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Markets Are Breaking Down India’s Caste System, Turning Untouchables into Millionaires – Article by Malavika Nair and G. P. Manish

Markets Are Breaking Down India’s Caste System, Turning Untouchables into Millionaires – Article by Malavika Nair and G. P. Manish

The New Renaissance HatMalavika Nair and G. P. Manish
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This year marks the 25th anniversary of liberal reforms in India that led to the dismantling of many socialist economic policies and the end of the draconian License Raj. Liberalization has changed life for many in India over the past couple of decades, although much more remains to be done. Just the middle class alone has exploded from 30 million people in 1991 to 300 million in 2014.

So this is a good occasion to tell the story of perhaps the most unexpected beneficiaries of these reforms: the rising Dalit millionaires. In recent years, many thousands of so-called “untouchables,” or Dalits, members of the lowest group in the Indian caste order, have risen out of poverty to become wealthy business owners, some even millionaires.

By taking advantage of the greater economic opportunity brought about by market reforms, these Dalit entrepreneurs provide us with an important example of the power of markets, not just to bring about economic emancipation, but to fight deeply entrenched social discrimination.

The Plight of the Dalits

The Indian caste system is an ancient and complex social order that divides society into groups based on a somewhat rough division of labor. The Dalits belong to the lowest group, below the four-tiered hierarchy of priests, warriors, merchants and artisans. Traditionally, Dalits were relegated to a life of doing “dirty” jobs such as cleaning floors and toilets or handling garbage: hence gaining the name “untouchable” as others would refuse to come into contact with them.

Since one’s caste was determined by birth, and it was impossible to switch castes throughout one’s life, being born an untouchable meant a lifetime of being trapped in a low income “dirty” job with very low social status. Marriages would only take place among caste members, and hence one’s children would be faced with the same hurdles brought by the untouchable identity, leading to systematic discrimination locked into place for generations.

It isn’t surprising that the Dalits consistently rank near the bottom of poverty statistics in an already poverty-ridden country. The term “poorest of the poor” would be an apt description of their socio-economic status in general. For decades, this made them the targets of several affirmative-action programs as well as many a politician looking to champion a cause.

While affirmative action has helped some get ahead, it has by no means been a panacea. For as long as all industry was state-controlled and subject to extensive licensing, the state effectively made all production decisions and awarded licenses to a few chosen oligarchs. This meant that opportunities for entrepreneurship and business were slim to none, and affirmative-action programs only served to redistribute pieces of a fixed pie from one to another.

Slumdog Millionaires

But there is a new heartwarming trend of entrepreneurship and self-help among Dalits since the liberal reforms in India, especially in urban areas. A visit to the Dalit Chamber of Commerce website (see also the Facebook page) reveals slogans such as “Fight Caste with Capital” and “Be Job givers, not Job seekers” as well as a spokesperson who favorably cites the invisible hand, a la Adam Smith! This voluntary Chamber of Commerce, set up in 2003 to bring Dalit entrepreneurs together, currently has 5,000 members whose enterprises jointly boast over half a billion dollars in sales revenue. The actual number of entrepreneurs in the population is much higher.

To what do they owe their success? Fascinating new qualitative research that tracks the life stories of several of these Dalit entrepreneurs reveals a common thread. The opening up of production processes to market forces created new opportunities like never before. Starting small and scraping together resources and capital, many of these Dalits now run business empires that actually provide employment to upper caste members.

There is Thomas Barnabas who was born into a family of bonded laborers, all eight of whom lived in a one-room house. Thomas recalls being thrown out of an upper caste friend’s home as a child after eating and drinking there because he was “untouchable.” They then proceeded to purify and wash the floor where he sat and threw away the dishes from which he ate.

Thomas now owns an industrial waste recycling and disposal business that has an annual sales revenue of $2.3 million and employs 200 people (including many upper caste members) outside the city of Chennai. He strove to fulfill an unmet demand for the processing of industrial waste generated by large corporations like Samsung, Dell, and Mercedes that set up manufacturing facilities in India after liberalization.

Or there is M.M. Rao, who was just one of two children to get an education in a family of bonded laborers with eight children. His family was so poor that they could not afford to buy shoes. His mother and sister were forced to walk barefoot to work in a nearby town.

Rao now owns a group of companies that specialize in construction, especially in the telecom sector, with a sales revenue of $7.4 million in 2010 alone. He was able to use his education as a civil engineer to start a small sub-contracting business laying telephone cables for large companies after the liberalization of the telecom sector. Owing to the quality of his work as well as his business acumen, he was able to grow that small sub-contracting business into what it is today.

