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Fifth Enlightenment Salon – Discussions on Longevity, Gene Therapy, Overcoming Disabilities, Animal Lifespans, Education, and Privacy

Fifth Enlightenment Salon – Discussions on Longevity, Gene Therapy, Overcoming Disabilities, Animal Lifespans, Education, and Privacy

Gennady Stolyarov II
Bill Andrews
James Kohagen
Bobby Ridge
John Murrieta


On October 13, 2018, in the spirit of the Age of Enlightenment and its furtherance today, Gennady Stolyarov II, Bill Andrews, James Kohagen, Bobby Ridge, and John Murrieta met for the fifth interdisciplinary discussion – hosted by Mr. Stolyarov – on science, culture, education, advocacy, and policy. Subjects discussed included the following:

– The recent RAAD Fest 2018 in San Diego
– Developments in the field of gene therapy
– Advances in epidural stimulation for treating and overcoming spinal-cord injuries
– Long-lived organisms and their similarities and dissimilarities to humans
– How animal experiments can become more humane
– How contemporary science still has far to go to accumulate even fairly basic information about certain organisms
– How the study of lifespans can be included in educational curricula starting at early childhood
– Whether privacy will remain in a more technologically interconnected future.

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside by filling out an application form that takes less than a minute.

Find out about Death is Wrong – the illustrated children’s book on indefinite life extension.

The Rational Argumentator’s Sixteenth Anniversary Manifesto

The Rational Argumentator’s Sixteenth Anniversary Manifesto

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
September 2, 2018
******************************

On August 31, 2018, The Rational Argumentator completed its sixteenth year of publication. TRA is older than Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Reddit; it has outlasted Yahoo! Geocities, Associated Content, Helium, and most smaller online publications in philosophy, politics, and current events. Furthermore, the age of TRA now exceeds half of my lifetime to date. During this time, while the Internet and the external world shifted dramatically many times over, The Rational Argumentator strived to remain a bulwark of consistency – accepting growth in terms of improvement of infrastructure and accumulation of content, but not the tumultuous sweeping away of the old to ostensibly make room for the new. We do not look favorably upon tumultuous upheaval; the future may look radically different from the past and present, but ideally should be built in continuity with both, and with preservation of any beneficial aspects that can possibly be preserved.

The Rational Argumentator has experienced unprecedented visitation during its sixteenth year, receiving 1,501,473 total page views as compared to 1,087,149 total page views during its fifteenth year and 1,430,226 during its twelfth year, which had the highest visitation totals until now. Cumulative lifetime TRA visitation has reached 12,481,258 views. Even as TRA’s publication rate has slowed to 61 features during its sixteenth year – due to various time commitments, such as the work of the United States Transhumanist Party (which published 147 features on its website during the same timeframe) – the content of this magazine has drawn increasing interest. Readers, viewers, and listeners are gravitating toward both old and new features, as TRA generally aims to publish works of timeless relevance. The vaster our archive of content, the greater variety of works and perspectives it spans, the more issues it engages with and reflects upon – the more robust and diverse our audience becomes; the more insulated we become against the vicissitudes of the times and the fickle fluctuations of public sentiment and social-media fads.

None of the above is intended to deny or minimize the challenges faced by those seeking to articulate rational, nuanced, and sophisticated ideas on the contemporary Internet. Highly concerning changes to the consumption and availability of information have occurred over the course of this decade, including the following trends.

