8. Towards abundant health

This page contains the opening portion of Chapter 8 from
Sustainable Superabundance: A universal transhumanist invitation

tam graphic 8

8. Towards abundant health

To recap the previous three chapters: there are good grounds for anticipating that, in the not-so-distant future, there can be plenty of clean energy for all human activities, plenty of nutritious food for everyone, and plenty of material goods for all our worldly needs. Twenty first century science and technology place these abundances within our grasp – provided that we are wise enough, and sufficiently strong and agile, to embrace the opportunity.

However, these abundances, by themselves, will be far from sufficient to ensure that human flourishing reaches its full potential.

If, despite an abundance of energy, nutrition, and material goods, our medical health continues to deteriorate as we grow older, then, just as at present, individual human flourishing will be cut short, again and again.

As our health deteriorates, we will be increasingly restricted in what we can do. With feeble bodies and/or feeble minds, we may observe a growing abundance of energy, nutrition, and material goods all around us, but we won’t be able to take advantage of that bounty. As individuals in decline, we’ll move from activity to passivity, from engagement to detachment, from vigour to lethargy, from precision to dullness, and from being to nothingness. Rather than flourish, we’ll flounder and fade away.

So far in history, a deterioration of human health has, sooner or later, been the story of everyone’s life. In some cases, a person’s health declines precipitously, due to a catastrophic accident or harsh act of violence. In other cases, their health declines gradually, due to the impact of one or more diseases or conditions that reduce mental or physical capability, until the point of death. Either way, after a few short decades of life, consciousness ceases. Brains turn to dust. Loving relationships are severed. Each time a single person dies, vast troves of human experience are lost, comparable to the burning down of a library, in a calamitous transformation of knowledge into ashes. Such, it appears, is the brutality of nature.

But transhumanists assert that these brutal “facts of nature” are on the point of being overturned. Thanks to further applications of twenty first century science and technology, the terminal decline of health will no longer be inevitable, but will soon be something we can resist and reverse. Aging can be abolished. In consequence, the vistas for human flourishing can extend mightily, both for individuals and for humanity as a whole.

Rejuvenation ahead

In more detail, the restorative biological properties that we presently experience in our youth, which enable us to bounce back quickly from injury or illness, will no longer lose their power as decades pass. Instead, it will become possible in the not-so-distant future to extend these restorative self-healing powers indefinitely – thanks to a combination of biochemical and nanotech interventions made possible by accelerating progress in regenerative medicine and rejuvenation biotechnology.

As a result, we humans will be as vibrant and resilient in our eighties as in our twenties. If we wish it, we’ll be able to live well past the age of 100 without any decline in our health. Indeed, if we wish it, we’ll be able to live well past the age of 1000, without any decline in our health.

These restorative processes will not only be extended in their duration, but they will also grow in their scope and effectiveness. Diseases which formerly threatened even the most robust physical constitution will be cured quickly. The sinister destructive power of new pathogens will meet their match in the constructive restorative power of highly intelligent, swiftly adapting, personalised suites of biomedical therapies. Due to continuous monitoring of all our vital statistics, and of threats in our environment, corrective interventions can be triggered at much earlier stages in the downward spiral of bodily dysfunction. We will hardly notice that we were, momentarily, ill.

And not only will we remain fit and healthy for as long as we wish, but we will grow even fitter and healthier than we can presently imagine. The transhumanist vision of “better than well” is within our reach – but only if we rapidly alter society’s priorities to give much more attention to this possibility of an unlimited abundance of health.

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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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