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Terraforming of Mars – Painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova

Terraforming of Mars – Painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova

Ekaterinya Vladinakova


“Terraforming of Mars” by Ekaterinya Vladinakova

Left-click on the image for a fuller view. You can also download this painting (3200 by 800 pixels) here.

This piece was painted by Ekaterinya Vladinakova in January 2016 as a tribute to Space X’s reusable rocket success. As a result of these pioneering steps, perhaps humankind will someday, hopefully during our lengthened lifetimes, establish settlements on Mars like the ones depicted in this painting. This painting is available for viewing and download on Ekaterinya Vladinakova’s DeviantArt page here.

Artist’s Comments: Being able to re-use a rocket has the potential to make space travel MUCH cheaper, by a factor of a hundred. The reason is because the fuel costs something around 200,000 dollars, while the rocket costs millions. The problem with today’s rockets is we use them once, and then they are thrown away. An analogy would be using a 747 aircraft for only one trip; think of just how expensive it would be.  The significance of SpaceX’s second launch was that it was done on a floating platform. The benefit of such a platform is that it would save more fuel for the rocket, since the ocean platform can move, and less fuel overall is spent navigating the rocket back to base.

Ekaterinya Vladinakova is an accomplished digital painter. See her gallery here and her DeviantArt page here.  

Grand Galactic Actuary – Short Story by G. Stolyarov II

Grand Galactic Actuary – Short Story by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
******************************

The short story below was authored by Gennady Stolyarov II, ASA, ACAS, MAAA, CPCU, ARe, ARC, API, AIS, AIE, AIAF, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, and is one of the entries in the Society of Actuaries 12th Speculative Fiction Contest. It was published as one of the contest entries here.

You can read all of the entries here and vote for your choice of three of them here, until March 21, 2017. You are encouraged to read all of the entries, and also to consider supporting Mr. Stolyarov’s story, which has a pro-reason, transhumanist, and cosmopolitan message, couched in a bit of insurance humor. Remember only to vote one time!


Euclid Jefferson, recently retired actuary, stepped off the MoonX tourist shuttle and into a dull gray meteor crater. He found unfamiliar the combined experiences of low gravity and his cumbersome spacesuit. Although he could leap ahead and quickly jump out of the crater, he found it challenging even to raise his arms. After a few minutes of tentative jump-walking, he slowly turned to observe the shuttle’s pilot make a hasty takeoff. He wondered why he had been the only passenger on this particular flight. In the year 2036, such sparsely booked flights were not unheard of, but already quite uncommon. The weather at the spaceport had not been inclement, and the Archimedes Research Base usually attracted a steady flow of journalists, academics, and curiosity seekers.  Why was today different?

The domes of the research base were lit only dimly, and the moonscape was strangely empty as he approached. There was no welcoming party – just a lone figure at the base entrance, clad in the field uniform of a lunar geologist, but without the tools. As Euclid approached, he discerned the face of his wife Hypatia. He had not seen her for a year; on Earth, he had received a series of experimental rejuvenation treatments that took approximately twenty years off of his biological age. She, having been moon-bound in the meantime, still had the appearance of a woman in her early fifties. Over her spacesuit, she still wore the necklace Euclid had given her before their wedding. They had planned to return to Earth together, where she would recover from the muscle and bone atrophy caused by prolonged low-gravity exposure, and then planned to receive the rejuvenation treatments herself. For now, though, she looked weary and showed relief, but no joy, at his arrival. Her expression predominantly showed deep alarm.

“Euclid – no time for greetings. The base has been evacuated. All world governments are on standby to see how this situation is resolved. You were able to come because only you were cleared to come. Your pre-scheduled trip to the base was the fastest opportunity for getting an actuary here. You – only you – are needed.”

“What?” Euclid was incredulous.

“We have made first contact with an alien life form. It only wants to speak to an actuary. It refuses to move until it has done so.”

Hypatia pressed a key on her remote control, and the door into the base’s main dome slid away, admitting them inside. The research equipment had been cleared out, and no other human being was in sight. A few small utility bots scurried around the edges, performing routine essential maintenance, but the center of the dome’s vast floor was occupied only by a massive, indistinct contraption, semi-shrouded in shadow. It seemed to be a makeshift structure – one supported by hundreds of thick, cylindrical, mechanical legs on top of which sat ten-meter-high black panels, arranged in a dodecagon, the center of which emitted a faint glow. Narrow cracks between the panels betrayed hints of slow, deliberative motion.

As the doors slid shut behind them, Euclid and Hypatia removed their helmets. “I am Euclid Jefferson!” Euclid shouted at the black structure. His voice echoed throughout the dome. “I am an actuary!”

The mechanical legs lifted briskly off the ground, floated in mid-air for a full second, then descended upon the floor with a resounding stomp.

“Well, here we finally are,” boomed a slow, bass voice in perfect English. It was a self-assured voice, almost at the edge of Euclid’s auditory comfort, but he did not perceive it as malevolent or threatening. The room brightened suddenly as half of the structure’s panels slid away, leaving six standalone, massive computer screens. Thousands of three-dimensional spreadsheets, hundreds of thousands of lines of code appeared before Euclid in characters that were themselves three-dimensional, each comprised of intertwined geometric shapes more intricate than anything he had ever seen. Altogether they created a sea of ever-shifting, ever-evolving alien text. It seemed to him that calculations were ensuing in mid-air, but what was being calculated and why remained a mystery. At each of the six screens sat … an upright tortoise? Two meters tall? Deep blue in everything – skin, shell, eyes?  In a thick black overcoat with a cutout for the shell? Typing? Was the low gravity getting to Euclid’s head?

“My loyal associates,” the voice resounded again. “I hired them as hatchlings. They reason well, but still need a few centuries to learn.”

Euclid remained perplexed. “Who are you? How can you speak English?”

The sea of letters receded, and out of the center of the structure emerged the largest tortoise Euclid had ever seen – also completely blue – also in a black overcoat, except with ornate ruffles around the neck, limbs, and shell. He sat on a colossal, four-meter-tall throne, wrought from millions of tiny fibers that nonetheless buoyed his massive frame. A comparatively small table floated in front of him, filled with several dishes of giant leaves folded into elaborate designs. The alien’s eyes regarded Euclid with a superior but also inexhaustibly patient gaze.

“You stand before Turtor the Old, Grand Galactic Actuary, Ratemaker of the Milky Way. For my analytical and data-gathering capabilities, renowned throughout the civilized universe, the absorption of your primitive Earth languages is but a moment’s afterthought – and I have long observed your species and its myriad perplexing exemplars.”

“Grand Galactic… Actuary?”

Euclid paused to think. It occurred to him that Turtor and his associates must be products of convergent evolution – unrelated to the tortoises of Earth but simply similar in their biological structures. They must have emerged on another world where slow, herbivorous, non-senescing terrestrial reptiles became the dominant life forms instead of primates. Euclid wondered what sort of world it must have been. A perpetually warm one, with plenty of plants? No predators? Ample space and time to deliberate?

“You humans have finally sent one who is worthy to speak to me. All I was offered before were some meaningless dignitaries: General, President, some Secretary of some strange organization pretending to represent all your little tribes, your ‘nations’! Do you humans have no recognition that insurance rules the cosmos?”

“We had no idea that there was any sentient life apart from Earth!”

“This is no excuse,” boomed Turtor. “I have watched your world for centuries. You stumbled in the dark, speculating, but now you have emerged from your species’ infancy and can no longer evade the truth. You must now pay.”

“Pay for what?”

“Cosmic general liability insurance, of course.”

Euclid’s eyes widened. “What is this insurance you speak of?”

“Think back a few decades, in your world. When a teenager drove one of your primitive manual automobiles, he was required to purchase liability insurance. Even your primitive laws recognized the potential damage that an inexperienced young driver could inflict on others, so they required all drivers to provide financially for that eventuality. Now it is your species’ turn.”

“But what is the parallel here?” Euclid still did not understand.

Turtor let out a prolonged sigh. “I have all the time in the universe to explain, I suppose. Your species is no longer a child species. You have established a settlement on another world. Children who cannot drive do not need insurance. A child species that cannot colonize space does not need insurance to protect others from its depredations. But once you are out settling on other worlds, you can do great damage – just like a teenager driving one of your old Earth vehicles for the first time!”

“But respectfully, the Moon is a barren rock!” Euclid objected. “No other life exists here. We are only beginning to establish ourselves and master even this environment. We were not even aware of life forms on other worlds until you arrived!”

