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My Views on “Eden against the Colossus” – Ten Years Later – Article by G. Stolyarov II

My Views on “Eden against the Colossus” – Ten Years Later – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
June 8, 2013
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Not long after the release of the Second Edition of my 2003-2004 science-fiction mystery novel Eden against the Colossus, I was asked whether any of the views I expressed in the novel had changed since then, and, if so, to what extent.

I still strongly adhere to most of the fundamental philosophical principles expressed in Eden against the Colossus: the existence of an objective reality, the necessity for reason and rigorous inquiry in discovering it, the supreme value of the individual, the virtue of enlightened self-interest, and the immense benefits of technological progress for improving, elevating, and extending the human condition.

In the introduction to the Second Edition I discussed how, in retrospect, the future society described in Eden against the Colossus seems like a pessimistic scenario of how far humanity would progress technologically during the 750 years since the writing of the novel (for instance, in the lack of autonomous artificial intelligence or indefinite life extension – through there are many advanced robots and the average lifespan has increased by perhaps a factor of three in the world initially presented in the novel). This is a world very much characterized by a stark good-versus-evil conflict – that of the individualists/technoprogressives versus the Malthusians/Neo-Luddites. In the novel I occasionally use the term “environmentalists” to describe the Malthusians/Neo-Luddites; today, I would make a subtler distinction between those environmentalists who favor free-market and/or technological solutions to the problems they perceive, and those who see the only solutions as a “return to Nature” and a curtailment of human population. My quarrel is, and has fundamentally always been, only with those environmentalists who seek to reject or limit technological progress – particularly those who would use force to impose their preferences on others. Today I would be more careful to describe my views as anti-Luddite, rather than anti-environmentalist, in order to recognize as possible allies those environmentalists who would embrace technology with incidental benefits such as the reduction of pollution or the more efficient use of resources.

Were I writing the novel today, the society which results as the outcome of the individualist/technoprogressive vision would look quite different as well. The Intergalactic Protectorate is a libertarian system, but a highly centralized one nonetheless. Through its storyline though not through its explicit philosophical ideas, Eden against the Colossus illustrates the vulnerabilities of such a system and the ease of turning the machinery of the Protectorate against the very ideals it is supposed to protect. This is true, I now realize, of any large, centralized institution – public or private, controlled by virtuous people, or by mediocrities or crooks. As an example of this, one needs only to consider how the vast, largely voluntary centralization of information on the Internet – during the age of dominant providers of social-networking, search, and content-hosting services – has enabled sweeping surveillance of virtually all Americans by the National Security Agency through “backdoors” into the systems of the dominant Internet companies. No one person – and no one institution – can be the sole effective guardian of liberty. On the other hand, a society filled with political experiments, as well as experiments in decentralized technologies applied to every area of life, would be much more robust against usurpations of power and incursions against individual rights. Undertakings such as seasteading, a decentralized Meshnet, and Bitcoin have intrigued me in recent years as ways to empower individuals by reducing their dependence on large institutions and decreasing the number of ways by which power asymmetry enables those with ill intentions to get away with inconveniencing or outright oppressing innocent people.

A truly libertarian future will not resemble today’s corporate America on an intergalactic scale, only with considerably less regulation and a more stringently written Constitution enforced by a fourth branch of government possessing negative power only – essentially, the society portrayed in Eden against the Colossus. If humanity is to achieve an intergalactic presence, it will likely be in the form of hundreds of thousands of diverse and autonomous networks of people, largely possessing fluid social and political structures. The balance of power in such a world would greatly favor individuals who are hyperempowered by technology. Furthermore, if technology is to have the ability to radically enhance human intelligence and reasoning, then many of the philosophical disputes that have recurred throughout history may, in future eras, be settled by a more rigorous and nuanced framing of the ideas under consideration. The intellectual conflicts of the future are not likely to be of the hitherto-encountered “capitalist versus socialist” or “technoprogressive versus environmentalist” variety – since the evolution of technology and culture, as well as the shifting dynamics of human societies, will raise new issues of focus which will lead to interesting and unanticipated alignments of persons of various perspectives. It would be entirely possible for some issues to unite erstwhile opponents – as principled libertarians and principled socialists today both detest crony corporatism, or as technoprogressives and some technology-friendly environmentalists today support nuclear power and organisms bioengineered to clean up pollution.

