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City of New Antideath – Painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova, Commissioned by Gennady Stolyarov II

City of New Antideath – Painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova, Commissioned by Gennady Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
Art by Ekaterinya Vladinakova
Painting Commissioned by Gennady Stolyarov II
June 28, 2017
City of New AntideathCity of New Antideath – Painting by Ekaterinya Vladinakova

Commentary by Gennady Stolyarov II, Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party

For my coming thirtieth birthday, I have commissioned a colossal cityscape depicting my vision and hope for the future progress of humankind. Artist Ekaterinya Vladinakova, a long-time supporter of transhumanism and life extension, was the evident best choice for this project.

The City of New Antideath represents a future society which has overcome death, disease, and today’s principal sources of material scarcity and discomfort. This city contains more than ample living space in ornate, radiantly illuminated skyscrapers. Smaller villas, domed towers, and other luxuriously ornamented buildings adorn the central walkways. There is ample room for pedestrian traffic and plant growth sculpted into geometrically complex patterns – including on the rooftop terraces of many of the mega-skyscrapers.

Flying cars and autonomous drones appear as streaks of light from the ground level. There is so much room for aerial transportation that no more traffic jams exist on the ground. One can opt for efficient transport, or for open-ended leisurely walking, and the two modes will not collide.

Over the years I have created a large number of building models using Sketchup, Minecraft, and even LEGO bricks. In my quest for permanence, they – or images of them – have been preserved and provided to the artist for inspiration. The first City of Antideath consisted of my Sketchup models. The City of New Antideath was not intended to be an exact replica, but rather a successor inspired by the prospect of juxtaposing the best architectural elements of all eras – past and yet to come.

I conveyed to Ekaterinya Vladinakova that the skyscrapers should exhibit a variety of bold colors and geometric shapes – but also be orderly and ornate. I have a great admiration for historical architecture from the 16th through 19th centuries – so while some of the buildings are geometric and futuristic, others borrow significant elements from Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, or Victorian styles. Russian and Eastern architectural traditions find their manifestations in this cityscape as well. The idea is to portray a future of extreme diversity, where all of these elements will exist side by side and interact with one another in interesting ways. Far from cultural separatism or tribalism, the future needs to borrow and develop upon the best elements from all cultures, times, and places. The culture of New Antideath is rational, scientific, progress-oriented, universalist, cosmopolitan, and at the same time hyperpluralist and welcoming of all peaceful individuals.

The most significant vision I have for this artwork is that it will become the iconic vision of a techno-positive future. Accordingly, I am rendering it available for free download and distribution via a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License so that it might be used by others who seek illustrations of a future we can all aspire for.

I still hope that I was not born too soon – that I may someday personally witness and experience a future of this sort. But for now, although the third decade of my life did not see such a future emerge, I am happy at least to have enabled its depiction so that others can be inspired to strive toward it. Given that our immediate world has become suffused by a pervasive, destructive malaise over the past two years, we will need visions such as this to overcome it and achieve better ways to be.

There are three versions of this digital painting available for free download (left-click on the links to open, right-click to download):

Small (1200 by 1931 pixels)

Medium (2400 by 3861 pixels)

Original Size (11250 by 18100 pixels – a vast canvas with immense detail. Note: This file size is immense as well – but you will be able to zoom in to view individual buildings and regard them as smaller-scale paintings in their own right.)

For those seeking musical accompaniment in viewing this painting, I recommend my Transhumanist March, Op. 78 (2014) (MP3 and YouTube)  or Man’s Struggle Against Death, Op. 58 (2008) (MP3 and YouTube).

Find out more about Mr. Stolyarov here.

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

The Good News They’re Not Telling You – Article by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

The Good News They’re Not Telling You – Article by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

The New Renaissance HatThomas E. Woods, Jr.

As we look at things that impress us technologically we also have a certain trepidation, because we’re told that robots are going to take our jobs. “Yes, the internet is wonderful,” we may say, “but robots, I don’t want those.”

I don’t mean to make light of this because robots are going to take a lot of jobs. They’re going to take a lot of blue collar jobs, and they’re going to take a lot of white collar jobs you don’t think they can take. Already there are robots that can dispense pills at pharmacies. That’s being done in California. They have not made one mistake. You can’t say that about human pharmacists, who are now free to be up front talking to you while the robot fills the prescription.

Much of this is discussed by author Kevin Kelly in his new book The Inevitable, with the subtitle Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future. It’s incredible what robots can do and what they will be able to do.

Automation Really Is Taking Our Jobs

To me, just the fact that one of Google’s newest computers can caption a photo perfectly — it can figure out what’s happening in the photo and give a perfect caption — is amazing. Just when you think “a machine can’t do my job,” maybe it can.

What kind of world is this we’re moving into? I understand the fear about that. But, at the same time, let’s think, first of all, about what happened in the past.

In the past, most people worked on farms, and automation took away 99 percent of those jobs. Literally 99 percent. They’re gone. People wound up with brand new jobs they could never have anticipated. And in pursuing those jobs we might even argue that we became more human. Because we diversified. Because we found a niche for ourselves that was unique to us. Automation is going to make it possible for human beings to do work that is more fulfilling.

