How do we maximize the well-being of everybody within planetary boundaries?

Chapter 1


How do we maximize the well-being of all eight billion people alive today within the carrying capacity of the planet? And not just today but in perpetuity, meaning a thousand or even a hundred thousand years from now? This is the most important political question for our species and the planet as a whole.

Most people, including our politicians, never ask this question. Their focus is on advancing the interests of much smaller constituencies—those they themselves belong to—at the expense of universal well-being. But if we truly care for the long-term welfare and survival of our species, we not only need to ask the question, we need to answer it.

While on the surface our challenge may look like a simple question about how to distribute our finite resources to generate the most well-being, inherent in this question are much bigger challenges. For us to maximize well-being, we need to solve, or at least minimize, the systemic problems that now plague our society. Part of our larger challenge then is to also eliminate wars, crime, climate change, species loss, famine—to name just the most glaring impediments to human well-being.

To solve our deeply ingrained systemic problems, I’m not going to present a laundry list of all the things we should do or change. Such lists already exist, and despite their usefulness, we continue to ignore them. Instead, I’m going to propose a simple and elegant solution that I think can preclude most of the systemic problems we now suffer from. To do this, we’re not going to fall back on existing ideologies or politics as usual. Instead, we’re going to marshal the full spectrum of scientific knowledge and deductive reasoning to our cause. We do this by following first principles, starting with the fundamental understanding that natural science provides about our physical reality and life itself. By adding up established scientific facts in a logical order, I propose a new cooperative framework that can vastly increase human well-being on this planet. Since our big problems are all systemic in nature, solving them requires us to fundamentally change how we organize politically and economically on this planet. What we are designing is the civic technology our future society runs on. The result is a social contract with a novel incentive system that produces superior outcomes for those who choose to use it. If capitalism is based on competition and socialism on cooperation, competitive cooperation combines their benefits without their drawbacks. In scientific terms what is proposed herein is a managed process of cultural evolution.

Maximizing human well-being is ultimately achieved through maximizing human liberty. Since liberty means the ability to live as we please, we take it as a given that all people yearn for at least a basic level of well-being. Whoever lacks well-being cannot by definition be truly free. A lack of well-being is an indicator that we don't actually govern our own lives. Our deprivation, physical or otherwise, serves as a constant reminder of our lack of freedom. Our well-being is thus directly correlated with our positive liberties. The system we want to create should not only lift as many outside restrictions and impositions as possible, but also provide us with the practical means to act upon the opportunities that are available. 

The only thing limiting our freedom should be the equal freedom of others.

For a long time, the winning strategy in poker was to exploit other players’ weaknesses. But once the game theory optimal strategy was introduced, the winning strategy became making sure nobody could exploit you. The question then becomes: What would be the game theory optimal strategy in life? What are the best possible terms under which we can all coexist?

This book seeks to articulate that winning strategy. It aspires to find the cooperative rules that not only benefit everyone but cannot be improved upon. After working on this solution for a decade and a half, I’m excited to finally be able to share it with you. If proven to work, this book contains perhaps the best news you will ever hear.

Science will set us free.

Listen to the first chapter
Evolution of freedom