The 7 Best Reasons For Being A Libertarian

Libertarians want to severely reduce the size of government. Some libertarians even want to eliminate governments altogether.

To most people that probably sounds crazy. What in the world are they thinking, you may wonder. Well, I'll try to explain.

The reasons why people want smaller governments fall into two main categories; moral and consequentialist. For libertarians, these two types of arguments lead to the same conclusion - that libertarianism is the superior political system. As Murray Rothbard put it, the utilitarian and the moral, natural rights and general prosperity, go hand in hand.

The moral argument
There are several similar versions of the moral argument. I like to argue that all interpersonal relationships should be voluntary - you shouldn't be allowed to force someone to do something they don't want. Naturally, this also means you shouldn't be allowed to take something that belongs to someone else. You as an individual person shouldn't be allowed to do that, and a large group of people, e.g. the government, shouldn't be allowed to do so either, even though a majority should think it's okay. Taxes are thus immoral, according to this argument, unless you have a voluntary contract with the government where you agree to paying taxes.

That's all I wanted to say about the moral argument for now. People have different kinds of morals, and not everyone will find the libertarian moral argument compelling. So what I really want to focus on in this article are the consequentialist arguments.

Many - perhaps most - libertarians believe the government does more harm than good. Of course, that's a statement that's hard to prove or disprove, but I think David Friedman has done a good job of substantiating this claim in his book The Machinery Of Freedom. I'm going to include several quotes from The Machinery Of Freedom below.

Following are what I think are the best consequentialist arguments for libertarianism.

Competition is better than monopoly
If the goal is to give consumers the best possible products and services at affordable prices - greater prosperity, in other words - then competition is better than monopoly. New companies will try to steal your customers by making a better or cheaper product. To be able to compete, you will have to improve as well. The more elements of monopoly there are, the more one loses this very important incentive for progress.

Strangely, many people argue that an unregulated market economy always leads to monopoly. David Friedman, in the chapter Monopoly I: How To Lose Your Shirt in The Machinery Of Freedom, explains really well the difficulties of maintaining a monopoly in a free market. He concludes:

Monopoly power exists only when a firm can control the prices charged by existing competitors and prevent the entry of new ones. The most effective way of doing so is by the use of government power. There are considerable elements of monopoly in our economy, but virtually all are produced by government and could not exist under institutions of complete private property.

That's not to say you can't have elements of monopoly in a free market. In many cases one single firm can have a dominating position, but in a free market that's actually not such a terrible situation because, unlike for government-created monopolies, there is potential competition:

Even a natural monopoly is limited in its ability to raise prices. If it raises them high enough, smaller, less efficient firms find that they can compete profitably. [...] [The natural monopoly] can make money selling goods at a price at which other firms lose money and thus retain the whole market. But it retains the market only so long as its price stays low enough that other firms cannot make a profit. This is what is called potential competition.

- David Friedman, The Machinery Of Freedom, Chapter 6: Monopoly I: How To Lose Your Shirt

Faster development of medical drugs
One of the most heavily regulated areas of Western society is health and medicine. People don't want the drugs they're taking to be dangerous, so they want government to approve drugs that are safe. That probably has had the intended effect of making the drugs that are on the market more safe. However, there are huge hidden costs, as this strategy does not minimize the number of deaths.

Regulators really don't want to approve an unsafe drug - that's very understandable, so they try to be cautious, and so instead of approving the drug, they sometimes ask for more tests and documentation. In some cases that may be the right thing to do. In others it may not. If a new effective drug is being delayed by the approval process, people who could have been saved will die waiting for the drug to be approved:

[I]n 1981 [...] the [Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - the federal agency in charge of approving medical drugs in the US] published a press release confessing to mass murder. That was not, of course, the way in which the release was worded; it was simply an announcement that the FDA had approved the use of timolol, a -blocker, to prevent recurrences of heart attacks.

At the time timolol was approved, -blockers had been widely used outside the U.S. for over ten years. It was estimated that the use of timolol would save from seven thousand to ten thousand lives a year in the U.S. So the FDA, by forbidding the use of -blockers before 1981, was responsible for something close to a hundred thousand unnecessary deaths.

-David Friedman, The Machinery Of Freedom, Chapter 21: It's My Life

If the government did not regulate drugs, it's very likely that private firms would be created that could rate the drugs made by the drug companies, for a fee. This is how it works in many other areas. These firms would then compete with each other, and it would be extremely important for them that people trusted them. Too many mistakes and they're out of business. So they, too, need to be cautious, but at the same time, drug companies want them to be fast and affordable, so they also have an incentive not to be overcautious. See this video for a better explanation:

It wouldn't be forbidden to sell unrated drugs or drugs with a really bad rating. However, people would know that there are big risks associated with those drugs. But when a potentially dangerous drug has the potential to save your life, the risk is probably worth it. It would be for me, anyway.

Government agencies aren't as agile as private firms need to be, since private firms generally want to keep up with the competition. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is no exception. According to Peter Huber, author of The Cure in the Code: How 20th Century Law Is Undermining 21st Century Medicine:

The FDA is still largely stuck in trial protocols that do not let us exploit fully our ability to tailor drugs precisely to the patient's molecular profiles. The only way you can find out how a drug is going to interact with different profiles is actually to prescribe it to the patients. The FDA is still very much anchored in what are called randomized blind protocols. There's no learn-as-you-go process in the early trials, where you learn about the different ways that different patients can respond to the same drug and then refine the way you prescribe that drug.


[T]he protocols these institutions are using, they're now 50 years old. I think agencies develop some inertia. They get very good at doing something they've done for a long time and, when revolutionary change occurs, it's difficult to adapt.

Although I believe that a libertarian society in most ways would be better than what we currently have, I actually have a good life. I really can't complain. But others 1) aren't so lucky. I am getting older, though, and medical science still can't cure every disease, or aging itself. Eventually, all diseases and even aging will be cured, but until then, one of my biggest concerns is that I'll get a deadly disease that's presently incurable.

People older than me will generally be in a worse position than I'm in when it comes to their health. And if science and technology moves too slow, even young people will eventually get to the point where their health becomes a problem. To put it bluntly, they may die... That's the reason I think it's so important that science and technology moves forward as fast as possible; the sooner we can cure all diseases and aging, the more people can be saved, allowing them to live for thousands of years or more in excellent health (if they want).

About 100,000 people die every day from aging or age-related diseases. So just a small speed-up of the research process can result in millions of lives saved. Equivalently, just a small slow-down of the research process can result in millions of lives lost. As you probably remember, David Friedman said that the FDA indirectly confessed to mass murder by delaying approval of a drug that was obviously safe. I suspect that the effect of medical drug regulation and other governmental regulations that slow down technological progress are orders of magnitude bigger than that.

If progress has been slowed by just a handful of years, we're looking at about 200 million lives that could potentially be saved worldwide, but won't be.

Until now, we've talked about the number of lives lost. However, a better measure would probably be the number of life-years lost. If something causes one person to die ten years prematurely, that's 10 life-years lost. If something causes 100 people to die one year earlier, that's 100 life-years lost. The more life-years that are lost, the worse.

For the 100,000 people who died because they couldn't get -blockers, the average number of extra years they would have lived with -blockers, would probably be somewhere between 1 and 10 (on average). However, people who are alive and can take advantage of effective rejuvenation therapies when they're developed, could easily live for thousands of years. And while the quality-of-life of the people who could have lived a few extra years with -blockers might be relatively low, I expect most people who are alive in a highly technologically advanced post-aging world to be quite happy (since psychological problems such as depression probably also can be treated very well at that point).

Less war
Fighting wars and killing people in foreign countries is arguably the worst thing governments do - at least one of the most brutal. I certainly don't want to pay so that the Norwegian government can bomb other countries (which they did in Libya a few years back) - I find that highly immoral, but as long as I want to live in the country where I was born, I don't have much of a choice - I can either pay my taxes or go to jail.

Wars are very expensive, though, so why are they fought?

Does the average American gain something from his government's wars in the Middle East? It's hard to think of even a single benefit for the average American. There are lots of costs, though. Most obviously it costs a lot of money, which are paid by the American taxpayers. Bombing people makes the families and friends of the victims angry, it's thus making a lot of enemies for the US, raising the risk of terrorist attacks. The higher risk of terrorist attacks is the reason for comprehensive security measure at e.g. airports, which is an inconvenience - thus a cost - to law-abiding citizens. The security measures aren't free money-wise either, so they naturally lead to higher airfare prices.

If wars in foreign countries are a net cost to Americans, it may seem strange that they're fought in the first place. But even though wars aren't a benefit overall, that doesn't mean nobody benefits. The weapons producers obviously have a lot to gain, so it's in their interest to lobby politicians to buy weapons from them. This is one aspect of the so-called military-industrial complex. From wikipedia's article on war profiteering:

The phrase "military-industrial complex" was coined by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his 1961 Farewell Address. This term describes the alliance between military leaders and arms merchants. Military officials attempt to obtain higher budgets, while arms manufactures seek profit. President Eisenhower warned the American people that going to war might not serve the interest of the nation, rather the institution of the military and weapons-producing corporations. The Iron Triangle comes into play here due to war profiting industries who make financial contributions to elected officials, who then distribute taxpayer money towards the military budget, which is spent at the advantage of arms merchants. The military-industrial complex allows for arms-producing corporations to continue to accumulate significant profit.

This means that the people who decide that their country should go to war (politicians) are not the same people who are paying for the war (taxpayers). That's a problem because it may lead to more wars being fought than what's strictly necessary in order to defend the country, as we've seen in the case of the US, some European countries, and probably many other countries.

Now, try to imagine a society with no government. You can think of it as pretty similar to today's society, except that the useful tasks that are today performed by the government would be provided by private firms or charities that people choose to be customers of/pay money to. Such a society, where there is no government, private property is respected and you have freedom of association, is called anarcho-capitalist.

Perhaps the best way to see why anarcho-capitalism would be so much more peaceful than our present system is by analogy. Consider our world as it would be if the cost of moving from one country to another were zero. Everyone lives in a housetrailer and speaks the same language. One day, the president of France announces that because of troubles with neighboring countries, new military taxes are being levied and conscription will begin shortly. The next morning the president of France finds himself ruling a peaceful but empty landscape, the population having been reduced to himself, three generals, and twenty-seven war correspondents.

We do not all live in housetrailers. But if we buy our protection from a private firm instead of from a government, we can buy it from a different firm as soon as we think we can get a better deal. We can change protectors without changing countries.

- David Friedman, The Machinery Of Freedom, Chapter 30: The Stability Problem

Democratic governments need consent, or at least not too much opposition, from the citizens in order to start wars. Since the real reasons to start wars have more to do with money and power than humanitarian goals, politicians have to lie to the public to get their consent. In Iraq, they lied about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction. On other occasions, supposed chemical weapons attacks have been used as the excuse.

It would also be more difficult to get consent from the governed if taxes had to be raised to finance each new war. Therefore wars aren't exclusively financed by taxes. According to Matthew McCaffrey in a talk about the economics of war, governments also finance wars through borrowing and inflation. Inflating (or increasing) the money supply (printing money) is something governments can do since they control the country's currency and money system. 2) Inflation eventually leads to higher prices, but this is a cost that's much less visible to people than direct taxes. McCaffrey talks about war financing at 17:54 - 25:00 and 31:53 - 36:33 in his talk about the economics of war.

I should mention that the number of people killed in war has declined lately. Since 1946 the number of war deaths has been at an historical low, and the period since 1946 has been called The Long Peace. The atom bomb was developed during World War II - not long before 1946 - and no two countries with atomic bombs have ever fought a war with each other. So one of the reasons for The Long Peace could be the deterrent effect of the atomic bomb. As Yuval Noah Harari writes in the book Homo Deus:

Nuclear weapons have turned war between superpowers into a mad act of collective suicide, and therefore forced the most powerful nations on earth to find alternative and peaceful ways to resolve conflicts.

In addition, Harari emphasizes the fact that the world has been moving from a material-based economy into a knowledge-based economy:

Previously the main sources of wealth were material assets such as gold mines, wheat fields and oil wells. Today the main source of wealth is knowledge. And whereas you can conquer oil fields through war, you cannot acquire knowledge that way. Hence as knowledge became the most important economic resource, the profitability of war declined and wars became increasingly restricted to those parts of the world - such as the Middle East and Central Africa - where the economies are still old-fashioned material-based economies.

(Some libertarians want to have a strong military, so the less war argument - at least in the form expressed here - may not apply to all brands of libertarianism.)

Open borders and free trade

According to economists' standard estimates, letting anyone take a job anywhere would roughly double global production - a bigger gain than any other economic reform known to man. [...] We are talking about trillions of dollars of extra wealth creation, year after year.