With regard to the personal lives of the characters of Eden against the Colossus, my view today no longer necessitates a glorification of ceaseless work, though productivity remains important to me without a doubt. The enjoyment of the fruits of productive work – and the ability to increase the proportion of one’s time spent in that enjoyment without diminishing one’s productivity – are among the outcomes made possible by technological progress. Such outcomes are insufficiently illustrated in Eden against the Colossus. Moreover, were I to write the novel today, I would have more greatly focused on the ability of a technological society to provide individuals with the opportunity to balance work, leisure, relationships, and a broad awareness of numerous areas of existence.

Along with all of these qualifying statements, however, I nonetheless emphasize my view that the fundamental essence of the conflict depicted in Eden against the Colossus is still a valid and vital subject for contemplation and for consideration of its relevance to our lives. As long as humankind continues to exist in anything resembling its present form, two fundamental motivations – the desire for improvement of the human condition and the desire for restrictive control that would suppress efforts to alter the status quo – will continue to be at odds, in whatever unforeseeable future embodiments they might come to possess. Perhaps sufficient technological progress will shift the balance of human biology, environment, and incentives further away from the command-and-control motive and closer toward the pure motives of amelioration and progress. One can certainly hope.

Morality Needs Immortality to Live – Article by Franco Cortese

Morality Needs Immortality to Live – Article by Franco Cortese

“In Order to be Go(o)d, We Can’t Die!” Says Kant

The New Renaissance Hat
Franco Cortese
May 2, 2013
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Dead Immortalist Sequence –  #1: Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

Kant is often misconstrued as advocating radical conformity amongst people, a common misconception drawn from his Categorical Imperative, which states that each should act as though the rules underlying his actions can be made a universal moral maxim. The extent of this universality, however, stops at the notion that each man should act as though the aspiration towards morality were a universal maxim. All Kant meant, I argue, was that each man should act as though the aspiration toward greater morality were able to be willed as a universal moral maxim.

This common misconception serves to illustrate another common and illegitimate portrayal of the Enlightenment tradition. Too often is the Enlightenment libeled for its failure to realize the ideal society. Too often is it characterized most essentially by its glorification of strict rationality, which engenders invalid connotations of stagnant, statuesque perfection – a connotation perhaps aided by the Enlightenment’s valorization of the scientific method, and its connotations of stringent and unvarying procedure and methodology in turn. This takes the prized heart of the Enlightenment tradition and flips it on its capsized ass. This conception of the Enlightenment tradition is not only wrong, but antithetical to the true organizing gestalt and prime impetus underlying the Age of the Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment wasn’t about realizing the perfect society but rather about idealizing the perfect society – the striving towards an ever-inactualized ideal which, once realized, would cease to be ideal for that very reason. The Enlightenment was about unending progress towards that ideal state – for both Man as society and man as singular splinter – of an infinite forward march towards perfection, which, upon definitively reaching perfection, will have failed to achieve its first-sought prize. The virtue of the Enlightenment lies in the virtual, and its perfection in the infinite perfectibility inherent in imperfection.

This truer, though admittedly less normative, interpretation of the Enlightenment tradition, taking into account its underlying motivations and projected utilities – rather than simply taking flittered glints from the fallacious surface and holding them up for solid, tangible truth – also serves to show the parallels between the Enlightenment gestalt and Transhumanism. James Hughes, for one, characterizes Transhumanism as a child of the Enlightenment Tradition [1].

One can see with intuitive lucidity that characterizing the Enlightenment’s valorization of rationality goes against the very underlying driver of that valorization. Rationality was exalted during the Age of Enlightenment for its potential to aid in skepticism toward tradition. Leave the chiseled and unmoving, petty perfection of the statue for the religious traditions the Enlightenment was rebelling against – the inviolable God with preordained plan, perfect for his completion and wielding total authority over the static substance of Man; give the Enlightenment rather the starmolten fire-afury and undulate aspiration toward ever-forth-becoming highers that it sprang from in the first place. The very aspects which cause us to characterize the enlightenment as limiting, rigid, and unmolten are those very ideals that, if never realized definitively – if instead made to form an ongoing indefinite infinity – would thereby characterize the Enlightenment tradition as a righteous roiling rebellion against limitation and rigour – as a flighty dive into the molten maelstrom of continuing mentation toward better and truer versions of ourselves and society that was its real underlying impetus from the beginning.

