This page contains a full preview of Chapter 17 of RAFT 2035.
Copyright © 2020 David W. Wood. All rights reserved.
Please find below answers to questions that have arisen during reviews of RAFT.
Q: There’s a lot to admire in RAFT 2035. What are the best ways to help this project succeed?
A: The simple summary is influence the influencers, educate the educators, and inspire those who can, in turn, inspire others:
- Organise or take part in RAFT events, both online and offline
- Look for opportunities to have some of the RAFT ideas presented to different audiences, both online and offline
- Explore varying the format and expressions for the ideas, including creative use of graphics, videos, narratives, and memes
- Extend and adapt the ideas for different locales – including translating the material into new languages
- Be ready to offer RAFT ideas in timely response to any news story or publication where the ideas are particularly relevant
- Forge connections with communities where the RAFT ideas can bring new insight.
RAFT is by no means static or complete. It needs to expand and evolve:
- Notice where there are gaps or problems with the RAFT ideas, and consider appropriate responses to these gaps and problems
- Consider developing, not only the 15 original goals, but also similar goals for the ideas in the “bubbling under” category
- Join project teams working on the various interim 2025 targets; highlight clear steps of progress being made, and draw attention to areas where there are hindrances and blockages
- Take part in the preparation and distribution of regular reports for each of the RAFT goals
- Develop political policy recommendations that are aligned with the RAFT vision; ideally, these recommendations will be suitable to slot into the manifestos of various think-tanks or political parties, and from there, into legislative programmes around the world
- Plan and carry out specific campaigns based on individual RAFT ideas – campaigns to raise public awareness and alter the public discussion
- Develop processes to welcome and engage people from all walks of life who are keen to assist with RAFT; in this way, help new and old community members alike to find roles whereby they can contribute to individual projects and also grow in accomplishment.
UK and global versions
Q: Why aren’t the goals of RAFT 2035 expressed in global terms? Why the focus on UK-specific metrics?
A: Large projects need to be broken down into manageable chunks. This needs to happen, not only in terms of timescales, but also in terms of locale.
For timescales, the vision of what can be accomplished by 2035 needs to be supported by an understanding of what it is credible to achieve by earlier dates, such as 2025.
Likewise for locale: the vision of an entire world enjoying an abundance of flourishing and transcendence needs to be supported by an understanding of what can be done in each local region:
- An awareness of the current situation
- A set of proposals: practices to be updated, taxes and incentives to be revised, and legislation to be introduced
- An awareness of potential local allies (and local obstacles).
The 2020 version of RAFT – this book – has much to say that is applicable worldwide as well as just in the UK. Subsequent new outputs of the RAFT project are likely to contain additional material addressing specific issues and opportunities around the globe.
Separatism and new cities
Q: Does the metaphor of “raft” suggest that people should organise themselves to live in a separate society, freed from interference from the rest of the world? How does the concept of RAFT connect to ideas such as “seasteading“, as featured in (for example) the novel The Transhumanist Wager written by Zoltan Istvan?
A: There can be no safety on the earth until all societies feel satisfied and secure. There is no safety in isolationism. Risks from climate change, environmental destruction, and military conflict cannot be avoided by retreating to a supposedly secure vantage point at some remote location on the earth. Instead, the metaphor of RAFT emphasises the idea of a journey:
- From the present, deeply unstable situation, in which there is lots of dangerous turbulence
- To a future, in which the turbulence has been tamed, and in which an abundance of flourishing is available to everyone
- With a fast speed for the journey being possible by taking wise advantage of the fast-flowing turbulence.
However, there is a role to be played by new communities which embody a selection of the changes that RAFT foresees as deeply desirable. These communities can serve as examples that will change the mind of the wider public about what is possible and what is desirable. These communities can also carry out important experiments that are not possible within traditional society.
Capitalism and fiat money
Q: Why is there no goal in RAFT to displace capitalism or to abolish fiat money? Surely a world of abundance is one in which there is no role for money?
A: RAFT warns against each of two fundamentalist extremes: the extreme that says capitalism (and the free market) is the best possible kind of social system, and the extreme that says capitalism (and the free market) is deeply corrosive, and must be dismantled.
Instead, RAFT endorses what is called the “mixed economy”. The operation of the economy and the financial system should be treated as a means, not an end in itself. These systems should be monitored and, in key aspects, steered and controlled by society as a whole.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with use of the pricing mechanism, nor in the creation of fiat money (along with interest-bearing debt). What is wrong is when society gives too much focus on economic and financial metrics.
Hence the vital interim goals in RAFT for the development of a replacement of GDP, to serve as a better guide on how the economy and the financial system should be evaluated.
