)))QANON(((

Posted: 15th December 2020 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on )))QANON(((

In this short article I introduce this new meme – the “inverted brackets”.

This is essentially an inversion of the (((anti-semitism))) conspiracy thinking trope. I propose the inverted message using the inverted brackets. The general idea is that there is a confluence of –

  • racismts
  • low education people, anti-intellectuals
  • psychiatric patients
  • anti-globalists and populists
  • “The Deep State”
  • david icke stuff

working in the world to actively use  “hard to falsify” crazy cnspiracy thinking to aggressively argue against “global pedophiles”,  “G5 corona psychosis”,  migration and (of course) the jews.  By desinating something with )))inverted backets(((  you designate the topic or person as a loon, a conspiracy nut, a racist, a liar, someone who can’t intellectually cope with progress and emerging technologies, a populist charlatan, someone who didn’t finish high school, or someone partcularly gullible.

Basiaccly a )))loser(((. 

Do not however assume these losers are harmless.  These people are annoying weirdo’s right now, but ten years from now they could very well start executing people that dont fit in their understanding of reality. I take this stuff very serious and so should you.

I feel a little stigmatized. To put it mildly.

Posted: 30th September 2020 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on I feel a little stigmatized. To put it mildly.

Image

Comments Off on The Most Onorthodox Solution For Future Transport around Amsterdam

Amsterdam faces fairly serious problems right now. Transport is clogging up, and economy, travel, comfort all suffer. Existing solutions, such as cars, trams, buses, ponts and metros all have serious drawbacks. Let’s go over these drawbacks one by one.

Cars

Cars in Amsterdam don’t have much of a future – the inner city especially suffers much from damage to existing canals. Cars are stressfull and extremely polluting.  You need parking space, and most people in the city are starting to massively shun even owning a car. 

Buses

Amsterdam is a fairly compressed city. Buses can not effectively manouver in the streets. Also, of comparable options I personally experience buses as unappealing and uncomfortable. Buses compete with existing traffic, which worsens gridlock. Buses are slowed by traffic lights. 

Trams

There is no denying Trams are an indispensable part of Amsterdam. They are cleaner than existing alternatives, but can be quite noisy. Trams do have favorable PR – people would not want to see trams disappear from the existing infrastructure. They do require a lot of maintainance and you can’t take trams everywhere. There isn’t much space for them, and they become prohibitively expensive taken to suburbs.

Subways

Subways are the most appealing option, but are by and large insanely expensive and construction of new subways has become a political black hole. There are no reasonable plans for any of these for the foreseeable future.

Pont

Right now travel to Amsterdam noord functions with a pont. This is nothing short of a logistical nightmare and it’s pretty much the only way to take your bike reliably across the Ij. 

There is however an alternative.  It is certain to be a costly alternative but it certainly would be a realistic alternative. It would not damage historical buildings, it would be extremely popular in terms of use by tourists, it would add to the character of the city, it would be able to be constructed pretty much anywhere without plowing through the existing landscape.  It would be safe and could massively unlock suburbs and cross waterways. 

The hanging monorail has remarkable potential to massively unlock travel in and around Amsterdam.  The benefits for tourism, easy travel would be enormous. This website extolls the virtues of monorail, and hanging monorail costs are largely equivalent.  Here’s an example I arbitrarily crossed through Amsterdam, and the 31 kilometer would connect Zaandijk with Gein. 

There is no transport paradigm that would be able to compete with this. As a hanging system would be able to gradually move up and down it could cross parks and waterways relatively easy. Some stations would be close to ground level, others would cross elevated railway lines. The crossing over the Het Ij river would be so high elevated it would not interfere with ship traffic. Projected stops could be (at first glance) 

  • Eindstation de Binding, Zaandam 
  • Lootmanstraat, Zaandam
  • De Opera, Zaandam
  • Treinstation Zaandam (elevated)
  • Cornelis Bruinzeelweg (elevated)
  • Thorbeckeweg (elevated)
  • Sluispolderweg (elevated)
  • Cornelis Douwesweg
  • Klaprozenweg 
  • Koppelingpad (elevated)
  • Ijdoornlaan (elevated)
  • Bovenijziekenhuis (elevated)
  • Noorderpark (elevated)
  • Gedempte Hamerkanaal (elevated)
  • Kattenburgstraat (elevated)
  • Scheepvaartmuseum (elevated)
  • Hoogte Kadijk (elevated)
  • Station Muiderpoort (elevated)
  • Science Park (elevated)
  • Maxwellstraat (elevated) 
  • Station Amstel (elevated)
  • H.J.E. Wenckebachweg (elevated)
  • Astronautenweg (elevated)
  • Kruidenommegang (elevated)
  • Dolingadreef (elevated)
  • Bijlmerpark (elevated)
  • Karspeldreef (elevated)
  • Langebroekdreef (elevated)
  • Schaarsbergenstraat (elevated)
  • Wageningendreef

The comparable Wutterthal hanging rail is about twice as long and has about 20 stations versus 30. The trip there takes about 30 minutes, this one would be about 45 minutes.  

A nice benefit of this kind of construction would be to allow elevated stations with potential for connecting kiosks, stores, retail and other services. 

The solution would be incomparably cheaper and faster than an equivalent rail. It can be built almost immediately, and would take years rather than a decade to actually construct, and it would connect parts of Amsterdam previously.  The Noord-Zuid Metro ended up costing 3,1 billion euro. Taking estimates from equivalent metro systems world wide this one would cost less than 500 million. 

I can envision several such lines crisscrossing Amsterdam, and even extend to Haarlem, Schiphol, Almere – especially if parts are not constructed elevated. 

There is simply no other solution

Posted: 19th August 2020 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on There is simply no other solution

I don’t want to make outrageous claims but back since the 1980s I was always solidly certain in the conviction that sea levels would be rising procipitously in the latter half of the 21st century. This has been denied for over 30 years, often with a condescending tone. Now it turns out I was totally correct. The most pessimistic solution assumes that “fairly quickly”, sea levels will rise 3 meters, and eventually sea level rise will exceed ten meters. 

Nederlanders denken dat we over 100 jaar onder water staan: hoe ...

Harm Albert Zanting from water management firm Arcadis agrees with professor Kok – “we haven’t done anyting for 10-15 years of what will be required to avoid global warming. We are now paying the price.”. He looks with grave concern at the Greenland melting, “We are now discussing the absolutely blackest scenario”, and ‘YES’, he says, “we should be awake at night. The consequences will be brutal.

Links Eenvandaag 1, Eenvandaag 2,  Algemeen Dagblad,  Droge Voeten Atlas, Als de Golven KomenAls de dijken breken

This is real.  So essentially I can’t for one stomach any asshole that’s still in denial about climate change and global warming. Whenever I talk to someone who still lives in that bizarre reality, I visible write down their name, and when they ask why I say “Oh in 10-20 years if you are still alive I will report your name to the lynching comittee.” These people generally don’t like that joke. Maybe it isn’t a joke, but we’ll seen by then.

So what should be done? Well, there are solutions, and they are costly.  But I am fairly certain this solution will work on all levels. It will almost bankrupt the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Belgium (and potentially the entire Northern EU) over 2 centuries, but I see simply zero alternative.

Problem 1 – Salt Water Seepage.

The first problem the Dutch encountered when diking off the sea is that when the sea rises the sea seeps through the dikes with ever increasing pressure. This pretty much destroys the land behind the dikes and makes it inlivable, or useless for agriculture.  It also has lots of other consequences, such as for changed erosion or corrosion patterns. 

Problem 2 – River Water

Rivers in the Netherlands bring in a lot of water. In the rainy season they bring in even more, sometimes flooding parts of the land beyond dikes, or even parts of riverside cities. This water wants to go to the sea, but if the sea levels rise you would end up increasing sea dikes, as well as get locked in an ever escalating battle to raise dikes along rivers, sometimes deep inland. At some point you will have to dam off the riverend by the sea to keep out storm or high tide waters, letting river water accumulate over hundreds of kilometers often far inland, only to be able to release those waters at low tide. 

The solution

Thinking about it the first step towards a solution will be water protection. We can’t and we won’t surrender inland cities like Rotterdam or Amsterdam. Anyone who suggests we one day will is bonkers. The economic value of these cities, going forward, is several orders of magnitude bigger than any of the outlined solutions below.  The solutions below will probably cost hundreds of billions of Euro (assuming we still have a Euro by then) over the next decades. The corresponding economic value of combined Zeeland, Zuid Holland, Noord Holland, Parts of Utrecht, The Noord-oost Polder, Groningen and Friesland is probably a thousand times that, if not more. What’s more, this is the land of the people. It’s their home. Millions will scream bloody murder if it’s lost.  So any suggestion stating we should relinquish this land should result in heavy medication and/or psychiatric hospitalization. It’s unacceptable and will never be accepted. So what do we do? We fight.

My idea is far from new. The basic premise is one of a staggered and scaling defense. Essentially – we dike off the lowlying coastal Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Denmark with three successive rows of dikes. Each row scales up gradually. Behind each dike the sea is lower, and incrementally less salty.  So essentially, by the end of this century the Netherlands should look something like this from space.

The changes will be brutal for traditionalists, conservatives and environmentalists. The problem here is that your traditions, your values, your feelz and the environment won’t do very well if there’s several meters of water over your quaint archaic fishing village. If Rotterdam is flooded, a massive area of petrochemical industrially polluted land is exposed to tidal waters, and it contaminates probably large sections of the North sea.

The above plan is not a plan at all, just a simplified proof of concept on how we can (a) ward out salty seawater, (b) keep rivers flowing their melt-rain water to a relatively low sea-area, (c) keep us from having to massively increase levvies along major rivers, (d) allow us to massively increase habitable real estate (and add stretches of quite valuable coastal land, I might add), (e) export conflicting industries (schiphol for one, wind energy would be another) to massive levvies along the coast. The potential for economic growth, recreation, tourism would be enormous. And to make sure there’s ample coastal sedimentation, we could pland stretches of literal Magrove along these seawalls. It would not have to look like this at all…

Blade Runner 2019 - Sea Wall (800% Slower) - YouTubeIt would look more like this

The Venus Project envisions a sustainable redesign of our cities ...

I am aware that Europe is right now owned, led and controlled by old people. Old people make somewhat passive, somewhat less imaginative decissions. They don’t aspire, like younger people do. They don’t like revolutionary change or progress. They want their nest eggs, apple carts and investments and oligopolies secure, and they don’t like anyone rocking the boat. My friend and fellow Transhumanist Amanda and me label this “pension thinking”, i.e. the idea that most people in control of society assume they have “a few” decades ahead of them, most of that time spent comparatively inactive, collecting a pension and demanding stability. The above scenario would over time reduce real estate values in the Netherlands. Right now a small crust of land owners and renters in the Netherlands (mostly pension funds) make a lot of money artificially keeping prices of real estate high. In this manner they keep valuable property on their books and they keep the landed pensioner gentry happy and wellfed. 

This is essentially a ponzi scheme. Those at the top won this game of monopoly and are collecting rents from anyone who joined the game a few dozen rounds later. The above change would signify a massive degree of progress that would open up a new empty Monopoly board, with empty houses and streets, and that would deflate existing commodities to a degree. So you can count on it that a lot of people will do their utmost best to ridicule, slander or ignore ideas such as these.

But that’s essentially stupid, if by 2100 we start seeing major parts of the Netherlands get flooded and catastrophically lost to the sea. 

The sea is coming, and it’s on a warpath. Imagine having to leave your home, see it utterly destroyed in a storm flood, and having to migrate to the East of the netherlands – or to another country, allready flooded with climate refugees – and you may come to realise what’s at stake.

And if you visualise the long term interests of England, Schotland, France, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Lithuania and Latvia – all countries that would lose massive stretches of land to sea level rise, we can even go further than that. Might have to go further than that. Sure it’s going to cost us, and it won’t be pretty, but what other choices do all these countries have?

 

Violent Revolution, It’s Time.

Posted: 12th August 2020 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on Violent Revolution, It’s Time.

It is now time.  Maybe overdue a little.

The global disparity, the plutocracy, the kleptocracy, the stealing, the corruption, the rampant media lying, the oligarchy – it’s mostly everwhere. It is worse than it has ever been. And it needs to end at once.

“They” don’t listen to arguments. There are so many of “them” and their ability to rationalize that what evil they do is in fact justified has made their minds impervious to reasonable arguments. Just look at the usual suspects, the pundits, the media figures. If Ben Shapiro can argue (message paid for by the Koch Brother) the DNC is far radical left, then there is simply nothing you can say to the guy.

It’s time for revolution. It’s time for world wide protest, guerilla warfare, violent uprising, sabotage, riotting, burning down buildings owned by the man, mass lynchings, mass strikes, mass organization and radicalization. It’s time to completely no longer compromise. We need to assume we are already dead, already in the gulags and camps, already dying. There is othing more to be gained by any level of appeasement. They simply will use any hesitation to just crack down harder.  Look at Hong Kong – that’s just waiting to happen everywhere. Literal concentration camps, mass torture, black bag disappearings, police violence, extrajudicial killings. Look at the news – Lebanon, Serbia, Ukraine, the US, China, France, Czechia, it’s everywhere. The fire has already ignited the fuse, the fuse has burned up and the dynmate IS already detonating. 

Basically not doing anything is now rank cowardice, apathy or imbecility. Time for dialogue or ostrichism is over. You are already in the prison on the slab, waiting for Them to extract your organs to keep their old dessicated bodies alive for another couple of weeks. 

I am not saying merely “hold them accountable and put them in court” – I am saying, lynch them. They need to start dying in a pretty horrible manner, right now. 

Get going. It’s time. 

 

HOW HARD WILL THE ROBOTS MAKE US WORK?

Posted: 4th July 2020 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on HOW HARD WILL THE ROBOTS MAKE US WORK?
 
Original article
 
Ben Mauro | Concept art, Concept art world, Digital painting ...
In warehouses, call centers, and other sectors, intelligent machines are managing humans, and they’re making work more stressful, grueling, and dangerous
 
 
Jeff Bezos wants to delight you | The Verge
 

The robots are watching over hotel housekeepers, telling them which room to clean and tracking how quickly they do it. They’re managing software developers, monitoring their clicks and scrolls and docking their pay if they work too slowly. They’re listening to call center workers, telling them what to say, how to say it, and keeping them constantly, maximally busy. While we’ve been watching the horizon for the self-driving trucks, perpetually five years away, the robots arrived in the form of the supervisor, the foreman, the middle manager.

These automated systems can detect inefficiencies that a human manager never would — a moment’s downtime between calls, a habit of lingering at the coffee machine after finishing a task, a new route that, if all goes perfectly, could get a few more packages delivered in a day. But for workers, what look like inefficiencies to an algorithm were their last reserves of respite and autonomy, and as these little breaks and minor freedoms get optimized out, their jobs are becoming more intense, stressful, and dangerous. Over the last several months, I’ve spoken with more than 20 workers in six countries.For many of them, their greatest fear isn’t that robots might come for their jobs: it’s that robots have already become their boss.In few sectors are the perils of automated management more apparent than at Amazon. Almost every aspect of management at the company’s warehouses is directed by software, from when people work to how fast they work to when they get fired for falling behind. Every worker has a “rate,” a certain number of items they have to process per hour, and if they fail to meet it, they can be automatically fired.

“IT’S LIKE LEAVING YOUR HOUSE AND JUST RUNNING AND NOT STOPPING FOR ANYTHING FOR 10 STRAIGHT HOURS, JUST RUNNING.”

When Jake started working at a Florida warehouse, he was surprised by how few supervisors there were: just two or three managing a workforce of more than 300. “Management was completely automated,” he said. One supervisor would walk the floor, laptop in hand, telling workers to speed up when their rate dropped. (Amazon said its system notifies managers to talk to workers about their performance, and that all final decisions on personnel matters, including terminations, are made by supervisors.)Jake, who asked to use a pseudonym out of fear of retribution, was a “rebinner.”

His job was to take an item off a conveyor belt, press a button, place the item in whatever cubby a monitor told him to, press another button, and repeat. He likened it to doing a twisting lunge every 10 seconds, nonstop, though he was encouraged to move even faster by a giant leaderboard, featuring a cartoon sprinting man, that showed the rates of the 10 fastest workers in real time. A manager would sometimes keep up a sports announcer patter over the intercom — “In third place for the first half, we have Bob at 697 units per hour,” Jake recalled. Top performers got an Amazon currency they could redeem for Amazon Echos and company T-shirts. Low performers got fired.“You’re not stopping,” Jake said. “You are literally not stopping. It’s like leaving your house and just running and not stopping for anything for 10 straight hours, just running.”After several months, he felt a burning in his back. A supervisor sometimes told him to bend his knees more when lifting. When Jake did this his rate dropped, and another supervisor would tell him to speed up. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Go faster?” he recalled saying. “If I go faster, I’m going to have a heart attack and fall on the floor.”

Finally, his back gave out completely. He was diagnosed with two damaged discs and had to go on disability. The rate, he said, was “100 percent” responsible for his injury.Every Amazon worker I’ve spoken to said it’s the automatically enforced pace of work, rather than the physical difficulty of the work itself, that makes the job so grueling. Any slack is perpetually being optimized out of the system, and with it any opportunity to rest or recover. A worker on the West Coast told me about a new device that shines a spotlight on the item he’s supposed to pick, allowing Amazon to further accelerate the rate and get rid of what the worker described as “micro rests” stolen in the moment it took to look for the next item on the shelf. People can’t sustain this level of intense work without breaking down.

Last year, ProPublica,BuzzFeed, and others published investigations about Amazon delivery drivers careening into vehicles and pedestrians as they attempted to complete their demanding routes, which are algorithmically generated and monitored via an app on drivers’ phones. In November, Reveal analyzed documents from 23 Amazon warehouses and found that almost 10 percent of full-time workers sustained serious injuries in 2018, more than twice the national average for similar work. Multiple Amazon workers have told me that repetitive stress injuries are epidemic but rarely reported. (An Amazon spokesperson said the company takes worker safety seriously, has medical staff on-site, and encourages workers to report all injuries.) Backaches, knee pain, and other symptoms of constant strain are common enough for Amazon to install painkiller vending machines in its warehouses.The unrelenting stress takes a toll of its own.

Jake recalled yelling at co-workers to move faster, only to wonder what had come over him and apologize. By the end of his shift, he would be so drained that he would go straight to sleep in his car in the warehouse parking lot before making the commute home. “A lot of people did that,” he said. “They would just lay back in their car and fall asleep.” A worker in Minnesota said that the job had been algorithmically intensified to the point that it called for rethinking long-standing labor regulations.

“The concept of a 40-hour work week was you work eight hours, you sleep eight hours, and you have eight hours for whatever you want to do,” he said. “But [what] if you come home from work and you just go straight to sleep and you sleep for 16 hours, or the day after your work week, the whole day you feel hungover, you can’t focus on things, you just feel like shit, you lose time outside of work because of the aftereffects of work and the stressful, strenuous conditions?”

Bain survey shows customers are interested in banking with Amazon ...

Workers inevitably burn out, but because each task is minutely dictated by machine, they are easily replaced. Jake estimated he was hired along with 75 people, but that he was the only one remaining when his back finally gave out, and most had been turned over twice. “You’re just a number, they can replace you with anybody off the street in two seconds,” he said. “They don’t need any skills. They don’t need anything. All they have to do is work real fast.”

There are robots of the ostensibly job-stealing variety in Amazon warehouses, but they’re not the kind that worry most workers. In 2014, Amazon started deploying shelf-carrying robots, which automated the job of walking through the warehouse to retrieve goods. The robots were so efficient that more humans were needed in other roles to keep up, Amazon built more facilities, and the company now employs almost three times the number of full-time warehouse workers it did when the robots came online.

But the robots did change the nature of the work: rather than walking around the warehouse, workers stood in cages removing items from the shelves the robots brought them. Employees say it is one of the fastest-paced and most grueling roles in the warehouse. Reveal found that injuries were more common in warehouses with the robots, which makes sense because it’s the pace that’s the problem, and the machines that most concern workers are the ones that enforce it.

Last year saw a wave of worker protests at Amazon facilities. Almost all of them were sparked by automated management leaving no space for basic human needs. In California, a worker was automatically fired after she overdrew her quota of unpaid time off by a single hour following a death in her family. (She was rehired after her co-workers submitted a petition.) In Minnesota, workers walked off the job to protest the accelerating rate, which they said was causing injuries and leaving no time for bathroom breaks or religious observance. To satisfy the machine, workers felt they were forced to become machines themselves. Their chant: “We are not robots.”

Every industrial revolution is as much a story of how we organize work as it is of technological invention. Steam engines and stopwatches had been around for decades before Frederick Taylor, the original optimizer, used them to develop the modern factory. Working in a late-19th century steel mill, he simplified and standardized each role and wrote detailed instructions on notecards; he timed each task to the second and set an optimal rate. In doing so, he broke the power skilled artisans held over the pace of production and began an era of industrial growth, and also one of exhausting, repetitive, and dangerously accelerating work.It was Henry Ford who most fully demonstrated the approach’s power when he further simplified tasks and arranged them along an assembly line. The speed of the line controlled the pace of the worker and gave supervisors an easy way to see who was lagging. Laborers absolutely hated it. The work was so mindless and grueling that people quit in droves, forcing Ford to double wages.

As these methods spread, workers frequently struck or slowed down to protest “speedups” — supervisors accelerating the assembly line to untenable rates.We are in the midst of another great speedup. There are many factors behind it, but one is the digitization of the economy and the new ways of organizing work it enables. Take retail: workers no longer stand around in stores waiting for customers; with e-commerce, their roles are split. Some work in warehouses, where they fulfill orders nonstop, and others work in call centers, where they answer question after question. In both spaces, workers are subject to intense surveillance. Their every action is tracked by warehouse scanners and call center computers, which provide the data for the automated systems that keep them working at maximum capacity.At the most basic level, automated management starts with the schedule. Scheduling algorithms have been around since the late 1990s when stores began using them to predict customer traffic and generate shifts to match it. These systems did the same thing a business owner would do when they scheduled fewer workers for slow mornings and more for the lunchtime rush, trying to maximize sales per worker hour. The software was just better at it, and it kept improving, factoring in variables like weather or nearby sporting events, until it could forecast the need for staff in 15-minute increments.

