Dept. of Audacious Proposals
This Institution Could Help Humanity Transcend Planetary Crises
A call for a global body for Systemic Reconstitution to promote a common vision of a transcendent society
[Edit — 30 April, 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 created a sooner than expected chance to realise Project 2030. To keep up with the pace of changes, we launched The High Ground Report, a situational assessment of ‘the new normal.’]
In today’s increasingly VUCA world, many are trying to make sense of the rapidity of changes in politics, economics, society and the environment — perhaps you are too. Making sense of our world requires the ability to shift from problem solving and planning to actively engaging with volatility and uncertainty. This rare ability requires extraordinary mental agility and a clear understanding of converging megatrends.
What are the converging megatrends for 2030?
Megatrends are transformative, global forces that define the future world with their far-reaching impacts on businesses, societies, economies, cultures, and personal lives. Megatrends cannot easily be stopped, but they can be nudged in slightly different directions. Existing reports (McKinsey, EY, Frost & Sullivan, KPMG, HP, Roland Berger, TrendOne, OECD, US Government and WEF) largely agree on these six megatrend themes:
- Changing Demographics: population growth (7.5bn in 2017; 8.5bn in 2030), ageing societies, increasing cost of health care, increasing urbanisation, mega cities, smart cities, technological unemployment, social inequality, transhumanism.
- GDP Growth as Measure of Success: digital globalisation, strong growth from BRICS, emerging growth from ASEAN, economic power shift from west to east and economic interconnectedness.
- Scarcity: energy, water, food, commodities, government debt and delivery of public services.
- Environmental Disruption: increasing C02, climate change and an ecosystem at risk.
- Accelerated Innovation: exponential disruption, automation, IoT, AI, AR, VR, quantum computing, life sciences, electric mobility, additive manufacturing, cryptocurrencies, blockchain and decentralisation.
- Sharing Global Responsibility: shift to global cooperation, growing power of NGO’s in parallel with falling trust in institutions, privileged philanthropy, rise of the individual, and sharing, circular, machine and gig economies.
What are unreported megatrends?
Some trends can’t be spoken about in corporate trend reports, but are nevertheless important to consider in a VUCA world:
What is the metatrend for 2030?
If we accept that these six-plus-four megatrends are an accurate summary of our VUCA world, we propose the following metatrend:
Systemic Reconstitution: Significant, organised and rapidly growing segments of the global population who recognise that the system which produced Environmental Disruption, Scarcity and Social Inequality is becoming obsolete and that an entirely new, transcendent and parallel, system is being born.
What constitutes a successful society?
According to the World Economic Forum, there are four basic pillars of a good society and a globally integrated world community: economic prosperity; social inclusion and cohesion; environmental sustainability; and good governance. The WEF points out that ‘good governance’ is the responsibility of all institutions — including business — and should cover the provision of social services such as health care and education; infrastructure such as roads, ports and power; the protection of individuals from crime and violence; the promotion of basic science and new technologies; and the implementation of positive reinforcements — possibly via complementary currencies or tokens — to protect the environment.
Driven by expectations of what it means to live in a ‘good society,’ a new virtual middle class has emerged — particularly among the youth — questioning the status quo and seeking social justice and bottom-up multilateralism. The emergence is driven not by a rise in income — historically the enabler of higher expectations — but rather through widespread access to affordable computing and telecommunications. In short, technology has allowed the sharing and spread of ideologies and the rise of a configurable culture.
The convergence of all of the megatrends listed — particularly that of Sharing Global Responsibility — has resulted in an emerging opportunity to design, from the ground up, a more modern, global governance and economic system, harnessing and powered by exponential innovation rather than centuries old institutions and dogma. This is a complex undertaking. Therefore, the first step in delivering on the opportunity is to convene a global body comprised of individuals with a demonstrated ability to understand converging megatrends, as well as their ability to navigate a VUCA world.
Introducing a new global initiative
The central challenge for The Forum for Systemic Reconstitution (placeholder name) is to address the institutional framework for dealing with current global challenges, which currently does not match the scope, scale and nature of the challenges themselves. Our institutions are confronting a crisis of obsolescence.