This truer gestalt of the Enlightenment impinges fittingly upon the present study. Kant is often considered one of the fathers of the Enlightenment. In a short essay entitled “What is the Enlightenment?” [2], Kant characterizes the essential archetype of Man (as seen through the lens of the Enlightenment) in a way wholly in opposition to the illegitimate conceptions of the Enlightenment described above – and in vehement agreement with the less-normative interpretation of the Enlightenment that followed. It is often assumed, much in line with such misconceptions, that the archetype of Man during the Age of the Enlightenment was characterized by rational rigour and scientific stringency. However, this archetype of the mindless, mechanical automaton was the antithesis of Man’s then-contemporary archetype; the automaton was considered rather the archetype of animality – which can be seen as antithetical to the Enlightenment’s take on Man’s essence, with its heady rationality and lofty grasping towards higher ideals. In his essay, Kant characterizes the Enlightenment’s archetype of Man as the rebellious schoolboy who cannot and shall not be disciplined into sordid subservience by his schoolmasters. Here Kant concurs gravely from beyond the grave that Man’s sole central and incessant essence is his ongoing self-dissent, his eschewing of perverse obligation, his disleashing the weathered tethers of limitation, and his ongoing battle with himself for his own self-creation.

It is this very notion of infinite progress towards endlessly perfectable states of projected perfection that, too, underlies his ties to Immortalism. Indeed, his claim that to retain morality we must have comprehensively unending lives – that is, we must never ever die – rests crucially on this premise.

In his Theory of Ethics [3] under “Part III: The Summum Bonum, God and Immortality” [4], Kant argues that his theory of ethics necessitates the immortality of the soul in order to remain valid according to the axioms it adheres to. This is nothing less than a legitimation of the desirability of personal immortality from a 1700’s-era philosophical rockstar. It is important to note that the aspects making it so crucial in concern to Kant’s ethical system have to do with immortality in general, and indeed would have been satisfied according to non-metaphysical (i.e. physical and technological) means – having more to do with the end of continued life and indefinite longevity or Superlongevity in particular, than with the particular means used to get there, which in his case is a metaphysical means. Karl Ameriks writes in reference to Kant here: “… the question of immortality is to be understood as being about a continued temporal existence of the mind. The question is not whether we belong to the realm beyond time but whether we will persist through all time…Kant also requires this state to involve personal identity.” [5]. While Kant did make some metaphysical claims tied to immortality – namely the association of degradation and deterioration with physicality, which when combined with the association of time with physicality may have led to his characterization of the noumenal realm (being the antithesis of the phenomenal realm) as timeless and free from causal determination – these claims are beyond the purview of this essay, and will only be touched upon briefly. What is important to take away is that the metaphysical and non-metaphysical justifications are equally suitable vehicles for Kant’s destination.

Note that any italics appearing within direct quotations are not my own and are recorded as they appeared in the original. All italics external to direct quotations are my own. In  the 4th Section, The immortality of the soul as a postulate of pure practical reason, of the 3rd Part of Theory of Ethics, Kant writes: “Pure  practical reason postulates the immortality of the soul, for reason in the pure and practical sense aims at the perfect good (Summum Bonum), and this perfect good is only possible on the supposition of the soul’s immortality.” [5]

Kant is claiming here that reason (in both senses with which they are taken into account in his system – that is, as pure reason and practical reason) is aimed at perfection, which he defines as continual progress towards the perfect good – rather than the attainment of any such state of perfection, and that as finite beings we can only achieve such perfect good through an unending striving towards it.

In a later section, “The Antinomy of Practical Reason (and its Critical Solution)” [6], he describes the Summum Bonum as “the supreme end of a will morally determined”. In an earlier section, The Concept of the Summum Bonum [7], Kant distinguishes between two possible meanings for Summum; it can mean supreme in the sense of absolute (not contingent on anything outside itself), and perfect (not being part to a larger whole). I take him to claim that it means both.

He also claims personal immortality is a necessary condition for the possibility of the perfect good. In the same section he describes the Summum Bonum as the combination of two distinct features: happiness and virtue (defining virtue as worthiness of being happy, and in this section synonymizing it with morality). Both happiness and virtue are analytic and thus derivable from empirical observation.

However, their combination in the Summum Bonum does not follow from either on its own and so must be synthetic, or reliant upon a priori cognitive principles, Kant reasons. I interpret this as Kant’s claiming that the possibility of the Summum Bonum requires God and the Immortality of the Soul because this is where Kant grounds his a priori, synthetic, noumenal world – i.e. the domain where those a priori principles exist (in/as the mind of God, for Kant).

