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What’s Changed Since 2010? – Article by Daniel Bier

What’s Changed Since 2010? – Article by Daniel Bier

The New Renaissance HatDaniel Bier

Quite a lot, it turns out

This interesting little table from Goldman Sachs shows a few ways the world changed in the last five years.

Some highlights since 2010:

  • The UN Food Price Index fell by a third.
  • The price of oil fell by two-thirds.
  • Venture capital investments in the US doubled.
  • Global smartphone penetration increased from 19 percent to 75 percent.
  • The cell phone price index fell by over half.
  • Average wages in China rose by more than 50 percent.
  • Beijing air pollution is down by a third.
  • The cost of sequencing a genome fell by 97 percent.
  • The number of summer AirBnB guests increased from 47,000 to 17 million.
  • Bitcoin’s value increased 1,500 fold.

But, as GS points out, 2015 was not all good news:

  • Economic growth has slowed.
  • Life expectancy has not changed much.
  • Africa’s share of global trade remained near 3 percent.
  • The Patriots won the Super Bowl.
  • Japanese GDP per capita remains flat.

Still — on the whole and for most people — things are changing for the better, in more ways than we could ever anticipate.

Here’s to a better today.

(Check out the other data below — lots of amusing and intriguing items.)

chart-11Click on the image for a larger version.

Daniel Bier is the editor of Anything Peaceful. He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

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.

The Humility of Futurism – Article by Adam Alonzi

The Humility of Futurism – Article by Adam Alonzi

The New Renaissance Hat
Adam Alonzi
April 20, 2014

Civilization operates as if its troubles and their solutions will be as relevant tomorrow as they are today. Likely they were obsolete yesterday. How preposterous do the worries and aspirations of yesteryear seem now? What has not been refined since its conception? Our means of subsistence, entertainment, expression and enlightenment continue to change, although, at least unconsciously, they are accepted as stable. Change, once gradual, now quickens exponentially. Countless professions have been created and destroyed by advances; old orders have been destroyed, new ones have arisen; our world outlooks have been revolutionized by new discoveries over and over, although a sizable portion of the world is unwilling or unable to understand a man like Aubrey de Grey and an equally sizable portion of the population is still struggling with Copernicus. A Futurist accepts himself and his ideas as incomplete, therefore he actively works to improve upon them. Futurism is the first ideology that explicitly accepts the necessity and desirability of change.

It is a mistake to think we have reached the final stage of our journey. Plateaus are mirages conjured by the shortsighted; human evolution is a mountain without a peak. If a man has eyes, let him see all we have done and all we have yet to do. Let him gain the humility religion and liberalism have failed to inculcate into him and so many others. Each generation repeats this mistake. There is no evidence to suggest we are complete or are doomed now only to regress. Naysayers seem motivated to dismiss the triumphs of others out of fear they themselves will appear even less significant. Historically the distant future has received little attention compared to such pressing questions as the number of angels on the head of a pin or the labor theory of value. This may be thanks to a fondness for the apocalyptic, a fascination which certainly has not faded with time, but it is also attributable to the egotistical need to stand out. All epochs are transitions. The advances of this decade have failed to restore popular faith in progress, yet the very word is misleading. Faith does rest not upon an empirical foundation. There are scores of popular beliefs founded upon little or no evidence. Yet the proof of progress is all around us. Death wishes and earth-annihilating misanthropy aside, we can trace the modern disdain for the march forward to the fashionable nonsense of academia.

Speculations and prophecies, even conservative estimates based on careful analysis, are treated with derision by the public. To say one has faith in technology is misleading. To compare the singularity to the rapture is like comparing planetary motion to Santa Claus. One is rooted in scripture, the other in observation. The doomsayers, secular and religious alike, enjoy forecasting our demise. The essential corruption critics charge Western civilization with is common to all; it is called human nature. It is meant to be transcended, not through critiques of immaterial “cultural entities,” but by improving our bodies and our minds through bioengineering. No belief is needed here. We do not rely upon a outworn holy book or the absurd dialectic of the Marxists. We change and adapt because we must. This is a point of pride, not one of shame. We do not worship the past; we have shrugged it off. Compared to the ridiculous claims circulating in the cesspool collectively referred to as “the humanities” this is a sane position, yet it is treated with nothing by scorn by those who, wishing so ardently to distance themselves from Western civilization, bite the hands that feed them, clothes them, and shelters them. While they navigate by GPS, post their inane tangents on social media sites, and try with all their might to discredit the culture to which they owe their lives and livelihoods, others push forward. Self-proclaimed critics of Western civilization should consider trading their general practitioner for an Angolan witch doctor. It is hard to respect those who do not practice what they preach.

Postmodernism and cultural relativism, though they have pretensions of completeness and delusions of permanence, are but passing fads. Something devoid of usefulness or, for that matter, a coherent hypothesis, cannot last long when technology is generating so much benefit to so many people. A meme will continue to propagate itself long after it has served its purpose, to the detriment of competitors and to society at large. It is the duty of Futurists and Transhumanists to demolish the acceptability of rubbish in academia and in the media. The Luddites are more dangerous than the Creationists. Hubris is barely acceptable in the hard sciences, but in an absolutely unempirical discipline like philosophy, it is deplorable. Our first priority should not be political or religious; it should be scientific. To whom do we owe our prosperity, and to whom do we owe our future? To whom do we owe our lives and the lives of our children? How many of us would not be here today were it not for the men and women of modern medicine? This is not the end. Forget the weary and the overwhelmed; they are weak. Forget the ones who have no desire to climb higher; they are unfit. Cast aside the ones who pray fervently for the undoing of their own species; they are the most vile of all. This is not the end. This is our beginning.
Adam Alonzi is the author of Praying for Death and A Plank in Reason. He is also a futurist, inventor, DIY enthusiast, biotechnologist, programmer, molecular gastronomist, consummate dilletante and columnist at The Indian Economist. Read his blog Cool Flickers.
Help the next generation embrace a progress-filled vision of the future by supporting the illustrated children’s book Death is Wrong (free in Kindle format until April 22, 2014), and the campaign to distribute 1000 paperback copies to children, free of cost to them. The Indiegogo fundraising period ends on April 23, so please consider making a contribution today.