- Bryan Caplan, The Case for Open Borders

So, luckily for libertarians, we're generally in favor of open borders. We also want smaller governments, so we don't want governments to give money to immigrants. However, private individuals, charities etc may still help those who can't find work or are otherwise struggling.

The main reason wealth creation would go so much up with open borders is that it's easier to be productive in more developed countries. As Bryan Caplan has said, If you lived in Syria or Haiti, you wouldn't be very productive either. An article in The Economist explains:

Workers become far more productive when they move from a poor country to a rich one. Suddenly, they can join a labour market with ample capital, efficient firms and a predictable legal system. Those who used to scrape a living from the soil with a wooden hoe start driving tractors. Those who once made mud bricks by hand start working with cranes and mechanical diggers. Those who cut hair find richer clients who tip better.


And the non-economic benefits are hardly trivial, either. A Nigerian in the United States cannot be enslaved by the Islamists of Boko Haram.

Most of the benefits of open borders go to the people who move from poor countries and their families (since many emigrants send money back to them). A policy of open borders is thus a policy that will reduce global inequality. However, according to the same Economist article, people in rich countries would see more poverty - they "would see many more Liberians and Bangladeshis waiting tables and stacking shelves", but their poverty in a rich country would be "much less severe" than in their home country.

Many people - even some libertarians - worry that crime rates will go up, but, according to the article:

If lots of people migrated from war-torn Syria, gangster-plagued Guatemala or chaotic Congo, would they bring mayhem with them? It is an understandable fear (and one that anti-immigrant politicians play on), but there is little besides conjecture and anecdotal evidence to support it. Granted, some immigrants commit crimes, or even headline-grabbing acts of terrorism. But in America the foreign-born are only a fifth as likely to be incarcerated as the native-born. In some European countries, such as Sweden, migrants are more likely to get into trouble than locals, but this is mostly because they are more likely to be young and male. A study of migration flows among 145 countries between 1970 and 2000 by researchers at the University of Warwick found that migration was more likely to reduce terrorism than increase it, largely because migration fosters economic growth.

Open borders should also apply to trade, of course. There shouldn't be any tariffs or import quotas. Trade restrictions help certain industries in the country that imposes them, while hurting their foreign competitors, but it only helps certain industries - most people are harmed by higher prices and fewer alternative products.

Almost all economists, whether libertarian or not, actually agree that free trade would be better than protectionist policies when it comes to raising people's standard of living. Milton Friedman talks about free trade and this agreement among economists in the video below, where he says:

We call a tariff a protective measure. It does protect - it protects the consumer very well against one thing. It protects the consumer against low prices. And yet we call it protection. Each of us tends to produce a single product. We tend to buy a thousand and one products.

So why don't all countries have free trade? It's because of the internal logic of the political marketplace where concentrated interest groups have more power to influence policies than the general public, which is a dispersed group with less to gain than the special interest in each particular case.

No war on drugs
The use of recreational drugs often has negative health consequences for the user. That's one of the reasons why many people don't want them to be legal.

But according to libertarianism, there shouldn't be laws against doing things that don't harm others. So-called victimless crimes shouldn't be crimes at all.

Not punishing victimless crimes will free up time and resources for the legal system to focus on more serious offenses. But the war on drugs has so many other bad consequences in addition. Kurzgesagt - In a Nutshell, in the video embedded below (3:01) explains:

Prohibition may prevent a certain amount of people from taking drugs, but in the process it causes huge damage to society as a whole. Many of the problems we associate with drug use are actually caused by the war against them.

For example prohibition makes drugs stronger. The more potent drugs you can store in as little space as possible, the more profit you'll make. It was the same during alcohol prohibition which led to an increased consumption of strong liquor over beer.

The prohibition of drugs also led to more violence and murders around the world. Gangs and cartels have no access to the legal system to settle disputes so they use violence. This led to an ever-increasing spiral of brutality. According to some estimates, the homicide rate in the US is 25 to 75 percent higher because of the war on drugs, and in Mexico, a country on the frontline, an estimated 164,000 have been murdered between 2007 and 2014, more people than in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq in the same period, combined.

But where the war on drugs might do the most damage to society is the incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders. For example, the United States, one of the driving forces of the war on drugs, has 5% of the world's total population but 25% of the world's prison population largely due to the harsh punishments and mandatory minimums.

Minorities suffer because of this. Especially, African-Americans make up 40% of all US prison inmates, and while white kids are more likely to abuse drugs, black kids are 10 times more likely to get arrested for drug offenses.

No welfare trap
One of the first things that comes to mind if you're going to find arguments in favor of having a government is probably that we obviously need a government to take care of the poor and needy. But I don't think it's that obvious.

A question one should ask in this regard is whether the poor would be helped in the absence of a government. With a very small government or no government at all, people would keep most or all their earnings for themselves, meaning they can decide exactly how to spend it (or save it). Today, a lot of working people struggle to make ends meet. Keeping what they now pay in taxes would help their economic situation even though they would have to pay for services out of pocket, that are today paid for by taxes. The reason they would have more left over is that prices would get lower in a more competitive market, and because there's an overhead to collecting taxes.

Even today, with such high taxes and an expectation that it's the government that's responsible for helping the poor, people still give money to charitable organizations. Especially Americans are exceptionally generous. If people had more money left over, obviously more money would also be donated to charities.

Most of the people who donate would be interested in giving money to those organizations that were best at helping. Not that many people would be interested in researching which organizations were most effective at helping, though, but some definitely would, and their conclusions might reach the general public through the media. There would thus be competition between charitable organizations. Those that were best at helping would tend to get the most money.

With such a strong incentive to help effectively, one would expect these organizations to give better help than what the government, which is a monopolist, does today.

And when we look at how governments do try to help poor people, we see that there's ample room for improvement. Often there's an abrupt cut-off in money paid when earnings exceed a certain limit. This means that working more or getting a raise will cause total income to go down, which gives a strong incentive to not accept the raise or work more hours. This effect is called the welfare trap, because it traps people in relative poverty. It makes it harder to get out of poverty because in order to do so, you typically have to accept a temporary decline in income.

It's pretty obvious that welfare traps are bad, so in a competitive market for welfare services, the necessary effort would surely be put in to get rid of welfare traps. Also, the best way to help poor people is to enable them to make their own living, so when welfare organizations are evaluated, how well they do this would be an important criterion. It should also be in the welfare organization's own interest to enable their clients to make their own living, since doing so means they can pay out less money.

From my home country, Norway, we have another example of governments trying to help, but not doing it very well. People who've had a paid job earlier, but are now unemployed, can get money from a governmental organization called NAV. However, in order not to get their unemployment benefits cut, NAV clients need to attend various courses while they're unemployed. Fair enough. However, there aren't that many different courses to choose from, and for some of the courses it can be hard to get a spot. Many then end up taking a job search training course that lasts for six months. From what I understand, it's not a very good course... People who have been unemployed for a long time often end up taking the course several times since they can't get spots in more relevant courses. This seems like a terrible waste of time - and taxpayer money. There's got to be a better way to help!

I'm not going to pretend to know what the exact best way to help is. But what I do know is that in a competitive market, it's easier to discover the good solutions.

Freedom makes us happy

[T]he value to individuals of being able to run their own lives is typically greater than the value to anyone else of being able to control them - or in other words, [...] increases in liberty tend to increase total utility.

- David Friedman, The Machinery Of Freedom, Chapter 42: Where I Stand

A libertarian society is a tolerant society. A society that doesn't have laws against any voluntary/peaceful actions has proven that its citizens are mostly tolerant people who accept that other people have different priorities than themselves.

In a tolerant society people who are a little bit different than everyone else has a better chance to thrive. They can follow their dreams and desires and do what they want with their lives to a greater extent than in other types of societies. Thus, it's very likely that people on average would be happier in a libertarian society than in other, less tolerant, ones.


So, that was my list of the seven best consequentialist arguments for being a libertarian. Do you agree that these are good arguments? Are there other arguments I should have included? Don't agree at all? Then, what are your best arguments for not being a libertarian? Let me know in the comments.

1) Others could be sick or old people, people living in war zones, people who can't get out of poor countries, or those that have been imprisoned for victimless crimes, for example.

2) We'll see if decentralized cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin can do something about that.

Lev lenge nok til leve "evig"

Medical interface

ta godt vare p egen helse kan vre mye viktigere enn du tror.

En del mennesker velger leve et noks usunt liv siden dt for noen kan vre mer gy enn leve sunt, samtidig som man tenker at et sunt liv bare ville gitt 5-10 r mer, noe som ikke er s mye i den store sammenhengen. Det er en helt forstelig prioritering.

Men i lpet av de nrmeste tirene vil det skje mye innen medisinsk teknologi og biologisk forskning. For to r siden skrev jeg at hvis du lever om 30 r, er det gode sjanser for at du kan leve om 1000 r ogs. I korte trekk skyldes det at den teknologiske utviklingen er akselererende. Informasjonsteknologier, det vil si teknologier som benytter seg av datamaskiner (regnekraft) i stor grad, har en eksponentiell utvikling - det betyr at de utvikler seg raskere og raskere hvert eneste r. Og medisin har begynt bli en informasjonsteknologi. Vi kan n blant annet lese og redigere gener og 3D-printe organer.

Hvis man kan reparere mennesker spass godt om 15 r at en 80-ring kan bli som en 65-ring, har vedkommende ftt 15 r ekstra. P den tiden vil det etter all sannsynlighet skje vesentlig strre fremskritt innen biologi og medisin enn det gjorde i de frste 15 rene, slik at om 30 r vil det vre mulig reparere kroppen mye bedre enn om 15 r, og vedkommende kan kanskje f en kropp som en 40-ring.

Disse tallene er litt vilkrlig valgt, men du skjnner sikkert logikken.

For unng d av aldring, heter det p engelsk at man m oppn longevity escape velocity, noe som kan oversettes til unnslipningshastighet for aldring. Hvis din forventede levealder ker med mer enn ett r for hvert r som gr, har du ndd unnslipningshastigheten for aldring.

Mennesker som er for gamle idag vil ikke n unnslipningshastigheten for aldring, mens de som er unge ikke vil ha noen som helst problemer med det. Men det vil vre en del mennesker som vil vre helt p grensen til kunne leve lenge nok til f nytte av de medisinske fremskrittene som kommer til  komme. For disse menneskene kan det vre helt avgjrende leve relativt sunt. Gjr de ikke det, kan de d fr de er 70, mens hvis de faktisk tar grep og forbedrer livsstilen sin, kan de f muligheten til leve ekstremt mye lenger.

Men det er selvflgelig ingen garantier. Man kan ha uflaks og f en ddelig sykdom i morgen eller bli utsatt for en alvorlig ulykke. S det man kan gjre er gi seg selv en strst mulig sjanse til n unnslipningshastigheten for aldring. Og med tanke p hvor mye det er vinne p det, vil jeg sterkt anbefale gjre eventuelle tiltak for redusere ens egen risiko for d de neste par tirene.

Is Aging The World's Biggest Problem?

What's the world's biggest problem? Is it possible to say? Well, to be able to compare alternatives, you at least need some criterion to evaluate against, and what should that criterion be?

Here are some possibilities:

  • To what extent something makes humans less happy
  • How much suffering something inflicts in humans
  • How much suffering something inflicts in humans and other animals
  • To what extent something affects the average life-span of humans
  • The cost of the problem in dollar terms
  • Existential risks - something that threatens to wipe out the entire human race

Most of these alternatives focus on humans, and that's what I'm going to continue to focus on in this article. I think many people - maybe most people - will find that natural. However, I don't think it's obvious that the focus should be solely on humans, and you can argue that factory farming may be a bigger problem than any of the problems humans face, and I can't really say you're wrong.

It's also quite hard to put numbers on some of these alternatives, like how much something affects people's feeling of happiness.

The most straight-forward criterion to use, I think, is calculating how many years of life the various problems take away from an average person - how the problems affect the average global life-expectancy.

So, what are the problems that humanity faces? Here are some potential problems, in alphabetical order:

  • Aging
  • Climate change/global warming
  • Diseases
  • Hunger and poverty
  • Meteorite impact
  • Overpopulation/lack of resources
  • Pollution
  • War and terrorism

Climate change/global warming: The number of deaths from natural disasters and extreme weather has decreased substantially over the past century. From 2010-2015 the average was about 70,000 deaths annually from these causes. How many of these were caused by the climate being warmer or different now than previously is hard to say. Potentially, the number could be less than 0, but even if we assume that these deaths were all caused by climate change, average global life expectancy would only be changed by a tiny fraction of a year due to climate change. It's not impossible that the climate could get more hostile in the future, but with better technology and more people escaping poverty, I don't think it's unrealistic that the number of climate-related deaths will continue to go down.