Sushil Patil grew up in a 200-square-foot house in a slum, and his father was a laborer in a factory where he was discriminated against for his low caste status. Sushil was able to complete his engineering degree only because his father had to request the college dean to waive the fees that they could not afford to pay. He recalls, “I can never forget my father bowing before the dean, that hit me hard.” He now owns a construction and engineering company with revenues of $45 million a year. His main business is to handle the construction of power plants for major power companies. He has friends who still live in the slum that he grew up in and hopes to construct a charitable hospital that will offer medical services free of charge to the poor.

Markets Break Down Barriers

These stories constitute but a tiny sliver of many thousands, if not more. They lead us to an interesting question: how is it exactly that markets fight social discrimination? Markets work in very different ways than the obvious and visible hand of state-driven policies. While the state seeks to outlaw and abolish caste identity by making discrimination illegal, markets work in quiet and invisible ways by making caste identity irrelevant.

Competition brings about the existence of meaningful and relevant alternatives that raise the opportunity cost of discrimination for everyone participating in the market. It is in an entrepreneur’s economic interest to hire and contract with those who have the highest marginal productivity regardless of their caste identity. For if he does not, his competitor might potentially steal away profits that he could have earned. The more open and competitive a market, the more true this holds.

Once liberal reforms were put in place, they created choice and opportunity for many like never before. Market forces unwittingly brought about economic and thus social progress for society’s poorest and most discriminated against.

But can we go as far as saying the caste system has withered away? Not at all. It is unfortunately alive and well, especially in the rural areas where 68% of the population still lives, despite its being legally “outlawed” for decades.

Can we say that discrimination melts away in a market setting? Not necessarily. Anyone is free to discriminate on the basis of caste identity, even in a market. However, the greater the economic opportunity out there, the greater the chance that the cost of discrimination will be borne by the discriminator himself, not the one being discriminated against.

This is not true under socialism. When the state has a monopoly over all production and its chosen oligarchs (employers) sell to a captive market, discriminating against a certain group of people does not have negative economic consequences for the employer, but only for the ones being discriminated against. Naysayers claim that this rise among Dalits is marginal and not representative of Dalits as a proportion to the total population of the country. Some are getting ahead, but most are still left behind.

While this may be true in terms of numbers, the fact that this has happened at all is nothing short of marvelous. It’s not a coincidence that there were no Dalit millionaires emerging under socialism. It is a direct consequence of the underlying institutional setting. The Dalits exemplify the theory of the so-called poverty trap: being locked into a low-income equilibrium for generations. And yet, given a little opportunity and choice, we see many leaving a life of poverty and social discrimination behind to become well-respected business leaders and philanthropists.

Most encouraging is the recognition among them that it is the invisible hand of the market that has been instrumental for social and economic progress in their community. It is a step in the right direction for the future of classical liberalism and its role in alleviating poverty at a time when many who are more fortunate seem to be forgetting or ignoring its importance.

References

  1. The unexpected rise of Dalit millionaires: Swaminathan Aiyar
  2. Capitalism is changing caste much faster than any human being: Shekhar Gupta
  3. Defying the odds: The Rise of Dalit Entrepreneurs: Devesh Kapur, D Shyam Babu, Chandra Bhan Prasad
  4. Capitalism’s Assault on the Indian caste system: Swaminathan Aiyar, Cato policy paper
  5. 5. Dalit Chamber of Commerce website: www.dicci.org.

Malavika Nair is an Assistant Professor of Economics in the Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University. She is also an associated scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

G.P. Manish is an Assistant Professor of Economics in the Sorrell College of Business and a member of the Manuel H. Johnson Center of Political Economy at Troy University.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the authors.

Earth Day’s Subtle Pollution – Article by Edward Hudgins

Earth Day’s Subtle Pollution – Article by Edward Hudgins

The New Renaissance HatEdward Hudgins
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On the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, my high school class traveled to the Mall in D.C. to mark the occasion. Me? I skipped the trip. Instead, I stayed home to watch the crippled Apollo 13 spacecraft return to Earth. My classmates and I had different values. And in the years since, I’ve watched as some of the sub-rosa values of Earth Day have spread to pollute our culture.

save-the-planet-kill-yourselfEarth Day as soft indoctrination

To get the obvious out of the way, it is valid to be concerned about the measurable adverse effects on human health of raw sewage, or toxic waste dumped into rivers, or poisonous factory fumes pumped out to choking lungs. But that concern has metastasized into a cultural hypochondria, a fear that everything created by humans is dangerous and, worse, is dangerous to an abstraction called “the environment” rather than to humans. What happened? For four and a half decades Earth Day has spread a form of soft indoctrination. Every year, school kids cut out little paper trees and leaves, visit recycling plants, watch Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance, and are generally asked by teachers, “What are you doing to help the environment?” Local news reporters visit the Earth Day Greenpeace booths at the town park and interview local politicos or business folks about how they are conserving the planet.
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All value is for humans

What’s missing from this picture? Humans! Certainly the messages are mixed. Certainly there is talk about our kids living healthier lives if they are not exposed to carcinogens and the like. But the subtle shift fostered by this annual April ritual is from the material world being of value to humans to the material world being of value in and of itself.

