinctly yet reliably, in timely fashion, about the trends that could require changes in regulations
  • Simulation systems to help politicians of all sorts creatively explore possible new policy frameworks – and to gain a better idea in advance of likely positive and negative consequence of these new ideas
  • Monitoring systems to report objectively on whether regulatory policies are having their desired effect
  • Concentration systems to boost the ability of individual politicians to concentrate on key decisions, and to reach decisions free from adverse tiredness, distraction, bias, or prejudice
  • Encouragement systems to encourage greater positive participation in the political and regulatory processes by people who have a lot to contribute, but who are currently feeling pressure to participate instead in different fields of activity.

One source of ideas, by the way, is the H+Pedia article on “Politics 2.0”.

 

Chapter updated: “1. Vision and roadmap”

As well as general tidying, this update to Chapter 1 includes an important new section “Transcending left and right?”

Hopefully there will only be small changes to this chapter from now on, up until publication.

Review comments appreciated!

Access the chapter here.

The section heading are:

  • Power and corruption
  • Floods ahead
  • A technoprogressive transhumanist future
  • Steering technology
  • In pursuit of liberty
  • Roadmap ingredients
  • Transcending left and right?
  • About the name ‘Transpolitica’

Chapter updated: “4. Work and purpose”

As well as general tidying, this update to Chapter 4 includes some extra analysis, bringing the material up to date for January 2018.

Hopefully there will only be small changes to this chapter from now on, up until publication.

Review comments appreciated!

Access the chapter here.

The section heading are:

  • The rise of the robots
  • Automation accelerates
  • Machine learning powers ahead
  • 80% job transformation?
  • Limits to retraining
  • Robots and humans in partnership at work?
  • Three possible futures for automation
  • Citizen’s income Qs & As
  • The pace of change.

Transpolitica goals and progress, Q1

The advent of 2018 is the occasion for some changes in Transpolitica.

We’ll be switching to a system of three-monthly cycles, that is, one cycle for each quarter of the year.

At the start of each cycle, a set of priority projects will be agreed and announced. At the end of each cycle, we’ll review progress, and consider what we should learn, both from what went well, and from what went badly.

Pplus Q1

Priority projects for Q1

You can read the priority projects for Q1 (Jan-Mar 2018) here. In summary, these projects are:

  1. Assist the launch of the book “Transcending Politics”
  2. Refresh the Transpolitica website
  3. Refresh the Transpolitica content on H+Pedia
  4. Review the Transpolitica project backlog

To give more details about the first of these priorities, support is requested for the following tasks:

  • Review the draft content of the book. Make recommendations about any high-impact changes that come to your mind
  • Collect endorsements for inclusion in the book, and to help with publicity
  • Identify the core messages that should be prominent in descriptions of the book
  • Prepare and review slide presentations and videos to draw more attention to the content of the book
  • Find opportunities for Transpolitica consultants to speak about the availability of the book.

Progress with “Transcending Politics”

As of today, 7th January 2018, draft content for all the envisioned chapters of the book are now available for online review. The final three chapters to be released for review are:

You can find a list of the section headings for all the chapters of the book here. That link also provides pointers to the Google doc versions of all 13 of the chapters.

If you’ve been thinking in the past that you would like in due course to do some reviewing, now is that time…

If you do take the time to review any of the chapters, the kind of comments I’m mainly interested are:

  • If you couldn’t understand parts of what I’ve written
  • If you particularly liked specific parts
  • If you think I’ve missed out some important lines of reasoning
  • If you think there are sections that should be omitted
  • If I’ve made some mistakes in the factual content

You can make comments directly in the Google docs.

Remaining steps before publication

Here’s a summary of the steps remaining until the book is published:

  • Review the earlier chapters, bringing their content up to date for January 2018
  • Find good locations to insert a small number of topics that still need to be covered
  • Take account of all comments raised by reviewers
  • Strengthen some of the conclusions – by stating them more clearly and forcefully
  • Tighten some of the content – removing material that is less important overall
  • Collect and include some endorsements, to help with publicity
  • Add in an Acknowledgements section and, perhaps some additional start and end material
  • Produce some videos or slide presentations to help with publicity
  • Release a Kindle e-version of the book
  • Fix any significant points raised by the first batch of readers
  • Re-release the Kindle e-version (if needed)
  • Release a print-on-demand physical version.

 

The Future of Politics (#T4G17)

Later today (Saturday 4th November), David Wood, the Executive Director of Transpolitica, will be speaking at the #T4G17 event “The Future of Politics”.

DW Fourth Group Summit

The core message that will be shared is this:

The future of politics is technoprogressive transhumanism

In more detail:

  • The profound application of the exponential technologies of the fourth industrial revolution: nanotech, biotech, infotech, cognotech
  • The positive transformation of human nature – body, mind, society
  • Renewed democracy, elevating the best insights of the community
  • A roadmap to sustainable abundance, with no-one left behind

Note: For more information about today’s event – organised by The Fourth Group –  see thefutureofpolitics.eventbrite.com.