5. Towards abundant energy

This page contains the opening portion of Chapter 5 from
Sustainable Superabundance: A universal transhumanist invitation

tam graphic 5

5. Towards abundant energy

The foundation for all human activity is energy. Without energy, nothing can be accomplished.

As human activity has grown in scale, we have utilised increasing amounts of energy, in ways that some would describe as bold and ingenious, but others would say is reckless.

We have converted vast forests into firewood. We have unearthed and burned immense quantities of peat, coal, gas, and oil. The resulting light, heat – and air conditioning – have provided ample illumination and kept citizens at comfortable temperatures. Our factories have been enabled to manufacture countless goods, and our vehicles to crisscross all over the earth. However, side-products of all this activity have been accumulating in unsustainable ways. Greenhouse gas emissions have been amassing in the atmosphere, and now pose a number of potential drastic threats to human flourishing.

To solve these threats, do we need to cut back on human activities? Should we adopt low-energy lifestyles?

The transhumanist answer is that there is no need to slam on the brakes. However, significant steering is overdue. We need to transition to a different trajectory. Urgently.

Indeed, as this chapter explores, an abundance of clean energy awaits us, ready to power productive, exuberant lifestyles. That’s provided we have the strength of purpose to quickly switch away from our present near-addiction to unclean energy.

Anticipating climate chaos

The future is arriving faster than used to be expected. Likewise, climate change could be arriving faster than used to be expected.

In both cases, a dangerous heritage of complacency needs to be overcome – the complacency that says nothing much will actually change any time soon, so it’s OK for the time being to continue with “business as usual”.

In both cases, we need to shake off the complacency. We ought instead to heed the advice of Amara’s Law: whilst we should beware overestimating the effect of a technology in the short term, we should also beware underestimating the longer-term impacts that can ensue once the adoption of the technology has reached its stride. A period of gradual build-up can tip over into a period of turbulent disruption. A period of apparent calm can morph seemingly overnight into a period of chaos.

In both cases – the case of general future disruption, and the specific case of climate disruption – it is compound effects that prove hardest to anticipate and hardest to manage. Complications arise from self-reinforcing feedback cycles, from crossover effects, and from the destabilisation of previous patterns.

In both cases, the possibility of acceleration in the pace of change increases the urgency for society to exert wiser, firmer control over aspects of collective human behaviour.

<snip>

<< Previous chapter <<   =====   >> Next chapter >>

Recent Posts

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!

  1. A reliability index for politicians? 1 Reply
  2. Technoprogressive Roadmap conf call Leave a reply
  3. Transpolitica and the TPUK Leave a reply
  4. There’s more to democracy than voting Leave a reply
  5. Superdemocracy: issues and opportunities Leave a reply
  6. New complete book awaiting reader reviews Leave a reply
  7. Q4 update: Progress towards “Sustainable superabundance” Leave a reply
  8. Q3 sprint: launch the Abundance Manifesto Leave a reply
  9. Q2 sprint: Political responses to technological unemployment Leave a reply