“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.”
I wrote these words on the opening page of RAFT 2035, my new book, which has just become available in both paperback and Kindle formats. You can find it on Amazon sites worldwide (UK, US, DE, FR, ES, IT, NL, JP, BR, CA, MX, AU, IN).
I had three goals in writing RAFT 2035. In each case, the goal is to transform the public perception of the changes that are possible over the next 15 years. I aim to help bring about:
- Raised awareness of future technologies – and awareness of the sweeping new powers these technologies will place in human hands
- Raised appreciation of the fast transformations that can take place in human society in the wake of these new technological possibilities
- Raised anticipation of a forthcoming transcendence – a transcendence in which humanity can soar beyond the limits which have hitherto cruelly stunted human experience.
The book also seeks to highlight a roadmap of practical steps forwards, to take advantage of the turbulence rather than being swamped by it.
Of course, not everyone is convinced about the pace of change ahead. Some friends who read drafts of the book ahead of publication asked me:
“RAFT envisions a huge amount of change taking place between the present day and 2035. What are the grounds for imagining this kind of change will be possible?“
Is so much change really going to happen so quickly?
It’s a fair question. Here’s the answer I included in the final manuscript:
Actually, there is nothing inevitable about any of the changes foreseen by RAFT. It is even possible that the pace of change will slow down. This could happen because of:
- A growing disregard for the principles of science and rationality
- Society placing its priorities in other areas
- Insufficient appetite to address hard engineering problems
- Any of a variety of reversals or collapses in the wellbeing of civilisation.
On the other hand, it’s also possible that the pace of technological change as experienced by global society in the last 15 years – pace that is already breathtaking – could accelerate significantly in the next 15 years. This could happen because of:
- Breakthroughs in some fields (e.g. AI or nanotechnology) leading to knock-on breakthroughs in other fields
- A greater number of people around the world dedicating themselves to working on the relevant technologies, products, and services
- More people around the world reaching higher levels of education than ever before, being networked together with unprecedented productivity, and therefore being able to build more quickly on each other’s insights and findings
- New levels of application of design skills, including redesigning the user interfaces to complex products, and redesigning social systems to enable faster progress with beneficial technologies
- A growing public understanding of the potential for enormous benefits to arise from the NBIC technologies, provided resources are applied more wisely
- Governments deciding to take massive positive action to increase investment in areas that are otherwise experiencing blockages – this action can be considered as akin to a nation moving onto a wartime footing.
It could all add up to a huge amount of turbulence!
An Engaging Vision
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.“
That insight from the biblical book of Proverbs is as true today as ever.
Without an engaging vision of a better future, we tend to focus on the short-term and on the mundane. Our horizons shrink and our humanity withers.
RAFT 2035 offers an alternative:
- Thanks to the thoughtful application of breakthroughs in science and technology, the future can be profoundly better than the present
- 2035 could see an abundance of all-round human flourishing, with no-one left behind.
The word “Abundance” here means that there will be enough for everyone to have an excellent quality of life. No one will lack access to healthcare, accommodation, nourishment, essential material goods, information, education, social engagement, free expression, or artistic endeavour.
RAFT 2035 envisions the possibility, by 2035, of an abundance of human flourishing in each of six sectors of human life:
- 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.
RAFT offers clear goals for what can be accomplished in each of these six sectors by 2035 – 15 goals in total, for society to keep firmly in mind between now and that date.
The Future Depends on Us!
The 15 goals each involve taking wise advantage of the remarkable capabilities of 21st century science and technology: robotics, biotech, neurotech, nanotech, greentech, artificial intelligence, collaboration technology, and much more.
The goals also highlight how the development and adoption of science and technology can, and must, be guided by the very best of human thinking and values.
Indeed, at the same time as RAFT 2035 upholds this vision, it is also fully aware of deep problems and challenges in each of the six sectors described.
Progress will depend on a growing number of people in all areas of society:
- Recognising the true scale of the opportunity ahead
- Setting aside distractions
- Building effective coalitions
- Taking appropriate positive actions.
These actions make up RAFT 2035. I hope you like it, and that you’ll want to step on board!
The Metaphor and the Acronym
The cover of RAFT 2035 depicts a raft sitting on top of waves of turbulence.
As I say in RAFT’s opening chapter, the forthcoming floods of technological and social change set in motion by the NBIC revolutions could turn our world upside down, more quickly and more brutally than we expected. When turbulent waters are bearing down fast, having a sturdy raft at hand can be the difference between life and death.
Turbulent times require a space for shelter and reflection, clear navigational vision despite the mists of uncertainty, and a powerful engine for us to pursue our own direction, rather than just being carried along by forces outside our control. In other words, turbulent times require a powerful “raft” – a roadmap to a future in which the extraordinary powers latent in NBIC technologies are used to raise humanity to new levels of flourishing, rather than driving us over some dreadful precipice.
To spell out the “RAFT” acronym, the turbulent times ahead require:
- A Roadmap (‘R’) – not just a lofty aspiration, but specific steps and interim targets
- towards Abundance (‘A’) for all – beyond a world of scarcity and conflict
- enabling Flourishing (‘F’) as never before – with life containing not just possessions, but enriched experiences, creativity, and meaning
- via Transcendence (‘T’) – since we won’t be able to make progress by staying as we are.
What’s Different about the RAFT Vision
Most other political visions assume that only modest changes in the human condition will take place over the next few decades. In contrast, RAFT takes seriously the potential for large changes in the human condition – and sees these changes not only as desirable but essential.
Most other political visions are preoccupied by short term incremental issues. In contrast, RAFT highlights major disruptive opportunities and risks ahead.
Finally, most other political visions seek for society to “go back” to elements of a previous era, which is thought to be simpler, or purer, or in some other way preferable to the apparent messiness of today’s world. In contrast, RAFT offers a bold vision of creating a new, much better society – a society that builds on the existing strengths of human knowledge, skills, and relationships, whilst leaving behind those aspects of the human condition which unnecessarily limit human flourishing.
It’s an ambitious vision. But as I explain in the main chapters of the book, there are many solutions and tools at hand, ready to energise and empower a growing coalition of activists, engineers, social entrepreneurs, researchers, creatives, humanitarians, and more.
These solutions can help us all to transcend our present-day preoccupations, our unnecessary divisions, our individual agendas, and our inherited human limitations.
Going forwards, these solutions mean that, with wise choices, constraints which have long overshadowed human existence can soon be lifted:
- Instead of physical decay and growing age-related infirmity, an abundance of health and longevity awaits us.
- Instead of collective foolishness and blinkered failures of reasoning, an abundance of intelligence and wisdom is within our reach.
- Instead of morbid depression and emotional alienation – instead of envy and egotism – we can achieve an abundance of mental and spiritual wellbeing.
- Instead of a society laden with deception, abuses of power, and divisive factionalism, we can embrace an abundance of democracy – a flourishing of transparency, access, mutual support, collective insight, and opportunity for all, with no one left behind.
For more information about the book and its availability, see here, on the Transpolitica.org website. It’s already receiving some very positive comments. I’ll be interested to hear your feedback!