We've detected that you're using an ad content blocking browser plug-in or feature. Ads provide a critical source of revenue to the continued operation of Silicon Investor.  We ask that you disable ad blocking while on Silicon Investor in the best interests of our community.  If you are not using an ad blocker but are still receiving this message, make sure your browser's tracking protection is set to the 'standard' level.

   PastimesDiscussion Thread

Previous 10 
From: TimF1/20/2011 11:34:02 AM
1 Recommendation   of 3816
Fukuyama's Perfectly Horrifying Example
Bryan Caplan
FEBRUARY 2, 2010

Ayn Rand's newsletters used to end with a "Horror File" of monstrous but true quotations. I thought about the Horror File when Ron Bailey's Liberation Biology quoted Frank Fukuyama:

Life extension seems to me a perfect example of something that is a negative externality, meaning that it is individually rational and desirable for any given individual, but it has costs for society that can be negative.

I couldn't believe my eyes. Did Frank Fukuyama actually mean that when a person has another year of healthy life, the net effect on other people is negative? If so, why do people cry at funerals, instead of celebrating? Fukuyama's statement was so hateful and twisted that I wondered if he was being quoted out of context. So I dug up the full paragraph:

The second argument [against life extension] --and this should appeal to libertarians that take individual choice seriously--is really a question of the social consequences of life extension. Life extension seems to me a perfect example of something that is a negative externality, meaning that it is individually rational and desirable for any given individual, but it has costs for society that can be negative. I think if you want to understand why this is so, you just think about why evolution makes us, why we die in the first place, why in the process of evolution populations are killed off. I think it clearly has an adaptive significance, and in human society generational succession has an extremely important role. There is the saying among economists that the science of economics proceeds one funeral at a time, and in a certain sense a lot of adaptations to new situations--politically, socially, environmentally--really depend on one generation succeeding another.

The extra words definitely make Fukuyama's position more confusing, but they take away none of the horror. You'd think that a "perfect example" of a negative externality would be easy to explain and hard to dispute - like air pollution. But to make his case, Fukuyama has to appeal to the controversial notion of group selection: Human beings evolved to die because it's adaptive for society. His specific mechanism - death stops elders from impeding progress - would be controversial even for believers in group selection. After all, during our evolutionary history, there was almost no progress to impede!

The real mystery, though, is why Fukuyama thinks that this argument would "appeal to libertarians." Even if you couldn't care less about human liberty, there are plenty of non-lethal ways around the "dead hand of the past." If aging CEOs refuse to give young upstarts a chance, what happens now? The upstarts don't wait around for "generational succession"; they open a competing firm.

On purely pragmatic grounds, then, Fukuyama's argument is about as feeble as "Life extension is bad for morticians." Since libertarians would add moral objections to government coercion on top of purely pragmatic concerns, why would they of all people see the "appeal" of Fukuyama's argument against life extension?

Brian Moore writes:

Also, our life spans have tripled over a relatively short period of time, while our species has advanced incredibly, both technologically and culturally. Why would tripling it again suddenly start to retard that growth?

Share RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (1)

To: TimF who wrote (3814)3/14/2013 12:39:10 PM
From: one_less
   of 3816
The "God Particle" has been discovered in Geneva


GENEVA The search is all but over for a subatomic particle that is a crucial building block of the universe.

Physicists announced Thursday they believe they have discovered the subatomic particle predicted nearly a half-century ago, which will go a long way toward explaining what gives electrons and all matter in the universe size and shape.

The elusive particle, called a Higgs boson, was predicted in 1964 to help fill in our understanding of the creation of the universe, which many theorize occurred in a massive explosion known as the Big Bang. The particle was named for Peter Higgs, one of the physicists who proposed its existence, but it later became popularly known as the "God particle."

Last July, scientists at CERN, the Geneva-based European Organization for Nuclear Research, announced finding a particle they described as Higgs-like, but they stopped short of saying conclusively that it was the same particle or some version of it.

Scientists have now finished going through the entire set of data year and announced the results in a statement and at a physics conference in the Italian Alps.

"To me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson, though we still have a long way to go to know what kind of Higgs boson it is," said Joe Incandela, a physicist who heads one of the two main teams at CERN that each involve about 3,000 scientists.

Its existence helps confirm the theory that objects gain their size and shape when particles interact in an energy field with a key particle, the Higgs boson. The more they attract, the theory goes, the bigger their mass will be.

But, it remains an "open question," CERN said in a statement, whether this is the Higgs boson that was expected in the original formulation, or possibly the lightest of several predicted in some theories that go beyond that model.

But for now, it said, there can be little doubt that a Higgs boson does exist, in some form.

Whether or not it is a Higgs boson is demonstrated by how it interacts with other particles and its quantum properties, CERN said in the statement. The data "strongly indicates that it is a Higgs boson," it said.
The discovery would be a strong contender for the Nobel Prize, though it remains unclear whether that might go to Higgs and the others who first proposed the theory or to the thousands of scientists who found it, or to all of them.

The hunt for the Higgs entailed the use of CERN's atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider, which cost some $10 billion to build and run in a 17-mile (27-kilometer) tunnel beneath the Swiss-French border.

It has been creating high-energy collisions to smash protons and then study the collisions and determine how subatomic particles acquire mass without which the particles would fail to stick together.

Share RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (1)

To: one_less who wrote (3815)3/21/2013 8:34:52 AM
From: Peter Dierks
   of 3816

Share RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read
Previous 10