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The Immortals Among Us – Article by Reason

The Immortals Among Us – Article by Reason

The New Renaissance Hat
Reason
November 26, 2015
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Let us define immortality as being a state of agelessness, which seems a common colloquial usage these days. More precisely this means that the risk of death due to intrinsic causes such as wear and tear damage of vital organs remains the same over time, perhaps due to advanced medical interventions. Falling pianos are still going to kill you, and a hypothetical biologically young immortal in a hypothetical environment maintaining today’s first world extrinsic mortality rate would have a half-life of 500 years or so, meaning that at any age, there is a 50% chance of evading a life-ending event for another 500 years. There are no human immortals by this criteria of a static intrinsic mortality rate, it seems, though for a while it looked like very old humans might have essentially flat but very high mortality rates in the same way as very old flies do. Immortality in a state of advanced frailty and coupled with a 90% or higher yearly mortality rate isn’t the sort of circumstance that most people would aspire to, of course. It barely improves on the actual circumstance that the oldest of people find themselves in, all too briefly.

However, let us think beyond the box. Consider the small horde of children that you’ll find playing and running in any junior schoolyard here and now. By the time the survivors of their cohorts reach a century of age, the 2100s will have arrived. If the current very slow trend in increasing adult life expectancy continues, adding a year of remaining life expectancy at 60 for every passing decade, then something like 25% of these present children will live to see that centenary. But I don’t for one moment believe that this trend will continue as it has in the past. Past increases in life expectancy were an incidental side-effect of general improvements in medicine across the board, coupled with increasing wealth and all the benefits that brings. Across all of that time, no-one was seriously trying to intervene in the aging process, to address the causes of aging, or to bring aging under medical control. Times are changing, and now many groups aiming to build some of the foundations needed to create exactly this outcome. You may even have donated to support some of them, such as the SENS Research Foundation. The trend in longevity in an age in which researchers are trying to treat the causes of aging will be very different from the trend in longevity in an age in which no such efforts are taking place.

You don’t have to dig very far into the state of the science to see that the first rejuvenation treatments are very close, their advent limited only by funding. If funding were no issue for senescent cell clearance, for example, it would absolutely, definitively be in clinics a decade from now. Other necessary technologies are more distant, but not that much more distant – the 2030s will be an exciting time for the medical sciences. For the occupants of today’s junior playground, it seems foolish to imagine that by age 60 they will not have access to rejuvenation treatments after the SENS model at various stages of maturity, many having having been refined for more than 30 years, at the height of their technology cycle, and just giving way to whatever radical new improvement happens next.

Take a moment for a sober look at the sweeping differences and expanded technological capabilities that exist between today, the 1960s, and the 1910s. So very much has been achieved, and that pace of progress is accelerating. Those junior playground athletes of today will live to see a world even more radically different and advanced than our present time is in comparison to the First World War era. These are the immortals among us. The majority of them will have the opportunity to attain actuarial escape velocity, to keep on using ever-improving versions of rejuvenation treatments until they are gaining life expectancy at a faster rate than they are aging. Their cellular damage, the wear and tear created by the normal operation of metabolism, will be repaired as fast as it is is generated. It is the rest of us, those of us who are no longer spring chickens, who are faced with much more of a race to the goal. The degree to which we can successfully fund and advocate the necessary research is the determinant of whether we can scrape by into the age of rejuvenation treatments, or whether we will gain modest benefits but still age to death – because we were born too soon, and because the rest of the world didn’t get its collective act together rapidly enough in what is now the very tractable matter of building a cure for aging.

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

Benjamin Franklin: Pioneer of Insurance in North America – Video Presentation by G. Stolyarov II

Benjamin Franklin: Pioneer of Insurance in North America – Video Presentation by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
November 6, 2015
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Mr. Stolyarov discusses Benjamin Franklin’s multifaceted contributions to combating the threat of fire, including the founding of the first fire insurance company in North America – The Philadelphia Contributorship for the Insuring of Houses from Loss by Fire.

This presentation was originally prepared for and delivered at the October 26, 2015, educational meeting of the Sierra Nevada Chapter of the CPCU Society. This video and enhanced slideshow are a slightly expanded version of that presentation.

The slides can be downloaded in PowerPoint format  and PDF format.

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin by David Martin (1767)
Portrait of Benjamin Franklin by David Martin (1767)
The Imperative of Technological Progress: Why Stagnation Will Necessarily Lead to Disaster and How Techno-Optimism Can Overcome It – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The Imperative of Technological Progress: Why Stagnation Will Necessarily Lead to Disaster and How Techno-Optimism Can Overcome It – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
August 14, 2015
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“He who moves not forward, goes backward.”
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It is both practically desirable and morally imperative for individuals and institutions in the so-called “developed” world to strive for a major acceleration of technological progress within the proximate future. Such technological progress can produce radical abundance and unparalleled improvements in both length and quality of life – whose possibilities Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler outlined in their 2012 book Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think. Moreover, major technological progress is the only way to overcome a devastating step backward in human civilization, which will occur if the protectionist tendencies and pressures of existing elites are allowed to freeze the status quo in place.