As for a potential ongoing role for money: even if all the items needed for a high quality of life are abundant, there will invariably be some novel goods or services that are still in a situation of comparative scarcity. It is for these goods and services where an evolved version of our current monetary system can still play a useful role.
Positivity and realism
Q: Why does RAFT highlight the risks of potential civilisational catastrophe, rather than focusing on the many very positive trends in human flourishing? Rather than emphasising what looks like an emergency survival narrative – a narrative that carries destructive psychological tendencies – wouldn’t it be better to highlight ongoing innovations in products and services, that are improving human wellbeing?
A: As the opening pages of RAFT point out,
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 metrics that should cause major concern include:
- A surge in extreme weather events
- A potential step change in the pace of species extinction
- A decline in many countries in average healthspan
- A serious rise in mental illnesses
- Easier access to a variety of “weapons of mass destruction”
- A decline in the proportion of citizens seeing democracy as desirable
- An increase in the willingness of electors to tolerate and even celebrate rampant untruthfulness by politicians
- A rise in the share of wealth and power controlled by the richest fraction of a percent of the population
- Greater ability by organisations to manipulate the thinking of members of the public, reducing autonomy
- A growth in enthusiasm for outlandish conspiracy theories and pseudoscience.
What needs to be considered isn’t just a linear extrapolation of these trends, but potential exponential magnifications resulting from feedback loops. There’s also the question of the convergence and collisions of several of these trends. Finally, there’s the global, hyperspeed always-on multi-connected nature of today’s society: advance warning can actually accelerate the trends. It’s not just variant new biological viruses that should worry us; variant new mental viruses can cause global chaos too.
We need to hold in our minds, simultaneously, the enormous potential of new technology, as well as the enormous risks it poses. Two recipes for failure in any social change programme are:
- Too much doom and gloom: driving people into despair
- Too much naive optimism: failing to prepare sufficient solutions to existential dangers.
History shows many examples of societies collapsing, from heights that previously seemed impregnable. These previous collapses were local, but a collapse in the near future would likely be global in scale. It might provide a short-term psychological boost to deny this possibility, but such a denial would be deeply irresponsible. At the same time, it’s important to be able to move on quickly from appraising the seriousness of various risks, to exploring credible solutions to these risks.
In other words: it’s true that human ingenuity can accomplish wonders. However, it’s important that our human ingenuity is applied to what are the most pressing problems. Lack of attention to these problems may mean we make significant progress on matters of lesser importance, en route to being overwhelmed by a disaster that makes all that progress irrelevant.
Interest from politicians
Q: Aren’t politicians mainly preoccupied by shorter term matters and comparatively small-minded visions, instead of the potential for the larger changes in human flourishing covered in RAFT? What’s going to persuade politicians to pay any attention to the RAFT initiatives, and to reallocate public resources accordingly?
A: Politicians vary considerably. Within each party, alongside some politicians whose horizons have shrunk, there are other politicians who are open in principle to new ideas for radical improvements in the human condition. All that’s needed is to find the right communications pathway.
There are two ways in which such politicians can be persuaded to give serious consideration to ideas such as are contained in RAFT:
- Politicians are sensitive to public opinion. When there is evidence of a change in the public mood, politicians are ready to start exploring views aligned with this change. Therefore, when members of the general public talk and write more often about the goals contained in RAFT, we can expect growing interest in these goals from politicians as well.
- At least some politicians are sensitive, not only to the current public opinion, but to what they believe could shortly become public opinion. If the advisers to these politicians forward reports about what is being said by emerging future thought leaders (including present-day students, or even school students), it raises the possibility of those politicians acting not just as followers of these emerging new opinions, but as perceived shapers and leaders of these opinions.
Accordingly, to change the minds of politicians, supporters of RAFT 2035 should seek to find ways to raise awareness of the merits of the RAFT goals among various other thought leaders in society. This can be summarised (as stated earlier) as “influence the influencers, educate the educators, and inspire those who can, in turn, inspire others”. In time, various politicians will, likewise, be influenced, educated, and inspired. Once this happens, we will start to see growing support for policy proposals that will accelerate the steps in the RAFT roadmap.
Q: Even if individual political leaders are supportive in principle of the RAFT ideas, won’t any radical reform initiatives be undermined by forces within the political and legal systems which are determined to resist any significant changes? How will the huge forces of institutionalised resistance be overcome?
A: Previous positive examples that can act as inspiration include the abolition of slavery, the granting of votes to women, the establishment of the welfare state, and the legalisation of same-sex marriage.
