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Thanks to Court Ruling, Student Literally Can’t Attend School Because He’s Black – Article by Carey Wedler

Thanks to Court Ruling, Student Literally Can’t Attend School Because He’s Black – Article by Carey Wedler

The New Renaissance HatCarey Wedler
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St. Louis, MO — An African-American third-grader in St. Louis, Missouri will be unable to continue attending his charter school due to a decades-old federal court decision intended to fight segregation. Edmund Lee, a high-performing student at Gateway Science Academy, will be forced to leave the school he has attended since kindergarten because he and his mother, La’Shieka White, are moving away from the district where the school is located. Though policy guidelines, pursuant to the court decision, allow students to stay if they move, a provision specifically states he cannot — because he is black.

When I read the guidelines I was in shock,” White said. “I was crying.”

Though media outlets, including Salon, have reported this anachronistic decision to be a result of state law, the policy is actually a result of a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling from 1980 in response to a 1972 lawsuit challenging segregation. In 1983, a desegregation settlement agreement was reached that included “the transfer of black city students into primarily white suburban districts and white suburban students into magnet schools in the city,” explains the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation, the organization tasked with overseeing the implementation of the 1983 settlement. Until 1999, VICC stood for the Voluntary Interdistrict Coordinating Council, but in 1999, it became a non-profit corporation and the name was changed.

Kurt Fuchs, an employee with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MDESE), told Anti-Media that Edmund will be able to finish his current semester at Gateway Science Academy, but noted he will have to relocate to a new school next year. He explained that the 1983 settlement agreement was reached when St. Louis’ demographic was predominantly black, and the court decision sought to implement what could be called reverse discrimination.

Sarah Potter, a communications coordinator for the MDESE, explained the settlement initiated transfers intended to equalize race distribution in schools. She said when the agreement was drafted, the region had predominantly white suburbs and predominantly black cities, a demographic the settlement sought to change.

Though the agreement was intended to undo segregation, more than 30 years later it has become a justification for it. Edmund’s mother expressed a broad view of the issues with the court-mandated policy.

I don’t want it to be just about an African-American boy,” she said. “I want it to be about all children.

Staff at the charter school are also dismayed at the way the decades-old policy is now perpetuating the very discrimination it was intended to prevent.

“If this helps us start a conversation about maybe some things that could be different with the law, then that is as good thing,” said Assistant Principal Janet Moak.

Tiffany Luis, Edmund’s third grade teacher, said, “To not see his face in the halls next year would be extremely sad.”

David Glaser, VICC’s chief executive officer, told Anti-Media they are unable to challenge the policy.

I understand why people would like to do [something] different, but there isn’t anything I can do — or that anyone can do — because we are all under the constraints of the decision, and it’s our job to follow the law,” he said. He suggested it is unlikely an exception will be made for Edmund because the court’s decision — and the subsequent 1983 desegregation agreement — are legally binding federal court mandates. “It’s not like we can unilaterally change it,” he said.

As of Thursday afternoon, a petition seeking to allow Edmund to continue his studies at Gateway has garnered over 35,000 signatures. In spite of public outcry, however, it appears that for now, the anti-segregation policy will continue to enforce discrimination.

Glaser noted that even the state legislature can’t do anything because the state of Missouri signed the agreement when it was crafted.

As Tiffany Luis said, “The family is saying they want to stay. I don’t understand why they can’t.


Carey Wedler joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in September of 2014. Her topics of interest include the police and warfare states, the Drug War, the relevance of history to current problems and solutions, and positive developments that drive humanity forward. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California, where she was born and raised.

This article (Thanks to Court Ruling, Student Literally Can’t Attend School Because He’s Black) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Carey Wedler and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11 pm Eastern/8 pm Pacific.

Homeschooled Weirdoes and the Culture of Conformity – Article by B.K. Marcus

Homeschooled Weirdoes and the Culture of Conformity – Article by B.K. Marcus

The New Renaissance HatB.K. Marcus
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“Not seeming weird” carries its own cost

Remember that weird kid in school? I don’t mean the really scary one. I mean the borderline oddball. The one you had to talk to a bit to spot the weirdness. The boy who never knew what TV show everyone was talking about. The girl who, when you asked her what her favorite music group was, answered some long name that ended in “quartet.” The kid who thought you meant soccer when you said football.

How did you treat that kid? (Or were you that kid?)

In “Homeschooling, Socialization, and the New Groupthink,” I suggested that the most useful definition of socialization is “ensuring that a child becomes sociable, that he or she develops the intelligence and social reflexes that promote peaceful and pleasurable interactions.” I also suggested that some of homeschooling’s critics might mean something more sinister: indoctrination into a particular vision of society.

But after reading my article, third-grade schoolteacher Heather Lakemacher, commenting on Facebook, pointed out yet a different meaning of socialization: not seeming weird.

This is the real reason, she said, “why this stereotype of the poorly socialized homeschooler exists.” Whereas I had only addressed adult perceptions of homeschooled children, the true culprit, she said, is other kids:

Many of us who were educated in a traditional school have vivid memories of meeting other kids our age who were homeschooled and thinking, “Oh my god! This kid is so WEIRD!” It’s entirely possible that the child in question grew up to be a happy, well-adjusted, productive member of society. …

However, I think the stereotype exists because of the power of those childhood interactions with a peer who just didn’t behave in the way we were expecting them to behave. That’s not an argument against homeschooling, but data will always have a hard time dispelling emotionally charged memories.

She’s right. Odd kids can make a lasting impression.

Grownups regularly note how polite my homeschooled son is, or how he’ll talk to them at all when so many other kids clam up and fail to make eye contact. Adults find his lack of awkwardness with them charming. But what do schooled kids see?

Diane Flynn Keith, a veteran homeschooling mom and author of the book Carschooling, writes that homeschooled kids are, in fact, “not well-socialized in the traditional school sense.”

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but there’s nothing “normal” about our kids. Your homeschooled child is odd compared to the schooled population because they have not experienced ongoing school-based socialization and standardization. …

They haven’t been indoctrinated in the same way. They have not been steeped in the popular consumer culture to the degree that most schooled kids have been. They are not adult-phobic and peer-dependent. (“Yes, My Grown Homeschooled Children Are Odd — And Yours Will Be Too!“)

And most of the time, homeschooling parents love that about our kids — and about homeschooling in general. We don’t want them to be standard. Whether we admit it or not, we tend to think they’re better than the standard. But it’s true that our socially flexible and resilient children can be puzzling to their traditionally schooled peers, and vice versa.

So why does the assessment of weirdness flow only in one direction? Why don’t homeschooled kids think the mainstream schoolchildren are weird?

One answer is that our kids know the mainstream experience through television, movies, and books. They may not always track the finer distinctions between Degrassi High and Hogwarts, but they certainly know a lot more about schools and schooling than mainstream kids know about education outside a classroom.

