Tag Archives: diversity

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Discussion on Life-Extension Advocacy – G. Stolyarov II Answers Audience Questions

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Categories: Philosophy, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat

G. Stolyarov II

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Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, answers audience questions regarding life-extension advocacy and possibilities for broadening the reach of transhumanist and life-extensionist ideas.

While we were unable to get into contact with our intended guest, Chris Monteiro, we were nonetheless able to have a productive, wide-ranging discussion that addressed many areas of emerging technologies, as well as trends in societal attitudes towards them and related issues of cosmopolitanism, ideology, and the need for a new comprehensive philosophical paradigm of transmodernism or hypermodernism that would build off of the legacy of the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free. Apply here.

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Safe Spaces Can’t Be Diverse – And Vice Versa – Article by Kevin Currie-Knight

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Categories: Culture, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Kevin Currie-Knight
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I’m a fan of the LGBT center on the campus where I teach. It offers a space where gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students can be among students, faculty, and staff without fear of harassment, bullying, or negative judgment. There, they do not have to worry about passing (pretending to be straight) or covering (having to signal to others that they are still “normal” despite who they are).

But do you know what spaces like this are not? Diverse.

Or rather, they are not diverse in the types of attitudes permitted to exist there. One cannot, say, believe that homosexuality is a sin and feel welcome at an LGBT center. One cannot believe that transgender people are mentally ill and find LGBT centers to be congenial.

This lack of diversity is not wrong; it is by design and has a good purpose. A safe space is one where people with certain identities that don’t fit in elsewhere can find safety through homogeneity and solidarity.

We don’t need to dismiss either ideal to recognize that a space’s safety and its diversity will be inversely related. The more you have of one, the less you must have of the other.

But you can have spaces and contexts that allow for either ideal, or varying degrees of compromise between them — unless activists succeed in their current quest to convert entire universities into safe spaces.

The Yale case is well known by now. Erika Christakis, a lecturer in early child development, voiced concern in an email to Yale students and residence-life folks urging them to rethink the university’s heavy-handed approach to advising students on which Halloween costumes to avoid. Her note ignited controversy and protest on campus — with some even calling for Christakis’s resignation — because the possibility of students wearing offensive Halloween costumes makes the campus a potentially unsafe space.

In another recent example, the University of Missouri has been experiencing protests regarding alleged racist speech and treatment of minority students. During one of these protests, a journalist trying to cover the event was evidently shouted down and intimidated because his (journalistic) presence at the protest allegedly threatened the protesters’ safe space. (Think about how odd it is to describe the site of a vigorous protest as a safe space).

One journalist described a video of the events as follows:

In the video of Tim Tai trying to carry out his ESPN assignment, I see the most vivid example yet of activists twisting the concept of “safe space” in a most confounding way. They have one lone student surrounded. They’re forcibly preventing him from exercising a civil right. At various points, they intimidate him. Ultimately, they physically push him. But all the while, they are operating on the premise, or carrying on the pretense, that he is making them unsafe.

If people who regularly find their campuses (or other places) to be inhospitable, it may do them good to have social spaces where they are assured some level of relief, probably with people they are comfortable with. But think about what that means for diversity.

Increasing diversity is another aspiration at universities and other organizations, but safe spaces demand that the people in the space have a certain degree of homogeneity. For Yale to be a safe space, the university must disallow a diversity of Halloween costumes.

Why did the Missouri protesters suggest that Tai’s presence threatened to turn their protest into an unsafe space? Because there was a possibility that the narrative this journalist would construct might not be one the homogeneous protesters would approve of. Tai threatened the homogeneity and solidarity of the protest.

Let’s go back to the example of LGBT centers. That these students have somewhere they can go where they do not feel pressures to hide or “tone down” their identities is important, and any society that promotes freedom of association will have many such centers, whether official or not. But the only way for an entire university to become a safe space for LGBT students is to sacrifice diversity by, for example, demanding that religious students not believe (at least openly) that homosexuality is sinful. The converse is also true: LGBT centers could no longer function as safe spaces for LGBT students if they became sites of more diversity, where those religious students could regularly voice their beliefs.

Diversity cannot thrive in a world that is one big safe space.

Why? Because diversity means difference. Difference means that people will invariably see things in different ways, and we will sometimes anger each other. It’s not a bug, but a feature. To eliminate the possibility that some of us could deeply offend others of us would be to require everyone to live only in ways acceptable to all.

Diversity means a world where black-power advocates can live openly and in ways that anger white people — and where white-power advocates can live openly and thus anger black people. A world of diversity is one where people with different tastes, comfort levels, and senses of humor can wear Halloween costumes that may offend others.

The best resolution is to allow people on college campuses and elsewhere to create safe spaces. If we believe others’ Halloween costumes may deeply offend us, or that people may say derogatory and racist things to us, we can go to one of those spaces. But leave the university as a diverse space — don’t force it to become a safe space.

Diversity and emotional safety are values at odds with each other. They can coexist in tension, but the expansion of one can only come at the expense of the other.

