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An Interview with Kelsey Moody of Ichor Therapeutics, Bringing a SENS Therapy for Macular Degeneration to the Clinic – Article by Reason

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Categories: Science, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatReason
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As I mentioned last week, earlier this year Fight Aging! invested a modest amount in the Ichor Therapeutics initiative to develop a treatment for macular degeneration, joining a number of other amateur and professional investors in helping to get this venture started. The approach taken here is based on the results of research carried out at the Methuselah Foundation and SENS Research Foundation over much of the past decade, funded by philanthropists and the support of our community of longevity science enthusiasts. This is how we succeed in building the future: medical science in the laboratory leads to medical development in startup companies, each new stage bringing treatments capable of repairing specific forms of age-related molecular damage that much closer to the clinic.

Ichor Therapeutics is one of a growing number of success stories to emerge from the SENS rejuvenation research community. Young scientists, advocates, and donors involved in earlier projects – years ago now – have gone on to build their own ventures, while retaining an interest in stepping up to do something meaningful to help bring an end to aging. Back in 2010, Kelsey Moody worked on the LysoSENS project to find ways to break down damaging metabolic waste in old tissues; fast-forward six years, and he is the now the CEO of a successful small biotechnology company with a great team, taking that very same technology and putting it to good use. I recently had the chance to ask Kelsey a few questions about the future of SENS rejuvenation research, as well as how the Ichor scientists intend to construct a new class of therapy for macular degeneration, one based on removing one of the root causes of the condition.

Quote:

Who are the people behind Ichor Therapeutics? How did you meet and decide that this was the thing to do? Why macular degeneration as a target?

People have always been the focus of Ichor. Since day one we have worked to create a positive environment that cultivates a product-oriented research focus and emphasizes autonomy and personal accountability for work. As a result, ambitious self-starters tend to find their way to Ichor and remain here. However, we recognized early on that just filling a lab with a bunch of blue-eyed bushy tailed young up-and-comers is not sufficient to develop a robust, mature, translational pipeline. We have augmented our team with a number of critical staff members who are seasoned pharma operators, including our Quality Assurance Director and General Counsel.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) was chosen as a target because we believe it is the closest SENS therapy to the clinic. While we obviously have an interest in providing cures for the patients suffering from AMD and are attracted to the large market opportunities such a treatment could bring, our broader interest is in validating the entire SENS paradigm. We believe that Aubrey de Grey continues to receive excessive criticism because nothing spun out of SENS has ever made it into a legitimate pre-clinical pipeline, much less to the bedside. However, this does not mean he is wrong. Our goal is to be the first group to bring a SENS inspired therapy into the clinic and in doing so, silence critics and generate new energy and capital for this cause.

I understand there’s a lengthy origin story for the approach you are taking to treat AMD; it’d be great to hear some of it.

Our approach to treating AMD is based on the hypothesis that cellular junk that accumulates over the lifespan significantly contributes to the onset and progression of AMD. Our goal is to periodically reduce the burden of the junk so it never accumulates to levels sufficient to induce pathology. The strategy to accomplish this calls for the identification of enzymes that can break down the junk in a physiological setting, and the engineering of these enzymes such that they can break down the target in the correct organelle of the correct cell without appreciable collateral damage to healthy cells or tissue.

Methuselah Foundation and SENS Research Foundation did excellent work in establishing this program nearly a decade ago. They successfully identified a number of candidate enzymes that could break down the molecular junk, but reported that the targeting systems evaluated failed to deliver these enzymes to the appropriate organelles and cells. My group reevaluated these findings, and discovered that these findings were flawed. The delivery failure could be entirely attributed to a subtle, yet highly significant difference between how the target cells behave outside of the body as compared to inside the body. It turned out that the approach was in fact valid, it was the cell based assay that had been used that was flawed. This discovery was striking enough that SENS Research Foundation provided Ichor with funding and a material and technology transfer agreement to reassess the technology, and over $700,000 in directed program investments and grants have been received in the last year or two.

You recently completed a round of funding for the AMD work; what is the plan for the next year or so?

The new funds will allow us to develop a portfolio of enzyme therapy candidates to treat AMD. We will obtain critical data necessary to secure follow-on investment including in vitro studies (cell culture studies to confirm mechanism of action and cytotoxicity) and pivotal proof-of-concept in vivo studies, such as toxicity, PK/PD (how long the enzyme stays in the body and where), and efficacy. We will also be restructuring the company (reincorporating an IP holding company in Delaware, ensuring all contracts are up to date and audited) and ensuring our IP position is on solid footing (licensing in several related patents from existing collaborators, and filing several provisional patents from our intramural work). Collectively, we believe these efforts will position us to obtain series A for investigational new drug (IND) enabling pre-clinical studies.

You’ve been involved in the rejuvenation research community for quite some time now. What is your take on the bigger picture of SENS and the goal of ending aging?

This is a loaded question. What I can say is that the medical establishment has made great progress in the treatment of infectious disease through the development of antibiotics, vaccines, and hygiene programs. However, similar progress has not been realized for the diseases of old age, despite exorbitant expenditures. I have chosen to work in this space because I think a different approach is necessary, and it is here that I believe my companies and I can be the most impactful. I think SENS provides a good framework within which to ask and answer questions.

What do you see as the best approach to getting nascent SENS technologies like this one out of the laboratory and into the clinic?

We need more people who fully understand, in a highly detailed way, what a real translational path looks like. To take on projects like this, being a good scientist is not enough. We need people who can speak business, science, medicine, and legal, and apply these diverse disciplines to a well articulated, focused product or problem. There is no shortage of people who partially understand some of these, but the details are not somewhat important – they are all that matter for success in this space.

Another area is for investors. Some of the projects that come across my desk for review are truly abysmal, yet I have seen projects that are clearly elaborate hoaxes or outright scams (to anyone who has stepped foot in a laboratory) get funded to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. While it is perfectly reasonable for high net worth individuals to gamble on moon shots in the anti-aging space (and I am ever grateful for the investors who have taken such a gamble on us) even aggressive development strategies should have some basis in reality. This is especially true as more and more high tech and internet investors move into the space.

If this works stupendously well, what comes next for Ichor Therapeutics?

I really want to get back into stem-cell research, but I basically need a blank check and a strong knowledge of the regulatory path to clinic before I feel comfortable moving into the space. A successful AMD exit would accomplish both of these goals, and position us to pivot to cell-based therapies.

Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries.
***
This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license. It was originally published on FightAging.org.

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Laissez-Faire in Tokyo Land Use – Article by Alex Tabarrok

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Categories: Economics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatAlex Tabarrok
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Tokyo, Japan’s capital city, has a growing population of over 13 million people but house prices have hardly increased in twenty years. Why? Tokyo has a laissez-faire approach to land use that allows lots of building subject to only a few general regulations set nationally. Robin Harding at the FT has a very important piece on the Tokyo system:

Here is a startling fact: in 2014 there were 142,417 housing starts in the city of Tokyo (population 13.3m, no empty land), more than the 83,657 housing permits issued in the state of California (population 38.7m), or the 137,010 houses started in the entire country of England (population 54.3m).

Tokyo’s steady construction is linked to a still more startling fact. In contrast to the enormous house price booms that have distorted western cities — setting young against old, redistributing wealth to the already wealthy, and denying others the chance to move to where the good jobs are — the cost of property in Japan’s capital has hardly budged.

This is not the result of a falling population. Japan has experienced the same “return to the city” wave as other nations.House_Prices_2

How is this possible? First Japan has a history of strong property rights in land:

Subject to the zoning rules, the rights of landowners are strong. In fact, Japan’s constitution declares that “the right to own or to hold property is inviolable”. A private developer cannot make you sell land; a local government cannot stop you using it. If you want to build a mock-Gothic castle faced in pink seashells, that is your business.