  • While social media have been beneficial in terms of rendering personal communication at a distance more viable, the fragmentation of social media and the movement away from the broader “open Internet” have seemingly accelerated. Instead of directly navigating and returning to websites of interest, most people now access content almost exclusively through social-media feeds. Even popular and appealing content may often become constrained within the walls of a particular social network or sub-group thereof, simply due to the “black-box” algorithms of that social network, which influence without explanation who sees what and when, and which may not be reflective of what those individuals would have preferred to see. The constantly changing nature of these algorithms renders it difficult for content creators to maintain steady connections with their audiences. If one adds to the mix the increasing and highly troubling tendency of social networks to actively police the content their members see, we may be returning to a situation where most people find their content inexplicably curated by “gatekeepers” who, in the name of objectivity and often with unconscious biases in play, often end up advancing ulterior agendas not in the users’ interests.
  • While the democratization of access to knowledge and information on the Internet has undoubtedly had numerous beneficial effects, we are also all faced with the problem of “information overload” and the need to prioritize essential bits information within an immense sea which we observe daily, hourly, and by the minute. The major drawback of this situation – in which everyone sees everything in a single feed, often curated by the aforementioned inexplicable algorithms – is the difficulty of even locating information that is more than a day old, as it typically becomes buried far down within the social-media feed. Potential counters exist to this tendency – namely, through the existence of old-fashioned, static websites which publish content that does not adjust and that is fixed to a particular URL, which could be bookmarked and visited time and again. But what proportion of the population has learned this technique of bookmarking and revisitation of older content – instead of simply focusing on the social-media feed of the moment? It is imperative to resist the short-termist tendencies that the design of contemporary social media seems to encourage, as indulging these tendencies has had deleterious impacts on attention spans in an entire epoch of human culture.
  • Undeniably, much interesting and creative content has proliferated on the Internet, with opportunities for both deliberate and serendipitous learning, discovery, and intellectual enrichment. Unfortunately, the emergence of such content has coincided with deleterious shifts in cultural norms away from the expectation of concerted, sequential focus (the only way that human minds can actually achieve at a high level) and toward incessant multi-tasking and the expectation of instantaneous response to any external stimulus, human or automated. The practice of dedicating a block of time to read an article, watch a video, or listen to an audio recording – once a commonplace behavior – has come to be a luxury for those who can wrest segments of time and space away from the whirlwind of external stimuli and impositions within which humans (irrespective of material resources or social position) are increasingly expected to spin. It is fine to engage with others and venture into digital common spaces occasionally or even frequently, but in order for such interactions to be productive, one has to have meaningful content to offer; the creation of such content necessarily requires time away from the commons and a reclamation of the concept of private, solitary focus to read, contemplate, apply, and create.
  • In an environment where the immediate, recent, and short-term-oriented content tends to attract the most attention, this amplifies the impulsive, range-of-the-moment, reactive emotional tendencies of individuals, rather than the thoughtful, long-term-oriented, constructive, rational tendencies. Accordingly, political and cultural discourse become reduced to bitter one-liners that exacerbate polarization, intentional misunderstanding of others, and toxicity of rhetoric. The social networks where this has been most salient have been those that limit the number of characters per post and prioritize quantity of posts over quality and the instantaneity of a response over its thoughtfulness. The infrastructures whose design presupposes that everyone’s expressions are of equal value have produced a reduction of discourse to the lowest common denominator, which is, indeed, quite low. Even major news outlets, where some quality selection is still practiced by the editors, have found that user comments often degenerate into a toxic morass. This is not intended to deny the value of user comments and interaction, in a properly civil and constructive context; nor is it intended to advocate any manner of censorship. Rather, this observation emphatically underscores the need for a return to long-form, static articles and longer written exchanges more generally as the desirable prevailing form of intellectual discourse. (More technologically intensive parallels to this long-form discourse would include long-form audio podcasts or video discussion panels where there is a single stream of conversation or narrative instead of a flurry of competing distractions.) Yes, this form of discourse takes more time and skill. Yes, this means that people have to form complex, coherent thoughts and express them in coherent, grammatically correct sentences. Yes, this means that fewer people will have the ability or inclination participate in that form of discourse. And yes, that may well be the point – because less of the toxicity will make its way completely through the structures which define long-form discourse – and because anyone who can competently learn the norms of long-form discourse, as they have existed throughout the centuries, will remain welcome to take part. Those who are not able or willing to participate can still benefit by spectating and, in the process, learning and developing their own skills.

The Internet was intended, by its early adopters and adherents of open Internet culture – including myself – to catalyze a new Age of Enlightenment through the free availability of information that would break down old prejudices and enable massively expanded awareness of reality and possibilities for improvement. Such a possibility remains, but humans thus far have fallen massively short of realizing it – because the will must be present to utilize constructively the abundance of available resources. Cultivating this will is no easy task; The Rational Argumentator has been pursuing it for sixteen years and will continue to do so. The effects are often subtle, indirect, long-term – more akin to the gradual drift of continents than the upward ascent of a rocket. And yet progress in technology, science, and medicine continues to occur. New art continues to be created; new treatises continue to be written. Some people do learn, and some people’s thinking does improve. There is no alternative except to continue to act in pursuit of a brighter future, and in the hope that others will pursue it as well – that, cumulatively, our efforts will be sufficient to avert the direst crises, make life incrementally safer, healthier, longer, and more comfortable, and, as a civilization, persist beyond the recent troubled times. The Rational Argumentator is a bulwark against the chaos – hopefully one among many – and hopefully many are at work constructing more bulwarks. Within the bulwarks, great creations may have room to develop and flourish – waiting for the right time, once the chaos subsides or is pacified by Reason, to emerge and beautify the world. In the meantime, enjoy all that can be found within our small bulwark, and visit it frequently to help it expand.

Gennady Stolyarov II,
Editor-in-Chief, The Rational Argumentator

This essay may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.

Fourth Enlightenment Salon – Gennady Stolyarov II, Bill Andrews, Bobby Ridge, and John Murrieta Discuss Transhumanist Outreach and Curing Disabilities

Fourth Enlightenment Salon – Gennady Stolyarov II, Bill Andrews, Bobby Ridge, and John Murrieta Discuss Transhumanist Outreach and Curing Disabilities

Gennady Stolyarov II
Bill Andrews
Bobby Ridge
John Murrieta


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

• The U.S. Transhumanist Party’s recent milestone of 1,000 members and what this portends for outreach toward the general public regarding the meaning of transhumanism and the many ways in which emerging technologies help make life better.

• The new channel – Science-Based Species – launched by Bobby and John to spread basic knowledge about transhumanism, key thinkers in the movement, and advances on the horizon.

• How today’s technologies to assist the disabled are already transhumanist in their effects, and how technologies already in development can liberate humans from disability altogether. John Murrieta’s story is one of transhumanism literally saving a life – and one of the most inspiring examples of how transhumanism translates into human well-being now and in the future.

