Symphony No. 1, Op. 86, was composed by Gennady Stolyarov II between June 2017 and January 2018 and is subtitled “The Contemporary World”. Mr. Stolyarov intended this symphony to be a commentary on the world and U.S. events of 2016-2017, during which civilization was severely tested. Each of the first three movements depicts the epistemic, political, and material crises which befell much of the world during this time period and threatened to undo much of the progress that civilization achieved up to that time. The choice to have the fourth movement be about preserving the good aspects of historical and contemporary life was motivated by the observation that, although severely strained and beset by setbacks from both nature and society, our civilization did not ultimately collapse during 2017, and we have made it thus far. Watch a video version of the entire symphony on YouTube here.
Movement 1 – Uncertainty – Length: 6:51
The main melody is at once ominous and much more restrained than it could be – evoking an individual seeking to focus and chart a path through an environment where little is predictable and previous understandings of the terrain he navigated have shown to be faulty. What can he hope to achieve, what can he rely upon, and whom can he trust? Various other themes in this movement show elements of longing for a bygone (though relatively recent) time, determination, and hope (though will it be disappointed hope?) – although in the background there is a certain din of uncertainty that leads each melody to be a bit less free-flowing or expressive than it would be if composed during a calmer era. This movement poses the question, “What will become of our world, and what will this era do to each of our lives?”
This movement displays the cyclical and protracted struggle between two colossal forces, neither of them benign. Both of them actually resemble one another in substance (although they are in different keys – A minor and C minor – but which of these represents the Right and which represents the Left, and does it make any difference?). There are segments in which the keys are mixed – representing one force seeking to wrest power from the other – with the ultimate outcome being the same melody in a different key. This pattern continues over the course of multiple variations and orchestrations.
Movement 3 – The Fragility of Civilization – Length: 5:19
Composed in 3/4 meter and following a “theme and variations” format, this movement actually encompasses all of the minor keys. The underlying structure and the systematic progression of the keys from one variation to the next represent the fabric of human civilization, which, in recent years, has been continually challenged by the forces of ruin – including violent conflict, irrationality, natural disasters, political folly, institutional breakdown, and disintegrating standards of behavior – along with the still-present age-old perils of disease and death. This piece can be perceived as a grimly determined waltz, danced on the edge of calamity – but as long as the forward motion within the structure continues, no matter what content the contemporary world throws at it, civilization has a fighting chance. For those who listen through to the ending, there is a glimmer of hope – perhaps appended in a “deus ex machina” fashion, but there is a purpose to it, especially when considered in light of what it leads to in Movement 4.
The first melody in this movement is the “preservation” theme, which is repeated under many different arrangements and frames the significantly re-orchestrated versions of segments from six of Mr. Stolyarov’s marches – Marches #1, 2, 8, 9, 11, and 12 – composed between 2000 and 2014. This is intended to communicate several insights: (i) at a time of great macro-scale uncertainty, only the efforts of the individual – each in their own way – can preserve what is good about civilization; (ii) one should cherish the accomplishments of one’s past and build upon them, integrating them with the present and future – because, no matter what happens, past achievements are irreversible gains; (iii) in building a brighter future, we should hearken back to the good aspects of life and human creation that were achieved prior to 2016. It is not possible for humankind to begin anew; one cannot rebuild the world, or any subset thereof, from scratch – but it is possible to undo the damage of the recent chaos by reasserting and re-instantiating the values, ideas, objects, and infrastructures that make life decent and progress possible.
A better future can only be achieved by holding onto and building upon the best aspects of the past – both personally and for humankind as a whole.
The Spiral Villa was created in mid-2017 to continue the beautification of the Aqueduct Plaza of the Minecraft Imperial City. The villa is situated on the shores of the river running through the center of the city. From multiple balconies, it offers views of grand edifices of various architectural styles in all directions. Inside, it has two ornate domes and one spire from which it derives its name. An external staircase enables one to climb to the top of the spire, which also serves as a beacon to illuminate this party of the city at nighttime.
The Spiral Villa completes the framing of the Aqueduct Plaza – which consists of the Aqueduct Compound and Stripes Building on the sides, and a massive staircase (which also doubles as the roof of a building) leading to a rehabilitated palazzo of the Venetian style at the top – on the other side of the plaza from the villa (to be shown in a subsequent post).
