Fear and outrage

An extract from Chapter 3 of the book Transcending Politics:

3. Fear and outrage

One important reason why politics is in trouble is because so many people are afraid. They have become preoccupied with risks of bad outcomes ahead. The resulting fear constricts their minds. It pushes them away from expansive, conciliatory politics. Instead, it encourages righteous indignation, lingering resentment, impulsive reactions, and doubling down on perceived certainties. In a fight-or-flight mode, their brains have reduced ability to regulate emotions or pick up subtle cues from the environment. They grab hold of one insight and stick to it through thick and thin.

The real problem here isn’t simply that there are things which make us afraid. After all, humans have lived throughout history in the shadow of violence, plunder, famine, disease, aging, and death. We’ve had ample reason to be scared witless. Literature the world over is full of twisted tales of brother plotting against brother, lovers being unfaithful, allies betraying each other, and leaders failing to keep the promises they made to their supporters. Only the paranoid survive, warned Andy Grove, co-founder of IT giant Intel. That phrase is a modern encapsulation of ages-old wisdom. Fear has been our constant companion.

Violence declines, but outrage increases

Strikingly, it can be argued that we have fewer reasons to be fearful, nowadays, than in the past. That’s the argument made in, for example, the 802 pages of Steven Pinker’s 2011 book The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined. And in his 2016 book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Yuval Noah Harari declares with gusto that humanity’s epic quest against the three great scourges of plague, famine, and war is close to conclusion:

For the first time in history, more people die today from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals combined.

I essentially agree with the interpretations placed by Pinker and Harari on the data they review. Plague, famine, and war are on the back foot. You’ll find further evidence to back up these trends in Abundance by Singularity University co-founder Peter Diamandis.

But that’s not the end of the story. Here are some critical complications:

<snip>

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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