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U.S. Transhumanist Party Virtual Meeting and Q&A – February 23, 2019

U.S. Transhumanist Party Virtual Meeting and Q&A – February 23, 2019

Gennady Stolyarov II
Denisa Rensen
Palak Madan
Pam Keefe
Dinorah Delfin
Arin Vahanian
Tom Ross
B.J. Murphy


On February 23, 2019, the U.S. Transhumanist Party invited many of its Officers and Ambassadors to discuss recent activities and plans for 2019, including the upcoming Presidential nomination process. The meeting included a public chat and portions where inquiries from members and the general public were addressed. Find the video recording of the meeting and the accompanying YouTube Live chat here.

Agenda
– Gennady Stolyarov II: Overview of 2019 Transhumanist Presidential Nomination/Debate/Primary Process
– Ambassadors – Denisa Rensen, Palak Madan, Pam Keefe: Discussions on Transhumanist Sentiment / Attitudinal Environment in Japan, India, and Hong Kong
– Denisa Rensen: Report on TransVision 2018 in Madrid
– Gennady Stolyarov II: Integration with the Transhuman Party / Dissolution of the TNC
– Dinorah Delfin: Discussion of Forthcoming Article in The Transhumanism Handbook: “An Artist’s Creative Process: A Model of Conscious Evolution”
– Arin Vahanian: Report on Premiere of “Immortality or Bust” Documentary
– Group Discussion: How to Reach 10,000 Members? (What demographics have yet to be exposed to transhumanist ideas and the existence of the USTP? How can we be more effective in getting people “in the door” to even be aware of our existence and content?)
   Potential Ideas
– Social-Media Digital Poster Contest (Suggestion by Tom Ross)
– Incentives for Members to Recruit Other Members (Suggestion by Tom Ross)
– Appeal to Subcultures – e.g., Steampunk, Cyborg Communities (Suggestion by Tom Ross)
– Question for Discussion: Should we engage with conspiracy theorists (e.g., attempt to rebut them) or distance ourselves from them as much as possible?
– Any questions from the audience

Note: The meeting livestream terminated slightly prematurely due to an Internet disconnection. However, the meeting did proceed over the course of the planned two-hour timeframe, and the vast majority of the intended subjects were covered.

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

Become a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party. Fill out the application form here.

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

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

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


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

Panelists

Emanuel Iral

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

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

Rachel Lyn Edler

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

John Marlowe

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

Leah Montalto

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

Kim Bodenhamer Smith

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

R. Nicholas Starr

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

Ekaterinya Vladinakova

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

Laura Katrin Weston

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

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

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

See the U.S. Transhumanist Party FAQ here.

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

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

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Writers Can Prosper Without Intellectual Property (2010) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Writers Can Prosper Without Intellectual Property (2010) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
Originally Published January 13, 2010
as Part of Issue CCXXXI of The Rational Argumentator
Republished July 22, 2014
******************************
Note from the Author: This essay was previously published as part of Issue CCXXXI of The Rational Argumentator on January 13, 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. The fundamental concepts in this article remain sound, but the specific references to content sites – such as Associated Content, Helium.com, and Today.com – which previously allowed writers to monetize their works, are now obsolete, due to the closures of these sites. This should be a lesson to writers: utilize external sites for revenue generation if you need to, but always keep all of your writings hosted on sites you control as well!
***
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 22, 2014
***
(This article was originally published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. A free MP3 audio file of this article, read by the author, is available for download.)
***

It is commonly supposed that, whatever its moral and theoretical standing, intellectual property is necessary for creators of written works to make a living and – even more importantly – to continue to create. Here, I will set aside the theoretical status of copyright, which is amply discussed in Stephan Kinsella’s Against Intellectual Property and Michele Boldrin and David Levine’s Against Intellectual Monopoly. I will focus on existing and emerging possibilities for writers to earn a living in a world where no copyrights exist.

By way of real-world examples and suggestions based on observations of existing and historical practices, I seek to assure writers and other intelligent laymen of all persuasions that writers would not starve, and writing would continue to flourish, if copyrights disappeared off the face of the Earth tomorrow. I hope to foster an appreciation of the breadth of human creativity and the multitude of possibilities for innovative endeavors.

The popular, copyright-inspired model of revenue generation for writers entails contracting with a publishing company for a combination of payments: (1) a modest initial advance on the written work, typically paid at or prior to publication, and (2) a continual stream of royalties, typically paid as a proportion of the written work’s earnings. The royalties comprise the greatest share of revenue for most “traditionally” published writers under the copyright system; most authors and publishers within this system perceive copyright as necessary to ensure that the royalties continue for a prolonged period of time.