The Minecraft Imperial City was originally a collaborative project coordinated by users Rigolo and Comeon, and freely downloadable here.
The most current version of the Imperial City, as expanded by Mr. Stolyarov, is downloadable here.
See the collection of images of Minecraft buildings by Mr. Stolyarov here.
Left-click for a full-image view of each screenshot. Right-click to download the image.
Space Seascape – Painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova
Left-click on the image for a fuller view. You can also download this painting (4846 by 7000 pixels) here.
Tranquil and contemplative, this painting of an alien moon seascape by Ekaterinya Vladinakova evokes worlds that humans could one day discover or create through terraforming. The vivid colors and stunning imagery of Vladinakova’s work inspire us to strive toward a future where the exploration of these worlds could become a reality.
Ekaterinya Vladinakova is an accomplished digital painter. See her gallery here and her DeviantArt page here.
Review of Philip Tetlock’s “Superforecasting” – Article by Adam Alonzi
Before the advent of evidence-based medicine, most physicians took an attitude like Galen’s toward their prescriptions. If their remedies did not work, surely the fault was with their patient. For centuries scores of revered doctors did not consider putting bloodletting or trepanation to the test. Randomized trials to evaluate the efficacy of a treatment were not common practice. Doctors like Archie Cochrane, who fought to make them part of standard protocol, were met with fierce resistance. Philip Tetlock, author of Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction(2015), contends that the state of forecasting in the 21st century is strikingly similar to medicine in the 19th. Initiatives like the Good Judgement Project (GJP), a website that allows anyone to make predictions about world events, have shown that even a discipline that is largely at the mercy of chance can be put on a scientific footing.
More than once the author reminds us that the key to success in this endeavor is not what you think or what you know, but how you think. For Tetlock pundits like Thomas Friedman are the “exasperatingly evasive” Galens of the modern era. In the footnotes he lets the reader know he chose Friedman as target strictly because of his prominence. There are many like him. Tetlock’s academic work comparing random selections with those of professionals led media outlets to publish, and a portion of their readers to conclude, that expert opinion is no more accurate than a dart-throwing chimpanzee. What the undiscerning did not consider, however, is not all of the experts who participated failed to do better than chance.
Daniel Kahneman hypothesized that “attentive readers of the New York Times…may be only slightly worse” than these experts corporations and governments so handsomely recompense. This turned out to be a conservative guess. The participants in the Good Judgement Project outperformed all control groups, including one composed of professional intelligence analysts with access to classified information. This hodgepodge of retired bird watchers, unemployed programmers, and news junkies did 30% better than the “pros.” More importantly, at least to readers who want to gain a useful skillset as well as general knowledge, the managers of the GJP have identified qualities and ways of thinking that separate “superforecasters” from the rest of us. Fortunately they are qualities we can all cultivate.
While the merits of his macroeconomic theories can be debated, John Maynard Keynes was an extremely successful investor during one of the bleakest periods in international finance. This was no doubt due in part to his willingness to make allowance for new information and his grasp of probability. Participants in the GJP display open-mindedness, an ability and willingness to repeatedly update their forecasts, a talent to neither under- nor over-react to new information by putting it into a broader context, and a predilection for mathematical thinking (though those interviewed admitted they rarely used an explicit equation to calculate their answer). The figures they give also tend to be more precise than their less successful peers. This “granularity” may seem ridiculous at first. I must confess that when I first saw estimates on the GJP of 34% or 59%, I would chuckle a bit. How, I asked myself, is a single percentage point meaningful? Aren’t we just dealing with rough approximations? Apparently not.
Tetlock reminds us that the GJP does not deal with nebulous questions like “Who will be president in 2027?” or “Will a level 9 earthquake hit California two years from now?” However, there are questions that are not, in the absence of unforeseeable Black Swan events, completely inscrutable. Who will win the Mongolian presidency? Will Uruguay sign a trade agreement with Laos in the next six months? These are parts of highly complex systems, but they can be broken down into tractable subproblems.
