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Grand Galactic Actuary – Short Story by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Fiction, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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!”

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What Goes On In The Depths Of Space? – Art by Alastair Temple

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Categories: Art, Technology, Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

what_goes_on_in_the_depths_of_space__by_smiling_demon-d8wnz3yNote: Left-click on this image to get a full view of this digital work of art.

Created by digital artist Alastair Temple, this art was featured in the 26th Exhibition of The Luminarium, “Depth”. The entire exhibit can be viewed here.

Visit Alastair Temple’s DeviantArt page and view his other art.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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Are We Entering The Age of Exponential Growth? – Article by Marian L. Tupy

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Categories: Science, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatMarian L. Tupy
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In his 1999 book The Age of Spiritual Machines, the famed futurist Ray Kurzweil proposed “The Law of Accelerating Returns.” According to Kurzweil’s law, “the rate of change in a wide variety of evolutionary systems (including but not limited to the growth of technologies) tends to increase exponentially.” I mention Kurzweil’s observation, because it is sure beginning to feel like we are entering an age of colossal and rapid change. Consider the following:

According to The Telegraph, “Genes which make people intelligent have been discovered [by researchers at the Imperial College London] and scientists believe they could be manipulated to boost brain power.” This could usher in an era of super-smart humans and accelerate the already fast process of scientific discovery.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has successfully “blasted off from Cape Canaveral, delivered communications satellites to orbit before its main-stage booster returned to a landing pad.” Put differently, space flight has just become much cheaper since main-stage booster rockets, which were previously non-reusable, are also very expensive.

The CEO of Merck has announced a major breakthrough in the fight against lung cancer. Keytruda “is a new category of drugs that stimulates the body’s immune system.” “Using Keytruda,” Kenneth Frazier said, “will extend [the life of lung cancer sufferers] … by approximately 13 months on average. We know that it will reduce the risk of death by 30-40 percent for people who had failed on standard chemo-therapy.”

Also, there has been massive progress in the development of “edible electronics.” New technology developed by Bristol Robotics Laboratory “will allow the doctor to feel inside your body without making a single incision, effectively taking the tips of the doctor’s fingers and transplant them onto the exterior of the [edible] robotic pill. When the robot presses against the interior of the intestinal tract, the doctor will feel the sensation as if her own fingers were pressing the flesh.”

Marian L. Tupy is the editor of HumanProgress.org and a senior policy analyst at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. He specializes in globalization and global wellbeing, and the political economy of Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. His articles have been published in the Financial Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, U.S. News and World Report, The Atlantic, Newsweek, The U.K. Spectator, Weekly Standard, Foreign Policy, Reason magazine, and various other outlets both in the United States and overseas. Tupy has appeared on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, CNN International, BBC World, CNBC, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, and other channels. He has worked on the Council on Foreign Relations’ Commission on Angola, testified before the U.S. Congress on the economic situation in Zimbabwe, and briefed the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department on political developments in Central Europe. Tupy received his B.A. in international relations and classics from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and his Ph.D. in international relations from the University of St. Andrews in Great Britain.

This work by Cato Institute is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Phoenix Station – Art by Glenn Clovis

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Categories: Art, Technology, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

phoenix_station_by_glennclovis-d6v3c7mNote: Left-click on this image to get a full view of this digital work of art.

Created by digital artist Glenn Clovis, this art was featured in the 22nd Exhibition of The Luminarium, “Illuminate V”. The entire exhibit can be viewed here.

Visit Glenn Clovis’s DeviantArt page and view his other art.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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Zero-Gravity Orbital Habitation Causes Changes That Are at Least Superficially Similar to Accelerated Aging – Article by Reason

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The New Renaissance HatReason
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That old people will go into orbit to escape the rigors of gravity and thus live longer in their declining years was a staple of golden age and later science fiction. These works were written at a time in which our knowledge of human biochemistry – and the application of that knowledge to medicine – was crude in comparison to today. It is fascinating that we can say that for such a short span of years, a mere short lifetime past, but the differences between the medicine of the 1950s and the medicine of today are profound indeed. The writers of that time largely envisaged a future incorporating great gains in energy generation, and a consequent diaspora from Earth, while computation, medicine and the human condition remained much unchanged; older spacemen in the outer reaches struggling with heart disease in their fifties. Instead we found that expanding the generation, storage, transmission, and application of energy is very hard, and the largely unanticipated information revolution occurred instead. We lost the near future of cheap heavy lift to orbit and the solar system at our beck and call, but gained Moore’s Law, biotechnology, nanotechnology, a pervasive internet, and medical progress that is in the early stages of conquering heart disease and may yet save us from all of degenerative aging.

