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The Rational Argumentator’s Sixteenth Anniversary Manifesto

The Rational Argumentator’s Sixteenth Anniversary Manifesto

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
September 2, 2018
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On August 31, 2018, The Rational Argumentator completed its sixteenth year of publication. TRA is older than Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Reddit; it has outlasted Yahoo! Geocities, Associated Content, Helium, and most smaller online publications in philosophy, politics, and current events. Furthermore, the age of TRA now exceeds half of my lifetime to date. During this time, while the Internet and the external world shifted dramatically many times over, The Rational Argumentator strived to remain a bulwark of consistency – accepting growth in terms of improvement of infrastructure and accumulation of content, but not the tumultuous sweeping away of the old to ostensibly make room for the new. We do not look favorably upon tumultuous upheaval; the future may look radically different from the past and present, but ideally should be built in continuity with both, and with preservation of any beneficial aspects that can possibly be preserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rational Argumentator’s Fifteenth Anniversary Manifesto

The Rational Argumentator’s Fifteenth Anniversary Manifesto

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
August 31, 2017
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As of today The Rational Argumentator has been in publication continuously for fifteen years – half of my lifetime to date. The more time passes, the more the value of continuity is reinforced for me, and so I hope that these fifteen years have only been an auspicious beginning for The Rational Argumentator. TRA shall continually endeavor to improve and expand in new directions, but always by building upon the old and by remaining rooted in a core identity – the championing of the principles of Reason, Rights, and Progress – the ideas that made Western civilization great. These ideals will hopefully be applied to forge a new global, universal human (and transhuman) civilization which we – all reasonable and decent people who wish to join this effort – can assemble by picking up the pieces of the wreckage of our unfortunate, downward-spiraling moment in history.

We live today in what Robert Heinlein prognosticated in his science fiction as the “Crazy Years”, which he described as exhibiting “Considerable technical advance during this period, accompanied by a gradual deterioration of mores, orientation, and social institutions” – gradual deterioration that became quite sudden and cataclysmic in 2016 and 2017. The climate of contemporary societies and political systems, particularly that of the United States, evokes William Butler Yeats’s famous lines:

  Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The deterioration cannot be attributed to any particular individual or even faction (these are, at most, symptoms), but rather to the fraying general fabric of contemporary Western, particularly American, life. Those who have regularly read the pages of The Rational Argumentator will not be surprised at my view that the deterioration is primarily due to the abandonment of upward aspiration both within mainstream culture and among various subcultures – a rejection of 18th-century Enlightenment meliorism and an embrace of postmodern aimlessness. To reverse this tendency, now, more than ever, it is essential to emphasize the importance of rational inquiry, civil discourse, and the mindset of building a civilization – as opposed to militant subjectivism (where a person considers his or her feelings to be unquestioned dogma – and woe to those who challenge them!), coarse crudity in manners, riotousness, and the mindset of “tearing down the system” in a futile attempt to start from scratch. We cannot and must not start over – for the primitive state of humankind is far worse than our admittedly deeply imperfect morass of institutions and norms. But we can – and we must – repair and build upon the achievements of the past, combining them with new technologies and insights to forge the next great era of our civilization, a project I outline briefly in a two-party video series, “The Great Transhumanist Game”.

Amid the turmoil, I was pleased to see that The Rational Argumentator has gained notice and achieved significant increases in its visitation, receiving 1,087,149 total page views during its fifteenth year, as compared to 823,968 page views the year prior. Cumulative lifetime TRA visitation stands at 10,979,785 page views, and I am confident that the 11-million mark will be exceeded in September 2017. Perhaps more readers are seeking an antidote to the Crazy Years. Reason is that antidote, and these pages provide it in abundance.

During its fifteenth year, TRA published 140 features. While this was a lower rate of publication than the 208 to 314 features published per year in the preceding five years, TRA has at the same time become allied with the United States Transhumanist Party, of which I became Chairman in November 2016. The U.S. Transhumanist Party website has been brimming with new content, contributed by a wide variety of forward-thinking minds, and I am proud that this young but steadily growing organization has published 105 features during my tenure as Chairman thus far. I am also proud of the cadre of volunteer Officers that the U.S. Transhumanist Party has assembled – a team of dedicated advocates for the future, which will hopefully greatly expand with time and become the core of a movement that will transform and redirect society and culture back toward the ideals of reason and amelioration.

