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Transhumanism: Contemporary Issues – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II at VSIM:17 Conference in Ravda, Bulgaria

Transhumanism: Contemporary Issues – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II at VSIM:17 Conference in Ravda, Bulgaria

The New Renaissance Hat

G. Stolyarov II

Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, outlines common differences in perspectives in three key areas of contemporary transhumanist discourse: artificial intelligence, religion, and privacy. Mr. Stolyarov follows his presentation of each issue with the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s official stances, which endeavor to resolve commonplace debates and find new common ground in these areas. Watch the video of Mr. Stolyarov’s presentation here.

This presentation was delivered by Mr. Stolyarov on September 14, 2017, virtually to the Vanguard Scientific Instruments in Management 2017 (VSIM:17) Conference in Ravda, Bulgaria. Mr. Stolyarov was introduced by Professor Angel Marchev, Sr. –  the organizer of the conference and the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Ambassador to Bulgaria.

After his presentation, Mr. Stolyarov answered questions from the audience on the subjects of the political orientation of transhumanism, what the institutional norms of a transhuman society would look like, and how best to advance transhumanist ideas.

Download and view the slides of Mr. Stolyarov’s presentation (with hyperlinks) here.

Listen to the Transhumanist March (March #12, Op. 78), composed by Mr. Stolyarov in 2014, here.

Visit the website of the U.S. Transhumanist Party here.

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

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

How Time and Uncertainty Can Make Us “Antifragile” – Article by David Howden

How Time and Uncertainty Can Make Us “Antifragile” – Article by David Howden

The New Renaissance Hat
David Howden
January 26, 2014

Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, Nassim Nicholas Taleb (New York: Random House, 2012).

No two buzzwords define the present crisis more than “contagion” and “robustness” in the world of economists and policy wonks. The current interrelated nature of the financial system has bred a fragile situation where the success of the greater economy supposedly hinges on its individual components, such as banks that are too big to fail. To combat this fragility, economists have increasingly sought to build robust institutions. Such institutions will remain strong in the face of adverse effects if an individual component of the economy fails — be it subprime mortgages, sovereign debt, deposit-taking institutions or investment banks. This approach to the crisis stresses that if we cannot battle contagion, we had better construct strong institutions to weather future storms.

Nassim Taleb takes great issue with this approach in his new book Antifragile. His view is that constructing such so-called robust institutions is not sufficient as they continually fight yesterday’s battles. Instead the focus should be in building “antifragile” insti­tutions. Although often confused with robustness or resilience, an antifragile institution is not only unharmed by adverse events, but is actually strengthened by them. Building antifragile institutions will not only strengthen the global economic arena, but also have wide-ranging social applications.

Taleb’s latest work builds on two of his previous books, Fooled by Randomness (2001) and The Black Swan (2007). The common theme underlying all three is that there are events which are fundamentally unknowable — true uncertainties — in distinction to merely risky outcomes. Since we cannot know in advance what these events are, or what their effects will be, we should not exert too much effort in constructing contingency plans.

It is at this point that my first quibble with the book arises, and one I had with its predecessor The Black Swan. Taleb bifurcates between two definitions of uncertain events. On the one hand he invokes random or fundamentally unknowable events. Readers of this journal will be sympathetic to this definition of uncertainty, bearing close resemblance to Mises’s own use of “case probabilities”[1] (1949, pp. 110–113), or Shackle’s (1949) use of “non-seriable, non-divisible” events.[2] On the other hand, it is also clear that Taleb also thinks of uncertain events as merely rare events. These are events located on the fat or long tails on a probability distribution. Even though he thinks that these represent true uncertainty, there is no doubt that he is referring to funda­mentally probabilistic events.

This quibble aside, one can apply much of the remaining work cognizant that Taleb’s terminology differs from that of the Austrian economists, and also that the domain of his theory is slightly different than he thinks.

Something is “antifragile” if it gets stronger from a negative event. What are some examples? Taleb applies the prefix of his book liberally to outline what choices we should be pursuing. Indeed, the body of the book gives a long list of antifragile actions that, at least on one level, boil down to doing the exact opposite of what you think you should be doing.

Authors should be shocked to learn that there is almost no news that can harm a writer’s credibility, and that any publicity is good publicity (pp. 51–52). Corporations and governments that try to “reinstill confidence” should not be trusted because they would do so only if they were ultimately doomed (p. 53). Children shouldn’t be on antidepressants as this removes a source of learning from the life experience and thus make individuals less capable of dealing with unwanted events later in life (p. 61). The sinking of the Titanic was a positive disaster as it put shipbuilders on their toes, and possibly avoided an even larger accident later (p. 72). The general theme is that those who make errors are stronger than those who don’t — reliability, or antifragility — only comes when something is regularly tested by an unwanted event.