Even without copyright, there is a first-mover advantage to simply having released a work to market before anyone else could. Moreover, if the work is reasonably priced and attractively presented, there would be little reason for potential buyers to feel dissatisfied with it in a manner that would render it lucrative for competitors to enter the market.

For competitors, the investment of publishing the book and the considerable risk in competing with an established producer would cause them to think twice before undertaking this venture. Unless the original publisher has failed significantly in packaging, marketing, and pricing the book, its first-mover advantage is likely to last far into the future.

As for digital downloads of the book, considerable evidence exists that these do not cannibalize hard-copy sales. Indeed, book sales have skyrocketed since the emergence of easy copying possibilities on the Internet. Downloads likely also furnish a marginal gain to the author’s reputation in excess of the marginal costs of any revenue foregone directly due to a download – especially if those who download a book today would likely not have purchased it if it were not available for free online.

But suppose that the defenders of copyright are correct in their assumption that the first-mover advantage is ephemeral. Suppose that this advantage could not be relied on as the competition seized on a good work and began to market it at equally advantageous, or more-advantageous terms than the initial publisher. What other recourse could writers have?

1. More Frequent Publication of New Works

If there is a first-mover advantage that lasts several months or years, irrespective of whether intellectual property exists, then a given author who chooses to adhere to the “traditional” publishing system could pursue the strategy of writing and publishing a new work every time the first-mover advantage of the previous work has been exhausted. This would lead to a necessary change in expectations: an author could not expect to live off the royalties from a single work – even a widely popular work – forever but would need to keep creating in order to maintain his revenue stream.

Nonetheless, this is not far off from the current situation; after all, most published books do not sell nearly well enough to assure the authors even a modest stream of lifetime earnings. Moreover, such a system would incentivize creation of further works.

Indeed, prior to the introduction of copyright, European classical composers found it necessary to continually create music, as their older and already-famous pieces were often performed internationally without any compensation given to them. Even so, some of these composers managed to be phenomenally prosperous as well as prolific.

The most famous composer of the early 18th century, and one of the most prosperous, was Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767), who is thought by some to be the most prolific composer in human history, with over 3000 works to his name. Telemann’s status is rivaled by Simon Sechter (1788-1867), who wrote over 8000 works, many of them short fugues, and who endeavored to create at least one short composition every day. Neither composer lived under a copyright regime.

Indeed, virtually all of the big names of classical music – Bach, Vivaldi, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, Berlioz – composed without copyright and were not dismayed when their works were performed without their participation or consent. Composers through the Romantic era would often borrow passages from their peers and predecessors and develop creative orchestrations and variations thereof. This was not considered to be theft but rather the ultimate compliment: a demonstration that a composer had been able to cultivate a musical idea that could now thrive independently of his efforts.

If composers could set still-unmatched records of productivity without copyrights while managing to earn a living, imagine what writers could do in an environment that did not give them the hope of forever subsisting off past accomplishments.

2. Larger Initial Advances

Writers seeking to publish their works via the “traditional” system could come, in an environment of no copyright, to expect larger initial advances from publishers as a tradeoff for smaller, less stable, and generally diminishing royalty streams. There is no reason why this could not be lucrative for publishers. The publisher could pay the writer a larger one-time fee, getting in exchange the first-mover advantage over the competition.

When the competition catches up and resorts to publishing a book that has been well received by the public, the original publisher has at least the potential of competing on even terms with regard to expenses; the competitors would not need to pay a substantial fraction of their earnings to the author, and neither would the original publisher.

The tremendous proliferation of British novels in the United States during the 19th century can give us a glimpse of what such a world might be like. British authors had copyright on their works in Britain since the enactment of the Statute of Anne in 1710, and American authors had copyright on their works in the United States since the passage of the Copyright Act of 1790.

However, as the era of international copyright had yet to be inaugurated (via the Berne Convention of 1886), British authors did not have copyright on their works in the United States; instead, they typically sold the rights to a first printing of their work in the United States. Thereafter, the original US publishers of these authors would not owe them royalties and would therefore not be obligated to pay this additional expense, putting them on par with potential later publishers of the same works. The British authors made more money selling their works in the US in this manner than they did under the copyright and royalty system in Britain. Moreover, their works became significantly more popular in the United States than those of their American contemporaries.

3. Patronage 2.0

Some of the greatest works in history have been created by writers and artists working under the patronage system, in which wealthy and influential individuals supported creators in exchange for a consistent and high-quality output, often used to advance the patrons’ interests and public image. The historical patronage system also exhibited numerous genuine flaws, including significant restrictions on the creativity of artists by overbearing patrons. Yet the flaws of the system were due not to the institution of patronage per se, but to the structure of preliberal, preindustrial Western societies.