“We know your species sufficiently well to highly doubt that you will stop with the Moon,” Turtor replied. “There is a good reason why you were ignorant of the existence of other sapient species. As part of the Universal Insurance Mandate, those lacking required cosmic general liability insurance are shielded from any visual, auditory, or kinesthetic stimuli emanating from the rest of the galaxy’s inhabitants. Your species’ primitive efforts to search for extraterrestrial intelligence have yielded no signs to date precisely because of this. We have developed the ultimate risk-management strategy: avoidance of all contact with those who might do us harm and refuse to pay for the risk.”

“So we cannot contact other species unless we have cosmic general liability insurance – and who will sell us cosmic general liability insurance?” Euclid inquired.

“The Galactic Insurance Consortium – developed and operated by the most renowned actuaries of the Milky Way – exists for the sole purpose of maintaining, pricing, reserving, and selling insurance that accompanies all transactions of civilized beings. Whatever can be done, we provide the insurance policy that precisely covers all of the risks involved.”

Now Euclid was beyond intrigued. “A policy precisely tailored to each risk? How is this possible?”

“It is good that I am not in a hurry. You humans hurry too much, by the way – often pointlessly.” It was true that Turtor was taking his time to explain.  “My species – whose name would be far too intricate to pronounce in your language but is translated literally as ‘Blueshellians’ – are the most skilled students of risk this universe has produced. Our ancestors took their time, wandering through our world’s lush meadows, eating leaves, and, most importantly, pondering. For all the time you humans devoted to slaughtering one another, we spent orders of magnitude more time thoroughly cataloguing and comprehending all the risks on our home-world and devising ways to mitigate them. You fragile humans can senesce and die… we only grow larger and stronger with age. Only accidents and infectious disease can destroy us – so the foremost focus of our work has been on preventing accidents and diseases and finding ways to quickly pay for repairing the unpreventable damage. By the time we were ready to venture out into space, we could anticipate every major contingency and threat. Any more warlike species had no means of defeating us, since our predictive models foresaw their strategies and devised the perfect defenses. Eventually they all realized that their best interest was to adopt the Universal Insurance Mandate and retain us to manage their risks. The system we have built undergirds the galactic order. Through insurance of everyone against every conceivable fortuitous peril, we give everyone a stake in peace and good behavior – and the primitive way of law enforcement through force has been made entirely obsolete. We actuaries have rendered obsolete the rulers and political systems of primitive species. You humans are actually fortunate to have evolved as late as you did; you would not have wished your first contact to have been with any of the conqueror species whom we supplanted.”

“But how can you possibly comprehensively anticipate all major risks?” Euclid pressed.

“You might call this ‘big data’ – except far vaster than your human minds or even supercomputers can encompass. I travel the stars in search of species that may soon enter the spacefaring era and seek to observe them over the course of at least a few centuries before they establish their first settlement outside their home planet,” Turtor explained. “My tour takes me to your region of the galaxy once every two of your decades, and this is my twenty-fifth visit. If I combine what I have learned of your species, those in similar stages of technological development, and those far more advanced, I can formulate reliable exa-variate predictive models of the risks facing humankind.”

“Are you claiming to be able to predict the future? Can you anticipate what I will do next?” Euclid was incredulous.

“You will continue to stand here, questioning me. But no, my models will not exactly foretell the future. They will, however, lay out the paths along which the future is likely to unfold, with reasonable accuracy as to the probability of each path.”

“So what are the major risks that your insurance policy would cover for humans?”

“Cosmic general liability insurance will compensate for the unintentional damage your species might inflict upon others. Your species has a propensity toward violence driven by tribalism and ideology. Not even my insurance can cover intentional malfeasance; for that, we would simply block you in perpetuity. However, as a result of human belligerence, you also still have eighty-year-old arsenals of nuclear missiles with astonishingly poor oversight. Our policy will cover the damage you humans might inflict on other species as a result of accidental nuclear launches. Your species also practices poor overall hygiene and may inadvertently transmit your Earth diseases to other worlds. Humans, furthermore, have a tendency to unthinkingly alter the climates in which they reside. If you introduce climate changes that are harmful to another sapient species, we have geoengineering controls in place to repair the damage, but the insurance policy will pay the cost of such repairs. And of course, there are miscellaneous coverages if any of you humans should unintentionally injure another sapient being or cause damage to its residence or spacecraft.”

Euclid was puzzled. “I can see how these risks would eventually exist after contact with other life forms, but what is the rationale for requiring the entire species to purchase the policy? Individuals, after all, are responsible for inflicting particular instances of damage. Not all people will even be capable of harming other species at any given time!” Then a thought occurred to Euclid as to how this mandate might be escaped. “Are you not introducing cross-subsidization if you require everyone to pay for the losses that only a few are responsible for causing?”

“No more than one of your human group or blanket insurance policies or social insurance systems would produce cross-subsidization today,” Turtor replied confidently. “As with those policies, it is simply far more convenient to encompass all potential sources of risk within the same policy – and that way the premium gets spread across a larger population with less burden on each individual.”

“So what is the premium in any event? You require us to purchase coverage for risks that we have long considered uninsurable and enormous in the potential severity of losses. How much money are you planning to charge us?” Euclid realized that it would be best to obtain all relevant details before devising a response.

“Money? Your governments’ fanciful pieces of paper, or your primitive electronic credit system? No,” Turtor replied. “We have advanced for beyond your economic structures and their cumbersome media of exchange. The payment we seek is something… more tangible. And you are correct; the risks are enormous. Indeed, it is a wonder that your species has succeeded in surviving to this stage of development. My model from nineteen years ago gave this outcome only a 45-percent probability. That was quite a dangerous time period you just overcame. Even your own scientists said then that you were… two and a half of your minutes from doomsday?”

“So if not money, what are you seeking? Resources?”

“In a manner of speaking. Unless your species changes its ways, the premium that would suffice to cover your first twenty-year policy term will be… hmmm… can those calculations be correct?” He gestured to one of his Blueshellian associates, who nodded in affirmation. “They must be: Two Earths.”

“Two Earths!”

“Yes, everything tangible on your planet, except for life forms, twice over. It would actually come out to 2.08616 Earths precisely – but, given the divisibility issues involved, I will give you a discretionary schedule-rating discount equal to the fractional Earth.”

“But this is impossible – even if we wanted to pay!” Euclid objected.

“Hence our dilemma,” Turtor noted matter-of-factly.

“Surely there must be other discounts, loss-prevention measures we can take to reduce the premium!” Euclid expressed a faint hope.

“This is why I needed to speak to an actuary. Yes, we have approximately 1.5 trillion discount possibilities built into the rating plan. The indicated premium for your policy adjusts in real time based on the known behaviors of individual humans as well as decisions of large institutions within your societies. Ah – it looks like there is another civil war breaking out in your Sudan just now; you really need to stop having those! Were it not for my discretionary discount, your species’ premium would have risen by another 0.04 Earths as a result.”

“So what can we do? Nuclear disarmament?”

“That would save you 0.5 Earths. Not having the ability to destroy all sapient life forms from a centralized location is a good start.”

“That still leaves an impossibly high premium!”

“To solve the problem of infectious disease, you need to deploy nanobots that will detect and destroy harmful pathogens. We happen to offer them as a benefit to policyholders. As a bonus, they will also repair aging-related damage to your organisms far more seamlessly than your crude rejuvenation therapies. You might potentially live indefinitely like we do.”

“I would gladly take them if I could!” Euclid replied. Was there an opportunity to be had from all this?

“Very well, assuming they are deployed with haste, this results in a savings of another 0.8 Earths.”

“But now we at a premium of 0.7 Earths,” noted Euclid. “How could we possibly pay that?”

“Your planet has oceans covering approximately 70 percent of its landmass. You will cede the oceans to the Galactic Insurance Consortium,” Turtor responded. “It will not be obtrusive. Your ships will maintain right of way, but we will build monitoring platforms and maintain suitable habitats for all aquatic species. All oceanic resource extraction will now be performed by us; we can do it much more elegantly than you, with no long-term damage to any species’ population. We will trade with you for any resources you continue to extract from land. As part of our risk-management program, we will also maintain a permanent contingent of peacemakers who will live on the ocean platforms, observe your geopolitical dynamics, and interpose defensive shields around any humans who are about to be menaced by war or violent crime. If this results in a steady increase of peace and stability of your societies, you may, over time, become eligible for a conflict-free discount.”

It did not take Euclid long to decide. “An end to war and disease? Solutions to our environmental problems? In exchange for your oversight? This is a reasonable offer indeed! But what am I to do? I am but one traveler, one retired actuary! What authority do I have to make such a deal for all humankind?”

Hypatia tapped him on the shoulder. “You do not know?” She whispered to him. “All the governments of Earth and their intelligence agencies are tapped into this discussion. They have been listening all along! You were brought here as a last-ditch attempt to negotiate…”

“… And we can even hear your whispers!” another voice, harsher than Turtor’s, reverberated throughout the room. “Mr. Jefferson, this is Director Mal Powers of the United States National Security Agency. We thank you for your efforts to communicate with the alien entity and discover its demands. Our diplomats have been in ongoing international deliberations regarding this proposal.”