Current global challenges are characterised more by interconnectedness than by isolation. This proves that our international system based on ‘specialised agencies’ is inadequate, since the nature of interconnected problems exceeds their specialised expertise. Further, existing institutions are often caught up in gridlocked political systems and, even when not, are generally unable to adapt as quickly as circumstances now dictate.
This systemic obsolescence calls for a new non-partisan global body, with a carefully and thoughtfully worded Charter of Principles. The mandate of this global body is to design and implement a viable, scalable world system to operate in parallel with the current system, seeking to eventually offer a superior way to deliver necessary governmental and non-governmental services. Once specified, tested, and refined, such a system can then begin to replace existing institutions, as affected citizens may choose.
The Forum is intentionally not focused on reforming existing systems, but on creating a cohesive alternative governance system. As the evidence shows, humanity cannot continue with an incremental approach to social change. Instead a transmutation or paradigm shift to a whole new system for organising the way we interact with each other and with institutions is required.
While this alternative system is as yet unnamed, the essence of the system is based on the principle of “willful conformity to smart consensus” — minimal state functions, with automatic provision of necessities and a society that expects of its residents complete cooperation with societal rules reached by consensus and monitored by technology. Those unwilling or unable to so cooperate, or to consensually effect those changes they deem necessary, would then depart to create new societies. This is a crucial distinction from historical approaches to societal design, in which people are presumed to be, in effect, property of the societies in which they live.
The Forum facilitates the strengthening of relationships by and between organisations that share the Forum’s values, and in particular by fostering and supporting synergistic projects.
The objectives of the Forum are to:
- Promote, protect and act as a catalyst for peer-to-peer, decentralised and disintermediated smart societies based on best practices and augmented by machine intelligence (Fred Ehrsam has described Blockchain Governance and Mattereum, by way of example, is making smart contracts legally enforceable globally, based on Ricardian contracts);
- Promote a shared global understanding and a common vision of matters relating to smart societies and the concept of Person-as-a-Platform (John Battelle has proposed a somewhat related Data Commons);
- Actively promote a strong, believable, motivating story of the new, emerging world based on smart societies, using a medium and message which appeals to the planet’s future leaders (those who will be stepping into early leadership roles in 2030), in order to provide a powerful alternative to the chaotic VUCA story;
- Provide a global matchmaking Solutions Discovery Platform for the collaboration of Generation Z (or earlier) creatives who have ideas for solutions to global challenges, facilitating connection with people already developing similar solutions, including mentoring-based curation, with a view to fast-tracking solutions that percolate up and gain acceptance;
- Promote and champion local, participatory self-governance, in harmony with existing governments (Vinay Gupta has described the peril of creating a “libertarian future” in the middle of governments’ turf without a dialogue);
- Create and promote an incentive system which transcends fiat money-based economies and rewards regenerative behaviour (Daniel Jeffries has described how to gamify the distribution of money. Bernard Lietaer has shown how the architecture of money can engender socially desirable behaviours without compulsion).
Differences between existing initiatives and the proposed Forum
- We seek to transcend rather than reform;
- Our Advisors and Board of Directors are predominantly women and people of colour;
- The material we produce and the method by which it is disseminated is specifically designed to appeal to our future leaders (Generation Z or later);
- The method by which we fund our activities and spread our message will itself bear testament to new ways of engaging with others (for example, Ecological Economics).
Values of the Forum
Why the Forum and why now?
Our planet currently faces a situation similar to the Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894, in which the then seemingly insurmountable societal challenge was solved not by policy makers, but by technologists. Right now, technologists are building solutions to planetary crises, but they cannot be implemented by existing institutions because those institutions are constrained by a scarcity-based mindset and outdated legacy structures and practices.
The extreme rate of change and unprecedented nature of the current crises/opportunities make it extremely improbable that existing institutions will respond competently and systemically. There is currently no mechanism for providing strategic guidance to the international system, as a whole, about exponential change and how to respond to it in a coordinated, evidence-based way. The Forum intends to develop a platform capable of providing that guidance.
