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The Humility of Futurism – Article by Adam Alonzi

The Humility of Futurism – Article by Adam Alonzi

The New Renaissance Hat
Adam Alonzi
April 20, 2014
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Civilization operates as if its troubles and their solutions will be as relevant tomorrow as they are today. Likely they were obsolete yesterday. How preposterous do the worries and aspirations of yesteryear seem now? What has not been refined since its conception? Our means of subsistence, entertainment, expression and enlightenment continue to change, although, at least unconsciously, they are accepted as stable. Change, once gradual, now quickens exponentially. Countless professions have been created and destroyed by advances; old orders have been destroyed, new ones have arisen; our world outlooks have been revolutionized by new discoveries over and over, although a sizable portion of the world is unwilling or unable to understand a man like Aubrey de Grey and an equally sizable portion of the population is still struggling with Copernicus. A Futurist accepts himself and his ideas as incomplete, therefore he actively works to improve upon them. Futurism is the first ideology that explicitly accepts the necessity and desirability of change.

It is a mistake to think we have reached the final stage of our journey. Plateaus are mirages conjured by the shortsighted; human evolution is a mountain without a peak. If a man has eyes, let him see all we have done and all we have yet to do. Let him gain the humility religion and liberalism have failed to inculcate into him and so many others. Each generation repeats this mistake. There is no evidence to suggest we are complete or are doomed now only to regress. Naysayers seem motivated to dismiss the triumphs of others out of fear they themselves will appear even less significant. Historically the distant future has received little attention compared to such pressing questions as the number of angels on the head of a pin or the labor theory of value. This may be thanks to a fondness for the apocalyptic, a fascination which certainly has not faded with time, but it is also attributable to the egotistical need to stand out. All epochs are transitions. The advances of this decade have failed to restore popular faith in progress, yet the very word is misleading. Faith does rest not upon an empirical foundation. There are scores of popular beliefs founded upon little or no evidence. Yet the proof of progress is all around us. Death wishes and earth-annihilating misanthropy aside, we can trace the modern disdain for the march forward to the fashionable nonsense of academia.


Speculations and prophecies, even conservative estimates based on careful analysis, are treated with derision by the public. To say one has faith in technology is misleading. To compare the singularity to the rapture is like comparing planetary motion to Santa Claus. One is rooted in scripture, the other in observation. The doomsayers, secular and religious alike, enjoy forecasting our demise. The essential corruption critics charge Western civilization with is common to all; it is called human nature. It is meant to be transcended, not through critiques of immaterial “cultural entities,” but by improving our bodies and our minds through bioengineering. No belief is needed here. We do not rely upon a outworn holy book or the absurd dialectic of the Marxists. We change and adapt because we must. This is a point of pride, not one of shame. We do not worship the past; we have shrugged it off. Compared to the ridiculous claims circulating in the cesspool collectively referred to as “the humanities” this is a sane position, yet it is treated with nothing by scorn by those who, wishing so ardently to distance themselves from Western civilization, bite the hands that feed them, clothes them, and shelters them. While they navigate by GPS, post their inane tangents on social media sites, and try with all their might to discredit the culture to which they owe their lives and livelihoods, others push forward. Self-proclaimed critics of Western civilization should consider trading their general practitioner for an Angolan witch doctor. It is hard to respect those who do not practice what they preach.

Postmodernism and cultural relativism, though they have pretensions of completeness and delusions of permanence, are but passing fads. Something devoid of usefulness or, for that matter, a coherent hypothesis, cannot last long when technology is generating so much benefit to so many people. A meme will continue to propagate itself long after it has served its purpose, to the detriment of competitors and to society at large. It is the duty of Futurists and Transhumanists to demolish the acceptability of rubbish in academia and in the media. The Luddites are more dangerous than the Creationists. Hubris is barely acceptable in the hard sciences, but in an absolutely unempirical discipline like philosophy, it is deplorable. Our first priority should not be political or religious; it should be scientific. To whom do we owe our prosperity, and to whom do we owe our future? To whom do we owe our lives and the lives of our children? How many of us would not be here today were it not for the men and women of modern medicine? This is not the end. Forget the weary and the overwhelmed; they are weak. Forget the ones who have no desire to climb higher; they are unfit. Cast aside the ones who pray fervently for the undoing of their own species; they are the most vile of all. This is not the end. This is our beginning.
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Adam Alonzi is the author of Praying for Death and A Plank in Reason. He is also a futurist, inventor, DIY enthusiast, biotechnologist, programmer, molecular gastronomist, consummate dilletante and columnist at The Indian Economist. Read his blog Cool Flickers.
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Help the next generation embrace a progress-filled vision of the future by supporting the illustrated children’s book Death is Wrong (free in Kindle format until April 22, 2014), and the campaign to distribute 1000 paperback copies to children, free of cost to them. The Indiegogo fundraising period ends on April 23, so please consider making a contribution today.
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Review of “Death is Wrong” by Adam Alonzi

