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Fourth Enlightenment Salon – Health Segment: Discussions on GMOs, Calorie Restriction, Genetics, Artificial Sweeteners, CBD

Fourth Enlightenment Salon – Health Segment: Discussions on GMOs, Calorie Restriction, Genetics, Artificial Sweeteners, CBD

Gennady Stolyarov II
Bill Andrews
Bobby Ridge
John Murrieta


This is the second video segment from Mr. Stolyarov’s Fourth Enlightenment Salon. Watch the first segment here.

On July 8, 2018, during his Fourth Enlightenment Salon, Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, invited John Murrieta, Bobby Ridge, and Dr. Bill Andrews for an extensive discussion about transhumanist advocacy, science, health, politics, and related subjects.

Topics discussed during this installment include the following:

• Why genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are mostly good for you, and most negative perceptions of GMOs should really just be directed at the corporate practices of one company but not genetic modification as a whole.

• What technologies are already aiding the disabled and dramatically extending their capabilities in daily life.

• The role of genetics in longevity and the future of somatic genome editing.

• What the scientific evidence suggests regarding the impact of caloric restriction in humans and other primates.

• CBD and cannabinoids: separating the evidence from the marketing.

• Sierra Sciences’ history of testing over a million compounds for effects on telomerase induction.

• Why artificial sweeteners also should not be maligned, and there is no scientific evidence of their harms.

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside by filling out an application form that takes less than a minute. Members will also receive a link to a free compilation of Tips for Advancing a Brighter Future, providing insights from the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Advisors and Officers on some of what you can do as an individual do to improve the world and bring it closer to the kind of future we wish to see.

Contra Robert Shiller on Cryptocurrencies – Article by Adam Alonzi

Contra Robert Shiller on Cryptocurrencies – Article by Adam Alonzi

Adam Alonzi


While warnings of caution can be condoned without much guilt, my concern is critiques like Dr. Shiller’s (which he has since considerably softened) will cause some value-oriented investors to completely exclude cryptocurrencies and related assets from their portfolios. I will not wax poetically about the myriad of forms money has assumed across the ages, because it is already well-covered by more than one rarely read treatise. It should be said, though it may not need to be, that a community’s preferred medium of exchange is not arbitrary. The immovable wheels of Micronesia met the needs of their makers just as digital stores of value like Bitcoin will serve the sprawling financial archipelagos of tomorrow. This role will be facilitated by the ability of blockchains not just to store transactions, but to enforce the governing charter agreed upon by their participants.

Tokens are abstractions, a convenient means of allotting ownership. Bradley Rivetz, a venture capitalist, puts it like this: “everything that can be tokenized will be tokenized the Empire State Building will someday be tokenized, I’ll buy 1% of the Empire State Building, I’ll get every day credited to my wallet 1% of the rents minus expenses, I can borrow against my Empire State Building holding and if I want to sell the Empire State Building I hit a button and I instantly have the money.” Bitcoin and its unmodified copycats do not derive their value from anything tangible. However, this is not the case for all crypto projects. Supporters tout its deflationary design (which isn’t much of an advantage when there is no value to deflate), its modest transaction fees, the fact it is not treated as a currency by most tax codes (this is changing and liable to continue changing), and the relative anonymity it offers.

The fact that Bitcoin is still considered an asset in most jurisdictions is a strength. This means that since Bitcoin is de facto intermediary on most exchanges (most pairs are expressed in terms of BTC or a major fiat, many solely in BTC), one can buy and sell other tokens freely without worrying about capital gains taxes, which turn what should be wholly pleasurable into something akin to an ice cream sundae followed by a root canal. This applies to sales and corporate income taxes as well. A company like Walmart, despite its gross income, relies on a slender profit margin to appease its shareholders. While I’m not asking you to weep for the Waltons, I am asking you to think about the incentives for a company to begin experimenting with its own tax-free tokens as a means of improving customer spending power and building brand loyalty.

How many coins will be needed and, for that matter, how many niches they will be summoned to fill, remains unknown.  In his lecture on real estate Dr. Shiller mentions the Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto’s observation about the lack of accounting for most of the land in the world.  Needless to say, for these areas to advance economically, or any way for that matter, it is important to establish who owns what. Drafting deeds, transferring ownership of properties or other goods, and managing the laws of districts where local authorities are unreliable or otherwise impotent are services that are best provided by an inviolable ledger. In the absence of a central body, this responsibility will be assumed by blockchain. Projects like BitNation are bringing the idea of decentralized governance to the masses; efforts like Octaneum are beginning to integrate blockchain technology with multi-trillion dollar commodities markets.