Thus, for the upcoming year, I pose an ambitious task for The Rational Argumentator and its readers. Let us make sure that Yeats’s words remain a warning rather than the ever-present reality. The center must hold, and we must ensure that it holds. Each of us can participate in this project. We must become the center upon which human civilization depends for its survival, continuity, and growth. Through both great endeavors and small, routine maintenance tasks; through creation of elevated and noble works, as well as everyday kindnesses to the people in our lives; through the rhetoric that inspires great aspirations and the decorum that conveys respect and uplifts our sentiments into the realm of good will – we must be the agents of cultural transformation – a New Renaissance, a Re-Enlightenment, indeed, a Recivilization to follow the Crazy Years. One of my most inspired moments of the past year has been seeing the finished painting of the City of New Antideath, which I commissioned from artist Ekaterinya Vladinakova. I invite you to gaze upon this colossal cityscape to gain glimpses at an era where all of our major aims – the return of reason as the paradigm for life, the attainment of indefinite longevity, the liberation of humankind from privation and conflict – have been attained. May it inspire you to go forth and take the many necessary incremental steps toward such a world.

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

The Rational Argumentator’s Fourteenth Anniversary Manifesto: Who Is the Western Man?

The Rational Argumentator’s Fourteenth Anniversary Manifesto: Who Is the Western Man?

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
August 31, 2016
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Who Is the Western Man?

On the fourteenth anniversary of The Rational Argumentator, it is fitting to consider the tagline that has been featured on TRA since its founding: “A Journal for Western Man”. But who is this Western Man for whom The Rational Argumentator is intended? In 2002, the answer to that question seemed rather apparent for at least a substantial segment of then-prevalent libertarian, conservative, and Objectivist thinkers who, each in their own way, understood the Western Man to stand for the general cultural ideals and noblest aspirations of Western civilization.

Unfortunately, the decade of the 2010s and the past two years especially have seen the rise of a noxious and fundamentally anti-Western, anti-modern, and anti-civilization movement known as the “alt-right”, which has attempted to appropriate the rhetoric of Western culture and even of the Renaissance for itself. The Rational Argumentator will not allow this appropriation to remain unchallenged. TRA stands resolutely in opposition to all forms of bigotry, racism, nativism, misogyny, and any other circumstantially rooted intolerance – all of which are contrary to the ideals of high Western civilization. But at the same time, The Rational Argumentator also cannot cave to the “social justice” campus activism of the far Left, which would have even the very identification of Western culture and civilization banished, lest it offend the ever-more-delicate sensibilities of firebrand youths who resolutely refuse to let knowledge of the external world get in the way of their “feelings” and subjective experiences. TRA will not abandon the Western Man, but will continue to explain what it is that the Western Man represents and why these principles are more important and enduring than any tumultuous, ephemeral, and most likely futile and self-defeating activist movements of our era.

So who is the Western Man? It is a not a particular man from the West. It is not a descriptor limited to a particular subset of individuals based on their birth, skin color, national origin, or even gender. Indeed, my original intent behind the “Western Man” descriptor was specifically to salvage the generic term “man” – meaning an archetypical representative of humankind – from any suggestions that it must necessarily be gender-specific. This subtitle was meant transparently to imply, “Of course, ‘Western Man’ includes women, too!”  Some of the greatest and most courageous Western Men – from Hypatia of Alexandria to Mary Wollstonecraft to Ayn Rand to Ayaan Hirsi Ali – have been women.

A Western Man can have been born anywhere, have any physical features, any age, any gender (or lack of gender identity), any sexual preferences (or lack thereof), any religion (or lack thereof) – as long as he/she/it is a thinking being who accepts the valuable contributions of Western culture and civilization and seeks to build upon them. If self-aware, rational artificial intelligences are developed in the future, or if an intelligent alien species comes into contact with us, these beings could potentially be Western Men as well.