But this alone cannot explain everything because there was a huge property price-boom in Japan circa 1986 to 1991. In fact, it was in dealing with the collapse of that boom that Japan cleaned up its system, reducing regulation and speeding the permit approval process.

…in the 1990s, the government relaxed development rules, culminating in the Urban Renaissance Law of 2002, which made it easier to rezone land. Office sites were repurposed for new housing. “To help the economy recover from the bubble, the country eased regulation on urban development,” says Ichikawa. “If it hadn’t been for the bubble, Tokyo would be in the same situation as London or San Francisco.”

Hallways and public areas were excluded from the calculated size of apartment buildings, letting them grow much higher within existing zoning, while a proposal now under debate would allow owners to rebuild bigger if they knock down blocks built to old earthquake standards.

Rising housing prices are not an inevitable consequence of growth and fixed land supply–high and rising housing prices are the result of policy choices to restrict land development.

The policy choices were made–they can be unmade.

tokyo-japanThis post first appeared at Marginal Revolution.

Alex Tabarrok is a professor of economics at George Mason University. He blogs at Marginal Revolution with Tyler Cowen.

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How Viennese Culture Shaped Austrian Economics – Article by Erwin Dekker

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Categories: Culture, Economics, History, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatErwin Dekker
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Schools of thought are frequently named after their country or place of origin. The Chicago School, the Frankfurt School, and the Scottish Enlightenment are just some of the many examples. The geographical place is a simple shorthand for something that would otherwise be difficult to specify and name. That is also the case for the Austrian School of Economics. Or at least that is what we commonly believe. Austrian is nothing more than a shorthand for a school of economics that focuses on market process rather than outcomes, emphasizes the subjective aspects of economic behavior, and is critical of attempts to plan or regulate economic processes. Sure it originated in Austria, but it is largely neglected there today, and currently the school lives on in some notable economics departments, research centers, and think tanks in the United States. The whole ‘Austrian’ label is thus largely a misnomer, a birthplace, but nothing else.

But what if Austrian, or more specifically Viennese, culture is essential to understanding what makes this school of thought different? What if the coffeehouse culture of the Viennese circles, the decline of the Habsburg Empire, the failure of Austrian liberalism, the rise of socialism and fascism, and the ironic distance at which the Viennese observed the world, are all essential to understanding what the school was about? It would be exciting to discover that the Vienna of Gustav Mahler, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Sigmund Freud, Gustav Klimt, and Adolf Loos, would also be the Vienna of Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, and Friedrich Hayek. And if that is so, how would that change how we think about this school and about the importance of cultural contexts for schools of thoughts more generally?

That is the subject of my recent book The Viennese Students of Civilization (Cambridge University Press, 2016). It demonstrates that the literature, art, and cultural atmosphere are all essential ingredients of Austrian economics. The Viennese circles, of which the most famous was the Vienna Circle or Wiener Kreis, are the place where this type of economics was practiced and in which it came to maturity in the interwar period.

The hands-off attitude first practiced at the Viennese Medical School, where it was called therapeutic skepticism, spread among intellectuals. They dissected a culture which was coming to an end, without seemingly worrying too much about it. As one commentator wrote about this attitude “nowhere is found more resignation and nowhere less self-pity.”¹ One American proponent of the Viennese medical approach even called it the ‘laissez-faire’ approach to medicine.² The therapeutic skepticism, or nihilism as the critics called it, bears strong resemblance to the Austrian school’s skepticism of the economic cures propounded by the government. Some of the Austrian economists, for instance, have the same ironic distance, in which the coming of socialism is lamented, but at the same time considered inevitable. That sentiment is strongest in Joseph Schumpeter. But one can also find it in Ludwig von Mises, especially in his more pessimistic writings. In 1920, for example, he writes: “It may be that despite everything we cannot escape socialism, yet whoever considers it an evil must not wish it onward for that reason.”³

That same resignation, however, is put to the test in the 1930’s when Red Vienna, the nickname the city was given when it was governed by the Austro-Marxists, becomes Black Vienna, the nickname it was given under fascism. The rise of fascism posed an even greater threat to the values of the liberal bourgeois, and at the same time it demonstrated that socialism might not be inevitable after all. One of my book’s major themes is the transformation from the resigned, and at times fatalistic, study of the transformation of the older generation, to the more activist and combatant attitude of the younger generation. Friedrich Hayek, Karl Popper, Peter Drucker as well as important intellectual currents in Vienna start to oppose, and defend the Habsburg civilization from its enemies. That is one of the messages of Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents, of Hermann Broch’s novel The Death of Virgil, of Malinowski’s Civilization and Freedom, of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, Drucker’s The End of Economic Man, and of course Popper’s The Open Society and its Enemies. It is also the message of the most famous book of the period on civilization The Civilizing Process by the German sociologist Norbert Elias. These intellectuals fight the fatalism and the acceptance of decline, and instead start to act as custodians or defenders of civilization.

In the process the relationship between natural instincts, rational thought, and civilization undergoes a major transformation. Civilization — our moral habits, customs, traditions, and ways of living together — is no longer believed to be a natural process or a product of our modern rational society. Rather, it is a cultural achievement in need of cultivation and at times protection. Civilization is a shared good, a commons, which can only be sustained in a liberal culture, and even there individuals will feel the ‘strain of civilization’ as Popper put it. That is the strain of being challenged, of encountering those of different cultures, and of carrying the responsibility for our own actions. Hayek adds the strain of accepting traditions and customs which we do not fully understand (including the traditions and customs of the market). Similar arguments are made by Freud and Elias.

If that is their central concern then the importance and meaning of their contributions is much broader than economics in any narrow sense. That concern is the study, cultivation and, when necessary, protection of their civilization.

To some this might diminish the contributions of the Austrian school of economics for they might feel that they were responding to a particular Viennese experience. The respected historian Tony Judt for example has claimed that: “the Austrian experience has been elevated to the status of economic theory [and has] come to inform not just the Chicago school of economics but all significant public conversation over policy choices in the contemporary United States.”⁴ He maximizes the distance between us and them, saying that they were immigrants and foreigners with a different experience than ours. But that response only makes sense if the alternative is some disembodied truth, outside of historical experience.

My book, to the contrary, argues that what is valuable, interesting, and of lasting value in the Austrian school is precisely its involved, engaged approach in which economics is one way of reflecting on the times. And those times might be more similar to ours than you might think, as the great sociologist Peter Berger has argued. Troubled by mass migration, Vienna experienced populist politics. The emancipation of new groups lead to new political movements which challenged the existing rational way of doing politics. A notion of liberal progress which had seemed so natural during the nineteenth century could no longer be taken for granted in fin-de-siècle and interwar Vienna. That foreign experience, might not be so foreign after all.

Viennese-Students-Civ

For more information on my book, The Viennese Students of Civilization: The Meaning and Context of Austrian Economics Reconsidered, click here.


Erwin Dekker is a postdoctoral fellow for the F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. He is assistant professor in cultural economics at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.


References

1. Edward Crankshaw. (1938). Vienna: The Image of a Culture in Decline, p. 48.
2. Maurice D. Clarke. (1888). “Therapeutic Nihilism.” Boston Medical and Surgical Journal 119 (9), p. 199.
3. Ludwig von Mises. (1920). Nation, State, and Economy. p. 217.
4. Tony Judt. (2010). Ill Fares The Land. p. 97–98.

