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The Internet Memory Hole – Article by Wendy McElroy

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Categories: Justice, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Wendy McElroy
November 24, 2014
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Imagine you are considering a candidate as a caregiver for your child. Or maybe you are vetting an applicant for a sensitive position in your company. Perhaps you’re researching a public figure for class or endorsing him in some manner. Whatever the situation, you open your browser and assess the linked information that pops up from a search. Nothing criminal or otherwise objectionable is present, so you proceed with confidence. But what if the information required for you to make a reasoned assessment had been removed by the individual himself?

Under “the right to be forgotten,” a new “human right” established in the European Union in 2012, people can legally require a search engine to delete links to their names, even if information at the linked source is true and involves a public matter such as an arrest. The Google form for requesting removal asks the legally relevant question of why the link is “irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise objectionable.” Then it is up to the search engine to determine whether to delete the link.

The law’s purpose is to prevent people from being stigmatized for life. The effect, however, is to limit freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and access to information. Each person becomes a potential censor who can rewrite history for personal advantage.

It couldn’t happen here

The process of creating such a law in the United States is already underway. American law is increasingly driven by public opinion and polls. The IT security company Software Advice recently conducted a survey that found that “sixty-one percent of Americans believe some version of the right to be forgotten is necessary,” and “thirty-nine percent want a European-style blanket right to be forgotten, without restrictions.” And politicians love to give voters what they want.

In January 2015, California will enforce the Privacy Rights for California Minors in the Digital World law. This is the first state version of a “right to be forgotten” law. It requires “the operator of an Internet Web site, online service, online application, or mobile application to permit a minor, who is a registered user … to remove, or to request and obtain removal of, content or information posted … by the minor.” (There are some exceptions.)

Meanwhile, the consumer-rights group Consumer Watchdog has floated the idea that Google should voluntarily provide Americans with the right to be forgotten. On September 30, 2014, Forbes stated, “The fight for the right to be forgotten is certainly coming to the U.S., and sooner than you may think.” For one thing, there is a continuing hue and cry about embarrassing photos of minors and celebrities being circulated.

Who and what deserves to be forgotten?

What form would the laws likely take? In the Stanford Law Review (February 13, 2012), legal commentator Jeffrey Rosen presented three categories of information that would be vulnerable if the EU rules became a model. First, material posted could be “unlinked” at the poster’s request. Second, material copied by another site could “almost certainly” be unlinked at the original poster’s request unless its retention was deemed “necessary” to “the right of freedom of expression.” Rosen explained, “Essentially, this puts the burden on” the publisher to prove that the link “is a legitimate journalistic (or literary or artistic) exercise.” Third, the commentary of one individual about another, whether truthful or not, could be vulnerable. Rosen observed that the EU includes “takedown requests for truthful information posted by others.… I can demand takedown and the burden, once again, is on the third party to prove that it falls within the exception for journalistic, artistic, or literary exception.”

Search engines have an incentive to honor requests rather than to absorb the legal cost of fighting them. Rosen said, “The right to be forgotten could make Facebook and Google, for example, liable for up to two percent of their global income if they fail to remove photos that people post about themselves and later regret, even if the photos have been widely distributed already.” An October 12, 2014, article in the UK Daily Mail indicated the impact of compliance on the free flow of public information. The headline: “Google deletes 18,000 UK links under ‘right to be forgotten’ laws in just a month: 60% of Europe-wide requests come from fraudsters, criminals and sex offenders.”

American backlash

America protects the freedoms of speech and the press more vigorously than Europe does. Even California’s limited version of a “right to be forgotten” bill has elicited sharp criticism from civil libertarians and tech-freedom advocates. The IT site TechCrunch expressed the main practical objection: “The web is chaotic, viral, and interconnected. Either the law is completely toothless, or it sets in motion a very scary anti-information snowball.” TechCrunch also expressed the main political objection: The bill “appears to create a head-on collision between privacy law and the First Amendment.”

Conflict between untrue information and free speech need not occur. Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, explained, “Traditional law has mechanisms, like defamation and libel law, to allow a person to seek redress against someone who publishes untrue information about him.… The legal standards are long-standing and fairly clear.” Defamation and libel are controversial issues within the libertarian community, but the point here is that defense against untrue information already exists.

What of true information? Truth is a defense against being charged with defamation or libel. America tends to value freedom of expression above privacy rights. It is no coincidence that the First Amendment is first among the rights protected by the Constitution. And any “right” to delete the truth from the public sphere runs counter to the American tradition of an open public square where information is debated and weighed.

Moreover, even true information can have powerful privacy protection. For example, the Fourth Amendment prohibits the use of data that is collected via unwarranted search and seizure. The Fourteenth Amendment is deemed by the Supreme Court to offer a general protection to family information. And then there are the “protections” of patents, trade secrets, copyrighted literature, and a wide range of products that originate in the mind. Intellectual property is controversial, too. But again, the point here is that defenses already exist.