Forests are of value to humans because we can use their trees for lumber for our houses—good for our material well-being—or walk through them to enjoy their beauty—good for our spiritual well-being. But they are not of value in and of themselves. Yet Earth Day has conditioned two generations to anthropomorphize forests, rivers, oceans, and “the environment” as entities with rights apart from us, the conscious valuers. And these two generations are now susceptible to the appeals of the environmental extremists who argue, in essence, that humans are trespassers on the planet. Thus, we see arguments for public policies that would demonstrably harm humans, especially those in less developed countries.

The value of technology and achievement

Worse, an unthinking regard for the environment blinds many to real future challenges and their only solutions. As poorer countries develop higher living standards, they will not be able to consume resources at the rate Western countries did when they were industrializing. New technologies that allow for more efficient and, as a result, less polluting ways to use resources will be essential. Technology is what created cities, skyscrapers, factories, trains, planes, cars, rockets, and most things that radical environmentalists want to curtail. Technologies are achievements of the human mind that, in turn, empower us to achieve more in our lives and in the world.

31st_centuryThis vision of the future is already grating on those who have been poisoned by the subtle extremist message of Earth Day. But the achievements in recent decades in information technology and the emerging achievements in nanotech, biotech, and artificial intelligence are causing many young people especially to shake off the destructive Earth Day ideology. These individuals understand not only that technology will help us meet true challenges to human well-being. They also appreciate that human well-being is the standard of value.

Let’s hope that in the future Earth Day is superseded by Human Achievement Day!

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.

Progress: Creation and Maintenance (2010) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Progress: Creation and Maintenance (2010) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
Originally Published March 8, 2010
as Part of Issue CCXXXVIII of The Rational Argumentator
Republished July 22, 2014
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally published as part of Issue CCXXXVIII of The Rational Argumentator on March 8, 2010, using the Yahoo! Voices publishing platform. Because of the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices, the essay is now being made directly available on The Rational Argumentator.
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 22, 2014
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The audio version of this essay is read by Wendy Stolyarov. You can also download this audio essay as an MP3 file here. 

One frequently encounters the identification of human creativity and inventiveness as driving forces for progress in technology and society. In part, this identification is correct: it is through the human creative faculty – the ability to bring forth new combinations of matter and new ideas – that improvements to the human condition arise. But while creation is a necessary component to progress, it is not a sufficient component.

Consider that the human creative faculty has existed since the emergence of our species; even cave dwellers exhibited it, to the extent that they could take even a little leisure time in their highly dangerous, subsistence-based lives. Cave paintings and tools from several tens of thousands of years ago show clearly that our remote ancestors had the ability, and the desire, to reshape the world in an attempt to improve their condition. And yet, for the vast majority of human history – up until the 18th-century Enlightenment and the subsequent Industrial Revolution – real progress has been so slow and minuscule as to be virtually imperceptible within an ordinary person’s lifetime. This was the case despite the fact that every generation had its share of great thinkers, artists, and even mechanical tinkerers.

The other necessary component of progress is maintenance of what has already been created. While creation is an ever-present ability within human beings, there are also destructive forces that counteract and diminish its fruits. Nature itself is the source of many such forces: disease, decay, and death are omnipresent unless counteracted by arduous and continual human effort. Just as billions of lives have been lost in complete oblivion to the ravages of “natural causes” – from catastrophic disasters to senescence – so have innumerable works of art, architecture, literature, and technology been lost to these perils. Consider that even the extant works of great known philosophers such as Aristotle or composers such as Georg Philipp Telemann are a fraction of what these great men of the past are known to have created, but which was buried by the sands of time. Imagine, also, what the pitifully short lifespans throughout most human history did to diminish the output of creative geniuses, who, in better times, might have continued to innovate for decades more.