Jeff Bezos Laugh GIFs | Tenor

NO ONE EVER EXPERIENCES A LULL

The software is so accurate that it could be used to generate humane schedules, said Susan Lambert, a professor at the University of Chicago who studies scheduling instability. Instead, it’s often used to coordinate the minimum number of workers required to meet forecasted demand, if not slightly fewer. This isn’t even necessarily the most profitable approach, she noted, citing a study she did on the Gap: it’s just easier for companies and investors to quantify cuts to labor costs than the sales lost because customers don’t enjoy wandering around desolate stores.

But if it’s bad for customers, it’s worse for workers, who must constantly race to run businesses that are perpetually understaffed.Though they started in retail, scheduling algorithms are now ubiquitous. At the facilities where Amazon sorts goods before delivery, for example, workers are given skeleton schedules and get pinged by an app when additional hours in the warehouse become available, sometimes as little as 30 minutes before they’re needed. The result is that no one ever experiences a lull.The emergence of cheap sensors, networks, and machine learning allowed automated management systems to take on a more detailed supervisory role — and not just in structured settings like warehouses, but wherever workers carried their devices. Gig platforms like Uber were the first to capitalize on these technologies, but delivery companies, restaurants, and other industries soon adopted their techniques.

There was no single breakthrough in automated management, but as with the stopwatch, revolutionary technology can appear mundane until it becomes the foundation for a new way of organizing work. When rate-tracking programs are tied to warehouse scanners or taxi drivers are equipped with GPS apps, it enables management at a scale and level of detail that Taylor could have only dreamed of. It would have been prohibitively expensive to employ enough managers to time each worker’s every move to a fraction of a second or ride along in every truck, but now it takes maybe one. This is why the companies that most aggressively pursue these tactics all take on a similar form: a large pool of poorly paid, easily replaced, often part-time or contract workers at the bottom; a small group of highly paid workers who design the software that manages them at the top.

“THE ROBOT APOCALYPSE IS HERE.”

Inside Jeff Bezos's new $165m Beverly Hills mansion | The Week ...

This is not the industrial revolution we’ve been warned about by Elon MuskMark Zuckerberg, and others in Silicon Valley. They remain fixated on the specter of job-stealing AI, which is portrayed as something both fundamentally new and extraordinarily alarming — a “buzz saw,” in the words of Andrew Yang, coming for society as we know it.

As apocalyptic visions go, it’s a uniquely flattering one for the tech industry, which is in the position of warning the world about its own success, sounding the alarm that it has invented forces so powerful they will render human labor obsolete forever. But in its civilization-scale abstraction, this view misses the ways technology is changing the experience of work, and with its sense of inevitability, it undermines concern for many of the same people who find themselves managed by machines today. Why get too worked up over conditions for warehouse workers, taxi drivers, content moderators, or call center representatives when everyone says those roles will be replaced by robots in a few years? Their policy proposals are as abstract as their diagnosis, basically amounting to giving people money once the robots come for them.Maybe the robots will someday come for the truck drivers and everyone else, though automation’s net impact on jobs so far has been less than catastrophic.



Technology will undoubtedly put people out of work, as it has in the past, and it’s worth thinking about how to provide them a safety net. But one likely scenario is that those truckers will find themselves not entirely jobless but, as an analysis by the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education suggests, riding along to help mostly autonomous vehicles navigate tricky city streets, earning lower pay in heavily monitored and newly de-skilled jobs. Or maybe they will be in call center-like offices, troubleshooting trucks remotely, their productivity tracked by an algorithm. In short, they will find themselves managed by machines, subject to forces that have been growing for years but are largely overlooked by AI fetishism.“The robot apocalypse is here,” said Joanna Bronowicka, a researcher with the Centre for Internet and Human Rights and a former candidate for European Parliament. “It’s just that the way we’ve crafted these narratives, and unfortunately people from the left and right and people like Andrew Yang and people in Europe that talk about this topic are contributing to it, they are using a language of the future, which obscures the actual lived reality of people right now.”This isn’t to say that the future of AI shouldn’t worry workers. In the pas

t, for jobs to be automatically managed, they had to be broken down into tasks that could be measured by machines — the ride tracked by GPS, the item scanned in a warehouse. But machine learning is capable of parsing much less structured data, and it’s making new forms of work, from typing at a computer to conversations between people, ready for robot bosses.

How much money has Jeff Bezos accumulated over the past 20 years ...

worked in an insurance call center for several years before quitting in 2015. Like many call center jobs, the work was stressful: customers were often distraught, software tracked the number and length of her calls, and managers would sometimes eavesdrop on the line to evaluate how she was doing. But when she returned to the industry last year, something had changed. In addition to the usual metrics, there was a new one — emotion — and it was assessed by AI. The software Angela encountered was from Voci, one of many companies using AI to evaluate call center workers. Angela’s other metrics were excellent, but the program consistently marked her down for negative emotions, which she found perplexing because her human managers had previously praised her empathetic manner on the phone.

No one could tell her exactly why she was getting penalized, but her best guess was that the AI was interpreting her fast-paced and loud speaking style, periods of silence (a result of trying to meet a metric meant to minimize putting people on hold), and expressions of concern as negative.“It makes me wonder if it’s privileging fake empathy, sounding really chipper and being like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry you’re dealing with that,’” said Angela, who asked to use a pseudonym out of fear of retribution. “Feeling like the only appropriate way to display emotion is the way that the computer says, it feels very limiting. It also seems to not be the best experience for the customer, because if they wanted to talk to a computer, then they would have stayed with IVR [Interactive Voice Response].”A Voci spokesperson said the company trained its machine learning program on thousands of hours of audio that crowdsourced workers labeled as demonstrating positive or negative emotions.

He acknowledged that these assessments are subjective, but said that in the aggregate they should control for variables like tone and accent. Ultimately, the spokesperson said Voci provides an analysis tool and call centers decide how to use the data it provides.

Angela’s troubles with Voci made her apprehensive about the next round of automation. Her call center was in the process of implementing software from Clarabridge that would automate parts of call evaluations still done by humans, like whether agents said the proper phrases. Her center also planned to expand its use of Cogito, which uses AI to coach workers in real time, telling them to speak more slowly or with more energy or to express empathy.When people list jobs slated for automation, call center workers come just after truck drivers. Their jobs are repetitive, and machine learning has enabled rapid progress in speech recognition. But machine learning struggles with highly specific and unique tasks, and often people just want to talk to a human, so it’s the managerial jobs that are getting automated. GoogleAmazon, and a plethora of smaller companies have announced AI systems that listen to calls and coach workers or automatically assess their performance. The company CallMiner, for example, advertises AI that rates workers’ professionalism, politeness, and empathy — which, in a demo video, it shows being measured to a fraction of a percent.

WEF: COVID-19 could cause 'prolonged' global recession and mass ...

Workers say these systems are often clumsy judges of human interaction. One worker claimed they could meet their empathy metrics just by saying “sorry” a lot. Another worker at an insurance call center said that Cogito’s AI, which is supposed to tell her to express empathy when it detects a caller’s emotional distress, seemed to be triggered by tonal variation of any kind, even laughter.
 
Her co-worker had a call pulled for review by supervisors because Cogito’s empathy alarm kept going off, but when they listened to the recording, it turned out the caller had been laughing with joy over the birth of a child. The worker, however, was busy filling out forms and only paying half-attention to the conversation, so she kept obeying the AI and saying “I’m sorry,” much to the caller’s confusion.

Cogito said its system is “highly accurate and does not frequently give false positives,” but when it does, because it augments rather than replaces humans, call center agents have the ability to use their own judgment to adapt to the situation.

As these systems spread it will be important to assess them for accuracy and bias, but they also pose a more basic question: why are so many companies trying to automate empathy to begin with? The answer has to do with the way automation itself has made work more intense.In the past, workers might have handled a complex or emotionally fraught call mixed in with a bunch of simple, “I forgot my password” type calls, but bots now handle the easy ones. “We don’t have the easy calls to give them the mental refresh that we used to be able to give them,” said Ian Jacobs of research company Forrester.

Automated systems also collect customer information and help fill out forms, which would make the job easier, except that any downtime is tracked and filled with more calls.The worker who used Cogito, for instance, had only a minute to fill out insurance forms between calls and only 30 minutes per month for bathroom breaks and personal time, so she handled call after call from people dealing with terminal illnesses, dying relatives, miscarriages, and other traumatic events, each of which she was supposed to complete in fewer than 12 minutes, for 10 hours a day. “It makes you feel numb,” she said. Other workers spoke of chronic anxiety and insomnia, the result of days spent having emotionally raw conversations while, in the words of one worker, “your computer is standing over your shoulder and arbitrarily deciding whether you get to keep your job or not.” This form of burnout has become so common the industry has a name for it: “empathy fatigue.”

Cogito, in an ebook explaining the reason for its AI, likens call center workers to trauma nurses desensitized over the course of their shift, noting that the quality of representatives’ work declines after 25 calls. The solution, the company writes, is to use AI to deliver “empathy at scale.”It’s become conventional wisdom that interpersonal skills like empathy will be one of the roles left to humans once the robots take over, and this is often treated as an optimistic future. But call centers show how it could easily become a dark one: automation increasing the empathy demanded of workers and automated systems used to wring more empathy from them, or at least a machine-readable approximation of it. Angela, the worker struggling with Voci, worried that as AI is used to counteract the effects of dehumanizing work conditions, her work will become more dehumanizing still.“Nobody likes calling a call center,” she said. “The fact that I can put the human touch in there, and put my own style on it and build a relationship with them and make them feel like they’re cared about is the good part of my job. It’s what gives me meaning,” she said. “But if you automate everything, you lose the flexibility to have a human connection.”
 
Mak Rony was working as a software engineer in Dhaka, Bangladesh, when he saw a Facebook ad for an Austin-based company called Crossover Technologies. Rony liked his current job, but the Crossover role seemed like a step up: the pay was better — $15 an hour — and the ad said he could work whenever he wanted and do it from home.On his first day, he was told to download a program called WorkSmart. In a video, Crossover CEO Andy Tryba describes the program as a “FitBit for work.”

The modern worker is constantly interacting with cloud apps, he says, and that produces huge quantities of information about how they’re spending their time — information that’s mostly thrown away. That data should be used to enhance productivity, he says. Citing Cal Newport’s popular book Deep Work, about the perils of distraction and multitasking, he says the software will enable workers to reach new levels of intense focus. Tryba displays a series of charts, like a defragmenting hard drive, showing a worker’s day going from scattered distraction to solid blocks of uninterrupted productivity.WorkSmart did, in fact, transform Rony’s day into solid blocks of productivity because if it ever determined he wasn’t working hard enough, he didn’t get paid. The software tracked his keystrokes, mouse clicks, and the applications he was running, all to rate his productivity. He was also required to give the program access to his webcam. Every 10 minutes, the program would take three photos at random to ensure he was at his desk. If Rony wasn’t there when WorkSmart took a photo, or if it determined his work fell below a certain threshold of productivity, he wouldn’t get paid for that 10-minute interval. Another personwho started with Rony refused to give the software webcam access and lost his job.
 
Rony soon realized that though he was working from home, his old office job had offered more freedom. There, he could step out for lunch or take a break between tasks. With Crossover, even using the bathroom in his own home required speed and strategy: he started watching for the green light of his webcam to blink before dashing down the hall to the bathroom, hoping he could finish in time before WorkSmart snapped another picture.

The metrics he was held to were extraordinarily demanding: about 35,000 lines of code per week. He eventually figured out he was expected to make somewhere around 150 keystrokes every 10 minutes, so if he paused to think and stopped typing, a 10-minute chunk of his time card would be marked “idle.” Each week, if he didn’t work 40 hours the program deemed productive, he could be fired, so he estimated he worked an extra 10 hours a week without pay to make up the time that the software invalidated. Four other current and former Crossover workers — one in Latvia, one in Poland, one in India, and another in Bangladesh — said they had to do the same.“The first thing you’re going to lose is your social life,” Rony said. He stopped seeing friends because he was tethered to his computer, racing to meet his metrics. “I usually did not go outside often.”As the months went on, the stress began to take a toll. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t listen to music while he worked because the software saw YouTube as unproductive and would dock his pay. Ironically, his work began to suffer. “If you have freedom, actual real freedom, then I can take most pressure, if needed,” he said. But working under such intense pressure day after day, he burned out and his productivity dissolved.

Tryba said the company is a platform that provides skilled workers to businesses, as well as the tools to manage them; it’s up to the businesses to decide whether and how those tools are used. He said people shouldn’t have to work additional hours without pay, and that if WorkSmart marks a timecard as idle, workers can appeal to their manager to override it. If workers need a break, he said they can hit pause and clock out. Asked why such intense monitoring was necessary, he said remote work was the future and will give workers greater flexibility, but that employers will need a way to hold workers accountable. Furthermore, the data collected will create new opportunities to coach workers on how to be more productive.

Crossover is far from the only company that has sensed an opportunity for optimization in the streams of data produced by digital workers. Microsoft has its Workplace Analytics software, which uses the “digital exhaust” produced by employees using the company’s programs to improve productivity. The field of workforce analytics is full of companies that monitor desktop activity and promise to detect idle time and reduce head count, and the optimization gets sharper-edged and more focused on individual workers the further down the income ladder you go.

Staff.com’s Time Doctor, popular with outsourcing companies, monitors productivity in real time, prompts workers to stay on task if it detects they’ve become distracted or idle, and takes Crossover-style screenshots and webcam photos.
 
Sam Lessin, a former Facebook VP who co-founded the company Fin, describes a plausible vision for where all this is headed. Fin started as a personal assistant app before pivoting to the software it used to monitor and manage the workers who made the assistant run. (A worker described her experience handling assistant requests as being like a call center but with heavier surveillance and tracking of idle time.) Knowledge work currently languishes in a preindustrial state, Lessin wrote in a letter at the time of the pivot, with employees often sitting idle in offices, their labor unmeasured and inefficient. The hoped-for productivity explosion from AI won’t come from replacing these workers, Lessin wrote, but from using AI to measure and optimize their productivity, just as Frederick Taylor did with factory workers. Except this will be a “cloud factory,” an AI-organized pool of knowledge workers that businesses can tap into whenever they need it, much like renting computing power from Amazon Web Services.“The Industrial Revolution, at least in the short term, was obviously not good for workers,” Lessin acknowledged in the letter. The cloud factory will bring a wave of globalization and de-skilling. While highly measured and optimized workplaces are meritocratic, he said, meritocracy can be carried to an extreme, citing the movie Gattaca. Ultimately, these risks are outweighed by the fact that people can specialize in what they’re best at, will have to work less, and will be able to do so more flexibly.

For Rony, Crossover’s promise of flexibility proved to be an illusion. After a year, the surveillance and unrelenting pressure became too much, and he quit. “I was thinking that I lost everything,” he said. He’d given up his stable office job, lost touch with friends, and now he was worrying whether he could pay his bills. But after three months, he found another job, one in an old-fashioned office. The wage was worse, but he was happier. He had a manager who helped him when he got stuck. He had lunch breaks, rest breaks, and tea breaks. “Whenever I can go out and have some tea, fun, and head to the office, there is a place I can even sleep. There’s a lot of freedom.”
 
Work has always meant giving up some degree of freedom. When workers take a job, they might agree to let their boss tell them how to act, how to dress, or where to be at a certain time, and this is all viewed as normal. Employers function as what philosopher Elizabeth Anderson critiques as private governments, and people accept them exercising power in ways that would seem oppressive coming from a state because, the reasoning goes, workers are always free to quit.

Workers also grant their employers wide latitude to surveil them, and that’s also seen as basically fine, eliciting concern mostly in cases where employers reach into workers’ private lives.Automated management promises to change that calculus. While an employer might have always had the right to monitor your desktop throughout the day, it probably wouldn’t have been a good use of their time. Now such surveillance is not only easy to automate, it’s necessary to gather the data needed to optimize work. The logic can appear irresistible to a company trying to drive down costs, especially if they have a workforce large enough for marginal improvements in productivity to pay off.

But workers who tolerated the abstract threat of surveillance find it far more troubling when that data is used to dictate their every move. An Amazon worker in the Midwest described a bleak vision of the future. “We could have algorithms connected to technology that’s directly on our bodies controlling how we work,” he said. “Right now, the algorithm is telling a manager to yell at us. In the future, the algorithm could be telling a shock collar—” I laughed, and he quickly said he was only partly joking. After all, Amazon has patented tracking wristbands that vibrate to direct workers, and Walmart is testing harnesses that monitor the motions of its warehouse staff. Couldn’t you imagine a future where you have the freedom to choose between starving or taking a job in a warehouse, the worker said, and you sign a contract agreeing to wear something like that, and it zaps you when you work too slowly, and it’s all in the name of making you more efficient? “I think that’s a direction it can head, if more people aren’t more conscious, and there isn’t more organization around what’s actually happening to us as workers, and how society is being transformed by this technology,” he said. “Those are the things that keep me up at night, and that I think about when I’m in the warehouse now.”

That worker placed his hopes in unions, and in the burgeoning activism taking place in Amazon warehouses. There’s precedent for this. Workers responded to the acceleration of the last industrial revolution by organizing, and the pace of work became a standard part of union contracts.The pace of work is only one form of the larger question these technologies will force us to confront: what is the right balance between efficiency and human autonomy? We have unprecedented power to monitor and optimize the conduct of workers in minute detail. Is a marginal increase in productivity worth making innumerable people chronically stressed and constrained to the point they feel like robots?You could imagine a version of these systems that collects workplace data, but it’s anonymized and aggregated and only used to improve workflows and processes. Such a system would reap some of the efficiencies that make these systems appealing while avoiding the individualized micromanagement workers find galling.

Of course, that would mean forgoing potentially valuable data. It would require recognizing that there is sometimes value in not gathering data at all, as a means of preserving space for human autonomy.The profound difference even a small degree of freedom from optimization can make was driven home when I was talking with a worker who recently quit a Staten Island Amazon warehouse to take a job loading and unloading delivery trucks. He had scanners and metrics there, too, but they only measured whether his team was on track for the day, leaving the workers to figure out their roles and pace. “This is like heaven,” he told his co-workers. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is guillotine-1.jpg

 

 
 

Worst case scenario with Covid

Posted: 28th April 2020 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on Worst case scenario with Covid

Follow the next sequence of statements and judge if any consequtive conclusion is halfway right.

This is not a welcome epidemic in most countries. It could not have arrived at a more … interesting… period on human history. The effects of mass shut down, no matter how haphazzardly, is already destabilizing, politically scarring and met with fire and fury. As rich people will lose a noticeable slice of their affluence per month and are already running around hystical demanding that, say, in the US the economy must be opened. And we all know Rich people write policy over there.

  • So far in typical US states (and things are better elsewhere) about 1% has been infected. In New York the fatality rate comes down to 8% (even though that goof Zoltan Istvan claims it’s 0,02% and “one in fivehundred dead is acceptable”. Right-o Zolly, well done). In New York right 21 thousand people lie already dead and rotting in their graves, cooling trucks or have been incinerated. Mortality is now certain to be AT LEAST between 1 and 3% of contaminated cases ANYWHERE.
  • To get to actual herd immunity, you’d need to infect so many people that at least if one in fifty would die. In the US that’s about, what, six million people. If we sustainably do this (i.e. those infected that need treatment get appropriate treatment) we can only expose 1-2% per, say, month or so, which would mean the process of building “herd immunity” would kill several million in the US (and if you logjam or overload or chokepoint the medical service industries you go full Mengele euthanasia on the population it might be more than ten million deaths).
  • Things are badly managed and horrendous in the US, the richest country on the planet. Things are exponentially worse in most of the dveloping world. In the developing nations there is little semblance of state apparatus, food reserves, medical services, financial buffers, healthy people, rational responses or proper political will, and yeah, you’d get closer to or above that above that 10% lethality mark. So let’s for the sake of argument do a racism and lump all developed, poor, semi-developed and developing together (say, any economical paradigm ranging from Brazil to Peru to the Congo to South Africa to Egypt to Pakistan to Uzbekibekistan to Indonesia and Bangladesh and we are talking, what, five million billion people? That would be, and I am being as charitable as I can be, between fifty million deaths world wide (a pathetically low estimate) and 500 million.
  • … and the planetary eradication of any bit of capitalist credibility. I don’t think you can “austerity” yourself out this hellstorm. The current geopolitical and geopolitical system is going to die. In many cases in bloody, hysterical revolt involving the most brutal industrial style genocide technologies as we have recently seen in the Gaza strip, Iraq, etc.
  • Covid19 is a corona virus. Never before in human history has there been a cure or treatments for Corona viruses. Normal development of a vaccin takes about 18 months. MAYBE if we vomit a few hundred billions at the problem it might be a bit quicker, but equally likely it will be impossible to develop a vaccin or treatment regimen. And even if we do, Corona viruses mutate faster than a Micheal Jackson on acid, and any vaccination might last only a couple of months. And even then at each mutation wave still people would die. And then there’s no guarantee even after vaccination a sizeable part of your population may still be shedding viruses on every fomite or in every exhalation and infecting people.

CONCLUSIONS

1 – In countries that shut down significantly, and have proper medical services – mortality may get to 1% or more total mortality (or, say something like 0,01% of the population on average dying every month, for 1-2 years) , and that’s guaranteed to be traumatic and society disrupting. It’s gona make people real angry. In the Netherlands “a country with relatively competent leaders, financial reserves, somewhat loyal and civic-minded people, as well as proper developed world health care, universal coverage and sick leave” this would mean a few thousand people dying per month, for easily two years or more, i.e. a grande total no less than fifty thousand or so. Probably a best case scenario.

2 – for a wishy wasy country with asshat politicians, zero social graces, no tradition of solidarity, everyone has guns, people are already financially barren, zero wellfare infrastructure, psychotic state debts, a medical system that would be generous only in a death camp, mass racism and economic disparity, an already grotesque level of entitlement with rich whites, extremes of political instability etc. etc. mortality will be easily four times higher per capita. No I am not going to explain what “per capita” is to those people. In other words we are talking maybe under a million deaths spread out over 2 two years if they maintain a tight lockdown sphincter, and many times that if they don’t exert state control. Fat chance on that – the current president is a senile psychopath rapist, and the next president is also likely to be an even more senile psychopath rapist. Good luck with that. My guess? 10-30 million lower estimate. Wait until the infection starts hitting the heartland hard. Then you’ll see some real vicious anger and mass hysteria.