Reputation capital

Reputation capital consists of the good or bad opinions that a community holds of an individual over time. It is not always accurate, but it is what people think. The opinion is often based on past behaviors, which are sometimes viewed as an indicator of future behavior. In business endeavors, reputation capital is so valuable that aspiring employees will work for free as interns in order to accrue experience and recommendations. Businesses will take a loss to replace an item or to otherwise credit a customer in order to establish a name for fairness. Reputation is thus a path to being hired and to attracting more business. It is a nonfinancial reward for establishing the reliability and good character upon which financial remuneration often rests.

Conversely, if an employee’s bad acts are publicized, then a red flag goes up for future employers who might consider his application. If a company defrauds customers, community gossip could drive it out of business. In the case of negative reputation capital, the person or business who considers dealing with the “reputation deficient” individual is the one who benefits by realizing a risk is involved. Services, such as eBay, often build this benefit into their structure by having buyers or sellers rate individuals. By one estimate, a 1 percent negative rating can reduce the price of an eBay good by 4 percent. This system establishes a strong incentive to build positive reputation capital.

Reputation capital is particularly important because it is one of the key answers to the question, “Without government interference, how do you ensure the quality of goods and services?” In a highly competitive marketplace, reputation becomes a path to success or to failure.

Right-to-be-forgotten laws offer a second chance to an individual who has made a mistake. This is a humane option that many people may choose to extend, especially if the individual will work for less money or offer some other advantage in order to win back his reputation capital. But the association should be a choice. The humane nature of a second chance should not overwhelm the need of others for public information to assess the risks involved in dealing with someone. Indeed, this risk assessment provides the very basis of the burgeoning sharing economy.

History and culture are memory

In “The Right to Be Forgotten: An Insult to Latin American History,” Eduardo Bertoni offers a potent argument. He writes that the law’s “name itself“ is “an affront to Latin America; rather than promoting this type of erasure, we have spent the past few decades in search of the truth regarding what occurred during the dark years of the military dictatorships.” History is little more than preserved memory. Arguably, culture itself lives or dies depending on what is remembered and shared.

And yet, because the right to be forgotten has the politically seductive ring of fairness, it is becoming a popular view. Fleischer called privacy “the new black in censorship fashion.” And it may be increasingly on display in America.

Wendy McElroy (wendy@wendymcelroy.com) is an author, editor of ifeminists.com, and Research Fellow at The Independent Institute (independent.org).

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

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Why Do We Advocate for Rejuvenation Research? – Article by Reason

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

The New Renaissance Hat
Reason
November 24, 2014
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Yesterday, I had occasion to spend six hours or so in the emergency room of a medical center largely focused on treating serious conditions that are most prevalent in old people. A part of that experience by necessity involved listening to the comings, goings, and conversations of those present. These are not private places: they are typically divided visually by screens but with no way to avoid overhearing the staff and patients. The people there are generally not too concerned about privacy in the immediate sense in any case, having far more pressing matters to focus upon.

So, by proxy, one gets to experience small and somewhat wrenching slices of other people’s lives. It is very easy for even those who follow aging research and speak up for rejuvenation treatments to forget just how hard it is to be very old. It’s one thing to know about the catalog of pain, suffering, and loss of capabilities, the conditions we’d like to find ways to turn back, and another to watch it in action. It is, really, a terrible thing to be frail.

A fellow was brought in a little while after I arrived, a 90-something man who looked a lot better on the exterior than perhaps your mental picture of a 90-something individual might be. Tall, and surprisingly lacking in wrinkles stretched out on the rolling gurney under blankets, a mess of cables, and an oxygen mask. That he had fallen was what I heard from the conversation of the medics, and was in pain. He cried out several times as he was moved from the gurney. It took some time and care to do it without hurting him more, given his weakness.

He seemed confused at first, but that was just my misperception: you try being 90 and in pain some time and see how well you do while you’re being moved around and told to hold this and let go of that. The fellow answered the bevy of questions the receiving staff had for him, but the thing that caught at me was the time he took with the answers, and the questions he just missed. He was coherent, even quite sharp at times, not on any more painkillers than a handful of Tylenol, as I later heard, but he clearly struggled with something that we younger folk all take for granted: parse the question, find the information, form up a reply and speak it. Cognitive ability in all these areas becomes ever less efficient with old age, and there’s something hollowing about hearing what is clearly a capable guy set back for a dozen seconds by a short question about one of the details of his fall. The medic repeated the question a few times and in different ways, which was clearly just making the information overload worse.

It sticks with you to be the observer in this situation and clearly and suddenly realize that one day that faltering older person will be you, trying and often failing to force your mind into the necessary connections rapidly enough for the younger people around you. I know this, but knowing it and having it reinforced by being there are two very different things. An aged person is no less intelligent, far more experienced, wiser and all the rest, but the damage to the structure of the brain that occurs even in those without dementia means that making use of all of that in the way it deserves is near insurmountable.

