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Beautifying the Universe – Article by Kyrel Zantonavitch

Beautifying the Universe – Article by Kyrel Zantonavitch

The New Renaissance Hat
Kyrel Zantonavitch
February 18, 2015
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Human beings naturally, healthily, nobly, and heroically seek to live and thrive, with the maximum possible quantity and quality of life.

Humans are god-like creatures, at least potentially, who concoct their own purpose, and find their own meaning. Family, friends, humankind, and the gods can’t supply these.

The Holy Individual naturally and nobly strives for greatness and happiness – and even for sublime transcendence. He attains all of this – if he can – via success and triumph in his battles, and accomplishment and achievement in his work.

The potentially magnificent human individual observes the universe, his fellow man, himself, and all of life. He uses his insight and wisdom to conquer knowledge and draw powerful conclusions. Upon these he develops his sacred hopes and dreams – and then tries to realize them. He works and fights and struggles to move them from the realm of fantasy to the realm of reality.

Human beings need to make the world a better place, both socially and materially, i.e. both improving society and the physical environment. After all, the individual intimately lives in both. They exist for him to use and manipulate – so he should exploit them to the max.

But as a kind of partner to society and the environment – who naturally seeks integration and harmony with them – a proper individual strives to enhance and uplift them as well. He needs to leave the world a better place than he found it.

The ultimate purpose of life seems to be to make the cosmos more beautiful. To render it more organized and harmonious. To leave it more ordered and useful.

It’s the sacred moral duty of every man to make his world less random and chaotic – less metaphysically empty and dead. To render it resonantly more alive, exciting, and intense – if he can. The naturally disintegrating universe needs to be made more well-groomed and exuberant.

The cosmos needs to become more aware of itself. To be ever more all-seeing, and yet successfully introspective too. Ever more cohesive, coherent, self-driven, and self-controlled. Ever more wonderful and lovely to behold.

Art is the most important part of life in many respects. Especially visual and audio art, such as paintings and music. Man is the artistic animal.

A vivacious, dynamic, heroic life is itself a kind of work of art. And it seems to potentially live on forever via memory and records – and eventually via time/space warps and time/space travel.

The universe may be fundamentally cold and indifferent – but it’s always watching. And if a given human being is sufficiently good and great – the cosmos will enjoy and remember him forever.

Kyrel Zantonavitch is the founder of The Liberal Institute  (http://www.liberalinstitute.com/) and author of Pure Liberal Fire: Brief Essays on the New, General, and Perfected Philosophy of Western Liberalism.

Minuet #4 (Triumphal Minuet), Op. 36 (2004) – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II

Minuet #4 (Triumphal Minuet), Op. 36 (2004) – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
September 27, 2014
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Mr. Stolyarov composed this classically inspired minuet for piano in 2004. It conveys a mood of achievement, celebration, and forward-looking aspiration.

This work was remastered using the SynthFont2 software, with the Evanescence 2 and GMR Basico 1.1 instrument packs.

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s compositions, all available for free download, here.

The artwork is Mr. Stolyarov’s Abstract Orderism Fractal 56, available for download here and here.
Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational high culture to others.
Noble Aspirations, Op. 42 (2005) – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Noble Aspirations, Op. 42 (2005) – Video by G. Stolyarov II

This 2005 composition by Mr. Stolyarov illustrates the virtue and reward of striving for truth, beauty, and accomplishment in all things.

This work was remastered using the SynthFont2 software, with the Evanescence 2 and GMR Basico 1.1 instrument packs.

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s compositions, all available for free download, here.

The artwork is Mr. Stolyarov’s Abstract Orderism Fractal 53, available for download here and here.

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

Morality Needs Immortality to Live – Article by Franco Cortese

Morality Needs Immortality to Live – Article by Franco Cortese

“In Order to be Go(o)d, We Can’t Die!” Says Kant

The New Renaissance Hat
Franco Cortese
May 2, 2013
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Dead Immortalist Sequence –  #1: Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

Kant is often misconstrued as advocating radical conformity amongst people, a common misconception drawn from his Categorical Imperative, which states that each should act as though the rules underlying his actions can be made a universal moral maxim. The extent of this universality, however, stops at the notion that each man should act as though the aspiration towards morality were a universal maxim. All Kant meant, I argue, was that each man should act as though the aspiration toward greater morality were able to be willed as a universal moral maxim.

