Beyond a green new deal

Originally published on 29 June 2020.

A new cross-party political grouping, Reset-UK, has called for a national conversation on how to “shape a fairer, greener, future” in a post-Covid UK. Transhumanist UK applauds this initiative, and urges that the discussion expands from “Green New Deal” to “Technoprogressive New Deal”.

Reset-UK appeared on social media on 27th June with the following message:

Will Covid change everything? And if so, who should decide how?

We think it should be everyone–including you. Reset is a national conversation, initiated by MPs from all parties, to shape the post-Covid world. Speak out, be heard, get involved.

The website of Reset-UK indicates backing from members of parliament from the following parties: Green, Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Plaid Cymru, and SNP. Reset-UK has emerged from the existing Parliamentary Group on the Green New Deal, which has an impressive set of advisors from industry, academia, the media, and NGOs.

At a time when temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit are, remarkably, being recorded in towns within the Arctic Circle, with the potential to accelerate even greater warming via positive feedback cycles, it’s vital that society thinks long and hard about measures to ensure a sustainable future for everyone. Otherwise, whilst we are distracted by other matters, environmental change may sweep upon us faster than expected. Enormous swarms of locusts that are presently devastating parts of India, Arabia, and Africa, are just one example of problems made much worse than usual by extreme weather.

For these reasons, Transhumanist UK welcomes the Reset-UK initiative. Read on for some of the recommendations we will be bringing into the discussion.

The Reset-UK website issues a visionary call-to-action:

Imagine the world to come…
then let’s work together to make it happen

What will life look like after Covid?
Will we go back to the way things were? Do we want to?
And if we don’t, then what changes do we want to make?

Reset is a chance for your voice to be heard, so that you can help shape a fairer, greener, future for the UK. Supported by a group of MPs from across the political spectrum, Reset aims to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all of us to listen, reflect, plan and act – together – to bring about real and lasting change.

Speak out, be heard.

As a first step in the conversation, Reset-UK invites citizens to answer an online survey. It’s wide-ranging, and takes about 30 minutes to complete.

As a contribution to the envisioned forthcoming national review, Transhumanist UK raises the following suggestions:

1. Recognise the powerful positive role that science and technology can play in addressing the problems people are identifying

Innovative use of science and technology may provide the most practical solutions to swarms of locusts, the spread of new infections, increased quantities of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and enabling people to collaborate in work and play without coming into close physical contact.

Transhumanist UK identifies as “Bright Green”:

Transhumanist UK will work toward the abolition of unnecessary and involuntary suffering across society and throughout nature. We identify as “Bright Green” in the sense of advocating the use of technology to reduce and reverse the negative impact of humanity on the life of earth, and to enable sustainable, evolving, harmonious relationships.

Let’s not put unnecessary red-lines around potentially disruptive technologies such as gene-editing, nanotechnology, next generation nuclear energy, artificial general intelligence, and negative emissions technologies, just because there are legitimate concerns about potential misuse. Instead, let’s identify and promote the ways in which these technologies can be used safely and responsibly for profound beneficial results.

2. Address and support individual mental wellbeing as well as environmental wellbeing. The two are deeply interlinked

Rather than hostile exchange of rhetoric, the UK more than ever needs ways to encourage the recognition of important ideas and insights wherever they arise.

Rather than people rejecting cooperation on account of perceived flaws and shortcomings in each other, we more than ever need to discover sufficient compassion to turn adversaries into allies.

Rather than sticking to our previous ideas through thick and thin, we need the courage to see things differently, even when our first instincts are to recoil with a “yuk”.

Rather than our reasoning being hijacked in service of our perceived partisan loyalties, we need the emotional resilience to clearly evaluate the true merits of different suggestions.

Rather than covering up data or analyses that challenges our own prevailing worldviews, we need to embrace the potential for reinvention, valuing truth higher than dogma.

Happily, there are lots of methods available that can boost individual mental wellbeing – traditional methods as well as newer ones. Even politicians (and their supporters) can benefit from these methods, enabling politics that is kinder, smarter, more effective, and better for everyone. But we need to significantly increase the priority of developing and introducing these methods.

Transhumanist UK has set the goal that, by 2035,

At least 99% of people in the UK will experience their mental health as “good” or “excellent”.

It’s increasingly evident that 2035 is too long to wait for the full achievement of this goal

3. Look forward to a post-work society

Sooner or later, increasingly powerful automation systems, including robotics and AI, will be able to take over an ever-growing number of work tasks from humans.

This should be seen, not as a threat to the livelihood of employees, but as an opportunity for all of us to spend more time on matters of most interest to us. No-one us should find themselves spending time in labour that is back-breaking or soul-destroying, or in what they perceive as a “bullshit job”.

From the Transhumanist UK viewpoint, the requirement for people to seek paid employment belongs only to a temporary phase in the evolution of human culture. From now on, the basis for societies to be judged as effective or defective, shouldn’t be the proportion of people who have positions of well-paid employment. Instead, it should be the proportion of people who can flourish, every single day of their lives.

Transhumanist UK foresees a stage-by-stage transformation of the social safety net – so that all members of society have access to the goods and services that are fundamental to an agreed base level of human flourishing.

The following high-level strategic direction should be adopted for the management of the economy: prioritise the reduction of prices for all goods and services that are fundamental to human flourishing.

This kind of reduction is already taking place for a range of different products, but there are too many other examples where prices are rising (or dropping too slowly). In other words, the goal of the economy should no longer be to increase the GDP – the gross domestic product, made up of higher prices and greater commercial activity. Instead, the goal should be to reduce the costs of everything that is required for a good life, including housing, food, education, security, and much more. This will be part of taking full advantage of the emerging tech-driven abundance.

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