Monthly Archives: November 2012

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Study #1 in C, Op. 6 (2001) – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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

This short but dynamic work by G. Stolyarov II illustrates the essential nature of a melody’s directed and structured forward movement in a musical composition.

This version is played in Finale 2011 Software using the Steinway Grand Piano instrument.

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 15, available for download here and here.

Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational high culture to others.

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Bitcoin Donations and Direct Sharing on Social Networks Now Available on TRA

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Categories: Announcements, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 27, 2012
Recommend this page.
******************************

I am immensely pleased to announce two major improvements to The Rational Argumentator. I am grateful to Wendy Stolyarov for making these enhancements possible.

First, Bitcoin donations are now accepted via the address on the sidebar. With this enhancement, TRA has joined the Bitcoin economy and hereby expresses its support of this experiment in currencies that are free of central-bank manipulation and that can truly empower individuals.

Bitcoin donations will be used, where possible, on activities that are relevant to TRA’s purpose. It is still certainly the case that only a minority of participants in the tangible and digital economies accept Bitcoin. However, Bitcoin donations to TRA will give me the ability to productively interact with those who do. The uses of donations may include improvements to TRA’s content and infrastructure – as well as the acquisition of goods and services that are relevant to TRA’s purpose or that reward other creators whose work is aligned with that purpose. (I will post about such acquisitions when they happen.) Sometimes I may need to exchange Bitcoin for USD if this can become an effective way to pay for TRA’s web hosting or related upkeep of the site. No donation amount is too small – and every donation will be appreciated. Bitcoin transactions are intended to be anonymous, but you may feel free to otherwise inform me that you have made a donation, and I will thank you individually.

Because TRA is not a corporation or other formal legal entity, donations are not tax-deductible. But your purpose in donating to TRA should not be the achievement of a tax deduction in any event.

Second, you will notice that it is now possible to directly share specific TRA features via Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter from the main Rational Argumentator page (without needing to click on the link for the individual article). Hopefully, this will encourage more of my readers to spread TRA’s content throughout their social network and thereby encourage the proliferation of rational thinking and high culture.

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Transhumanism as a Grand Conservatism – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: History, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 25, 2012
Recommend this page.
******************************

For anyone interested in the history of life-extension ideas, I highly recommend Ilia Stambler’s 2010 paper, Life extension – a conservative enterprise? Some fin-de-siècle and early twentieth-century precursors of transhumanism. This extensively researched and cosmopolitan work explores the ideas of five proto-transhumanist thinkers who embedded their future-oriented thoughts in extremely different intellectual frameworks: Nikolai Fedorov, Charles Stephens, Alexander Bogdanov, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Jean Finot. Mr. Stambler considers Finot’s thought to most resemble the ideas of today’s transhumanist movement.

The conclusions of Mr. Stambler’s research are profound and interesting to explore. One of the main insights is that it is possible to arrive at support for radical life extension from many different ideological frameworks. Mr. Stambler writes that “In different national contexts, different ideological schemes – secular humanism or religion, discrimination or egalitarianism, idealism or materialism, socialism or capitalism, liberalism or totalitarianism – appear to yield different justifications for the necessity of life prolongation and longevity research and to impact profoundly on the way such goals are conceived and pursued. As the works of the above-said proponents of human enhancement and longevity exemplify, the authors adapt to a particular national ideological milieu and serve as agents for its continuation.”

This is a welcome insight in the sense that it should be possible to attract an immensely intellectually and culturally diverse following to the cause of indefinite human life extension. However, it is also the case that some political and cultural environments are more conducive to rapid progress in human life extension than others. I have recently articulated my view that a libertarian set of policies will, by unshackling competition and innovation by numerous entities on a free market, result in the most rapid advent of the technologies sought by transhumanists. That being said, I still perceive much common ground with non-libertarians to be achievable on the issue of life extension – for instance, in the realms of supporting specific research, spreading public awareness, sharing information, and coming together to advocate for policy positions on which we can agree. Also, it is possible that non-libertarian transhumanists might benefit their own intellectual traditions by steering them toward more technology-friendly and life-respecting directions. As an atheist libertarian transhumanist, I would greatly prefer to be debating with transhumanist environmentalists, transhumanist socialists, and transhumanist Christians (yes, they do exist) than their mainstream counterparts of today.