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

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel on Art and Transhumanism

U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel on Art and Transhumanism

G. Stolyarov II
Emanuel Iral
Rachel Lyn Edler
John Marlowe
R. Nicholas Starr
Leah Montalto
Kim Bodenhamer Smith
Laura Katrin Weston
Ekaterinya Vladinakova


On November 18, 2017, the U.S. Transhumanist Party invited leading artists in a variety of media and styles to a two-hour discussion, moderated by Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II and Director of Visual Art Emanuel Iral, on the subject of Art and Transhumanism, delving into how and which works of art can help inspire humans to pursue the next era of our civilization – through promoting the advancement of science and technology, rationality, and/or a more hopeful vision of the future. The panel also explored various interactions between art and technology and ways in which art can improve human connection and understanding, while also comprising the very improved functionality that emerging technologies provide.

Panelists

Emanuel Iral

Emanuel Iral is Director of Visual Art for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.

Emanuel’s artwork ranges from traditional paint and pencil work to 3D digital work. Currently he is working on his VFX and animation skills, as he is producing short films for his music. He encompasses his art under the term Prismatis – Latin for prism.  A prism refracts white light into the three primary colors: yellow, magenta, and cyan. Prismatis is all about the aesthetic of human expression, which can be separated into the art, audience, and artist.

Rachel Lyn Edler

RachelLyn Edler is an accomplished graphic designer with over 20 years of creative experience. Rachel comes from a diverse background of product development, packaging and web design. In her free time she volunteers for several scientific and secular organizations including the Planetary Society, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science and the Secular Coalition for America.

John Marlowe

John Marlowe was educated in film theory and trained in film production at UC Berkeley.  His outlook on film as a vehicle for social messaging has been largely influenced by his lifelong struggle with a genetic inborn error of metabolism, a type of disease that – until recently – was beyond the scope of medicine.  Consequently, John feels it is his onus to emphasize the artist’s responsibility in shaping the conversation regarding medical research, to create a society more amenable to scientific progress, rather than one fearful of change.

Leah Montalto

Leah Montalto is a painter based in New York City and has maintained a successfully operating painting studio in New York for the past 12 years.  Her paintings have been exhibited at the National Academy Museum of Fine Art in New York, and have been reviewed in the New York Times and the Providence Journal.  Leah’s paintings have received awards including the National Academy Museum of Fine Art’s Hallgarten Prize in Painting and the NYC Cultural Commission arts grant.  Leah is a former professor at Sarah Lawrence College, and has an MFA in Painting from Rhode Island School of Design.  Leah is not affiliated with the Transhumanist Party, but her paintings explore related themes.

Kim Bodenhamer Smith

Kim Bodenhamer Smith is a single mother of two boys living in Chattanooga, TN. She is a founding member of Southside Abbey, a Lay Missioner in The Episcopal Church, and an Outdoor Wear Business owner of Chilliheads. She is a caver, unicycler, and an aviation enthusiast and creator of #helichurch. She has a BFA in Metals and also studied Graphic Design and Political Science. *She also has many Tesla Tales to tell and is a Social Media Manipulator (different from a troll)!

R. Nicholas Starr

R. Nicholas Starr is an audio engineer and multimedia artist whose work focuses on Earth’s dystopias of past, present, and future. Also a biohacker, researcher, and theorist, he immerses himself in the subjects surrounding these worlds and has published several non-fiction articles and interviews. With an education in electronic signals intelligence from the United States Air Force, and 15 years of digital art and audio production in the US and abroad, he has become a unique voice for science fiction, the U.S. Transhumanist Movement, and American policy.

Ekaterinya Vladinakova

Ekaterinya Vladinakova is an accomplished digital painter and professional freelance illustrator. Vladinakova specializes in fantasy and science fiction work, but is also interested in editorial illustration. Vladinakova spends most of the day painting in Photoshop, creating scenes related to fantasy, or science fiction, as well as brushing up older works. Vladinakova’s paintings have been featured by the U.S. Transhumanist Party – including the “City of New Antideath” – a vision of the future which was commissioned for Mr. Stolyarov’s 30th Birthday.

Laura Katrin Weston

Dr Laura Katrin Weston is from England and studied Fine Art before going on to studying Medicine. She is a trained pathologist with a specialism in medical biochemistry and inflammation-related disease. She has used her medical knowledge and professional painting career to support Lifespan.io – one of the biggest life-extension research and advocacy charities. Laura is also vocalist for symphonic metal band Cyclocosmia – a music act that will be trying to raise awareness of transhumanist and human mortality issues in their next upcoming album.

The YouTube question/comment chat for this Q&A session has been archived here and is also provided below.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party Facebook page here.

See the U.S. Transhumanist Party FAQ here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside.

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

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How To Survive a World of Instant Feedback – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

How To Survive a World of Instant Feedback – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey A. Tucker
******************************

I first started writing before the Internet existed. We all wrote for an audience we mostly had to imagine in our minds.

The only way to give an author feedback was to write a letter, put it in an envelope with an approved stamp, and give it to a government employee who would slog across the land and then drop it at the writer’s physical locale a week after he or she wrote the initial piece. People did it but not that often.

