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“When Matter Touches Antimatter” by Rodney Rawlings – Brian Minnick, Tenor

“When Matter Touches Antimatter” by Rodney Rawlings – Brian Minnick, Tenor

The New Renaissance Hat
Rodney Rawlings
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“When Matter Touches Antimatter,” World Premiere, performed by tenor Brian Minnick (http://bminnick3.wix.com/brianminnick), November 3, 2017, Central Presbyterian Church, Austin, Texas. A winner of Second Fresh Squeezed Ounce of Art Song, One Ounce Opera.

See this video on YouTube here.

“When Matter Touches Antimatter” describes a well-known astronomical concept and uses it as a metaphor applicable to a well-known human situation. See another performance of it by soprano Amanda Noelle Neal here.

You can also listen to the original (2004) arrangement of this song: MP3 file.  (Left-click to listen, right-click to download.)

“WHEN MATTER TOUCHES ANTIMATTER”

Some say there must exist in the outer zone
A world of antimatter.
The thought makes people scatter,
‘Cause it could make our own
World shatter
If, by some awful twist, part of it is hurled
And crosses over. Watch out, my friend:
With scarce a chance to catch your breath
You have no world.
Ah, you should know by now: Matters of the heart,
Are not just idle chatter
And more like antimatter
If you are worlds apart
While at her
Side, acting like your Earth
Circles ’round her sun.
So at the slightest hint of the end
That comes WHEN MATTER TOUCHES ANTIMATTER,
Run.Because, no matter what you pretend,
That antimatter’s touch is death
To everyone.

© 2017 Rodney Rawlings

Rodney Rawlings is a Toronto writer and composer/songwriter. He arrived at the concept of hypercomplex numbers independently, using Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism to guide him.  See his YouTube Channel
When Matter Touches Antimatter – Music by Rodney Rawlings

When Matter Touches Antimatter – Music by Rodney Rawlings

The New Renaissance Hat
Rodney Rawlings
******************************

Rodney Rawlings’s art song “When Matter Touches Antimatter” describes a well-known astronomical concept and uses it as a metaphor applicable to a well-known human situation. Here are two takes on it, one by soprano (video and audio) and one by tenor (audio only):

Soprano Amanda Noelle Neal on February 27, 2018, at the event New Brew: The Brewening, Heartland Cafe Bar, Chicago, hosted by Opera on Tap:

Listen and watch on YouTube.

Tenor Brian Minnick, November 3, 2017, Central Presbyterian Church, Austin, Texas; a winner of Second Fresh Squeezed Ounce of Art Song, One Ounce Opera:

Listen on Soundcloud.

You can also listen to the original (2004) arrangement of this song: MP3 file.  (Left-click to listen, right-click to download.)

 

Lyrics:

 

Some say there must exist in the outer zone

A world of antimatter.

The thought makes people scatter,

’Cause it could make our own

World shatter

If, by some awful twist, part of it is hurled

And crosses over. Watch out, my friend:

With scarce a chance to catch your breath

You have no world.

 

Ah, you should know by now: Matters of the heart,

Are not just idle chatter

And more like antimatter

If you are worlds apart

While at her

Side, acting like your Earth

Circles ’round her sun.

So at the slightest hint of the end

That comes WHEN MATTER TOUCHES ANTIMATTER,

Run.

 

Because, no matter what you pretend,

That antimatter’s touch is death

To everyone.

 

Rodney Rawlings is a Toronto writer and composer/songwriter. He arrived at the concept of hypercomplex numbers independently, using Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism to guide him.  See his YouTube Channel

Symphony No. 1, Op. 86 – “The Contemporary World” (2017-2018) – G. Stolyarov II

Symphony No. 1, Op. 86 – “The Contemporary World” (2017-2018) – G. Stolyarov II

 G. Stolyarov II
January 7, 2018

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Symphony No. 1, Op. 86, was composed by Gennady Stolyarov II between June 2017 and January 2018 and is subtitled “The Contemporary World”. Mr. Stolyarov intended this symphony to be a commentary on the world and U.S. events of 2016-2017, during which civilization was severely tested. Each of the first three movements depicts the epistemic, political, and material crises which befell much of the world during this time period and threatened to undo much of the progress that civilization achieved up to that time. The choice to have the fourth movement be about preserving the good aspects of historical and contemporary life was motivated by the observation that, although severely strained and beset by setbacks from both nature and society, our civilization did not ultimately collapse during 2017, and we have made it thus far. Watch a video version of the entire symphony on YouTube here.