But I think that even without the pop-cultural lens on the schooling experience, homeschooled kids are just less likely to see anyone as weird. It’s just not a part of their semantic reflexes. Instead they think, “I don’t get him,” or “I’m not into the same stuff she is.”

As a result, homeschooled kids aren’t just more tolerant of diversity; they’re probably also more diverse. And that’s a lot of what gets labeled weird by those who are better assimilated into the mainstream culture.

What’s probably obvious to anyone familiar with homeschooling is that it’s good for the emotional health of kids who don’t easily fit in. What is less obvious is the damage that a culture of conformity does not just to the oddballs in that culture but also to the kids who conform with ease — and to the liberty of the larger society.

For over half a century, studies have shown that the need for social acceptance not only changes our behavior but can even make us perceive the world differently — and incorrectly.

In the early 1950s, psychologist Solomon Asch conducted a series of experiments on the dangers of group influence. When presented with simple problems that 95 percent of individuals could answer correctly when free of group influence, 75 percent of Asch’s test subjects would get the answer wrong when it meant concurring with the group.

In 2005, neuroscientist Gregory Berns conducted an updated version of Asch’s experiments, complete with brain scans to determine if the wrong answers were a conscious acquiescence to social pressure or if, instead, test subjects believed that their group-influenced wrong answers were in fact correct. Not only did the subjects report that they thought their wrong answers were right; the brain scans seemed to confirm it: they showed greater activity in the problem-solving regions of the brain than in those areas associated with conscious decision-making. And the nonconformists who went against the group and gave correct answers showed heightened activity in the part of the brain associated with fear and anxiety.

Commenting on the implications of these experiments, author Susan Cain writes,

Many of our most important civic institutions, from elections to jury trials to the very idea of majority rule, depend on dissenting voices. But when the group is literally capable of changing our perceptions, and when to stand alone is to activate primitive, powerful, and unconscious feelings of rejection, then the health of these institutions seems far more vulnerable than we think. (Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking)

Groupthink, in other words, is dangerous to a free society. And we don’t always realize when we’re not thinking for ourselves.

This kind of cognitive conformity, however, isn’t fixed or universal. Not only does it vary, for example, between East and West; it has also declined in the West since the 1950s, according to a 1996 review of 133 Asch-type studies from 17 countries. That review assessed the cultures in which the studies took place to see if their results “related cross-culturally to individualism [versus] collectivism.” Unsurprisingly, test subjects were least susceptible to the reality-distorting effects of the group in the more individualistic national cultures.

We should expect the same to be true of more and less individualistic subcultures. I bet homeschoolers, for example, are less likely to show the Asch effect. I suspect the same thing of the oddballs at school.

That doesn’t mean everyone should homeschool, or that only weirdoes can be independent thinkers, but it does suggest that the more a culture values independence and diversity, the less vulnerable it will be to the distortions of conformity. And if socialization means helping kids fit in more easily with the culture of their peers, then parents of homeschoolers and schooled kids alike may want to reconsider the value of socializing our children.

B.K. Marcus is editor of The Freeman.

This article was 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.

A Libertarian Defense of Tenure – Article by Aeon Skoble and Steven Horwitz

A Libertarian Defense of Tenure – Article by Aeon Skoble and Steven Horwitz

The New Renaissance HatAeon Skoble and Steven Horwitz
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Tenure protects the right to be unpopular

Libertarians are understandably frustrated with the state of higher education today. Libertarian ideas often do not get covered, or are covered unfairly. Faculty are overwhelmingly left-of-center, and government subsidies have driven up costs, leading to higher student debt.

These are legitimate concerns of course. However, the solution to these problem is not to abolish the institution of tenure. Tenure is not anti-liberty, and it provides important protections for those who are libertarians (and conservatives) in academia. In addition, it has some efficiency properties that explain why it has survived and might well do so even in a world where the state had no role in higher ed.

There are many potential objections to tenure. For some, the idea that a tenured professor cannot be fired strikes them as a rejection of the free market. Others believe that tenure is a way of protecting leftist faculty, even if their ideas are wrong-headed, and students don’t wish to hear them. In that way, tenure is a kind of monopoly protection for bad ideas. Finally, people across the political spectrum believe that tenure creates so-called “deadwood” faculty who, once they are tenured, no longer have to care about their teaching or research.

First, let’s dispatch a common misconception: it is not true that tenured professors cannot be fired.  Tenured professors can be fired for a variety of reasons.  What tenure does is limit what counts as a valid reason for dismissal in order to protect academic freedom. A tenured professor can be fired if caught plagiarizing, or found guilty of sexual or other forms of harassment, or convicted of violent crime. But if she can be fired for writing an article that the dean disapproves of, she cannot perform her job. And that is where tenure comes in.

Understanding why tenure is a desirable institution requires us to remember the purpose of a university. Universities are, ideally, institutional arrangements that enable scholars to engage in the activities of seeking the truth and then sharing the fruits of our scholarship with students, other scholars, and perhaps the general public.

Essential to that project is that scholars are free to seek the truth as we see it, without interference by others who have different goals. Of course, scholars must play by some very simple rules of the game: do not lie or cheat; do not distort your data or the arguments of your sources; be transparent about conflicts of interest; do not engage in personal attacks or the use of force, among others.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because the search for truth is a discovery process analogous to the market. Just as entrepreneurs in a market require the freedom to discover value where their best judgment takes them, subject to rules against force and fraud, so do scholars in a university require the freedom to discover truth where our best judgment takes us.

Tenure protects scholars like us from interference with our attempts to discover truth. Scholars cannot engage in truth-seeking if we’re facing retaliation from people who don’t like where our research leads. A university cannot be a university without robust protection of the open exchange of ideas and the freedom of each scholar to research in his or her field without intimidation.

By ruling out the possibility of firing a professor simply for the content of her beliefs, tenure ensures that the university will be what Michael Polanyi called “a republic of science,” in which truth-seeking is the highest standard.

Skeptics might argue that even if tenure were abolished, faculty still wouldn’t leave their current jobs because they would find it difficult to get hired elsewhere. But that’s not the point. The point is that we cannot do our jobs without a credible guarantee of academic freedom, and tenure is one way to secure that.

Tenure protects academic freedom in three distinct ways. First, when we engage in research and publishing, we can’t be worried that some administrator, trustee, politician, or even a student activist will find our work offensive and retaliate against us. This will have a chilling effect on our ability to seek the truth, which is our job as college professors. There are numerous examples of libertarian and conservative faculty facing just these sorts of threats, and tenure is the primary reason those threats are empty.

Second, when we construct and teach our curricula, we can’t worry that any of the usual suspects will take offense, or try to substitute their judgment for ours. Finally, when participating in institutional decision making about academic matters, we can’t be afraid to call shenanigans on various administrator-driven fads (of which there are many) that would undermine our ability to engage in research and teaching.