How is that? Well, first let’s think about the kinds of jobs that automation and robots do that we couldn’t do even if we tried. Making computer chips, there’s no one in this room who could do that. We don’t have the precision and the control to do that. We can’t inspect every square millimeter of a CAT scan to look for cancer cells. These are all points Kevin Kelly is trying to make to us. We can’t inflate molten glass into the shape of a bottle.

So, there are many tasks that are done by robots, through automation that are tasks we physically could not do at all, and would not get done otherwise.

Automation Creates Luxuries We Didn’t Know Were Possible

But also automation creates jobs we didn’t even know we wanted done. Kelly gives this example:

Before we invented automobiles, air-conditioning, flat-screen video displays, and animated cartoons, no one living in ancient Rome wished they could watch pictures move while riding to Athens in climate-controlled comfort. … When robots and automation do our most basic work, making it relatively easy for us to be fed, clothed, and sheltered, then we are free to ask, “What are humans for?”

Kelly continues:

Industrialization did more than just extend the average human lifespan. It led a greater percentage of the population to decide that humans were meant to be ballerinas, full-time musicians, mathematicians, athletes, fashion designers, yoga masters, fan-fiction authors, and folks with one-of-a kind titles on their business cards.

The same is true of automation today. We will look back and be ashamed that human beings ever had to do some of the jobs they do today.

Turning Instead to Art, Science, and More

Now here’s something controversial. Kelly observes that there’s a sense in which we want jobs in which productivity is not the most important thing. When we think about productivity and efficiency, robots have that all over us. When it comes to “who can do this thing faster,” they can do it faster. So let them do jobs like that. It’s just a matter of — so to speak — robotically doing the same thing over and over again as fast as possible. We can’t compete there. Why bother?

Where can we compete? Well, we can compete in all the areas that are gloriously inefficient. Science is gloriously inefficient because of all the failures that are involved along the way. The same is true with innovation. The same is true of any kind of art. It is grotesquely inefficient from the point of view of the running of a pin factory. Being creative is inefficient because you go down a lot of dead ends. Healthcare and nursing: these things revolve around relationships and human experiences. They are not about efficiency.

So, let efficiency go to the robots. We’ll take the things that aren’t so focused on efficiency and productivity, where we excel, and we’ll focus on relationships, creativity, human contact, things that make us human. We focus on those things.

Automation Really Does Make Us Richer

Now, with extraordinary efficiency comes fantastic abundance. And with fantastic abundance comes greater purchasing power, because of the pushing down of prices through competition. So even if we earn less in nominal terms, our paychecks will stretch much further. That’s how people became wealthy during and after the Industrial Revolution. It was that we could suddenly produce so many more goods that competitive pressures put downward pressure on prices. That will continue to be the case. So, even if I have a job that pays me relatively little — in terms of how many of the incredibly abundant goods I’ll be able to acquire — it will be a salary the likes of which I can hardly imagine.

Now, I can anticipate an objection. This is an objection I’ll hear from leftists and also from some traditionalist conservatives. They’ll sniff that consumption and greater material abundance don’t improve us spiritually; they are actually impoverishing for us.

Well, for one thing, there’s actually much more materialism under socialism. When you’re barely scraping enough together to survive, you are obsessed with material things. But, second, let’s consider what we have been allowed to do by these forces. First, by industrialization alone. I’ve shared this before, but on my show I had Deirdre McCloskey once and she pointed out that in Burgundy, as recently as the 1840s, the men who worked the vineyards — after the crop was in, in the fall — they would go to bed and they would sleep huddled together, and they basically hibernated like that for months because they couldn’t afford the heat otherwise, or the food they would need to eat if they were expending energy by walking around. Now that is unhuman. And they don’t have to live that way anymore because they have these “terrible material things that are impoverishing them spiritually.”

The world average in terms of daily income has gone from $3 a day a couple hundred years ago to $33 a day. And, in the advanced countries, to $100 a day.
Yes, true, people can fritter that away on frivolous things, but there will always be frivolous people.

Meanwhile, we have the leisure to do things like participate in an American Kennel Club show, or go to an antiques show, or a square-dancing convention, or be a bird watcher, or host a book club in your home. These are things that would have been unthinkable to anyone just a few hundred years ago.

The material liberation has liberated our spirits and has allowed us to live more fulfilling lives than before. So, I don’t want to hear the “money can’t give you happiness” thing. If this doesn’t make you happy — that people are free to do these things and pursue things they love — then there ain’t no satisfying you.

Tom Woods, a senior fellow of the Mises Institute, is the author of a dozen books, most recently Real Dissent: A Libertarian Sets Fire to the Index Card of Allowable Opinion. Tom’s articles have appeared in dozens of popular and scholarly periodicals, and his books have been translated into a dozen languages. Tom hosts the Tom Woods Show, a libertarian podcast that releases a new episode every weekday. With Bob Murphy, he co-hosts Contra Krugman, a weekly podcast that refutes Paul Krugman’s New York Times column.

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

The Science Fiction of Scarcity – Article by Sarah Skwire

The Science Fiction of Scarcity – Article by Sarah Skwire

The New Renaissance HatSarah Skwire
October 6, 2015

We Have Such Abundance That We Fantasize about Having Less.


We all know the scene. The urbane starship captain steps up to the console and requests, “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” He waits a second or two until a steaming, perfectly brewed cup shimmers into existence.