Maintenance is the ability to preserve and transmit existing knowledge, techniques, and objects. It can be performed through sheer effort of will – but only to a point. A European monk or an Arabic scholar in the Middle Ages could spend a lifetime meticulously copying by hand a single book from centuries before his time, only to have it vandalized by one of his successors some generations hence. Even the work of Archimedes was subjected to such savage mistreatment.

Since the Industrial Revolution, and especially since the Information Revolution, the techniques for the preservation of physical goods and knowledge have become tremendously more reliable than was possible in premodern societies. The ability to make multiple copies of an object and potentially inexhaustible copies of an idea – and to maintain detailed visual, textual, and auditory records of particular times, places, and activities, with little effort by historical standards, has preserved many of the accomplishments of prior and current thinkers for the creative faculties of humans to expand upon.

It is doubtful that we, in our time, are inherently more creative than our ancestors. But we do have a much more diverse and advanced subject matter to which to apply our creativity. Where we are free to do so, we may arrange these building blocks of innovation in much the same way that our ancestors arranged sticks and stones – except that the consequences of our actions are much more powerful, life-enhancing, and durable. Our infrastructure and our methods for maintaining and transmitting knowledge separate us from our ancestors to the extent that, to them, we would be as gods.

And yet, none of the wonders that enable progress in our time are ever guaranteed to continue, though not due to inanimate nature and lower life forms alone; those have always been in a steady retreat wherever human reason and productivity were unleashed at anywhere near their fullest extent. But the folly, ignorance, sloth, and envy of other men can all too easily slow the growth of progress-nourishing infrastructure to a crawl, or even reverse it and usher in a new Dark Ages. Coercive policies, economic misconduct and capital consumption, massive wars, widespread prohibitions on peaceful and productive activities, superstitions and irrational taboos, pervasive and disproportionate fears – as embodied in the environmentalists’ progress-killing “precautionary principle” – and a desire for “security” over liberty, for “tradition” over growth, and for stasis over innovation, are all forces that counteract and threaten the maintenance of our civilization. In most times and places, only a handful of people have been immune to deleterious anti-progressive beliefs and their consequences, but there is no reason why we cannot all rise above such anti-life thinking. We all have the creative faculty in us, and we can all think.

The importance of maintenance to human progress can be carried into the life of the individual with profound consequences that can produce massive personal growth and productivity via a change of habits. A mere creation of reproducible records of one’s past achievements – and their publication on the Internet, where possible – can create a formidable store of knowledge to which the creator and others can refer and which they can build upon. The concepts of open-source software and distributed computing, for instance, are built on this elementary principle, but it can be applied to so many more areas of life. The creative faculty is with us every day, and every day it produces original ideas and methods for improving our lives. But, without adequate maintenance – including the establishment of a concrete form for these innovations – these gifts from within our minds will fade away into insignificance, much like the ruins of antiquity. Developing an improved infrastructure for the products of one’s own mind may be the first step toward revitalizing the infrastructure of civilization itself.

Click here to read more articles in Issue CCXXXVIII of The Rational Argumentator.

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Illiberal Belief #24: The World is a Scary Place – Article by Bradley Doucet

Illiberal Belief #24: The World is a Scary Place – Article by Bradley Doucet

The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
June 9, 2013
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Will the world end with a bang or with a whimper? Will terrorists shake the very foundations of civilization by setting off suitcase nukes in major world cities, or will the continuing contamination of the environment with toxic man-made chemicals give everyone on the planet terminal cancer? One way or another, the apocalypse, it seems, is just around the corner. Or is it?
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In fact, neither of these fears is anywhere near as threatening as many people believe them to be. Dan Gardner, columnist and senior writer for the Ottawa Citizen, has written a book called Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear, published last year and newly available in paperback, in which he tries to put such fears in perspective. According to Gardner, even factoring in the 3000 deaths from the unprecedented destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001, Americans are more likely in any given year to be unintentionally electrocuted than to be killed in a terrorist attack. Of course, the real fear is that terrorists will get their hands on nuclear weapons. But while this risk does exist, there are also very substantial obstacles that make such a scenario extremely unlikely. Even if, against all odds, a terrorist organization managed to detonate a nuclear bomb in a major American city, killing on the order of 100,000 people, this would be roughly equivalent to the number of Americans killed each year by diabetes, or by accidents, or by infections contracted in hospitals.As for the fear that toxic man-made chemicals are responsible for increasing incidences of cancer, it hides several misconceptions. For one, it implies that the natural is good and that the man-made is bad. In fact, most pesticides, for instance, are not man-made but occur naturally in the foods we eat. Our fear of toxic chemicals also tends to ignore any consideration of dose, since we tend to panic over insignificant parts per billion that are far below the thresholds found to kill lab rats. As toxicologists are fond of repeating, even water is poisonous in large enough quantities. The fear of environmental chemicals, natural or man-made, is also misplaced in that the American Cancer Society estimates they are responsible for only 2 percent of all cancers, as compared to lifestyle factors (smoking, drinking, diet, obesity, and exercise) that account for a whopping 65 percent. Finally, when adjusted for age and improved screening procedures, incidence rates for all cancers except lung cancer are actually declining, not increasing.
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The Great Riddle

