Monthly Archives: March 2013

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Enemy of Ruin – Quiz and Badge – Fifth in TRA’s Series on Indefinite Life Extension

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enemy_of_ruin

G. Stolyarov II
March 30, 2013
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The Rational Argumentator is proud to announce the fifth in its planned series of quizzes on indefinite life extension, a companion activity to the Resources on Indefinite Life Extension (RILE) page.

Enemy of Ruin Quiz

Read “The Real War – and Why Inter-Human Wars are a Distraction” by G. Stolyarov II and answer the questions in the quiz below, in accordance with the essay. If you get 100% of the questions correct, you will earn the Enemy of Ruin badge, the fifth badge in The Rational Argumentator’s interactive educational series on indefinite life extension.  You will need a free account with Mozilla Backpack to receive the badge.

This badge was designed by Wendy Stolyarov, whose art you can see here, here, and here.


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“I-ness” Awareness – Quiz and Badge – Fourth in TRA’s Series on Indefinite Life Extension

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i-ness_awareness

G. Stolyarov II
March 30, 2013
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The Rational Argumentator is proud to announce the fourth in its planned series of quizzes on indefinite life extension, a companion activity to the Resources on Indefinite Life Extension (RILE) page.

"I-ness" Awareness Quiz

Read “How Can I Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self” by G. Stolyarov II and answer the questions in the quiz below, in accordance with the essay. If you get 100% of the questions correct, you will earn the “I-ness” Awareness badge, the fourth badge in The Rational Argumentator’s interactive educational series on indefinite life extension.  You will need a free account with Mozilla Backpack to receive the badge.

This badge was designed by Wendy Stolyarov, whose art you can see here, here, and here.

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On Brakes and Mistakes – Article by Sanford Ikeda

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The New Renaissance Hat
Sanford Ikeda
March 30, 2013
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Here’s an observation from a recent column in The Economist magazine on “The Transience of Power”:

“In 1980 a corporation in the top fifth of its industry had only a 10% chance of falling out of that tier in five years. Eighteen years later that chance had risen to 25%.”

Competition makes it hard to stay at the top even as it offers a way off the bottom. Data on income mobility also support the idea. And despite occasional downturns (some quite large, as we well know), per-capita gross domestic product in the United States keeps rising steadily over time. These two phenomena, economic growth and competitive shaking out, are of course connected.

Different Ways of Thinking About Economic Growth

Economists in the mainstream (neoclassical) tradition are trained to think of growth mainly as raising the rate of producing existing products. For example, a higher rate of saving allows firms to employ more and more capital and labor, generating ever-higher rates of output. It reminds me of the Steve Martin movie, The Jerk, in which a man who is born in a run-down shack eventually strikes it rich and builds himself a much bigger house that is just a scaled-up version of the old shack.

But economist Paul Romer, for one, has said,

“If economic growth could be achieved only by doing more and more of the same kind of cooking, we would eventually run out of raw materials and suffer from unacceptable levels of pollution and nuisance. Human history teaches us, however, that economic growth springs from better recipes, not just from more cooking.”

So growth through innovation, technical advance, and making new products is more important than just using more inputs to do more of the same thing. The late Harvard economist Joseph Schumpeter came even closer to the truth when he famously described competitive innovation as a “gale of creative destruction”—building up and tearing down—with creation staying just ahead of destruction.

But standard economic theory has had trouble incorporating the kind of economic growth driven by game-changing innovators such as Apple, Facebook, and McDonalds. Mathematically modeling ignorance and error, ambition and resourcefulness, and creativity and commitment has so far been too challenging for the mainstream.

What’s the Source of Economic Growth?

Achieving economic growth through innovation means someone is taking chances, sometimes big chances, to break new ground. As Schumpeter put it, what it takes is finding “the new consumers’ goods, the new methods of production or transportation, the new markets, the new forms of industrial organization.” Although talented people are behind this process, we sometimes put too much stress on bold “captains of industry” such as Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Ray Kroc. The personalities of the players are important—but so are the rules of the game.

Imagine if cars had no brakes. How slowly and cautiously we would have to drive!  Clearly, brakes on cars enable us to drive faster and safer. How? Well, brakes give us the freedom to make a lot of mistakes—entering a turn too fast or taking our eyes off the road for too long—without causing disaster. We can take more chances with brakes than without them. (Of course, good brakes can also seduce us into driving recklessly, but that’s a story for another day.) Similarly, economic development of the Schumpeterian variety presupposes lots of experimentation, and that in turn means making plenty of mistakes.