From medieval dreams of the Land of Cockaigne, where roofs are shingled with pastries and roasted chickens fly into our waiting mouths, to the Big Rock Candy Mountain’s “cigarette trees” and “lemonade springs,” to Star Trek’s replicator, we have imagined the bright futures and the glorious new worlds that would give us instant abundance.

The “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot” type of scene is such a standby it even has its own parodies, where instant preference satisfaction is not exactly … satisfying.

He had found a Nutri-Matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

The way it functioned was very interesting. When the Drink button was pressed it made an instant but highly detailed examination of the subject’s taste buds, a spectroscopic analysis of the subject’s metabolism, and then sent tiny experimental signals down the neural pathways to the taste centers of the subject’s brain to see what was likely to go down well. However, no one knew quite why it did this because it invariably delivered a cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. (Douglas Adams, Restaurant at the End of the Universe)

If we didn’t know what was supposed to happen, and if we didn’t fully expect the future to fulfill our fantasies, and if we didn’t have a certain amount of frustrated experience with modern machines that promise wonders but deliver things that are almost, but not quite, entirely unlike them, the scene wouldn’t be funny.

But I find science fiction most compelling when it goes in the other direction — when instead of imagining the end of scarcity, it imagines the end of abundance. The movie Total Recall imagines life on Mars, where even the air is rationed. The gritty reboot of the television series Battlestar Galactica puts us in world where fewer than 50,000 humans have survived and escaped from an enemy attack. The survivors spend much of their time trying to subsist in space amid constant and growing shortages of food, water, fuel, ammunition, and pretty much everything else.

In works like these — and yes, I know their imaginings are as romantic as the imaginings of Star Trek — we get to watch human beings pushed to their limits, using every bit of their ingenuity in order to survive. It was no accident, after all, that Gene Roddenberry called space “the final frontier.”

The latest iteration of this kind of scarcity science fiction is Andy Weir’s novel The Martian, the movie version of which premiered October 2. I first learned about The Martian through the XKCD webcomic strip describing the plot as made out of “the scene in Apollo 13 where the guy says ‘we have to figure out how to connect this thing to this thing using this table of parts or the astronauts will all die.’”

I was sold.

And it’s no spoiler to say that this is precisely the plot of The Martian. Astronaut Mark Watney is one of the first people to visit Mars. When the mission goes awry, his crew has to evacuate, and Mark is left behind. Everyone thinks he’s dead.

He’s not, though, and the remainder of the book is caught up in the details of the scarcities he faces, his creative attempts to overcome them, and our nail-biting suspense over whether he can survive one more hour, one more day, and maybe long enough to be rescued. Mark describes his situation like this:

I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab [the atmosphere-controlled habitat in which astronauts from his mission could live without wearing spacesuits] designed to last thirty-one days. If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of these things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

Mark’s assessment of his situation, which ends with, “I’m f—ed,” appears on page 7 of the novel. We spend 360 more pages following his solitary attempts to science his way out of the problem. And if you’re at all like me, you won’t be able to put the book down until you find out what happens. Done well, the movie should convey that same nail-biting suspense.

The Martian, and scarcity science fiction in general, is a good reminder to all of us that the real miracle of the market is not the great individual with the great idea, bringing it to fruition and selling it to all of us. The real miracle of the market is that it reliably supplies us, every day, with all the necessities that Mark Watney has to work for so desperately. And it does that by allowing us to cooperate, and to broaden that cooperation beyond our immediate context, to the extended and anonymous world. That long-distance cooperation allows us to access so many different human skills, strengths, and abilities.

With only himself to rely on, Mark (who is primarily a botanist) is painfully aware of the skills he lacks, skills he relied on in his crewmembers who specialize in chemistry, or engineering, or other sciences. While it becomes clear that his botany skills will be a crucial part of his survival, so are all these others, and without any possibility of cooperating, he has to go it alone. He’s in the position of the folks who try to build a toaster entirely from scratch, or make a sandwich all on their own.

I loved reading The Martian, and I can’t wait to see the movie. Stories like this, and like Battlestar Galactica and others, allow me to explore the limits of the human ability to survive. I’m happy to visit those worlds and to entertain myself with their emotional and suspenseful visions of life on the narrowest of possible margins.

But the world I want to live in is the one where cooperation, through the mechanisms of the market, brings us movies about scarcity and survival, while outside the movie theater we enjoy real-life abundance. And also, maybe one day, a replicator that will allow my own cup of “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot” to shimmer miraculously into being.

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

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

G. Stolyarov II and xpallodoc Discuss the Future – Video Interview

G. Stolyarov II and xpallodoc Discuss the Future – Video Interview

On November 30, 2014, Mr. Stolyarov was interviewed by YouTube user xpallodoc, and the wide-ranging discussion encompassed subjects from visions of the future, indefinite life extension and the concept of I-ness, the future of money and economies, technological progress, virtual worlds, political barriers to progress, artificial intelligence, marriage and family, and being part of the push toward radical abundance and technological breakthroughs within our lifetimes.

– “Individual Empowerment through Emerging Technologies: Virtual Tools for a Better Physical World” – Video by G. Stolyarov II
– “How Can I Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self” – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Strides of Technology, Op. 30 (2004) – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II

Strides of Technology, Op. 30 (2004) – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
October 19, 2014

This 2004 piano composition by Mr. Stolyarov illustrates the determined advances of technological progress, interspersed with the peaceful, leisurely contemplation that technologically driven rises in living standards and abundance make possible.