Non-age-related diseases: Most people are killed by diseases, but most of those diseases are age-related. (Age-related diseases will be included in the discussion about aging below.) About two thirds of all deaths are caused by aging (mainly age-related diseases), so let's assume the remaining third of deaths are caused by non-age-related diseases. That's a small exaggeration, but I'm not aiming to find the exact numbers here. Let's further assume deaths from non-age-related diseases occur on average when people are halfway in their expected life-spans, so when they're about 36 years old, which is probably an under-estimate since the immune system gets weaker as we get older. But if we use these numbers, it means that non-age-related diseases take away about 10-15 years of life per person on average.

Hunger and poverty: Hunger, and especially poverty, are big problems. I guess poverty is rarely a direct cause of death, but there's a big gap in average life-expectancy between rich and poor countries. So indirectly, poverty could be responsible for a lot of deaths. The average life-expectancy world-wide is 71.4 years. In Japan, the country with the highest life-expectancy, the average is 83.7 years. So eradicating hunger and poverty will at most extend the average human life-expectancy by about 12 years. I expect a relatively high percentage of deaths from non-age-related diseases will be avoided if hunger and poverty are eliminated.

Meteorite impact: If the Earth is hit by a large asteroid, the entire human race could be wiped out. If such an asteroid is bound to hit Earth in the next decade or two, there may be nothing we can do about it, but further into the future, we'll probably be able to protect ourselves from most such impacts. We saw that the average life-expectancy is 71.4 years; the average age of everyone alive is close to 30 years, so an extinction event that wiped out the entire human race would take away a little more than 40 years of life on average for every person on Earth.

Overpopulation/lack of resources: On a global scale, I don't think the Earth is overpopulated. By that I mean we're able to produce enough food for everyone. However, there are crowded places where people starve, but in those cases the problems have other root causes, such as poverty, lack of education, war and/or bad governance. Even if no one should ever die of aging, I don't think overpopulation will be a big issue. The reason is that the number of children born per woman (the fertility rate) is going down as the standard of living goes up, and the fertility rate has more than halved during the last 50 years.

Pollution: Crowded places, especially in poor countries, also tend to be polluted, and local pollution causes a lot of people to die prematurely. In India the average life-expectancy is reduced by 1-2 years due to pollution.

War and terrorism: War and terrorism are still big problems that kill many people, about 100,000 people were killed in 2014. This was a very high number compared with previous years, but even so, it almost doesn't impact the global average life-expectancy.

And then we have aging...
Aging, including age-related diseases, kills about 90% of the population in developed countries, and about two thirds of the population overall.

Due to aging, the risk of any one person dying in the next year is increasing exponentially over time, doubling about every eight years after age 35. If the risk of dying had stayed constant from we were 20 years old, we would live to a little over 1000 years on average. In the US, the numbers are actually about 600 years for boys and 1700 years for girls, due to boys being a little more "crazy" than girls...

So aging takes away about 1000 years of life for the average person in developed countries. It also reduces the average life-expectancy significantly in the rest of the world, but to play it very conservatively, let's ignore that. About a sixth of the global population live in developed countries, so dividing 1000 years by six, we find that curing aging will at least cause the average life-expectancy to increase by 166 years, probably a lot more than that. Aging thus eclipses all the other global problems we've discussed, including extinction events,1) so in this sense aging is definitely the world's biggest problem! 2)

The worst part about aging, I would say, is that it causes people to die - that people's lives are lost forever. But aging also has other very bad consequences, such as disability, pain and suffering. Many old people lose their independence and aren't able to contribute to society. The costs of aging are extreme both in terms of money, suffering and years of life lost.

On the positive side, I think aging will be solved in the relatively near future. However, considering the gravity of the problem, I don't think nearly enough resources are being spent on trying to solve it. Other problems are important to solve, too, and with more than 7 billion people on the planet, we can certainly work on all problems at the same time.

However, I don't think very many people are aware of how important it is to solve aging and to rejuvenate old people. About 100,000 people die every day from aging and age-related diseases, so if we can speed up aging research so that aging is solved just one day sooner, we could potentially save 100,000 lives! So please consider helping. I'm not a researcher myself, but I know that SENS Research Foundation does a very good job in this area. You can donate to SENS here. Another way to help is to let others know about the problem. As mentioned, far too few people are aware of it.

Do you agree that aging is the world's biggest problem? Should we use other criteria than average life-expectancy to determine what's the world's worst problem? Would that lead to a different result?

1) Extinction events also cause future humans not to be born, and can thus be said to be a bigger problem than aging, although it would take away fewer years of life per person alive today. However, the main reason I would say a meteorite impact or other extinction event is not a bigger problem than aging is that the risk of it happening any time soon is very low.

2) The average life-expectancy could rise further if the world is made more safe, something which could be achieved by e.g. self-driving cars and finding treatments for non-age-related diseases.

Why I'm Not Worried About Climate Change

In Norway, where I live, there's a lot of focus on climate change in the media, and it seems many people have a negative view of the future because of this, and I fear this situation might not be unique to Norway.

According to the media, there's a scientific consensus that humans are the main cause of global warming and climate change, and if we don't reduce our CO2 emissions drastically, there will be enormous negative consequences.

It is true that human CO2 emissions are causing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to rise, and with CO2 being a greenhouse gas, I'd say it's very likely that this is causing the average global temperature to be higher than it otherwise would be. Most of us can probably agree on that.

Then there's the question of whether the measured increase in temperature over the last century is caused mainly by human activity or not. I wouldn't be surprised if the answer to this is that yes, human activity is the main cause. However, scientists might not be as convinced about this as the media is telling us.

One oft-cited paper that supposedly shows that almost all climate scientists think humans are the main cause of global warming is Cook et al. (2013), titled "Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature." Cook et al. have gone through the abstracts of thousands of climate science articles and for each abstract noted what view, if any, is expressed about the role of humans in regards to global warming. The paper itself does not claim that 97% of climate scientists believe humans are the main cause of global warming, but that's how it's been interpreted, and Cook, the lead author, was co-author of another paper (Bedford and Cook (2013)) which claimed that

Of the 4,014 abstracts that expressed a position on the issue of human-induced climate change, Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97 % endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.

David Friedman, an economist who checked the numbers and wrote a blog post about it, notes that "John Cook surely knows the contents of his own paper. Hence the sentence in question is a deliberate lie."

What Cook et al. actually found, based on their own data, was merely that "Of the approximately one third of climate scientists writing on global warming who stated a position on the role of humans, 97% thought humans contribute [at least] somewhat to global warming." And it found that the number of climate scientists who believe humans are the main cause of global warming is 1.6%.

These numbers were calculated based on opinions expressed in paper abstracts, and not interviews with the scientists, so the real number is probably a lot higher than 1.6%, but that could not be shown based on the data included in the Cook et al. paper.

Whether humans are the main cause of global warming or not is not that important, though. Whether mainly caused by humans or not, the consequences of global warming will be the same.

An important question to ask at this point is whether a higher average global temperature is mostly good or mostly bad. People who worry about climate change tend to focus on the negative effects, while the other side may tend to focus too much on the positive effects. Naturally, there are both positive and negative effects, but quantifying them is hard, so determining whether global warming will be good or bad on net is not feasible.

According to Matt Ridley, the most important positive effects of global warming include "fewer winter deaths; lower energy costs; better agricultural yields; probably fewer droughts; maybe richer biodiversity." More CO2 in the atmosphere also leads to a greener planet since more CO2 makes plants grow faster. If we also include very low probability events, there's a theoretical chance that more CO2 in the atmosphere can prevent another ice age.

Another question to ask is whether the measured temperature increase over the last century is correct. Measuring global temperature is harder than you might think, and although we have gotten better at it, the uncertainties in the average global temperature are still quite large, at least 0.46C, according to this 2010 paper. According to the paper's abstract, this means that the rate and magnitude of 20th century warming are unknowable. There probably has been an increase in temperatures, but we cannot know exactly how fast temperatures are rising.

But let's assume the official numbers are correct and that humans are indeed the main cause of global warming. Should you be worried? I actually don't think so.

Take a look at this graph from The Economist:

The graph shows that, since 1900, the number of deaths from natural disasters has plummeted. This is extremely good news, and if we take into account that the population has risen by about a factor of 5 over the same time period, this means that your chances of dying from natural disasters has decreased five times more than the graph shows.

What might at first glance seem worrying, though, when you look at the graph is the steep rise in the number of natural disasters. However, what's important to realize is that this is the number of reported natural disasters, not the actual number of disasters. I don't think there are many people who actually believe that the annual number of natural disasters was almost zero in 1900, while today it's several hundred. A higher percentage of the actually occurring natural disasters are obviously being reported today than previously, so the graph isn't really telling us anything meaningful about the trend in the number of natural disasters.

What it does hint at, though, is that the number of reported deaths from natural disasters - like the number of disasters - may have been underreported in the past. If that's the case, today's number of deaths from natural disasters are even lower compared with a century ago.

The reason for this huge increase in safety from natural disasters is that we are richer and more resourceful than in 1900 - our technology is better, so we can more easily protect ourselves from nature.

Technological progress is exponential, and so improves faster every year. This means that if there are no one-off huge disasters like volcanic eruptions, we should expect the number of deaths from natural disasters to continue to decrease in the foreseeable future.

What this also means is that it will be easier - and thus less expensive - to influence the global climate in the future than it is today, since we'll have more capable technologies in the future.

Reversing global warming could thus be possible and feasible in the future. However, at the present time, doing something about it on a global scale is extremely expensive. So, another important question to ask is whether the potential problem of global warming should be solved globally; or locally by adapting to the changes. According to the 50 to 1 project, the global solution is about 50 times more expensive than adapting to a changing climate. They (claim that they) made the calculations based on data that's accepted by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

Also, bear in mind that global warming will have positive as well as negative effects. If we allow global warming to continue, we will definitely reap some benefits from it. In addition, by adapting instead of trying to stop or reverse global warming, we save trillions of dollars that can be used for other (hopefully better) things: To cure disease and aging, alleviate poverty, clean up the world's oceans, educate the uneducated, et cetera.

But wouldn't it be good if renewable energy sources could take over for fossil fuels? And don't we need politicians to regulate our behavior for that to happen? Actually, we don't. This is going to happen regardless of politics. Ray Kurzweil, the famous futurist who works on artificial intelligence as a lead engineer at Google, recently gave a speech 1) at a technology conference in Norway. When asked about climate change, he replied:

Well, I mentioned that renewables - solar in particular, but also wind and geothermal - are growing exponentially. If you add them all together, it's only 5 or 6 doublings from 100% at about 2 years per doubling. So we're not far from [them] really being able to provide all of our energy needs, and they'll be subject to this very significant deflation rate, so it'll be relatively inexpensive, and the sunlight is free. As I mentioned, we have 10,000 times more [sunlight] than we need to meet all of our energy needs. So that is happening. I've talked to people responsible for the, for example, Saudi Arabian fund. Their view is that they have 20 years. I think that's actually optimistic, but they do realize that that business model of exploiting fossil fuels is not going to last forever.

That renewables are going to take over for fossil fuels may be hard to believe for many people, but take a look at how the price of solar energy, and the amount of energy we get from solar, have evolved over the past decades:

As the price has come down, the amount of energy we get from solar has gone up. Today, in sunny parts of the world, unsubsidized solar is actually the very cheapest form of energy, cheaper than any fossil fuel, including natural gas and coal. And now that we don't even have to subsidize solar for it to be competitive, the market forces have taken over and the rise of solar just cannot be stopped!

Although CO2 is taken up by plants and oceans, most of the CO2 we produce will linger in the atmosphere for a very long time, so even if we stop emitting it, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere might almost not go down. My very unscientific opinion is that that's probably not a big problem. But let's assume that it is a problem, as K. Eric Drexler, author of Engines Of Creation - The Coming Era Of Nanotechnology (1986), thinks.

If it does turn out to be a big problem, it will be much cheaper to fix it a few decades into the future than to fix it now, even though the amount of CO2 we have to remove is larger in the future. The reason is, again, that technology advances exponentially. We'll have much more capable technologies, and so the price of accomplishing these things will also be much lower. Here's Drexler:

[T]o have the the 21st century have a planet that resembles what we've had in the previous human history will require taking the CO2 levels down, and that is an enormous project. One can calculate the energy required - it's huge, the area of photovoltaics required to generate that energy is enormous, the costs are out of range of what can be handled by the world today.