Although we are open to alternative institutional processes if they could be shown to adequately protect academic freedom, abolishing tenure in their absence is a dicey proposition. Absent tenure, it is libertarians and conservatives who would be the first to be persecuted, censored, or silenced.

Politically correct ideas don’t need the protection of tenure because they are popular; tenure protects ideas that are not. Abolishing it would give still more power to the activists and administrators who seek to create an ideologically uniform academy.

Given those concerns, how big is the downside to tenure? If the complaint is that some faculty’s research productivity declines after tenure, then an easy fix is to have continued productivity tied to merit raises.  Nothing about the institution of tenure precludes post-tenure reviews and merit pay. And even if some faculty slack off as publishers, so what? As long as they’re good teachers, mentors, and colleagues, it’s not necessary that all college faculty be active publishers their whole careers.

Tenure offers a beneficial set of incentives for many universities. Faculty want the protections we have outlined above, and universities want to encourage faculty to develop university-specific human capital to better serve their educational vision and the type of students they attract. Faculty don’t necessarily want to make those specific investments if the opportunity cost may be enhancing their publication record so as to make them more attractive in the job market.

Tenure is a commitment by the institution to maintain a faculty member’s employment in return for abiding by some basic rules and demonstrating during the tenure process that they have acquired that institution-specific human capital. The faculty member gets enhanced, but not total, job security, and the institution gets someone committed to its particular needs. In this way, tenure is like marriage: we bind ourselves to an arrangement with high exit costs in order to incentivize ourselves to commit to the relationship. Just as marriage is compatible with a free society, so is tenure.

There are many problems with contemporary higher education, but tenure isn’t one of them. Ending tenure would exacerbate many of those issues while also creating new ones. And in an institutional setting where the opponents of liberty hold most of the cards, getting rid of one of the most important institutions that protects dissent and the ability to seek the truth will only silence the friends of liberty.

Aeon J. Skoble is Professor of Philosophy at Bridgewater State University.

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was 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.

3 Kinds of Economic Ignorance – Article by Steven Horwitz

3 Kinds of Economic Ignorance – Article by Steven Horwitz

The New Renaissance HatSteven Horwitz
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Do you know what you don’t know?

Nothing gets me going more than overt economic ignorance.

I know I’m not alone. Consider the justified roasting that Bernie Sanders got on social media for wondering why student loans come with interest rates of 6 or 8 or 10 percent while a mortgage can be taken out for only 3 percent. (The answer, of course, is that a mortgage has collateral in the form of a house, so it is a lower-risk loan to the lender than a student loan, which has no collateral and therefore requires a higher interest rate to cover the higher risk.)

When it comes to economic ignorance, libertarians are quick to repeat Murray Rothbard’s famous observation on the subject:

It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a “dismal science.” But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.

Economic ignorance comes in different forms, and some types of economic ignorance are less excusable than others. But the most important implication of Rothbard’s point is that the worst sort of economic ignorance is ignorance about your economic ignorance. There are varying degrees of blameworthiness for not knowing certain things about economics, but what is always unacceptable is not to recognize that you may not know enough to be speaking with authority, nor to understand the limits of economic knowledge.

Let’s explore three different types of economic ignorance before we return to the pervasive problem of not knowing what you don’t know.

1. What Isn’t Debated

Let’s start with the least excusable type of economic ignorance: not knowing agreed-upon theories or results in economics. There may not be a lot of these, but there are more than nonspecialists sometimes believe. Bernie Sanders’s inability to understand why uncollateralized loans have higher interest rates would fall into this category, as this is an agreed-upon claim in financial economics. Donald Trump’s bashing of free trade (and Sanders’s, too) would be another example, as the idea that free trade benefits the trading countries on the whole and over time is another strongly agreed-upon result in economics.

Trump and Sanders, and plenty of others, who make claims about economics, but who remain ignorant of basic teachings such as these, should be seen as highly blameworthy for that ignorance. But the deeper failing of many who make such errors is that they are ignorant of their ignorance. Often, they don’t even know that there are agreed-upon results in economics of which they are unaware.

2. Interpreting the Data

A second type of economic ignorance that is, in my view, less blameworthy is ignorance of economic data. As Rothbard observed, economics is a specialized discipline, and nonspecialists can’t be expected to know all the relevant theories and facts. There are a lot of economic data out there to be searched through, and often those data require careful statistical interpretation to be easily applied to questions of public policy. Economic data sources also require theoretical interpretation. Data do not speak for themselves — they must be integrated into a story of cause and effect through the framework of economic theory.

That said, in the world of the Internet, a lot of basic economic data are available and not that hard to find. The problem is that many people believe that certain empirical facts are true and don’t see the need to verify them by actually checking the data. For example, Bernie Sanders recently claimed that Americans are routinely working 50- and 60-hour workweeks. No doubt some Americans are, but the long-term direction of the average workweek is down, with the current average being about 34 hours per week. Longer lives and fewer working years between school and retirement have also meant a reduction in lifetime working hours and an increase in leisure time for the average American. These data are easily available at a variety of websites.

The problem of statistical interpretation can be seen with data on economic inequality, where people wrongly take static snapshots of the shares of national income held by the rich and poor to be evidence of the decline of the poor’s standard of living or their ability to move up and out of poverty.

People who wish to opine on such matters can, again, be forgiven for not knowing all the data in a specialized discipline, but if they choose to engage with the topic, they should be aware of their own limitations, including their ability to interpret the data they are discussing.

3. Different Schools of Thought

The third type of economic ignorance, and the least blameworthy, is ignorance of the multiple perspectives within the discipline of economics. There are multiple schools of thought in economics, and many empirical questions and historical facts have a variety of explanations. So a movie like The Big Short that clearly suggests that the financial crisis and Great Recession were caused by a lack of regulation might be persuasive to people who have never heard an alternative explanation that blames the combination of Federal Reserve policy and misguided government intervention in the housing market for the problems. One can make similar points about the Great Depression and the difference between Hayekian and Keynesian explanations of business cycles more generally.

These issues involving schools of thought are excellent examples of Rothbard’s point about the specialized nature of economics and what the nonspecialist can and cannot be expected to know. It is, in fact, unrealistic to expect nonexperts to know all of the arguments by the various schools of thought.

Combining Ignorance and Arrogance

What is missing from all of these types of economic ignorance — and what is often missing from knowledgeable economists themselves — is what we might call “epistemic humility,” or a willingness to admit how little we know. Noneconomists are often unable to recognize how little they know about economics, and economists are often unable to admit how little they know about the economy.

Real economic “expertise” is not just mastery of theories and facts. It is a deeper understanding of the variety of interpretations of those theories and facts and humility in the face of our limits in applying that knowledge in attempting to manage an economy. The smartest economists are the ones who know the limits of economic expertise.