Heidegger, Cooney, and The Death-Gives-Meaning-To-Life Hypothesis – Article by Franco Cortese

Heidegger, Cooney, and The Death-Gives-Meaning-To-Life Hypothesis – Article by Franco Cortese

The New Renaissance Hat
Franco Cortese
August 10, 2013
One common argument against indefinite lifespans is that a definitive limit to one’s life – that is, death – provides some essential baseline reference, and that it is only in contrast to this limiting factor that life has any meaning at all. In this article I refute the argument’s underlying premises, and then argue that even if such premises were taken as true, the argument’s conclusion – that eradicating death would negate the “limiting factor” that legitimizes life – is also invalid, because the ever-changing nature of self and society – and the fact that opportunities once here are now gone –  can constitute such a scarcitizing factor just as well as death can.
Death gives meaning to life? No! Death is meaninglessness!

One version of the argument is given in Brian Cooney’s Posthumanity: Thinking Philosophically about the Future, an introductory philosophical text that uses various futurist scenarios and concepts to illustrate the broad currents of Western philosophy. Towards the end of the book, Cooney makes his argument against immortality, claiming that if we had all the time in the universe to do what we wanted, then we wouldn’t do anything at all. Essentially, his argument boils down to “if there is no possibility of not being able to do something in the future, then why would we ever do it?”

Each chapter of Cooney’s book ends with a dialogue between a fictional human and posthuman, meant to better exemplify the arguments laid out in the chapter and their various interpretations. In the final chapter, “Posthumanity”, Cooney-as-posthuman writes:

Our ancestors realized that immortality would be a curse, and we have never been tempted to bestow it on ourselves… We didn’t want to be like Homer’s gods and goddesses. The Odyssey is saturated with the contrast of mortal human life, the immortality of the gods and the shadow life of the dead in Hades… Aren’t you struck by the way these deities seem to have nothing better to do than be an active audience for the lives and deeds of humans… These gods are going to live forever and there is no scarcity of whatever resources they need for their divine way of life. So (to borrow a phrase from your economists) there is no opportunity cost to their choosing to do one thing rather than another or spend time with one person rather than another. They have endless time and resources to pursue other alternatives and relationships later. Consequently, they can’t take anyone or anything seriously… Moreover, their lives lack meaning because they are condemned to living an unending story, one that can never have narrative unity… That is the fate we avoid by fixing a standard limit to our lives. Immortals cannot have what Kierkegaard called ‘passion’… A mind is aware of limitless possibilities – it can think of itself as doing anything conceivable – and it can think of a limitless time in which to do it all. To choose a life – one that will progress like a story from its beginning to its end – is to give up the infinite for the finite… We consider ourselves free because we were liberated from the possibility of irrationality and selfishness.”   –   (Cooney, 2004, 183-186).

Thus we see that Cooney’s argument rests upon the thesis that death gives meaning to life because it incurs finitude, and finitude forces us to choose certain actions over others. This assumes that we make actions on the basis of not being able to do them again. But people don’t make most of their decisions this way. We didn’t go out to dinner because the restaurant was closing down; we went out for dinner because we wanted to go out for dinner. I think that Cooney’s version of the argument is naïve. We don’t make the majority of our decisions by contrasting an action to the possibility of not being able to do it in future.

Cooney’s argument seems to be that if we had a list of all possible actions set before us, and time were limitless, we might accomplish all the small, negligible things first, because they are easier and all the hard things can wait. If we had all the time in the world, we would have no reference point with which to judge how important a given action or objective is. If we really can do every single thing on that ‘listless list’, then why bother, if each is as important as every other? In his line of reasoning, importance requires scarcity. If we can do everything it was possible to do, then there is nothing that determines one thing as being more important than another. Cooney makes an analogy with an economic concept to clarify his position. Economic definitions of value require scarcity; if everything were as abundant as everything else, if nothing were scarce, then we would have no way of ascribing economic value to a given thing, such that one thing has more economic value than another. So too, Cooney argues, with possible choices in life.

But what we sometimes forget is that ecologies aren’t always like economies.

The Grave Dig|nitty of Death

In the essay collection “Transhumanism and its Critics”, Hava Tirosh-Samuelson writes:

Finally, since death is part of the cycle of life characteristic of finite creatures, we will need to concern ourselves with a dignified death… the dying process need not be humiliating or dehumanizing; if done properly, as the hospice movement has shown us, the dying process itself can be dignified by remembering that we are dealing with persons whose life narratives in community are imbued with meaning, and that meaning does not disappear when bodily functions decline or finally cease.”   –  (Tirosh-Samuelson, 2011).

She may have provided a line of reasoning for arguing that death need not be indignifying or humiliating (convinced me that death has any dignity whatsoever), but I would say that she’s digging her claim’s own grave by focusing on the nitty-gritty details of humiliation and dignity. It is not the circumstances of death that make death problematic and wholly unsatisfactory; it is the fact that death negates life. Only in life can an individual exhibit dignity or fail by misemphasis. Sure, people can remember you after you have gone, and contributing to larger projects that continue after one’s own death can provide some meaning… but only for those still alive – not for the dead. The meaning held or beheld by the living could pertain to the dead, but that doesn’t constitute meaning to or for the dead, who forfeited the capability to experience, or behold meaning when they lost the ability to experience, or behold anything at all.