Review of “Death is Wrong” by Adam Alonzi

The New Renaissance Hat
Adam Alonzi
April 7, 2014
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Death is wrong, and it can be defeated. Gennady Stolyarov’s new book, Death is Wrong, makes this powerful  idea accessible to everyone. Now that you have seen the phrase in print, it should not seem odd to you; the vincible visage of the Grim Reaper should seem less frightening. It is a primitive spectre, a monster to be unmasked in the venerable tradition of Scooby Doo. There is no more reason to believe in its inevitability than there is to believe in the Easter Bunny. This strange, wonderful and intoxicating idea should begin to sink into our brains, not because it is pleasant, but because it is true. Please support his Indiegogo campaign here.

Death can be cured. Let this sink into your brain, not because it is comforting, but because it is true. Even obvious truths will not gain acceptance unless we vigorously campaign against the falsehoods Death is not something to embrace, and it is not something to ignore. To turn it into a matter of metaphysics or “bioethics” is insulting to those who, by no fault of their own, are burdened by the ailments of old age. There are many extraordinary men and women who could go on working for hundreds of years if their stars were not designed to dim so soon.

What do you want to do with your life? This is the question Mr. Stolyarov poses to his readers. Whatever you wish to do is restricted by the time you have on this earth. This is restricted largely by your genes, even if you do all you can to mitigate the hand chance and meiosis have dealt you. The fountain of youth now is not far off. We no longer need to deceive ourselves with lofty philosophical discourses of dreams of a world after this one. Conventional “wear and tear” theories claim the body has a finite amount of repair resources, yet if this was true, exercise should greatly decrease one’s lifespan. As far as we can tell, moderate exercise fights aging as well as or better than anything in our still inadequate arsenal.

If the process is the result of unavoidable changes we should not expect to find animals which undergo negligible senescence. We should also expect animals of the same basic shape, type and size to age at approximately the same rates. American crows normally die before their eigth birthday; Kakapo parrots can live well into their nineties. Post-reproductive suicide may be viewed as a peculiarity of some species, but it also graphically illustrates the control genes have over the aging process. The goal of the Transhumanist movement now should be to convince as many people as possible of the viability of this research. Arcane mathematical tidbits from evolutionary biology, although more cogent, are less convincing than masses of salmon carcasses floating downstream or lowly tortoises who, for no obvious reason, live for centuries.

Knowing our quality of life is doomed to decay with each passing year, we do not always take full advantage of the opportunities available to us. Why play the guitar? Some people have been playing it since they were 12. It would be impossible to schedule it in between shifts at the lab and carting the kids around. An ambition is forsaken for lack of time. It is often irrational, as late is better than never, but humans are not always rational animals. The creeping fear of time is partially justified. Anger is more than justified. There is no reason we should not have more quality time to fulfill our aspirations. Paradoxically, coming to terms with the shortness of life can be more paralyzing than invigorating. Like so many falsehoods, carpe diem stems from deep but forgivable denial.

People, including history’s greatest minds, have tried to find ways in which they or their creations were eternal. These efforts amount mostly to confabulations. As much as this statement will be contested, I must make it: death makes life meaningless. If you cannot agree with this, at least concede that aging can make life intolerable. Before you dismiss this, keep in mind it is easy to pontificate about the value of old age when one is young. Creaking joints and failing organs may change your views. Our finest moments are when we feel eternal, yet feeling eternal is quite different from being eternal. Freud called it the oceanic sensation; the expansion of the self into the wider world. When someone knows with certainly they may live hundreds or thousands of years, these otherwise momentary delusions find firm ground on which to stand.

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

In the end our efforts are all for naught. From a cosmic perspective this may be so, and a pugnacious devil’s advocate may ask if there is such a thing as a “good” age to die, but one can forcefully and effectively argue that 75 is too young. 35 is far too young to begin losing one’s faculties, as many professions today require years of training. A man in the prime of his career should also be in the prime of his life. 20 is universally considered too young to die. So are 30, 40, and 50. Before we can even begin to enjoy the fruits of our labors, we are already declining. Before we can begin to understand a portion of the world’s treasures, we are growing old and tired. What a sad state of affairs! We desire lasting rewards, yet we cannot have them. The productions of an entire lifetime do not last, because the enjoyer of those productions and the accolades they have won eventually perishes. With his body, presumably, his consciousness also disappears into nothingness. Deadlines tend to force a person to work in a state of fear. Death is the ultimate deadline.

