Vital Syllabus: Contents

Note: there’s no need to work through all the pages in the order given below. Feel free to jump straight into whichever areas particularly attract you.

(1) Learning how to learn

How to pick up new skills quickly and reliably:

  1. Setting aside previous learning that no longer pertains
  2. Learning and self-knowledge
    • The risks of overestimation of self-expertise
    • Knowing oneself better in order to learn in the best way
  3. Online resources to support learning
    • Strengths and weaknesses of various online search tools
    • Finding online courses that are best suited to individual needs
    • Finding learning communities that can improve understanding
    • Evaluating the reliability of sources and communities
  4. Particular methods for learning
    • Active learning
    • Learning via playfulness and retrospectives
    • How to consolidate new learning

(2) Communications

Effective communications with a variety of different kinds of audiences:

  1. Speaking well
  2. Writing well
  3. Richer communications
    • The importance of narrative as well as facts
    • Graphic and video design
    • Immersive communications
  4. Establishing rapport
    • Understanding audience needs
    • Building empathy
    • Better listening for better communications
    • Motivational Interviewing
    • Converting negative critics and trolls into constructive partners
  5. Pros and cons of different communications environments
  6. Advocacy

(3) Agility

How to manage uncertainty:

  1. Dividing up tasks into a series of short sprints
  2. Obtaining useful feedback at the end of each sprint
  3. Updating plans based on new information obtained
  4. Combining a series of short sprints into lasting positive change
  5. When Agile goes wrong

(4) Creativity

Going beyond existing methods and solutions:

  1. Methods for generating innovative new ideas
  2. Methods of evaluating innovative new ideas
  3. Methods for transforming new ideas into actual solutions
  4. Methods to decide between innovation and the status-quo
  5. Design and creativity

(5) Augmentation

Using technology and tools to boost abilities:

  1. Traditional methods to boost memory, concentration, etc
  2. Uses of personal, wearable, and embedded technologies
  3. Biofeedback mechanisms
  4. Roles for brain-computer interfaces
  5. Tools that can act like a “personal guardian angel”
  6. Tools and techniques to strengthen critical thinking
  7. Tools and techniques to boost creativity
  8. Tools and techniques to boost resilience
  9. Tools and techniques to widen or deepen perspective
  10. The impact of various “consciousness raising” practices

(6) Collaboration

Becoming wiser and stronger together:

  1. Addressing individual blind-spots by collective analysis
  2. Designing teams to promote synergies rather than cancellation
  3. Forms of play and other team activities that boost mutual learning
  4. Strengths and weaknesses of wikis and other open systems
  5. Obstacles to collaboration

(7) Emotional health

Nurturing emotional resilience, flexibility, and transcendence:

  1. The benefits of a growth mindset
  2. The strengths and weaknesses of positive thinking
  3. Mindfulness
  4. Playfulness and recreation
  5. Not being slaves to inner anxieties and other “demons”
  6. Transcending failure
    • Handling fear of failure
    • Dealing with underperformance in oneself and others
    • Failing forward and failing fast (associated with Agility)
  7. Social dimensions of emotional health
    • Social skills and perceptiveness
    • Links between emotional health and social circumstances
  8. Understanding, supporting, and valuing diversity
  9. Managing stress
  10. Links between emotional health and physical health

(8) Longevity

The remarkable possibility of significantly extended lifespans:

  1. The science of age-reversal
  2. The ethics of age-reversal
    • General arguments
    • Overpopulation and resource usage?
    • Immortal tyrants?
    • Unequal access to age-reversal?
  3. The social implications of age-reversal
    • Bankrupting pension schemes?
    • The Longevity Dividend
    • Social stagnation and renewal
  4. Accelerating the advent of age-reversal
    • Understanding psychological opposition
    • Historical examples of extensions
    • Robust Mouse Rejuvenation
    • Regulatory reform?
    • Actions by members of the public
  5. New options for fertility and pregnancy
  6. Broader considerations about physical health
    • Living long enough to live indefinitely
    • Improving the health of our brains
    • Augmenting the body
    • Accelerating personalised medicine