Commentators with opinions on economic matters, whether presidential candidates or Facebook friends, could, at the very least, indicate that they may have biases or blind spots that lead to uses of data or interpretive frameworks with which experts might disagree.

The worst type of economic ignorance is the type of ignorance that is the worst in all fields: being ignorant of your own ignorance.

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was 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.

Nevada Transhumanist Party – Formation and Membership Invitation – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Nevada Transhumanist Party – Formation and Membership Invitation – Video by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
September 22, 2015
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Mr. Stolyarov introduces the Nevada Transhumanist Party, officially registered with the Nevada Secretary of State on August 31, 2015. All individuals who have a rational faculty and ability to form political opinions are welcome to become either Nevada Members or Allied Members.

Read the Constitution and Bylaws of the Nevada Transhumanist Party.

See the official filed documents with the Nevada Secretary of State.

Join the Nevada Transhumanist Party Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/NevadaTranshumanistParty/.

NTP-Logo-9-1-2015References

Website of United States Transhumanist Party
Zoltan Istvan’s Webpage
Immortality Bus Website
– “The Transhumanist Wager” – Wikipedia
– “Thoughts on Zoltan Istvan’s The Transhumanist Wager: A Review” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

A College Degree Does Not Make You a Million Dollars – Article by Andrew Syrios

A College Degree Does Not Make You a Million Dollars – Article by Andrew Syrios

The New Renaissance Hat
Andrew Syrios
April 13, 2014
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It is becoming substantially less difficult these days to convince people that college is not a sure fire way to the good life. Even Paul Krugman has conceded that “it’s no longer true that having a college degree guarantees that you’ll get a good job.” You can say that again: 53 percent of recent graduates are either jobless or underemployed. Unfortunately, myths die hard. Many people still believe as Hillary Clinton once said, “Graduates from four-year colleges earn nearly an estimated one million dollars more [than high school graduates].” This may sound convincing, but this figure — based on a Census Bureau report — is about as true as it is relevant.

After all, isn’t it true that the most hard-working and intelligent people tend more to go to college? This is not a nature vs. nurture argument, the factors behind these qualities are unrelated to the discussion at hand. If one grants, however, that the more ambitious and talented go to college in greater proportion than their peers, Mrs. Clinton could have just said “the most hard-working and intelligent earn nearly an estimated one million dollars more than their peers.” I think the presses need not be stopped.

For one thing, the Census Bureau estimate includes super-earners such as CEO’s which skew the average upward. Although some, such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, didn’t graduate college, most did. This is why it’s better to use the median (the middle number in the data set) than the mean or average. It’s also why Hillary Clinton and other repeaters of this factoid don’t.

Furthermore, just because most smart people go to college doesn’t mean they should. They may earn more money, but what they keep is more important than what they make. Financial columnist Jack Hough created a very illuminating hypothetical scenario with two people, one who chooses college and one who enters the labor force after high school. Hough then uses the average cost of college as well as U.S. Census Bureau data for the average income of college graduates and non-graduates, adjusted for age. He assumes both save and invest 5 percent of their income each year. By the age of 65, how does the net worth of each look?

  • College Graduate: $400,000
  • High School Graduate: $1,300,000

When one thinks about the common narrative of college vs. no college, it truly becomes absurd. Indeed, who exactly are we comparing? We’re not only comparing Jane-Lawyer to Joe-Carpenter, but we’re also comparing financial analysts with the mentally disabled, medical doctors with welfare dependents, building engineers with drug addicts, architects with pan handlers, marketing directors with immigrants who can barely speak English, and university professors with career criminals (whose earnings, by the way, are rarely reported). Many of these troubled people didn’t graduate high school, but it is shocking how they shuffle kids through the system these days. Some 50 percent of Detroit high school graduates are functionally illiterate and it isn’t that much better for the country on the whole. And something tells me that these particular non-graduates need something other than four years of drinking and studying Lockean (well, more likely Marxian) philosophy.

It certainly could be a good thing to earn a college degree. If one wants to be an accountant, engineer, or doctor, a degree is required. And those jobs have very high incomes. But can one really expect to make a killing with a degree in sociology or Medieval-African-Women’s-Military-Ethnic Studies? Pretty much the only jobs those degrees help one get, in any way other than the “hey, they got a college degree” sort of way, are jobs teaching sociology or Medieval-African-Women’s-Military-Ethnic Studies. And that requires an advanced degree as well (i.e., more money down the tube).

Furthermore, a college degree does not even guarantee a particularly high income. CBS News ran an article on the 20 worst-paying college degrees. The worst was Child and Family Studies with a starting average salary of $29,500 and a mid-career average of $38,400. Art History came in 20th with a starting average of $39,400 and a mid-career average of $57,100. Other degrees in between included elementary education, culinary arts, religious studies, nutrition, and music.

These are decent salaries, but are they worth the monetary and opportunity costs? With the wealth of information on the Internet, many skills can be attained on one’s own. Alternatives to college such as entrepreneurship and apprenticeship programs are often ignored. Indeed, apprentices typically get paid for their work while they are learning. The average yearly wage of a plumber and electrician are $52,950 and $53,030 respectively. That’s better than many college degrees and comes without the debt.

And that debt is getting bigger and bigger as college tuition continues to rise. In the last five years, tuition has gone up 24 percent more than inflation. Including books, supplies, transportation and other costs, in-state college students paid an average of $17,860 for one year in 2013 (out-of-state students paid substantially more). And despite all of that, many students don’t even finish. According to US News & World Report,

Studies have shown that nonselective colleges graduate, on average, 35 percent of their students, while the most competitive schools graduate 88 percent. Harvard’s 97 percent four-year graduation rate might not be that surprising … [but then] Texas Southern University’s rate was 12 percent.

12 percent is simply ridiculous, but the 35 percent for nonselective schools is extremely bad as well. Even the 88 percent for competitive schools leaves 12 percent of their students with no degree, but plenty of debt.

Given all of that, it can’t be surprising that the default rates on student loans (which cannot be wiped away in bankruptcy) appear to be much higher than is typically reported. According to The Chronicle,

[O]ne in every five government loans that entered repayment in 1995 has gone into default. The default rate is higher for loans made to students from two-year colleges, and higher still, reaching 40 percent, for those who attended for-profit institutions …

[T]he government’s official “cohort-default rate,” which measures the percentage of borrowers who default in the first two years of repayment and is used to penalize colleges with high rates, downplays the long-term cost of defaults, capturing only a sliver of the loans that eventually lapse …

College is good for some people. If you want to go into a field that has high earning potential (engineering, medicine, accounting, etc.) or you really like a certain subject and want to dedicate your career to it even if it may not be the best financial decision, go for it. But don’t go to college just because as Colin Hanks says in Orange County, “that’s what you do after high school!”