Using numbers instead of words like “possibly”, “probably”, “unlikely”, etc., seems unnatural. It gives us wiggle room and plausible deniability. They also cannot be put on any sort of record to keep score of how well we’re doing. Still, to some it may seem silly, pedantic, or presumptuous. If Joint Chiefs of Staff had given the exact figure they had in mind (3 to 1) instead of the “fair chance” given to Kennedy, the Bay of Pigs debacle may have never transpired. Because they represent ranges of values instead of single numbers, words can be retroactively stretched or shrunk to make blunders seem a little less avoidable. This is good for advisors looking to cover their hides by hedging their bets, but not so great for everyone else.
If American intelligence agencies had presented the formidable but vincible figure of 70% instead of a “slam dunk” to Congress, a disastrous invasion and costly occupation would have been prevented. At this point it is hard not to see the invasion as anything as a mistake, but even amidst these emotions we must be wary of hindsight. Still, a 70% chance of being right means there is a 30% chance of being wrong. It is hardly a “slam dunk.” No one would feel completely if an oncologist told them they are 70% sure the growth is not malignant. There are enormous consequences to sloppy communications. However, those with vested interests are more than content with this approach if it agrees with them, even if it ends up harming them.
When Nate Silver put the odds of the 2008 election in Obama’s favor, he was panned by Republicans as a pawn of the liberal media. He was quickly reviled by Democrats when he foresaw a Republican takeover of the Senate. It is hard to be a wizard when the king, his court, and all the merry peasants sweeping the stables would not know a confirmation bias from their right foot. To make matters worse, confidence is widely equated with capability. This seems to be doubly true of groups of people, particularly when they are choosing a leader. A mutual-fund manager who tells his clients they will see great returns on a company is viewed as stronger than a Poindexter prattling on about Bayesian inference and risk management.
The GJP’s approach has not spread far — yet. At this time most pundits, consultants, and self-proclaimed sages do not explicitly quantify their success rates, but this does not stop corporations, NGOs, and institutions at all levels of government from paying handsomely for the wisdom of untested soothsayers. Perhaps they have a few diplomas, but most cannot provide compelling evidence for expertise in haruspicy (sans the sheep’s liver). Given the criticality of accurate analyses to saving time and money, it would seem as though a demand for methods to improve and assess the quality of foresight would arise. Yet for the most part individuals and institutions continue to happily grope in the dark, unaware of the necessity for feedback when they misstep — afraid of having their predictions scrutinized or having to take the pains to scrutinize their predictions.
David Ferrucci is wary of the “guru model” to settling disputes. No doubt you’ve witnessed or participated in this kind of whimpering fracas: one person presents a Krugman op-ed to debunk a Niall Ferguson polemic, which is then countered with a Tommy Friedman book, which was recently excoriated by the newest leader of the latest intellectual cult to come out of the Ivy League. In the end both sides leave frustrated. Krugman’s blunders regarding the economic prospects of the Internet, deflation, the “imminent” collapse of the euro (said repeatedly between 2010 and 2012) are legendary. Similarly, Ferguson, who strongly petitioned the Federal Reserve to reconsider quantitative easing, lest the United States suffer Weimar-like inflation, has not yet been vindicated. He and his colleagues responded in the same way as other embarrassed prophets: be patient, it has not happened, but it will! In his defense, more than one clever person has criticized the way governments calculate their inflation rates…
Paul Ehrlich, a darling of environmentalist movement, has screeched about the detonation of a “population bomb” for decades. Civilization was set to collapse between 15 and 30 years from 1970. During the interim 100 to 200 million would annually starve to death, by the year 2000 no crude oil would be left, the prices of raw materials would skyrocket, and the planet would be in the midst of a perpetual famine. Tetlock does not mention Ehrlich, but he is, particularly given his persisting influence on Greens, as or more deserving of a place in this hall of fame as anyone else. Larry Kudlow continued to assure the American people that the Bush tax breaks were producing massive economic growth. This continued well into 2008, when he repeatedly told journalists that America was not in a recession and the Bush boom was “alive and well.” For his stupendous commitment to his contention in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he was nearly awarded a seat in the Trump cabinet.