Kant continues:

“It is the moral law which determines the will, and in this will the perfect harmony of the mind with the moral law is the supreme condition of the summum bonum… the perfect accordance of the will with the moral law is holiness, a perfection of which no rational being of the sensible world is capable at any moment of his existence. Since, nevertheless, it is required as practically necessary, it can only be found in a progress in infinitum towards that perfect accordance, and on the principles of pure practical reason is nonetheless necessary to assume such a practical progress as the real object of our will.” [8]

Thus not only does Kant argue for the necessitated personal immortality of the soul by virtue of the fact that perfection is unattainable while constrained by time, he argues along an alternate line of reasoning that such perfection is nonetheless necessary for our morality, happiness and virtue, and that we must thus therefore progress infinitely toward it without ever definitively reaching it if the Summum Bonum is to remain valid according to its own defining attributes and categorical-qualifiers as-such.

Kant decants:

“Now, this endless progress is only possible on the supposition of an endless duration of existence and personality of the same rational being (which is called the immorality of the soul). The Summum Bonum, then, practically is only possible on the supposition of the immortality of the soul; consequently this immortality, being inseparably connected with the moral law, is a postulate of pure practical reason (by which I mean a theoretical proposition, not demonstrable as such, but which is an inseparable result of an unconditional a priori practical law). This principle of the moral destination of our nature, namely, that it is only in an endless progress that we can attain perfect accordance with the moral law… For a rational but finite being, the only thing possible is an endless progress from the lower to higher degrees of moral perfection. In Infinite Being, to whom the condition of time is nothing… is to be found in a single intellectual intuition of the whole existence of rational beings. All that can be expected of the creature in respect of the hope of this participation would be the consciousness of his tried character, by which, from the progress he has hitherto made from the worse to the morally better, and the immutability of purpose which has thus become known to him, he may hope for a further unbroken continuance of the same, however long his existence may last, even beyond this life, and thus may hope, not indeed here, nor in any imaginable point of his future existence, but only in the endlessness of his duration (which God alone can survey) to be perfectly adequate to his will.” [9]

So, Kant first argues that the existence of the Summum Bonum requires the immorality of the soul both a.) because finite beings conditioned by time by definition cannot achieve the absolute perfection of the Summum Bonum, and can only embody it through perpetual progress towards it, and b.) because the components of the Summum Bonum (both of which must be co-present for it to qualify as such) are unitable only synthetically through a priori cognitive principals, which he has argued elsewhere must exist in a domain unconditioned by time (which is synonymous with his conception of the noumenal realm) and which must thus be perpetual for such an extraphysical realm to be considered unconditioned by time and thus noumenal. The first would correspond to Kant’s strict immortalist underpinnings, and the second to the alternate (though not necessarily contradictory) metaphysical justification alluded to earlier.

Once arguing that the possibility of the Summum Bonum requires personal immortality, he argues that our freedom/autonomy, which he locates as the will (and further locates the will as being determined by the moral law) also necessitates the Summum Bonum. This would correspond to his more embryonically Transhumanist inclinations. In the first section (“The Concept of Summum Bonum”) he writes, “It is a priori (morally) necessary to produce the summum bonum by freedom of will…” I interpret this statement in the following manner. He sees morality as a priori and synthetic, and the determining principle which allows us to cause in the world without being caused by it – i.e., for Kant our freedom (i.e., the quality of not being externally determined) requires the noumenal realm because otherwise we are trapped in the freedom-determinism paradox. Thus the Summum Bonum also vicariously necessitates the existence of God, because this is necessary for the existence of a noumenal realm unaffected by physical causation (note that Kant calls physicality ‘the sensible world’). Such a God could be (and indeed has been described by Kant in terms which would favor this interpretation) synonymous with the entire noumenal realm, with every mind forming but an atom as it were in the larger metaorganismal mind of a sort of meta-pantheistic, quasi-Spinozian conception of God – in other words, one quite dissimilar to the anthropomorphic connotations usually invoked by the word.

Others have drawn similar conclusions and made similar interpretations. Karl Ameriks summarizes Kant’s reasoning here thusly:

“All other discussions of immortality in the critical period are dominated by the moral argument that Kant sets out in the second critique. The argument is that morality obligates us to seek holiness (perfect virtue), which therefore must be possible, and can only be so if God grants us an endless afterlife in which we can continually progress… As a finite creature man is incapable of ever achieving holiness, but on – and only in – an endless time could we supposedly approximate to it (in the eyes of God) as fully as could be expected… Kant is saying not that real holiness is ever a human objective, but rather that complete striving for it can be, and this could constitute for man a state of ‘perfect virtue’…” [10]

The emphasis on indefinity is also present in the secondary literature; Ameriks remarks that Kant ”…makes clear that the ‘continual progress’ he speaks of can ultimately have a ‘non-temporal’ nature in that it is neither momentary nor of definitive duration nor actually endless”. Only through never quite reaching our perfected state can we retain the perfection of lawless flawedness.

