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

(Author’s narration of Chapter 2 – 11 min 58 sec – click here for a downloadable version)

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

There’s more to democracy than voting

Suppose that the UK held another referendum on the subject of Brexit. Suppose that the numerical result was essentially the same as before: around 52% voting for the UK to leave the EU, and around 48% voting for the UK to remain.

In that case, would that referendum prove to have been a massive waste of time and money?

My answer: not necessarily. Such a vote could actually lead to the healing of the nation, rather than to continued divisiveness and chaos.

politics chaos or healing

It all depends, not on the numerical result, but on the calibre of the arguments raised during that referendum.

If supporters of Leave came forward, during the campaign, with arguments that were less contestable and more compelling than before, this could lead to a healing of the nation. People who voted for the other option in the referendum might still feel disappointed. But they could accept that there were sound arguments in favour of the side that won. And, unlike the case of the first Brexit referendum, they could move forward, reconciled to the outcome. They could tell themselves they had lost a fair battle.

A similar conclusion could apply if, in a variant potential future scenario, it were Remain that won the second referendum, even if just by a narrow margin. Again, there’s no inherent reason why that conclusion would lead to ongoing bitterness. Again, it depends, not on the numerical result, but on the calibre of the arguments raised during the campaigns.

Not just a re-run

Various critics of the idea of a second referendum are doubtful that anything positive could arise from a new round of campaigning. It would just be a re-run of the previous campaign, they say, perhaps with a few people changing their minds. Nothing essentially new could arise. Forget healing. We would just get more chaos.

But I give a much more positive assessment to the idea of a second, better, referendum.

For one reason, people have learned a great deal in the intervening 30 months. Opinions which could be seen as plausible two years ago, have long since been shown up as deeply wrong. As an example, consider the now thoroughly discredited claim that it would be “the easiest deal ever” to negotiate Britain’s exit from the EU (witness “EU trade deal ‘easiest in human history'” and “All the times David Davis said that Brexit was simple”.) On such matters, we’re all wiser now.

But more fundamentally, it’s now widely recognised that it’s in everyone’s interest to cool down the debate, rather than letting matters be inflamed further.

The falsification principle

As a step away from ideology to objectivity, participants in the debate should start by reflecting long and hard about which circumstances would cause them to change their minds. This is in line with the falsification principle of science: people aspiring to scientific methods should set out in advance which experimental findings would cause them to seriously rethink their currently favoured theories.

Therefore, people favouring Remain should describe the circumstances that would cause them to consider switching to Leave instead. In this way, they would identify the potentially strongest arguments in favour of Leave. For example, to my mind, the strongest argument in favour of Leave would be if the structural weakness of the eurozone were shown to be likely to lead to huge financial chaos, of a sort that the UK could best hope to escape by being outside of the EU altogether.

Likewise, people favouring Leave should describe the circumstances that would cause them to consider switching to Remain instead. For example, they might be prepared to alter their vote if they gained confidence in the flexibility and genuineness of EU reform proposals.

Debate participants unable to set out such a “falsifying circumstance” would have to acknowledge they are driven by ideology, rather being open to new findings.

Preparing to build bridges

In parallel, participants in both sides of the debate need to set out proposals for how the UK could unwind from any state of internal hostility after the campaign was concluded.

To this end, supporters of Remain need to acknowledge that many on the Leave side are profoundly ill at ease with what they see as the direction of social development. More than that, Remain supporters need to be ready to commit to a credible programme to address key causes of this alienation, including the bitter perception many people have of being “left behind”.

Similarly, supporters of Leave need to acknowledge that many on the Remain side are profoundly ill at ease with the potential unravelling of processes of multilateral decisions, in a post-Brexit race-to-the bottom world of increasing deregulation.

Towards superdemocracy

That’s the vision – the vision of a better politics being expressed in a better referendum.

It’s a vision that goes beyond democracy-as-counting-votes. It’s a vision of emerging superdemocracy (to use a term that has featured in the last two Transpolitica books – Transcending Politics and Sustainable Superabundance).

Is this vision credible? Or are we doomed to a politics dominated by feelings of vengeance and obliteration?

That is, is a second referendum likely to lead to even greater chaos, or to healing?

Personal leadership

To an extent, the answer will be influenced by the personal qualities of the people leading each side of the debate. Do these people have high personal integrity? Are they open to learning? Are they able to build bridges? Do they have high emotional intelligence? Or are they, instead, obsessive and self-serving?

The answer (chaos or healing) will also depend on how the media conducts itself. Is the media looking for high drama? Will it seek out and amplify the most inflammatory soundbites? Or will it show restraint and care?

To my mind, everyone who cares about the future of the UK has to get behind the processes of healing, rather than the processes of chaos.

That means a commitment to debating honestly – to considering the merits and demerits of different arguments fairly, rather than with a partisan spirit.

This also means a commitment to building bridges – to discovering shared common values, even with people who express views very differently to our own.

It won’t be easy. But the cost of failure would be enormous.

Image source: “Big Ben at Sunset” – Photo by M N on Unsplash

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