As it turns out, retreating from the rigors of gravity may well have the opposite effect to that imagined by the authors of the last century. Among the alterations produced by orbital habitation in zero gravity are those that appear, at least superficially, much like accelerated aging of the cardiovascular system. The root causes have yet to be pinned down, since very few people are actually researching this topic, but since the onset of these symptoms is fairly rapid, I’d guess at the cause being more a matter of regulatory dysfunction than increased tissue damage, such as the presence of cross-links related to arterial stiffening in aging. Here I’ll point out a few links to the work of one research group on this topic in recent years:

Waterloo to lead new experiment aboard International Space Station

Quote:

The experiment will link changes in astronauts’ hearts and blood vessels with specific molecules in the blood to determine why astronauts experience conditions that mimic aging-related problems and chronic diseases on earth. The findings will help identify important indicators for chronic disease and assist with the development of early interventions for people on earth. “We know that astronauts return from space with stiffer arteries and resistance to insulin, conditions affecting many adults as they age. For the first time, we will be able to track exactly how – and why – the body’s blood vessels change, and use these findings to potentially improve quality of life and the burden of chronic disease.” “In space, astronauts’ bodies show aging-like changes much faster than on Earth. The International Space Station provides a unique platform to study aging-related conditions providing insights that can be used to help understand some of the biggest health issues affecting society. Our research to date suggests that even though astronauts exercise every day, the actual physical demands of tasks of daily living are greatly reduced due to the lack of gravity. This lifestyle seems to cause changes in the vascular system and in the body’s ability to regulate blood glucose that would normally take years to develop on earth.”

U.Waterloo – Vascular Aging and Space Research Program

Quote:

We study factors related to cardiovascular health with aging. One focus is on blood pressure regulation and its impact on brain blood flow to help us understand some of the factors that could contribute to falls in the elderly, especially those that occur on rising from bed. Another focus is on aging blood vessels. We have reported a strong link between peripheral arterial stiffness and a reduction in brain blood flow. Our space research program is very active. We recently completed the study Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Control on Return from the International Space Station (CCISS). We are currently collecting data for the project Cardiovascular Health Consequences of Long-Duration Space Flight (Vascular).

Cardiovascular Health Consequences of Long-Duration Space Flight (Vascular)

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Cardiovascular Health Consequences of Long-Duration Space Flight (Vascular) investigates the impact of long-duration space flight on the blood vessels of astronauts. Space flight accelerates the aging process, and it is important to understand this process to develop specific countermeasures. Data is collected before, during, and after space flight to assess inflammation of the artery walls, changes in blood vessel properties, and cardiovascular fitness. Spaceflight can cause stiffening of the arteries, affecting the body’s ability to control blood pressure. This investigation assessed the blood vessels of astronauts and found decreased flexibility of the carotid artery during flight. Researchers found no relationship between the level of physical fitness and this decrease. The experiment also provided data on the mechanisms behind increased arterial stiffness from spaceflight. Further research is needed to establish effective ways to counter the cardiovascular consequences of spaceflight and ultimately help treat increased arterial stiffness from aging on Earth, which can cause high blood pressure and organ damage.

Impaired cerebrovascular autoregulation and reduced CO2 reactivity after long duration spaceflight

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Long duration habitation on the International Space Station (ISS) is associated with chronic elevations in arterial blood pressure in the brain compared with normal upright posture on Earth and elevated inspired carbon dioxide. Although results from short-duration spaceflights suggested possibly improved cerebrovascular autoregulation, animal models provided evidence of structural and functional changes in cerebral vessels that might negatively impact autoregulation with longer periods in microgravity. Seven astronauts (1 woman) spent 147 ± 49 days on ISS. Preflight testing (30-60 days before launch) was compared with postflight testing on landing day or the morning 1 or 2 days after return to Earth. The results indicate that long duration missions on the ISS impaired dynamic cerebrovascular autoregulation and reduced cerebrovascular carbon dioxide reactivity.

