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Can Toyota and Reason Overcome Blindness? – Article by Edward Hudgins

Can Toyota and Reason Overcome Blindness? – Article by Edward Hudgins

The New Renaissance HatEdward Hudgins
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If you’ve shut your eyes at the ugly spectacle of political and cultural decline around you, look in the right direction and you’ll see what’s best in the world, including innovations from Toyota that are helping the visually impaired.

Technology helping the blind see

The research department at the world-class auto maker is doing more than designing Priuses. It recently unveiled Project BLAID, a shoulder and neck-worn device that can help guide visually-impaired folks through building interiors with cameras, speakers and other technology. This is just one nice bit of good news in a world where the media is ruled by “if it bleeds, it leads.” This is one of many innovations in a world that is being transformed by exponential technologies.

For example, in January an Australian research team at Monash University announced development of another system to help the blind that it will test soon. It bypasses the eyeball, which is often damaged beyond use in blind people, and uses a pair of glasses that feeds visual data directly into the brain. At this time that technology at best would give blind people very limited vision, only enough to let them maneuver around like the Toyota technology does. But it’s a start.

Technology helping the deaf hear

Let’s remember that in recent decades, some 190,000 deaf individuals have received cochlear implants. These devises do not simply amplify sound as do hearing aids. They translate sound into electrical impulses that directly stimulate the cochlear nerve in the ear so the individuals can hear. It is estimated that around 150,000 children are born each year with hearing impairment so serious that they could benefit from such implants.

So as the costs of these implants decrease, we will see the gradual elimination of the ago-old scourge of deafness just as the blight of blindness will gradually disappear from list of human woes as companies like Toyota continue their work.

Reason as the cure

The proximate cause of all this good news is the exponential increase in information processing capability, usually called “Moore’s law.” Since the mid-1960s the capacities of semiconductors have doubled every eighteen months. A capacity of 1,000 at that time is 2,000,000,000 today. That means not only the advent of laptops, tablets, and smart phones but also medical devises that would have been thought science fiction decades ago.

But what is really behind these achievements is a moral code that treats rationality as our highest virtue and human achievement as our highest purpose. It is a commitment by individuals to objective reasoning and to understanding the world so that they can control it to enhance human life and flourishing. And it is a joy that individuals take in the process of understanding and creating.

Ayn Rand called machines “the frozen form of living intelligence.” Do you want to live in a world from which blindness and other illnesses or physical defeats are banished? Then fight for this morality of reason.

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.

Happy Future Day! – Article by Edward Hudgins

Happy Future Day! – Article by Edward Hudgins

The New Renaissance HatEdward Hudgins
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Stand up for optimism about the future today!

Transhumanism Australia, a non-profit that promotes education in science and technology, has marked March 1 as “Future Day.” It wants this day celebrated worldwide as a time “to consider the future of humanity.” If all of us made a habit of celebrating our potential, it could transform a global culture mired in pessimism and malaise. It would help build an optimistic world that is confident about what humans can accomplish if we put our minds and imaginations to it.

The Future is Bright

The information and communications technology that helps define and shape our world was, 40 years ago, a vision of the future brought into present reality by visionaries like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. The exponential growth of the power of semiconductors allowed entrepreneurs to create one new industry and cutting-edge good product and service after another.

futureToday, we are at exponential takeoff points in biotech, nanotech, and artificial intelligence. For example, the cost of sequencing a human genome was $100 million in 2001, $10 million in 2007, but it costs only a few thousand dollars today. Steve Jobs created the first Apple computers in his garage. Biohackers similarly housed could transform our lives in the future in ways that still seem to most folks like science fiction; indeed, the prospect of “curing death” is no longer a delusion of madmen but the well-funded research projects in the laboratories of the present.

For a prosperous present and promising future a society needs physical infrastructure—roads, power, communications. It needs a legal infrastructure—laws and political structures that protect the liberty of individuals so they can act freely and flourish in civil society. And it requires moral infrastructure, a culture that promotes the values of reason and individual productive achievement.

Future “Future Days”

We should congratulate our brothers “Down Under” for conceiving of Future Day. They have celebrated it in Sydney with a conference on the science that will produce a bright tomorrow. We in America and folks around the world should build on this idea. Today it’s a neat idea: next year, we could start a powerful tradition, a global Future or Human Achievement Day, promoting the bright future that could be.

Were such a day marked in every school and every media outlet, it could to raise achiever consciousness. It could celebrate achievement in the culture—who invented everything that makes up our world today, and how? It could promote achievement as a central value in the life of each individual, whether the individual is nurturing a child to maturity or a business to profitability, writing a song, poem, business plan or dissertation, laying the bricks to a building or designing it, or arranging for its financing.

Such a day would help create the moral infrastructure necessary for a prosperous, fantastic, non-fiction future, a world as it can be and should be, a world created by humans for humans—or even transhumans!

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.