3 – The United States is over as a political entity of any relevance. A current political establishment can’t survive under those circumstances. Ditto Saudi Arabia, where things are even worse. Ditto China. Ditto Russia. I anticipate the first revolutions to start somewhere later this year, as the virus flares up, as people develop serious mental breakdown from whateve measures are imposed, when criminal desperation and debts kick in, when stores start closing down and services or food security evaporates in large parts of your country, etc. etc. etc. Once you get there, ‘the social contract unravels’. I anticipate that LITERALLY in the united states about half right wing or establishment or name politicians will either have left the country (where exactly? I say Europe should close borders for these people) or will have died from violence, or more specifically lynchings. I won’t be surprised if I see before the end of 2020 several republican politicians massacred and mutilated in the streets of DC, right there on CNN.

4 – Now in countries were all the above variables are significantly below any level of acceptable or optimal we may anticipate (and this may seem surreal) at least as much as, to several times the death we had in world wars one and two combined in several years. And if the virus keeps mutating and killing, we can anticipate a trailing graph of, what, ten years of this before we can get to everyone and cure them? the Black Death was with humanity more than a thousand years, what’s a decade? Is there a solution or a fix? Yes there is – mass testing something like every month – and those tested and not shedding getting viruses getting an electronic authentication card they can (=being allowed by the state to) lead a life we are mostly familiar with – restaurants, parties, cinema, walks in the part, sex with random strangers, sports matches, school etc. Those who are sick, and/or carriers shedding viruses will be legally quarantined. If you are no excuritiatingly sick or you are a non-symptomatic carrier and have the responsibility to self-impose and stay home, you’ll get a food/personal care/medicines package every few days, courtesy of the state.

Don’t expect caviar. If you are really sick, you will get adequate medical care, although the care may be a bit impersonal for most people. So yeah, that’s a bit of a police state .. but most people will be in staunch agreement it is necessary. Refuse to get tested or self-quarantine you go straight into state appointed quarantine, and that will be no fun.

5 – A significant slice of people that recuperate from the worst of this infection will be effectively unemployable, needing a year of phsyical therapy, will need medication, will be categorically unable to work, may have lung, heart, brain damage, in some cases partial paralysis. This is very expensive for a rich country, and anywhere else it will may very well be a slow drawn out death sentence. Don’t expect much help from what is left of the state or your fellow citizens by then, as you starve in the streets.

You will sweeping changes in how we consume, what we eat, how we work, how we travel and commute, how we treat one another as human beings, how we consume media, how we game, what we expect of our governments. We may utterly need a basic income, we may see massive debt cancellation programs. But we may also see poor countries being completely abandoned and effectively disappearing in mass unrest. I wouldn’t want to be in a country like Nigeria in a couple of months.

I am sorry.

Updates

Comments Off on I may start a dutch foundation against all forms of advertising

I am completely done with invasive advertising. No strike that I viciously hate advertising. And now the (dutch) VPRO has started a discourse on how bad advertising is for society. The article is in Dutch but easily translatable with Google but let me briefly summarize their key points

  1. Advertising is a constant aggravation and stinging annoyance
  2. Advertising is persistently misleading or outright lies in your face
  3. Advertising causes mental, visual, audiovisual and eventually neurological distress
  4. In our society there is no longer any possibility to opt out of advertising.
  5. Advertising is now locked in a mutual and obligatory stranglehold of competing brands worldwide and it can only get worse.
  6. Advertising now victimizes people in competitions between brands.
  7. Advertising is has become a counterproductive source of information.
  8. Advertising persistently exemplifies negative stereotypes – much advertising insists on toxic sexism.
  9. (In specific “targeted”) advertising is now a proven threat against our freedom and democratic values.
  10. Advertising doesn’t work any more. It’s become functionally superfluous. Spending money advertising makes no difference in sales for most brands.
  11. Advertising moves people and society to unecessarily spend, which can lead to bad consumerism and added societal (health care) costs.
  12. The consumer always pays at the end of the day.
  13. Advertising lies, manipulates.

So the idea is to spread this article in a non-imposing manner and get people to sign up. My preliminary goals for the organisation would be

i. – Dramatically reduce advertising online, on established (old) media, in any emerging new media

ii. – Aid in starting up similar foundations or unions in other countries, specifically to all EU countries.

iii. – Force ALL advertisers operating in the Netherlands to add an easy way for consumers to opt out indefinitely, across all platforms, for general as well as targeted advertising messages.

iv. – Make Dutch government enact a robust apparatus to start seperately taxing any and all advertising that can be argued to target people that reside in the Netherlands, even for companies not in the Netherlands. Exempt smaller companies. The goal for this tax should be up to a 100% tax for the worst types of advertising. Make advertisers proactively file for these taxes by advertising and fine those who shirk these legal responsibilities.

v. – Seek the nationalization of any and all media (national as well as international branches) that subsist by and large to spread and make money with advertising, put these under foundational control so that the service becomes effectively a utility (like water, electricity). I am thinking specifically of Facebook – nationalize all Facebook accounts pertinent to the Netherlands, put the management of these accounts and communication in a Dutch registered foundation, remove all advertising of this “Facebook.nl”. Do not pay Facebook.com a penny for this nationalization – Dutch society claims the rights back of their online identities.

vi. – Institure stricter laws on the belligerence of advertising, the technologies used, frequency, the degree of manipulation, lying or deceit in advertising. Force advertising to become significantly more “aesthetically pleasing”.

vii. – Make the Dutch government hold specific people (not corporations) accountable for scams, deceitful advertising, criminal advertising or criminal conspiracy. If a violation occurs, the Dutch state fines the person directly responsible, and may cause for an arrest warrant to stand trial, or enforce actual prison sentences. So – if Facebook breaks a law, the Dutch government fines facebook but in the future would also hold any and all specific marketing specialists (plural) who were involved, and thus responsible for that crime accountable with personal fines, force them to stand trial in the Netherlands (at their expense), call for international arrest warrants and (in extreme cases) put these people in prison.

ix. – Ceate a list of all available products where all companies, corporations, institutions whose advertising targets any residents in the Netherlands MUST register and describe the nature of their advertising, any and all times the advertisement ran, what the budget is, who is paying for this, and the exact nature of the add. Likewise create a list of ALL products available offered by companies, so consumers can get to more easily avoid advertising and compare products – and effectively shun belligerent advertisers.

x. – Make any and all people, corporations, foundations, etc. who spend over a given treshold in advertising targeting specifically Dutch residents inside the Netherlands with advertising to register IN the Netherlands for doing so, pay a marketing fee, be awarded a attain a marketing licence. That means the Dutch government consequtively gets to blacklist certain types of advertisers or specific marketers by name (which can be entire corporations) for a given amount of time, or forever. With very serious penalties for violators.

xi. Have the state pay special attention to emerging technologies in advertising and force marketers and other parties to in detail describe how these technologies work. Publicize how these technologies work, giving consumers an understanding how they are manipulated or lied to.

xii. Have the state pay very special attention to any and all political advertising that targets Dutch residents inside the Netherlands.

xiii. Make blatant lying, misdirection, deception or victimization in any and all Advertising categorically illegal in the Netherlands.

xiv. Enact legislation forcing all marketing platforms (youtube, google, facebook, etc.) that have gatekeeper role provide transparancy whenever they victimize, target, ban, restrict users on their platform and make them explain why they do it, and fine them when they do this inappropriately, politically, prejudicially or inconsistently.

xv. actively mock, challenge, expose and ridicule immoral or especially vulgar advertisers by any and all legal means available.

But you can be sure I’ll rewrite these and add to these attention points.

If you like this idea, email me at [email protected] with your name and whatever information you’d care sharing about yourself, and if you can let me know whether you’d be willing to donate to starting this organization. Once it’s up and rolling I’ll delegate to professionals, since I am not a start in running that stuff long term.

And if you are in the marketing advertising industries, sure, you can offer me a monthly payment, for life, to not press ahead with this. But you can be sure I’ll publicize your offer if it doesn’t feel sufficient. [/sarcasm]

Comments Off on Constraints in interstellar travel and how to overcome them.

If we want to travel to another stellar system, i.e. “traverse” light years of space more or less uninterrupted and without a timescale we’d consider reasonable and mangeable there are a series of major hurdles to overcome.

We can not make definitive statements about technologies that do not yet exist. For the same of the argument I will not “handwavium” all sorts of speculative technologies and concentrate on the “worst case scenario” that we are to travel such distances only with technologies we are currently absolutely certain of. So no elaborate nanotechnology, no energy output with “antimatter”, no forcefield or “bussard ramjets”. We stick to current technologies and technologies we can be more or less secure they are merely engineering challenges.

The question is – if technological advancement would stop today, and humanity HAD to travel to Proxima Centauri, could we? I believe the answer to be yes, and in fairly reasonable timeframe, Caveat – I am maths blind, so I will not use elaborate calculations – just simple stuff which I can ask google.

The fastest spaceship currently in existence is the Juno spacecraft which moves at 365,000 km/h. A voyage to Proximi Centaur would take more than twenty thousand years at that speed.

We face some big challenges.

  1. travel time, morality

We might in theory already be able to construct a cylindical O’Neil type habitat with artificial spin gravity and create some sort of sustainable cycle. Arguably we should be able to increase our speed well above Juno spacecraft so its safe to assume we can reduce travel times to thousands of years. If we assume normal humans as we currently are it is simply not moral to make this voyage. We can not consign human beings to (a) being severed from the rest of humanity for that long, (b) we can not guarantee that the system onboard does not break down and (c) we can not have a procreative cycle on-board and consign children on that vessel to a life of “just that vessel”. The equasion changes if we (*) can suspend life for a very long time, i.e. decades or centuries. Currently there is one major problem that difficult to overcome with existing theoretical frameworks – that is that any form of human physiology we can currently think of (and even considerably altered ones) carry trace elements that decay radioactively, such as potassium and carbon. Over years, let alone decades, damage from minute particle radiation accumulates, damaging the body from the inside. We currently don’t even have a theoretical framework to repair that damage, hence forms of “hibernation” or suspended animation (let alone “freezing” a body) anywhere over years will accumulate so much damage the patient doesn’t survive the journey.

Let me however state something else – a think city sized colonies to be a somewhat moral undertaking. I personally wouldn’t want to (or could) live outside a human community under several ten thousand human beings. I can imagine such a society to exist in a space colony type safe living environment. We know since the early 1970s such environments can be constructed at enormous economic cost. If the world collectively really wanted to, we could have an O’Neil space habitat in a stable lagrange orbit in probably under 20 years. But it would require a world war 2 mindset to do so. It is however very doubtful we could propel such a “several ten thousand population” habitat over interstellar distances in anywhere under thousands of years, probably tens of thousands of years. Juno spacecraft is a very small spacecraft in comparison. You can’t indefinitely scale up a spaceship to the size of a oil rig, or a skyscraper building, or an aircraft carrier and expect to be able to push it to the velocities we could attain with the Juno spacecraft. And if we could we can’t reasonably expect to persistently be able to feed thousands of humans for all that time and expect nothing would go wrong during the voyage. And if it would go wrong – everybody on board dies a horrible, lonely and (most poignantly) pointless death. So we have to propel the vessel faster. And if we contemplate that we quickly run in to problems

2. Propulsion systems are violent systems. An online calculator tells me that a 100.000 ton vessel (something like an aircraft carrier) that accelerates at 0.01 G (what we can fairly assume a reasonable acceleration rate) we learn that the vessel starts out as some sort of space tanker, pushing against a mountain of “fuel” weighing over 6 million ton, and the voyage is then reduced about 40 years. The trick here is to understand that in space constant acceleration eventually ends up boosting a vessel to gargantuan speed, in this case 0.2 the speed of light. Bad news is that we probably can’t do much better than that without literally melting sterilizing the vessel with radiation.

3. the next problem is debris. And this is a big one. Lets do a calculation. A one gram object hitting the space vessel at a relative speed of 0.2 C would inflict 116.499.889.321.526.300 joules energy. That’s 116 quadrillion with a q. I read somwhere else that a hiroshima style explosion does 63.000.000.000.000 (63 trillion) joules. Oops. We can safely state that the odds of the vessel hitting a grain sized object during a several decade voyage are pretty much 100%. So we must conclude that even while we can accelerate a vessel to decent enough percentages of the speed of light we probably won’t survive the journey. So we have to travel slower most of the voyage, or we need very implausible shielding to protect us from impacts, or we need to clear the path of substantial debris, or we would need to be able to intercept minute particles from a considerable distance and somehow destroy them.

Does this sound absurd? It sure is. But do remember that during that voyage we have been “charging up” the vessel in the most efficient way nature allows us, with kinetic energy, worth 16 million tons, or a fraction thereoff. That reaction mass comes back to bite us in the behind so to speak, as bugs that hit or windshield hit with the energy of train wagon loads full of TNT. I.e. Ooops, and Not Good.

Now on the latter, we do have a nice verifiable track record. Right now we track a swarm of particles around Earth, some about one gram. We do so very precisely, and we are still able to manouver insane swarms of satelites through that swarm with not too much calamity. The space shuttle did get hit frequently by flake sized debris and as we have seen above we can’t afford to have even microscopic particles collide with the vessel. A flea weigh 0.01 gram and even that still impacts an object moving at 0.2C at 1.164.998.893.215.263 (1 quadrillion) joules. That’s still substantially more than a hiroshima sized explosion. The biggest nuke (50 megaton, tzarbomba) had an output of 2.100.000.000.000.000.000 (what comes after Quadrillion?), 2100 quadrillion – just for comparison.

If we do a combination of burning particles out the way (and there are two ways to do that) in a fairly broad band of space of, let’s say about several thousand kilometers, keep doing so constantly – and we have the best radar system on the bow of the ship and the most high energy X ray laser money can buy, we still cant offer the vessel acceptable certainty. Conclusion – we HAVE to reduce the velocity of the vessel to a hundredth of C, and probably even less – unless we could more efficiently, and with more certainty guarantee the space between here and Proxima Centauri to be cleared of debris.

According to wiki the distance to proxima centauri is 268,400 AU. That’s a lot. The human mind is not capable of making any non abstract mental model. You can calculate this over and over and you will never in a lifetime attain a reasonable and realistic intuition of what that distance entails. Juno travelled to Jupiter with all kinds of cunning orbital mechanics mischief in 5 years. Jupiter is “several” AU removed from us at closest orbital distance. Thus we can safely assume that likewise a scaled up current technology human vessel could somewhat “mostly” safely make a journey of 1 AU in about a year. The faster we travel, the more unsafe it gets. Juno travels at 265541 kilometers per hour. Let’s say 30 kilometers per hour. 20% of light speed is about 60 thousand kilomers per SECOND.

There’s an interesting detail. Interstellar space is not empty. There are numerous objects there. Most these objects look a lot like Pluto, but are just smaller. They are essentially very small dwarf planets. We can likewise assume that there are also lots and lots of smaller, asteroid sized objects. Question – what is the average distance between such objects right between the Sun and Proxima centauri. The sun is surrounded by a very sparsely populated cloud of objects called the Kuyper belt, and beyond that the Oort cloud (mostly cometary debris) extends about 1 light year. Space gets very empty beyond that but I conjecture that there are numerous oumuamua like objects there, regardless. Dare I make an estimate? Let’s guestimate the average distance in a, say “several” AU wide band between the Sun and Proxima Centauri, in terms of objects like Ceres, Pluto, Sedna, Orcus, Eris, Makemake, Haumea, Qoaoar, etc. my cautious estimate is about 10 billion kilometers (preferably less), probably a bit more. In other words if I had a large piece of paper, and two dots on far end of the paper stand for the Sun and Proxima Centaur, and I drew a straight and very thin line between those two points, the line would intersect with something in the order of several ten thousand dwarf planet (in the order of several hundred kilometers in size)

What are dwarf planets?

The problem with interstellar travel is speed. And it’s debris. And it’s the required fuel. And it’s the relative frailty of matter when you inject too much energy in to heat (heat, kinetic or otherwise). You can’t make spaceships endlessly bigger. You can’t endlessly pile mountains of fuel on them. You can’t make mountain sized nuclear bunker shields on the front. You can’t make engines ever more energetic and put out more and more energy. You can’t lock people in very confined cans endlessly and you can’t do so for extremely long periods, or even generationally. There are major tolerances at play here and stuff and if we exceed these it pretty much means party is over.

But there are solutions, and given those solutions we can establish reasonable travel constraints. We can calculate what can with existing technology.

Let’s assume a magnetic accelerator composed of rings. It’s a fairly robust thing, ring after ring. Each ring has a small nuclear reactor and inside the tube it’s about a meter of space for a bullet, and each element (ring) is spaces about one meter apart. I can thus envision a fairly robust steel girder structure like this. If you make one element (one meter) of this a typical modest factory can probably make about one an hour, probably a whole lot more. If we make such a linear accelerator very very long (say – the distance of the earth to the moon, or 100.000 kilometers) then we are not talking insane things. The Earth is easily crisscrossed many times over with roads, internet cables, bridges and train tracks many times more than 100.000 kilometers. If you can get in to space with a large enough sized factory you can build stuff. If you can haul the factory to one of the above KBO like objects, you do not need esoteric energies, and you probably only need a fairly modest human crew (remember, we are still talking existing technologies anno 2020, no “artificial general intelligence” just yet) to keep the factory going, tighten a few bolts every now and then, manufacture some parts for replacement. Now if we can do that we can also build very large Arecibo sized radar arrays on these objects. Once built you can abandon it, and just move on to the next one.

Ten thousand “or so” dwarf planets and moonlets and planetissimals inbetween here and Proxima Centauri. Each about several years distance travel time with a very dedicated crew. A bit like in that “remarkably realistic” movie Ad Astra. Let’s say we were to launch a structure about the size of a small oceanic ship – about 10 thousand tons. That seems to be in the ballpark for a factory where you can bootstrap whatever’s required to do the following

1 – construct a very long array of various arecibo sized radar observatories over the dwarf planets to precisely chart out all debris in the path of any starships.
2 – construct a whole bunch of observatories and scientific instruments. A bit like an antarctic base so to speak.
3 – construct a magnetic cannon capable of accelerating ferric metal objects to an extreme “interstellar travel vessel” speeds.
4 – of course – a nuclear reactor of some sort with an out put in the gigawatt range.
5 – some facilities to construct a small city, housing probably a few hundred people. I.e. again, a bit like an antarctic base.
6 – a mining facility that’s capable of outputting in the order of several tons of metallic ore and other substances – per second.

Let’s say we construct the first such (small?) outpost in a kwadrant of the sky in the general direction of alpha centauri about 200 years from now. My guess travel there could take many years, and construction would take probably in the order of a few decades. There are about 50.000 seagoing ships on Earth right now. We build most those ships in the last decades, which is quite a lot if you think about it. If we would be able to send one such vessel out in to the void every year, and every forward base were able to construct another vessel in situ about 25 years after arrival, then…

Year 1 – vessel1 launched
Year 2 – vessel2 launched
Year 3 – vessel3 launched (etc)
Year 10 – vessel1 arrives at KBO about 10 billion kilometers from the sun.
Year 20 – vessel2 arrives at KBO about 20 billion kilometers from the sun
Year 30 – vessel3 arrives at KBO about 30 billion kilometers from the sun (etc). 35 – colony1 is ready

If every such colony starts outputting their own vessels after 25 years, you enter up with a steadily expanding daisy chain of bases. Each vessel is a technologically upgraded version compared to previous versions, and they’d travel faster so the above estimates would over long times be low estimates. The expansion speed would be in the order of 1 billion kilometers per year. The vessels would literally be receiving fuel launched by magnetic accelerators in-flight. Fuel pods can be accelerated to the above speeds using the launch systems I just described, and the technology for that has existed since the 1970s. You magnetize a ring/element in the cannot, magnetize the next, and a ferric (magnetic) casing is yanked forward. The US army is experimenting with these coilguns and is capable of launching missiles at thousands of km/h speeds with far far smaller and less energetic structures.

The cannons are essentially launch systems where you precisely launch a modestly self-steering automated vessel to interstellar travel speeds. You can use these pods to (a) refuel and restock interstellar travellers with parts, raw materials, medicines, reaction mass, whatever can survive several minutes of hundreds of G acceleration. I bet you might even send simple foodstuffs in them, (b) you can send these projectiles as intercept satelites to scan the road ahead for interstellar vessels. I am sure the reader can imagine all sorts of other applications, including defensive ones, in case the aliens show up (which they probably won’t), scientific ones and on and on.

The point is, this does not require speculative and esoteric propulsion, energy carriers, impact shielding, life extension technologies, bizarre fuel loads, andsoforth.

Automated systems can do this. You should visualize cargo arriving as a very gentle and seamless process, say, a pod every few minutes, and then for years and decades, and probably for centuries. Sedated humans in impact gel containment could probably survive in the order of 10G. If you then mount a propulsion system on ‘the ordnance fired’ you could launch the components of a larger propulsion stack in consecuetive launches and literally assemble a higher output transfer vessel from parts launched. I don’t think humans could then every catch up with a vessel travelling at 0,01 light speed (3000 kilometers per second, or about 100 times the speed of Juno) but I am positive sperm and genetic material and eggs could. And I am absolutely certain scientific advances could be implemented on a small colonial habitat literally ‘on the fly’.

These projects are frightfully long, and require very stable political system and infrastructures. But the construction of such an interstellar highway could have started in the order of a few centuries. It would take grotesquely long to travel to Proxima Centauri given current constraints painted above. Many centuries.

But we now see a totally new mental image that veers sharply away from the “Starship Enterprise” model of interstellar travel. Instead we see basically a very large, very long (spindly) container vessel with very very robust shielding that looks more like an industrial sea refinery rig than a space ship from science fiction. It’s huge, in the order of a nimitz class flight carrier, and very robust. Set with scientific instruments extending in booms from the central structure, and with an active and engaged crew. Children will be born, be raised, be educated, grow old and die. The vessel will be entercepted by cargo from reloading structure and will be in constant radio and reloading contact with the outpost(s) before and after the vessel. A factory will be constantly churning processing metallic iron cannisters into reaction mass for main propulsion and resources need for life aboard the ship.