The fellow’s 60-something daughter arrived a little later to provide support and fill in more of the details. A story was conveyed in bits and pieces: that he was near blind now, and just about too frail to walk safely, even with a frame. The blindness explained a great deal of what had sounded to my ignorant ears as confusion in the earlier part of the fellow’s arrival: we assume all too many things about those around us, such as the use of sight in an unfamiliar environment, or the ability to walk, or think quickly – and all of this is taken from us by aging. The fellow lived with his wife still, and she was of a similar age to him. His wife was not there because she herself was too frail to be undertaking even a short trip at such short notice. That seemed to me a harsh blow on top of the rest of what old age does to you. At some point you simply cannot do everything you’d want to as a partner. You are on the sidelines and at the point at which your other half is most likely to die, you are most likely unable to be there.

In this case the fellow was in no immediate danger by the sound of it. By good luck this was in no way likely to be a fatal accident, but rather another painful indignity to be endured as a part of the downward spiral of health and ability at the end of life. Once you get to the point at which simply moving from room to room bears a high risk of accident, and this is by no means unusual for a mentally capable person in their 90s, then it really is just a matter of time before you cannot live for yourself with only minimal assistance.

When talking with his daughter while he waited on a doctor and medical assistants to come and go with tests and updates, the fellow was much faster in his responses, though this was interrupted by a series of well-meaning but futile attempts to ease his pain by changing his position, each as much an ordeal as the move from the gurney had been. The conversation between father and daughter had the sense of signposts on well-worn paths, short exchanges that recapitulated the high points of many discussions that had come before. She wanted her father to move into an assisted living facility, and this fall was the latest in a line of examples as to why it was past the time for this – she simply could not provide all of the support needed on her own. She wasn’t even strong enough herself to be able to safely get him back up on his feet after a fall. He was concerned about cost and the difficulties of moving, uncertainties and change. They went back and forth on this for a while. “We have to accept that it’s just going to be more expensive as we get older,” she said at one point, and he replied “I think you’re getting the picture now,” and laughed. There wasn’t much to laugh about, but we can all do it here and there under these circumstances. I believe it helps.

I walked out of there after my six hours of hurry up and wait was done. They were still there, and whenever it is he leaves to go home it is unlikely it will be on his own two feet. But this is a scene I’ll no doubt be revisiting at some point in the future, some decades from now, playing the other role in this small slice of life. What comes around goes around, but I’d like it to be different for me, and more importantly to be different for millions of others a lot sooner than my old age arrives.

Which leads to this: why does Fight Aging! exist? Why do we do this? Why advocate, why raise funds for research programs into ways to treat aging that may take decades to pay off? We do this because we can help to create a future in which there will be no more emergency rooms like the one I visited, no conversations about increasing disability, no pain, and no struggles to answer questions as quickly as one used to. No profound frailty. All these things will be removed by the advent of therapies that can effectively repair the causes of aging, curing and preventing frailty and age-related disease, and the sooner this happens the more people will be spared.

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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Defeat of USA FREEDOM Act is a Victory for Freedom – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
November 24, 2014
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It will not shock readers to hear that quite often legislation on Capitol Hill is not as advertised. When Congress wants to do something particularly objectionable, they tend give it a fine-sounding name. The PATRIOT Act is perhaps the best-known example. The legislation had been drafted well before 9/11 but was going nowhere. Then the 9/11 attacks gave it a new lease on life. Politicians exploited the surge in patriotism following the attack to reintroduce the bill and call it the PATRIOT Act. To oppose it at that time was, by design, to seem unpatriotic.At the time, 62 Democrats voted against the Act. On the Republican side there were only three no votes: former Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), former Rep. Butch Otter (R-ID), and myself.

The abuses of the Constitution in the PATRIOT Act do not need to be fully recounted here, but Presidents Bush and Obama both claimed authority based on it to gut the Fourth Amendment. The PATRIOT Act ushered in the era of warrantless wiretapping, monitoring of our Internet behavior, watering down of probable cause, and much more. After the revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden, we know how the NSA viewed constitutional restraints on surveillance of American people during the PATRIOT Act period.

After several re-authorizations of the PATRIOT Act, including some cosmetic reforms, Congress last October unveiled the USA FREEDOM Act. This was advertised as the first wholesale PATRIOT Act Reform bill. In fact, the House version was watered down to the point of meaninglessness and the Senate version was not much better. The final straw was the bill’s extension of key elements of the PATRIOT Act until 2017.

Fortunately, last week the USA FREEDOM Act was blocked from further consideration in the US Senate. The procedural vote was significant and important, but it caused some confusion as well. While some well-meaning pro-privacy groups endorsed the FREEDOM Act as a first step to reform, some anti-liberty neoconservatives opposed the legislation because even its anemic reforms were unacceptable. The truth is, Americans should not accept one more extension of the PATRIOT Act and should not endorse its continued dismemberment of our constitutional liberties. If that means some Senators vote with anti-liberty colleagues to kill the extension, we should still consider it a victory.

As the PATRIOT Act first faced a sunset in 2005, I had this to say in the debate over whether it should be re-authorized:

“When Congress passed the Patriot Act in the emotional aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, a sunset provision was inserted in the bill that causes certain sections to expire at the end of 2005. But this begs the question: If these provisions are critical tools in the fight against terrorism, why revoke them after five years? Conversely, if these provisions violate civil liberties, why is it acceptable to suspend the Constitution for any amount of time?”

