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Review of Philip Tetlock’s “Superforecasting” – Article by Adam Alonzi

Review of Philip Tetlock’s “Superforecasting” – Article by Adam Alonzi

The New Renaissance Hat
Adam Alonzi
******************************
Alexander Consulting the Oracle of Apollo, Louis Jean Francois Lagrenée. 1789, Oil on Canvas.

“All who drink of this treatment recover in a short time, except those whom it does not help, who all die. It is obvious, therefore, that it fails only in incurable cases.”

-Galen

Before the advent of evidence-based medicine, most physicians took an attitude like Galen’s toward their prescriptions. If their remedies did not work, surely the fault was with their patient. For centuries scores of revered doctors did not consider putting bloodletting or trepanation to the test. Randomized trials to evaluate the efficacy of a treatment were not common practice. Doctors like Archie Cochrane, who fought to make them part of standard protocol, were met with fierce resistance. Philip Tetlock, author of Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction (2015), contends that the state of forecasting in the 21st century is strikingly similar to medicine in the 19th. Initiatives like the Good Judgement Project (GJP), a website that allows anyone to make predictions about world events, have shown that even a discipline that is largely at the mercy of chance can be put on a scientific footing.

More than once the author reminds us that the key to success in this endeavor is not what you think or what you know, but how you think. For Tetlock pundits like Thomas Friedman are the “exasperatingly evasive” Galens of the modern era. In the footnotes he lets the reader know he chose Friedman as target strictly because of his prominence. There are many like him. Tetlock’s academic work comparing random selections with those of professionals led media outlets to publish, and a portion of their readers to conclude, that expert opinion is no more accurate than a dart-throwing chimpanzee. What the undiscerning did not consider, however, is not all of the experts who participated failed to do better than chance.

Daniel Kahneman hypothesized that “attentive readers of the New York Times…may be only slightly worse” than these experts corporations and governments so handsomely recompense. This turned out to be a conservative guess. The participants in the Good Judgement Project outperformed all control groups, including one composed of professional intelligence analysts with access to classified information. This hodgepodge of retired bird watchers, unemployed programmers, and news junkies did 30% better than the “pros.” More importantly, at least to readers who want to gain a useful skillset as well as general knowledge, the managers of the GJP have identified qualities and ways of thinking that separate “superforecasters” from the rest of us. Fortunately they are qualities we can all cultivate.

While the merits of his macroeconomic theories can be debated, John Maynard Keynes was an extremely successful investor during one of the bleakest periods in international finance. This was no doubt due in part to his willingness to make allowance for new information and his grasp of probability. Participants in the GJP display open-mindedness, an ability and willingness to repeatedly update their forecasts, a talent to neither under- nor over-react to new information by putting it into a broader context,  and a predilection for mathematical thinking (though those interviewed admitted they rarely used an explicit equation to calculate their answer). The figures they give also tend to be more precise than their less successful peers. This “granularity” may seem ridiculous at first. I must confess that when I first saw estimates on the GJP of 34% or 59%, I would chuckle a bit. How, I asked myself, is a single percentage point meaningful? Aren’t we just dealing with rough approximations? Apparently not.

Tetlock reminds us that the GJP does not deal with nebulous questions like “Who will be president in 2027?” or “Will a level 9 earthquake hit California two years from now?” However, there are questions that are not, in the absence of unforeseeable Black Swan events, completely inscrutable. Who will win the Mongolian presidency? Will Uruguay sign a trade agreement with Laos in the next six months? These are parts of highly complex systems, but they can be broken down into tractable subproblems.

Using numbers instead of words like “possibly”, “probably”, “unlikely”, etc., seems unnatural. It gives us wiggle room and plausible deniability. They also cannot be put on any sort of record to keep score of how well we’re doing. Still, to some it may seem silly, pedantic, or presumptuous. If Joint Chiefs of Staff had given the exact figure they had in mind (3 to 1) instead of the “fair chance” given to Kennedy, the Bay of Pigs debacle may have never transpired. Because they represent ranges of values instead of single numbers, words can be retroactively stretched or shrunk to make blunders seem a little less avoidable. This is good for advisors looking to cover their hides by hedging their bets, but not so great for everyone else.