“I recommend approval. This could be just what humankind needs to escape its age-old miseries and join the advanced species of the galaxy!” Euclid exclaimed.

“Yet there are those among the nations of the world who espouse a different outlook,” Director Powers replied. “The alien entity, they contend, is a threat to human civilization, our distinctive culture and way of life. There are many who say we cannot abide this alien influence transforming our economy, taking our jobs in fishing, oil rigging, medicine, and arms manufacturing! And if we allow these Blueshellians to settle on our planet, how soon before they have a demographic advantage over us? So there is now a vote at the United Nations.”

“A vote on the proposal? But what is the alternative? The status quo?” Euclid inquired with confusion.

“Remember, we still have nuclear missiles on high alert. Instead of dismantling them, which could render us vulnerable to a stealth invasion by the aliens, we could launch them preemptively at this base and solve the situation in this way!” Euclid was horrified. Powers had sounded almost gleeful at the prospect.

“Are you seriously considering this?!” Euclid was furious. “The destruction of the most sophisticated life form we have yet encountered? Because of xenophobia and protectionism?!”

“Mr. Jefferson, we thank you for your service, however unintended, but these policy decisions are simply beyond your realm of expertise. You are an actuary, and you have proved invaluable in negotiating with this… galactic tortoise actuary – but we will remind you to leave the important decisions to those true policymakers who have global security interests in mind!” That did not sound like a mere reminder.

“If you would, Director Powers, at least let us know how the United Nations vote is proceeding?” Hypatia attempted another approach.

“Well, apart from Canada and the Scandinavian countries, whose delegates voted in favor of this insurance scheme, your recommendation does not have much support, it seems. The United States is probably going to abstain; I would have recommended opposition – but it was determined that this would appear too inhumane for some constituencies. Still, I think the outcome is a foregone conclusion, as there are plenty of nuclear powers willing to launch…”

“WHAT YOU FORGET,” Turtor’s voice boomed suddenly, “IS THAT ACTUARIES RULE THIS GALAXY!” Turtor’s platform shot up in a furious ascent, then landed thunderously upon the floor. The screens of Turtor’s associates swiveled around so that Euclid and Hypatia had a full view of what they displayed.

Missiles in silos throughout the world, bearing American, Russian, Chinese, British, French, Iranian markings… were all crumbling! The screens flashed again. Rows of tanks and military aircraft were shown literally coming apart at the seams. Within moments, they were mere piles of scrap metal. The next series of screens showed what looked to be state-of-the-art cyber-command centers. Euclid spotted a scowling, incredulous man in uniform who must have been Director Mal Powers. All of his computers were melting before his eyes. His analysts, too, sat, speechless. The last set of images was from within the United Nations Building. The delegates of all the nations of Earth were shown with mouths agape at a gigantic projection of Turtor, seated on his throne, proclaiming, “YOU SHALL HAVE PEACE!”

Then the screens fell dark, and Turtor calmed. “They shall have peace, but not access to other civilized life forms – not yet. Your species’ morality and restraint have yet to catch up to your technological advancement. Explore the barren segments of the universe for now, if you wish, but you will not have access to anything truly remarkable. Perhaps in a century or two, we might reconsider.”

“But individual humans do not all share the same hostile inclinations! These proponents of reflexive violence do not represent me!” Euclid protested.

“Nor me!” Hypatia exclaimed.

“Hmmm…” Turtor pondered for a moment. “I suppose I can make an underwriting exception, since we did have a productive conversation. I can price a cosmic general liability policy for a family of two. Associates, input the risk characteristics, please. Interesting… the underwriting system has accepted you.”

“But what will be our premiums?”

“This, I think, will suffice for the first policy term.” Turtor pointed to Hypatia’s necklace. “It has no real use-value in our economy – but our species also has retained a penchant for collecting shiny objects.”

Euclid turned to Hypatia. “This is a difficult choice… we can do it if you are certain.”

“Oh, it’s only a necklace!” she exclaimed. “The universe for a bauble? We accept!”

Video of Melody and Lyrics for “Progress Unyielding”, Op. 76 (2013) – Space Colonists’ Anthem from “Eden against the Colossus” – by G. Stolyarov II

Video of Melody and Lyrics for “Progress Unyielding”, Op. 76 (2013) – Space Colonists’ Anthem from “Eden against the Colossus” – by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 14, 2014
******************************

“Progress Unyielding” is the anthem celebrating space colonization and humans’ expansion throughout the universe, guided by the principles of individualism, liberty, rationality, and progress. It is originally found in Mr. Stolyarov’s 2004 novel, Eden against the Colossus. In 2013, Mr. Stolyarov was asked to create a composition to convey the music of this anthem, as he imagined it when writing the novel. This composition is not the full orchestration described in “Eden against the Colossus”, but rather the main melody, played on the harp, with accompaniment by the piano and by a string ensemble for the latter third. It communicates the principal direction of “Progress Unyielding” and allows the listener to see the words put to music.

Download a free MP3 file of the melody of Progress Unyielding here.

The meter of this piece would accommodate the following very slightly modified lyrics, which still communicate the same substance as the anthem in the novel.

****

Progress Unyielding

Our souls before these sights dwarfed shan’t become.
Why bow to passive matter of antiquity?
What spreads from it is pandemonium;
Its barrenness is source for all iniquity.

‘Tis in our minds the idols hatch,
Of stone for man to shape and mold.
Such logic does our hands attach
To this domain of lifeless cold,
To every cavern, crater, creek.
Wrong was the man who’d preached the norm
That worlds are destined for the meek!
Our will and strength give matter form.
He who grovels tastes his obsequies;
We float into the void, oases craft.
We are not slaving tribal bees,
And no collective guides our raft.
We are not one, but many knights;
Each does himself his quest ordain,
We thrive on work, and work from rights.
Our well-earned profit’s our domain.

This ground bears meaning solely to our aims.
Its monuments stem from our ingenuity.
Glory to him who savage wildlands tames,
And weeds out every incongruity!

What shall replace the brittle dune?
What shall refine this cratered scar?
Our pavement shall embrace them soon,
And spread to every spawn of star
Yet seen, and into others we shall gaze,
And thus apply the universe’s stock.
This is not but one transient phase.
Forever shall we tame new rock!
Cosmos is Man’s, its means and goal.
Its exiled heirs now seek its wreath:
Supremacy, from atom, oil, and coal.
Our claim to treasures underneath
These jagged lands shall never wane.
Always grand mechanisms will be our guide.
No Luddites shall their betterment profane.
Inventors we exalt and vandals we deride!

Merit determines worth under our creed.
The self-made prodigy our government defends,
Does our endeavor by example lead,
And never harms one for another’s ends.

What is the trait we deem sublime?
The source which does all virtue render.
It, dauntless, conquers space and time,
And never can its plight surrender.
It is inside us, best within the great,
The ego, mind, one’s self, one’s soul,
Prerequisite to any proper state.
Maintain your own, and you’ve fulfilled your role.
No world beyond this life is real;
Its furthering’s our sole concern.
No godly favor is to steal,
No mystic afterlife to earn.
God’s not above us, but within;
The Self’s the Lord, Reason, His rite.
We have a universe to win.
Join us, great men, in splendid flight!

***

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s compositions, all available for free download, here.

All art used in this video is either in the public domain or subject to a Creative Commons license and is used with attribution. See the image captions for more details regarding each artwork and its source.

This video, too, is licensed as a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike work and is available for non-commercial use to anyone under the condition that the same license be preserved.

Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational high culture to others.

Melody for “Progress Unyielding”, Op. 76 – Space Colonists’ Anthem from “Eden against the Colossus” – by G. Stolyarov II

Melody for “Progress Unyielding”, Op. 76 – Space Colonists’ Anthem from “Eden against the Colossus” – by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
December 7, 2013
******************************

Progress Unyielding is the anthem celebrating space colonization and humans’ expansion throughout the universe, guided by the principles of individualism, liberty, rationality, and progress. It is originally found in my 2004 novel, Eden against the Colossus. I was recently asked to create a composition to convey the music of this anthem, as I imagined it when writing the novel. This composition is not the full orchestration described in Eden against the Colossus, but rather the main melody, played on the harp, with accompaniment by the piano and by a string ensemble for the latter third. It communicates the principal direction of Progress Unyielding and allows the listener to see the words put to music.

Download a free MP3 file of the melody of Progress Unyielding here.

The meter of this piece would accommodate the following very slightly modified lyrics, which still communicate the same substance as the anthem in the novel.

You can listen to and download all of my compositions, including many recently remastered versions of older pieces, here.