If the approximate technological and economic status quo persists, massive societal disintegration looms on the horizon. A Greece-style crisis of national-government expenditures may occur as some have predicted, but would only be a symptom of a greater problem. The fundamental driver of crisis since at least September 11, 2001, and more acutely since the Great Recession and the national-government bailouts of legacy financial and manufacturing institutions, is an increasing disconnect between the powerful and everybody else. The powerful – i.e., the politically connected, including the special interests of the “private sector” – seek to protect their positions through political barriers, at the expense of individual rights, upward social mobility, and economic/technological progress. Individuals from a relatively tiny politically connected elite caused the 2008 financial crisis, lobbied for and received unprecedented bailouts and lifelines for the firms whose misbehavior exacerbated the crisis, and then have attempted to rig the political “rules of the game” to prevent themselves from being unseated from positions of wealth and influence by the dynamics of market competition. The system created by these elites has been characterized by various observers as crony capitalism, corporatism, corporate fascism, neo-mercantilism, and a neo-Medieval guild system.

The deleterious influence of the politically connected today is reflected in the still-massive rates of unemployment and underemployment for the millennial generation, while many established industries fail to make openings for young people to ascend and fail to accommodate the emerging technologies with which young people thrive. While the millennial generation had nothing to do with the Great Recession, it has suffered its greatest fallout. Many millennials now encounter tremendous diminution in economic opportunity and living standards (think of young people in New York City paying several thousand dollars a month to share a tiny, century-old apartment among three people – or the emerging trend of shipping containers being converted into the only type of affordable housing for young people in San Francisco). The “Occupy” movement was a reflection of the resulting discontentment – a reflexive and indiscriminate backlash by young people who knew that their circumstances were unjustly bad, but did not understand the root causes or the culprits.

The only way for a crisis to be averted is for the current elites to stop blocking people from the millennial generation from opportunities to achieve upward mobility. The elite must also stop bailing out obsolete and poorly managed legacy institutions, and cease erecting protectionist barriers to the existence of innovative businesses that young people can and have tried to start. If the millennial generation continues to be shut out of the kinds of opportunities available to the preceding generation, however, I can envision two crisis scenarios. Each of these characterizations is not a prediction (but rather a nightmare which I hope can be avoided), is somewhat broad and, of course, is tentative. However, these scenarios are rough outlines of how the West could falter in the absence of significant technological progress.

Crisis Scenario 1: “Occupy” Times Ten: Millions of unemployed thirty-somethings (millennials in five to ten years) riot in the streets, indiscriminately destroying storefronts and setting cars alight. Economic activity and sophisticated production are ground to a halt because of the turmoil. The continuity of knowledge transfer and intergenerational symbiosis involved in human civilization are completely interrupted. Clashes with police create martyrs who are then invoked by opportunistic thugs as an excuse to loot and burn. Without the opportunity for peaceful economic cooperation, society degenerates into armed gangs, some left-wing (e.g., “Black Bloc” violent anarchists), others right-wing (e.g., survivalist militia groups). Thoughtful and intellectual people, who want the violence to end and see an imperfect peace as better than a war of all against all, are universally despised by the new tribes and cannot find a safe environment in which to work and innovate. The infrastructure of everyday life is critically damaged, and nobody maintains or repairs it. Roads, bridges, pipes, and electrical grids are either destroyed or become unusable after years of decay. The West becomes Ukraine writ large, eventually regressing into premodernity.

Crisis Scenario 2: The Reaction: Current political and crony-capitalist elites crack down with extreme force, either in response to actual riots or, more likely, to the threat thereof. Civil liberties are obliterated and an economic underclass enforced through deliberate restrictions on entry into any remunerative occupations – much like the 17th-century mercantilists advocated for maximum wages and prohibitions on perceived luxuries for the working classes. Those who do get jobs are required to work 60 or more hours per week and so have no time for anything else in life. All established industries are maintained in their current form through legal protections and bailouts, and there is an official policy that the structure of the economy must not be allowed to change for any reason. (Think of Directive 10-289 from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.) Licensing requirements for professions become ubiquitous and burdensome, laden with Catch-22 provisions so that few or no new entrants can make it into the system. Only an elite cadre of Baby Boomers enjoys wealth and uses the force of legal entry barriers to prevent anyone else from having the opportunity to earn their own. They have ground technological progress to a halt, seeking to keep established business models in place and thwart all competition. The national government develops a massive spying capability and enforces social order through the ability to detect behaviors that might even be algorithmically correlated with dissent. All ordinary citizens are routinely humiliated in public under the pretense of thwarting crime or terrorism. TSA body searches have expanded beyond airports to highway checkpoints, shopping centers, and random stops by police on city streets. People’s homes are routinely raided by SWAT teams at the mildest pretext. This is done to make people meek and subservient to the established order. To keep young people from rioting (and get rid of the “excess” unemployed youths), the elites concoct jingoistic justifications to inflame endless foreign wars, and young people are conscripted and sent to die abroad. If any of these wars aggravate the regimes of either Russia or China, this scenario has the added risk of putting the world back on the verge of nuclear conflict. The fast-senescing crony-capitalist elites have cut off future biomedical progress and so will die eventually, but only the children of the elite will inherit any wealth. A neo-feudal oligarchy is established and becomes gradually ossified throughout the generations, while the industrial and technological base built over the past 200 years, as a legacy of the Enlightenment and individual rights, will deteriorate, eventually bringing the West back into premodernity.

I see an ossification of the status quo as leading to one or both of the above crisis scenarios. A return of premodernity is the logical conclusion of the dynamics of a fundamentally unaltered status quo. If humankind does not move technologically forward, it will go backward in a spiral of destruction and repression.