Patrons were extremely scarce, and most of them had financial resources not due to personal merits or economic achievements, but due to political power. For writing in particular, this was a hindrance, as writing for a patron typically meant avoiding the expression of ideas that would upset the established political order, on which the patron built his wealth and power. On the other hand, if one’s patron was subversive of the established order, like the Earl of Shaftesbury (1621-1683), the patron and sole patient of John Locke, some radically provocative work could result.

Some creators were fortunate to find reasonable and enlightened patrons, but even these had idiosyncrasies that needed to be catered to. This bred extensive resentment of the patronage system and inspired a reaction and shift to its polar opposite: mass marketing to as broad a consumer base as possible. Yet this approach, too, has numerous evident shortcomings.

In our time, the fundamental flaws of the historical patronage system need no longer persist, because the distribution of potential patrons is so much greater. Indeed, most people who are established in “white-collar” occupations can afford to become patrons of the arts today. In addition, because of computers and the Internet, writing and publication cost very little except for the time and effort spent actually putting the words and ideas together. Not only has the capacity of most people to fund writers increased dramatically, but the exertions and materials required for writing have diminished considerably as well.

Any patronage system would necessitate some manner of creator compliance with the patron’s wishes; that is what the patron is paying for. However, with a large number of potential patrons on the market, a given writer does not need to feel dependent on financial arrangements with a particularly disagreeable patron; he is free to find another patron – or even to work for a multitude of patrons simultaneously.

Patronage can be expressed monetarily, but it need not be. In-kind patronage – such as that performed by numerous online magazines that publish essays by contributing authors – is another mechanism by which writers can find resources to support their endeavors.

4. Self-Patronage

“Self-patronage” is a concise way of expressing the concept of writing during one’s leisure time while pursuing another occupation as a primary income generator. If another person with an above-average income can serve as a patron for a writer, then it is just as easy for the writer himself to earn an above-average income in a profession of his choice and then use it to subsidize his writing.

This is a promising option for many writers today, myself included, and it should not be dismissed as a viable long-term model for the creation of quality output. Self-patronage is tremendously efficient; it frees the writer from having to get clearance from any external entity to write or publish what he pleases. Moreover, it frees the writer from needing to satisfy a mass audience; he can make his works as sophisticated, specialized, or controversial as he pleases. If they gain notice and admiration, this can result in some added bonuses for the writer; if they fail to catch on, he is not endangered in his livelihood and can always try again.

With the ability to publish for free on the Internet, writers no longer require access to large institutions or wealthy individuals in order to spread their ideas to a large audience. They do, of course, need to compete with a much larger pool of creators than has ever existed – and this may result in difficulties for quality work in getting notice commensurate with its merits. However, because self-patronage eliminates the costs of getting external clearance, a writer can be as productive as he is motivated to be. By releasing vast quantities of works, he greatly enhances the probability that one of these will be noticed and will motivate some readers to explore his other works.

5. Online-Content Sites

A remarkable development on the Internet in recent years has enabled hundreds of thousands of writers to earn modest income streams from advertisements that appear on the pages where their work is published. (In reading this section, some might wonder about the frequent mentions of my activity on the various sites to which I refer. This is done in part to comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s recent guidelines on the disclosure of writers’ institutional affiliations. Thank you, FTC, for requiring me to boast of my work more than I otherwise would have.) Large commercial websites typically contract with numerous advertisers and establish an infrastructure for writers to conveniently publish a variety of works. Associated Content, where I have been publishing my writings for over three years [2007-2010], [formerly paid] contributors both initial small advances for articles that pass editorial review and performance payments on the basis of how many page views contributors’ content receives. The performance payment is not enough to earn a living – $2.00 per 1000 page views – but several hundred articles can provide a decent supplement to one’s monthly income.

Helium.com, another site where I have published, [formerly invited] authors to write competing articles under a given title and then to rank other authors’ contributions. The authors who regularly participate [formerly received] a bonus based on the page views their articles receive. Yet another site, Today.com, the [former] host of my blog, The Progress of Liberty, [formerly paid] some bloggers a dollar for one post on any given day and supplements this with a performance payment based on visitation. Other commercial enterprises with a variety of compensation mechanisms have evolved over the last several years to enable layman writers to earn small revenues from their work without needing to have expertise in marketing or salesmanship.