Andrew Syrios is a Kansas City-based real estate investor and partner with Stewardship Properties. He also blogs at Swifteconomics.com. See Andrew Syrios’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.

Spreading the Word That Death is Wrong – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Spreading the Word That Death is Wrong – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
Gennady Stolyarov II
March 29, 2014
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Who could have thought a month ago that an illustrated children’s book on indefinite life extension would become a fiercely, passionately discussed phenomenon not just in transhumanist and futurist circles, but on mainstream publications and forums? And yet that is exactly what has happened to Death is Wrong – certainly the most influential and provocative of all of my endeavors to date. I am thrilled that it is precisely my pursuit of this most fundamental and precious goal – preservation of the life of every innocent individual – that has achieved greater public exposure, controversy included, than anything else I have ever done.

Our Indiegogo fundraiser to spread 1000 copies of Death is Wrong to children, free of charge, is gaining momentum and has exceeded 50% of our $5000 goal. (Funds pledged stood at $2,690, or 53.8% of the goal, as of March 30, 2014.) The generosity of our 60 donors so far has been tremendously encouraging and inspiring to me. Anything can still happen until the April 23 deadline, and spreading the word about this effort has been my top priority for my discretionary time. The distribution effort has also been jump-started, with 77 books sent out to longevity activists already. The books will have an international reach; 50 of them have been sent to the United Kingdom and 5 to Poland, while the remaining 22 were sent to activists in the United States. The  US and UK shipments have arrived already, while the shipment to Poland is en route. The funds that were pledged via PayPal presently allow for immediate shipment of at least 107 additional books to those who seek to distribute them. I continue to post regular updates regarding the fundraiser’s resources and recent developments on the Indiegogo Updates page as well as on The Rational Argumentator.

The instructions to request copies of Death is Wrong for distribution to children remain the same:

  • Send an e-mail to gennadystolyarovii@gmail.com.
  • Provide your name, your mailing address, a statement of your support for indefinite life extension, and a brief description of your plan to spread the book to children in your local area. Remember that all copies received pursuant to this initiative would need to be offered to children free of charge (as gifts or reading opportunities) and may not be resold.
  • Provide the number of copies of Death is Wrong that you are requesting.
  • Preferably, provide an indication that you would be willing to send photographs of the books that have been delivered to you as well as events where you will be distributing the books.

I cannot express enough gratitude to the many people who have been diligently spreading the word about Death is Wrong and the fundraiser, and who have contributed their time and talents pro bono to help make this endeavor a success. One such individual is Peter Caramico, a filmmaker and advocate of life extension and cryonics, who has, in affiliation with LongeCity, developed a beautiful outreach video for Death is Wrong. The video is narrated by me and my wife and illustrator Wendy Stolyarov and utilizes some of the art from the book, along with additional inspiring images. You can see a preliminary version here on Peter’s Cryonics Culture video channel. I hope to spread this video soon to galvanize support for the book and its message – but it is, in its own right, a work of great potential impact for the ideas of life extension.

March 2014 has been a month of whirlwind publicity for Death is Wrong. The month began with an appearance by Wendy and me at the Transhuman Visions 2.0 Conference in Piedmont, CA, on March 1. This was an excellent opportunity to present the book to a future-oriented audience and to engage in many one-on-one conversations afterward. You can see a video of our presentation here and download the presentation slides in PDF and PowerPoint formats.

Numerous stories on Death is Wrong have appeared in high-profile online publications. I am most pleased with the articles whose authors performed thorough research on the book and contacted me directly with thoughtful questions. Leanne Butkovic of Fast Company and Rebecca Hiscott of Mashable published fair and accurate stories. I was also pleased to be interviewed on March 22 by Richard (RJ) Eskow on his program The Zero Hour. The 9.5-minute discussion included a brief introduction to the book, recent reactions to it, the morality of fighting death, how defeating senescence might motivate people to more resolutely combat and avert other perils and risks, and why I aim to spread the ideas of indefinite life extension to children. Mr. Eskow offers on The Zero Hour a thoughtful and intelligent forum for the serious consideration of both contemporary and emerging issues, including transformative future technologies and their potential societal impacts. He presented me with challenging yet straightforward questions – ones I was pleased to address and to provide my perspectives on, as these questions and challenges play an important role in the public discussion that has emerged regarding Death is Wrong.

On March 29, I was interviewed by Stephen Euin Cobb for his excellent podcast The Future and You. Our extensive discussion will be developed into two forthcoming episodes of The Future and You, scheduled to be posted on April 2 and April 9. I have scheduled additional media engagements and, in the meantime, maintain steady correspondence with many who are making the success of Death is Wrong possible. Expect more great content and great publicity for the life-extension message soon.

On March 29, I was interviewed by Stephen Euin Cobb for his excellent podcast The Future and You. Our extensive and multifaceted discussion will be developed into two forthcoming episodes of The Future and You, scheduled to be posted on April 2 and April 9. I have scheduled additional media engagements and, in the meantime, maintain steady correspondence with many who are making the success of Death is Wrong possible. Expect more great content and great publicity for the life-extension message soon.

Among publications that did not contact me, Death is Wrong was also mentioned by James Moore on the Huffington Post in his poignant article “Transhumanism and All My Mortal Friends”. Extensive discussion – both in support of and in opposition to the book – was fueled by articles and posts on Motherboard (including a German version), Disinformation, and Slashdot. Two articles in Italian – a critique by Pietro Minto on Il Foglio and a rebuttal by the author of the transhumanist Estropico blog – also discussed Death is Wrong.  A wonderful review of Death is Wrong also appeared on the blog Me and My Kindle. Some of the outlets that covered the book missed various details (e.g., my age or the fact that it was my mother – not my grandfather – who initially informed me about death), but I am pleased that the general message – the feasibility and desirability of indefinite life extension – is being spread and discussed, as that, more than anything else, was my goal in writing Death is Wrong.

Giulio Prisco wrote in his excellent review of Death is Wrong and its impact, “Have the Stolyarovs found the way to make transhumanist ideas go viral? Perhaps yes. Provocative strong messages get heard, and teaching children that death will be cured is very provocative in today’s dull, defeatist, politically correct cultural climate.” I agree with this assessment. Death, in fact, is obviously wrong; it is the Dragon-Tyrant in the room – but millennia of ingrained cultural acceptance and rationalization have obscured this truth in the minds of most. The direct, straightforward denunciation of death is needed to jolt people’s minds toward recalling the raw travesty of death, without the soothing embellishments that lead many to miss the core truth: death is wrong! In the mind of a child, reacting immediately to the grim prospect of the future demise of every human currently alive, the probability that this truth will remain unclouded is greater, as long as adequate support is provided for the desire to resist and fight death.

