Monthly Archives: June 2014

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The Rational Argumentator Accepts Litecoin Donations – Post by G. Stolyarov II

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

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
June 28, 2014
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Litecoin_LogoI am pleased to announce that The Rational Argumentator now accepts Litecoin donations, in addition to the previously accepted Bitcoin and Dogecoin donations. This development is in accord with TRA’s welcoming stance toward all cryptocurrencies and support for innovative approaches to creating truly decentralized media of exchange and stores of value.

You can donate Litecoin to The Rational Argumentator using the following donation address (also found in the “Cryptocurrency Donations” section of the sidebar of TRA’s interface): LbmbsP92kruVoAEcWD29PL1cQUnNdjhqzR

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Free PDF of «Смерть неправильна!» – Russian Translation of “Death is Wrong”

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Categories: Announcements, Art, Education, Philosophy, Science, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
June 28, 2014
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A free PDF version of «Смерть неправильна!» – the Russian translation of Death is Wrong – is now available for download from The Rational Argumentator. You can obtain your copy here and may spread it to Russian-speaking audiences as widely as you wish.

«Смерть неправильна!» was translated into Russian by Marcus Baylin.

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«Смерть неправильна!» – Russian Translation of “Death is Wrong” – Translated by Marcus Baylin – Post by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Announcements, Art, Education, Philosophy, Science, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
June 27, 2014
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cover_final_russian_6x9The Russian translation of Death is Wrong – «Смерть неправильна!» – generously translated by Marcus Baylin – is now available via Google Books. You can see a complete preview here.

A paperback version can be obtained from Createspace for $11.23 here.

Amazon has begun to carry the paperback version here.

For some reason, the Amazon Kindle format does not yet support Cyrillic characters, so I have instead decided to offer an electronic version through Google Play.

The electronic version will be downloadable for FREE on Google Play within the next 24 hours on this page.

You have my permission to spread the electronic version of the book to Russian-speaking audiences as widely as possible, with no strings attached.

We can also send some free paperback Russian books to anyone who is willing to distribute them to Russian-speaking children. (This offer is good while supplies last; we have resources to ship 171 copies of Death is Wrong in either English or Russian. If you are interested, e-mail me at gennadystolyarovii@gmail.com with (i) your name, (ii) your MAILING ADDRESS, (iii) your support for indefinite life extension, (iv) the NUMBER OF COPIES of Death is Wrong requested, and (v) your plan for spreading the books to children, free of cost to them.)

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Another View of Aging Science: That We Don’t Know Enough – Article by Reason

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

The New Renaissance Hat
Reason
June 27, 2014
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Early this month I pointed out an example of the viewpoint on aging research that focuses on drugs, lifestyle, and metabolic manipulation and sees present work in that area to be a matter of significant and ongoing process. I disagree, for reasons that were explained in that post. Today, I’ll take a glance at a different view of the science of aging and longevity, one that is far more popular in the mainstream research community, and with which I also vehemently disagree.

Researchers in this field might be loosely divided into three camps, which are as follows ordered from largest to smallest: (a) those who study aging as a phenomenon without seeking to produce treatments, (b) those who see to slow aging through development of means to alter the operation of metabolism, such as calorie restriction mimetic drugs, and (c) those who aim to produce rejuvenation biotechnology capable of reversing aging. The vast majority of the aging research community at present consider that too little is known of the details of the progression of aging to make significant inroads in the design of treatments, and that the way forward is fundamental research with little hope of meaningful application for the foreseeable future. This attitude is captured here:

Let me ask you this: ‘Why can’t we cure death yet?’

Quote:

We can’t ‘cure death’ because biology is extremely complicated. Without a fundamental understanding of how biological organisms work on a molecular level, we’re left to educated guesses on how to fix things that are breaking in the human body. Trying to cure disease without a full understanding of the underlying principles is like trying to travel to the moon without using Newton’s laws of motion.

The reason we haven’t cured death is because we don’t really understand life.

This is only half true, however. It is true if your goal is to slow down aging by engineering metabolism into a new state of safe operation in which the damage of aging accumulates more slowly. This is an enormous project. It is harder than anything that has been accomplished by humanity to date, measured on any reasonable scale of complexity. The community has only a few footholds in the vast sea of interactions that make up the progression of metabolism and damage through the course of aging, and this is despite the fact that there exists an easily obtained, very well studied altered state of metabolism that does in fact slow aging and extend life. Calorie restriction can be investigated in almost all laboratory species, and has been the subject of intense scrutiny for more than a decade now. Yet that barely constitutes a start on the long road of figuring out how to replicate the effects of calorie restriction on metabolism, let alone how to set off into the unknown to build an even better metabolic state of operation.