Movement 1 – Uncertainty – Length: 6:51

The main melody is at once ominous and much more restrained than it could be – evoking an individual seeking to focus and chart a path through an environment where little is predictable and previous understandings of the terrain he navigated have shown to be faulty. What can he hope to achieve, what can he rely upon, and whom can he trust? Various other themes in this movement show elements of longing for a bygone (though relatively recent) time, determination, and hope (though will it be disappointed hope?) – although in the background there is a certain din of uncertainty that leads each melody to be a bit less free-flowing or expressive than it would be if composed during a calmer era. This movement poses the question, “What will become of our world, and what will this era do to each of our lives?”

Download the MP3 file for Movement 1 here: http://rationalargumentator.com/music_stolyarov/Stolyarov_Symphony_1_Movt_1.mp3

Movement 2 – Politics – Length: 10:31

This movement displays the cyclical and protracted struggle between two colossal forces, neither of them benign. Both of them actually resemble one another in substance (although they are in different keys – A minor and C minor – but which of these represents the Right and which represents the Left, and does it make any difference?). There are segments in which the keys are mixed – representing one force seeking to wrest power from the other – with the ultimate outcome being the same melody in a different key. This pattern continues over the course of multiple variations and orchestrations.

Download the MP3 file for Movement 2 here: http://rationalargumentator.com/music_stolyarov/Stolyarov_Symphony_1_Movt_2.mp3

Movement 3 – The Fragility of Civilization – Length: 5:19

Composed in 3/4 meter and following a “theme and variations” format, this movement actually encompasses all of the minor keys. The underlying structure and the systematic progression of the keys from one variation to the next represent the fabric of human civilization, which, in recent years, has been continually challenged by the forces of ruin – including violent conflict, irrationality, natural disasters, political folly, institutional breakdown, and disintegrating standards of behavior – along with the still-present age-old perils of disease and death. This piece can be perceived as a grimly determined waltz, danced on the edge of calamity – but as long as the forward motion within the structure continues, no matter what content the contemporary world throws at it, civilization has a fighting chance. For those who listen through to the ending, there is a glimmer of hope – perhaps appended in a “deus ex machina” fashion, but there is a purpose to it, especially when considered in light of what it leads to in Movement 4.

Download the MP3 file for Movement 3 here: http://rationalargumentator.com/music_stolyarov/Stolyarov_Symphony_1_Movt_3.mp3

Movement 4 – Preservation – Length: 9:51

The first melody in this movement is the “preservation” theme, which is repeated under many different arrangements and frames the significantly re-orchestrated versions of segments from six of Mr. Stolyarov’s marches – Marches #1, 2, 8, 9, 11, and 12 – composed between 2000 and 2014. This is intended to communicate several insights: (i) at a time of great macro-scale uncertainty, only the efforts of the individual – each in their own way – can preserve what is good about civilization; (ii) one should cherish the accomplishments of one’s past and build upon them, integrating them with the present and future – because, no matter what happens, past achievements are irreversible gains; (iii) in building a brighter future, we should hearken back to the good aspects of life and human creation that were achieved prior to 2016. It is not possible for humankind to begin anew; one cannot rebuild the world, or any subset thereof, from scratch – but it is possible to undo the damage of the recent chaos by reasserting and re-instantiating the values, ideas, objects, and infrastructures that make life decent and progress possible.

A better future can only be achieved by holding onto and building upon the best aspects of the past – both personally and for humankind as a whole.

Download the MP3 file for Movement 4 here:

http://rationalargumentator.com/music_stolyarov/Stolyarov_Symphony_1_Movt_4.mp3

Symphony No. 1, Op. 86, is made available pursuant to the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author, Gennady Stolyarov II (G. Stolyarov II). Learn more about Mr. Stolyarov here  

 

A Musical Paean to Halley’s Comet – Composition by Rodney Rawlings

A Musical Paean to Halley’s Comet – Composition by Rodney Rawlings

The New Renaissance Hat
Rodney Rawlings
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The Rational Argumentator again features this piece by Rodney Rawlings — a musical paean to Halley’s Comet — the feeling of the once-in-a-lifetime expectation and approach of the comet, its spectacular and beautiful show, and its eternal farewell.