The end requirement of building a literally uninterrupted sequence of thousands, or ten thousands of waystations with the effect of literally “outsourcing” propulsion to moonlets along the way, would not be dissimilar to the requirements we have seen in Colonial Earth’s past. People were born in quaint little ports along the way of ocean going sialing vessels, somewhere on a coastal region on the way to a far-off destination. Children would be born off the coast of, say, Zanzibar, and grow up, grow old and be buried there, only to hear stories of far away homeland but never to actually see it.

Construction of this interstellar highway to Proxima Centauri would take very very long in human terms. If each outposts netts a persistent one settlement vessel every ten or so years after a few decades, then you quickly hit maximum saturation in an exponential number of settler vessels moving at a very gradual pace, the speed of “several times” that of the Juno mission, i.e. something like over a hundred kilometers per second. Let’s assume we can construct a base every ten years, indefinitely, then after a few centuries you’d see fast interstellar vessels use reload mass to decccelerate from interstellar velocities and proceed to construct new colonies at the advance front of progress. An alien civilization observing quitely from some distance would see a line of faint glowing lights gradually extend outward from the sol system towards Proxima Centauri.

How long does it take to roll out such a daisy chain of settlements? Like I said before, thousands of years. But you would then be able to literally accelerate ever faster interstellar vessels to the maximum speed, propulsion, shielding, logistics and human crew would muster. At any point the vessels headed for Proxima Centauri would be less than a light day apart, maintaining steady and uninterrupted radio contact with outposts and each other.

Yes, you can create interstellar colonies. Yes the voyages take very long, literally centuries. But the image of a lonely Aurora type vessel that’s far from home kind of becomes invalid. Instead, the travellers would be rolling out massive sweeping scientific, technological, industrial infrastructures as a tsunami across interstellar space.

My guess how long it would take to roll out this interstellar highway completely? Actually not much longer as the actual voyages. Maybe three times? That’s less than a thousand years at 0.01 C.

And we would be doing this not with only Proxima Centauri. There would be interstellar highways reaching out to all nearby stars rolling out at the same time. Do realise – the galaxy is billions of years old, and to literally wave a three-dimensional web would take, assuming nothing much more advanced than currently existing technologies anno 2020, not much more than a hundred million years, at best.

Now…… if you start adding human cloning, long stay hibernation, cryonic suspension, cybernetics, genetic modifications of humans, mind-machine interfaces, artificial general intelligences, uploading, robust nanotechnology, etc etc. to the mix then all this would be able to roll out much much much faster.

ADDENDUM

Yes my maths abilities are bad bad bad. I am maths blind, mostly. Readers of this article may do the actual legwork in making meaningful calculations of all aspects of article. I will add any (if any) submissions or updates under the main article.

The case for Sanders to run independent.

Posted: 10th March 2020 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on The case for Sanders to run independent.

Is it even possible? Hell yeah it is. Sanders can decide, if he doesn’t make it into the Primary cut, to declare himself an independent “Democratic Socialist” candidate. There is at this time a solid point to be made for him to do so, and I would argue he should. See if he gets through the democratic primaries with a plurality, see if he passes the coronation as presidential candidate .. but if he isn’t, let him pull a rabbit from the hat and the very day declare himself independent candidate.

The furor and hysterical screaming of betrayal from the DNC should be deafening, no doubt But who cares at this stage.

  1. Sanders was now several times in a row, betrayed seriously by the DNC, and all competing democratic candidates. And not just a little, in 2016 there was outright fraud involved, and no one was held accountable. This time, the DNC was visibly involved in to serious voter fraud in Ohio, and arguably several other states. Every single democratic drop-out loser went to support a visible senile man, Joe Biden. This should be categorically unacceptable. It’s “spitting in your face” betrayal. The whole world was watching, and everybody knows.
  2. The alternative? Joe Biden. This is an unelectable, very sick old man. That means he will most likely fail, and if he doesn’t fail it is implicitly a vote for a VP replacing Joe in a matter of months. Who will be that VP? Hillary Clinton? This is a realistic idea since this cabal has already selected that corporatist psychopath Bloomberg for President of the World Bank, and Jamey Dimon as head of the goddamn treasury. This makes Joe the most offensive candidate thinkable, and Trump will be screaming “drain the swamp” against a man who can barely finish sentences without bleeding from his eyes.
  3. The argument that will be leveraged against Sanders running independent will be he will steal away votes from the DNC, but that can easily be refuted. At a recent Fox townhall people cheered sanders and booed the Fox hosts. It is likely Sanders will take away a significant number of votes from the Democratic contender, but even more likely he will pilfer the vote from Trump. In a contest Sanders will stand onstage debating two men (Trump and Biden) who are both in catastrophic, visible mental decline. Sanders only needs to finish first by now a typical stand-up comedian like Jimmy Dore could wipe the floor with these two elite geriatrics.
  4. Maybe people would argue this to be “unfair”, but look at the stakes involved. Biden said “when I am president nobodies standard of living will change”. That’s unacceptable. The US needs radically different policies, or tens of thousands will literally die because of underinsurance, economic marginalization, oil wars. If there is ever a case to be made Sanders should not take this laying down and do anything he can to offer an alternative over Golfing Trump or “You know that thing” Creepy Joe is moral and ethical. Not doing so is essentially unethical betrayal. And Sanders will be able to count on a grass roots enthusiasm you won’t have seen for decades in the US. People will ROAR with laughter if he does this. Biggest middle finger to the establishment ever.

So my sincere advice is to weigh this option. There is no rule outlawing it, as clearly there is apparently neither a rule for the DNC apparatchniks to brazenly, shamelessly screw over their own contenders, against the will of the people, televised all over the world.

Every option should be on the table to defeat Trump, and to defeat the oligarchy. This is no doubt the best remaining option. And what are they gonna do, bar him from the democratic elections of 2024? Well boohoo, by then it’s time for AOC to run.

I say, fuck em. Do consider :

* https://medium.com/@dawnpapple_7117/if-joe-biden-wins-the-nomination-but-suffers-cognitive-decline-the-dnc-gets-their-coronation-88829361cc7
*

Establishment Tool

Posted: 3rd March 2020 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on Establishment Tool
Post image

The Hivemind Instinct

Posted: 28th November 2019 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on The Hivemind Instinct

There’s some uncanny things happening in the world, and reasonable folks stand slackjawed in utter perplexity at certain … things.

The most illustrative example are MAGA trump followers. We have seen this quite often in human history, and I will unsympathetically characterize what I see as “a blind, uninformed, cult-like dedication to an authoritarian populist leader”. There are flocks of pundits making cursory dismissive statements on what’s happening here, and none of them reaches to the heart of the matter.

Allow me to conjecture in a meaninful manner, and give me some rope here. Because what I will speculate will be politically fairly incorrect.

Let’s head back to the start of the Holocene, say several thousand years ago. I have in the past argued that humanity went through quite the evolutionary bottleneck at that time, precipitated by a range of major climatic shifts. Let me list the changes.

  1. The last Pleistocene ice age ending is characterized by fairly rapid melting of icecaps, and a significant rising of sea levels.
  2. As a result a lot of formerly cold and ice covered land became availale and a lot of heavily forested low lying land was flooded.
  3. Populations of humans were compressed in to new and/or smaller geographic areas, triggering a sharp increase in ethnic/genetic competition.
  4. Those populations of humans that were genetically inclined to higher competition resorted to ever sophisticated modes of eliminating competition; this in turn favored aggressiveness, central authority and leadership and an inborn inclination to identify othet ethnicities as well as other genetic strains of humans.

I would therefore argue that in the last few thousand years humans entered a competetive stage, that as natural dangers diminished or were largely eradicated (for instance – most animals are remarkably cautious with humans) those humans that favored “racism”, “respect for authority” (docility), as well as ingenuity in confrontations.

If I continue hypothesizing along these lines I’d conjecture that some human genetic strains (and I consciously don’t use the word “races” here) have a greater prepensity for these modalities. We might say, “some ethnicities may have a greater prepensity to organize along authoritarian lines, organize in gangs following a “leader” and use ever more sophisticated tools and strategies in combat.

Image result for racist trump voters wall

If this hypothesis would be valid in the real world – if it describes something tangible and real, we immediately have a rather distressing model for what may be happening (and what is so befuddling to rational folks) in the real world.

If we take these three urges in the human race and combine them in to one over-all picture we may come to understand a tribal instinct that has translated quite tragically to the modern world. Here’s a narrative for you.

Human beings after the pleistocene were gradually forced in to new geographical niches and were forced to adapt quickly. One of these adaptations was an increasingly sedentary life, resisting other tribes for control of the land. To better be able to resist incursions, the sedentary folk started reinforcing more permanent settlements and fortified them. This begat primal forms of feudalist hierarchies where farmers and military predispositions calcified and society stratified. That all gradually led to territories, terristorial claims, leaders and the active desire to have your genetic legacy persist. Before this era tribal society was more equal between genders. After this transition land claim (and inheritance) progressed along male lines, females were born smaller, and as diets became more based on grains and agriculture most humans were weaker. To compensate humans in these emerging kingdoms became more suspicious of strangers (who’d signify threats to your genetic legacy) so primarily humans survived that were more inclided to agression against strangers, as well as domineering towards females. The best organized tribes (and later countries) were best able to use force to resist strangers, and in many cases resort to ethnic cleansing of said strangers. Now – war is quite a complex development, and war required an active instinct for self-sacrifice in the members of society. This active instinct was put to use in armed confrontation (war) and require its constituents somehow developed (or evolved) a prepensity to do what an authoritarian figurehead tells them to do, at great risk to their own survival. To obey leaders would then insure a significantly greater chance for surviving individuals to allowed to procreate and spread these “docile” and “military” genes. Manlyness became something to be admired and was greatly connotated with martial success, as well as a certain ruthless cruelty. We can easily see a mental tapestry of literally congenital instincts emerge in humanity favoring active racism, a persistent desire to dominate woman, a desire to be seen as “a full male” by members of the community, proud of one’s legacy and ethnicity (i.e. – racial pride) and a somewhat irrational urge to take extreme risks in confronting and potentially even murdering strangers or enemies.

Image result for angry white trump voters

So there you have it and it ain’t a pretty picture. Humanity may have wonderful inclinations but my hypothesis is that racism, ethnic nationalism, genocide, blindly following a strong male figure (what I’d call a ‘silverback’), doing markedly asinine things when following that leader, and a strong tendency of males to treat women as possession or second rate human beings – it’s all genetic and thus to a degree a pathology as well as a deterministic instinct in human group behavior.

Image result for angry white trump voters

T R A N S H U M A N I S M

Posted: 19th November 2019 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on T R A N S H U M A N I S M

Hi there, my name is Khannea. How are you doing?

I am a Transhumanist. I have been active calling myself Transhumanist around the mid-to-late 1990s, and have been ideologically Transhumanist since the late 1980s. I consider myself one of the best informed pro Transhumanism, Pro-Futurism, Pro-Modernism, Pro Space Colonisation, Futurological, Pro-Life Extension, Pro-Singularity activists and presenters in the Netherlands. I work closely together with Amanda Stoel (TechnoGaianism) in trying to spread a level (not too optimist/utopian, and not too pessimist/dystopian) understanding of these fields.

For that cause I am available to present these topics. I have a number of standard presentations ready, or I can prepare a presentation on a topic of your choice for which I can relatively quickly create a series of core arguments. I am, by any standard, very widely informed and oriented and do not give you the glamorous presentation – I will parse you all opportunities and dangers of exponential change in the most snarky tone I can muster.

I can safely state I am closely befriended by Giulio Prisco, David Pearce, Ben Goertzel, Philippe van Nedervelde, Aubrey de Grey, the late (?, 🙁 )Arjen Kamphuis, Amanda Stoel, Johannon BenZion, Natash Vita-Moore, Anders Sandberg – and most others know me at least by name.

Are you a media organization that desires to know more? Are you a documentary maker seeking salient quotes and insights? Are you a government agency at a loss about emerging technological trends? Are you a corporation that seeks to inspire your employees? I am available to rouse the spirits, cause brows to furrow, cause maybe a sleepless night here and there, and always seek to cause some laughter, albeit sometimes nervous.

For information, please email me at [email protected] I reside, party and work in particular in the Hague/Amsterdam axis.

Also be on the lookout of the drama-documentary by the name “Khannea 2070” coming out in 2020!

China – is FUCKED

Posted: 17th November 2019 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on China – is FUCKED

Why? Because socalled Rod From God (RfG) kinetic projectiles are expensive. They used to be strategically way more expensive to field than nukes, and outer space treaties forbids the use of orbital allocated nuclear weapons. Ballistic nukes are relatively close to target. To use a RfG you need to allocate a lot of them, in order to have strategic coverage over time. If you only have a few, fielding them against targets world wide will take a lot of time, and in a world war last thing you have is time.

So why is China fucked? Well, once a global power starts putting RfG’s in to orbit it takes literally hundreds to achieve dominance and that takes time. So when you start putting them in place you are literally saying to all your enemies guys, I am getting ready to kill you, give me a year and I’ll be totally ready to start a war of total annihilation without radioactive fallout, which pretty much means, in insane geopolitical parlance – I am getting ready to destroy all your military resources and invade, take over all your shit and make your people in to na slave race.

China isn’t stupid. They know this and they have known this for decades. they also realize now the US is starting to ramp up real cheap launch systems under SpaceX (look at this picture of a SpaceX rocket. Look at the flag on it. Look at how closely it resembles a V2)

Elon’s Godly Rod

As long as SpaceX is a private enterprise with all these grande private visions of colonizing mars, the US can maintain total plausible deniability that this isn’t in fact a deeply aggressive statement. Because it IS a deeply aggressive statement, much in the same way Germany in 1935 starting up factories mass-producing TNT “for peaceful civil engineering purposes” would be regarded as a declaration of war by France. Nonwithstanding your projections of being a peaceful beatnik, it is simly not credible.

Hippie Elon

There is no way China can match the quickly falling launch costs of SpaceE anytime soon. They know this. China knows that the US is at least half a decade ahead of China, despite all the rhetoric otherwise, to match these efforts. China thus knows that the US won’t need any stinking nuclear weapons to bring China to its knees.

Now take into account China’s attempts to consolidate the south China sea (which is simply a loud statement to the US/NATO – “make us stop doing this. I dare you, try and stop us“) or China’s threatening rhetoric towards Taiwan (“were are coming sooner rather than later“) and paranoid Khannea may decide that what’s happening in Hong Kong is a short term counterstatement from the US against these aggressions, whereas clearly the above implied threat from SpaceX is a long term statement.

What can China do?

Well expect them starting to invest a LOT more in space infrastructure very vert soon. A lot more, as in exponentially more.

Do we in the EU have a humanitarian duty in england?

Posted: 1st October 2019 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on Do we in the EU have a humanitarian duty in england?

We must sometimes face cold hard facts. I canb give you a list of cold hard facts we need to face. Climate change. Nuclear and Coal has no future. We as a human civilisation will have to stop industrial and largescale animal farming agriculture. All cars will be automated in 10 years. We will lose more than half existing jobs in the next 15 years. Plastic waste is really really bad and killing nature. Saudi Arabia is the biggest exporter of oil, and is using a lot of that money to fund terrorism. Trump is probably destroying the US as it exists today and we’ll soon see civil war. The Star Wars prequels and sequels are a cinematic abomination.

I know, it’s really horrible to tell this news to someone’s face, especially someone in total denial. These people will do whatever they can to ignore what you said and if you insist they’ll become furious.

One such non-negotiable topic is Brexit.

I recently saw a live presentation by Joris van Luyendijk, and I absolutely love the guy. When he presented angry white voters I laughed rather loud in the audience and he misread that and said “you hear that laughter? that’s what these white voters hate.” And of course he was right. A lot of people in the UK are furious with these arrogant uppity European elitists, and their damn EU rules, and their petty EU bureaucracy. Brussels! Ze Germans! And the French!

A lot of people in England are in a psychotic irrational rage and they can’t think clearly. It’s like a really bad marriage that both parties want to end at any cost, and they’ll rather burn down the house to make sure neither other gets half its resale value.

You can’t argue facts with these peope. You can’t outright tell muricans that america is a mess. You can’t tell a trucker in his face that his job is gone in a few years and he’ll have to go on welfare almost certainly. You can’t tell farmers that their industry is deeply immoral and destructive to the environment, and MUST stop growing immediately. You can’t tell someone in a car that for every euro he spends on gas about 10% goes of that euro is rerouted by Saudi Wahabbists to fund lunatics that want to kill every westerner. You can’t tell politicians in the US that climate change will competelt annihilate the american modern western way of life in less than 2 decades, if we do nothing, and reduce in wealth by about half if we take all the required actions to mitigate climate change. The list of things people are in denial about is virtually endless.

So, facts, Brexit is gearing up to become one of the worst catastrophy’s in the history of Europe. People will literally starve, cities will burn, there will be mass protests, politicians will be lynched, people will die because of lack of access to medication, people in england will have serious vitamin deficiency because of lack of fresh foods in a year, millions of jobs will be lost.

I happen to have a friend in the UK. She’s transgender so her outlook on career, schooling, social life, dignified sexual gratification, meaning, etc. is pretty precarious to begin with. She’s very young and unspeakably stressed out to begin with. Her mom is really difficult about it and apparently understands very little about everything. Clear I am worried about her, and I am pretty certain I have reason to be. If I mention to her it is looking pretty bad, she clearly is in denial. She asks me for “sources” on what I am talking about. Most lurid video I found describing the sheer horrific magnitude of what awaits is is this one.

We in the western world have become basically a bunch of spoiled assholes, myself included. The modern world IS horribly fragile and things can go horribly wrong, and in some cases this process is clearly already underway. Dmitry Orlov did some amazing presentations about this years ago, and instead of doing something about it, people are hoarding guns these days in an orgy of misantropy. Everyone hates everyone else, everyone blames anyone but themselves. The end for some of these systems will be horrifying.

The problem is the UK is walking distance away. If things go totally south we’ll get to hear the screams of despair across the north sea. We in the EU can pretty much throw up our hands and say (as Joris Luyendijk seems to be doing, “they can go fuck themselves, good riddance”) and laugh at the hilarious misfortune those stupid english idiots.

But I say we should start making some contingency plans, at the level of the collapse of the soviet union, to help the poor people in the soon former UK. Things will get real bad. They are likely to need food aid, medication, disaster relief, maybe lots of other things. We may in the EU start thinking about mass migration and refugee streams from the UK. Clearly most won’t be able to get in to the EU – we simply have no place to house, clothe, feed and care for a few million utterly angry, shellshocked chavvy brits – most of them most likely to be seething with resentment.

But I do call on my politicians to start making plans for worst case scenarios. Literally – malnourished people, people traumatized by months of civil collapse, crime, riots, institutional racism and state repression. Sure, we can endlessly go laugh about how stupid these brits are, but we have to accept that in this day and age pretty much everyone is suspectible to mass campaigns of lying, media manipulation, fake news and russian interference. The poor simpleton brits just have a collective national psychosis, and these poor people will need help soon. Let’s get ready to give it to them.

Send your comments to [email protected]

The Good Life

Posted: 26th September 2019 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on The Good Life
Image result for shiny happy people

Let me be clear – this article is not about me telling you what to do in life. This article is not about turning people in to “the Borg” or whatever. I am describing a new concept for most people, whereas for “transhumanists” this idea would be fairly self-evident. Other people, say people like Alex Jones, will scream bloody murder reading about this idea – and maybe they should.

If you use a scheduler, or a calender, you use a tool. If you use an answering machine and automatic scheduler, again, you use a tool. A gantt chart? A tool. You submit to a self-imposed structure in your life. My inquiry here is, how far can we take this?

Taking myself as an example (and I am positive to goes for most people), I wasted a LOT of time in my life. Having some spectrum analogue of ADHD didn’t make things easier. Have had an emotionally disheveled mother and a hyper-aggressive sociopathic father didn’t help much. Like many people, I made some structurally stupid choices, and can easily argue society did it utmost best to aggravate these choices and make them worse in the worst possible manner.

Fast forward to deep learning algorithms.

We are now in an era where advanced learning systems can recognize the most gradient and subtle of patterns in all aspects reality. In the last five years machines are self-learning to perform tasks we would have regarded as manifestation of of some kind of magic ten years ago. Every day new examples emerge of things hitherto regarded as patently impossible.

AI equal with human experts in medical diagnosis, study finds

In a few years any new car can affordably have the ability to self drive. These systems are becoming so universally safe that to me it’s pretty certain that soon cities will simply legally disallow human drivers. A few decades at most, if that. That means soon you can’t drive your manually operate lamborghini in a city like London. You have to log in to ‘citygrid’ a system that steers you around traffic jams, manages your maximum speed, protects you from accidents, drives you sustainably and efficiently to your destination. Don’t have a car that’s automated, you are not allowed in. You are fined if you do. Something like this is pretty much certain, and fairly soon.

We can unleash a system analysis on any process, and come up with meaningful algorithms that do things better than any human could have ever come up with. You can show a machine a street scene and it can now tell you what’s happening in the scene. And the most scary thing is that most people are still blissfully unaware this is happening.

So what do I propose?

I really would like a suite of advisor software – a complex intelligent self learning algorithm that’s constantly updated. This happened to Tesla’s once – friday the cars could barely movement. During the weekend software was updated and the week after people started experimenting with driving their Tesla across the entire US continent.

Can we do this with human life?

I think we can, and that’s both scary and very exciting. Imagine this – suite of advisory systems that constantly monitors your actions, choices, goals, desires, needs, dangerous urges, whatnow – and you establish goal sets with your software. Like – you want to fitness more, and be able to run a certain distance at a certain speed. Or lose weight. Or move permanently to another country and live next to the sea.

