New Social Contract

Transhumanist Party prize challenge

The Transhumanist Party (UK) announces a new prize challenge: "New Social Contract".

The purpose of the prize challenge is to encourage the development of ideas that will accelerate a positive transition to a society in which automation benefits everyone, and in which people are no longer evaluated according to the extent of paid employment that they undertake.

Background

Transhumanism considers humanity to be an unfinished project.

Thanks to the application of science and technology, human nature can be dramatically enhanced. We need no longer fall victim to frail bodies and frail minds. We can transcend the cruel limits we have inherited from our biological heritage and from our social history. We can become better than well, experiencing superintelligence, superlongevity, and super well-being.

It's not just our bodies, brains, and minds that can be significantly improved. The Transhumanist Party observes that our social relations can - and must - be improved too.

As automation, robots, and AI take over more of the tasks which previously filled our hours of employment, more people will experience technological unemployment or technological under-employment. Unsurprisingly, this prospect can cause fear, alienation, and anger. That's why a new social contract is needed.

The rise of automation shouldn't be seen as something negative - as causing a loss of work. It should be seen as something positive - as enabling a gain of freedom. In the words of Arthur C. Clarke,

The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play.

But when people cannot earn money from paid employment, how else will they be able to obtain food, shelter, and possessions? How will they pay for their healthcare, education, travel, and other experiences?

In principle, automation, robots and AI will manufacture sufficient goods to comfortably take care of the needs of everyone in the planet. But how will the distribution of these goods take place? This is the question of the new social contract. This is also the topic of a new prize challenge which the Transhumanist Party is sponsoring through H+Pedia.

The Transhumanist Party needs your brainpower!

An increasing number of political thinkers are supporting ideas with the name "UBI", "Universal Basic Income", "Universal Basic Dividend", or similar. The think-tank Transpolitica forecast on 1st January 2016 that 2016 would be "the year UBI can enter the political mainstream". As predicted, UBI is discussed much more often nowadays than before.

However, many aspects of UBI remain deeply controversial. For example, former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers recently gave this assessment of Universal Basic Income:

It’s almost impossible to make the arithmetic work.

And John Kay, long time writer on economics in the Financial Times, has given this damning verdict:

While the details of such calculations would vary from country to country, the essentials remain the same, and the conclusions inescapable. The provision of a universal basic income at a level which would provide a serious alternative to low-paid employment is impossibly expensive. Thus, a feasible basic income cannot fulfil the hopes of some of the idea's promoters: it cannot guarantee households a standard of living acceptable in a modern society, it cannot compensate for the possible disappearance of existing low-skilled employment and it cannot eliminate "bullshit jobs". Either the level of basic income is unacceptably low, or the cost of providing it is unacceptably high. And, whatever the appeal of the underlying philosophy, that is essentially the end of the matter.

The Transhumanist Party gives the following response: these criticisms, from Larry Summers, John Kay, and others, presuppose only relatively straightforward changes to the current social contract. They don't sufficient anticipate matters such as the forthcoming abundance of production resulting from the accelerating powers of automation. Nor do they consider the UBD (Universal Basic Dividend) mechanism proposed by former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis:

Taxation is the wrong answer. Corporations pay taxes in exchange for services the state provides them, not for capital injections that must yield dividends. There is thus a strong case that the commons have a right to a share of the capital stock, and associated dividends, reflecting society’s investment in corporations’ capital...

A simple policy would be to enact legislation requiring that a percentage of capital stock (shares) from every initial public offering (IPO) be channeled into a Commons Capital Depository, with the associated dividends funding a universal basic dividend (UBD).

But the critics are right to request a detailed calculation. Such an analysis will need to show:

  • How UBI/UBD (or similar) would be affordable
  • How a transition could be accomplished, from the present social contract, into the envisioned new one.

It is the creation of such an analysis that the new prize challenge is intended to assist.

The rules of the prize challenge

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Transhumanist Party has agreed that a fund of up to £500 be made available as prizes for contributions, between now and the end of May, in the H+Pedia online wiki.

Contributions will be rewarded that document, curate, and identify key ideas about technological unemployment, automation in the workforce, universal basic income, etc, all from the transhumanist angle.

Note that the goal isn't to duplicate, on H+Pedia, lots of information that's already available elsewhere. Instead, the goal is to provide good links and recommendations about that material. Where there are gaps in that material, contributors are encouraged to provide original analyses, and to explore pros and cons of specific proposals from a technoprogressive point of view.

Two top-level H+Pedia pages to build on are:

Both these pages are threadbare at the time of writing, but that's something that can easily be changed if Transhumanist Party members and supporters put their collective minds to it.

Decisions on the allocation of prizes will be made by the NEC. Factors to be taken into consideration will include:

  • Clarity of contribution
  • Originality of contribution
  • Contributions made in a collaborative spirit
  • Avoidance of duplication
  • Constructive consideration of alternative ideas
  • Special emphasis on transhumanist ideas.

Prizes won't be restricted to people who write long articles. People can be awarded prizes for making a small number of short contributions, that improve the quality of the material.

As well as documentation, the NEC are keen to highlight and reward the creation of suitable "memes", graphic designs, slogans, and videos.

Appendix: How to make contributions on H+Pedia

H+Pedia articles can be created and edited using the same methods that are available for Wikipedia.

For help in getting started, see the information on this welcome page.

Note that H+Pedia maintains a full archive of which authors made which changes in which documents. There's no need for authors to sign their work, or to try to ring-fence parts of articles for their exclusive access.

Let's get the momentum flowing!

Prizes announced

At a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on Tuesday 18th July, the NEC agreed that prizes should be awarded as follows:

  • A primary award prize of £200 to H+Pedia user TranshumanTees
  • An auxiliary prize of £50 to H+Pedia user Laika.

These prizes are in recognition of excellent contributions to the pages on

The NEC is interested to hear suggestions on steps to encourage wider participation in the editing of the political pages in H+Pedia.