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

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

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

The artwork is the “Internal View of the Stanford Torus Space Station Design“, painted by Donald Davis in 1975 and released by the artist into the public domain.

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

More of Everything for Everyone – Article by Bradley Doucet

More of Everything for Everyone – Article by Bradley Doucet

The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
July 4, 2012
At any given time, I like to be reading one fiction and one non-fiction book. Rarely, though, do my choices dovetail as serendipitously as they did just recently when I was reading Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think (2012) by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler alongside The Diamond Age (1995) by Neal Stephenson. The former is a look at the world-changing technologies coming down the pipe in a variety of fields that promise a brighter future for all of humanity. The latter is a story set in such a future, where diamonds are cheaper than glass.If Stephenson’s world of inexpensive diamonds sounds farfetched to you, consider the entirely factual tale that Diamandis and Kotler use to kick off their book. Once upon a time, you see, aluminum was the world’s most precious metal. As late as the 1800s, aluminum utensils were reserved for the most honoured guests at royal banquets, the other guests having to make do with mere gold utensils. But in fact, aluminum is the third most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, behind oxygen and silicon. It makes up 8.3 percent of the mass of the planet. But it is never found in nature as a pure metal, and early procedures for separating it out of the claylike material called bauxite were prohibitively expensive. Modern procedures have made it so ubiquitous and cheap that we wrap our food in it and then discard it without so much as a second thought.

The moral of the story is that scarcity is often contextual. Technology, as the authors explain, is a “resource-liberating mechanism.” And the technologies being developed right now have the power to liberate enough resources to feed, clothe, educate, and free the world.

The Future Looks Bright

Peter Diamandis is the Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, best known for the $10-million Ansari X PRIZE that launched the private spaceflight industry. He conceived of the project back in 1993 after reading Charles Lindbergh’s The Spirit of St-Louis (1954) and learning about the $25,000 prize funded by Raymond Orteig that spurred Lindbergh to make the first ever non-stop flight from New York to Paris in 1927. Diamandis also holds degrees in molecular biology and aerospace engineering from MIT and a medical degree from Harvard.

Diamandis and his co-author, best-selling writer and journalist Steven Kotler, do not attempt to paper over the plight of the world’s poor, who still lack adequate clean water, food, energy, health care, and education. Still, there has been significant progress “at the bottom” in the past four decades. “During that stretch, the developing world has seen longer life expectancies, lower infant mortality rates, better access to information, communication, education, potential avenues out of poverty, quality health care, political freedoms, economic freedoms, sexual freedoms, human rights, and saved time.”

It is technology that has improved the lot of many of the world’s poor, and in Abundance, we get a quick tour of dozens of the latest exponential technologies that are poised to make serious dents in humanity’s remaining scarcity problems. There is the Lifesaver water purification system, the jerry can version of which can produce 25,000 litres of safe drinking water, enough for a family of four for three years, for only half a cent a day. There is aeroponic vertical farming—essentially a skyscraper filled with suspended plants on every floor being fed through a nutrient-rich mist—which requires 80 percent less land, 90 percent less water, and 100 percent fewer pesticides than current farming practices. There are advances that promise to make solar power more affordable and easier to store, which is going to be huge given that “[t]here is more energy in the sunlight that strikes the Earth’s surface in an hour than all the fossil energy consumed in one year.”

Stephenson’s The Diamond Age actually gets a mention in the chapter on education thanks to its depiction of what experts in artificial intelligence (AI) refer to as a “lifelong learning companion,” which has a central role to play in the novel. The Khan Academy has already shaken things up with its 2,000+ free online educational videos and two million visitors a month as of the summer of 2011. But things will be shaken up again soon enough by these AI tutors that “track learning over the course of one’s lifetime, both insuring a mastery-level education and making exquisitely personalized recommendations about what exactly a student should learn next.” With mobile telephony already sweeping the developing world and with smartphones getting cheaper and more powerful with each passing year, it won’t be long before there’s an AI tutor in every pocket.

Abundance, Freedom, and the Ultimate Resource

To sum up, in the world of the future, although there will be more humans on the planet, each one of us will be far wealthier on average than we are today. We will have more water, more food, more energy, more education, more health care, and make less of an impact on the natural environment to boot. And the healthy, educated, well-fed inhabitants of the world of tomorrow will be freer as well, no longer kept down by force of arms and blight of ignorance. We’ve already had a glimpse of what mobile phones and information technology can accomplish in last year’s Arab Spring, regardless of whether or not Egypt has made the most of the opportunity.

Not that we should be complacent, though. There are no guarantees, and any number of factors could derail us from the path we’re on. But there are powerful forces pushing us in a positive direction. The X PRIZE Foundation is doing its best to spur innovation with various prizes modelled after its initial success. Technophilanthropists like Bill Gates are also doing their part. And then there are the poor themselves, the bottom billions who are becoming the rising billions. As Diamandis and Kotler write, echoing the late Julian Simon, author of The Ultimate Resource:

[T]he greatest tool we have for tackling our grand challenges is the human mind. The information and communications revolution now underway is rapidly spreading across the planet. Over the next eight years, three billion new individuals will be coming online, joining the global conversation, and contributing to the global economy. Their ideas—ideas we’ve never before had access to—will result in new discoveries, products, and inventions that will benefit us all.