Another key insight of Mr. Stambler’s paper resonates with me personally. Mr. Stambler ventures to “suggest is that the pursuit of human enhancement and life extension may originate in conservatism, both biological and social. There is a close conjunction between the ideas of life extension, transcending human nature and creating artificial life, in Finot’s writings and those of present-day transhumanists. The connection (and progression) between these enterprises may appear logical: the means initially designed to conserve life may exceed their purpose, and beginning as a search to preserve a natural bodily status quo, the aspirations may rapidly expand into attempts to modify nature. It appears to me that these enterprises evolve in this, and not in the reverse order. The primary aspiration is not to modify nature, but to preserve a natural state.

Anyone who has followed my work over the years would be unable to avoid my generally conservative esthetic, my strong interest in history, and my admiration for the achievements and legacies of prior eras. I am mostly not a conservative in the American or even European political sense, but I am conservative in the sense of seeking to preserve and build upon the achievements of Western civilization – including the development of its logical implications for future decades and centuries. Technological progress and the achievement of indefinite life extension are very much the direct extrapolation of the desire to preserve the historical achievements that enable our unprecedented quality of life today. Furthermore, my transhumanism grows out of a desire to preserve my own body and mind in a youthful state – so as to maintain a life driven primarily by my own choices and the manner in which I set up the environment around me. In order for me to remain who I am, and to do what I wish to do, I need to support radical technological change and changes to our society in general. However, those changes are fundamentally aimed at supporting that pattern of life which I consider to be good – and which today, unfortunately, is far too subject to destructive external influences over which no individual yet has sufficient influence or control. Unlike some transhumanists, I have no ambitions to have my mind “uploaded,”  to lead a non-biological existence, or “merge” my mind with anyone else’s. If I obtain indefinite life, I will spend it indefinitely looking the way I do (while remedying any flaws) and focusing on the perpetuation of my family, property, esthetic, and activities – all the while learning continuously and becoming a better (and more durable) version of the person I already am. For the true stability of home, family, property, and patterns of living, there must be individual sovereignty. For true individual sovereignty to exist, our society must improve rapidly in every dimension, so as to facilitate the hyper-empowerment of every person. Ironically, for one’s personal sphere to be conserved and shaped to one’s will, a revolution in the universe is necessary.

Cultural and historical preservation is also a major but seldom appreciated implication of transhumanism. By living longer and remaining in a youthful state, specific individuals would be able to create and refine their skills to a much greater extent. Imagine the state of classical music if we could have had hundreds of years for Mozart and Beethoven to compose – or the state of painting if Leonardo, Vermeer, or David had lived for centuries. Every time a creator dies, an irreplaceable vision dies with him. Others might emulate him, but it is not the same – for they do not have his precise mind. They can replicate and absorb into their own esthetic what he already brought into this world, but they cannot foresee the new directions in which he would have taken his work with more time. Each individual is precious and irreplaceable; the loss of each individual is the loss of a whole universe of memories, ideas, and possibilities. Transhumanism is a grand conservatism – an ambition to conserve people – to put an end to all such senseless destruction and to keep around all of the people who build up and beautify our world. The proto-transhumanist Nikolai Fedorov (one of those Christian transhumanists who ought to be much more prevalent among the Christians of today) even took this idea to the point of proposing an ultimate goal to physically resurrect every person who has ever lived. While, as I have written earlier, this would not resurrect the “I-nesses” of these individuals, achieving this goal might nonetheless give us the benefit of recapitulating their memories and experiences and seeing how their “doubles” might further develop themselves in a more advanced world.

It is precisely the conservative sensibility in me that recoils against “letting go” of the good things in life – whether they be my present advantages or the positive legacies of the past. It is precisely the conservative part of me that hates “starting from scratch” when something good and useful is no longer available because it has fallen prey to damaging external events. To allow the chaos of senseless destruction – the decay and ruin introduced by the inanimate processes of nature and the stupidity of men – is a sheer waste. Many put up with this sad state of affairs today because it has hitherto been unavoidable. But once the technical possibilities emerge to put an end to such destruction, then leaving it to wreak its havoc would become a moral outrage. Once we are able to truly control and direct our own lives, the stoic acceptance of ruin will become one of those aspects of history that we could confidently leave in the past.

