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Technoprogressive Political Platform for the USA
Ben Goertzel   Nov 9, 2015   Ethical Technology  

This year we’ve seen a flurry of activity at the intersection of transhumanism and contemporary politics – the emergence of Transhumanist Parties in several different countries, and Zoltan Istvan’s controversial, mostly theatrical run for US President (see this article for a brief summary of some of the controversy). 

One thing this burst of transhumanist political passion has made abundantly clear is that transhumanism is much too broad an umbrella for anyone to shape it into a single “current transhumanist political agenda.”   As just one among many issues, some transhumanists are fervent political libertarians, and others are definitively left-wing.    And this sort of distinction is not purely theoretical, it makes a big difference regarding some highly practical issues connected to the advance of technology.  Should everyone get a basic income, once robots and AIs take most of the jobs?  Should the state or society, in some way, guarantee that newly invented technological benefits (say, life extension pills or molecular assemblers) are available to all?

Some folks draw, from these conflicts and complexities, the message that transhumanism and politics just don’t mix.  But I don’t think this is warranted.     Politics is tedious and often keeps one focused on the mundane and everyday rather than the profound or transformational.   Yet politics, good and/or bad, has the potential to make a huge difference in the nature of the radical technology-fueled transformations we have ahead.

I have written elsewhere about my general vision of the path from here to Singularity.    Please see my chapter titled “Toward a Human-Friendly Post-Singularity World” in the book The End of the Beginning, edited by myself and my father Ted Goertzel (a sociologist).   (And you can find a free PDF of the book on the Humanity+ Press webpage).    According to this broad vision, humanity is likely to achieve nanotechnology, quantum computing, superhuman AGI and other huge innovations during this century – and if we manage things well and have a bit of luck, many possibilities will eventuate after that.   People will be able to expand their minds and bodies far beyond the human level, and will also be able to – if they choose – continue relatively traditional human lives, but without the burdens of aging, labor and disease that we currently take for granted. 

But getting to this sort of rosy futurist vision may require us not to screw things up too badly in the coming few decades.  And it seems to me that to make any headway at using politics to militate toward a brighter transhuman future of this nature, more focus is needed than just “transhumanism” broadly speaking.   The Transhumanist Declaration, for example – profound and elegant as it is—doesn’t go far enough to serve as even the conceptual core of a political platform.

One species of transhumanism that gets a bit more concrete is what’s called “technoprogressivism” – the essence of which is summed up in the Technoprogressive  Declaration.    Crudely, technoprogressivism is the left wing of transhumanism.   Unlike transhumanism generically considered, technoprogressivism is precise enough to reliably serve as a basis for concrete political activity.    And my best, reasonably educated guess is that technoprogressivism is the pathway most likely to lead us to a broadly beneficial post-Singularity world.

In this article I aim to explore this theme a bit, and ask the question: What would a robust, contemporary technoprogressive political platform look like?   I will ask this question in the context of the US, simply because that is the country I know best (although I currently live in Hong Kong, and am a citizen of Brazil as well as the US, nevertheless I lived in the US most of my life and grew up very familiar with the US political system both formally and informally).   The basic elements of the platform I’ll propose would apply just about equally well to any developed country.  

Working out a technoprogressive political platform for developing countries would be a somewhat different exercise (and also different for more advanced emerging economies like China, than for earlier-stage economies like most African nations).   This is also an interesting and important topic, but I would rather leave it for transhumanists native to the developing world (or explore it in collaboration with such…).

Also, I have to emphasize that technoprogressivism is meatier and more coherent than transhumanism as broadly conceived, but still is a fairly big umbrella itself, and there’s plenty of room for various technoprogressives to disagree with each other on major practical issues.   In this article I’m speaking for myself alone, not for any organization, and not for the technoprogressive community as a whole (though of course if others like my suggestions, all for the better!).  

(And furthermore I’m speaking somewhat off the cuff here – I’ve done lots of spare-time reading and thinking on these topics, but I don’t have a political think-tank or an army of interns to do research and dig up facts and figures and historical precedents.   The thoughts shared here are intended as a rough indication of an interesting direction, not as a highly detailed policy proposal.   One could make a real policy proposal along the lines suggested, but I haven’t yet taken the time….)

Four Key Principles

Among the basic principles underlying the platform I propose are the following four … that, during the next phase of human socioeconomic cultural evolution, the state should:

1.  Allow as much individual freedom as is feasible without seriously jeopardizing society

2. Compassionately provide basic support to all humans (and posthumans once they exist)

3. Militate toward a beneficial environment for humans (and posthumans) to coexist in

4. Actively advance science and technology in key areas, for general human (and posthuman) benefit

The first three points, as I interpret them, are essentially a socially-permissive form of democratic socialism.    (Yeah, I know “socialism” is a dirty word in mainstream US politics currently; but since I’m proposing so many out-of-the-mainstream things here, it would seem pointless to kowtow to silly popular biases regarding word choice….)

“Individual freedom” as I construe it involves not only freedom from harassment for crimes without direct victims (like drug use, or experimentation with new body or mind modification technologies), but the freedom to democratically participate in choosing the rules of society.

“Basic support” as I construe it includes not just humane housing and food and healthcare, but also e.g. network connectivity and education.

The final point is something that gets much less focus in traditional leftist politics – and it’s something that my proposed platform gives a large emphasis.   I consider it highly likely that Ray Kurzweil and Vernor Vinge are basically right, and something like a Technological Singularity is probably near.   If this is accurate, then science and technology are going to be the most critical things going on in the next few decades and century.    Furthermore, they are going to be having dramatic social consequences – such as, for example, the elimination of most human jobs.   Given this perspective, it seems to me highly unwise for society to allow science and technology development to be driven by mega-corporations, as is currently the case.   Governments are far from perfect either, but I trust them more than large corporations; and it seems more feasible (though still extremely tough, I admit) to modify government into a more positive force, than to do the same with the megacorporations of the world.

What I will propose here is a gradual and organic modification of the current US political and socioeconomic system, rather than a radical replacement of the system with something else entirely.   It’s not that I’m unable to dream up more radical alternatives – I have dreamed up plenty, and read about plenty others that sound interesting.   But I also have a lot of respect for the fact that modern democratic capitalist states “somewhat work”.    They have, for instance, led us to the verge of a Technological Singularity.   And prior attempts to wholesale replace systems of government with utterly different ones have often met with dismal, tragic failure.

Currently the US GDP is around USD$16T (trillion), and the federal budget is around $4T.    My platform would involve boosting the federal budget to more like $8T.   This is a lot, but note that e.g. Sweden’s federal budget is around 50% of their GDP, and at times has been as high as 70%.   Sweden’s experience, and that of a few other countries, demonstrate that it’s perfectly possible for a democratic capitalist system to operate with this level of federal budget.    