The only way for either crisis scenario to be averted is for technological progress to occur at no slower than the rates experienced during the twentieth century. Overt political revolution, even if it begins peacefully, is dangerous. To understand why this is so, one needs look no further than the recent Arab Spring uprisings – initially motivated by liberally minded dissidents and ordinary people who could no longer tolerate corrupt dictatorships, but ultimately hijacked by Islamist militants, military juntas, or both. A case even closer to the contemporary Western world is the recent Maidan revolution in Ukraine, which, while initially motivated by peaceful and well-intentioned pro-European activists, replaced a corrupt regime that occasionally persecuted dissidents with a fiercely militant, nationalistic regime that tolerates no dissent, engages in coercive historical revisionism, prohibits criticism of Nazi and neo-Nazi thugs, conscripts some of its citizens to die in civil war, and indiscriminately shells others of its citizens in the East. Revolutions always have the potential of replacing a lethargically bad regime with an aggressively destructive one.

This is why it is better for any societal transformation to be driven primarily by technological and economic development, rather than by political turmoil. The least turbulent transformations should be somewhat gradual and at least grudgingly accepted by the existing elites, who need to be willing to alter their own composition and accept bright minds from any background – not just their own progeny. A sufficient rate of technological advancement – especially due to the growth in 3D printing, robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, genetic engineering, vertical farming, and renewable energy – can ensure near-universal abundance within a generation, untethered from permission-granting institutions to which most people today owe a living. Such prosperity would enable most people to experience what are today upper-middle-class living standards, therefore having no motivation to riot. Technological progress can also preserve individual liberty by continually creating new spheres where politicians and lobbyists are incapable of control and individuals can outmaneuver most political restrictions.

Technological progress, particularly radical extension of the human lifespan through periodic rejuvenation that can restore the body to a more youthful condition, is also the only hope for remedying unsustainable expenditures of national governments, which are presently primarily intended to support people’s income and healthcare needs in old age. Rejuvenation biotechnology of the sort championed by Dr. Aubrey de Grey’s SENS Research Foundation could be developed with sufficient investment into the research, and could become disseminated by biotechnology entrepreneurs, ensuring that older people do not become decrepit or incapable of productive work as they age. The only way to sustainably extend average lifespans past about 85 years would be to turn back the clock of biological aging. It is not possible for most people (who do not have some degree of genetic luck) to live much longer beyond that without also becoming more youthful.

Many people who receive rejuvenation treatments will not want to retire – at least not from all work – if they still feel the vitality of youth. They will seek out activities to support human well-being and high living standards, even if they have saved enough money to consider it unnecessary to take a regular 8-to-5 job. With the vitality of youth combined with the experience of age, these people will be able to make sophisticated, persistent contributions to human civilization and will tend to plan for the longer term, as compared to most people today. If automation takes care of basic human needs, then human labor will be freed for more creative and fulfilling tasks.

Effective rejuvenation will not arrive right away, but immigration can keep the demographic disparity between the young and the old from being a severe problem in the meantime. This is another reason to reject protectionist policies and instead pursue approaches that allow more people to contribute to and benefit from the material prosperity of the “developed” world. Birth rates tend to fall anywhere there are major rises in standards of living after an industrial revolution, as children stop becoming productive helpers in an agricultural economy and instead become expensive to raise and educate so that they can participate in a knowledge-based economy. However, birth rates are still higher in many less-developed parts of the world, and people from those areas will readily seek opportunities for economic advancement in more developed countries, if given the option.

Fortunately, there are glimmers of hope that the path of gradual embrace of ever-accelerating progress will be the one taken in the early-21st-century Western world. The best outcome would be for an existing elite to facilitate mechanisms for its own evolution by offering people of merit but from humble backgrounds a place in real decision-making.

Some of that evolution can occur through market competition – new, upstart businesses displacing incumbents and gradually amassing significant resources themselves. The best instantiation of this in the United States today is the Silicon Valley entrepreneurial culture – which, incidentally, tends to finance the majority of longevity research. The most massive infusion of funds into longevity-related research has been from an offshoot of Google – Calico – founded in 2013 and currently partnering with a large pharmaceutical company, AbbVie. Calico has been somewhat secretive as to the details of its research, but there are other large businesses that are beginning to invest in similar endeavors – e.g., Craig Venter’s Human Longevity, Inc. Moreover, the famous libertarian venture capitalist Peter Thiel has given millions of dollars to Dr. Aubrey de Grey’s SENS Research Foundation – a smaller-scale organization but perhaps the most ambitious in its goals to bring about a reversal of human senescence through advances in rejuvenation treatments within the next quarter-century.

These developments are evidence that the United States today is characterized not by one elite, but by several – and the old “Paper Belt” elite is clearly in conflict with the new Silicon Valley elite. Politicians tend, surprisingly, not to be the most decisive players in this conflict, since they typically depend on harnessing pre-existing cultural currents in order to get elected and stay in office. Thus, they will tend to side with whatever issues and special interests they consider to be gaining ground at a given time. For this reason, many thinkers have characterized politics as a lagging indicator, responding to rather than triggering the defining events of an era. The politicians ride the currents to power, but something else creates those currents.

