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

New complete book awaiting reader reviews

The dawn of 2019 marks four years since the original launch of Transpolitica (January 2015).

The dawn of 2019 also marks the first full availability of the book “Sustainable Superabundance: A universal transhumanist manifesto for the 2020s and beyond“.

All twelve chapters of this Manifesto are now awaiting reader review and feedback, ideally over the next 1-2 weeks. I’ll welcome any comments, on any parts of the Manifesto that catch your attention. You can make comments via this shared Google doc.

Depending on the feedback, the Manifesto is expected to be officially published around mid January – first as an ebook, and shortly afterwards in physical and audio formats.

For people inspired by any of the ideas in the Manifesto, the final chapter sets out “options to engage”.

TAM Graphic 12

For the opening chapter and links to all the other chapters, see here.

TAM Graphic 1

I’ve actually rewritten parts of every chapter over the last couple of months, as the overall flow of the message has become clearer to me. Even if you’ve read individual chapters before, you may find new inspiration from looking at the latest versions:

  1. Advance!
  2. Superabundance ahead
  3. Beyond technology
  4. Principles and priorities
  5. Towards abundant energy
  6. Towards abundant food
  7. Towards abundant materials
  8. Towards abundant health
  9. Towards abundant intelligence
  10. Towards abundant creativity
  11. Towards abundant democracy
  12. Options to engage

For comparison, Sustainable Superabundance has 54 thousand words, in the latest draft, whereas the previous Transpolitica book, Transcending Politics, has 142 thousand words. The new book is intended to be much more accessible.

On a personal note: 2019 will see, from me, a greater focus than before on activism rather than analysis. Of course, both are needed. But whereas before my energy was divided roughly 30% activist and 70% analyst, it will now be the other way round.

Similarly, I will put less focus on being a futurist and more focus on being a transhumanist.

I’m keeping an open mind as to the best organisational structures to assist these projects. I may shortly reboot or even shut down some organisations where I’ve previously invested my time. I may wind down my links with some communities and ramp up new links with others.

For the time being, I’m directing people to use the Transpolitica mailing list discussion group, https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/transpolitica.

Q4 update: Progress towards “Sustainable superabundance”

TAM TOC graphic 2

Over the last few months, the “abundance manifesto” book has been coming into shape.

Thanks to many useful discussions with supporters of the Transpolitica vision, the book now bears the title “Sustainable Superabundance: A universal transhumanist manifesto for the 2020s and beyond. The basic framework has evolved through many iterations.

The goal remains that the book will be short (less than 100 pages), easy to read, and contain compelling calls-to-action.

Of the twelve chapter in the book, seven are essentially complete, and the other five are at various stages of preparation.

This list contains links to copies of the chapters that are essentially complete, along with placeholders for links to the remaining chapters:

  1. Advance!
  2. Superabundance ahead
  3. Beyond technology
  4. Principles and priorities
  5. Abundant energy
  6. Abundant food
  7. Abundant materials
  8. Abundant health
  9. Abundant intelligence
  10. Abundant creativity
  11. Abundant democracy
  12. Engage?

For convenience, a more detailed table of contents for the first seven chapters is appended below.

Feedback

Supporters of Transpolitica are invited to read through any parts of this material that catch their attention.

The best way to make comments on the content is via this shared Google document.

Once the book nears publication, a number of existing websites and communities will be restructured, to more usefully coordinate positive concrete action to accelerate the advent of sustainable superabundance.

Thanks in advance for any feedback!

