Futurist values and ideals are obviously not universally shared. Far from it; despite our ideas becoming much better known in technologically advanced societies over recent years. However, concepts such as Transhumanism, Intelligence Explosion, and even Technological Singularity are increasingly handled with a degree of sympathy and nuance in mainstream media (examples include this, this and this), where only a few years ago they were considered “fringe” enough to be treated as cartoonish sci-fi tropes, and often moustache-twirling “evil” ones at that.
We also live in a society which has not recovered from the financial crises and ill-considered wars of the last decade, which has led to worsening social conditions throughout the Western world and a concomitant rise in awareness of social issues. Thus, the time is ripe for Social Futurism to grow, as a philosophy which squarely addresses the potential of advancing technology to solve social problems. At this critical time, we must take a moment to ask ourselves what “success” means, for Social Futurists. A handful of possible Social Futurist ‘outreach modes’ are briefly reviewed below, giving us some sense of what must be done, how we must proceed, and what success means in each arena.
Social Futurist Politics & Social Activism
Traditional political and social activism still has a role to play. The institutions which organize and govern our societies are firmly rooted in the past and largely oblivious to impending change, while also being demonstrably susceptible to technological disruption. Regardless of whether the future is good, bad, or something in between, they’ll be going the way of the dinosaur before too long.
In the meantime, however, successful engagement with the mechanisms of political and economic power would mean effectively supporting politicians, parties, and other institutions which both have real access to power, and will use that access to make new paradigms more accessible, rather than less. Representatives and policies which block techno-social progress must be effectively opposed, and those which enable it must be supported. Once the new techno-social paradigms enable us to abandon older governance models, we must do so.
Draw a 15-year timeline showing annual policy shifts which could be enabled by effective, organised grassroots support. Discuss such shifts with others, with a view to major, positive societal disruptions by the end of that 15-year period. Quantify these steps, so their actualization can be measured.
Outreach & High Leverage People (HLPs)
“Readymade” networks that could be used to facilitate positive social change through technology already exist, connected by “High Leverage People” (HLPs; i.e. people whose opinions are heard by and influential upon large audiences). The importance of such people in communicating to society at large is well described in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point”.
Successful engagement with HLPs would require a simple, well-produced, easily passed-on message or product… and ideally one which enables direct connection with Social Futurist networks and tools, so people only have to react to the message once. The message and/or its format should be tailored to each HLP’s interests, brand, and audience for maximum impact. If you can reliably reach a total estimated 15% of the population via this network of HLPs, then you have enabled successful communications.
The Basilisk Has You!
The Basilisk (known by many names, most commonly “Roko’s Basilisk”) is a thought experiment, involving a future AI which – in order to protect its own development – threatens to create extremely detailed simulations of everyone who becomes aware of it and won’t help to develop or protect it, and then imprison or even torture the simulations in some way. Since such simulations could easily vastly outnumber the single original real world, the chance that you are in a simulation is vastly higher than the chance that you’re in the real world. So, you’d better play ball with the Basilisk… or else.
Putting aside the particular details of the Basilisk scenario and anything too “sci-fi”, it is quite clear that we are all embedded in simulations and matrices of control which demand certain loyalties and behaviours from us (your dayjob being the most obvious, in most people’s cases). Either you use those connections to your advantage, and modify them as and when you can, or you allow them to control and exploit you. Make no mistake, you are in a Matrix, and you need to use that fact to your advantage if you can.
Take some time to identify the networks that you are embedded in; the voluntary and involuntary, explicit and implicit. Such networks may be ethno-cultural, economic, interests-based, faith-based, or take any number of other forms. Consider the things you like and/or dislike about each. List steps that you or others could take to modify those relationships, if you had help. What kind of help would you need? Don’t worry about how unlikely that help may seem to you; for now, just think carefully about your situation in these terms. Now, take your list to other Social Futurists, compare and contrast with their lists. Can you help anyone else with anything on their list? Can you see ways in which they could be helped, even if not by you? Measure success in terms of number (and quality/type) of “help interactions” between mutually supportive Social Futurists.
Action: The Foundation at Wave Gotik Treffen 2019
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, subcultural outreach is very important if you want to reach the culture at large with your message in a deep or long-term way. The mainstream will embrace an idea and forget it quickly, whereas ideas embraced by the subcultural strata of our societies are like plants that have found a nice, dark place to grow, from which they can periodically rise again into the daylight of the broader public consciousness in new forms. Success in this arena is simply a matter of conceiving, planning, executing, and documenting “actions” in which the Social Futurist message is effectively communicated to those who may be inspired by it.
Let’s end this section on a concrete note, with the beginnings of an exercise in communications. The Wave Gotik Treffen (WGT) festival is held in Leipzig, Germany, each May. WGT is a festival for people into “dark”/gothic subculture, music, art and so on. Next May, 2019, The Foundation will have a presence at the festival, and will be handing out copies of a media release which communicates Social Futurist & Transhumanist values to this potentially receptive (and extremely large) audience. We will keep Transhumanity.net readers updated with plans as they develop, invite collaborators to join the project now (email firstname.lastname@example.org), and intend to quantify the results of this action and post them to Transhumanity.net after the festival.
Success only requires consistent, intelligent, adaptable actions on a small scale. Do something, consider what went right or wrong, adjust accordingly, and then do something else. Rinse and repeat… and together, we will do our part in helping society toward positive social change through technology.