The above methods of income generation, too, have their shortcomings in terms of which kinds of writing are most rewarded. But they are still in their infancy, and six years ago they did not exist at all. Within several decades at most, it will surely be possible for large numbers of authors to earn a living by writing and publishing their works on the Internet without being members of any syndicate or media organization’s staff – unless, that is, established interests successfully lobby governments for restrictions on creative Internet activities.

6. The Best Option

The best option for promoting a writer’s creativity while assuring him a stable and adequate income is a combination of the approaches above. Each approach, like most techniques in life, has its strengths and its shortcomings. For instance, patronage might result in the need to meet idiosyncratic tastes, while online-content sites that pay on the basis of unique visitors might incentivize writers to focus on breadth of appeal rather than depth. Self-patronage, on the other hand, is limited by the writer’s existing resources and technical training in other fields.

In a relatively advanced, quasi-market economy with widely available, remarkable publishing technologies, it is possible to viably combine these approaches for an overall strategy that keeps one both fed and writing. Moreover, as the marketplace continues to evolve, and technological possibilities combine with human creativity to render new options available, writers should be willing to experiment with yet more ways of delivering their content to audiences and receiving corresponding compensation.

As is typical with markets, it is virtually impossible to exactly predict the way in which patterns of behavior will emerge, especially as one looks out into the long-term future. But this should not discourage writers; indeed, it should highlight to them the importance of being open to new possibilities. They should not simply expect that existing business models – such as the copyright-based, royalty-heavy compensation system of “traditionally” published authors – will continue in perpetuity as a matter of right for the parties involved.

It is never necessary to cling to a single legal mechanism or institution as the sole path for any given peaceful and productive human activity. Human beings are much more inventive and resilient than the defenders of copyright would suggest.

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

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
******************************
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
***

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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Majoritarian Processes versus Open Playing Fields – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Majoritarian Processes versus Open Playing Fields – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Putting innovation to a vote is never a good idea. Consider the breakthroughs that have improved our lives the most during the 20th and early 21st centuries. Did anyone vote for or ordain the creation of desktop PCs, the Internet, smartphones, or tablet computers?

It is only when some subset of reality is a fully open playing field, away from the notice of vested interests or their ability to control it, that innovation can emerge in a sufficiently mature and pervasive form that any attempts to suffocate it politically become seen as transparently immoral and protectionist.

All major improvements to our lives come from these open playing fields.

References
– “Putting Innovation to a Vote? Majoritarian Processes versus Open Playing Fields” – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Satoshi Nakamoto” – Wikipedia
The Seasteading Institute

Putting Innovation to a Vote? Majoritarian Processes versus Open Playing Fields – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Putting Innovation to a Vote? Majoritarian Processes versus Open Playing Fields – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
February 4, 2014
******************************

Putting innovation to a vote is never a good idea. Consider the breakthroughs that have improved our lives the most during the 20th and early 21st centuries. Did anyone vote for or ordain the creation of desktop PCs, the Internet, smartphones, or tablet computers? No: that plethora of technological treasures was made available by individuals who perceived possibilities unknown to the majority, and who devoted their time, energy, and resources toward making those possibilities real. The electronic technologies which were unavailable to even the richest, most powerful men of the early 20th century now open up hitherto unimaginable possibilities even to children of poor families in Sub-Saharan Africa.

On the other hand, attempts to innovate through majority decisions, either by lawmakers or by the people directly, have failed to yield fruit. Although virtually everyone would consider education, healthcare, and defense to be important, fundamental objectives, the goals of universal cultivation of learning, universal access to healthcare, and universal security against crime and aggression have not been fulfilled, in spite of massive, protracted, and expensive initiatives throughout the Western world to achieve them. While it is easy even for people of little means to experience any art, music, literature, films, and games they desire, it can be extremely difficult for even a person of ample means to receive the effective medical care, high-quality formal education, and assurance of safety from both criminals and police brutality that virtually anyone would desire.

Why is it the case that, in the essentials, the pace of progress has been far slower than in the areas most people would deem to be luxuries or entertainment goods? Why is it that the greatest progress in the areas treated by most as direct priorities comes as a spillover benefit from the meteoric growth in the original luxury/entertainment areas? (Consider, as an example, the immense benefits that computers have brought to medical research and patient care, or the vast possibilities for using the Internet as an educational tool.) In the areas from which the eye of formal decision-making systems is turned away, experimentation can commence, and courageous thinkers and tinkerers can afford to iterate without asking permission. So teenagers experimenting in their garages can create computer firms that shape the economy of a generation. So a pseudonymous digital activist, Satoshi Nakamoto, can invent a cryptocurrency algorithm that no central bank or legislature would have allowed to emerge at a proposal stage – but which all governments of the world must now accept as a fait accompli that is not going away.