What of knowledge and talents? Why acquire knowledge when it can only be imperfectly transmitted to the next generation? Preserved in books, but there are already so many books. Immortality may not be necessary for society’s continued progress now, but with the constant expansion of information and the sprawling interconnectedness of different disciplines, it is reasonable to wonder if hyperspecialization is our salvation. Immortality and intelligence amplification will allow us all, to some extent, to become generalists capable of making sane and sound decisions for ourselves and society. Why invest in higher pleasures when the lower ones deliver immediate gratification?

Living for each day devolves into hedonistic stupidity. Why should we care about the consequences of our actions when, regardless of what happens to us, our stories all end in the same way? What was once a psychological necessity is now a hindrance to the greater good. What was once a rational position is now an effrontery to a sane approach to medicine. This is not say that research efforts dedicated to the cell cycle or the precipitating factors involved in autoimmune disorders are worthless – far from it! Rather it means that life extension in its own right ought to be a major area of inquiry. The totem must be smashed and the taboo crushed.

Yet whose decree are we following and why? Disease is our oldest foe. We are not complacent about hereditary illnesses that will only be cured after the perfection of in vivo gene therapy. Yet a lifespan of less than a century is blindly accepted as a physical limit by, according to polls taken by Theodore Goldsmith, a shocking number of scientists and laymen alike. Death is literally our mortal foe, but the amount of energy we have spent fighting it directly would not lead one to this conclusion. The biochemical changes associated with aging are the primary risk factors for diabetes, atherosclerosis, arthritis, and cancer. Yet, in spite of the undeniable correlation between aging and these diseases, research effort is directed mostly at treating them individually instead of addressing their underlying cause.

This is rooted not in a scientific sentiment, but in the unfounded assumption that death is inevitable. This stems less from skepticism towards modern medicine and more from historical superstitions that allowed our ancestors to cope with the mysterious and inhospitable universe in which they found themselves. Worse, there are throngs of secular and religious nihilists alike who actively spread the gospel of death. They erect altars to petty Molochs to distract themselves from their own worst enemy. It will be difficult to battle the most entrenched notion of all, but nothing worth having is easy to obtain. The end of suffering is the highest ideal. Why should we worship false idols any longer?

Should Transhumanism take precedence over the fight against Creationism? The answer seems painfully obvious. I do not care if a pig farmer in Alabama believes the Neolithic era was populated by dinosaurs. His ignorance has no dreadful ramifications for humankind. As an academic and popular movement, anti-aging should be the first and foremost topic of scientific discussion. The secular and sane world accepts Darwinism. There is no reason to suppose converting the remaining holdouts will benefit society in the least. The sane and secular world, however, is still largely unaware of the strides science is making toward biological immortality. Moreover, a small bit about intelligent design in a science textbook, while objectionable on moral grounds, will not do much more damage to an already broken school system.

Mentioning intelligent design in passing will do nothing to dumb down an already doltish student body. Advocates of evolution would be more helpful if they turned their energies to spreading numeracy and basic literacy. Both are in short supply. To spend a lifetime fighting against hopeless ignoramuses makes one an imbecile of the highest order. Let the ignorant tend to their own business while we welcome the age of wonders. Let this be a call to arms. Let this be a call to awaken and accept the foolishness of how humanity uses its resources. Rage against the dying of the light. Do not go gentle into that good night.

Adam Alonzi is the author of Praying for Death and A Plank in Reason. He is also a futurist, inventor, DIY enthusiast, biotechnologist, programmer, molecular gastronomist, consummate dilletante and columnist at The Indian Economist. Read his blog Cool Flickers.

Putting Randomness in Its Place – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Putting Randomness in Its Place – Video by G. Stolyarov II

A widespread misunderstanding of the meaning of the term “randomness” often results in false generalizations made regarding reality. In particular, the view of randomness as metaphysical, rather than epistemological, is responsible for numerous commonplace fallacies.

Reference
– “Putting Randomness in Its Place” – Essay by G. Stolyarov II

Evolution Has No Moral Value; Life Extension Does – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Evolution Has No Moral Value; Life Extension Does – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Mr. Stolyarov responds to two statements by Michael Garfield and makes the case that evolution should not be pursued as a moral goal in itself; rather, the survival and increased longevity of every individual should be pursued, since our rationality, technology, and moral compass allow us to transcend the cruelty of primeval natural selection.

Mr. Stolyarov also refutes the allegation that older people somehow necessarily become resigned to or accepting of their own death. He presents counterexamples of individuals who lived past the age of 80 and who wished to continue living indefinitely.

