Anticipating tomorrow’s politics

Available for purchase and download (from 20th March 2015)

Transpolitica_Book_Cover_Ebook

Quotations from the book

  • “This book takes as its starting point the observation that technology has the potential to radically transform politics. The observation is simultaneously inspiring and frightening.”
  • “Anyone who cares about the future of technology needs to care about the future of politics”
  • “The goal of Transpolitica is to catalyse a transformation of the global political dialogue”
  • “Accelerating technological progress has the potential to transform lives in the next ten years more profoundly than in any preceding ten year period in history”

Table of contents

  1. An introduction to tomorrow’s politics, by David Wood
  2. Democratic Intelligence, by Stephen Oberauer
  3. The Case For Universal Prosperity, by Michael Hrenka
  4. Catalysing the Development of Artificial Intelligence Tools, by Roland Schiefer
  5. Anarchy beyond socialism and capitalism, by Waldemar Ingdahl
  6. Political Transhumanism and the Transhumanist Party, by M. Amon Twyman
  7. The Vision Thing, by René Milan
  8. The Zeitgeist of Change, by Stuart Mason Dambrot
  9. Mediated Patent Equities For Accelerated Biomedical Research, by Maximo Ramallo
  10. Accelerating Politics, by Sally Morem

About this book

This book takes as its starting point the observation that technology has the potential to radically transform politics. The observation is simultaneously inspiring and frightening.

Accelerating technology is already in the process of radically transforming many other areas of life – including education, entertainment, health, transport, the environment, and warfare. Some of these changes are highly beneficial; others are deeply troubling. In yet other cases, the implications remain unclear. So it is with the changes that technology can bring to politics. Technology can change politics in ways that are variously beneficial, troubling, and hard to fathom.

The relationship runs both ways. Just as technology can alter politics, so also can politics alter technology. The speed and direction of technological adoption is strongly influenced by social and psychological factors, by legislation, by subsidies, by incentives, and by the provision or restriction of public funding. Political action can impact all these factors, either for better or for worse. Anyone who cares about the future of technology needs, therefore, to care about the future of politics.

These bidirectional overlapping sets of influences – politics impacting the development and deployment of technology, and technology impacting the evolution and effectiveness of politics – deserve a greater share of our collective attention. They merit a higher priority in the overall global conversation about the future of society. That’s for two reasons.

First, accelerating technological progress has the potential to transform lives in the next ten years more profoundly than in any preceding ten year period in history. Radical technological changes are coming sooner than most politicians appreciate. Technology fields such as nanotechnology, synthetic biology, renewable energy, regenerative medicine, brain sciences, big data analytics, robotics, and artificial intelligence, are all undergoing rapid evolution. Improvements are feeding further improvements, in compound positive feedback cycles. Together, these technologies will change society in unexpected ways, disrupting familiar patterns of industry, lifestyle, and thinking.

But second, alongside the potential for exceptional benefits from these changes for both the individual and society, there is the potential for tremendous risk. The potential risks – like the potential benefits – are hard to anticipate with any confidence. Collectively, we need to improve our powers of anticipation, and to deepen our resilience in readiness for surprise developments. We need to learn to look with greater perception into the set of possible future scenarios. Improved foresight will increase our ability to spot potential oncoming threats (before they become too damaging) and potential major opportunities (before they slip outside of our collective grasp due to inaction on our part). And once we notice these major change factors ahead, we need to become better at making these future scenarios vivid, so that society as a whole includes these factors in the global dialogue. This book is dedicated to these tasks.

The goal of Transpolitica – founded in January 2015 – is to catalyse a transformation of the global political dialogue. We wish to encourage politicians and political observers from all parties (and those with no existing alignments) to urgently:

  • Think through, in advance, the potential consequences of rapid technological change
  • Take part in a wide public discussion and exploration of these forthcoming changes
  • Adjust public policy in order to favour positive outcomes
  • Support bold regenerative projects to take full advantage of accelerating technology – projects with the uplifting vision and scale of the 1960s Apollo moonshot program.

The essays in this book present views from futurists, technoprogressives, and transhumanists from around the globe. Welcome to the conversation about the future of politics!

Cover credits

The cover of Anticipating tomorrow’s politics was designed by Alberto Rizzoli, and was the winning entry from a number of candidates entered into a public vote.

The photo in the middle of the above book cover is re-used by permission from the excellent site Unsplash, https://unsplash.com/mujiebok, and is by Unsplash contributor Sudiono Muji. The terms stated on the site are ” Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos from Sudiono”:

UNSPLASH LICENSE

All photos published on Unsplash are licensed underCreative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.

Recent Posts

There’s more to democracy than voting

Suppose that the UK held another referendum on the subject of Brexit. Suppose that the numerical result was essentially the same as before: around 52% voting for the UK to leave the EU, and around 48% voting for the UK to remain.