Listen to the MP3 file of the composition here.

Length: 3:44

Rodney Rawlings is a Toronto writer and composer/songwriter. He arrived at the concept of hypercomplex numbers independently, using Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism to guide him.  See his YouTube Channel

“To Venus and Mars” by Rodney Rawlings – Amanda Neal, Soprano – World Premiere

“To Venus and Mars” by Rodney Rawlings – Amanda Neal, Soprano – World Premiere

The New Renaissance Hat
Rodney Rawlings and Amanda Neal
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Soprano Amanda Noelle Neal performed Rodney Rawlings’s song “To Venus and Mars” at New Brew Chicago’s “A Warm Welcome” concert on May 16, 2017, at The Elbo Room, Chicago, Illinois. This was the first live, public performance of the full song.

Watch the video of Ms. Neal’s performance here


Description by Rodney Rawlings (March 22, 2004)

“To Venus and Mars (The Spaceman’s Lament)” is another song from my musical The Watcher on the Shore, offered in the hope of sparking interest in the play’s production. The theme of the song is the homesickness that would undoubtedly be felt at times by a lone explorer of deep space—especially if he thought he might never return to Earth. Utterly alone and impossibly far from one’s home planet, would the thought of perhaps never again experiencing earthly life be bearable?

Of course, many pioneering spirits would not be afflicted with thoughts like this; their deep-seated passion to explore and learn would overwhelm all other considerations. In fact, in the play, the song is sung by one who does not wholly identify with such spirits. But one must admit that the case of outer space is extreme, and I can’t help but think that even the strongest souls might now and then succumb to such a sentiment. Especially in the coming early years of interplanetary travel, travelers may have to contend with a new malady consisting in a soul-destroying longing and nostalgia.


Lyrics for “To Venus and Mars” (May 29, 2017)

While children down here in the fields
Catch fireflies in jars,
So grown men chase evening light …

… To Venus and Mars
Someday a brave man will go,
Someone who can bear to be launched
And leave us below.

But deep in the sky
He will lose sight of the earth
Ere catching that one final glimpse—
Stuff of memoirs—
Knowing he’s bound on a course
To Venus and Mars.

—-

Now he must seek other realms instead.
It was time for those last looks to end.
Echoes remind him of what they said
When he first heard their call to ascend:
“Do you find most of this globe absurd,
“With its throngs, restless passions, and tears?
“This world is vain, as we’ve often heard.
“Do you long for a mission that’s one-way
“To Venus and Mars—to Venus and Mars—?”

—-

Near Venus and Mars,
Yet might he grow ill at ease
To gaze on them, visions of Earth
Taint all that he sees?
This trav’ler may soon
Dream he will one day return
To mingle on streets full of life,
To chase falling stars
And quite serenely look up to Venus and Mars.

(Spoken:) And quite serenely look up
(Sung:) To Venus and Mars.


Rodney Rawlings is a Toronto writer and composer/songwriter. He arrived at the concept of hypercomplex numbers independently, using Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism to guide him.  See his YouTube Channel

***

Amanda Noelle Neal is a Chicago-based lyric soprano with degrees in Vocal Performance from Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts and Loyola University New Orleans. While pursuing her Master’s Degree at CCPA, Amanda performed the roles of Genovieffa in “Sour Angelica”, Ariadne in “The Abandonment of Ariadne”, and The Unseen Voice in “The Deliverance of Theseus”, both by Darius Milhaud.

Amanda has sung lead and supporting vocals in multiple bands in Chicago. She is a member of the all-female opera-improv troupe Forte Chicago. See her YouTube channel.

Variations on a Randomly Generated Minuet and Trio by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Op. 81 (2015) – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II

Variations on a Randomly Generated Minuet and Trio by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Op. 81 (2015) – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
June 23, 2015
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Mr. Stolyarov composes four variations for piano and harpsichord, based on a minuet and trio that were randomly generated – most likely for the first time – using the rules in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Musikalisches Würfelspiel (Musical Dice Game, K. 516f).