A Western Man will respect and seek to learn from the great philosophy, literature, art, music, natural and social sciences, mathematics, and political theory that flourished in Western societies throughout the past three millennia – although by no means is a Western man required to focus exclusively on ideas that originated in the West. Indeed, Western culture itself has unceasingly interacted with and absorbed the intellectual contributions of Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Arabic, Persian, Indian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese thinkers and creators – to provide just a few examples. Likewise, a great deal of hope for the future of Western civilization can be found among entrepreneurs in Asia, Africa, and Latin America who have endeavored, with notable success, to spread the technologies of the digital age, construct great buildings, and lift billions of people out of abject poverty and into humane and respectable living standards accompanied by ever-increasing longevity.

A Western Man is someone who embraces the ideal of cosmopolitan universalism – a rejection of circumstantially defined tribalism, of the casting of people as “one of us” or “the other” based on attributes that they did not choose. This cosmopolitan universalism is the product of both a long-evolving philosophical framework and the material abundance that enabled the broadening of what Adam Smith termed our circles of sympathy to encompass ever more people.

The edifice of Western philosophical thought has been built upon by thinkers since the times of Thales, Socrates, and Aristotle – but its greatest intellectual breakthroughs were made during the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment. The Western Men who embraced these ideals were often personally flawed; they were men of their time and constrained by the practical realities and social mores that surrounded them. Some Western Men throughout history have, unfortunately, owned slaves, respected individual liberty only in some instances, or been improperly prejudiced against broad groups of people due to ignorance or gaps in the consistent application of their principles. Nonetheless, the legacy of their work – the notions of universal, inalienable individual rights and the preciousness of each person’s liberty and humanity – has been indispensable for later accomplishments, such as the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage and liberation, civil and privacy rights, cultural and legal acceptance of homosexuality, and recognition of individual rights for members of religious minorities, atheists, and children. If we are able to see farther and know better than to repeat some of the moral errors of the past, it is because, to paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton, we stand on the shoulders of intellectual giants who paved the way for our embrace of the aforementioned great cultural achievements.

The ideals of peaceful commerce and cultural exchange – indeed, cultural appropriation (in an educated, informed, and deliberate manner) of the best elements of every time, place, and way of life – have resulted in a dramatic reduction in warfare, a general decline in nationalistic and tribal hatreds, and a widespread understanding of the essential humanity of our fellows in all parts of the world. Were it not for the intellectual achievements of Western civilization and the global commercial and industrial networks to which it gave rise, humankind would still be embroiled in a bitter, Hobbesian war of all against all. A Western Man is anyone who gives the essential achievements of modernity their well-deserved recognition and admiration, and who studies and offers justified respect to the forebears and authors of these achievements. A Western Man is also anyone who seeks to build upon these accomplishments and add his, her, or its distinctive bricks to the edifice of human progress.

A Western Man is not a fanatic or a bully, and sees fanatics and bullies as the threats to civilization that they are. A Western Man does not use ideology to stifle peaceful expression or compel others to dutifully “know their place” within some would-be totalitarian static social order. A Western Man knows that some people will disagree with him, her, or it, and they have the right to disagree peacefully. However, they do not have the right to be protected from attempts at persuasion or the presentation of diverse and possibly contrary views.

A Western Man embraces reason as the way to discover more about the external world and about human beings. Reason is not the exclusive province of any subset of people; anyone is capable of it, but it takes training and effort – and great respect for the intellect – to utilize consistently and properly. From reason stem the empirical scientific method, the deductive processes of formal logic and mathematics, and the application of empirical and logical truths to the development of technology which improves the human condition. A Western Man does not vilify technology, but rather sees it as a key driver of human progress and an enabler of moral growth by giving people the time and space which prosperity affords, making possible contemplation of better ways of living and relating to others – a prerogative only available to those liberated from hand-to-mouth subsistence.

The ideal of the Western Man is to maintain the great things which have already been brought into this world, and to create new achievements that further improve human life. There is thus both a conservative and a progressive motive within the Western Man, and they must combine to sustain a rich and vital civilization. A Western Man can go by labels such as “liberal”, “conservative”, “libertarian”, “progressive”, or “apolitical” – as long as they are accompanied by careful thought, study, discernment, work ethic, and an earnest desire to build what is good instead of, out of rage or spite, tearing down whatever exists. Conservation of great achievements and progress in creating new achievements are not antagonists, but rather part of the same essential mode of functioning of the Western Man – transcending petty and often false political antagonisms which needlessly create acrimony among people who should all be working to take civilization to the next level.