If American intelligence agencies had presented the formidable but vincible figure of 70% instead of a “slam dunk” to Congress, a disastrous invasion and costly occupation would have been prevented. At this point it is hard not to see the invasion as anything as a mistake, but even amidst these emotions we must be wary of hindsight. Still, a 70% chance of being right means there is a 30% chance of being wrong. It is hardly a “slam dunk.” No one would feel completely if an oncologist told them they are 70% sure the growth is not malignant. There are enormous consequences to sloppy communications. However, those with vested interests are more than content with this approach if it agrees with them, even if it ends up harming them.

When Nate Silver put the odds of the 2008 election in Obama’s favor, he was panned by Republicans as a pawn of the liberal media. He was quickly reviled by Democrats when he foresaw a Republican takeover of the Senate. It is hard to be a wizard when the king, his court, and all the merry peasants sweeping the stables would not know a confirmation bias from their right foot. To make matters worse, confidence is widely equated with capability. This seems to be doubly true of groups of people, particularly when they are choosing a leader. A mutual-fund manager who tells his clients they will see great returns on a company is viewed as stronger than a Poindexter prattling on about Bayesian inference and risk management.

The GJP’s approach has not spread far — yet. At this time most pundits, consultants, and self-proclaimed sages do not explicitly quantify their success rates, but this does not stop corporations, NGOs, and institutions at all levels of government from paying handsomely for the wisdom of untested soothsayers. Perhaps they have a few diplomas, but most cannot provide compelling evidence for expertise in haruspicy (sans the sheep’s liver). Given the criticality of accurate analyses to saving time and money, it would seem as though a demand for methods to improve and assess the quality of foresight would arise. Yet for the most part individuals and institutions continue to happily grope in the dark, unaware of the necessity for feedback when they misstep — afraid of having their predictions scrutinized or having to take the pains to scrutinize their predictions.

David Ferrucci is wary of the “guru model” to settling disputes. No doubt you’ve witnessed or participated in this kind of whimpering fracas: one person presents a Krugman op-ed to debunk a Niall Ferguson polemic, which is then countered with a Tommy Friedman book, which was recently excoriated  by the newest leader of the latest intellectual cult to come out of the Ivy League. In the end both sides leave frustrated. Krugman’s blunders regarding the economic prospects of the Internet, deflation, the “imminent” collapse of the euro (said repeatedly between 2010 and 2012) are legendary. Similarly, Ferguson, who strongly petitioned the Federal Reserve to reconsider quantitative easing, lest the United States suffer Weimar-like inflation, has not yet been vindicated. He and his colleagues responded in the same way as other embarrassed prophets: be patient, it has not happened, but it will! In his defense, more than one clever person has criticized the way governments calculate their inflation rates…

Paul Ehrlich, a darling of environmentalist movement, has screeched about the detonation of a “population bomb” for decades. Civilization was set to collapse between 15 and 30 years from 1970. During the interim 100 to 200 million would annually starve to death, by the year 2000 no crude oil would be left, the prices of raw materials would skyrocket, and the planet would be in the midst of a perpetual famine. Tetlock does not mention Ehrlich, but he is, particularly given his persisting influence on Greens, as or more deserving of a place in this hall of fame as anyone else. Larry Kudlow continued to assure the American people that the Bush tax breaks were producing massive economic growth. This continued well into 2008, when he repeatedly told journalists that America was not in a recession and the Bush boom was “alive and well.” For his stupendous commitment to his contention in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he was nearly awarded a seat in the Trump cabinet.

This is not to say a mistake should become the journalistic equivalent of a scarlet letter. Kudlow’s slavish adherence to his axioms is not unique. Ehrlich’s blindness to technological advances is not uncommon, even in an era dominated by technology. By failing to set a timeline or give detailed causal accounts, many believe they have predicted every crash since they learned how to say the word. This is likely because they begin each day with the same mantra: “the market will crash.”  Yet through an automatically executed routine of psychological somersaults, they do not see they were right only once and wrong dozens, hundreds, or thousands of times. This kind of person is much more deserving of scorn than a poker player who boasts about his victories, because he is (likely) also aware of how often he loses. At least he’s not fooling himself. The severity of Ehrlich’s misfires is a reminder of what happens when someone looks too far ahead while assuming all things will remain the same. Ceteris paribus exists only in laboratories and textbooks.

Axioms are fates accepted by different people as truth, but the belief in Fate (in the form of retroactive narrative construction) is a nearly ubiquitous stumbling block to clear thinking. We may be far removed from Sophocles, but the unconscious human drive to create sensible narratives is not peculiar to fifth-century B.C. Athens. A questionnaire given to students at Northwestern showed that most believed things had turned out for the best even if they had gotten into their first pick. From an outsider’s perspective this is probably not true. In our cocoons we like to think we are in the right place either through the hand of fate or through our own choices. Atheists are not immune to this Panglossian habit. Our brains are wired for stories, but the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves seldom come out without distortions. We can gain a better outside view, which allows us to see situations from perspectives other than our own, but only through regular practice with feedback. This is one of the reasons groups are valuable.

