2. Superabundance ahead

This page contains the full text of Chapter 2 from
Sustainable Superabundance: A universal transhumanist invitation

tam graphic 2

2. Superabundance ahead

This chapter of the Invitation briefly introduces the basic ideas of sustainable superabundance in each of seven spheres of human life: energy, nourishment, material goods, all-round health, all-round intelligence, all-round creativity, and all-round collaboration.

The good news is that twenty first century science and technology, developed and deployed wisely, can enable a sustainable superabundance of human flourishing in all seven of these spheres.

The bad news is that there is nothing inevitable about such an outcome. Science and technology, by themselves, cannot guarantee the emergence of sustainable superabundance. Instead, as Chapter 3 highlights, it will be imperative to pay close attention to critical elements of the broader social context within which science and technology operate, namely, politics, economics, the investment landscape, and the public mood. Astute collective management of these elements will make all the difference between superabundance and super-tragedy.

Chapter 4 of this Invitation follows on by addressing an even more important part of the context, namely, fundamental values and core priorities. That chapter proposes values and priorities which could profoundly uplift the public mood and radically enhance human capacity for positive change.

With the scene set, subsequent chapters – Chapters 5 through 11 – look again at each of the seven spheres of human flourishing listed above. These chapters indicate some pivotal overlaps between the different spheres: sustainable abundance in any one sphere is dependent on abundance in the other spheres too. These seven chapters also provide more details of the major risks and major opportunities associated with each sphere: the potential disasters, and the potential triumphs.

The final chapter of the Invitation – Chapter 12 – summarises a set of practical projects to reduce the likelihood of disaster and increase the likelihood of triumph.

An abundance of clean energy

The sun provides the earth with ample energy for all human needs for the foreseeable medium-term future. We can harvest that energy directly via sunlight, or indirectly via the motion of winds and waves. With care, we can also tap into the energy locked deep within atoms. The challenge ahead is to enhance methods to collect and store and transmit this energy, preserving the wellbeing of the environment at the same time as we nurture greater all-round human prosperity.

Present-day green technology points the way forwards, but much more awaits to be done. To allow humanity to swiftly complete the transition to a sustainable abundance of clean energy, innovation needs to accelerate. The hard task is how to facilitate such an acceleration, in the face of social and psychological structures that favour short-term thinking and the preservation of entrenched interests.

An abundance of food and water

Throughout history, agriculture has passed through a number of dramatic revolutions, including selective breeding, mechanisation, and synthetic fertilisers. Even greater revolutions are at hand, as gene editing and synthetic biology come of age, enabling a sustainable abundance of delicious, healthy, nourishing food. Meat grown in labs means we’ll no longer slaughter animals on vast industrial scale.

In parallel, improved desalination plants can provide an abundance of fresh water.

An abundance of material goods

Atomically precise manufacturing, which extends to the nanotechnology scale the techniques of 3D and 4D printing, can drastically reduce the costs of numerous material goods, including clothing and shelter, whilst simultaneously increasing their quality. Innovation can identify alternatives for any rare elements that are approaching scarcity. If necessary, asteroids could be mined as an important transitional source of raw materials.

In the same way as bytes of information have become free of cost, we can anticipate atoms of substance becoming free too. The material economy will follow the digital economy into sustainable abundance.

An abundance of health and longevity

The shortcomings of human biology, which cause us to suffer illness, decay, and death, are on the point of being comprehensively tamed by progress in regenerative medicine – nanosurgery, 3D bioprinting, genomic engineering, and stem cell therapies. Our task is to accelerate this relegation of aging and disease to history.

Much preferable to present-day expensive rear-guard medical treatments, prompt preventive interventions can unleash an abundance of full-health longevity.

An abundance of all-round intelligence

Science is giving us the ability to revitalise and rejuvenate, not only the body, but also the mind. Just as industrial tools have augmented our muscles, computers are augmenting our intelligence. Our growing understanding of the brain means we can enhance our psychology as well as our intellect. Alongside improved memory and enhanced reasoning ability, we can gain greater emotional and spiritual intelligence.

Traditional methods of mind enhancement such as education, meditation, yoga, music, art, and exotic substances, can have their power significantly magnified and directed by innovative technologies such as virtual reality, brain-computer interfaces, and AI assistants. An abundance of all-round intelligence beckons.

An abundance of creativity and exploration

In times past, human existence has been closely tied with our paid employment. The era of scarcity provided strong obligations to labour, often in work that was back-breaking or soul-destroying. As technology advances, machines can labour more forcefully, more reliably, and more effectively than human employees. Increasingly, human time and attention can be applied, instead, to an abundance of creativity and exploration – the unfolding and discovery of music, arts, sports, ecosystems, planets, and whole new universes.

The challenge ahead is to transition smoothly to a new economy which prioritises, not wage income or gross expenditure, but human flourishing and sentient development.

An abundance of collaboration and democracy

No mind is an island. We gain our strength and wisdom from our social relationships. The obstacles en route to the era of sustainable superabundance can be solved by the wise collaboration of many thinkers and doers.