Yes, I know there are people reading this who find this hilarious and embarrassing. It seems as long ago as the War of the Roses. Actually it was that long ago. But the distance between then and now seems like eons. That how much and how quickly we’ve advanced.

The dark ages: everything before 1995.

Because no one really knew what readers were thinking – actually hardly anyone knew anything about anything in retrospect – you had to assume some rule of thumb about any feedback you were lucky enough to get. I assumed that one letter equalled the views of one thousand readers. Two letters saying that same thing represented five thousand readers. Three letters with the same opinion suggested near unanimity: this is the view of every reader.

Now We Know Everything

Times have dramatically changed. I could right now post a thought and get hundreds of reactions within a few minutes. There’s no shortage of input, that’s for sure. There’s email of course, but also comment boxes, forums, social media posts, and lightning-fast Twitter interactions.

Twitter is often called a cesspool of toxicity. This is mostly untrue. It’s just that the toxic parts stand out in our minds because they have a bigger impact on our psyches.

This is how it is with all feedback. I once knew a world-famous soprano who received her fans following concerts. One hundred fifty people would tell her she was fabulous and amazing. One person would say: “You were fine but it wasn’t your best night.”

Guess which comment she remembered?

So too on Twitter. Not all commentary is thoughtful. In fact, no matter what I post, unless it is completely innocuous, I’m very likely to face a flurry of outraged opinions, some of which is laced with profanity and some of which trends toward the deeply disturbing. These are the reactions we tend to remember. They rattle, shock, and alarm us. They give the impression that humanity is a teeming mass of angry, unthoughtful, and even cruel people.

It’s mostly an illusion. But it takes some experience to figure out why.

Everyone Hates You

We live in a highly partisan world generally divided between right and left, and each side is ready to pounce on anyone it perceives to be an enemy.

One day this week, I was simultaneously hammered by the left and right, and it made an interesting study in contrast.

The Twitter Left

I had written a defense of “child labor,” which is to say I wrote against laws that forbid tweens from getting a paying job as a supplement to education they are otherwise forced by government to endure. This would be a wonderful opportunity for them, and give them an awesome preparation for life. The law forbade this back in the 1930s. Today, kids are basically banned from working or face such hurdles as to make it not worth it. They can’t really be fully employed until the age of 18.

To me all of this is rather obvious, and I don’t get why I seem to be one of the only people on this beat. Regardless, the article took off and received 100,000-plus views. Some of the readers were dedicated leftists, who regard the legal abolition of “child labor” to be one of the great signs of progress in the world.

The flurry of loathing began. I was called out for being a bad person, a cruel person, a man with a heart of stone, a complete jerk who lacks a shred of human decency. In each case, I would reply asking my accuser to explain why he or she is saying this. They would respond with shock: “for God’s sake, man, you are defending child labor!”

Again, that only raises the question. One person said that I dreamt of throwing kids back in the salt mines. I don’t even know what that means. Is there a salt mine around here that is looking for 12-year old inexperienced kids to exploit? Actually, I’m thinking more of kids working at Chick-Fil-A or Walmart or a lawn company.

Anyway, this seems to be a left-wing penchant. Anyone who disagrees with their policies is a bad person. End of story.

The Twitter Right

Then you have the far-right, the sector of Internet life that has most mastered the art of trolling. Users in this camp don’t tend to use their real names. They create dozens of sock-puppet accounts. They send blast after blast designed to make the recipient feel as if he or she is being bombarded.

The same day as my child labor piece came out, I tweeted that I had doubts about the theory that Seth Rich was shot for leaking DNC emails. I raised the problem that there is a lack of evidence to support the theory. If you know about this conspiracy theory, there are hundreds of thousands of people who believe, thanks mostly to Sean Hannity, that there is a huge coverup going on, and that someone in the Hillary Clinton camp is guilty of outright murder.

I have no special intelligence on the topic. I was only asking what I thought were intelligent questions.

Then came the bombardment. I was accused of being a toady of the Democrats. A dupe. A snowflake. An apologist for Clinton. A cuck. A member of the mainstream media. In the pay of the deep state. And so on. Then the memes started. Here is where things get wicked. They use your face and plant it in cartoons, being thrown out of helicopters, being burned alive in gas chambers, and so on.

What you discover from Twitter is that when you are trolled by the right, you are only one degree separated from real Nazis. Of course they say that they are not really Nazis. They are only ironic Nazis, people using free speech to annoy the left with extremist rhetoric that is not authentic but only play acting.

As if ideas don’t matter. Of course they matter! No one wants to wake up in the morning to 150 notifications from Nazis. That will indeed take your breath away and get your heart pumping. It is supposed to. That is precisely what it is intended to do. If you then go public and write a bleating post about the rise of Nazism in America, they all cheer because that is what they hope for.

How To Deal With It

Dealing with instant feedback from anyone in the world is something new. It is no longer the case that three interactions with the same opinion represent multitudes. It could mean only three people. Even 300 interactions means only 300 interactions. There are 328 million people on Twitter.

Keep that in mind.

Other strategies I use include retweeting insults (this very much confuses your tormentors), calm and rational argumentation, and of course blocking. I feel like I block constantly. It’s not actually true: last I checked, I’ve blocked 140 people and have 26,000 followers. That’s not a huge army of trolls. That’s really a minor annoyance, even if it feels otherwise.