Listing these concerns is not even to start in on the fact that even if clinicians could perfectly replicate the benefits of calorie restriction, these effects are still modest in the grand scheme of things. It probably won’t add more than ten years to your life, and it won’t rejuvenate the old, nor restore any of their lost functionality. It is a way of slowing down remaining harm, not repairing the harm that has happened. All in all it seems like a poor use of resources.

People who argue that we don’t understand enough of aging to treat it are conveniently omitting the fact that the research community does in fact have a proven, time-tested consensus list of the causes of aging. These are the fundamental differences between old tissue and young tissue, the list of changes that are not in and of themselves caused by any other process of aging. This is the damage that is the root of aging. There are certainly fierce arguments over which of these are more important and how in detail they actually interact with one another and metabolism to cause frailty, disease, and death. I’ve already said as much: researchers are still in the early days of producing the complete map of how aging progresses at the detail level. The actual list of damage and change is not much debated, however: that is settled science.

Thus if all you want to do is produce good treatments that reverse the effects of aging, you don’t need to know every detail of the progression of aging. You just need to remove the root causes. It doesn’t matter which of them are more or less important, just remove them all, and you’ll find out which were more or less important in the course of doing so – and probably faster than those who are taking the slow and stead scholarly route of investigation. If results are what we want to see then instead of studying ever more esoteric little corners of our biology, researchers might change focus on ways to repair the known forms of damage that cause aging. In this way treatments can be produced that actually rejuvenate patients, and unlike methods of slowing aging will benefit the old by reversing and preventing age-related disease.

This is exactly analogous to the long history of building good bridges prior to the modern age of computer simulation and materials science. With the advent of these tools engineers can now build superb bridges, of a quality and size that would once have been impossible. But the engineers of ancient Rome built good bridges: bridges that allowed people to cross rivers and chasms and some of which still stand today. Victorian engineers built better bridges to facilitate commerce that have stood the test of time, and they worked with little more than did the Romans in comparison to today’s technologies. So the aging research community could begin to build their bridges now, we don’t have to wait for better science. Given that we are talking about aging, and the cost of aging is measured in tens of millions of lives lost and hundreds of millions more left suffering each and every year, it is amazing to me that there are not more initiatives focused on taking what is already known and settled about the causes of aging and using that knowledge to build rejuvenation treatments.

What we see instead is a field largely focused on doing nothing but gathering data, and where there are researchers interesting in producing treatments, they are almost all focused on metabolic engineering to slow aging. The long, hard road to nowhere helpful. Yet repairing the known damage of aging is so very obviously the better course for research and development when compared to the prospect of an endless exploration and cataloging of metabolism. If we want the chance of significant progress towards means of treating aging in our lifetime, only SENS and other repair-based approaches have a shot at delivering. Attempts to slow aging are only a distraction: they will provide a growing flow of new knowledge of our biochemistry and the details of aging, but that knowledge isn’t needed in order to work towards effective treatments for aging today.

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. 
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This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license. It was originally published on FightAging.org.

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The Police State Needed to Enforce Vice Laws – Article by Bradley Doucet

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

The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
June 27, 2014
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What if Canadian governments rigorously enforced all the laws of the land, outrageous price tag and complaints from bleeding-heart civil-rights types be damned? It might be literally impossible economically speaking, with the costs in terms of extra police and prisons approaching and even surpassing 100% of GDP. This is all the more likely given the lost productivity associated with throwing millions of people in jail. But leaving aside the economic calculation, which I have neither the resources nor the expertise to carry out, I want to focus instead on the fact that rigorously enforcing Canadian laws would involve throwing millions of people in jail.
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Don’t believe me? I have two words for you: drug laws. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 44% of Canadians say they have used marijuana at least once, and hence have broken the law. Next time you’re sitting on a bus, look to your left, then look to your right: On average, one of those two people has at least tried marijuana, assuming only that bus riders are statistically representative of Canadians in the relevant ways. That’s roughly 15 million Canadians who would have done jail time if our laws were perfectly enforced.

Even if we just incarcerate those who have used marijuana in the past year, we’re talking about approximately 1 in 8 Canadians aged 15-64, which means locking up some 3 million people. More, really, because I know there are some aging hippies and recently retired baby boomers over the age of 65 out there who are still toking up.

Of course, this ignores the dynamic effects of massively ramping up enforcement levels. If we really put our money (all of it?) where our mouths are when it comes to drug laws and made a serious effort to arrest every last person who took a pull on a joint before passing it along, there would be some significant decrease in the number of people who smoke marijuana. But this would mean spending a whole lot more money. Even the United States, which spends over $50 billion a year on the drug war, only arrested around 750,000 people in 2012 for marijuana law violations (650,000 of which for mere possession). Given that both countries have similar rates of marijuana use, this means that most of the roughly 25 million Americans aged 15-64 who smoked pot last year got away with it.