See Benjamin Franklin’s thoughts on scientific progress and life extension: “The rapid progress true science now makes occasions my regretting sometimes that I was born too soon. It is impossible to imagine the height to which may be carried, in a thousand years, the power of man over matter. We may, perhaps, deprive large masses of their gravity, and give them absolute levity, for the sake of easy transport. Agriculture may diminish its labor and double its produce: all diseases may by sure means be prevented or cured (not excepting even that of old age,) and our lives lengthened at pleasure, even beyond the antediluvian standard. Oh that moral science were in as fair a way of improvement, that men would cease to be wolves to one another, and that human beings would at length learn what they now improperly call humanity.”

References
– “Life as the Origin and Basis of Morality” – Video Series by G. Stolyarov II – Part 1 and Part 2
– “Eliminating Death – Part 1 – Death as Waste” – Video by G. Stolyarov II
– “World’s Oldest Man Wants To Live Forever” – WayOdd
– “Robert Ettinger” – Wikipedia

Against Monsanto, For GMOs – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Against Monsanto, For GMOs – Video by G. Stolyarov II

The depredations of the multinational agricultural corporation Monsanto are rightly condemned by many. But Mr. Stolyarov points out that arguments against Monsanto’s misbehavior are not valid arguments against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as a whole.

References

– “Against Monsanto, For GMOs” – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Monsanto – Legal actions and controversies” – Wikipedia
– “Copyright Term Extension Act” – Wikipedia
– “Electronic Arts discontinues Online Pass, a controversial form of video game DRM” – Sean Hollister – The Verge – May 15, 2013
– “Extinction” – Wikipedia

Against Monsanto, For GMOs – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Against Monsanto, For GMOs – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
June 9, 2013
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                The depredations of the multinational agricultural corporation Monsanto are rightly condemned by many. Monsanto is a prominent example of a crony corporation – a company that bolsters its market dominance not through honest competition and innovation, but through the persistent use of the political and legal system to enforce its preferences against its competitors and customers. Most outrageous is Monsanto’s stretching of patents beyond all conceivable limits – attempting to patent genes and life forms and to forcibly destroy the crops of farmers who replant seeds from crops originally obtained from Monsanto.

                Yet because Monsanto is one of the world’s leading producers of genetically modified crops, campaigners who oppose all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) often use Monsanto as the poster child for the problems with GMOs as a whole. The March Against Monsanto, which took place in cities worldwide in late May of 2013, is the most recent prominent example of this conflation. The blanket condemnation of GMOs because of Monsanto’s misbehavior is deeply fallacious. The policy of a particular company does not serve to discredit an entire class of products, just because that company produces those products – even if it could be granted that the company’s actions result in its own products being more harmful than they would otherwise be.

                GMOs, in conventional usage, are any life forms which have been altered through techniques more advanced than the kind of selective breeding which has existed for millennia. In fact, the only material distinction between genetic engineering and selective breeding is in the degree to which the procedure is targeted toward specific features of an organism. Whereas selective breeding is largely based on observation of the organism’s phenotype, genetic engineering relies on more precise manipulation of the organism’s DNA. Because of its ability to more closely focus on specific desirable or undesirable attributes, genetic engineering is less subject to unintended consequences than a solely macroscopic approach. Issues of a particular company’s abuse of the political system and its attempts to render the patent system ever more draconian do not constitute an argument against GMOs or the techniques used to create them.

                Consider that Monsanto’s behavior is not unique; similar depredations are found throughout the status quo of crony corporatism, where many large firms thrive not on the basis of merit, but on the basis of political pull and institutionalized coercion. Walt Disney Corporation has made similar outrageous (and successful) attempts to extend the intellectual-property system solely for its own benefit. The 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act was primarily motivated by Disney’s lobbying to prevent the character of Mickey Mouse from entering the public domain. Yet are all films, and all animated characters, evil or wrong because of Disney’s manipulation of the legal system instead of competing fairly and honestly on the market? Surely, to condemn films on the basis of Disney’s behavior would be absurd.

                Consider, likewise, Apple Corporation, which has attempted to sue its competitors’ products out of existence and to patent the rectangle with rounded corners – a geometric shape which is no less basic an idea in mathematics than a trapezoid or an octagon. Are all smartphones, tablet computers, MP3 players, and online music services – including those of Apple’s competitors – wrong and evil solely because of Apple’s unethical use of the legal system to squelch competition? Surely not! EA Games, until May 2013, embedded crushingly restrictive digital-rights management (DRM) into its products, requiring a continuous Internet connection (and de facto continual monitoring of the user by EA) for some games to be playable at all. Are all computer games and video games evil and wrong because of EA’s intrusive anti-consumer practices? Should they all be banned in favor of only those games that use pre-1950s-era technology – e.g., board games and other table-top games? If the reader does not support the wholesale abolition, or even the limitation, of films, consumer electronics, and games as a result of the misbehavior of prominent makers of these products, then what rationale can there possibly be for viewing GMOs differently?

