Last revised: Thursday, 7 September 17 17:20:29 Europe/London
* * *
Humanity is experiencing increasing rates of change on all fronts - technological, cultural, climatic. The forces which underlie this condition seem unlikely to abate; in fact, the outlook suggests that they will only intensify over the coming decades.
Humans and human culture experience rapid change as a destructive force. There are, we believe, evolved modalities that address this condition, including reductions in the social value of older people, increased tendencies to favour stronger leader figures, increased tendency to vote for 'right' political candidates and more. These are understandable on various levels - most simply that if, by appealing to these, there is a route towards a condition where uncertainty is reduced, then it should be easier to raise children safely. Many commentators, in a wide variety of contexts, refer to the situation as one of 'exponential change'.
However, we are convinced that no such route exists under current circumstances. That the combined forces of modernism, of capitalist social processes, of already 'baked-in' irreversible changes in the climate, of the impact of digital technology and the rapid and deep effects these have on both social and personal culture - that these combined foces cannot be addressed by any attempt to revert to previous conditions where social order was stronger, where change was slower.
Examples of such initiatives include Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and other neo-nationalists, fundamentalisms of many kinds. By contrast, regimes in Russia and China exemplify attempts to manage rapid change through technocratic control.
To be clear, we consider that attempts to deny, ignore or reverse the powerful forces that underly current conditions are at best futile, and worse, are likely to be dangerous in the medium term, and significantly disadvantageous for large sections of humanity in the short term. Likewise, that attempts to 'manage' the situation through strong centralised control mechanisms are doomed to failure, with similarly negative outcomes, albeit via different pathways (with a significantly increased chances of powder-keg critical moments with potentially disastrous outcomes).
We choose another path - one which we consider to be more hopeful - in terms of human freedom and dignity, but also in terms of existential survival - the path of intentional growth in human capacity within a context of complexity and differentiation.
Before we explain this further, we need to consider one other current response to exponential change - one which comes particular from those interested and involved in technological thinking - an approach best described as sublimation. These are the people who look forward with pleasure to the idea of becoming post-human - or of accepting humanity's eclipse by other, post-human, entities - typically all-powerful artificial intelligences.
We reject this path also - not out of luddism, but as fantasy. This is not to cry 'Impossible!" - such futures may indeed come to fruition, but "Which?', 'How?' and 'When?' are questions which can be answered only on the basis of wild conjecture in this context.
In a period of rapid change combined with deep and threatening uncertainty, building our hopes for the future on unknowability cannot make sense.
What then? What can we do? Where can we most usefully direct our energies, our hopes, our joy? By what means can we most positively use the impetus to action that fear and anxiety are built to enegender?
In humanity - in the characteristic of humans that has enabled us to survive coutless periods of equal stress in the past - our ability to speedily evolve our culture to meet prevailing conditions - to use them to grow.
This is, perhaps, the most dangerous period in the history of our species, but it comes at a moment when we have an enormous range of new tools, understandings and metaphysics available to us, and 7 billion humans upon whom we can draw to use these in new ways. Above all, it is possible to use all of these to do something humanity has ever done before - to embark upon a conscious process of purposeful cultural development.
It is time for humanity to consciously direct its energies towards the conscious development of human culture - to understand that many, many insights, projects, conjectures, yearnings are already moving in this direction. For us to embrace a future in a landscape of perpetual change. To become increasingly a species that consciously considers itself as a process, not as a thing.
To begin to become Exponentially Human.
We acknowledge with gratitude Gerd Leonhard's 2016 blog post as an inspiration for this project.
Initiate a public process which aims to spread the idea that such a conscious development is possible, is happening, is important. That works to support, encourage, connect and draw connections between all human endeavour that can contribute.
Such a process needs various things - a public face, a facilitating institution, public events, a journal, cultural connections and ambassadors, wide recognition and cultural signposting.