The next level of civilization – the unceasing expansion of human potential – is the preoccupation of the Western Man. This – not descending into contrived identitarian antagonisms – is the great project of our era. Building on the philosophical groundwork laid by Enlightenment humanism and its derivatives, a Western Man can explore the next stage of intellectual evolution – that of transhumanism, which promises to liberate humankind from its age-old shackles of death, disease, severe scarcity, Earth-boundedness, and internecine conflict.

Who is the Western Man? If you accept the challenge and the honor of supporting and building upon the great civilization which offers us unparalleled opportunities to create a glorious future for all – then the Western Man can be you.

TRA Statistics and Achievements During Its Fourteenth Year

TRA published 211 regular features during its fourteenth year, a rate of publication comparable to that of the eleventh and thirteenth years, while remaining below the extremely active tenth and twelfth years, as shown in the table below:

TRA Year Regular Features Published Page Views in Year
10th 306 1,302,774
11th 208 1,077,192
12th 314 1,430,226
13th 228 892,082
14th 211 823,968

With slightly less content published during the fourteenth year, and a similar average number of page views per published feature (3,905.06 in the fourteenth year versus 3,912.64 in the thirteenth year), it could be expected that total page views would decline slightly. While TRA did not reach the milestone of 10,000,000 cumulative page views during its fourteenth year, it did come the overwhelming majority of the way toward it. Total lifetime TRA visitation currently stands at 9,892,636 page views. However, I am confident that the 10-million page-view threshold will be exceeded within the next two months.

I have reason to expect that publication activity will again accelerate during TRA’s fifteenth year, although this may not occur immediately. Over the past year, I have been occupied with satisfying some of the last remaining requirements of my actuarial studies, and their successful completion is in sight. In the meantime, I collaborated with ACTEX Publications to produce a major 400-page commercial study guide, Practice Problems in Advanced Topics in General Insurance, for SOA Exam GIADV.

Several large-scale endeavors within the transhumanist and life-extensionist movements were pursued over the past year. TRA’s anniversary (August 31) coincides with the date of formation of the Nevada Transhumanist Party, a non-election-oriented, non-donation-accepting, policy-oriented party that advocates for the widespread adoption of emerging technologies, individual liberty, and the pursuit of indefinite life extension. The Nevada Transhumanist Party has grown to 107 members during its first year and has been a forum for numerous thought-provoking discussions. Nevada Transhumanist Party activities have occurred online via its Facebook page and its hosted video panels, such as the Panel Discussion on Hereditary Religion, a conversation among Transhumanist Libertarians and Socialists, and the panel for International Longevity Day, in collaboration with MILE – the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension – entitled “How Can Life Extension Become as Popular as the War on Cancer?” In-person activities of the Nevada Transhumanist Party included attendance at a university political lecture, a local Libertarian candidate’s campaign event, and RAAD Fest, the largest in-person gathering of life-extension supporters to date, where I personally met and spoke with such luminaries of the life-extension movement as Aubrey de Grey, Bill Andrews, and Zoltan Istvan.

Gradual but fundamental shifts are occurring that will contribute to more frequent and impactful activity on The Rational Argumentator’s pages during its fifteenth year. As the overview of the Western Man in this manifesto indicates, the importance of TRA’s work and ideals remains paramount. TRA will remain a bulwark of thoughtful consistency in an era where it seems entire societies have become unmoored from core principles that are integral to a successful civilization. We will steadfastly champion the virtues of reason and deliberation, discussion and civil debate, individualism and classical liberal tolerance, creation and maintenance. Even when the tumult of current events calls into question the foundations of civilized life, TRA will be here to reaffirm and uphold them.