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was one of the pioneers of algorithmic composition. In 1787 he developed his Musikalisches Würfelspiel (Musical Dice Game, K. 516f), which could generate unique minuets and trios by associating specific measures with rolls of dice (2 6-sided dice for the minuet, 1 6-sided die for the trio). Following Mozart’s table of rules, it is possible to generate (11^16)*(6^16) = 66^16 = 129,629,238,163,050,258,624,287,932,416 unique minuet/trio combinations. This means that any given iteration of the Musikalisches Würfelspiel has most likely never been heard before and, if preserved, adds to the available musical variety derived from Mozart’s compositional technique.

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

See the rules for the Musikalisches Würfelspiel and hear the individual measures in MIDI format here.

Download “Musikalische Würfelspiele” – a free German-language program by Peter Baumann that can generate full MIDI files for compositions created using the musical dice games of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Philipp Kirnberger.

This composition and video may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License.

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

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

References
– “Musikalisches Würfelspiel” – Wikipedia
– “Mozart’s Musikalisches Würfelspiel” – Page by John Chuang
Portrait of Gennady Stolyarov II – by Wendy Stolyarov
Abstract Orderism Fractal 5 – G. Stolyarov II
Abstract Orderism Fractal 7 – G. Stolyarov II
Abstract Orderism Fractal 48 – G. Stolyarov II
Abstract Orderism Fractal 66 – Floral Fractal – G. Stolyarov II

Variations on a Theme by WolframTones, Op. 80 (2015) – G. Stolyarov II

Variations on a Theme by WolframTones, Op. 80 (2015) – G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
June 10, 2015
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This experimental composition showcases the combined creative potential of man and machine. Mr. Stolyarov takes an algorithmically generated theme by WolframTones –  one of inexhaustibly many possibilities – and gives it a human touch with ten distinct orchestral variations that draw out orderly, harmonious melodies from the motifs present in the WolframTones theme.

This composition is written for a string section, three harps, and two pianos. It is played using the Finale 2011 software and the Steinway Grand Piano, Harp KS, and Full Strings Arco instruments.

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

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

Art References:
Fractal Art Swirl by Ralph Langendam (Public Domain)
– Abstract Orderism Fractal 63 by G. Stolyarov II – Available here and here.
– Abstract Orderism Fractal 64 by G. Stolyarov II – Available here and here.
– Abstract Orderism Fractal 65 by G. Stolyarov II – Available here and here.

This composition and video may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License.

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

Individual Empowerment through Emerging Technologies: Virtual Tools for a Better Physical World – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Individual Empowerment through Emerging Technologies: Virtual Tools for a Better Physical World – Video by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 23, 2014
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No realm of human activity in the past century has empowered and liberated the individual as efficaciously as technological advancement. Our personal, political, and economic freedoms – though limited in many respects – today allow us to achieve quality-of-life improvements and other objectives that were inconceivable even a few decades ago. Much libertarian, classical liberal, and Objectivist theory supports this insight, but in our era of increasing salience of advanced technology, this support needs to be made far more explicit and applied toward vocal advocacy of emerging, life-transforming breakthroughs that further raise the capacities of the individual. Gamification, augmented reality, and virtual worlds can play a significant role in enhancing and preserving our physical lives.

***

This video is based on Mr. Stolyarov’s essay “Individual Empowerment through Emerging Technologies: Virtual Tools for a Better Physical World“.

References

Playlist: The Musical Compositions of G. Stolyarov II
– “Ayn Rand, Individualism, and the Dangers of Communitarianism” (2012) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Carl Menger, Individualism, Marginal Utility, and the Revival of Economics” (2006) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Ludwig von Mises on Profit, Loss, the Entrepreneur, and Consumer Sovereignty” (2007) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Open Badges and Proficiency-Based Education: A Path to a New Age of Enlightenment” (2013) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
Runkeeper
Fitocracy
Fitbit
– “Minecraft” – Wikipedia
– “Oculus Rift” – Wikipedia –
– YouTube Videos of Minecraft Computers (here and here)

Video of Melody and Lyrics for “Progress Unyielding”, Op. 76 (2013) – Space Colonists’ Anthem from “Eden against the Colossus” – by G. Stolyarov II

Video of Melody and Lyrics for “Progress Unyielding”, Op. 76 (2013) – Space Colonists’ Anthem from “Eden against the Colossus” – by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 14, 2014
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“Progress Unyielding” is the anthem celebrating space colonization and humans’ expansion throughout the universe, guided by the principles of individualism, liberty, rationality, and progress. It is originally found in Mr. Stolyarov’s 2004 novel, Eden against the Colossus. In 2013, Mr. Stolyarov was asked to create a composition to convey the music of this anthem, as he imagined it when writing the novel. This composition is not the full orchestration described in “Eden against the Colossus”, but rather the main melody, played on the harp, with accompaniment by the piano and by a string ensemble for the latter third. It communicates the principal direction of “Progress Unyielding” and allows the listener to see the words put to music.