Differences in the breadth of vision among elites also matter. For instance, breakthroughs in human longevity could actually be a great boon for medical providers and the first pharmaceutical companies that offer effective products/treatments. Even the most ambitious proponents of life extension do not think it possible to develop a magic immortality pill. Rather, the treatments involved (which will be quite expensive at first) would require periodic regeneration of the cells and tissues within a person’s body – essentially resetting the biological clock every decade or so, while further innovation uncovers ways to reverse the damage more cheaply, safely, and effectively. This is a field ripe with opportunities for enterprising doctors, researchers, and engineers (while, at the same time, certainly endangering many extant business models). Some government officials, if they are sufficiently perceptive, could also be persuaded to support these changes – if only because they could prevent a catastrophic collapse of Social Security and Medicare. Approximately 30% of Medicare expenditures occur during the last year of patients’ lives, when the body is often fighting back multiple ailments in a losing battle. If this situation were simply prevented in the first place, and if most people became biologically young again and fully capable of working for a living or financing their own retirements, the expenses of both Social Security and Medicare could plummet until these programs became wholly unnecessary in the eyes of most voters.

The key to achieving a freer, more prosperous, and longer-lived future is to educate both elites and the general public to accurately weigh the opportunities and risks of emerging technologies. Too many individuals today, both elites and ordinary people, view technological progress with suspicion, conjuring in their minds every possible dystopian scenario and every possible malfunction, inconvenience, lost opportunity, moral reservation, or esthetic dislike they can muster against breakthroughs in life extension, artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous vehicles, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and many other areas of advancement that could vastly benefit us all. This techno-skeptical mindset is the biggest obstacle for proponents of progress and a better future to overcome. Fortunately, we do not need to be elites to play important roles in overcoming it. By simply arguing the techno-optimist case and educating people from all walks of life about the tremendous beneficial potential of emerging technologies, we can each do our part to ensure that the 21st century will become known as an era of humankind’s great liberation from its age-old limitations, and not a lurch back into the bog of premodern barbarism.

If we have a modicum of technological progress, the West might be able to muddle through the next several decades. If we have an acceleration of technological progress, the West will leave its current problems in the dust. The outcome will be a question of whether people (both elites and ordinary citizens) are, on balance, held hostage to the fear of the new or, rather, willing to try out technological alternatives to the status quo in the hopes of achieving improvement in their lives.

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.
Artisanopolis – Seasteading City Concept by Gabriel Scheare, Luke Crowley, Lourdes Crowley, and Patrick White

Artisanopolis – Seasteading City Concept by Gabriel Scheare, Luke Crowley, Lourdes Crowley, and Patrick White

The New Renaissance HatGabriel Scheare, Luke Crowley, Lourdes Crowley, and Patrick White
August 8, 2015
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Artisanopolis, created by Gabriel Scheare, Luke & Lourdes Crowley, and Patrick White of Roark 3D and Fortgalt as a gift to The Seasteading Institute, in conjunction with the Institute’s Architectural Design Contest.

Description by The Seasteading Institute: Based on the foundational vision of The Seasteading Institute and DeltaSync, these works of art constitute an attempt at communicating the essence of what the infrastructure of sea-based civilization might look like in the near future. In this age of limited governance options, we intend to suggest an alternative model that allows new communities to form beyond the limiting jurisdictions of existing nation states in order to promote freedom and competition in the marketplace.

Each floating platform can be towed via tugboat from location to location and they can interlock to form sprawling formations over the water’s surface. Ballasts are used to adjust the depth at which the platforms sit in the water and coupling latches lock them together to form larger, cohesive footprints for convenience and stability. Modeled after those found at the seaport of Brighton, England, a large modular wavebreaker surrounds the city to shelter it from rough waters and wind while energy is supplied by renewable means like photovoltaic panel arrays and wave-driven turbines. Aquaponics greenhouse domes provide locally grown food, seawater is desalinated on site to provide drinking water, organic waste is removed via tankers to an off-site composting location, and inorganic waste is recycled. With so much focus on efficiency and sustainability, The Floating City Project promises to serve as a viable template upon which other seasteading projects can be modeled in the future.

All design contest images on this page are under the Creative Commons Attribution License. It means that you are allowed to redistribute and modify images but that you must attribute the original designer when doing so.

Note: Left-click on the images to see them in higher resolution.

Artisanopolis_01 Artisanopolis_02Artisanopolis_03Artisanopolis_04Artisanopolis_05Artisanopolis_06Artisanopolis_07Artisanopolis_08 Artisanopolis_09Artisanopolis_10Artisanopolis_11Artisanopolis_12Artisanopolis_13

 

Let’s Hope Machines Take Our Jobs: We Want Wealth, Not Jobs – Article by Peter St. Onge

Let’s Hope Machines Take Our Jobs: We Want Wealth, Not Jobs – Article by Peter St. Onge

The New Renaissance Hat
Peter St. Onge
June 11, 2015
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The job-threatening rise of the machines is an economically illiterate meme that refuses to die. We’re actually probably in the early stages of it, a bull-market in neo-luddism, if you will. Bastiat’s “Candlemakers’ Petititon” answered this one long ago, but today I’ll run a little thought experiment that owes it all to good old Bastiat.

Let’s say Weird Al Yankovic invents a machine capable of making everything with a single push of a button. The first thing he does is print up a bunch of machines and sell them for a ton. Weird Al is now a billionaire, and there are thousands of make-everything machines.

