ZS (the Zero State) is undergoing something of an overhaul this month, continuing the “reboot” process spanning this year. As part of that overhaul there was a brainstorming session in the “Cloud Nine” ZS subgroup yesterday, in which we decided to distill and explore ZS’ top-level Vision as a collective. The idea is to have that conversation together as a group, to ensure that all engaged founder-members fully understand our mission and community in the same way, just as we did when first developing the Social Futurist Principles back in 12011.
So, to that end, the brief explanations below are intended as simple headlines, or departure points for a group conversation. We want to know what you think about these things… what about them should we be particularly mindful of, what might we be in danger of forgetting, and which implications strike you as most important?
The ZS Vision is something I’ve written about before, but at its most essential we can say that it consists of two parts – Singularity & Solidarity – as described below:
I personally use the word “Singularity” in a loose way, to refer to a period of maximal convergence, when accelerating and converging trends give rise to a period of radically fast, radically disruptive change. In other words, this is broader than – but includes – the concept of Technological Singularity, which is usually characterized as hinging on recursively self-improving Artificial Intelligence leading to an “intelligence explosion”. As a Transhumanist and Singularitarian I do subscribe to these ideas, but also insist that we must take other accelerating/converging global trends seriously too. Taking all such trends together, it is frankly irrefutable that humanity faces a period of unprecedented and utterly radical transformation, for good or ill. The alternative is to imagine that things will remain exactly as they are now, permanently, for the first time in human history, which is clearly ridiculous.
So, I speak broadly of “Singularity” as a very brief period somewhere around the mid-late 21st Century in which we can quite reasonably expect current global trends to come to a head. I make no assertions about whether this is a good or bad thing overall (personally I see it as something of a statistical inevitability or amoral “force of nature”, with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ depending upon your own preferences), except to say that – as is always the way in life – the prepared are more likely to be able to survive and thrive in such a situation. Any mission statement we would adopt must be understood in this context.
In the face of such circumstances, the real question is how we should behave. What we should plan and work toward. What we must do. Given that I am an ardent Social Futurist, it should be no surprise that I believe in the power of community, or of people to team up and work toward a common good. I believe that Solidarity – the community holding together as a single unit to face common challenges – is critical to survival under difficult circumstances, and you have to survive before you can thrive. “Solidarity” does not imply any particularly Socialist leanings beyond any you might discern in the Social Futurist Principles; It simply means to stick together as a team, and to support each other toward common goals.
ZS exists precisely to embody that spirit of Solidarity amid torrential change. Things are going to change a lot over the next few decades, and people who can work together toward a common vision using the latest technological tools are much more likely to navigate that change well. Community spirit combined with vision and discipline opens the way to a future of safety, joy, and expanding potential.
Considering the Implications: Let’s Have a Conversation
“Singularity & Solidarity” is a top-level statement of our worldview, in the simplest possible terms. ZSers should think about what these things mean to them, of course, but the larger conversation is about what ZSers should do. What our goals and daily activity should look like. I offer you a few very brief thoughts below, but at this point I want to encourage others to share and compare their own ideas and preferences. Join the conversation… and then take action!
First and foremost, all ZSers should understand what it means to establish the Zero State. The envisaged future Zero State is an example of a VDP State (where “VDP” stands for Virtual – Distributed – Parallel), which means that it not only exists online, but also as a network of communities spread around the world, and in parallel with prior recognised territorial authorities). So all ZS projects and initiatives must work in some way toward the creation of such presences, alongside the wellbeing of ZSers, their friends and loved ones. What might that mean for you? What would be the most interesting way you could pursue that goal?
In addition to practical projects, community growth and networking efforts, ZS needs help expanding on the theoretical front, which is to say help in further developing the Social Futurist theoretical framework. A key aspect of that effort will be to make rigorous, systematic comparisons between our developing theoretical framework and the ideas of others (both historical and contemporary), both to draw parallels and make connections on the one hand, and to highlight contrasts/differences on the other. More broadly, it is important that ZSers make practical connections with other groups, communities and organizations, helping our wider network grow in the process.
Finally for now, we also need to discuss ZS’ relationship with games, game development, and the arts more generally. Ever since ZS began it was clear that its relationship to science and Transhumanism is one that expects a certain sympathy, but does not require any formal commitment beyond that. In other words, you don’t have to be a hardcore science fan or Transhumanist to be a ZSer, but you can’t be anti-science or fundamentally against Transhumanism, either. In exactly the same way, gaming and game development is now recognised as a core activist mode within ZS, encouraging engagement through fun and willing suspension of disbelief (necessary for full engagement in an age of cynicism and ‘slacktivist’ apathy).
At the same time, however, no-one is required to treat ZS as a game, or to work closely with those who do. If you can be motivated and effective in other modes, then do what works for you, by all means. In any case, regardless of whether your activism takes the form of game development or some other mode, the important thing is the outcome. The unacceptable thing is passivity and inaction, or worse, criticising others’ approaches to reaching ZS goals while doing nothing effective yourself.
So, going forward, we need to discuss this. We need to ensure that ZSers all share the same fundamental understanding of what ZS is, and that they all are active within teams working (in their own ways) to establish effective ZS presences, all the while feeling free to explore and expand upon the ZS worldview in their own ways.