Download a free MP3 file of the melody of Progress Unyielding here.

The meter of this piece would accommodate the following very slightly modified lyrics, which still communicate the same substance as the anthem in the novel.

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Progress Unyielding

Our souls before these sights dwarfed shan’t become.
Why bow to passive matter of antiquity?
What spreads from it is pandemonium;
Its barrenness is source for all iniquity.

‘Tis in our minds the idols hatch,
Of stone for man to shape and mold.
Such logic does our hands attach
To this domain of lifeless cold,
To every cavern, crater, creek.
Wrong was the man who’d preached the norm
That worlds are destined for the meek!
Our will and strength give matter form.
He who grovels tastes his obsequies;
We float into the void, oases craft.
We are not slaving tribal bees,
And no collective guides our raft.
We are not one, but many knights;
Each does himself his quest ordain,
We thrive on work, and work from rights.
Our well-earned profit’s our domain.

This ground bears meaning solely to our aims.
Its monuments stem from our ingenuity.
Glory to him who savage wildlands tames,
And weeds out every incongruity!

What shall replace the brittle dune?
What shall refine this cratered scar?
Our pavement shall embrace them soon,
And spread to every spawn of star
Yet seen, and into others we shall gaze,
And thus apply the universe’s stock.
This is not but one transient phase.
Forever shall we tame new rock!
Cosmos is Man’s, its means and goal.
Its exiled heirs now seek its wreath:
Supremacy, from atom, oil, and coal.
Our claim to treasures underneath
These jagged lands shall never wane.
Always grand mechanisms will be our guide.
No Luddites shall their betterment profane.
Inventors we exalt and vandals we deride!

Merit determines worth under our creed.
The self-made prodigy our government defends,
Does our endeavor by example lead,
And never harms one for another’s ends.

What is the trait we deem sublime?
The source which does all virtue render.
It, dauntless, conquers space and time,
And never can its plight surrender.
It is inside us, best within the great,
The ego, mind, one’s self, one’s soul,
Prerequisite to any proper state.
Maintain your own, and you’ve fulfilled your role.
No world beyond this life is real;
Its furthering’s our sole concern.
No godly favor is to steal,
No mystic afterlife to earn.
God’s not above us, but within;
The Self’s the Lord, Reason, His rite.
We have a universe to win.
Join us, great men, in splendid flight!

***

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

All art used in this video is either in the public domain or subject to a Creative Commons license and is used with attribution. See the image captions for more details regarding each artwork and its source.

This video, too, is licensed as a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike work and is available for non-commercial use to anyone under the condition that the same license be preserved.

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

Individual Empowerment through Emerging Technologies: Virtual Tools for a Better Physical World – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Individual Empowerment through Emerging Technologies: Virtual Tools for a Better Physical World – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 9, 2014
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No realm of human activity in the past century has empowered and liberated the individual as efficaciously as technological advancement. Our personal, political, and economic freedoms – though limited in many respects – today allow us to achieve quality-of-life improvements and other objectives that were inconceivable even a few decades ago. Much libertarian, classical liberal, and Objectivist theory supports this insight, but in our era of increasing salience of advanced technology, this support needs to be made far more explicit and applied toward vocal advocacy of emerging, life-transforming breakthroughs that further raise the capacities of the individual. Gamification, augmented reality, and virtual worlds can play a significant role in enhancing and preserving our physical lives.

I find a lot of support for technological progress, self-determination, and the triumph of the individual over the impositions of the collective in the works of Ayn Rand (as an example, see this 2012 essay of mine for a brief analysis of Randian individualism). The Austrian economists Carl Menger and Ludwig von Mises were also great exponents of individualism, and their innovations in value-theory emphasized the importance of subjective preference in the determination of prices, the work of entrepreneurs, and the effects of policy. They grounded their economic work in a deep understanding of philosophy and offered a countervailing view of the world during a time when postmodernism was gaining popularity. They explained that universal laws of economics, derived from the basic fact of human action itself, are at the root of explaining whether societies facilitate flourishing and progress, or misery and stagnation.