The software would have looked at millions of volunteers, each establishing similar system constraints, and would have learned how to do things, how to avoid trouble, how to get things done, how to get the most enjoyment out of life, how to not burn out, how to maximize your longevity, how not to get diabetes or cancer, etcetera. Of course you would establish boundaries. If you insist on smoking, then the software ignores that, until certain extreme tresholds would be broken, based on warning signs you stipulate yourself. You can set your software any way you like, as long as the system won’t decide you are breaking crimes or seriously hurt yourself. The best software should help you to legally get the most healthy heroin for the least amount of money – if that’s what you desire. No dount there would eventually be management software geared to run criminal enterprises, and whatnot. Terrorism even. Religious extremism. Autocratic societies might run reward schemes if you have state approved “proper behavior” citizen management software.

The software would also be flat out honest to you, like – “no you won’t be an olympic athlete” – it would tell you certain goals, desires, expectations are unrealistic and to what degree. People might listen quicker to their own software advisor than their priest or their physician.

The implications of widespread voluntary use of this software would be profound, especially if the user could enter a somewhat meaningful dialogue with the system, query it, instruct it, steer its goal sets, etc. I would tell my software certain fitness goals to coach me into, I would tell my software how to not get myself in financial trouble, I would tell my software to “gently” coax me in to societally moral, pleasant, gregarious behavior that maximizes my life enjoyment and actually helps other people to flourish in my presence. I might even set my management software to subtly negotiate with the software of other people, ‘negotiate’ goal sets with other people’s goal sets, without showing my cards so to speak. I might even set my software to financially, legally, medically, educationally or politically represent me in a manner that best serves my needs.

Modern life has become extremely stressful and inhumanly complex for a lot of people. Most people would not want to be managed in the above manner, and that would be fine, but I can most certainly see people seriously need and want such software. I can even visualise psychiatric or parental specialty packages that allow therapists algorithms to help you maintain a sane life, or raise sane, pleasant and effective kids. I arguably would have been a much better human if my parents had had access to this software.

Closing the EU to radicalized US americans

Posted: 1st September 2019 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on Closing the EU to radicalized US americans

If I were to describe a national organization in, say, a middle eastern or african country, that was openly and brazenly active in spreading high powered killing weapons to its members, protecting these members for any legislative constraint, and these weapons are then routinely used in mass killings, we would declare such people patently unwelcome in our society. So when then does the EU not apply equal standards when it comes to similarly radicalized elements in US society?

Post image

We are back at square one again. Several hours ago as of me writing this at least five people were massacred and many more injured in yet another mass shooting in the US state of Texas. Second in a month. First signs point to the shooting being done by a trump supporter MAGA type far right individual.

The problem is that clearly, selfevidently, exhibitionistically US society for some reason refuses to qualify far right wing violence as domestic terrorism. The FBI is rerouted towards watching environmental radicals, vets returning from wars and (in particular) antifa and native americans and black rights organizations for any signs of terrorism. White power / far right / radical christian domestic terrorism kills hundreds of times more people in US society than any of the above. Thus we in Europe should conclude the powers that be are at least tacitly sympathetic towards far right / racist / domionist causes. They consistently refuse to condemn any of these shooters.

Image may contain: text

I have long since argued US society is in a state of freefall towards Dystopian squallor. I visited the US repeatedly and lived there for some length of time and even back then I would characterize US society as pervasively a police society, claustrophobically militarized, deeply racist and decidedly unfree to anyone but its richest denizens. When I raised these criticisms they consistently fall on deaf ears with the vast majority of americans, if not arouse outright anger. But we are now in 2019, the electorate in the US somehow decided they are the only real democratic society on the planet, and they came up with someone patently and theatrically racist as donald trump. That man has no been charged with anything. I do not see any impeachment. He has not been dragged off to prison, and I have seen no credible attempts to hold him accountable in any other way. In fact I see an establisment that’s ranging from whiningly impotent, feebly terrified or utterly complict, enabling or downright collaborators with his ideology.

The EU as a single body can not change US society. But the EU must come to terms with the irreversible decline of US society. We have no way of knowing where this will end, but I am fairly certain Chris Hedges’s assessment is pretty spot on when he states the end of american empire is here, and the end will be horrifying. A major part of that descent seems based on the marriage of radicalization and epidemic availability of firearms. In specific one organisation is actively supporting the ubiquity, deadliness of these weapons and takes active steps to legally shield people who own and use these weapons from consequences.

The EU should be consistent in its border policies with regards to radicalized non EU citizens. That is why I vehemently call upon the EU leadership for a complete and total shutdown of american NRA members entering the European Union until our representatives can figure out what is going on.

T h e N a t i o n a l R i f l e O r g a n i s a t i o n

I would strongly insist we include politicians of which it can be determined they are NRA members, take NRA money and vote on behalf of this NRA. We should extend this travel ban as soon as possible to other verifiable sectarian organizations in US society of which it can be blankly determined they contribute to mass murders, such as this NRA. I say, if people support the NRA, carry an NRA card – you can’t reasonably trust them. They are actively enabling systemic and frequent mass murders in US society, for whatever reason. This kind of people do not belong in EU society, either as short term residents, or as short term visitors. Those NRA members already in the EU should be asked to leave as soon as possible, and I believe again this travel ban should include US politicians, office holders, embassy staff and diplomats.

If you agree with this demand, please please please share this article to as many people as possible.

Legislation on Asteroid Mining Debris Cloud

Posted: 16th August 2019 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on Legislation on Asteroid Mining Debris Cloud

Copyright 2019, Khannea Sun Tzu, article may be used with attribution

It is likely certain corporations and governments are well on our way to mining asteroids before 2050. Once asteroid mining commences in earnest, it will grow exponentially and change from a very riskprone, trial-and-error, erratic profit and small scale industry to a highly predictable, casual, well tested and insanely profitable industry in decades. The problem with exponentially expanding industries is that politicians, corporations, investers and scientists enter a peculiar insanity driven by profit margins we have not seen before on this planet. It may eventually turn out that industrial exploitation of space-based resources expands to a degree that corporate entities lose most interest in investing in terrestrial resources or markets, and that is a long term problem in its own right.

But short term, in the second and third stages of asteroid mining we are very likely to see corporations cut corners and enter a sort of feeding frenzy for select resources and ores, and use other asteroid resources in a particularly (and arguably criminally) wasteful manner. We have seen the same attritional ‘business models’ in the conquest of the americas where bison skulls were used as fertillizer in a manner we can in retrospect judge to be criminal, immoral, insane and severely lacking any longterm vision.

American bison skull pile

Near earth space is unlike any frontier we have ever tried conquering. The natural intuitions humans have evolved to deal with hunter-gatherer existence on an african savanne are certain to be quite inadequate compared to vacuum, highly radiated, highly temperature variation, free fall, extreme toxicity, extreme distances, extreme investment tresholds, extreme profit margins environment. To profit from these resources it in the initial stages it makes sense to use the most ruthless approach imaginable.

For instance – there’s a lot of water (and other volatiles) in most asteroids and this water exists as a composite of clays inside the asteroids in a semi-frozen state. By heating the asteroid insides these volatile substances can be extracted. Water is likely to be extremely valuable for colonizing space in a long term sustainable manner, but clearly the same water can also be collected in the early decades of asteroid mining to blow up parts of asteroid gravel piles. This yields two moral problems

1 – the water used in that manner escapes in to space and is carried out of the solar system via solar radiation, and

2 – this, and other ‘ruthless’ means of extracting resources is very likely to produce significant debris/particle clouds in interplanetary space.

It may seem inconceivable that water would be wasted in this manner, and likewise it may seem inconceivable that “debris clouds” would be a problem in the vastness of space. It is right now very difficult to estimate the impact of just these two problems of (1) wasting precious resources in the short term we may desperately need in long term development and (2) haphazzardly dumping a kind of particle pollution in interplanetary space that may pose long term hazards for follow-up missions. But as asteroid mining heats up we may see an exponential number of each every more cutthroat competetive and immorally shortsighted missions tearing up asteroids. This won’t be a problem when we are doing small missions to a few asteroids, but imagine half a century later when we see tens of thousands of very sizable missions actively digging in tens of thousands of asteroids anually and everyone can see the ensuing problems for consecutive spaceflight. We surely do not want an accidental kessler syndrome around the earth moon system, so we most certainly do not want to induce a slow-motion interplanetary kessler syndrome in the inner solar system and asteroid belt.

We can not stop all cutting corners. But the international community can determine that certain cost cutting and ruthless strategies for asteroid colonization to be objectionable for long term development of very large, and relatively fragile infrastructure (or real estate) in the inner solar system. It would be tragic if an exponential development of hundreds or thousands of O’Neill habitats, each potentially housing many thousands to ten thousands of highly educated, very affluent, highly productive tax paying and voting constituents were needlessly aborted because of the shortsighted nature of some corporate revenue extraction models.

Currently there is no viable legislative, legal or political model to impede such practices, so we end up with certain nations more or less dictating terms, with everyone else more or less consenting out of docility, short sighted naivety, or poltical expediency. The problem is that afore alluded to nations do not have a stellar record on yielding particularly long-term oriented business practices.

There is an immediate solution however – governments and corporations trading resources from space (moons, asteroids, comets, planets or otherwise) can be taxed for offering these goods, and we can make taxation dependent in large part on the sustainability of the extraction methods they use.

It would be wise for governments to come to understand the potential impact of asteroid mining, the technologies and sciences involved and have specialists in these fields prepare a cursory legislative framework to avoid disasters down the line.

War Criminal

Posted: 19th July 2019 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on War Criminal

Share this, so every time people search “war criminal” this comes up.

A waste of time – Stephen Chen on “Gene Editing”

Posted: 3rd June 2019 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on A waste of time – Stephen Chen on “Gene Editing”

I recently read Stephen Chen’s article in the South China Morning Post and rarely have I been so dumfounded and infutiated by an opinion piece such as this one. Let’s hope Stephen is just rehashing the opinion of researcher Professor Yang Hui. Yan Hui recently made significant progress in editing faulty genes in humans, reducing respectively the error rates and failure rate of selective gene editing significantly. Yan Hui takes it upon himself to warn the world for ‘mis-use’ of these technologies. He calls on the world waking up to alleged dangers, and “implementing world-wide rules” to make sure no disasters happen. “The technology is similar to weapons and drugs. Immoral use, such as the creation of a super-baby, should be banned forever,” Yang said.

This is essentially a nonsense statement.

In the 1940s it need vast technological resources and manpower on an industrial scale to create the first nuclear bomb. Project Manhattan took 130 thousand people and in today’s dollars 23 billion. In the old days it required major effort to create revolutionary new technologies. Now a small dedicated team working in utmost secrecy can make sweeping advancements in total secrecy.

Yan Hui compares his technology to “drugs”. He conveniently ignores the fact that decades of a world-wide war on drugs have miserably failed. When there is ravenous demand for a product or service or technology, people will do whatever they can to get their hands on the product. To make such a product effectively illicit instantaneously creates a black market, and more or less hands over the legislation, product quality control and distribution to either deeply corrupt politicians, or cutthroat criminal kartels and gangsters.

Just try and visualize how much of a market genetic editing of babies comprizes. Imagine if a typical above middle class parent had access to a short vacation somewhere in east asia and respective parents would come back, mom pregnant. No one would be the wiser, even if after some physician would notice some genetic anomalies with the infant. What do you do to parents who pay for a service that removes genetic ailments, real or imagines from the unborn infant? Who thinks for a moment that once these technologies become anywhere near affordable for billionaires they will not be used? Now imagine that the technologies become available, some kind of media scandal ensues, they become illegal and are henceforth and as a direct result of this “war on genetic misschief” only available to well connected and very wealthy parents.

Maybe we should. If we look at the track record of cocaine dealers, it’s clear that black markers produce results far better than legal and legislated markets. Cocaine and heroin prices have dropped precipitously over the years, whereas quality of these products have sharply increased. At the time time “legal” medical companies use proven predatory US patent law to hike up prices of critical drugs (such as insulin, for peace sake! – a product that was originally intended by its developers to be for free) to the point patients start dying in droves. So color me a sceptic with regards to the interests and goals of Professor Yan Hui. Maybe he knows that once we legislate it’ll become a black market, and he’ll be rich. Or it’ll become a legal, highly patented, highly corporatized market and he’ll become even richer.

I call upon you my reader to just for a few minutes try to visualize how much you can ‘fix’ in a human genome. Look around you at your colleagues at work, to your family, to people in the street and anyone with a shred of humanity must conclude the human species is genetically a mess. Most people have some form of genetic malady, no matter how subtle. Even minor afflictions cause major suffering world wide. Asthma. Color Blindness. Bad teeth. Diabetes.

But even something we so take for granted as “a valuable life lesson” such as someone being ugly is soul destroying. Uglyness destroys lives and careers. No one wants to be ugly, yet everyone regards other people being born ugly “something they shouldn’t whine or complain about”. Gods forbid ugliness would be covered for medical treatments – people would have to pay more dollar to fix the neighbours butt-ugly kids, amirite?

We made massive, sweeping progress this last few decades people would fight tooth and nail, to the death, to not give up. Try pry smartphones from a few billion people’s fingers, and you’ll likely to get lynched. two decades ago just the mention of the very idea of smartphones and my mom and stepdad would get verbally abusive that “such things are an abomination in addictive personality disorders”. Even if they were right, nobody would give a flying hoot these days.

Genetic therapies for the unborn are just like cars, computers, games, mobile phones, vacations to thailand – etc.. At first they are buggy, hideously expensive and unpleasant. A few years later they are not. At first nobody but some rare few eccentrics and hipsters would dream about paying for them. A few years later my mom is inseperable from her samsung.

Chinese science minister warns scientists not to overstep ethical bounds after He Jiankui’s gene-edited babies scandal

The article above decides halfway to call major progress in these treatments “a schandal”. I again wonder what is wrong with these people. Maybe they should have been genetically edited for more compassion, pity or intelligence.

In the early 1990s I saw the emergence of internet. At first internet was laughed at. It was called a “fad” that would quickly “disappear”. Then people start demanding strict laws against “internet”. Even now well-meaning imbeciles call for “legislation” against a range of things, such as “wikileaks”, “pornography”, “bitcoins”, “illegally downloaded music” or “anonymous comments under youtube videos”. All that busywork feels to me a lot like the rantings of some US senator when he haphazzardly, foaming at the mouth labels the internet “a series of tubes”. It’s simply old people who have no idea what the hell they are talking about (my mom, 10 years ago, regarding smartphones) or deeply corrupt and self-serving politicians or corporate executives that wish to cash in by betting on either side of this technology. If the technology escapes the legislative clutches of a all these useless government interference by a geriatrocratic and chronically future-shocked billionaire politicians (as internet did for a decade) then they won’t make any money on their diabolical patents. Or if the government does’t do its best to try and legislate it, there won’t be black markets and these people also won’t make any money.

Sad thing is – nobody will listen. Even if I produce a 700 page PDF listing all genetic afflictions that cost society (taxpayers) trillions, create untold human suffering, the typical voter/consumer/constituent whatever will not be able to intellectually associate genetic therapies with the eradication of those afflictions.

Like my mom, ten years ago, had no idea what a smart phone would do, or why it would make a difference in her life. Very very very sad. Maybe we as a species all need to get our genetics altered to increase our functional intelligence by a significant amount, because probably right now we are just too collectively stupid to know what’s good for us.

I guarantee you – later this century we’ll know real well. And not having your kids genes fixed will be reason parents go to prison for child abuse. I guarantee it.

In Praise Of Laziness

Posted: 27th April 2019 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on In Praise Of Laziness

By Extropia DaSilva

Image result for guardians of the galaxy antenna girl

What is the greatest human trait? Judging by the way it gets praised so often, one might assume that to be a ‘hard worker’ would be an obvious candidate. By general agreement, it is those who ‘work hard’ who should be rewarded the most. And whenever a politician speaks about wanting to represent the interests of his or her constituency, you can be sure that it will be ‘hard working folk’ who he or she intends to help.

In contrast, to be lazy is not worthy of praise. Indeed, it is considered to be one of the seven deadly sins. Lazy characters in stories tend to be there so as to serve as some kind of morality tale encouraging us to abandon such ways. “Don’t be like this character, look where you will end up”.

Yes, hard work is good and therefore something to be encouraged, while laziness is just wrong and to be disapproved of. At least, that seems to be the attitude society wants to encourage.

But is it correct? Is laziness really all bad? Are we we really right in holding up hard work as the ultimate virtue?

I don’t think we are. I think laziness is part of the reason why progress is made; why the future can turn out better than the past.

A major reason why the future can seem brighter is because of technological development. It is thanks to new technological capabilities that we can reduce or eliminate problems that were hitherto intractable. It can aspire to more than was previously obtainable. Now, obviously, work has to be done or else technological progress would grind to a halt. I don’t intend to try and show we should be against hard work. But it does seem to me that ‘lazy’ intentions are, to some extent, the driving force behind a lot of what we invent. After all, a lot of what we invent are ‘labour-saving’ devices. We invent something often because there is a task we can’t really be bothered with and would rather get away with doing it less or not at all.

Imagine that our ancient ancestors, with their primitive stone tools, only wanted to ‘work hard’. If that were so, then I would argue that they would have shown a great deal less interest in improving their tools. “This tree I am attempting to chop down with my flint knife, it’s going to take an enormous amount of effort. Great! I love hard work, me. Who would want an axe or, heaven forfend a chainsaw? That would get the work done in half the time, and I am not at all interested in anything but hard work”.

In reality, we couldn’t be bothered to work quite so hard at whatever we were doing, and so we looked for ways to reduce the amount of effort needed to reach our goals. Did our cavemen ancestors progress from stone tools to iron ones out of a desire to work hard in solving the various problems such an evolution requires, or because they were kind of lazy and therefore wanted better tools and less work? In our modern age do people start businesses because they crave the hard work one must undertake to succeed in such endeavours, or because they look forward to one day earning so much profit they can afford to hire staff to do all the work for them (and have you ever noticed how the most vocal proponents of ‘hard work’ tend to be those with enough capital to pay others to do all the work?).

The answer is that both play a part. Human nature is not one hundred percent committed to hard work nor totally in favour of being lazy. If were were content to just be lazy, our world would look as radically different today as the hypothetical ‘world of hard workers’ just imagined. If we were content to just live as lazy folk, then we would be satisfied with merely meeting our most basic survival needs. So long as we had a quenched thirst, a full stomach and protection from harsh environments we would have all we could ever want. There would be no desire to make music or play sports or make scientific discoveries. We went on to do all those things because we are lazy being with the capacity to work hard and strive for more.

We are lazy beings because it makes evolutionary sense to be that way. Energy should not be wasted unnecessarily and natural selection harshly punishes those that do. The successful hunter is the one evolved to catch prey with minimal effort, not the ones who prefer the long, arduous chase even when a shorter, easier catch is an option. And prey likewise evolve herd behaviour, camouflage and defences like armour and poisons in order to make it easier to defend themselves against predation. They too get punished if they waste unnecessary energy in thwarting a predator’s intention to make a meal of them. In nature, winners are the ones who work hard only when they have to.

Given that our ancestors were hunter-gatherers, the sensible would have been to permit relaxation during slack periods in order for there to be plenty of energy when the time came to put it to good use. You can imagine how there would have been seasons in which there was plenty of fruit to gather, or moments when everyone should mobilise to bring home game. But afterwards, when the fruit was picked and the hog roasting on the spit, the time left was better spent playing, socialising, or resting.

This is, in fact, how we evolved to work. We are designed for occasional bursts of intense energy, which is then followed by relaxation as we slowly build up for the next short period of high activity.

This work pattern could hardly have changed much when human societies transitioned to farming and were able to develop into chieftains and larger hierarchical societies. After all, farming is also very seasonal work, so here too it would have made much more sense to adopt work attitudes that encouraged intense activity when necessary (such as when the harvest was ready to be gathered) but at other times to just leave the peasants alone to potter about minding and maintaining things or relaxing.

Now, it’s true that the evolution of human societies into hierarchical structures not only entailed the emergence of a ruling ‘upper class’ but also a lower caste of slaves and serfs. But, although we commonly conceive of such lower caste people as being worked to death by brutal task-masters, in actual fact early upper classes were nowhere near as obsessed with time-management as is the modern boss and didn’t care what people were up to so long as the necessary work was accomplished. As Graeber explained, “the typical medieval serf, male or female, probably worked from dawn to dusk for twenty to thirty days out of any year, but just a few hours a day otherwise, and on feast days, not at all. And feast days were not infrequent”.

Part two of this essay still to come.

REFERENCES

“Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond

“Bullshit Jobs: A Theory” by David Graeber

“Why We Work” by Barry Schwartz

Comments Off on Capitalism in crisis: U.S. billionaires worry about the survival of the system that made them rich

Boohoo? Fuck Jeff Bezos. Fuck the WaPo.

PALO ALTO, Calif. — A perfect California day. The sun was shining, a gentle breeze was blowing and, at a Silicon Valley coffee shop, Rep. Ro Khanna was sitting across from one of his many billionaire constituents discussing an uncomfortable subject: the growing unpopularity of billionaires and their giant tech companies.

“There’s some more humility out here,” Khanna (D-Calif.) said.

The billionaire on the other side of the table let out a nervous laugh. Chris Larsen was on his third start-up and well on his way to being one of the wealthiest people in the valley, if not the world.

“Realizing people hate your guts has some value,” he joked.

Image result for scared rich people

For decades, Democrats and Republicans have hailed America’s business elite, especially in Silicon Valley, as the country’s salvation. The government might be gridlocked, the electorate angry and divided, but America’s innovators seemed to promise a relatively pain-free way out of the mess. Their companies produced an endless series of products that kept the U.S. economy churning and its gross domestic product climbing. Their philanthropic efforts were aimed at fixing some of the country’s most vexing problems. Government’s role was to stay out of the way.

Now that consensus is shattering. For the first time in decades, capitalism’s future is a subject of debate among presidential hopefuls and a source of growing angst for America’s business elite. In places such as Silicon Valley, the slopes of Davos, Switzerland, and the halls of Harvard Business School, there is a sense that the kind of capitalism that once made America an economic envy is responsible for the growing inequality and anger that is tearing the country apart.

On a quiet weekday at a strip-mall coffee shop, the conversation between Khanna and Larsen turned to what went so wrong.