I still have a hundred pages or so to go in The Diamond Age, so I don’t know how that story turns out. But in the real world, all signs point to technology-fuelled increases in abundance and freedom in the poorest regions of the planet over the next couple of decades. Abundance encourages us to do everything we can to help those technologies develop and spread, to the benefit of the entire human race.

Bradley Doucet is Le Quebecois Libré‘s English Editor. A writer living in Montreal, he has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also writes for The New Individualist, an Objectivist magazine published by The Atlas Society, and sings.
Review of Tyler Cowen’s “The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better” – Article by Kevin A. Carson

Review of Tyler Cowen’s “The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better” – Article by Kevin A. Carson

The New Renaissance Hat
Kevin A. Carson
July 4, 2012
Stagnation [for Carson]
Published by: Dutton Adult • Year: 2011 • Price: $12.95 • Pages: 128 •

Tyler Cowen’s thesis is that economic growth is leveling off and rates of return decreasing because we’ve already picked the “low-hanging fruit” (meaning innovations and investments that have high returns). The stagnation in GDP and median income in recent decades means “the pace of technological development has slowed down,” and the general population is benefiting less from new ideas.

I would argue, rather, that measured economic growth and income have slowed down precisely because of the increased pace of technological development.

The important trend behind the disappearance of “low-hanging fruit” is the decoupling of improved material quality of life from monetized measures of economic growth and income. Improvements in quality of life—although very real—don’t show up in conventional econometric terms.

Intensive development—increased efficiency in the use of inputs—isn’t necessarily reflected in increased money returns. Unless they’re turned into a source of rents by restrictions on competition, innovations that reduce production costs will benefit consumers in lower prices and better products.

Such rents are central to the business model of “cognitive capitalism”—the “progressive” model of capitalism pushed by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. The most profitable industries in recent years have been those that depend on returns from “intellectual property.” But such artificial scarcities are fast becoming unenforceable, and technologies of abundance are growing so rapidly that they can’t be enclosed as a source of rents.

If anything, we can expect an implosion in metrics like GDP in the coming years, even as quality of life improves enormously.

Cowen almost gets it at one point. “[I]f our food supply chain harvests, retails and sells an apple for $1, that adds a dollar to measured national income.” Exactly: GDP measures value produced in terms of the total cost of inputs consumed—not the use-value we consume, but how much stuff was used up producing it. So anything that reduces the input costs of our standard of living seems to show up as negative growth.

Actually, Cowen contradicts his own thesis. He argues that official GDP figures exaggerate growth because so much of it is simply waste. But that undermines his treatment of reduced money incomes as a proxy for reduced growth in standard of living. If the additional portion of the GDP we spend on waste—and the hours we worked to pay for it—simply disappeared, we’d be better off by that much. He can’t argue both that economic growth is the best measure of technical progress and that the levels of growth that have occurred have too little to do with real productivity.

To be sure, Cowen does address the supposed diminishing returns of technological progress in terms of personal use-value. The blockbuster innovations with the biggest effect on our daily lives, he says, have already been adopted: antibiotics, automobiles, refrigerators, television, air conditioning. There’s been far less change in the character of daily life since 1960 than before. Aside from the Internet, recent innovations have been mostly incremental.

The Internet itself, Cowen argues, may be important in terms of personal happiness, but not of generating either revenue or employment. But to treat revenue generation and employment as ends in themselves—rather than a way to pay for stuff—is perverse. If the price of what we need falls because the amount of labor and capital needed to produce it falls, then we need less revenue—and less labor—for the same standard of living. The real significance of what Cowen mistakenly calls “stagnation” is that a growing share of our needs is being decoupled from revenue by technologies of abundance.

The reduced wage employment needed to produce our standard of living, as such, is a good thing. What’s bad is when artificial property rights enable rentier classes to appropriate the benefits of increased productivity for themselves. Our goal should not be to increase the number of “full-time jobs,” but to make sure that the productivity of the hours we do work is fully internalized.

Cowen focuses mainly on the Internet as part of the furniture of daily life—the fun of web surfing—to the neglect of a far more important benefit: the basic way society itself is organized, the relative power of the individual and networks versus large institutions, and the declining ability of hierarchies to enforce their will on us.

His focus on the objects of daily life ignores revolutionary changes in the way they’re made and on the structure of the economy. There’s not such a revolutionary change in going from picture tubes to gel panels, or from carburetors to fuel injectors. But there’s an enormous difference between John Kenneth Galbraith’s mass-production oligopoly economy and one of networked garage shops using cheap machine tools.

C4SS Senior Fellow Kevin Carson is a contemporary mutualist author and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: An Individualist Anarchist Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. Carson has also written for such print publications as The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty and a variety of internet-based journals and blogs, including Just Things, The Art of the Possible, the P2P Foundation and his own Mutualist Blog.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

A Libertarian Transhumanist Critique of Jeffrey Tucker’s “A Lesson in Mortality” – Audio Essay by G. Stolyarov II, Read by Wendy Stolyarov

A Libertarian Transhumanist Critique of Jeffrey Tucker’s “A Lesson in Mortality” – Audio Essay by G. Stolyarov II, Read by Wendy Stolyarov

Mr. Stolyarov, a libertarian transhumanist, offers a rebuttal to the arguments in Jeffrey Tucker’s 2005 essay, “A Lesson in Mortality“.