But economics aside, if we get really serious about enforcing drug laws, we could say goodbye to anything resembling privacy. The draconian measures required even to approach total compliance with our drug laws would be positively Orwellian: cops on every corner, stopping and frisking passersby that look suspicious (or foreign); road traffic slowing to a crawl thanks to checkpoints at major intersections where you have to show your papers and pee into a cup; random no-knock raids at every third door, during which swat team members may or may not shoot the family dog; warrantless wiretapping of every phone call and email message, carried out by humourless killjoys drunk on their power; cameras in all our bedrooms and bathrooms, watched by perverted busybodies who couldn’t cut it as airport security goons.

Patently impossible, you say. We wouldn’t stand for it, you object. Maybe. But then, why do we stand for selective enforcement, with its unavoidable, inherent injustices? If the police and the courts can’t apply the law equally to all, then officers and prosecutors and judges will apply it at their discretion. Since humans are far from flawless, they will apply it disproportionately, according to conscious or subconscious prejudices. Or they will target gadflies like Marc Emery, whose five-year exile to a US prison is finally coming to an end. Was he extradited and thrown in the slammer for selling marijuana seeds over the Internet, or for criticizing the powers that be a little too loudly and a little too effectively?

The Canadian government’s new bill proposing to outlaw sex work (or rather, to outlaw the buying of sex, but not the selling of sex) would similarly not be enforceable to any significant degree without a massive police state. Arrest every person who visits a prostitute? We’ll need many more cops, much more surveillance, many more courts, and many more prisons. And while prostitutes would not be thrown in jail, arresting all their clients would effectively make it impossible for them to practice their trade. Which of course would be the point, if the law were fully enforced. It won’t be, so again we’ll be left with selective, discretionary enforcement, with the added benefit of making prostitutes’ lives more dangerous while appearing to be doing something.

But this unattractive choice between a police state on the one hand and discriminatory, opportunistic enforcement on the other is a false dichotomy. As my QL colleague Adam Allouba recently wrote in a different context, “a far better solution is to make as little of the human experience subject to legislated rules as possible.” We wouldn’t want to do away with laws against such clearly destructive acts as murder, assault, theft, and fraud. But why exactly can’t we follow the lead of places like the Netherlands when it comes to voluntary exchanges of money for sex or soft drugs?

Our existing and soon-to-be-adopted vice laws rest on the assumption that either buyers (of pot) or sellers (of sex) are victims. Now, the very illegality of the activities in question may indeed increase the incidence of peripheral crimes like gang violence or human trafficking. But by and large, voluntary exchanges themselves do not involve victims—just people who have made choices of which you may disapprove. And the lack of any real victim is precisely what makes vice “crimes” so difficult to prosecute without gargantuan budgets and a blatant disregard for people’s rights. In this day and age, knowing all that we know, we can, and should, do better.

Bradley Doucet is Le Québécois Libre‘s English Editor and the author of the blog Spark This: Musings on Reason, Liberty, and Joy. A writer living in Montreal, he has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also writes for The New Individualist, an Objectivist magazine published by The Atlas Society, and sings.

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The Single Bullet That Killed 16 Million – Article by Edward Hudgins

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Categories: History, Philosophy, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Edward Hudgins
June 27, 2014
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A century ago, on June 28, 1914, Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the emperorship of Austria-Hungary, along with his wife, on their visit to Sarajevo.
Gavrilo Pirincip fires on the Archduke and Archduchess, June 28, 1914

Gavrilo Pirincip fires on the Archduke and Archduchess, June 28, 1914

World War I led to 16 million military and civilian deaths, plus nearly 20 million wounded. And the misery and horror of that war resulted in another casualty: confidence in the Enlightenment enterprise and human progress.

Enlightenment Europe

In the late seventeenth century Isaac Newton’s discovery of the laws of universal gravitation dramatically demonstrated the power of the human mind. Understanding of the world and the universe—what we call modern science—became a central Enlightenment goal.

At the same time, the struggle for Parliamentary supremacy in England led John Locke to pen his powerful treatise on individual liberty. Creating governments limited to protecting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness also became a central Enlightenment goal, which culminated in the creation of United States.

Enlightenment values were not limited to Britain or America. They were universal and created a European-wide culture of individualism, freedom, and reason.

Collectivist anti-Enlightenment

But Enlightenment thinkers and activists not only had to fight entrenched oligarchs and rigid religious dogma. Starting with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a school of thought—if thought it could be called—arose that opposed individualism with the good of “society,” or the group, and rejected reason in favor of emotion and instinct.

