10. Towards abundant creativity

This page contains the opening portion of Chapter 10 from
Sustainable Superabundance: A universal transhumanist invitation

tam graphic 10

10. Towards abundant creativity

As discussed in the previous chapter, greater machine intelligence and task automation have the potential, not only for triumph, but also for disaster. Alongside their potential to positively accelerate human flourishing in multiple spheres, these systems also have the potential to malfunction, catastrophically. These systems might give rise to what has been called “killer robots” – automated agents that unexpectedly kill vast numbers of people.

A key complication with killer robots is that it may be difficult ahead of time to appreciate the full extent of the dangers they pose. There could be an initial period in which automated systems demonstrate apparently smart decisions and stunning improvements in operational effectiveness. These systems could be involved, for example, in creating remarkable new medical cures or novel mechanisms to extract greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. During this period, human observers would come to feel confident about the technology involved – and about increasing the resources at the disposal of automated agents. But this could be a prelude to these systems veering badly off course, in an adverse reaction to some unforeseen circumstances. Adverse outcomes could include an all-consuming escalation of fake news, a meltdown in our global electronics infrastructure, the inadvertent destabilisation of the entire planetary climate dynamics, or an accidental nuclear holocaust. The confidence that humans had developed in machine intelligence and pervasive automation would turn out to have been utterly misplaced.

This category of existential risk evidently needs far-sighted management, via, amongst other measures, the rapid development and wise enforcement of lean safety frameworks. But killer robots are by no means the only major concern raised by the growth of machine intelligence. We also need to give serious consideration to the possibility of “job killing robots” – automation that performs workforce tasks much better than humans, and deprives humans of employment.

Both sets of threat need to be assessed and managed in parallel. To add to the considerations of the preceding chapter, the present chapter looks at the threat posed to options for human employment by greater machine intelligence and more pervasive automation.

The threat from job killing robots may be viewed as less cataclysmic than the threat from killer robots. However, as this chapter highlights, the way society responds to huge numbers of people being deprived of employment could itself trigger a spiral into an increasingly tragic outcome. As such, there are no grounds for complacency. At the same time, there are grounds for real optimism too.

The opportunity for creativity

The threat to employment from automation has long been foretold. Up till now, these predictions seem to have been premature. However, the closer AI comes to AGI – the closer that artificial intelligence comes to possessing general capabilities in reasoning – the more credible these predictions become. The closer that AI comes to AGI, the bigger the ensuing social disruption.

How will humans cope, if their income from work is materially reduced, or perhaps disappears altogether? Should greater automation be feared, resisted, or slowed down?

To state the conclusion: rather than fearing this development, transhumanists look forward to the greater freedom that it can entail – greater opportunities for all-round human flourishing. Humans will no longer need to invest such large portions of their time in occupations that are back-breaking or soul-destroying. We’ll be able, instead, to participate in the creation and exploration of music, arts, sports, ecosystems, planets, and whole new universes. This will happen because the immense bounty from greater automation will contain plenty for everyone’s needs.

But before this abundance of creativity can be attained, some significant adjustments are needed in the human condition – changes in mindset, and changes in our collective social contract. These adjustments will be far from trivial. A great deal of inertia will need to be overcome, en route to realising the full benefits of improved automation.

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RAFT 2035 – a new initiative for a new decade

The need for a better politics is more pressing than ever.

Since its formation, Transpolitica has run a number of different projects aimed at building momentum behind a technoprogressive vision for a better politics. For a new decade, it’s time to take a different approach, to build on previous initiatives.

The planned new vehicle has the name “RAFT 2035”.

RAFT is an acronym:

  • Roadmap (‘R’) – not just a lofty aspiration, but specific steps and interim targets
  • towards Abundance (‘A’) for all – beyond a world of scarcity and conflict
  • enabling Flourishing (‘F’) as never before – with life containing not just possessions, but enriched experiences, creativity, and meaning
  • via Transcendence (‘T’) – since we won’t be able to make progress by staying as we are.

RAFT is also a metaphor. Here’s a copy of the explanation:

When turbulent waters are bearing down fast, it’s very helpful to have a sturdy raft at hand.

The fifteen years from 2020 to 2035 could be the most turbulent of human history. Revolutions are gathering pace in four overlapping fields of technology: nanotech, biotech, infotech, and cognotech, or NBIC for short. In combination, these NBIC revolutions offer enormous new possibilities – enormous opportunities and enormous risks:…

Rapid technological change tends to provoke a turbulent social reaction. Old certainties fade. New winners arrive on the scene, flaunting their power, and upturning previous networks of relationships. Within the general public, a sense of alienation and disruption mingles with a sense of profound possibility. Fear and hope jostle each other. Whilst some social metrics indicate major progress, others indicate major setbacks. The claim “You’ve never had it so good” coexists with the counterclaim “It’s going to be worse than ever”. To add to the bewilderment, there seems to be lots of evidence confirming both views.

The greater the pace of change, the more intense the dislocation. Due to the increased scale, speed, and global nature of the ongoing NBIC revolutions, the disruptions that followed in the wake of previous industrial revolutions – seismic though they were – are likely to be dwarfed in comparison to what lies ahead.

Turbulent times require a space for shelter and reflection, clear navigational vision despite the mists of uncertainty, and a powerful engine for us to pursue our own direction, rather than just being carried along by forces outside our control. In short, turbulent times require a powerful “raft” – a roadmap to a future in which the extraordinary powers latent in NBIC technologies are used to raise humanity to new levels of flourishing, rather than driving us over some dreadful precipice.

The words just quoted come from the opening page of a short book that is envisioned to be published in January 2020. The chapters of this book are reworked versions of the scripts used in the recent “Technoprogressive roadmap” series of videos.

Over the next couple of weeks, all the chapters of this proposed book will be made available for review and comment:

  • As pages on the Transpolitica website, starting here
  • As shared Google documents, starting here, where comments and suggestions are welcome.

RAFT Cover 21

All being well, RAFT 2035 will also become a conference, held sometime around the middle of 2020.

You may note that, in that way that RAFT 2035 is presented to the world,

  • The word “transhumanist” has moved into the background – since that word tends to provoke many hostile reactions
  • The word “technoprogressive” also takes a backseat – since, again, that word has negative connotations in at least some circles.

If you like the basic idea of what’s being proposed, here’s how you can help:

  • Read some of the content that is already available, and provide comments
    • If you notice something that seems mistaken, or difficult to understand
    • If you think there is a gap that should be addressed
    • If you think there’s a better way to express something.

Thanks in anticipation!

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