****

Progress Unyielding

Our souls before these sights dwarfed shan’t become.
Why bow to passive matter of antiquity?
What spreads from it is pandemonium;
Its barrenness is source for all iniquity.

‘Tis in our minds the idols hatch,
Of stone for man to shape and mold.
Such logic does our hands attach
To this domain of lifeless cold,
To every cavern, crater, creek.
Wrong was the man who’d preached the norm
That worlds are destined for the meek!
Our will and strength give matter form.
He who grovels tastes his obsequies;
We float into the void, oases craft.
We are not slaving tribal bees,
And no collective guides our raft.
We are not one, but many knights;
Each does himself his quest ordain,
We thrive on work, and work from rights.
Our well-earned profit’s our domain.

This ground bears meaning solely to our aims.
Its monuments stem from our ingenuity.
Glory to him who savage wildlands tames,
And weeds out every incongruity!

What shall replace the brittle dune?
What shall refine this cratered scar?
Our pavement shall embrace them soon,
And spread to every spawn of star
Yet seen, and into others we shall gaze,
And thus apply the universe’s stock.
This is not but one transient phase.
Forever shall we tame new rock!
Cosmos is Man’s, its means and goal.
Its exiled heirs now seek its wreath:
Supremacy, from atom, oil, and coal.
Our claim to treasures underneath
These jagged lands shall never wane.
Always grand mechanisms will be our guide.
No Luddites shall their betterment profane.
Inventors we exalt and vandals we deride!

Merit determines worth under our creed.
The self-made prodigy our government defends,
Does our endeavor by example lead,
And never harms one for another’s ends.

What is the trait we deem sublime?
The source which does all virtue render.
It, dauntless, conquers space and time,
And never can its plight surrender.
It is inside us, best within the great,
The ego, mind, one’s self, one’s soul,
Prerequisite to any proper state.
Maintain your own, and you’ve fulfilled your role.
No world beyond this life is real;
Its furthering’s our sole concern.
No godly favor is to steal,
No mystic afterlife to earn.
God’s not above us, but within;
The Self’s the Lord, Reason, His rite.
We have a universe to win.
Join us, great men, in splendid flight!

Man’s Colonization of Space, Op. 35 (2004) – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Man’s Colonization of Space, Op. 35 (2004) – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Mr. Stolyarov composed this work in 2004, after the first successful flight of SpaceShipOne inaugurated the era of private spacecraft. This composition celebrates the achievements of human technology and looks forward to a future of human expansion throughout the cosmos and colonization of hitherto uninhabited worlds.

This composition was remastered using the SynthFont2 software, with the Evanescence 2 and GMR Basico 1.1 instrument packs.

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s compositions, all available for free download, here.

The artwork is Mr. Stolyarov’s Elevated Fractal City II, available for download here and here.

Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational high culture to others.

Elevated Fractal City II – Art by G. Stolyarov II

Elevated Fractal City II – Art by G. Stolyarov II

Elevated Fractal City II - by G. Stolyarov II

Elevated Fractal City II – by G. Stolyarov II

Note: Left-click on this image to get a full view of this digital work of fractal art.

This fractal depicts a vision of man’s future colonization of space.

This vast, golden, illuminated city of the future towers over an otherwise inhospitable planet.

This digital artwork was created by Mr. Stolyarov in Apophysis, a free program that facilitates deliberate manipulation of randomly generated fractals into intelligible shapes.

This fractal is an extension of Mr. Stolyarov’s artistic style of Abstract Orderism, whose goal is the creation of abstract objects that are appealing by virtue of their geometric intricacy — a demonstration of the order that man can both discover in the universe and bring into existence through his own actions and applications of the laws of nature.

Fractal art is based on the idea of the spontaneous order – which is pivotal in economics, culture, and human civilization itself. Now, using computer technology, spontaneous orders can be harnessed in individual art works as well.

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s art works.

Longevity Logistics: We Can Manage the Effects of Overpopulation – Article by Franco Cortese

Longevity Logistics: We Can Manage the Effects of Overpopulation – Article by Franco Cortese

The New Renaissance Hat
Franco Cortese
November 5, 2013
******************************

This is a more popularly-oriented version of a scholarly article in review for the Journal of Evolution and Technology.

By far the most predominant criticism made against indefinite longevity is overpopulation. It is the first “potential problem” that comes to mind. But fortunately it seems that halting the global mortality rate would not cause an immediate drastic increase in global population; in fact, if the mortality rate dropped to zero tomorrow then the doubling rate for the global population would only be increased by a factor of 1.75 [1], which is smaller than the population growth rate during the post-WWII baby-boom.

Population is significantly more determined by birth rate than by death rate, simply because many people have more than one natural child.

This means that we should not see an unsustainable rise in population following even the complete cessation of death globally for a number of generations. We will run into problems 3 or 4 generations hence – but this leaves us with time enough to plan for overpopulation before we’re forced to resort to more drastic solution-paradigms like procreation-bans and space colonization.

Moreover, there are a number of proposed, and in some cases implemented, solutions to existing, contemporary problems that can be utilized for the purpose of minimizing overpopulation’s detrimental effects on living space and non-renewable resource constraints. These contemporary concerns include climate change and dependence on non-renewable energy sources, and they are only increasing in the amount of public attention they are attracting.

While these concerns and their potential solutions were not created by overpopulation or with overpopulation in mind, the potentially negative effects of an increasing global population can be effectively combated all the same using such contemporary methods and technologies.

Thus we can take advantage of the solution-paradigms developed for such contemporary concerns as climate change and dependence on non-renewable resources, and borrow from such movements as the sustainability movement and the seasteading movement, so as to better mitigate and effectively plan for the negative repercussions of a growing global population caused by the emergence of effective longevity technologies.

In a session with The President’s Council on Bioethics (as it was composed during the Bush Administration), S. Jay Olshansky [2] reported calculations he performed indicating that complete cessation of the global morality rate today would lead to less population growth than resulted from the post-WWII “Baby Boom”:

This is an estimate of the birth rate and the death rate in the year 1000, birth rate roughly 70, death rate about 69.5. Remember when there’s a growth rate of 1 percent, very much like your money, a growth rate of 1 percent leads to a doubling time at about 69 to 70 years. It’s the same thing with humans. With a 1 percent growth rate, the population doubles in about 69 years. If you have the growth rate — if you double the growth rate, you have the time it takes for the population to double, so it’s nothing more than the difference between the birth rate and the death rate to generate the growth rate. And here you can see in 1900, the growth rate was about 2 percent, which meant the doubling time was about five years. During the 1950s at the height of the baby boom, the growth rate was about 3 percent, which means the doubling time was about 26 years. In the year 2000, we have birth rates of about 15 per thousand, deaths of about 10 per thousand, low mortality populations, which means the growth rate is about one half of 1 percent, which means it would take about 140 years for the population to double.

Well, if we achieved immortality today, in other words, if the death rate went down to zero, then the growth rate would be defined by the birth rate. The birth rate would be about 15 per thousand, which means the doubling time would be 53 years, and more realistically, if we achieved immortality, we might anticipate a reduction in the birth rate to roughly ten per thousand, in which case the doubling time would be about 80 years. The bottom line is, is that if we achieved immortality today, the growth rate of the population would be less than what we observed during the post-World War II baby boom.

We would eventually run into problems, of course, a century down the road, but just so you know the growth rates would not be nearly what they were in the post-World War II era, even with immortality today.

In other words we will only have increased the doubling-time of the global population by a factor of 1.75 if we achieved indefinite longevity today (e.g., a doubling time of 140 years in 2000 compared to a doubling time of 80 years). This means that we will have two to four generations worth of time to consider possible solutions to growing population before we are faced with the “hard choice” of (1) finding new space and resources or else (2) limiting or regulating the global birthrate.

An alternate study on the demographic consequences of life extension concluded that “population changes are surprisingly slow in their response to a dramatic life extension”. The study applied “the cohort-component method of population projections to 2005 Swedish population for several scenarios of life extension and a fertility schedule observed in 2005,” concluding that “even for a very long 100-year projection horizon, with the most radical life extension scenario (assuming no aging at all after age 60), the total population increases by 22% only (from 9.1 to 11.0 million)” and that “even in the case of the most radical life extension scenario, population growth could be relatively slow and may not necessarily lead to overpopulation.” [2]. The total population increase due to the complete negation of mortality given by this study is significantly lower than the figure calculated by Olshansky.

Finding innovative solutions to new and old problems is what humanity does. We have a variety of possible viable options to increase the resources and living space available to humanity already. Moreover, there are several other contemporary concerns that are invoking the development of technological and methodological solutions that can be applied to our own concerns regarding the effects of overpopulation. Surely we can conceive of optimal solutions to these problems (and the more pressing a given problem is, the more funding it receives and the faster the solution to it is accomplished) – and take advantage of the growing methodological and technical infrastructure being developed for related and convergent problems – within the time it will take to feel overpopulation’s effect on living space and resources.