Francis Galton asked 787 villagers to guess the weight of an ox hanging in the market square. The average of their guesses (1,197 lbs) turned out to be remarkably close to its actual weight (1,198 lbs). Scott Page has said “diversity trumps ability.” This is a tad bold, since legions of very different imbeciles will never produce anything of value, but there is undoubtedly a benefit to having a group with more than one point of view. This was tested by the GJP. Teams performed better than lone wolves by a significant margin (23% to be exact). Partially as a result of encouraging one another and building a culture of excellence, and partially from the power of collective intelligence.

“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”

-Helmuth von Moltke

“Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”

-Mike Tyson

When Archie Cochrane was told he had cancer by his surgeon, he prepared for death. Type 1 thinking grabbed hold of him and did not doubt the diagnosis. A pathologist later told him the surgeon was wrong. The best of us, under pressure, fall back on habitual modes of thinking. This is another reason why groups are useful (assuming all their members do not also panic). Organizations like the GJP and the Millennium Project are showing how well collective intelligence systems can perform. Helmuth von Moltke and Mike Tyson aside, a better motto, substantiated by a growing body of evidence, comes from Dwight  Eisenhower: “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Adam Alonzi is a writer, biotechnologist, documentary maker, futurist, inventor, programmer, and author of the novels A Plank in Reason and Praying for Death: A Zombie Apocalypse. He is an analyst for the Millennium Project, the Head Media Director for BioViva Sciences, and Editor-in-Chief of Radical Science News. Listen to his podcasts here. Read his blog here.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel on Art and Transhumanism

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel on Art and Transhumanism

G. Stolyarov II
Emanuel Iral
Rachel Lyn Edler
John Marlowe
R. Nicholas Starr
Leah Montalto
Kim Bodenhamer Smith
Laura Katrin Weston
Ekaterinya Vladinakova


On November 18, 2017, the U.S. Transhumanist Party invited leading artists in a variety of media and styles to a two-hour discussion, moderated by Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II and Director of Visual Art Emanuel Iral, on the subject of Art and Transhumanism, delving into how and which works of art can help inspire humans to pursue the next era of our civilization – through promoting the advancement of science and technology, rationality, and/or a more hopeful vision of the future. The panel also explored various interactions between art and technology and ways in which art can improve human connection and understanding, while also comprising the very improved functionality that emerging technologies provide.

Panelists

Emanuel Iral

Emanuel Iral is Director of Visual Art for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

Emanuel’s artwork ranges from traditional paint and pencil work to 3D digital work. Currently he is working on his VFX and animation skills, as he is producing short films for his music. He encompasses his art under the term Prismatis – Latin for prism.  A prism refracts white light into the three primary colors: yellow, magenta, and cyan. Prismatis is all about the aesthetic of human expression, which can be separated into the art, audience, and artist.

Rachel Lyn Edler

RachelLyn Edler is an accomplished graphic designer with over 20 years of creative experience. Rachel comes from a diverse background of product development, packaging and web design. In her free time she volunteers for several scientific and secular organizations including the Planetary Society, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science and the Secular Coalition for America.

John Marlowe

John Marlowe was educated in film theory and trained in film production at UC Berkeley.  His outlook on film as a vehicle for social messaging has been largely influenced by his lifelong struggle with a genetic inborn error of metabolism, a type of disease that – until recently – was beyond the scope of medicine.  Consequently, John feels it is his onus to emphasize the artist’s responsibility in shaping the conversation regarding medical research, to create a society more amenable to scientific progress, rather than one fearful of change.

Leah Montalto

Leah Montalto is a painter based in New York City and has maintained a successfully operating painting studio in New York for the past 12 years.  Her paintings have been exhibited at the National Academy Museum of Fine Art in New York, and have been reviewed in the New York Times and the Providence Journal.  Leah’s paintings have received awards including the National Academy Museum of Fine Art’s Hallgarten Prize in Painting and the NYC Cultural Commission arts grant.  Leah is a former professor at Sarah Lawrence College, and has an MFA in Painting from Rhode Island School of Design.  Leah is not affiliated with the Transhumanist Party, but her paintings explore related themes.