This diffusion of Weird Al’s new technology replicates the market process, where new tech spreads in proportion to its usefulness. If you doubt this, because of patents, for example, check out Brazil’s experience with AIDS drugs, where they tore up the patents on humanitarian grounds.

Weird Al’s machines will, at a minimum, be mass produced in Brazil. Or China. Or Mozambique.

So, one way or another, we get a bunch of make-everything machines.

What happens to the jobs? We’re getting everything for near-free now. So all the production jobs disappear. There are still lots of jobs, of course — child care, gardeners, musicians. But all the production jobs have vanished — something like 20 percent of jobs, maybe up to 50 percent when you include knock-on replacement of people by capital (truck drivers, robot bartenders). Heck, let’s go crazy and say 90 percent of the jobs vanished. Nobody’s got a job outside of preschool or performing on a stage. It’s the end of the world, right?

Well, the key is that, now that everything is made with the push of a button, everything’s extremely cheap. For example, a sixteen-bedroom house or a Lamborghini costs almost nothing. Let’s say they now cost ten cents.

The main expense in such a world is probably surface space. All those dime-a-dozen cars have to park somewhere. It’d take a while to “run out” of space, though — divide the world by the people and you get about twenty acres (eight hectares) for a family of four — about 100 large surburban yards. Add in the oceans — floating islands cost nothing, remember — and triple that. We end up with about 300 homes’ worth of space per family.

What about those unemployed people? Well, when a house or a year’s food costs a dime, they’ll be willing to work really cheap. We’ll work for a penny a day. After all, that’s a new house or a year’s food every two weeks.

Who would hire these workers for a penny? Plenty of people. Heck, if workers cost a penny a day I’d hire several for each of my children, just to keep the kids from getting bored. I’d hire another to cook, one to clean, one to run errands. One to keep track of my mail. One to check Facebook for me. At a penny a day I’d personally hire 100 people, easy. You would too — a buck a day’s nothing.

So the remaining 10 percent of workers who didn’t lose their jobs — babysitters, baristas, musicians — would want 100 workers each. Even at a penny, they’d take them all, and they’d be paying an outrageous rate — a tenth-house per day! That’s a daily rate of $15,000 in today’s terms.

Now, those who kept their jobs would, of course, see dropping wages. A barista who made $12 an hour in the old days would have to compete with the hordes of unemployed workers. Maybe her wage would drop to a penny, too. But, remember, a penny now buys $15,000 worth of stuff.

When the smoke clears, most people would make some extremely low wages — a penny a day. And that extremely low wage would be worth an awful lot — $15,000 a day, implying an annual income north of several million dollars in today’s values. Some lucky few would make a dollar a day — probably the people who are good at things machines cannot do: entertainment, child care, being a good listener, strumming the guitar at the retirement home, and laughing at jokes. At a dollar a day, this super-rich elite that excels at human skills — such as making us laugh — would be billionaires in today’s values.

Either way, there would be nothing we think of even remotely as “poverty.” Sure, there’ll be inequality, but it’ll be relative: “Sarah’s got 200 Lamborghinis and I’ve only got 40.”

The upshot is that wages plunge, but production costs plunge even more. Of course, this is based on the ridiculous Weird Al machine. Why do this? To illustrate the absolute worst-case scenario, when machines make everything for near-nothing.

What about going one step further: That the machine destroys all jobs in the whole world — it makes every single thing for us free, and it even keeps the folks entertained and the warm fuzzies flowing at the old folks’ home.

Well, we’ve already got a case study there — the sun. It gives us warmth and mangos for free. And how do we respond? We sit around and lazily enjoy it. So a machine that truly replaced all jobs would simply mean nobody works anymore — life’s somewhere between a non-stop party and a non-stop pleasant walk in the woods followed by a nice bonfire with friends and chardonnay.

We should all be so lucky that the machines do actually take every last job there is.

Peter St. Onge is an assistant professor at Taiwan’s Fengjia University College of Business. He blogs at Profits of Chaos.
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This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.
Variations on a Theme by WolframTones, Op. 80 (2015) – G. Stolyarov II

Variations on a Theme by WolframTones, Op. 80 (2015) – G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
June 10, 2015
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This experimental composition showcases the combined creative potential of man and machine. Mr. Stolyarov takes an algorithmically generated theme by WolframTones –  one of inexhaustibly many possibilities – and gives it a human touch with ten distinct orchestral variations that draw out orderly, harmonious melodies from the motifs present in the WolframTones theme.

This composition is written for a string section, three harps, and two pianos. It is played using the Finale 2011 software and the Steinway Grand Piano, Harp KS, and Full Strings Arco instruments.

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

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

Art References:
Fractal Art Swirl by Ralph Langendam (Public Domain)
– Abstract Orderism Fractal 63 by G. Stolyarov II – Available here and here.
– Abstract Orderism Fractal 64 by G. Stolyarov II – Available here and here.
– Abstract Orderism Fractal 65 by G. Stolyarov II – Available here and here.

This composition and video may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License.

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

Future Life – Article by Kyrel Zantonavitch

Future Life – Article by Kyrel Zantonavitch

The New Renaissance Hat
Kyrel Zantonavitch
June 9, 2015
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It wouldn’t completely surprise me to learn that Socrates, Democritus, Aristotle, Epicurus, Zeno the Stoic, Cicero, Lucretius, Horace, Rabelais, Montaigne, Bacon, Locke, Smith, Voltaire, Jefferson, von Mises, Hayek, Rand, and Branden were all still alive in some real sense. Nor would it entirely shock me to find myself in conversation with these greats at some point.