Why are we so much more afraid of terrorism than diabetes? Why do we pay so much attention to minuscule environmental hazards while essentially ignoring much larger lifestyle risks? Contrasting Europeans’ blasé smoking habits with their outsized fear of genetically modified organisms, Gardner writes, “Surely one of the great riddles to be answered by science is how the same person who doesn’t think twice about lighting a Gauloise will march in the streets demanding a ban on products that have never been proven to have caused so much as a single case of indigestion.” To take just one more example, we fear statistically non-existent threats like child abduction and therefore keep our kids indoors, depriving them of exercise and contributing to sedentary lifestyles that have a very real chance of cutting years off of their lives.

The answers to this “great riddle” are partly to be found in human nature. We have gut reactions to dangers that are more dramatic, like terrorist attacks and plane crashes. These rare events also are more likely to make the news, both because of their drama and because of their rarity. Another thousand people died today from heart disease? Ho-hum. Fifty people died in a plane crash? That hasn’t happened in months or years, and the visuals are exciting, so that’s news!

Be Afraid… Be Very Afraid

Irrational fears not only lead us to make bad choices, like driving instead of flying, which place us in greater danger. They also allow government officials to manipulate us more effectively and insinuate themselves more deeply into more and more areas of our lives. The disproportionate fear of terrorism has been nurtured and used to justify a protocol of time-consuming security checks at airports, the warrantless wiretapping of phone calls, the tightening of international borders, and of course, two ongoing wars with huge costs both in terms of lives and money. The exaggerated fear of environmental dangers, for its part, has led to increased taxation and regulation of production, empowering bureaucrats and lobbyists while acting as a drag on innovations and economic growth that could be of even greater benefit to human life and flourishing. (See Gennady Stolyarov II’s “Eden Is an Illusion”.)

We are prone to fear all kinds of things we really shouldn’t, fears that can be and are reinforced by the media out to tell an entertaining story; by companies out to sell us an alarm system or a new drug; by activists or non-governmental organizations out to elicit donations and support; and by politicians out to win elections and accumulate power. The only way to counteract this is to inform ourselves about relative risks and becoming comfortable dealing with numbers and statistics in general.

There is no such thing as a risk-free world, but despite the real dangers that exist, we in the developed world in the twenty-first century are better off than any other people who have ever lived. We have our human ingenuity to thank for the startling advances in fighting diseases and increasing lifespans that characterize our time. We shouldn’t let our equally human irrational fears get the better of us and push us into giving up our freedom in exchange for ersatz safety.

Bradley Doucet is Le Quebecois Libré‘s English Editor. A writer living in Montreal, he has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness.

Join the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension: The Most Forward-Thinking Minds Are Not Alone – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Join the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension: The Most Forward-Thinking Minds Are Not Alone – Video by G. Stolyarov II

​Help humankind defeat senescence and death by joining the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension (MILE). The MILE offers a way to gauge awareness of and support for indefinite life extension. One of the easiest and most important ways you can begin to make a difference in helping bring indefinite life extension about is to (1) go to the MILE Facebook page, (2) like the MILE on Facebook, (3) read and share the many informational, scientific, and philosophical pieces made available daily on the MILE page, and (4) spread the word to your friends and acquaintances who are already sympathetic to indefinite life extension.

References

The MILE Facebook Page or http://themile.info

– “Join the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension: The Most Forward-Thinking Minds Are Not Alone” – Essay by G. Stolyarov II

Supporter of Indefinite Life Extension Open Badge

Open Badges on Indefinite Life Extension

Resources on Indefinite Life Extension (RILE)

Rosetta@home

Folding@home

World Community Grid

Join the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension: The Most Forward-Thinking Minds Are Not Alone – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Join the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension: The Most Forward-Thinking Minds Are Not Alone – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
March 31, 2013
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Support for indefinite human life extension is a powerful, intellectually compelling, intuitive position. The best minds will arrive at it on their own, often quite early in life. The sheer injustice of a forced termination of life for a person who has committed no crime and harmed no fellow humans is enough to make a person of intelligence and decency recoil and resist.