                Indeed, the loathing of all GMOs stems from a more fundamental fallacy, for which any criticism of Monsanto only provides convenient cover. That fallacy is the assumption that “the natural” – i.e., anything not affected by human technology, or, more realistically, human technology of sufficiently recent origin – is somehow optimal for human purposes or simply for its own sake. While it is logically conceivable that some genetic modifications to organisms could render them more harmful than they would otherwise be (though there has never been any evidence of such harms arising despite the trillions of servings of genetically modified foods consumed to date), the condemnation of all genetic modifications using techniques from the last 60 years is far more sweeping than this. Such condemnation is not and cannot be scientific; rather, it is an outgrowth of the indiscriminate anti-technology agenda of the anti-GMO campaigners. A scientific approach, based on experimentation, empirical observation, and the immense knowledge thus far amassed regarding chemistry and biology, might conceivably give rise to a sophisticated classification of GMOs based on gradations of safety, safe uses, unsafe uses, and possible yet-unknown risks. The anti-GMO campaigners’ approach, on the other hand, can simply be summarized as “Nature good – human technology bad” – not scientific or discerning at all.

                The reverence for purportedly unaltered “nature” completely ignores the vicious, cruel, appallingly wasteful (not even to mention suboptimal) conditions of any environment untouched by human influence. After all, 99.9% of all species that ever existed are extinct – the vast majority from causes that arose long before human beings evolved. The plants and animals that primitive hunter-gatherers consumed did not evolve with the intention of providing optimal nutrition for man; they simply happened to be around, attainable for humans, and nutritious enough that humans did not die right away after consuming them – and some humans (the ones that were not poisoned, or killed hunting, or murdered by their fellow men) managed to survive to reproductive age by eating these “natural” foods. Just because the primitive “paleo” diet of our ancestors enabled them to survive long enough to trigger the chain of events that led to us, does not render their lives, or their diets, ideal for emulation in every aspect. We can do better. We must do better – if protection of large numbers of human beings from famine, drought, pests, and prohibitive costs of food is to be considered a moral priority in the least. By depriving human beings of the increased abundance, resilience, and nutritional content that only the genetic modification of foods can provide, anti-GMO campaigners would sentence millions – perhaps billions – of humans to the miserable subsistence conditions and tragically early deaths of their primeval forebears, of whom the Earth could support only a few million without human agricultural interventions.

                We do not need to like Monsanto in order to embrace the life-saving, life-enhancing potential of GMOs. We need to consider the technology involved in GMOs on its own terms, imagining how we would view it if it could be delivered by economic arrangements we would prefer. As a libertarian individualist, I advocate for a world in which GMOs could be produced by thousands of competing firms, each fairly trying to win the business of consumers through the creation of superior products which add value to people’s lives. If you are justifiably concerned about the practices of Monsanto, consider working toward a world like that, instead of a world where the promise of GMOs is denied to the billions who currently owe their very existences to human technology and ingenuity.

A Brief History of Western Liberalism – Article by Kyrel Zantonavitch

A Brief History of Western Liberalism – Article by Kyrel Zantonavitch

The New Renaissance Hat
Kyrel Zantonavitch
June 1, 2013
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This is a brief history of the philosophy and culture of liberalism. It describes a life-style and civilization which lifts human beings far above that of animals, chimpanzees, hominids, and even tribalist hunter-gatherers. Liberalism features man at his best. Liberals are clear-thinking and rational men: natural, sound, healthy, happy, uplifted, and heroic.

Liberalism is a fundamental category of philosophy and life-style – something broad and general. It constitutes a definitive concept – beyond which one cannot venture or improve – like life, happiness, greatness, transcendence, virtue, beauty, pleasure, thought, reality, existence, and the universe. Liberalism’s subsidiary concepts are also ultimate and final: rationality, egoism, and liberty.

In the story of mankind, first come bonobos, then semi-human Homo habilis, then primitive man Homo erectus, then highly advanced Neanderthals, then truly intelligent and impressive Cro-Magnons – who used their 100 IQs to exterminate their brutish competitors, invent sophisticated arrow technology, and make art such as those Venus statues and cave paintings.

