Roadmap to Abundance, Flourishing, and Transcendence, by 2035
Endorsements for RAFT 2035
“It’s often said that technology is poised to make humans stronger and more intelligent. But RAFT emphasises the possibility of a change that is much more important – the potential for technology to help us become kinder and more empathetic. It’s a message that deserves to be widely heard.”
— David Pearce, Philosopher, and advocate of Paradise Engineering
“In RAFT, David Wood challenges all of us to reconsider how technology can best serve ethics, safety, and values that uplift the human spirit. A future that champions the very best aspects of what it means to be human is within our grasp, if we can humanise technology, and harmonize the interests of advanced civilization with nature.”
— Nell Watson, Chair of EthicsNet.org and IEEE’s Certification for Ethics in Transparency
“The need for a different set of politics is more pressing than ever. RAFT is a framework for the transition we need to make which is beyond the faultlines of traditional political positions.”
— Hannes Sjöblad, Co-founder DSruptive Sweden, and Chief Disruptive Officer of Epicenter Stockholm
“By 2035, thanks to profound innovations in technology and society, human flourishing could be at a much higher level than at present. RAFT challenges all of us to seize the opportunity and to cooperate in building that future.”
— David Orban, Founder and Managing Partner, Network Society Ventures
“This book offers clear messages on what is facing us and the importance of maintaining a holistic view of the future that includes everybody. Strong ethical points and social issues are addressed. The authors insight regarding ‘what next?’ is portrayed in realistic terms.”
— Karl Friðriksson and Sævar Kristinsson, The Icelandic Center of Future Studies
“Anyone can say that the next decade will be crucial for humankind. But not everyone can provide smart and weighted solutions to the key problems humanity is facing. RAFT 2035 does exactly that. It’s a must read.”
— Kate Levchuk, Founder, Transpire
“RAFT is what the world needs! It empowers individuals to control their own destiny so they are not passive victims of the future, but can instead directly participate in creating a future world of abundance and human flourishing that benefits everyone.”
— Kim Solez, M.D., Director of Technology and the Future of Medicine Course at the University of Alberta, and Co-Chair Transplant Regenerative Medicine Community of Practice, American Society of Transplantation
“I’ve often enjoyed listening to David Wood set out his hopes and fears for the future. In RAFT 2035 he applies his formidable insight to the very important question of securing a truly great future, for the United Kingdom and beyond, by 2035.”
— Matt O’Neill, Futurist Keynote Speaker, Futurist.Matt
“RAFT 2035 maps out the possibilities and the trade-offs our exponential world is going to need. Continuing as before with tiny incremental steps is no longer an option: we need a RAFT of big ideas to make a step-change. Let’s pick up these ideas and get on board for a brave new 2035.”
— Paul Imre, VP of Education, Data Science Speakers Club, Toastmasters International
Ebook (Kindle) – Published on 18th Jan 2020
Paperback – Published on 27th Jan 2020 – ISBN 978-0-9954942-4-4
A preview of the opening chapter follows below. Opening extracts of the other chapters are available via links at the foot of this page.
Copyright © 2020 David W. Wood. All rights reserved.
Welcome to the raft
Before the welcome, a word of warning. Buckle up. Prepare for wave after wave of turbulence.
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. These possibilities include enormous opportunities alongside enormous risks:
- Nanotech can provide resilient new materials, new processes for manufacturing and recycling, new ways to capture and distribute energy, new types of computing hardware, and pervasive new surveillance networks of all-seeing sensors.
- Infotech can augment human intelligence and creativity with new generations of artificial intelligence, leaping over human capabilities in increasing numbers of domains of thought, and displacing greater numbers of human employees from tasks which used to occupy large parts of their paid employment.
- Biotech enables the modification not only of nature, but of human nature: it will allow us not only to create new types of lifeform – synthetic organisms that can outperform those found in nature – but also to edit the human metabolism more radically than is possible via existing tools such as vaccinations, antibiotics, and occasional organ transplants.
- Cognotech allows similar modifications for the human mind, brain, and spirit, enabling in just a few short weeks the kind of changes in mindset and inner character which previously might have required many years of disciplined study of yoga, meditation, and/or therapy; it also enables alarming new types of mind control and ego manipulation.
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 – traumatic though they were – are likely to be dwarfed in comparison to what lies ahead.