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

The Rational Argumentator’s Thirteenth Anniversary Manifesto

The Rational Argumentator’s Thirteenth Anniversary Manifesto

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
August 31, 2015
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On August 31, 2015, The Rational Argumentator celebrates a successful end to its thirteenth year of existence. While TRA’s visitation is still recovering from the Yahoo-initiated closure of Yahoo! Voices in 2014, publication activity continues to be abundant. With the addition of Wendy Stolyarov as an Assistant Editor, more rapid and efficient publication of articles is now possible and has been ongoing for several months. As always, TRA continues to emphasize quality of content to set itself apart as a bastion of high intellectualism and thoughtful discourse that resists both information overload and the dumbing-down effects of the “bite-sized” media culture.

Total thirteenth-year visitation for all TRA features was 892,082 page views – compared to 1,430,226 page views during the twelfth year. The 37.6% decline in visitation is explained by the unfortunate closure of Yahoo! Voices (formerly Associated Content) in July 2014, which eliminated a popular channel through which TRA content was previously accessed and read. However, the milestone of 9 million cumulative views was still exceeded during TRA’s thirteenth year. TRA’s lifetime visitation stands at 9,068,668 page views. I am hopeful that, during TRA’s fourteenth year of operation, the 10-million-view threshold will be exceeded due to an increase to visits directly to The Rational Argumentator’s domain. TRA’s thirteenth year was marked by the publication of 228 regular features, compared to 314 regular features published during the twelfth year, 208 regular features published during the eleventh year, and 306 features published during the tenth year.

Growth in special features has also occurred during the thirteenth year, including special pages dedicated to new Minecraft skyscrapers, The Actuary’s Free, Open-Source Study Guide for SOA Exam GIADV: Advanced Topics in General Insurance (the only study guide for this exam known to me to exist at this time), and six of my new musical compositions. Furthermore, all of my past musical compositions have been remastered and are now available on YouTube in a playlist where they can be listed to in chronological order of their composition, accompanied by my works of fractal art or other inspiring imagery. Listeners can now conveniently hear all 82 of my compositions to date from one convenient location, with automatic transitions between individual works.

A significant innovation in TRA’s outreach activities occurred in 2015 in the form of new video panel discussions held via Google Hangouts on Air, where I recorded conversations with a variety of philosophers, technologists, and futurists – including Demian Zivkovic, Peter Rothman, Kyrel Zantonavitch, Franco Cortese (here and here), Adam Alonzi (here and here) and also facilitated discussions among multiple guests regarding how to accelerate technological progress and how to encourage more people to become techno-optimists. A major public-relations success, facilitated by the same means, was the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension (MILE) Demonstration of March 21, 2015, of which I and Wendy Stolyarov hosted the first three-hour segment.

The spread of my most famous work, Death is Wrong, has continued. This children’s book on indefinite life extension, illustrated by Wendy Stolyarov, is now available in four languages: English, Russian, Spanish, and French. The French Edition of Death is Wrong La mort, c’est mal!was published in May 2015 and was made possible due to the generous translation efforts of Philippe Castonguay. We continue to welcome and greatly appreciate any volunteer efforts to translate this vitally important book into as many languages as possible. Since Death is Wrong was made available as a free PDF download, a total of 3,440 copies have been downloaded from TRA directly – and likely, many more have been downloaded from external file-sharing sites to whose data I do not have access. As a result, the electronic versions of the book have now reached over three times more people than the 1,029 paperback copies that were shipped for distribution to children in 14 countries in 2014. I am pleased by this impact, but wish to see it continue and expand by orders of magnitude. The more awareness there is of the feasibility and desirability of reversing senescence and greatly reducing the probability of involuntary death, the more likely the majority of people will recognize the imperative of greatly accelerating technological progress in our lifetimes.

As TRA enters into its fourteenth year, it will continue to be characterized by the quest for permanence and the expansion of its voluminous content base through the publication of additional thoughtful and thought-provoking features. The promotion of individual liberty, rational philosophy, indefinite life extension, and uplifting esthetics will remain hallmarks of TRA’s mission and output. We will continue to exert a positive, enlightening influence on cultural and political discourse, while always adhering to the high standards and unyielding moral principles that have enabled TRA to endure while short-term-oriented publications have faltered. The Rational Argumentator is now among the oldest extant Internet-only publications, and it shall long outlive many of its more ephemeral counterparts.