Kim Bodenhamer Smith

Kim Bodenhamer Smith is a single mother of two boys living in Chattanooga, TN. She is a founding member of Southside Abbey, a Lay Missioner in The Episcopal Church, and an Outdoor Wear Business owner of Chilliheads. She is a caver, unicycler, and an aviation enthusiast and creator of #helichurch. She has a BFA in Metals and also studied Graphic Design and Political Science. *She also has many Tesla Tales to tell and is a Social Media Manipulator (different from a troll)!

R. Nicholas Starr

R. Nicholas Starr is an audio engineer and multimedia artist whose work focuses on Earth’s dystopias of past, present, and future. Also a biohacker, researcher, and theorist, he immerses himself in the subjects surrounding these worlds and has published several non-fiction articles and interviews. With an education in electronic signals intelligence from the United States Air Force, and 15 years of digital art and audio production in the US and abroad, he has become a unique voice for science fiction, the U.S. Transhumanist Movement, and American policy.

Ekaterinya Vladinakova

Ekaterinya Vladinakova is an accomplished digital painter and professional freelance illustrator. Vladinakova specializes in fantasy and science fiction work, but is also interested in editorial illustration. Vladinakova spends most of the day painting in Photoshop, creating scenes related to fantasy, or science fiction, as well as brushing up older works. Vladinakova’s paintings have been featured by the U.S. Transhumanist Party – including the “City of New Antideath” – a vision of the future which was commissioned for Mr. Stolyarov’s 30th Birthday.

Laura Katrin Weston

Dr Laura Katrin Weston is from England and studied Fine Art before going on to studying Medicine. She is a trained pathologist with a specialism in medical biochemistry and inflammation-related disease. She has used her medical knowledge and professional painting career to support Lifespan.io – one of the biggest life-extension research and advocacy charities. Laura is also vocalist for symphonic metal band Cyclocosmia – a music act that will be trying to raise awareness of transhumanist and human mortality issues in their next upcoming album.

The YouTube question/comment chat for this Q&A session has been archived here and is also provided below.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party Facebook page here.

See the U.S. Transhumanist Party FAQ here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside.

Become a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

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Second Enlightenment Salon – G. Stolyarov II, Bill Andrews, Bobby Ridge, and Scott Jurgens Discuss the Convergence of Technological Advances

Second Enlightenment Salon – G. Stolyarov II, Bill Andrews, Bobby Ridge, and Scott Jurgens Discuss the Convergence of Technological Advances

Gennady Stolyarov II

Bill Andrews

Bobby Ridge

Scott Jurgens


U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II invited Dr. Bill Andrews (the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Biotechnology Advisor), Bobby Ridge (the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Secretary-Treasurer), and Scott Jurgens to his Second Enlightenment Salon, where they shared their thoughts on emerging life-extension research, advances in prosthetics and orthotics, philosophy of science, brain-computer interfaces, and how technologies from a variety of fields are converging to bring about a paradigm shift in the human condition – hopefully within the coming decades.

The Achievements of the U.S. Transhumanist Party in 2017 – Transvision 2017 Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II

The Achievements of the U.S. Transhumanist Party in 2017 – Transvision 2017 Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II

G. Stolyarov II


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, describes the highlights of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s accomplishments in 2017 and outlines some aspirations for the future.

This presentation is intended to be streamed to the Transvision 2017 conference in Brussels, Belgium, on November 9, 2017. See the schedule for the conference here.

Download the accompanying slides, with live links to the referenced content, here.

This video presentation is being offered here to those who are unable to attend the conference but are interested in the Transhumanist Party’s recent progress and future direction.

Find out more about the U.S. Transhumanist Party by visiting its website here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Fill out our Membership Application Form here.

Become a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party. Apply here.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Q&A Session – October 21, 2017

U.S. Transhumanist Party Q&A Session – October 21, 2017

G. Stolyarov II
Martin van der Kroon
Sean Singh
B.J. Murphy


In this interactive question-and-answer session, which occurred at 1 p.m. U.S. Pacific Time on Saturday, October 21, 2017, U.S. Transhumanist Party Officers provided an updated view of the Transhumanist Party’s projects, operations, and achievements, in response to audience questions. Because October is Longevity Month, this Q&A session had a life-extension theme but also delved into various other areas, including how to address conspiracy theories and various approaches toward diet, nutrition, and cultural norms regarding food consumption. The Q&A session has been archived on YouTube here.