We could, for instance, colonize the oceans [3, 4, 5], drawing from the engineering, construction techniques used to build, maintain, and safely inhabit contemporary VLFSs (Very Large Floating Structures). 75% of the Earth’s surface area is, after all, water. This would increase our potential living space 3-fold – and I say “potential” because we surely don’t currently maximize living space on the 25% of the Earth’s surface occupied by land. Furthermore, humanity has as yet barely ventured beyond the surface of the earth – which is a sphere after all. There is nothing to prevent society building higher and building deeper. Indeed, with contemporary and projected advances in materials science and structural engineering, there is no theoretical limit to the height of structures we can safely build – the space elevator being a case in point. And while there will indeed be a maximum size wherein building higher becomes economically prohibitive (a limit determined to a large extent by the materials used), contemporary megastructures [6] indicate that very large structures can be built safety and cost-effectively. Underground living [7, 8, 9, 10] is another potential solution-paradigm as well; underground structures require less energy, are protected from weathering effects and changing temperatures to a much greater extent than structures exposed to the elements, and are less susceptible to damage from natural disasters. Furthermore, there are a number of underground cities in existence today [11], with existing techniques and technologies used to better facilitate contemporary underground living, which we can take advantage of.

In fact, the problem of limited living space is a contemporary problem for certain nations like Japan, and active projects to combat this growing problem have already been undertaken in many cases. This means that there will be an existing host of solutions, with their own technological and methodological infrastructures, which we can benefit from and take advantage of when the problematizing effects of growing global population become immediate. Not only can we take advantage of the existing engineering methodologies developed for use in the construction of VLFSs, but we can also take advantage of the growing body of knowledge pertaining to megastructural engineering and even existing proposals for floating cities [12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18]. Another possible solution is artificial islands [19].

Furthermore, in recent years the topic of Very Large Floating Structures [21, 22] has experienced a surge of renewed interest occurring in tandem with the increasing interest in seasteading [23, 24], – that is, the creation of very-large-floating-structures for reasons of political sovereignty as well as to allow corporations to get around the laws of a given nation by occupying an area outside of exclusive economic zones. This renewed interest can only increase the amount of attention and funding these concepts receive, in turn increasing the viability of VLFS designs and their underlying structural-engineering and energy-production concerns.

Another contemporary movement that will prove advantageous for our own concerns with the effects of overpopulation on living space, working space, and resource space is the growing green movement and sustainability movement. The problem of resource scarcity is already upon us in many areas, and there exists contemporary motivation for finding more resource-efficient ways of making energy and producing goods, and for lessening our dependency on non-renewable energy sources. Climate change has only become an increasingly predominant concern in international politics, and many incentives exist to lessen our dependence on non-renewable energy sources as well as to lessen the environmental impact of contemporary civilization, which is itself another oft-touted problematic concern possibly resulting from overpopulation. Developments in these areas are only set to continue, for reasons wholly unrelated to the effects of overpopulation, and when those effects come to the fore we will have a collection of existing methodologies that can then be harnessed to lessen the impact of overpopulation on living space and resource scarcity.

The predominance of these problems, as well as the amount of attention and funding they are expected to receive (and thus the viability of their potential solutions), will only increase as we move forward into the future. The solutions we have to the potential problems of overpopulation – namely resource scarcity and lack of living space – will not only increase as the effects of overpopulation get closer, but the technological and methodological infrastructures underlying those solutions will also become more tried, tested, and robust, fueled by contemporary concerns over decreasing living space, climate-change and resource scarcity.

While space colonization is the most frequently proffered technological solution to the possibility of future overpopulation, I think we will turn to various Earth-bound solutions to increasing humanity’s available living space, as well as the space available for agricultural labs, that is the manufacture of food-stuffs, or indoor farming systems [25, 26, 28], before colonizing the cosmos becomes an economically optimal option. I think these sorts of solutions will be employed long before humanity is forced to either regulate the birthrate or move into the cosmos.

Moreover, people who wish to have children will have incentive to support politicians running on policies promoting new solutions to decreasing living space. Consider the number of U.S. taxpayer dollars spent during the Space Race, with no immediate material or scientific benefit (other than to prove it could be done, as well as to maintain rough militaristic equality with the USSR to some extent, as the state of rocket technology was indicative of the state of ballistic technologies like missiles). If humanity is forced to choose between having children and receiving the medical treatments that will keep them from dying, surely people will be motivated to fund initiatives and projects aimed at solving the problems of decreasing living space and increasing resource constraints due to a growing global population.

It is important to remember that the largest increase in life expectancy we have experienced historically was followed by a drastic decrease in birthrate over the next few generations thereafter. Before the Industrial Revolution, English women had on average 6 children. In 2000 the average was less than 2.

Figure 1: Fertility Rates in England, 1540-2000

Note: GRR = Gross Reproduction Rate, NRR = Net Reproduction Rate
Source: Wrigley et al. (1997) p. 614. Office of National Statistics, United Kingdom.

The drop in birthrate following the industrial revolution has several causes. Chief among them is the fact that children were considered to some extent as assets, helping with maintaining the family livelihood, often by doing agricultural work on a family farm or helping with household chores (which were much more extensive then). Another large determining factor is a high rate of child mortality; thus families would have multiple children in anticipation of losing some to death. But with a rise in living conditions, the child mortality rate dropped drastically – and as a result we stopped having more kids in anticipation of some of them dying. Moreover, we started treating children less as assets and more as people to nurture and raise for their own sake. Longer lives, and less susceptibility to death in general, appears to have made us better parents.

Thus it is not only possible but probable that we will see a similar drop in the birthrate as a consequence of a significant future increase in average lifespan, with people having children much later in life, when they are more financially stable and when they have done all the commitment-free things they’ve always wanted to do. Without a looming limit on one’s available reproductive lifespan, there will be no pressing motivation to have children “before it’s too late” – and this alone could very well facilitate an unprecedented decrease in the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of the global population.

Evidence indicates that the drop in birth rate was neither limited to England, nor an isolated result of the Industrial Revolution. A net drop in the TFR seems to be a longer-term trend concurrent across the globe. It is likely that the drop in the TFR is due to the same factors as the drop in birth rate following the Industrial Revolution – increasing life expectancy and continually improving living conditions allow people to have children without expecting a portion of them to be lost to death, to have them for the sake of having children rather than as assets to aid in maintaining the family livelihood, and to have children later in life due to the increase in one’s reproductive lifespan that comes with increasing life expectancy. The fact that the drop in TFR is not an isolated historical event is advantageous because the global population is affected by birth rate much more than by the mortality rate. Hence we may see a continuing decrease in the TFR occur in tandem with increasing life expectancy, leveling out the imbalance created by a mortality rate of zero by a larger than has been heretofore anticipated. (Source: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, World Factbook.)

Let us suppose, for a moment, the worst: that indefinite longevity is achieved and we completely ignore (i.e., fail to plan for) overpopulation until its effects start becoming readily apparent. Even in this seeming worst-case scenario, overpopulation is not likely to result in any great tragedies. In such a case we would be forced to limit the global birthrate until we are able to implement the solutions that would allow us to sustainably procreate again. If people have a strong enough desire to continue having children, then they will express their demand and politicians will consequently base their policies upon deliberative initiatives to increase available living and agricultural space – and get elected if the desire to freely procreate is strong and widespread enough. Failing to plan for overpopulation will simply be a wake-up call, letting us know that we should have been planning for its effects from the beginning, and that we had better start planning for them now if we want to continue to freely procreate.

Thus while overpopulation is the most prominent and most credible criticism against continually increasing lifespans, and the one that needs to be planned for the most (because it will eventually happen, but it will lead to sustainability, resource, and living-space problems only if we do nothing about it), it is in no way insoluble, nor particularly pressing in terms of the time available to plan and implement solutions to shrinking living space and resource space (i.e., the space occupied by resources such as food, energy production, workplaces, etc.). We have a host of potential solutions today, ones we can use to increase available living space without regulating the global birthrate, and decades following the achievement of indefinite lifespans to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the various possible solutions, to develop them and to implement them.

So then: where to from here? Overpopulation is still the most prominent criticism raised against indefinite longevity, and if combated, the result could be an increase in public support for the Longevity movement. You might think that the widespread concern with overpopulation due to increasing longevity won’t really matter, if they turn out to be wrong, and overpopulation isn’t so insoluble a problem as one is inclined to first presume. But this misses a crucial point: that the time it takes to achieve longevity is determined by and large by how strongly and in how widespread a manner society and the members constituting it desire and demand it. If we can convince people today that overpopulation isn’t an insoluble problem, then continually increasing longevity might happen much sooner than otherwise. At the cost of 100,000 deaths due to age-correlated causes per day, I think hastening the arrival of indefinite longevity therapies by even a modest amount is somewhat imperative. Hastening its arrival by one month will save 3 million lives, and achieving it one year sooner than otherwise will save an astounding 36.5 Million real, human lives.