I’m well aware that many Americans have a fear of “big government.”   Actually I have the same instinct, and have to admit I’m strongly emotionally attracted to the  American wild-west ideal of being out on the wild frontier with no restrictions except the laws of nature.   But yet, that just isn’t the world we live in today.   The world is more and more tightly interconnected, and it may be that the practical choice during the next few decades isn’t between Big Government and some sort of unfettered anarchic frontier freedom, but between Big  Government and Big Corporations.  

And it may well be that, if we manage to free the government from undue corporate influence and infuse it with more of the spirit of science and direct democracy instead, “big government” will no longer seem so scary, but will feel more like the rational way for humanity to express its mutual values and aspirations.  

What we have right now, in the US, is a situation where global mega-corporations exert an extreme amount of control on the present and future of the human race.   It seems that the most practical way of breaking out of the cycle of corporate rule, is for democratically elected governments to take more of the resources and control back from these corporations and the wealthier of their shareholders, and put more of the power in the hands of a wider variety of people and organizations.  

For all our differences, all of us humans do have a lot in common – such as the desire for health and well-being, and the desire not to be enslaved (nor, say, terminated by killer robots, synthetic pathogens or nano-goo…).   Technological Singularity is serious business and our odds of success will be maximized if we can focus on steering it together, rather than dispersing our resources and attention on petty economic or ideological competition.

Also, it should be understood that the federal budget doesn’t need to be spent entirely – or even primarily – on government employees.    For instance, federal science funding today largely goes to universities; some (e.g. SBIR grants) goes to startup companies.    And while government waste is a popular topic (and it certainly does exist, in multidimensional spades), some government agencies do amazing work – the US NIH is an outstanding example.    The NIH has made far more profound medical discoveries than any Big Pharma firm.

There is a myth in the US that scientific and technological innovation are made primarily by tech companies, fueled by VC and angel investment.  Actually, though, it’s  government-funded research that has made the majority of the fundamental breakthroughs.   What tech firms have excelled at, is productizing and commercializing technologies developed on the government dollar in university labs and national labs.   

Productization is essential and absolutely not to be sneered at.   I love my smartphone too – and even though they funded the invention of most of the underlying technologies, the US and European governments didn’t actually put a smartphone in my pocket.   

But the dynamic in which the government funds research and then corporations productize the research and distribute the proceeds to their shareholders, serves pretty effectively to feed the engine of increasing inequality that Piketty so articulately described and documented in his celebrated book.  This dynamic should be altered, via greater taxation of wealthy corporations and individuals, which will serve to feed back to the government some of the profits made from commercialization of government-funded research.   The revenue from such additional taxation can be used to fund further research – and not arbitrary research, but research in specific science and technology areas that the people democratically estimate will best work toward broad future benefit.

Expanding the Federal Budget

So, suppose we increased the US federal budget to $8T/year, and with an eye toward using this extra budget for “entrepreneurial state” style directed science and technology investment.   What would the new, radically technoprogressive budget look like?

Hands waving wildly, here’s a stab:

An extra $1T or so per year to supply every US citizen with a basic income around $11K/year.   This would simplify social welfare now, and simply be the more compassionate and moral thing to do.  And it would lay a foundation for the future – because as AIs and robots take over more and more jobs, a basic income will be the only alternative to mass starvation and death.

*  $400B per year for improved education, including free online education at all levels for all citizens, and a federal system providing official certification based on online courses

*  $100B per year for development of alternative modes of exchange (including but not limited to cryptocurrencies), with a view toward creating economic mechanisms that are more democratic and decentralized and do not involve a huge parasitic financial sector such as the US currently possesses.   Fixing the parasitic nature of the financial sector would save the economy vastly more than $100B per year

*  $500B per year for direct foreign aid to the developing world, with a focus on boosting advanced science and technology there.   This will benefit everyone including the developed world, because the current situation wastes a huge amount of the brainpower of the human race (since too many folks in the developing world have to spend too much of their brainpower just surviving, rather than contributing to the radical advancement of humanity).   This would expand foreign aid from the current level of less than 1% of the federal budget to around 6% of the federal budget.   (Note that most
Americans already think foreign aid constitutes a much higher percentage than this.)

*  And last but not least—$2T  per year for a new National Science and Technology Administration (NASTA – yeah, OK that sounds sorta like a third-rate reggae rapper or something, but we can live with it for the moment….), subsuming the NIH and NASA and taking over much of what DARPA and IARPA etc. now do

 

Yes, these are big round numbers and the reality would be more complex.   But the US government found trillions of dollars to bail out corrupt banks and insurance companies in the wake of the financial crisis.    The above sounds radical but fairly clearly would be achievable.    We’re not talking about radical changes to the basic political and economic system, like happened in Russia and China under the initial advent of communism.    We’re “just” talking about shifting the US federal budget to Sweden-like proportions, and putting most of the extra funds into Singularity-focused science and technology development; and radically simplifying and extending our current social welfare system.    Compared to the dramatic nature of the coming Technological Singularity, this sort of change is small potatoes!!!

What would the envisioned NASTA do?    Suppose its budget were divided among, say:

Bio (including longevity research and brain-computer interfacing)

Nano (including Drexlerian molecular assemblers as well as the less ambitious nanotech that has become popular)

Info (new computing architectures including quantum computing, massively parallel architectures, etc.)

Cogno (Artificial Intelligence, Intelligence Enhancement, robotics)

Clean energy (need I say more?)

Well-Being (what makes people deeply satisfied?  What scientifically-vetted practices can people and groups follow to radically increase human well-being?   How can we massively increase our Gross National Happiness?)

Space (we will learn so much by exploring the world beyond Earth, and create so many amazing spinoff technologies)

 

$250B each year for each of these areas would add up to $1.75T, leaving some left over in the $2T NASTA budget for other sciences.  

The NASTA budget would be split between government labs, grants to university labs (in the US and sometimes overseas), SBIR-type grants to startup companies, and investments in firms at more advanced stages.    Existing mechanisms for distributing research funds already exist, and with this amount of funding each focus area could have a division following a DARPA-style model, a division following an NSF-style models, and divisions experimenting with new modes of funds dissemination.

Can you really doubt that this would advance us faster and better toward a positive Singularity, than the current situation in which such a high percentage of our collective resources are controlled by corporations whose goals are to maximize shareholder value rather than to progress knowledge and invention or to benefit humanity as a whole? 

Well, OK, yeah, I know, some people will doubt this very much.    There is an ideology, especially popular in the US, which says that the path to general good is via people and organizations greedily seeking their own advantage.   There is some truth to this.   But not nearly as much as Americans typically tend to think.   I am not proposing to eliminate corporations altogether – that might well be a good idea, but the effects at this stage would be difficult to predict.   I am proposing simply to shift the allocation of resources substantially – but not totally – toward the radical advancement of science and technology for the public good.

