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Dallas, Texas, United States

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Optihumanist Principles 2021

Previously I had discovered that the story of Noah's Ark originated with a previous civilization so I assumed that this was also true of some of the other Old Testament stories.  I was not surprised, then, when I recently read that the Tower of Babel might have also originated with the Sumerians as told in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta.  In this antecedent, I also see elements of the story of Cain and Abel.

What did surprise me was that in some civilizations there were variations in which the tower was being built just in case the gods sent another Great Deluge to prevent humans from overpopulating the world.  Instead of conceit, as told in the Old Testament, the purpose was survival.  Our inability to date to speak with one voice on the subject of Climate Change is resulting in global flooding and the Anthropocene Extinction.

My update to the Optihumanist Principles for 2021 is to insert the following line into the "Optimism is Opportunity" section:

We unite to overcome obstacles.

 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Small Worlds

Recently I attended another Church of Perpetual Life video conference that was attended by a dozen or so.  There I bumped into a couple of people I knew from years past from the cryonics community.  It was apparent that they were not regular attendees at these monthly meetings so it was neat that they were there when I was.

A month or so ago I was telling a sailing friend stories about another friend who had moved away from Dallas to Florida some time ago.  By coincidence that night, I was looking at sailboat tours on YouTube and came across a video made by that same Florida friend.  When he moved, he had switched from selling insurance to selling boats.
 
A few years after I graduated with a Masters degree from Caltech, I got sucked into the dot com boom and found myself working in Silicon Valley.  By happenstance, I bumped into two of my former Caltech computational neuroscience teaching assistants, one at a restaurant and the other at a startup meeting.  They had authored doctoral theses in esoteric subjects but were now, like me and many others who had been drawn into this same vortex, in the business of launching e-commerce websites.

On such occasions, people will frequently greet their friends from the past with the expression, "Small world".  I like to say instead "Small worlds" plural because I think it is a big world but that people with similar interests tend to run within the same small circles.  "Birds of a feather flock together" might work here as well.

After my Silicon Valley experience, I noticed trends over the years where multiple friends would be drawn into the same areas of the country at around the same time.  During those trends, I considered following some of my friends to regions like Phoenix and the Pacific Northwest but I never did.  Now I know of at least three that have moved to Florida, possibly because it is where people want to be as they approach retirement.
 

 

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Perpetual Life

Recently I attended a Church of Perpetual Life video conference featuring anti-aging celebrity Aubrey de Grey. Dr. de Grey was recently fired from the organization he co-founded and funded, SENS Research Foundation, for sexual harassment. When asked whether he might join the anti-aging startup funded by billionaire Jeff Bezos, Altos Labs, the millionaire Dr. de Grey replied, "Um, I don't work for people."
 
I was initially attracted to Transhumanism as a religion when I discovered the Society for Venturism.  I later co-founded the Society for Universal Immortalism (SfUI) but what remains of that organization has become a Facebook group which effectively excludes me.  I did some work for the Terasem Movement some years ago but I have not participated in any of their activities recently.
 
I am aware of the Mormon Transhumanist Association but that group is too Christian for me.  The Church of Perpetual Life appears to have some soft Deism but I find this tolerable.  I look forward to attending their future video conference events.
 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Carbon Tax

Some years ago a member of a group that I was in asked us for ideas on behalf of a local utility company that she was associated with.  She was asking for innovative ways in which consumers could conserve the product provided by the company.  I forget exactly whether it was water or electricity that was provided but you get the point.

Straight away I responded that the utility company should increase the price in order to decrease demand and then use the extra profit to increase capacity.  When she asked how this might impact the poor, I responded that the price could be progressive.  When the gentleman next to me told her that he agreed with me on this simple solution, I think she was a little disappointed that we were not suggesting ideas that might involve a voluntary reduction of consumption of the utility as a form of individual sacrifice.

I thought of this as I was watching the new educational video Can You Fix Climate Change? by the YouTube channel "Kurzgesagt -- In a Nutshell".  The video makes the point that individual sacrifice is not going to be effective in eliminating the emissions that cause global climate change.  They go so far as to suggest that recommending individual sacrifice is a cynical ploy by the worst emitters to distract us from more substantive policies.