Even one book, one expression of the message that combating death through the pursuit of indefinite life extension is both feasible and desirable, can make all the difference for a young mind. Contrary to the assertions of some, I seek not to indoctrinate children, but to achieve the exact opposite – to inoculate children against indoctrination from pro-death arguments by showing them that those are not the only arguments around. I have never been one for suppressing discussion or disinclining others from considering a position. As a staunch supporter of free speech, open dialogue, and even the most vigorous public debates, I see the unfettered expression of every viewpoint – be it true or false, profound or vapid – as a necessary aspect of the free market of ideas. Free discussion drives forward an iterative approach toward greater understanding of reality and a better implementation of that understanding for the improvement of human well-being. Even in engaging the falsest ideas, one can improve one’s knowledge of truth and one’s ability to distinguish truth from falsehood. Yet it is impossible to be alive today and to avoid encountering arguments, both religious and secular, commonly presented in favor of mortality. The risk to children is the opposite: that they will not encounter any arguments other than those accepting death as “normal” or “natural” or “part of life”. If we want children to think critically about this literally most vital of issues, we cannot be content with them being exposed to one side – the side of death acceptance – only.

Death is Wrong is a conduit for children toward life-extension science, transhumanist philosophy, and thinking about the world-changing effects of emerging technologies more generally. For the book to have the greatest impact on a young mind, it should be used as a means to further exploration – hence its Appendix and list of links at the end. Perhaps 15 or 20 years in the future, a child who reads this book this year will remember it as one of the formative moments in his or her intellectual growth. Perhaps a young person’s decision to study and pursue advances in biology, regenerative medicine, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, cryonics, or aeronautical engineering will have Death is Wrong as one of its early catalysts. Perhaps a prolific artist, author, or philosopher will grow up and communicate the message of life extension in powerful, inspiring ways as a result of the jolt of inspiration contained in Death is Wrong.  

Did I expect that the book would cause considerable controversy? Of course. Death is Wrong challenges one of the most ingrained mindsets that has prevailed in virtually every tradition, and even dominates many contemporary secular points of view. I consider the acceptance of death and the attempts to justify it to be a cultural Stockholm syndrome; many people seek to normalize death in the abstract because they fear that a condemnation of this Dragon-Tyrant would drive them to despair about their perceived predicament of inevitable mortality.  So many espouse rationalizations for death, even as they resist death in practice day to day in working to improve their lives materially, to avoid and minimize risks, and to employ technology for the benefit of their health and for incremental life extension. Most people accept modern medical treatments such as heart surgery; most people accept that it is desirable to live into one’s eighties and nineties – but why do they not accept the prospect of regenerative medicine and of routinely living beyond 100, 120, 500, 1000, 1,000,000 years? It is this irrational disconnect between incremental acceptance of life extension and its rejection as a concept that I seek to expose and remedy. It can be expected that some people will not appreciate their most closely held assumptions and premises being disputed in a direct, unapologetic manner.

Death is Wrong - by Gennady Stolyarov II, Illustrated by Wendy Stolyarov

Death is Wrong is a paradigm-shifting book in part because it poses hitherto unexpected challenges to both the mainstream “left” and the mainstream “right” (a good sign, in my view, that I have created something original and genuinely progressive, life-affirming, and liberating). The highest-profile negative review of the book was written by Joelle Renstrom of Slate – who, to her credit, did read the book, but reiterated many commonplace fallacies regarding indefinite longevity and its impact. Mark Shrayber of Jezebel echoed some of Renstrom’s criticisms but was more sympathetic and even-handed in his tone. In the greatest irony and most astounding self-contradiction I have yet encountered regarding the American “pro-life” movement, Judie Brown of the misnamed “American Life League” called my book – a book, recall, that proclaims death to be wrong and life to be right! – a “grave concern”. Why? Because I refuse to die on the presumptive timetable ordained by “the God of our creation” as the American Life League conceives of him. I think this, more than anything, shows the true colors of the “pro-life” label as it is used by certain religious fundamentalists in the United States. They are not for life; they are for death on their deity’s terms. When someone actually speaks in favor of extending and preserving life through science and technology – they of course do not support that, even though most of them resort to it regularly in practice through the use of modern medicine. Interestingly enough, Judie Brown lambasts Joelle Renstrom – my critic on Slate – as often as she warns her readers about me,  Death is Wrong, and transhumanism. While the death-acceptance strains of both the “left” and the “right” continue to clash with one another – largely over hot-button minutiae whose discussion will be rendered obsolete by future technological progress – let us hope that the field of genuine cultural influence will become increasingly open to us life-extension advocates.

While my intention here is to chronicle the responses to Death is Wrong, rather than to rebut my critics (which Eric Schulke has already done in part through his response to Renstrom’s review), I would like to address a few common misunderstandings, as they have reappeared in one article after another. First, it is true that I fear death; I would be engaging in ludicrous bravado if I denied it. What sensible person who values his life would not fear its end and use that fear to motivate even some modicum of risk aversion? In their excellent article, Eric Schulke and Wioletta Karkucinska explain that fear of death is, indeed, nothing to be ashamed of. But is my life “ruled” by fear of death, as Joelle Renstrom suggests? Was fear of death my motivation for writing Death is Wrong? Absolutely not, and I had said as much to Fast Company.  However, because my full response was not printed, I will present it here. I said that fear only exists in the face of the possibility of losing something one values. The reason I wrote this book is not primarily that I fear death, but rather that I love life and wish for all innocent humans to have the opportunity to live indefinitely. But I also see no shame in fearing the loss of what one loves. One does not fear the loss of that, to which one is indifferent. When Meghan Neal of Motherboard wrote, on the basis of the Fast Company article, that I fear death (a true statement), she nonetheless did not reflect my more nuanced position that love of life – not fear of death – is the primary motivation for those who seek to live indefinitely longer, myself included.

Still, prevailing cultural aversions to fear per se are just as irrational as prevailing cultural aversions to anger, sadness, disgust, and other so-called “negative” emotions per se. These emotions have their places in the right contexts – as justified responses to sometimes grossly sub-optimal and unjust aspects of reality, as motivators for us to ameliorate real, urgent, pressing problems in the world.  No emotion is wrong in itself; events in the real world (like death!) can be wrong, as can a mismatch between an emotion and the reality faced by an individual experiencing it. We should love life and fear death; we should not love death or fear life.