Markets Mean Mistakes

Now imagine a world in which people looked down on innovators. That’s hard to do in our time, but as Deirdre McClosky argues in her 2010 book, Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economists Can’t Explain the Modern World,  it wasn’t that long ago when most people disdained innovators who challenged established ways of thinking and doing. The result was cultural and economic stagnation. Making an innovator a figure of dignity worthy of respect, which she says began to take hold about 400 years ago, has sparked unprecedented economic development and prosperity.

But a smart, creative, ambitious, and committed person is likely to make mistakes. And so a culture that lauds spectacular success also needs to at least tolerate spectacular failure. You can’t have trial without error or profit without loss.

Let me be clear. I’m not saying that people in an innovative society should champion failure. I’m saying they must expect potential innovators to make a lot of mistakes and so have not only the right institutions in place (private property, contract, and so on) but also the right psychological mindset—which is something static societies can’t do.

Change, Uncertainty, and Tolerance

If you think you already know everything, anyone who thinks differently must be wrong. So why tolerate them?

One of the great differences between the modern world and the various dark ages mankind has gone through is how rapidly today our lives change. There’s immeasurably more uncertainty in the era of creative destruction than in times dominated by the “tried and true.”  But the more we realize how much uncertainty there is about what we think we know, the more we ought to be willing to admit that we may be wrong and the other guy may, at least sometimes, be right. And so if we see someone succeed or fail, we think, “That could have been me!” In a sense, an advancing society welcomes mistakes as much as it embraces triumphs, just as a fast car needs brakes as much as it needs an engine.

That’s not just fancy talk. The evidence—prosperity—is all around us.

Sanford Ikeda is an associate professor of economics at Purchase College, SUNY, and the author of The Dynamics of the Mixed Economy: Toward a Theory of Interventionism.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author

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Cyprus and the Unraveling of Fractional-Reserve Banking – Article by Joseph T. Salerno

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The New Renaissance Hat
Joseph T. Salerno
March 30, 2013
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[Originally posted on Circle Bastiat, the faculty blog of the Mises Institute. Read Circle Bastiat for Austrian analysis of current economic events from today’s top Misesian and Rothbardian economists.]

The “Cyprus deal” as it has been widely referred to in the media may mark the next to last act in the the slow motion collapse of fractional-reserve banking that began with the implosion of the savings-and-loan industry in the U.S. in the late 1980s.

This trend continued with the currency crises in Russia, Mexico, East Asia, and Argentina in the 1990s in which fractional-reserve banking played a decisive role. The unraveling of fractional-reserve banking became visible even to the average depositor during the financial meltdown of 2008 that ignited bank runs on some of the largest and most venerable financial institutions in the world. The final collapse was only averted by the multi-trillion dollar bailout of U.S. and foreign banks by the Federal Reserve.

Even more than the unprecedented financial crisis of 2008, however, recent events in Cyprus may have struck the mortal blow to fractional-reserve banking. For fractional-reserve banking can only exist for as long as the depositors have complete confidence that regardless of the financial woes that befall the bank entrusted with their “deposits,” they will always be able to withdraw them on demand at par in currency, the ultimate cash of any banking system.

Ever since World War Two governmental deposit insurance, backed up by the money-creating powers of the central bank, was seen as the unshakable guarantee that warranted such confidence. In effect, fractional-reserve banking was perceived as 100-percent banking by depositors, who acted as if their money was always “in the bank” thanks to the ability of central banks to conjure up money out of thin air (or in cyberspace).

Perversely the various crises involving fractional-reserve banking that struck time and again since the late 1980s only reinforced this belief among depositors, because troubled banks and thrift institutions were always bailed out with alacrity—especially the largest and least stable. Thus arose the “too-big-to-fail doctrine.” Under this doctrine, uninsured bank depositors and bondholders were generally made whole when large banks failed, because it was widely understood that the confidence in the entire banking system was a frail and evanescent thing that would break and completely dissipate as a result of the failure of even a single large institution.

Getting back to the Cyprus deal, admittedly it is hardly ideal from a free-market point of view. The solution in accord with free markets would not involve restricting deposit withdrawals, imposing fascistic capital controls on domestic residents and foreign investors, and dragooning taxpayers in the rest of the Eurozone into contributing to the bailout to the tune of 10 billion euros.