Taming the turbulence
The forthcoming floods of technological and social change could turn our world upside down, more quickly and more brutally than we expected. When turbulent waters are bearing down fast, having a sturdy raft at hand can be the difference between life and death.
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 other words, 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.
To spell out the “RAFT” acronym, the turbulent times ahead require:
- A 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.
The pages ahead describe such a roadmap. Welcome!
The world to come
How good could life become by 2035, if people really apply themselves to the task?
Here’s the answer from RAFT 2035:
- Thanks to the thoughtful application of breakthroughs in science and technology, the future can be profoundly better than the present
- 2035 could see an abundance of all-round human flourishing, with no-one left behind.
The word “abundance” here means that there will be enough for everyone to have an excellent quality of life. No one will lack access to healthcare, accommodation, nourishment, essential material goods, information, education, social engagement, free expression, or artistic endeavour.
RAFT 2035 envisions the possibility, by 2035, of an abundance of human flourishing in each of six sectors of human life:
- Individual health and wellbeing
- The wellbeing of social relationships
- The quality of international relationships
- Sustainable relationships with the environment
- Humanity’s exploration of the wider cosmos beyond the earth
- The health of our political systems.
RAFT offers clear goals for what can be accomplished in each of these six sectors by 2035 – 15 goals in total, for society to keep firmly in mind between now and that date.
The 15 goals each involve taking wise advantage of the remarkable capabilities of 21st century science and technology: robotics, biotech, neurotech, nanotech, greentech, artificial intelligence, collaboration technology, and much more.
The goals also highlight how the development and adoption of science and technology can, and must, be guided by the very best of human thinking and values.
Indeed, at the same time as RAFT 2035 upholds this vision, it is also fully aware of deep problems and challenges in each of the six sectors described.
Progress will depend on a growing number of people in all areas of society:
- Recognising the true scale of the opportunity ahead
- Setting aside distractions
- Building effective coalitions
- Taking appropriate positive actions.
These actions make up RAFT 2035. There’s plenty of work to be done!
A world of difference
Here’s what’s different about RAFT compared to most other political visions.
- Most other political visions assume that only modest changes in the human condition will take place over the next few decades. In contrast, RAFT takes seriously the potential for large changes in the human condition – and sees these changes not only as desirable but essential.
- Most other political visions are preoccupied by short term incremental issues. In contrast, RAFT highlights major disruptive opportunities and risks ahead.
- Finally, most other political visions seek for society to “go back” to elements of a previous era, which is thought to be simpler, or purer, or in some other way preferable to the apparent messiness of today’s world. In contrast, RAFT offers a bold vision of creating a new, much better society – a society that builds on the existing strengths of human knowledge, skills, and relationships, whilst leaving behind those aspects of the human condition which unnecessarily limit human flourishing.
It’s an ambitious vision. But as the following chapters explain, there are many solutions and tools at hand, ready to energise and empower a growing coalition of activists, engineers, social entrepreneurs, researchers, creatives, humanitarians, and more.
These solutions can help us all to transcend our present-day preoccupations, our unnecessary divisions, our individual agendas, and our inherited human limitations.
Going forwards, these solutions mean that, with wise choices, constraints which have long overshadowed human existence can soon be lifted:
- Instead of physical decay and growing age-related infirmity, an abundance of health and longevity awaits us.
- Instead of collective foolishness and blinkered failures of reasoning, an abundance of intelligence and wisdom is within our reach.
- Instead of morbid depression and emotional alienation – instead of envy and egotism – we can achieve an abundance of mental and spiritual wellbeing.
- Instead of a society laden with deception, abuses of power, and divisive factionalism, we can embrace an abundance of democracy – a flourishing of transparency, access, mutual support, collective insight, and opportunity for all, with no one left behind.
Why change can accelerate
RAFT envisions a huge amount of change taking place between the present day and 2035. What are the grounds for imagining this kind of change will be possible?
To be clear, there is nothing inevitable about any of the changes foreseen by RAFT. It is even possible that the pace of change will slow down:
- Due to a growing disregard for the principles of science and rationality
- Due to society placing its priorities in other areas
- Due to insufficient appetite to address hard engineering problems
- Due to any of a variety of reversals or collapses in the wellbeing of civilisation.