By 9000 BC the last Ice Age ended, and humans immediately converted from hunter-gatherers to rancher-farmers. After domesticating multitudinous plants and animals, by 3300 BC human beings further cultivated them with irrigation on their new private property, backed by their revolutionary social institution called government. By 1700 BC men had well-established written laws, well-developed literature and art, easy personal transportation using horses, and elaborate international trade using sophisticated great ships.

All of this constituted impressive advances in humans’ quality of life; but none of it constituted philosophical or cultural liberalism.

Finally, by about 600 BC, the ancient Greeks created the indescribably magnificent phenomenon of Western liberalism. They invented rationality or “Greek reason” or syllogistic logic – or pure thought or epistemology. This is usually described as “the discovery of science and philosophy.”

But along with the stunning and wondrous epistemology of reason – naturally and inevitably and inherently – came the ethics of individualism, and the politics of freedom.

All of this can be fairly, accurately, and usefully denominated as the thought-system and life-style of Western liberalism – of liberal philosophy and culture, especially as exemplified by Aristotle, Epicurus, and Zeno the Stoic. These three theorists, ironically, were labelled by their intellectual opponents as “dogmatic.” This was not because these scientifically minded open debaters claimed to know everything based on faith, but because they claimed to know anything at all based on evidence and analysis.

By the 100s BC in Greece, the general ideology of liberalism was well-established in the middle and upper classes. Then the Romans conquered the Greeks and within a century made liberalism their own. They even advanced the noble ideas and ideals a bit, with such thinkers as Cicero, Lucretius, Virgil, Horace, and Aurelius.

But skepticism of reason ascended rapidly by the 200s AD, and with it came the decline of the greatest country in human history. The new phenomenon of monotheism began to dominate in the 300s AD, especially Christianity or “Plato for the masses.” By the middle of the 400s, the philosophy and culture of liberalism were dead, and so was Rome. A long, terrible Dark Age ensued.

This irrational, illiberal nightmare of Western civilization lasted for a millennium. The wretched and depraved philosophy of Jesus ruined everything.

But a bit of reason and hope came back into the world in the 1100s of northwest Europe with the mini-Renaissance. High-quality Greek thinkers were gradually reintroduced. Then came the 1300s and the Italian Renaissance.

By the 1500s a whole Europe-wide Renaissance began with France’s conquest of northern Italy. The French brought their reborn art and philosophy to everyone in the West. The beautiful general philosophy of liberalism ascended still higher while the ghastly evils of fundamentalist skepticism, Platonism, monotheism, and Christianity declined. The classical liberal era was brought about by radical and heroic innovators like Francis Bacon, John Locke, Voltaire, Adam Smith, and Thomas Jefferson.

The late 1700s Enlightenment and Age of Reason in Britain, France, Holland, and America featured liberalism at its height. But it was gradually and massively undermined by the irrational, nonsensical philosophers Bishop Berkeley, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and Friedrich Hegel.

During and after the 1790s the French Revolution went astray and embraced ideological dogmatism, and self-sacrifice to the cause. It also converted itself into an early version of modern communism; as well as the false, evil, and illiberal ideologies of right-wing conservatism and left-wing progressivism. In the art world this was manifested by the slightly but definitely irrational Romantic movement of 1800-1850. Paintings started to turn ugly again.

Socialism and communism fairly quickly went into high gear after Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto of 1848. Religion also somewhat revived in the late 1800s. These two monstrous ideologies backed the moral ideal of self-destruction, or the “Judeo-Christian ethic,” or, even better, the “religio-socialist ethic.” The fin de siècle of the 1890s was the giddy, despairing, hopeless, lost end of a noble era in the West – a dynamic, heroic, rational, liberal era.

A practical, real-world, irrational, illiberal dystopia was achieved in the mid-1900s with Stalin, Hitler, and Mao. Later in the 1900s there were Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Ayatollah Khomeini, and countless other despots. Illiberalism reached a hellish trough around 1985.

Then came Ronald Reagan in America, Margaret Thatcher in Britain, Mikhail Gorbachev in Russia, and Deng Xiaoping in China. These four political semi-revolutionaries, in four leading nations, used their governments to change world culture in a liberal direction.

These liberal leaders emerged on the world scene because theory always precedes practice, and the theory of liberalism began to rise again – at least intellectually, and in certain recherché circles – around the early 1900s. It began anew with Austrian economic thinkers like Ludwig von Mises, Henry Hazlitt, and Friedrich Hayek. In addition to the dry, mechanical realm of economics, these three addressed the fields of politics and sociology – and even ethics and epistemology. They filled in many of the gaps, and corrected many of the weaknesses and failures, of Locke, Smith, and company.

The Austrians also attacked the communism, socialism, and progressivism of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson, among others. And they taught the fiery intellectual novelist Ayn Rand.