This common misconception serves to illustrate another common and illegitimate portrayal of the Enlightenment tradition. Too often is the Enlightenment libeled for its failure to realize the ideal society. Too often is it characterized most essentially by its glorification of strict rationality, which engenders invalid connotations of stagnant, statuesque perfection – a connotation perhaps aided by the Enlightenment’s valorization of the scientific method, and its connotations of stringent and unvarying procedure and methodology in turn. This takes the prized heart of the Enlightenment tradition and flips it on its capsized ass. This conception of the Enlightenment tradition is not only wrong, but antithetical to the true organizing gestalt and prime impetus underlying the Age of the Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment wasn’t about realizing the perfect society but rather about idealizing the perfect society – the striving towards an ever-inactualized ideal which, once realized, would cease to be ideal for that very reason. The Enlightenment was about unending progress towards that ideal state – for both Man as society and man as singular splinter – of an infinite forward march towards perfection, which, upon definitively reaching perfection, will have failed to achieve its first-sought prize. The virtue of the Enlightenment lies in the virtual, and its perfection in the infinite perfectibility inherent in imperfection.

This truer, though admittedly less normative, interpretation of the Enlightenment tradition, taking into account its underlying motivations and projected utilities – rather than simply taking flittered glints from the fallacious surface and holding them up for solid, tangible truth – also serves to show the parallels between the Enlightenment gestalt and Transhumanism. James Hughes, for one, characterizes Transhumanism as a child of the Enlightenment Tradition [1].

One can see with intuitive lucidity that characterizing the Enlightenment’s valorization of rationality goes against the very underlying driver of that valorization. Rationality was exalted during the Age of Enlightenment for its potential to aid in skepticism toward tradition. Leave the chiseled and unmoving, petty perfection of the statue for the religious traditions the Enlightenment was rebelling against – the inviolable God with preordained plan, perfect for his completion and wielding total authority over the static substance of Man; give the Enlightenment rather the starmolten fire-afury and undulate aspiration toward ever-forth-becoming highers that it sprang from in the first place. The very aspects which cause us to characterize the enlightenment as limiting, rigid, and unmolten are those very ideals that, if never realized definitively – if instead made to form an ongoing indefinite infinity – would thereby characterize the Enlightenment tradition as a righteous roiling rebellion against limitation and rigour – as a flighty dive into the molten maelstrom of continuing mentation toward better and truer versions of ourselves and society that was its real underlying impetus from the beginning.

This truer gestalt of the Enlightenment impinges fittingly upon the present study. Kant is often considered one of the fathers of the Enlightenment. In a short essay entitled “What is the Enlightenment?” [2], Kant characterizes the essential archetype of Man (as seen through the lens of the Enlightenment) in a way wholly in opposition to the illegitimate conceptions of the Enlightenment described above – and in vehement agreement with the less-normative interpretation of the Enlightenment that followed. It is often assumed, much in line with such misconceptions, that the archetype of Man during the Age of the Enlightenment was characterized by rational rigour and scientific stringency. However, this archetype of the mindless, mechanical automaton was the antithesis of Man’s then-contemporary archetype; the automaton was considered rather the archetype of animality – which can be seen as antithetical to the Enlightenment’s take on Man’s essence, with its heady rationality and lofty grasping towards higher ideals. In his essay, Kant characterizes the Enlightenment’s archetype of Man as the rebellious schoolboy who cannot and shall not be disciplined into sordid subservience by his schoolmasters. Here Kant concurs gravely from beyond the grave that Man’s sole central and incessant essence is his ongoing self-dissent, his eschewing of perverse obligation, his disleashing the weathered tethers of limitation, and his ongoing battle with himself for his own self-creation.

It is this very notion of infinite progress towards endlessly perfectable states of projected perfection that, too, underlies his ties to Immortalism. Indeed, his claim that to retain morality we must have comprehensively unending lives – that is, we must never ever die – rests crucially on this premise.