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Waltz #8, Op. 71 (2012) – Musical Composition by G. Stolyarov II

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

An intense and ornate waltz for three pianos and one cello – composed by Mr. Stolyarov in the key of C minor, transitioning into C major and A minor.

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 40, available for download here and here.

Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational high culture to others.

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Waltz #1, Op. 1 (1998) – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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

This piano waltz was Mr. Stolyarov’s first musical composition, created in 1998 (at age 11). This version is played using Finale 2011 software and the Steinway Grand Piano instrument.

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 7, available for download here and here.

Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational high culture to others.

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Political Priorities for Achieving Indefinite Life Extension: A Libertarian Approach – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Politics, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 22, 2012
Recommend this page.
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While the achievement of radical human life extension is primarily a scientific and technical challenge, the political environment in which research takes place is extremely influential as to the rate of progress, as well as whether the research could even occur in the first place, and whether consumers could benefit from the fruits of such research in a sufficiently short timeframe. I, as a libertarian, do not see massive government funding of indefinite life extension as the solution – because of the numerous strings attached and the possibility of such funding distorting and even stalling the course of life-extension research by rendering it subject to pressures by anti-longevity special-interest constituencies. (I can allow an exception for increased government medical spending if it comes at the cost of major reductions in military spending; see my item 6 below for more details.) Rather, my proposed solutions focus on liberating the market, competition, and consumer choice to achieve an unprecedented rapidity of progress in life-extension treatments. This is the fastest and most reliable way to ensure that people living today will benefit from these treatments and will not be among the last generations to perish. Here, I describe six major types of libertarian reforms that could greatly accelerate progress toward indefinite human life extension.

1. Repeal of the requirement for drugs and medical treatments to obtain FDA approval before being used on willing patients. The greatest threat to research on indefinite life extension – and the availability of life-extending treatments to patients – is the current requirement in the United States (and analogous requirements elsewhere in the Western world) that drugs or treatments may not be used, even on willing patients, unless approval for such drugs or treatments is received from the Food and Drug Administration (or an analogous national regulatory organization in other countries). This is a profound violation of patient sovereignty; a person who is terminally ill is unable to choose to take a risk on an unapproved drug or treatment unless this person is fortunate enough to participate in a clinical trial. Even then, once the clinical trial ends, the treatment must be discontinued, even if it was actually successful at prolonging the person’s life. This is not only profoundly tragic, but morally unconscionable as well.

As a libertarian, I would prefer to see the FDA abolished altogether and for competing private certification agencies to take its place. But even this transformation does not need to occur in order for the worst current effects of the FDA to be greatly alleviated. The most critical reform needed is to allow unapproved drugs and treatments to be marketed and consumed. If the FDA wishes to strongly differentiate between approved and unapproved treatments, then a strongly worded warning label could be required for unapproved treatments, and patients could even be required to sign a consent form stating that they have been informed of the risks of an unapproved treatment. While this is not a perfect libertarian solution, it is a vast incremental improvement over the status quo, in that hundreds of thousands of people who would die otherwise would at least be able to take several more chances at extending their lives – and some of these attempts will succeed, even if they are pure gambles from the patient’s point of view. Thus, this reform to directly extend many lives and to redress a moral travesty should be the top political priority of advocates of indefinite life extension. Over the coming decades, its effect will be to allow cutting-edge treatments to reach a market sooner and thus to enable data about those treatments’ effects to be gathered more quickly and reliably. Because many treatments take 10-15 years to receive FDA approval, this reform could by itself speed up the real-world advent of indefinite life extension by over a decade.

