Sustainable Abundance

Anticipating 2040: A transhumanist roadmap to sustainable abundance?


Sustainable abundance is just around the corner – provided we humans collectively get our act together.

Would love to be there.

Surprised that there is nothing on the program dealing with the systemic roadblocks – the inherent incentives within any system of generalised exchange values (markets and money) to destroy or prevent any universal abundance from developing. Without abundance being universal, there is high probability of massive disruption from those who feel a close connection to the disenfranchised (who are an eternal part of the distribution within any market based system).

It seems that transcending money and markets is an essential part of any path that is genuinely sustainable (in the broadest strategic sense of stability at all levels).

It seems that new levels of cooperation can be a natural outgrowth of evolution, and it requires stabilising strategies and incentives. Without addressing this level – nothing can really work.

It is clear to me that real freedom, real security, real sustainability; require systemic change from competition to universal cooperation.

[Followed by – after David Altered the program]

Hi David

Did not wish to infer that there would be no role for competition in society, and I do wish to assert that there cannot be long term sustainability when competitive market values are the primary social value. Our Primary values need to be cooperative – in the sense of valuing individual life and individual liberty – for everyone, above all else. We need to devote technology and energy to delivering on those values.

[followed by]

Thinking more on this question and the use of the term “competitive and cooperative instincts”.

It seems to me that instincts is not quite the right word, and it points in the general direction of something.

It appears that we do have some very deep seated functionality within the structure of our brains that incentivises us towards cooperation, most particularly the ability to empathise. I know that the mirror neuron hypothesis has largely been discredited, and there is something like that present which is an ability to identify with another; to place our own feelings and motivations on the experiential model of another that our brain creates. So, at the systems level, we can only attach the attributes that we have experience of ourselves to those of any other human player within our modelled world. So that fact, in and of itself, tends to push us towards cooperation, tends to give us a certain degree of empathy.
That’s operating at one level.

At another level, we have a vast number of social structures (beliefs, cultures, institutions) that push us towards empathy. We have evolved a sense of justice which is enforced by many different cultural paradigms at many different levels; we have legal systems, we have jealousy, we have all sorts of emotionally mediated systems, that push us to punish cheating at different levels. It is about how the contexts of our minds, which are invariantly in the first instance derived from the specific cultures of our upbringing; how do those contexts direct our identification of cheats and our identification of the degree and type of punishment required for those cheating? In this context, the work of Lin Ostrom (for which she got the Nobel Prize in economics recently) is very powerful. She has shown, with many examples, and much mathematical and logical rigour, that building stable social relationships based on cooperation requires the level of punishment that one hands out to cheats to be very much proportional to the level of cheating.

If the punishment is either too severe, or too weak, then the system breaks down.

There is a very narrow band, just beyond the level of benefit gained from cheating (with a reasonable factor to allow for the probability of not being caught), which will deliver long term stability. [In this sense, our legal systems, with their fixed maximum values on fines, and often fixed minimum values, are far too harsh on those at the bottom of the distribution curve and far too lenient on those at the top – leading to massive systemic cheating at the top, and wild social instability at the bottom of the distributions. Having penalties proportional to the specific context of the crime in all cases, and having a high probability of detection, are essential to such systems working. At present, detection probabilities are so low as to be essential random in most cases, and most laws need to be removed as entirely inappropriate.]

If this is not the case, the system itself is seen as unjust. At every level the system must be seen to be just. So really harsh punishments, like death penalties or chopping off hands, are not stable in the long term. They can’t be sustained. Short term, a few generations, they might hold together, and ultimately, long term, they must fall apart, the mathematics proves that [so best just to remove them now].

So yes, we kind-of have instincts towards cooperation, and we kind-of have socially evolved systems which most of us are not conscious of, which are simply present in the background of our culture that we all, in the first instance, accept without question, and later on some of us go back and examine and question these things. I encourage everyone to go back and question these things, in the light of the mathematical and logical paradigm space that underlies all such strategic patterns and decisions, and that is a slightly more complex question, and one needs to do a lot of exploration in logic before one can get there.

If one is setting out on that path, then going back to the work of Turing, and before him to Russell and Wittgenstein (go back as far as you like into mathematics and logic in a sense), and the evolution of ways of conceptualising spaces and strategies. And then come forward into games theory, and the work of guys like Robert Axelrod (for which he recently got the American Science medal), and on into the work of the likes of Rachel Garden (Bertrand Russell’s granddaughter, 2009 paper on global logic, where she shows from a set theory perspective what the distinction is between Boolean and quantum logic forms {which is really profound work, and to my mind is in a sense a subset of a far more general work which is acknowledging that Boolean logic is simply one end of a spectrum of probabilistic truth value states where you have only two possible truth value states zero and one, true and false. If one allows for more generalised and more widely distributed truth value states, one gets into quite a different set of ways of knowing and ways of understanding which is far beyond the Boolean or Quantum spaces}). [Then there is the work of Wolfram, on general spaces in many different domains, theorems, strategies, patterns, algorithms.]

And it seems that the nature of our brains, the way in which our neurons conduct signals in a binary state (either there is conduction through the myelinated axon or there is not) influences us. At every synapse (junction) there can be a huge number of factors involved, we have currently identified about 60 different classes of factors, different electrochemical systems that influence the probability of any given synapse either firing or not firing, inhibitors and promoters and all sorts of things in between, and ultimately, the synapse either conducts or it doesn’t, the neuron fires or it doesn’t – and often it is the when of the firing that is most critical.

So ultimately, our brains are binary in this sense, and this push to the binary in our brains (combined with the fact that binary is the simplest possible of logic forms and distinction forms) tends to colour how we perceive things and how we model things. It affects the evolution of all of us individually.

One needs to take all of this into account, when one is building more complex and abstract models of how we as human beings model ourselves and the reality around us, and when it comes to understanding understanding itself.

When one comes to modelling future possibilities for the organisation of very large numbers of of brains with vastly diverse conceptual understandings and structures operating within those brains, we need to be aware of all these things. A very interesting set of thoughts.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
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