Reform is often meant to preserve, not repeal bad legislation. When the public is strongly opposed to a particular policy you will almost never hear politicians say “let’s repeal the law.” It is always a pledge to reform the policy or law. The USA FREEDOM Act was no different.

With the failure of the FREEDOM Act to move ahead in the Senate last week, several of the most egregious sections of the PATRIOT Act are set to sunset next June absent a new authorization. Congress will no doubt be under great pressure to extend these measures. We must do our very best to make sure they are unsuccessful!

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Living the Easy Life – Article by Doug Bandow

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The New Renaissance Hat
Doug Bandow
November 24, 2014
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CAIRO — “I could be arrested when I leave here,” said a journalist I met at the tony Marriott near Cairo’s Tahir Square. A student activist acting as an interpreter observed that he, too, could be detained at any time. A veteran human rights activist calmly stated, “Some of our groups will be closed. Some of us will be imprisoned. It is inevitable.”

Most foreigners travel to Egypt to play tourist. I visited with a human rights delegation. As a result, I came away with a very different picture than do most foreigners of this fascinating nation.

I was also reminded how lucky Americans — and, indeed, most Westerners — are. Forget American exceptionalism or manifest destiny.

Most important are the basic characteristics of a free society. The rule of law. Civil liberties. Criminal procedures. Legal safeguards. Democratic processes. Obviously, even nations that purport to have all of these often fall short. However, few Americans, Europeans, or citizens of democratic Asian nations live in constant fear of arrest, imprisonment, and torture. Those in rule-oriented societies rarely see every authority figure as a threat.

In Egypt, the uncertainty began when I arrived. On both of my trips the government knew about me because my host organization had requested meetings on my delegation’s behalf. Both times I was pulled aside. The first time an entry guard took my passport and I waited for an hour before being waved on. The second time the delay was far shorter, with security officials formally welcoming me — after asking for my phone number and hotel destination.

Of course, the United States occasionally stops people from entering, but not typically because the visitors want to assess America’s human rights record. Most often, foreigners get blocked from visiting if officials believe they want to stay.

Even after leaving the arrivals area on my first trip, I had to wait again while the videographer joining us unsuccessfully tried to persuade officials to let him bring his camera into the country. The Egyptians said no. (He went on to rent a smaller one.) While there are places in the United States where you can’t film, no one’s going to stop you from having a camera of any sort.

Both visits were filled with interviews relating all sorts of harrowing stories. Most every society has injustice, and errors are sadly common in US jurisprudence. However, most Americans don’t expect a visit to a friend to turn into a stint in prison.

In Egypt, for reasons of political repression and personal revenge, people face arbitrary arrest, perpetual detention, fraudulent trials, and horrific imprisonment. No doubt, some of the accounts we heard could be exaggerated or even false, but reports from people in many walks of life and across the political spectrum were consistent and demonstrated that the slightest resistance to state authority risks freedom and even life. Indeed, being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be equivalent to a death sentence.

Moreover, those with whom we met were vulnerable to arrest. Students told us about classmates arrested at demonstrations. Journalists discussed colleagues detained after criticizing the regime. Attorneys reported on lawyers detained while representing defendants. Family members described the arrest of husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers. No one is exempt from persecution.

Nor is there any effective oversight or appeal to limit official abuse. If you were tortured or suffered from inhumane prison conditions, you can complain only to the public prosecutor. But that government office seems strangely uninterested in following up on allegations against government officials. Accountability obviously is less than perfect in the United States, but here, at least, there are alternative channels of protest: private lawsuits, media coverage, public demonstrations. That’s one of the advantages of pluralistic societies. Authoritarian regimes rarely view themselves as bound by any rules.

While members of my delegation, largely Americans and Europeans, felt relatively secure, we knew other foreigners had been arrested for various offenses. At least in the United States no meeting other than one involving a criminal conspiracy could land a listener in jail.

In fact, on my second trip we found ourselves attacked by a pro-coup television talk show host (government critics long ago were driven off the air) and the head of a “human rights” council (sponsored by the regime) who cheerfully mixed fact and fantasy. No harm was done since I don’t plan on running for office in Egypt, but the regime obviously has tools short of prison for use against foreign critics.

Evidence of extreme force is everywhere. Tanks next to prisons; armored personnel carriers in city squares and on city streets; concrete blast barriers, barbed wire, and armed sentries around sensitive government installations; portable fences piled high near potential protest points; and a ubiquitous mix of uniformed and plain clothes security personnel.

It is unsettling enough to be stopped by a policeman in the United States. After hearing stories of dubious arrests followed by months of detention, no one wants to end up anywhere near an Egyptian cop. After clearing passport control to leave on my second trip, I waited with a friend for a couple of other members of our group to emerge. While we were talking, a border agent came over and asked us for our passports. I assume we were targeted since we were conveniently nearby. He gave our passports back after barely glancing at them. But I felt uneasy the entire time.

Egypt is a fascinating country with hospitable people. Although there was much to frustrate typical Westerners — for instance, we joked about being on “Egypt time” — the chaotic streets were a source of energy. The economic and social challenges facing Egypt would be enormous in the best of cases, but, tragically, the nation suffers under an unashamed military dictatorship. Consequently liberty is limited and frequently at risk.