Tirosh-Samuelson’s last claim, that death need not be dehumanizing, appears to be founded upon her personal belief in an afterlife more than the claim that meaning doesn’t necessarily have to cease when we die, because we are part of “a community imbued with meaning” and this community will continue after our own death, thus providing continuity of meaning.  Tirosh-Samuelson’s belief in the afterlife also largely invalidates the claims she makes, since death means two completely different things to an atheist and a theist. As I have argued elsewhere (Cortese, 2013, 160-172), only the atheist speaks of death; the theist speaks merely of another kind of life. For a theist, death would not be dehumanizing, humiliating, or indignifying if all the human mental attributes a person possessed in the physical world would be preserved in an afterlife.

Another version of the “limiting factor” argument comes from Martin Heidegger, in his massive philosophical work Being and Time. In the section on being-toward-death, Heidegger claims, on one level, that Being must be a totality, and in order to be a totality (in the sense of being absolute or not containing anything outside of itself) it must also be that which it is not. Being can only become what it is not through death, and so in order for Being to become a totality (which he argues it must in order to achieve authenticity – which is the goal all along, after all), it must become what it is not – that is, death – for completion (Heidegger, 1962). This reinforces some interpretations made in linking truth with completion and completion with staticity.

Another line of reasoning taken by Heidegger seems to reinforce the interpretation made by Cooney, which was probably influenced heavily by Heidegger’s concept of being-toward-death. The “fact” that we will one day die causes Being to reevaluate itself, realize that it is time and time is finite, and that its finitude requires it to take charge of its own life – to find authenticity. Finitude for Heidegger legitimizes our freedom. If we had all the time in the world to become authentic, then what’s the point? It could always be deferred. But if our time is finite, then the choice of whether to achieve authenticity or not falls in our own hands. Since we must make choices on how to spend our time, failing to become authentic by spending one’s time on actions that don’t help achieve authenticity becomes our fault.Can Limitless Life Still Have a “Filling Stillness” and “Legitimizing Limit”?

Perhaps more importantly, even if their premises were correct (i.e., that the “change” of death adds some baseline limiting factor, causing you to do what you would not have done if you had all the time in the world, and thereby constituting our main motivator for motion and metric for meaning), Cooney and Heidegger are still wrong in the conclusion that indefinitely extended life would destroy or jeopardize this “essential limitation”.

The crux of the “death-gives-meaning-to-life” argument is that life needs scarcity, finitude, or some other factor restricting the possible choices that could be made, in order to find meaning. But final death need not be the sole candidate for such a restricting factor.
Self: La Petite Mort
All changed, changed utterly… A terrible beauty is born. The self sways by the second. We are creatures of change, and in order to live we die by the moment. I am not the same as I once was, and may never be the same again. The choices we prefer and the decisions we are most likely to make go through massive upheaval.The changing self could constitute this “scarcitizing” or limiting factor just as well as death could. We can be compelled to prioritize certain choices and actions over others because we might be compelled to choose differently in another year, month, or day. We never know what we will become, and this is a blessing. Life itself can act as the limiting factor that, for some, legitimizes life.

Society: La Petite Fin du Monde

Society is ever on an s-curve swerve of consistent change as well. Culture is in constant upheaval, with new opportunities opening up(ward) all the time. Thus the changing state of culture and humanity’s upheaved hump through time could act as this “limiting factor” just as well as death or the changing self could. What is available today may be gone tomorrow. We’ve missed our chance to see the Roman Empire at its highest point, to witness the first Moon landing, to pioneer a new idea now old. Opportunities appear and vanish all the time.

Indeed, these last two points – that the changing state of self and society, together or singly, could constitute such a limiting factor just as effectively as death could – serve to undermine another common argument against the desirability of limitless life (boredom) – thereby killing two inverted phoenixes with one stoning. Too often is this rather baseless claim bandied about as a reason to forestall indefinitely extended lifespans – that longer life will lead to increased boredom. The fact that self and society are in a constant state of change means that boredom should become increasingly harder to maintain. We are on the verge of our umpteenth rebirth, and the modalities of being that are set to become available to us, as selves and as societies, will ensure that the only way to entertain the notion of increased boredom  will be to personally hard-wire it into ourselves.

Life gives meaning to life, dummy!

Death is nothing but misplaced waste, and I think it’s time to take out the trash, with haste. We don’t need death to make certain opportunities more pressing than others, or to allow us to assign higher priorities to one action than we do to another. The Becoming underlying life’s self-overcoming will do just fine.


Cooney, B. (2004). Posthumanity: Thinking Philosophically about the Future. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN-10: 0742532933

Cortese, F. (2013). “Religion vs. Radical Longevity: Belief in Heaven is the Biggest Barrier to Eternal Life?!”. Human Destiny is to Eliminate Death: Essays, Arguments and Rants about Immortalism. Ed. Pellissier, H. 1st ed. Niagara Falls: Center for Transhumanity. 160-172.

Heidegger, M., Macquarrie, J., & Robinson, E. (1962). Being and time. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Tirosh-Samuelson, H. (2011). “Engaging Transhumanism”. Transhumanism and its Critics. Ed. Grassie, W., Hansell, G. Philadelphia, PA: Metanexus Institute.

Franco Cortese is an editor for, as well as one of its most frequent contributors.  He has also published articles and essays on Immortal Life and The Rational Argumentator. He contributed 4 essays and 7 debate responses to the digital anthology Human Destiny is to Eliminate Death: Essays, Rants and Arguments About Immortality.

Franco is an Advisor for Lifeboat Foundation (on its Futurists Board and its Life Extension Board) and contributes regularly to its blog.