As more than one author has contended, information is arguably the most precious resource of the twenty first century. It it is hardly scarce, but analysis is as vital to making sound decisions. Augur and Gnosis provide decentralized prediction markets. The latter, Kristin Houser describes it, is a platform used “to create a prediction market for any event, such as the Super Bowl or an art auction.” Philip Tetlock’s book on superforecasting covers the key advantages of crowdsourcing economic and geopolitical forecasting, namely accuracy and cost-effectiveness. Blockchains will not only generate data, but also assist in making sense of it.  While it is just a historical aside, it is good to remember that money, as Tymoigne and Wray (2006) note, was originally devised as a means of recording debt. Hazel sticks with notches preceded the first coins by hundreds of years. Money began as a unit of accounting, not a store of value.

MelonPort and Iconomi both allow anyone to start their own investment funds. Given that it is “just” software is the beauty of it: these programs can continue to be improved upon  indefinitely. If the old team loses its vim, the project can easily be forked. Where is crypto right now and why does it matter? There is a tendency for academics (and ordinary people) to think of things in the real world as static objects existing in some kind of Platonic heaven. This is a monumental mistake when dealing with an adaptive system, or in this case, a series of immature, interlocking, and rapidly evolving ecosystems. We have seen the first bloom – some pruning too – and as clever people find new uses for the underlying technology, particularly in the area of IoT and other emerging fields, we will see another bloom. The crypto bubble has come and gone, but the tsunami, replete with mature products with explicit functions, is just starting to take shape.

In the long run Warren Buffett, Shiller, and the rest will likely be right about Bitcoin itself, which has far fewer features than more recent arrivals. Its persisting relevance comes from brand recognition and the fact that most of the crypto infrastructure was built with it in mind. As the first comer it will remain the reserve currency of the crypto world.  It is nowhere near reaching any sort of hard cap. The total amount invested in crypto is still minuscule compared to older markets. Newcomers, unaware or wary of even well-established projects like Ethereum and Litecoin, will at first invest in what they recognize. Given that the barriers to entry (access to an Internet connection and a halfway-decent computer or phone) are set to continue diminishing, including in countries in which the fiat currency is unstable, demand should only be expected to climb.

Adam Alonzi is a writer, biotechnologist, documentary maker, futurist, inventor, programmer, and author of the novels A Plank in Reason and Praying for Death: A Zombie Apocalypse. He is an analyst for the Millennium Project, the Head Media Director for BioViva Sciences, and Editor-in-Chief of Radical Science News. Listen to his podcasts here. Read his blog here.

Drug Warriors Claim Colorado Going to Pot – Article by Mark Thornton

Drug Warriors Claim Colorado Going to Pot – Article by Mark Thornton

The New Renaissance Hat
Mark Thornton
September 20, 2014
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As we moved into the second half of 2014, I was eager to learn if marijuana legalization in Colorado was succeeding. At first there was little being reported, but eventually reports started appearing in the news. Business Insider reported that “Legalizing Weed in Colorado Is A Huge Success,” although they did temper their report with a “Down Side” as well. Jacob Sullum reported that such things as underage consumption and traffic fatalities have fallen, although the declines were statistically insignificant and part of already declining trends in the statistics.

The important thing for me is that things did not get much worse according to these reports. When you open the door to a newly legal recreational drug via a very clunky regulatory circus, and where the government gives its seal of approval, there are bound to be growing pains and tragic cases. For example, one college student jumped to his death after ingesting six times the recommended number of pot-infused cookies.

The third report I came across was an editorial from the venerable Heritage Foundation. Given the previous reports, I was astonished to learn that in Colorado marijuana use was associated with an increase in highway fatalities, DUI arrests, underage consumption, drug-related student expulsions, college student use, and marijuana-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

The editorial concludes: “Drug policy should be based on hard science and reliable data. And the data coming out of Colorado points to one and only one conclusion: the legalization of marijuana in the state is terrible public policy.”

However, I began to get suspicious when I found out that the “hard science and reliable data” were not collected, produced, or analyzed by the Heritage Foundation, but by some outfit named the “Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area” program. They produced the report entitled “The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact,” which strongly calls into question the legalization of marijuana in Colorado.