The French Revolution starting in 1789 saw Enlightenment ideas losing ground to reactionary and collectivist forces. The result was the Terror and the guillotine, dictatorship and a new monarchy, and the carnage of the Napoleonic wars–the first great modern global conflict, which ended in 1815 at Waterloo.

In the century that followed Europe suffered only short regional conflicts, most relating to the unification of Italy and of Germany. The Industrial Revolution was creating prosperity. Governments were granting citizens rights to political participation and were recognizing their civil liberties. By the early twentieth century, continued progress seemed inevitable.

Pernicious nationalism

But the pernicious collectivist ideology combined with a major European cultural defect: nationalism. This form of collectivism meant more than just an appreciation for the aesthetic achievements—art, music, literature—of the individuals in one’s ethnic group. It meant putting one’s group or one’s country, right or wrong, ahead of universal values and principles. Kill for King or Kaiser!

There’s an irony in the fact that poor Franz Ferdinand wanted to recreate Austria-Hungary as a federation in which the minority groups—that were always either dominated by Viennese elites or at one another’s throats—would have autonomy similar to that enjoyed by the American states. If only Princip had waited a while.

Unfortunately, the volatile combination of nationalism, an interlocking treaty system, and the Britain-Germany imperial rivalry only required a spark like the Sarajevo assassination to set off a global conflagration.

Collectivism vs. collectivism

After World War I, individualism and “selfishness” got much of the blame for the conflict. And science was no longer associated only with progress. It had created machine guns, tanks, and poison gas, and made possible a fearful slaughter.

Idealists created the League of Nations to prevent such wars in the future. But they tried to cure the problem of nationalism with more nationalism, simply accentuating the problem. Indeed, Hitler used the principle of self-determination of peoples as an excuse to unify all Germans into one Reich by force. His form of collectivism also entailed enslaving and wiping out “inferior” races.

The catastrophe of World War II was followed by a Cold War, which saw the Soviet Union asserting another form of collectivism, pitting one economic “class” against another. Western Europe opposed the brutal Soviet kill-the-rich socialism with a kinder, gentler, loot-the-rich democratic socialism. The Soviet Union with its communist empire collapsed in 1991, and Western European democratic socialism is going through a similar disintegration in slow motion.

Still recovering from the Great War

Today, Enlightenment values are making a comeback. The communications and information revolutions, and the application of new technologies in medicine, transportation, and other fields, again demonstrate the power of the human mind and the benefits it confers.

Furthermore, many of the new entrepreneurs understand that it is they as individual visionaries who are transforming the world. And while their achievements benefit everyone, they strive because they love their work and they love to achieve. They pursue happiness. They hold Enlightenment values—though in many cases their politics still need to catch up.

The world is still digging out from the consequences of that single bullet a century ago, which led to the deaths of millions. Putting our country and the world back on the path to liberty and prosperity will require a recommitment to the Enlightenment values that created all the best in the modern world.

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Dr. Edward Hudgins directs advocacy and is a senior scholar for The Atlas Society, the center for Objectivism in Washington, D.C.

Copyright, The Atlas Society. For more information, please visit www.atlassociety.org.

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Heterogeneity: A Capital Idea! – Article by Sanford Ikeda

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

The New Renaissance Hat
Sanford Ikeda
June 26, 2014
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When Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century was released in English earlier this year it sparked vigorous debate on the issue of wealth inequality. Despite the prominence of the word in the title, however, capital has not itself become a hot topic. Apparently none of his defenders have taken the opportunity to explore capital theory, and, with a few exceptions, neither have his critics.

To prepare to read Mr. Piketty’s book I’ve been studying Ludwig Lachmann’s Capital and Its Structure, which, along with Israel M. Kirzner’s Essay on Capital, is among the clearest expositions of Austrian capital theory around. A hundred years ago the “Austrian economists”—i.e. scholars such as Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk who worked in the tradition of Carl Menger—were renowned for their contributions to the theory of capital. Today capital theory is still an essential part of modern Austrian economics, but few others delve into its complexities. Why bother?

Capital is Heterogeneous

 

Among the Austrians, Böhm-Bawerk viewed capital as “produced means of production” and for Ludwig von Mises “capital goods are intermediary steps on the way toward a definite goal.” (Israel Kirzner uses the metaphor of a “half-baked cake.”)  Lachmann then places capital goods in the context of a person’s plan: “production plans are the primary object of the theory of capital.” You can combine capital goods in only a limited number of ways within a particular plan. Capital goods then aren’t perfect substitutes for one another. Capital is heterogeneous.

Now, mainstream economics treats capital as a homogenous glob. For instance, both micro- and macroeconomists typically assume Output (Q) is a mathematical function of several factor inputs, e.g. Labor (L) and Capital (K) or

Q = f(L,K).