But the prospects with a better means of making things, more efficient, more capable, are to be able to do a project of that scale, at low cost, taking molecular devices, removing molecules from the atmosphere. Photovoltaics produced at low cost to power those machines can draw down CO2 and fix the greenhouse gas problem in a moderate length of time once we pass the threshold of having those technologies [...] We now have in hand tools for beginning to build with atomic precision, and we can see pathways from [here] to a truly transformative technology.

Drexler is a nanotechnology pioneer, and what he's saying is that we'll be able to use nanotechnology to build machines at the molecular level - with atomic precision. These can be mass produced at extremely low cost, and some of those machines can be designed to capture CO2 from the atmosphere. Capturing enough CO2 to matter from the atmosphere today would be prohibitively expensive, but by using the molecular machines Drexler envisions, it could be done much more cheaply, especially if we have enough almost free solar energy to power the process.


  • Climate change may not be as big a problem as the media is telling us
  • Humans may or may not be the main cause of global warming
  • We cannot know whether the net effect of global warming will be good or bad
  • The number of deaths from natural disasters has plummeted
  • Adapting to climate change is probably a lot less expensive than trying to "fix it" on a global level
  • Renewables are going to take over for fossil fuels during the next two decades

And if climate change turns out to be mostly bad, it will be possible and relatively cheap to remove CO2 from the atmosphere with nanotechnology in the future. Also, the more pressing a problem is, the more resources will be spent on trying to solve it, so, in my opinion, climate change (or global warming) is not a threat to human civilization, and I don't think you should worry about it.

1) Unfortunately it's behind a paywall.

In A Hundred Years, There May Be No Politicians

pants on fire saying cartoon

Although the current way of organizing society may seem like the only natural way, democracy and the nation state are relatively recent phenomena, and we shouldn't take for granted that they will stay with us forever. Most people would probably agree with that, but 100 years isn't exactly forever... Could it really change that fast?

Society has already changed enormously over the past couple of centuries, and technological progress has been a very important factor in bringing about this change. The rate of technological change has been speeding up until the present day and is expected to continue to accelerate in the foreseeable future.

It's hard to predict how society will change in the future. It's probably a lot easier to predict some of the ways in which technology is going to improve. A somewhat correct understanding of the future of technology will at least make it easier to predict societal change than if you don't have this knowledge.

So let's start with the future of technology.

Many science fiction movies depict a future in which one specific technology has advanced well beyond today's capabilities while every other technology has seemingly stagnated at current levels. An example is the movie Passengers, where they've had interstellar travel for at least a century, yet they still age and die exactly like people do today... Naturally, it's extremely unlikely that the future will unfold in this way.

Scientists and engineers all over the world are working hard to make progress in countless areas, all at the same time, and progress in one field may hugely benefit other fields, so sort of the only likely future is one where a wide range of technologies have advanced far beyond current levels. And when we know how fast technology is advancing today, and that it's actually accelerating, and we also know that the acceleration is expected to continue in the future, then 100 years suddenly seems like a very long time.

In this article I will assume that Ray Kurzweil is essentially correct in his predictions about the future. Kurzweil is one of the most optimistic futurists in terms of time scales. But he also has a very good track record for his predictions. If you disagree with Kurzweil's vision of the future you may also disagree with this article's conclusion that there may be no politicians in 100 years.

Kurzweil's main prediction is about how fast computer technology is advancing, an aspect of the future he says is amazingly predictable. If computer technology isn't advancing as fast as he predicts, the other specific technologies he predicts will likely also be similarly delayed.

Kurzweil started making predictions around 1980, and now, in 2017, computers are almost exactly as capable as he predicted back then. That's good reason not to dismiss his future predictions out of hand although some might almost seem a little too incredible.

Some of Kurzweil's predictions:

  • Within 10 years, most diseases will be conquered. During the following 10 years, the remaining ones will be conquered as well.
    So, what does that mean? It doesn't mean that every human on Earth will be cured of their diseases by 2037, but that we at least have available treatments for almost all diseases (at least 75% of currently untreatable diseases), although some may still be expensive or not approved in every country. Prices should go down rather quickly, though, since medicine is becoming an information technology (a technology that utilizes computers and computing to a large degree).
  • Around 2030 human life expectancy will increase by more than one year per year due to new medical technologies making use of nanotechnology. That's not just infant life expectancy - that's your life expectancy. Which means that - barring accidents or armageddon - you may live essentially forever.
    An organization that does really good work in the area of rejuvenation technology is SENS Research Foundation (you can donate here).
  • The nonbiological (artificial) intelligence created in the year 2045 will be one billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today. Many people are fearful of artificial intelligence outpacing human intelligence. However, it won't be an us versus them scenario. Instead we'll merge with the "machines":
  • By around 2035 we'll have the technology to connect our brains directly to the Internet. This will allow you to get answers to your questions merely by thinking. Several companies, including Elon Musk's NeuralLink, are already working on brain-computer interfaces, though the technology used to implement the brain-computer interface will be quite different and more advanced in the 2030s than now. In the 2030s we'll probably have tiny robots - nanobots - in our brains (and bloodstream). These nanobots should be able to communicate with our neurons and each other, transferring data to and from the brain. It might become possible to download knowledge and skills to the brain in this way. 1)
  • In the 2040s people will spend most of their time in virtual reality. Virtual reality is another technology that will make use of nanobots in the brain. The nanobots could control what signals reach our neurons, so by filtering out data from our real senses and instead providing fake sensory data, the potential is no less than 100% realistic virtual reality. We will also be able to interact with real human beings in virtual reality. This will likely lead to many business meetings taking place in virtual reality and fewer people traveling long distances in the real world.
  • By the 2030s, we'll have real nano-technology in the form of atomically precise manufacturing. Or maybe even before 2030. This year Kurzweil said that "We know exactly how to create the medical nano-robots if we have the enabling factor of being able to do atomically precise manufacturing. That's coming. We'll have that by... Well, I've been saying the early 2030s. That's increasingly looking conservative. We may have it in the 2020s."
    Atomically precise manufacturing means we'll be able to build physical objects with atomic precision. 3D-printers will be created that can make objects where every single atom is positioned according to a predetermined plan (a computer file).

When Ray Kurzweil says we'll have some technology by a certain year, he does not mean that the technology will be mature at that time, and it may not yet be widespread. Some of the technologies mentioned will probably not reach maturity until some time in the second half of the century. Still, that's actually not that many decades away...

Let's discuss how some of these technologies could contribute to transferring tasks away from governments, and over to the private sector.

  • Aging is cured
    If we can stay healthy, energetic and productive indefinitely, then there's no need for a retirement age. Without retirement pensions, the state's largest expense goes away. But don't worry; increasing automation will lead to lower prices, so you don't have to work that much, anyway. Since it will be cheaper for the state to pay for life extension treatments than to pay out pensions, governments may actually offer life extension treatments free of charge (well, paid for by the tax payers) to all its citizens some time in the relatively near future.
  • Diseases are cured
    If we're healthier, then the government's expenditure on sick pay, medicare, medicaid (or similar programs for countries outside the US), and maybe even hospitals (if nanobots can heal us from within) should go down significantly.
  • Brain connected to the Internet and information downloading
    If we can learn and acquire new skills simply by downloading information to the brain, then there's no real need for schools (as a place to learn), which is another big expense for governments today. This, in combination with biotechnologies that can heal and enhance human beings, could also enable anybody who wants a job to get one. Even if downloading information isn't that cheap when the technology is relatively new, companies could pay the cost for new employees to learn (download) the skills they need. The reason I think companies would be willing to make that investment is that the cost of downloading knowledge would still be very low in comparison to the added value the employee could provide with the downloaded knowledge.
    If anyone can get a job, then very few people will need charity to make ends meet, which means the amount of money governments would need to spend on a social safety net would go way down. And then the task of helping the needy may even be performed adequately by private charities. 
  • Atomically precise manufacturing
    When everyone can make almost any physical object with their own 3D-printer, then global trade will look very different than today. The need to transport things around the world will likely decrease substantially. That means governments aren't going to get that much revenue from tariffs. Other trade barriers will also lose their importance. It also means that banning or restricting certain items, such as guns, recreational drugs or medical drugs, will be difficult or impossible. I think it's likely that the laws will change in response to this, so that we don't continue spending excessive amounts of resources fighting "wars" that just cannot be won, such as the current war on drugs. This should mean less government spending on police services.

I'm not the first person to point out that new technologies are going to impact politics. In a series of articles libertarian author Onar m has explained how several new technologies have been, are, and are going to disrupt politics, taking power away from politicians, something which should lead to smaller governments. In part five of the series he attempts to explain why these emerging technologies are disrupting politics:

When everyone has affordable access to a technology, it becomes practically impossible to control. People then don't need to ask politicians to be able to do the things they want. They can just do them. That's precisely why these technologies are politically disruptive.

Others have said essentially the same thing using the term decentralization. "The 21st century technologies are decentralized rather than centralized", according to Kurzweil.

Peter Diamandis uses the term democratization. Technologies that are being digitized become disruptive (though growth could be deceptively slow at first), then they become demonetized (cheap), then dematerialized (virtual), and finally democratized. (According to Diamandis, these are the 6 Ds of technology disruption.)

Actually, Ray Kurzweil himself recently talked a little about whether technology will end the nation state:

In the video Kurzweil says that nation states, due to the Internet and its globalizing effect, have already become less influential than they used to be, and that he thinks they're going to continue to get less influential.

He doesn't say, however, that nation states will go away entirely, but he doesn't say it won't happen, either.

So as far as I know, neither Kurzweil, nor Diamandis, nor m has said that governments are going to disappear completely, and thus it's probably not obvious that that will actually happen. Even David Friedman, who has written an entire book describing how all the tasks that are now performed by governments, could instead be performed privately (in a system called anarcho-capitalism), suspects governments will still exist 100 years from now: 2)

I think predicting that far ahead is hard. The most likely [anarcho-capitalist] scenario, I think, is for anarcho-capitalism online and states still controlling realspace. If enough of life is online, states end up competing for very mobile taxpayers, so are more like landlords than states.

But the world is changing very rapidly due mostly to technological change, so any prediction is more nearly a guess.

So I cannot be sure that governments and politicians will disappear in 100 years. But I do feel quite confident that governments will get significantly smaller towards the end of the century, possibly sooner. And the possibility that they may actually disappear altogether is at least worth consideration, in my opinion.

In addition to Kurzweil's predictions, there's one very exciting technology we need to discuss, namely internet money (e.g. Bitcoin) and one of its underlying technologies, the blockchain.

I think the internet is going to be one of the major forces for reducing the role of government. The one thing that's missing, but that will soon be developed, is a reliable e-cash.

- Milton Friedman

As he explains in this video, Milton Friedman thought that the Internet, in combination with "a reliable e-cash", would make it harder for governments to collect taxes. He made this statement in 1999. Now, 18 years later, we do have e-cash - in the form of Bitcoin (among others). It may not yet be as reliable as Milton Friedman intended, but we're getting there.

Bitcoin is a form of internet money or e-cash, also called a cryptocurrency. It's a decentralized currency - which means that it's not controlled by a central authority, such as a government, a central bank, or even a company. It's also peer to peer, which means that the two parties to a payment transaction don't need to involve a trusted third party in order to avoid the double spending problem. They only need to trust Bitcoin itself (the Bitcoin software).

The total number of Bitcoins in the world is limited and will never exceed 21 million. At the moment almost 80% of all Bitcoins that will ever exist have been created, and after the year 2140, no more new Bitcoins will be created.

Although new Bitcoins are still being created today, the demand for Bitcoin has increased at a much faster rate than the number of Bitcoins, so the value of a Bitcoin has risen exponentially (with some ups and downs, though), and one Bitcoin is currently valued at more than $4000. Contrary to this, government currencies, like the US dollar, tend to lose value, due to government-controlled expansion of the money supply (the more money in circulation, the less one unit of money will be worth - all else equal).

Bitcoin is not perfect, though; still in its infancy, it's far from a mature technology. I've heard people comparing it to the Internet of the early 1990s. However, it's also not static. It's being improved continuously, something which is absolutely necessary in order to cope with a growing number of users and transactions. Bitcoin also has many competitors, and if Bitcoin isn't able to solve one particular problem, another cryptocurrency probably will and could potentially take over for Bitcoin as the biggest cryptocurrency. Billions of dollars are being invested in these technologies. E-cash is definitely here to stay.

Bitcoin is built on top of the blockchain, which is a distributed database that stores every single payment transaction made with Bitcoins. In other words, every Bitcoin transaction ever made is stored forever, and it's stored on countless computers all around the world, which makes it extremely hard to make fake changes.

These properties - that everything is stored and can't be changed - can be very useful in other areas too, not just for money and payments.