Most of all, I would suggest feeling nothing but gratitude for the spread of information technology. People complain constantly about fake news, internet trolls, hate armies, and so on. But you know what’s worse? Living in the dark ages. No one wants to go back.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

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. Read the original article.

Disagreement Is a Bad Reason to Unfriend – Article by Sarah Skwire

Disagreement Is a Bad Reason to Unfriend – Article by Sarah Skwire

The New Renaissance HatSarah Skwire
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I have an interesting meeting next week. A young woman in my community is working very hard on a set of policy suggestions for environmental measures, and she wants a libertarian perspective on the ideas she has drawn up. So we’re going to get together over coffee and talk about her plan and about what I think libertarians might think of it.

But I don’t want to write about her plan today.

I want to write about her invitation to talk about it.

I want to write about it because I think it’s an enormously important counterpoint to something that I see more of every day on my Facebook feed, in the media, and in the small daily interactions of people around me.

That’s the obstinate insistence that people who disagree cannot be friends or colleagues—that they cannot even be reasonably expected to communicate with one another.

Some disagreements, we are told, are just so profound, so deeply seated, so indicative of the other person’s moral turpitude that no reaching over the division is possible.

Shunning? Really?

That may be true, in some cases. Cultures all over the world have long had methods for shunning those whose behavior was so counter to cultural norms that they were viewed as potentially destructive threats to the culture’s continuation. I’m not saying that such threats don’t ever exist.

But in the last little while, I’ve seen claims that anyone who voted for Trump should be “cut off” from communication with “civilized society.” I’ve heard people argue that voting against the continuation of the ACA reveals people to be morally bereft and outside the bonds of normal human interaction. I’ve heard college students and faculty argue not that they should not have to attend or listen to speakers with whom they disagree, but that no one else should be allowed to do so.

That’s a lot of people to vote off the island.

Excluding Others Isn’t Brave

Worse than the sheer numbers involved, though, and even worse than the ever-expanding list of offenses that are considered dire enough to excise whole swathes of people from civil discourse, is the insistence that all of this exclusion is being done because the excluders are brave.

The rhetoric is familiar. “Stand up” against this offense. “Speak out” against that one. “Refuse to tolerate” X. “Give no quarter and make no compromises” with Y. “Shut down” the language of the other side. “Refuse to even entertain” opposing views. “Give no platform” to this person.

I think there’s bravery in resistance to wrongs. I don’t think there’s anything brave about shutting down speech and debate and refusing to interact with people with opposing views.

I think it’s much braver, and much harder, to look for ways to cross those barriers, to find the humanity in the people with whom you disagree most strongly, and to work to solve the problems that plague us rather than retreating to separate camps.

I think it is a brave thing to contact someone with whom you disagree politically and say “Let’s have coffee and talk about stuff. I want to understand how you see this problem.”

And I think we all ought to do it more often.

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

A Transhumanist Opinion on Privacy – Article by Ryan Starr

A Transhumanist Opinion on Privacy – Article by Ryan Starr

The New Renaissance HatRyan Starr

******************************

Privacy is a favorite topic of mine. Maintaining individual privacy is a crucial element in free society. Yet there are many who want to invade it for personal or political gain. As our digital fingerprint becomes a part of our notion of self, how do we maintain our personal privacy on an inherently impersonal network of data? Where do we draw that line on what is private, and how do we enforce it? These are questions that are difficult to answer when looking at a short-term perspective. However, if we look further into the probable future, we can create a plan that helps protect the privacy of citizens today and for generations to come. By taking into account the almost certain physical merger of human biology and technology, the answer becomes clear. Our electronic data should be treated as part of our bodily autonomy.

The explosive success of social media has shown that we already view ourselves as partly digital entities. Where we go, what we eat, and who we are with is proudly displayed in cyberspace for eternity. But beyond that we store unique data about ourselves “securely” on the internet. Bank accounts, tax returns, even medical information are filed away on a server somewhere and specifically identified as us. It’s no longer solely what we chose to let people see. We are physical and digital beings, and it is time we view these two sides as one before we take the next step into enhanced humanity.

Subdermal storage of electronic data is here, and its storage capabilities will expand rapidly. Soon we will be able to store a lot more than just access codes for our doors. It is hard to speculate exactly what people will chose to keep stored this way, and there may even come a time when what we see and hear is automatically stored this way. But before we go too far into what will be stored, we must understand how this information is accessed in present time. These implants are currently based in NFC technology. Near-Field Communication is a method of storing and transmitting data wirelessly within a very short distance. Yes, “wireless” is the key word. It means that if I can connect my NFC tag to my smart phone by just waiving my hand close to it (usually within an inch or so), then technically someone else can, too. While current antenna limitations and the discreetness of where a person’s tag is implanted create a highly secure method of storage, advances in technology will eventually make it easier to access the individual. This is why it is urgent we develop a streamlined policy for privacy.