Americans still loved technology, Khanna said, but too many of them felt locked out of the country’s economic future and were looking for someone to blame.

“What happened to us?” he imagined people in these left-behind places asking.

Image result for rich people psychopaths

Part of Khanna’s solution was to sign on as co-chairman of the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the democratic socialist who rose to the national stage by railing against “the handful of billionaires” who “control the economic and political life of this nation,” and who disproportionately live in Khanna’s district.

The other part of Khanna’s solution was to do what he was doing now, talking to billionaire tech executives like Larsen who worried that the current path for both capitalism and Silicon Valley was unsustainable. Boosted by a cryptocurrency spike last year, Larsen’s net worth had briefly hit $59 billion, making him the fifth-richest person in the world before the currency’s value fell.

Without an intervention, he worried that wealth would continue to pile up in Silicon Valley and anger in the country would continue to grow.

“It seems like every company in the world has to be here,” Larsen said. “It’s just painfully obvious that the blob is getting bigger.”

At some point, Larsen and Khanna worried, something was going to break.

The 2008 financial crisis may have revealed the weaknesses of American capitalism. But it was Donald Trump’s election and the pent-up anger it exposed that left America’s billionaire class fearful for capitalism’s future.

Khanna was elected in 2016, just as the anxiety started to spread. In Europe, far-right nationalist parties were gaining ground. Closer to home, socialists and Trump-inspired nationalists were winning state and congressional elections.

Conversations of the sort that Khanna was having with Larsen were now taking place in some of capitalism’s most rarefied circles including Harvard Business School, where last fall Seth Klarman, a highly influential billionaire investor, delivered what he described as a “plaintive wail” to the business community to fix capitalism before it was too late.

The setting was the opening of Klarman Hall, a new $120 million conference center, built with his family’s donation. “It’s a choice to pay people as little as you can or work them as hard as you can,” he told the audience gathered in the 1,000-seat auditorium. “It’s a choice to maintain pleasant working conditions . . . or harsh ones; to offer good benefits or paltry ones.” If business leaders didn’t “ask hard questions about capitalism,” he warned that they would be asked by “ideologues seeking to point fingers, assign blame and make reckless changes to the system.”

Six months after that speech, Klarman was struck by how quickly his dire prediction was coming to pass. Leading politicians, such as Trump, Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), were advocating positions on tariffs, wealth taxes and changes in corporate governance that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

Klarman wasn’t opposed to more progressive taxation or regulation. But he worried that these new proposals went much too far. “I think we’re in the middle of a revolution — not a guns revolution — but a revolution where people on both extremes want to blow it up, and good things don’t happen to the vast majority of the population in a revolution,” he said.

He wasn’t the only one who felt a sense of alarm. One of the most popular classes at Harvard Business School, home to the next generation of Fortune 500 executives, was a class on “reimagining capitalism.” Seven years ago, the elective started with 28 students. Now there were nearly 300 taking it. During that period the students had grown increasingly cynical about corporations and the government, said Rebecca Henderson, the Harvard economist who teaches the course.

“What the trust surveys say is what I see,” she said. “They are really worried about the direction in which the U.S. and the world is heading.”

A few dozen of those students spent their winter break reading “Winners Take All,” a book by Anand Giridharadas, a journalist and former McKinsey consultant, that had hit the bestseller list and was provoking heated arguments in places like Silicon Valley, Davos and Harvard Business School. Giridharadas’s book was a withering attack on America’s billionaire class and the notion that America’s iconic capitalists could use their wealth and creativity to solve big social and economic problems that have eluded a plodding and divided government.

This spring, Giridharadas took his argument to Klarman Hall. He slammed Mark Zuckerberg, taking aim at the Facebook founder’s $100 million effort to fix Newark’s faltering schools and his $3 billion push to end disease in a generation. “I’m glad he’s trying to get rid of all the diseases, [but] I wish Facebook wasn’t a plague,” Giridharadas said.

He trashed Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s independent presidential run as an effort to protect the interests of the uber-wealthy. And he lambasted the notion, frequently championed by the likes of Bill Gates and Barack Obama, that Silicon Valley’s innovations would disrupt old hierarchies and spread capitalism’s rewards. “Really?” Giridharadas asked. “Now five companies control America, instead of 100! And a lot of those companies are whiter and more male than the ones they disrupted.”

For many of the students, schooled in the notion that business could make a profit while making the world a better place, Giridharadas’s ideas were both energizing and disorienting. Erika Uyterhoeven, a second-year student, recalled one of her fellow classmates turning to her when Giridharadas was finished.

Image result for mnuchin wife

“So, what should we do?” her colleague asked. “Is he saying we shouldn’t go into banking or consulting?”

Added another student: “There was a palpable sense of personal desperation.”

Khanna experienced a version of this desperation almost every day in his district. He grew up in an overwhelmingly white, middle-class suburb of Philadelphia. After college and Yale Law School, he moved to Silicon Valley in 2003, hoping to use his training as a lawyer to help set the rules for a lawless online world.

In 2014, backed by the tech community and a long roster of billionaire donors, Khanna challenged an eight-term incumbent in a Democratic primary and lost. The defeat caused him to reflect on what he had missed — in particular, the problems that runaway capitalism were causing in his district, where the median home value in formerly blue-collar cities surged past $2 million.

“The best thing that happened to me was that I lost my 2014 election,” he said. “Had I won . . . maybe I would’ve been a traditional neoliberal. It really forced my self-reflection and it pointed out every weakness I ever had.”

In California, Khanna’s home is a small apartment around the corner from a Dollar Tree, one of only two in his district. His wife and two children live most of the year in Washington, where home values are cheaper.

His days are split between meetings with billionaires and his many constituents who are struggling to stay afloat amid Silicon Valley’s success. “I am an 11-year renter with a master’s degree,” a teacher told him at a meeting with school employees. Her question wasn’t about whether she would ever be able to afford a home, but about a fellow teacher who couldn’t afford health insurance.

A few days earlier, he had met with two activists who wanted his help pressuring big tech companies to pay contract janitorial and cafeteria workers a living wage. Khanna agreed to host a press event on their behalf.

The billionaires in Khanna’s district, meanwhile, were consumed by a different worry. Mixed in with the valley’s usual frothy optimism about disruption and inventing the future was a growing sense that the tech economy had somehow broken capitalism. The digital revolution had allowed tech entrepreneurs to build massive global companies without the big job-producing factories or large workforces of the industrial era. The result was more and more wealth concentrated in fewer hands.

As technology advanced, some feared things were only going to get worse. Robots were eliminating much factory work; online commerce was decimating retail; and self-driving cars were on the verge of phasing out truck drivers. The next step was computers that could learn and think.

“What happens if you can actually automate all human intellectual labor?” said Greg Brockman, chairman of OpenAI, a company backed by several Silicon Valley billionaires. Such thinking computers might be able to diagnose diseases better than doctors by drawing on superhuman amounts of clinical research, said Brockman, 30. They could displace a large number of office jobs. Eventually, he said, the job shortages would force the government to pay people to pursue their passions or simply live. Only Andrew Yang, a long-shot presidential candidate and tech entrepreneur, supported the idea of government paying citizens a regular income. But the idea of a “universal basic income” was discussed regularly in the valley.

The prospect was both energizing and terrifying. OpenAI had recently added an ethicist — Brockman sometimes referred to her as a “philosopher” — to its staff of about 100 employees to help sort through the implications of its innovations.

To Brockman, a future without work seemed just as likely as one without meat, a possibility that many in the valley viewed as a near certainty. “Once we have meat substitutes as good as the real thing, my expectation is that we’re going to look back at eating meat as this terrible, immoral thing,” he said. The same could be true of work in a future in an era of advanced artificial intelligence. “We’ll look back and say, ‘Wow, that was so crazy and almost immoral that people were forced to go and labor in order to be able to survive,’ ” he said.

Khanna heard such prophecies all the time but mostly discounted them as sci-fi fantasy. His focus was on fixing the version of capitalism that existed today. He often pleaded with big tech executives to spend just 10 percent of their time thinking about what they could do for their country and 90 percent to their companies.

The tougher question was exactly what he wanted them to do with that 10 percent.

On a warm spring evening, Khanna was trying to answer that question for about two dozen Silicon Valley tech executives, software engineers and venture capitalists. The group gathered at a $5 million Mediterranean-style villa perched atop a hill overlooking Cupertino, which glittered in the valley below.

Khanna described a December trip he organized to tiny Jefferson, Iowa, for a group of tech executives that included Microsoft’s chief technology officer and a LinkedIn co-founder. The executives donated to the community college’s scholarship fund and paid to equip its computer lab with the goal of training 25 to 35 students for software developer jobs, starting at $65,000 a year.

Khanna had made similar trips to West VirginiaOhio and Kentucky. The total number of jobs these trips produced was small, and the pay wasn’t great. Still, Khanna believed they served a larger purpose. They proved that people in Silicon Valley cared about places like Jefferson, a rural town of only 4,200. They gave people hope that even the remotest parts of America could take part in the country’s tech revolution.

The next step, Khanna told the executives at the mansion in Cupertino, was a $100 million effort to build 50 technology institutes, similar to land-grant colleges, to train workers in left-behind parts of America. Khanna had already introduced a bill that he admitted was unlikely to pass. But that wasn’t really the point. “It sets a blueprint,” he said.

Khanna’s blueprint reflected his broader view of how to unite an increasingly polarized country. Many Democrats blamed Trump’s victory and the country’s divisions on racial tensions as the nation grew more diverse and whites lost their favored positions.

Khanna had a different view. He saw the country’s problems primarily as the product of growing income inequality and a lack of opportunity.

Sometimes Khanna imagined what people in these left-behind parts of the country were thinking: Their grandparents had fought in World War II and helped build the country’s industrial age economy. Now they worried people like Khanna, whose parents emigrated from India, were surging past them.

“They just got here, and they are doing really, really well,” Khanna imagined these people saying. “What happened to us?”

Not everyone at the tech gathering was buying Khanna’s analysis.

Atam Rao, a nuclear engineer, told Khanna that he had come to the United States from India 50 years earlier. Rao’s son, who founded a successful video-game company in Los Angeles, was born in America. The day after Trump was elected, his son suggested shifting some money to a bank account in India, just in case they needed to return someday.

“Are we welcome here?” he said his son asked.

He believed that Khanna was underestimating the racial anger in the country.

“They found someone to blame,” Rao said of Trump and his backers. “This is not going to be won by logic.”

But that wasn’t the America Khanna knew. It didn’t fit with his experience growing up in suburban Philadelphia or arriving in Silicon Valley, where Indians had become rock stars and CEOs of companies such as Google. And it didn’t comport with the results of the 2018 election, he said, now speaking directly to Rao.

“The same country that elected Trump just elected the most diverse Congress in the country’s history,” Khanna said.

Khanna didn’t deny the problem of racism, but like Sanders he saw the country’s divisions primarily through the prism of capitalism’s shortcomings and the economy, not race.

A few days after the meeting at the Cupertino mansion, Khanna was standing in front of 16,000 amped-up Sanders supporters. The San Francisco skyline rose in front of him and the Golden Gate Bridge spanned the bay behind him.

In his gray suit and pressed white shirt, the two-term congressman looked a bit out of place — an emissary from establishment Washington crashing someone else’s revolution. Khanna gave a brief speech introducing Sanders, who a few minutes later rushed onto the stage and into the same campaign spiel he had been delivering since the 2016 Democratic primaries.

He bashed the billionaire class and its influence over American elections. “Democracy means one person one vote and not billionaires buying elections,” Sanders yelled in his Brooklyn growl.

“We say no to oligarchy,” he continued. “Yes to democracy.”

Khanna’s eyes fixed on Steve Spinner, a big tech investor in Silicon Valley and major fundraiser for Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. Spinner, who chaired Khanna’s congressional win, was listening with his arms folded across his fleece vest.

“We dragged him out here,” Khanna said. “He’s about as far from Bernie as you can get.”

Many of Khanna’s billionaire supporters — even those who worried about capitalism and inequality — seemed genuinely puzzled by Khanna’s affection for Sanders.

For Khanna it was simple: In Sanders, Khanna found a candidate who shared his diagnosis of the country’s most vexing problems: inequality and the failures of unrestrained capitalism.

Sanders wasn’t a perfect match for Khanna. Sanders didn’t really understand the tech industry — though he wasn’t calling for the breakup of big tech companies like Warren and some other candidates. Warren’s proposal, if executed, would hurt companies in Khanna’s district and alienate some of his wealthiest backers.

Khanna wished Sanders would talk more about the greatness of the American economy and the power of the tech industry, when properly taxed and regulated, to lift people out of poverty. But on that score Khanna believed he could help Sanders.

“We can quibble over his plans to solve this issue or that issue,” Khanna said. “But I have no doubt that if Bernie Sanders was in the White House, he’d wake up every day thinking, ‘How do I solve structural inequality in America?’ ’’

The 77-year-old socialist’s speech had passed the one-hour mark and the crowd was still laughing, cheering, hooting and shouting.

“We’re probably not going to get a lot of support from the one percent and the large profitable corporations,” Sanders said.

A voice in the crowd screamed an expletive.

“That’s okay,” Sanders continued, “I don’t need, and we don’t want, their support.”

The congressman in the gray suit gazed out at the crowd, which stretched to the back of the park. Khanna saw Sanders’s revolution as an imperfect solution to a near-impossible problem. For now, though, it was the best he could find.

Tulip Mania (by Extropia DaSilva)

Posted: 16th February 2019 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,
Comments Off on Tulip Mania (by Extropia DaSilva)

“…als het lente wordt breng ik jou Tulpen uit Amsterdam…”

If you are interested in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, chances are that you have heard some skeptic make a comparison with ‘tulips’. Why would blockchain-based assets be compared with that particular flower? Well, it is all to do with one of the craziest bubbles ever inflated, which was what I want to talk about in this post. In order to lay down the groundwork, though, we have to go way back in time to the 15th century…

In The Beginning…

The story of how Amsterdam’s most famous bloom became the basis of one of the most infamous speculative bubbles does not actually begin in the Netherlands, but rather in Spain and Portugal. The end of the 15th century saw improvements to the design of ships and inventions that were to prove important for navigation, such as the clock and the compass. Together, these advances made it possible to cross oceans, discover new lands, and open up trade routes.

The Christian kingdoms of Spain and Portugal did just that, famously sending Christopher Columbus west in 1492 on a journey that would ‘discover’ the Americas. Five years later Vasco de Gama journeyed southward to discover the Cape Of Good Hope and the naval route to India.

With these discoveries, both Spain and Portugal suddenly found themselves with trading options along African and Asian coasts, not to mention access to vast and rich territories in the New World. This meant that, from the 16th century onwards, the scene was set for a transformation from the old feudal economies to mercantile economies. The international trade routes made it possible to create far superior wealth compared to that offered by grain production by the small feudal fiefs of Europe. Mercantile economies were based on the idea that a country’s total amount of wealth represented the overall profit it made from trade. As each strip of land obviously holds only a limited amount of tradable resources, the volume of a country’s trade was dependent on the amount of land over which it held trade rights.

Mercantilism therefore lead to expansionism, as any European power that could afford it sent off ships in search of hitherto undiscovered territory (not discovered by any other European, that is). It was customary for the Monarch to hold claim to the new territory overseas, the management of which required a large administrative body under direct royal control. It had always been profitable to serve the King during times of war, but the territorial expansion meant the nobility could make more wealth serving the King abroad rather than by managing their private estates.

This lead to a powerful, centralised monarchy and the creation of the first great European empire. But there was something of a downside to this way of organising things, since the creation of a powerful, centralised monarchy held back the creation of a strong and independent mercantile class, which in turn held back private enterprise. The result of all this was that capitalism did not grow out of the empires of Spain and Portugal, but rather from one of the more disadvantaged newcomers in the race for international trade.

“…waar is dat verdomde retejong?…”

The Dutch East India Company

That nation was the Netherlands. The end of their 80-year struggle for independence from Spain left the nation with no significant aristocracy and not much in the way of marked class differences. Instead, the Netherlands developed a significant middle class that thrived on trade. Up to the Industrial Revolution, Amsterdam could lay claim to being the greatest city in Europe, as well as laying claim to a few ‘firsts’ in capitalism. For example, many historians consider the Netherlands to be the world’s first truly capitalist nation. Also, the Dutch East India Company, which was formed in 1602, was one of the first multinational companies. Also, by being the first company ever to offer its stock on the market, the Dutch East India Company pretty much invented the stock market, meaning the Dutch could claim that among their list of ‘firsts’ too.

The Netherlands were really successful at trade, so much so that it had managed to drive the Portuguese off most of their trading posts in the Indian Ocean. By the 1630s, the timing was almost right for a period of mass speculation. Thanks to the trade of their merchants, the Dutch were the recipients of the highest salaries of any European. Shares of the Dutch East India Company were richly rewarding shareholders for their investments, and much of that money was being poured into properties to create a robust housing market. Ongoing appreciation of asset values created excess wealth that went on to fund further asset purchases.

This wealth was setting the scene for an asset bubble, but at the time there was something holding back the move toward wild speculation. That something was the fact that not everyone could take part. This was because Dutch East India shares were both expensive and illiquid (in other words not easily resold) and that made them unavailable to all but the wealthiest. The same could be said for the most prized properties. However, a quirk of nature was soon to arise which would seemingly hold out the promise of vast wealth that anybody could speculate on…

Enter the Fucking Tulips

Tulips had been introduced to Europe around the mid-1500s, and had always held the promise of some value. In fact, they still do, as can be appreciated by remembering how famous Amsterdam is for that particular bloom. But something happened around 1634 that would cause the value of this plant to skyrocket, and that something was a virus. The virus, which was transmitted by aphids, lead to a couple of consequences for the tulip, both of which are the reason why a crazy speculative bubble arose. Firstly, the virus had the effect of transforming an ordinary solid-coloured tulip into a startling-looking variegated variety with  beautiful flamelike petals. This was a much-prized variety, and as nobody really knew what caused such variegation there was much speculation as folks attempted to predict which bulbs would develop into the prized tulips.

Secondly, the virus ultimately killed the tulip. This made it something of a hot potato, in that you really wanted to sell the tulip on for a higher price rather than be the sucker who was left with nothing but a dead bulb.

Unlike shares in the Dutch East India Company or prized property, tulips were much more affordable, which meant more people could join in the speculation of this particular asset. Not surprisingly, given the stories of immense riches to be gained from selling on a prized bulb, many, many people were drawn into speculation. Most of these people were not experienced traders. In fact, the professionals pretty much shunned the tulip trade and continued investing in good old reliables such as East India stock. They regarded tulips as more of an expression of wealth than a means to that end.

But for more inexperienced traders, the chance of having and reselling a prized tulip was considered to be the means to great fortune. Because the tulip spends most of its life as a bulb rather than a blossom, it naturally lent itself to a futures market (something the Dutch called a windhandel, or the wind trade). By ‘futures market’, I mean a situation where both buyer and seller agree to the future price of a good, and when that specific time arrives, the buyer is obliged to pay the seller whatever amount was agreed upon.

However, waiting for that agreed-upon time to arrive was too slow for the growing crowds of speculators. Therefore, a move was made to transition from selling tulips themselves, and instead trading those futures contracts. And trade them they did, sometimes as much as ten times in one day. You can see then, how the value of tulips was entering into ever higher realms of abstraction. The trade in futures market contracts meant that people didn’t have to worry about an actual tulip being delivered. No, their only concern was being able to sell the contract for a higher price than they had bought it for. The result of this was that, at the very peak of the tulipmania during the winter of late 1636 and early 1637, a time when the bulbs were still dormant in the ground, not one blossoming tulip actually changed hands.

Funny money

But there is even more to this tale of wild speculation than that. You see, not only were no bulbs being traded, no real money was, either. At that time, ‘real money’ was the guilder, the currency of the Dutch Republic. This was not the paper currency we are used to, it was money based on a specific amount of precious metal, 0.027 ounces of gold. Much of the trade in futures contracts was not financed with real money, but rather with ‘notes of personal credit’. In other words, with IOUs. So not only were there no bulbs being traded during the heights of tulipmania, no money was changing hands either. Instead, transactions were being made on nothing but the promise to deliver the money in the future.

According to Edward Chancellor, author of ‘Devil Take the Hindmost: A History Of Financial Speculation’, “by the later stages of the mania, the fusion of the windhandel with paper credit created the perfect symmetry of insubstantiality: most transactions were for tulip bulbs that could never be delivered because they didn’t exist and were paid for with credit notes that could never be honoured because the money wasn’t there”.

To give an idea of just how high the price of tulip bulbs rose (or, perhaps I should say, the price of the promise of such a bulb) consider that the highest record amount paid for a tulip at that time was a whopping 5,200 guilders. In gold terms, that’s nine pounds of the stuff. You could have bought eighteen modest-sized houses for the price of that one tulip.

It all ends

Like all bubbles, this one could not inflate forever. The end inevitably came, because the bulbs blossomed into flowers or turned out to be dead duds, and because the contractual dates for when IOUs had to be paid for with the promised money were coming around. The wealthiest were not hit too hard, since, if you remember, they had continued investing in things like townhouses and East India Stock. No, it was those less experienced in investing, the people caught it in crowd behaviour, buying into futures contracts for tulip bulbs for no reason other than that was what everyone else was doing, that got hurt the most. Inevitably, a lot of those people found out that their anticipated fortunes amounted to nothing but worthless promises. Fights broke out over the amount due per contract, and the Dutch government stepped in, declaring that the contracts could be settled for 3.5 percent of their initial value. On one hand, that was obviously preferable to paying the full contract. But nevertheless 3.5 percent of the most expensive tulip still equated to a year’s salary for some unfortunate citizens.

Conclusion

So that’s the story of tulipmania. What lessons can be applied to blockchain-based assets? Well, firstly, I don’t think it is all that fair to compare blockchain-based assets to ‘tulips’. A tulip does have some value. They are pretty things and people pay for pretty things. But you can hardly call a tulip bulb a general-purpose technology. A general-purpose technology is one that can be used in a great many ways. Examples would be ‘electricity’ or ‘computing’. Just think of all the inventions and industries and jobs that have been built on the basis of those two technologies. The blockchain is also a general purpose technology, and that means speculating on its future growth need not be sheer pie-in the sky. People who expect to make a fortune from crypto-assets might just be making educated guess regarding the future potential of Satoshi Nakamoto’s invention.

