Introducing a new philosophy is always a big challenge. I considered writing about the new philosophy I call “Fractal Futurism” in the abstract, without mentioning its origins, or myself. However, no idea exists in a vacuum, and explaining the origin of an idea provides an explanation for its apparently sudden appearance. So, this is going to be a long and foundational article, which is basically divided into three parts:
- My journey towards Fractal Futurism
- The core of Fractal Futurism
- Questions surrounding Fractal Futurism
Without further ado, let’s start with the first.
My journey towards Fractal Futurism
My philosophical inclinations to strive towards a better world started in my childhood, when I watched the TV-show Star Trek: The Next Generation. And that’s the merit of that sci-fi show: It got me started thinking about the future. This initial interest for philosophy and the future was greatly increased by a kind of spiritual experience I had during my late high school years. During that experience I felt connected to an intergalactic network of unconditional love. Well, at least that would be a cool destination for us, wouldn’t it? After that experience I developed what I termed the “philosophy of diversity”, which I later realized was pretty flawed, so I won’t go into details here.
Via joining a humanist association, I then found my entry into the German, and then international, transhumanist community. Transhumanism is all about improving the human condition, eliminating diseases, aging, and eventually even death. Augmenting human capabilities through technology seemed much needed, when considering how humans can mess up everything with their currently limited mental resources. But that wasn’t enough. In the meanwhile I’be turned to utilitarianism, the ethical philosophy that promotes maximizing overall well-being for all morally relevant beings. Combined with the technologies that are envisioned by transhumanists, utilitarianism would drive us towards a radical future, in which not only humans, but also other sentient beings, as well as their environments, are optimized in ways we can hardly comprehend right now.
Those thought experiments were all very fascinating, but it didn’t seem like there was any easy route towards such a better future from the starting point of our current world. When I found the Zero State community, founded by Amon Twyman and Dirk Bruere, I got a bit more optimistic, because it was in good agreement with my utilitarian transhumanist principles. The discussions we had on the original “Doctrine Zero” mailing list of the Zero State community were pretty fascinating. Zero State turned into a virtual proto-nation based on common social transhumanist principles, which Amon Twyman has eventually called the WAVE Principles, and Social Futurism. Unfortunately, the community eventually ran out of momentum, and the Doctrine Zero mailing list was scrapped in favour of a simple Facebook group. Because I found that development unacceptable, and worried about the overall ineffectiveness of the transhumanist communities, I created this forum, which was initially called “Social Future Forum”, as mild generalisation of the core of Social Futurism, because the forum should appeal to a wider audience, especially since one of the main problems of the transhumanist community was it was too small, and didn’t effectively reach out to a larger pool of potential collaborators.
Getting people from Facebook to this forum turned out to be harder than I had expected, and I hoped that rebranding it as “Fractal Future Forum” would somehow help with that. Well, that didn’t turn out to help very much, but the name stuck, because it was cool. The Fractal Future Forum was intended to become a platform for all kinds of futurists, not necessarily only transhumanists, who strove for “envisioning and creating a better future”. Yet, the leap from the principles of Social Futurism towards a mere collection of future-related ideas and communities was seen as problematic by some. In the meanwhile, political transhumanism was becoming a thing, mainly due to the presidential candidacy of Zoltan Istvan in the USA, which triggered the creation of transhumanist parties all over the world. The Fractal Future Forum has become a helpful tool for the emerging Transhuman Party Germany, in addition to being a place for some awesome futurist ideas and people.
I used the Fractal Future Forum to evolve my philosophical thinking, in particular in regards to the evolution of value systems. Could it be that value systems would converge to a single value system eventually? I have already come across an idea like that in the form of Coherently Extrapolated Volition, which was popularized by Eliezer Yudkowski, the founder of the Less Wrong community. When I first heard about that idea, I deemed it as too optimistic, and frankly unrealistic. Eventually, I ended up questioning everything, though, and tried creating a new philosophical foundation on absolute ethical uncertainly, resulting in the ideas expressed in the thread Epistemological Consequentialism. Perhaps humans, as they are now, aren’t smart enough to converge on a single canonical value system, but augmented post-humans living for subjective millennia might have better chances at that.
With this background in mind, the following highly abstract reasoning provides the basis for Fractal Futurism:
The core of Fractal Futurism
It is a rational objective for each individual to maximize value, but without a clear and universal definition of what value actually consists of, we are forced into a state of permanent political struggle – whether we are aware of that, or not. The resources of our world are finite, while each individual or group of people seeks out sufficient resources for fulfilling their own particular goals that are directed at increasing their own definition of value. This is one of the primary sources of political and economic conflict. Can we hope to arrive at a most rational distribution of power and resources? We should, since it would enable us to live in the most peaceful and prosperous way possible. This most optimistic scenario would both necessitate and enable a complete reorganization of all our systems. But even if that kind of future should remain our of our reach forever, due to its potential inherent impossibility, we would be well advised to adjust all our systems in a way that is most conducive for our specific values.