Nonetheless, the deal does convey a salutary message to bank depositors and creditors the world over. It does so by forcing previously untouchable senior bondholders and uninsured depositors in the Cypriot banks to bear part of the cost of the bailout. The bondholders of the two largest banks will be wiped out and it is reported that large depositors (i.e., those holding uninsured accounts exceeding 100,000 euros) at the Laiki Bank may also be completely wiped out, losing up to 4.2 billion euros, while large depositors at the Bank of Cyprus will lose between 30 and 60 percent of their deposits. Small depositors in both banks, who hold insured accounts of up to 100,000 euros, would retain the full value of their deposits.

The happy result will be that depositors, both insured and uninsured, in Europe and throughout the world will become much more cautious or even suspicious in dealing with fractional-reserve banks. They will be poised to grab their money and run at the slightest sign or rumor of instability. This will induce banks to radically alter the sources of the funds they raise to finance loans and investments, moving away from deposit and toward equity and bond financing. As was reported Tuesday, March 26, this is already expected by many analysts:

One potential spillover from the March 26 agreement is the knock-on effects for bank funding, analysts said. Banks typically fund themselves with some combination of deposits, equity, senior and subordinate notes and covered bonds, which are backed by a pool of high-quality assets that stay on the lender’s balance sheet.

The consequences of the Cyprus bailout could be that banks will be more likely to use contingent convertible bonds—known as CoCos—to raise money as their ability to encumber assets by issuing covered bonds reaches regulatory limits, said Chris Bowie at Ignis Asset Management Ltd. in London.

“We’d expect to see some deposit flight and a shift in funding towards a combination of covered bonds, real equity and quasi-equity,” said Bowie, who is head of credit portfolio management at Ignis, which oversees about $110 billion.

If this indeed occurs it will be a significant move toward a free-market financial system in which the radical mismatching of the maturities of assets and liabilities in the case of demand deposits is eliminated once and for all. A few more banking crises in the Eurozone—especially one in which insured depositors are made to participate in the so-called “bail-in”—will likely cause the faith in government deposit insurance to completely evaporate and with it confidence in the fractional-reserve banking system.

There may then naturally arise on the market a system in which equity, bonds, and genuine time deposits that cannot be redeemed before maturity become the exclusive sources of finance for bank loans and investments. Demand deposits, whether checkable or not, would be segregated in actual deposit banks which maintain 100-percent reserves and provide a range of payments systems from ATMs to debit cards.

While this conjecture may be overly optimistic, we are certainly a good deal closer to such an outcome today than we were before the “Cyprus deal” was struck. Of course we would be closer still if there were no bailout and the full brunt of the bank failures were borne solely by the creditors and depositors of the failed banks rather than partly by taxpayers. The latter solution would have completely and definitively exposed the true nature of fractional-reserve banking for all to see.

Joseph Salerno is academic vice president of the Mises Institute, professor of economics at Pace University, and editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. He has been interviewed in the Austrian Economics Newsletter and on Mises.org. Send him mail. See Joseph T. Salerno’s article archives.

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Neo-Con War Addiction Threatens Our Future – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
March 29, 2013
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William Kristol knows what is wrong with the United States. As he wrote recently in the flagship magazine of the neo-conservatives, the Weekly Standard, the problem with the US is that we seem to have lost our appetite for war. According to Kristol, the troubles that have befallen us in the 20th century have all been the result of these periodic bouts of war-weariness, a kind of virus that we catch from time to time.

He claims because of the US “drawdown” in Europe after World War II, Stalin subjugated Eastern Europe. Because of war weariness the United States stopped bombing Southeast Asia in the 1970s, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. War weariness through the 1990s led to Rwanda, Milosevic, and the rise of the Taliban. It was our fault for not fighting on! According to Kristol, our failure to act as the policeman of the world is why we were attacked on September 11, 2001. Of the 1990s, he wrote, “[t]hat decade of not policing the world ended with 9/11.”

That revisionism is too much even for fellow neo-conservatives like Paul Wolfowitz to swallow. In a 2003 interview, Wolfowitz admitted that it was the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia that led to the growth of al-Qaeda:

“(W)e can now remove almost all of our forces from Saudi Arabia. Their presence there over the last 12 years has been a source of enormous difficulty for a friendly government. It’s been a huge recruiting device for al Qaeda. In fact if you look at bin Laden, one of his principle grievances was the presence of so-called crusader forces on the holy land, Mecca and Medina.”