Yet the society immediately surrounding the thoughtful proponent of indefinite life extension often does not agree. Culturally ingrained acceptance of “natural” death – be it the result of religion, tradition, Malthusianism, status quo bias or plain resignation – still has a hold on the majority of people. Often this leaves the forward-thinking critic of senescence and death feeling isolated and discouraged.

MILE_graphic

But it does not have to be this way. With the Internet, geographic separation no longer implies a separation of contact. Thinkers from around the world, who have independently come to the same realization regarding the supreme injustice of mandatory death for all, can find one another, share ideas, and cooperate toward achieving radical life extension in our lifetimes.

But to cooperate effectively, we need an effective way of knowing how many of us there are, what our fellow friends of long life are able to do and have accomplished already, what discoveries and breakthroughs scientists are releasing into the world, and where we can invest our own talents to accelerate the arrival of a time when increasing life expectancy will outpace the advent of senescence.

This is where the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension (MILE) comes in. The MILE Facebook page offers a way to gauge awareness of and support for indefinite life extension. One of the easiest and most important ways you can begin to make a difference in helping bring indefinite life extension about is to (1) go to the MILE Facebook page, (2) like the MILE on Facebook, (3) read and share the many informational, scientific, and philosophical pieces made available daily on the MILE page, and (4) spread the word to your friends and acquaintances who are already sympathetic to indefinite life extension.

The MILE aims to identify how many of us throughout the world already support indefinite life extension. Once this base of supporters is established, it will become easier to expand it by reaching out to others and spreading awareness that medical science may put the greatest triumph of all within our personal grasp. The MILE seeks to increase its supporters by an order of magnitude every year. The July 1, 2012, goal of 80 supporters was easily met. By July 1, 2013, the goal is to accumulate 800 supporters. By July 1, 2017, if the MILE can achieve 8 million supporters, we will have a critical mass of people to catalyze massive societal change – from investment into life-saving, life-extending research to political reforms that ensure that obsolete restrictions and special-interest privileges do not stand in the way of medical progress.

The MILE has fewer than 300 supporters left to reach its proximate goal. If you have not already spent five seconds going to the MILE Facebook page and clicking the “Like” button, I encourage you to do so at the earliest opportunity. If you have done so, you have my thanks and the thanks of all of us whose eventual long-term survival may be bolstered by your increment of support. We welcome and encourage your support in spreading the word to others who have already arrived at the realization that achieving radically longer lives is an urgent moral imperative. Surely, there are more than 800 of us out there already.  We want to find out about and empower every person who has ever discovered the importance of indefinite life extension, so that the brilliant spark of aspiration will never be extinguished in any such thinker from lack of fuel.

There is more that you can do to show your support for indefinite life extension.

er of Indefinite Life Extension
Badge awarded for being a supporter of extending human lifespans beyond any fixed limit.

* Get the free Supporter of Indefinite Life Extension Open Badge.

* Read and watch an abundance of Resources on Indefinite Life Extension.

* Write articles, create videos, and engage in regular discussions on this vital subject.

* Run a distributed computing project, such as Rosetta@home, Folding@home, and World Community Grid.

* Come up with opportunities for education and activism that will help spread awareness of indefinite life extension and encourage widespread support.

No matter who you are, or how new the ideas of indefinite life extension are to you, we would be delighted by your participation in the MILE and look forward to welcoming you as a valuable ally.

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

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

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.


Leaderboard: Enemy of Ruin Quiz

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The Movement for Indefinite Life Extension: The Next Step for Humankind – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The Movement for Indefinite Life Extension: The Next Step for Humankind – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 14, 2012
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An old cliché would have us believe that nothing is inevitable except death and taxes. The Movement for Indefinite Life Extension (MILE) respectfully disagrees. Increasing numbers of people are coming to the conclusion that there is nothing natural or inevitable about the decrepitude and vulnerability that accompanies old age in humans. Nature already offers examples of ways to avoid our predicament. Many other animal species are negligibly senescent; they do not experience significant biological decay with time and have much longer life expectancies than we do. Scientific advances in biotechnology, nanotechnology, medicine, and computing offer humankind the possibility to radically extend lifespans beyond anything seen in history.

Does this sound utopian or unattainable? That depends on your historical perspective. Inventions from the horseless carriage to powered flight were considered impossible by “experts” – until they became reality. Today we drive automobiles and fly on airplanes routinely. In a few decades – with sufficient determination, resources, and public support – we could be living much longer than any of our ancestors, while retaining our youthful vigor and resilience.