In this function, not only is output homogenous (whether we’re talking about ball-bearings produced by one firm or all the goods produced by all firms in an economy) but so are all labor inputs and all capital inputs used to produce them. In particular, any capital good can substitute perfectly for any other capital good in a firm or across all firms. A hammer can perfectly replace, say, a helicopter or even a harbor.

On the other hand, capital heterogeneity implies several things.

First, according to Mises, heterogeneity means that, “All capital goods have a more or less specific character.” A capital good can’t be used for just any purpose:  A hammer generally can’t be used as a harbor. Second, to make a capital good productive a person needs to combine it with other capital goods in ways that are complementary within her plan: Hammers and harbors could be used together to help repair a boat. And third, heterogeneity means that capital goods have no common unit of measurement, which poses a problem if you want to add up how much capital you have:  One tractor plus two computers plus three nails doesn’t give you “six units” of capital.

Isn’t “money capital” homogeneous? The monetary equivalent of one’s stock of capital, say $50,000, may be useful for accounting purposes, but that sum isn’t itself a combination of capital goods in a production process. If you want to buy $50,000 worth of capital you don’t go to the store and order “Six units of capital please!” Instead, you buy specific units of capital according to your business plan.

At first blush it might seem that labor is also heterogeneous. After all, you can’t substitute a chemical engineer for a pediatrician, can you? But in economics we differentiate between pure “labor” from the specific skills and know-how a person possesses. Take those away—what we call “human capital”—and then indeed one unit of labor could substitute for any other. The same goes for other inputs such as land. What prevents an input from substituting for another, other than distance in time and space, is precisely its capital character.

One more thing. We’re talking about the subjective not the objective properties of a capital good. That is, what makes an object a hammer and not something else is the use to which you put it. That means that physical heterogeneity is not the point, but rather heterogeneity in use. As Lachmann puts it, “Even in a building which consisted of stones completely alike these stones would have different functions.” Some stones serve as wall elements, others as foundation, etc. By the same token, physically dissimilar capital goods might be substitutes for each other. A chair might sometimes also make a good stepladder.

But, again, what practical difference does it make whether we treat capital as heterogeneous or homogenous? Here, briefly, are a few consequences.

Investment Capital and Income Flows

 

When economists talk about “returns to capital” they often do so as if income “flows” automatically from an investment in capital goods. As Lachmann says:

In most of the theories currently in fashion economic progress is apparently regarded as the automatic outcome of capital investment, “autonomous” or otherwise. Perhaps we should not be surprised at this fact: mechanistic theories are bound to produce results that look automatic.

But if capital goods are heterogeneous, then whether or not you earn an income from them depends crucially on what kinds of capital goods you buy and exactly how you combine them, and in turn how that combination has to complement the combinations that others have put together. You build an office-cleaning business in the hopes that someone else has built an office to clean.

There’s nothing automatic about it; error is always a possibility. Which brings up another implication.

Entrepreneurship

 

Lachmann:

We are living in a world of unexpected change; hence capital combinations, and with them the capital structure, will be ever changing, will be dissolved and re-formed. In this activity we find the real function of the entrepreneur.

We don’t invest blindly. We combine capital goods using, among other things, the prices of inputs and outputs that we note from the past and the prices of those things we expect to see in the future. Again, it’s not automatic. It takes entrepreneurship, including awareness and vision. But in the real world—a world very different from the models of too many economists—unexpected change happens. And when it happens the entrepreneur has to adjust appropriately, otherwise the usefulness of her capital combinations evaporates. But that’s the strength of the market process.

A progressive economy is not an economy in which no capital is ever lost, but an economy which can afford to lose capital because the productive opportunities revealed by the loss are vigorously exploited.

In a dynamic economy, entrepreneurs are able to recombine capital goods to create value faster than it disappears.

Stimulus Spending

 

As the economist Roger Garrison notes, Keynes’s macroeconomics is based on labor, not capital. And when capital does enter his analysis Keynes regarded it the same way as mainstream economics: as a homogeneous glob.

Thus modern Keynesians, such as Paul Krugman, want to cure recessions by government “stimulus” spending, without much or any regard to what it is spent on, whether hammers or harbors. (Here is just one example.)  But the solution to a recession is not to indiscriminately increase overall spending. The solution is to enable people to use their local knowledge to invest in capital goods that complement existing capital combinations, within what Lachmann calls the capital structure, in a way that will satisfy actual demand. (That is why economist Robert Higgs emphasizes “real net private business investment” as an important indicator of economic activity.)  The government doesn’t know what those combinations are, only local entrepreneurs know, but its spending patterns certainly can and do prevent the right capital structures from emerging.