Recent findings in cardiovascular physiology with space travel

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The cardiovascular system undergoes major changes in stress with space flight primarily related to the elimination of the head-to-foot gravitational force. A major observation has been that the central venous pressure is not elevated early in space flight yet stroke volume is increased at least early in flight. Recent observations demonstrate that heart rate remains lower during the normal daily activities of space flight compared to Earth-based conditions. Structural and functional adaptations occur in the vascular system that could result in impaired response with demands of physical exertion and return to Earth. Cardiac muscle mass is reduced after flight and contractile function may be altered. Regular and specific countermeasures are essential to maintain cardiovascular health during long-duration space flight.

Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries.
This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license. It was originally published on FightAging.org.

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The Martian – Movie Review by Edward Hudgins

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Categories: Fiction, Science, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatEdward Hudgins
October 13, 2015
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The Martian, from director Ridley Scott, is an exciting film about an astronaut stranded on the Red Planet. It celebrates the heroism that comes from human reason. And it points to what it will take for humans in coming decades to make Mars a new home for humanity. With the film coming on the heels of NASA’s confirmation of liquid water on the Martian surface, that home could be closer than you think!

“I’m not gonna die!”

The Martian is based on a novel that author Andy Weir originally published himself online and offered as a free download. The author and the film take care to be as scientifically accurate as possible in the context of a fictional offering.

Martian_1The movie opens with the third crew to land on Mars rushing back to their landing craft ahead of a sudden sandstorm that threatens to destroy it and them. (In reality, Mars’s thin atmosphere would mean such a storm would annoy rather than kill. But then there’d be no story!)

Unfortunately, astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is struck by debris from some destroyed communications equipment and blown away. Sensors indicate his suit’s seal has been breached, meaning his oxygen has escaped and he’s likely dead. The rest of the crew takes off without searching for his body to avoid being killed themselves.

They begin their sad, year-long journey home after informing the world of the tragedy.

But Watney is alive! The breach in his suit was sealed by blood and the debris lodged in his side. He gets back to the habitat the astronauts had used as their base. But his future still looks grim. He is out of contact with Earth and his shipmates. The next Mars mission is not scheduled to arrive for four years and will land 3,000 kilometers from where he is. He has nowhere nearly enough food rations to survive that long. But he declares, “I’m not gonna die,” and we see his mind at work in the video logs he makes of his efforts.

Intelligence for survival

“Let’s do the math!” he says as he figures out that he must grow three years’ worth of potatoes on a frozen planet where nothing grows and find some way to water and fertilize his crops. But he’s a botanist and he declares, “Mars will come to fear my botany power!” He converts part of the hab into a makeshift greenhouse. Human waste—what the crew left in its short visit and what he will produce in the years ahead—will be his fertilizer. The water will come from a jury-rigged setup that extracts it from other substances at hand in the hab.

Martian_2

Watney contemplates how to get his tractor, which needs batteries recharged every 35 kilometers, to trek a hundred times that distance, how to carry enough supplies for that journey, how to contact Earth, and many other challenges. And he declares, “I’m gonna have to science the s**t out of this!”

Director Scott does not give us wishful thinking, mere muscles, unconvincing machismo, or deus-ex-machina miracles. He gives us intelligence as the key to survival.

Will they succeed?

Meanwhile, back at NASA, satellite photos show activity at the hab, meaning Watney is alive. Scientists on Earth observe him trekking out into the desert and guess, correctly, that he’s searching for a decades-old Pathfinder probe to try to revive its old radio system, which he does. Now they can communicate.

But Watney’s farming efforts are cut short by an accident, and NASA’s plan to send an unmanned resupply ship does not go as planned. The one slim hope, which NASA opposes, is for his shipmates to swing around Earth rather than land as they’re supposed to and return to Mars to rescue him. Will they do so? Will they succeed?

Optimism, intelligence, ingenuity

Many elements of The Martian are familiar from other movies. Gravity (2013) gave us drifting in space, trying to return to a ship. Apollo 13 (1995) was a film version of real-life astronauts with a disabled spacecraft trying to get home safely from an aborted lunar mission. The Martian, like Apollo 13, gives us a vision of the heroic that comes from the same source that allows humans to travel to other worlds to begin with: the human mind.