Where I thought this video floundered is toward the end where it insisted that there was no one solution to the complex problem of reducing emissions.  The video suggested that we should demand change from our elected officials despite the fact that we are not quite sure what to do.  Finally, the video opined, we should continue to engage in personal sacrifice just to do our small part even though it really will not help with the overall problem.

I reacted by wondering why the video did not talk about the simplest solution, a tax on emissions such as a carbon tax.  When I search the Web, I see that people are still talking about the carbon tax and they still think it is a good idea.  I even see a recent news article that reports that legislators are talking about putting a carbon tax into the upcoming budget bill.

I watched the video again to see if there if there was any reference to a carbon tax.  I saw a very brief mention that suggested that imposing the costs of carbon capture on the energy industry would bankrupt it.  To this I respond that even with a carbon tax the traditional energy industry will never go bankrupt until people are able to get all of their energy needs fulfilled from carbon neutral providers.

Later the video suggests that politicians are reluctant to reduce subsidies to the carbon emitting energy industry because doing so would have the downstream effect of increasing the prices of consumer goods.  I respond by recommending that we use the income from the carbon tax to mitigate these impacts.  The carbon tax income could be used to subsidize the necessities for living while simultaneously expanding our energy capacity by funding research into carbon neutral sources.

This video was funded by the billionaire Bill Gates so I started to wonder what he has against the carbon tax.  I found a YouTube video by Gates entitled This tool will help us get to zero emissions.  Given this title, I initially assumed that this video would propose the carbon tax as the solution since it could be that one tool.

Instead Gates suggested what he calls the Green Premium.  This seems to be a plan to quantify the emissions that are coming from the production and consumption of each product and then funding research into reducing those specific emissions.  In an interview in which he is directly asked about the carbon tax, he states that it could work but then implies that it is not politically adoptable because of the increase in prices to consumers.

Gates is pushing the Green Premium as the next best alternative but I am not willing to give up on the carbon tax.  The carbon tax is straight-forward and it lets the invisible hand of the free market determine where best to invest research dollars into carbon neutral technologies.  I believe it can be politically viable so long as we offset the indirect impact of the carbon tax on consumers with benefits from the income to make the overall effect progressive.


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Walk Away

As I was waking this morning, the first stanza of this song was sung to me in my dream.  I used my smartphone to record a selfie-video of it so that I could capture both the lyrics and the tune.  The following stanzas flowed from me over the next hour or so.

Oh, just walk away
From the beautiful spaces,
Walk away
From the beautiful faces,
Just walk away,
Walk away

You're no longer young,
You know it's true,
But don't be sad,
Don't be blue,
Just walk away,
Walk away

You're stuck in a rut,
You're going nowhere,
You cannot win,
And you don't care,
Just walk away,
Walk away

You're all used up,
There's nothing left,
You gave it your all,
You tried your best,
Just walk away,
Walk away

Your time is done,
You've got to go now,
You know that you must,
And you know how,
Just walk away,
Walk away

There's something else
Waiting for you,
You've got to go,
You've got to get through,
Just walk away,
Walk away

 


 

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Meaning for Men

I received a call this morning from a young man who asked me what he should do with his life.  I recommended to him that he do now what is required to become a good father and grandfather in the future.  I told him about how my goal was to become like my grandfather Joseph Wallace Croft Senior who was able to provide shelter, security, and support to his descendants in their times of need.

The conversation reminded me of a lecture by Jordan B. Peterson on the subject of Meaning of life for men.  Toward the end of the talk he states that most suffer when they lack meaning in their life except for "low conscientious people".  I am of the opinion that those people suffer as well, perhaps even more so.

I also listened to his audiobook 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos after it was recommended to me by a friend.  This is the same friend who recommended to me the book Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl.  I see a shared theme between Frankl and Peterson in their emphasis on the necessity of meaning as a requirement for human survival.

Here is a picture from 1942 of my grandfather holding my newborn father Joseph Wallace Croft Junior.  This was just before my grandfather was shipped to Europe to fight in World War II.  He did not see his son again until the war was over in 1945.
 


Saturday, June 26, 2021

Bell the Cat Rule

There is an old story called Belling the Cat in which a nest of mice decide that for their own safety the cat should be made to wear a bell so that they can hear it coming.  Although initially applauded, the plan is later dismissed when the mice realize that none of them is willing to volunteer to do the actual work of affixing the bell to the cat.