The fractal society
The rational creation of future systems, or the adjustment of contemporary systems, towards a higher fitness for our values lies at the core of Fractal Futurism. Different sets of value will lead to different configurations of systems, with subsets of value systems allowing for a large variety of systems, while more specific value systems select for a small fraction of that large variety of systems. In a plurality of value systems, the rational implication is a fractal organisation structure of polities. We already see this implemented in a rather weak, and hardly rationally optimized, seen in the principle of subsidiarity present in nation states that are organised as federations of smaller states, for example the USA or Germany. In its most perfect form, a fractal nation would founded on a consensus set of value systems, while more specific value systems that are compatible with the base set would give rise to fractal sub-states within the fractal base state. The unifying element of all such fractal nations would be the agreement to arrange themselves in this rational manner, derived from core principles. Based on this transnational agreement, the fractal nations would form a fractal society, or fractal supersociety.
What if we indeed find a universal value system? Would a fractal society still make sense? Probably, and for the following reason: If we assume that value only lies within the structure of certain patterns of information, then mere duplication of those patterns would leave total value invariant, since the value of that particular pattern only depends on the structure of the pattern itself, and not its multiplicity. In order to increase value, at least some variation in information patterns is required. The more effectively variation can be created, the more value is generated. Filling the space of valuable patterns of information iteratively, in a fractal manner, could conceivably be the best way to maximize value. A rational society would recognize that, and transform itself into a fractal society, if not from the bottom up, then in a top-down fashion.
In any case, a rational rearrangement of our societal systems should bring forth a fractal society. This motivates the world “fractal” in Fractal Futurism. But what about “Futurism”? In this sense, a futurist is an activist who works towards creating a better future. Futurology and future science try to predict the future, but not necessarily to change it, so they don’t necessarily align with aforementioned use of the word of “Futurism”, which has at least one precedent in the term “Social Futurism”.
Let’s start with the definition of Fractal Futurism:
Fractal Futurism is the philosophy which aspires a more rational arrangement of all the systems in our world, whether they are natural or artificial.
According to this definition, Fractal Futurism could with the same right be called “Rational Holistic Futurism”, or “Integrated Futurism”, or “Total Futurism”, but calling it “Fractal Futurism” provides a deeper insight into the expected desired result of applied Fractal Futurism: A fractal society using science and technology to optimise all its systems and entities.
Fractal Futurism promotes the unrestricted application of rationality for the purpose of aligning the world with the value systems of those parts of the world that have value systems. In the case of an existence and arrival at a universal value system after a finite amount of time, that is quite unproblematic. But while there are still different value systems, the different ideas of optimality with respect to those value systems lead to contradictory prescriptions of the optimization of the world. This problem can be addressed by restricting optimization according to one particular value system to a subset of the world. In a historically grown, chaotic, and highly interconnected world, it is not clear how to partition the world to allow for parallel optimization of subsets of the world in a way that minimizes conflict, while still maximizing value. Finding a good answer to that issue is a core concern of Fractal Futurism.
In any case, a hope for convergence of different value systems can help to defuse conflicts by making different factions more moderate, since as long as one cannot prove that their value system is universal and correct, there’s always the danger that it turns out to be irrational, contradictory, or plainly wrong. If that hope for convergence is kept alive, the rational inhabitants of the world are well advised to be skeptical of extremism, and practice caution, careful deliberation, and non-violent conflict resolution.
Questions surrounding Fractal Futurism
The section is still work in progress. If you have any question about Fractal Futurism, feel free to leave a comment.
Relation of Fractal Futurism with other philosophies
Fractal Futurism is a new philosophy, but it has a lot of roots in past philosophies, and shares certain relations with them.
How is Fractal Futurism different from rationalism
Rationalism is more about the refinement of the skill of rationality. Fractal Futurism is more about is practical application for creating a better future. More specifically Fractal Futurism is rationalism applied to the problem of optimizing all the (sub)systems of the world.
How is Fractal Futurism different from transhumanism
The focus on transhumanism lies in improving the human condition, with the goal of reaching a post-human state. Fractal Futurism is also about improving all the systems surrounding (post-)humans. Thus, it’s a valid perspective to see Fractal Futurism as generalization of transhumanism due to its wider scope. At the same time, it can be seen as specific strand of transhumanism, because it incorporates additional special prescriptions.
How is Fractal Futurism different from utilitarianism?
Fractal Futurism could be seen as a pragmatic, and yet utopian, version of utilitarianism, if one wants to compare it to utilitarianism. The difference is that Fractal Futurism rather assumes a plurality of value systems.
How is Fractal Futurism different from effective altruism?
Effective altruism operates within our current systems. Fractal Futurism is more about creating future systems that would be less prone to causing the problems effective altruism intends to fix.
How is Fractal Futurism different from future sciences?
Future sciences or futurology is seen as system for predicting the future. Fractal Futurism is more about creating a better future.