If it happens, I don’t know whether they’ll treat me with a decent amount of respect and honor, or rather regard me with fairly acute criticism and even scathing contempt. But almost certainly their behavior will be based upon merit and justice, and be a remarkable and fascinating experience. I just hope they haven’t totally evolved beyond the desire and need for discussion and debate.

Life is beautiful. Almost certainly any afterlife will be also!

The catalyst and base to these wondrous events, if they occur, very likely won’t be “God”, who quite probably doesn’t exist, but rather some demi-gods or superior space aliens, who fairly likely do. If such creatures are indeed around and active, they may well take an interest in human endeavors, and further utilize their immense abilities to preserve the life spark and cognitive psycho-spiritual essence of the various worthy human individuals they run across, such as those above. In fact, such marvelous ETs might even grant a type of immortality to a few meritorious and distinguished apes and whales, if not cats and dogs.

Of course, such demi-gods may not exist in the universe, or they may not be found in our area. Even if they do, and assuming they easily possess the capacity to save us, they still may well choose to let us insect-like creatures perish forever, hardly caring a jot about all of us combined.

But this last dolorous possibility seems somewhat unlikely. In my judgment, we human beings — at our best — are rather magnificent! We’re decently worth saving, it would seem.

I would speculate that the consequent afterlife will be on a considerably higher plane than our current one, but it will likely be such that the unique individuality of the various persons rescued is still initially preserved. This ultralife will very possibly be ten times as hard and challenging, but perhaps a hundred times as fun and worthwhile.

By necessity we will existentially and spiritually ascend. But eventually, and even fairly quickly, the aboriginal human individual will probably be unrecognizable, even to himself. But this initial human living spark and psycho-spiritual essence is as good a place as any from which to build and create future demi-gods.

Those who truly love life, and accomplish something during it, and make an immense, noble, heroic effort, may well live on and on! I think the post-mortem result and reward will be strictly based on personal merit, justice, virtue, and greatness. Humans who live well in this life, and who are good and great, may eventually achieve wonders and a magnificence beyond description!

Kyrel Zantonavitch is the founder of The Liberal Institute  (http://www.liberalinstitute.com/) and author of Pure Liberal Fire: Brief Essays on the New, General, and Perfected Philosophy of Western Liberalism.

Spiral Tower, Op. 79 (2015) – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II

Spiral Tower, Op. 79 (2015) – Musical Composition and Video by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
May 25, 2015
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This piano composition by Mr. Stolyarov evokes an ascent up a spiral skyscraper. Each passage builds and introduces variations upon the last while remaining within the overall pattern describing the climb. The spiral ascent can be seen as a metaphor for incremental but rigorous and goal-directed progress toward a brighter future.

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

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

Photographs in this video are of the F&F Tower in Panama City and were taken by Muribeg, Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz), and Rubydiazmendez. They can be downloaded here and are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike Unported 3.0 License or the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License.

This composition and video may also be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License.

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

Can Most People Become Techno-Optimists? – Panel Discussion by G. Stolyarov II, Demian Zivkovic, Philippe Castonguay, Roen Horn, Sylvester Geldtmeijer, and Laurens Wes

Can Most People Become Techno-Optimists? – Panel Discussion by G. Stolyarov II, Demian Zivkovic, Philippe Castonguay, Roen Horn, Sylvester Geldtmeijer, and Laurens Wes

Techno-Optimism_Panel_ImageThe New Renaissance Hat

G. Stolyarov II, Demian Zivkovic, Philippe Castonguay, Roen Horn, Sylvester Geldtmeijer, and Laurens Wes

May 9, 2015
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What are the key approaches and opportunities for restoring an optimistic view of technology, progress, and the future among the majority of people – and to counter apocalyptic, Malthusian, and neo-Luddite thinking?

On May 9, 2015, Mr. Stolyarov, the author of Death is Wrong – the illustrated children’s book on indefinite life extension  – invited a panel of future-oriented thinkers to discuss this question. Watch the discussion here.

Panelists

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Demian Zivkovic is a student of artificial intelligence and philosophy, and founder and president of the Institute of Exponential Sciences – https://www.facebook.com/IEScience/ –  an international transhumanist think tank / education institute comprised of a group of transhumanism-oriented scientists, professionals, students, journalists and entrepreneurs interested in the interdisciplinary approach to advancing exponential technologies and promoting techno-positive thought.

Demian and the IES have been involved in several endeavors, including interviewing professor Aubrey de Grey, organizing lectures on exponential sciences with guests including de Grey, and spreading “Death is Wrong” – Mr. Stolyarov’s illustrated children’s book on indefinite life extension – in The Netherlands. Demian Zivkovic is a strong proponent of transhumanism, hyperreality, and hypermodernism. He is currently working on his ambition of raising enough capital to make a real difference in life extension and transhumanist thought.

Demian invites anybody who is interested in forwarding a technologically positive vision of the future to get involved with the Institute of Exponential Sciences via its Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/IEScience/.

***

Philippe Castonguay is currently pursuing a B.Sc. in Psychology while doing research in computational neuroscience. His main research topics are the influence of noise on the stability of chaotic neural network models, mechanisms of recurrent neural integration on a network scale and high-dimensional data representations. Philippe is also an executive member of Bricobio, a DIY biohacking group in Montreal and co-founder of Montreal Futurists, a Montreal group that wants to promote transhumanist/futurist ideas and prepare the population for the integration of related technologies in the society.