But for Kristol and his allies there is never enough war. According to a new study by Brown University, the US invasion of Iraq cost some 190,000 lives, most of them non-combatants. It has cost more than $1.7 trillion, and when all is said and done including interest the cost may well be $6 trillion. Some $212 billion was spent on Iraqi reconstruction with nothing to show for it. Total deaths from US war on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have been at least 329, 000. None of this is enough for Kristol.

The neo-con ideology promotes endless war, but neo-cons fight their battles with the blood of others. From the comfortable, subsidized offices of magazines like the Weekly Standard, the neo-conservatives urge the United States to engage in endless war – to be fought by the victims of the “poverty draft” from states where there are few jobs. Ironically, these young people cannot find more productive work because the Federal Reserve’s endless money printing to keep the war machine turning has destroyed our economy. The six trillion dollars that will be spent on the Iraq war are merely pieces of printed paper that further erode the dollar’s purchasing power now and well into the future. It is the inflation tax, which is the most regressive and cruel of all.

Yes, Americans are war weary, concedes Kristol. But he does not blame the average American. The real problem is that the president has dropped the ball on terrifying Americans with the lies and imaginary threats that led to the invasion of Iraq. Writes Kristol: “One can’t, for example, be surprised at the ebbing support of the American public for the war in Afghanistan years after the president stopped trying to mobilize their support, stopped heralding the successes of the troops he’d sent there, and stopped explaining the importance of their mission.”

If only we had more war propaganda from the highest levels of government we could be cured of this war-weariness. Ten years ago the US invaded Iraq under the influence of neo-conservative lies. Those lies continued to promote US military action in places like Libya, and next on their agenda is Syria and then on to Iran. It is time for the American people to shout “enough!”

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

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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Pascal’s Wager Quiz and Badge – Third in TRA’s Series on Indefinite Life Extension

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pascals_wager
G. Stolyarov II
March 27, 2013
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The Rational Argumentator is proud to announce the third in its planned series of quizzes on indefinite life extension, a companion activity to the Resources on Indefinite Life Extension (RILE) page.

Pascal's Wager Quiz

Read “An Atheist’s Response to Pascal’s Wager” by G. Stolyarov II and answer the questions in the quiz below, in accordance with the essay. If you get 100% of the questions correct, you will earn the Pascal’s Wager Professional badge, the third badge in The Rational Argumentator’s interactive educational series on indefinite life extension.  You will need a free account with Mozilla Backpack to receive the badge.

This badge was designed by Wendy Stolyarov, whose art you can see here, here, and here.

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Private or Governmental Funding for Indefinite Life Extension? – Post by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
March 27, 2013
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I was recently asked to comment on an Immortal Life debate/discussion thread about whether governmental or private approaches to funding and motivating research on indefinite life extension are best.

Mine is definitely a libertarian view. I do not support advocating for government funding for life extension, unless the funding is combined with larger reductions in military spending or other destructive government spending. I discuss this issue in two of my videos:

Eliminating Death – Part 18 – Never Seek Government Funding

Libertarian Life-Extension Reforms – #6 – Medical Research Instead of Military Spending

The danger of government funding of life extension is that it comes with many political strings attached, and may lead life-extension research itself to be shackled by politically influential opponents of technological progress.

The great weakness of politics as a strategy is that it requires consensus among elites and some connection to majority approval, as well as the overcoming of numerous bureaucratic hurdles and obsolete habits. Private action, as long as it is lawful, can simply be pursued irrespective of how many people agree. There is thus much more flexibility and potential for quick deployment with private approaches toward radical life extension.

Private investment into life-extension research can occur in many ways, both for-profit and non-profit, both direct and indirect. Seasteading is indeed a highly promising approach for experimenting with novel medicines and therapies that might take over a decade to be approved by the FDA in the United States or similar “screening” agencies in other countries.

At the same time, Tom Mooney is correct about the need for a grassroots education campaign. By the time radical life extension begins to become a reality, there needs to be a strong current of public opinion supporting it. Otherwise, the “bioconservatives” might just manage to obtain enough support for their agenda to thwart this vital progress.

