2. Mental wellbeing

This page contains the opening portion of Chapter 2 of RAFT 2035.

Copyright © 2020 David W. Wood. All rights reserved.


2. Mental wellbeing

Goal 2 of RAFT 2035 is that at least 99% of people in the UK will experience their mental health as “good” or “excellent”.

Slide2

The statistics of people with mental health problems are collected and analysed every seven years by the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey. Key findings from the most recent survey, which covered 2014, include the following:

  • During the year in question, around one man in every eight, and around one woman in every five, experienced a mental health problem
  • Young women have emerged as a high-risk group, with high rates of common mental disorders and self-harm.

Out of the population as a whole, the rates of people experiencing particular mental health issues include:

  • 6% experienced suicidal thoughts at some time in their life
  • 7% actually made a suicide attempt
  • 3% harmed themselves
  • 9% experienced generalised anxiety disorder
  • 4% experienced PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)
  • 3% experienced antisocial personality disorder
  • 4% experienced phobias
  • 0% experienced bipolar disorder
  • 3% experienced OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

In summary, far too many people nowadays suffer from deep depression, crippling anxiety, biting loneliness, distressing mood swings, and suicidal tendencies.

Harms caused by poor mental health

It may be argued that there are positive aspects to some of these psychological states – in other words, that it is wrong to classify so many people as having mental health problems. For example, some degree of stress and inner mental turmoil can be productive, in leading to positive personal transformation. However, in far too many cases, what people experience is stress that destroys character rather than builds it up.

Indeed, for men in England and Wales between the ages of 20 and 49, suicide is now the leading cause of death. The WHO has predicted that depression will be the single largest cause of disease burden worldwide by 2030. This is just the start of how poor mental health reduces the quality of human experiences.

Even when people don’t report themselves as being mentally ill, they often fall victim to herd mentality, wilful deception by others, and self-deception, as well as manipulation by commercial factors or other social pressures. We are too prone to what are known, in polite language, as “cognitive biases” – and in plain language, as collective stupidity. We are misled by fake news, by clever flattery, and by carefully targeted individualised communications that prey on hopes and fears of which we ourselves are only dimly aware. Despite having clever brains with access to huge amounts of information, we frequently use our intelligence unwisely, finding arguments that appear to justify us staying in our current mental ruts, and clinging to these arguments through thick and thin.

Poor mental health has consequences not only for individuals but for society as a whole. Ill-judged actions arising from disturbed mental processing worsen social strains. Indeed, mental ill-health often leads to behaviour that is fanatical, fundamentalist, criminal, or socially divisive, as well as self-harming.

With people having easier access to various sorts of “weapons of mass destruction”, the consequences of poor mental health become ever more serious.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Twenty first century understanding of the brain and mind suggests a number of steps that can be pursued.

Beyond normal mental wellbeing

Bringing many more people up to what might be called “normal mental wellbeing” is only the beginning of what could be achieved. As a comparison, that outcome would be similar to a programme of better physical health, that allowed more people to live to the age of 80 years. That would be a very laudable outcome, but it’s far short of what’s actually possible. As covered in the previous chapter, rejuvenation biotechnology has the potential to enable much greater physical health for all, well beyond the age of 80. This is sometimes summarised as living “better than well”.

As for physical health, so also for mental health. New technology has the potential to enable many more people to regularly reach levels of consciousness that previously were only occasionally reached, by a very small subset of the human population. These levels of consciousness involve deeper levels of calmness, compassion, connectedness, creativity, and much more.

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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!

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