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Sylvester Geldtmeijer is a Dutch citizen and sound designer. He has been interested in transhumanism, science, and technology since childhood, when he was fascinated with science fiction and imagining a highly advanced technological world where every problem can be solved with science. He emphasizes the ability of science to help people, especially through medical advancements, and considers Deep Brain Stimulation to be one of the most important inventions of our time. He hopes that technological advances will produce an era in which children can grow up without struggling with any learning difficulties or physical obstacles.

Sylvester would like to share the following words of inspiration with our viewers:

For some the age of reason is too far,
For some the age of utopization will also be too far.
But for idealists reason is not just an accomplishment;
It’s development –
Just like utopia isn’t a place;
It’s a state of mind.

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Roen Horn is a philosopher and lecturer on the importance of trying to live forever. He founded the Eternal Life Fan Club – http://eternallifefanclub.com/ – in 2012 to encourage fans of eternal life to start being more strategic with regard to this goal. To this end, one major focus of the club has been on life-extension techniques, everything from lengthening telomeres to avoiding risky behaviors. Currently, Roen’s work may be seen in the many memes, quotes, essays, and video blogs that he has created for those who are exploring their own thoughts on this, or who want to share and promote the same things. Like many other fans of eternal life, Roen is in love with life, and is very inspired by the world around him and wants to impart in others the same desire to discover all this world has to offer.

***

Laurens Wes is a Dutch engineer and chief engineering officer at the Institute of Exponential Sciences. Furthermore he is the owner of Intrifix, a company focused on 3D-printing and software solutions. Aside from these tasks, Laurens is very interested in transhumanism, longevity, just about all fields of science, entrepreneurship, and expressing creativity. He is a regular speaker for the IES and is very committed to educating the public on accelerated technological developments and exponential sciences.

James Blish’s “At Death’s End”: An Early View of the Prospects for Indefinite Life Extension – Article by G. Stolyarov II

James Blish’s “At Death’s End”: An Early View of the Prospects for Indefinite Life Extension – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
March 14, 2015
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At-Deaths-End-ASF-May-1954-900

                “At Death’s End”, written by James Blish (1921-1975), was published in the May 1954 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine. Surprisingly, this short story is still only accessible in hard copy, within the original Astounding Science Fiction edition. Apart from a brief review by Robert W. Franson, who introduced me to this work, there is today surprisingly little literary analysis devoted to “At Death’s End” – even though it offers a fascinating glimpse into how a science-fiction writer from an earlier era perceived the prospects for indefinite human longevity, from the vantage point of the scientific knowledge available at the time. The world portrayed by Blish is, in some respects, surprisingly like our own. In others, however, it overlooks the complexity of the treatments that would be necessary to achieve actual radical life extension.

                The future (shortly after 2000) that Blish depicts is one where national governments are obsessed with “security” and “defense” – much like the United States today. It appears that the Cold War is still underway in this world (and it could be said that it has been resurrected in ours as well); however, space travel and space colonies are also prominent. The protagonist, Colonel Paige Russell, is himself a spacefarer who begins the story by journeying to the headquarters of pharmaceutical firm Jno. Pfitzner & Sons, Inc., to bring back soil samples from Ganymede and Callisto. In the midst of a society where an entrenched military-industrial complex has taken hold (even to the point of top positions – such as head of the FBI – becoming hereditary), a fundamentalist religious revival has also emerged, though the religionists often use machines to preach in their stead. This development, too, bears striking similarities to the rise of televangelism and the fundamentalist “religious right” in the United States during the late 1970s and 1980s. The overall society depicted by Blish is more permeated with religion than our own, as the alternative to the preachy fundamentalist religiosity of the Believers is portrayed as being a more subdued but still inextricable personal faith. Paige claims,

I’ve no religion of my own, but I think that when the experts talk about ‘faith’ they mean something different than the shouting kind, the kind the Believers have. […] Real faith is so much a part of the world you live in that you seldom notice it, and it isn’t always religious in the formal sense. Mathematics is based on faith, for instance, for those who know it. (17-18)

Even many religious individuals today would disagree with the notion that mathematics is based on faith – and certainly the many atheists and agnostics who are fond of mathematics and of the scientific method would rightly recognize that these logic-based and evidence-based approaches are as far from faith as one can get. And yet Blish intends Paige’s position to be the level-headed, sensible, rational one, compared to the alternative – showing that Blish did not foresee the extent to which skepticism of religious faith would become a widespread, though still a minority, position.

                Blish’s extrapolation of medical progress is remarkably prescient in certain respects. Paige learns of the history of medicine from Anne Abbott, the daughter of Pfitzner’s leading researcher:

In between 1940 and 1960, a big change came in in Western medicine. Before 1940 – in the early part of the century – the infectious diseases were major killers. By 1960 they were all but knocked out of the running. […] In the 1950s, for instance, malaria was the world’s greatest killer. Now it’s as rare as diphtheria. We still have both diseases with us – but how long has it been since you heard of a case of either? […] Life insurance companies, and other people who kept records, began to be alarmed at the way the degenerative diseases were coming to the fore. Those are such ailments as hardening of the arteries, coronary heart disease, the rheumatic diseases, and almost all the many forms of cancer – diseases where one or another body mechanism suddenly goes haywire, without any visible cause. (20-21)

The shift from infectious diseases being the primary killers, to the vast majority of people dying from the degenerative diseases of “old age”, is precisely what happened during the latter half of the twentieth century, throughout the world. The top killers in the early 20th century were infectious diseases that have been virtually wiped out today, as this chart from the Carolina Population Center shows. (For more details, see “Mortality and Cause of Death, 1900 v. 2010” by Rebeca Tippett.) Additional major progress is evident in the 54% absolute decline in mortality from all causes during the time period between 1900 and 2010.