Second, why did I not address the “double-edged sword” of technology, as Renstrom alleges? I think that the potential of technology to be used for ill is expressed so often that it is a truism. Yes, some technologies can be used to kill or otherwise harm people, deliberately or accidentally. Yes, it is important to use technologies prudently and ethically, with considerations for the likely effects of a particular application. But this is like saying, “Yes, you can choke if you eat food. You should chew and ingest carefully.” But just as the possibility of choking is not an argument against food, neither is the possibility of technological misuse an argument against technological progress, or even against unfettered progress. The developers of new technologies themselves are among the most conscious and thoughtful about possible risks. The users of new technologies, too, have the moral responsibility and the rational incentive to use their judgment to minimize harms to themselves and others. The coercive imposition of harm by some against others – irrespective of the level of technology used – should be deterred and penalized by law and by public opinion. Furthermore, the discussions of various emerging risks in academic and policy circles has been so extensive and thorough that we are not at risk of understating the risks. We are at risk of the exact opposite: understanding the benefits of radical technological progress and thereby foregoing the achievements that are or shortly will be within our technical grasp. As I previously expressed, what I fear most is not runaway technology endangering humankind, but rather a drawn-out stagnation because the majority of people and the institutions they control are overly fearful of innovation. There are enough diverse voices cautioning us; I do not need to be another. Instead, I would be a voice encouraging humans to progress, to improve their lives, and to mitigate the already existing risks we face every day because we humans are insufficiently advanced, both in our technologies and – for most of us – in our attitudes toward them. And, of course, what bigger risk is there than that of each of our eventual demises? Are we to ignore this very real and ubiquitous Dragon-Tyrant before us, only to speculate about dystopian futures which are remote in probability at most?

Some – mostly those who did not read the book – allege that I advocate for an unrealistic indestructibility, yet Death is Wrong focuses primarily on life extension through the reversal of senescence. It is true that this would not remove all sources of risk, and accidents and disasters would remain possible. I am not offering or projecting a panacea. Rather, I make an observation of a far more proximate nature – that radically greater longevity from any causes would dramatically affect humans’ attitudes toward other risks and present a considerable incentive to develop technologies and societal solutions to reduce the probability of harm from those sources as well. I elaborate upon this tendency – one that is already well underway – in my article “Life Extension and Risk Aversion”. I do see the possibility for some people not to die at all due to the continuation of this risk reduction through technological and societal progress. This technological immortality is distinctly different in kind from the mythical immortality of gods and spirits.  Every being, now and in the future, remains subject to natural laws; in Francis Bacon’s words “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.” To keep living without bound, one must learn how to harness the natural laws to make it so – and one must continually maintain the conditions that enable such harnessing to occur.

Finally, do I intend for children to be paralyzed by worry about death? Quite the opposite! I want them to grow up motivated to fight it and to win new territory for life. Irrespective of whether any given individual will overcome death or achieve indefinite life, the goal remains a worthwhile one. One of Joelle Renstrom’s most perplexing misunderstandings about Death is Wrong was that children might be led to think that those who died were somehow wrong. Why would I blame the innocent victims of death? It is death that is wrong, not they. Furthermore, death is still wrong, even for those who do not manage to escape it. As Dr. Bill Andrews of Sierra Sciences puts it, we should “cure aging or die trying”! It is better to put up a good fight and lose, than to resign oneself to defeat without trying. It is better to, in Dylan Thomas’s words, “rage, rage against the dying of the light”, than to delude oneself by considering the dying to be good in some illusory “greater” sense.  Children, in the everyday course of learning about reality, cannot avoid seeing the massive cruelty, suffering, and barbarism still present in the world. Compared to the genuine travesties committed by Nazi Germany – justifiably considered an important part of history for children to learn about – is not the message that death can be combated and possibly overcome a message of hope – an inspiration to action rather than a call to despair? I certainly think so, and I will proclaim this message proudly.

Now is the time for massive cultural change – catalyzed by this discussion about the fight against death, a discussion that prevailing mindsets have avoided for far too long. Let there be controversy and debate, as long as enough people come to see the need to make a decisive push for scientific and technological progress now, in our lifetimes, while we still have a fighting chance as individuals. A colossally better future – be it one of indefinite longevity, radical abundance, and/or the technological Singularity – will not come about automatically. It requires people to bring it about through action and advocacy. It requires us, and it requires today’s children as well.

“Death is Wrong” Discussed on Mashable and Slashdot – Post by G. Stolyarov II

“Death is Wrong” Discussed on Mashable and Slashdot – Post by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
March 16, 2014
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I was pleased to see that Mashable’s Rebecca Hiscott wrote a fair, thoroughly researched, and factually accurate piece on Death is Wrong. Ms. Hiscott interviewed me on March 13, 2014, and incorporated my remarks in her new article, “Children’s Book Teaches Kids ‘Death is Wrong’”. I am hopeful that this development will aid in spreading the book’s reach and impact. The book was also listed on Slashdot, where a brief but fair and factual description has triggered quite an intense discussion, with both supportive and contrary arguments.

I am also pleased that the Amazon ranking for Death is Wrong has increased to unprecedented levels.

The book is now ranked #6 in the Kindle store in both Children’s eBooks and Children’s Nonfiction in the category of “Science, Nature & How It Works”, as well as #88 overall in the category of all Children’s Books on Science, Nature & How It Works. Could Death is Wrong become a bestseller? If so, its long-term impact on the culture could be just what I aspired toward – educating the next generation of life-extension researchers and activists, so as to accelerate the arrival of indefinite longevity for us all.

Amazon Kindle Store Ranking on March 16, 2014
Amazon Kindle Store Ranking for Death is Wrong – March 16, 2014

There remains time to donate to the Indiegogo fundraiser to spread Death is Wrong to 1000 children, so as to extend its impact even further.

Slate is Wrong about “Death is Wrong” – Article by Eric Schulke

Slate is Wrong about “Death is Wrong” – Article by Eric Schulke

The New Renaissance Hat
Eric Schulke
March 16, 2014
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There is an article at Slate that talks about the children’s book Death is Wrong and the fundraiser to distribute 1,000 copies of it to children.

The article’s author, Joelle Renstrom, writes,

“In late February, Stolyarov and the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension started an Indiegogo campaign to raise $5,000 to distribute 1,000 free copies to kids. The campaign ends on April 23, and so far the funds fall well short of the goal.”

The goal is 33% funded after 33% of the days. That seems right on track to me. I don’t know why Slate would feel the need to exaggerate that point to make it seem like our funding progress was not favorable to us.

“But there’s a difference between curing grave diseases, which would increase our lifespans, and ‘solving’ death. Stolyarov sells kids an updated myth of pharaohs, the fountain of youth, and Gilgamesh cloaked in the singularity, the theorized point at which technology and superior artificial intelligence fundamentally alter life. He implies that death is the Problem and that solving it will ensure smooth sailing, which is irresponsible at best and disastrous at worst.”

To imply that death isn’t the problem, that you can go through deaths of people you know and then yourself, and that it is not worth smoothing out those parts of the seas of life, and to call it irresponsible and possibly disastrous to do so, is unfounded, self-back-patting – assertive flippancy at its finest. No offense. I’m sure Ms. Renstrom has plenty of redeeming qualities, but that statement is not one of them.