This essay is read by Wendy Stolyarov.

As a libertarian transhumanist, Mr. Stolyarov sees the defeat of “inevitable” human mortality as the logical outcome of the intertwined forces of free markets and technological progress – the very forces about which Mr. Tucker writes at length.

Read the text of Mr. Stolyarov’s essay here.
Download the MP3 file of this essay here.
Download a vast compendium of audio essays by Mr. Stolyarov and others at TRA Audio.


It’s a Jetsons World – Book by Jeffrey Tucker
– “Without Rejecting IP, Progress is Impossible” – Essay by Jeffrey Tucker – July 18, 2010
– “The Quest for Indefinite Life II: The Seven Deadly Things and Why There Are Only Seven” – Essay by Dr. Aubrey de Grey – July 30, 2004
Resources on Indefinite Life Extension (RILE)
– “How Can I Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self” – Essay by G. Stolyarov II

A Libertarian Transhumanist Critique of Jeffrey Tucker’s “A Lesson in Mortality” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

A Libertarian Transhumanist Critique of Jeffrey Tucker’s “A Lesson in Mortality” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
May 13, 2012

Jeffrey Tucker is one of my favorite pro-technology libertarian thinkers of our time. In his essays and books (see, for instance, It’s a Jetsons World), Mr. Tucker eloquently draws the connection between free markets and technological progress – and how the power of human creativity within a spontaneous order can overcome the obstructions posed by stagnant political and attitudinal paradigms. Mr. Tucker embraces the innovations of the Internet age and has written on their connection with philosophical debates – such as whether the idea of intellectual property is even practically tenable anymore, now that electronic technology renders certain human creations indefinitely reproducible.

Because I see Mr. Tucker as such an insightful advocate of technological progress in a free-market context, I was particularly surprised to read his 2005 article, “A Lesson in Mortality” – where Mr. Tucker contends that death is an inescapable aspect of the human condition. His central argument is best expressed in his own words: “Death impresses upon us the limits of technology and ideology. It comes in time no matter what we do. Prosperity has lengthened life spans and science and entrepreneurship has made available amazing technologies that have forestalled and delayed it. Yet, it must come.” Mr. Tucker further argues that “Modernity has a problem intellectually processing the reality of death because we are so unwilling to defer to the implacable constraints imposed on us within the material world… To recognize the inevitability of death means confessing that there are limits to our power to manufacture a reality for ourselves.

Seven years is a long time, and I am not aware of whether Mr. Tucker’s views on this subject have evolved since this article was published. Here, I offer a rebuttal to his main arguments and invite a response.

To set the context for his article, Mr. Tucker discusses the deaths of short-lived pets within his family – and how his children learned the lesson to grieve for and remember those whom they lost, but then to move on relatively quickly and to proceed with the business of life – “to think about death only when they must, but otherwise to live and love every breath.” While I appreciate the life-embracing sentiment here, I think it concedes too much to death and decay.

As a libertarian transhumanist, I see the defeat of “inevitable” human mortality as the logical outcome of the intertwined forces of free markets and technological progress. While we will not, at any single instant in time, be completely indestructible and invulnerable to all possible causes of death, technological progress – if not thwarted by political interference and reactionary attitudes – will sequentially eliminate causes of death that would have previously killed millions. This has already happened in many parts of the world with regard to killers like smallpox, typhus, cholera, malaria – and many others. It is not a stretch to extrapolate this progression and apply it to perils such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and ALS. Since human life expectancy has already increased roughly five-fold since the Paleolithic era, it is not inconceivable that – with continued progress – another five-fold or greater increase can be achieved.

As biogerontologist and famous life-extension advocate Dr. Aubrey de Grey points out, the seven basic types of damage involved in human senescence are already known – each for at least thirty years. With advances in computing capacity, as well as accelerating medical discoveries that have already achieved life extension in mice, rats, and other small organisms, there is hope that medical progress will arrive at similar breakthroughs for us within our lifetimes. Once life expectancy begins to increase by more than one year for every year of time that passes, we will have reached longevity escape velocity – a condition where the more we live, the more probability we will have of surviving even longer. In February 2012 I began an online compendium of Resources on Indefinite Life Extension, which tracks ongoing developments in this field and provides access to a wide array of media to show that life extension is not just science fiction, but an ongoing enterprise.

To Mr. Tucker, I pose the question of why he appears to think that despite the technological progress and economic freedom whose benefits he clearly recognizes, there would always be some upper limit on human longevity that these incredibly powerful forces would be unable to breach. What evidence exists for such a limit – and, even if such evidence exists, why does Mr. Tucker appear to assume that our currently finite lifespans are not just a result of our ignorance, which could be remedied in a more advanced and enlightened future? In the 15th century, for instance, humans were limited in their technical knowledge from achieving powered flight, even though visionaries such as Leonardo da Vinci correctly anticipated the advent of flying machines. Imagine if a Renaissance scholar made the argument to da Vinci that, while the advances of the Renaissance have surely produced improvements in art, architecture, music, and commerce, nature still imposes insurmountable limits on humans taking to the skies! “Sure,” this scholar might say, “we can now construct taller and sturdier buildings, but the realm of the birds will be forever beyond our reach.” He might say, paraphrasing Mr. Tucker, “[Early] modernity has a problem intellectually processing the reality of eternally grounded humans because we are so unwilling to defer to the implacable constraints imposed on us within the material world. To recognize the inevitability of human grounding means confessing that there are limits to our power to manufacture a reality for ourselves.” What would have happened to a society that fully accepted such arguments? Perhaps the greatest danger we can visit upon ourselves is to consider a problem so “inevitable” that nothing can be done about it. By accepting this inevitability as a foregone conclusion, we foreclose on the inherently unpredictable possibilities that human creativity and innovation can offer. In other words, we foreclose on a better future.