Moreover, “the establishment” is far from being a uniform entity. Individual media proprietors can be persuaded to break from the pack, and to give more voice to alternate points of view. Some parts of the legal and political system may indeed be inclined to resist radical change, but other parts can swing behind it – especially when they become convinced of the deep merits of the new proposals.
Key to building a powerful coalition that has the strength to overcome institutionalised resistance will be to highlight the ways in which the RAFT vision will benefit everyone – even including those “winners” in the current system whose hands are currently on (or near) the levers of power:
- Those present-day “winners” may end up, in the RAFT vision, having less of a relative advantage over the rest of society; they will no longer have control over resources that are (say) thousands of times the scale of the resources available to the ordinary person.
- However, those present-day “winners” will end up better in absolute terms than at present – especially when taking into account the steep drop in the societal hostility that is induced by present-day inequalities of opportunity. With abundance for all, there will no longer be the constant fear of an uprising that seeks vengeance.
A new political party
Q: Should support be given to a new political party which focuses on the RAFT goals? How about the UK’s Transhumanist Party, where the RAFT ideas first took shape?
A: In countries with single-MP first-past-the-post voting systems, such as the UK, any new political party faces tremendous difficulties in attracting enough votes to place an MP into parliament. Foreseeing the unlikelihood of a candidate becoming an MP, voters will feel strong pressures to avoid casting their vote for such a candidate, seeing it as a wasted vote.
Until the voting system is overhauled (as proposed as part of Goal 14), new parties will, accordingly, face an enormous uphill battle.
That’s one reason to avoid putting energy into a new, separate political party. It’s a reason, instead, to seek to influence people in all existing parties to adopt at least some of the RAFT goals.
On the other hand, candidates standing for a new party – even if they have no realistic prospects of being elected – can gain useful publicity, and raise more awareness for the causes they champion.
Mind, spirit, and transcendence
Q: Why does RAFT talk about rejuvenating not only the brain and the mind, but also the spirit? Isn’t “spirit” an unhelpful, unscientific term? On similar lines, in what sense is the word “transcendence” being used?
A: The word “spirit” is used as a shorthand for saying that there’s more to human inner life than our conscious thinking. The rejuvenation of spirit that RAFT envisions is the elevation in human character and disposition covered by Goal 2, and includes deeper levels of calmness, compassion, connectedness, and creativity.
Indeed, Goal 2 has a claim to being the most fundamental of the entire set of 15 goals.
The vision is that all of us will become able to routinely reach (and surpass) the heights of consciousness demonstrated by aspects of the lives of great composers, dancers, poets, artists, craftsmakers, surgeons, mathematicians, adepts, saints, meditators, mystics, and peacemakers – without falling foul of the obsessive character traits that sometimes accompany these personalities.
The vision is “transcendence” in the sense that humanity can soar beyond the limits which have hitherto restricted our experience and ability. We inherited these limits from blind evolution, from out-dated cultural norms, and from pre-scientific systems of philosophy. But the next fifteen years can see an acceleration of the creative redesign of ourselves as individuals, as social beings, and as cosmic voyagers.
Q: What is a headline summary of the various interim targets which RAFT outlines for 2025?
A: The interim targets fall into three broad categories:
- Demonstrations of tangible progress with new technologies or new solutions – progress that should increasingly change people’s minds about the speed at which yet more progress might be possible
- Clarifications of potential new systems, metrics, or processes, via which greater flourishing can be made available to all, in ways that protect and elevate human values
- Miscellaneous additional milestones en route to human transcendence.