Imagine full funding for Aubrey de Grey’s SENS programme for curing human aging—and multiple alternatives.  Imagine a full-on push toward better brain scanning, to enable mapping of the human mind and work toward mind uploading.  Imagine massive virtual worlds where young AGI software can interact and learn, and get instructed in both human knowledge and human values.  Imagine the nanotech and nanomedicine visions of Eric Drexler, Ralph Merkle, Robert Freitas and others , worked on by massive teams of researchers and engineers around the world.  Experimental robots of all shapes and sizes, interacting with us and learning from us in our homes, factories and schools.  Clean energy tech getting the R&D boost it needs to overcome the sunk cost of fossil fuels based technology and become our most efficient way of directing energy toward our needs.  Advanced tech used to clean up our parks and forests and waterways, and spread knowledge around the world.  Serious study put into the social, psychological, biological and environmental causes of human unhappiness and strife, and finding empirically validated ways to help (surely more useful than putting so much attention on warfare and imprisonment as our current policies do).  Internships via which students of all ages—in the developed and developing world—can participate in these amazing developments, learning as they go.  A focus, not on corporations or nations trying to gain economic advantage over others , but on humanity working together to advance human well-being and maximize the odds that the tremendous changes Ray Kurzweil and others have foreseen occur for the good of all. 

And what must be sacrificed to achieve these things?  Essentially, some of the differential disposable income enjoyed by the upper wealth brackets.  Not as many upper-bracket folks will be able to enjoy self-driving cars a few years in advance of the mass population.    Not as many upper-bracket folks will be able to enjoy new medical therapies in overseas clinics before they are available to the mass population—but this wouldn’t matter much, in the vision I outline, because stifling medical regulations would be relaxed, substantially quashing the phenomenon of Americans needing to go overseas for cutting-edge treatments.  To a greater extent, upper-bracket folks would end up using the same smartphones as everybody else.  And of course, the ability of upper-bracket folks to signal their superior social status via wearing Rolex watches, carrying Luiz Vuitton luggage and spotting pop stars at the trendiest restaurants would be significantly impaired.

Bear in mind, given the rate of technological progress—which would be enhanced, not impaired by the proposed changes—the same technologies that the upper bracket gets today, tend to be distributed to the masses only a few years later.  The same technologies that the developed world gets today, are distributed to the developing world—just unevenly and with a time lag.  Decreasing economic inequality will only cause the upper brackets to get the benefits of new technologies around the same time as everyone else.  Decreasing economic inequality in a way that puts more funds into scientific and technological progress will ultimately cause EVERYONE to get benefits faster, as well as causing these benefits to be more evenly distributed.  It’s a win-win all around in practical terms—the only substantial loss would be to the relative socioeconomic status of a fraction of the population.

Moving Toward a Singularity-Era Socioeconomy

A variety of other changes to the current order would be valuable, toward the goal of creating a collectively beneficial society as we move toward Technological Singularity.

An expanded government as suggested above would need to make even more choices than the current government does.   As the need for people to work to earn a living decreases, people will have more bandwidth to help the government make its decisions.    Adoption of new methods of direct democracy will be extremely valuable.   NASTA should experiment with making some of its research funding allocation decisions based on direct-democratic methods.

In a Singularity-era society, national borders will almost certainly be a thing of the past.  We can work toward this by gradually increasing the number of immigrants permitted into the US, year by year.   Experimental pathways should also be explored, such as incentives for trained individuals from developing countries to spend time in developed countries and then return home.   Encouraging flow of educated individuals back and forth between the developed and developing world will maximize the rate of progress and benefit for all.

Founding a massively expanded government as proposed here on a corrupt and dysfunctional US Congress would obviously be suboptimal.   Lawrence Lessig has proposed a variety of sensible measures for ending the current situation in which our representatives are basically owned by corporations and their lobbyists.    Let’s implement them.

I also mentioned above the elimination of crimes without direct victim.  This is gradually happening in the US, as gambling, prostitution and drug use are gradually (much too slowly) becoming decriminalized.   It would stop much of the waste of money and human potential currently occurring in the US prison system.   And, just as importantly, it would ease the path to a positive Singularity, by allowing adult individuals to experiment with radical body and mind modifications on themselves.    It would also entail substantial deregulation of the medical industry, which would have the consequence of dramatic cost reduction and innovation increase.

In the technoprogressive vision as I understand and advocate it, government is compassionate and cares for its citizens, but also cares for its citizens’ rights to self-determine and self-experiment, so long as these rights do not pose a clear and direct threat to others.

Finally, there is the question of how to pay for the expanded federal budget proposed – a question with, I suppose, a fairly obvious answer.   Sweden supports its proportionally large federal government with relatively high taxes, especially on wealthy individuals and corporations.  Piketty has also proposed an international wealth tax (international in order to avoid the issue of wealthy individuals and corporations moving their funds among nations to avoid taxation), which I think makes a lot of sense.   

A Technoprogressive President?

The platform I have somewhat vaguely sketched here, is certainly rather radical compared to what the main US political parties are currently proposing.   However, it’s squarely within the scope of what could pragmatically be done within the existing US political, legal and economic system.  It wouldn’t require revolution, only evolution.    A shift from the current order to the proposed technoprogressive system could be done over a period of 5-10 years, bit by bit.    The result would be more of a 21st century nation, a nation more fully prepared to craft a broadly beneficial Technological Singularity.

I’m under no illusion that the majority of the US population would vote for a technoprogressive program like this one – today.   But what about a few years hence, when unemployment rises due to AIs and robots taking over jobs, and the unemployment rate shows no sign of ever sinking again, just keeps increasing?  How will attitudes shift when nearly everyone in the developed world has a moderately generally intelligent service robot in their home, just as nearly everyone has a TV and a car today?  At that point, reality may overtake the corporate-directed attitudinal programming that currently dominates the American psyche, and a technoprogressive direction may become widely perceived as the only humane and viable alternative.

So I believe that the time to start advocating for an evolutionary change toward a rational technoprogressive alternative is now.   The time to start fleshing out proposals like the one I’ve vaguely sketched here, is now.   The time to start fielding political candidates, whether within third parties or mainstream parties, is now. 

It may not yet be the time for a technoprogressive US President – though things are changing faster and faster, and that time may come sooner than you think.    But well before the time for a technoprogressive President, having more and more technoprogressives actively involved in governance, and political and economic strategic and tactical thinking, can surely make a difference.

You can rest assured I don’t have plans to shift my own career in a political direction – I’m not a “political” person, and my efforts are needed on the science and technology of AGI and life extension.    But I am approached all the time by people asking what they can do to help bring about a positive Singularity – including people who are not oriented toward technical work.   One possible answer is: Do your best to shift our socioeconomic system toward practical technoprogressivism.   The platform indicated here is one Singularitarian scientist’s attempt to articulate what this might concretely
mean.