In his Theory of Ethics [3] under “Part III: The Summum Bonum, God and Immortality” [4], Kant argues that his theory of ethics necessitates the immortality of the soul in order to remain valid according to the axioms it adheres to. This is nothing less than a legitimation of the desirability of personal immortality from a 1700’s-era philosophical rockstar. It is important to note that the aspects making it so crucial in concern to Kant’s ethical system have to do with immortality in general, and indeed would have been satisfied according to non-metaphysical (i.e. physical and technological) means – having more to do with the end of continued life and indefinite longevity or Superlongevity in particular, than with the particular means used to get there, which in his case is a metaphysical means. Karl Ameriks writes in reference to Kant here: “… the question of immortality is to be understood as being about a continued temporal existence of the mind. The question is not whether we belong to the realm beyond time but whether we will persist through all time…Kant also requires this state to involve personal identity.” [5]. While Kant did make some metaphysical claims tied to immortality – namely the association of degradation and deterioration with physicality, which when combined with the association of time with physicality may have led to his characterization of the noumenal realm (being the antithesis of the phenomenal realm) as timeless and free from causal determination – these claims are beyond the purview of this essay, and will only be touched upon briefly. What is important to take away is that the metaphysical and non-metaphysical justifications are equally suitable vehicles for Kant’s destination.

Note that any italics appearing within direct quotations are not my own and are recorded as they appeared in the original. All italics external to direct quotations are my own. In  the 4th Section, The immortality of the soul as a postulate of pure practical reason, of the 3rd Part of Theory of Ethics, Kant writes: “Pure  practical reason postulates the immortality of the soul, for reason in the pure and practical sense aims at the perfect good (Summum Bonum), and this perfect good is only possible on the supposition of the soul’s immortality.” [5]

Kant is claiming here that reason (in both senses with which they are taken into account in his system – that is, as pure reason and practical reason) is aimed at perfection, which he defines as continual progress towards the perfect good – rather than the attainment of any such state of perfection, and that as finite beings we can only achieve such perfect good through an unending striving towards it.

In a later section, “The Antinomy of Practical Reason (and its Critical Solution)” [6], he describes the Summum Bonum as “the supreme end of a will morally determined”. In an earlier section, The Concept of the Summum Bonum [7], Kant distinguishes between two possible meanings for Summum; it can mean supreme in the sense of absolute (not contingent on anything outside itself), and perfect (not being part to a larger whole). I take him to claim that it means both.

He also claims personal immortality is a necessary condition for the possibility of the perfect good. In the same section he describes the Summum Bonum as the combination of two distinct features: happiness and virtue (defining virtue as worthiness of being happy, and in this section synonymizing it with morality). Both happiness and virtue are analytic and thus derivable from empirical observation.

However, their combination in the Summum Bonum does not follow from either on its own and so must be synthetic, or reliant upon a priori cognitive principles, Kant reasons. I interpret this as Kant’s claiming that the possibility of the Summum Bonum requires God and the Immortality of the Soul because this is where Kant grounds his a priori, synthetic, noumenal world – i.e. the domain where those a priori principles exist (in/as the mind of God, for Kant).

Kant continues:

“It is the moral law which determines the will, and in this will the perfect harmony of the mind with the moral law is the supreme condition of the summum bonum… the perfect accordance of the will with the moral law is holiness, a perfection of which no rational being of the sensible world is capable at any moment of his existence. Since, nevertheless, it is required as practically necessary, it can only be found in a progress in infinitum towards that perfect accordance, and on the principles of pure practical reason is nonetheless necessary to assume such a practical progress as the real object of our will.” [8]

Thus not only does Kant argue for the necessitated personal immortality of the soul by virtue of the fact that perfection is unattainable while constrained by time, he argues along an alternate line of reasoning that such perfection is nonetheless necessary for our morality, happiness and virtue, and that we must thus therefore progress infinitely toward it without ever definitively reaching it if the Summum Bonum is to remain valid according to its own defining attributes and categorical-qualifiers as-such.

