This is Part 2 in a 3-Part article series, which briefly examines a number of ideas related to the “ZS Reboot”, and our current transition from establishing a firm theoretical basis to developing active project groups. You can find Part 1 here.
300 Social Futurism
301 Artificial Intelligence & Means of Production
Social Futurism is of course defined by the Social Futurist Principles, which demarcate the basic worldview of all Social Futurists, but that leaves a lot of room for additional ideas and approaches to solving the world’s problems. The world’s political-economic positions have been dominated by the poles of Capitalism and Socialism over the last two hundred years, and the heart of that distinction is a difference of opinion over how society’s Means of Production should be managed.
Within the Capitalist system, production resources are owned by people with money to invest (or more accurately by companies on their behalf), who pay workers a relatively minimal amount and use their own profit to re-invest in the system. That system inevitably creates a cycle of increasing inequality between workers and investor/owners, along with other problems such as exploitation of workers, and of consumers, and of the environment as a whole (often referred to in corporation-speak as “externalities”; i.e. factors external to profit). Socialist/Communist systems after Marx tend (or at least claim) to impose some form of worker ownership of the Means of Production (albeit usually channelled via some State or Party apparatus), but they have a tendency to resort to extreme violence to maintain that system, while establishing new forms of radical political-economic inequality to replace the old ones.
It should be no surprise that I propose balance rather than adopting either of these systems, but the most common “Third Way” solution seen over recent decades has been a very simplistic one which has created new problems of its own. The moderate-centrist position usually called ‘Liberal Democracy’ or ‘Social Democracy’ is essentially a kind of watered-down Capitalism, in which there are State-controlled and Private sectors, and (in theory at least) political and economic safeguards against extremism which favours one too far over the other.
The problem with that milquetoast compromise is twofold. The lesser problem is that this “solution” naturally does not satisfy many of the more radical Capitalists and Socialists, who don’t like ongoing state control or problems caused by private companies (respectively). They can, essentially, never be satisfied by any simple compromise. Such people can be controlled, however, as long as things go well for society as a whole. The greater problem is (ironically) that this system has more or less worked since WWII, which should be a good thing, but it has allowed time enough for even larger, civilization-threatening problems to gestate. Those problems include nuclear proliferation, new technological risks (including societal disruption), resource depletion, climate change, economic instability, & resultant civil and international tensions.
In other words, we are rapidly heading toward Singularity, in the broader sense of the term. Things will come to a head by the mid-late 21st Century, if we are visionary, hardworking and lucky… which is to say that we have a chance to reach a higher civilizational level before the convergence would destroy us. If we are unlucky, or not visionary or hardworking enough, then that means that things will come to a head anyway, but we won’t be ready, and we will be destroyed.
So what solution do I propose? The need for an effective global solution exists on two levels. On the first and most pressing level, we need a dynamic balance which uses AI to balance Public and Private sector concerns on a case-by-case basis while assessing the overall health of the system, rather than deciding these things on a one-size-fits-all ideological basis. The second level is about the “big picture”, which is to say solving the serious problems which have accumulated over decades of political-economic incompetence. Once a new AI-based paradigm has solved the fundamental problem of socio-political-economic imbalance, its next step will be to solve the array of secondary problems facing humanity. To cleanse the human corpus of accumulated detritus, opening the way for it to evolve to a higher level of existence.
302 Automation, Employment, & Social Issues
Within the Capitalist system, the key theoretical issue is ownership of the Means of Production (as discussed above), but the Capitalist status quo is of course one that people are thoroughly used to. Most people don’t think about social issues on an abstract economic level. The more pressing concern for most people (who have any concerns about the system) is unemployment, and of course technological unemployment is a matter of concern to all Social Futurists.
The key questions are (1) whether the advantages of new technologies can be made to outweigh the problems caused by societal disruption, and (2) more broadly what changes must be made to our current socio-political-economic paradigm in order to integrate a revolutionary wave of technology without causing great pain to the majority of the population. In short, right now our society is simply not ready for a massive wave of technological disruption, and yet one is on the horizon. We must become ready. For more on the Social Futurist approach to technological unemployment and related issues, see my Transhumanity.net article “Social Futurist revolution & toolkit”.
303 Principles & the Social Futurist Party
As previously mentioned, Social Futurism has been defined by the Social Futurist Principles since 1st May 12011. Although ZS was officially founded with the release of those Principles, it should be remembered both that ZS existed for years beforehand, if not in name then in the form of various small precursor groups, and that ZS is not the official vehicle of Social Futurism. That organization is the Social Futurist Party (SFP), which represents the basis of an international alliance of Social Futurist groups, all cooperating and working in parallel toward the same goals.
Principles are important not only because they give us a consistent moral/ethical centre, but also because they allow a mass movement to operate in unison without centralized control. In other words, you don’t need centralized command & control when the organization/network can act flexibly as a distributed “swarm”. There is no need for direct, rigid, or hierarchical relationships between different Social Futurist groups, because each group must work according to the same Principles if they are to be considered Social Futurist, and thus will cooperate and adapt as necessary to that end.
400 Commitment and Stakes
401 Ideals and Goals
So, having considered the question of unifying Principles and goals, now we must ask ourselves what immediate ideals and goals ZSers should be focussed on. Our long-term goal is of course to establish the Zero State, from which we have already inferred certain mid-term goals. As I’ve explained elsewhere, we are currently working on the development of a small local community in Stuttgart (where I live), with an associated online community of 8,000 people by the end of 12019. Other small communities developed simultaneously will benefit from the template we develop over the course of the coming year.
In order to reach our goal for 12018-19, we need an online community of 2,000 members by the end of 12018. As I explained in Part 1 of this series, our chosen approach is to develop a small core community of no more than a few hundred members, all focussed on the development of technological tools. Those tools will later be used to reach out, to find new recruits and establish the Zero State, both within developing ZS communities and across society more generally. I will be posting about our initiatives to develop project teams over the coming weeks.
402 Inflection Points and Serious Games
Exponential processes are characterized by an “inflection point” in their curves, which is to say a point at which the nonlinear nature of the curve becomes apparent. In the case of accelerating change, we should expect an inflection point inside the next two decades, which is to say a point at which the acceleration has become obvious to all. Up until that point people could imagine that the amount of change might be increasing, but they wouldn’t necessarily feel compelled to conclude that if it continued this trend was leading toward some kind of total convergence or paradigm shift. After the inflection point, that kind of conclusion would be inevitable.
In a world of accelerating change, work to survive and thrive comes with high stakes, and the timing of goal-deadlines becomes a complex matter. The stakes are high because a society-transforming wave of change removes many (if not all) certainties, and so failure to prepare as well as possible could potentially be a lethal error. Of course, knowing how to prepare amid accelerating change is itself difficult, and plans must be updated periodically in light of changing circumstances. Furthermore, the intervals at which you must review circumstances and meet critical deadlines become shorter and shorter over time, as roughly the same amount of change is packed into shorter and shorter time-frames.
Part 3 of this article series will now begin laying out ZS’ short-term plans, in light of the ideas briefly examined in Parts 1 & 2.