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Want to Stop Gun Violence? End The War On Drugs – Article by Jay Stooksberry

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Categories: Culture, Economics, History, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatJay Stooksberry
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Every December 5th, American beer, wine, and spirit enthusiasts celebrate Repeal Day. It was on this day in 1933 that the United States officially passed the 21st Amendment, effectively ending the failed “noble experiment” known as Prohibition. This was not only a good day for liberty and libations; it also marked the end of a violent era in American history.

The transport and sale of illicit booze became a prolific criminal enterprise backed by well-armed, violent gangs. The result: a homicide rate in the United States that steadily climbed between 1920 and 1933. In addition, the rise of “victimless crimes”—namely, consumption or possession of alcohol—added to the already overburdened judicial system. Furthermore, alcohol consumption—what Prohibition laws sought to minimize—actually increased nearly 70 percent.

To call Prohibition a failure would be an understatement.

This time we call it the “War on Drugs,” and its impact is even more deadly.

Repealing Prohibition destroyed the monopoly on alcohol maintained by organized crime. Disempowering the black market produced a noticeable decline in the homicide rate. In fact, homicides continued to diminish each year for eleven years straight.

Prohibition All Over Again

Fast forward 82 years, and we are in the midst of Prohibition 2.0. This time we call it the “War on Drugs,” and its impact is even more deadly.

If concerned citizens want to get serious about reducing gun violence, then they should be encouraged to focus less on policies that are ineffective—“assault weapons” bansgun buyback programs, and outright confiscation—and focus more on ending our failed, four-decade long, overly-militarized, trillion-dollar battle against narcotics.

Let’s put gun violence into perspective. There is no doubt that gun violence is a problem. Guns are used in nearly three-fourths of all American homicides.

What typically brings gun control to the forefront of our political dialogue is the recurring tragedy of a mass shooting. However, mass shootings receive a disproportionate amount of media attention considering how much they actually contribute to our national homicide rate.

According to Mass Shooting Tracker, in 2014, mass shooting incidents resulted in the deaths of 383 people—about 3% of total gun homicides for the year. In comparison, the violence caused by the Drug War overshadows the bloodshed of mass shootings. Though difficult to quantify due to inconsistent reporting, estimates of drug-related homicides reach as high as 50 percent of the total homicides in the United States.

Without legal mechanisms in place, the only option for arbitration in the black market is violence.

Though recent tragic events shock the collective conscious, it is important to consider them in perspective of what is truly killing so many people. The War on Drugs is less of a spectacle than these mass shootings; instead, it is a slow-killing, institutionalized type of violence.

Predictable Black Market Violence

Without legal mechanisms in place, the only option for arbitration in the black market is violence. This violence takes many forms: turf wars between drug suppliers where civilians are also caught in the crossfire; no-knock police raids (sometimes occurring at the wrong house) where suspects are gunned down; drug addicts assaulting others to secure money for their addiction. The multi-faceted nature of the violence makes the task of fully grasping the available data difficult.

The violence of the American Drug War has even spilled over internationally—primarily in Latin America. Between 2007 and 2014, Mexican authorities estimates that 164,000 homicides were the result of cartel violence. For perspective, during the same time period, civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq totaled 103,000 combined.

A Way Forward

How the Drug War is to be dismantled is open for debate; deescalating law enforcement militarization, emphasizing treatment over incarceration, decriminalizing certain substances, or outright legalization are all on the table for consideration.

Despite our backwardness regarding most drug policies, the United States is ahead of most of the international community when it comes to the legalization of cannabis—and we are witnessing some of the positive effects of those efforts.

Even if we ignored the violence inherent in this failed policy, the War on Drugs would still be considered a complete waste of public resources.

Colorado legalized recreational marijuana with Amendment 64 in 2013, resulting in a “green rush” of population growth. Despite the increase in population, Denver police reports indicate a drop in overall crime, including a 24 percent drop in reported homicides.

Granted, the Colorado experiment with legalized marijuana and its benefits is still new. Plus, it is difficult to demonstrate correlation with such a small sample of data. However, there is a distinct correlation between increased policing of controlled substances and the escalating violence of the black market in those substances. The Independent Institute examined arrest and homicide rates throughout the 20th century and concluded that the greatest contributor to violence is “a violent black market caused by the War on Drugs today, and Prohibition in the 1920’s.”

A Terrible Investment

Even if we ignored the violence inherent in this failed policy, the War on Drugs would still be considered a complete waste of public resources. The United States has invested close to a trillion dollars in drug-related law enforcement over the past four decades.

And what was the return on investment? A black market valued at $100 billion annually and a drug use rate that is the highest in the world.

Einstein defined insanity as repeating a specific action and expecting different results. If that’s the case, our current Drug War is—in the words of Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance—the “international projection of a domestic psychosis.”

If we choose to continue down this costly and deadly path, we will continue to reap what we sowed over 82 years ago during our first failed experiment with prohibition: increased use of the banned substance, increased burden of cost on public coffers, and increased loss of life—all due to failed policy.

jay-stooksberry


Jay Stooksberry

Jay Stooksberry is a freelance writer with a passion for liberty, skepticism, humor, and whiskey. When he’s not writing, he splits his time between marketing consultation and spending time with his wife and son. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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Protectionism is All Around Us – Article by Daniel Gold

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Categories: Economics, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatDaniel Gold
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In political speak, a protectionist is someone who is against free trade. They want to protect American businesses, and indirectly American workers, from cheap labor offered abroad.

The underlying argument is that American workers require protection from competition.The underlying argument is that American workers require, or benefit from, protection from competition.

This same argument is used to restrict many other liberties.

Crusaders against immigration lament that low wage earning immigrants steal jobs from, and drive down the wages of American born workers.

Opponents of Uber and AirBnB claim that hotel owners, and taxi drivers, need to be protected from cheap competition offered in the sharing economy.

Even advocates of the minimum wage are protectionists. They feel that workers need to be protected from other workers who would offer to sell their labor at a lower price. This was evident in the first debate over the minimum wage, when white workers felt they needed protection against cheaper, African-American labor.

The minimum wage was first implemented in the United States nationally in 1931 by the Davis-Bacon act. During the debate in the House of representatives, Rep. William Upshaw (D-Ga.) complained of the “superabundance or large aggregation of Negro labor.” Rep. Miles Allgood (D-Ala.) said, “That contractor has cheap colored labor that he transports, and he puts them in cabins, and it is labor of that sort that is in competition with white labor throughout the country.”

Opposition to immigration, trade, the sharing economy, and a wage set by the market is all the same tired argument, rebranded to hide its proven failure.

It’s Always Anti-Competitive

Protectionism fails because the harms of protectionist policies are guaranteed to exceed the benefits. Any benefits transferred to the producers are passed onto the consumer in the form of higher prices. However, because less exchange takes place at a higher price, there is a deadweight loss to the economy as a whole.

Protectionism is propped up by a political system of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs that make it difficult to defeat. Imagine you own a hotel, and a bill is sitting on your legislator’s desk to ban AirBnB.

You will make it known to your legislator, that your support for him, and the support of 100 other hotel owners like you, depends on him signing the bill. Meanwhile the hundreds of thousands of consumers who are hurt by this bill, care more about other things.

The Damage Adds Up

The individual consumer may not care much about the hurt she suffers from a more expensive hotel, but it adds up. Hundreds of thousands of goods are more expensive because of tariffs or quotas. Hundreds of services become more expensive for everyone because of occupational licensing laws.