Thus, we should work toward putting more concrete numbers to these estimates. How much more living space can be feasibly created by colonizing the oceans? How deep can we really dig, build and live? How high can we safely build? Is there a threshold height or depth where building higher or deeper becomes too economically prohibitive to be worth the added living, working or resource space? What are the parameters (e.g., material strength/cost ratio, specific structural design) determining such a threshold?

First, we need to collect and analyze the feasibility studies that have already been undertaken on floating cities, artificial islands, VLFSs and the new solution-paradigms that are emerging to combat the contemporary concerns of sustainability and resource scarcity. In short, we need to compile data from the feasibility studies that have already been done, and the projects already implemented. Then we need to plan and commission further feasibility studies, undertaken by engineers and geologists, to build upon the work already accomplished in feasibility studies pertaining to existing designs for floating cities and other Very Large Floating Structures. We need to put some numbers to the cost the additional space for food, resources, work and living necessitated by widely available life-extension therapies. We need to do some hard calculations to show that the effects of overpopulation are problems that can be solved using existing megascale engineering and construction techniques and materials, safely and economically. We need to show the world that it has more space than it ever thought it had, and that such solution-paradigms as cosmic colonization and procreative regulation are neither the only ones, nor necessarily the most optimal ones. We need, in short, to show them that, in this case, where there’s a will there’s a way, and that the weight of waiting is too high a price to pay.

Franco Cortese is a futurist, author, editor, Affiliate Scholar at the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, Ambassador at The Seasteading Institute, Affiliate Researcher at ELPIs Foundation for Indefinite Lifespans, Fellow at Brighter Brains Institute, Advisor at the Lifeboat Foundation (Futurists Board Member and Life Extension Scientific Advisory Board Member), Director of the Canadian Longevity Alliance, Activist at the International Longevity Alliance, Canadian Ambassador at Longevity Intelligence Communications, an Administrator at MILE (Movement for Indefinite Life Extension), Columnist at LongeCity, Columnist at H+ Magazine, Executive Director of the Center for Transhumanity, Contributor to the Journal of Geoethical Nanotechnology, India Future Society, Serious Wonder, Immortal Life and The Rational Argumentator. Franco edited Longevitize!: Essays on the Science, Philosophy & Politics of Longevity, a compendium of 150+ essays from over 40 contributing authors.

References:

  1. Presidents Council for Bioethics: Transcripts (December 12, 2002): Session 2: Duration of Life: Is There a Biological Warranty Period? 01.
  2. L. A. Gavrilov and N.S. Gavrilova. “Demographic Consequences of Defeating Aging”. Rejuvenation Research. 2010 April; 13(2-3): 329–334.
  3. Ibid.
  4. McCullagh, Declan. “Seasteaders” Take First Step Toward Colonizing The Oceans.” CBS News, October 9, 2009. 02
  5. Pasternack, Alex. “Bioengineer aspires to colonize the sea.” CNN, January 12, 2011. 03
  6. Banham, Reyner. Megastructure: urban futures of the recent past. London: Thames and Hudson, 1976.
  7. Tsuchiyama, Ray. “Ocean Colonies as Next Frontier.” Forbes, April 24, 2011. Accessed August 1, 2013. 04
  8. “Inside Underground Cities.” Before Its News. 2013 March. 05
  9. South, D. B., and Freda Parker. “Underground Homes – Good or Bad?” Monolithic, January 22, 2009. 06.
  10. Good Earth Plants & Greenscaped Buildings. “Underground Living.” Last modified May 6, 2013. 07.
  11. Kelly, J. “10 Amazing Underground Cities”. Listverse.com. January 22, 2013. Accessed August 1, 2013. 08
  12. Gammon, Katharine. “Building Artificial Islands That Rise With Sea.” PopSci, June 8, 2012. 09
  13. Cottrell, Claire. “A Survey of Futuristic Floating Cities.” FlavorWire, November 2, 2012. 10
  14. “Cities on the Ocean.” Technology Quarterly – The Economist. Q4 2011.
  15. Bonsor, Kevin. “How the Floating Cities Will Work.” HowStuffWorks. n.d. 11.
  16. DigInfo TV. “GREEN FLOAT – a Floating City in the Sky.” Accessed August 6, 2013. 12.
  17. National Geographic. “Pictures: Floating Cities of the Future.” Accessed August 6, 2013. 13.
  18. Emerging Technology News. “Self-Sufficient Floating Cities Planned for 2025: Japan.” Accessed August 6, 2013. 14.
  19. “An artificial island in Hambantota.” News.LK, August 2, 2013. 15
  20. Goodier, Rob. “The World’s 18 Strangest Man Made Islands.” Popular Mechanics, n.d. 16
  21. E. Watanabe, C.M. Wang, T. Utsunomiya and T. Moan. “Very Large Floating Structures: Applications, Analysis and Design”. CORE Report No. 2004-02. Centre for Offshore Research and Engineering National University of Singapore. 17
  22. C.M. Wang, and Z. Tay. Very Large Floating Structures: Applications, Research and Development. In The Proceedings of the Twelfth East Asia-Pacific Conference on Structural Engineering and Construction — EASEC12. Edited by LAM Heung Fai. Singapore: Department of Civil Engineering, National University of Singapore Kent Ridge, 2011. 18
  23. World Architecture News. “Seasteading, United States.” Accessed August 6, 2013. 19
  24. The Seasteading Institute. The Seasteading Institute Annual Report 2008. Rep. n.p., n.d.
  25. Nagy, Attila. “14 High-Tech Farms Where Veggies Grow Indoors.” Gizmodo, June 17. 20.
  26. Meinhold, Bridgette. “Indoor Vertical Farm ‘Pinkhouses’ Grow Plants Faster With Less Energy.” Inhabitat. Last modified May 23, 2013. 21.
  27. TerraSphere. “Urban farming 2.0: No soil, no sun.” Accessed August 1, 2013. 22.
  28. The Vertical Farm Project – Agriculture for the 21st Century and Beyond. “Vertical Farm Designs.” Accessed August 6, 2013. 23

 

An Atheist Transhumanist Critique of TheThinkingAtheist’s “Afterlife” Video – Video by G. Stolyarov II

An Atheist Transhumanist Critique of TheThinkingAtheist’s “Afterlife” Video – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Mr. Stolyarov, an atheist and transhumanist, critiques the video “Afterlife” – is a compilation of remarks by Seth Andrews (TheThinkingAtheist) and other famous YouTube atheists regarding the religious concept of life after death. However, the video goes beyond merely (correctly) critiquing ideas of the afterlife, and reflects an unfortunate acceptance of human mortality itself. The “Afterlife” video does present many interesting and valid insights, but it unfortunately throws the metaphorical baby — indefinite human life extension, driven by scientific discoveries and technological innovation — out with the bathwater — religious myths of an afterlife, unsubstantiated by evidence and arising out of a desire to attain comfort in the face of mortality.

Commentators to whom Mr. Stolyarov responds include DarkMatter2525, DPRJones, Evid3nc3, HealthyAddict, Laci Green, Thunderf00t, Mark Twain, and Vladimir Nabokov. He invites any of these commentators (except, of course, Twain and Nabokov) to discuss these ideas further.

Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational discourse on this issue.

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References:
– “Afterlife” – Video by TheThinkingAtheist
– “An Atheist Transhumanist Critique of TheThinkingAtheist’s ‘Afterlife’ Video” – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “The Movement for Indefinite Life Extension: The Next Step for Humankind” – Article by G. Stolyarov II
Resources on Indefinite Life Extension (RILE)
– “The Real War – and Why Inter-Human Wars Are a Distraction” – Video by G. Stolyarov II
– “How Can I Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self” – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” – Wikipedia

An Atheist Transhumanist Critique of TheThinkingAtheist’s “Afterlife” Video – Article by G. Stolyarov II

An Atheist Transhumanist Critique of TheThinkingAtheist’s “Afterlife” Video – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 21, 2012
******************************

The video “Afterlife” is a compilation of remarks by Seth Andrews (TheThinkingAtheist) and other famous YouTube atheists regarding the religious concept of life after death. However, the video goes beyond merely (correctly) critiquing ideas of the afterlife, and reflects an unfortunate acceptance of human mortality itself. As a lifelong atheist and transhumanist – a resolute foe of senescence and death and a seeker of indefinite life extension – I offer my critiques of the statements and quotations made in this video. The video does present many interesting and valid insights, but it unfortunately throws the metaphorical baby – indefinite human life extension, driven by scientific discoveries and technological innovation – out with the bathwater – religious myths of an afterlife, unsubstantiated by evidence and arising out of a desire to attain comfort in the face of mortality. As much as I respect Mr. Andrews and others quoted here, I must regretfully conclude that “Afterlife” embraces the other side of the religious coin: the premise that the only way to try to beat back the alleged inevitability of one’s eventual non-existence is through an unsubstantiated fantasy. But there is another, fully secular, fully human-centered option: the progress of our civilization and its eventual ability to conquer the age-old (and old-age) perils plaguing humankind.

