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Dallas, Texas, United States

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Civic Holiday

We need a federal holiday on the first Monday of August.  If you look at the list of federal holidays, there is a gap between Independence Day on the fourth of July and Labor Day on the first Monday of September.  It would be good to have a three-day weekend between them.

On the first Monday of August, Canadians have the Civic Holiday.  This is not a federal holiday but rather a placeholder for municipalities to choose their own regional cause for celebration.  I think that here in the United States of America we could declare it a federal holiday and then let each state decide what to call it to make it their own.

Arizonans celebrate American Family Day on the first Sunday of August by spending time with their families.  Today our family is reinstituting the digital sabbath as a half day to get off of the computer and engage in face-to-face family fun activities.  We used to do this on Saturdays but now we are doing it on Sundays so I have given this updated tradition the moniker "Sunday Family Funday".

I am adding Civic Holiday to the list of Optihumanist Holidays.  If it ever does become an official United States federal holiday, I propose that Optihumanists share the three-day weekend with their families.  American Family Day could then roll right into "Monday Family Funday".

 

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Cryonics Underground

Yesterday on my daily walk I listened to the latest episode of the Cryonics Underground podcast.  This episode discussing recommended books for cryonicists is also available as a video on the YouTube channel The Cryosphere. I was also pleased to see that they have a Discord channel.

One of the books recommended by a panelist on the podcast is The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil.  This was a neat coincidence because I had just I pre-ordered the sequel The Singularity Is Nearer before I listened to the podcast.  Back when the now defunct Dallas Area Transhumanist Association (DATA) was still meeting, we discussed this book thoroughly and watched many YouTube video presentations by this author.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Press Freedom

On this Memorial Day holiday, my thoughts are on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  Ukrainian soldiers are dying in defense of their democracy against the ambitions of an autocrat.  Russian soldiers are dying in defense of a lie that they have come to liberate.

I remember a story about a daughter in Ukraine telling her parents back in Russia that the Russians were shelling Ukrainian civilians. The parents refused to believe it even though their daughter was giving them a first-hand account. The parents preferred to believe the Russian news which was telling them otherwise.

I also remember another story about one of the last independent Russian news organizations being disbanded. When one of the news workers was asked for her opinion about the future of Russia, she replied that Russia might become like North Korea. North Korea ranks dead last on the Press Freedom Index.

I have heard that democracies are less likely to engage in an unjust war than autocracies. I have also written that the first step in conquering a democracy is to destroy its free press. I believe that if Russia still had a free press, the Russian people would not tolerate the invasion.

 



Friday, April 29, 2022

Pledge Abuse

Recently in Houston, a former student Mari Oliver was awarded $90,000 in compensation for the abuse she received from her high school teacher.  The teacher had punished her for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  The New York Times article notes that in the past other students who have refused to say the Pledge have been arrested or expelled.

I remember when we fought the introduction of Texas laws mandating morning religious rituals in public schools.  Texas legislators started requiring a moment of silence for morning prayer.  They also added "under God" to the state pledge while making recitation of the revised pledge mandatory as well.

When we argued our cases before the courts, what we heard back was that this was not a coercive abuse of First Amendment rights because it was merely a patriotic exercise.  They stated that children would always have the right to opt out.  We recognized that this argument was a sham but the federal appeals courts decided otherwise.

I remember back when we started at the first rung of climbing our way up the courts, an incredulous judge asked our attorney point-blank if we really expected him to strike down the law.  I do not remember how our attorney responded but sometime later I thought of what could have been the perfect response.  Fiat justitia ruat caelum is a traditional legal phrase which translates from the Latin as "Let justice be done though the heavens fall".

 



Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Upload 2

Previously I wrote about the science fiction / comedy / romance series Upload on Amazon Prime.  They finally came out with Season 2 which I just now finished binge-watching.  I noticed that they are really exploring the ramifications of what the future could make possible including downloading.

I had been waiting until Season 2 came out to share with you an animated educational video on this topic from the YouTube channel Kurzgesagt -- In a Nutshell.  Their video Can You Upload Your Mind & Live Forever describes the science behind mind uploading including techniques such as brain scanning.  This future medical technology might not be available before you die so consider preserving your brain in the interim using cryonics.




Saturday, February 26, 2022

Walter Morris Stischer

My great uncle Walter Morris Stischer passed away recently at the age of ninety-one.  He was the youngest of eight and the only son.  His son David Walter Stischer passed away three years ago.

Walter and my father Joseph Wallace Croft Junior both served in the Vietnam War.  Walter was shot down over Laos and was held as a prisoner of war for nearly five years.  I was told that he was one of the last prisoners of war to be released.

Here are links from the Web that tell parts of his story:

Walter is also mentioned in some books about Vietnam prisoners of war:

 

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Compassionate Creator

A couple of days ago I watched a Church of Perpetual Life presentation by Lincoln Cannon on the subject of Mormon Transhumanism.  Twenty-plus years ago I read a book about Mormonism because I was interested in their views on physical immortality which I had heard goes beyond other Christian religions.  I also knew that Mormons seek to to raise their ancestors from the dead and to populate new worlds with their descendants.

Toward the end, I asked the speaker Lincoln questions about these topics because I knew that there were parallels here with Religious Transhumanism.  I have always admired Mormonism as a religion and certainly it has had an influence on my interpretation of Optihumanism.  I have previously joked that if I believed in God, I would become a Mormon because it is a religion that was invented right here in America.

Another joke, not my own, is the riddle "What is the difference between a cult and a religion?"  The answer is "Oh, about a hundred years."  In the Southern Baptist church that I was raised in, I was taught that Mormonism is a cult.

The Baptists also taught me that eternal life is a gift which must be accepted.  Possibly based on this, I have some qualms when I hear some Religious Transhumanists speak of bringing back to life those who knew of cryonics but never signed up for it.  It seems like they made a choice not to accept the gift.
 
Lincoln seemed to suggest that his idea of a Creator was not an entity that created life at the beginning of the world but rather something that was continuously creating throughout time.  This resonated with me as I think of Evolution as a Creator.  It reminded me of the links between Religious Transhumanism and Religious Naturalism.

I think a major difference between Mormon Transhumanism and Optihumanism is the idea of a compassionate Creator.  When considering Nature as the Creator, you could easily come up with arguments that it is either compassionate, cruel, or simply uncaring.  Like the God of Deism, Nature does not intervene in response to prayers.
 
I think it is prudent for us to both assume and act as though we are part of Nature's Experiment and that there is no entity overseeing and ensuring our eventual success according to a divine plan.  I do think that Nature tends to drive Life toward increasing Complexity through Evolution but that this is no guarantee.  If there is to be a compassionate Creator, it must come about through us.
 




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

 

Creative Commons License
Walk Away © 2021 David Wallace Croft.
This song is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.