Finally, no one can usefully analyze the real world without abstracting from it. It’s a necessary tradeoff. For some purposes smoothing the heterogeneity out of capital may be helpful. Too often though the cost is just too high.

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

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Haven’t We Already Done Enough Damage in Iraq? – Article by Ron Paul

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

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
June 16, 2014
Recommend this page.
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In 2006, I invited the late General Bill Odom to address my Thursday Congressional luncheon group. Gen. Odom, a former NSA director, called the Iraq war “the greatest strategic disaster in American history,” and told the surprised audience that he could not understand why Congress had not impeached the president for pushing this disaster on the United States. History continues to prove the General’s assessment absolutely correct.In September, 2002, arguing against a US attack on Iraq, I said the following on the House Floor:

No credible evidence has been produced that Iraq has or is close to having nuclear weapons. No evidence exists to show that Iraq harbors al Qaeda terrorists. Quite to the contrary, experts on this region recognize Hussein as an enemy of the al Qaeda and a foe to Islamic fundamentalism.

Unfortunately, Congress did not listen.

As we know, last week the second largest city in Iraq, Mosul, fell to the al-Qaeda allied Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Last week an al-Qaeda that had not been in Iraq before our 2003 invasion threatened to move on the capitol, Baghdad, after it easily over-ran tens of thousands of Iraqi military troops.

The same foreign policy “experts” who lied us into the Iraq war are now telling us we must re-invade Iraq to deal with the disaster caused by their invasion! They cannot admit they were wrong about the invasion being a “cakewalk” that would pay for itself, so they want to blame last week’s events on the 2011 US withdrawal from Iraq. But the trouble started with the 2003 invasion itself, not the 2011 troop withdrawal. Anyone who understands cause and effect should understand this.

The Obama administration has said no option except for ground troops is off the table to help the Iraqi government in this crisis. We should not forget, however, that the administration does not consider Special Forces or the CIA to be “boots on the ground.” So we may well see Americans fighting in Iraq again.

It is also likely that the administration will begin shipping more weapons and other military equipment to the Iraqi army, in the hopes that they might be able to address the ISIS invasion themselves. After years of US training, costing as much as $20 billion, it is unlikely the Iraqi army is up to the task. Judging from the performance of the Iraqi military as the ISIS attacked, much of that money was wasted or stolen.

A big US government weapons transfer to Iraq will no doubt be favored by the US military-industrial complex, which stands to profit further from the Iraq meltdown. This move will also be favored by those in Washington who realize how politically unpopular a third US invasion of Iraq would be at home, but who want to “do something” in the face of the crisis. Shipping weapons may be an action short of war, but it usually leads to war. And as we have already seen in Iraq and Syria, very often these weapons fall into the hands of the al-Qaeda we are supposed to be fighting!

Because of the federal government’s foolish policy of foreign interventionism, the US is faced with two equally stupid choices: either pour in resources to prop up an Iraqi government that is a close ally with Iran, or throw our support in with al-Qaida in Iraq (as we have done in Syria). I say we must follow a third choice: ally with the American people and spend not one more dollar or one more life attempting to re-make the Middle East. Haven’t we have already done enough damage?

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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“Protein Folding for Life Extension” Open Badges for Folding@home Participation – Post by G. Stolyarov II

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

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
June 8, 2014
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I am pleased to offer five levels of Open Badges as rewards for contributing computing power to the Folding@home project at http://folding.stanford.edu/, which enables anyone in the world to devote computational resources to protein-folding simulations that help advance the fight against a multitude of diseases – such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and many cancers. The Longevity Meme Folding@home team seeks to promote increased participation in Folding@home as one way to combat disease and help dramatically lengthen human lifespans within our lifetimes, with the goal of enabling humans to live lives without any upper limit.

These badges were designed by the artist and illustrator Wendy Stolyarov and is issued by  The Rational Argumentator, in conjunction with LongeCity and the Longevity Meme Folding@home team.

You can store these digital badges and share them via Mozilla Backpack to display your achievements to others. The following are the qualifying criteria for each badge:

Level 1: 5,000 points earned on Folding@home;

Level 2: 10,000 points earned on Folding@home;

Level 3: 50,000 points earned on Folding@home;

Level 4: 100,000 points earned on Folding@home;

Level 5: 500,000 points earned on Folding@home.

To request a badge, simply send an e-mail to gennadystolyarovii@gmail.com. Include your user name on Folding@home so that your points earned could be verified. You can earn a badge no matter what team you are on, if any, as everyone’s commitment of resources to the protein-folding effort helps the prospects of indefinite life extension. However, you are also encouraged to join The Longevity Meme team in order to help improve its ranking and raise public awareness of the effort life-extension activists are putting into the fight against disease.