Rand converted from fiction to philosophy from the late 1950s to the late 1970s. She was by far the most liberal thinker in the history of man. She created the philosophy of Objectivism. Ayn Rand advanced human knowledge about as much as Bacon, Locke, Voltaire, Smith, and Jefferson combined.

Sadly, however, Rand undercut her liberal ideology with a heavy atmosphere and subtext of cultism and religiosity in her propaganda movement. This was understandable, considering how revolutionary and hated her philosophy was, but hardly rational or legitimate.

However, Rand died in 1982, and a highly rational and non-religious organization, organized around her discoveries, emerged in 1989. This brought the world Objectivism as a thought-system, not a belief-system; and Objectivism as a rational, benevolent, effective philosophy – not an irrational, malicious, weird cult.

There are currently three separate but related avant-garde liberal ideological movements: Austrian economics, libertarian politics, and Objectivist philosophy. All three are tiny but, based on historical intellectual standards, seemingly growing solidly.

Pure liberalism – a pure, clean, complete comprehension that reason was 100% right in epistemology, individualism was 100% right in ethics, and freedom was 100% right in politics – began in the early 21st century. Randroid illiberalism began to die out. A New Enlightenment is about to begin.

Kyrel Zantonavitch is the founder of The Liberal Institute  (http://www.liberalinstitute.com/) and a writer for Rebirth of Reason (http://www.rebirthofreason.com). He can be contacted at zantonavitch@gmail.com.

A New Era for The Rational Argumentator

A New Era for The Rational Argumentator

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
March 12, 2012

 

Readers of The Rational Argumentator:

I write today to announce major changes to this publication – which are intended to enable it to flourish as never before, but which must thereby take it in a significantly different direction from its previous course.

For 9.5 years and 315 issues, The Rational Argumentator has evolved and expanded, regularly bringing a wealth of informative, thought-provoking, genuinely intellectual content that championed the principles of Reason, Rights, and Progress and worked for the arrival of a New Renaissance – and, in more recent years, an era that would transcend even that, along with our sufferings and current limitations. This work is far from complete, and it shall continue in earnest.

But the world has changed since August 31, 2002, when The Rational Argumentator inaugurated its first manifesto and issue (and yes, the issue link indeed points to an archive of TRA’s first page). While politically and economically, some of the change has been disturbing to say the least, the technological improvement has been astonishing. Nowhere has this been clearer than on the Internet.

TRA was not the first Internet publication, nor the first to espouse libertarian, classical liberal, Objectivist, or transhumanist thought. But it was certainly in a vanguard, back when the Internet was still young and fragmented. I remember what it was like in the first half of the last decade – when, to perform any serious research on a subject, one needed to dig through hours of content of marginal relevance at best, outright spam at worst – delivered by a suboptimal search engine – in order to uncover the gems of knowledge and insight. This was before the flowering of Wikipedia, before the market dominance of Google, before social networking, YouTube, or mobile devices. Back then, there were mostly just a few freedom-oriented think tanks and a few small-scale independent publishing enterprises – including the now defunct but still respected Quackgrass Press and HarryRoolaart.com.

When I founded The Rational Argumentator, I sought to emulate the few treasured sources of autonomous, rational, intellectual content I could find, while building something new upon the foundation available to me in the world of that time. Friends of reason and liberty on the Internet back then really did need an early-21st-century parallel to Diderot’s Encyclopédie – a compendium of resources in one convenient location, on which they could rely for quality discourse and genuine enlightenment. TRA has certainly grown in both its abundance of content and its readership, gathering close to 1.4 million visits during its ninth year and around 5 million visits for its entire existence to date.

But as TRA grew, the Internet grew with it, opening up in surprising ways that, eventually, led to a different model of publication now being preferable. TRA, while innovative in the ideas it published and the manner in which it approached its readers – without dumbing anything down or attempting to curry favors from established interests and ideologies – was modeled after a traditional publication, with the majority of the content packaged into issues that helped readers categorize the content chronologically for subsequent easy discovery. All of the systematization was performed manually, with great effort spent on even developing the unique page templates of each of the first 45 issues. Beginning in 2005 and especially since 2007, the issue and article formats were significantly standardized, but considerable manual effort was still devoted to compiling the index pages and updating references throughout the site when a new issue was posted. Up until this month, TRA remained a static website, where every link and every functionality was hard-coded into each individual page. While previous page templates could be used to jump-start new ones, this method implied that any changes to the appearance of TRA’s pages would generally apply only on a forward-going basis – or, on occasion, when an older page was updated.