2. Abolishing medical licensing protectionism. The current system for licensing doctors is highly monopolistic and protectionist – the result of efforts by the American Medical Association in the early 20th century to limit entry into the profession in order to artificially boost incomes for its members. The medical system suffers today from too few doctors and thus vastly inflated patient costs and unacceptable waiting times for appointments. Instead of prohibiting the practice of medicine by all except a select few who have completed an extremely rigorous and cost-prohibitive formal medical schooling, governments in the Western world should allow the market to determine different tiers of medical care for which competing private certifications would emerge. For the most specialized and intricate tasks, high standards of certification would continue to exist, and a practitioner’s credentials and reputation would remain absolutely essential to convincing consumers to put their lives in that practitioner’s hands. But, with regard to routine medical care (e.g., annual check-ups, vaccinations, basic wound treatment), it is not necessary to receive attention from a person with a full-fledged medical degree. Furthermore, competition among certification providers would increase quality of training and lower its price, as well as accelerate the time needed to complete the training. Such a system would allow many more young medical professionals to practice without undertaking enormous debt or serving for years (if not decades) in roles that offer very little remuneration while entailing a great deal of subservience to the hierarchy of some established institution or another. Ultimately, without sufficient doctors to affordably deliver life-extending treatments when they become available, it would not be feasible to extend these treatments to the majority of people. Would there be medical quacks under such a system of privatized certification? There are always quacks, including in the West today – and no regulatory system can prevent those quacks from exploiting willing dupes. But full consumer choice, combined with the strong reputational signals sent by the market, would ensure that the quacks would have a niche audience only and would never predominate over scientifically minded practitioners.

3. Abolishing medical patent monopolies. Medical patents – in essence, legal grants of monopoly for limited periods of time – greatly inflate the cost of drugs and other treatments. Especially in today’s world of rapidly advancing biotechnology, a patent term of 20 years essentially means that no party other than the patent holder (or someone paying royalties to the patent holder) may innovate upon the patented medicine for a generation, all while the technological potential for such innovation becomes glaringly obvious. As much innovation consists of incremental improvements on what already exists, the lack of an ability to create derivative drugs and treatments that tweak current approaches implies that the entire medical field is, for some time, stuck at the first stages of a treatment’s evolution – with all of the expense and unreliability this entails. More appallingly, many pharmaceutical companies today attempt to re-patent drugs that have already entered the public domain, simply because the drugs have been discovered to have effects on a disease different from the one for which they were originally patented. The result of this is that the price of the re-patented drug often spikes by orders of magnitude compared to the price level during the period the drug was subject to competition. Only a vibrant and competitive market, where numerous medical providers can experiment with how to improve particular treatments or create new ones, can allow for the rate of progress needed for the people alive today to benefit from radical life extension. Some may challenge this recommendation with the argument that the monopoly revenues from medical patents are necessary to recoup the sometimes enormous costs that pharmaceutical companies incur in researching and testing the drug and obtaining approval from regulatory agencies such as the FDA. But if the absolute requirement of FDA approval is removed as I recommend, then these costs will plummet dramatically, and drug developers will be able to realize revenues much more quickly than in the status quo. Furthermore, the original developer of an innovation will still always benefit from a first-mover advantage, as it takes time for competitors to catch on. If the original developer can maintain high-quality service and demonstrate the ability to sell a safe product, then the brand-name advantage alone can secure a consistent revenue stream without the need for a patent monopoly.

4. Abolishing software patent monopolies. With the rapid growth of computing power and the Internet, much more medical research is becoming dependent on computation. In some fields such as genome sequencing, the price per computation is declining at a rate even far exceeding that of Moore’s Law. At the same time, ordinary individuals have an unprecedented opportunity to participate in medical research by donating their computer time to distributed computing projects. Software, however, remains artificially scarce because of patent monopolies that have increasingly been utilized by established companies to crush innovation (witness the massively expensive and wasteful patent wars over smartphone and tablet technology). Because most software is not cost-prohibitive even today, the most pernicious effect of software patents is not on price, but on the existence of innovation per se. Because there exist tens of thousands of software patents (many held defensively and not actually utilized to market anything), any inventor of a program that assists in medical, biotechnological, or nanotechnological computations must proceed with extreme caution, lest he run afoul of some obscure patent that is held for the specific purpose of suing people like him out of existence once his product is made known. The predatory nature of the patent litigation system serves to deter many potential innovators from even trying, resulting in numerous foregone discoveries that could further accelerate the rate at which computation could facilitate medical progress. Ideally, all software patents (and all patents generally) should be abolished, and free-market competition should be allowed to reign. But even under a patent system, massive incremental improvements could be made. First, non-commercial uses of a patent should be rendered immune to liability. This would open up a lot of ground for non-profit medical research using distributed computing. Second, for commercial use of patents, a system of legislatively fixed maximum royalties could emerge – where the patent holder would be obligated to allow a competitor to use a particular patented product, provided that a certain price is paid to the patent holder – and litigation would be permanently barred. This approach would continue to give a revenue stream to patent holders while ensuring that the existence of a patent does not prevent a product from coming to market or result in highly uncertain and variable litigation costs.

