Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Metaciv Project Goals

I want this "Meta Civilization" project to deliver on multiple fronts.

First, I see it as an evolution of my older Digital Crusader blog (no longer accessible - but I hope to import the archives here soon) - which was subtitled "questing for sustainable transhumanism". I was interested in the application of sustainable/green/environmental ideas to transhumanism/mega-engineering. And vice-versa. Narrowly, I was motivated by the idea that if we're going to live a long time, doesn't it behoove us to preserve our natural environment to the best of our ability, so that our options remain open, or at least so that we don't actively destroy our own past? So I see Metaciv as a platform for the continued comparisom of the green movement with the transhuman project - an interdisiplinary learning & cross-fertilization exercise. I remain convinced that greens and transhumanists have a lot of valuable stuff to learn from each other - and that we need not be enemies. STEER.

Second, I'm motivated by a long-term view of personal identity. Carefully consider what you'll be around to experience if you live for thousands of years. History is cyclic - there are periods of civilization, and periods of decline/collapse. Highly improbable but highly damaging events occur. Circumstances change in ways which make the future/past almost incomphrensible. The reason this bears thinking about is that a transhuman person may wish to perserve some things between cycles, after major events, etc. The most obvious thing is life itself - come what will, it's important to preserve enough infrastrucutre and knowledge to stay alive. We need both civilizational "life boats" and personal philosophies which will allow us to handle real change. An important goal here is to build our civilizational resilience. UNDERSTAND/STEER.

Third, a study of civilizations should lead to theories of behavior - a knowledge of how to act given the surroundings in order to achieve the best kinds of results. Properly understanding how a civilization really works should be a key which allows you to unlock the wealth of that civilization to your personal benefit. My main contention here is that it's possible to recognize and exploit the systems which govern a civilization. Obviously you need to balance such exploitation against your resilience goals. OPTIMIZE.

Finally, I hope that with a sufficiently broad understanding of civilization, and the natural laws within which they must function, it will be possible to design civilizations to achieve goals which are not well matched with our current one. This is admittedly the craziest of the goals, but I think it speaks to the heart of the transhumanist project: the idea that changing human nature should allow us to open up a possability space in "the meaning of life" which is far broader than anything we can now implement. Virtual worlds populated with AI agents (whether uploads or designed minds) offer the most obvious "freedom" on that front, but there are many other ways as well. This kind of work could be supported by a through understanding of how human nature leads to human civilizations - so that changes in human nature could be projected into expected changes in civilization. Massively ambitious, and not the only thing we need by far, but at least it's something. ENGINEER.

With a mandate this broad, my vision is that almost anything can be grist for our mill - I expect to link to lots of online content and offer a few bon mots of commentary, as well as to write larger peices, to review books, to build arguments and material over time (at the wiki), etc. And I invite other people to contribute - I'd like very much for this blog to have multiple authors and an active, commenting readership. This is a very long-term project, as benefits something with such a huge scope - so I hope to still be here writing about something fascinating years from now. Join me.

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