Kant decants:

“Now, this endless progress is only possible on the supposition of an endless duration of existence and personality of the same rational being (which is called the immorality of the soul). The Summum Bonum, then, practically is only possible on the supposition of the immortality of the soul; consequently this immortality, being inseparably connected with the moral law, is a postulate of pure practical reason (by which I mean a theoretical proposition, not demonstrable as such, but which is an inseparable result of an unconditional a priori practical law). This principle of the moral destination of our nature, namely, that it is only in an endless progress that we can attain perfect accordance with the moral law… For a rational but finite being, the only thing possible is an endless progress from the lower to higher degrees of moral perfection. In Infinite Being, to whom the condition of time is nothing… is to be found in a single intellectual intuition of the whole existence of rational beings. All that can be expected of the creature in respect of the hope of this participation would be the consciousness of his tried character, by which, from the progress he has hitherto made from the worse to the morally better, and the immutability of purpose which has thus become known to him, he may hope for a further unbroken continuance of the same, however long his existence may last, even beyond this life, and thus may hope, not indeed here, nor in any imaginable point of his future existence, but only in the endlessness of his duration (which God alone can survey) to be perfectly adequate to his will.” [9]

So, Kant first argues that the existence of the Summum Bonum requires the immorality of the soul both a.) because finite beings conditioned by time by definition cannot achieve the absolute perfection of the Summum Bonum, and can only embody it through perpetual progress towards it, and b.) because the components of the Summum Bonum (both of which must be co-present for it to qualify as such) are unitable only synthetically through a priori cognitive principals, which he has argued elsewhere must exist in a domain unconditioned by time (which is synonymous with his conception of the noumenal realm) and which must thus be perpetual for such an extraphysical realm to be considered unconditioned by time and thus noumenal. The first would correspond to Kant’s strict immortalist underpinnings, and the second to the alternate (though not necessarily contradictory) metaphysical justification alluded to earlier.

Once arguing that the possibility of the Summum Bonum requires personal immortality, he argues that our freedom/autonomy, which he locates as the will (and further locates the will as being determined by the moral law) also necessitates the Summum Bonum. This would correspond to his more embryonically Transhumanist inclinations. In the first section (“The Concept of Summum Bonum”) he writes, “It is a priori (morally) necessary to produce the summum bonum by freedom of will…” I interpret this statement in the following manner. He sees morality as a priori and synthetic, and the determining principle which allows us to cause in the world without being caused by it – i.e., for Kant our freedom (i.e., the quality of not being externally determined) requires the noumenal realm because otherwise we are trapped in the freedom-determinism paradox. Thus the Summum Bonum also vicariously necessitates the existence of God, because this is necessary for the existence of a noumenal realm unaffected by physical causation (note that Kant calls physicality ‘the sensible world’). Such a God could be (and indeed has been described by Kant in terms which would favor this interpretation) synonymous with the entire noumenal realm, with every mind forming but an atom as it were in the larger metaorganismal mind of a sort of meta-pantheistic, quasi-Spinozian conception of God – in other words, one quite dissimilar to the anthropomorphic connotations usually invoked by the word.

Others have drawn similar conclusions and made similar interpretations. Karl Ameriks summarizes Kant’s reasoning here thusly:

“All other discussions of immortality in the critical period are dominated by the moral argument that Kant sets out in the second critique. The argument is that morality obligates us to seek holiness (perfect virtue), which therefore must be possible, and can only be so if God grants us an endless afterlife in which we can continually progress… As a finite creature man is incapable of ever achieving holiness, but on – and only in – an endless time could we supposedly approximate to it (in the eyes of God) as fully as could be expected… Kant is saying not that real holiness is ever a human objective, but rather that complete striving for it can be, and this could constitute for man a state of ‘perfect virtue’…” [10]

The emphasis on indefinity is also present in the secondary literature; Ameriks remarks that Kant ”…makes clear that the ‘continual progress’ he speaks of can ultimately have a ‘non-temporal’ nature in that it is neither momentary nor of definitive duration nor actually endless”. Only through never quite reaching our perfected state can we retain the perfection of lawless flawedness.

Paul Guyer corroborates my claim that the determining factor is not the claim that mind is an extramaterial entity or substance, but because if morality requires infinite good and if we are finite beings, then we must be finite beings along an infinite stretch of time in order to satisfy the categorical requirements of possessing such an infinity. He writes that ”..the possibility of the perfection of our virtuous disposition requires our actual immortality…” [11] and that ”…God and immortality are conditions specifically of the possibility of the ultimate object of virtue, the highest good – immortality is the condition for the perfection of virtue and God that for the realization of happiness…[12]

In summary, it doesn’t matter that Kant’s platform was metaphysical rather than technological, because the salient point and determining factors were not the specific operation or underlying principles (or the “means”) used to achieve immortality, but rather the very ends themselves. Being able to both live and progress in(de)finitely was the loophole that provided, for Kant, both our freedom and our morality. Kant said we can’t die if we want to be moral, that we can’t die if we want to gain virtue, and that we can’t die if we want to remain free.