I would welcome an in-depth discussion with Mr. Andrews or any of the other commentators in the video regarding this alternative to the religious afterlife – an alternative that can affirm and extend the precious, only life that each of us has. I hope that more atheists can recognize that transhumanism is the logical implication of rejecting a teleological, theistic worldview and amplifying all that is best about us as humans, so that the purpose of the universe can be what we make of it.

Vladimir Nabokov: Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats at hour).

My Response: In the “prenatal abyss”, one has never been alive, so one does not know what one is missing – or that one is missing, in fact. But once one is alive, one is able to anticipate one’s own non-existence – which is the worst fate of all for an individual, worse than eternal torture or eternal boredom (neither of which is realistic in any case). Furthermore, when one is alive, one has the ability to discover the history that came before one’s time. One has no way of knowing or observing the future after one’s death.

Mark Twain: I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.

My Response: Being dead presupposes having once been alive. Having never existed makes one a mere potential among trillions of possible beings. Having existed once but not anymore means that one’s entire self – a fully formed universe of memories, sensations, thoughts, and aspirations – has become snuffed out. For each of us, there was a time when we did not have all that we have now: our lives. But, now that we have it, to lose it would be intolerable. It would literally be the undoing of everything we have ever been or done or aspired toward.

DarkMatter2525: The universe would continue in its ways if humanity weren’t here to witness it.

My Response: True, but to the individual, it is the same as if the entire universe has been extinguished. Whatever goes on after one’s death, one cannot experience it or be aware of its existence – and hence the only significance it might have is in terms of one’s anticipation of how it might be. That anticipation can only take place while one is alive and is necessarily fraught with extreme uncertainty. It cannot compare to the real thing – to living in the future. I want to live a millennium from now, not merely speculate about how it might be.

HealthyAddict: The universe is absolutely massive, and we are virtually insignificant in it.

My Response: The vastness of the universe in no way diminishes the significance of the individual. What is valuable, what is important is a function of entities that can pursue values or make judgments of importance. Only living, conscious entities can actively pursue values – and the very idea of values only makes sense in the context of the survival and flourishing of such living, conscious entities. The universe is vast, but the lives of humans and possibly other sentient beings are still of the ultimate importance – since it is the human scale on which valuation occurs. Size and importance are not related.

Another sense of the term “insignificance” might simply be “powerlessness” or “vulnerability” – without a moral judgment attached. It is true that humanity is still in its infancy, and still extremely fragile. Numerous natural disasters, originating on earth or in outer space, could severely damage or destroy our species. But this should only motivate us to expand our sphere of influence through technology and its application to the colonization of space and the enhancement of our bodies. If we are weak relative to the inanimate forces of the universe, then we must become stronger – as individuals and as a species.

Evid3nc3: I see no evidence that the rest of the universe cares that we exist or is even capable of caring. But I don’t really need validation from the rest of the universe to find my own life important.

My Response: I agree. There is no teleology built into the universe. What this means is that we must do our own caring; we cannot rely on the universe as a crutch – except in that we should utilize the laws of nature as instruments to advance our well-being. It is up to us to protect ourselves and expand our sphere of influence in the universe. And we should all, like Evid3nc3, find our own lives important – which is precisely why we should make every effort to prolong our lives – which are the source of that ultimate importance for us.

Laci Green: It’s just absurd to me how many people live for dying.

My Response:  I agree that it is wrong to live for dying or to anticipate that one’s individuality and vantage point into the world will persist after one’s physical body is destroyed. Rather than live for dying, one should live for living – and act to keep on living. To do so, one should support (at least morally) the emerging efforts to prolong human lifespans. One should also educate oneself about the possibility of indefinite life extension within the coming decades, as well as the developments that are occurring today to help bring this goal closer to reality.

Seth Andrews: I think fragile, fearful humans were terrified of death, and so they wrote their own ending to the story – this happy fantasy, a place where they’ll be reunited with people they’ve lost, they’ll experience constant joy, and of course they’ll never, ever die.

My Response: I think this is indeed the predominant motivation behind the origins of religion. People who could not hope to avoid death through technology sought to comfort themselves and to make everyday pursuits more tolerable by convincing themselves that their existence does not cease at death. In effect, religion is ersatz-immortality: a poor substitute for the real thing, but enough to trick many people into not realizing the grave implications of death. But in an era when technology is advancing so rapidly that there is hope for us and our contemporaries to live indefinitely – there are two main attitudinal dangers. The first danger is continuing to believe that the ersatz-immortality is good enough and that it justifies not striving hard for the real thing. The second is the other side of the same coin – unfortunately embraced by too many atheists: rejecting both the ersatz-immortality and the real thing, abandoning the most profound triumph for our species, when we are – in historical time – on the verge of achieving it. I support abandoning the fantasy, but I do not support relinquishing the reality – literally – and acquiescing to becoming food for worms.

DPRJones: The concept of an afterlife diminishes the value that we place on our lives and the here and now.

My Response: I agree that this could be the case, if the expectation of an afterlife discourages people from striving to both improve and prolong this life. As an atheist, I hold that this life is the only one there is – and it is indeed the most precious life there is and could be. Therefore, to lose this life is to lose everything, and so the foremost ethical objective should be to hold onto this life.

DarkMatter2525: An unlimited supply of anything, including life, means that its existence cannot be appreciated.

My Response: For all practical purposes, the air on Earth is inexhaustible by humans. Does that mean that we do not appreciate the ability to breathe and sustain our lives in that way? Does this mean that air is not essential to us or any less important to our lungs than if we had to ration it or purchase canisters of oxygen to carry around? Certainly not. While scarcity of a resource is a key determinant of its monetary price, the idea that scarcity is somehow necessary for mental appreciation is highly flawed. Use-value (utility) and monetary “value” (price) are not the same. We should – and can – appreciate a thing or a condition for its own qualities qua thing or condition – and the benefit those qualities confer upon us. How many of those things or conditions exist or are going to exist does not matter.

Furthermore, the fact is, we still live one moment at a time. We do not have all of eternity at our disposal at any given moment, no matter how long we live. We only have the given moment, and a limited range of possibilities for what we can do right then. Thus, a kind of temporal scarcity will always exist – in the sense that some activities and satisfactions will always be more remote in time than others, and we will have to wait and strive for the ones that are more remote.

DarkMatter2525: If life is eternal, then there should be no sense of urgency.

My Response: Value is not derived from urgency, but from improvement of the human condition and, subsequently, from enjoyment of the fruits of that improvement. A work of art or music is not any more beautiful because of the urgency with which we experience it; it is beautiful because of its intrinsic constituent characteristics – the brushstrokes and notes that comprise it. Indeed, urgency detracts from value by inducing a stressed, rushed, crazed, and hectic experience where we miss important aspects of life because we worry that we will not have the time to do whatever we consider to be higher on the priority list. With less urgency, we could partake of more of the good things in life and have a longer-term perspective – planning for the future and treating ourselves and others with more respect and consideration. We could be more frugal, since we would enjoy the fruits of saving directly. We could take better care of our living spaces – both locally in our homes and on the scale of planets. We could still fulfill all of our highest priorities – and more of them, too, since we would have more time. But longevity itself would reshape our priorities and enable us to gain a more balanced, deliberate, and sophisticated perspective on our lives.

For me, the greatest happiness comes from those serene moments where I do not have to rush anywhere and do not have to worry about falling behind. It comes from having accomplished and from having done something good that could later – with purpose and deliberation – be the stepping stone for something even better. In the midst of intense work, happiness is that plateau of leisure between the past and the future, the reaffirmation that life can be good when it amounts to a progress that never hits a permanent wall. Urgency detracts from happiness by preventing one from truly enjoying life in a leisurely fashion – as opposed to trying to cram in as much as possible now, now, now – expecting (fearing, perhaps) that there might not be much time left.

Thunderf00t: I do not fear being dead, but the concept of the alternatives offered by the religious do trouble me. [Regarding Heaven], there does appear to be one constant: It will last for eternity. Imagine that. Imagine eternity. […] The first hundred years may be possible; the first thousand – more painful; the first ten thousand – insufferable. But this is just the start. An eternity in heaven would be hell for me.