Mr. Tucker writes that “Whole ideologies have been concocted on the supposition that such constraints [on the material world] do not have to exist. That is the essence of socialism. It is the foundation of US imperialism too, with its cocky supposition that there is nothing force cannot accomplish, that there are no limits to the uses of power.” It is a significant misunderstanding of transhumanism to compare it to either socialism or imperialism. Both socialism and imperialism rely on government force to achieve an outcome deemed to be just or expedient. Transhumanism does not depend on force. While governments can and do fund scientific research, this is not an optimal implementation of transhuman aspirations, since government funding of research is notoriously conservative and reluctant to risk taxpayer funds on projects without short-term, visible payoffs about which politicians can boast. Furthermore, government funding of research renders it easier for the research to be thwarted by taxpayers – such as fundamentalist evangelical Christians – who disagree with the aims of such research. The most rapid technological advances can be achieved on a pure free market, where research is neither subsidized nor restricted by any government.

Moreover, force is an exceedingly blunt instrument. While it can be used to some effect to dispose of criminals and tyrants, even there it is tremendously imperfect and imposes numerous unintended negative consequences. Transhumanism is not about attempting to overcome material constraints by using coercion. It is, rather, about improving our understanding of natural laws and our ability to harness mind and matter by giving free rein to human experimentation in applying these laws.

Transhumanism fully embraces Francis Bacon’s dictum that “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.” This means working within material constraints – including the laws of economics – and making the most of what is possible. But this also means using human ingenuity to push out our material limits. As genetic modification of crops has resulted in vastly greater volumes of food production, so can genetic engineering, rejuvenation therapies, and personalized medicine eventually result in vastly longer human lifespans. Transhumanism is the logical extrapolation of a free-market economy. The closer we get to an unfettered free market, the faster we could achieve the transhuman goals of indefinite life extension, universal wealth, space colonization, ubiquitous erudition and high culture, and the conquest of natural and manmade existential risks.

Mr. Tucker writes that recognizing the inevitability of death “is akin to admitting that certain fundamental facts of the world, like the ubiquity of scarcity, cannot be changed. Instead of attempting to change it, we must imagine social systems that come to terms with it. This is the core claim of economic science, and it is also the very reason so many refuse to acknowledge its legitimacy or intellectual binding power.” It is undeniable that scarcity exists, and that scarcity of some sort will always exist. However, there are degrees of scarcity. Food, for instance, is much less scarce today than in the Paleolithic era, when the earth could support barely more than a million humans. Furthermore, in some realms, such as digital media, Mr. Tucker himself has acknowledged that scarcity is no longer a significant limitation – because of the capacity to indefinitely reproduce works of art, music, and writing. With the proximate advent of technologies such as three-dimensional printing and tabletop nano-manufacturing, more and more goods will begin to assume qualities that more closely resemble digital goods. Then, as now, some physical resources will be required to produce anything – and these physical resources would continue to be subject to the constraints of scarcity. But it is not inconceivable that we would eventually end up in a Star Trek world of replicators that can manufacture most small-scale goods out of extremely cheap basic substances, which would render those goods nearly free to reproduce. Even in such a world, more traditional techniques may be required to construct larger structures, but subsequent advances may make even those endeavors faster, cheaper, and more accessible.

At no point in time would human lifespans be infinite (in the sense of complete indestructibility or invulnerability). A world of scarcity is, however, compatible with indefinite lifespans that do not have an upper bound. A person’s life expectancy at any point in time would be finite, but that finite amount might increase faster than the person’s age. Even in the era of longevity escape velocity, some people would still die of accidents, unforeseen illnesses, or human conflicts. But the motivation to conquer these perils will be greatly increased once the upper limit on human lifespans is lifted. Thus, I expect actual human mortality to asymptotically approach zero, though perhaps without ever reaching zero entirely. Still, for a given individual, death would no longer be an inevitability, particularly if that individual behaves in a risk-averse fashion and takes advantage of cutting-edge advancements. Even if death is always a danger on some level, is it not better to act to delay or prevent it – and therefore to get as much time as possible to live, create, and enjoy?