Most people without political connections or strong anti-free-enterprise ideologies welcome these advances, but no such breakthroughs can occur if they need to be cleared through a formal majoritarian system of any stripe. A majoritarian system, vulnerable to domination by special interests who benefit from the economic and societal arrangements of the status quo, does not welcome their disruption. Most individuals have neither the power nor the tenacity to shepherd through the political process an idea that would be merely a nice addition rather than an urgent necessity. On the other hand, the vested and connected interests whose revenue streams, influence, and prestige would be disrupted by the innovation have every incentive to manipulate the political process and thwart the innovations they can anticipate.

It is only when some subset of reality is a fully open playing field, away from the notice of vested interests or their ability to control it, that innovation can emerge in a sufficiently mature and pervasive form that any attempts to suffocate it politically become seen as transparently immoral and protectionist. The open playing field can be any area that is simply of no interest to the established powers – as could be said of personal computers through the 1990s. Eventually, these innovations evolve so dramatically as to upturn the major economic and social structures underpinning the establishment of a given era. The open playing field can be a jurisdiction more welcoming to innovators than its counterparts, and beyond the reach of innovation’s staunchest opponents. Seasteading, for example, would enable more competition among jurisdictions, and is particularly promising as a way of generating more such open playing fields. The open playing field can be an entirely new area of human activity where the power structures are so fluid that staid, entrenched interests have not yet had time to emerge. The early days of the Internet and of cryptocurrencies are examples of these kinds of open playing fields. The open playing field can even occur after a major upheaval has dislodged most existing power structures, as occurred in Japan after World War II, when decades of immense progress in technology and infrastructure followed the toppling of the former militaristic elite by the United States.

The beneficent effect of the open playing field is made possible not merely due to the lack of formal constraints, but also due to the lack of constraints on human thinking within the open playing field. When the world is fresh and new, and anything seems possible, human ingenuity tends to rise to the occasion. If, on the other hand, every aspect of life is hyper-regimented and weighed down by the precedents, edicts, compromises, and traditions of era upon era – even with the best intentions toward optimization, justice, or virtue – the existing strictures constrain most people’s view of what can be achieved, and even the innovators will largely struggle to achieve slight tweaks to the status quo rather than the kind of paradigm-shifting change that propels civilization forward and upward. In struggling to conform to or push against the tens of thousands of prescriptions governing mundane life, people lose sight of astonishing futures that might be.

The open playing fields may not be for everyone, but they should exist for anyone who wishes to test a peaceful vision for the future.  Voting works reasonably well in the Western world (most of the time) when it comes to selecting functionaries for political office, or when it is an instrument within a deliberately gridlocked Constitutional system designed to preserve the fundamental rules of the game rather than to prescribe each player’s move. But voting is a terrible mechanism for invention or creativity; it reduces the visions of the best and brightest – the farthest-seeing among us – to the myopia of the median voter. This is why you should be glad that nobody voted on the issue of whether we should have computers, or connect them to one another, or experiment with stores of value in a bit of code. Instead, you should find (or create!) an open playing field and give your own designs free rein.

Cryptocurrencies as a Single Pool of Wealth – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Cryptocurrencies as a Single Pool of Wealth – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Mr. Stolyarov offers economic thoughts as to the purchasing power of decentralized electronic currencies, such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Dogecoin.

When considering the real purchasing power of the new cryptocurrencies, we should be looking not at Bitcoin in isolation, but at the combined pool of all cryptocurrencies in existence. In a world of many cryptocurrencies and the possibility of the creation of new cryptocurrencies, a single Bitcoin will purchase less than it could have purchased in a world where Bitcoin was the only possible cryptocurrency.

References

– “Cryptocurrencies as a Single Pool of Wealth: Thoughts on the Purchasing Power of Decentralized Electronic Money” – Essay by G. Stolyarov II

– Donations to Mr. Stolyarov via The Rational Argumentator:
Bitcoin – 1J2W6fK4oSgd6s1jYr2qv5WL8rtXpGRXfP
Dogecoin – DCgcDZnTAhoPPkTtNGNrWwwxZ9t5etZqUs

– “2013: Year Of The Bitcoin” – Kitco News – Forbes Magazine – December 10, 2013
– “Bitcoin” – Wikipedia
– “Litecoin” – Wikipedia
– “Namecoin” – Wikipedia
– “Peercoin” – Wikipedia
– “Dogecoin” – Wikipedia
– “Tulip mania” – Wikipedia
– “Moore’s Law” – Wikipedia