In the meantime, accessing quality content online has become significantly easier. With the mostly high-quality search results from Google, basic information from Wikipedia, and the ability to readily share material through social networks, every individual can, in effect, create a custom repository of knowledge. Content aggregation in one central location is no longer a function of websites, but rather one of individuals. In order to contribute to and flourish in this kind of Internet, TRA will need to refine its structure and redirect its emphasis within a world where the objectives intended by its earlier structure have, in essence, been fulfilled.

Therefore, I am pleased to announce the following series of changes – the greatest and most transformative that this publication has undergone to date:

1. Conversion to a WordPress architecture. WordPress permits more convenient publication within a template that can be updated globally for the entire website, allowing all pages published in March 2012 or later to instantly receive updates whenever a new feature is added to the sidebar.  Furthermore, WordPress performs wonderful feats of  organization by category and content tag – such that one can locate content in a myriad ways instead of just a few.

2. Shift from an issue format to a free flow of publication. More radically, TRA’s issue structure is no longer necessary, since WordPress offers so many different and relevant ways to sort content by subject matter, contributor, and even specific keywords. Content will be easily discoverable from the front page (http://rationalargumentator.com/index/) and from the category-specific and monthly archives on the sidebar. New content will simply appear on the front page, with the most recent content at the top.

3. Advent of an RSS feed. Readers who wish to be regularly and automatically updated whenever new content is published do not need to wait for an e-mail from me. They can subscribe to TRA’s RSS feed and become aware of any newly posted work. The RSS feed can also be embedded on other pages and conveniently shared with others.

4. Greater ease of sharing content. Each subsequent post will come will embedded functionalities for sharing the content on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

5. Ability for public comment. Visitors to each post will have the ability to comment directly below the work. This openness to discussion on TRA’s own pages is unprecedented in the history of this publication, due to the previous technical difficulty in facilitating public comments using mostly pure HTML code. The intent is for the first several comments by a visitor to be moderated – not out of any desire to limit the discussion, but rather to keep out the spambots. Once a visitor has demonstrated his or her humanity through several approved comments, he or she will be able to post without restrictions.

6. Focus on original content. In the past, TRA has assembled works from hundreds of contributors. In the earliest stages, it was indeed hard work to locate individual works and to secure their authors’ permission to reprint it – without which the work might have disappeared from the Internet altogether within a few years. Now, the role of a human being as a compiler of extant Internet content is no longer needed. Most content can be readily shared via social networking tools and customizable feeds. For me to spread the work of others, formal reprints are seldom the most effective method anymore. Rather, a link and a discussion of my own will do just as well or better in giving the work more exposure. Most of the new content on TRA will be original creations either by me or by other contributors who have not been published elsewhere before. This does not mean that I will no longer reprint any content that already appears on the Internet. However, it does mean a shift in emphasis away from distribution of extant works by others and toward the development of a unique array of content for TRA.

7. Incorporation of shorter posts. Along with longer articles and essays, I will be more inclined from now on to share brief thoughts more frequently within a blog-post structure. My earlier experiment in this approach, The Progress of Liberty blog, failed because of the whims of the host, the ill-named and ill-fated BlogDog.com. Now that I own the website and the infrastructure, this will not happen again.

In TRA’s Ninth Anniversary Manifesto, I called on my readers to offer me technical suggestions for improving the site. Little did I know what dramatic changes would be forthcoming or possible with a modicum of thought about the purpose TRA ought to serve within a more mature, more open, and more expansive Internet. I would like especially to thank my wife, Wendy, for suggesting the WordPress approach as a way of easing the manual effort of publication. That suggestion motivated still further thoughts on my part about how to maximize the potential influence and effect of TRA while maintaining adherence to the principles by which it has always been guided.

The coming months and years shall surely see additional improvements in both the content and form of this publication. I encourage you to visit regularly, because what comes next will be worth it.

Sincerely,

Gennady Stolyarov II,

Founder and Editor-in-Chief, The Rational Argumentator

G. Stolyarov II is an actuary, science-fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre, Rebirth of Reason, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. Mr. Stolyarov also publishes his articles on the Yahoo! Contributor Network to assist the spread of rational ideas. He holds the highest Clout Level (10) possible on the Yahoo! Contributor Network and is one of its Page View Millionaires, with over 2 million views. 

Mr. Stolyarov holds the professional insurance designations of Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), Associate in Reinsurance (ARe), Associate in Regulation and Compliance (ARC), Associate in Insurance Services (AIS), and Accredited Insurance Examiner (AIE).

Mr. Stolyarov has written a science fiction novel, Eden against the Colossus, a non-fiction treatise, A Rational Cosmology, and a play, Implied Consent. You can watch his YouTube Videos. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at gennadystolyarovii@yahoo.com.