Having said that, all speculation is prone to crowd behaviour. Just because the underlying blockchain technology is sound, doesn’t mean to say that assets built on top of it can’t be scams designed to lure in suckers, or that genuine products can’t fuel asset bubbles as people buy or sell for no good reason other than everybody else is doing likewise. ‘It’s just like tulips!’ may be a retort used by skeptics who don’t really know all that much about cryptoassets and blockchains, but nevertheless the story of the tulip speculative bubble does hold some valuable lessons. After all, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

REFERENCES

“Capitalism: A Graphic Guide” by Dan Cryan, Sharron Shatil and Piero

“Cryptoassets: The Innovative Investor’s Guide to Bitcoin and Beyond” by Chris Burnsike and Jack Tatar.

Comments Off on Thoughts on the end of aging

(Source)

I.

Today at age 65, the Dutch can expect to live another 20 years. In the year 2060, Dutch 65 year olds can expect to live another 25 years, according to predictions by the Dutch government. Those predictions made by the Dutch government however, have a history of being too conversative. Here’s a graph that might surprise you:

The graph comes from the Dutch Rabobank and depicts the Dutch government´s statistics office´s life expectancy projection made every two year. As you can tell, the predictions were too conservative and are now constantly revised up. Why are they so pessimistic? I think it might be that their pessimism is meant to avoid the impression our Dutch pension schemes are unsustainable.

II.

On the other side of the spectrum, are the futurologists. The futurologists insist we’re all far too conservative. Aging itself is a disease that we fail to recognize and treat as a disease. Governments don’t recognize aging as a disease, so companies can’t sell products that treat aging. Instead they sell products that treat the symptoms of aging, which also happens to be more profitable. This is illustrated by the fact that many of the recent discoveries in regards to life extension were made by accident. We notice old people have disease of old age X. We give them medicine Y, despite not knowing entirely how it works. We then find they live longer and healthier. However, eventually someone notices they live much longer and healthier than healthy people not given medicine Y. We now realize we accidentally stumbled upon medicine that treats aging. Let me emphasize this: Current progress in curing aging is largely accomplished by accident.

At some point however, the futurologists expect that we will start to book significant progress in treating aging itself. Young people today, might end up still alive a thousand years from now. You won’t look like Yoda however, because the symptoms of aging will come to an end. The cells that decay will be removed from your body and replenished with new cells, your bones won’t shrink and your skin will remain thick and strong.

At some point, the expectation is that the rate at which we increase our life expectancy every year will start to increase. At some point, we would increase the life expectancy by more than a year, per year. Once this applies, you have reached longevity escape velocity. Once this happens, you’re immortal for all practical purposes, in the sense that aging won´t end your life anymore, only unanticipated dramatic events would. Longevity escape velocity will be reached by 2030, according to David Gobel.

III.

You might be skeptical of this idea, but I will tell you that I’m not very skeptical of the idea myself. So far, our society hasn’t made a serious attempt yet to treat aging like a disease in its own right. I’m skeptical of renewable energy, because we’ve made serious attempts at transitioning to it and so far the results are disappointing. I’m skeptical of artificial intelligence and nuclear fusion, for similar reasons.

When it comes to aging on the other hand, not a whole lot of scientific research hasn’t been done. We’ve recently seen the first attempts at actually addressing the root cause of aging. As an example, a lot of research focuses on removing senescent cells, which are cells that have grown old and start secreting all sorts of inflammatory signals. Studies in lab animals show amazing results, when animals are given substances that remove some of these senescent cells, while leaving healthy cels unaffected. Life expectancy is significantly increased in such studies, but more importantly, the animals are visibly rejuvenated.

IV.

Back in the 1980’s, when the first treatments for AIDS emerged, no proper studies could be done, because those who were treated with medicine improved so much they decided to violate the rules and began sharing the medicine with other sick people. Sometimes scientific research leads to findings that are so revolutionary that people don’t feel like waiting until the results are confirmed beyong any possible doubt.

And when we witness the discovery of medicine that increases life expectancy of mice by old otherwise health mice by 36%, we encounter something similar. Around the world, groups of people have started cooperating to buy these drugs and experiment on their own bodies, without bothering to wait for the red tape to be cut through. Does it work as well in humans as it does in mice? It´s too early to tell for the most impressive accomplishments. For others however, we now know pretty sure it´s working.

Here´s an example I´m referring to. If you take old people suffering Rheumatoid Arthritis and give them Methotrexate for multiple years, which suppresses inflammation, you end up with elderly people aged between 80 and 101, who perform cognitively at a level of people three decades younger than them. Out of 88 of these people, just three of them needed hearing aids. The rest had no such need. These are findings that are revolutionary. We have available, right at this moment, medication that effectively disrupts the normal aging process and prevents dementia. What we don´t have, are the right societal prerequisites that allow us to rapidly make use of such discoveries.

V.

When it comes down to it, we live in a society where millions of people are going to die needlessly, because scientific research moves slow, treatments shown to have potential need to go through a long bureaucratic process and the financial incentive structure is inefficient and misdirected. As an example of what I mean, we have numerous expensive drugs for cancer, that took years to develop, that are known to prolong our life expectancy by a few months at most. Simultaneously however, we now have an increasingly clear picture of the primary underlying cause of cancer: The decay and failure of the immune system. Numerous precancerous cells are continually removed by our white blood cells, when the immune system functions properly. When our thymus begins to shrink however, we become unable to maintain a properly functioning immune system and cancer cells encounter an opportunity to proliferate.

So the question you have to ask yourself, is how much money is spent on research to address thymic involution and how much money is spent on research to treat cancer once it enters an advanced stage and no genuine options to save your life are left. If our resources were spent more efficiently we would be much further ahead at treating aging by now. What I´m suggesting here is not a conspiracy to prevent us from living longer lives. What I´m suggesting is a bug in our societal operating system. We´re a bit like the Vikings in Greenland, who died of starvation because they refused to eat fish. We insist on treating the symptoms of aging, rather than treating aging itself as a disease. The problem is primarily a mental problem, in the sense that we take the phenomenon of aging itself for granted. Policy then flows out of this mentality, that essentially leads us to accept the fact that people die once they grow old.

VI.

The inevitability of aging has allowed us to make peace with death in our modern era. Your grandmother dies at age 88 of a nasty lung infection, but you’re content with this outcome because she was stuck in a wheelchair, hard-hearing, lost most of her teeth and starting to lose her mind. But now, as we’re starting to overcome aging, we will be faced with the difficult situation where death can’t be avoided and we genuinely will once again experience suffering the loss of people who could have had a long future ahead of them.

Perhaps most interesting is to consider this outcome, in the context of limits to growth. We’re probably not about to colonize outer space and we’re probably not going to feed 12 billion people with the resources we have at our disposal. So what does this mean, when intelligent people with sufficient wealth at their disposal can now dramatically lengthen their stay at our plane of existence? Or better yet, what does it mean when intelligent wealthy people can have children at age fifty or sixty, with no genuine impairment of their own or their children’s health?

The question is rarely pondered in this context, because people think of themselves as either cornucopians or neo-malthusians. Either everything falls apart soon because we ran out of resources or we’re going to spread across the galaxy like a metastasizing cancer. In practice, reality tends to lie somewhere in between, with both sides occasionally being shown right in what most of society considered excessive optimism or pessimism. It’s a huge mistake to assume any sort of “camp” is right all the time. In practice, there are issues on which it makes sense to agree with the far-right, the far-left, as well as issues where centrists and liberals are right. As a simple if somewhat cliche example: Nobody can dispute the Nazi’s had it right when it comes to smoking. In a similar manner, we’re going to find that the futurologists will be shown right in at least a few of their most radical predictions.

We can be quite sure we’re not going to figure out how to carry out nuclear fusion, terraform Mars and all that jazz. If we were capable of nuclear fusion, there would be no genuine limits left to our expansion. We know there are limits to our expansion, because we haven’t witnessed evidence of extraterrestrial life yet. Life that pursues perpetual growth destabilizes its own ecological niche, thereby causing collapse and its subsequent disappearance. If there are sustainable non-human civilizations out there, they live at a state of complexity that does not allow them to communicate with us. The kind of trajectory we are on, characterized by rapid changes in the environment and exponential growth in resource usage, last for a few centuries before falling apart. On a geological timescale, that’s a blip on the radar. If this happens on other planets, it happens too rarely, for very short periods of time, for us to notice. On the other hand, immortal elves living in trees on a rainforest planet with a global population density of Greenland who abolished Abrahamic religion and figured out how to overcome the Maximum Power Principle don’t signal evidence of their existence to us. If they’re out there, we’ll never find out about them.

VII.

So, this leads us to the classical cyberpunk dystopian scenario, where Jeff Bezos and Vladimir Putin live to rule to world at age 180, while you and me die of hunger when prices for Soylent in the supermarket start to exceed our budget. I’m not convinced of this scenario either. To start with, it’s somewhat irrational to assume that once a technology like this is developed it will somehow remain accessible only to a small elite. The therapies that cause dramatic life extension are available for you to buy now. They’re untested in humans, but they’re affordable to you for the equivalent of a monthly salary.

In addition, the cost of these technologies goes down, because those who can afford to use them as well as those who can afford to produce them both benefit from broader use. If I sell life-extension pills, I want to sell more of them, as that allows me to keep my costs beneath those of my competitor. If I can afford life-extension pills, I don’t want to hoard them. I might not care enough about a friend to hand him half my fortune, but I don’t want him to drop dead of a preventable cause. And my friend doesn’t want his wife to suffer the same fate, and so forth.

In addition, keep in mind that aging also transforms productive human beings into costly burdens on our social safety net. If the government finds out it can save money on nursing homes or raise the retirement age by ten years by giving you this treatment, the government will make sure an evil greedy billionaire can’t hoard this technology for him and his cronies.

Finally, billionaires don’t want to be seen as evil billionaires. Even the genuinely corrupt selfish billionaires don’t want to be seen as evil billionaires. They want to be able to fuck Instagram models without having to worry they’ll slip cyanide into their drink. The only rich guy who genuinely seems to enjoy being seen as a selfish dick by people seems to be Martin Shkreli, but even he enjoys having teenage boys on 4chan look up to him.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean the whole world will have access to this kind of technology. We’re failing to provide billions of people with sufficient iodine, iron or vitamin A in their diet, despite knowing this will cause death or permanent brain damage to them. Rather, the most boring scenario is the most plausible one: People in industrialized first world nations will gain access to technology that will dramatically extend their life expectancy.

VIII.

If I’m really honest, this is ultimately the best possible outcome, given the conditions we’re living in. In Somalia, 95% of girls are mutilated, with the consent of their own parents. In Egypt, 88% of Muslims believe people who leave Islam should receive the death penalty. In India, Hindu’s go onto the street, to protest in favor of a group of Hindu men who gang-raped an eight year old Muslim girl of a neighboring tribe, before killing her. In Gauteng Provence, South Africa, a quarter of men will say yes in surveys when asked whether they have ever raped a woman. In Bangladesh, criminal gangs take children to doctors to have their limbs amputated, to get more donations when forcing the children to beg on the streets.

That’s the state of the world today. I feel threatened by the prospect of people with such mentalities living to be multiple centuries old. They’re not ready for such a dramatic and radical transformation of their society. Even if we had the comic book cyberpunk scenario, in which billionaires live for centuries, I would consider that an improvement for the world. I am not under the impression that Peter Thiel, Bill Gates or Elon Musk want to use their money and power to hurt other people.

The most likely outcome, is the most desirable. Japan, South Korea, Europe, North America, are going to elongate the lives of their own citizens. Idiot drug dealers will continue to kill each other at age twenty, miserable impoverished people will continue to die of drug overdoses, but those who have managed to enter a state of existence they enjoy will generally live much longer lives than they do now.

For society, this is of tremendous benefit. It takes us thirty years to produce a surgeon. Eighteen years of general education, six years medical school, then six more years of training. That’s when the surgeon can start doing his job, when he has just forty productive years left. Imagine the surgeon had eighty productive years left instead. It’s easy to see how society would benefit. Intelligent and successful people, will live longer and more productive lives.

IX.

Ultimately, what we would expect to see happen is that intelligent, successful and happy people, will start to crowd out those who inflict misery upon others. Here’s something to consider: Janet Jackson gave birth to a child at age fifty. This is what modern technology allows, modern rejuvenation techniques will further enable this. Imagine having children at age thirty, who are independent adults by the time you’re fifty. Why not just have more children, if biological and economic limits are not stopping you?

If you’re the kind of person who is able to have a positive impact on his society, you’re doing the world a favor by having children. There’s a man out there somewhere, who figured out coral grows ten times faster if you deliver an electric impulse to the coral. With the right effort, this allows us to rebuild coral reefs as they die out in other places. What do you think this man’s children might accomplish? What could his grandchildren accomplish? What do you think they would accomplish, if they maintain a properly functioning mind for twice as long?

The problem we face is not so much that the world is overpopulated. That’s the problem of being unable to distinguish between quality and quantity. Our real problem is that the world is overpopulated with the wrong kind of people. There are women out there who have children, find a new husband and allow the husband to sexually abuse their children. Consider a guy like DaddyOFive, who films himself bullying his children. There are also people in some parts of the world, who have children and figure out they can’t take care of those children, so the children are given up for adoption to religious leaders who teach the children to memorize the Quran and beg on the street.

Those people have too many children. They live miserable dysfunctional lives and raise their children in an environment that ensures the children will live miserable and dysfunctional lives too. My own great-grandfather sent his children to an orphanage, when his wife died. My grandfather refused to speak to him for the rest of his life. It’s clear the great-grandfather had too many children. By sending his children to an orphanage, he set them up for a lifetime of misery and dysfunction. Children should be born to intelligent and kind-hearted people, who will take good care of them and deliver them the best chances for success and happiness in life.

X.

Radical life extension is the first step in a process that would lead to a fundamental upheaval of life on Earth. Besides protecting Western nations against a looming demographic catastrophe, it leads to a dramatic change in our mentality towards life. As an example, if we will live to see the impact of climate change in our own lives, we have a motive to work harder to preserve the habitability of our planet. If we live for centuries, we can devote our lives to projects that may take centuries to fulfill. How long would it take to resurrect extinct species and bring their population to self-sustaining levels? How long does it take to grow a redwood forest? These are projects a man today can’t fulfill in his own lifetime.

Perhaps most promising, is the reality that biotechnology’s impact on life is not fundamentally limited to our own lives. We know with reasonable certainty today, that we can take a mouse and transfer certain human genes to the mouse, to produce a smarter mouse. We’ve proven this for multiple genes independently. What happens, when we transfer all those genes to a single mouse? What happens, when we transfer all those genes to a dog?

Humanism is the biggest intellectual failure of our era. We pretend that a man who abuses and mistreats others is somehow endowed with the same fundamental rights as anyone else. Simultaneously, we pretend that a non-human animal has no genuine rights whatsoever. In Africa, elephants today live as a post-apocalyptic society. The elephant males misbehave, because they grew up without father figures. This is the consequence of our anthropocentric mentality, as we can’t imagine elephants have societies with needs equivalent to our own.

Billions of people around the world adhere to absurd religions, that proclaim “human” life is sacred. You can kill an adult pig and eat it, but you can’t abort a fetus the size of a peanut from a womb, even if the pregnant mother is addicted to drugs that will ensure brain damage in the potential child. This stupidity is one of the primary causes of misery in the world today.

What happens, when you’re faced with animals as smart as humans? Will you kill a pig who asks you not to kill it? Or, what happens when you’re faced with humans who have merged with animals? A woman could soon choose to give birth to a child, with plainly visible animal features. Where do you draw the line? Does Jesus want you to preach the faith to nomadic tribes of man-pig hybrids traversing the Texas countryside? Could they even go to heaven, or are they per definition excluded? When do you find yourself forced to let go of your dogmatic worldview?

This is what leaves me most excited, the prospect that biotechnology will ultimately force an end to anthropocentrism.

Can David Sinclair cure old age?

Posted: 12th September 2018 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Comments Off on Can David Sinclair cure old age?

(Source)
Ceridwen Dovey

The Australian geneticist believes ageing is a disease we can treat
Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN)

Since my recent visit to the Harvard Medical School laboratory run by Australian geneticist David Sinclair, I’ve been struggling with a shamefully greedy impulse. How can I get my hands on the wonder molecules that Sinclair is trialling to amazing effect in mice, not only slowing down their ageing but reversing it? My fear of missing out has flared up since I learnt from Sinclair that he estimates at least a third of his scientific colleagues are taking some version of these “anti-ageing” molecules, just as he does, in the belief it will increase their health spans by as much as 10 years. This means not just having a chance at living an extra decade, but living it in good health, avoiding the age-related diseases and general frailty that can make those years harrowing.

It becomes difficult to remain impartial when a respected scientist tells you he will soon turn 50, does not have a single grey hair and, according to regular blood and genetic tests, has the biological age of 31.4, even though he’s a workaholic and doesn’t exercise much. Or that he likes to think his mother prolonged her life – post lung cancer, with only one lung – for 20 years by taking the molecules he gave her, and that his 79-year-old father, who has taken several different kinds of them for years, currently lists whitewater rafting and mountaineering among his hobbies. Sinclair’s wife, Sandra Luikenhuis, even gives these molecules to the family dogs. (Luikenhuis, who has a PhD in genetics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, only began taking the molecules herself after she noticed the irrefutably positive effect they’d had on their pets.)

If all goes well, and these anti-ageing molecules live up to their promise, Sinclair and his family will be proof it’s still possible to be going strong on the other side of the private apocalypse each of us has to face, what Philip Roth famously called the “massacre” of ageing. Imagine if you could still be standing tall after the dust clears, not one of the walking wounded, not just surviving, but thriving.

David Sinclair has made big promises before, and he’s suffered setbacks and triumphs in equal measure. No one knows if his predictions will turn out to be right; even for geneticists, it’s notoriously difficult to know what’s going on in the field of ageing research. In a 2017 New Yorker article, Tad Friend mapped out the different camps of longevity researchers – some closer to the “immortalist” extremes than others – and pinpointed why finding a solution to the biological problem of ageing is so complex: “Solving aging is not just a whodunit but a howdunnit and wheredunnit and a whyohwhydunnit.” (Also, mice are not men: a fact that has always bedevilled this kind of research. Medical breakthroughs in lab animals most often go nowhere in human trials.)

For now let’s assume, given the increased interest in ageing research in recent years, that the end of old age as we know it is approaching – whether the breakthrough comes from one of Sinclair’s labs (he also heads an ageing-research lab at his alma mater, the University of New South Wales) or from someone else’s. Sinclair describes how, when he went to uni in Sydney in 1987 at age 17 to study genetic engineering and molecular biology – then a brand-new field – ageing research was the “backwater of science”. There was nothing on ageing in textbooks or medical papers, because ageing itself wasn’t considered a disease and thus wasn’t seen as worthy of investigation (only age-related diseases were, such as heart failure or diabetes). He was told by senior academics that it was a mistake, a dead end, to pursue his obsessive interest in figuring out why we age.

After Sinclair completed a PhD in molecular genetics at UNSW, he went to MIT on a postdoc to study the causes of yeast ageing at one of the only labs in the world looking at the genetic mechanisms of ageing at the time. His research took place under the supervision of Leonard Guarente, an established molecular biologist who ran the lab; Sinclair had been lucky enough to sit next to him at a group lunch while Guarente was on a lecture tour of Australia, and made an informal pitch to join Guarente’s team. Today, by contrast, there are hundreds of labs actively investigating the topic. “You can’t open the world’s leading scientific journals without seeing articles on age research breakthroughs,” Sinclair says. “All the leading academic centres – Harvard, Oxford, Stanford – are working on it.”

This doesn’t mean there’s global consensus as to what ageing is, and why or how it happens. One of Sinclair’s researchers told me, “Every few decades a new theory of ageing comes around, and doesn’t wipe away the previous one but supersedes it.” If longevity scientists agree on anything, it’s that ageing has multiple causes, some major, some minor. What troubles Sinclair is that none of these causes is considered treatable. Instead, age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, osteoporosis – which are symptoms of ageing – are treated one at a time.

Sinclair is convinced that ageing should be considered a standalone, treatable disease. This is a more radical proposition than it may at first seem. It’s so radical, in fact, that no government in the world has endorsed this definition. Because ageing affects all of us, governmental regulatory authorities like the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration won’t recognise it as a disease, and thus won’t approve any drugs designed to treat it. Sinclair is campaigning for Australia to become the first country to declare ageing a treatable condition. If it does, he has pledged to provide one of his longevity drugs to the government at cost for 10 years.

Until this happens, pharmaceutical and biotech companies (Sinclair has founded several over the course of his career) can’t count on making money by developing drugs that treat ageing as a disease. They can only do so by treating age-related diseases and focusing on keeping individual organs healthy. As a result, “we’ve ended up with … a nation of elderly whose hearts are working well, for example, but their brains are no longer functioning,” Sinclair said in a 2013 TEDxSydney talk. By 2050, the proportion of the global population aged 60 years and older will have nearly doubled. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: as the World Health Organization’s ageing and health fact sheet states, “a longer life brings with it opportunities, not only for older people and their families, but also for societies as a whole”. The problem is that the extent of these opportunities “depends heavily on one factor: health”. And while our lifespans have increased, there is little evidence that the elderly are spending those extra years in better health than their own parents did at their end of life.

Sinclair is also not in the traditionalist camp when it comes to interpreting the genetic components of ageing. Most of us have come to accept as a given that our individual ageing journeys are dictated by whatever is encoded in our DNA, as well as by irreversible changes, or mutations, to our genes. That’s why antioxidants became a thing for the health conscious: they’re supposed to mop up free radicals before they damage the DNA in our cells, or something like that. (According to Sinclair, if you think antioxidants work, you’re living in the Dark Ages.) He contends we should not picture ourselves as fatalistically bound to a genetic destiny that we can’t alter or reverse. We age, he believes, because of chemical signals that are sent to our genome (the complete set of an individual’s DNA, containing all genetic instructions for our bodies) by the “fabulously intricate, pulsating [molecular] structure that our genome is wrapped up in”: the epigenome.

He uses a beautiful analogy to help laypeople comprehend the epigenetic theory of ageing. Think of your genome as a gigantic piano with 30,000 separate keys (genes). Sitting at that piano, deciding which of those keys will get played – expressed – or remain silent, is the epigenome, which is made up of chemical compounds and proteins. Not much was known about how exactly this music happened at a molecular pathway level until Sinclair and his colleagues began studying the process. Over the past two decades they’ve realised that, rather than focusing on changing or editing genes, the way to slow or reverse ageing may be to change what the epigenome tells certain genes to do.

One of the key epigenetic pathways they’ve identified that can “change the song” the piano plays is via sirtuins: genes that make enzymes to control how a cell functions. As we age, more and more genes get switched on in our cells, altering the very nature of those cells and creating what Sinclair calls harmful “epigenetic noise”. This leads to identity loss in the cells themselves, like a microcosm of the identity loss of a person in extreme old age. Nerve cells begin to act like muscle cells or liver cells, and may degenerate to the point of becoming zombie-like – a state described as “senescence” – at which point they do nothing except lurk there, ageing all the cells around them too. Yet when sirtuins are stimulated they turn off some of these genes that hasten the ageing process.

Sinclair’s long relationship with sirtuins began while he was doing research in Guarente’s lab at MIT in the late ’90s. One of the other researchers there, Brian Kennedy, left a bunch of yeast cells, cold and starving, at the back of a refrigerator. When he finally got them out, he found that some of the ones that had survived ended up living much longer than unstressed yeast cells. Biological stress forces organisms to put their energy into maximising their own health in order to survive, rather than into reproducing. My favourite lines from Sinclair’s draft for a popular science book to be published next year (working title: “How To Start an Evolution”) put the latter observation more evocatively: “Stressed tomatoes have richer taste and reach a deeper shade of red. Stressed grapes make more intense wine.” Sinclair and others at the MIT lab figured out that it was this mysterious and newly discovered bunch of “silent information regulators” – sirtuins – that were behind this phenomenon.

Nobody knew at that point if sirtuins existed in mammals. A few years later they discovered that they do, and are also activated by both calorie restriction and exercise. The next question, of course, was whether there might be other means of triggering sirtuins in mammals, thus mimicking the benefits of fasting and/or extreme exercise, which are beyond the willpower of most of us mere mortals. Was there a way, in other words, to achieve the effects of a stressed organism without the stress, a way to make the human equivalent of a rich, red tomato?

This became Sinclair’s research mission. The first major discovery he made was that a molecule called resveratrol, which comes from grape skins and is found in tiny doses in red wine, activates sirtuins in mice when administered in massive quantities. (Sinclair’s mother, after she was diagnosed with lung cancer, became one of the first humans to take a large dose every day; it’s this daily intake of resveratrol that he believes helped her live two decades longer than her doctors had forecast.) The tide had begun to turn: ageing research was suddenly no longer relegated to the scientific fringes. In 1999, Sinclair was recruited to start a new lab at Harvard Medical School, and in 2003 his resveratrol research was published in Nature. A few years later, the company he’d founded, Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, was bought for US$720 million by GlaxoSmithKline (his less than 1 per cent ownership stake still netted him a tidy sum).

During what should have been the happiest years of his career, he and Guarente had a falling out over disagreements about how sirtuins work and their separate efforts to commercialise their research. In a 2004 Science article about their “feud”, Sinclair is quoted saying, of Guarente’s company, “They’re doing exactly what we’re doing, and it’s a race.” Both Sinclair and Guarente now claim that the article overstates their rift, and they’ve continued to collaborate closely ever since. But the Science article is worth a read for an insight into this secretive, competitively charged world of laboratory research. (Sinclair, for example, is described as locking his research notebooks in a safe in his Harvard office after one of them went missing, suspected stolen by rival researchers.)

There was yet more trouble ahead for Sinclair. As he puts it bluntly in his TEDxSydney talk, next thing “the bottom fell out”. In 2004, two of his former MIT colleagues published an article questioning the general thesis that calorie restriction activates sirtuins. Pharmaceutical company Pfizer went further, publishing a separate paper casting doubt on Sinclair’s claim that resveratrol activates sirtuins. “I had emails from top scientists sending me condolences,” he says. “The clinical trials were put on hold. I thought I’d let my lab down … Australia down … the whole world down. And there were days I really wanted to quit being a scientist.”

Sinclair eventually assembled a team of scientists to try to prove his initial findings were correct. In 2013, he published the results of this research in Science, vindicating himself in the eyes of many of his peers by presenting evidence that resveratrol extends the health spans of certain organisms by activating sirtuins – though some scientists still don’t agree, or say the results can’t be replicated. Guarente has acknowledged that these “intensive controversies” about sirtuins are linked to scientific uncertainty, which means there’s an element of faith-based – rather than reason-based – support for the different theories (and the prophets who annunciate them). Sinclair’s colleague Brian Kennedy described the field in 2013 as “overly polarised”, and Stanford University scientist Howard Chang told The New Yorker that the longevity community is “the most difficult field I’ve ever worked in, and I didn’t want to define my scientific life with all these fights”.

Sinclair has now moved on to bigger things than resveratrol. In recent years his research focus has shifted to molecules that boost the levels of a crucial compound in our bodies called oxidised nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), which he dubs the “fountain of youth”. NAD+ plays a role in regulating almost all the important biological processes in our bodies – including metabolism – but levels drop steadily, by almost 50 per cent, as we age. The renewed interest in NAD+ over the past decade (it was actually discovered more than a century ago) is because sirtuins are NAD+-dependent proteins. (Guarente co-authored a 2016 paper titled “It Takes Two to Tango” to describe this link; it was also in his lab, while Sinclair was a postdoc, that the dance between NAD+ and sirtuins was first observed.)

Whereas resveratrol only works on one of the seven types of sirtuins in our bodies, NAD+ works on all of them. And NAD+’s health impacts could go beyond activating sirtuins, because of its involvement in hundreds of different reactions in and around cells. In a March article, Sinclair and his co-authors (among them Guarente) wrote that restoring NAD+ levels in mammals has a dramatically positive effect on the liver, heart, reproductive organs, kidney, muscles, and brain and nervous systems (since NAD+ itself is hard to administer directly, its precursors, among them one called nicotinamide mononucleotide, or NMN, are given instead).

This is where we start tiptoeing into miracle territory. For example, the metabolisms of elderly mice that were given NMN in the Sinclair Lab at Harvard were restored to youthful functioning within a week. Even more astounding, Sinclair’s research team found that by administering NAD+ boosters they could make an old mouse run like a young mouse. An old mouse run like a young mouse. Not only that, but young mice given the same molecules exceeded the ability of the machine to measure their endurance, something Sinclair says hasn’t ever been done before.

Humans have built entire cultural and spiritual belief systems around what we assume are our unchanging biological limitations. We’ve had a long time – all of human history – to get used to the idea that we will all age and die, and to adapt our sense of what it means to be human around these limits. We’ve cultivated certain coping mechanisms, turned them into virtues: graceful acceptance and gratitude for what we gain with age (wisdom, humility, resilience). Ageing has always been the great equaliser; as Thomas Mann wrote, “It will happen to me as to them.”

To peek beneath this heavy veil of culturally endorsed forbearance is frightening, more frightening in a weird way than the ideas of old age and death themselves. For Sinclair wants us to think of ageing not as something that makes us human but as something that makes us less than human. In his opinion, our docile acceptance of decline and ill health in old age is as barbarous as the people of the past once believing that it was normal and natural for women to die routinely in childbirth.

Sinclair vividly recalls his first childhood intimations of the fate awaiting him and all those he loved, but, unlike most people, he refused to compartmentalise his horror as he grew up. Instead, it became the driving force for everything he did. From a young age he had an enquiring mind and was never one to swallow received wisdom; perhaps the result of being the child of two bioscientists. His parents worked at the same pathology lab, and he recalls going with them to work in the holidays, looking at body parts in buckets. Yet his contrarian response to the “fact” of ageing seems most closely linked to his deep emotional bond with his grandmother, Vera, and his distress when, at age four, he learnt that she would keep getting older, and one day would die.

It’s late at night in Cape Cod when I ask Sinclair, over the phone from Sydney, about his grandmother. I’d expected him to sound weary at having to speak to a journalist while on a rare few days of family vacation. But he is expansive in his responses, and not in any rush to get off the line. His father is visiting from Australia, he tells me, and has been helping out with the kids and doing repairs on the holiday house. That afternoon, Sinclair and his co-author had finished the latest draft of their upcoming book, while in his Boston lab there’d been an exciting breakthrough (though not something he could tell me about).

Vera – Sinclair’s grandmother – fled to Sydney with her young son (David’s father, Andrew) after the failed 1956 revolution against Soviet rule in Hungary. (Andrew later changed the family surname from Szigeti to Sinclair.) Vera was vivacious, courageous and a nonconformist; Sinclair says she was chased off Bondi Beach by the police for being one of the first women to wear a bikini. While Sinclair was growing up in St Ives, on Sydney’s upper north shore, Vera was a constant presence. She encouraged him to value the experience of childhood even as he lived it. “Never grow up,” she would say, and she loved to recite to him the A.A. Milne poem “Now We Are Six”: “But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever. / So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.”

She disliked being called Grandmother, so he called her Vera; she called him Professor David. He adored her, and as she aged he couldn’t bear to see her becoming a stranger to herself, to him. She lived until she was 92: on paper a decent innings, but in truth, he says, the spirited woman he’d known had been long gone by then.

Sinclair’s relationship with Vera is his master narrative, what he reaches for every time he’s asked to account for why he is galvanised to buy humans more quality time on earth. His emotional vulnerability is palpable whenever he tells these stories about her. In his TEDxSydney talk, he says that seeing his grandmother suffer in old age made him wonder, “This thing we call ageing, why aren’t we up in arms about it?” This gets a laugh from the audience, but Sinclair is being totally earnest. “This once vibrant woman reduced to this. It’s incredible …” he continues, his voice wavering. “This is just my story, but it’s being played out every day, in everybody’s family … so why aren’t we doing more about it?” (During his talk, a slideshow plays behind him of overlapping photographs of Vera, morphing her too quickly from a child to a teenager, then a young woman, then an old one.)

Like most longevity scientists, Sinclair is a “healthspanner” not a “lifespanner” (extra years must be good ones), and he’s certainly not an immortalist who thinks we should cheat – or hack – death itself. Yet it’s not a giant leap to imagine that once we start to add a healthy decade to our lives, we’ll soon be able to add two decades, then three, and then … On the phone, he mentions excitedly an article he’s just read in Science, which shows that the chances of dying become essentially constant beyond the age of 105 in humans. “They’re saying there is no natural limit to human lifespan,” he tells me. “Once we can make it past 105, our chances of dying don’t increase, they stay the same. I’m on the record saying the first person who will live to 150 has already been born. Anyone who says there is a limit built into our biology doesn’t know what they’re talking about. There’s no biological law for ageing. It’s not shocking that within our lifetime we could reset the body entirely.”

Though Sinclair does not identify as a transhumanist, this doesn’t sound so different to something a transhumanist would say. Anya Bernstein, a Harvard anthropologist who studies transhumanism, describes it as a global “intellectual and cultural movement that aims to transform human nature by developing the tools to accomplish a ‘radical upgrade’ of the human being”. Most transhumanists share a commitment to the idea that humans should be able to “shape and direct one’s own evolution [through] self-mastery”, and that we should not only study ageing, but fight it.

There’s already pushback from religious quarters to these ideas. Bernstein quotes a Russian Orthodox priest asking, in a 2014 debate on these issues, “Where is the border between improving human health and transforming into the posthuman?” For the secular, too, it’s a big deal to make the shift from embracing the human condition in all its pain and glory to trying to transcend it.

The political philosopher Hannah Arendt anticipated this in her 1958 book, The Human Condition, writing that “the wish to escape the human condition, I suspect, also underlies the hope to extend man’s life-span far beyond the hundred-year limit”. She was concerned we’d lose hope if we lost the ability to let younger generations reinvigorate human affairs. In Arendt’s view, our saving grace as a species is that we’re forced by our biology to welcome new people constantly into the world, and to let others leave it once they’ve had their time. This means no matter what previous generations have set in motion, there is always the possibility of changing the course of human events.

On the warm spring day I visited the Sinclair Lab, housed in one of the Harvard Medical School buildings in the Longwood Medical Area of Boston, my host for the morning was the lab manager, Luis Rajman (Sinclair was in Japan at the time). I was somehow comforted that Rajman wears spectacles and has a neat greying beard; he doesn’t take NMN or resveratrol like others in the lab, though he does take a drug called metformin because he’s diabetic. (Metformin is believed to have the added benefit of boosting longevity by increasing the activity of a protein called AMPK; elderly diabetics taking metformin outlive their non-diabetic counterparts, and Sinclair thinks all of us over 40 should be taking it even if we don’t have diabetes.)

We sat at a table in Sinclair’s pleasantly cluttered office. On the bookshelves were bottles of red wine – all shout-outs for his resveratrol research – with playful labels suggestive of celebrations past (“Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, Appellation Start-up Contrôlée, 2003”). Articles about Sinclair – some fresh, some yellowing – were framed on the walls. The medals and awards stacked along one shelf track how Sinclair’s star has risen. He’s shot from a successful Australian scientist (“Australia’s Top 10 Scientific Minds Under 45”) to one with global prominence, sharing space with Beyoncé in TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world for 2014.

Sinclair had told me over the phone that his “universe is big”. He can toggle comfortably between the research world (his Harvard lab employs 40 people and has a $4 million annual budget) and his for-profit companies (such as Life Biosciences, which employs 60 people and has an annual budget of $30 million). There was evidence in his office of the diverse demands of his working life. On the whiteboard were planning notes for his book, with intriguing headings like “Friday I’m in Love” and “How to Build a Utopia”. Among the books on his desk were The Essential Writer’s Companion, a Japanese scientific journal, Clive James’s Unreliable Memoirs, and a tome titled Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Nearby were pottery objects made by his children, who are 15, 13 and 11.

While his lab’s research projects vary in scope and nature, the unifying goal is to extend health in the elderly. “The ideal situation is you stay healthy and then get sick in the last few weeks of life,” Rajman told me. “You essentially die in good health.” The wider applications, and societal impacts, of the lab’s research became clearer as I chatted to some of the researchers who stopped by the office. Michael Bonkowski told me in his strong Boston accent that he’s working on a project for the NASA mission to Mars, figuring out how NAD+-boosting molecules might be able to prevent and reverse the effects of cosmic radiation damage. Alice Kane, a friendly Australian postdoc recently arrived from Sydney, described a project she’s involved with on post-radiation fertility (which would enable, for example, women who’ve had chemotherapy earlier in life to have their own children). I was at first confused as to how this relates to the lab’s mission, but of course one of the first impacts of ageing in women is fertility loss. Sinclair and his collaborator in this aspect of their research, Jonathan Tilly, suspect that it might not be true that women are born with their total allotment of primordial egg cells, which mature into eggs after puberty. In a mouse rendered infertile by chemotherapy, Tilly claims to have been able to induce ovarian stem cells in the lining of the ovary to produce new eggs, though other scientists have challenged the results.

Sinclair and Tilly have since co-founded a company, OvaScience, which is commercialising aspects of this research through fertility treatments called “Augment” offered in Canada and Japan; at the moment it hasn’t sought US regulatory approval, and some critics claim that the zeal to commercialise has moved things too quickly out of the lab and towards the market. This isn’t something that seems to bother Sinclair, but an ethical scenario he is interested in discussing is what the acceptable upper age limit for women to have children might one day become: 50? 60? 80? “People have strong views about fertility research,” Kane admitted when I asked her opinion on this. “But you’re considered a geriatric pregnancy when you’re older than 35 … I’m almost that age. Maybe we wouldn’t want an 80-year-old to have a child, but what about someone in their 40s who has their career sorted?”

Another potentially wide-reaching impact of increasing people’s health spans is that it could put pressure on global food supplies. Sinclair, anticipating this, has established a research project to improve food stocks by generating the first genome sequence for shrimp (to make them disease resistant and easier to farm), and to do the same for pigs. This isn’t “Frankenfood” genetic modification, he says; it’s about altering the epigenetics of the organism, not the genome itself.

“There are scientists who just love the science, who are focused on the details,” Rajman said as I followed him towards the laboratory, passing drawings of famous male scientists in old age, including Charles Darwin (skinny, grey) and James Paget (stooping, frail). “Then there are scientists like David who still care about the minutiae but are also focused on the larger benefits the research can bring to society.”

Rajman gave me a tour of the lab equipment: tissue-culture incubators, cryostorage systems, polymerase chain reaction machines. He’s been there seven years, and started out as a researcher. “We’re all crazy masochists in here,” he said. “Graduate students work 60- to 80-hour weeks, take a few seconds to celebrate if they discover something important. Nobody would do it if they didn’t get great satisfaction just from the doing of it.” (In the Science article about Sinclair’s own time as a postdoc, he was described as “often the first to arrive, at 8:00 a.m., and the last to leave, at 12:30 a.m., running to catch the final subway train of the night.”)

Satisfying a curious mind may be enough for the graduate students bent over their workstations. Yet given how lucrative a longevity pill would be, the commercial lure for Sinclair must be irresistible, too. In Tad Friend’s 2017 New Yorker article, a venture capitalist describes the longevity market as a “two-hundred-billion-dollar-plus” opportunity.

Leonard Guarente has already co-founded – without Sinclair – a company called Elysium Health to sell a daily nutraceutical supplement called Basis (a month’s supply costs around $50). Elysium Health’s website heralds that in 2017 it conducted the “first-in-humans study demonstrating clearly that Basis can increase NAD+ levels in the blood safely and sustainably”. This isn’t quite as reassuring as it sounds. The trial followed participants over only eight weeks; nobody has any idea what taking these supplements every day for decades could do. Some scientists have questioned whether it’s a conflict of interest for Elysium Health to do human trials on a product it already sells on the market; normally, it works the other way around. Also, Basis does not have US FDA approval; it’s sold as a nutraceutical supplement, not as a prescription drug. (As Rajman explained to me, the “FDA has a separate set of rules for supplements. Put simply, they are considered safe until proven otherwise.”) That’s also why resveratrol is widely available as a health supplement, but beware: when Sinclair tested a dozen samples from different purveyors, a while back, only one of them passed his effectiveness and purity test.

Sinclair is aiming to get his own NAD+-boosting tablets on the market within three years. Unlike the other companies, he’s taking his research through the US FDA’s arduous drug-approval process so that, if clinical trials are successful, it can be sold not as a supplement but as a pharmaceutical drug, and prescribed by doctors. Since the FDA won’t approve drugs for treating old age, one of his companies, MetroBiotech, will market the boosters to treat rare diseases, and another, JumpStart Fertility, will sell them to reverse female infertility. The NAD+ booster furthest along in this process is called MIB-626; second-phase human trials are underway.

I’m not alone, as it turns out, in my sudden anxiety to get access to the high quality stuff. His lab receives a call daily, often from somebody rich and famous, asking how they can get hold of Sinclair’s molecules or at least be selected for the clinical trials. Sinclair says he responds the same way to everyone: help fund the preclinical research in our lab, he tells them, and all this will happen faster. A third of the lab’s budget comes from private sources like the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research (years ago, Sinclair convinced the philanthropist Paul F. Glenn over a single lunch to put up $5 million) as well as from Sinclair’s own charitable trust (funded by his companies and patents), which helps explain why he’s constantly hustling on the venture capital circuit.

The latest company Sinclair has co-founded, Life Biosciences, promises to treat multiple components of ageing through the work of a suite of six subdivisions, each with a slightly different focus. One, for example, will be devoted entirely to companion animal life-extension research (which sounds like something Evelyn Waugh would have satirised but will no doubt be wildly popular among pet lovers).

Sinclair is adamant that any drugs Life Biosciences develops will be within everybody’s reach. He read to me over the phone the company’s core values, displayed prominently on their new website, among them: “we are committed to making our biomedical breakthroughs accessible and affordable to all, regardless of age or background”. Several of his researchers told me during my lab visit that this isn’t just PR-speak. Rajman said that “when we started working on NMN, the cost was prohibitive, about $2500 a gram”. Over the years, they’ve found collaborators to produce it for them more cheaply, so that if it makes it onto the market for human consumption it will be affordable; currently they’ve got it down to one-tenth of that initial cost. “David always said this will not be a molecule just for rich people.”

As Sinclair says goodbye over the phone to get ready for the late-night drive back to Boston – he needs to be at work early in the morning – he leaves me to chat to his dad. It’s a show of faith, since his 79-year-old father could easily go off piste in his conversation with me. Andrew Sinclair tells me that he stopped taking resveratrol recently because the powder tasted too bitter. He’s taken metformin since he was diagnosed with diabetes eight years ago, and now takes NMN every day, two white pills with breakfast. “David just gave me another handful of them. I don’t know where they come from. But I trust him,” he says with a wry chuckle.

Sinclair had described his father to me as filled with energy: not only on his second career, doing bioethics non-profit work, but abseiling, climbing to the top of Cradle Mountain, going out every night. Yet his father downplays all this and is charmingly frank. “I can’t tell what difference it makes to take these things,” he says. “I haven’t changed my lifestyle, but there’s not a drastic improvement in anything. I’m not going downhill as fast as my contemporaries. But it’s hard to really know. A one-person clinical trial is not a clinical trial.”

I ask if he’s proud of his son. “I don’t want to brag about him. I only mention what he does if somebody asks me about it. He’s the hardest worker I know. He never stops, he’s flat out all the time. I’ve lost track of how many companies he’s started up, 16 or something. But he’s humble. He has work and his family. That’s it.” I ask if Sinclair takes after him. “No, I was never as ambitious as he was; if things didn’t come, I didn’t push,” he replies. “He’s more like my mother, Vera. She was very bright though she never had any formal education. A self-made woman.”

And then, after a pause, he says very softly, “David really could change the course of human history.”

Amazon

CERIDWEN DOVEY
Ceridwen Dovey is the author of Blood Kin, Only the Animals and In the Garden of the Fugitives.