Kevin Currie-Knight teaches in East Carolina University’s Department of Special Education, Foundations, and Research. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Math Education Should Be Set Free – Article by Bradley Doucet

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Categories: Education, Mathematics, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
February 12, 2015
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At different times in my life, I have earned my living tutoring high school math, helping struggling students struggle a little less with quadratic equations and trigonometric functions. I always excelled at math when I was in high school, and my temperament is well-suited to being patient with kids who are not understanding, and to figuring out why they’re not understanding. The experience of assisting a couple of hundred different students over the years has convinced me that just about anyone can learn to understand high school math. Some people simply need more time than others to become proficient with numbers and graphs and such.
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Given my background, I read with interest The Globe and Mail’s write-up in January 2014 on what they are calling the Math Wars, “a battle that’s been brewing for years but heated up last month when this country dropped out of the top 10 in international math education standings.” Specifically, since the year 2000, Canada has fallen from 6th to 13th in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Robert Craigen, a University of Manitoba mathematics professor, points out that this slippage coincides with the move away from teaching basic math skills and the adoption of discovery learning. In much of Canada today, this latest fad has children learning (or failing to learn) math by “investigating ideas through problem-solving, pattern discovery and open-ended exploration.”
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Interestingly, when the Canadian provinces are included in the PISA rankings, Quebec is first among them, places 8th overall, and has lost practically no ground over the last dozen years. Why is Quebec suddenly ahead of the pack? Another Globe and Mail article from last month says that little work has been done on this question, but that “researchers have started focusing on Quebec’s intensive teacher training and curriculum, which balances traditional math drills with problem-solving approaches.” Basic math skills and problem solving sounds like a winning combination to me—and I bet the extra teacher training doesn’t hurt either.

Personally, I have long thought that math students should be allowed to progress at different rates. Currently, the brightest students shine out by scoring 90s and 100s while weaker students flounder with 60s and 70s and are forced to move on to more complex topics without having mastered more basic ones, almost ensuring their continued difficulties. With student-paced learning, the brightest students could still shine out by progressing more quickly, but weaker students would be given the time they need to master each topic before tackling harder problems. Everyone would get 90s and 100s; some would just get them sooner. Teaching would have to change, of course, in such a system. Maybe students would end up watching pre-recorded lessons, a la Khan Academy, and teachers could become more like flexible aides in the classroom, in addition to monitoring individual students to make sure they aren’t slacking off.

The Globe and Mail ended its editorial on Canada’s math woes last Thursday with a call to action: “If our students’ success in math really matters—and it does—it’s time to a have national policy discussion on how to move forward. Everything should be on the table, including curriculum reform. Let’s think big.” I can’t think of a worse idea. Even if you put me in charge of developing this national policy, it would still be a bad idea. After all, who’s to say if I’m correct in supposing that learning at your own pace is the way to go, that it would help everyone succeed and take away some of the anxiety many feel about math? Maybe it would be good for some, and less good for others. Maybe some people need the thrill of competing for top marks, while others would thrive in a less overtly competitive environment. Maybe people are different.

It’s bad enough that governments fix policies for entire provinces; the last thing we need is for everyone in the entire country to be doing the same thing. To the extent that there is a better way (or that there are better ways) to teach math, ways that we may not have even tried yet, the best means of discovering them is to allow different schools to teach math differently, to vary curriculum and teaching style and class size and whatever else they think might help. Let them compete for students, and let the best approaches win, and the worst approaches fall by the wayside, instead of having everyone follow the latest fad and doing irreparable damage to an entire cohort of kids.

It’s very hard to imagine this happening, though, in a system that is financed through taxation. Even though it’s ultimately the same people paying, whether directly as consumers or indirectly as taxpayers, people get into the mental habit of thinking that the government is paying, as if the government had a source of income other than the incomes of its people. And if the government is paying, then the government has to make sure it’s getting its money’s worth, and it’s only natural then that the government (i.e., politicians and bureaucrats) should set the curriculum and educational approach and make sure everyone is progressing at the same pace, in flagrant disregard of human diversity. It seems that we have a choice between “free” education and setting education free. Politicians and bureaucrats won’t give up control without a fight, though, which is a shame in the short term. But it may not matter in the longer term, as private initiatives like the Khan Academy make government schooling increasingly irrelevant.

I love math, and I furthermore believe that it is important for people to learn math. Mastery of math does indeed matter, which is precisely why we should think small and avoid the siren song of a “national policy discussion on how to move forward” on the educational front. Instead, we should let a thousand flowers bloom, and work with, not against, the natural diversity of humankind.

Bradley Doucet is Le Québécois Libre‘s English Editor and the author of the blog Spark This: Musings on Reason, Liberty, and Joy. A writer living in Montreal, he has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness.