Franco Cortese is an editor for Transhumanity.net, as well as one of its most frequent contributors.  He has also published articles and essays on Immortal Life and The Rational Argumentator. He contributed 4 essays and 7 debate responses to the digital anthology Human Destiny is to Eliminate Death: Essays, Rants and Arguments About Immortality.

Franco is an Advisor for Lifeboat Foundation (on their Futurists Board and their Life Extension Board) and contributes regularly to their blog.

References:

[1] Hughes, J. J. (2001). The Future of Death: Cryonics and the Telos of Liberal Individualism. Journal of Evolution &  Technology, 6 .

[2] Kant, I. (1996). In M.J. Gregor Practical Philosophy, Cambridge University Press.

[3] Kant, I. (1957). In T. M. Greene Kant selections, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

[4] Ibid,. p. 350.

[5] Ameriks, K. (2000). Kant’s  Theory of Mind: An Analysis of the Paralogisms of Pure Reason: Oxford University Press.

[6] Ibid., p. 352.

[7] Ibid., p. 350.

[8] Ibid,. p. 358.

[9] Ibid,. p. 359.

[10] Ameriks, K. (2000). Kant’s Theory of Mind: An Analysis of the Paralogisms of Pure Reason: Oxford University Press.

[11] Freydberg, B. (2005). Imagination of  Kant’s critique of practical reason: Indiana University Press.

[12] Guyer, P. (2000). Kant on Freedom, Law,  and Happiness: Cambridge University Press.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

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

A Libertarian Transhumanist Critique of Jeffrey Tucker’s “A Lesson in Mortality” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

A Libertarian Transhumanist Critique of Jeffrey Tucker’s “A Lesson in Mortality” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
May 13, 2012
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Jeffrey Tucker is one of my favorite pro-technology libertarian thinkers of our time. In his essays and books (see, for instance, It’s a Jetsons World), Mr. Tucker eloquently draws the connection between free markets and technological progress – and how the power of human creativity within a spontaneous order can overcome the obstructions posed by stagnant political and attitudinal paradigms. Mr. Tucker embraces the innovations of the Internet age and has written on their connection with philosophical debates – such as whether the idea of intellectual property is even practically tenable anymore, now that electronic technology renders certain human creations indefinitely reproducible.

Because I see Mr. Tucker as such an insightful advocate of technological progress in a free-market context, I was particularly surprised to read his 2005 article, “A Lesson in Mortality” – where Mr. Tucker contends that death is an inescapable aspect of the human condition. His central argument is best expressed in his own words: “Death impresses upon us the limits of technology and ideology. It comes in time no matter what we do. Prosperity has lengthened life spans and science and entrepreneurship has made available amazing technologies that have forestalled and delayed it. Yet, it must come.” Mr. Tucker further argues that “Modernity has a problem intellectually processing the reality of death because we are so unwilling to defer to the implacable constraints imposed on us within the material world… To recognize the inevitability of death means confessing that there are limits to our power to manufacture a reality for ourselves.

Seven years is a long time, and I am not aware of whether Mr. Tucker’s views on this subject have evolved since this article was published. Here, I offer a rebuttal to his main arguments and invite a response.

To set the context for his article, Mr. Tucker discusses the deaths of short-lived pets within his family – and how his children learned the lesson to grieve for and remember those whom they lost, but then to move on relatively quickly and to proceed with the business of life – “to think about death only when they must, but otherwise to live and love every breath.” While I appreciate the life-embracing sentiment here, I think it concedes too much to death and decay.