Despite all of the problems faced by those in the West, even imperfectly free societies offer extraordinary advantages we should never forget and should work to protect. Walking the streets of Cairo, I thought: there but for the grace of God go I. With my US passport I can leave and return to a society that, despite enormous problems, generally respects people’s lives, liberty, and dignity.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of a number of books on economics and politics. He writes regularly on military non-interventionism.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

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Individual Empowerment through Emerging Technologies: Virtual Tools for a Better Physical World – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Self-Improvement, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 23, 2014
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No realm of human activity in the past century has empowered and liberated the individual as efficaciously as technological advancement. Our personal, political, and economic freedoms – though limited in many respects – today allow us to achieve quality-of-life improvements and other objectives that were inconceivable even a few decades ago. Much libertarian, classical liberal, and Objectivist theory supports this insight, but in our era of increasing salience of advanced technology, this support needs to be made far more explicit and applied toward vocal advocacy of emerging, life-transforming breakthroughs that further raise the capacities of the individual. Gamification, augmented reality, and virtual worlds can play a significant role in enhancing and preserving our physical lives.

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This video is based on Mr. Stolyarov’s essay “Individual Empowerment through Emerging Technologies: Virtual Tools for a Better Physical World“.

References

- Playlist: The Musical Compositions of G. Stolyarov II
– “Ayn Rand, Individualism, and the Dangers of Communitarianism” (2012) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Carl Menger, Individualism, Marginal Utility, and the Revival of Economics” (2006) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Ludwig von Mises on Profit, Loss, the Entrepreneur, and Consumer Sovereignty” (2007) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Open Badges and Proficiency-Based Education: A Path to a New Age of Enlightenment” (2013) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
Runkeeper
Fitocracy
Fitbit
– “Minecraft” – Wikipedia
– “Oculus Rift” – Wikipedia -
– YouTube Videos of Minecraft Computers (here and here)

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Internet Gambling Ban: A Winner for Sheldon Adelson, A Losing Bet for the Rest of Us – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
November 16, 2014
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Most Americans, regardless of ideology, oppose “crony capitalism” or “cronyism.” Cronyism is where politicians write laws aimed at helping their favored business beneficiaries. Despite public opposition to cronyism, politicians still seek to use the legislative process to help special interests.For example, Congress may soon vote on legislation outlawing Internet gambling. It is an open secret, at least inside the Beltway, that this legislation is being considered as a favor to billionaire casino owner, Sheldon Adelson. Mr. Adelson, who is perhaps best known for using his enormous wealth to advance a pro-war foreign policy, is now using his political influence to turn his online competitors into criminals.Supporters of an Internet gambling ban publicly deny they are motivated by a desire to curry favor with a wealthy donor. Instead, they give a number of high-minded reasons for wanting to ban this activity. Some claim that legalizing online gambling will enrich criminals and even terrorists! But criminalizing online casinos will not eliminate the demand for online casinos. Instead, passage of this legislation will likely guarantee that the online gambling market is controlled by criminals. Thus, it is those who support outlawing online gambling who may be aiding criminals and terrorists.

A federal online gambling ban would overturn laws in three states that allow online gambling. It would also end the ongoing debate over legalizing online gambling in many other states. Yet some have claimed that Congress must pass this law in order to protect states rights! Their argument is that citizens of states that ban Internet gambling may easily get around those laws by accessing online casinos operating in states where online gambling is legalized.

Even if the argument had merit that allowing states to legalize online gambling undermines laws in other states, it would not justify federal legislation on the issue. Nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government given any authority to regulate activities such as online gambling. Arguing that “states rights” justifies creating new federal crimes turns the Tenth Amendment, which was intended to limit federal power, on its head.

Many supporters of an Internet gambling ban sincerely believe that gambling is an immoral and destructive activity that should be outlawed. However, the proposed legislation is not at all about the morality of gambling. It is about whether Americans who do gamble should have the choice to do so online, or be forced to visit brick-and-mortar casinos.

Even if there was some moral distinction between gambling online or in a physical casino, prohibiting behavior that does not involve force or fraud has no place in a free society. It is no more appropriate for gambling opponents to use force to stop people from playing poker online than it would be for me to use force to stop people from reading pro-war, neocon writers.

Giving government new powers over the Internet to prevent online gambling will inevitably threaten all of our liberties. Federal bureaucrats will use this new authority to expand their surveillance of the Internet activities of Americans who have no interest in gambling, just as they used the new powers granted by the PATRIOT Act to justify mass surveillance.