In the category “demonstrations of tangible progress with new technologies or new solutions”:
- Demonstrate mid-age rejuvenation of animals with much smaller lifespans than humans (Goal 1)
- Demonstrate long-lasting effectiveness of some of the proposed new “transformational technology” solutions for improved mental wellbeing (Goal 2)
- Demonstrate the effectiveness of at least some elements of edtech, in reducing costs whilst delivering higher quality education (Goal 5)
- Demonstrate “full taste parity” of selected alternatives to slaughtered meat (Goal 11)
- Demonstrate tangible progress in at least one of the smaller fusion projects (Goal 13)
In the category “clarifications of potential new systems, metrics, or processes, via which greater flourishing can be made available to all”:
- Establish a society-wide understanding of the principles of the longevity dividend, and of the measures that can be taken to quickly reduce the costs of rejuvenation therapies so that everyone can benefit from them (Goal 1)
- Update the legislation which unnecessarily constrains the wise use of some of “transformational technology” solutions – especially legislation covering psychedelic drugs and other psychoactive substances (Goal 2)
- Agree an initial series of “cost of living well” indices (Goal 3)
- Agree the basic elements of a revised social contract in which paid employment loses the prime position it has in present-day society (Goal 3)
- Agree a replacement for the GDP index as the guiding light for evaluating the success of the economy: rather than focusing on increasing the financial value of goods produced and consumed, we need an alternative which better measures the basis for all-round human flourishing (Goal 4) and which fully incorporates factors known as “externalities”, that is the impacts of economic activities which are presently excluded from valuation (Goals 9 and 10)
- Agree the core of a transformed educational syllabus focused on new life opportunities – an education fit for the 2020s and beyond (Goal 5)
- Agree basic principles of the design and operation of systems for “trustable monitoring” (Goal 6)
- Agree basic principles of the design and operation of systems for “international trustable monitoring” which should, among other points, highlight measures to constrain any runaway escalation of adoption of lethal autonomous weapons (Goal 7)
- Establish a commitment from a majority of the countries in the United Nations to an updated version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which takes fully into account the remarkable transformational nature of the technologies highlighted in RAFT (Goal 7)
- Reach a general understanding of the economic case for open borders, and the types of constraints that need to be applied so that the benefits significantly outweigh the drawbacks (Goal 8)
- Agree a statement of the “core values of all UK residents”, highlighting those features of law and practice which are regarded as key to harmony and flourishing within the UK, and also making it clear which elements of human and transhuman variation and diversity should be accepted or even encouraged – and which elements of diversity should be resisted (Goal 8)
- Obtain majority public support for the design of a system to replace first past the post election (Goal 14)
- Agree an understanding of the actual purpose of politicians, including the key role of the public sector in a mixed economy, and also including awareness of the role of industrial strategy (Goal 14)
- Reach an agreement on limits on the roles that can be played by commercially owned AI, that recognises the potential large contribution that could be made by commercially owned software, without being naive about the risks (Goal 15)
- Reach an agreement on the principles of “ethical AI”: what are the features which an AI could be built to include, but which will need to be excluded or curtailed, for the sake of true human flourishing? (Goal 15)
And in the category “miscellaneous additional milestones en route to human transcendence”:
- Establish a reliable, respected source of information about the true health benefits and risks of different types of diet and different kinds of accommodation (Goal 4) and about the true environmental benefits and risks of different types of human actions (Goals 9 and 10)
- Advance practical initiatives to understand and reduce particular types of crime, starting with the types of crime (such as violent crime) that have the biggest negative impact on people’s lives (Goal 6)
- Clarify the range of health benefits from alternatives to slaughtered meat, bearing in mind that consumption of meat has been linked to many diseases (Goal 11)
- Humans will walk on the Moon again, helping humanity to rediscover a sense of cosmic delight, with these new visitors to our nearest cosmic neighbour including women as well as men, and people from multiple different nationalities (Goal 12)
- A round trip mission to Mars will be underway, using robots, to collect rock samples and then return them to Earth (Goal 12)
- Complete the construction of ITER facilities, as per its current committed schedule, without any further delays (Goal 13).
As each year passes, up to the end of 2025, annual progress reports should be produced for each of these interim targets, highlighting:
- Measures of success and failure over the preceding 12 months
- Any new opportunities and risks arising
- Any reasons for changes in the targets, or for the adoption of new milestones (with intended completion date either before or after 2025).
Depending on your own special interests and expertise, please consider assisting with one or more of these projects.
An honest assessment of progress
Q: How can we judge how much change it is credible to imagine can take place in a given time period? How can we avoid being misled by our own biases and wishes? How can we look honestly and soberly at actual progress and setbacks, free from rose-tinted glasses or overly cynical expectations? In a world of increasing “fake news”, where can we find a secure bedrock of reliable data?
A: The effort to transcend bias and wishful thinking is one of the most important for the wellbeing of humanity. As mentioned during the discussion of Goal 15, two sets of tools can help: the tools of collective intelligence, and the tools of artificial intelligence.
In both cases, it will increase the chance of a good outcome from using these tools if a diverse group of individuals can pool their insights and findings in a knowledge-base of data and analysis. One example of such a knowledge-base is Wikipedia, though there are questions about the criteria it imposes for what counts as worthy of inclusion. Another example is H+Pedia, whose mission statement includes the following:
H+Pedia aims to follow the principles of Wikipedia. At the same time, the H+Pedia editorial team seek to demonstrate greater awareness and appreciation of transhumanism and radical futurism. This will be reflected by the inclusion in H+Pedia of material which might not pass the Wikipedia tests for notability, as currently applied by Wikipedia editors.