Too many people fall prey to the unfortunate status quo bias – the assumption that the way matters happen to be today is the way they have always been and always will be. In fact, colossal changes are possible and happen all around us. Each generation finds itself in a dramatically different world. Chances are that you already lived through the revolution caused by the Internet and personal electronic technology. With the pace of technological, societal, intellectual, and political change accelerating, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the stability of the status quo is an illusion. We are always going somewhere: let us make it the best destination possible, and let us exert every effort to make sure that we get there as individuals.

In a world of accelerating change, our bodies and minds will need to be enhanced and maintained in their prime in order to keep up with the improved knowledge and technology available – and to contribute to further improvements. This virtuous cycle will enable human beings to transcend limitations previously considered insurmountable, and to solve age-old problems: war, poverty, crime, pollution, tyranny, and the existential threat to our species from natural disasters and human follies. The longer people live, the more motivated they will be to think in the long term and to invest in the future. They will know that their actions will have consequences for them personally, not just for remote unspecified descendants. People will have more time to learn and to work – but also more time to enjoy life and follow their dreams. Almost everyone wants the good life. The MILE wants to help make that good life a reality. The job of the MILE is to show a clear path toward radical improvement for good people everywhere.

The MILE embodies a combination of scientific, technological, philosophical, philanthropic, and even esthetic aspirations. Every skill set – from research to public relations – can find an application to the grand goal of indefinite life extension. There is no single leader or hierarchy in the MILE. You can be a leader and an example to others through your work on one of the many fronts in the war on death and decay. The MILE is a tolerant and diverse movement that welcomes a wide range of people and intellectual persuasions. Whatever your age, gender, culture, country of origin, place of residency, religion (or lack thereof), occupation, or lifestyle – as long as you love life and wish to cultivate and lengthen it, the MILE welcomes you. The MILE will deploy an increasing array of tools to help empower you and motivate you to contribute. By joining the MILE, you will not only become part of the most profound improvement in human history – indefinite life extension; you will also enjoy doing it.

The future is in our hands. The innovations of our ancestors made possible our current historically high standards of living. Today we can take the next step and secure the future for those who are alive and wish to remain that way. Death is indeed not inevitable if we deploy knowledge, persistence, and persuasive skill in achieving the needed commitment from humankind.

More of Everything for Everyone – Article by Bradley Doucet

More of Everything for Everyone – Article by Bradley Doucet

The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
July 4, 2012
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At any given time, I like to be reading one fiction and one non-fiction book. Rarely, though, do my choices dovetail as serendipitously as they did just recently when I was reading Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think (2012) by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler alongside The Diamond Age (1995) by Neal Stephenson. The former is a look at the world-changing technologies coming down the pipe in a variety of fields that promise a brighter future for all of humanity. The latter is a story set in such a future, where diamonds are cheaper than glass.If Stephenson’s world of inexpensive diamonds sounds farfetched to you, consider the entirely factual tale that Diamandis and Kotler use to kick off their book. Once upon a time, you see, aluminum was the world’s most precious metal. As late as the 1800s, aluminum utensils were reserved for the most honoured guests at royal banquets, the other guests having to make do with mere gold utensils. But in fact, aluminum is the third most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, behind oxygen and silicon. It makes up 8.3 percent of the mass of the planet. But it is never found in nature as a pure metal, and early procedures for separating it out of the claylike material called bauxite were prohibitively expensive. Modern procedures have made it so ubiquitous and cheap that we wrap our food in it and then discard it without so much as a second thought.

The moral of the story is that scarcity is often contextual. Technology, as the authors explain, is a “resource-liberating mechanism.” And the technologies being developed right now have the power to liberate enough resources to feed, clothe, educate, and free the world.

The Future Looks Bright

Peter Diamandis is the Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, best known for the $10-million Ansari X PRIZE that launched the private spaceflight industry. He conceived of the project back in 1993 after reading Charles Lindbergh’s The Spirit of St-Louis (1954) and learning about the $25,000 prize funded by Raymond Orteig that spurred Lindbergh to make the first ever non-stop flight from New York to Paris in 1927. Diamandis also holds degrees in molecular biology and aerospace engineering from MIT and a medical degree from Harvard.

Diamandis and his co-author, best-selling writer and journalist Steven Kotler, do not attempt to paper over the plight of the world’s poor, who still lack adequate clean water, food, energy, health care, and education. Still, there has been significant progress “at the bottom” in the past four decades. “During that stretch, the developing world has seen longer life expectancies, lower infant mortality rates, better access to information, communication, education, potential avenues out of poverty, quality health care, political freedoms, economic freedoms, sexual freedoms, human rights, and saved time.”