Paul Guyer corroborates my claim that the determining factor is not the claim that mind is an extramaterial entity or substance, but because if morality requires infinite good and if we are finite beings, then we must be finite beings along an infinite stretch of time in order to satisfy the categorical requirements of possessing such an infinity. He writes that ”..the possibility of the perfection of our virtuous disposition requires our actual immortality…” [11] and that ”…God and immortality are conditions specifically of the possibility of the ultimate object of virtue, the highest good – immortality is the condition for the perfection of virtue and God that for the realization of happiness…[12]

In summary, it doesn’t matter that Kant’s platform was metaphysical rather than technological, because the salient point and determining factors were not the specific operation or underlying principles (or the “means”) used to achieve immortality, but rather the very ends themselves. Being able to both live and progress in(de)finitely was the loophole that provided, for Kant, both our freedom and our morality. Kant said we can’t die if we want to be moral, that we can’t die if we want to gain virtue, and that we can’t die if we want to remain free.

Franco Cortese is an editor for Transhumanity.net, 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 their Futurists Board and their Life Extension Board) and contributes regularly to their blog.

References:

[1] Hughes, J. J. (2001). The Future of Death: Cryonics and the Telos of Liberal Individualism. Journal of Evolution &  Technology, 6 .

[2] Kant, I. (1996). In M.J. Gregor Practical Philosophy, Cambridge University Press.

[3] Kant, I. (1957). In T. M. Greene Kant selections, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

[4] Ibid,. p. 350.

[5] Ameriks, K. (2000). Kant’s  Theory of Mind: An Analysis of the Paralogisms of Pure Reason: Oxford University Press.

[6] Ibid., p. 352.

[7] Ibid., p. 350.

[8] Ibid,. p. 358.

[9] Ibid,. p. 359.

[10] Ameriks, K. (2000). Kant’s Theory of Mind: An Analysis of the Paralogisms of Pure Reason: Oxford University Press.

[11] Freydberg, B. (2005). Imagination of  Kant’s critique of practical reason: Indiana University Press.

[12] Guyer, P. (2000). Kant on Freedom, Law,  and Happiness: Cambridge University Press.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

Enemy of Ruin – Quiz and Badge – Fifth in TRA’s Series on Indefinite Life Extension

Enemy of Ruin – Quiz and Badge – Fifth in TRA’s Series on Indefinite Life Extension

enemy_of_ruin

G. Stolyarov II
March 30, 2013
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The Rational Argumentator is proud to announce the fifth in its planned series of quizzes on indefinite life extension, a companion activity to the Resources on Indefinite Life Extension (RILE) page.

Enemy of Ruin Quiz

Read “The Real War – and Why Inter-Human Wars are a Distraction” by G. Stolyarov II and answer the questions in the quiz below, in accordance with the essay. If you get 100% of the questions correct, you will earn the Enemy of Ruin badge, the fifth badge in The Rational Argumentator’s interactive educational series on indefinite life extension.  You will need a free account with Mozilla Backpack to receive the badge.

This badge was designed by Wendy Stolyarov, whose art you can see here, here, and here.


Leaderboard: Enemy of Ruin Quiz

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MOBI and EPUB Formats of “Eden against the Colossus” Now Available

MOBI and EPUB Formats of “Eden against the Colossus” Now Available

As promised, the Second Edition of my science-fiction mystery novel Eden against the Colossus is now available in additional formats. MOBI and EPUB formats for e-readers can now be downloaded for free. As previously, you can also download a free PDF copy of this book.

My sincere thanks go to Wendy Stolyarov for her work in making this release possible.

Second Edition of “Eden against the Colossus” Now Available for Free PDF Download

Second Edition of “Eden against the Colossus” Now Available for Free PDF Download

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
January 21, 2013
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I am delighted to announce that the Second Edition of my novel Eden against the Colossus (originally written in 2002-2003, and published in 2004) is now available for free download in PDF format. Click here to download and read a copy. I shall also endeavor to make the book available in other e-publishing formats in the near future.

The novel’s official home page has also been updated. You can go there to download the book and read reviews by others. I encourage you to submit reviews of your own to me in the manner described on the page. Additionally, I invite you to read the introduction to the Second Edition below.

   Introduction to the Second Edition

It has been some ten years since I wrote Eden against the Colossus. I worked on this book gradually from July 2002 through July 2003, with some light edits made in the summer of 2004, for online publication in July of that year. In October 2011, Lulu.com, the former host of the e-book, took it down inexplicably. I decided then that I never again would risk the availability of my work being put in jeopardy due to the whims of an external host. Hence, I have worked this past year to release this second edition, entirely free of charge, for as many electronic and e-book formats as I could manage.