Detailed table of contents

  1. Advance!
    • Time for action
  2. Superabundance ahead
    • An abundance of energy
    • An abundance of food and water
    • An abundance of material goods
    • An abundance of health and longevity
    • An abundance of all-round intelligence
    • An abundance of creativity and exploration
    • An abundance of collaboration and democracy
    • Time for action
  3. Beyond technology
    • Beyond present-day politics
    • Beyond present-day democracy
    • Beyond lowest common denominator voting
    • Beyond right and left
    • Beyond the free market
    • Beyond corporate financing
    • Beyond predetermined exponentials
  4. Principles and priorities
    • Nine core principles
    • Technocracy
    • Science
    • Transhumanism
    • Religion
    • Singularity
    • Exponential urgency
    • Technological determinism
    • Techno-optimism
    • Precaution and proaction
    • Diversity and inequality
    • Diversity accelerating
    • Coexistence
    • Human-like minds
    • Re-engineering natural ecosystems
    • Beyond hubris
    • Taking back control
  5. Abundant energy
    • Anticipating climate chaos
    • Taking climate seriously
    • Technology is not enough
    • Steering short-term financials
    • A battle of ideas
    • Beyond greenwash
    • A role for nuclear energy
    • A role for geoengineering
    • A wider view of environmental issues
  6. Abundant food
    • Population, onward and upward?
    • The legacy of Malthus
    • Necessity and innovation
    • In praise of biochemical innovation
    • More waves of innovation ahead
    • Towards feeding one hundred billion people
    • Risks posed by biochemical innovation
    • The move from harm to ruin
    • Rapid response
    • Beyond the profit motive
  7. Abundant materials
    • Approaching nanotechnology
    • Tools that improve tools
    • Waves and transitions
    • The fabrication of integrated circuits
    • 3D and 4D printing
    • New materials
    • Quantum computing
    • Nanomedicine
    • Six answers to scarcity
    • Risks posed by nanotechnology
    • Beyond the profit motive

 

Q3 sprint: launch the Abundance Manifesto

I’m writing to share early news of a planned pivot involving Transpolitica and/or the Transhumanist Party UK.

This pivot will taken place over the next few months. Progressing this pivot is the goal of the forthcoming Q3 sprint for Transpolitica.

The pivot is to place more focus on one particular idea: clarifying the forthcoming era of sustainable abundance. This will happen via the vehicle of a new document – a new manifesto – which (all being well) will be published as a short new book some time later this year.

I’ve been led to this change by reflecting on a number of developments over the last few months, including discussions at last Saturday’s London Futurists conference on Universal Basic Income and/or Alternatives. Another factor influencing my thinking is the responses to my book Transcending Politics. Whilst I’m pleased at the content of that book, I can see that many readers would prefer a simpler introduction to the subject.

Hence the new document, which bears the working title The Transhumanist Abundance Manifesto.

It is presently mainly text, but the idea is that it will contain graphics as well.

As you’ll see, the document contains a call-to-action. If you’re able to help improve the document – particularly the FAQ section at the end (which I envision will grow to at least one hundred questions over the next few weeks), please add your comments and suggestions in this Google doc.

The Manifesto is split into three parts:

  1. An opening invitation, “Advance!” (roughly one page of A4)
  2. Sections explaining “Abundance awaits” (roughly three pages of A4)
  3. FAQ (to form an extended appendix to the previous sections).

For ease of viewing, here’s a current snapshot of the first two sections.

The cosmos beckons

(Picture source: Genty on Pixabay.)

Q2 sprint: Political responses to technological unemployment

Technological Unemployment v2

Q1 recap

Before sharing some details about Transpolitica focus during Q2 2018, here’s a quick update on Transpolitica activities during Q1 2018.

Transpolitica has made good progress during Q1 with goals identified at the start of this period:

Priority project for Q2

As Q2 approaches, it’s now time to put into motion the first of a series of time-limited projects to dive more deeply into some of the specific key themes of a better politics.

Each such project will involve gathering, developing, reviewing, and then disseminating the best technoprogressive thinking on a given topic.

The first project in the series is “Political responses to technological unemployment”, carried out over three phases:

  1. Up to end of April 2018: mainly writing and collecting submissions – framing analyses, thought pieces, policy recommendations, etc
  2. Up to end of May 2018: more focus on group deliberation – where are the weak points and the strong points of our collective understanding, and how can we improve our understanding
  3. Up to end of June 2018: more focus on communicating our findings and recommendations, via publications, memes, slogans, videos, etc

Note that I am using the phrase “technological unemployment” to also include “technological under-employment” and “precarious employment”. (A better choice of words could be one outcome from the project.)