                Blish was foresighted enough to attempt a conceptual decoupling of chronological and biological age. Anne Abbott explains to Paige that “Old age is just the age; it’s not a thing in itself, it’s just the time of life when most degenerative diseases strike” (21). She recounts that “When the actuaries first began to notice that the degenerative diseases were on the rise, they thought that it was just a sort of side-effect of the decline of the infectious diseases. They thought that cancer was increasing because more people were living long enough to come down with it” (21). Anne then proceeds to discuss findings that some cancers are caused by viruses – which is actually the case for a minority of cancers (approximately 17.8% of cancers in 2002, as estimated by the World Health Organization). In the world portrayed by Blish, a rising incidence of degenerative diseases caused by viral infections led the National Health Service to fund research efforts by companies like Pfitzner, in an effort to address the threat.

                Incidentally, Blish also foresaw the rise in major government expenditures on medical research. Anne explains that “the result of [the first world congress on degenerative diseases] was that the United States Department of Health, Welfare and Security somehow got a billion-dollar appropriation for a real mass attack on the degenerative diseases” (22). Of course, in our world, major scientific conventions on degenerative diseases – both governmental and private – are far more routine. Indeed, a small but dynamic private organization – the SENS Research Foundation – has itself hosted six world-class conferences on rejuvenation biotechnology to date. In the United States, billions of dollars each year are indeed spent on research into degenerative diseases. The budget of the National Institute on Aging exceeds $1 billion annually (it amounts to $1,170,880,000 for Fiscal Year 2015). Unfortunately, in practice, even this level of funding – from both private and governmental sources – has thus far proven wholly insufficient to comprehensively reverse biological senescence and defeat all degenerative diseases.

                In Blish’s imagined future, the battle against senescence could be won far more easily than in our present. Pfitzner’s key project is a sweeping solution to all lifespan-limiting ailments – a broad-range “antitoxin against the aging toxin of humans” (36). In this world, Paige, who later becomes trained in Pfitzner’s research techniques, can pronounce that “We know that the aging toxin exists in all animals; we know it’s a single, specific substance, quite distinct from the ones that cause the degenerative diseases, and that it can be neutralized. […] So what you’re looking for now is not an antibiotic – an anti-life drug – but an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug” (36). If only it were that simple! Today, even the most ambitious engineering-based approach toward defeating senescence, Dr. Aubrey de Grey’s SENS program, recognizes not one but seven distinct types of aging-related damage that accumulate in the organism. Dr. de Grey’s strategy of periodically reversing the damage is more straightforward than the alternative approach of re-engineering the tremendously complex metabolic processes of the body that malfunction over time, and which are still quite incompletely understood. In Blish’s world, a single company, working covertly, with relatively modest funding (compared to the funds available to research organizations in our world), can develop an “anti-agathic” drug that does for senescence what antibiotics did for deadly infectious disease.

                Without spoiling the ending, I will only mention that it is friendly to the prospects of radical life extension and portrays it in a positive light – one additional reason for recommending that “At Death’s End” be included within the canon of proto-transhumanist and life-extensionist literary works. Furthermore, the viability of indefinite life extension in Blish’s vision is closely intertwined with humanity’s future as a spacefaring species – another progress-friendly position. Blish comes across as a thoughtful, scientifically literate (for his era) writer, who extrapolated the world-changing trends of his time to arrive at a tense, conflict-ridden, but still eminently hopeful vision for the future, where the best of human intellect and aspiration are able to overcome the perils of militarism, fundamentalism, decay, and death.

              The author of “At Death’s End” himself succumbed to death at the age of 54, on July 30, 1975. He did not live to see the world of 2000 and compare it to his prognosis. Unfortunately, Blish seems to have disregarded the tremendous harms of tobacco smoke and was even employed by the Tobacco Institute from 1962 to 1968. A genealogical profile lists Blish’s cause of death as “Recurrent cancer per smoking, metastasized.” This brilliant, forward-thinking mind unfortunately could not escape one of the most common collective delusions of his time – the fascination with and normalization of one of the least healthy habits imaginable, one that is the most statistically likely to lower life expectancy (by about 10 years). This is quite sad, as it would have been fascinating to learn how Blish’s projections for the future would have been affected by additional decades of his experience of societal and technological changes. One of the major trends in longevity improvement over the past several decades has been a major decline in the smoking rate, which decreased to an all-time low in the United States in 2013 (the latest year for which statistics are currently available). Surely, to come closer to death’s end, as many humans as possible should abandon what are now known to be obviously life-shortening habits.

              While an anti-agathic drug is not in our future, James Blish’s vision of the defeat of senescence can still serve to inspire those who endeavor to solve this colossal problem in our world, during our lifetimes. Let us hope that, through the efforts of longevity researchers and through increases in funding and public attitudinal support for their projects, we will arrive at death’s end before death ends us.