(9) Foresight

Anticipating and managing the unexpected:

  1. Forecasting
    • When forecasts were mistaken
    • When forecasts proved invaluable
    • Forecasters and superforecasters
    • Metaphors: animals and beyond
  2. Trends
    • Identifying trends that have the potential to cause disruption
    • The Gartner Hype Cycle, and why it often misleads
    • The factors behind potential exponential change
    • Identifying potential accelerators – and brakes – for trends
    • Establishing “canary signals” for advance warning of tipping points
    • Noticing “signals” that don’t match previous assumptions
  3. Scenarios
    • The purpose of scenarios
    • How trends can combine to form breakthrough scenarios
    • PESTEL classification of types of trend
    • Examples of interconnections producing unforeseen scenarios
    • Using imagination to anticipate novel scenarios
    • Assessing the credibility of imagined scenarios
    • Assessing the desirability of imagined scenarios
  4. Transformational foresight
    • Assessing actions to influence the actual course of scenarios
    • Precautionary and proactionary approaches to risk and opportunity
  5. Deepening foresight skills
    • Agile futurism
    • Collaborative futurism
  6. Constructive future-oriented fiction

(10) Leading change

Inspiring and maintaining transformations:

  1. Why major change initiatives often fail
  2. Positive methods to manage major change initiatives
    • Cultivating a sense of urgency instead of complacency or resignation
    • Building and managing a coalition to guide vital change
    • Identifying and addressing misaligned incentives
  3. Moonshots and moonshot worship
  4. Crossing the chasm
  5. Managing optimism and pessimism
  6. Existing organisations vs. creating new ones

(11) Technologies

In history, the present, and the future:

  1. Industrial revolutions
    • The structure of industrial revolutions
    • Technologies and overhang
    • The fourth industrial revolution
  2. Products and platforms
  3. Core technologies
    • Nanotech
    • Biotech
    • Infotech
    • Cognotech
    • Quantum tech
  4. Technology applications
    • Energy
    • Food
    • Clothing
    • Shelter
    • Robotics
    • Extended Reality
    • Space tech
  5. Social tech
    • Access to finance
    • Access to computation
    • Access to data
    • Access to markets
    • Access to regulations
    • Access to privacy
    • Access to security
    • Access to education
    • Access to politics

(12) Economics

The management and cultivation of scarce resources:

  1. Free markets
    • The positive accomplishments of free markets
    • The failure modes of free markets
    • The tragedy of the commons
  2. Planned economies
    • The failure modes of planning
    • The positive accomplishments of planning
    • Public goods
  3. The mixed model
    • Separation of responsibilities
    • Business for good
    • Money and banking for good
    • Productivity
    • Industrial strategy
  4. Cryptoeconomics
    • Cryptocurrencies
    • Tokenomics
  5. The circular economy
    • Encouraging circulation
    • Property and its drawbacks
  6. Social safety nets and social contracts
    • UBI and alternatives
    • FALC

(13) Governance

Incentivising and regulating the development of technologies and institutions:

  1. Regulating technologies
  2. Incentivising technologies
  3. Dimensions of governance
    • Beyond left vs. right
    • Evidence-based policy vs. ideology-based policy
    • Centralisation vs. decentralisation
  4. Styles of governance
    • Egalitarianism and its issues
    • Meritocracy and its issues
    • Redistribution and its issues
    • Socialism and its issues
    • Libertarianism and its issues
  5. Technoprogressive governance
    • The narrow corridor
    • Lean governance
    • Self-regulating technologies
    • Trustable monitoring

(14) Democracy

The worst form of governance, apart from all the others:

  1. Failure modes of democracy
  2. Alternatives to democracy
    • Dictatorship
    • Technocracy and democracy
  3. Vital features of democracy
    • The separation of powers
    • Trusted vigilance
    • Deliberative democracy
  4. Toward superdemocracy
    • Enhancing democracy with AI
    • The role of career politicians
    • Beyond party politics