The theory has merit. Consider this lesson applied to central bank policies. In the wake of the dot-com bust a concerted effort by the world’s central banks flooded the global financial system with liquidity. The liquidation of assets that should have happened never did, and as a result lenders and borrowers didn’t learn their lesson on prudential money management. The seeds were sown for the larger crisis starting in 2007–2008 because a simple lesson was not learned when the financial system’s problems were still in relative infancy.

There is much to learn from this book and much to be wary of. At the end of the day, Taleb reckons the best test of an anti-fragile institution is Mother Nature mixed with a healthy dose of time. In chapter 21 he criticizes the prevailing orthodoxy of “neomania,” the mistaken belief that newer is better. Those institutions that have existed the longest are, in all likelihood, those that will continue to exist into the future. As an example, imagine that the year is 1988 and answer the following: which structure will last the longest, the Berlin Wall or the Great Pyramid of Giza.

In this test, as in much of the book, Taleb asks too much and too little. He asks too much because those institutions with the most longevity were once upon a time also the ones with the least. There must be a better test than longevity, as it only pushes the problem back in time to identify the source of antifragility. It cannot be turtles all the way down.

An applied example relevant to the present financial crisis would involve looking for those institutions that have been strengthened by current affairs. The crisis has taken its toll on many aspects of the financial services industry, but some general types of products have proven surprising resilient, or antifragile. Governments with prudent fiscal policies — e.g., Germany, Switzerland and Singapore — have fared well and indeed been strengthened as finances deteriorate in more profligate countries. Investment funds capitalizing on what were once unorthodox strategies, such as gold and other precious metal holdings, have out-performed more traditional investments as the financial crisis worsens. Readers of this journal will also notice that their stock in Austrian economics has increased in value over the past decade. Question begging and failed policies developed through more mainstream theories have led many former outsiders to the ranks of Austrian economists. An unwanted event caused an offsetting positive outcome in all these scenarios. That is what being antifragile is about.

Taleb asks too little by not exploring the true sources of antifragility. He comes close, alluding in many places that market-based institutions better combat the false security that planned institutions create. Explaining and elaborating on this link would do much to take the fundamental merits of antifragility to the next level. It would be, however, fodder for another book.


[1] Mises, Ludwig von. 1949. Human Action: A Treatise on Economics. Auburn, Ala.: Mises Institute, 1998.

[2] Shackle, G. L. S. 1949. Expectations in Economics. Westport, Conn.: Gibson.

David Howden is Chair of the Department of Business and Economics and professor of economics at St. Louis University’s Madrid Campus, Academic Vice President of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada, and winner of the Mises Institute’s Douglas E. French Prize. Send him mail. See David Howden’s article archives.

This article first appeared in the Fall 2013 edition of The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.

Economies are Not Destroyed in a Day – Article by Nicolás Cachanosky

Economies are Not Destroyed in a Day – Article by Nicolás Cachanosky

The New Renaissance Hat
Nicolás Cachanosky
October 26, 2013

Earlier this month, Argentina’s leading conservative paper, La Nación published an unsigned editorial comparing the economies of Argentina and Venezuela. The editorial concluded that as economic freedom declines in Argentina, and as Argentina adopts more of what Chavez called “twenty-first century socialism,” it is becoming increasingly similar to Venezuela. Is this true? Will Argentina suffer the same fate as Venezuela where poverty is increasing and toilet paper can be a luxury?

The similarities of regulations and economic problems facing both countries are indeed striking in spite of obvious differences in the two countries. Yet, when people are confronted with the similarities, it is common to hear replies like “but Argentina is not Venezuela, we have more infrastructure and resources.”

Institutional changes, however, define the long-run destiny of a country, not its short-run prosperity.

Imagine that Cuba and North Korea became, overnight, the two most free-market, limited-government countries in the world. The two countries would have immediately gained civil liberties and economic freedom, but they would still have to accumulate wealth and to develop their economies. The institutional change affects the political situation immediately, but a new economy requires time to take shape. For example, as China opened parts of its economy to international markets, the country started to grow, and we are now seeing the effects of decades of relative economic liberalization. It is true that many areas in China continue to lack significant freedoms, but it would be a much different China today had it refused to change its institutions decades ago.