5. Reestablishing the two-party doctor-patient relationship. The most reliable and effective medical care occurs when the person receiving it has full discretion over the level of treatment to be pursued, while the person delivering it has full discretion over the execution (subject to the wishes of the consumer). When a third party – whether private or governmental – pays the bills, it also assumes the position of being able to dictate the treatment and limit patient choice. Third-party payment systems do not preclude medical progress altogether, but they do limit and distort it in significant ways. They also result in the “rationing” of medical care based on the third party’s resources, rather than those of the patient. Perversely enough, third-party payment systems also discourage charity on the part of doctors. For instance, Medicare in the United States prohibits doctors who accept its reimbursements from treating patients free of charge. Mandates to utilize private health insurance in the United States and governmental health “insurance” elsewhere in the Western world have had the effect of forcing patients to be restricted by powerful third parties in this way. While private third-party payment systems should not be prohibited, all political incentives for third-party medical payment systems should be repealed. In the United States, the pernicious health-insurance mandate of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) should be abolished, as should all requirements and political incentives for employers to provide health insurance. Health insurance should become a product whose purchase is purely discretionary on a free market. This reform would have many beneficial effects. First, by decoupling insurance from employment, it would ensure that those who do rely on third-party payments for medical care will not have those payments discontinued simply because they lose their jobs. Second, insurance companies would be encouraged to become more consumer-friendly, since they will need to deal with consumers directly, rather than enticing employers – whose interests in an insurance product may be different from those of their employees. Third, insurance companies would be entirely subject to market forces – including the most powerful consumer protection imaginable: the right of a consumer to exit from a market entirely. Fourth and most importantly, the cost of medical care would decline dramatically, since it would become subject to direct negotiation between doctors and patients, while doctors would be subject to far less of the costly administrative bureaucracy associated with managing third-party payments.

In countries where government is the third-party payer, the most important reform is to render participation in the government system voluntary. The worst systems of government healthcare are those where private alternatives are prohibited, and such private competition should be permitted immediately, with no strings attached. Better yet, patients should be permitted to opt out of the government systems altogether by being allowed to save on their taxes if they renounce the benefits from such systems and opt for a competing private system instead. Over time, the government systems would shrink to basic “safety nets” for the poorest and least able, while standards of living and medical care would rise to the level that ever fewer people would find themselves in need of such “safety nets”. Eventually, with a sufficiently high level of prosperity and technological advancement, the government healthcare systems could be phased out altogether without adverse health consequences to anyone.

6. Replacement of military spending with medical research. While, as a libertarian, I do not consider medical research to be the proper province of government, there are many worse ways for a government to spend its money – for instance, by actively killing people in wasteful, expensive, and immoral wars. If government funds are spent on saving and extending lives rather than destroying them, this would surely be an improvement. Thus, while I do not support increasing aggregate government spending to fund indefinite life extension (or medical research generally), I would advocate a spending-reduction plan where vast amounts of military spending are eliminated and some fraction of such spending is replaced with spending on medical research. Ideally, this research should be as free from “strings attached” as possible and could be funded through outright unconditional grants to organizations working on indefinite life extension. However, in practice it is virtually impossible to avoid elements of politicization and conditionality in government medical funding. Therefore, this plan should be implemented with the utmost caution. Its effectiveness could be improved by the passage of legislation to expressly prohibit the government from dictating the methods, outcomes, or applications of the research it funds, as well as to prohibit non-researchers from acting as lobbyists for medical research. An alternative to this plan could be to simply lower taxes across the board by the amount of reduction in military spending. This would have the effect of returning wealth to the general public, some of which would be spent on medical research, while another portion of these returned funds would increase consumers’ bargaining power in the medical system, resulting in improved treatments and more patient sovereignty.