Because of the incentives within the system, this will be one of the most difficult economic problems to fix. It requires vigilance, it requires us to call our representatives while they consider protectionist laws, it requires us to vote for non-protectionist candidates. If we do all this, we can rid ourselves of the largest drag on our economy.

danielgold
Daniel Gold

Daniel Gold is a student at Carleton College.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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Aubrey de Grey at the Launching Longevity Panel, and Announcing Acceptance of the First Paper to be Published on MitoSENS Research – Article by Reason

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Categories: Science, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatReason
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Today I’ll direct your attention to a couple of videos, thematically linked by the presence of Aubrey de Grey, cofounder of the SENS Research Foundation and tireless advocate for progress towards working rejuvenation therapies. For the first of the videos, de Grey recently took part in a panel discussion involving representatives of the biotechnology industry, the research establishment, and venture capital community, with the topic being the coming development of a new industry that will develop therapies to extend healthy life and turn back aging. That industry has barely started to form its earliest and smallest stage today, as the first lines of rejuvenation research reach the point of commercial viability. There are a few startups and a lot of deep pockets yet to be convinced that this is going somewhere – though the commentary in the panel is encouraged, considering those involved.

The recent Rejuvenation Biotechnology 2016 conference hosted by the SENS Research Foundation was more along the same lines, focused on creating a foundation for the near future industry that will build and provide rejuvenation therapies. The purpose of the conference series is to help smooth the way for these treatments to move rapidly from the laboratory to the clinic, to build the necessary relationships, manage expectations, and pull in the additional support needed to make best possible progress. The conference was livestreamed over the past couple of days, and at one point Aubrey de Grey announced the just-then-and-there acceptance of the first scientific publication for the MitoSENS team at the SENS Research Foundation. They are presently in the lead, at the cutting edge, among the few groups working on the project of copying mitochondrial genes into the cell nucleus to protect them from the damage of aging. Ultimately, copying all thirteen genes should completely remove the contribution of mitochondrial damage to degenerative aging, as mitochondria will no longer become dysfunctional as their local DNA is damaged. They will get the proteins they need from the cell nucleus instead. It is a worthy project, and it is always welcome to see progress on this front.

Launching Longevity: Funding the Fountain of Youth

 

Can technology make human longevity a reality? As the pace of discovery accelerates, scientists and entrepreneurs are closing in on the Fountain of Youth. Disrupting the aging process by hacking the code of life, promises better health and longer maximum lifespans. With many layers of complexity from science to ethics, there are still skeptics placing odds against human longevity. Venture capitalists are betting on success; putting big money on the table to fund longevity startups. Google/Alphabet and drugmaker AbbVie have invested $1.5 billion on Calico, while Human Longevity Inc. recently raised $220 million from their Series B funding round. Complementing traditional venture investment, VCs like Peter Thiel and Joon Yun have established foundations and prizes to accelerate the end of aging. Why are VCs suddenly investing heavily in longevity startups? Will extended lifespan be a privilege of the wealthy or will the benefits be accessible to all? How long before these well-funded startups bring viable products to market?

 

Aubrey de Grey Announces Progress in MitoSENS

 

Ok everybody, before I introduce the next session I just wanted to make a very small, brief, but very welcome announcement. Literally half an hour ago we received some extremely good scientific news. Those of you who have been following SENS research since before the SENS Research Foundation itself even existed will know that, about a decade ago, the very first project, the very first research program that we were able to initiate – with the help of, especially, the initial donation of Peter Thiel – was to make mitochondrial mutations harmless by essentially putting backup copies of the mitochondrial DNA into the nuclear genome, modified in such way of course that the encoded proteins would be colocated back into the mitochondria to do their job. This is an idea that was first put forward more than 30 years ago, but it is an idea that despite quite a bit of initial effort, nobody was able to make work. When I first came across this concept, in fact I’d thought of it myself, it’s a pretty obvious idea really, I came to the conclusion that a lot of the despair and despondency and pessimism about this approach was premature, and that it was worth having another go, and so that was the very first project we decided to fund.

Suffice to say that it has not been quite as easy as I was hoping to make progress in that space, but progress has now been made, step by step, over the past several years, with the help especially of the absolutely amazing team we have at the research center, who work on this, headed by Matthew O’Connor. Amutha Boominathan is the number two on the team, and is absolutely indispensable, I’ve no idea where we’d be without her. So, what’s happened half an hour ago is that for the very first time in the entire history of this project, we have got far enough to have a paper accepted in a very nice journal, Nucleic Acids Research, which reports on our progress in this area. The headline result in this paper is that we are the first team ever to get two of the proteins encoded by genes in the mitochondrial DNA simultaneously functioning in the same cell line, and of course – two is equivalent to infinity for mathematicians, you know that, right? – this is extremely heartening news, and I just wanted to let you all know, thank you.

Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries.
This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license. It was originally published on FightAging.org.

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Our Media-Driven Epistemological Breakdown – Article by Bill Frezza

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The New Renaissance HatBill Frezza
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How do we know what we know? Philosophers have pondered this question from time immemorial. Julian Jaynes, in his classic book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, speculates that before the development of modern human consciousness, people believed they were informed by voices in their heads. Today, an alarming number of people are responding to voices on the Internet in similarly uncritical fashion.

As Jesuit scholar John Culkin pointed out in his seminal 1967 Saturday Review article, “A Schoolman’s Guide to Marshall McLuhan,” “We shape our tools and, thereafter, they shape us.” Examining history through this lens, one can identify seven great epochs in mankind’s intellectual and social evolution.  Each is characterized by the way a new technology changed not only how we think about the world, but our actual thought processes. These are:

1) Spoken language, which first led to the primacy of mythology;

2) Written language, which bequeathed to us holy books and the world’s great religions;

3) The printing press, which spread literacy to the elites who went on to birth the nation state, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the U.S. Constitution;

4) The telegraph, which transformed pamphlets and broadsheets into modern newspapers, whose agenda-setting influence goaded America to “Remember the Maine” and become an imperialist power;

5) Radio, which placed broadcast propaganda at the service of central planners, progressives, and tyrants;

6) Television, which propelled the rising tide of the counterculture, environmentalism, and globalism; and

7) The Internet, a nascent global memory machine that puts the Library of Alexandria to shame, yet fits in everyone’s pocket.

Reason’s primacy is a fragile thing.

At each transition, the older environment and way of thinking does not disappear. Rather, it adopts an extreme defensive crouch as it attempts to retain power over men’s minds. It is the transition from the Age of Television to the Age of the Internet that concerns us here, as it serves up an often-toxic brew of advocacy and click-bait journalism competing to feed the masses an avalanche of unverifiable information, often immune to factual or logical refutation.

Rational epistemology holds that reason is the chief test and source of knowledge, and that each of us is not just capable of practicing it, but is responsible for doing so. Reason flowered when the Enlightenment overturned the ancient wisdom of holy books, undermining the authority of clerics and the divine right of kings. Wherever reason is widely practiced and healthy skepticism is socially accepted, error becomes self-correcting (rather than self-amplifying, as under a system based on superstition), as new propositions are tested, while old propositions get reexamined as new facts come to light.

So now that the voices have returned to our heads, we are inadequately prepared to defend against them.

Yet, reason’s primacy is a fragile thing. As increasingly potent electronic media confer influence on new voices, formerly-dominant media and governing elites fight a rearguard action to regain their status as ultimate arbiters of knowledge and what matters. Goebbels proved that a lie repeated loudly and frequently in a culture that punished skepticism became accepted as truth. We all know how that turned out.

Revulsion at the carnage of the Second World War crested with the counterculture revolution driven by the first TV generation. By the time the dust settled, its thought leaders had grabbed control of the academy, reshaping it along postmodern lines that included an assault on language that critics dubbed political correctness. This was intentionally designed to constrain what people can think by restraining what they can say. The intention may have been to avert a repeat of the horrors of the 20th century, but the result was to strip much of the educated populace of the mental tools needed to ferret out error.

So now that the voices have returned to our heads, we are inadequately prepared to defend against them. Digitally streamed into every nook and cranny of our ubiquitously connected lives, these voices are filtered by our own self-reinforcing preferences and prejudices, becoming our own in the process. The result is an ongoing series of meme-driven culture wars where the shouting only gets louder on all sides.

So we come back to the question: How do we know what we know?

What causes crime? Is autism linked to vaccines? Should GMOs be banned? Is global warming “settled science”? These are more than factual questions. Responses to them signal identification with an array of ever more finely differentiated identity groups set at each other’s throats. For those who wish to divide and rule, that’s the whole point.

In a cruel irony, this global outbreak of media-induced public schizophrenia has even empowered jihadists bent on taking the world back to the 10th century using the idea-spreading tools of the Internet to challenge a Western Civilization rapidly losing its mojo.

So we come back to the question: How do we know what we know? At the present time, we don’t. And therein lies the problem.

Bill Frezza

Bill Frezza is a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the host of RealClear Radio Hour.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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The Two-Party Crackup Could Be Upon Us – Article by Stephen Weese

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The New Renaissance HatStephen Weese
******************************

Imagine living in a world where there are only two choices. Chocolate or vanilla. Hot or cold. Light or darkness. There are no in-betweens. No “shades of gray.” You must explain everything as a “yes or no” dichotomy. On or off. False or true. This binary reality leaves little room for human diversity or creativity – yet it is in this exact reality we find ourselves trapped with the US political system.

Prelude to Deception

The parties are divided and their candidates are weak.It all starts with a sociological phenomenon created due to our political election process. First Past the Post means that in our elections, winner takes all and the loser gets nothing. We are told that if we do not vote for one of the two major parties, our vote is wasted. (I mathematically analyzed this myth in a previous article.)

The concept that underlies the two party phenomenon is not only mathematical in principle, it is sociological. Duverger’s law assumes that people faced with more than two choices in a First Past the Post election will vote against the most radical or undesired opponent, instead of for the candidate they most desire. This demonstrates what is called a “negative” vote – it could be more precisely described as a vote made out of fear of the worst candidate.

Another principle of Duverger’s law is that it filters out “weaker” parties in that people will not vote for a party that has no chance of winning. This weakness is only psychologically defined; a party could appear weaker simply due to less publicity. Certainly a third party could have better ideas than the main two – but if the ideas are not heard, then no one can know about them. The purely cognitive illusion that there are only two “worthy” parties is perpetuated by lack of media coverage and the false appeal to common practice that it’s the “way things always have been done.”

The simple truth is, Duverger’s law depends on the psychological basis of fear and ignorance. Without these factors in society, the mathematical differences would disappear.

The Two Major Parties are Weak

People only think of politics as “right” or “left” because this is all they have ever known.At this point, the two major candidates for election, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, have historically high negative numbers. In fact, the two frontrunners have the highest unfavorable ratings since those numbers have been tracked: Trump is net negative 33, and Clinton negative 21.

More voters see these candidates in an unfavorable light than a favorable one. This would be a perfect time for the rise of a third party, even according to Duverger’s law. It only takes a cursory look at the news to see the large anti-Trump movement among major Republicans as well as the staunch Sanders wing of the Democratic party. The parties are divided and their candidates are weak, as shown by the polls above.

The Electorate Is Polarized

If you have the feeling that in the last decade partisan politics has become more extreme and vitriolic you’d be correct – Pew research has been tracking this phenomenon. Both the extremity of Democratic and Republican views have increased, as well as dislike and intolerance for the “other” party. At this point, 92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat, and 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican.

There are double the amount of pure liberals and conservatives than a decade ago, and the fear of the opposing party has doubled as well. Twice as many people think that the alternate party threatens the “nation’s well-being.”

If people could overcome the fear of the “worst” candidate and voted for what they believed in, the facade would begin to crumble. This polarization affects people’s choices of where to live, shop, and travel, and even goes to the extent of opposition to a family member marrying someone of the opposing party. The Pew study also shows that those on the extreme ends of the spectrum are the most politically active – writing letters, posting on social media, travelling to political events (though this is hardly surprising.) The effect of this of course is that these parties are represented more by their extreme elements.

This polarization also results in one-dimensional thinking. People only think of politics as “right” or “left” because this is all they have ever known. As humans, are we only one-dimensional? Aren’t there more ways to look at solving the problems of a nation than just left and right?

Most of us are trapped in this one-dimensional illusory world, like a train stuck on a single track. The mere idea that we could travel in a completely different direction is a foreign concept. Even a middle-school student can tell you that we live in a world with three dimensions, that we can travel in an infinite variety of paths. Yet we find ourselves confined to this oversimplified model of reality that goes counter to our interests and only allows us choices that leave most dissatisfied.

Majority in the Middle

Another effect of this polarization is that moderate Americans find themselves in the middle of this extremism. Most voters do not view the other party as a threat to the nation and are not 100% liberal or conservative in their views. There are actually more people in the middle, yet they find themselves forced to choose to side with one extreme or the other. In 2014, the “mixed” electorate (holding views from both sides) was 39%.

There are less of them now, due to extremism, yet this 39% in the middle is enough to completely take over an election, if they only had a different option to choose from. Unfortunately, the Pew data also shows that the people in the middle are less likely to vote and participate in the election process. Duverger’s law is working here because these moderates do not know that they are a huge bloc that could elect a moderate candidate with ease.

Overcoming Ignorance and Fear

We live in the age of new media – a social movement can begin online without the backing of a major television or news network. As we have seen, voting tendencies in our system are predicated on fear of a radical candidate as well as ignorance of third-party platforms or even their existence. This is the one-dimensional illusion we live in. If we continue to be more polarized, more and more of the electorate will hate the other half.

If nothing stops this progress, those in the middle will be forced to choose a side as the tolerance for opposing views decreases. Others could stand up and speak and become a driving force pulling opinions back toward some sense of centrism – or even better, they could propose ideas outside of the traditional “left vs. right” paradigm.

The truth is, if people could overcome the fear of the “worst” candidate and voted for what they believed in, the facade would begin to crumble. If the media and others covered third parties more, unaligned voters – for example, people who believe in peace and freedom – would have a new incentive to participate and give a positive vote.

Fortunately, we now live in the age of new media – a social movement can begin online without the backing of a major television or news network. This election is the most opportune time for this to happen given the record negative views of both candidates. Thus it behooves the unaligned voter to find her or his voice in this election. If these voters together decided that “enough is enough” and realized that they are actually the most powerful voting bloc, they could simply say “no” to the two major parties – and nothing could stop them.

Stephen_WeeseStephen Weese

Stephen Weese has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from George Mason University, and a Masters in Computer Information Technology from Regis University. Stephen teaches college Math and Computer courses. He is also a speaker, a film and voice actor, and a nutrition coach.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

 

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Playing Politics Can Be Fun until It Unleashes Hell – Article by Joey Clark

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Categories: Culture, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatJoey Clark
******************************

Most politicians and their followers are not cynical enough about politics. They hate the players but not the game. Unlike me, they are cynical sentimentalists, i.e. they idealize politics yet are cynical towards any suggestion human beings should be set free from political control.

Though it may smack of paradox, I consider myself a hopeful cynic – hopeful in man’s spirit but not his politics. Accordingly, my political cynicism flows from my disappointed sentimentality.

Most politicians are not cynical enough about politics. They hate the players but not the game. As Oscar Wilde wrote in Lady Windermere’s Fan, a cynic is “a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing” and a sentimentalist “is a man who sees an absurd value in everything and doesn’t know the market price of any single thing.” Together the two bring harmony.

Torn apart, they are blind in their own unique way, and in this way, the 2016 political season has rendered much of the American populace sightless. Some wish to present this presidential election as a clear-cut contest between cynical pachyderms and sentimental jackasses, but the truth, to steal another line from Wilde, is rarely so pure and never so simple.

As much as they will deny it, political factions are motivated by a mix of cynicism and sentimentality, sometimes within the very same individuals.

Even the most sentimental nincompoops – those who shed tears or fall into fits of hosannas upon hearing the most platitudinous political speech – turn cynical and stone-faced when confronted by their political opponents.

Even the most cynical demagogues – those who spit piss and vinegar in response to the most innocuous statements from their enemies – turn sentimental and misty-eyed in the presence of a president they love.

It seems one politico’s hopes are another politico’s fears. They appraise their enemy’s price as too high yet see absurd value in their champions.

The Donald’s Sentimentality

For example, even Donald Trump is not cynical enough about politics. Trump may very well be cynical and downright churlish towards, well, almost anyone (even babies) on any given day, but he is certainly a believer in the need for strong government leadership. Trump has, indeed, boosted his popularity by stoking the flames of resentment, but the essence of this resentment is the betrayed sentimentality of “the people.”

Trump and his supporters idealize America just as much as the next group. Holding true to a golden age image of the country, they are disappointed by an ever-changing world that continually shatters their “perfect” picture of the nation. They are cynical of what they see as “un-American,” and they have hitched their hopes to Trump’s politics to save their culture as they see it.

Thus, Trump’s slogan may not be “Burn America Down” as Democrats would have you believe, but he is certainly a flaming nationalist. His program may not be great for many people living in America, but “America” is, indeed, the ultimate standard of good and evil on the Trump train. One cannot be cynical about politics qua politics and a nationalist at the same time. No, nationalism is for the teary-eyed evangelicals and patriotic bomb throwers, Trump being the latter. But how about the former?

Enter Hillary Clinton.

Hillary’s Cynicism

Hillary Clinton, like most progressives, prides herself on her forward-looking and optimistic approach. She and her ilk apparently claim to loathe cynicism. As Senator Cory Booker said at the Democratic National Convention surrounded by a friendly mob of fellow sentimentalists, “Cynicism is a refuge for cowards.” Of course, by “cynicism” Cory, Hillary, and their do-gooder cronies mean anyone who does not wish to consent to their progressive plans to save the world. To hear them speak about peace, love, and community one would think such things were impossible without the imposition of the state.

What makes progressives so sentimental about people using state power yet cynical towards people acting voluntarily, I will never truly know.What makes progressives so sentimental about people using state power yet cynical towards people acting voluntarily, I will never truly know, but I suspect they do not trust the motives of many of their fellow men, especially not Donald Trump. Their assessment of Trump may be correct, but their appraisal of their own sentiments is utterly lacking. Their worship at the altar of state power seems to have turned them blind to the ironies of the “progressive” history and project.

For instance, of all the ways Hillary could take down Trump’s fear-mongering, she chose to say this in her acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention:“Well, a great Democratic President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, came up with the perfect rebuke to Trump more than eighty years ago, during a much more perilous time. ’The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’”

Yes, Hillary, how wise of you to quote a man who brought us Japanese internment camps, turned away Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, and set the price of gold based on “lucky numbers.” But, I suppose, since FDR is a demigod in the progressive civic religion, his cynicism and quackery can be overlooked, as can the ugly, cynical history of progressive policies such as the minimum wage.

Again, if only Hillary, Donald and their respective acolytes were more cynical about politics qua politics, we would all be better off. But what about the most cynical bunch in American politics today, the alt-right meme team?  How could a group of folks who “pretend” to be Nazis ever be helped by more political cynicism?

And why would one ever want to pretend to be a Nazi anyway?

Pretend Nazis Need Cynicism Too

Enter Charles Bukowski:

“At L.A. City College just before World War II, I posed as a Nazi. I hardly knew Hitler from Hercules and cared less. It was just that sitting in class and hearing all the patriots preach how we should go over and do the beast in, I grew bored. I decided to become the opposition. I didn’t even bother to read up on Adolf, I simply spouted anything that I felt was evil or maniacal.

However, I really didn’t have any political beliefs. It was a way of floating free.”

This is how Bukowski’s short story, “Politics”, begins, and his reasons for his posing as a Nazi – ”boredom” and “floating free” – sound quite similar to those prescribed to the alt-right “meme team” by that frivolous troll, Milo Yiannopoulos, and his colleague, Allum Bokhari, in their crash course on the alt-right:

These young rebels, a subset of the alt-right, aren’t drawn to it because of an intellectual awakening, or because they’re instinctively conservative. Ironically, they’re drawn to the alt-right for the same reason that young Baby Boomers were drawn to the New Left in the 1960s: because it promises fun, transgression, and a challenge to social norms they just don’t understand.

If this parallel continues into the future, things will probably not end well, at least not with mere lulz.

As Bukowski later relays in the story, his Nazi antics earned him disciples, but his acolytes took the whole charade much more seriously than he. After stumbling upon a Communist speaker outside of campus, one of his followers approached him with a bag of rotten tomatoes. Upon being told to put the tomatoes away, his follower said, “I wish they were hand grenades.”

“It occurred to me suddenly that my disciples hadn’t been listening to the speaker, or even if they had been, nothing he had said would matter,” writes Bukowski, “Their minds were made up. Most of the world was like that… I lost control of my disciples that day, and walked away as they started hurling their rotten tomatoes.”

The alt-right don’t want to get rid of the establishment; they want to replace it.I must hand it to the alt-right trolls – they are quite creative and prolific and, at times, hilarious in their cynical pose – but there is a difference between political cynicism and a general cynicism about the culture at large. One must be careful not to let those rotten tomatoes turn into hand grenades. Sadly, the alt-right purveyors of “ironic bigotry” may think they are simply having a little cynical fun, but their actions seem directed only towards the political establishment without rejecting the whole paradigm of political action.

They don’t want to get rid of the establishment; they want to replace it. In particular, if one is to fight, say, the excesses of political correctness for the sake of liberty (a worthy endeavor in my opinion,) the focus should be on neutering the “political” aspects of that equation rather than letting basic human decency fall into the abyss of reactionary nonsense or a babyish nihilism, all the while serving the ends of just another political faction.

Politics Pollutes Culture

Yes, politics may often be downstream from culture as Andrew Breitbart said, but it can also pollute the river of culture if allowed to become too permeating. Once politics comes to define a people, all that is left is an impending battle over whose culture will be imposed through the power of the state. In the face of such a looming war, it is understandable that people often despair only to hurl invective and material threats towards “the others” seen as the source of their angst. In such a world dominated by political power, it is understandable that politicos see anyone who is cynical about their projects as a threat to human solidarity.

But the true root of the problem is not the other nor political cynicism; it is the lust to dominate and control others within each of us. The tyrant in you is the tyrant in me, and if we are not careful, even our so-called reactions against tyranny can mutate into movements to destroy something beautiful for destruction’s sake.

What if we all become hopeful cynics – cynical of man’s lust to dominate his fellows, yet lovers of man all the same? That said, we should recognize even our enemies’ capacity for creative action and fellowship in their darkest hours. If such qualities can provide solace, even in sardonic and sadistic forms, to a select few in their most despairing moments, what can creative action and fellowship provide when we direct our cynical pose toward politics in general instead of just our opponents? What if we all become hopeful cynics – cynical of man’s lust to dominate his fellows, yet lovers of man all the same?

If I am being honest, I do not know what this pose would bring about, but this is exactly why hope is a virtue. Bukowski might disagree; he wrote in his short story, “I promise you, this will hardly be the last war. As soon as one enemy is eliminated somehow another is found. It’s endless and meaningless. There’s no such thing as a good war or a bad war.” Maybe he’s right, and the war of all against all is inevitable, but I hope not. Nor do I wish to save the world. That is much too idealistic. As our dirty old man poet says elsewhere in his novel Women, “You begin saving the world by saving one man at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics.”

Maybe, just maybe, each of us can first save ourselves and then others, one by one, with a hope in the uncertain beyond for man’s society if not his politics.

Joey ClarkJoey Clark

Joey Clark is a budding wordsmith and liberty lover. He blogs under the heading “The Libertarian Fool” at joeyclark.liberty.me. Follow him on Facebook.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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How Not To Waste Your Vote: A Mathematical Analysis – Article by Stephen Weese

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The New Renaissance HatStephen Weese
******************************

During this especially contested election, a lot of people are talking about people “wasting” or “throwing away” votes. However, many people who say this do not have a complete grasp of the full mathematical picture – or worse, they are only mentioning the part that supports their position. First let’s define what a “wasted” vote is.

Mathematical Definition of Wasted Votes

A wasted vote is a vote that provides no determination or effect on the final outcome of the election. According to Wikipedia: “Wasted votes are votes cast for losing candidates or votes cast for winning candidates in excess of the number required for victory. For example, in the UK general election of 2005, 52% of votes were cast for losing candidates and 18% were excess votes – a total of 70% wasted votes.”

There are two kinds of wasted votes that mathematically have no effect on the final election:

  1. Votes cast for candidates who did not win
  2. Excess votes cast for winning candidates

Clearly, neither of these kinds of votes statistically affect the election. However, many arguments only mention the first type without mentioning the second. Mathematically and logically, both categories are ineffectual votes.

First Past the Post

The value of your vote is what you give it. Should you spend it on a candidate you don’t believe in?The United States, along with several other nations, uses the First Past the Post (FPTP) or “winner take all” election. This method is defined as “the candidate who receives more votes than any other candidate wins.”

This is one of the reasons that many people mention wasted votes – our system creates that result. Sociologically speaking, the FPTP system tends to favor a two-party system. The French sociologist Maurice Duverger created “Duverger’s Law” which says just that.

The Electoral College

For U.S. Presidential elections, a state-by-state system is used called the Electoral College. Each state gets a proportional amount of electoral votes which are then used to find a majority for president. Interestingly, what happens in each separate state is a smaller FPTP election, followed by a counting of electoral votes.

The Electoral College is slightly different from a pure FPTP system because it requires an actual number threshold (currently 270 electoral votes) for a candidate to win instead of a simple majority of the votes.

We can sum things up as follows:

  1. States hold “winner take all” FPTP elections for electoral votes
  2. Electoral votes are counted
  3. The winner must have 270 electoral votes
  4. If there is no candidate that reaches it, the House of Representatives chooses the president

These distinctions are important, because they can change the math and the concept of the “wasted” vote phenomenon.

Wasted Votes in Presidential Elections

The general concept that is proposed by many is that you must always vote for a Republican or a Democrat because you must stop the worst candidate from winning. In a sense, you are voting a negative vote – against someone – rather than for a candidate of your choice. However, this actually depends on the scenario of the vote. Let’s look at some examples.

Bush vs. Gore: 2000

People voting out of fear of the worst candidate is a self-perpetuating cycle. Let’s examine a common example used in this discussion.

Following the extremely close 2000 U.S. presidential election, some supporters of Democratic candidate Al Gore believe that one reason he lost the election to Republican George W. Bush is because a portion of the electorate (2.7%) voted for Ralph Nader of the Green Party, and exit polls indicated that more of these voters would have preferred Gore (45%) to Bush (27%), with the rest not voting in Nader’s absence.

The argument for this case is even more pronounced because the election was ultimately decided on the basis of the election results in Florida where Bush prevailed over Gore by a margin of only 537 votes (0.009%), which was far exceeded by the number of votes, 97,488 (0.293%), that Nader received. (Wikipedia)

At first, this may look like a clear example of the need to vote for a major party. However, let’s break this situation down mathematically. In every single state election, Bush or Gore won. There were millions of mathematically wasted votes in this election of both types.

In California, Gore won by 1,293,774 votes. Mathematically speaking, there were over one million wasted votes for Gore in this state alone. None of these excess votes could have helped Gore, since he had already mathematically won the state. The California votes didn’t matter in Florida. In fact, the votes in Florida have much more relevance than any other state.

Conclusions: Sometimes a vote for a major party winner is wasted anyway. Sometimes everything will come down to one state. However, there is no way to predict in advance which votes will be this important. If the parties knew that Florida would have been the deal breaker, then they would have acted differently. However, we simply don’t know the future well enough to predict that.

We do know that battleground states are generally more important than “safe” states for each candidate, but it is hard to know exactly which state might matter. (There are plenty of scenarios you can research online about possibly electoral outcomes, I encourage you to do so.) This leads us into our next example.

Clinton vs. Trump 2016

Let’s do some math about the state of California and our current presidential election. The average RCP poll has Hillary Clinton ahead by 22.2 percent. The registered voters in California add up to 17.7 million. Not all of them will vote, but we can use the 2012 presidential election as a predictor, where 13.2 million people voted.

Out of those 13.2 million, according to current predictions, 52.6% will vote for Clinton. However, Clinton only needs about 31% to beat Trump. The other 21% of excess votes for Clinton will be wasted. This means that approximately 3 million votes for Clinton in California will be wasted. Now, this is only a mathematical model, but we have several reasons to believe in it.

  1. California has a history of being a heavily Democratic state
  2. Polls usually swing within a single digit margin of error
  3. 21% is quite a large margin of leeway

Even if the polling changes significantly, we are still looking at millions of wasted Clinton votes in California.

Now let’s throw Jill Stein into the math. As part of the Green Party, she is to the left politically of Hillary, so we will assume that votes for her will be taken from Clinton’s pool. (Though this isn’t always a true assumption, as we will see later.) Right now she is polling at around 4%, but we could even give her 5%. If you take away 5% from Hillary’s margin of 22.2%, that leaves a huge margin of 17.2%: still millions of votes. The takeaway from this: you can safely vote for Jill Stein in California without fear of changing the state election results. Therefore, it will not affect the national vote either.

Since we have the Electoral College, your votes will have no influence beyond the state to change other vote counts. Those who prefer Jill Stein can with a clear conscience vote for her, since it will make no difference mathematically. Later we will look at the ethics of voting as it relates to this math.

Mathematical Importance of a Single Vote

There are a few theories on voting power calculations; we will look at two of them here. John F. Banzhaf III created a probabilistic system for determining individual voting power in a block voting system, such as the Electoral College. According to his calculations, because of differences in each state, it gives different voters different amounts of “voting power.”

A computer science researcher at UNC ran the Banzhaf power numbers for the 1990 U.S. Presidential election and determined that the state of California had the voters with the highest power index: 3.3. This index is measured as a multiple of the weakest voting state, which was Montana (1.0 voting power).

A newer method of measuring voting power was created by a research team from Columbia University using a more empirical (based on existing data) and less randomized model. They concluded that the smaller states had more mathematical voting power due to the fact that they received 2 votes minimum as a starting point. This model tends to generate smaller multipliers for voting power but more accurately matches empirical data from past elections.

Using these power ratings as a guide, we can estimate an estimated maximum voting power for each vote. We will be making some assumptions for this calculation.

  1. The minimum voting power multiplier is 1
  2. The highest multiplier from both models will be used as a maximum

Starting numbers

In the United States there are currently 218,959,000 eligible voters with 146,311,000 actual registered voters. In the 2012 Presidential election, 126,144,000 people actually voted. This is our voting pool.

Each vote, legally speaking, has the same weight. So if we start from that assumption, taking into account a probable amount of voters (126 million), the power of your vote is:

1
_____

126 million

This is: 0.0000000079 or 0.00000079%. That is the weight of your vote mathematically. Now we can multiply it by the highest power index to show the highest potential of your vote. Our California historical data from 1990 shows a 3.3 index, but to be conservative we will raise it to 4. So now the power is: 0.00000317%

Using probabilistic equations and analysis, this is the result. This is how powerful your vote is in the U.S. Presidential election is if you end up in the most heavily weighted state.

Addressing Weighted Vote Fallacies

As we have seen, many people argue that we should not “waste” votes, yet many millions of votes for the winner are wasted every year. It is difficult to predict whether a vote will end up in either wasted category. We’ve also seen past and possible scenarios where voting third party or major party can have no influence on the final election.

Fallacy 1: Treating Single Voters as One Block

A false assumption that people make about voting is treating a single vote as a block. For instance, let’s use our current election again as an example.

Someone insists that if you do not vote for Hillary, then you are helping Trump to be elected. (The reverse of this can also apply here.) You claim that you wish to vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. You’re then told that the current national poll with all parties shows that Johnson is polling at 7%, which is less than the difference between Clinton (39%) and Trump (40%). Therefore, you must vote for Clinton to make up that difference.

There are several problems with this proposal. It does not take each state into consideration. It assumes all Gary Johnson supporters have Clinton as their second choice. And it treats your single vote as the entire 7%.

As we have seen, the current picture in California shows that Clinton has a huge margin. If this voter lived in California, a vote for Gary Johnson would not help Trump and also would not hurt Hillary, even if the entire 7% voted for Johnson. Anyone who says it is your duty to vote negative in this scenario does not know the math of this state.

This also assumes that all Johnson votes would choose Hillary as the second choice, but given that Libertarians take some platform elements from both the Left and the Right, this assumption would be highly unlikely. The same would go for Trump.

When people look at the 7% and tell you that you must vote a certain way, it is assuming you will somehow influence the entire 7%. However, we have seen that you are just one voter, and that your voting power is a very tiny number by itself. You cannot be entirely responsible for a candidate winning or losing with your single vote. In theory, it’s mathematically possible for one vote to decide an election, but given there are an exponential number of possible scenarios with millions of voters (imagine raising a few million to an exponent), it’s astronomically unlikely, especially if you live in a non-battleground state.

It’s also astronomically unlikely that all 7% (8,820,000 people) would vote for who they polled for. Even if you gave each voter a 99% chance of voting for who they polled for, the chance that all of them would vote the way they polled is (0.99) to the power of 8,820,000, which is less than 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001%

Individuals are not entire blocks of voters, and it’s problematic to treat them as such.

Fallacy 2: Third Party Votes Have No Value

If enough people vote their conscience and vote for what they believe in, things can change.On the surface, this might appear to be true. A third party candidate for President has never won an election. We also have Duverger’s law that states our FPTP favors two party systems. However, it is mathematically possible for a third party to win, and there are also other measurable gains for voting for a third party.

Part of this fallacy is the “winner take all” perspective. In other words, if you don’t win the presidency, you’ve wasted your time.

However, there are many benefits of voting third party, even for president. It makes a political statement to the majority parties. It helps local politicians of that party in elections. It can help change platforms to include third-party elements. And it provides recognition for the party among voters as a viable alternative.

Third party candidates can and have won local and state elections in the past. This is a fact.

In 1968, George Wallace ran as a third party option for President. He received nine million votes and 45 electoral votes. Though he did not expect to win the popular vote, one of his aims was to force the House of Representatives to choose the President by denying either candidate the 270 electoral votes needed to win – and he nearly succeeded. Since our system is not a true First Past the Post, but a hybrid, this kind of situation is possible. In fact, calculations have been done showing that Gary Johnson could in fact force that situation this year. It is very unlikely, but it is possible.

Regardless of his loss, the impact of the Wallace campaign was substantial. He was able to affect the dialogue and events of that election significantly. (This is meant in no way as an endorsement of George Wallace’s political positions.) If his supporters had mostly voted for a majority party, his impact would have been less significant.

In most scenarios given by the “wasted” vote crowd, all of the votes that are considered are ones from the current voting electorate. Yet we have seen from figures previously mentioned that over 50 million eligible voters are not registered. Even among registered voters, almost 20 million didn’t vote in the last election. These potential votes are never placed into the scenario.

The simple truth is, there are millions of uninterested voters out there, yet candidates are not inspiring them to vote. If candidate X or Y were truly worthy of votes, would not some of these voters decide to register? And another question, would it be easier to get a third party voter to choose a majority candidate, or a non-voter? These are not mathematical questions, but they are logical. The fact is, with this many votes at stake, if these non-voters could be encouraged to register, they would undoubtedly change the election as they make up one-third of total eligible voters.

Ethics and Math

It has been demonstrated that the potential individual power of a vote is mathematically very small. It also has been shown that wasted votes can be cast for the winner of an election as well as the losers, as well as demonstrating that it is sometimes hard to predict exactly which vote will be wasted. Given this information, where do we derive the value of a vote?

It’s hard to get it purely from the math or practicality. In fact, it would seem our single vote is of very little import at all. Therefore, we must find meaning and value for our votes outside of the math.

Certainly, the Founders never envisioned an endless cycle of US citizens voting for the “lesser of two evils.”Certainly, the Founders never envisioned an endless cycle of United States citizens voting for the “lesser of two evils,” as the argument is often presented. The idea was for free and open elections where the people’s voice would be heard. It was simple: the candidate who best represented your interests earned your vote.

Your vote is, therefore, an expression of yourself and your beliefs. Your vote has power as a statement. People voting out of fear of the worst candidate is a self-perpetuating cycle. If no one ever has the courage to vote outside of the two main parties, it will never be broken. However, if enough people vote and it shows in the total election count, it will give cause for us to reconsider and embolden even more to vote outside of the two parties.

Yes, our current electoral system has some serious mathematical flaws. It simply does not encourage people to vote for their conscience – but we have seen that things are not as bad as we would be led to believe by some. The true value of a vote is in the people.

The Value of Your Vote

The value of your vote is what you give it. Should you spend it on a candidate you don’t believe in? Should it be an exercise in fear? It’s up to you. It is my hope that these mathematical calculations will bring you freedom from the idea that only majority party votes matter. A vote is a statement, a vote is personal, a vote is an expression of your citizenship in this country. If enough people vote their conscience and vote for what they believe in, things can change.

If you are already a staunch supporter of a major party, then you should vote that way. This paper is not against the major parties at all – but rather against the concept that votes somehow “belong” to only Democrats or Republicans. Votes belong to the voter. There has never been a more important time to vote your conscience.

Stephen_WeeseStephen Weese

Stephen Weese has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from George Mason University, and a Masters in Computer Information Technology from Regis University. Stephen teaches college Math and Computer courses. He is also a speaker, a film and voice actor, and a nutrition coach.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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