As a libertarian transhumanist, I see the defeat of “inevitable” human mortality as the logical outcome of the intertwined forces of free markets and technological progress. While we will not, at any single instant in time, be completely indestructible and invulnerable to all possible causes of death, technological progress – if not thwarted by political interference and reactionary attitudes – will sequentially eliminate causes of death that would have previously killed millions. This has already happened in many parts of the world with regard to killers like smallpox, typhus, cholera, malaria – and many others. It is not a stretch to extrapolate this progression and apply it to perils such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and ALS. Since human life expectancy has already increased roughly five-fold since the Paleolithic era, it is not inconceivable that – with continued progress – another five-fold or greater increase can be achieved.

As biogerontologist and famous life-extension advocate Dr. Aubrey de Grey points out, the seven basic types of damage involved in human senescence are already known – each for at least thirty years. With advances in computing capacity, as well as accelerating medical discoveries that have already achieved life extension in mice, rats, and other small organisms, there is hope that medical progress will arrive at similar breakthroughs for us within our lifetimes. Once life expectancy begins to increase by more than one year for every year of time that passes, we will have reached longevity escape velocity – a condition where the more we live, the more probability we will have of surviving even longer. In February 2012 I began an online compendium of Resources on Indefinite Life Extension, which tracks ongoing developments in this field and provides access to a wide array of media to show that life extension is not just science fiction, but an ongoing enterprise.

To Mr. Tucker, I pose the question of why he appears to think that despite the technological progress and economic freedom whose benefits he clearly recognizes, there would always be some upper limit on human longevity that these incredibly powerful forces would be unable to breach. What evidence exists for such a limit – and, even if such evidence exists, why does Mr. Tucker appear to assume that our currently finite lifespans are not just a result of our ignorance, which could be remedied in a more advanced and enlightened future? In the 15th century, for instance, humans were limited in their technical knowledge from achieving powered flight, even though visionaries such as Leonardo da Vinci correctly anticipated the advent of flying machines. Imagine if a Renaissance scholar made the argument to da Vinci that, while the advances of the Renaissance have surely produced improvements in art, architecture, music, and commerce, nature still imposes insurmountable limits on humans taking to the skies! “Sure,” this scholar might say, “we can now construct taller and sturdier buildings, but the realm of the birds will be forever beyond our reach.” He might say, paraphrasing Mr. Tucker, “[Early] modernity has a problem intellectually processing the reality of eternally grounded humans because we are so unwilling to defer to the implacable constraints imposed on us within the material world. To recognize the inevitability of human grounding means confessing that there are limits to our power to manufacture a reality for ourselves.” What would have happened to a society that fully accepted such arguments? Perhaps the greatest danger we can visit upon ourselves is to consider a problem so “inevitable” that nothing can be done about it. By accepting this inevitability as a foregone conclusion, we foreclose on the inherently unpredictable possibilities that human creativity and innovation can offer. In other words, we foreclose on a better future.

Mr. Tucker writes that “Whole ideologies have been concocted on the supposition that such constraints [on the material world] do not have to exist. That is the essence of socialism. It is the foundation of US imperialism too, with its cocky supposition that there is nothing force cannot accomplish, that there are no limits to the uses of power.” It is a significant misunderstanding of transhumanism to compare it to either socialism or imperialism. Both socialism and imperialism rely on government force to achieve an outcome deemed to be just or expedient. Transhumanism does not depend on force. While governments can and do fund scientific research, this is not an optimal implementation of transhuman aspirations, since government funding of research is notoriously conservative and reluctant to risk taxpayer funds on projects without short-term, visible payoffs about which politicians can boast. Furthermore, government funding of research renders it easier for the research to be thwarted by taxpayers – such as fundamentalist evangelical Christians – who disagree with the aims of such research. The most rapid technological advances can be achieved on a pure free market, where research is neither subsidized nor restricted by any government.

Moreover, force is an exceedingly blunt instrument. While it can be used to some effect to dispose of criminals and tyrants, even there it is tremendously imperfect and imposes numerous unintended negative consequences. Transhumanism is not about attempting to overcome material constraints by using coercion. It is, rather, about improving our understanding of natural laws and our ability to harness mind and matter by giving free rein to human experimentation in applying these laws.