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How Will Religions Respond to Indefinite Life Extension? – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
March 25, 2013
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I was asked, on a recent Immortal Life discussion/debate thread to address the question of whether religions would become obsolete in an era of indefinite human life extension.

This is another topic on which I created a video in early 2012 – “Religion and Indefinite Life Extension”.

To summarize, in my (atheistic) view, religions are generally not animating forces of societal change. Rather, they tend to be barometers of prevailing attitudes approximately one generation in the past. Often, religions get dragged along into making progress by intellectual developments outside religion – in the same way that, as a result of the 18th-century Enlightenment, various Christian denominations gradually transitioned away from providing Biblical justifications for slavery and toward denouncing slavery on Christian grounds. The impetus for this transformation was the rise of ideas of reason, individualism, and natural rights – not the doctrines of the Christian religion.

I suspect that there will be a broad spectrum of responses among various religious denominations and their followers to the prospect of indefinite life extension, once most people begin to see it as within their individual grasp. In Christianity, on the cutting edge will be those Christians who interpret the message of the resurrection (a literal resurrection in the flesh, according to actual Christian doctrine) to be compatible with transhumanist technologies. (We already see the beginnings of forward-thinking interpretations of religion with the Mormon Transhumanists.) On the other hand, the more staid, dogmatic, ossified religious denominations and sects will try to resist technological change vigorously, and will not be above attempting to hold the entire world’s progress back, merely to make their own creeds more convincing to their followers. Historically, religions have served two primary societal roles: (1) to form a justification for the existing social order and (2) to assuage people’s fears of death. The first role has atrophied over time in societies with religious freedom. The second role will also diminish as radical life extension in this world becomes a reality. Religions do evolve, though, and the interpretations of religion that ultimately prevail will (I hope) be the more peaceful, humane, and progress-friendly ones. At the same time, proportions of non-religious people in all populations will rise, as has been the trend already.

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Who Are the True “Deathists”? – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
March 24, 2013
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On a recent Immortal Life debate/discussion thread, I was asked to participate in a conversation about whether advocates of indefinite life extension should call their opponents “deathists” or whether such a label is counterproductive. Another question on that thread concerned the use of the designation “immortalist” to refer to an advocate of indefinite longevity.

My view on this matter is a nuanced one. It is crucial to make a distinction between (i) people who simply hold the common “tragic worldview” – who accept their mortality as inevitable and try to “make peace” with it and (ii) people who actively work to stop life-extension technologies. The former are simply mistaken and can be reasoned with, persuaded, or at least led to gradually become more comfortable with life extension as it becomes ever more real. The latter, however, might not be open to persuasion and might pursue legislative action (or worse) to stop life-extension research. Every person’s arguments should be addressed civilly and intelligently. The label “deathist” is not uncivil per se, however, and has its place with regard to people who cannot be swayed by argument or evidence from a position that is actively hostile to life extension. These are not your rank-and-file skeptics of radical life extension, but rather people such as Leon Kass, Sherwin Nuland, Daniel Callahan, John Gray, and Nassim Taleb, who will not be shifted from their anti-life-extension views and who have made considerable amounts of money out of attacking pro-longevity ideas. Calling these people “deathists” is not aimed at persuading them, but rather at alerting possibly more objective third parties of the dangers of their views. If there is still the opportunity to persuade someone, then labels of this sort should not be directed at that person.

As for positive labels, I can proudly attribute the term “immortalist” to myself – not because I think that indefinite life extension will by itself bring immortality (it will not), but rather because I think that any condition that more closely approaches immortality is a desirable one. Thus, I support not only the lifting of upper limits on lifespans, but also major improvements in protection against asteroids, earthquakes, weather events, vehicle accidents, infectious diseases, and manmade conflicts. I oppose anything that can destroy an innocent human life.

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We Already Live in a Gerontocracy – Article by Reason

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The New Renaissance Hat
Reason
March 24, 2013
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Originally published on the Fight Aging! website

Gerontocracy:

Quote:

Government by a council of elders. Government by old people.