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ECM Distributed Computing Project and Mr. Stolyarov Discover Factor for 279-Digit Number (“9” Surrounded by 139 Instances of “7” Per Side)

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Categories: Mathematics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 21, 2012
Recommend this page.
******************************

I am pleased to report that a large prime factor for (7·10279+18·10139-7)/9 (visualized as a “9” surrounded by 139 instances of “7” on each side – for a total of  279 digits) was discovered on November 19, 2012, through my participation in the ECM distributed computing project (organized via Yoyo@home). This is the fourth discovery made on my computer via the ECM project (see posts about previous discoveries here and here).

The prime factor is a 53-digit number: 42684752427275029312252733896207947190538122452468697. I am credited with the discovery here and here.

I continue to be impressed by the potential of individual hyper-empowerment through distributed computing, and I encourage my readers to also donate their idle computer time to projects that attract their interest.

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Announcements and October-November 2012 Update to Resources on Indefinite Life Extension

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Categories: Announcements, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I expect be unavailable to publish The Rational Argumentator until circa November 22, 2012 – but, in the meantime, various new offerings have been posted for my readers.

In addition, I have recently been impressed by the significant contributions my computer has made to the World Community Grid Help Conquer Cancer distributed computing project. (You can see a presentation by one of the project’s lead scientists, Dr. Igor Jurisica, here.) About a month ago, the Help Conquer Cancer project was enhanced to allow computers’ Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) to assist in the analysis of millions of experiments. My own recently enhanced computer has been participating heavily, which caused my worldwide ranking on World Community Grid to rise within a month from about 60,000th place to 26,744th place (updated every half-day) in terms of credits and 15,795th place in terms of results returned. In addition, for the totality of BOINC distributed computing projects, I have risen to the 98.2932nd percentile and a world rank of 42,446 in terms of total credits and the 99.5634th percentile and a world rank of 10,878 in terms of recent average credit. In the United States, I am ranked at 11,802nd place in terms of total BOINC credit earned.

I expect that my computer will continue to run at full capacity during the upcoming weeks, and indefinitely into the foreseeable future.

For your contemplation and enjoyment, I offer here the list of diverse and fascinating articles and videos that have been included in the Resources on Indefinite Life Extension (RILE) page in October and early November of this year.

Articles

– “Nanoparticles Against Aging” – Science Daily and Asociación RUVID – October 3, 2012

– “Nanoparticles can deliver antiaging therapies” – Brian Wang – The Next Big Future – October 4, 2012

– “A Speculative Order of Arrival for Important Rejuvenation Therapies” – Reason – Fight Aging! – October 4, 2012

– “Therapy will use stem cells to heal heart” – Pauline Tam – October 4, 2012

– “Aubrey de Grey on Longevity Science” – Reason – Fight Aging! – October 5, 2012

– “Predicted sequence of Antiaging rejuvenation” – Brian Wang – The Next Big Future – October 5, 2012

– “Researchers use magnets to cause programmed cancer cell deaths” – Bob Yirka – October 8, 2012 

– “Lilly Alzheimer’s Drug Slows Mental Decline, Study Finds” – Shannon Pettypiece – October 8, 2012

– “Vitamin Variants Could Combat Cancer as Scientists Unravel B12 Secrets” – ScienceDaily and University of Kent – October 8, 2012

– “Human Immortality: Singularity Summit Looks Forward to the Day That Humans Can Live Forever” – Hamdan Azhar – Policymic – October 2012

– “Drug From Chinese ‘Thunder God Vine’ Slays Tumors in Mice” – Drew Armstrong – Bloomberg – October 17, 2012

– “82 Years of Technology Advances; but best yet to come” – Dick Pelletier – Transhumanity.net – October 25, 2012

– “New you by 2022: biotech enhancements will help you ‘grow young’” – Dick Pelletier – Positive Futurist – October 2012

– “Flu Vaccination May Increase Longevity” – Lyle J. Dennis, M.D. – Extreme Longevity – October 29, 2012

– “Dead as a Doornail?” – Peter Rothman – h+ Magazine – November 1, 2012

– “An Outcast Among Peers Gains Traction on Alzheimer’s Cure” – Jeanne Whalen – Wall Street Journal – November 9, 2012

 

Videos

Anthony Atala
Anthony Atala at TEDMED 2009
January 21, 2010

Ray Kurzweil

From Eliza Watson to Passing the Turing Test – Singularity Summit 2011

October 25, 2011

Nikola Danaylov

Ray Kurzweil on Singularity 1 on 1: Be Who You Would Like to Be – October 13, 2012