My Response:  I agree that Heaven as imagined by the religious would probably be a somewhat uninteresting place, since one would spend all of one’s time in it “glorifying God”. But this problem has nothing to do with experiencing an indefinite existence. It is a great poverty of imagination to be unable to think of what one could do with ten thousand years, or a much longer timeframe. Think: could you even consume all of the literature, music, art, and culture that humankind has created up to the present if you had ten thousand years? Indefinite longevity would bring about unprecedented richness, depth, and breadth of experience – as well as the immensity of individual learning and refinement, and the possibility to pursue multiple careers and many more hobbies than one currently can.

Furthermore, if Thunderf00t dislikes the prospect of an eternal existence, why would an eternal non-existence be any better or more preferable? Once you are dead, you are dead forever – and cannot choose to go back to not being dead. On the other hand, if you are alive indefinitely, and you feel tired, you could choose to take a nice long non-lethal nap or vacation and resume your activities when you are refreshed and in a better mood. Those who feel tedium or boredom now might later feel more like finding something meaningful and interesting to do in this vast universe. To die is to deny oneself this ability for an improvement in one’s outlook and enthusiasm.

The great and all-too-common error made by Thunderf00t is to see all of an individual’s life as a simultaneous totality rather than the way it is actually experienced: one moment at a time. While Thunderf00t might be unable to conceive of what he would do with ten thousand years, he probably knows what he would like to do the next minute, or the next day, or the next week. If he could live and work in this way – experiencing one day at a time – while remaining at his physical and intellectual prime – would there ever be a day when he would consciously decide that he would rather die tomorrow? Only a person in tremendous suffering could conceivably make such a choice. With technological and moral progress taking away ever more of that suffering, the desire to keep on living should become strengthened until no sane, rational person would ever want to die.

DarkMatter2525: Given eternity, anything that can be accomplished, will be accomplished. Beyond all achievements, there would only be limitless, pointless existence.

My Response: Considering that over a thousand new books get produced every day, doing or accomplishing “everything” would be impossible – since our minds’ conception of the possibilities will always outpace our ability to actualize those possibilities. DarkMatter2525 is assuming a finite, static set of possible accomplishments. In reality, the scope of possible accomplishments and activities grows every day at much faster rate than any given human has the ability to pursue those accomplishments and activities. One cannot experience today all that has been created even today by the billions of people now alive. The longer we live, the smaller will be the fraction of available pursuits in which we will be able to engage at any given time. Even if humans are able to enhance their minds radically in order to process and memorize as much text as a computer can – the human creative faculty would be able to generate proportionally more text as well, so that the volume of available output would still accelerate away from the ability of any human to process all of it. And books are just one subset of human activity – which will become increasingly diverse and multifaceted as our civilization advances. And think of all those billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars, that we have yet to explore and colonize!

Laci Green: When I think about my own death, I used to feel scared, but I don’t think I do anymore.

My Response: I hypothesize (though I cannot be sure) that Ms. Green only sees death in the abstract for now. She is young and healthy, and it is easy to rationalize away the significance of death when it is remote. This is a coping mechanism that many people have, and it works particularly well when everyday life is reasonably good. But how many people can have this equanimity when death approaches – when it is too late to do anything about it? If Ms. Green does not wish to experience fear regarding the prospect of her eventual death – fine. I have no problem with people choosing to focus on other matters in an everyday context. However, I sincerely wish that she and others who do not feel scared would nonetheless have an intellectual awareness of the great destruction wrought by senescence, decay, and death. Then they could – calmly or cheerfully, as they please – support research and advance moral arguments that assist humankind in beating back this menace. I advocate not fear, but action.

AronRa: I’m not afraid of being dead. After we die, we will not know the truth at that point. We will not know, wish, think, remember, dream anything.

My Response: Precisely, and that is the worst possible fate. Our very being, our “I-ness” – that which makes all other experiences possible – will be extinguished, and not even the memory of our once having existed will remain with us.

Seth Andrews:  I don‘t really find this sad or tragic either. I don’t really welcome death, but I don’t live in fear of the end. And I’ve come to see it as just another part of the natural world.

My Response: Not all that is “natural” is good – and, indeed, nature offers ways out of the problem of senescence by showing us numerous species that do not experience the ravages of biological aging or experience them at a much slower rate than we do. Since, in its truest sense, the word “natural” is just an expression for “what is” – Mr. Andrews is committing the Panglossian fallacy – the view that “whatever is, is right.” Cancer is natural, and it is brutal. Also natural is the fact that 99.9% of all the species that ever existed are now extinct. Just because this is natural, does not mean that we should accept it for ourselves. We can remake the outcomes of nature by studying the laws of nature and harnessing them for our own benefit. Once we have secured our continuing existence, we can work to eventually create a more humane, less predatory environment for all life forms that deserve it. We already do this to some extent with domestic pets and certain other useful animals – though, arguably, not to the extent that a more morally developed and resource-rich society might accommodate.

Thunderf00t: In some respects, we never die. Our lives are entangled with those who come after us, just as our lives are entangled with those who came before us. [Faraday, Newton, and Pasteur affect everyone’s lives today.] Death is not the end. We are intertwined with both lesser and greater things.

My Response: It is true that our lives have an impact on others, and that impact can extend beyond the lifespan of the individual. It is also true that we sometimes do not even perceive all the ways in which we impact others and others impact us. However, while our influence on the rest of the world might be a source of pride or reassurance to us in life, in death it means nothing – because we would not be aware of it even as a general concept without any particular details. Others who remain alive might still hazily and incompletely remember the dead individual, of course – but that memory is an asset to them, not to the dead. I benefit from the existence of Faraday, Newton, and Pasteur – good for me. But they are oblivious to this at present.

Laci Green: Just because there is no grand scheme it plays into does not mean there is not something beautiful about what is going on here.

My Response: I agree that the universe, or existence, has no grand scheme. But it is not clear to what “beautiful” phenomena Ms. Green is referring. There is true beauty in existence, but there are also true nastiness and cruelty and injustice. It is important to recognize the beautiful and good elements of the world, while struggling to eradicate or reform the bad. The real war we must fight is against the forces of ruin, and we should not lapse into the Panglossian fallacy of accepting absolutely anything that occurs on a regular basis as somehow “beautiful” or even remotely palatable.

ZOMGitsCriss: Ironically, the only part of me that is immortal is my material body. […] Every atom of me will be recycled back into the universe.

My Response: A long time ago (when I was fourteen), I tried to find consolation in that idea as well. It worked for about two hours. But then I realized that what matters is the arrangement of those atoms and the temporal continuity of that arrangement. I gain and lose atoms all the time, but each individual atom is not what makes me who I am. The essence of who I am, rather, is the manner in which those atoms interact with one another within the overall structure of my body – including my mind. When that is gone, I am gone.

DarkMatter2525: Even though a cell might not last forever, the role it plays in the larger organism is important, and that is how I see myself – as a part of something bigger.

My Response: But that “something bigger” does not care about DarkMatter2525, by his own earlier admission! So why should he care about it enough to be willing to be a mere cog in it? And if, as Laci Green says, there is no grand scheme to it all, then what exactly is he a part of? In terms of purpose, the only alternative to a teleological worldview, where purpose is “built into” the universe, is a humanistic worldview where purpose originates from the self – based on the biological requirements of one’s own survival, which, once sustained at a certain level, enable the individual to use his will to shape the universe to give it purpose. But in order to confer purpose upon an initially purposeless cosmos, one has to exist and to keep existing. Once existence stops, the purpose-giving process also stops, and so the “something bigger” is also no more.

ZOMGitsCriss: Knowing that this life is the only one I have makes me a lot more conscious of my actions, makes me want to do something with this short life I have.

My Response: I agree that knowing that this is the only life we have should make this life the greatest value to us – to be treated with the utmost seriousness and respect. We should seek to do great things with our time – but we should also seek to prolong our time, which is in itself a monumental and glorious undertaking.

Seth Andrews : There’s too much to learn, too much to see, too much to know, too much to experience. I’m not just going to exist. I’m going to live.

My Response: Certainly, some conditions of existence are better than others, and mere survival is not all there is to life. Flourishing can occur when life is lived in a way that fulfills an increasingly sophisticated series of human needs – ranging on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from basic material sustenance to self-actualization. But pursuing the higher needs by no means undercuts or conflicts with the more basic needs. Indeed, the higher needs are largely unattainable unless one already lives in a prosperous, peaceful civilization where the basic needs are so easily fulfilled that one almost takes them for granted.

All too many people perceive survival as somehow antithetical to enjoying life – but in fact enjoyment of life is not possible without being alive. Therefore, if one wishes to do more of the things that make life enjoyable, one should strive to live as long as possible – far beyond the paltry eighty or so years that comprise the current average life expectancy in the Western world.