This is not to say a mistake should become the journalistic equivalent of a scarlet letter. Kudlow’s slavish adherence to his axioms is not unique. Ehrlich’s blindness to technological advances is not uncommon, even in an era dominated by technology. By failing to set a timeline or give detailed causal accounts, many believe they have predicted every crash since they learned how to say the word. This is likely because they begin each day with the same mantra: “the market will crash.” Yet through an automatically executed routine of psychological somersaults, they do not see they were right only once and wrong dozens, hundreds, or thousands of times. This kind of person is much more deserving of scorn than a poker player who boasts about his victories, because he is (likely) also aware of how often he loses. At least he’s not fooling himself. The severity of Ehrlich’s misfires is a reminder of what happens when someone looks too far ahead while assuming all things will remain the same. Ceteris paribus exists only in laboratories and textbooks.
Axioms are fates accepted by different people as truth, but the belief in Fate (in the form of retroactive narrative construction) is a nearly ubiquitous stumbling block to clear thinking. We may be far removed from Sophocles, but the unconscious human drive to create sensible narratives is not peculiar to fifth-century B.C. Athens. A questionnaire given to students at Northwestern showed that most believed things had turned out for the best even if they had gotten into their first pick. From an outsider’s perspective this is probably not true. In our cocoons we like to think we are in the right place either through the hand of fate or through our own choices. Atheists are not immune to this Panglossian habit. Our brains are wired for stories, but the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves seldom come out without distortions. We can gain a better outside view, which allows us to see situations from perspectives other than our own, but only through regular practice with feedback. This is one of the reasons groups are valuable.
Francis Galton asked 787 villagers to guess the weight of an ox hanging in the market square. The average of their guesses (1,197 lbs) turned out to be remarkably close to its actual weight (1,198 lbs). Scott Page has said “diversity trumps ability.” This is a tad bold, since legions of very different imbeciles will never produce anything of value, but there is undoubtedly a benefit to having a group with more than one point of view. This was tested by the GJP. Teams performed better than lone wolves by a significant margin (23% to be exact). Partially as a result of encouraging one another and building a culture of excellence, and partially from the power of collective intelligence.
“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”
-Helmuth von Moltke
“Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”
When Archie Cochrane was told he had cancer by his surgeon, he prepared for death. Type 1 thinking grabbed hold of him and did not doubt the diagnosis. A pathologist later told him the surgeon was wrong. The best of us, under pressure, fall back on habitual modes of thinking. This is another reason why groups are useful (assuming all their members do not also panic). Organizations like the GJP and the Millennium Project are showing how well collective intelligence systems can perform. Helmuth von Moltke and Mike Tyson aside, a better motto, substantiated by a growing body of evidence, comes from Dwight Eisenhower: “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
Adam Alonzi is a writer, biotechnologist, documentary maker, futurist, inventor, programmer, and author of the novels A Plank in Reason and Praying for Death: A Zombie Apocalypse. He is an analyst for the Millennium Project, the Head Media Director for BioViva Sciences, and Editor-in-Chief of Radical Science News. Listen to his podcasts here. Read his blog here.
U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel on Art and Transhumanism
G. Stolyarov II Emanuel Iral Rachel Lyn Edler John Marlowe R. Nicholas Starr Leah Montalto Kim Bodenhamer Smith Laura Katrin Weston Ekaterinya Vladinakova
On November 18, 2017, the U.S. Transhumanist Party invited leading artists in a variety of media and styles to a two-hour discussion, moderated by Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II and Director of Visual Art Emanuel Iral, on the subject of Art and Transhumanism, delving into how and which works of art can help inspire humans to pursue the next era of our civilization – through promoting the advancement of science and technology, rationality, and/or a more hopeful vision of the future. The panel also explored various interactions between art and technology and ways in which art can improve human connection and understanding, while also comprising the very improved functionality that emerging technologies provide.
Emanuel Iral is Director of Visual Art for the U.S. Transhumanist Party.
Emanuel’s artwork ranges from traditional paint and pencil work to 3D digital work. Currently he is working on his VFX and animation skills, as he is producing short films for his music. He encompasses his art under the term Prismatis – Latin for prism. A prism refracts white light into the three primary colors: yellow, magenta, and cyan. Prismatis is all about the aesthetic of human expression, which can be separated into the art, audience, and artist.
Rachel Lyn Edler
RachelLyn Edler is an accomplished graphic designer with over 20 years of creative experience. Rachel comes from a diverse background of product development, packaging and web design. In her free time she volunteers for several scientific and secular organizations including the Planetary Society, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science and the Secular Coalition for America.