The current Transhumanist position is that personally collected intellectual property, whether stored digitally or organically, is the property of the individual. As such, it should be protected from unauthorized search and download. The current platform also states that each individual has the freedom to enhance their own body as they like so long as it doesn’t negatively impact others. However, it does not specify what qualifies as a negative impact or how to prevent it. Morphological freedom is a double-edged sword. A person can a person enhance their ability to access information on themselves, but they can also use it to access others. It is entirely feasible enhancements will be created that allow a person to hack another. And collecting personal data isn’t the only risk with that. What if the hacking victim has an artificial heart or an implanted insulin pump? The hacker could potentially access the code the medical device is operating with and change or delete it, ultimately leading to death. Another scenario might be hacking into someone’s enhanced sensory abilities. Much like in the novel Ender’s Game, a person can access another to see what they see. This ability can be abused countless ways ranging from government surveillance to sexual voyeurism. While this is still firmly within the realm of science fiction, a transhuman society will need to create laws to protect against these person-to-person invasions of privacy.

Now let’s consider mass data collection. Proximity beacons could easily and cheaply be scattered across stores and cities to function as passive collection points much like overhead cameras are today. Retail stands to gain significantly from this technology, especially if they are allowed access to intimate knowledge about customers. Government intelligence gathering also stands to benefit from this capability. Levels of adrenaline, dopamine, and oxytocin stored for personal health analysis could be taken and paired with location data to put together an invasive picture of how people are feeling in a certain situation. Far more can be learned and exploited when discreetly collected biodata is merged with publicly observable activity.

In my mind, these are concerns that should be addressed sooner than later. If we take the appropriate steps to preserve personal privacy in all domains, we can make a positive impact that will last into the 22nd century.
***
Ryan Starr is the leader of the Transhumanist Party of Colorado. This article was originally published on his blog, and has been republished here with his permission.
Has Donald Trump Unleashed the Neo-Nazis? – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Has Donald Trump Unleashed the Neo-Nazis? – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
September 8, 2015
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Donald Trump went from clown to contender in a mere 30 days. He is now polling in at 30% among Republicans, a 12-point spread from Ben Carson who is #2. Trump still loses next to Hillary by 2 points, but her nomination is not secure.

A race of Sanders vs. Trump would be quite the sight, straight out of the 1930s. It’s the Reds vs. the Browns all over again. My own sense is that the Browns could win this. Then we have a serious problem. As much as we loathe the establishment, it could be worse.

It’s time libertarians get serious about realizing that there exists such a thing as Brown-shirted socialism. It masquerades as patriotism. It seeks national greatness. It celebrates the majority race and dehumanizes the other. It is violently protectionist. On cultural matters, it is anti-leftist (“politically incorrect”). It is unapologetically authoritarian.

Even given all this, we are mostly mystified by it. It doesn’t strike us as a coherent ideology. It seems like a string of bad policy ideas (and some not terrible ones too) rather than a real political tradition. This is because we, as libertarians, are well-schooled to fear the socialist left but have little preparation to understand the threat from the other side.

Events of the last weeks should heighten our consciousness. There really is a brown-shirt movement in the U.S. It’s been building for many years. They have their organizations, books, websites, and splits within splits. The neo-Nazis are the most extreme variant. But fascism has many other types of expression, each reflecting a special interest, but each of them leading to a special kind of authoritarianism.

That the neo-Nazis support Trump is an established fact. Notorious racist, anti-semite, and unapologetic former KKK grand dragon David Duke has endorsed Donald Trump for president. So has the mega-popular website Stormfront.org, with its overtly neo-Nazi editorial outlook.

The American Nazi Party (yes, there is such a thing, as founded by George Lincoln Rockwell) is also all-in with support: “He tells it as the majority of the population FEELS, and he’s far ahead in the polls because of it.”

When Trump was asked about all of this, his response was that he didn’t know about it, but that this is not surprising since “everyone likes me.” He said he would be happy to repudiate their support “if that would make you feel better.”

Is this just the leftwing media looking for any excuse to smear a great American? Many of his supporters think so. And this is because the American left has been traditionally reckless about flinging the labels racist and anti-semite (and so on) against anyone with whom they disagree. However, let’s remember that just because the boy cries wolf constantly doesn’t mean that wolves do not exist.

Some people say that this supposed neo-Nazi/racist/nativist group is tiny and irrelevant? That’s what I used to think.

Until recently. I was a critic of Trump early on, for his trade and immigration views. I wrote an article that ended up in Newsweek.

Then I became a target. My social feed blew up with scum of the earth suddenly taking me on as their enemy. I was the target of the most vicious hate campaign I’ve ever experienced. I wish this on no one.

In the course of two weeks, blocking accounts of neo-Nazis and their affiliated friends became a part-time job. I now know more than I ever wanted to know about a movement that is actually large and growing right in the United States. You can call it extreme right if you want to, but its views on politics are not that different in substance from the extreme left. They have different styles but they are both authoritarian to the core, lustful for power to achieve their own aims.

As regards the right-wing authoritarians, Trump is their savior.

Here is a typical example. A Twitter account (“Seth Rubenstienberg”) features a Nazi-era caricature of a Jew. It posts incendiary posts such as this one: “if whites ever manage to get another ethno-state in the future, women’s bodies should be regulated. None of this my choice bullshit.”