The Rational Argumentator’s Twelfth Anniversary Manifesto

The Rational Argumentator’s Twelfth Anniversary Manifesto

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
August 31, 2014
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The Rational Argumentator marks its 12-year anniversary on August 31, 2014. This publication has now reached a venerable age by Internet standards, and its impact only continues to grow. I am pleased to announce that TRA’s trajectory has followed closely the aspirations expressed in the Eleventh Anniversary Manifesto, with many milestones reached and many vital projects completed. There is no doubt in my mind that TRA’s twelfth year was its best so far. Despite the turmoil in the world, The Rational Argumentator has stood firm in its efforts to champion a better way – a path of rationality, individual freedom, and technological progress – in a resolute rejection of the barbaric methods and short-sighted goals of certain “world leaders” today. To memorialize TRA’s unwavering commitment to the improvement of the human condition over the past dozen years, I have added to its header the words “Championing Reason, Rights, and Progress Since 2002”.

Total twelfth-year visitation for all TRA features was 1,430,226 page views – a record high and a significant 32.77% increase over the eleventh-year visitation of 1,077,192 page views. The previous record year for visitation was the ninth year, which brought 1,398,438 page views, and the twelfth year exceeded this amount by 2.27%. TRA’s lifetime visitation stands at 8,176,586 page views. 314 new regular TRA features were published in 2014, in addition to many special features, some of which amount to hundreds of pages of reading. This has been a major increase from the 208 features published during TRA’s eleventh year and even the 306 features published during TRA’s tenth year. In addition to increasing my own content production, I have restored to typical historical levels TRA’s practice of republishing thoughtful works by other authors.

Unprecedented public exposure and reach has been achieved by means of my children’s book Death is Wrong, illustrated by the wonderful Wendy Stolyarov. With tremendous support from the life-extensionist/transhumanist movement, The Rational Argumentator served as the hub for a massive fundraising and book-distribution effort to spread 1,029 free paperback copies of Death is Wrong to children in 14 countries. 92 generous donors and 50 activists throughout the world made this effort possible. Our Indiegogo fundraiser was successfully completed on April 23, 2014, and all 1,029 books were sent out as of August 7, 2014. Communities such as MILE – the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension, LongeCity, and the Life Extension Foundation were crucial in spreading the word about this effort and facilitating widespread awareness of our goal and its importance. For a great example of the outpouring of pro bono support motivated by Death is Wrong, watch this Book Trailer video, masterfully created by Peter Caramico of LongeCity. Death is Wrong has been featured by Fast Company, Mashable, Psychology Today, the BBC, TheBlaze, VICE Motherboard, Slashdot, and other prominent publications. This has enabled many more people to become aware of the feasibility and desirability of pursuing indefinite life extension in our lifetimes. As a side benefit, it has also brought more visitation to The Rational Argumentator.

In an effort to maximize the spread of Death is Wrong, after the conclusion of the distribution of paperback books, I took the next step of making the electronic editions of the book – available in English, Russian, and Spanish – freely downloadable in PDF format. Thus far, over 1,216 copies have been downloaded directly from The Rational Argumentator, and the files have spread to many external sites as well. This has essentially more than doubled the spread of the book’s message since the completion of the paperback-distribution campaign. In the meantime, another freely available work of mine, Eden against the Colossus ­­– which I republished in January 2013, has already been downloaded over 3,300 times. My strategy of making my works as easy to obtain as possible has certainly gone a long way toward ensuring that their message continues to influence the world to the maximal realistic extent.

Overall, my efforts to make my past writings available for free download directly from The Rational Argumentator’s domain have been successfully completed. In addition to the most up-to-date and thorough Third Edition of A Rational Cosmology, released in September 2013, nearly all of my older musical compositions have been remastered, and free MP3 files of the remastered versions have been made available on this page. I hope to continue to gradually release music videos of each of my compositions, accompanied by my works of fractal art. 47 videos are available already, out of 76 total videos that could be made for each of my extant compositions.