Some might think that a film about the how hostile Mars is to human life would discourage people from ever wanting to go there, much less live there. I disagree. Humans are explorers and achievers.

In 1996 Robert Zubrin published The Case for Mars, outlining an innovative plan for getting to the Red Planet for a fraction of the cost of a NASA mission. He founded the Mars Society, which runs conferences and simulations of Mars missions in the arctic, in preparation for the real thing. Other groups such as Explore Mars have sprung up in recent years. Other innovative mission models have been proposed, including one from Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin. And Mars One proposes to send settlers to the Red Planet on one-way trips, to be permanent occupants. Private entrepreneur Elon Musk founded his rocket company SpaceX with the goal of establishing permanent settlements on the Red Planet. And NASA’s confirmation of water on the surface of Mars opens further possibilities for future colonies.

The Martian is an uplifting film that does not minimize the challenges of life; indeed, Watney explains that he knew going in that space travel was dangerous and that he could be killed. But he says that once you acknowledge that you might die, you deal with the problem at hand and the next and the next. This is humanity at its best. Damon as Watney gives a fine performance. His character must keep up his optimism—without maudlin emotionalism or self-deceiving bravado. He must demonstrate intelligence and ingenuity. In all this we see the best of the human spirit!

Dr. Edward Hudgins directs advocacy and is a senior scholar for The Atlas Society, the center for Objectivism in Washington, D.C.

Copyright, The Atlas Society. For more information, please visit www.atlassociety.org.

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Refutation of RockingMrE’s “Transhuman Megalomania” Video – Essay and Video by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Philosophy, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
August 11, 2013
Recommend this page.
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Video

Essay

As a libertarian transhumanist, I was rather baffled to see the “Transhuman Megalomania” video on the Rocking Philosophy YouTube channel of one, RockingMrE. Rocking Philosophy appears to have much in common with my rational individualist outlook in terms of general principles, though in not in terms of some specific positions – such as RockingMrE’s opposition to LGBT rights. The channel’s description states that “Above all Rocking Philosophy promotes individualism and a culture free of coercion. Views are based on the non-aggression principle, realism, and a respect for rationality.” I agree with all of these basic principles – hence my bewilderment that RockingMrE would attempt to assail transhumanism in extremely harsh terms – going so far as to call transhumanism “a mad delusion” and a “threat looming over humanity” – rather than embrace or promote it. Such characterizations could not be more mistaken.

In essays and videos such as “Liberty Through Long Life” and “Libertarian Life-Extension Reforms”, I explain that  libertarianism and transhumanism are natural corollaries and would reinforce one another through a virtuous cycle of positive feedback. If people are indeed free as individuals to innovate and to enter the economic and societal arrangements that they consider most beneficial, what do you think would happen to the rate of technological progress? If you think that the result would not be a skyrocketing acceleration of new inventions and their applications to all areas of life, would that position not presuppose a view that freedom would somehow breed stagnation or lead to sub-optimal utilization of human creative faculties? In other words, would not the view of libertarianism as being opposed to transhumanism essentially be a view that liberty would hold people back from transcending the limitations involuntarily imposed on them by the circumstances in which they and their ancestors found themselves? How could such a view be reconcilable with the whole point of liberty, which is to expand and – as the term suggests – liberate human potential, instead of constricting it?

RockingMrE criticizes transhumanists for attempting to reshape the “natural” condition of humanity and to render such a condition obsolete. Yet this overlooks the essence of human behavior over the past twelve millennia at least. Through the use of technology – from rudimentary hunting and farming implements to airplanes, computers, scientific medicine, and spacecraft – we have already greatly departed from the nasty, brutish, and short “natural” lives of our Paleolithic ancestors. Furthermore, RockingMrE falls prey to the naturalistic fallacy – that the “natural”, defined arbitrarily as that which has not been shaped by deliberate human influence, is somehow optimal or good, when in fact we know that “nature”, apart from human influence, is callously indifferent at best, and viciously cruel in most circumstances, having  brought about the immense suffering and demise of most humans who have ever lived and the extinction of 99.9% of species that have ever existed, the vast majority of those occurring without any human intervention.