Transhumanism, Technology, and Science: To Say It’s Impossible Is to Mock History Itself – Article by Franco Cortese

Transhumanism, Technology, and Science: To Say It’s Impossible Is to Mock History Itself – Article by Franco Cortese

The New Renaissance Hat
Franco Cortese
June 30, 2013
One of the most common arguments made against Transhumanism, Technoprogressivism, and the transformative potentials of emerging, converging, disruptive and transformative technologies may also be the weakest: technical infeasibility. While some thinkers attack the veracity of Transhumanist claims on moral grounds, arguing that we are committing a transgression against human dignity (in turn often based on ontological grounds of a static human nature that shan’t be tampered with) or on grounds of safety, arguing that humanity isn’t responsible enough to wield such technologies without unleashing their destructive capabilities, these categories of counter-argument (efficacy and safety, respectively) are more often than not made by people somewhat more familiar with the community and its common points of rhetoric.
In other words these are the real salient and significant problems needing to be addressed by Transhumanist and Technoprogressive communities. The good news is that the ones making the most progress in terms of deliberating the possible repercussions of emerging technologies are Transhumanist and Technoprogressive communities. The large majority of thinkers and theoreticians working on Existential Risk and Global Catastrophic Risk, like The Future of Humanity Institute and the Lifeboat Foundation, share Technoprogressive inclinations. Meanwhile, the largest proponents of the need to ensure wide availability of enhancement technologies, as well as the need for provision of personhood rights to non-biologically-substrated persons, are found amidst the ranks of Technoprogressive Think Tanks like the IEET.

A more frequent Anti-Transhumanist and Anti-Technoprogressive counter-argument, by contrast, and one most often launched by people approaching Transhumanist and Technoprogressive communities from the outside, with little familiarity with their common points of rhetoric, is the claim of technical infeasibility based upon little more than sheer incredulity.

Sometimes a concept or notion simply seems too unprecedented to be possible. But it’s just too easy for us to get stuck in a spacetime rut along the continuum of culture and feel that if something were possible, it would have either already happened or would be in the final stages of completion today. “If something is possible, when why hasn’t anyone done it Shouldn’t the fact that it has yet to be accomplished indicate that it isn’t possible?” This conflates ought with is (which Hume showed us is a fallacy) and ought with can. Ought is not necessarily correlative with either. At the risk of saying the laughably-obvious, something must occur at some point in order for it to occur at all. The Moon landing happened in 1969 because it happened in 1969, and to have argued in 1968 that it simply wasn’t possible solely because it had never been done before would not have been  a valid argument for its technical infeasibility.

If history has shown us anything, it has shown us that history is a fantastically poor indicator of what will and will not become feasible in the future. Statistically speaking, it seems as though the majority of things that were said to be impossible to implement via technology have nonetheless come into being. Likewise, it seems as though the majority of feats it was said to be possible to facilitate via technology have also come into being. The ability to possiblize the seemingly impossible via technological and methodological in(ter)vention has been exemplified throughout the course of human history so prominently that we might as well consider it a statistical law.

We can feel the sheer fallibility of the infeasibility-from-incredulity argument intuitively when we consider how credible it would have seemed a mere 100 years ago to claim that we would soon be able to send sentences into the air, to be routed to a device in your pocket (and only your pocket, not the device in the pocket of the person sitting right beside you). How likely would it have seemed 200 years ago if you claimed that 200 years hence it would be possible to sit comfortably and quietly in a chair in the sky, inside a large tube of metal that fails to fall fatally to the ground?

Simply look around you. An idiosyncratic genus of great ape did this! Consider how remarkably absurd it would seem for the gorilla genus to have coordinated their efforts to build skyscrapers; to engineer devices that took them to the Moon; to be able to send a warning or mating call to the other side of the earth in less time than such a call could actually be made via physical vocal cords. We live in a world of artificial wonder, and act as though it were the most mundane thing in the world. But considered in terms of geological time, the unprecedented feat of culture and artificial artifact just happened. We are still in the fledging infancy of the future, which only began when we began making it ourselves.

We have no reason whatsoever to doubt the eventual technological feasibility of anything, really, when we consider all the things that were said to be impossible yet happened, all the things that were said to be possible and did happen, and all the things that were unforeseen completely yet happened nonetheless. In light of history, it seems more likely than a given thing would eventually be possible via technology than that it wouldn’t ever be possible. I fully appreciate the grandeur of this claim – but I stand by it nonetheless. To claim that a given ability will probably not be eventually possible to implement via technology is to laugh in the face of history to some extent.

The main exceptions to this claim are abilities wherein you limit or specify the route of implementation. Thus it probably would not be eventually possible to, say, infer the states of all the atoms comprising the Eifel Tower from the state of a single atom in your fingernail: categories of ability where you specify the implementation as the end-ability – as in the case above, the end ability was to infer the state of all the atoms in the Eifel Tower from the state of a single atom.

These exceptions also serve to illustrate the paramount feature allowing technology to possiblize the seemingly improbable: novel means of implementation. Very often there is a bottleneck in the current system we use to accomplish something that limits the scope of tis abilities and prevents certain objectives from being facilitated by it. In such cases a whole new paradigm of approach is what moves progress forward to realizing that objective. If the goal is the reversal and indefinite remediation of the causes and sources of aging, the paradigms of medicine available at the turn of the 20th century would have seemed to be unable to accomplish such a feat.

The new paradigm of biotechnology and genetic engineering was needed to formulate a scientifically plausible route to the reversal of aging-correlated molecular damage – a paradigm somewhat non-inherent in the medical paradigms and practices common at the turn of the 20th Century. It is the notion of a new route to implementation, a wholly novel way of making the changes that could lead to a given desired objective, that constitutes the real ability-actualizing capacity of technology – and one that such cases of specified implementation fail to take account of.