The same occurs if one of the wealthiest and developed countries in the world were to adopt Cuban or North Korean institutions overnight. The wealth and capital does not vanish in 24 hours. The country would shift from capital accumulation to capital consumption and it might take years or even decades to drain the coffers of previous accumulated wealth. In the meantime, the government has the resources to play the game of Bolivarian (i.e., Venezuelan) populist socialism and enjoy the wealth, highways, electrical infrastructure, and communication networks that were the result of the more free-market institutional realities of the past.

Eventually, though, highways start to deteriorate from the lack of maintenance (or trains crash in the station killing dozens of passengers), the energy sector starts to waver, energy imports become unavoidable, and the communication network becomes obsolete. In other words, economic populism is financed with resources accumulated by non-populist institutions.

According to the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World project, Argentina ranked 34th-best in the year 2000. By 2011, however, Argentina fell to 137, next to countries like Ecuador, Mali, China, Nepal, Gabon, and Mozambique. There is no doubt that Argentina enjoys a higher rate of development and wealth than those other countries. But, can we still be sure that this will be the situation 20 or 30 years from now? The Argentinean president is known for having said that she would like Argentina to be a country like Germany, but the path to becoming like Switzerland or Germany involves adopting Swiss and German-type institutions, which Argentina is not doing.

The adoption of Venezuelan institutions in Argentina, came along with high growth rates. These growth rates, however, are misleading:

First, economic growth, properly speaking, is not an increase in “production,” but an increase in “production capacity.” The growth in observed GDP after a big crisis is economic recovery, not economic growth properly understood.

Second, you can increase your production capacity by investing in the wrong economic activities. Heavy price regulation, as takes place in Argentina (now accompanied by high rates of inflation), misdirects resource allocation by affecting relative prices. We might be able to see and even touch the new investment, but such capital is the result of a monetary illusion. The economic concept of capital does not depend on the tangibility or size of the investment (i.e, on its physical properties), but on its economic value. When the time comes for relative prices to adjust to reflect real consumer preferences, and the market value of capital goods drops, capital is consumed or destroyed in economic terms even if the physical qualities of capital goods remains unchanged.

Third, production can increase not because investment increases, but because people are consuming invested capital, as is the case when there is an increase in the rate that machinery and infrastructure wear out.

I’m not saying that there is no genuine growth in Argentina, but it remains a fact that a nontrivial share of the Argentinean GDP growth can be explained by: (1) recovery, (2) misdirection of investment, and (3) capital consumption. If that weren’t the case, employment creation wouldn’t have stagnated and the country’s infrastructure should be shining rather than falling into pieces.

Most economists and policy analysts seem to have a superficial reading of economic variables. If an economy is healthy, then economic variables look good, GDP grows, and inflation is low. But the fact that we observe good economic indicators does not imply that the economy is healthy. There’s a reason why a doctor asks for tests from a patient that appears well. Feeling well doesn’t mean there might not be a disease that shows no obvious symptoms at the moment. The economist who refuses to have a closer look and see why GDP grows is like a doctor who refuses to have a closer look at his patient. The Argentinian patient has caught the Bolivarian disease, but the most painful symptoms have yet to surface.

NOTE: This is a translated and expanded version of an original piece published in Economía Para Todos (Economics for Everyone).

Nicolás Cachanosky is Assistant Professor of Economics at Metropolitan State University of Denver. See Nicolás Cachanosky’s article archives.

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

My Views on “Eden against the Colossus” – Ten Years Later – Article by G. Stolyarov II

My Views on “Eden against the Colossus” – Ten Years Later – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
June 8, 2013

Not long after the release of the Second Edition of my 2003-2004 science-fiction mystery novel Eden against the Colossus, I was asked whether any of the views I expressed in the novel had changed since then, and, if so, to what extent.

I still strongly adhere to most of the fundamental philosophical principles expressed in Eden against the Colossus: the existence of an objective reality, the necessity for reason and rigorous inquiry in discovering it, the supreme value of the individual, the virtue of enlightened self-interest, and the immense benefits of technological progress for improving, elevating, and extending the human condition.