Ben Goertzel Ph.D. is a fellow of the IEET, and founder and CEO of two computer science firms Novamente and Biomind, and of the non-profit Artificial General Intelligence Research Institute (agiri.org).



COMMENTS

This is excellent Ben. Your thoughts on the need for a more focused, technoprogressive, futurist politics reflect my own. And your proposal for a National Science and Technology Administration, and the agenda you describe for it, is a great summary of a technoprogressive sci/tech R&D program.

I love it: politics as radical as proposed by someone 2000 years ago.  It seems the writers saw life on both sides of the singularity. Transcendent life growing out of the singularity you might say is like the mythological “Mustard Seed”, a government we can only imagine: “the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” Matthew 13:31.

For life on this side of the singularity, we set up a government for those who lack the transhuman pioneering spirit. “Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth: Mark 5:5, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled: Mark 5:6.

:-( I tend to be a pessimistic, sour puss, by nature or evolution so here are my comments, to the good Professors’ view.

1. I am believing based on how the majority think and vote, that the US, more so, than in the past is a plutocracy, or more precisely, an oligarchy (both parties now!) ruled by the rich. To this point, Dr. Goetzel will have to get approval and support from the Ruling Classses, otherwise his ideas will all wind up in the bit bucket of ideas that don’t get employed.

2. Along with this, I am betting that we will not get a technoprogressive president, till we have a technoprogressive economy. Using Marx and Engels premise about the “means of production” perhaps wending their way via 3D Printing or even better, Nanotech, as dreamed of by Drexler.

3. We will never have a Guaranteed Annual Income until the Elites say yes, and they will not say yes, until a GAI gives them something in return that they crave, like more power, or the right to have your income first, or half your crop, given to the Lord’s manor. Ah, back to the age of croppers and to the Manor, born.

4. My suspicion is that Dr. Goertzel’s updating of Russian Cosmisim, will have a greater impact on national and global societies, than deciding how to divy up the pie. A lot of economics talks winds up this way, rather than using technology to expand the pie. So no wonder discussions often become a bit dry. I feel, with the potential of his Cosmism thing, this has a better chance of thrilling peoples amygdala’s, and thus, societal economic change becomes much easier.

Good article, despite my inveterate, sourness.

Great article Ben, I wholeheartedly and wholebrainedly agree with 95 percent of what you say. Let me say a couple of things about the other 5 percent.

Re “I trust [governments] more than large corporations”

Well, I don’t. To me, governments and corporations are but two different sides of the same coin, and controlled by the same people for the same goal: to accumulate power and wealth at all costs. Naive people on the Right love corporations and hate governments, naive people on the Left love governments and hate corporations, but the reality is that governments and corporations have been working hand in hand behind the scenes for decades.

Re “have to admit I’m strongly emotionally attracted to the American wild-west ideal of being out on the wild frontier with no restrictions except the laws of nature.  But yet, that just isn’t the world we live in today.”

I am also emotionally attracted to the frontier spirit, and I also concede that the frontier just isn’t the world we live in today. I think, however, that we should preserve as much as possible of the frontier and its spirit. As you say, “Allow as much individual freedom as is feasible without seriously jeopardizing society.”

The problem is that when I hear “allow” I ask myself who does the allowing and what his interests are.

I would add one point to your platform: society should not only tolerate but foster and encourage political fragmentation and facilitate the establishment of experimental zones with different regulations. Therefore, as an European, I tend to support all sorts of regional autonomy and independence movements (Scotland, Catalonia, northern Italy, Russian Ukraine, and many cases in the Balkan region). I am very much persuaded that things work better when people can easily vote with their feet.

———

instamatic re “Can only tell you what I want: for starters a woman for president.”

What I want is a GOOD president. I really couldn’t give less of a damn for what genitals the president has and what he likes to do with his genitals. Voting is not dating.

Giulio…

***
To me, governments and corporations are but two different sides of the same coin, and controlled by the same people for the same goal: to accumulate power and wealth at all costs.
***

now now… ;D

Larry Page and Elon Musk, for instance, are clearly not about “accumulating power and wealth at all costs.”  They are about “accumulating power and wealth while getting really cool stuff rolled out into the world” ...

I don’t think Obama (to name just one among many examples) is just about accumulating power and wealth either.  I think the guy is sincerely trying to make the world a better place.  I would say the same about Bernie Sanders, for another example.

An issue with corporations is that their explicit goal is to “maximize shareholder value”, and since shareholders are generally upper-bracket in wealth and income, the easiest ways to do this generally involve increasing inequality. Also, the easiest ways to do this often involve exploiting common resources in unethical (even if legal) ways.

Governments, on the other hand, do not have destructive explicit goals. Their explicit goals are generally benevolent.  They may do a bad job of achieving these goals sometimes.  But still it’s a different situation from corporations, whose goals from the get-go are intrinsically anti-social and have a basic tendency to go against the common good.

Of course, sometimes corporations do great good anyway.  The world is a complex place.  But all else equal, if I have to bet on organizations with blatantly selfish goals versus mixed-up, confused organizations with ultimately benevolent goals, I’d rather bet on (and try to improve) the latter…

In the case of scientific R&D, if we don’t want to rely on megacorporations, what are our current alternatives?  We can try to overthrow the whole government-corporate order and put something better in place. But this is very difficult and would have unpredictable outcome.  Or we can try to expand and extend and tweak those aspects of government that work reasonably OK and are having good overall effects, like the NIH and the NSF and DARPA….  This is also difficult, but in my view much less risky and much more likely achievable than some sort of total revolution…

Well thought out and written.  I don’t disagree with anything I’ve read, and believe it to be moderate and comprehensive.

I personally would start out with the definition of “Transhumanism” I get when Googling it from this computer:

Transhumanism (abbreviated as H+ or h+) is an international and intellectual movement that aims to transform the human condition by developing and creating widely available technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.

Currently, the US political situation is in deadlock between progressive and conservative forces, special interests, and normal bureaucratic and US Constitutional hurdles.  Therefore, my suggestion (which I have not seen voiced) is to rely almost solely upon private enterprise and free enterprise to fuel the current exponential growth in technological advancement.  Not because I am Libertarian (because I believe such a political philosophy leads to the Tragedy of the Commons), or even a free market advocate (because it heavily favors monopolies and those with capital), but because it seems the only practical way forward.

Early adopters of Transhumanist technology will have a gigantic advantage over people who for whatever reason aren’t augmented and the invisible hand of the market will force people to adopt Transhumanist technology, so the main danger to Transhumanist goals is the government legislating against such technology by traditionalists, the oligarchy, and those who the status quo benefits.  Thus, Transhumanism as a political party ought to have the minimal goal of exerting influence to stalemate any such anti-technological government regulation.

The invisible hand of the market will inevitably force more and more people to adopt augmentation and technology to compete.  With technological improvement improving at an exponential rate, the only thing that could potentially interfere with success (according to Transhumanist ideals) is anti-technological government regulation, which ought to be much much easier to block that to enact the above technoprogressive agenda.