Aided by emerging technologies that skilfully enhance positive cooperation, we can, together, make profound progress. Together, we can sagely analyse risks, assess scenarios, build bridges, deliberate options, reach decisions, deploy resources, progress actions, review outcomes, update processes, and consolidate our advances.

Our task is to ensure no-one is left out of the journey forwards. The benefits can be available to all, in ways that uphold freedom of choice and diversity of lifestyle. Our collaboration can take advantage of the best insights of all minds, and achieve the best results for all minds. In the process, we’ll create and benefit from an abundance of democracy – a superdemocracy.

Time for action

There will be many bumps on the road to superabundance. Indeed, there will be sceptics and detractors in all walks of life who oppose even the idea of working towards sustainable superabundance.

In times of rapid change, it’s no surprise that many people will become fearful and obstructive. Afraid of losing their status in society, they will cling onto outdated habits and structures. Afraid, with some justification, of technology going wrong, they will call for the imposition of overly cumbersome restrictions. Afraid that cherished human values may become lost, they will aggressively reassert inadequate bygone belief systems – belief systems grounded in incorrect or incomplete views of human nature and human flourishing. Lacking a vision of positive change from which they can benefit, they will deliberately sow confusion and misinformation.

To overcome confusion and misinformation, it’s time to generate an abundance of understanding. To supplant cumbersome legal frameworks, it’s time to champion smart, agile regulations. To quell panics about tech-driven dystopia, it’s time to promote appreciation of scenarios in which technology uplifts humanity. To lessen the power of vested interests, it’s time to build wise alliances. To tame the widespread fear of change, it’s time to clarify the roadmap to sustainable superabundance – and to describe how, in that not-so-distant future world, everyone can attain greater security, greater opportunity, greater health, and greater wellbeing.

In short, to rise above the myriad distractions and obstacles that might frustrate the journey to superabundance, it’s time to uphold a compelling, engaging picture of the remarkable future that is within our grasp.

Where that picture has gaps, let’s address them, quickly and fully. Where questions arise, let’s move fast to improve our collective understanding in the light of our collective intelligence. Where obstructionists and naysayers attempt to muddy the water, let’s be fair yet firm in taking the conversation to a higher level.

Given the magnitude of the progress which can ensue, no tasks are more important.

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Recent Posts

A reliability index for politicians?

Reliability calcuator

Imagine there’s a reliability index (R) for what a politician says.

An R value of 100 would mean that a politician has an excellent track record: there is no evidence of them having said anything false.

An R value of 0 would mean that nothing they said can be trusted.

Imagine that R values are updated regularly, and are published in real-time by a process that is transparent, pulling together diverse sets of data from multiple spheres of discourse, using criteria agreed by people from all sides of politics.

Then, next time we hear a politician passing on some claim – some statistic about past spending, about economic performance, about homelessness, about their voting record, or about what they have previously said – we could use their current R value as a guide to whether to take the claim seriously.

Ideally, R values would also be calculated for political commentators too.

My view is that truth matters. A world where lies win, and where politicians are expected to bend the truth on regular occasions, is a world in which we are all worse off. Much worse off.

Far better is a world where politicians no longer manufacture or pass on claims, just because these claims cause consternation to their opponents, sow confusion, and distract attention. Far better if any time a politician did such a thing, their R value would visibly drop. Far better if politicians cared much more than at present about always telling the truth.

Some comparisons

R values would play roles broadly similar to what already happens with credit scores. If someone is known to be a bad credit risk, there should be more barriers for them to receive financial loans.

Another comparison is with the “page rank” idea at the heart of online searches. The pages that have incoming links from other pages that are already believed to be important, grow in importance in turn.

Consider also the Klout score, which is (sometimes) used as the measure of influence of social media users or brands.

Some questions

Evidently, many questions arise. Would a reliability index be possible? Is the reliability of a politician’s statements a single quantity, or should it vary from subject to subject? How should the influence of older statements decline over time? How could the index avoid being gamed? How should satire be accommodated?

Then there are questions not just over practicality but also over desirability. Will the reliability index result in better politics, or a worse politics? Would it impede honest conversation, or usher in new types of implicit censorship? Would the “cure” be worse than the “disease”?

Next steps

My view is that a good reliability index will be hard to achieve, but it’s by no means impossible. It will require clarity of thinking, an amalgamation of insights from multiple perspectives, and a great deal of focus and diligence. It will presumably need to evolve over time, from simpler beginnings into a more rounded calculation. That’s a project we should all be willing to get behind.

The reliability index will need to be created outside of any commercial framework. It deserves to be funded by public funds in a non-political way, akin to the operation of judges and juries. It will need to be resistant to howls of outrage from those politicians (and journalists) whose R values plummet on account of exposure of their untruths and distortions.

If done well, I believe the reliability index would soon have a positive impact upon political discourse. It will help ensure discussions are objective and open-minded, rather than being dominated by loud, powerful voices. It’s part of what I see as the better politics that is possible in the not-so-distant future.

There’s a lot more to say about the topic, but for now, I’ll finish with just one more question. Has such a proposal been pursued before?

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