However, it may be hard to implement a successful application using the blockchain without also including a cryptocurrency in the implementation, since an incentive is needed to make people invest the computing power necessary to validate transactions. For Bitcoin it's possible to create new Bitcoins in a process called mining, a digital equivalent to mining gold. When people are mining Bitcoin, they're simultaneously validating transactions. So the Bitcoins they receive as a reward functions as an incentive to validate the transactions.

Keeping this in mind, the blockchain can also be used to keep track of who owns what (ownership). It can be used to store contracts - in Ethereum some types of contracts ("smart contracts") can even be executed automatically when some condition is met. Ethereum, by the way, has implemented its own currency, Ether. It would also be possible to store things like birth certificates, wills, and who is married to who on the blockchain, just to name a few examples.

Today, most governments are heavily involved in these areas, and in some countries this works well, but in other countries where the government may be more corrupt, it unfortunately does not. With the new blockchain technology, people in poor third world countries might finally stop having to worry about their property being confiscated and given to someone else, since, if ownership is logged on the blockchain, they can prove that they're the owner. Secure property rights are extremely important for economic development, so this could actually translate into many more people escaping poverty much faster.

Bitcoin can also provide banking services without a bank, and Bitcoin and the blockchain technology might have a bigger impact in developing countries than in the developed countries - at least in the short term, and especially if transaction fees can be kept low enough. Also, people in countries where the currency experiences runaway inflation will have a great incentive to start using Bitcoin.

Some anarchists believe that Bitcoin and the blockchain technology on its own is going to bring an end to the nation state. I'm not sure how many non-anarchists are of the same belief, so it may be just wishful thinking. Personally, I believe we're going to see the end of governments at some time, but the reason, I think, will be a combination of Bitcoin/blockchain, and other technologies as discussed above.

Jeff Berwick is one anarchist who believes that Bitcoin and blockchain will bring an end to governments:

It goes way beyond just money. Money is important enough. This could be where everything is based, and there's so much innovation going on now. There's a company called BitNation, for example, and they're trying to, essentially, put governance on the Blockchain, so all contracts, all property deeds, everything would be on the Blockchain. They're actually starting in Africa, because many of these countries never had a sort of a system of private property, and a way to have a good system to tell who owns what, and that's why they've had problems for so many years, or even centuries. But they're trying to put that into place.

People start using these sort of systems very quickly. There becomes really no need for government whatsoever, I think there's no need for it now. But for people who think there is some need for it still, contracts, adjudication and things like that, that can all be taken out by these blockchain technologies, so that's why you're seeing billions of dollars actually going into this right now. Many people don't realize it. This is sort of where the Internet was in 1994, is where Bitcoin is in 2015/2016. And I was there for the start of the Internet, so I remember. It's very similar. Your average person still doesn't know what a big deal is going on behind the scenes, but this is going to revolutionize the world. It's not just going to be Bitcoin. In fact, who knows about Bitcoin? It could be gone in a couple of years because the innovation is happening so fast, and there's going to be so many things built on top of this technology, that it's going to change the world.

But what if governments also start using Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies? Maybe they issue their own cryptocurrencies? Could Bitcoin still be a force for smaller governments?

I think Yes. Bitcoin and other non-governmental alternatives would still be available, in competition with the state currencies. That probably means that the inflation rate for the government currencies can't be that high, or else more people will switch to e.g. Bitcoin, which is getting more valuable over time - not less.

So if I can choose between money that appreciates in value or money that gets worth less, all else equal, that's an easy choice. But all else isn't going to be equal, so many people are going to choose government coins over Bitcoin anyway. But the bigger the difference in inflation/deflation, the more people are going to choose Bitcoin.

So it's not unnatural to think that the state, in competition with Bitcoin, will have to lower its inflation rate - create less new money - if they want people to continue to use their money. If they can't create as much money as they would like, the government will lose some of its power - or options. I'm in particular thinking about the option to fight wars in faraway countries, which is arguably the worst and most brutal thing states do.

War is extremely expensive, and if you or I am asked to pay so that our government can make war in the Middle-East, we would probably say No thanks if we could, or we would protest if taxes were raised to finance the war. But the way wars are financed is by creating - or printing - money, which is much less visible to most people. In other words, wars are financed by decreasing the value of the currency. If Bitcoin, as a competitor to government currencies, is able to lead to less inflation in the government currencies, that could actually make it harder for governments to go to war, which could mean less wars and a more peaceful future.


Are there some set of tasks that, no matter how technologically advanced we become, we absolutely need governments to perform? According to the minarchist libertarian position, there should be a government, but it should be limited to protecting the rights of the individual, so it should be responsible for police, courts and national defence, and nothing else. However, both policing services and arbitration is done by private companies today in addition to being done by governments, so it's not such a long stretch to imagine that they could be completely privatized. And in the future, when the world is much wealthier, even more globalized than today, where governments may be really small, where people can get almost everything they need in a decentralized way, and where governments can't finance wars with inflation, then who has anything to gain from war? I think world peace is achievable this century, and then, who needs a military?

So for me, a much more logical end point than minarchy is anarchy, where there is no government at all. And although it may sound terrible to most people right now, I think you won't mind it if/when that future world arrives.

Does anything point towards bigger governments?
OK, I've talked mostly about things that are pointing towards smaller governments in the future. But we should also consider the opposite. What factors could lead to bigger governments, or at least slow the decrease in size? I see two main possibilities in the short to medium term:

  • Universal basic income
    The fear of robots taking over many jobs that are today performed by humans has made the idea of a universal basic income more popular, with some countries and organizations doing experiments with basic incomes. I wouldn't be surprised if it's implemented more broadly in the coming decades. If so, I hope it will be a replacement for existing government welfare programs, not an addition to them.
    If a basic income is implemented as a replacement for the existing welfare programs, that could open up for a private welfare market (since some people will still need more help than what a basic income can provide), where there is competition, leading to better solutions than today's. If that works out well, then in the longer term, government welfare (including basic income) might not be necessary (since it's taken care of by the private sector and also since fewer people will need help, as discussed above).
  • Government pays for rejuvenation treatments
    Since at some point it will be cheaper for governments to pay for rejuvenation treatments than to pay old-age pensions, I don't think it's unlikely that they will offer to pay for rejuvenation treatments in exchange for not paying out pensions. Although the cost of paying for rejuvenation treatments is lower than the cost of paying out pensions, paying for most people's rejuvenation treatments will be a significant cost - at least at first. If there's enough competition despite governments' involvement in the rejuvenation market, prices will continue to decrease over time, and if rejuvenation treatments get affordable for almost everyone, the need for government to pay will also go away.

I'm sure there are several other important items that could point toward bigger governments, but the way I see it, there are far more things about future technologies that are pointing towards smaller governments than towards bigger government. But we'll see. Hopefully, both you and I will be alive to see the actual outcome in 2117.

Do you think governments will disappear? What are your best arguments that we will or will not have politicians and governments in 100 years?

1) I'm not quite sure about the timeframe for downloading knowledge and skills. In his 2005 book The Singularity Is Near, Kurzweil writes: "The nature of education will change once again when we merge with nonbiological intelligence. We will then have the ability to download knowledge and skills, at least into the nonbiological portion of our intelligence. [...] We don't yet have comparable communication ports in our biological brains to quickly download the interneuronal connection and neurotransmitter patterns that represent our learning [...] a limitation we will overcome in the Singularity."

Downloading knowledge and skills instantly into our biological brains is a technology that will be developed in the second half of this century, according to Kurzweil's earlier book, The Age Of Spiritual Machines (1999). However, Nicholas Negroponte (cofounder of the MIT Media Lab and co-creator of Wired Magazine) has predicted that in less than 30 years you may take a pill, which dissolves, goes to the brain via the bloodstream, and alters the brain in just the right ways so that you may learn some topic - the examples he used were English and Shakespeare.

2) From an email conversation, quoted with permission.

How Nanotechnology Can Revolutionize Medicine (Guest Post)

For all its wonders, modern medicine has been insufficient at treating many diseases, and medical advancement has even slowed in recent decades.

And that's where nanotechnology can help! Nanotechnology - technology that deals with dimensions between several atoms and 100 nanometers (1 nanometer = 1 billionth of a meter) - was first proposed in 1959 by Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman in his seminal talk There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom.

Since then, nanotechnology has advanced considerably and is in the process of revolutionizing various industries, from energy to computing.

Arguably the largest potential that nanotechnology holds is in its capabilities to improve medicine.

Nanomedicine Potential
There are many theoretical reasons that nanotechnology will likely be a boon for medicine.

First, nanotechnology deals with manipulating matter on the nanoscale, and most processes of life - including most diseases and aging - fundamentally occur on that scale (biologically, this is the subcellular level).

Under the most technical sense of the word, all life is actually nanotechnology - we're all machines with parts that operate on the nanoscale. It's sensible that the best way to influence processes on this scale is by building our own nanomachines.

Second, nanotechnology allows for unprecedented control over the properties of materials. On the nanoscale, changing the structure of materials allows for tailoring their properties. For instance, changing the size and shape of carbon nanotubes allows for changing them between metals and semiconductors. This is due to peculiarities of quantum mechanics - on small length scales, the magnitudes of these lengths affect how particles (such as electrons) behave.

This is quite different from our human-scale world, where (for example) making a brick twice as big doesn't really change the brick's properties.

More advanced nanotechnology also allows us to create nanosystems where different parts interact with each other on the nanoscale, giving rise to complicated behavior.

By allowing us to tailor the properties and function of materials such that they act the way we want on the subcellular level, nanotechnology presents many opportunities.

While nanomedical research is relatively new, it has already shown many exciting results. One of the most exciting areas of current research is in combating cancer.

Cancer can be thought of as out of control cellular growth. As cancer cells grow and replicate without bound, they eventually interfere with the function of normal cells.

Cancer drugs attempt to attack these cancerous cells. Unfortunately, it's hard to target just the cancer cells, so these drugs are often poisonous to normal cells as well. Dosage is then typically a tradeoff between poisoning cancer cells and poisoning normal cells.

Luckily, nanotechnology can enable much more precise targeting of cancer cells. For example, cancer cells tend to consume lots and lots of Vitamin B9 in an effort to grow quickly. Scientists have created many types of nanoparticles that combine this vitamin and cancer drugs. For instance, both of these have been simultaneously attached to carbon nanotubes.

The resulting nanomedicine acts a bit like a Trojan Horse. The cancer cells eagerly eat up the vitamin, and in the process also consume the toxic drug.

Image: carbon nanotube that is functionalized with a cancer drug (red) and Vitamin B9 (green). Source: Zwicke, G. et al., Nano Rev.

Scientists can also improve the imaging of cancer by additionally attaching imaging agents (such as iron oxide nanocrystals) to these nanoparticles. This would be like if Odysseus gave GPS devices to the warriors inside the Trojan Horse. By monitoring the warriors' movements once inside the city, he could learn the layout of Troy.

Cancer has proven to be a particularly difficult disease to fight. A drug can wipe out 99% of the cancer cells, but the cancer will likely come back, immune to this drug. It's a bit like an arms race, though nanotechnology has shown much progress.

Similar tools have also shown promise in fighting other diseases as well - such as heart disease and Alzheimer's disease. And scientists are making strides in creating, improving, and integrating various nanoscale devices, including: molecular switches, nanomotors, and even simple molecular machines.

Arguably the most impressive examples of nanomedicine today use something known as DNA Origami.

Before we dig into DNA origami, let's quickly review the structure of DNA.

Typically DNA consists of two strands, which are held together by a series of base pairs.

These base pairs have four variations: A, T, G, and C. A binds with T, and G binds with C. So if one strand has a sequence that goes "AATG", it will bind with one that goes "TTAC" (and the two strands are complimentary).

DNA Origami
DNA origami allows for scientists to create arbitrary shapes out of DNA.

To create DNA origami of a particular shape, we first create one long strand that will fill the body of the shape (we have the technology to synthesize DNA in any sequence we want).

The desired shape may require two regions of this long strand (which we will call X and Y) to be next to each other, despite not naturally being next to each other.

In order for the long strand to achieve the desired shape, we would need to "staple" X to Y. We accomplish this using a short "staple strand" of DNA. The staple strand is synthesized such that the beginning of its base pair sequence binds to X and the end of its sequence binds to Y, holding X and Y together.

By creating lots of staple strands that staple the long strand in specific locations, almost any shape can be created.

The first publication about DNA origami (by CalTech Prof. Paul Rothemund in 2006) demonstrated the ability to create various shapes.

Image: various shapes created with DNA origami. Source: Rothemund, P., Nature.

Since then, we've increased our ability to make more and more complicated structures out of DNA origami.