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Diversity in Goals Brings Diversity in Value – Article by Frank Shostak

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Categories: Economics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Frank Shostak
November 28, 2014
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A major problem with the mainstream framework of thinking is that people are presented as if a scale of preferences were hard-wired in their heads. Regardless of anything else this scale remains the same all the time. Valuations however, do not exist by themselves regardless of the things to be valued. On this Rothbard wrote,

There can be no valuation without things to be valued. 1

Valuation is the outcome of the mind valuing things. It is a relation between the mind and things.

Purposeful action implies that people assess or evaluate various means at their disposal against their ends. An individual’s ends set the standard for human valuations and thus choices. By choosing a particular end an individual also sets a standard of evaluating various means.

For instance, if my end is to provide a good education for my child, then I will explore various educational institutions and will grade them in accordance with my information regarding the quality of education that these institutions are providing. Observe that the standard of grading these institutions is my end, which, in this case, is to provide my child with a good education. Or, for instance, if my intention is to buy a car, and there are all sorts of cars available in the market, then I have to specify to myself the specific ends that the car will help me achieve. I need to establish whether I plan to drive long distances or just a short distance from my home to the train station and then catch the train. My final end will dictate how I will evaluate various cars. Perhaps I will conclude that for a short distance, a second-hand car will do the trick.

Since an individual’s ends determine the valuations of means and thus his choices, it follows that the same good will be valued differently by an individual as a result of changes in his ends. At any point in time, people have an abundance of ends that they would like to achieve. What limits the attainment of various ends is the scarcity of means. Hence, once a larger variety of means become available, a greater number of ends — or goals — can be accommodated (i.e., people’s living standards will increase).

Another limitation on attaining various goals is the availability of suitable means. Thus to quell my thirst in the desert, I require water. If no one willing to sell water is nearby, any diamonds in my possession will be of no help in this regard.

Frank Shostak is an adjunct scholar of the Mises Institute and a frequent contributor to Mises.org. His consulting firm, Applied Austrian School Economics, provides in-depth assessments and reports of financial markets and global economies. See Frank Shostak’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.

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Mr. Stolyarov’s Thoughts on Human Augmentation Cited by Frank Swain of BBC Future

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Categories: Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
September 25, 2014
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I am pleased to have had my thoughts included in “Cyborgs: The truth about human augmentation” – an excellent new article by Frank Swain on BBC Future. Mr. Swain had previously interviewed me about my illustrated children’s book Death is Wrong, which led to his article “How to live forever” being published by BBC Future in April 2014.

This time Mr. Swain asked me to help debunk common myths about human augmentation, and here is an excerpt from the article that conveys my reply.

Some would express fear that emerging augmentations would create an arms race, that threatens to leave behind those who choose not to be augmented,” agrees Gennady Stolyarov, who told me in April that death was not inevitable. “But this assumes everyone will seek to compete with everyone else.”

Stolyarov foresees a different outcome. Instead of relentlessly optimising ourselves to a model of perfection, he predicts an explosion of diversity. “Different people would choose to augment themselves in different ways, stretching their abilities in different directions. We will not see a monolithic hierarchy of some augmented humans at the top, while the non-augmented humans get relegated to the bottom,” he reasons. “Rather, widespread acceptance of emerging technologies would create a future where a thousand augmented flowers will bloom.”

I prefer Stolyarov’s vision of the future, and it’s one I subscribe to. Mass literacy didn’t result in everyone competing to read the same books, it created a market for everything from pulpy romance novels to weighty tomes on ancient history. People explored the ideas they felt expressed themselves. There’s no reason to think future human technologies won’t play out in the same way. 

Read Mr. Swain’s insightful article for an account of his own experiences as a cyborg living today, and for a great discussion of the potential that technological augmentation offers for humans to overcome current limitations and extend their abilities beyond historical boundaries.

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Unconventional Thinking and Pluralistic Societies – Post by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Culture, Philosophy, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
August 3, 2012
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I was recently asked whether, with respect to those of us in today’s Western world who think unconventionally, “even if we wouldn’t be physically persecuted, aren’t there certain ‘sacred cows’ that must be respected even to get a hearing in today’s society?

This is somewhat true, though increasingly less so as there come to be more diverse outlets for intellectual expression. This is where a pluralistic society actually greatly benefits individual creativity and freedom: if one outlet is closed (because one’s views are deemed “politically incorrect” or some other variant of “incorrect”), others may still welcome one’s ideas. I have seen this a lot with economics in recent years, as alternatives to the conventional Keynesian and Neoclassical schools are becoming more prominent and respected.

Furthermore, different thinkers may be deterred by “soft” censure to different degrees. Some people could not care less and would be content to be pariahs, as long as they were permitted to pursue their work in peace. Others will try to be more diplomatic and tiptoe around the “sacred cows” while subtly injecting their own ideas into public discussion. Others still will try to obtain independent sources of support, outside the paradigm they are trying to influence, and in this way “buy” themselves time and influence. It is true that being outside of the “mainstream” today will probably deny one certain opportunities – but virtually every major intellectual or career choice will do the same. One trades some possibilities for others; the important question is whether those tradeoffs are palatable in the sense of achieving one’s own goals while enabling one to lead a reasonably comfortable life.