There was no information about the “Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area” program (RMHIDRA) in the report other than it was produced by the “Investigative Support Center” in Denver, Colorado. It turns out the program is actually controlled by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, otherwise known as the Drug Czar.

Colorado has been in the process of legalizing marijuana since 2000. It initially started small with limited medical marijuana and as of January of 2014, it has legalized both medicinal and recreational marijuana with local option for commercial production and retail distribution. So we should expect, ceteris paribus, that the full price to consumers has fallen and that consumption for medical and recreational use has increased.

One of the most distressing empirical results in the RMHIDRA report was that while overall traffic fatalities decreased 14.8 percent between 2007 and 2012 in Colorado, traffic fatalities involving drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists that tested positive for marijuana increased by 100 percent. This data is exploited over several pages of the report using a variety of tables and charts.

If Coloradoans were consuming more marijuana and relatively less alcohol, we would expect the number of traffic fatalities to decrease because marijuana has been found to be relatively much safer than alcohol in terms of driving and motor skills. But the data indicating a 100 percent increase in fatalities involving marijuana is puzzling, disturbing, and at odds with “hard science.” If this was indeed “reliable data” it would indicate that marijuana consumption in Colorado had greatly increased beyond anyone’s estimation.

It turns out RMHIDRA’s data was anything but “reliable” and would be best characterized as misleading. If you examine the footnote section of the report you will find that the data from 2012 “represents 100 percent reporting” due to the efforts of RMHIDA to scour several data sources. However, a footnote reveals that in the data from 2006 through 2012 a very slight majority of cases, 50.13 percent were not tested! If 100 percent were tested in 2012, then the percent tested for 2006–2011 is far less than 50 percent.

What this means is that if you increased blood testing to 100 percent in 2012 when you were testing less than 50 percent of cases in prior years that you should expect to find at least a 100 percent increase involving traffic fatalities with some detection of marijuana. This result not only brings into question the reports “reliable data,” it brings into serious question RMHIDRA’s respect for “hard science.”

Another basic problem with their data is the meaning of “testing positive for marijuana.” Marijuana’s active ingredient THC can remain detectable days and weeks after it has been consumed. In contrast, marijuana impairment only lasts for several hours and is somewhat offset by safer driving behaviors, such as driving at slower speeds and avoiding high traffic areas. Given that marijuana consumption has increased significantly since 2000 we should indeed expect many more positive blood tests, but without making the leap that marijuana consumption is causing more highway fatalities.

The RMHIDRA report also offers up some dreary data on youth marijuana use. In particular, they conclude that marijuana use by young Coloradans is higher than the national average and increasing. Most importantly, they point out that between the 2008–09 and 2012–/13 school years there was a 32 percent increase in drug-related suspensions and expulsions in Colorado.

Other experts using different data sources believe that there has actually been a secular trend of decreasing marijuana use by the young people of Colorado throughout the entire legalization process. However, with respect to suspensions and expulsions, there has indeed been a 32 percent increase in the number of drug-related suspensions and expulsions.

However, weighted on a per pupil basis, there has been virtually no increase in the rate of drug-related suspensions and expulsions. The numerical increase in suspensions and expulsions is more than completely accounted for by the increased number of pupils and the relative increase of impoverished minority groups.

In addition, “drug related” suspensions and expulsions involves other drugs besides marijuana, such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. Marijuana-related suspensions and expulsions are overwhelmingly related to “possession” and “under the influence,” not things like violence, property destruction, and classroom disturbances.

The RMHIDRA report spans over 150 pages, but everything I had time to examine was either clearly wrong, misleading, or intentionally sensational.

Of course there are other sources of misinformation on the relative risks of cannabis. For example, there are academics who warn of the dangers of cannabis while they are receiving money from the pharmaceutical pain drug companies. This again suggests a deliberate attempt to mislead the public.

This is particularly disturbing and relevant information given recent reports which indicate that relatively fewer overdose painkiller deaths are occurring in states with medical marijuana laws.

There are clearly some things wrong with Colorado’s approach to legalizing marijuana and there are clearly going to be some bad results at the individual and state level, but this report is not the right way of determining and correcting those problems. As the Heritage Foundation editorial concluded: “Drug policy should be based on hard science and reliable data.”