And the really cool thing is that scientists have used this technique to create medical nanorobots.

One group was able to make a chest out of DNA origami. They additionally put strands on the inside of the chest that would bind to specific drugs, keeping the drugs inside the chest. On the "front" of the chest, they put a lock.

The lock consisted of strands that bound the top of the chest to the bottom that were almost complimentary. Imagine how the strand AATG almost binds perfectly to TTCC. So the strands would generally keep the chest shut.

But the strands bound even better to particular molecules that tend to be found in certain cancer cells (the "key"). The idea was that in the presence of these cells, the strands would bind to those molecules instead, opening up, and releasing the drug.

And it worked!

When the scientists tested these nanorobots on cancer cells and healthy cells in a petri dish, they found that in healthy cells, the chest stayed closed, keeping the drugs inside. But in cancer cells, the chest opened, releasing the drugs.

Image: the DNA nanorobot in the closed and open configurations. Note when it's open, there are red blobs attached to the bottom right and top left parts of the "lock." That blob is the "key" that opens the nanorobot, exposing the drugs (pink). Source: Douglas, S. et al., Science.

And more recently, work on DNA origami nanorobots has allowed for even more complicated behavior. Scientists realized the "payload" inside one nanorobot could be the "key" to open another nanorobot. Additional payloads in other nanorobots could clamp further nanorobots shut (not allowing them to open, even in the presence of their keys). By having a swarm of various types of nanorobots, they were able to implement universal computing inside a live cockroach.

Looking To The Future
Extensions of current nanomedicine paints a picture in which increasingly precise and targeted therapies are able to act in more complicated ways - potentially even following sophisticated algorithms.

Where do extensions of these nanotechnologies lead?

In the short and medium term, nanotechnology offers the possibility of treating and even curing many diseases, while decreasing side effects, turning around the recent slow progress in medicine.

In the much longer term, nanotechnology may even allow us to go further than that, combating aging and allowing for human enhancement.

Recent work has demonstrated the possibility of combating aging. When mice were cleared of senescent cells (cells that have "retired" and stopped dividing) via bioengineering methods, these mice lived longer than normal mice. Crucially, these mice further stayed healthier longer.

Image: two mice that are the same age. The one on the left aged normally, while the one on the right was purged of senescent cells, decreasing the effects of aging. Source: Baker, D. et al., Nature.

Aging is, fundamentally, changes in the nanoscale organization of matter in an organism that leads to decreased capabilities and increased chance of death. Much of the ravages of aging may be caused by a genetic program running, though the genetic program itself is stored as the organization of matter on the nanoscale (in DNA).

To the best available knowledge today, there is no theoretical reason that advanced nanotechnology would not be able to reorganize this matter to even reverse the aging process and keep humans as healthy and fit as 25 year olds.

On the augmentation front, the coolest capabilities deal with interfacing with the human brain.

MIT Professor Nicholas Negroponte (cofounder of the MIT Media Lab and co-creator of Wired Magazine) predicts that eventually, nanorobots could access every neuron in your brain through your bloodstream. These nanorobots could allow you to "learn" Shakespeare or French by depositing information in the appropriate places in your brain. (Though Prof. Negroponte also posits that he won't be around to see this - he's 73.)

Similarly, nanorobots within the brain may allow people to experience virtual reality, all while lying down with their eyes closed.

Of course, we're a long way away from these technological capabilities - decades at least. But if 200 years from now you're still alive and living in your own personal virtual utopia created from nanorobots in your brain, you'll have nanotechnology to thank.


Guest post by Daniel Eth. Daniel is a PhD student at UCLA performing computational nanotechnology research. He runs the blog thinkingofutils.com where he posts about science, technology, and economics.

Unhappy or Depressed? In the Future, Everything Will Be All Right!

I fundamentally believe everything will be all right. In fact, I think that the future is going to be much better than any of us could possibly imagine.

Today's world is not perfect - far from it. There are hundreds of millions of depressed or unhappy people and billions suffering from one or more diseases. Actually, if we include mental illnesses and back-pain, but not the common cold, as much as 95% of the world's population had a at least one health problem during 2013, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study! And it even seems like we're getting more sick. According to the same study, the number of individuals with more than ten disorders increased by 52% between 1990 and 2013.

The situation isn't as bad as it sounds, though. We have medicines that can improve the quality of life for many sick people. We're also living longer, and since almost everyone (99.97%, according to the study) above the age of 80 suffers from at least one health condition, increased longevity (which I would say is a good thing) is certainly one of the reasons for the rise in the number of sick people.

But if we look at more than just the number of sick people, we see a much brighter picture. The world is actually moving in the right direction quite fast. There are just so many positive trends. Peter Diamandis has created a web page with a collection of charts visualizing these trends, arranged in eight different categories:

  • Increasing Happiness & Increasing Equality
  • Increase in Safety & Reduction in Violence
  • Increasing Health Abundance
  • Increasing Energy Abundance
  • Reducing Poverty
  • Increasing Technological Abundance
  • Increasing Learning & Literacy
  • Increasing Global Connectivity

Technological progress plays an important role in enabling many of these positive trends, and the rate of technological progress has always been accelerating and will surely continue to do so in the foreseeable future. So if we extrapolate these trends, it's not entirely unlikely that we'll end up with a world that is very nearly perfect. To be sure, there are dangers along the way, so I can't say it's a certainty, but, in my opinion, it is quite likely.

You may be thinking that it's not possible to predict the future. True, no one can know exactly what will happen in the future, but some less specific things can actually be predicted quite confidently, assuming just that no catastrophic events occur. One such less specific thing is the fact that technology is always getting better, which is not a coincidence: Once one person figures out something new, the whole world can eventually benefit from that new discovery. The more new discoveries, the better off we all become, so the fact that we're more than 7 billion people on this planet isn't necessarily a bad thing - quite the opposite, I would say!

You wouldn't think the world was moving much forward if you listen too much to mainstream media. Doing so can be rather depressing. Bad news is what sells, and the media is thus bombarding us with it.

We are all unknowingly addicts. Addicts of bad news. Twenty-four hours per day, seven days a week, the news media is constantly feeding us negative stories on every digital device in their arsenal - our mobile phones, tablets, computers, radio, television and newsfeeds. Every murder, terrorist plot, economic downturn, no matter how remote, is brought to us live, instantly, over and over again.

The reason for this is simple. Our brains are hardwired to pay far more attention to negative news, than positive stories. Millions of years ago as our brains were evolving, if we missed a piece of good news, that was an inconvenience, but missing a piece of bad news could mean the end of your life and your germ-line. For that reason, we've developed portions of our brain that are constantly scanning for bad news and thereafter putting us on high alert. The old newspaper adage, 'if it bleeds, it leads' is as true today as it was a century ago.

But if we compare the world of today with the world a hundred years ago, there's not much doubt that the average human is much better off today. Don Boudreaux would rather be himself today than the world's richest man in 1916. I don't expect that everyone would make the same choice, but I, too, would definitely choose me today!

Why? Well, one thing is that we have so much more advanced technology that's making our lives more convenient and fun, and less painful. Back then, traveling was slow, air-conditioning was uncommon, there was no radio or television, and just a few movies. You could listen to recorded music, but the quality was poor, there was less music to choose from and you couldn't download it from the Internet, because, of course, there was no internet. There were no mobile phones. Medical care was both more painful and less effective, and women had a near 1% chance of dying giving birth.

Honestly, I wouldn't be remotely tempted to quit the 2016 me so that I could be a one-billion-dollar-richer me in 1916. This fact means that, by 1916 standards, I am today more than a billionaire. It means, at least given my preferences, I am today materially richer than was John D. Rockefeller in 1916. And if, as I think is true, my preferences here are not unusual, then nearly every middle-class American today is richer than was America's richest man a mere 100 years ago.

It is just extraordinary to think about how much has happened in as little as 100 years! And it's not going to stop here, of course. On the contrary, the rate of technological progress is going to continue to speed up, and I wouldn't be surprised if 30 years from now, we can similarly say that the average person in 2047 is richer than the richest person in the world today.

Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering at Google, has tried to put some numbers on how big the speed-up in technological progress is. He has said that, if we use the year 2000 as the baseline, in the 21st century we'll see progress equivalent to 20,000 baseline years. He wrote this in the introduction to his 2001 essay, The Law of Accelerating Returns. It may be useful to include the full introduction, as the implications he sees from this incredible speed-up are quite radical:

An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense "intuitive linear" view. So we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century - it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate). The "returns," such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There's even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity - technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.

If Ray Kurzweil is right - or at least about half right - about how much progress there will be in the 21st century, then there's almost no limit to the kinds of problems that can be solved just this century.

And the most important problem to solve is arguably death, and in particular involuntary death, though all deaths are sad. Even the death of someone who wanted to die is sad, because it is sad that he ended up in a position where he wanted to die.

I don't know if we'll ever solve the problem of death completely, but we will come a long way this century.

About two thirds of all deaths worldwide are caused by aging (including age-related diseases), so aging is the most urgent part of the death problem that needs to be solved. And it will be mostly solved within a few decades. A year ago I argued that if you're alive 30 years from then (in 2046), you would have good chances of being alive in a thousand years also. Time will tell, but I don't think I was being too optimistic, as 2016 was another exciting year for rejuvenation science, and for technological progress in general.

Now, think back to 1916 again, and how much less convenient people's lives were back then. But for me, the most important reason I'd rather be me today than a billionaire in 1916, is that nobody - not even John D. Rockefeller - could have any realistic hope of living much beyond 100 years. Many of today's relatively young people, on the other hand, will be able to live virtually forever, avoiding all the age-related diseases and staying completely healthy indefinitely.

Although death may be the most important problem to fix, there are many other problems that need fixing as well, like providing clean water and enough food for everyone, end violence and war, eradicate poverty, disease and depression, and maybe ensure that everyone gets educated.

I think the rationale for fixing all these problems is to make all humans happy and feel good. 1) I also think all these problems are eventually going to be solved, and I think it's going to happen much sooner than most people can even imagine. Just remember, we're more than 7 billion people - we can work on a lot of problems at the same time! Also keep in mind that each different type of technology - like medical technology, artificial intelligence, computer hardware etc - doesn't get developed in a vacuum. Various branches of technology can benefit greatly from advancements in other branches:

Technological convergence is going to lead to unexpected results, it's not enough to say computers are getting faster, it's the fact that computers, and AI and robotics and 3D-printing, and all these technologies are coming together, and converging to change the world.

So, if you're not happy with your life, for whatever reason, you should know that there's a very realistic hope that your life can improve to be really awesome in the future.

The reasons why someone isn't quite happy with their lives could be many, including mental disorders, physical injury or handicap, serious, painful or embarrassing diseases, poor social skills, obesity, loneliness, unattractiveness, old age, or just low status in society compared to others. Below, I'm going to discuss how each of these problems could potentially be fixed in the future:

Depression/general unhappiness
We all seem to have a default genetic happiness level (hedonic set point) which varies from person to person. Permanent changes in life situation can lead to temporary changes in the person's happiness level, but in most cases, the person's happiness level eventually approaches his or her default happiness level.

It's possible to have a very high default happiness level and still function perfectly fine in society, so there's no obvious reason why everyone shouldn't have a high default happiness level. Designer drugs, or, preferably, genetic engineering could be used to raise our happiness levels in the future.

David Pearce has also promoted the idea of tweaking our biology so that we aren't just generally happy, but that we even feel varying degrees of pleasurable feelings at all times. It may sound a little far out at first, and, in any case, abolishing suffering (which includes depression) should have higher priority.

Physical handicap
In the future, it will be possible to heal damaged spines, allowing paralyzed people to walk again. Scientists are experimenting with several different approaches to achieving this. A new material combining graphene and polymer gels has been used to help knit together damaged spinal cords in rats. Stem cell treatment of the corticospinal tract has also been successful in rats. And in monkeys, which are much closer to humans, though it's not actually a repair strategy, a brain implant in combination with electrodes around the spine have allowed paralyzed individuals to walk again.

Some animals are able to regrow lost limbs. Unfortunately, that's not the case for humans. But perhaps there's a dormant genetic program for it buried deep within our genes. If so, it might be surprisingly easy to trick the body into regrowing a lost arm or leg. If not, it could take several additional years to enable limb regrowth. But scientist are working on it today, and Michael Levin has developed a theoretical procedure that might work, though it would probably be slow (could take more than a decade to regrow completely).

Blindness and hearing loss will be cured, as well, of course. Scientists have now been able to connect a camera directly to a person's brain, bypassing the eyes entirely. Electrodes need to be installed on the surface of the brain, so it's a bit of an invasive procedure at the moment. But things will only get better. Eventually, bionic eyes will be better than real eyes, and they could include features such as zoom, and seeing outside the visible spectrum, in infrared and ultraviolet, for example.