In the introduction to the Second Edition I discussed how, in retrospect, the future society described in Eden against the Colossus seems like a pessimistic scenario of how far humanity would progress technologically during the 750 years since the writing of the novel (for instance, in the lack of autonomous artificial intelligence or indefinite life extension – through there are many advanced robots and the average lifespan has increased by perhaps a factor of three in the world initially presented in the novel). This is a world very much characterized by a stark good-versus-evil conflict – that of the individualists/technoprogressives versus the Malthusians/Neo-Luddites. In the novel I occasionally use the term “environmentalists” to describe the Malthusians/Neo-Luddites; today, I would make a subtler distinction between those environmentalists who favor free-market and/or technological solutions to the problems they perceive, and those who see the only solutions as a “return to Nature” and a curtailment of human population. My quarrel is, and has fundamentally always been, only with those environmentalists who seek to reject or limit technological progress – particularly those who would use force to impose their preferences on others. Today I would be more careful to describe my views as anti-Luddite, rather than anti-environmentalist, in order to recognize as possible allies those environmentalists who would embrace technology with incidental benefits such as the reduction of pollution or the more efficient use of resources.

Were I writing the novel today, the society which results as the outcome of the individualist/technoprogressive vision would look quite different as well. The Intergalactic Protectorate is a libertarian system, but a highly centralized one nonetheless. Through its storyline though not through its explicit philosophical ideas, Eden against the Colossus illustrates the vulnerabilities of such a system and the ease of turning the machinery of the Protectorate against the very ideals it is supposed to protect. This is true, I now realize, of any large, centralized institution – public or private, controlled by virtuous people, or by mediocrities or crooks. As an example of this, one needs only to consider how the vast, largely voluntary centralization of information on the Internet – during the age of dominant providers of social-networking, search, and content-hosting services – has enabled sweeping surveillance of virtually all Americans by the National Security Agency through “backdoors” into the systems of the dominant Internet companies. No one person – and no one institution – can be the sole effective guardian of liberty. On the other hand, a society filled with political experiments, as well as experiments in decentralized technologies applied to every area of life, would be much more robust against usurpations of power and incursions against individual rights. Undertakings such as seasteading, a decentralized Meshnet, and Bitcoin have intrigued me in recent years as ways to empower individuals by reducing their dependence on large institutions and decreasing the number of ways by which power asymmetry enables those with ill intentions to get away with inconveniencing or outright oppressing innocent people.

A truly libertarian future will not resemble today’s corporate America on an intergalactic scale, only with considerably less regulation and a more stringently written Constitution enforced by a fourth branch of government possessing negative power only – essentially, the society portrayed in Eden against the Colossus. If humanity is to achieve an intergalactic presence, it will likely be in the form of hundreds of thousands of diverse and autonomous networks of people, largely possessing fluid social and political structures. The balance of power in such a world would greatly favor individuals who are hyperempowered by technology. Furthermore, if technology is to have the ability to radically enhance human intelligence and reasoning, then many of the philosophical disputes that have recurred throughout history may, in future eras, be settled by a more rigorous and nuanced framing of the ideas under consideration. The intellectual conflicts of the future are not likely to be of the hitherto-encountered “capitalist versus socialist” or “technoprogressive versus environmentalist” variety – since the evolution of technology and culture, as well as the shifting dynamics of human societies, will raise new issues of focus which will lead to interesting and unanticipated alignments of persons of various perspectives. It would be entirely possible for some issues to unite erstwhile opponents – as principled libertarians and principled socialists today both detest crony corporatism, or as technoprogressives and some technology-friendly environmentalists today support nuclear power and organisms bioengineered to clean up pollution.

With regard to the personal lives of the characters of Eden against the Colossus, my view today no longer necessitates a glorification of ceaseless work, though productivity remains important to me without a doubt. The enjoyment of the fruits of productive work – and the ability to increase the proportion of one’s time spent in that enjoyment without diminishing one’s productivity – are among the outcomes made possible by technological progress. Such outcomes are insufficiently illustrated in Eden against the Colossus. Moreover, were I to write the novel today, I would have more greatly focused on the ability of a technological society to provide individuals with the opportunity to balance work, leisure, relationships, and a broad awareness of numerous areas of existence.

Along with all of these qualifying statements, however, I nonetheless emphasize my view that the fundamental essence of the conflict depicted in Eden against the Colossus is still a valid and vital subject for contemplation and for consideration of its relevance to our lives. As long as humankind continues to exist in anything resembling its present form, two fundamental motivations – the desire for improvement of the human condition and the desire for restrictive control that would suppress efforts to alter the status quo – will continue to be at odds, in whatever unforeseeable future embodiments they might come to possess. Perhaps sufficient technological progress will shift the balance of human biology, environment, and incentives further away from the command-and-control motive and closer toward the pure motives of amelioration and progress. One can certainly hope.