Mark Thornton is a senior resident fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and is the book review editor for the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. He is the author of The Economics of Prohibition, coauthor of Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation: The Economics of the Civil War, and the editor of The Quotable Mises, The Bastiat Collection, and An Essay on Economic Theory. Send him mail. See Mark Thornton’s article archives.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

The Eyes Watching You: “1984” and the Surveillance State – Article by Sarah Skwire

The Eyes Watching You: “1984” and the Surveillance State – Article by Sarah Skwire

The New Renaissance Hat
Sarah Skwire
June 19, 2013
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George Orwell. 1984. New York: Plume, [1949] 2003. 323 pages.

In the kind of horrifying coincidence that surely would have prompted one of his more acerbic essays, the news that various U.S. government surveillance agencies have been gathering data from millions of citizens’ phones, email accounts, and web searches broke during the week of the 64th publication anniversary of George Orwell’s 1984. As the news reports poured in, and as sales of 1984 surged by an astonishing 6,884 percent, a friend asked me whether the PRISM story strikes me as more Orwellian or more Kafkaesque.

My response? We’d better hope it’s Kafkaesque.

No one wants to inhabit a Franz Kafka novel. But the surveillance states he describes do have one thing going for them—incompetence. In Kafka’s stories, important forms get lost, permits are unattainable, and bureaucrats fail to do their jobs. Like the main character in Kafka’s unfinished story, “The Castle,” if you were trapped in Kafka’s world you could live your whole life doing nothing but waiting for a permit. But at least you could live. Incompetence creates a little space.

What is terrifying about Orwell’s 1984 is the complete competence of the surveillance state. Winston Smith begins the novel by believing he is in an awful, but Kafkaesque world where there is still some slippage in the state’s absolute control, and still some room for private action. Winston says that Oceania’s world of telescreens and Thought Police means that there are “always the eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or in bed—no escape.” But he follows that by saying, “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull.” He also believes that while the diary he keeps will inevitably be discovered, the small alcove in his apartment where he writes his diary puts him “out of the range of the telescreen.”

The feeling that some tiny space for private thought and action can be found leads Winston into his relationship with Julia. Though they know they will inevitably be discovered, Winston and Julia believe that, for a time, their relationship and their meeting place will remain secret. They could not be more wrong.

One day after making love to Julia in their clandestine room, Winston, prompted by a singing thrush and a singing prole woman who is doing laundry, has a vision of a future that “belongs to the proles.”

The birds sang, the proles sang. The Party did not sing. All round the world, in London and New York, in Africa and Brazil, and in the mysterious, forbidden lands beyond the frontiers, in the streets of Paris and Berlin, in the villages of the endless Russian plain, in the bazaars of China and Japan—everywhere stood the same solid unconquerable figure, made monstrous by work and childbearing, toiling from birth to death and still singing. Out of those mighty loins a race of conscious beings must one day come. You were the dead; theirs was the future. But you could share in that future if you kept alive the mind as they kept alive the body.

 

In this very moment, just as Winston comes alive to what feels like hope and possibility and the dream of some kind of a future for humankind, the telescreen that has been hidden in the room all along speaks to Winston and Julia. The Thought Police break down the door. The couple is taken off to be imprisoned, tortured, and broken.

There has never been any private space for Winston or Julia—not in their “secret” meeting places, not in their sexual rebellion, not even in the few cubic centimeters inside their skulls. “For seven years the Thought Police had watched him like a beetle under a magnifying glass. There was no physical act, no word spoken aloud, that they had not noticed, no train of thought that they had not been able to infer.” Winston should have taken more seriously the description of Oceania he read in the forbidden book The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, by Emmanuel Goldstein:

A Party member lives from birth to death under the eye of the Thought Police. Even when he is alone he can never be sure that he is alone. Wherever he may be, asleep or awake, working or resting, in his bath or in bed, he can be inspected without warning and without knowing that he is being inspected. Nothing that he does is indifferent. His friendships, his relaxations, his behaviour towards his wife and children, the expression of his face when he is alone, the words he mutters in sleep, even the characteristic movements of his body, are all jealously scrutinized. Not only any actual misdemeanour, but any eccentricity, however small, any change of habits, any nervous mannerism that could possibly be the symptom of an inner struggle, is certain to be detected.
***

The Orwellian surveillance state is terrifying not because—as in Kafka—you might be arrested because of a rumor or a mistake, or because despite your innocence you might be caught in the surveillance state’s unnavigable maze. It is terrifying because it never makes mistakes. It does not need to listen to rumors. And it knows that no one is ever innocent.

Sarah Skwire is a fellow at Liberty Fund, Inc. She is a poet and author of the writing textbook Writing with a Thesis.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.