RockingMrE characterizes transhumanism as a so-called “evil” that presents itself as a “morally relativist and benign force, where any action can be justified for the greater good.” I see neither moral relativism nor any greater-good justifications in transhumanism. Transhumanism can be justified from an entirely individualistic standpoint. Furthermore, it can be justified from the morally objective value of each individual’s life and the continuation of such life. I, as an individual, do not wish to die and wish to accomplish more than my current  bodily and mental faculties, as well as the current limitations of human societies and the present state of technology, would allow me to accomplish today. I exist objectively and I recognize that my existence requires objective physical prerequisites, such as the continuation of the functions of my biological body and biological mind. Therefore, I support advances in medicine, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, computing, education, transportation, and human settlement which would enable these limitations to be progressively lifted and would improve my chances of seeing a much remoter future than my current rate of biological senescence would allow. As an ethically principled individual, I recognize that all beings with the same essential faculties that I have, ought also to have the right to pursue these aspirations in an entirely voluntary, non-coercive manner. In other words, individualist transhumanism would indeed lead to the good of all because its principles and achievements would be universalizable – but the always vaguely defined notion of the “greater good” does not serve as the justification for transhumanism; the good of every individual does. The good of every individual is equivalent to the good for all individuals, which is the only defensible notion of a “greater good”.

RockingMrE states that some of the technologies advocated by transhumanists are “less dangerous than others, and some are even useful.” Interestingly enough, he includes cryopreservation in the category of less dangerous technologies, because a cryopreserved human who is revived will still have the same attributes he or she had prior to preservation. Life extension is the most fundamental transhumanist aim, the one that makes all the other aims feasible. As such, I am quite surprised that RockingMrE did not devote far more time in his video to technologies of radical life extension. Cryonics is one such approach, which attempts to place a physically damaged organism in stasis after that organism reaches clinical death by today’s definition. In the future, what is today considered death may become reversible, giving that individual another chance at life. There are other life-extension approaches, however, which would not even require stasis. Aubrey de Grey’s SENS approach involves the periodic repair of seven kinds of damage that contribute to senescence and eventual death. A person who is relatively healthy when he begins to undergo the therapies envisioned by SENS might not ever need to get to the stage where cryopreservation would be the only possible way of saving that person. What does RockingMrE think of that kind of technology? What about the integration of nanotechnology into human bodily repair systems, to allow for ongoing maintenance of cells and tissues? If a person still looks, talks, and thinks like many humans do today, but lives indefinitely and remains indefinitely young, would this be acceptable to RockingMrE, or would it be a “megalomaniacal” and “evil” violation of human nature?  Considering that indefinite life extension is the core of transhumanism, the short shrift given to it in RockingMrE’s video underscores the severe deficiencies of his critique.

RockingMrE further supports megascale engineering – including the creation of giant spacecraft and space elevators – as a type of technology that “would enhance, rather than alter, what it means to be human.” He also clearly states his view that the Internet enhances our lives and allows the communication of ideas in a manner that would never have been possible previously. We agree here. I wonder, though, if a strict boundary between enhancing and altering can be drawn. Our human experience today differs radically from that of our Paleolithic and Neolithic ancestors – in terms of how much of the world we are able to see, what information is available to us, the patterns in which we lead our lives, and most especially the lengths of those lives. Many of our distant ancestors would probably consider us magicians or demigods, rather than the humans with whom they were familiar. If we are able to create giant structures on Earth and in space, this would surely broaden our range of possible experiences, as well as the resources of the universe that are accessible to us. A multiplanetary species, with the possibility of easy and fast travel among places of habitation, would be fundamentally different from today’s humanity in terms of possible lifestyles and protections from extinction, even while retaining some of the same biological and intellectual characteristics.   As for the Internet, there are already studies suggesting that the abundance of information available online is altering the structure of many humans’ thinking and interactions with that information, as well as with one another. Is this any less human, or just human with a different flavor? If it is just human with a different flavor, might not the other transhumanist technologies criticized by RockingMrE also be characterized this way?