Let me add that according to the lead developer at Google, Ray Kurzweil, we are about 15 years from the emergence of the synthetic neocortex extender.  That will be a complete game changer, even though the Singularity (the point of no return for technological cultural change) isn’t estimated to occur for 15 more years.  My point is that soon all our political concerns will become academic.  Many of the current modern concerns expressed are based upon linear analysis and when instead analysed in terms of the exponential nature of technological improvement are instead just short term, since we are at the elbow of the exponential curve and radical change is about to occur with or without government cooperation.

Just to amplify a point I may not have made in the article clearly enough…

One key idea here is that the techno and progressive aspects synergize together effectively.  Via directing funds toward fundamental science and technology—where R&D occurs within centrally determined focus areas but the sci-tech community itself makes specific project funding decisions (a la DARPA, NSF, NIH)—the state creates the foundations of “exponential progress” , which commercial firms then leverage, productizing the fundamental discoveries that the state sci-tech funding originated….  This sort of dynamic has happened in the US largely accidentally due to military sci-tech funding (though more intentionally in the case of NIH); it happened more intentionally in Japan and South Korea.  I believe this phenomenon is underexploited, and that with a ramping-up of state-funded sci-tech R&D (probably not mostly done in state labs directly),  we could see faster exponential growth….  Further I think if the state directed this R&D more squarely toward broadly beneficial goals, then commercial companies would take up the discoveries made and find ways to make commercial products that profit investors while working toward these goals…. 

So I think that technocentric progressivism can lead not only to more equitable wealth distribution but also to more rapid exponential wealth growth across the board….  That is, almost everyone can get richer faster this way, at the “cost” of the gap btw rich and poor getting smaller (instead of larger as has been the case).  What I don’t see current political progressives emphasizing is Kurzweil-style exponential growth and the hypothesis that nudging resources away from megacorporations and the financial sector toward state-funded R&D in appropriate target sectors can accelerate this growth…

@dobermanmac—I am a near-total believer in exponential growth a la Kurzweil…

My point is that a shift in the direction of technoprogressivism as I’m suggesting has potential to

a) increase the exponent of growth

b) increase the equitable distribution of radical new tech in the pre-Singularity phase

I believe that b) is important and will decrease the odds of calamitous things happening on the planet in the years leading up to the Singularity…

Ben, I wish I were so optimistic about governments and large corporations.

But, you see, I am an Italian. All that I heard in my formative years (toddler to teen), on TV or from the adults around me, made me consider both governments and large corporations as legal forms of organized crime.

http://imghumour.com/categories/comic-strips/view/dad-i-m-considering-a-career-in-organised-crime

Giulio, I look forward to the obsolescence of government as we know it !!

But the question I tried to address in this article is how the socioeconomy should structure itself to navigate through the interim between here and a (say) 2045 Kurzweilian Singularity…

At the present time, regions of the world without any centralized government (mostly in Africa) seem to be way worse off than most other parts of the world ;p

I made a concrete suggestion—which admittedly would be tough to get practically implemented, but seems at least within the scope of feasibility…. 

Certainly there may be far better options than what I’ve sketched above.  I am curious what concrete option you would suggest?

Ben, I don’t really believe in the Big S, and therefore I am afraid we are stuck with human1.0 politics for a looong time. I wish I were smart enough to propose smart forms of governance without organized crime, and without useless over-invasive bureaucracy.

Giulio, I didn’t want to clutter this article with my thoughts on the topic, but I believe there is a relatively clear path to non-shitty governance that combines

a) liquid democracy (e.g. http://liquidfeedback.org/)

b) open-source policy-making

c) radical transparency of government processes

I think that if this sort of “New Democracy” process were implemented successfully somewhere, it could spread.

I tried to bake this into my “technoprogressive plan” above by budgeting in research on alternate socioeconomic frameworks…

Whether a technoprogressive resource allocation, or a liquid/open democracy, comes first, probably doesn’t matter much—I suspect that either one would lead to the other, in the context of the technological and societal changes to come…

Congratulations on your well balanced post, Ben! It will serve as inspiration for many!

Though, I think the budget could be balanced even further between “social” and “science” – the idea of balancing those seems to be rather new, I think. I would increase the budget for an unconditional basic income to 1.5 T a year, and take the funds from the NASTA budget, so that both would get 1.5 T per year.

Why? Because I believe that people can create amazing stuff, if they are free to do what they want, and self-organize without oppressive economic or political constraints (sure, some constrains will always exist, but reducing them seems to be very desirable from a libertarian perspective). Combine that with government support for the most innovative start-ups and watch amazing things happening!

However, I must agree with the concerns of feasibility of such dramatic political changes. I wouldn’t want to bet everything on the entrenched politics of today actually changing. My hopes were high when the Pirate Parties started implementing liquid democracy, open-source policy-making, and radical transparency in Europe. Politics is harder to change than most people are willing to accept. In the end, this means that the exponent of our current exponential curve will stay the same, if no big political shift happens.

My highest hopes lie in changing our economic system from the inside, which will then change everything else. Having companies who Implement innovative attention economics, reputation economics, and more social business models could be the levers which make big changes possible. Politics is slow to innovate. Getting businesses to innovate looks more realistic , from my point of view. Interestingly, this would mean that we should promote technoprogressive views in the business world, rather than in the realm of politics!

@Ben Goertzel Of course the Singularity Feedback Loop of intelligence creating technology, and technology enhancing intelligence would be fueled by increased funding.  Furthermore, the returns would be exponential.  Also, your article was a fantastic missive of how you would recommend a technocracy fuel such increased growth.

Perhaps it is because I come from a functional tradition that I recommend a less ambitious course.  For instance, right now so much energy is being devoted to urging a legislated (unviable n my opinion) carbon diet strategy upon civilization.  Recently, technology has emerged to allow the (viable) removed of the excess CO2 from the air, using it to profitably manufacture products.  In other words, it turned out more efficient to let nature take it course, and solve the problem after the technology had matured.

In other words, if it ain’t broke yet, don’t fix it.  In particular, in the public realm, there is an awful lot of cultural baggage from many centuries that is dysfunctional for the fast evolving technologically advanced future.  A virtual Gordian knot of religions, values, traditions, and prejudices that resist the exponential rate of technological change which is impacting our culture.

Would the best governmental policies accelerate the rate of technological change? Yes, there is no doubt.  Yet, government comes from the people, and the vast majority are not techno-optimistic, but rather resist even the near linear change we have experienced so far.  I would say that most of government’s help in accelerating technological growth comes indirectly from military spending, as well as spending for infrastructure improvements, both of which are intended to keep the citizens safe, not necessarily prosperous.  Any further likely governmental “contributions” would likely be in slowing down change through regulation or taxation, which are the opposite of pro-technological growth.