Transhumanism fully embraces Francis Bacon’s dictum that “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.” This means working within material constraints – including the laws of economics – and making the most of what is possible. But this also means using human ingenuity to push out our material limits. As genetic modification of crops has resulted in vastly greater volumes of food production, so can genetic engineering, rejuvenation therapies, and personalized medicine eventually result in vastly longer human lifespans. Transhumanism is the logical extrapolation of a free-market economy. The closer we get to an unfettered free market, the faster we could achieve the transhuman goals of indefinite life extension, universal wealth, space colonization, ubiquitous erudition and high culture, and the conquest of natural and manmade existential risks.

Mr. Tucker writes that recognizing the inevitability of death “is akin to admitting that certain fundamental facts of the world, like the ubiquity of scarcity, cannot be changed. Instead of attempting to change it, we must imagine social systems that come to terms with it. This is the core claim of economic science, and it is also the very reason so many refuse to acknowledge its legitimacy or intellectual binding power.” It is undeniable that scarcity exists, and that scarcity of some sort will always exist. However, there are degrees of scarcity. Food, for instance, is much less scarce today than in the Paleolithic era, when the earth could support barely more than a million humans. Furthermore, in some realms, such as digital media, Mr. Tucker himself has acknowledged that scarcity is no longer a significant limitation – because of the capacity to indefinitely reproduce works of art, music, and writing. With the proximate advent of technologies such as three-dimensional printing and tabletop nano-manufacturing, more and more goods will begin to assume qualities that more closely resemble digital goods. Then, as now, some physical resources will be required to produce anything – and these physical resources would continue to be subject to the constraints of scarcity. But it is not inconceivable that we would eventually end up in a Star Trek world of replicators that can manufacture most small-scale goods out of extremely cheap basic substances, which would render those goods nearly free to reproduce. Even in such a world, more traditional techniques may be required to construct larger structures, but subsequent advances may make even those endeavors faster, cheaper, and more accessible.

At no point in time would human lifespans be infinite (in the sense of complete indestructibility or invulnerability). A world of scarcity is, however, compatible with indefinite lifespans that do not have an upper bound. A person’s life expectancy at any point in time would be finite, but that finite amount might increase faster than the person’s age. Even in the era of longevity escape velocity, some people would still die of accidents, unforeseen illnesses, or human conflicts. But the motivation to conquer these perils will be greatly increased once the upper limit on human lifespans is lifted. Thus, I expect actual human mortality to asymptotically approach zero, though perhaps without ever reaching zero entirely. Still, for a given individual, death would no longer be an inevitability, particularly if that individual behaves in a risk-averse fashion and takes advantage of cutting-edge advancements. Even if death is always a danger on some level, is it not better to act to delay or prevent it – and therefore to get as much time as possible to live, create, and enjoy?

Mr. Tucker writes: “To discover the fountain of youth is a perpetual obsession, one that finds its fulfillment in the vitamin cults that promise immortality. We create government programs to pay for people to be kept alive forever on the assumption that death is always and everywhere unwarranted and ought to be stopped. There is no such thing as ‘natural death’ anymore; the very notion strikes us as a cop out.” It is true that there are and have always been many dubious remedies, promising longevity-enhancing benefits without any evidence. However, even if false remedies are considered, we have come a long way from the Middle Ages, where, in various parts of the world, powders of gold, silver, or lead – or even poisons such as arsenic – were considered to have life-extending powers. More generally, the existence of charlatans, frauds, snake-oil salesmen, and gullible consumers does not discredit genuine, methodical, scientific approaches toward life extension or any other human benefit. Skepticism and discernment are always called for, and we should always be vigilant regarding “cures” that sound too good to be true. Nobody credible has said that conquering our present predicament of mortality would be easy or quick. There is no pill one can swallow, and there is little in terms of lifestyle that one can do today – other than exercising regularly and avoiding obviously harmful behaviors – to materially lengthen one’s lifespan. However, if some of the best minds in the world are able to utilize some of the best technology we have – and to receive the philosophical support of the public and the material support of private donors for doing so – then this situation may change within our lifetimes. It is far better to live with this hope, and to work toward this outcome, than to resign oneself to the inevitability of death.