On the other hand, it’s also possible that the pace of technological change as experienced by global society in the last 15 years – pace that is already breathtaking – could accelerate significantly in the next 15 years:
- Due to breakthroughs in some fields (e.g. AI or nanotechnology) leading to knock-on breakthroughs in other fields
- Due to a greater number of people around the world dedicating themselves to working on the relevant technologies, products, and services
- Due to more people around the world reaching higher levels of education than ever before, being networked together with unprecedented productivity, and therefore being able to build more quickly on each other’s insights and findings
- Due to new levels of application of design skills, including redesigning the user interfaces to complex products, and redesigning social systems to enable faster progress with beneficial technologies
- Due to a growing public understanding of the potential for enormous benefits to arise from the NBIC technologies, provided resources are applied more wisely
- Due to governments deciding to take massive positive action to increase investment in areas that are otherwise experiencing blockages – this action can be considered as akin to a nation moving onto a wartime footing.
Importantly, for each of the 15 goals for 2035, RAFT recommends two interim actions to be progressed between the present day and 2025.
These interim targets are designed to establish what can be seen as three levels of “RAFT”:
- Raised awareness of future technologies – and awareness of the sweeping new powers these technologies will place in human hands
- Raised appreciation of the fast transformations that can take place in human society in the wake of these new technological possibilities
- Raised anticipation of a forthcoming transcendence – a transcendence in which humanity can soar beyond the limits which have hitherto cruelly stunted human experience.
This greater awareness, appreciation, and anticipation will arise from:
- Early demonstrations of the capabilities of solutions based on emerging new technologies
- A growing understanding of the operating principles of a society of abundance, flourishing, and transcendence
- Good answers to the objections that are sometimes raised against the ideas that make up RAFT.
As these interim targets are met, it will accelerate a growing change in public mindset, and a growing desire to take further action.
The content of RAFT 2035 has evolved via discussions in the global transhumanist community, particularly involving friends and supporters of the UK’s Transhumanist Party. The ideas that follow are much larger than can be restricted to any one organisation or political party.
Accordingly, this roadmap is being published with the hope and intention that other social communities, political parties, and diverse think tanks can freely copy from it, adopting the RAFT ideas and analysis into their own platforms, and improving them.
If you like at least some of what you read, please consider stepping onto this RAFT, and helping to strengthen it, enlarge it, internationalise it, enhance the clarity of its navigational vision, boost its engine power, and prepare to welcome yet more participants.
For some specific ways to assist RAFT, please see the suggestions in the “FAQ” chapter towards the end of this book.
The goals previewed
The 15 goals contained in RAFT are split into the six sectors of human life already mentioned. The versions of the goals that follow are expressed as goals for people in the UK to keep in mind between now and 2035. Having one particular legislature in mind makes it easier to define concrete goals. Other versions of the goals can be developed for other locations around the world.
The first sector is new levels of individual flourishing. The goals here address bodily health and mental health:
- The average healthspan in the UK will be at least 90 years (up from 63 as at present).
- At least 99% of people in the UK will experience their mental health as “good” or “excellent”.
The second sector is new levels of social flourishing. There are four goals in this sector:
- Automation will remove the need for anyone to earn money by working.
- There will be no homelessness and no involuntary hunger.
- World-class life-preparation education to postgraduate level will be freely available to everyone.
- The crime rate will have been reduced by at least 90%.
The third sector is new levels of international flourishing. There are two goals in this sector:
- Risks of international military conflict will have been reduced by at least 90%.
- The UK will be part of a global “free travel” community of at least 25% of the earth’s population.
The fourth sector is new levels of environmental flourishing. There are three goals in this sector:
- The UK will be carbon-neutral, thanks to improved green energy management.
- The UK will be zero waste, and will have no adverse impact on the environment.
- Consumption of meat from slaughtered animals will be cut by at least 90%.
The fifth sector is new levels of cosmic flourishing. There are two goals in this sector:
- The UK will be part of an organisation that maintains a continuous human presence on Mars.
- Fusion – the energy source of the stars – will be generating at least 1% of the energy used in the UK.
The sixth sector is new levels of political flourishing. The final two goals belong in this sector:
- Politicians will no longer act in ways that are self-serving, untrustworthy, or incompetent. We’ll all feel proud of our politicians, and grateful for them.