In the course of creating the second edition, I performed some thorough editing, largely for style and not content. The aim of the editing process was to retain as much of the original intent and vision of Eden against the Colossus as I could, while improving the phrasing of certain sentences and sometimes modifying or clarifying a few peripheral details to render the story more internally consistent. My writing style has progressed considerably in the past decade, and I have endeavored to apply some of what I have learned in order to enhance this work – but not enough to alter its fundamental structure, plot, or ambience. Moreover, I have not diminished the substance or sophistication one bit.

Science fiction is shaped by the author’s ability to project the future from present circumstances. Upon re-reading and editing this work, it was interesting for me to contemplate the actual changes that had occurred in the world during the intervening ten years, and how they aligned with my predictions. In some ways, I am more optimistic about the future (especially the most proximate century) than I was when I wrote this book. Some of the technologies I anticipated, such as electronic ink, are already ubiquitous (though not facilitated by nanobots and an interface between the mind and an e-reader, as I had imagined). Other technologies, such as in vitro meat, are around the corner in our time – but have taken humankind in my projection some 750 years to arrive at.

I wrote Eden against the Colossus prior to my exposure to the work of Aubrey de Grey on indefinite human life extension and the work of Ray Kurzweil on exponential growth in computing technology, artificial intelligence, and the concept of the technological singularity. Even the Intergalactic Protectorate – with all of its technological marvels – is a pre-singularitarian society in Kurzweil’s sense. I suppose that it had to be one in order for me – from the vantage point of the early twenty-first century – to have been able to conceive of its various aspects. This fictional universe is also one in which sentient machines have not emerged – as I considered them impossible at the time of writing. There are numerous intricate robots on various scales – to be sure – but all of them remain instruments of man. Humans do, however, have numerous technological enhancements to their bodies and minds – a combination of biotechnology and computing add-ons – that serves as a soft parallel to Kurzweil’s concept of the merger of man and machine into an enhanced being of vastly greater cognitive capacity. The dialogue of the characters is far more advanced than most spoken discourse today; think of an entire society possessing the literary skills of elites during the 18th-century Enlightenment – in their speech.

 It is important to understand this hypothetical future as one conditioned by centuries of retrogression, war, and gradual, staggered recovery of civilization. Perhaps it represents one of the less palatable tracks of civilizational progress – where the Malthusians and Luddites set back prosperity and innovation for centuries, but where the human will for life, achievement, and expansion comes out ahead anyway – eventually. I certainly hope that, in the real world, we can do better to prevent the de-civilizing process from taking hold during the early third millennium. I harbor now – to a greater extent than I did ten years ago – the hope of personally someday living in a world where the level of human advancement and prosperity has surpassed what I envisioned here.

Eden against the Colossus is a humanist work, and a proto-transhumanist one. It embraces reason, industry, innovation, and technological progress, and thoroughly critiques and condemns the enemies of human development. Though it will be apparent to the reader from even the prologue, the book is intended as a response to and refutation of Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, which I still consider to espouse a worldview that is most diametrically opposed to my own. What would the society glorified by Ishmael really look like? Is it truly compatible with the human condition as it can be and ought to be? These questions are explored here in depth. I still think that most of my answers to them are correct, and worthy of consideration – especially as compared to their antitheses. It is particularly important for the ideas of reason, individualism, and technological progress to be spread today – in the face of misguided attacks from such diverse individuals as Leon Kass, Sherwin Nuland, Daniel Callahan, John Gray, and Nassim Taleb, which, if embraced by too many of our contemporaries, could seriously damage the advancement of civilization and our own life expectancies and standards of living. I might have phrased some of my statements differently had I written this work today, but the overall emphasis and intellectual direction are on target. I am rendering this book available to all for free download and redistribution, because I consider it essential to spread sophisticated discussion of these ideas and to counter the opponents of meliorism on both the Left and the Right.

Along with being a science-fiction tale, this book is a philosophical mystery story, which implies that not all pieces of information will be available to the reader immediately. I assure you, however: they will be accounted for. Reality brooks no contradictions, and any fiction that pretends to have value in this world cannot, either.

I have seen fit, as part of the mystery, to invent an entirely new language, which the reader will perceive to be quite confounding. It is meant to be. And, of course, the confusion is meant to be resolved.