One might think that there are other clear exceptions to this as well: devices or abilities that contradict the laws of physics as we currently understand them – e.g., perpetual-motion machines. Yet even here we see many historical antecedents exemplifying our short-sighted foresight in regard to “the laws of physics”. Our understanding of the physical “laws” of the universe undergo massive upheaval from generation to generation. Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions challenged the predominant view that scientific progress occurred by accumulated development and discovery when he argued that scientific progress is instead driven by the rise of new conceptual paradigms categorically dissimilar to those that preceded it (Kuhn, 1962), and which then define the new predominant directions in research, development, and discovery in almost all areas of scientific discovery and conceptualization.

Kuhn’s insight can be seen to be paralleled by the recent rise in popularity of Singularitarianism, which today seems to have lost its strict association with I.J. Good‘s posited type of intelligence explosion created via recursively self-modifying strong AI, and now seems to encompass any vision of a profound transformation of humanity or society through technological growth, and the introduction of truly disruptive emerging and converging (e.g., NBIC) technologies.

This epistemic paradigm holds that the future is less determined by the smooth progression of existing trends and more by the massive impact of specific technologies and occurrences – the revolution of innovation. Kurzweil’s own version of Singularitarianism (Kurzweil, 2005) uses the systemic progression of trends in order to predict a state of affairs created by the convergence of such trends, wherein the predictable progression of trends points to their own destruction in a sense, as the trends culminate in our inability to predict past that point. We can predict that there are factors that will significantly impede our predictive ability thereafter. Kurzweil’s and Kuhn’s thinking are also paralleled by Buckminster Fuller in his notion of ephemeralization (i.e., doing more with less), the post-industrial information economies and socioeconomic paradigms described by Alvin Toffler (Toffler, 1970), John Naisbitt (Naisbitt 1982), and Daniel Bell (Bell, 1973), among others.

It can also partly be seen to be inherent in almost all formulations of technological determinism, especially variants of what I call reciprocal technological determinism (not simply that technology determines or largely constitutes the determining factors of societal states of affairs, not simply that tech affects culture, but rather than culture affects technology which then affects culture which then affects technology) a là Marshall McLuhan (McLuhan, 1964) . This broad epistemic paradigm, wherein the state of progress is more determined by small but radically disruptive changes, innovation, and deviations rather than the continuation or convergence of smooth and slow-changing trends, can be seen to be inherent in variants of technological determinism because technology is ipso facto (or by its very defining attributes) categorically new and paradigmically disruptive, and if culture is affected significantly by technology, then it is also affected by punctuated instances of unintended radical innovation untended by trends.

That being said, as Kurzweil has noted, a given technological paradigm “grows out of” the paradigm preceding it, and so the extents and conditions of a given paradigm will to some extent determine the conditions and allowances of the next paradigm. But that is not to say that they are predictable; they may be inherent while still remaining non-apparent. After all, the increasing trend of mechanical components’ increasing miniaturization could be seen hundreds of years ago (e.g., Babbage knew that the mechanical precision available via the manufacturing paradigms of his time would impede his ability in realizing his Baggage Engine, but that its implementation would one day be possible by the trend of increasingly precise manufacturing standards), but the fact that it could continue to culminate in the ephemeralization of Bucky Fuller (Fuller, 1976) or the mechanosynthesis of K. Eric Drexler (Drexler, 1986).

Moreover, the types of occurrence allowed by a given scientific or methodological paradigm seem at least intuitively to expand, rather than contract, as we move forward through history. This can be seen lucidly in the rise of Quantum Physics in the early 20th Century, which delivered such conceptual affronts to our intuitive notions of the possible as non-locality (i.e., quantum entanglement – and with it quantum information teleportation and even quantum energy teleportation, or in other words faster-than-light causal correlation between spatially separated physical entities), Einstein’s theory of relativity (which implied such counter-intuitive notions as measurement of quantities being relative to the velocity of the observer, e.g., the passing of time as measured by clocks will be different in space than on earth), and the hidden-variable theory of David Bohm (which implied such notions as the velocity of any one particle being determined by the configuration of the entire universe). These notions belligerently contradict what we feel intuitively to be possible. Here we have claims that such strange abilities as informational and energetic teleportation, faster-than-light causality (or at least faster-than-light correlation of physical and/or informational states) and spacetime dilation are natural, non-technological properties and abilities of the physical universe.

Technology is Man’s foremost mediator of change; it is by and large through the use of technology that we expand the parameters of the possible. This is why the fact that these seemingly fantastic feats were claimed to be possible “naturally”, without technological implementation or mediation, is so significant. The notion that they are possible without technology makes them all the more fantastical and intuitively improbable.

We also sometimes forget the even more fantastic claims of what can be done through the use of technology, such as stellar engineering and mega-scale engineering, made by some of big names in science. There is the Dyson Sphere of Freeman Dyson, which details a technological method of harnessing potentially the entire energetic output of a star (Dyson,  1960). One can also find speculation made by Dyson concerning the ability for “life and communication [to] continue for ever, using a finite store of energy” in an open universe by utilizing smaller and smaller amounts of energy to power slower and slower computationally emulated instances of thought (Dyson, 1979).

There is the Tipler Cylinder (also called the Tipler Time Machine) of Frank J. Tipler, which described a dense cylinder of infinite length rotating about its longitudinal axis to create closed timelike curves (Tipler, 1974). While Tipler speculated that a cylinder of finite length could produce the same effect if rotated fast enough, he didn’t provide a mathematical solution for this second claim. There is also speculation by Tipler on the ability to utilize energy harnessed from gravitational shear created by the forced collapse of the universe at different rates and different directions, which he argues would allow the universe’s computational capacity to diverge to infinity, essentially providing computationally emulated humans and civilizations the ability to run for an infinite duration of subjective time (Tipler, 1986, 1997).