Image Source: Bernardino Campi (1522-1591) – “Heads of Old Men, Praying” – Photograph by Giovanni Dall’Orto

There are many knee-jerk reactions to the prospect of greatly increased healthy human life spans, most based on mistaken beliefs regarding the technologies needed, or mistaken beliefs regarding the way the world actually works – economics, human action, incentives. Some people believe that longer lives will result in stagnation, which is actually one of the more ridiculous and improbably outcomes once you start to pick it apart in any detail. Human society is restless and changeable on timescales far shorter than current lifespans, and the reasons why are rooted in day to day human nature. Our ambitions operate on a horizon of a few years, and that wouldn’t change all that much were we to live for centuries. We are driven to influence the world today, now, regardless of the years that lie ahead of us. So the fashions of this year are gone by the next. The idols of popular culture rise and fall with rapidity. The political and business leaders of this decade are gone in the next, displaced by peers. Even corruption and revolution on a grand scale are usually only a matter of a few decades, not lifetimes.

Nonetheless, rationality rarely prevails in knee-jerk reactions – so folk think of stagnation, even in the midst of this boundlessly energetic society we live in, packed wall to wall with constant, ongoing change. A subset of these beliefs on human longevity and stagnation involve the nebulous fear of a future gerontocracy, the rise of a self-perpetuating ruling elite of ageless individuals. Funnily, this is often voiced by people who are, unlike myself, perfectly comfortable with today’s Western governments. I say funnily because I have to ask: are not our present societies already gerontocracies? Isn’t any civilized society a gerontocracy? Who has had the most time to gather connections, a network, and make good use of them? The old. Who has had the most time to gather resources and invest them? The old. Who has had to most time to become truly talented and sought after? The old. Who has had the most time to work their way through a social hierarchy to challenge its existing leaders? The old. Where then will the elite and the leaders tend to arise? From the old.

Take a look at who just runs and influences companies, governments, knitting circles, successful non-profit initiatives, extended families, and so on and so forth for every human endeavor. Young leaders exist, but they are a minority among the ranks of the old. This is the natural state of affairs for any society that possesses enough technology to make thought and craft more important than strength and vigor.

All that is terrible in our present societies lies in the growing centralization of power, not the chronological age of those eagerly engaged in furthering the road to serfdom and empire. Even as power is centralized, there is still a year by year turnover of figures – even in the most defensible and corruptly secure positions of power and influence. They are largely kicked out by some combination of their peers and the mob in the sort of political anarchy that exists at the top, above the laws made for the little people. It is the rare individual who can stick it out long enough to be removed by the infirmities of age, even now, in this age of human lives that are all too brief in comparison to what is to come.

But back to the point. We live in a gerontocracy, and so did most of our ancestors. Yet change still happens just as rapidly as in past centuries when fewer people lived into later life in the sort of good shape they can manage today. Fear of some sort of comic-book gerontocracy emerging in the future seems, frankly, somewhat silly. But here is an article on the topic that treats such fears with a little more respect than I’m inclined to deploy.

Quote:

The human lifespan is set to get increasingly longer and longer. And it’s more than just extending life – it’s about extending healthy life. If we assume that the aging process can be dramatically slowed down, or even halted, it’s more than likely that the older generations will continue to serve as vibrant and active members of our society. And given that seniors tend to hold positions of power and influence in our society, it’s conceivable that they’ll refuse to be forced into retirement on the grounds that such an imposition would violate their human rights (and they’d be correct in that assessment).

In turn, seniors will continue to lead their corporations as CEOs and CFOs. They’ll hold onto their wealth and political seats, kept in power by highly sympathetic and demographically significant elderly populations. And they’ll occupy positions of influence at universities and other institutions.

So I asked James Hughes how society could be hurt if an undying generation refuses to relinquish their hold on power and capital. “Again, the question should be, how is society hurt when small unaccountable elites control the vast majority of wealth?,” he responded. The age of super-wealthy is pretty immaterial, he says, especially when most of the people in their age bracket will be as poor and powerless as younger cohorts.

Hughes also doesn’t buy into the argument that radical life extension will result in the stagnation of society. If anything, he thinks these claims, such as risk-aversion and inflexibility, smack of ageism and simple-minded futurism. “Seniors’ brains continue to make stem cells,” says Hughes, “and when we are able to boost neural stem cell generation in order to forestall the neurodegeneration of aging, older people will become as cognitively flexible as younger people.”

As noted in my comments above, the historical record shows that people at the top are not all that good at staying at the top for extended periods of time. There are always outliers, but they are rare in comparison to the vast majority of leaders and the famous who are just part of the churn, coming and going, displaced and quickly forgotten once their few years are done. The top of a pyramid is a challenging place to stand.

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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