Level 1 Folder - Protein Folding for Life Extension

Level 2 Folder - Protein Folding for Life Extension

Level 1 Folder - Protein Folding for Life Extension

Level 4 Folder - Protein Folding for Life Extension

Level 5 Folder - Protein Folding for Life Extension

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Life-Extension Activism Opportunities for All – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
June 5, 2014
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You do not need to be a biologist or medical doctor to help hasten the arrival of indefinite life extension. An important array of activist endeavors, which are laying the groundwork for the eventual achievement of unlimited lifespans, can be implemented by anybody. They range from giving out books to playing games to simply running one’s computer – all the while making important contributions to scientific progress and the receptiveness of the general culture to the feasibility and desirability of indefinite longevity.

If you want to glimpse the possibilities in 90 seconds, watch my recent video, “What Anyone Can Do to Advance Indefinite Life Extension”.

In this article, I offer a more detailed overview of some immediately available activism options that anyone can pursue. The time commitment involved in each ranges from minimal to modest, but virtually any of them can fit into the schedule of anyone who recognizes the value of this amazing life we have and the importance of prolonging it as far as possible.

Movement for Indefinite Life Extension (MILE)

MILE_Logo
The Movement for Indefinite Life Extension (MILE) is not a formal organization, but rather a coalition of activists working toward the common goal of achieving indefinite lifespans for people alive today. The MILE coordinates projects and shares articles, images, and news stories via its Facebook group – also accessible using the URL http://themile.info. One of the MILE’s major purposes is to raise awareness of the feasibility and desirability of indefinite life extension and to create a critical mass of support for this most vital of goals. The number of “likes” on the MILE Facebook page is a concise indicator of the movement’s reach, and the eventual goal of the MILE is to achieve 8 million likes by July 17, 2017. Following an incremental approach, the MILE seeks to raise its support by an order of magnitude each year. The goal of 800 supporters was readily exceeded prior to July 17, 2013, and the MILE has launched a concerted effort to reach its Year 2 goal of 8,000 supporters by July 17, 2014. Eric Schulke, who spearheads and coordinates the efforts of the MILE, has launched the MILE Year 2 Goal Fundraiser to fund hundreds of dollars of Facebook advertisements that have already shown success in spreading the message of indefinite life extension to new demographics.

I am proud to have contributed resources to run several ads for MILE that incorporate the core message and the cover image of my children’s book Death is Wrong. These MILE/Death is Wrong ads were designed by my wife and illustrator Wendy Stolyarov and are accompanied by the following text:

Death is WRONG.
Together we can fight it.
Join the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension.

Reaper_MILE_Ad_FBDIW_MILE_AdTo help the MILE reach its Year 2 goal, you can start by clicking the “Like” button on the MILE Facebook page. Beyond that, if you would like to contribute to the advertising campaign and even develop your own custom advertisement that conveys the message of indefinite life extension, this would go a long way toward building the critical mass needed to catalyze public support for life-extension research.

Death is Wrong Book Distribution to Children

DIW_HannaAfter the successful conclusion on April 23, 2014, of my Indiegogo fundraiser to spread over 1,000 copies of the illustrated children’s book Death is Wrong to kids, free of cost to them, I have worked assiduously to coordinate a worldwide distribution effort. Already, 644 out of the 1,029 total available books have been sent to longevity activists throughout the world. Countries where the books have been shipped thus far include the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Poland, India, Indonesia, and Singapore. Tens of dedicated longevity supporters have already come forward to request absolutely free shipments of books, but we need more activists to help us distribute the remaining 385 books in their local areas.

Recipients have wide discretion to use their creativity in how to offer the Death is Wrong books to children, as long as the books are made available free of cost and are not resold. Books may be given away to kids directly, lent to multiple kids, given to schools and libraries that will accept them, or used at public readings – among possible other options.

The early successes of the book-distribution effort are among the most heartening and encouraging developments I have observed. Here are some photographs that longevity activists have sent in of their book shipments.

DIW_Amechazurra_ShipmentDIW_Books_Received_CvdB_3
DIW_Books_Received

Here is a charming interview by Aleksander Kelley of his sister Hanna, who is spreading Death is Wrong to the kids she knows.

Help make future scenes like this happen. Requesting a shipment of Death is Wrong books is simple. Send me an e-mail to gennadystolyarovii@gmail.com with (i) your name, (ii) your mailing address, (iii) your statement of support for indefinite life extension, (iv) the number of copies of Death is Wrong requested, and (v) your plan for spreading the books to children, free of cost to them.

Once the shipments arrive, any additional images and videos of the books and events at which they are shared would be most welcome. They can help spread the message of indefinite life extension even further and show the world that the momentum for this cause continues to grow.