 This book is not what it seems when you begin reading it. If it were merely about a straightforward ideological disagreement, or about interaction with an extremely different alien species, it could perhaps be phrased better in a treatise. Even though it may seem that I am telling you a lot of the ideas in the book, this is just one of the mechanisms used to show you this story.

To those who are expecting light reading, this book is certainly not that. It must both set up an elaborate future world and develop the mystery within it. The book must necessarily get off to a slow start, but once the background is explicated, the story begins to take on a life of its own, and careful reading of the early passages will pay intellectual dividends to the reader during the latter half. If you appreciate a text that is constructed with great care and in which every fact and every statement is selected with a logical purpose, then you will enjoy Eden against the Colossus.

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

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

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

This essay is read by Wendy Stolyarov.

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

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

References

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

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

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

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
May 13, 2012
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Jeffrey Tucker is one of my favorite pro-technology libertarian thinkers of our time. In his essays and books (see, for instance, It’s a Jetsons World), Mr. Tucker eloquently draws the connection between free markets and technological progress – and how the power of human creativity within a spontaneous order can overcome the obstructions posed by stagnant political and attitudinal paradigms. Mr. Tucker embraces the innovations of the Internet age and has written on their connection with philosophical debates – such as whether the idea of intellectual property is even practically tenable anymore, now that electronic technology renders certain human creations indefinitely reproducible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Real War – and Why Inter-Human Wars are a Distraction – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The Real War – and Why Inter-Human Wars Are a Distraction

G. Stolyarov II
March 12, 2012
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As a libertarian and individualist, I am thoroughly opposed to the inherently unjust killing of any innocent person. Yet war – organized, armed conflict within a nation or between nations – unavoidably causes the suffering, maiming, and deaths of innocents. I have argued in my videos “A Complete Denunciation of War” (here and here) and “Refuting Ayn Rand on War” that whatever the ostensible abstract aims any war might have, the end result is always the concrete suffering of those who deserve it least: the innocent victims for whom the injustices that brought about the war (such as an oppressive dictatorship) are compounded by the destruction and carnage inflicted by the war itself. The human and economic tolls of war are alone enough to fully justify a complete opposition.

But there is a further reason to oppose wars among human beings: they distract us from the real war that we should all be fighting, against the real enemy that threatens us all. By killing and injuring one another, by destroying the property and infrastructure on which our fellow humans rely, we only clear the way for our mutual enemy to destroy every one of us.

It is difficult to find a single name by which to refer to this mutual enemy, for it consists of many elements with distinct modes of operation. Yet the result of each of these modes is the same: our destruction. While the enemy is difficult to name, it is not difficult to identify in our daily lives.

War among humans is just one of the ways in which the real enemy manifests itself. The cousins of war – murder, theft, rape, political oppression, and plain destructive inanity of a million petty sorts – are ongoing even during times of ostensible peace. But the real enemy’s tactics are not so limited as to rely on destruction inflicted by men alone.

Myriad diseases afflict humans – diseases of infection, internal breakdown, senescence, and self-inflicted folly. Natural disasters – earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, blizzards, volcanoes, and tsunamis – inflict colossal damage so often that news of some such calamity occurring somewhere in the world are almost uninterrupted. And then there are the grave existential threats to all humankind: the possibility of a massive asteroid striking the earth and obliterating most higher-order life forms, the possibility of a new ice age imperiling agricultural production and dramatically shrinking the range of habitable land, the possibility of a major epidemic akin to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 killing hundreds of millions of people, or more. And, in the face of the tremendous damage and threats from all of these perils, what do humans do? They turn on each other and amplify the damage over petty geopolitical and ideological quarrels? How bizarre and absurd!

And even in eras where, by a stroke of luck, some humans in some parts of the world enjoy a welcome reprieve from some or even many of these perils, the real enemy manifests itself in more mundane ways. Machines tend to break down; structures tend to break; information tends to be forgotten, lost, or destroyed; food tends to rot and spoil; humans and their animal companions tend to senesce and die – unless something is done about it. In “Progress: Creation and Maintenance” I explained that human creation and creativity are not sufficient for civilization to flourish and advance. We must also preserve and maintain what has been created in the past – or else we shall return to using our unaided minds and bodies against the full range of horrifying perils that surrounded our primeval ancestors.