The account has only 216 followers. That does not sound like much. But I’ve banned at least 50 such accounts. Multiply that account by 1,000 times and you have something serious going on. And when all these people are tweeting at you at once, it can be overwhelming.

It’s been true with Facebook too. The neo-Nazis came crawling out of their holes in the ground to denounce me as an enemy of the race, a self-hating white, a “cuckservative” (their favorite term for their enemies), and so on.

They having been posting on my wall incessantly. Many of their accounts celebrate other movements with only one degree of separation from the real deal. Instead of announcing themselves as neo-Nazis, they choose other causes: white nationalism, protectionism, anti-immigration, men’s rights, the hope for theocracy, and so on.

But for me, it’s become so inevitable as to become boring. I’ve learned to smell these people a mile away. You dig a bit and you land right where we started: straight-out hate rooted in Nazi ideology.

I’ve banned one FB account every few hours for weeks now — truly offensive material.

On the one hand, it is a credit to American democracy that we have such free speech, and I would oppose any government shutdowns of such accounts and sites. The worst mistake anyone could ever make in opposition to brown-shirted politics is to shut them down by force. That only reinforces their deluded perceptions that they have hit on a fundamental truth, and are being persecuted for it.

But free speech reigns on social media, and it’s given me an education about the existence — and the danger — of this movement that I once supposed was an invention of the “liberal media.”

Here is the question I keep asking myself. I’ve been on social media for a long time. Why is this just now happening? The answer is Trump. His free-wheeling style and open attacks on immigrants and foreigners, and hard-core promotion of trade isolationism, has emboldened them as never before.

As for how important they are, consider that the most popular neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer, has a higher traffic ranking than the Cato Institute or Heritage Foundation. These people are not irrelevant. They are real and growing.

Why should I care? I’m a devoted follower of the economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973), a genius and a Jew. He was driven out of his home in Austria because of the rise of Hitler. And why did Hitler rise? Because a population was fed up with the corrupt political system and a failing economic structure — a situation not unlike our own.

Mises was a dedicated opponent of the socialist left. His first major book on political theory (1922) took them on. But, little more than a decade later, it was not the red shirts that ruined his life. It was the brownshirts who are socialists of a type but use race hatred, misogyny, nativism, and the hope for religious and political domination as a means of control. They drove him from his home and stole his money and books. He barely escaped death.

Are we seeing the rise of a fascist movement in the U.S., and has Trump unleashed them? Is this our Road to Serfdom? Judging from Trump’s rise, and what I’ve experienced in the last week, there is no basis for pretending otherwise.

Jeffrey Tucker is Chief Liberty Officer of Liberty.me (http://liberty.me/join), a subscription-based, action-focused social and publishing platform for the liberty minded. He is also distinguished fellow Foundation for Economic Education (http://fee.org), executive editor of Laissez-Faire Books, research fellow Acton Institute, founder CryptoCurrency Conference, and author six books. He is available for speaking and interviews via tucker@liberty.me.

The Rational Argumentator’s Eleventh Anniversary Manifesto

The Rational Argumentator’s Eleventh Anniversary Manifesto

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
August 31, 2013
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In another productive and transformative year for The Rational Argumentator, I have been able to realize a series of long-held ambitions. New and improved editions of Eden against the Colossus, The Best Self-Help is Free, and Implied Consent have all been released since TRA celebrated its tenth anniversary last year. In addition, the Guide to Stolyarovian Shorthand renders my unique system of efficient note-taking available to the public for the first time. Furthermore, numerous new articles, YouTube videos, and links to Resources on Indefinite Life Extension have been created and published, along with several new and even more remastered musical compositions.  This has been a year of rejuvenating the accomplishments of the past while also shaping the future with new creations. I continue to experiment with and implement new approaches for spreading rational enlightenment to all who are willing. My Open Badges on Indefinite Life Extension are a proof of concept of what could be possible when it comes to motivating free, open-source education that produces externally verifiable outcomes. Of course, developing and expanding the system of Open Badges in any range of conceivable subjects will require a considerable amount of time and exertion of effort. However, TRA now has an embedded system for developing multiple-choice quizzes whose completion will result in the awarding of an Open Badge.

Total eleventh-year visitation for all TRA features was 1,077,192 page views, compared to 1,302,774 during the tenth year and the peak of 1,398,438 during the ninth year. While this was a decrease, it is still a higher number than was observed during any of the first eight years of TRA’s existence. TRA’s lifetime visitation stands at 6,746,360 page views.

I attribute the recent trend in reduced visitation to a decrease in new publication activity. During its eleventh year, TRA published 208 features, compared to 306 during its tenth year. The rate of publication slowed because of an unusually turbulent year, both in terms of events that affected me directly and took me away from a more steady publication regimen, and in terms of larger attention-absorbing, paradigm-shattering developments on a world scale, such as the recent revelations of Orwellian NSA surveillance of the general population.