The Theory of Money and Credit (1912) – Ludwig von Mises

Cryptocurrencies as a Single Pool of Wealth: Thoughts on the Purchasing Power of Decentralized Electronic Money – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Cryptocurrencies as a Single Pool of Wealth: Thoughts on the Purchasing Power of Decentralized Electronic Money – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
January 12, 2014
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The recent meteoric rise in the dollar price of Bitcoin – from around $12 at the beginning of 2013 to several peaks above $1000 at the end – has brought widespread attention to the prospects for and future of cryptocurrencies. I have no material stake in Bitcoin (although I do accept donations), and this article will not attempt to predict whether the current price of Bitcoin signifies mostly lasting value or a bubble akin to the Dutch tulip mania of the 1630s. Instead of speculation about any particular price level, I hope here to establish a principle pertaining to the purchasing power of cryptocurrencies in general, since Bitcoin is no longer the only one.

Although Bitcoin, developed in 2009 by the pseudonymous Satoshi Namakoto, has the distinction and advantage of having been the first cryptocurrency to gain widespread adoption, others, such as Litecoin (2011), Namecoin (2011), Peercoin (2012), and even Dogecoin (2013) – the first cryptocurrency based on an Internet meme – have followed suit. Many of these cryptocurrencies’ fundamental elements are similar. Litecoin’s algorithm is nearly identical to Bitcoin (with the major difference being the fourfold increase in the rate of block processing and transaction confirmation), and the Dogecoin algorithm is the same as that of Litecoin. The premise behind each cryptocurrency is a built-in deflation; the rate of production slows with time, and only 21 million Bitcoins could ever be “mined” electronically. The limit for the total pool of Litecoins is 84 million, whereas the total Dogecoins in circulation will approach an asymptote of 100 billion.

Bitcoin-coins Namecoin_Coin Dogecoin_logoLitecoin_Logo

The deflationary mechanism of each cryptocurrency is admirable; it is an attempt to preserve real purchasing power. With fiat paper money printed by an out-of-control central bank, an increase in the number and denomination of papers (or their electronic equivalents) circulating in the economy will not increase material prosperity or the abundance of real goods; it will only raise the prices of goods in terms of fiat-money quantities. Ludwig von Mises, in his 1912 Theory of Money and Credit, outlined the redistributive effects  of inflation; those who get the new money first (typically politically connected cronies and the institutions they control) will gain in real purchasing power, while those to whom the new money spreads last will lose. Cryptocurrencies are independent of any central issuer (although different organizations administer the technical protocols of each cryptocurrency) and so are not vulnerable to such redistributive inflationary pressures induced by political considerations. This is the principal advantage of cryptocurrencies over any fiat currency issued by a governmental or quasi-governmental central bank. Moreover, the real expenditure of resources (computer hardware and electricity) for mining cryptocurrencies provides a built-in scarcity that further restricts the possibility of inflation.

Yet there is another element to consider. Virtually any major cryptocurrency can be exchanged freely for any other (with some inevitable but minor transaction costs and spreads) as well as for national fiat currencies (with higher transaction costs in both time and money). For instance, on January 12, 2014, one Bitcoin could trade for approximately $850, while one Litecoin could trade for approximately $25, implying an exchange rate of 34 Litecoins per Bitcoin. Due to the similarity in the technical specifications of each cryptocurrency (similar algorithms, similar built-in scarcity, ability to be mined by the same computer hardware, and similar decentralized, distributed generation), any cryptocurrency could theoretically serve an identical function to any other. (The one caveat to this principle is that any future cryptocurrency algorithm that offers increased security from theft could crowd out the others if enough market participants come to recognize it as offering more reliable protection against hackers and fraudsters than the current Bitcoin algorithm and Bitcoin-oriented services do.)  Moreover, any individual or organization with sufficient resources and determination could initiate a new cryptocurrency, much as Billy Markus initiated Dogecoin in part with the intent to provide an amusing reaction to the Bitcoin price crash in early December 2013.