Sure, we fight to keep death at bay indefinitely, but we will be happy if the world’s collective efforts help lead to 500-year lifespans, or 200-year lifespans, or indefinite life spans with 77% of people dying by accident within the first 800 years anyways, etc. We support a variety of potential pathways that could bring about more good futures for more people. We support anti-aging research initiatives like SENS and many others. The critics at Slate think they’re clever for associating what we aim for with the negative image of immortality as portrayed by book and film sensationalists that make up immorality-themed stories. In the movies, it is the unspoken word that Zombies are only supposed to move slowly, but that is irrelevant to life and death causes, too.

Having a trendy, knee-jerk, cynical, superficial response to this life-and-death topic is not acceptable. Think this through more. It is, “life is good; make it work”, not, “life could be bad; justify why it’s good before making it work”.

“Stolyarov rails against acceptance, even when unaccompanied by belief in the afterlife; he rejects the Buddhist position of experiencing pain caused by death while knowing death has released a loved one from suffering. Instead, he targets an audience that could conceivably solve death before he has to stare it down, which is neither braver nor better.”

He is working on one of the most intellectually forward moving projects of our times, and he does it in a world where primary and secondary schools don’t put a lot of critical-thinking coursework into their curricula, and where it shows. It’s a world where 85% of the people claim that they know an invisible pal in the clouds can be telepathically begged to bend the laws of physics for them. Of course what he is doing is great and brave; he stands up in the face of and helps the as-of-yet ungrateful, often antagonistic masses.

“Death Is Wrong makes immortality seem within reach, describing doubling a roundworm’s life via genetic mutation and the cell-rejuvenating Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence proposed by bio-gerontologist and anti-aging crusader Aubrey de Grey.”

The tools to do it are here now. It is within reach. For example, diseases that are like the forms of damage that accumulate in and around the cells of our bodies and that cause us to age to death, have already been worked on with success in laboratories around the world. Also, some gene recombination has already stopped some diseases. We know how to work on this kind of stuff. We just have to determine to get it done now. So let’s rally people to this cause rather than directing them away from it.

“Representing a legitimate problem as a solution invites disaster, especially if it means ignoring issues such as overpopulation.”

Population is on a decline in many industrialized countries when you subtract immigration. So there is one of many solutions to a potential overpopulation crisis.

I often have to wonder why life-extensionists have to be the bearers of facts like these to people who use these concepts to try to discredit projects and organizations of life-and-death significance. It’s one thing to work to discredit people; it’s another thing to do it without having your facts straight, and it’s yet another messed-up thing altogether to do all that, but not even inquiringly or half-jestingly, but assertively.

What about the potential underpopulation crisis?

But it doesn’t even matter in this context; death comes first. If you’ve got two problems, and impending death of you and people you know is one of them, then you work on the death as the top priority. Death is definitely not the hands-down, go-to solution when you think about a may-be/could-be population challenge of an unknown form. It’s way down at the bottom of that list, if it’s even on there at all. In the meantime, many groups and organizations continue to work on forecasting for and planning for scenarios like those. It’s a nearly moot alarmist point to say that transhumanists and supporters of indefinite life extension can’t and don’t think of the big picture of things. I like Joelle Renstrom’s concern for it, though, and I encourage her to get involved with one of those organizations, too, and help plan ahead.

“The transhumanist declaration acknowledges technology’s double-edges: “humanity faces serious risks, especially from the misuse of new technologies. … Although all progress is change, not all change is progress.” This consideration is missing from the book. Part of preparing kids for a technological future is teaching them that not all technology is necessary or beneficial, and that we can make technological mistakes.  Putting all our eggs in the “technology will fix everything” basket is even more dangerous than putting them all in the “death is wrong” basket. What if technology doesn’t cure death? What if it, or the rush to develop it, actually causes death?”

What if, in our rush to quadruple-check every “what if”, we forgot to move forward toward the cures, and we all died needlessly? People like me, Gennady Stolyarov, and many others work with projects that help advance our understanding in those regards, too. Why would we even be accused of neglecting those considerations? We don’t support pioneering of new ground by putting on blindfolds and running at full speed through the jungle swinging a machete. Hey wait, I think I just described a straw-man that the author of this article created. I’m calling “straw man” on that point.

The presentations at the conferences we support, the authors of the books we help promote, the organizations we choose to associate with — they talk about, monitor, work with, and report on risks, ethics, sustainability, and related matters all of the time. We or people that we know, work with places like Longecity, SENS Foundation, Methuselah Foundation, Fight Aging, Campaign Against Aging, Coalition to Extend Life, Longevity Alliance, Maximum Life Foundation, Humanity+, Lifeboat Foundation, IEET, Singularity Network, Foresight Institute, Cryonics Network, and many others.

“Stolyarov might argue he’s advocating adaptation, and thus survival, but curing death would constitute artificial selection—a drastic and deliberate change in our own evolution. Inherent in that argument is a troubling notion of human exceptionalism—that we shouldn’t have to play by evolution’s rules. Stolyarov suggests we select ourselves (those who can afford it, anyway), rather than leave it to nature.”

Artificial is a kind of natural. It is natural for humans to use their tools and abilities to do what they can do with them. Human beings are exceptional. The universe didn’t (seemingly) sit empty for millions of years, with dust balls whistling in the wind, comets and cosmic gas flying by, no sentience or record of such, and then have the miraculous occurrence of sentience through human form spring up from that dust—just so that this intellectual power-tool in a land of endless wonder, potential, and mystery, could decide itself to be less significant than the ducks and the trees and allow itself to disassemble from its miraculous, universe-control-potential form, back into inanimate dust and vapor trails. It is important to use our human opportunity to leverage resources to uncover as many of the mysteries of the big picture of existence as possible.

“Kids could grow up not just afraid of death, but also afraid of failing to fix it. Stolyarov makes death a powerful nemesis that could rule their lives—just as it’s ruled his.”

What an insulting and baseless speculation to assert. If you’re going to insult somebody, at least add enough fallacy-free substance to it to hold it up.

People like the author of the Slate article want children to continue growing up afraid of life. They want death to continue to drag down their spirits and traumatize them. They want children to think that wars and the greedy people make death an appealing and noble exit. They tell people that it’s better to be intellectually lazy and forget about working on their challenges, that it’s better to lay down and die, that life is too hard and dreary. They don’t want children to think about fixing death, because they can’t conceive of having a spine when it comes to standing up to tough danger. They want indifference to remain a powerful nemesis that rules children’s minds, so they can’t see the true dangers in death and respond appropriately.

Eric Schulke was a director at LongeCity during 2009-2013. He has also been an activist with the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension and other causes for over 13 years.

Death is Wrong - by Gennady Stolyarov II, Illustrated by Wendy Stolyarov