Were these great thinkers alive today, it would have been fascinating to observe their insights regarding the power of technology to enable the personal creation of art which was not technically feasible for an individual in prior eras to create. They would surely recognize the amazing influence of the latest generation of technological entrepreneurs on our lives and well-being – not just in the emergence of computers, the Internet, and mobile devices – but also in less-emphasized applications, such as digital art, electronic music, increasingly sophisticated and graphically immersive computer games, and tools for the “quantified self” – an increasing array of metrics for vital bodily attributes and activities. The convergence of these tools is ushering in an era of augmented reality, which rational and determined creators can harness to achieve their goals more effectively and more enjoyably.

I have seen this vast technological improvement affect my ability, for example, to compose music. In a few hours I can create a composition and hear it played back flawlessly by an electronic orchestra, whereas even a decade ago I would have needed to spend weeks internalizing melodies and variations. In order to play my compositions, I would have had to spend months practicing, even then being quite vulnerable to human error. One of my current ongoing projects is to remaster as many of my older compositions (all preserved, thankfully) as I can using the tools now available to me – enabling their flawless playback via synthetic instruments. Today, they can sound exactly as I intended them to sound when I composed them years ago. Many works have already been remastered in this way (available within this video playlist), which has enabled me to hear and to share with the world pieces which have not been in my “finger memory” for over a decade.

Numerous life-improving applications of augmented reality are emerging now and can be expected to expand during the proximate future. Many of these technologies can have strong, immediate, practical benefits in enhancing human survival and functionality within the physical world. Already, mobile applications such as Runkeeper, scoring systems like that of Fitocracy, or devices like the Fitbit allow individuals to track physical activity in a granular but convenient manner and set measurable targets for improvement. Significant additional innovation in these areas would be welcome. For instance, it would be excellent to have access to live readings of one’s vital statistics, both as a way of catching diseases early and measuring progress toward health goals. This vision is familiar to those who have encountered such functionality in virtual worlds. Players track and improve these statistics for their characters in computer games, where it proves both interesting and addictive – so why not bring this feature to our own bodies and other aspects of our lives?

Computer games – one type of virtual world – expand the esthetic and experiential possibilities of millions of people. While not fully immersive, they are far more so than their predecessors of 20 years ago. They can extend the range of human experience by enabling people to engage in actions inaccessible during the course of their daily lives – such as making major strategic decisions in business, politics, or world-building, exploring outer space, or designing and interacting with a skyscraper without the hazards of being a construction worker. (Minecraft comes to mind here as an especially versatile virtual world, which can be shaped in unique ways by the creativity of the individual. I can readily imagine a future virtual-reality game which is a more immersive successor of Minecraft, and where people could create virtual abodes, meeting places, and even technological experiments. Minecraft already has mods that allow the creation of railroads, industrial facilities, and other interesting contraptions.)

One common and highly gratifying feature of computer games that has long fascinated me is the ability to make steady, immediately rewarding progress. Any rational, principled economic or societal arrangement that promotes human flourishing should do the same. Emerging efforts at the “gamification” of reality are precisely a project of imparting these rational, principled characteristics – hopefully remedying many of the wasteful, internally contradictory, corrupt, and fallacy-ridden practices that have pervaded the pre-electronic world.

Tremendous technological, cultural, and moral progress could be achieved if this addictive quality of games were translated into the communication of sophisticated technical concepts or philosophical ideas, such as those underpinning transhumanism and indefinite life extension. If there were a way to reliably impart the appeal of games to knowledge acquisition, it would be possible to trigger a new Age of Enlightenment and a phenomenon never seen before in history: that of the masses becoming intellectuals, or at least a marked rise in intellectualism among the more technologically inclined. This aspiration relates to my article from early 2013, “Open Badges and Proficiency-Based Education: A Path to a New Age of Enlightenment” – a discussion of an open-source standard for recognizing and displaying individual achievement, which could parlay the abundance of educational resources available online into justified reward and opportunities for those who pursue them.