In that case, would that referendum prove to have been a massive waste of time and money?

My answer: not necessarily. Such a vote could actually lead to the healing of the nation, rather than to continued divisiveness and chaos.

politics chaos or healing

It all depends, not on the numerical result, but on the calibre of the arguments raised during that referendum.

If supporters of Leave came forward, during the campaign, with arguments that were less contestable and more compelling than before, this could lead to a healing of the nation. People who voted for the other option in the referendum might still feel disappointed. But they could accept that there were sound arguments in favour of the side that won. And, unlike the case of the first Brexit referendum, they could move forward, reconciled to the outcome. They could tell themselves they had lost a fair battle.

A similar conclusion could apply if, in a variant potential future scenario, it were Remain that won the second referendum, even if just by a narrow margin. Again, there’s no inherent reason why that conclusion would lead to ongoing bitterness. Again, it depends, not on the numerical result, but on the calibre of the arguments raised during the campaigns.

Not just a re-run

Various critics of the idea of a second referendum are doubtful that anything positive could arise from a new round of campaigning. It would just be a re-run of the previous campaign, they say, perhaps with a few people changing their minds. Nothing essentially new could arise. Forget healing. We would just get more chaos.

But I give a much more positive assessment to the idea of a second, better, referendum.

For one reason, people have learned a great deal in the intervening 30 months. Opinions which could be seen as plausible two years ago, have long since been shown up as deeply wrong. As an example, consider the now thoroughly discredited claim that it would be “the easiest deal ever” to negotiate Britain’s exit from the EU (witness “EU trade deal ‘easiest in human history'” and “All the times David Davis said that Brexit was simple”.) On such matters, we’re all wiser now.

But more fundamentally, it’s now widely recognised that it’s in everyone’s interest to cool down the debate, rather than letting matters be inflamed further.

The falsification principle

As a step away from ideology to objectivity, participants in the debate should start by reflecting long and hard about which circumstances would cause them to change their minds. This is in line with the falsification principle of science: people aspiring to scientific methods should set out in advance which experimental findings would cause them to seriously rethink their currently favoured theories.

Therefore, people favouring Remain should describe the circumstances that would cause them to consider switching to Leave instead. In this way, they would identify the potentially strongest arguments in favour of Leave. For example, to my mind, the strongest argument in favour of Leave would be if the structural weakness of the eurozone were shown to be likely to lead to huge financial chaos, of a sort that the UK could best hope to escape by being outside of the EU altogether.

Likewise, people favouring Leave should describe the circumstances that would cause them to consider switching to Remain instead. For example, they might be prepared to alter their vote if they gained confidence in the flexibility and genuineness of EU reform proposals.

Debate participants unable to set out such a “falsifying circumstance” would have to acknowledge they are driven by ideology, rather being open to new findings.

Preparing to build bridges

In parallel, participants in both sides of the debate need to set out proposals for how the UK could unwind from any state of internal hostility after the campaign was concluded.

To this end, supporters of Remain need to acknowledge that many on the Leave side are profoundly ill at ease with what they see as the direction of social development. More than that, Remain supporters need to be ready to commit to a credible programme to address key causes of this alienation, including the bitter perception many people have of being “left behind”.

Similarly, supporters of Leave need to acknowledge that many on the Remain side are profoundly ill at ease with the potential unravelling of processes of multilateral decisions, in a post-Brexit race-to-the bottom world of increasing deregulation.

Towards superdemocracy

That’s the vision – the vision of a better politics being expressed in a better referendum.

It’s a vision that goes beyond democracy-as-counting-votes. It’s a vision of emerging superdemocracy (to use a term that has featured in the last two Transpolitica books – Transcending Politics and Sustainable Superabundance).

Is this vision credible? Or are we doomed to a politics dominated by feelings of vengeance and obliteration?

That is, is a second referendum likely to lead to even greater chaos, or to healing?

Personal leadership

To an extent, the answer will be influenced by the personal qualities of the people leading each side of the debate. Do these people have high personal integrity? Are they open to learning? Are they able to build bridges? Do they have high emotional intelligence? Or are they, instead, obsessive and self-serving?

The answer (chaos or healing) will also depend on how the media conducts itself. Is the media looking for high drama? Will it seek out and amplify the most inflammatory soundbites? Or will it show restraint and care?

To my mind, everyone who cares about the future of the UK has to get behind the processes of healing, rather than the processes of chaos.

That means a commitment to debating honestly – to considering the merits and demerits of different arguments fairly, rather than with a partisan spirit.

This also means a commitment to building bridges – to discovering shared common values, even with people who express views very differently to our own.

It won’t be easy. But the cost of failure would be enormous.

Image source: “Big Ben at Sunset” – Photo by M N on Unsplash

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