Why will the Forum succeed?
There are currently thousands of philanthropic and public benefit-oriented for-profit initiatives around the world, many envisioning a world free of poverty, war, disease and further environmental degradation. We applaud such initiatives. However, the majority of these initiatives have been constrained by scarcity-based thinking, a siloed approach, and technology which hasn’t yet permitted transcendence into an entirely new system.
The technology to enable a Great Transmutation is currently emerging. All that’s required is a Forum to orchestrate ongoing and emerging initiatives. It may be viewed as akin to the tiny bit of material which, added to a super-saturated solution, causes a sudden phase transition to a new state.
There are five reasons we believe the Forum stands a better chance of succeeding than existing initiatives:
- Solution Agnostic: The proposed Forum doesn’t have “the” solution for global challenges. It doesn’t even have “a” solution — alone. Instead, we recognise that there are many groups — possibly thousands — each focused on solving some particular aspect of what’s not working in the world.
- Cohesiveness: Our original source documents — a book, and a collection of blog posts — didn’t create much that was new. Instead, they gathered the best available knowledge as widely as possible, then organised it into a cohesive argument that planetary transmutation is possible. Now. In this generation.
- Flexibility: The current exponential progress of technological breakthroughs guarantees that astounding solutions will soon emerge that are today unimagined. Hierarchical institutions, with sharp boundaries and slow response times, cannot possibly respond appropriately to such developments. We need a new kind of non-hierarchical institution, rooted in flexibility and service.
- Scientific: We believe that the scientific, evidence-based method produces enduring understandings based on demonstrable facts, and that this kind of knowledge must guide the development of a transcendent society. Only this kind of knowledge carries the precious benefit of reproducibility — which will enable successful societal experiments to be replicated elsewhere, in an ever-improving process. Revealed (spiritual or religious) knowledge may have its place in our personal lives, but it carries serious risks when raised to the level of society. Knowledge evolves. So, too, must our societal beliefs and practices, informed by science.
- Widely-inclusive: There are existing groups who have tabled excellent solutions to planetary challenges, most of which are operating in isolation. The Forum proposes to gather them into something much larger. Synergistically. A complete system reboot. Civilisation 2.0. Naturally there will be authoritarian and fundamentalist groups who oppose the Forum’s objectives, which is why the Forum seeks not to reform the existing system but birth a new system in parallel.
This early draft article is intended to spark a discussion. If the topic resonates, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
To keep up with the pace of changes post-COVID-19, we launched The High Ground Report, a situational assessment of ‘the new normal.’
Person-as-a-Platform: An individual’s infallible, immutable, elective, digital representation of the sum of their life to external parties, and the basis on which smart social contracts are executed.
Regenerative Behaviour: A process of engaging with one’s immediate environment which results in renewal, restoration, and healthy growth that reverses previously caused disturbance or damage.
Wilful Conformity to Smart Consensus: A method of minarchist governance derived from key elements of successful historical experiments, notably the Venetian Republic and Singapore, with the added benefit of Big Data, Machine Learning, Simulation Engines and Smart Contracts. Citizens vote on outcomes, rather than for representatives. Importantly, citizens have comparable insight into government behaviour as government has of its citizens.
Smart Contracts: Technologically coded rules helping to automate the day-to-day social interactions between and amongst individuals and institutions.
Smart Society: A society in which leaders and citizens make data-based decisions which enable constantly improving outcomes in economic prosperity, social inclusion and cohesion, environmental sustainability and good governance. A smart society includes a reward or incentive system that engenders socially desirable and environmentally regenerative behaviours without compulsion or punishment.
Social Contract: An explicit agreement among residents of a community — large or small — to form the society in which they live.
Transcendent Society: A society in which a set of express values, arrived at through discussion, debate and consensus, guides all aspects of the society. Such a society would implement these values through a scientific process of experimentation and simulation. A Transcendent Society may become an Evolutionary Society once a process is put in place to consistently and continually improve.
If you’re interested in helping us birth transcendent societies with our ambitious Project 2030, please check out the overview, and invite others to do the same.