We see such feats of technological grandeur paralleled by Kurt Gödel, who produced an exact solution to the Einstein field equations that describes a cosmological model of a rotating universe (Gödel, 1949). While cosmological evidence (e.g., suggesting that our universe is not a rotating one) indicates that his solution doesn’t describe the universe we live in, it nonetheless constitutes a hypothetically possible cosmology in which time-travel (again, via a closed timelike curve) is possible. And because closed timelike curves seem to require large amounts of acceleration – i.e. amounts not attainable without the use of technology – Gödel’s case constitutes a hypothetical cosmological model allowing for technological time-travel (which might be non-obvious, since Gödel’s case doesn’t involve such technological feats as a rotating cylinder of infinite length, rather being a result derived from specific physical and cosmological – i.e., non-technological – constants and properties).

These are large claims made by large names in science (i.e., people who do not make claims frivolously, and in most cases require quantitative indications of their possibility, often in the form of mathematical solutions, as in the cases mentioned above) and all of which are made possible solely through the use of technology. Such technological feats as the computational emulation of the human nervous system and the technological eradication of involuntary death pale in comparison to the sheer grandeur of the claims and conceptualizations outlined above.

We live in a very strange universe, which is easy to forget midst our feigned mundanity. We have no excuse to express incredulity at Transhumanist and Technoprogressive conceptualizations considering how stoically we accept such notions as the existence of sentient matter (i.e., biological intelligence) or the ability of a genus of great ape to stand on extraterrestrial land.

Thus, one of the most common counter-arguments launched at many Transhumanist and Technoprogressive claims and conceptualizations – namely, technical infeasibility based upon nothing more than incredulity and/or the lack of a definitive historical precedent – is one of the most baseless counter-arguments as well. It would be far more credible to argue for the technical infeasibility of a given endeavor within a certain time-frame. Not only do we have little, if any, indication that a given ability or endeavor will fail to eventually become realizable via technology given enough development-time, but we even have historical indication of the very antithesis of this claim, in the form of the many, many instances in which a given endeavor or feat was said to be impossible, only to be realized via technological mediation thereafter.

It is high time we accepted the fallibility of base incredulity and the infeasibility of the technical-infeasibility argument. I remain stoically incredulous at the audacity of fundamental incredulity, for nothing should be incredulous to man, who makes his own credibility in any case, and who is most at home in the necessary superfluous.

Franco Cortese is an editor for, as well as one of its most frequent contributors.  He has also published articles and essays on Immortal Life and The Rational Argumentator. He contributed 4 essays and 7 debate responses to the digital anthology Human Destiny is to Eliminate Death: Essays, Rants and Arguments About Immortality.

Franco is an Advisor for Lifeboat Foundation (on its Futurists Board and its Life Extension Board) and contributes regularly to its blog.


Bell, D. (1973). “The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting, Daniel Bell.” New York: Basic Books, ISBN 0-465-01281-7.

Dyson, F. (1960) “Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infrared Radiation”. Science 131: 1667-1668.

Dyson, F. (1979). “Time without end: Physics and biology in an open universe,” Reviews of Modern Physics 51 (3): 447-460.

Fuller, R.B. (1938). “Nine Chains to the Moon.” Anchor Books pp. 252–59.

Gödel, K. (1949). “An example of a new type of cosmological solution of Einstein’s field equations of gravitation”. Rev. Mod. Phys. 21 (3): 447–450.

Kuhn, Thomas S. (1962). “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1st ed.).” University of Chicago Press. LCCN 62019621.

Kurzweil, R. (2005). “The Singularity is Near.” Penguin Books.

Mcluhan, M. (1964). “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man”. 1st Ed. McGraw Hill, NY.

Niasbitt, J. (1982). “Megatrends.” Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives. Warner Books.

Tipler, F. (1974) “Rotating Cylinders and Global Causality Violation”. Physical Review D9, 2203-2206.

Tipler, F. (1986). “Cosmological Limits on Computation”, International Journal of Theoretical Physics 25 (6): 617-661.

Tipler, F. (1997). The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-46798-2.

Toffler, A. (1970). “Future shock.” New York: Random House.

Dynamists vs. Stasists: Virginia Postrel’s “The Future and Its Enemies”, 15 Years Later – Article by Bradley Doucet

Dynamists vs. Stasists: Virginia Postrel’s “The Future and Its Enemies”, 15 Years Later – Article by Bradley Doucet

The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
February 18, 2013
This article was originally published as part of the 15th anniversary issue of Le Québécois Libre.
Fifteen years ago, in 1998, Le Québécois Libre was launched by Martin Masse and Gilles Guénette. I did not know them at the time. I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree that year, and only met them seven years later, in 2005, shortly after submitting my first article to them. I quickly became a regular contributor, and three years after that, in 2008, English Editor. To date, I have written 64 articles and reviews for the QL, along with 34 shorter Illiberal Beliefs, and a handful of blog entries in French. I’m proud of this work, and proud to have been a part of this web magazine for the past eight years, and I look forward to many more.

For this 15th anniversary edition, then, I thought I would look back at a book that was published way back in 1998. I did a little sleuthing and found an excellent one in my library, one that appropriately enough has its gaze firmly fixed forward: Virginia Postrel’s The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress. On one level, Postrel’s book is a celebration of the technological wonders of the modern world. She writes eloquently about the benefits of everything from biotechnology to computers, from tampons to contact lenses. But on a deeper level, she is celebrating the creativity and enterprise that generate open-ended, unpredictable progress—and warning us against those who would stifle it or stop it altogether.