When we can cure aging and rejuvenate people, then we will automatically have cured most age-related diseases, which account for about 75% of all Medicare spending in the US.

But there are a lot of other diseases, so being able to cure all of them may seem like wishful thinking. I don't think it's an unrealistic goal, though, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, seem to agree. They're investing $3 billion over the next 10 years with the goal of curing, preventing and managing all diseases within this century. I think it could be possible well before the end of the century, and with their help, it is probably going to happen a little sooner than it otherwise would have.

Old age
If you're old today, there's unfortunately a high risk that you may not live long enough to live forever. There could still be hope, however. There are a few companies around the world that offer cryopreservation of a person's body after he's been pronounced legally dead. The idea is to preserve the body in almost the exact same state it was in following legal death, so that more advanced future technologies can fix the health problems that caused the body to stop working, and then resuscitate the person. The odds of being successfully resuscitated are unknown, but even a 5% chance is a whole lot better than what you get with burial or cremation, which is zero. Cryopreservation is quite expensive, but can often be paid for with a life insurance policy.

Artificial intelligence has improved tremendously in recent years and will eventually be able to mimic humans so well that we aren't going to be able to tell the difference. This means that you can have an AI as your best friend, or even as your lover in virtual reality. Virtual reality, by the way, has the potential to feel just as real as real reality if we can make nano-robots interface directly with the neurons in our brains.

But you may not be satisfied with just artificial friends. There may be a solution for that, as well. Artificial intelligence is going to become orders of magnitude smarter than biological intelligence. What is likely to happen is not that we allow robots to become that much smarter than us, but rather that we also make ourselves smarter by connecting our brains directly, using the Internet, to this vast artificial intelligence - effectively merging with it. What that also allows is for your brain to be connected directly to someone else's brain, allowing the two of you to read each other's minds, to know each other's feelings and really connect on a deeply intimate level.

If you struggle to find friends today, you may have better luck when geographic location doesn't matter. If everyone is connected through the Internet, you could more easily find your soulmate even if she's living on the other side of the planet (or maybe even on Mars...).

Ray Kurzweil predicts we'll be able to connect our brains directly to the Internet within 18 years.

Poor social skills
Social skills are just skills - something you can learn.

And about learning... Don't you think it's a bit annoying that you have to study for 3, 5 or 8 years after high school just to get the degree you want? That it takes tens of hour to read a book? Think about how much more you could learn if you could absorb knowledge ten times faster. Or a hundred times, or a thousand!

It may sound crazy, but there are scientists already today, who are working on technologies that can help us learn faster.

But 30 years from now learning could be done in a radically different way than how we learn today. At the end of this TED talk video from 2014 (when he's interviewed after the actual talk), Nicholas Negroponte says:

[W]e are going to ingest information. You're going to swallow a pill and know English. You're going to swallow a pill and know Shakespeare. And the way to do it is through the bloodstream. So once it's in your bloodstream, it basically goes through it and gets into the brain, and when it knows that it's in the brain and the different pieces, it deposits it in the right places.

Maybe he's not exactly right - maybe it won't actually be a pill, and maybe it'll be 35 years from 2014, not 30, but if we can connect our brains to the Internet, then we are certainly going to find more efficient ways to learn than those that are available today.

So, in less than 30 years, social skills could perhaps be learned effortlessly, by swallowing a pill. But even before we get to that point, there will probably be other technologies that can help us learn things faster. As for learning social skills, maybe virtual reality games that focus on social interaction can help?

Low social status
Although you may in a sense be richer than the richest man 100 years ago, let's face it; you're probably not the richest person in the world. So relatively speaking, you're maybe not that rich. And we humans have a tendency to compare our lives with our neighbors', and if we're not rich relative to other people, many of us aren't as happy as we perhaps could have been. This means that no matter how rich we become in absolute terms, all this wealth in itself is not going to make everyone happy, so there must be another way to achieve more happiness... And there probably is.

One option is to use genetic engineering to raise our default happiness level, as discussed earlier.

Virtual reality could be another option. I think that when virtual reality feels just as real as real reality, or very close to it, virtual reality will become extremely popular. In virtual reality we don't need to have all the restraints that we have in the real world, so you could, e.g., defy gravity or move instantly from one place to another. You could live your life as Superman/Supergirl or a great king or queen in your own virtual world, and you could probably invite other (real) people into your world. But would you truly be happy if you knew it wasn't quite real? I don't know.

If we really do enjoy living in virtual reality, maybe we won't be that interested in exploring the real universe? And maybe that's even the solution to the Fermi paradox? The Fermi paradox states that when there are so incredibly many galaxies, stars and planets, and the universe has existed for as long as it has, why haven't we encountered any aliens. They should have colonized the universe a long time ago. There are many possible explanations to this seeming paradox, but I think I like the virtual reality explanation the most.

According to Ray Kurzweil, people will spend most of their time in full-immersion virtual reality in the 2040s.

Some people really like food and really don't like working out. I don't blame them. 2) And some people gain weight much more easily than others. It would be nice if people could live the lives they wanted without worrying about putting on weight. I think therapies for this could become a reality in the relatively near future.

Mice have already been genetically engineered to lose weight in at least two different ways (probably more): They have been genetically engineered to feel a sense of satiety sooner than they previously did, and they have been genetically engineered to burn fat instead of carbs. I'd be surprised if we don't have similar therapies for humans - therapies that are safe - before 2030.

Attractiveness is subjective, so, to try to be a little bit politically correct here, what really matters is how each person feels about him/herself. So if a person is happy with his/her looks, that's fine, even if the rest of the world should disagree. But if you're not happy with your looks, it would be nice if there'd be some non-invasive way to make you look better in your own eyes, making you feel better about yourself.

Today, plastic surgery is an alternative, but it's a rather invasive procedure. We should be getting less invasive methods that can achieve the same thing in the future. Actually, surgery in general has become less invasive in recent years with more widespread use of keyhole surgery, among other things. Eventually, advanced gene editing, maybe in combination with other forms of nano-technology could be all that's needed.

Another solution is, again, virtual reality where you don't have to look like the real you, but can design your appearance just the way you like. You could even look like an imaginary animal if you want. And you could, of course, change your appearance at any time.

I did not include every single reason why someone might be unhappy with their lives, but progress happens on all fronts, so even if I didn't discuss your particular problem, there's probably cause for optimism anyway!

So, I do think everything will be all right in the future. But not just that - I think the future is going to be insanely amazing! I almost can't wait!

1) When we have the tools for it, we may also want to try to eliminate suffering in non-human animals.

2) I really like food, too. Especially chocolate. Lucky for me, I also enjoy exercising.

Gende skal passere hverandre til hyre. Grunnen er at de ikke skal bli pkjrt bakfra.

Det finnes vel strengt tatt ingen offisielle regler for hvilken side av fortauet man skal g p, men uoffisielt er det definitivt n side (hyre) som er riktigere enn den andre (venstre).

Dessverre er det ikke alle som er klar over dette. Og selv om de fleste heldigvis gr p riktig side, er det er et ganske stort mindretall som gr feil.

Jeg tror mye av rsaken til forvirringen skyldes at vi som barn ble fortalt at vi skal g p venstre side av veien. Og det er forsvidt helt riktig, for da har du kontroll p de bilene som passerer nrmest - de kommer da forfra og ikke bakfra, og du har strre muligheter til komme deg unna hvis en bil holder p kjre deg ned.

Nyaktig samme logikk forteller oss at vi m g p hyre side av fortauet. Bare se her:

P et fortau som er rett ved siden av en bilvei, m man alts g til hyre for at de som gr nrmest veien skal ha kontroll p bilene som passerer nrmest dem.

Ikke alle fortau ligger rett ved siden av en trafikkert vei, og ikke alle steder hvor gende passerer hverandre er fortau... P disse stedene kan man dermed ikke argumentere med faren for bli pkjrt, men hvis man skal g til hyre p vei-nre fortau, er det helt klart enklest forholde seg til samme regel alle andre steder ogs: "G til hyre".

Biler, sykler, bter - ja, til og med svmmere - passerer hverandre til hyre. Da er det klart at gende skal gjre det ogs. Vi har hyre-kjring i Norge - enkelt og greit!

Should we implement a universal basic income before robots take all our jobs?

- Norwegian version: Br vi innfre en borgerlnn fr roboter tar alle jobbene vre?

Many futurists believe we will have a so-called technological singularity around the middle of this century. If so, this means that artificial intelligence will become smarter than biological intelligence (unmodified humans). When this occurs (if it occurs), artificial intelligence will be smart enough to improve itself, and thus become even more intelligent compared to biological intelligence, and this intelligence explosion will happen at an ever-increasing pace.

[T]he first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.

- I. J. Good

Many therefore believe that when/if the technological singularity occurs, robots will take all of our jobs because they can do everything better and cheaper than humans.

But in economics, there is something called comparative advantage, which says that it is efficient that people (and robots) specialize in doing what they are relatively best at. So even if robots would be better at absolutely everything than humans, you still get more done (in a shorter time) if both robots and humans work than if only robots work. The distribution between human and robot jobs should just ("ideally") be arranged so that the sum of what we get done is maximized. 1)

So robots will probably not take all our jobs. In any case, the fact that robots and automation will allow people to work less is really a good thing. As Arthur C. Clarke has said:

The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play.

(Granted, there are some people who like working. This kind of desired employment could here be included in the term "play".)

If robots were to do absolutely all the work, that would presumably mean that everything would be free of charge for humans, which is not really possible since all people cannot have all things at once or all be in the same place at the same time. But maybe we can connect our minds to computers and live like kings or superheroes in our own hyper-realistic virtual worlds. If there's an abundance of computing power, that wouldn't necessarily always have to cost anything. And if we're satisfied with that, we might say that everything is free in practice...

Even if everything's not going to get completely free, or even if we don't get a technological singularity, there's still little doubt that the price of goods and services will fall sharply (measured in the number of hours we have to work to afford them) as a result of more and more automation. We do not need to work as much to survive today as we did 100 years ago. Increased automation and more efficient tools (better technology) are the reasons for this.

So, the number of hours we work per week has fallen significantly over the past 100 years, but the question is whether we could have worked even less if the government didn't control approximately half of our income. 2) Maybe the productivity increase we've seen, rather than making it affordable for people to work less, has allowed the government to grow more?

The transition to a society where people work substantially less than today will thus perhaps not be as rapid as it could or should have been. The consequence might be that we get problems with involuntary unemployment when more and more jobs are automated away. Large groups of people could lose their jobs at about the same time, and if new jobs aren't created fast enough (because there are strict rules for what kind of employment contracts the government allows), it may be difficult for them to find new jobs. This may lead to major riots.

As a solution to this potential problem, many people believe that some kind of guaranteed basic income should be implemented. The size of the basic income could for example vary depending on what you do and how you live, so as to provide incentives for good behavior or self-development/education, which is something Martin Ford has argued for in his book The Lights in the Tunnel. Or it could be an unconditional/universal basic income, given to every citizen.

In theory, I'm not entirely opposed to a basic income. If the basic income would replace all of the complicated and often dysfunctional welfare programs attempting to redistribute money today, that would probably be a huge improvement over the current situation, and it might open up a market for private welfare. 3) But if we look at what has happened in the past, it is unfortunately very likely that a basic income will not replace current welfare programs, but will be an addition to them. For that reason, I am still quite skeptical of a governmental basic income.

A basic income-like solution is perhaps still necessary to prevent riots and chaos?

But governments are, like most large organizations, slow to adapt to new changes. Governments are thus becoming more and more obsolete in a world that is changing ever faster. It is important that the solutions to the challenges we face are constantly adjusted to the world we live in. To adapt quickly is something governments are not so good at.

If there should be redistribution of income, it should therefore not be done by governments using coercion, but voluntarily, by private actors that need to compete with each other for people's trust and money.

I wouldn't have been particularly concerned about riots and chaos if the government didn't enforce so many regulations and severe restrictions on what is allowed - things that limit people's opportunities to find effective solutions to the challenges we face. A free market, where companies constantly appear and disappear and can experiment with countless different solutions, is in a much better place to solve our problems than a large, heavy, bureaucratic government, where everyone's forced to do things the same way.

Some form of basic income may be the best solution, but then again, maybe not. I can't, strictly speaking, know for sure what the best solution is. But what I do know is that if you allow everyone to try out the solutions they personally believe in the most, we will eventually end up with good solutions. How will the government be able to find these good solutions if they don't allow people to experiment..?

