Peter Thiel talks about stuff at Cato Unbound magazine.
I remain committed to the faith of my teenage years: to authentic human freedom as a precondition for the highest good. I stand against confiscatory taxes, totalitarian collectives, and the ideology of the inevitability of the death of every individual. For all these reasons, I still call myself â€œlibertarian.â€
Like most immortalist libertarians, Peter wants to connect together immortalism with libertarianism, boosting libertarian transhumanism. In transhumanism, the battle between socialists and libertarians is one of endless “excitement” to old-timers and confusion to journalists trying to report on the movement.
Let me comment that most restrictions on freedom come from finite resources. The development of simple self-replicating factories, fed perhaps by acetylene, water, and the Sun, ought to render irrelevant most of the awfully boring debates between libertarian and social democratic transhumanists.
See my interview with Robert Freitas for more on this angle. Dale Carrico calls this superlative vision the “programmable poly-purpose self-replicating room-temperature device”. I argued before with Richard Jones that molecular manufacturing doesn’t need to be room-temperature to be revolutionary, it can even require temperatures around absolute zero. Even if all MNT fails, we can still use synthetic biology for high-throughput manufacturing, including for organic electronics, if we can’t use synthetic biology to create atomically precise inorganic patterns.
Patri Friedman makes the argument elsewhere on the Cato Unbound site: direct political activism is pointless, instead try spending your time on developing new technologies that alter the web of incentives that dictate how the whole game is played. This could apply to democratic socialism as well.
Back to Peter again, he basically says that since libertarianism ain’t working in the current environment, it’s time to go to cyberspace, outer space, and seasteading to deal with the lack of authentic freedom. Patri’s article mentions that he thinks that full jack-in to cyberspace won’t be possible in the near future, but I disagree. I would consider immersive VR plausible by 2025, CRNS (Current Rate No Singularity). Even today, games like Crysis are approaching realistic visual scenes. Speakers and projectors will soon be made that are small enough to fit in a helmet lightweight enough that you can put it on and not remember too easily that you’re wearing a helmet. The mass popularity of WoW and SecondLife should be an indicator that massively shared worlds are a step away from becoming truly mainstream, but people are still being skeptical. While being filmed recently for a documentary on virtual worlds, I said the turning point will be when mass amounts of people can legitimately make money by doing real work in the context of such worlds. Work like mechanical engineering, not like designing gothic virtual clothing.
As for outer space, it’s back to that same criticism I was talking about in my recent posts on space. In the near term, where near term means decades from when mass space travel becomes feasible, which is decades away CRNS, space travel will just get you more political attention, not less. The only reason that the asteroid belt gets so little attention right now is that no one lives there. In his essay, Peter points out that the Heinlein sci-fi future won’t be here for a bit:
We must redouble the efforts to commercialize space, but we also must be realistic about the time horizons involved. The libertarian future of classic science fiction, Ã la Heinlein, will not happen before the second half of the 21st century.
That is the vision that so many transhumanists and readers of this blog hold to, because they were raised on that stuff and it serves as the core of their selfhood. Only now are they beginning to adopt the view that Marshall T. Savage articulated in 1992 and I’ve been going on about since founding this blog: that the future is right here in exotic places on the planet, not in outer space. Libertarians as a whole have been particularly slow to pick up on this, preferring to fantasize about space, requiring leaders like Thiel and Friedman to slap them upside the head and yank them along, saying, “this is what we’re doing now”. Why so tremendously slow?
Thiel continues on to say:
The future of technology is not pre-determined, and we must resist the temptation of technological utopianism â€” the notion that technology has a momentum or will of its own, that it will guarantee a more free future, and therefore that we can ignore the terrible arc of the political in our world.
This notion of technological utopianism is pretty much the vision championed by Kurzweil: technology is a quasi-spiritual force advancing independently of individual human choices, and we can deal with unfriendly AI by ensuring that markets around the world are free. Right.