The proposed ban on Internet gambling is a blatantly unconstitutional infringement on our liberties that will likely expand the surveillance state. Worst of all, it is all being done for the benefit of one powerful billionaire. Anyone who thinks banning online gambling will not diminish our freedoms while enriching criminals is making a losing bet.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Video of Melody and Lyrics for “Progress Unyielding”, Op. 76 (2013) – Space Colonists’ Anthem from “Eden against the Colossus” – by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Fiction, Music, Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 14, 2014
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“Progress Unyielding” is the anthem celebrating space colonization and humans’ expansion throughout the universe, guided by the principles of individualism, liberty, rationality, and progress. It is originally found in Mr. Stolyarov’s 2004 novel, Eden against the Colossus. In 2013, Mr. Stolyarov was asked to create a composition to convey the music of this anthem, as he imagined it when writing the novel. This composition is not the full orchestration described in “Eden against the Colossus”, but rather the main melody, played on the harp, with accompaniment by the piano and by a string ensemble for the latter third. It communicates the principal direction of “Progress Unyielding” and allows the listener to see the words put to music.

Download a free MP3 file of the melody of Progress Unyielding here.

The meter of this piece would accommodate the following very slightly modified lyrics, which still communicate the same substance as the anthem in the novel.

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Progress Unyielding

Our souls before these sights dwarfed shan’t become.
Why bow to passive matter of antiquity?
What spreads from it is pandemonium;
Its barrenness is source for all iniquity.

‘Tis in our minds the idols hatch,
Of stone for man to shape and mold.
Such logic does our hands attach
To this domain of lifeless cold,
To every cavern, crater, creek.
Wrong was the man who’d preached the norm
That worlds are destined for the meek!
Our will and strength give matter form.
He who grovels tastes his obsequies;
We float into the void, oases craft.
We are not slaving tribal bees,
And no collective guides our raft.
We are not one, but many knights;
Each does himself his quest ordain,
We thrive on work, and work from rights.
Our well-earned profit’s our domain.

This ground bears meaning solely to our aims.
Its monuments stem from our ingenuity.
Glory to him who savage wildlands tames,
And weeds out every incongruity!

What shall replace the brittle dune?
What shall refine this cratered scar?
Our pavement shall embrace them soon,
And spread to every spawn of star
Yet seen, and into others we shall gaze,
And thus apply the universe’s stock.
This is not but one transient phase.
Forever shall we tame new rock!
Cosmos is Man’s, its means and goal.
Its exiled heirs now seek its wreath:
Supremacy, from atom, oil, and coal.
Our claim to treasures underneath
These jagged lands shall never wane.
Always grand mechanisms will be our guide.
No Luddites shall their betterment profane.
Inventors we exalt and vandals we deride!

Merit determines worth under our creed.
The self-made prodigy our government defends,
Does our endeavor by example lead,
And never harms one for another’s ends.

What is the trait we deem sublime?
The source which does all virtue render.
It, dauntless, conquers space and time,
And never can its plight surrender.
It is inside us, best within the great,
The ego, mind, one’s self, one’s soul,
Prerequisite to any proper state.
Maintain your own, and you’ve fulfilled your role.
No world beyond this life is real;
Its furthering’s our sole concern.
No godly favor is to steal,
No mystic afterlife to earn.
God’s not above us, but within;
The Self’s the Lord, Reason, His rite.
We have a universe to win.
Join us, great men, in splendid flight!

***

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s compositions, all available for free download, here.

All art used in this video is either in the public domain or subject to a Creative Commons license and is used with attribution. See the image captions for more details regarding each artwork and its source.

This video, too, is licensed as a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike work and is available for non-commercial use to anyone under the condition that the same license be preserved.

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Man’s Struggle Against Death, Op. 57 (2008) – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II

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

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 11, 2014
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This composition by Mr. Stolyarov depicts the most important challenge facing humankind during all of its existence – the imperative of freeing individual humans from the ghastly and unconscionable fate of eventually ceasing to exist. Indefinite physical life in this world is not only possible with sufficient advances in scientific knowledge and medical technology – it is also supremely desirable, and we who are alive now should work to attain it as early as we can.

As outlined by Dr. Aubrey de Grey of the SENS Research Foundation, there are only seven primary types of damage involved in human biological senescence – which leads to death:

1. Extracellular junk
2. Extracellular crosslinks
3. Dysfunctional cells
4. Intracellular aggregates
5. Mitochondrial mutations
6. Nuclear mutations
7. Cell loss/atrophy

This led Mr. Stolyarov to compose a work where there are seven variations on the same theme – with the theme representing the consistent, unyielding human effort to defeat death and achieve indefinite longevity.

Every time that a variation on the theme is played, this represents one of the causes of death finally being overcome by human ingenuity. Accordingly, the melody becomes more jubilant and determined as the composition progresses, because there are fewer perils awaiting man and the amount of the task remaining is reduced.

Once the seven variations are complete (which corresponds with the attainment of indefinite life), the coda of the work is meant to evoke the last line of John Donne’s sonnet, “Death, Be Not Proud”: “And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”

John Donne was not himself a physical life-extensionist (he was alive too early), but the last line of his poem is an excellent motto for life-extensionists to adopt as we spread awareness of the need and urgency of defeating this greatest of all perils.

This composition was remastered using the Finale 2011 and Finale 2014 software. It is written for organ, two pianos, harpsichord, timpani, a brass section, and a strings section.

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s compositions, all available for free download, here.

Read more about the quest for indefinite life in Mr. Stolyarov’s book Death is Wrong.

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Waltz #5, Op. 48 (2007, 2014) – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Music, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 11, 2014
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This brief and cheerful waltz from 2007 was the first work created by Mr. Stolyarov in Anvil Studio, a musical composition program that permits greater versatility than simply recording a piece played on a piano. The present version has been expanded and remastered using the Finale 2011 and Finale 2014 software. It is composed for two piano parts and one violin.

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s compositions, all available for free download, here.

The artwork is Mr. Stolyarov’s Abstract Orderism Fractal 33, available for download here and here.

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Individual Empowerment through Emerging Technologies: Virtual Tools for a Better Physical World – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Self-Improvement, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 9, 2014
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No realm of human activity in the past century has empowered and liberated the individual as efficaciously as technological advancement. Our personal, political, and economic freedoms – though limited in many respects – today allow us to achieve quality-of-life improvements and other objectives that were inconceivable even a few decades ago. Much libertarian, classical liberal, and Objectivist theory supports this insight, but in our era of increasing salience of advanced technology, this support needs to be made far more explicit and applied toward vocal advocacy of emerging, life-transforming breakthroughs that further raise the capacities of the individual. Gamification, augmented reality, and virtual worlds can play a significant role in enhancing and preserving our physical lives.

I find a lot of support for technological progress, self-determination, and the triumph of the individual over the impositions of the collective in the works of Ayn Rand (as an example, see this 2012 essay of mine for a brief analysis of Randian individualism). The Austrian economists Carl Menger and Ludwig von Mises were also great exponents of individualism, and their innovations in value-theory emphasized the importance of subjective preference in the determination of prices, the work of entrepreneurs, and the effects of policy. They grounded their economic work in a deep understanding of philosophy and offered a countervailing view of the world during a time when postmodernism was gaining popularity. They explained that universal laws of economics, derived from the basic fact of human action itself, are at the root of explaining whether societies facilitate flourishing and progress, or misery and stagnation.

Were these great thinkers alive today, it would have been fascinating to observe their insights regarding the power of technology to enable the personal creation of art which was not technically feasible for an individual in prior eras to create. They would surely recognize the amazing influence of the latest generation of technological entrepreneurs on our lives and well-being – not just in the emergence of computers, the Internet, and mobile devices – but also in less-emphasized applications, such as digital art, electronic music, increasingly sophisticated and graphically immersive computer games, and tools for the “quantified self” – an increasing array of metrics for vital bodily attributes and activities. The convergence of these tools is ushering in an era of augmented reality, which rational and determined creators can harness to achieve their goals more effectively and more enjoyably.

I have seen this vast technological improvement affect my ability, for example, to compose music. In a few hours I can create a composition and hear it played back flawlessly by an electronic orchestra, whereas even a decade ago I would have needed to spend weeks internalizing melodies and variations. In order to play my compositions, I would have had to spend months practicing, even then being quite vulnerable to human error. One of my current ongoing projects is to remaster as many of my older compositions (all preserved, thankfully) as I can using the tools now available to me – enabling their flawless playback via synthetic instruments. Today, they can sound exactly as I intended them to sound when I composed them years ago. Many works have already been remastered in this way (available within this video playlist), which has enabled me to hear and to share with the world pieces which have not been in my “finger memory” for over a decade.

Numerous life-improving applications of augmented reality are emerging now and can be expected to expand during the proximate future. Many of these technologies can have strong, immediate, practical benefits in enhancing human survival and functionality within the physical world. Already, mobile applications such as Runkeeper, scoring systems like that of Fitocracy, or devices like the Fitbit allow individuals to track physical activity in a granular but convenient manner and set measurable targets for improvement. Significant additional innovation in these areas would be welcome. For instance, it would be excellent to have access to live readings of one’s vital statistics, both as a way of catching diseases early and measuring progress toward health goals. This vision is familiar to those who have encountered such functionality in virtual worlds. Players track and improve these statistics for their characters in computer games, where it proves both interesting and addictive – so why not bring this feature to our own bodies and other aspects of our lives?

Computer games – one type of virtual world – expand the esthetic and experiential possibilities of millions of people. While not fully immersive, they are far more so than their predecessors of 20 years ago. They can extend the range of human experience by enabling people to engage in actions inaccessible during the course of their daily lives – such as making major strategic decisions in business, politics, or world-building, exploring outer space, or designing and interacting with a skyscraper without the hazards of being a construction worker. (Minecraft comes to mind here as an especially versatile virtual world, which can be shaped in unique ways by the creativity of the individual. I can readily imagine a future virtual-reality game which is a more immersive successor of Minecraft, and where people could create virtual abodes, meeting places, and even technological experiments. Minecraft already has mods that allow the creation of railroads, industrial facilities, and other interesting contraptions.)

One common and highly gratifying feature of computer games that has long fascinated me is the ability to make steady, immediately rewarding progress. Any rational, principled economic or societal arrangement that promotes human flourishing should do the same. Emerging efforts at the “gamification” of reality are precisely a project of imparting these rational, principled characteristics – hopefully remedying many of the wasteful, internally contradictory, corrupt, and fallacy-ridden practices that have pervaded the pre-electronic world.

Tremendous technological, cultural, and moral progress could be achieved if this addictive quality of games were translated into the communication of sophisticated technical concepts or philosophical ideas, such as those underpinning transhumanism and indefinite life extension. If there were a way to reliably impart the appeal of games to knowledge acquisition, it would be possible to trigger a new Age of Enlightenment and a phenomenon never seen before in history: that of the masses becoming intellectuals, or at least a marked rise in intellectualism among the more technologically inclined. This aspiration relates to my article from early 2013, “Open Badges and Proficiency-Based Education: A Path to a New Age of Enlightenment” – a discussion of an open-source standard for recognizing and displaying individual achievement, which could parlay the abundance of educational resources available online into justified reward and opportunities for those who pursue them.

While some critics have expressed concern about a future where immersion in virtual worlds might distract many from the pressing problems of the physical world, I do not see this as a major threat to any but a tiny minority of people. No matter how empowering, interesting, addictive, and broadening a virtual experience might be (and, indeed, it could someday be higher-resolution and more immersive than our experience of the physical world), it is ultimately dependent on a physical infrastructure. Whoever controls the physical infrastructure, controls all of the virtual worlds on which it depends. This has been the lesson, in another context, of the recent revelations regarding sweeping surveillance of individuals by the National Security Agency in the United States and its counterparts in other Western countries. This inextricable physical grounding is a key explanation for the unfortunate fact that the Internet has not yet succeeded as a tool for widespread individual liberation. Unfortunately, its technical “backbone” is controlled by national governments and the politically connected and dependent corporations whom they can easily co-opt, resulting in an infrastructure that can be easily deployed against its users.

A future in which a majority would choose to flee entirely into a virtual existence instead of attempting to fix the many problems with our current physical existence would certainly be a dystopia. Virtual reality could be great – for learning, entertainment, communication (especially as a substitute for dangerous and hassle-ridden physical travel), and experimentation. Some aspects of virtuality – such as the reception of live statistics about the external world – could also be maintained continually, as long as they do not substitute for the signals we get through our senses but instead merely add more to those signals. However, the ideal use of virtual reality should always involve frequent returns to the physical world in order to take care of the needs of the human body and the external physical environment on which it relies. To surrender that physicality would be to surrender control to whichever entity remains involved in it – and there is no guarantee that this remaining entity (whether a human organization or an artificial intelligence) would be benevolent or respectful of the rights of the people who decide to spend virtually all of their existences in a virtual realm (pun intended).

Fortunately, the pressures and constraints of physicality, so long as they affect human well-being, are not easily wished away. We live in an objective, material reality, and it is only by systematically following objective, external laws of nature that we can reliably improve our well-being. Many of us who play computer games, spend time on online social networks, or even put on virtual-reality headsets in the coming years, will not forget these elementary facts. We will still seek food, shelter, bodily comfort, physical health, longevity, and the freedom to act according to our preferences. The more prudent and foresighted among us will use virtual tools to aid us in these goals, or to draw additional refreshment and inspiration within a broad framework of lives where these goals remain dominant.

In a certain sense, virtual worlds can illustrate some imaginative possibilities that cannot be experienced within the non-electronic tangible world – as in the possibility of constructing “castles in the air” in a game such as Minecraft, where the force of gravity often does not apply (or applies in a modified fashion). There is a limit to this, though, in the sense that any virtual world must run on physical hardware (unless there is a virtual machine inside a virtual world – but this would only place one or more layers of virtuality until one reaches the physical hardware and its limitations). A virtual world can reveal essential insights which are obscured by the complexity of everyday life, but one would still remain limited by the raw computing power of the hardware that instantiates the virtual world. In a sense, the underlying physical hardware will always remain more powerful than anything possible within the virtual world, because part of the physical hardware’s resources are expended on creating the virtual world and maintaining it; only some fraction remains for experimentation. People have, for instance, even built functioning computers inside Minecraft (see examples here and here). However, these computers are nowhere close to as powerful or flexible as the computers on which they were designed. Still, they are interesting in other ways and may employ designs that would not work in the external physical world for various reasons.

Most importantly, the fruits of electronic technologies and virtual worlds can be harnessed to reduce the physical dangers to our lives. From telecommuting (which can reduce in frequency the risks involved with physical business travel) to autonomous vehicles (which can render any such travel devoid of the accidents caused by human error), the fruits of augmented reality can be deployed to fix the previously intractable perils of more “traditional” infrastructure and modes of interaction. Millions of lives can be saved in the coming decades because a few generations of bright minds have devoted themselves to tinkering with virtuality and its applications.

The great task in the coming years for libertarians, individualists, technoprogressives, transhumanists, and others who seek a brighter future will be to find increasingly creative and sophisticated applications for the emerging array of tools and possibilities that electronic technologies and virtual worlds make available. This new world of augmented reality is still very much a Mengerian and a Misesian one: human action is still at the core of all meaningful undertakings and accomplishments. Human will and human choice still need to be exerted – perhaps now more so than ever before – while being guided by human reason and intellect toward furthering longer, happier lives characterized by abundance, justice, peace, and progress.

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