What is this enemy? While it works in ways that are both sudden and gradual, manifest and insidious, broad and targeted – perhaps the best name for it is ruin. The forces of ruin are the forces of death and decay; they are the many processes by which living organisms and their creations – in their beautiful and immense sophistication – are erased and decomposed, dissolved into the jumble of primitive elements whence they arose. For everything that aspires to be higher and greater, the forces of ruin act to bring it down, to rot in the earth. Everything that is built, grown, and nurtured, the forces of ruin threaten to weaken, diminish, crush, and demolish. Wherever and whoever you are, whatever means are at your disposal, the forces of ruin are targeting you using any vulnerability they can exploit. Will you acquiesce to your annihilation, or will you resist and strive to win back the ground that ruin has conquered and to defend what it has not yet despoiled?

Each human being possesses an intellect that can be harnessed as a weapon of immense power in the war on ruin. Technology and reason are the two products of the intellect which can be deployed as tactics and strategies and win battles against the forces of ruin. Over the long, arduous ascent of man, some of these destructive forces have already been diminished or even eradicated altogether. Smallpox, typhus, and polio are among the minions of ruin that humankind has vanquished. Humans are making gradual but significant inroads against crime, diseases, and even human war itself on many fronts – but the present rate of advancement will not be enough to save us (rather than some remote descendants of ours) from ruin. To save ourselves, we will need to greatly accelerate our rate of technological and moral progress. To do this, we will need to think more creatively than ever before, utilizing all of the hitherto discovered valid technological, economic, political, ethical, and esthetic insights at our disposal and launch a multifaceted bombardment of human ingenuity to eradicate one peril after another. This program cannot be centrally planned or coordinated; it requires the independent, highly motivated action of millions – and hopefully billions! – of autonomous human intellects, each willing to wage a guerilla war against the forces that have held all of us and our ancestors as their slaves and pawns since time immemorial.

To embrace the challenge, in all of its urgency, enough of us need to be free to do so – unbound by the constraints imposed by other men who think they know better and who would wish to keep us in line to serve their momentary interests, rather than the paramount interests of our own perpetuation. Those who wish to impose their vision of the good life through regimentation upon the rest of us overlook the vital fact that, with human independence and creativity thus shackled, entire societies have become sitting ducks – waiting for the forces of ruin to sweep away static, inflexible, primitively “engineered” communities of men. Only the liberty of each of us to act and innovate can lead to a sufficient variety and intensity of ideas and approaches as to keep ruin at bay.

Ruin is deadly serious, but it receives precious little human attention. It is the proverbial elephant in the room (except, unlike an elephant, far more vicious and deadly) which most people have been culturally taught to ignore, so as to maintain comfort and a more immediate focus – so as not to let massive threats interfere with their everyday pursuits. During most of human history, this enemy was so powerful that humans had no real chance against it, and their religions, philosophies, and social norms evolved to teach them that they might as well not try. They might, like the Stoics, decide to accept their inevitable destruction with grace and equanimity – or they might, like the Christians, convince themselves that their destruction would not be ultimate and that they would persevere in another form. In practice, these invented consolations served to capitulate our ancestors to the enemy. We can forgive our ancestors for devising these coping mechanisms in the absence of any real hope. But we cannot forgive ourselves if we, in our more advanced technological and intellectual condition, abandon the fight only because our inherited norms suggest it to be useless to begin with, or even undesirable to pursue.

There are many perils that each of us can choose to confront, and many tactics that we can begin to actualize. One size does not fit all, and the struggle against ruin should be waged by each individual unleashing his or her strengths in the area where he or she thinks them to have the greatest impact. But a good beginning would be to stop undermining and destroying one another. The pettiness and absurdity of human wars in both their causes and in their methods (as if men with guns on a field somewhere, or explosives dropped from the sky onto a city would ever solve any serious problem in a meaningful way!) would be laughable if it were not so tragic in its toll. The same goes for the intellectual, economic, and political straitjackets that humans in virtually every society create for themselves – artificially restraining meaningful exploration of ways to conquer ruin instead of just succumbing to it in a structured fashion, with a privileged few at the top maintaining the illusion of control. An anthill, after all, is powerless before the magnifying glass and the rays of the sun – no matter how much absolute power the ant queen perceives herself to have over her minions. We must be more than ants to win this war. We must all be individuals and recognize each of our individual lives as sacrosanct. We must direct all of our anger and hatred not toward other men – but toward the menace of ruin. The more of us do this now, the greater our likelihood of winning not just some remote bright future for our descendants – but our very lives from the ravages of senescence, disease, and calamity. I can imagine no greater victory or more glorious objective. The spoils of any inter-human war are supremely uninspiring and meritless by comparison.

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 Associated Content to assist the spread of rational ideas. He holds the highest Clout Level (10) possible on Associated Content and is one of Associated Content’s Page View Millionaires

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 gennadystolyarovii@yahoo.com.