In fact, I would argue that the agenda that you laid out (that I fully support and commend you for putting down on paper) would be very unpopular with the general populace, of which (in this country) about half are even functionally literate, and far fewer are techno-optimists.  In other words, the fantastic and far-sighted agenda you prescribe would be destabilizing because government needs the support of the populace.

It is destabilization and a popular backlash to technology that we want to avoid, and it simply isn’t worth risking that to further accelerate an already exponential trend.

@Instamatic - I am for giving everyone a chance. That’s called “Equal Opportunity.”

Quotas and “Affirmative Action” policies negate Equal Opportunity, and therefore I am against them.

You can choose to support EO or AA, but not both, because they negate each other. So if you are in favor of quotas and AA, you are against Equal Opportunity.

The article is so (avowedly) US-centric that it is as difficult to comment meaningfully for me as a Chinese article would on how best to make the local party rule more efficient… 😊

For instance, in continental politics, at least inasmuch local politics has not been americanised, “socialism” is still often considered not really being about compassion or the redistribution by fiscal means of capitalist proceeds, but about the popular re-appropriation of means of production from essentially parasitic one-percenters who are actively protected from social competition by a pervasive and repressive bourgeois state, rather than being given free rein by the supposed absence thereof…

The crucial point for me, however, is that already highlighted by Giulio: <<I would add one point to your platform: society should not only tolerate but foster and encourage political fragmentation and facilitate the establishment of experimental zones with different regulations. Therefore, as an European, I tend to support all sorts of regional autonomy and independence movements (Scotland, Catalonia, northern Italy, Russian Ukraine, and many cases in the Balkan region). I am very much persuaded that things work better when people can easily vote with their feet.>>

I would just add that what actually matter is not fragmentation for the sake of it, but *diversity* and *pluralism* and *collective self-determination*, as in popular sovereign*ties*, where hints for instance in favour of a tax to be internationally and globally enforced no-matter-what raises concerns as to the possible Brave-New-Worldish outcomes of well-intentioned efforts that could end putting all our clade’s eggs in one single basket.

Goertzel’s economical-political idealism versus, Prisco’s real world practical knowledge. Big differences. How did you two ever get together to produce your Cosmism opus? I side with the view of Prisco on economic-political matters. The rich own the pols (at least in the US!) because no US politician can get elected without lots of cash. This, sadly, is the fact, and another fact is, there are no wholly, good, rich, because of their ownership of nearly all pols. To get economic change, someone, many, must be bribed!

From Catch-22:> (The old man is the spirit of Ancient Rome).

” Capt. Nately: You’re a shameful opportunist! What you don’t understand is that it’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.

Old man in whorehouse: You have it backwards. It’s better to live on your feet than to die on your knees. I know.

Capt. Nately: How do you know?

Old man in whorehouse: Because I am 107-years-old. How old are you?

Capt. Nately: I’ll be 20 in January.

Old man in whorehouse: If you live.

@spud100 re “Big differences.”

But I mostly agree with Ben, I only mentioned the points where I don’t entirely agree.

Americans tend to have an essentially positive and optimist vision of the world, and that’s America’s strength. We Europeans tend to be more cynical. In particular we Italians know deep in our bones that politics is mostly lies, fraud, corruption, theft, or worse.

Re “To get economic change, someone, many, must be bribed!”

Or killed. But I do hope to see a more idealist world, someday.

Hi Spud, I’m not so devoid of practical knowledge either—before moving to Hong Kong in 2011, I lived in DC for 8 years and earned my living largely as a “Beltway Bandit.” ...

But I’m an inveterate optimist 😉

Stefano: I agree about the desirability of establishing different zones w/ different regulations and customs, and I wrote about “microsocieties” in my chapter for “End of the Beginning” referenced in the above article…

However, I also think that technology has brought us to the point where some global coordination is a necessity.  The destructive potential that a few people can have using relatively inexpensive technology, is now so large, that a loose confederation of independent microsocieties is not a viable option, unless it’s supported in the background by a powerful global apparatus….  The subtlety is that the desirable case is where the powerful global apparatus does not exert its power much except in emergency cases, and mostly lets the microsocieties exist as they wish…

In the End of the Beginning chapter I was exploring bigger changes to the current order of things—because I was envisioning a further-future world, closer to the Singularity (or after it) ...

In the current article I was thinking more near-term .... On the one hand, the political changes I suggested in this article would be a huge change to the current order, far bigger than any current politicians are suggesting….  OTOH, in another sense they are just minor tweaks on the current order of things, when far larger changes would be deeply preferable and profoundly better…

My aim in the article was to suggest a direction that I think the US might actually be willing to go in, with some at least slightly nonzero odds, perhaps 10 years from now….  I wanted to show how far one could deviate from the current socioeconomic order, without actually breaking the basic, everyday socioeconomic and legal infrastructure that Americans hold dear….  I.e., how far one could go simply by progressive evolution from the current state, stopping short of revolutionary change…

...

I don’t have a great sense for the various varieties of European politics.  I understand China, Ethiopia and Brazil a little better than Europe politically (due to having a fair bit to do with each of those countries), and each is a different case…  Practical politics, even of the speculative variety, tends to get tediously detailed ;p

@Ben re “the desirable case is where the powerful global apparatus does not exert its power much except in emergency cases, and mostly lets the microsocieties exist as they wish…”

Right, but the problem is that the bureaucrats who run the powerful global apparatus wouldn’t be happy with a limited emergency role and would gradually change the rules so that they can micromanage the microsocieties.

You know how it works - one small concession today, another small concession tomorrow, and one day you wake up and find out that freedom and autonomy have gone with the wind.

There should be a constitution that strongly limits the power of the global apparatus and is very difficult to change (e.g. can only be changed by a real 2/3 majority in a referendum) and watchdog bodies with real enforcement power.

Of course, then the problem becomes, who watches the watchers… And so forth.

Giulio—- “Who watches the watchers” is why I have considered that maybe humanity needs an AI nanny…

http://hplusmagazine.com/2011/08/17/does-humanity-need-an-ai-nanny/

However, this particular article we are commenting on now, pertains to the nearer-term future while the AI Nanny is still baking ;p 😉 ...

But I don’t want a nanny, human or AI.

In the far future with AI, uploading, synthetic realities and whatnot, we will be able to have some elbow room. Move to another shard with your friends and do your thing freely like in a videogame.

But all that happens in the far future and in the meantime we must find ways to live together in the physical reality of this little overcrowded planet for a few more centuries.