John Marlowe was educated in film theory and trained in film production at UC Berkeley. His outlook on film as a vehicle for social messaging has been largely influenced by his lifelong struggle with a genetic inborn error of metabolism, a type of disease that – until recently – was beyond the scope of medicine. Consequently, John feels it is his onus to emphasize the artist’s responsibility in shaping the conversation regarding medical research, to create a society more amenable to scientific progress, rather than one fearful of change.
Leah Montalto is a painter based in New York City and has maintained a successfully operating painting studio in New York for the past 12 years. Her paintings have been exhibited at the National Academy Museum of Fine Art in New York, and have been reviewed in the New York Times and the Providence Journal. Leah’s paintings have received awards including the National Academy Museum of Fine Art’s Hallgarten Prize in Painting and the NYC Cultural Commission arts grant. Leah is a former professor at Sarah Lawrence College, and has an MFA in Painting from Rhode Island School of Design. Leah is not affiliated with the Transhumanist Party, but her paintings explore related themes.
Kim Bodenhamer Smith
Kim Bodenhamer Smith is a single mother of two boys living in Chattanooga, TN. She is a founding member of Southside Abbey, a Lay Missioner in The Episcopal Church, and an Outdoor Wear Business owner of Chilliheads. She is a caver, unicycler, and an aviation enthusiast and creator of #helichurch. She has a BFA in Metals and also studied Graphic Design and Political Science. *She also has many Tesla Tales to tell and is a Social Media Manipulator (different from a troll)!
R. Nicholas Starr
R. Nicholas Starr is an audio engineer and multimedia artist whose work focuses on Earth’s dystopias of past, present, and future. Also a biohacker, researcher, and theorist, he immerses himself in the subjects surrounding these worlds and has published several non-fiction articles and interviews. With an education in electronic signals intelligence from the United States Air Force, and 15 years of digital art and audio production in the US and abroad, he has become a unique voice for science fiction, the U.S. Transhumanist Movement, and American policy.
Ekaterinya Vladinakova is an accomplished digital painter and professional freelance illustrator. Vladinakova specializes in fantasy and science fiction work, but is also interested in editorial illustration. Vladinakova spends most of the day painting in Photoshop, creating scenes related to fantasy, or science fiction, as well as brushing up older works. Vladinakova’s paintings have been featured by the U.S. Transhumanist Party – including the “City of New Antideath” – a vision of the future which was commissioned for Mr. Stolyarov’s 30th Birthday.
Laura Katrin Weston
Dr Laura Katrin Weston is from England and studied Fine Art before going on to studying Medicine. She is a trained pathologist with a specialism in medical biochemistry and inflammation-related disease. She has used her medical knowledge and professional painting career to support Lifespan.io – one of the biggest life-extension research and advocacy charities. Laura is also vocalist for symphonic metal band Cyclocosmia – a music act that will be trying to raise awareness of transhumanist and human mortality issues in their next upcoming album.
The YouTube question/comment chat for this Q&A session has been archived here and is also provided below.
Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party Facebook page here.
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.
Neocons Hijack Trump’s Syria Policy – Article by Ron Paul
Does anyone in the Trump Administration have a clue about our Syria policy? In March, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to be finally pulling back from President Obama’s disastrous “Assad must go” position that has done nothing but prolong the misery in Syria. At the time, Tillerson said, the “longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.”
Those of us who believe in national sovereignty would say that is pointing out the obvious. Nevertheless it was a good sign that US involvement in Syria – illegal as it is – would no longer seek regime change but would stick to fighting ISIS.
Then out of the blue in late October, Tillerson did another 180-degree policy turn, telling a UN audience in Geneva that, “[t]he reign of the Assad family is coming to an end. The only issue is how that should that be brought about.”
The obvious question is why is it any of our business who runs Syria, but perhaps that’s too obvious. Washington’s interventionists have long believed that they have the unilateral right to determine who is allowed to head up foreign countries. Their track record in placing “our guy” in power overseas is abysmal, but that doesn’t seem to stop them. We were promised that getting rid of people like Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi would light the fire of freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Instead it has produced nothing but death and misery – and spectacular profits for the weapons manufacturers who fund neocon think tanks.