An added impetus to the project to host all of my works on The Rational Argumentator was given in July 2014, with the announcement by Yahoo! of the abrupt forthcoming closure of Yahoo! Voices (formerly Associated Content), where I had published 1,321 features since 2007 and where my works had garnered 3,190,261 page views. Yahoo’s mismanagement of Associated Content since its 2010 acquisition had made the site distinctly less appealing for original, intellectual contributors. Most of my spare time in July 2014 was spent on rescuing my previously published articles – including many sections of educational study guides – to ensure their continued availability directly on The Rational Argumentator. While I will no longer receive revenue from the page views on these works, I am happy that they have not been lost to the world due to Yahoo’s disastrous decision. Many articles were republished as new features on The Rational Argumentator. Some articles were also placed in my archive page of selected writings from Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices. Every single study guide in my Free Tools for Rational Education section – including my widely utilized actuarial study guides – is now available either in a conveniently downloadable PDF format or (for smaller study guides) in the form of multiple interconnected HTML pages.

Through repeated content-rescue efforts since 2009, I have learned my lesson: always host my own material myself, if I wish to see it preserved indefinitely. Almost every single large, commercial content site on which I published in the past, or which I attempted to use to earn modest revenue streams from my content, is now defunct. Geocities, Helium.com, Today.com, Adbrite, Associated Content, and Yahoo! Voices are all gone; The Rational Argumentator has outlasted them all. The Rational Argumentator will continue to outlast any sites that are driven by a short-termist mentality of sacrificing quality of content to the quarterly bottom line. This is because The Rational Argumentator is motivated by my quest for permanence – in knowledge, in achievement, in existence itself. As long as I live (which I hope will be indefinitely), so shall The Rational Argumentator persist.

The Rational Argumentator’s Eleventh Anniversary Manifesto

The Rational Argumentator’s Eleventh Anniversary Manifesto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rational Argumentator’s Tenth Anniversary Manifesto

The Rational Argumentator’s Tenth Anniversary Manifesto

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
September 6, 2012
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As I write this, it is amazing to contemplate that The Rational Argumentator has been in existence for over ten years. Since August 31, 2002, much in the world has changed – and much about TRA has changed as well. Some of the most monumental changes in the history of this publication occurred just during the past year.

Total tenth-year visitation for all TRA features was 1,302,774 page views – as compared to 1,398,438 page views during TRA’s ninth year. While this was a decrease of about 6.84%, this was still TRA’s second-highest year in terms of visitation. TRA’s cumulative lifetime visitation stands at 5,669,168 page views, meaning that the 5-million-visit mark was exceeded during the tenth year.

20 additional issues and 200 features were published during the tenth year, through February 29, 2012. As of March 1, 2012, TRA entered into its new era, with a shift from an issue format to a WordPress-based, free-flowing architecture. In that redesign (which is only prospective and does not affect content published before March 1, 2012), I was able to achieve three of the five goals on my “wish list” expressed in the Ninth Anniversary Manifesto. Since then, an additional 106 features were published of TRA – for a total of 306 regular features or the equivalent of 30.6 old issues published during the tenth year.

In early August 2012, another major development for TRA was the shift of web hosts for the domain. Lunarpages no longer hosts The Rational Argumentator’s site, as I opted to switch to MDDHosting due to superior customer service and more reasonable hosting parameters.  During a transition period of several days, my priority was to maintain the accessibility of the site and to continue providing thought-provoking content. I am pleased to say that the transfer of both the hosted files and the domain name occurred without significant disruptions for users.

In addition to an abundance of new YouTube videos on my channel, the past year saw the development of a vast compendium of Resources on Indefinite Life Extension (RILE), which is regularly updated with links to articles and videos intended to enlighten readers as to the feasibility and desirability of indefinite human life extension – as well as ongoing developments and discoveries that aid in attaining that goal.

As the Internet changes, TRA will continue to change with it in order to most effectively complement the vast array of other resources available to individuals who wish to explore the ideas of reason, liberty, and technological progress. At the same time, TRA will always remain a haven for high intellectualism of the sort that is sorely lacking in contemporary culture and discourse. Furthermore, I shall always strive to maintain my promise to retain all content previously published, as a historical repository of knowledge, ideas, and intellectual tools. The Rational Argumentator has achieved a venerable sort of longevity, at least as far as online publications go. My intent is that – like all the good things in life – TRA will continue indefinitely and will only further improve with time.