The following U.S. Transhumanist Party Officers took part in this Q&A session:

– Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman
– Martin van der Kroon, Director of Recruitment
– Sean Singh, Director of Applied Innovation
– B.J. Murphy, Director of Social Media

The YouTube question/comment chat for this Q&A session has been archived here and is also provided below.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party website here.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party Facebook page here.

See the U.S. Transhumanist Party FAQ here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside.

Become a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

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I am the Lifespan – Video by G. Stolyarov II

I am the Lifespan – Video by G. Stolyarov II

G. Stolyarov II


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, discusses why longevity research is crucial, and how our generation stands on the threshold of finally dealing a decisive blow to the age-old enemies of aging and death, which have destroyed great human minds since the emergence of our species.

This video is part of the #IAmTheLifespan campaign, coordinated by Lifespan.io and the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF) for Longevity Month, October 2017. Read more about this campaign here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Fill out our Membership Application Form here.

Become a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party. Apply here.

Visit the website of the U.S. Transhumanist Party here.

Transhumanism: Contemporary Issues – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II at VSIM:17 Conference in Ravda, Bulgaria

Transhumanism: Contemporary Issues – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II at VSIM:17 Conference in Ravda, Bulgaria

The New Renaissance Hat

G. Stolyarov II


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, outlines common differences in perspectives in three key areas of contemporary transhumanist discourse: artificial intelligence, religion, and privacy. Mr. Stolyarov follows his presentation of each issue with the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s official stances, which endeavor to resolve commonplace debates and find new common ground in these areas. Watch the video of Mr. Stolyarov’s presentation here.

This presentation was delivered by Mr. Stolyarov on September 14, 2017, virtually to the Vanguard Scientific Instruments in Management 2017 (VSIM:17) Conference in Ravda, Bulgaria. Mr. Stolyarov was introduced by Professor Angel Marchev, Sr. –  the organizer of the conference and the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Ambassador to Bulgaria.

After his presentation, Mr. Stolyarov answered questions from the audience on the subjects of the political orientation of transhumanism, what the institutional norms of a transhuman society would look like, and how best to advance transhumanist ideas.

Download and view the slides of Mr. Stolyarov’s presentation (with hyperlinks) here.

Listen to the Transhumanist March (March #12, Op. 78), composed by Mr. Stolyarov in 2014, here.

Visit the website of the U.S. Transhumanist Party here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Fill out our Membership Application Form here.

Become a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party. Apply here.

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion on Prosthetics, Neuroscience, and the Future of Human Potential

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion on Prosthetics, Neuroscience, and the Future of Human Potential

The New Renaissance Hat

G. Stolyarov II

Bobby Ridge

Scott Jurgens

September 18, 2017


References

– Hugh Herr – “The new bionics that let us run, climb, and dance” – TED – March 2014
– LimbForge – Enable Community Foundation
– Autodesk Fusion 360
– Thingiverse
– “Metal Gear Solid 5 Inspires an Amazing Prosthetic Arm” – Kendall Ashley – Nerdist – May 23, 2016

Learn more about the U.S. Transhumanist Party here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Fill out our Membership Application Form here.

Become a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party. Apply here.

The U.S. Transhumanist Party – Pursuing a Peaceful Political Revolution for Longevity – RAAD Fest 2017 Presentation by G. Stolyarov II

The U.S. Transhumanist Party – Pursuing a Peaceful Political Revolution for Longevity – RAAD Fest 2017 Presentation by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
September 2, 2017
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Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, delivered this presentation as the initial speech in the panel discussion he moderated at RAAD Fest 2017 on August 11, 2017, entitled “Advocating for the Future”. The audience consisted of approximately 700 in-person attendees.

Other speakers in the panel included Zoltan Istvan, Ben Goertzel, Max More, and Natasha Vita-More.

Gennady Stolyarov II Prepares to Present and Moderate Panel at RAAD Fest 2017

Gennady Stolyarov II Presents at RAAD Fest 2017

Gennady Stolyarov II Moderates Question-and-Answer Session for Panel: “Advocating for the Future” – RAAD Fest 2017

From left to right, Zoltan Istvan, Gennady Stolyarov II, Max More, Ben Goertzel, and Natasha Vita-More

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party website here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Fill out our Membership Application Form here.

Become a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party. Fill out our Application Form here.