Distributed Computing for Medical Science

Would you like to help cure cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and other deadly ailments, just by running your computer? Most people’s computers spend much time absolutely idle; how about putting that idle time to good use, at minimal additional cost? Distributed computing initiatives such as Folding@home, Rosetta@home, and World Community Grid are absolutely free to join. You just need to download a program that runs the calculations involved in protein-folding simulations and other research efforts while you are not using your computer. Already, these distributed computing initiatives have led to several major medical research breakthroughs, such as this one by Chiba Cancer Center in Japan, which has identified seven drug candidates in the fight against childhood cancer. You can read more about the applications of protein-folding simulations to disease research in this brief post by David Baker of the University of Washington.

While no single medical breakthrough will achieve indefinite lifespans yet, every victory against death and diseases will help us approach that goal. The more of us survive the common killers of our time, the more of us stand a chance of personally witnessing the arrival of longevity escape velocity.

As an additional way to raise the profile of the ideas of indefinite life extension, it is recommended to join a distributed-computing team that explicitly embraces the struggle against senescence and death. On Folding@home, The Longevity Meme team has been folding for years and is ranked 156th out of 220,186 teams as of June 5, 2014. I am spearheading a collaborative effort between The Longevity Meme team, LongeCity, and my online magzine – The Rational Argumentator – to attract renewed participation in Folding@home and The Longevity Meme team among longevity advocates. To provide an additional incentive to join, I am offering a series of five Protein Folding for Life Extension Open Badges, designed by Wendy Stolyarov and available via Badg.us.

FaH-Square-L1 FaH-Square-L2 FaH-Square-L3 FaH-Square-L4 FaH-Square-L5These are badges that you can store and share via Mozilla Backpack to share your achievements with others. The following are the qualifying criteria for each badge:

Level 1: 5,000 points earned on Folding@home;

Level 2: 10,000 points earned on Folding@home;

Level 3: 50,000 points earned on Folding@home;

Level 4: 100,000 points earned on Folding@home;

Level 5: 500,000 points earned on Folding@home.

To request a badge, simply send an e-mail to gennadystolyarovii@gmail.com. Include your user name on Folding@home so that your points earned could be verified. You can earn a badge no matter what team you are on, if any, as everyone’s commitment of resources to the protein-folding effort helps the prospects of indefinite life extension. However, you are also encouraged to join The Longevity Meme team in order to help improve its ranking and raise public awareness of the effort life-extension activists are putting into the fight against disease.

On Rosetta@home, the LongeCity team explicitly embraces the ideas of indefinite life extension. On World Community Grid, the Endthedisease team supports life extension and has been involved in numerous disease-fighting computational efforts since 2007. Later this year, the Endthedisease team is anticipated to begin running contests with prizes for top contributors.

Games to Fight Disease

By flying a spaceship through an asteroid field in a computer game, you can help cancer researchers analyze data at a much faster rate than they could before. Play to Cure: Genes in Space is a mobile game released by Cancer Research UK, which anyone with a tablet or mobile phone can play for free. The stated aim of this game is to hasten the day when all cancers are cured – which is, incidentally, the key objective of one of the seven prongs of Dr. Aubrey de Grey’s SENS approach; Dr. de Grey has emphasized that cancer is by far the predominant way by which age-related nuclear mutations harm us.

You can read about the mechanics of and science behind Play to Cure here and watch this video introduction to the game.

Foldit is another free game that enthusiasts of life-extension research can play in order to add the human touch to protein-folding simulations. In 2011, Foldit players discovered the protein structure of a retroviral protease of the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus, an AIDS-like disease in monkeys.

See this list from the Citizen Science Center for more possibilities regarding games you could play and simultaneously participate in innovative citizen-science initiatives – including many devoted to the fight against disease. Games hold out the promise of enabling monumental contributions to scientific research by the general public. A game designed to be sufficiently engaging could attract thousands of non-scientists to do the work that research scientists could conceivably outsource in order to accelerate the rate at which certain kinds of data analysis are performed. The more quickly scientists can iterate through their experiments as a result, the sooner the cures to major diseases will arrive.

Conclusion

Of course, I would urge all life-extension supporters to donate even modest amounts of money to research and advocacy organizations such as the SENS Research Foundation and the Methuselah Foundation, as well as crowdfunded life-extension research projects that are being undertaken with increasing frequency. Yet, I hope that this overview has led readers to recognize that much can be done in addition to monetary donations. Integrate the active pursuit of indefinite longevity into your life, and you will continue to find easy but extremely important ways to become part of the solution to the most pressing problem of all time. Through our efforts, we will hopefully someday be able to celebrate humankind’s greatest victories in the fight against our mutual enemy: death.

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