Giulio, sure, you can have all the freedom you want in your Matrix world… but at some level, it seems there will need to be some sort of “nanny” or “watchdog” system which is pretty smart, unless things evolve to a state where there simply are no uncompassionate, greedy or malevolent intelligences around… (and I can’t currently estimate the odds of that…)

As you know I think the current condition in which humans are “top cognitive dogs” is extremely unlikely to persist past 2040 or 2050 or so… but that’s another story…

A key point is: I suspect the conditions that maximize the odds of a broadly friendly Singularity, are about the same as the conditions that make life on Earth broadly good for people….  I have a feeling if the Earth is torn with inequality and conflict, there is some reasonable possibility this has the consequence of a botched launch of superhuman AGI ... which will come out in the end just fine for the superhuman AGI, but could cause mayhem for humans along the way…  Whereas to the extent we humans can heal our profound sociopsychological issues, we will be more likely to craft the early stages of superhuman AGi in a generally copacetic way…

@dobermaniac

***
In fact, I would argue that the agenda that you laid out (that I fully support and commend you for putting down on paper) would be very unpopular with the general populace, of which (in this country) about half are even functionally literate, and far fewer are techno-optimists.  In other words, the fantastic and far-sighted agenda you prescribe would be destabilizing because government needs the support of the populace.
***

Yes, I know my suggested agenda would be unpopular with the average American right now…

But once robots start taking more and more of the jobs, and home service robots start judiciously quoting Shakespeare, who knows?

The public mind is driven largely by media.  Megacorporations have controlled media for decades now—but this doesn’t have to be an eternal verity.  The Net has many potentials.  P2P music sharing and blogging have prevailed in spite of the megacorporations.  Megacorporations have shifted and still profited copiously, yet the world has changed and in many ways become more open and more peer to peer…. 

If the media dynamics shifts away from megacorporate control, then a lot more becomes possible….  So a key question becomes, how can this be nudged to happen (i don’t want to say “engineered”, it’s too self-organizing for that)? ...

Can self-organizing P2P global brain ish dynamics make a dent in the manufactured consent that Chomsky has described?  that’s the N trillion dollar question I suppose…

Watch a touchscreen near you over the next 3-10 years—look out for some intelligent talking robot heads making emotional connections with average people and nudging them to think in radically different ways…

 

@Dr. Goertzel

If we are all as a species, to become uploads into virtual reality, or terrariums, as Eric Steinhart termed it, then let us all remember that E. Yudkowsky, several years ago, had a fix for avoiding, what has become known as Rokko’s Basilisk. Yudkowsky offered up the concept of the “Friendly Sysop,” in which the Sysop would prevent uploads from harming or eliminating other uploads. Friendly, in the sense that you can do or say whatever one dreams up, however, everyone else can do the same, as they do not torture or delete you.

As to a real world governance, and what is the best? I’d go for a maximal freedom, balanced by maximal material well being. In other words, freedom and wealth. This, is what is known to computer scientists, and economic and political philosophers, as “A Tall Order.”

@Dr. Prisco.

Your shared world comment is important, which leads us into the learnings of cultural, physical, and biological anthropology, and what it teaches us. What it teaches is that to promote calm (which is the closest thing to peace that humans may be capable of) by focusing on economic rewards. So, hypothetically, if, say, we directed our national efforts to great medical advances, or better energy sources, or better transportation systems, in coordination one nation with another, then we’d all be better off. This, I believe would assist with your “getting along” comment, greatly. I even read a summary of a paper, last summer, about using the middle east as an example, concerning, “what promotes calm?” The answer by the author indicated goodies, because who wants to screw up a good thing for themselves? Yes, we are apparently that shallow. But if it works?...

Is there any animal or human study that shows gifting a basic income or any reward, for that matter, makes humans/animals more productive or resilient? In very low economic conditions there are cases where adding free wealth will broaden a redistribution dynamic, but only when such redistribution is already taking place for the purpose of group survival.
Gifting people or animals with resources which are in no way earned is the opposite of compassion.  It weakens and degrades them (counter study anyone?).  Please stop promoting the degradation of human beings by removing all conditions for benefits.
By contrast, setting up the very same benefits you suggest and deciding on a reasonable (achievable) incentive strategy would be a boon to the volunteer sector.  Obviously, those who are physically incapable of work are excluded from this discussion.
Also, do you really think using tax money is the right way to do this?  Why would you want to throw so much into a system which isn’t transparent and is ultimately controlled by corporate interests?  You are suggesting sending additional trillions into a system which literally cannot put voters ahead of the money that feeds the parties.  Do you really thing this new money will get to the people that really need it?

Ben Goertzel: <<However, I also think that technology has brought us to the point where some global coordination is a necessity.  The destructive potential that a few people can have using relatively inexpensive technology, is now so large, that a loose confederation of independent microsocieties is not a viable option, unless it’s supported in the background by a powerful global apparatus….  The subtlety is that the desirable case is where the powerful global apparatus does not exert its power much except in emergency cases, and mostly lets the microsocieties exist as they wish…>>

I am not being “idealistic” myself about that, nor I am speaking of any “confederation of loose societies”: even barebone, open interference by one power in the business of another is a fact of life, and diplomacy shows that sometimes even agreements between entirely independent entities may be negotiated, work and be honoured, at least according the the relevant balance of force.

The point however remains that the US themselves were established by a group of people who demanded the unconditional freedom to *leave* the British empire, not to get more autonomous, to have more of a say in its affairs, to reform its legal and constitutional system, etc. If you accept that people may and should have a say about how they are ruled, I am under the impression that you have also to accept that they may opt *not* to be subject to a given rule, and that sending them the drones to bring them in line and to fold them in the pack is not really the most democratic choice.

Moreover, while the dangers of political pluralism have been endlessly emphasised at least since the WWII and the MAD doctrine, too little attention is IMHO paid to the dangers of the opposite by many US transhumanists.

Specifically, almost all kinds of attempts to regulate technological development worldwide have been attempts to repress, delay and prohibit research programmes and applications, or to protect monopolies on some strategic assets. The fact that they have been largely unsuccessful exactly depends upon the fact that their enforcement is problematic, and that unraveling is in the order of things, so that even potentially neoLuddite governments are kept “honest” by the pressure of international political (and economic!) pressure, and have a hard time trying to enforce their wishes abroad.

This need not be true for any legal and enforcement system with a real global reach, so that I suspect that Huxley’s BNW is simply the natural evolution of any such structure. On the contrary, Darwinian mechanisms amongst different sovereign entities is not only the best bet for a posthuman change somewhere, but also for the broadest access to the relevant technologies for most of those who be interested…

Let hundred flowers bloom, as chairman Mao used to say.

See, this is why I just can’t get the merger of transhumanism and progressivism.

Your very first key principle is “Allow as much individual freedom as is feasible without seriously jeopardizing society”. But then you advocate for strong government, which even the most casual observer can see is basically the polar opposite. The pattern that is emerging is governments almost without exception being at war with their citizen-subjects, whether it’s through hyper-militarized policing, panoptical security states, banning the strong encryption that future tech must have for individual safety and security, or simple regulation of all disruptive influences out of existence. The only difference in the warfare is in its “heat”. Your solution is to give that MORE power?

