Key success factors

Key success factors

This chapter looks at a number of what can be called “key success factors” for the Singularity Principles, meaning the factors that are likely to have the biggest influence on whether these principles will meet their objectives, or will, instead, turn out to be ineffective.

In some cases, these key success factors can boost voluntary acceptance of the principles. In other cases, they can boost enforced compliance.

These factors can be listed as:

  • Public understanding
  • Persistent urgency
  • Reliable action against noncompliance
  • Public funding
  • International support
  • A sense of inclusion and collaboration.

Public understanding

Voluntary acceptance occurs when people are sufficiently motivated by a genuine desire to follow the set of recommendations. This desire can be boosted by:

  • A vivid awareness of the risk pathways – specific ways in which technology development projects could, despite positive intentions, result in catastrophic outcomes
  • A clear understanding of the connections between the various recommendations of the Singularity Principles and the outcomes that are likely to arise
  • An appreciation that the restrictions recommended by these principles will not hinder the timely development of truly beneficial products – so there is no good reason to oppose these restrictions
  • A recognition that everyone will be compelled to observe the same restrictions, and cannot gain any meaningful advantage by breaching the rules; therefore, everyone is in the same boat.

The likelihood of voluntary acceptance can be increased by an ongoing programme of public discussion and mutual education. If successful, this programme will lead to more and more people understanding:

  • The benefits likely to arise if the Singularity Principles are followed
  • The risks arising if these principles are not followed.

If successful, this programme will also:

  • Dispel the misunderstandings and exaggerations of the Singularity Shadow
  • Assist people to overcome the psychological traits that lead to Singularity denialism.

Persistent urgency

Support for adopting and subsequently adhering to the Singularity Principles depends, not just on a better public understanding of what’s at stake, but also on how the public feels about the issues involved.

A judicious combination of fear and wonder can generate and maintain a very useful sense of urgency:

  • A persistent fear of the dreadful catastrophes that may occur in the absence of adoption
  • A persistent wonder at the possibility to participate in the remarkable world of sustainable superabundance that can be attained through the wise application of the technologies of NBIC and AGI.

Education and discussion about the Singularity Principles needs to keep both the fear and the wonder alive in the public consciousness – preventing these feelings from being submerged under distraction, intimidation, or confusion.

Reliable action against noncompliance

The enforcement aspect of conformance to the Singularity Principles supplements the voluntary aspect. Once people perceive that free-riders can gain no advantage by evading these principles, but will instead be penalised, it will increase their own readiness to comply.

Reliable action against noncompliance includes:

  • A “trustable monitoring” system that is able to detect, through pervasive surveillance, any potential violations of the published restrictions
  • Strong international cooperation, by a network of different countries that sign up to support the Singularity Principles, to isolate and remove resources from any maverick elements, anywhere in the world, that violate these principles.

Public acceptance of trustable monitoring can accelerate once it is understood that the systems performing the surveillance can, indeed, be trusted; they will not confer any inappropriate advantage on any grouping able to access the data feeds.

Public funding

Many of the Singularity Principles depend upon skilled resources being available to carry out key tasks. In some cases, these resources may be provided by commercial companies. However, to ensure that these resources can take a sufficiently independent stance, they are likely to need to be supported by public funds.

The principles in question include:

  • Insist on accountability
  • Penalise disinformation
  • Design for cooperation
  • Analyse via simulations
  • Build consensus regarding principles
  • Provide incentives to address omissions
  • Halt development if principles are not upheld

The funding is necessary to provide:

  • Appropriate salaries and other incentives
  • Suitable training
  • Sufficient support staff, IT systems, and other assistance.

Public support for such funding will depend on:

  • The degree to which the public understands the need for such funding (see previous sections)
  • Confidence that these funds are being deployed in an effective, unbiased way, free from corruption, self-serving officials, or any excess of bureaucracy.

International support

The same factors that are key to the success of the Singularity Principles in any given country also need to apply on the worldwide arena. Otherwise:

  • Companies (or countries) that wish to accept the principles will be concerned about being placed at a competitive disadvantage; their concern is that companies (or countries) that skimp on the application of effort and resources to conform with the principles may build technology that reaches the market more quickly and, at least in the short term, appears to have better performance
  • Companies (or countries) that evade the principles may create technology with a catastrophic error mode whose failure would impact, not just their local area, but the entire world.

What is required is the application on the world level of the same factors from individual countries:

  • Public discussion and public education, leading to public buy-in, despite ideological or other tensions between different countries
  • Monitoring of potential infringements
  • Removal of resources from entities that are detected as violating the principles.

Adoption of these practices won’t happen at the same speed over the entire world. However, it can start with smaller groups, such as the G7 group of nations, and expand in stages from there.

A sense of inclusion and collaboration

Any set of regulations that is perceived as being imposed from outside inevitably raises suspicion and distrust. People will think to themselves that they are being asked to give up some important freedoms, or to do without valuable products and services, mainly for the benefit of apparent “elites” or “outsiders”.

Accordingly, the Singularity Principles need to be understood as being in the shared interest of all citizens of all countries on the planet – with no-one left behind against their will. It needs to be understood that the benefits arising from adherence to these principles will reach everyone, and will be dramatic.

Moreover, when people notice what appears to be shortcomings or problems with any of the principles, they should feel a desire to be part of the solution to whatever issue they have observed, rather than standing back from the process and expecting it to fail.

In other words, what will make the Singularity Principles stronger and more effective is when people in all walks of life are ready to offer constructive suggestions for refinements and improvements to these principles, in a spirit of positive collaboration.

Indeed, given the scale of the challenges faced, constructive suggestions for refinements will surely be needed.

The final set of chapters of this book look forward to what could be core topics in that envisioned forthcoming collaborative discussion.

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!

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