Pro vs. Con

Postrel refers to those who embrace the idea of an open-ended future as “dynamists.” Although they are a diverse group and certainly not a proper coalition, dynamists “share beliefs in spontaneous order, in experiments and feedback, in evolved solutions to complex problems, in the limits of centralized knowledge, and in the possibilities of progress.” While many libertarians will recognize themselves in such attitudes (Postrel herself was the editor of the libertarian Reason magazine from July 1989 to January 2000), so will others who consider themselves progressives, liberals, or conservatives, or who are frankly apolitical. Dynamism is a broad category, and it cuts across party lines.

So, too, is its opposite. People who are opposed to the idea of an open-ended future, Postrel dubs “stasists,” and they in turn fall into two broad subcategories: “reactionaries, whose central value is stability, and technocrats, whose central value is control.” Certain types of conservatives who long for the way they imagine the world to have been in the 1950s (or the 1850s) are examples of reactionaries, but so are certain environmentalists who long for the way they imagine the world to have been before the Industrial Revolution, or before agriculture, or before man. Technocrats, for their part, do not want to stop or reverse change; they just want to tame it, to bring it under centralized, expert control by subsidizing and regulating businesses, controlling international trade and immigration, and requiring their stamp of approval before anything new can be allowed to flourish.

In countering reactionaries, dynamists need to emphasize the great benefits that have accrued to humankind from things like penicillin, modern dentistry, and electric motors, which have eliminated many early deaths and much pain and backbreaking toil. In responding to the siren call of technocrats, dynamists need to explain why the future cannot be effectively controlled without crippling it, that in order for there to be much technological innovation and material progress, people need the freedom to experiment.

Reactionaries, says Postrel, used to be opposed to technocrats, but now “they attack dynamism, often in alliance with their former adversaries.” In response, one of her tacks is to celebrate dynamism as being, in fact, more truly natural than either stability or centralized control. She also cleverly counters the charge that people who value freedom are “atomistic” by pointing out that atoms are rarely found alone in nature; they form molecular bonds, and free people form social bonds without having to be coerced into doing so. In closing, she calls on dynamists to start seeing themselves as a real coalition, a coalition not based primarily on fear or self-interest, but rather “bound by love: love of knowledge, love of exploration, love of adventure, and, just as much, love of small dreams, of the textures of life.”

The World Today

A lot can change in fifteen years. In celebrating the gradual development of contact lenses through the messy, undirected process of trial and error, Postrel imagines what the future of this technology might be: “Someday we may expect our contact lenses to function as computer screens and navigation guides, to see infrared or enhance night vision. Or we may displace them altogether with laser surgery or other procedures, as yet undiscovered.” Laser eye surgery, which was still very new in 1998, has more than come into its own in 2013, as my friend and QL colleague Adam Allouba personally experienced just recently.

But if technology has not stopped evolving, the dynamist coalition Postrel envisioned to defend the future does not yet appear to have become a significant player on the political scene. Part of the reason is surely the 2001 destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York, which breathed new life into old Cold War, hawk-dove political divisions that had up until then been fading, and thereby forestalled any restructuring along dynamist-stasist lines. It also gave technocratic peddlers of fear on the right another excuse to exert more centralized control, as the 2008 financial crisis did for technocratic peddlers of fear on the left.

Part of the challenge for libertarians has been to show that both of these traumatic events were failures of rigid, centralized, bureaucratic control—and that flexible, spontaneous order can do better. Hopefully, given the work we do here at Le Québécois Libre, and the work done by Postrel and many others around the world, in another fifteen years, the kinds of lessons contained in The Future and Its Enemies will be more widely appreciated, and that dynamist coalition for an open-ended future will be a burgeoning reality.

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.
A New Era for The Rational Argumentator

A New Era for The Rational Argumentator

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
March 12, 2012


Readers of The Rational Argumentator:

I write today to announce major changes to this publication – which are intended to enable it to flourish as never before, but which must thereby take it in a significantly different direction from its previous course.

For 9.5 years and 315 issues, The Rational Argumentator has evolved and expanded, regularly bringing a wealth of informative, thought-provoking, genuinely intellectual content that championed the principles of Reason, Rights, and Progress and worked for the arrival of a New Renaissance – and, in more recent years, an era that would transcend even that, along with our sufferings and current limitations. This work is far from complete, and it shall continue in earnest.

But the world has changed since August 31, 2002, when The Rational Argumentator inaugurated its first manifesto and issue (and yes, the issue link indeed points to an archive of TRA’s first page). While politically and economically, some of the change has been disturbing to say the least, the technological improvement has been astonishing. Nowhere has this been clearer than on the Internet.

TRA was not the first Internet publication, nor the first to espouse libertarian, classical liberal, Objectivist, or transhumanist thought. But it was certainly in a vanguard, back when the Internet was still young and fragmented. I remember what it was like in the first half of the last decade – when, to perform any serious research on a subject, one needed to dig through hours of content of marginal relevance at best, outright spam at worst – delivered by a suboptimal search engine – in order to uncover the gems of knowledge and insight. This was before the flowering of Wikipedia, before the market dominance of Google, before social networking, YouTube, or mobile devices. Back then, there were mostly just a few freedom-oriented think tanks and a few small-scale independent publishing enterprises – including the now defunct but still respected Quackgrass Press and

When I founded The Rational Argumentator, I sought to emulate the few treasured sources of autonomous, rational, intellectual content I could find, while building something new upon the foundation available to me in the world of that time. Friends of reason and liberty on the Internet back then really did need an early-21st-century parallel to Diderot’s Encyclopédie – a compendium of resources in one convenient location, on which they could rely for quality discourse and genuine enlightenment. TRA has certainly grown in both its abundance of content and its readership, gathering close to 1.4 million visits during its ninth year and around 5 million visits for its entire existence to date.