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In Praise of Price Gouging – Article by Ron Paul

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

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
November 12, 2012
Recommend this page.
******************************

As the northeastern United States continues to recover from Hurricane Sandy, we hear the usual outcry against individuals and companies who dare to charge market prices for goods such as gasoline. The normal market response of rising prices in the wake of a natural disaster and resulting supply disruptions is redefined as “price gouging.” The federal government and some state governments on the East Coast claim that price gouging is the charging of ruinous or exploitative prices for goods in short supply in the wake of a disaster and is a heinous crime  But does this reflect economic reality, or merely political posturing to capitalize on raw emotions?

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the supply of gasoline was greatly disrupted. Many gas stations were unable to pump gas due to a lack of electricity, thus greatly reducing the supply.  At the same time demand for gasoline spiked due to the widespread use of generators. Because gas stations were forbidden from raising their prices to meet the increased demand, miles-long lines developed and stations were forced to start limiting the amount of gasoline that individuals could purchase. New Jersey gas stations began to look like Soviet grocery stores.

Had gas stations been allowed to raise their prices to reflect the increased demand for gasoline, only those most in need of gasoline would have purchased gas, while everyone would have economized on their existing supply. But because prices remained lower than they should have been, no one sought to conserve gas.  Low prices signaled that gas was in abundant supply, while reality was exactly the opposite, and only those fortunate enough to be at the front of gas lines were able to purchase gas before it sold out.  Not surprisingly, a thriving black market developed, with gas offered for up to $20 per gallon.

With price controls in effect, supply shortages were exacerbated.  If prices had been allowed to increase to market levels, the profit opportunity would have brought in new supplies from outside the region.  As supplies increased, prices gradually would have decreased as supply and demand returned to equilibrium. But with price controls in effect, what company would want to deal with the hassle of shipping gas to a disaster-stricken area with downed power lines and flooded highways when the same profit could be made elsewhere?  So instead of gas shipments flooding into the disaster zones, what little gas supply is left is rapidly sold and consumed.

Many governments fail to understand that prices are not just random numbers. Prices perform an important role in providing information, coordinating supply and demand, and enabling economic calculation. When government interferes with the price mechanism, economic calamity ensues. Price controls on gasoline led to the infamous gas lines of the 1970s, yet politicians today repeat those same failed mistakes. Instituting price caps at a below-market price will always lead to shortages. No act of any legislature can reverse the laws of supply and demand.

History shows us that the quickest path to economic recovery is to abolish all price controls. If governments really want to aid recovery, they would abolish their “price-gouging” legislation and allow the free market to function.

Representative Ron Paul (R – TX), MD, was a three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President. See his Congressional webpage and his official campaign website

This article has been released by Dr. Paul into the public domain and may be republished by anyone in any manner.

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US Gone to Pot, but Not Completely – Article by Mark Thornton

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

The New Renaissance Hat
Mark Thornton
November 12, 2012
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The only good thing about the 2012 campaign — other than its being over — is that much progress was made on marijuana policy. Marijuana was legalized in two states, Colorado and Washington. Medical-marijuana legislation passed in Massachusetts. Marijuana was decriminalized is several major cities in Michigan and Burlington, Vermont, passed a resolution that marijuana should be legalized. The only defeats were that legalization failed to pass in Oregon and medical marijuana was defeated in Arkansas.

This is a stunning turnaround from the 2010 campaign when Prop 19 in California failed to pass despite high expectations. I explained in detail why Prop 19 failed here. It was an unfortunately common story of Baptists, i.e., people who oppose it, and bootleggers, i.e., people who profit from black-market sales, who stopped the legalization effort.

With regards to the legalization victories in Colorado and Washington, Tom Angell, Director of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) called the election a “historic night for drug-law reformers.” Paul Armentano, the deputy director of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), called the Colorado and Washington victories “game changers,” noting that “both measures provide adult cannabis consumers with unprecedented legal protections.” He noted that “until now, no state in modern history has classified cannabis itself as a legal product that may be lawfully possessed and consumed by adults.” Writing for the Marijuana Policy Project, Robert Capecchi called Colorado and Washington “historic victories,” saying that they “represent the first bricks to be knocked out of the marijuana prohibition wall.”