- Parliament will involve a close partnership with a “House of AI” (or similar) revising chamber. Society will be guided by the best of human insight in close, productive collaboration with the best of AI insight.
The chapters that follow will look at the rationale for each of the goals, methods by which these goals can be accomplished, and, in each case, interim targets to be met by 2025.
As well as covering the individual goals, the chapters that follow will also highlight the important connections between the different goals. Indeed, progress towards any one of the goals will be under threat, unless there is good progress towards the other goals too. Conversely, progress for any one goal will tend to increase the likelihood of progress for the other goals.
In RAFT 2035 – as in so much of what is most valuable in life – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
To preview the interconnections between the six sectors, note the following:
- Each of the RAFT goals can be accelerated by political leaders allocating sizeable chunks of public funds in support of key projects that are otherwise short of budget.
- Political leaders can put in place suitable incentives and subsidies to motivate entrepreneurs and businesses to focus on activities that the free market, left to its own profit-seeking mechanisms, would deprioritise.
- Incentives, subsidies, taxes, regulations, and other matters of political policy, can easily become counterproductive rather than productive; they may end up favouring vested interest groups rather than uplifting society as a whole. For this reason, politics needs to operate in ways that are lean, agile, open, and fully informed.
- Change cannot happen without individuals recognising the need for action, speaking up boldly, resisting naysayers, and applying a great deal of personal commitment to overcome resistance.
- Change initiatives can become frustrated, if individuals find their energy levels sagging, their thinking becoming confused, and their motivation dwindling. Change activists need to look after their own wellbeing, as well as keeping the bigger picture in mind.
- Change initiatives can be derailed if individuals allow their judgement to be clouded by feelings of hostility, vengeance, or self-importance. Change activists need to look after their emotional states as well as their physical health.
Communities and societies matter:
- As individuals, we draw strength and support from the communities to which we belong. Healthy communities make it more likely that individuals can perform at their best.
- Ideally, society will provide accommodation, nutrition, education, security, and many other elements that will assist change activists in their projects.
- In particular, society will, ideally, provide mentors, coaches, reviewers, facilitators, recruiters, and other human assistance, to magnify the effectiveness of individual change activists.
International relations matter:
- The challenges faced in any one locality often have mirror images elsewhere on the planet. Good international connections can enable promising ideas from one part of the globe to be brought to the attention of change activists worldwide.
- International influences can, alas, be negative as well as positive. Positive progress being made in one locale can be rendered irrelevant when issues elsewhere in the world spill over national borders and plunge new regions into chaos.
- Attempts to “close borders” are unlikely to be effective in a world with huge flows of data, finances, and ideas over wired and wireless networks. The battle for the best narratives and the best systems must take place globally, rather than just in a local context.
The environment matters:
- For each RAFT goal, it is insufficient to identify sources of abundance (for example, abundant food, or abundant energy), without considering whether these sources might become depleted. Instead, it is essential to consider practices that are sustainable – practices that will enable present-day flourishing without reducing the prospects for future flourishing.
- For each RAFT goal, it is insufficient to consider human Instead, the implications should be considered for the other sentient and sapient minds with whom we share this planet.
- Nurtured well, and treated with respect, the natural environment can provide many wonderful experiences that can energise us and restore our balance, preparing us all to operate with greater effect in transforming those human structures which stand in the way of all-round flourishing.
The cosmos matters:
- The resources on the earth, whilst extensive, pale in comparison to those that exist elsewhere in the solar system, and in deeper regions of space. Our plans for the future can be transformed once we understand more fully both the cosmic opportunities and the cosmic risks of the wider universe.
- Most human life exists in what can be called “the base state of existence”, but it seems likely that new dimensions of consciousness will be opened, as we transcend the current limits of the human condition.
- The destiny of humankind lies, not just on the earth as we know it today, but in vast new creations in both inner and outer space. Rather than being preoccupied by trying to “get back” to the living conditions of earlier human eras, humanity can find more powerful inspiration from a clearer picture of the abundance, flourishing, and transcendence which awaits us, in the stars as well as on terra firma.
Good bodily health is the foundation for all other activities. As the start of the journey to an abundance of human flourishing, the next chapter highlights the remarkable progress that can take place in people’s physical health by the year 2035.
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List of chapters
Note: a clickable copy of the list of endnotes from the book are available here.