 

The Rational Argumentator’s Fifteenth Anniversary Manifesto

The Rational Argumentator’s Fifteenth Anniversary Manifesto

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
August 31, 2017
******************************

As of today The Rational Argumentator has been in publication continuously for fifteen years – half of my lifetime to date. The more time passes, the more the value of continuity is reinforced for me, and so I hope that these fifteen years have only been an auspicious beginning for The Rational Argumentator. TRA shall continually endeavor to improve and expand in new directions, but always by building upon the old and by remaining rooted in a core identity – the championing of the principles of Reason, Rights, and Progress – the ideas that made Western civilization great. These ideals will hopefully be applied to forge a new global, universal human (and transhuman) civilization which we – all reasonable and decent people who wish to join this effort – can assemble by picking up the pieces of the wreckage of our unfortunate, downward-spiraling moment in history.

We live today in what Robert Heinlein prognosticated in his science fiction as the “Crazy Years”, which he described as exhibiting “Considerable technical advance during this period, accompanied by a gradual deterioration of mores, orientation, and social institutions” – gradual deterioration that became quite sudden and cataclysmic in 2016 and 2017. The climate of contemporary societies and political systems, particularly that of the United States, evokes William Butler Yeats’s famous lines:

  Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The deterioration cannot be attributed to any particular individual or even faction (these are, at most, symptoms), but rather to the fraying general fabric of contemporary Western, particularly American, life. Those who have regularly read the pages of The Rational Argumentator will not be surprised at my view that the deterioration is primarily due to the abandonment of upward aspiration both within mainstream culture and among various subcultures – a rejection of 18th-century Enlightenment meliorism and an embrace of postmodern aimlessness. To reverse this tendency, now, more than ever, it is essential to emphasize the importance of rational inquiry, civil discourse, and the mindset of building a civilization – as opposed to militant subjectivism (where a person considers his or her feelings to be unquestioned dogma – and woe to those who challenge them!), coarse crudity in manners, riotousness, and the mindset of “tearing down the system” in a futile attempt to start from scratch. We cannot and must not start over – for the primitive state of humankind is far worse than our admittedly deeply imperfect morass of institutions and norms. But we can – and we must – repair and build upon the achievements of the past, combining them with new technologies and insights to forge the next great era of our civilization, a project I outline briefly in a two-party video series, “The Great Transhumanist Game”.

Amid the turmoil, I was pleased to see that The Rational Argumentator has gained notice and achieved significant increases in its visitation, receiving 1,087,149 total page views during its fifteenth year, as compared to 823,968 page views the year prior. Cumulative lifetime TRA visitation stands at 10,979,785 page views, and I am confident that the 11-million mark will be exceeded in September 2017. Perhaps more readers are seeking an antidote to the Crazy Years. Reason is that antidote, and these pages provide it in abundance.

During its fifteenth year, TRA published 140 features. While this was a lower rate of publication than the 208 to 314 features published per year in the preceding five years, TRA has at the same time become allied with the United States Transhumanist Party, of which I became Chairman in November 2016. The U.S. Transhumanist Party website has been brimming with new content, contributed by a wide variety of forward-thinking minds, and I am proud that this young but steadily growing organization has published 105 features during my tenure as Chairman thus far. I am also proud of the cadre of volunteer Officers that the U.S. Transhumanist Party has assembled – a team of dedicated advocates for the future, which will hopefully greatly expand with time and become the core of a movement that will transform and redirect society and culture back toward the ideals of reason and amelioration.

Thus, for the upcoming year, I pose an ambitious task for The Rational Argumentator and its readers. Let us make sure that Yeats’s words remain a warning rather than the ever-present reality. The center must hold, and we must ensure that it holds. Each of us can participate in this project. We must become the center upon which human civilization depends for its survival, continuity, and growth. Through both great endeavors and small, routine maintenance tasks; through creation of elevated and noble works, as well as everyday kindnesses to the people in our lives; through the rhetoric that inspires great aspirations and the decorum that conveys respect and uplifts our sentiments into the realm of good will – we must be the agents of cultural transformation – a New Renaissance, a Re-Enlightenment, indeed, a Recivilization to follow the Crazy Years. One of my most inspired moments of the past year has been seeing the finished painting of the City of New Antideath, which I commissioned from artist Ekaterinya Vladinakova. I invite you to gaze upon this colossal cityscape to gain glimpses at an era where all of our major aims – the return of reason as the paradigm for life, the attainment of indefinite longevity, the liberation of humankind from privation and conflict – have been attained. May it inspire you to go forth and take the many necessary incremental steps toward such a world.

This essay may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.