RockingMrE does not even see any significant issues with virtual reality and mind uploading, aside from asking the legitimate question of whether a copy of a person’s mind is still that person. This is a question which has been considerably explored and debated in transhumanist circles, and there is some disagreement as to the answer. My own position, expressed in my essay “Transhumanism and Mind Uploading Are Not the Same”,  is that a copy would indeed not be the same as the individual, but a process of gradual replacement of biological neurons with artificial neurons might preserve a person’s “I-ness” as long as certain rather challenging prerequisites could be met. RockingMrE’s skepticism in this area is understandable, but it does not constitute an argument against transhumanism at all, since transhumanism does not require advocacy of mind uploading generally, or of any particular approach to mind uploading. Moreover, RockingMrE does not see virtual copies of minds as posing a moral problem. In his view, this is because “a program is not an organic life.” We can agree that there is no moral problem posed by non-destructively creating virtual copies of biological minds.

Still, in light of all of the technologies that RockingMrE does not consider to be highly concerning, why in the world does he characterize transhumanism so harshly, after spending the first 40% of his video essentially clarifying that he does not take issue with the actualization of many of the common goals of transhumanists? Perhaps it is because he misunderstands what transhumanism is all about. For the technologies that RockingMrE finds more alarming, he appears to think that they would allow “a level of social engineering that totalitarians could only dream of during the 20th century.” No transhumanist I know of would advocate such centrally planned social engineering. RockingMrE aims his critique at technologies that have “the potential to create human life” – such as gene therapy, which can, in RockingMrE’s words, “dictate the characteristics of life to such an extent that those making the decisions have complete control over how this forms”. This argument appears to presuppose a form of genetic determinism and a denial of human free will, even though RockingMrE would affirm his view that free will exists. Suppose it were possible to make a person five centimeters taller through genetic engineering. Does that have any bearing over how that person will actually choose to lead his life? Perhaps he could become a better basketball player than otherwise, but it is just as possible that basketball would not interest him at all, and he would rather be a taller-than-average chemist, accountant, or painter. This choice would still be up to him, and not the doctors who altered his genome or the parents who paid for the alteration. Alteration of any genes that might influence the brain would have even less of a predetermined or even determinable impact. If parents who are influenced by the faulty view of genetic determinism try everything in their power to alter their child’s genome in order to create a super-genius (in their view), who is to say that this child would necessarily act out the parents’ ideal? A true super-genius with a will of his own is probably the most autonomous possible human; he or she would develop a set of tastes, talents, and aspirations that nobody could anticipate or manage, and would run circles around any design to control or limit his or her life. What genetic engineering could achieve, though, is to remove the obstacles to an individual’s self-determination by eliminating genetic sub-optimalities: diseases, weaknesses of organs, and inhibitions to clear self-directed brain function. This is no qualitatively different from helping a child develop intellectually by taking the child out of a violent slum and putting him or her into a peaceful, nurturing, and prosperous setting.

RockingMrE fears that gene therapy would allow “ideologues to suppress certain human characteristics”. While this cannot be ruled out, any such development would be a political problem, not a technological one, and could be addressed only through reforms protecting individual freedom, not through abolition of any techniques of genetic engineering. The vicious eugenics movement of the early 20th century, to which RockingMrE wrongly compares transhumanism, attempted to suppress the characteristics of whole populations of humans using very primitive technologies by today’s standards. The solution to such misguided ideological movements is to maximize the scope for individual liberty, so as to allow the characteristics that individuals consider good or neutral to be preserved and for individual wishes to be protected by law, despite what some eugenicist somewhere might think.

Transhumanism is about giving each person the power to control his or her own destiny, including his or her genotype; transhumanism is certainly not about ceding that control to others. Even a child who was genetically engineered prior to birth would, with sufficient technological advances, be able to choose to alter his or her genotype upon becoming an adult. Just as parental upbringing can influence a child but does not determine a person’s entire future, so can genetic-engineering decisions by parents be routed around, overcome, ignored, or utilized by the child in a way far different from the parents’ intentions. Furthermore, because parents differ considerably in their views of what the best traits would be, engineering at the wishes of parents  would in no way diminish the diversity of human characteristics and would, on the contrary, enhance such diversity by introducing new mixes of traits in addition to those already extant. This is why it is unfounded to fear, as RockingMrE does, that a transhumanist society which embraces genetic engineering would turn into the society of the 1997 film Gattaca, where the non-engineered humans were excluded from non-menial work. Just as today there is no one hierarchy of genotypes and phenotypes, neither would there be such a hierarchy in a society where genetic engineering is practiced. An even greater diversity of people would mean that an even greater diversity of opportunities would be open to all. Indeed, even Gattaca could be seen as a refutation of RockingMrE’s feared scenario that genetic modification would render un-modified humans unable to compete. The protagonist in Gattaca was able to overcome the prejudices of his society through willpower and ingenuity, which would remain open to all. While the society of Gattaca relied on coercion to restrict un-modified individuals from competing, a libertarian transhumanist society would have no such restrictions and would allow individuals to rise on the basis of merit alone, rather than on the basis of genetics.

