Exuberance and scarcity: chapter ready for review

FiPo cover hires

A new chapter of the forthcoming book “Transcending Politics” has been released for review comments by Transpolitica supporters.

The chapter is entitled “Exuberance and scarcity“. You can get an idea of the content covered by the list of its section headings:

  • Lost fortunes over the centuries
  • Overconfidence over the centuries
  • From slow change to fast change
  • Financial clouds gathering again
  • Economic maximisation is not enough
  • Animal spirits
  • A technoprogressive future for money
  • Towards sustainable abundance
  • Constancy amidst change

Here’s how the chapter starts (in its current version):

Let’s set aside for the time being the subject of the previous chapter, namely the threat of an environmental meltdown triggered by reckless human activity. Instead, to start this chapter, let’s consider a different kind of meltdown, in which financial systems cease working around the world.

In such a scenario, ordinary citizens might try to withdraw cash from bank teller machines, sometime in the next few years, only to find they’ve all stopped working. The funds in savings accounts may be significantly reduced overnight. Payment requests using credit cards may be declined, causing chaos in shops and restaurants. In an atmosphere of profound uncertainty, corporations will avoid taking risks. Business contracts will be cancelled, with growing numbers of employees being made redundant. Supermarket shelves will become bare. Populist politicians and newspapers will be quick to blame bankers, businessmen, overseas cabals, the so-called “elites”, reds-under-the-bed, or whoever. Tempers everywhere will flare. Soon, people will be trying to take matters into their own hands. The few “survivalists” who have been able to hoard scarce resources will find their stashes under attack. It won’t be long until law and order breaks down.

That’s a possible disturbing future which has echoes in many past upheavals. History bears witness to a long series of financial crashes, each ugly in their own way. Simpler times saw simpler kinds of crashes, but the effects were still often catastrophic for the individuals involved.

In this chapter, I’ll explore the likely effect on future financial stability from the trend that underpins all the others discussed in this book, namely the acceleration of technological innovation. Should that acceleration make us more apprehensive about forthcoming financial crises? Or will it instead diminish the importance of money? Indeed, if economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources, and accelerating technology delivers a sustainable abundance of all the basic necessities of life, where will that leave economics? Will the displacement of scarcity by abundance transform the so-called “dismal science” (economics) into an unnecessary science?

To give my answer in advance: that’s not going to happen any time soon, contrary to the apparent expectation of various techno-utopians. Technological innovation, by itself, isn’t going to free society from the risk of financial meltdowns. Instead, we’re going to need better politics: technoprogressive politics…

As with all the other chapters released so far, Google Doc copies of the latest version can be reached from this page on the Transpolitica website. Google Docs makes it easy for people to raise comments, suggest modifications to the text, and (for reviewers who log into a Google account) to see comments raised by other reviewers.

Comments are particularly welcome from reviewers where they point out mistakes, pieces of text where the meaning is unclear, or key considerations that seem to have been neglected.

Drafts of eight of the envisaged 13 chapters have now been completed. Over the month of August, it is hoped that at least one more chapter will be completed – and that the earlier chapters will be revised in the light of review comments that have already been received.

Transpolitica Plans: Beyond Book 1

Ahead of a Transpolitica coordination hangout later today (Monday 30th March), here are updates on four plans that are currently under consideration:

1. Towards “Politics 2.0”

Book 2 Cover 0

The previous plan of record is that a new Transpolitica book, provisionally entitled “Politics 2.0”, will be collaboratively created and released, with timetable as follows:

  • Potential chapter writers should submit short abstracts by 21st April
  • Complete publication-ready text should be submitted by the end of May
  • An e-book will be available by 21st June.

What’s now under consideration is that the chapters of this book should all be published online, to increase readership. This publication would take place after the same sort of group review that preceded the publication of the first book in the Transpolitica series.

It remains to be decided which themes will have most focus in this new book. Ideally, topics from the first book which are generating the most reaction will be revisited in the second book.

2. Opening up readership of the first Transpolitica book

The ideas in the chapters of the first Transpolitica book, “Anticipating tomorrow’s politics”, deserve wider discussion. Two steps might aid this:

  • Publishing all the chapters online, freely accessible (in the same way that is proposed above for the second book in the series)
  • Finding and supporting a discussion forum (Reddit?) in which these chapters can be collaboratively debated.

3. Supporting the Transhumanist Party policy debate

The Transhumanist Party in the UK has published, on its own forums, a series of initial thought-pieces covering policy areas such as defence, economy, education, environment, the EU, foreign policy, health, judicial, political reform, and social. Transhumanist Party members will be revising these draft policy documents ahead of presenting them for formal approval at a forthcoming general meeting of the party.

Although some of the policies under discussion have a UK-flavour, most of them are likely to be relevant to other transhumanist political parties around the world. A good project for Transpolitica supporters would be to review one or more of these draft policy documents and provide brief, measured feedback on these documents. Members of the Transhumanist Party will then have the option to consider including some of the ideas arising in new versions of the policy documents.

Note: to join the UK Transhumanist Party, or to make a donation to support the work it is carrying out, see this link.

4. Refreshing the Transpolitica Manifesto

Recent expressions of the ideas in the Transpolitica Manifesto, for example at the recent launch event in London, have moved beyond the language currently on the Transpolitica website. For example, the online manifesto has eight headlines, whereas this (newer) diagram shows ten:

The Transpolitica manifesto summarisedThe online manifesto needs refreshing. In parallel, the ideas in the manifesto could usefully feature in new graphics and/or video resources:

  • We need combinations of imagery and wording, which, once published, will hopefully be widely copied across social media, on account of their mix of graphic appeal and verbal appeal
  • We also need videos that take these ideas from a static display into something more dynamic.