While some critics have expressed concern about a future where immersion in virtual worlds might distract many from the pressing problems of the physical world, I do not see this as a major threat to any but a tiny minority of people. No matter how empowering, interesting, addictive, and broadening a virtual experience might be (and, indeed, it could someday be higher-resolution and more immersive than our experience of the physical world), it is ultimately dependent on a physical infrastructure. Whoever controls the physical infrastructure, controls all of the virtual worlds on which it depends. This has been the lesson, in another context, of the recent revelations regarding sweeping surveillance of individuals by the National Security Agency in the United States and its counterparts in other Western countries. This inextricable physical grounding is a key explanation for the unfortunate fact that the Internet has not yet succeeded as a tool for widespread individual liberation. Unfortunately, its technical “backbone” is controlled by national governments and the politically connected and dependent corporations whom they can easily co-opt, resulting in an infrastructure that can be easily deployed against its users.

A future in which a majority would choose to flee entirely into a virtual existence instead of attempting to fix the many problems with our current physical existence would certainly be a dystopia. Virtual reality could be great – for learning, entertainment, communication (especially as a substitute for dangerous and hassle-ridden physical travel), and experimentation. Some aspects of virtuality – such as the reception of live statistics about the external world – could also be maintained continually, as long as they do not substitute for the signals we get through our senses but instead merely add more to those signals. However, the ideal use of virtual reality should always involve frequent returns to the physical world in order to take care of the needs of the human body and the external physical environment on which it relies. To surrender that physicality would be to surrender control to whichever entity remains involved in it – and there is no guarantee that this remaining entity (whether a human organization or an artificial intelligence) would be benevolent or respectful of the rights of the people who decide to spend virtually all of their existences in a virtual realm (pun intended).

Fortunately, the pressures and constraints of physicality, so long as they affect human well-being, are not easily wished away. We live in an objective, material reality, and it is only by systematically following objective, external laws of nature that we can reliably improve our well-being. Many of us who play computer games, spend time on online social networks, or even put on virtual-reality headsets in the coming years, will not forget these elementary facts. We will still seek food, shelter, bodily comfort, physical health, longevity, and the freedom to act according to our preferences. The more prudent and foresighted among us will use virtual tools to aid us in these goals, or to draw additional refreshment and inspiration within a broad framework of lives where these goals remain dominant.

In a certain sense, virtual worlds can illustrate some imaginative possibilities that cannot be experienced within the non-electronic tangible world – as in the possibility of constructing “castles in the air” in a game such as Minecraft, where the force of gravity often does not apply (or applies in a modified fashion). There is a limit to this, though, in the sense that any virtual world must run on physical hardware (unless there is a virtual machine inside a virtual world – but this would only place one or more layers of virtuality until one reaches the physical hardware and its limitations). A virtual world can reveal essential insights which are obscured by the complexity of everyday life, but one would still remain limited by the raw computing power of the hardware that instantiates the virtual world. In a sense, the underlying physical hardware will always remain more powerful than anything possible within the virtual world, because part of the physical hardware’s resources are expended on creating the virtual world and maintaining it; only some fraction remains for experimentation. People have, for instance, even built functioning computers inside Minecraft (see examples here and here). However, these computers are nowhere close to as powerful or flexible as the computers on which they were designed. Still, they are interesting in other ways and may employ designs that would not work in the external physical world for various reasons.

Most importantly, the fruits of electronic technologies and virtual worlds can be harnessed to reduce the physical dangers to our lives. From telecommuting (which can reduce in frequency the risks involved with physical business travel) to autonomous vehicles (which can render any such travel devoid of the accidents caused by human error), the fruits of augmented reality can be deployed to fix the previously intractable perils of more “traditional” infrastructure and modes of interaction. Millions of lives can be saved in the coming decades because a few generations of bright minds have devoted themselves to tinkering with virtuality and its applications.

The great task in the coming years for libertarians, individualists, technoprogressives, transhumanists, and others who seek a brighter future will be to find increasingly creative and sophisticated applications for the emerging array of tools and possibilities that electronic technologies and virtual worlds make available. This new world of augmented reality is still very much a Mengerian and a Misesian one: human action is still at the core of all meaningful undertakings and accomplishments. Human will and human choice still need to be exerted – perhaps now more so than ever before – while being guided by human reason and intellect toward furthering longer, happier lives characterized by abundance, justice, peace, and progress.