—-“Given this perspective, it seems to me highly unwise for society to allow science and technology development to be driven by mega-corporations, as is currently the case.  Governments are far from perfect either, but I trust them more than large corporations.”

Again, why? Corporations might work to preserve themselves, but even in so doing, they produce value. There is, absent interference, a very strong selective force against any business that fails to produce value. Whither the unstoppable IBM or the Japanese juggernaut of 80s story? Nowhere to be found, due to those selective forces.

Governments, by contrast, not only produce no value that couldn’t be had by other means, but subtract value from society and hold as their sole purpose their own perpetuation by any and all means.

Essentially, you are calling benevolent the forces that seek total control over every aspect of human and transhuman life, and nefarious the one who want to…sell you stuff. The priorities, to put it mildly, seem skewed.

At some point, I want to write an article, probably for this very site (as a lay researcher, granted) about the necessity for a body to protect humans from being aggressed against by transhuman or artilectic creations, or those same being aggressed against by humans, an “Organization for the Protection of Sapients”. One of the primary point therein is to be that this organization should NOT be a governmental agency, as it would be immediately be rendered corrupt by state loyalty, and a state would most likely be the first and/or largest perpetrator of acts such an organization would be designed to stop.

—“Productization is essential and absolutely not to be sneered at.  I love my smartphone too – and even though they funded the invention of most of the underlying technologies, the US and European governments didn’t actually put a smartphone in my pocket.”

In fact, imagine if government had tried to “direct” the development. Not only would smartphones not exist, but the arguments over protocols to even enable cellular communication wouldn’t have even begun.

Much of technological development comes due to the competitive imperative driving the Moorean progression of a given technological schema. The search for wider markets is a harsh taskmaster, as it demands that prices drop and power rise. It’s this, not governmental command, that moved greater-than-Apollo-level computing from building-size to thumbnail-, and eventually dust- and micron-size. The drive for transhuman technologies to spread far and wide and rapidly increase in capability and accessibility is best accomplished by Moorean progression, absent the short-circuiting effects of entrenched power attempting its ouster.

—” a new National Science and Technology Administration…subsuming the NIH and NASA and taking over much of what DARPA and IARPA etc. now do”

Three words, Homeland Security Administration. Governments DO NOT remove bureaucracies, they only rename or reorganize them. Expect even more restriction, even slower development, and even more short-circuiting of progress.

—“We’re “just” talking about shifting the US federal budget to Sweden-like proportions…”

That would be the same Sweden that is on track to strip any and all autonomy from its subjects by banning cash, freeing the Swedish government to negative-interest them dry and demand total surveillance of their every transaction?

—“ending the current situation in which our representatives are basically owned by corporations and their lobbyists.”

Why, exactly, do corporations expend funds on contributions to governmental candidates or officials? Could it be because it is an investment with returns? When you can have the ear of the ones who can grant monopolies, bail you out when you fail, cover corrupt activities, and regulate your competitors out of existence, why on earth would you NOT try to get it before someone else does? A powerful government CREATES the sort of corrupt government/business collusions against which there is so much railing. List any great financial or business crime of the last two centuries, and it is near unto a scientific CERTAINTY that it was committed with the connivance of government.

Just out of curiosity: You noted that you are a US/Brazilian citizen, currently residing in Hong Kong. Are you granting total reporting of your bank status, and paying your US taxes like a good little born-to-the-soil subject? It’s interesting that you want to export this massively unfair and unique-to-the-US system to the rest of the world, which has unanimously, with the exception of Eritrea (distinguished company, that), rejected it in favor of residence-based taxation.

@spud100 - ” the right to have your income first, or half your crop, given to the Lord’s manor.”

You mean, like the current system of withholding, where your money vanishes before you see it?

“Ah, back to the age of croppers and to the Manor, born.”

Like the current “born in America, owned by America” system?

Oh, wait, you think businesses do, or want to do that?

@Giulio Prisco - Cut, jib, newsletter. That is all. 😊

“Right, but the problem is that the bureaucrats who run the powerful global apparatus wouldn’t be happy with a limited emergency role and would gradually change the rules so that they can micromanage the microsocieties.”

Indeed so, and this is something people tend not to recognize, given the “Face”-oriented nature of our social discourse. I don’t mean “face” the way China or Japan use it, but the HAVING of a face for the system. We tend to talk about the actions of Obama, or Hollande, or Xi, or insert-national-leader-here, but they’re just the Face. Neither they, nor the storied megacorps-of-DOOOM are the ones who are most likely f*cking up your life at this very moment. No, it’s the paper-shuffling drone in an office somewhere, who declares that you have violated Regulation number 10,000-section-92-subsection-Q-paragraph-growl. That’s if complying with *that* wouldn’t put you in violation of two OTHER agencies.

The great friction created by endlessly-multiplying regulatory grit will be a far stronger impediment to transhuman advancement that any state or corporation.

@Ben —“but at some level, it seems there will need to be some sort of “nanny” or “watchdog” system which is pretty smart”

But only if it’s the sort of disinterested system depicted in the Council Wars series (though with much better defenses, one would hope). Once the Monitor starts getting the idea to “nudge”, “suggest”, “direct”, or whatever, we’re back to different systems struggling for dominance, and screwing us all over along the way.

@Stefano Vaj—Let hundred flowers bloom, as chairman Mao used to say.

Before he made a generational wreck of China that’s only even begun being repaired by Deng’s ideas supplanting him, and which managed to be re-wrecked by the one-child policy put forth by the Party. I’d rather see a hundred Tony Starks bloom, honestly.

This turned into an article in itself, but I don’t know if there’s a system to submit.

 

 

Ben, you are calling for more than doubling the US income tax base.  This cannot be done without radically slowing down technological progress.  It is not simply a matter of not being able to afford a shiny Tesla.  If you do the math it is pretty simple to see that this is the case.  The actual math shows that the combined total net worth of all the world’s billionaire’s is around $5 trillion.  That is total net worth.  This is barely enough to get up to the $8 trillion you propose for even one year.  So you must also take huge amounts from millionaires and then from people that are barely in the 1% at $300K/year or so and then from those at $200K/yr then $100K/yr.  If you take this money then where do you think seed and investment capital is going to come from?

Worse, it is pretty obvious that government bureaucracies move much much slower than private enterprise does in research and development.  Government agencies make decisions at a snail’s pace and on data that is far out of date in a world of accelerating change by the time a decision is made.  Then the actual world is made to conform to decisions that make not so good sense at all much less being conducive to innovation. 

Then there is the not so small matter of government rake off at multiple levels and politicians seeking to move more fat to their constituents to keep their office.  This is quite different from an environment of open innovation and fast moving response to new possibilities that most of us dream of.

You proposal will wreck the very speed of technological and economic progress essential to raising the state of all of humanity.  No thank you.

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