Starting points for this project (to avoid people re-inventing the wheel) include:

Depending on progress, possible outcomes of the project might include a PDF research pamphlet, a video, an improved set of pages on H+Pedia, a press release, a set of slides, and/or a public event (such as a meeting of London Futurists in June and the Humanity+ Beijing event in July).

Questions that need addressing

Key to the success of the project will be the identification of the areas most in need of better understanding. These are the “major uncertainties” where we should prioritise our focus.

For the moment, it seems to me that these areas include:

  1. Potential transition mechanisms from where society is today, to a new social contract in which a citizen’s income (to give one example) is in place
  2. Possible alternatives to a citizen’s income
  3. Strengths and weaknesses of various forecasts of scenarios for the development of technological unemployment
  4. The pros and cons of various ways of raising money to pay for a citizen’s income
  5. The possible role of decentralised technologies such as blockchain in the administration of a citizen’s income
  6. The possibility of an “Apollo scale” project to drive down the costs of all goods and services needed for a prosperous lifestyle
  7. International and trans-border considerations

If you think you know at least part of the answers to the above questions – or if you think there are more important questions to be addressing – please do become involved.

To become more involved in this project

The mailing group https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/transpolitica exists to to coordinate planning and execution of Transpolitica projects. To join the group, visit this page, and send a subscription request.

(There’s also a Transpolitica group on Facebook, but with a potential impending mass exodus from Facebook, it’s more important than before to use other means for project coordination.)

Tools for better politics?

Which solutions most deserve mention, in a list of “tools for better politics”?

Tools for better politics

As I’m reflecting on comments from reviewers of the draft chapters of the forthcoming book Transcending Politics, I’ve reached the view that I should add a new section, towards the end of the book, entitled “Tools well worth watching”.

This will fit well into Chapter 14, “Afterword”, which already contains a similarly-themed section “Communities well worth joining”.

If you have any suggestions or comments, either leave them in the Google Doc for Chapter 14, or as replies to this blogpost.

Ideally the list will include tools applicable to one or more of the systems described below (this is an extract from Chapter 1).

  • Transparency systems, so that the activity of public organisations and decisions are visible, and can be judged more easily and accurately
  • Fact-checking systems to determine more quickly and clearly, via an online lookup, if some information is misleading, deceptive, biased, or in any other way suspect or substandard
  • Thinking training systems to help everyone understand and routinely practice the skills of critical thinking, hypothesis formulation and testing, and independent evaluation of sources
  • Accountability systems to hold people and organisations to account whenever they pass on damaging misinformation – similar to how codes of conduct already operate in the fields of advertising and investment communications
  • Bridging systems to encourage people with strong disagreements to nevertheless explore and appreciate each other’s points of view, so that shared values can be identified and a constructive dialog established
  • Educational systems to keep politicians of all sorts informed, succinctly yet reliably, in timely fashion, about the trends that could require changes in regulations
  • Simulation systems to help politicians of all sorts creatively explore possible new policy frameworks – and to gain a better idea in advance of likely positive and negative consequence of these new ideas
  • Monitoring systems to report objectively on whether regulatory policies are having their desired effect
  • Concentration systems to boost the ability of individual politicians to concentrate on key decisions, and to reach decisions free from adverse tiredness, distraction, bias, or prejudice
  • Encouragement systems to encourage greater positive participation in the political and regulatory processes by people who have a lot to contribute, but who are currently feeling pressure to participate instead in different fields of activity.

One source of ideas, by the way, is the H+Pedia article on “Politics 2.0”.

 

Chapter updated: “1. Vision and roadmap”

As well as general tidying, this update to Chapter 1 includes an important new section “Transcending left and right?”

Hopefully there will only be small changes to this chapter from now on, up until publication.

Review comments appreciated!

Access the chapter here.