This free entry into the cryptocurrency-creation market, combined with the essential similarity of all cryptocurrencies to date and the ability to readily exchange any one for any other, suggests that we should not be considering the purchasing power of Bitcoin in isolation. Rather, we should view all cryptocurrencies combined as a single pool of wealth. The total purchasing power of this pool of cryptocurrencies in general would depend on a multitude of real factors, including the demand among the general public for an alternative to governmental fiat currencies and the ease with which cryptocurrencies facilitate otherwise cumbersome or infeasible financial transactions. In other words, the properties of cryptocurrencies as stores of value and media of exchange would ultimately determine how much they could purchase, and the activities of arbitrageurs among the cryptocurrencies would tend to produce exchange rates that mirror the relative volumes of each cryptocurrency in existence. For instance, if we make the simplifying assumption that the functional properties of Bitcoin and Litecoin are identical for the practical purposes of users, then the exchange rate between Bitcoins and Litecoins should asymptotically approach 1 Bitcoin to 4 Litecoins, since this will be the ultimate ratio of the number of units of these cryptocurrencies. Of course, at any given time, the true ratio will vary, because each cryptocurrency was initiated at a different time, each has a different amount of computer hardware devoted to mining it, and none has come close to approaching its asymptotic volume.

 What implication does this insight have for the purchasing power of Bitcoin? In a world of many cryptocurrencies and the possibility of the creation of new cryptocurrencies, a single Bitcoin will purchase less than it could have purchased in a world where Bitcoin was the only possible cryptocurrency.  The degree of this effect depends on how many cryptocurrencies are in existence. This, in turn, depends on how many new cryptocurrency models or creative tweaks to existing cryptocurrency models are originated – since it is reasonable to posit that users will have little motive to switch from a more established cryptocurrency to a completely identical but less established cryptocurrency, all other things being equal. If new cryptocurrencies are originated with greater rapidity than the increase in the real purchasing power of cryptocurrencies in total, inflation may become a problem in the cryptocurrency world. The real bulwark against cryptocurrency inflation, then, is not the theoretical upper limit on any particular cryptocurrency’s volume, but rather the practical limitations on the amount of hardware that can be devoted to mining all cryptocurrencies combined. Will the scarcity of mining effort, in spite of future exponential advances in computer processing power in accordance with Moore’s Law, sufficiently restrain the inflationary pressures arising from human creativity in the cryptocurrency arena? Only time will tell.