Following is a list of all marijuana measures on the 2012 ballot as provided by LEAP:

Colorado Marijuana legalization Passed
Washington Marijuana legalization Passed
Oregon Marijuana legalization Failed
Massachusetts Medical marijuana Passed
Arkansas Medical marijuana Failed
Detroit, MI Decriminalization of adult marijuana possession Passed
Flint, MI Decriminalization of adult marijuana possession Passed
Ypsilanti, MI Marijuana to be lowest law enforcement priority Passed
Grand Rapids, MI Decriminalization of adult marijuana possession Passed
Kalamazoo, MI Three medical-marijuana dispensaries permitted in city Passed
Burlington, VT Recommendation that marijuana should be legalized Passed
Montana Referendum restricting medical marijuana Likely to pass

Some readers might not be fired up at the prospects of legalization, decriminalization, and medical marijuana, but the benefits are higher than you might think. First of all, the economic crisis is a great opportunity to get this type of reform passed. There are several economic dimensions at work here. The most obvious thing that comes to mind is that legalized marijuana might be a source of tax revenues and possibly excise taxes and license fees. It would also be a source of jobs, although the net gain in jobs and incomes is probably initially small.

A major benefit would be a reduction in the size of government. Marijuana prohibition results in hundreds of thousands of people being arrested, tying up police, jails, courts, and prisons. When the city of Philadelphia decided to make marijuana prohibition a low priority and treat it like public intoxication ($200 fine), they ended up saving $2 million in the first year.

One of the most important benefits of these measures is that they make for a more liberal society in the Misesian sense. Marijuana prohibition is public violence, prejudice, and partiality. Legalization and liberalism is private property and public tolerance. As Ludwig von Mises wrote,

The essential teaching of liberalism is that social cooperation and the division of labor can be achieved only in a system of private ownership of the means of production, i.e., within a market society, or capitalism. All the other principles of liberalism democracy, personal freedom of the individual, freedom of speech and of the press, religious tolerance, peace among the nations are consequences of this basic postulate. They can be realized only within a society based on private property. (Omnipotent Government, p. 48)

The key thing, economically speaking, is that more liberalism is good for business, jobs, and prosperity. Legalizing marijuana, along with things like same-sex-marriage laws, may be appalling to some people, but when companies are looking to get started or establishing new operations, those are some of the things that are looked at, just like taxes, schools, crime, etc. States that are competing for the best companies that offer the highest paying jobs are the same states that are liberalizing their policies.

Therefore, it should come to no surprise that a state like Washington legalized marijuana even though it does not have a history of marijuana-reform activism. Washington needs to compete with other states for computer programmers, engineers, and technicians for Washington-based firms like Boeing and Microsoft. Do not be surprised if what happened in Colorado and Washington spreads to other states in coming elections.

The most important aspect of the victories in Colorado and Washington is that the people of those states stood up and voiced their opposition to the federal government and its policy of marijuana prohibition. They are directing their state governments to no longer cooperate with the federal government. You can bet that federal officials will seek to intimidate local officials and businesses as they have done in California. They seek to use fear and violence to maintain their power.

However, demographically and ideologically, they are fighting a losing battle. Supporters of legalization are younger, smarter, better educated, and have above-average incomes. The leaders of the reform movement do not seem to view their efforts as “pro-marijuana,” but rather as anti-prohibition, and they realize that the benefits are in terms of health, public safety, and prosperity.

When my book The Economics of Prohibition was published 20 years ago, I was often asked my opinion if marijuana should be or would be legalized. My stock answer was that medical marijuana would start to be legalized in 10 years and that marijuana would start to be legalized in 20 years, probably during an economic crisis. My only prediction in print was that the reform process would begin around the turn of the century. The first reform was actually a medical-marijuana law passed in California in 1996.

Mark Thornton is a senior resident fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and is the book review editor for the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. He is the author of The Economics of Prohibition, coauthor of Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation: The Economics of the Civil War, and the editor of The Quotable Mises, The Bastiat Collection, and An Essay on Economic Theory. Send him mail. See Mark Thornton’s article archives.

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Copyright © 2012 by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided full credit is given.

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