It is technology that has improved the lot of many of the world’s poor, and in Abundance, we get a quick tour of dozens of the latest exponential technologies that are poised to make serious dents in humanity’s remaining scarcity problems. There is the Lifesaver water purification system, the jerry can version of which can produce 25,000 litres of safe drinking water, enough for a family of four for three years, for only half a cent a day. There is aeroponic vertical farming—essentially a skyscraper filled with suspended plants on every floor being fed through a nutrient-rich mist—which requires 80 percent less land, 90 percent less water, and 100 percent fewer pesticides than current farming practices. There are advances that promise to make solar power more affordable and easier to store, which is going to be huge given that “[t]here is more energy in the sunlight that strikes the Earth’s surface in an hour than all the fossil energy consumed in one year.”

Stephenson’s The Diamond Age actually gets a mention in the chapter on education thanks to its depiction of what experts in artificial intelligence (AI) refer to as a “lifelong learning companion,” which has a central role to play in the novel. The Khan Academy has already shaken things up with its 2,000+ free online educational videos and two million visitors a month as of the summer of 2011. But things will be shaken up again soon enough by these AI tutors that “track learning over the course of one’s lifetime, both insuring a mastery-level education and making exquisitely personalized recommendations about what exactly a student should learn next.” With mobile telephony already sweeping the developing world and with smartphones getting cheaper and more powerful with each passing year, it won’t be long before there’s an AI tutor in every pocket.

Abundance, Freedom, and the Ultimate Resource

To sum up, in the world of the future, although there will be more humans on the planet, each one of us will be far wealthier on average than we are today. We will have more water, more food, more energy, more education, more health care, and make less of an impact on the natural environment to boot. And the healthy, educated, well-fed inhabitants of the world of tomorrow will be freer as well, no longer kept down by force of arms and blight of ignorance. We’ve already had a glimpse of what mobile phones and information technology can accomplish in last year’s Arab Spring, regardless of whether or not Egypt has made the most of the opportunity.

Not that we should be complacent, though. There are no guarantees, and any number of factors could derail us from the path we’re on. But there are powerful forces pushing us in a positive direction. The X PRIZE Foundation is doing its best to spur innovation with various prizes modelled after its initial success. Technophilanthropists like Bill Gates are also doing their part. And then there are the poor themselves, the bottom billions who are becoming the rising billions. As Diamandis and Kotler write, echoing the late Julian Simon, author of The Ultimate Resource:

[T]he greatest tool we have for tackling our grand challenges is the human mind. The information and communications revolution now underway is rapidly spreading across the planet. Over the next eight years, three billion new individuals will be coming online, joining the global conversation, and contributing to the global economy. Their ideas—ideas we’ve never before had access to—will result in new discoveries, products, and inventions that will benefit us all.

I still have a hundred pages or so to go in The Diamond Age, so I don’t know how that story turns out. But in the real world, all signs point to technology-fuelled increases in abundance and freedom in the poorest regions of the planet over the next couple of decades. Abundance encourages us to do everything we can to help those technologies develop and spread, to the benefit of the entire human race.

Bradley Doucet is Le Quebecois Libré‘s English Editor. 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.
A Libertarian Transhumanist Critique of Jeffrey Tucker’s “A Lesson in Mortality” – Audio Essay by G. Stolyarov II, Read by Wendy Stolyarov

A Libertarian Transhumanist Critique of Jeffrey Tucker’s “A Lesson in Mortality” – Audio Essay by G. Stolyarov II, Read by Wendy Stolyarov

Mr. Stolyarov, a libertarian transhumanist, offers a rebuttal to the arguments in Jeffrey Tucker’s 2005 essay, “A Lesson in Mortality“.

This essay is read by Wendy Stolyarov.

As a libertarian transhumanist, Mr. Stolyarov sees the defeat of “inevitable” human mortality as the logical outcome of the intertwined forces of free markets and technological progress – the very forces about which Mr. Tucker writes at length.

Read the text of Mr. Stolyarov’s essay here.
Download the MP3 file of this essay here.
Download a vast compendium of audio essays by Mr. Stolyarov and others at TRA Audio.

References

It’s a Jetsons World – Book by Jeffrey Tucker
– “Without Rejecting IP, Progress is Impossible” – Essay by Jeffrey Tucker – July 18, 2010
– “The Quest for Indefinite Life II: The Seven Deadly Things and Why There Are Only Seven” – Essay by Dr. Aubrey de Grey – July 30, 2004
Resources on Indefinite Life Extension (RILE)
– “How Can I Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self” – Essay by G. Stolyarov II