The section heading are:

  • Power and corruption
  • Floods ahead
  • A technoprogressive transhumanist future
  • Steering technology
  • In pursuit of liberty
  • Roadmap ingredients
  • Transcending left and right?
  • About the name ‘Transpolitica’

Chapter updated: “4. Work and purpose”

As well as general tidying, this update to Chapter 4 includes some extra analysis, bringing the material up to date for January 2018.

Hopefully there will only be small changes to this chapter from now on, up until publication.

Review comments appreciated!

Access the chapter here.

The section heading are:

  • The rise of the robots
  • Automation accelerates
  • Machine learning powers ahead
  • 80% job transformation?
  • Limits to retraining
  • Robots and humans in partnership at work?
  • Three possible futures for automation
  • Citizen’s income Qs & As
  • The pace of change.

Transpolitica goals and progress, Q1

The advent of 2018 is the occasion for some changes in Transpolitica.

We’ll be switching to a system of three-monthly cycles, that is, one cycle for each quarter of the year.

At the start of each cycle, a set of priority projects will be agreed and announced. At the end of each cycle, we’ll review progress, and consider what we should learn, both from what went well, and from what went badly.

Pplus Q1

Priority projects for Q1

You can read the priority projects for Q1 (Jan-Mar 2018) here. In summary, these projects are:

  1. Assist the launch of the book “Transcending Politics”
  2. Refresh the Transpolitica website
  3. Refresh the Transpolitica content on H+Pedia
  4. Review the Transpolitica project backlog

To give more details about the first of these priorities, support is requested for the following tasks:

  • Review the draft content of the book. Make recommendations about any high-impact changes that come to your mind
  • Collect endorsements for inclusion in the book, and to help with publicity
  • Identify the core messages that should be prominent in descriptions of the book
  • Prepare and review slide presentations and videos to draw more attention to the content of the book
  • Find opportunities for Transpolitica consultants to speak about the availability of the book.

Progress with “Transcending Politics”

As of today, 7th January 2018, draft content for all the envisioned chapters of the book are now available for online review. The final three chapters to be released for review are:

You can find a list of the section headings for all the chapters of the book here. That link also provides pointers to the Google doc versions of all 13 of the chapters.

If you’ve been thinking in the past that you would like in due course to do some reviewing, now is that time…

If you do take the time to review any of the chapters, the kind of comments I’m mainly interested are:

  • If you couldn’t understand parts of what I’ve written
  • If you particularly liked specific parts
  • If you think I’ve missed out some important lines of reasoning
  • If you think there are sections that should be omitted
  • If I’ve made some mistakes in the factual content

You can make comments directly in the Google docs.

Remaining steps before publication

Here’s a summary of the steps remaining until the book is published:

  • Review the earlier chapters, bringing their content up to date for January 2018
  • Find good locations to insert a small number of topics that still need to be covered
  • Take account of all comments raised by reviewers
  • Strengthen some of the conclusions – by stating them more clearly and forcefully
  • Tighten some of the content – removing material that is less important overall
  • Collect and include some endorsements, to help with publicity
  • Add in an Acknowledgements section and, perhaps some additional start and end material
  • Produce some videos or slide presentations to help with publicity
  • Release a Kindle e-version of the book
  • Fix any significant points raised by the first batch of readers
  • Re-release the Kindle e-version (if needed)
  • Release a print-on-demand physical version.

 

The Future of Politics (#T4G17)

Later today (Saturday 4th November), David Wood, the Executive Director of Transpolitica, will be speaking at the #T4G17 event “The Future of Politics”.

DW Fourth Group Summit

The core message that will be shared is this:

The future of politics is technoprogressive transhumanism

In more detail:

  • The profound application of the exponential technologies of the fourth industrial revolution: nanotech, biotech, infotech, cognotech
  • The positive transformation of human nature – body, mind, society
  • Renewed democracy, elevating the best insights of the community
  • A roadmap to sustainable abundance, with no-one left behind

Note: For more information about today’s event – organised by The Fourth Group –  see thefutureofpolitics.eventbrite.com.