In Syria, Assad has been seen as a protector of Christians and other minorities against the onslaught of in many cases US-backed jihadists seeking his overthrow. While the Syrian system is obviously not a Switzerland-like democracy, unlike our great “ally” Saudi Arabia they do at least have elections contested by different political parties, and religious and other minorities are fully integrated into society.
Why has the Trump Administration shifted back to “Assad must go”? One reason may be that, one-by-one, the neocons who opposed Trump most vociferously during the campaign have found themselves and their friends in positions of power in his Administration. The neocons are great at winning while losing.
The real story behind Washington’s ongoing determination to overthrow the Syrian government is even more disturbing. In a bombshell interview last week, a former Qatari Prime Minister confessed that his country, along with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United States, began shipping weapons to jihadists from the very moment Syrian unrest began in 2011. The well-connected Qatari former minister was trying to point out that his country was not alone in backing al-Qaeda and even ISIS in Syria. In the course of defending his country against terrorism charges leveled by Saudi Arabia he has spilled the beans about US involvement with the very groups claimed to be our arch-enemies. As they did in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the CIA supported radical Islamic terrorism in Syria.
Haven’t we done enough damage in Syria? Do we really need to go back to 2011 and destroy the country all over again? The neocons never admit a mistake and never change course, but I do not believe that the majority of Americans support their hijacking of President Trump’s Syria policy. It is long past time for the US to leave Syria alone. No bases, no special forces, no CIA assassination teams, no manipulating their electoral system. We need to just come home.
Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.
The Pentagon is moving forward with pressuring Congress to add women to the Selective Service program, which will make virtually all young people eligible for the military draft. The Washington Timesreports:
The Pentagon says the country should stick with mandatory registration for a military draft, and it advocates a requirement for women to sign up for the first time in the nation’s history.
The recommendations are contained in a Defense Department report to Congress that serves as a starting point for a commission examining military, national and public service.
Congress ordered the Pentagon report, and the office of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness completed it in the early months of the Trump administration.
Currently, only male citizens and residents age 18-25 are required to register, for a pace of about 2 million each year.
Women, whom the government has never ordered to sign up, would add 11 million to the Selective Service System database “in short order,” the report says.
Not surprisingly, the Pentagon, the report reminds us, wants the Service Program to continue indefinitely. No surprise there. But now, the Pentagon wants to expand draft registration so it can include millions of young people who had not previously been eligible.
This proposed change will be couched in a variety of irrelevant issues like “gender equality” and “women in combat.” At the heart of the matter, however, is the fact that the Pentagon wants an even larger list of potential forced laborers who can be paid below-market wages. In other words, draft registration offers — and has always offered — a list of people who can be forced to pay higher taxes in the form of mandatory “service”:
“Conscription is slavery,” Murray Rothbard wrote in 1973, and while temporary conscription is obviously much less bad — assuming one outlives the term of conscription — than many other forms of slavery, conscription is nevertheless a nearly-100-percent tax on the production of one’s mind and body. If one attempts to escape his confinement in his open-air military jail, he faces imprisonment or even execution in many cases.
Conscription remains popular among [nation-]states because it is an easy way to directly extract resources from the population. Just as regular taxes partially extract the savings, productivity, and labor of the general population, conscription extracts virtually all of the labor and effort of the conscripts. The burden falls disproportionately on the young males in most cases, and they are at risk of a much higher tax burden if killed or given a permanent disability in battle. If he’s lucky enough to survive the conflict, the conscript may find himself living out the rest of his life as disfigured or missing his eyesight and limbs. He may be rendered permanently undesirable to the opposite sex. Such costs imposed on the conscript are a form of lifelong taxation.
Fortunately for those who escape such a fate, the term of slavery ends at a specified time, but for the duration, the only freedom the conscript enjoys is that granted to him by his jailers.
But, Modern Conscription Won’t be About Combat Duty
The irrelevance of gender issues here is made clear by the fact that the Pentagon’s report is part of a larger effort which is, as the Times describes it, “a commission examining military, national and public service.” We’ve moved well beyond the issue of strictly military or combat service when we’re talking about forced labor through conscription.