But as TRA grew, the Internet grew with it, opening up in surprising ways that, eventually, led to a different model of publication now being preferable. TRA, while innovative in the ideas it published and the manner in which it approached its readers – without dumbing anything down or attempting to curry favors from established interests and ideologies – was modeled after a traditional publication, with the majority of the content packaged into issues that helped readers categorize the content chronologically for subsequent easy discovery. All of the systematization was performed manually, with great effort spent on even developing the unique page templates of each of the first 45 issues. Beginning in 2005 and especially since 2007, the issue and article formats were significantly standardized, but considerable manual effort was still devoted to compiling the index pages and updating references throughout the site when a new issue was posted. Up until this month, TRA remained a static website, where every link and every functionality was hard-coded into each individual page. While previous page templates could be used to jump-start new ones, this method implied that any changes to the appearance of TRA’s pages would generally apply only on a forward-going basis – or, on occasion, when an older page was updated.

In the meantime, accessing quality content online has become significantly easier. With the mostly high-quality search results from Google, basic information from Wikipedia, and the ability to readily share material through social networks, every individual can, in effect, create a custom repository of knowledge. Content aggregation in one central location is no longer a function of websites, but rather one of individuals. In order to contribute to and flourish in this kind of Internet, TRA will need to refine its structure and redirect its emphasis within a world where the objectives intended by its earlier structure have, in essence, been fulfilled.

Therefore, I am pleased to announce the following series of changes – the greatest and most transformative that this publication has undergone to date:

1. Conversion to a WordPress architecture. WordPress permits more convenient publication within a template that can be updated globally for the entire website, allowing all pages published in March 2012 or later to instantly receive updates whenever a new feature is added to the sidebar.  Furthermore, WordPress performs wonderful feats of  organization by category and content tag – such that one can locate content in a myriad ways instead of just a few.

2. Shift from an issue format to a free flow of publication. More radically, TRA’s issue structure is no longer necessary, since WordPress offers so many different and relevant ways to sort content by subject matter, contributor, and even specific keywords. Content will be easily discoverable from the front page ( and from the category-specific and monthly archives on the sidebar. New content will simply appear on the front page, with the most recent content at the top.

3. Advent of an RSS feed. Readers who wish to be regularly and automatically updated whenever new content is published do not need to wait for an e-mail from me. They can subscribe to TRA’s RSS feed and become aware of any newly posted work. The RSS feed can also be embedded on other pages and conveniently shared with others.

4. Greater ease of sharing content. Each subsequent post will come will embedded functionalities for sharing the content on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

5. Ability for public comment. Visitors to each post will have the ability to comment directly below the work. This openness to discussion on TRA’s own pages is unprecedented in the history of this publication, due to the previous technical difficulty in facilitating public comments using mostly pure HTML code. The intent is for the first several comments by a visitor to be moderated – not out of any desire to limit the discussion, but rather to keep out the spambots. Once a visitor has demonstrated his or her humanity through several approved comments, he or she will be able to post without restrictions.

6. Focus on original content. In the past, TRA has assembled works from hundreds of contributors. In the earliest stages, it was indeed hard work to locate individual works and to secure their authors’ permission to reprint it – without which the work might have disappeared from the Internet altogether within a few years. Now, the role of a human being as a compiler of extant Internet content is no longer needed. Most content can be readily shared via social networking tools and customizable feeds. For me to spread the work of others, formal reprints are seldom the most effective method anymore. Rather, a link and a discussion of my own will do just as well or better in giving the work more exposure. Most of the new content on TRA will be original creations either by me or by other contributors who have not been published elsewhere before. This does not mean that I will no longer reprint any content that already appears on the Internet. However, it does mean a shift in emphasis away from distribution of extant works by others and toward the development of a unique array of content for TRA.

7. Incorporation of shorter posts. Along with longer articles and essays, I will be more inclined from now on to share brief thoughts more frequently within a blog-post structure. My earlier experiment in this approach, The Progress of Liberty blog, failed because of the whims of the host, the ill-named and ill-fated Now that I own the website and the infrastructure, this will not happen again.

In TRA’s Ninth Anniversary Manifesto, I called on my readers to offer me technical suggestions for improving the site. Little did I know what dramatic changes would be forthcoming or possible with a modicum of thought about the purpose TRA ought to serve within a more mature, more open, and more expansive Internet. I would like especially to thank my wife, Wendy, for suggesting the WordPress approach as a way of easing the manual effort of publication. That suggestion motivated still further thoughts on my part about how to maximize the potential influence and effect of TRA while maintaining adherence to the principles by which it has always been guided.

The coming months and years shall surely see additional improvements in both the content and form of this publication. I encourage you to visit regularly, because what comes next will be worth it.


Gennady Stolyarov II,

Founder and Editor-in-Chief, The Rational Argumentator

G. Stolyarov II is an actuary, science-fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre, Rebirth of Reason, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. Mr. Stolyarov also publishes his articles on the Yahoo! Contributor Network to assist the spread of rational ideas. He holds the highest Clout Level (10) possible on the Yahoo! Contributor Network and is one of its Page View Millionaires, with over 2 million views. 

Mr. Stolyarov holds the professional insurance designations of Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), Associate in Reinsurance (ARe), Associate in Regulation and Compliance (ARC), Associate in Insurance Services (AIS), and Accredited Insurance Examiner (AIE).

Mr. Stolyarov has written a science fiction novel, Eden against the Colossus, a non-fiction treatise, A Rational Cosmology, and a play, Implied Consent. You can watch his YouTube Videos. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at