Still, the fact that visitation slipped by less (a decrease of 22.97%) than the number of published features (a decrease of 32.03%) shows that TRA’s content remains sought-after and relevant, perhaps especially so in light of the very troubled and troubling era in which we live, when the direct threats to our personal liberty and privacy continue to mount and to become unavoidably palpable. The message that individuals have rights, that their lives have inherent value, that no “national security” or “greater good” can trump that value, needs to be proclaimed with renewed urgency and commitment. An alternative to the status quo needs to emerge through intellectual, technological, and political innovation, and it needs to emerge sufficiently soon that the Orwellian boot on the face of mankind does not stamp it out forever. The comprehensive surveillance regime unleashed in secret by the Bush and Obama administrations has no historical parallels; it is what the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century could only have dreamed of. At the same time, an increasing disconnect has occurred between the actions of national-government politicians and anything resembling what the people actually think: witness the rampant war hysteria that the Obama administration is currently attempting to stir up for a pointless, counterproductive invasion of Syria that would already be one of the least popular military undertakings in US history.

What can be done to change the political and cultural status quo to anything resembling sanity – even the kind of sanity that could have been said to characterize the 1990s in the United States? Hundreds of distinct approaches, implemented by millions of individuals, are most certainly required.  This problem is not easy; the world took a wrong turn, probably sometime around September 11, 2001, when the fear of “terrorism” led the political leaders of the Western World to use an infinitesimal threat to justify restrictions and invasions of personal liberty and even bodily integrity, which would have been unthinkable in any other context. After the economic collapse of 2008 and the subsequent bailouts of politically connected cronies, it seemed clear that the national governments of the world have sided with the “men of pull” – as Ayn Rand would have called them – against everybody else.  A free system which rewards merit and undermines stagnant hierarchies of rent-seeking privilege was not allowed to manifest itself. Instead, the very people who caused the world to take a wrong turn remain in charge.

While changing the current state of affairs is no easy task, I can confidently say that, in a hypothetical world where all humans were philosophically inclined, informed on current events, concerned with questions of morality, and interested in continual learning and self-improvement, the wrong turn would never have been taken. In a world that suddenly found itself filled with such enlightened individuals, the harms of the status quo would quickly be undone. The goal of The Rational Argumentator is to assist such enlightened individuals, both those who already are and those who might become enlightened through their independent intellectual explorations. While we are far from a world filled with purveyors of philosophical enlightenment (in the 18th-century sense of that term), every individual who becomes a true rational intellectual and a person of moral conscience can take us one step closer in that direction.

Pervasive NSA surveillance, fortunately, is no threat to TRA, because TRA has always been a publicly accessible endeavor. As I have written previously, if  those employed by the NSA and other spy agencies throughout the world were to read information on The Rational Argumentator, this could only benefit humanity by possibly exposing these individuals to ideas of rationality and moral conscience. The truly troubling aspect of universal surveillance is that it seeks to pry into the communications that we do not wish to disclose to anyone and everyone – private e-mails, phone calls, social-media conversations, financial transactions, and search terms. It is reasonable and justified for individuals who wish to preserve a shred of privacy to change their approach toward such communications. However, as far as TRA is concerned, its work can proceed unimpeded, for its message is meant to reach as many people as possible, NSA agents or not.

However, the recent revelations of NSA spying did lead me to reconsider one matter from my March 2012 statement, “A New Era for The Rational Argumentator”. I no longer consider social-networking sites, such as Facebook or Google+, to be effective ways for individuals to create custom repositories of knowledge. While it is still the case that individuals can access content somewhat tailored to their interests through such networks, the fact remains that the networks have been co-opted through NSA backdoors into their systems. The companies running these networks are no longer benign free-market entities whose goal is to exchange value for value with their customers. Rather, the original market-oriented purpose of these companies has been subverted in favor of becoming privatized arms of the surveillance state. Perhaps these companies had little choice but to comply with requests to spy on their users; observe the fate of Lavabit, whose founder tried to stand on principle and refuse such intrusions. The fact remains, though, that it is not prudent to rely for one’s information and philosophical development solely on sources whose role to gather information about one can affect one’s life far more than any of their incidental ability to give information to one. Does this mean that one should abandon all social networks or even Facebook and Google+? I am not advocating this, though I do advocate extreme prudence on these networks. The path-dependency and network effects are too great at present for such abandonment to be a practical choice for many people, myself included. Rather, I wish to emphasize the continued importance of self-contained online information repositories that do not vary based on the visitor and do not seek to do anything to the visitor other than provide content and elicit feedback in public comments. The Rational Argumentator is just such a source, and I hope in the coming months and years to increase its rate of publication and resume its previous modus operandi of publishing both original content and some of the most thought-provoking content that has appeared elsewhere, relying on TRA’s excellent network of authors and articles published under the Creative Commons License. If I can convince you to access TRA directly (rather than only through a social network) on a routine basis as part of your quest for knowledge and edification, then my planned endeavors will be successful.

You will see, in the coming months, the realization of still more ambitious projects, some of which are presently underway. Through all of the changes, improvements, and revitalizations of past materials, I can make you the same promises that I have made throughout TRA’s lifetime: that I will retain all content ever published on TRA; that I will continue to vigorously promote the ideas of liberty, reason, and technological progress; and that this site shall always remain a haven for high intellectualism and civilized discourse. In whatever way I can, I hope to make this magazine a valuable asset to those of us who have the most at stake in the outcome of the continuing and accelerating race between technological progress and authoritarian intervention.