RockingMrE further expresses concern that the unintended consequences of genetic manipulation would result in viruses that reproduce out of control and “infect” humans who were not the intended targets of genetic engineering. This is not a philosophical argument against transhumanism. If such a possibility even exists (and I do not know that it does, as I am not a biologist), it could be mitigated or eliminated through careful controls in the laboratories and clinics where genetic engineering is performed. Certainly, the existence of such a possibility would not justify banning genetic manipulation, since a ban does not mean that the practice being banned goes away. Under a ban, genetic engineering would continue on the black market, where there would be far fewer safeguards in place against unintended negative consequences. It is much safer for technological innovation to proceed in the open, under a legal system that respects liberty and progress while ensuring that the rights of all are protected. Certainly, it would be justified for the legal system to protect the rights of people who do not wish to undergo certain medical treatments; such people should neither be forced into those treatments, nor have the side effects of those treatments, when they are performed on others, affect their own biology. But libertarian transhumanists would certainly agree with that point of view and would hold it consistently with regard to any technology that could conceivably impose negative external effects on non-consenting parties.

RockingMrE thinks that “it is essential that the creation and destruction of life be protected by a code of morality that respects and recognizes natural law – natural law being values derived from nature.” He describes one tier of this natural system as comprised of relationships of trade, “where all individuals have unalienable rights derived from natural action, but free of coercion and the initiation of force, voluntarily associating with one another for mutual gain.” He then says that “only this sort of philosophy can truly prevent nihilists from justifying their evil intentions to play God and […] destroy or alienate any individual that doesn’t adhere to a rigid set of socially engineered parameters.”  The latter statement is a severe misrepresentation of the aims of transhumanists, who do not support centrally planned social engineering and who are certainly not nihilists. Indeed, transhumanist technological progress is the very outcome of voluntary individual association that is free from coercion and the initiation of force. I wonder whether the “fierce defense” envisioned by RockingMrE would involve the initiation of force against innovators who attempt to improve the human genome in order to cure certain diseases, enhance certain human faculties, and lengthen the human lifespan. It is not clear whether RockingMrE advocates such coercion, but if he does, then his opposition to the emergence of these technologies would be inimical to his own stated libertarian philosophy. In other words, his conclusions are completely incompatible with his premises.

Toward the end of his video, RockingMrE uses the example of three-person in vitro fertilization (IVF) as an illustration “of how far down the road of transhumanism we are”. What, dare I ask, is wrong with three-person IVF? RockingMrE believes that it is a contributor to “gradually destroying the natural definition of parenting” – yet parenting is a set of actions to raise a child, not a method of originating that child. If RockingMrE has any problems with children who are brought into this world using three-person IVF, then what about children who are adopted and raised by parents who had no part in their conception? Is that not even more removed from parents who contributed at least some of their genetic material? Furthermore, IVF has been available in some form since the birth of Louise Brown in 1978 – 35 years ago. Since then, approximately 5 million people have been created using IVF. Are they any less human than the rest of us? Have we, as a species, lost some fraction of our humanity as a result? Surely not! And if similar consequences to what has already happened are what RockingMrE fears, then I submit that there is no basis for fear at all. New techniques for creating life and enhancing human potential may not be in line with what RockingMrE considers “natural”, but perhaps his view equates the “unnatural” to the “unfamiliar to RockingMrE”. But he does not have to personally embrace any method of genetic engineering or medically assisted creation of life; he is free to abstain from such techniques himself. What he ought to do, though, as a self-professed libertarian and individualist, is to allow the rest of us, as individuals, the same prerogative to choose to use or to abstain from using these technologies as they become available. The shape that the resulting future takes, as long as it is based on these freedom-respecting principles, is not for RockingMrE to decide or limit.