Should the American federal government decide that it’s necessary to finally make use of the Selective Service lists, the new draftees won’t be people sent to carry rifles on the front lines. The military doesn’t want poorly trained conscripts in combat, anyway. But this fact by no means precludes the potential usefulness of conscription to the federal government.
What the US federal government does want — especially in case of dropping revenues due to economic crisis — is cheap labor to build military bases, drive trucks, prepare food, load cargo, mop floors, and perform the countless non-combat tasks that are required to further expand military prerogatives both at home and abroad. Yes, the US government can pay people to do all those things now. But conscripts could be much cheaper.
After all, even in the military, few soldiers ever are in combat situations. In active war zones in recent decades (i.e., Iraq and Afghanistan) there have been seven support personnel for every infantryman. In other words, for every rifle-carrying soldier in a combat zone, there are seven computer programmers, cooks, and mechanics keeping that combat soldier well supplied.
But why stop with military-related issues? “National service” can encompass a wide variety of duties. These can include any of the tasks currently performed by civilian contractors who do government work now on all sorts of domestic infrastructure and social benefits programs.
In the future, if young Americans are drafted, they’re going to be fixing vehicles in a garage or sitting at a desk in an office. And they’ll be doing those tasks for the low, low wages that involuntary servitude makes possible.
The issue of whether or not women should be in combat roles is a totally separate issue and beside the point of whether or not draft registration should be expanded further.
A Huge Repudiation of Property Rights
Ultimately, the only aspect of the women-as-draftees debate that is important is the issue of whether it is morally acceptable to force young people into temporary slavery. Precious few conservatives, of course, have a problem with this, which is why they ultimately can only oppose the expansion of draft registration to women on the grounds of gender politics. For the conservatives, it’s simply a given that forced government labor is entirely justified.
But, even outside the hard-core of the pro-military right-wing regime, it’s hard to find anyone in Washington who seriously opposes draft registration. It’s now been decades since the 1970s when there had a been a movement to abolish both the draft and draft registration. Ron Paul, not surprisingly, was among the supporters of that plan. Not even the end of the Cold War could end mandatory draft registration.
Now we’re talking about expanding the program. But make no mistake about it. Expanding Selective Service from 50 percent of young adults to 100 percent is not about equality, or progress, or patriotism. While these notions will no doubt be used to bully people into supporting such a move, the real-world effect will be a massive expansion in government power over the lives of the population.
Even if modern conscripts avoid all combat, the idea of conscription will always be nothing more than a wholesale repudiation of property rights. The argument that the draft is a necessary “insurance policy” in case of military crisis is no different than saying that nationalization of private industry should always be on the table as an important “insurance policy” in case of economic crisis. Or perhaps the abolition of freedom of speech should be an option as an “insurance policy” in case of social and ideological upheaval.
If young Americans can’t be convinced to fight in the federal government’s wars, then that’s an indication that the federal government doesn’t quite command the respect it thinks it deserves. Often, this is an indication that young people don’t believe the federal government’s propaganda that a war is necessary to “defend freedom,” “fight global communism,” or “end all wars.” If Americans would rather take their chances not taking up arms for the federal government, that’s a serious problem for the federal government, indeed. But what’s a problem for the federal government is by no means necessarily a problem for the taxpayers who pay the bills. Nor is it a problem the federal government is morally entitled to “rectify” by forcing millions of Americans into involuntary servitude.
U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II invited Dr. Bill Andrews (the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Biotechnology Advisor), Bobby Ridge (the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s Secretary-Treasurer), and Scott Jurgens to his Second Enlightenment Salon, where they shared their thoughts on emerging life-extension research, advances in prosthetics and orthotics, philosophy of science, brain-computer interfaces, and how technologies from a variety of fields are converging to bring about a paradigm shift in the human condition – hopefully within the coming decades.
The Achievements of the U.S. Transhumanist Party in 2017 – Transvision 2017 Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II
Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party, describes the highlights of the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s accomplishments in 2017 and outlines some aspirations for the future.
This presentation is intended to be streamed to the Transvision 2017 conference in Brussels, Belgium, on November 9, 2017. See the schedule for the conference here.
Download the accompanying slides, with live links to the referenced content, here.
This video presentation is being offered here to those who are unable to attend the conference but are interested in the Transhumanist Party’s recent progress and future direction.
Find out more about the U.S. Transhumanist Party by visiting its website here.
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