(15) Geopolitics

Influencing political processes, nationally and internationally:

  1. Sovereignty and interdependence
  2. The international separation of powers
  3. Nuclear deterrence
  4. Alliances and partnerships
  5. Self-governing virtual states
  6. Seasteading
  7. Rejuvenating the Bretton Woods institutions

(16) Numeracy

Arithmetic and analysis for the modern age:

  1. Exponentials
  2. Probabilities
  3. Lies, damned lies, and statistics
  4. Estimating harm vs. ruin
  5. Complexity
  6. Numeracy for privacy and security
  7. Numeracy for fairness vs. bias
  8. Game theory

(17) Science

Distinguishing “good science” from “bad science”:

  1. When scientists were mistaken
  2. Normal science and revolutionary science
  3. Debates over scientific methods
  4. Science and human nature
  5. Cognitive biases
  6. Social pressures on science
  7. Science and consciousness
  8. Science and parascience (parapsychology)
  9. Potential limits of science

(18) Philosophy

Thinking about thinking:

  1. How philosophy changes the world
    • When philosophers were mistaken
    • The positive impact of philosophy
    • The potential power of transcendent thinking
  2. Constraints on clear thinking
    • Philosophical biases and fallacies
    • How language moulds thought
  3. Implications of modern science and tech for philosophy
  4. Theories of mind
    • Materialism and alternatives
    • Free will
  5. Theories of values
    • Consequentialism and alternatives
    • Good and evil
    • Virtue signalling
    • Crime and punishment
  6. Expanding moral concern
    • Evaluating unborn generations
    • Attitudes toward animals
    • Attitudes toward AIs
  7. Potential foundations for philosophy
    • Approaches to determine ultimate priorities
    • Strengths and weaknesses of religions
    • Strengths and weaknesses of humanism
    • Evolving a framework for ethics fit for the 2020s

(19) Transhumanism

A philosophy particularly relevant in the 2020s:

  1. Components of transhumanism
  2. Varieties of transhumanism
  3. The values of active transhumanism
  4. The transhumanist shadow
  5. Criticisms of transhumanism
  6. Transhumanist culture
  7. Anticipating the growth of transhumanism

(20) Culture

The basis for extended flourishing:

  1. Societies with increasingly diverse subcultures
  2. Limits to tolerant coexistence
  3. Coexistence with AIs and robots
  4. Coexistence with animals with uplifted capabilities
  5. Options for the future of work

(21) The environment

The context in which consciousness evolves:

  1. Our cosmic context
  2. Environmental independence and interdependence
  3. Planetary boundaries
  4. The co-evolution of life and mind
  5. Options for re-wilding
  6. Options for de-extinction
  7. Options for paradise engineering
  8. Options for exploring the wider universe
  9. Alien life and the Fermi paradox

(22) Landmines

Identifying and addressing the biggest risks ahead:

  1. The left behinds
  2. WMD proliferation
  3. Biotech hazards
  4. Infotech hazards
  5. Financial instabilities
  6. Environmental instabilities
  7. Political instabilities
  8. Cancers within society
  9. Reason under threat
  10. Divided nations
  11. Divided aging
  12. Bubbling under
  13. Existential opportunities

(23) The Singularity

Options for the advent of artificial superintelligence:

  1. The singularitarian stance
  2. The singularity shadow
  3. Different routes to ASI
  4. Hard and soft take-off
  5. Possible timescales to reach ASI
  6. The control problem
  7. The alignment problem
  8. Human-ASI merger
  9. No Planet B
  10. The singularity principles
  11. AGI or not AGI: fundamental choices

(24) Ultimate futures

Beyond event horizons:

  1. Picotech and femtotech
  2. Ultimate physics: births and deaths of universes
  3. Beyond human death: cryonics and reanimation
  4. Space-time engineering and technological resurrection
  5. The transcension hypothesis
  6. The simulation hypothesis
  7. Parallel multiverse branches: communication beyond base reality

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