Over the last two and a half years, since I departed from my media director job, my two core areas of study have been global catastrophic risk and private government. In my mind, the two are connected rather closely. Studying the numerous global risks which threaten mankind in the 21st century and their magnitude led me to the conclusion that private government is required to maximize safety and internal social cohesion in the face of overwhelming threats.
Global catastrophic risk involves the particularly magnified application of world-changing technologies: robotics, 3D printing, small biolaboratories, the ability to scan every human face and identify every human position by collating public camera footage, Artificial Intelligence, cybernetics, intelligence enhancement, and so on. Some of these will become supertechnologies; technologies capable of destroying or overwhelming everything else and making it insignificant. In the face of such power, values are incidental. Whatever agency controls these powers will control the world.
As someone who has been a transhumanist since age 11, going on twenty years now, I’ve always been fascinated by how slow democracies are to adopt or understand technologies of enhancement and how autocracies like China are much faster. China is already engaging in a massive study of the genetics of genius. The book Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom summarizes how in-vitro embryo selection could be used to create embryos with 100+ higher IQ in a matter of months, if the prerequisite technologies are in place. Societies squirming over minor racial IQ differences, like this one, will be left behind by others that fully embrace the reality of inequality and exploit to the fullest. In other words, the future belongs to savvy autocracies, not liberal democracies. The IQ differentials represented by differing racial averages will seem like peanuts in comparison to the huge differentials created when the first enhanced embryos are born and eventually mass-produced. Before the first half of the century is over, millions of enhanced embryos could be produced and implanted.
Consider this simple model of S curve bifurcation, which applies to anything from bacteria living in a petri dish to civilizations in growth:
The future of liberal democracies is on the dying curve, because of 1) the continuous expansion of government and its entitlement programs which are financially unsustainable and presage default, 2) the introduction of a myriad of transhumanist technologies the exploitation of which is fundamentally against Enlightenment values of equality at any cost, leaving them unarmed. Democracies also lack the nimbleness to quickly fund research into areas which will be militarily useful in the future. There are greater incentives to fund make-work projects like extremely expensive aircraft that do not work or aircraft carriers which would be sunk by anti-ship missiles in the first hours of a conflict. More autocratic nations that invest heavily into leading-edge technologies like robotics and human enhancement will have a decisive advantage. Boston Robotics is not enough. To be militarily competitive in the long term, there need to be 100 Boston Robotics.
Consider another example: the threat of Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). A hydrogen bomb launched into the upper atmosphere of the United States could shut down most of our electric grid, which would take years—not months, years—to repair.
We are not safe, you are not safe because the government will not invest minor amounts of money into shielding crucial components of the nation’s power grid. A collapse of the power grid would lead to total collapse of civil society because we depend on electricity for every aspect of food production. All crops would rot in the fields and it would be difficult to distribute grain reserves in a context where civil society has broken down and people are fighting to the death over scraps of food.
An EMP attack would be estimated to kill off half the United States population. Would you and your unprepared family survive? Probably not. The consequences of EMP are all very simple facts which people are psychologically unprepared to believe:
Some EMP experts say that such a catastrophic event could wipe out America’s urban centers, due to their total dependency on critical infrastructures for electricity, communications, food and water delivery, oil and gas, transportation, automated banking and financial institutions and even emergency services.
The experts say grocery stores, for example, would have their shelves cleared in a matter of hours due to the panic that would sweep the population. Normally, grocery stores carry a maximum of three days of products before being restocked. However, restocking would come to a halt due to the inability of trucks to function, with fueling stations unable to pump the fuel needed to run the vehicles.
Automated control devices that regulate the flow of oil and natural gas through the hundreds of thousands of miles of pipelines that crisscross the nation would be tripped, causing geographically widespread secondary fires and explosions.
Such an event would not just occur out in a remote field. Fires and explosions also could occur under streets and even into people’s houses.
The inability of fire and medical emergency services to respond would result in further disastrous consequences for the population.
That’s it. Simply put, we are not safe. Our entire lives and livelihood are built on top of a ticking time bomb, which results from living in a world where many parties have nuclear weapons and will eventually use them. I won’t even get into the calculations regarding nuclear winter, which are grim.
The United States lacks social cohesion and low-level resilience. If we were hit by an EMP, this would become abundantly clear. We must discard the model of government which shows itself incapable of preparing for catastrophic events, and unwilling to take advantage of the robotics and enhancement technologies required to sustain dominance in an unforgiving world. Because the demands of appealing to popular vote prevent presidents and Congress from taking actions which are unpopular, private government is the only answer.
Private government offers freedom of decision for the leaders. We fear that this freedom of decision will lead to arbitrary arrests, which it could, but instead of overfocusing on that, we need to consider the benefits of freedom of decision in a wider context. A private government could immediately fund efforts to shield power grids from EMP attack, it could promote local resilience on a level that would be considered unacceptable by democracy, it could use state funds to promote in-vitro embryo selection projects which push it far ahead of its competitors in a matter of a couple decades.
This world is about to become much more dangerous. It is not safe. The Bay Area is not safe. The east coast is not safe. The population centers of the Midwest and its big flat spaces with nowhere to hide are not safe. In the instance of a nuclear attack, we are doomed. The people do not have loyalty to the President in the way that subjects have loyalty to a private government. By choosing private government, with its greater internal social cohesion (which is maintained by force if need be), its greater latitude of options, and its greater inherent stability, we allow ourselves a measure of defense not available any other way. That is the only way for us and our families to survive.