Mr. Tucker writes: “To discover the fountain of youth is a perpetual obsession, one that finds its fulfillment in the vitamin cults that promise immortality. We create government programs to pay for people to be kept alive forever on the assumption that death is always and everywhere unwarranted and ought to be stopped. There is no such thing as ‘natural death’ anymore; the very notion strikes us as a cop out.” It is true that there are and have always been many dubious remedies, promising longevity-enhancing benefits without any evidence. However, even if false remedies are considered, we have come a long way from the Middle Ages, where, in various parts of the world, powders of gold, silver, or lead – or even poisons such as arsenic – were considered to have life-extending powers. More generally, the existence of charlatans, frauds, snake-oil salesmen, and gullible consumers does not discredit genuine, methodical, scientific approaches toward life extension or any other human benefit. Skepticism and discernment are always called for, and we should always be vigilant regarding “cures” that sound too good to be true. Nobody credible has said that conquering our present predicament of mortality would be easy or quick. There is no pill one can swallow, and there is little in terms of lifestyle that one can do today – other than exercising regularly and avoiding obviously harmful behaviors – to materially lengthen one’s lifespan. However, if some of the best minds in the world are able to utilize some of the best technology we have – and to receive the philosophical support of the public and the material support of private donors for doing so – then this situation may change within our lifetimes. It is far better to live with this hope, and to work toward this outcome, than to resign oneself to the inevitability of death.

As regards government programs, I find no evidence for Mr. Tucker’s assertion that these programs are the reason that people are being kept alive longer. Implicit in that assertion is the premise that, on a fully free market (where the cost of high-quality healthcare would ultimately be cheaper), people would not voluntarily pay to extend the lives of elderly or seriously ill patients to the same extent that they expect such life extension to occur when funded by Medicare or by the national health-care systems in Canada and Europe. Indeed, Mr. Tucker’s assertion here poses a serious danger to defenders of the free market. It renders them vulnerable to the allegation that an unfettered free market would shorten life expectancies and invite the early termination of elderly or seriously ill patients – in short, the classic nightmare scenario of eliminating the weak, sickly, or otherwise “undesirable” elements. This is precisely what a free market would not result in, because the desire to live is extremely strong for most individuals, and free individuals using their own money would be much more likely to put it toward keeping themselves alive than would a government-based system which must ultimately ration care in one way or another.

Mr. Tucker writes: “Thus do we insist on always knowing the ‘cause’ of death, as if it only comes about through an exogenous intervention, like hurricanes, traffic accidents, shootings, and bombs. But even when a person dies of his own accord, we always want to know so that we have something to blame. Heart failure? Well, he or she might have done a bit more exercise. Let this be a lesson. Cancer? It’s probably due to smoking, or perhaps second-hand smoke. Or maybe it was the carcinogens introduced by food manufacturers or factories. We don’t want to admit that it was just time for a person to die.” Particularly as Austrian Economics, of which Mr. Tucker is a proponent, champions a rigorous causal analysis of phenomena, the above excerpt strikes me as incongruous with how rational thinkers ought to approach any event. Clearly, there are no uncaused events; there is nothing inexplicable in nature. Sometimes the explanations may be difficult or complex to arrive at; sometimes our minds are too limited to grasp the explanations at our present stage of knowledge and technological advancement. However, all valid questions are ultimately answerable, and all problems are ultimately solvable – even if not by us. The desire to know the cause of a death is a desire to know the answers to important questions, and to derive value from such answers by perhaps gathering information that would help oneself and others avoid a similar fate. To say that “it was just time for a person to die” explains nothing; it only attempts to fill in the gaps in our knowledge with an authoritative assertion that forecloses on further inquiry and discovery. While this may, to some, be comforting as a way of “moving on” – to me and other transhumanists it is an eminently frustrating way of burying the substance of the matter with a one-liner.

Mr. Tucker also compares death to sleep: “The denial of death’s inevitability is especially strange since life itself serves up constant reminders of our physical limits. Sleep serves as a kind of metaphor for death. We can stay awake working and having fun up to 18 hours, even 24 or 36, but eventually we must bow to our natures and collapse and sleep. We must fall unconscious so that we can be revived to continue on with our life.” While sleep is a suspension of some activities, death and sleep could not be more different. Sleep is temporary, while death is permanent. Sleep preserves significant aspects of consciousness, as well as a continuity of operations for the brain and the rest of the body. While one sleeps, one’s brain is hard at work “repackaging” the contents of one’s memory to prepare one for processing fresh experiences the next day. Death, on the other hand, is not a preparation for anything. It is the cessation of the individual, not a buildup to something greater or more active. In “How Can I Live Forever: What Does or Does Not Preserve the Self”, I describe the fundamental difference between processes, such as sleep, which preserve the basic continuity of bodily functions (and thus one’s unique vantage point or “I-ness”) and processes that breach this continuity and result in the cessation of one’s being. Continuity-preserving processes are fundamentally incomparable to continuity-breaching processes, and thus the ubiquity and necessity of sleep can tell us nothing regarding death.

Mr. Tucker validly notes that the human desire to live forever can manifest itself in the desire to leave a legacy and to create works that outlive the individual. This is an admirable sentiment, and it is one that has fueled the progress of human civilization even in eras when mortality was truly inevitable. I am glad that our ancestors had this motivation to overcome the sense of futility and despair that their individual mortality would surely have engendered otherwise. But we, standing on their shoulders and benefiting from their accomplishments, can do better. The wonders of technological progress within the near term, about which Mr. Tucker writes eloquently and at length, can be extrapolated to the medium and long term in order for us to see that the transhumanist ideal of indefinite life extension is both feasible and desirable. Free markets, entrepreneurship, and human creativity will help pave the way to the advances that could save us from the greatest peril of them all. I hope that, in time, Mr. Tucker will embrace this prospect as the incarnation, not the enemy, of libertarian philosophy and rational, free-market economics.