As regards government programs, I find no evidence for Mr. Tucker’s assertion that these programs are the reason that people are being kept alive longer. Implicit in that assertion is the premise that, on a fully free market (where the cost of high-quality healthcare would ultimately be cheaper), people would not voluntarily pay to extend the lives of elderly or seriously ill patients to the same extent that they expect such life extension to occur when funded by Medicare or by the national health-care systems in Canada and Europe. Indeed, Mr. Tucker’s assertion here poses a serious danger to defenders of the free market. It renders them vulnerable to the allegation that an unfettered free market would shorten life expectancies and invite the early termination of elderly or seriously ill patients – in short, the classic nightmare scenario of eliminating the weak, sickly, or otherwise “undesirable” elements. This is precisely what a free market would not result in, because the desire to live is extremely strong for most individuals, and free individuals using their own money would be much more likely to put it toward keeping themselves alive than would a government-based system which must ultimately ration care in one way or another.

Mr. Tucker writes: “Thus do we insist on always knowing the ‘cause’ of death, as if it only comes about through an exogenous intervention, like hurricanes, traffic accidents, shootings, and bombs. But even when a person dies of his own accord, we always want to know so that we have something to blame. Heart failure? Well, he or she might have done a bit more exercise. Let this be a lesson. Cancer? It’s probably due to smoking, or perhaps second-hand smoke. Or maybe it was the carcinogens introduced by food manufacturers or factories. We don’t want to admit that it was just time for a person to die.” Particularly as Austrian Economics, of which Mr. Tucker is a proponent, champions a rigorous causal analysis of phenomena, the above excerpt strikes me as incongruous with how rational thinkers ought to approach any event. Clearly, there are no uncaused events; there is nothing inexplicable in nature. Sometimes the explanations may be difficult or complex to arrive at; sometimes our minds are too limited to grasp the explanations at our present stage of knowledge and technological advancement. However, all valid questions are ultimately answerable, and all problems are ultimately solvable – even if not by us. The desire to know the cause of a death is a desire to know the answers to important questions, and to derive value from such answers by perhaps gathering information that would help oneself and others avoid a similar fate. To say that “it was just time for a person to die” explains nothing; it only attempts to fill in the gaps in our knowledge with an authoritative assertion that forecloses on further inquiry and discovery. While this may, to some, be comforting as a way of “moving on” – to me and other transhumanists it is an eminently frustrating way of burying the substance of the matter with a one-liner.

Mr. Tucker also compares death to sleep: “The denial of death’s inevitability is especially strange since life itself serves up constant reminders of our physical limits. Sleep serves as a kind of metaphor for death. We can stay awake working and having fun up to 18 hours, even 24 or 36, but eventually we must bow to our natures and collapse and sleep. We must fall unconscious so that we can be revived to continue on with our life.” While sleep is a suspension of some activities, death and sleep could not be more different. Sleep is temporary, while death is permanent. Sleep preserves significant aspects of consciousness, as well as a continuity of operations for the brain and the rest of the body. While one sleeps, one’s brain is hard at work “repackaging” the contents of one’s memory to prepare one for processing fresh experiences the next day. Death, on the other hand, is not a preparation for anything. It is the cessation of the individual, not a buildup to something greater or more active. In “How Can I Live Forever: What Does or Does Not Preserve the Self”, I describe the fundamental difference between processes, such as sleep, which preserve the basic continuity of bodily functions (and thus one’s unique vantage point or “I-ness”) and processes that breach this continuity and result in the cessation of one’s being. Continuity-preserving processes are fundamentally incomparable to continuity-breaching processes, and thus the ubiquity and necessity of sleep can tell us nothing regarding death.

Mr. Tucker validly notes that the human desire to live forever can manifest itself in the desire to leave a legacy and to create works that outlive the individual. This is an admirable sentiment, and it is one that has fueled the progress of human civilization even in eras when mortality was truly inevitable. I am glad that our ancestors had this motivation to overcome the sense of futility and despair that their individual mortality would surely have engendered otherwise. But we, standing on their shoulders and benefiting from their accomplishments, can do better. The wonders of technological progress within the near term, about which Mr. Tucker writes eloquently and at length, can be extrapolated to the medium and long term in order for us to see that the transhumanist ideal of indefinite life extension is both feasible and desirable. Free markets, entrepreneurship, and human creativity will help pave the way to the advances that could save us from the greatest peril of them all. I hope that, in time, Mr. Tucker will embrace this prospect as the incarnation, not the enemy, of libertarian philosophy and rational, free-market economics.