Liberally Classical – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Liberally Classical – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance Hat
Jeffrey A. Tucker
January 12, 2014
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I was recently in an ornate orchestral hall built in the late Gilded Age, a setting designed to present an opera or symphonic music to a generation before World War I that craved such performance art. The concert I attended was sold out, with tickets running between $40 and $75.
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The place was vibrating with anticipation as the full orchestra with winds, strings, brass, and percussion came on stage, and a 25-voice choir—live acoustic music without conspicuous electronics—filed in behind. The cheers, even before it all began, were glorious.
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As I looked around the vast room full of wide smiles, I noted that that average age of the concert goers was late twenty-something. It was a slightly startling sight after having been to so many symphony concerts filled with septuagenarians. Not that there’s anything wrong with old people, but it always seemed to symbolize a dying art to me. Not this time though. This art and this room were alive and youthful and looking to the future.
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What followed was two hours of dramatic, emotionally gripping symphonic music. The audience couldn’t wait to cheer and stand at every opportunity. At the intermission not a soul failed to return to his or her assigned seat.
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I’ve been around the art-music sector of the music industry for many years, and, for me, this experience was all dreamy, even surreal. My whole life, I’ve heard the same old complaints from classical musicians. We are underfunded. Governments are stingy. The people are not coming to our concerts. The young are only interested in junk music. High art is being crowded out by pop: it’s Schubert vs. Spears, Beethoven vs. Bieber, Mahler vs. Madonna. Our concert halls and symphonies are being massacred by market forces. We need subsidies in order to uphold real music against the pathetic tastes of the middle class.
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And so on it goes.
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The conventional tactics for dealing with this obvious and old problem are well known. There are labor strikes—you know, those oppressed oboists and violists who are clamoring for their surplus value to be given back by the unnamed exploiter. Donors are being squeezed to make up for what can’t be gained in ticket sales. There are hectoring public campaigns to “support the arts” or feel really guilty. There are marketing gimmicks. There are foundations that provide temporary relief. All the while, musicians grow ever more bitter, resentful, and despairing.
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So what made this event different? Many things. The bar was open with wine, beer, and spirits, and people were welcome to bring them to their seats, just like in a movie theater when people watch with soda and popcorn. Yes! Why doesn’t the Kennedy Center allow this? I don’t know. It should.
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Also, the fantastic and rightly showy conductor was a young woman—defying the eternal stereotype and addressing another complaint about sexism in the history of orchestral conductors. Another thing: Many members of the audience were dressed in character, sporting funny ears, wigs, and costumes. Character? More on that follows.
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Finally, the main event was something completely unexpected. The music was a performance of the soundtrack to the video game Legend of Zelda. The full name: “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses.” Yes, a video game, a cult classic, one that began in 1989 and now has a beloved heritage and rich tradition.
***
The game itself is accompanied by a full suite of serious music composed over the course of 25 years by a dozen or so specialists (all well-trained musicians) from Japan. That means there is not a single god-like composer—we like to pretend they were all sui generis—but rather a crowdsourced, thematically arranged series of pieces, each of which is connected to some iteration of this long-running game.
***
The musicians seemed to love it, and the audience surely did. The exchange relationship between the musical producers and consumers was unlike anything I had experienced. This was not an audience obediently frozen in a stuffy pose waiting for the next assigned time to clap (never, never between movements, dammit!). They were serious, engaged people who were happy to gasp, laugh, cheer, ooh and ahh, and even cry. They did it all, and not on cue.
***
Above the orchestra floated a large screen that played scenes that matched the music, from its earliest and crudest computer animations to the latest and most dazzling visual art. We even saw the characters grow up in the course of their adventures, which are wonderful, faux-medieval tales of danger, courage, chivalry, and devotion.
***
My goodness, the whole scene just moved me so much. Here were the gamers all gathered, those “nerds” everyone made fun of during high school and college, and their love of their computer world was being validated and affirmed. But I suspect that even they didn’t understand the implications of all of this. I wanted to stand up and explain: Do you see what you have done here? Your consumers’ interests have brought back large-scale, live performance art—full choir and orchestra—through the most circuitous route one can possibly imagine.
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And how different, really, is this from a Rossini opera about a love affair involving barbers, secret letters, singing lessons, stodgy aristocrats made to look silly, and narrow escapes down second-story ladders? Or a Mozart opera involving magic bells and flutes, evil queens, floating boys in an air balloon, and scary dwarfs and dragons? It’s all the same stuff. It’s that beautiful combination of audio and visual art—the sense that something is happening right there in front of you. They didn’t have video games but we do, and good for us!
***
All of this music could have easily been played on a loudspeaker, but that would have taken away the whole sense that something was being created on the spot. You want to see the violinists moving their bows, the percussionists crashing cymbals together, the bassoonist playing that most implausible of instruments. Adding to the irony is that the music on the Zelda game itself is mostly electronic, especially the choirs and their ethereal voices. Not here. It was human. It was life. We all experienced it in real time—fantasy became reality before our eyes and ears.
***
I thought back to my days hanging around the school of music, all those students and professors with long faces and grim demeanors, people down on markets, down on society, down on consumers. No one would have believed that he or she had a future in live performance music, filling up the old orchestral halls, by way of fun and wonderful video games. No, it took entrepreneurs and commerce to blaze this trail. It took markets to make this surprise happen.
***
The world of classical music, in fact, has been pathetically lacking in creative vision for many decades, if not an entire century. In large part, it keeps trying to recreate the past while cursing the present and despairing of the future. Why? Perhaps it is because this sector of life has been ever more removed from the commercial world through centrally planned education, subsidies, union control, copyrighted and monopolized musical scores, a culture of the entitled guild. None of it has worked and, needing to pay the rent, there has been a steady stream of young musicians leaving years of conservatory training to enter some other profession like making lattes.
***
But get outside those establishment circles and you see entirely different things happening. It was in Turkey when I first saw a performance of an all-woman string quartet. During the first part of the evening, they presented a solid program of Schubert, Mozart, and Haydn. Then came the change to leather and boots and an all-electronic/pop program followed by the same players. One can sneer at it as tacky (actually, I don’t think so) but people love it and pay the big bucks for it. Since I saw this performance two years ago, the approach has reemerged at several venues in the United States as well.
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My point is not to isolate these two types of art-music presentations and say: This is the future for classically trained musicians. Maybe this is just the beginning. Maybe there are dozens of other approaches yet to be explored. What is needed is some serious entrepreneurship to find the new approaches and test them in the marketplace.
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The main feature in success here is an intimate connection between the players and the audience—the same as you see in the pop music world. It’s not about the style. It’s about the economic and artistic relationship between the producers and consumers. It must be a value enhancing proposition for both sides for a true profit to emerge.
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Meanwhile, I will never be able to read the quarterly harangue in The New York Times about the death of symphonies without thinking of this wonderful evening. Classical music is not dead. It is just now coming back to life.
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Jeffrey Tucker is a distinguished fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), CEO of the startup Liberty.me, and publisher at Laissez Faire Books. He will be speaking at the FEE summer seminar “Making Innovation Possible: The Role of Economics in Scientific Progress“.
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This article originally appeared in The Freeman, the magazine of the Foundation for Economic Education.
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

maximum of 9 points
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