Back when I had more free time, I used to take on active roles in voluntary associations in which there were no paid employees.  In organizational meetings, the Belling the Cat scenario came up so frequently that I hit upon a solution which I named the "Bell the Cat Rule":

The one who proposes a task is the one who performs the task.
This works out pretty well because generally a person is motivated to put in the effort to make something succeed when it is their own idea. After a few applications of the rule, it also saves time at future meetings because committee members learn to stop proposing projects that they would not want to work on themselves.

For more of my thoughts on voluntary associations and many other topics, please see my website Papa's Anthology of Paternal Advice.
 
 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Pandemic Fertility

As part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 passed by Congress to mitigate the harms of the COVID-19 pandemic, my family will receive money from the government for the 2021 Child Tax Credit.  Part of this credit will be paid out in advance so with three children at home we will be receiving $750 per month.  Along with the previous stimulus checks, more formally known as economic impact payments, this is starting to feel a lot like universal basic income.

Under the proposed American Families Plan, these child tax credits would be extended another five years.  There are some legislators who would go even further by making it permanent.  My youngest is seven-years-old so we could be receiving these checks for another decade.

Besides a reduction in childhood poverty, one of the benefits of permanent child tax credits could be a restoration of the national fertility rate to a sustainable level.  As I wrote previously, we need to figure out how emulate those countries that are both happy and fertile.  Some countries are attempting to resolve this issue with monthly payments to parents but this is only partially successful.

I think urbanization is a main cause of the declining birth rate.  We are all moving to the city because that is where the jobs are.  To raise children requires extra bedrooms which is often unaffordable in the city even with both parents working full-time.

The pandemic has reduced the birth rate even further but might have a long-term positive effect by accelerating deurbanizationTelecommuting is permitting some parents to move their families to suburbs and exurbs where they can afford single family homes in good school districts.  Moving farther out to rural areas becomes more feasible with virtual schools.

Just a few generations ago, my ancestors raised their large families on relatively isolated farms and ranches.  The technology and cultural shifts of the current pandemic might help us spread out again.  This in turn might help us survive the next world-wide crisis.

 


 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Pandemic Marathon

Yesterday I walked over fifty-eight thousand (58k) steps on the treadmill while playing Sid Meier's Civilization VI.  This my technique to use addictive entertainment to lose weight.  My next goal is to gradually increase my speed.

I finally got my second COVID-19 vaccination a week ago.  I was very sick the day after I got the shot.  My wife Shannon got her second shot a couple of days ago and, as she had predicted, had no significant side effects.

They say that two weeks after you get the second shot, you are immune to COVID-19.  I feel a sense of relief as I approach my personal finish line of this pandemic marathon that began more than a year ago.  The good news is that I am emerging from this historical calamity even healthier than I was before.

 



Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Price Gouging

Texas state law defines price gouging as

taking advantage of a disaster declared by the governor under Chapter 418, Government Code, or by the president of the United States by:

(A)  selling or leasing fuel, food, medicine, lodging, building materials, construction tools, or another necessity at an exorbitant or excessive price; or

(B)  demanding an exorbitant or excessive price in connection with the sale or lease of fuel, food, medicine, lodging, building materials, construction tools, or another necessity

John Stossel has a video in which he argues that price gouging should be legal since the law of supply and demand ensures that supply meets demand through optimal pricing.  The flaw in his argument is in assuming that this economic law works in emergency situations where buyers have little to no choice about purchasing necessities from the seller at any price.  How much is one willing to pay for a bottle of water when dying from thirst?

As an example of this, recently the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) charged an exorbitant price for electricity during a state-wide winter emergency.  Rather than holding prices at the normal rate as the ability to provide electricity fell below minimum demand, they instead let the price rise to the legal maximum despite consumers having no choice about buying the electricity.  How much is one willing to pay for electricity to heat a home during a multi-day freeze?

As sellers profit tremendously when buyers must buy their product at any price, sellers are not financially incentivized to prevent such situations from occurring.  There is a conflict of interest when the seller is both the entity responsible for preventing such disasters and simultaneously the one that profits from them.  This situation is also a moral hazard in that the seller can assume a high level of risk with the buyers being forced to assume the costs of those risks.