So, should we introduce a basic income before robots take all our jobs? Well, for one thing, it's not 100% certain that robots are actually going to take all our jobs, but my opinion is: I don't know. Allow people to figure it out without government interference. I realize, however, that in the short term, it's not realistic that the government will leave this to the free market. Another (not quite as good) alternative is that the government abandon its current welfare programs in favor of some kind of basic income. But it also seems unrealistic that the government is going to get rid of all existing welfare programs... A third possibility is that the government stops regulating what kinds of jobs are allowed and at what pay. That's perhaps not entirely realistic, either? Or maybe the government eventually won't have any other choice but to allow this?

Robots and the future of work is a complex subject. It's therefore quite possible that some of my assumptions are wrong. Maybe there's no need to worry? What are your thoughts? What do you think will happen?

1) A few decades into the future, people will probably connect their brains to artificial intelligence in the "cloud" so as to "merge with" artificial intelligence, so the distinction between humans and machines may not be as sharp as one might get the impression of in the rest of this article.

2) I tried to calculate the total taxes, including sales tax, that I paid to the Norwegian government in 2014. It was about 45%, but 50% may be a more typical number for Norwegian citizens. I wrote about it in this blog post (it's in Norwegian).

3) For some people, e.g. disabled people who need a lot of care, a basic income may not be enough. But if people are willing to pay for a social safety net, there should be a market for private actors to help with this. Today, this is hard for private actors to do, since competing with the government, which has near infinite resources, is very hard. But if the government sticks to just providing a basic income, there will be a level playing field for private actors who would like to provide welfare services on top of that, making it possible to turn a profit. A good thing about having private companies provide welfare services is that there will be competition among them - to make the most money each provider needs to be viewed favorably by the public, otherwise people will just stop paying or go to a different provider.

If you're alive in 30 years, chances are good you may also be alive in 1000 years

- Norwegian version: Hvis du lever om 30 r, er det gode sjanser for at du ogs kan leve om 1000 r

Sounds unlikely? It's not - it's actually quite likely.

The only way to get people to live for a thousand years or more is to develop advanced technologies that can manipulate our bodies down to the cellular and molecular level. So the question is whether humanity will develop the necessary technologies over the next 30 years, or not. Personally, I think it's very close to 100% certain that we'll manage to do this.

That is, we don't have to perfect the technology in 30 years. What we must do is to develop technology that can make old people 10, 20 or 30 years younger, biologically speaking, so an 80-year-old, for example, can get the body of a 60-year-old. In that case, he has bought himself 20 more years of life, and in those 20 years the technology will have progressed even further, so that when he is 100 years and his body again is like an 80-year-old's, he can rejuvenate more than 20 years. In all likelihood we will take treatments more often than once every 20 years, and if so, the remaining life expectancy can be illustrated like this:

Image by Aubrey de Grey (I think)

The figure is not entirely accurate, partly because people aged 100 years and 0 years clearly don't have the same remaining life expectancy today, and also because the curves would be more jagged (since it might go some time between each treatment), but it still illustrates the point well: the numbers above the curves represent how old the person is today (today is all the way to the left in the figure), and if the curve hits the horizontal line at the bottom (the time axis), the person is dead. According to the figure, then, a person who's 80 years old today will have difficulty living forever, while a typical 50-year-old might just make it.

Normally, the remaining life expectancy of a person goes down as time passes and the person gets older. When someone is 50 years old, for example, one thinks that they have a shorter remaining life expectancy than when the person was 30. In the figure that means that the curve always slopes downward towards 0 (the horizontal line) as time passes. But in the future, better technology will cause life expectancy to start increasing: The older we get, the longer we can actually expect to live. In the figure this is illustrated by the curve turning and starting to slope upwards.

It would therefore theoretically be possible to live indefinitely without getting an old body, but not only is it possible for many of us, it is possible even if the technology isn't progressing particularly fast. For it is, like I said, not necessary for the technology that can make us younger to be perfect in 30 years, it only needs to work well enough that we can live long enough to benefit from the technology that will be developed after that. Looking at it like this, it doesn't really take all that much to get people to live for more than 1,000 years.

Many might still be skeptical of the notion that technology will progress fast enough over the next 30 years. Will we be able to rejuvenate people by about 20 years, biologically speaking, in such a relatively short time span? I am almost certain that the answer to that question is Yes.

Because technology will advance fast - very fast.
With a few assumptions, such as the Earth not being hit by a large asteroid, some aspects of the future can actually be predicted with a high degree of certainty. One of these is that we will have more efficient technology in the future than today. It's even become apparent that just how much better the technology will be is also quite easy to predict - in certain areas. The best known example of this is perhaps Moore's Law, which states that the number of transistors on an area doubles every two years. More generally, the amount of computing power we can buy for a fixed amount of money doubles in a relatively short span of time. 1) This was true long before we got transistors (Moore's Law), and it will probably also hold true after it is no longer possible to increase the number of transistors per area. At that point some other technology with significantly greater potential will take over for transistors.

The time it takes to double computers' performance is only half the time it takes to double the number of transistors per area, for since the spacing between transistors is shorter, it also takes less time for signals to move between them. Thus, the performance of computers doubles, not every other year, but every single year!

The fact that the performance of computers does not increase linearly, but actually doubles at regular intervals, is very important. Those who know the history of the inventor of the game of chess know how few doublings are needed before we get to very large numbers: If we take the number 1 as the starting point, 10 doublings take us to about 1000, 20 doublings get us to a million and 30 doublings from the number 1 take us to a little over one billion. If the price performance of computers doubles every year, the price performance will thus be a billion times better in 30 years than it is today. At that point it's virtually just the imagination that limits what we can achieve with all that computing power.

If we examine how computing power per constant dollar has evolved since the year 1900, we will see that the time between each doubling is actually shorter now than it was 100 years ago. If this trend continues and we extrapolate the trend all the way to the end of this century, we might get a development that looks something like this: 2)

Image from Ray Kurzweil's book The Singularity is Near - When Humans Transcend Biology

Note that the y-axis is logarithmic - each of the marked values on the y-axis is actually 100,000 times greater than the previous one. A straight line pointing upwards in a logarithmic plot corresponds to an exponential (explosive) increase. The amount of computing power we can buy for a given amount of money increases even faster than this!

Computers aren't just getting faster, they are also becoming smarter and can do more and more of the things we previously thought only humans could do. In 1997, the world's best chess player, Garry Kasparov was defeated in chess by a computer. In 2011, two of the world's best Jeopardy players were defeated in Jeopardy by Watson, a supercomputer developed by IBM. So with increased computing power and better algorithms computers have become smarter and smarter. The progress has been very rapid, and if it continues, machine intelligence will at some point not only be faster, but also become smarter than human/biological intelligence. Machine intelligence will then be able to make improvements to itself without input from humans. Ray Kurzweil, whom Bill Gates has called the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence, and who works as director of engineering at Google, is perhaps the best-known futurist, and he has said that this will happen by the year 2045. 2045 is less than 30 years away.

Sure, computers are getting better, but how's that relevant for making people younger?
We take advantage of computers in ever more areas of our lives. According to Ray Kurzweil, as soon as something becomes an information technology, it starts progressing according to Moore's Law. The technology thus begins to progress exponentially, with regular doublings in performance. An information technology is a technology that uses computers extensively. In recent decades, biology and medicine has to an increasing extent started to become an information technology. With computers we can now, among other things:

  • Read human genes.
  • Edit genes with CRISPR/Cas9, a revolutionary technology that has been adopted by laboratories worldwide. Still better technologies for gene editing are under development.
  • 3D print some human organs.
  • Create a physical chromosome designed on a computer. Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute did this in 2010, before putting the chromosome into a cell where it caused the cell to start dividing.
  • Diagnose diseases better than human doctors, based on image files, description of symptoms and information about the patient. (The Watson supercomputer has, among other things, been used for this purpose after its Jeopardy victory.)
  • Measure the body's health condition using small sensors. Do you remember that relatively small device the Star Trek doctors scanned their patients with to diagnose them? In Star Trek, they called it a Tricorder. The X Prize Foundation has an ongoing competition where the goal of the participating teams is to create a Tricorder-like device that can be used to diagnose a few diseases, 16 of them to begin with. The aim is to give people, even in poor parts of the world, easy access to their own health information. Patients must therefore be able to use the Tricorder to diagnose themselves with ease.

So medicine is about to become an information technology, and that's the main reason why we can expect medical technology to advance exponentially in the future.

The more advanced our technology becomes, the smaller sized computers we're able to make, and in the long term we can envisage mini computers the size of red blood cells. We can have billions of these in our blood, and they can act as an artificial immune system that continuously helps our natural immune system to fix things that have gone wrong. In the long term this may be the way we will be controlling the aging process, but fortunately it's not necessary with technology that advanced in order to repair aging damage 'well enough' in the short term.

Most aging researchers agree that there's only about seven fundamental reasons why we age. Aubrey de Grey, the best-known advocate for defeating aging and Chief Science Officer of SENS Research Foundation 3), a charitable organization working to fight aging, stated already more than ten years ago that even without revolutionary new technologies there was about a 50% chance that we would be able, within 25 years, to repair the seven types of aging damage well enough to increase people's life expectancy by 25-30 years.

For this to be achievable in just 25 years, the level of funding would have to be very good, according to de Grey. Thus far, the funding has been far from as good as one might hope for, but important progress has been made, nonetheless, and 2015 was a good year for aging research. Private firms are now trying to develop treatments for four (perhaps soon to be five) of the seven categories of aging damage. Simply removing old "zombie cells" (senescent cells - cells that have stopped dividing, but that aren't being recycled by the immune system) has led to a 25% increase in longevity in mice. Actually, two different companies are now working to develop treatments to remove this type of harmful cells in humans, Unity Biotechnology and Oisin Biotechnology. The more firms competing to develop treatments, the greater the likelihood that someone succeeds, so this is very promising!

So considering how far we've come already and how fast technology is improving and can be expected to improve in the future, I don't think there's any doubt that we'll have the aging process under control in less than 30 years. Maybe 30 years is too cautious an estimate, even. Ray Kurzweil has said that already by 2030, life expectancy will increase by one year per year, and I actually won't be very surprised if he's right. But everyone in the world won't get access to the technology as early as Kurzweil estimates, which is why nearly 30 years might still be closer to the truth for most people?

Is it inevitable that we'll be living much longer lives in the future?
Living a long time is closely linked to being healthy. As long as you have good health, you are not going to die of aging. No matter how skeptical some people are today to the idea of people living lives of more than 1,000 years, I think most of them will still choose good health if they can. No one wants to get cancer, dementia or heart problems. One would have to be pretty principled if one refuses to take the anti-aging treatments that in the future can provide us with much better health, when most other people around us are taking them. It is in everyone's interest to develop these treatments and to have good health. 4) Technology trends indicate that the treatments will arrive soon, and, yes, it is virtually inevitable!

And we're not going to extend human life expectancy to a mere 150 years. It may well be that new, still unknown, types of aging damage will be found to be important when people start approaching 150 years of age, but given the incredibly fast pace of technological progress, at the time when the first humans will be 150 years old, it's going to be easy to figure out how to repair these new types of aging damage. So if you've made it to 150, you're "over the hump" (a long time ago), and then there's simply no limit to how long you can live.

1) An important reason why technological progress is speeding up as rapidly as it is, is that we're developing more and more effective tools, and with more effective tools, we're in turn able to develop even more effective tool.

2) But isn't the pace of technological progress eventually going to slow down? Maybe, but Ray Kurzweil (who thinks people are going to improve themselves by "merging" with the technology we're developing) thinks it's going to be a very long time until that's going to happen. In his essay The Law of Accelerating Returns, he writes:

Can the pace of technological progress continue to speed up indefinitely? Is there not a point where humans are unable to think fast enough to keep up with it? With regard to unenhanced humans, clearly so. But what would a thousand scientists, each a thousand times more intelligent than human scientists today, and each operating a thousand times faster than contemporary humans (because the information processing in their primarily nonbiological brains is faster) accomplish? One year would be like a millennium. What would they come up with?

Well, for one thing, they would come up with technology to become even more intelligent (because their intelligence is no longer of fixed capacity). They would change their own thought processes to think even faster. When the scientists evolve to be a million times more intelligent and operate a million times faster, then an hour would result in a century of progress (in today's terms).

3) Donate to SENS Research Foundation.

4) Many people might think that the Earth will be overpopulated if we stop dying. That's far from certain.

This blog post has also been discussed on Reddit (/r/Futurology, /r/singularity) and Hacker News.

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Jeg har blitt intervjuet p Ole Landfalds podcast. Vi snakket om fremtidens teknologi, bekjempelse av aldring og frihet: