With just a few hours left of the 2010s, I invite you to look ahead a full 15 years.
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:
- Nanotech can provide resilient new materials, new processes for manufacturing and recycling, new ways to capture and distribute energy, new types of computing hardware, and pervasive new networks of all-seeing sensors.
- Infotech can augment human intelligence and creativity with new generations of artificial intelligence, leaping over human capabilities in increasing numbers of domains of thought, and displacing greater numbers of human employees from tasks which used to occupy large parts of their paid employment.
- Biotech enables the modification not only of nature, but of human nature: it will allow us not only to create new types of lifeform – synthetic organisms that can outperform those found in nature – but also to edit the human metabolism more radically than is possible via existing tools such as vaccinations, antibiotics, and occasional organ transplants.
- Cognotech allows similar modifications for the human mind, brain, and spirit, enabling in just a few short weeks the kind of changes in mindset and inner character which previously might have required many years of disciplined study of yoga, meditation, and/or therapy.
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.
Given this turbulence ahead, consider the question: How good could life become by 2035, if people really apply themselves to the task?
Again: How good could life become by 2035, for everyone, if we understand and focus on the most critical priorities, set aside distractions, build effective coalitions, and apply sufficient private and public resources in wise support of greater human flourishing?
Welcome to RAFT 2035
The words above are taken from the opening pages of a book scheduled to be published mid January 2020. The book has the title “RAFT 2035”.
Raft is both a metaphor and an acronym – as you can tell from the book’s subtitle, “A Roadmap to Abundance, Flourishing, and Transcendence, by 2035”.
I’m attaching a copy of the placeholder design for the book cover (though it is likely to change ahead of publication).
The main content of the book is a series of 15 short chapters about 15 goals for society to keep in mind, to accomplish by 2035.
These 15 goals are spread through six spheres of human life, and in each case promote an abundance of human flourishing in one or more spheres:
- Individual health and wellbeing
- The wellbeing of social relationships
- The quality of international relationships
- Sustainable relationships with the environment
- Humanity’s exploration of the wider cosmos beyond the earth
- The health of our political systems.
You can read a summary of the book in its opening chapter, available here on the Transpolitica website – and also in this shared Google doc where you can easily leave questions and comments.
These pages also have links to where you can browse through as many of the other chapters as catch your interest.
At this time, I’m keen to hear feedback from members and friends of London Futurists:
- Are there parts of the book that you think should be changed?
- Would you like to be included in the list of people offering endorsements for the book?
Watch out for more news about RAFT-related projects and events soon!
Automation and Utopia, 11th January 2020
Here’s Goal 3 of the 15 goals set out in RAFT 2035: Automation will remove the need for anyone to earn money by working:
Sooner or later, increasingly powerful automation systems, including robotics and AI, will be able to take over an ever-growing number of work tasks from humans. This should be seen, not as a threat to the livelihood of employees, but as an opportunity for all of us to spend more time on matters of most interest to us. None of us should find ourselves spending time in labour that is back-breaking or soul-destroying, or in what we perceive as “bullshit jobs”…
Someone who has done a great deal of hard thinking about the implications of automation for the future of society – and about various possible “utopia” visions of a much better society that could arise as a result – is John Danaher from the National University of Ireland, in Galway.
John will be speaking to London Futurists on the 11th of January, addressing themes from his recent book, “Automation and Utopia: Human Flourishing in a World Without Work”:
Human obsolescence is imminent. We are living through an era in which our activity is becoming less and less relevant to our well-being and to the fate of our planet. This trend toward increased obsolescence is likely to continue in the future, and we must do our best to prepare ourselves and our societies for this reality. Far from being a cause for despair, this is in fact an opportunity for optimism. Harnessed in the right way, the technology that hastens our obsolescence can open us up to new utopian possibilities and enable heightened forms of human flourishing…
For more information about this event, and for tickets to attend it, click here.
With best wishes for remarkable growth in all-round human flourishing, 2020-2035, and beyond!
// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists