More People, Better Earth — Part 3

{Read part 2 here.}

How much of the great scientific advances involve random guess work and wild conjectures? Would that be zero percent or 10 percent? How much of technological progress depends on luck, serendipity and accidental discovery? Would that be 20 percent?

The answer is 100 percent. Scientific progress is made by pure guesses. The process is simplicity itself. Some random person makes a random guess about some random subject that happens to interest him. Then he works out the logical implications of that guess, and then announces that the world is this way, and people try to prove the whole thing wrong, and if nobody is successful in proving it wrong, it gets accepted to be true of the world, and the guy who started with that random guess is called a scientist.

The popular perception of science and technology as enterprises where luck and guesswork are not involved is 100 percent wrong. Continue reading “More People, Better Earth — Part 3”

More People, Better Earth — Part 2

{Read part 1 of this series.}

There is a pervasive persistent popular misconception. It goes this way: that the world is like cows grazing on a pasture. If there are a lot more cows than the pasture can sustain, then at some point given enough time, the cows will deplete the available grass and the pasture will be exhausted and that will be the end of the story.

This is obviously logically true. But that’s because cows don’t increase the capacity of the pasture; they only deplete it. Cows don’t have the ability because they don’t have brains that develop technology to increase the carrying capacity of the pasture. But humans are not cows. Humans have the ability to increase the capacity of the land they have by inventing resources they need.

Recall that resources don’t exit in nature. All resources are human-made. Sure nature provides the raw materials but they only becomes resources after humans invent appropriate technology that transforms stuff into resources. Continue reading “More People, Better Earth — Part 2”

More People, Better Earth — Part 1

One of the more compelling reasons for understanding how the world works is that it helps in reasoning ourselves out of wrong ideas. I speak from personal experience. Among all sorts of wrong ideas, I used to think that overpopulation was one of the reasons that some countries are poor. The logic was not wrong — only the underlying assumptions were wrong. I wasn’t any stupider than I am today. I was only less informed about what the world is about than now. Now I know better only because I have had the time and the inclination to learn how the world is.

The logic of something can be water-tight but if you begin with wrong premises, the conclusion will be wrong. You have to get the premises right to have any hope of reaching correct logical conclusions. Continue reading “More People, Better Earth — Part 1”

Freedom to Discriminate

Anirudh asked:

What about a hospital that denies treatment to a person based on their race/religion? What about a hospital that agrees to treatment or waive off the bill, subject to the condition that the customer convert to their religion?

That was in response to my post on “Anti-discrimination Laws” where I stated my position on the matter  —

I have two, and only two, rules with regards to discrimination: First is that every entity (individual and collective) should have the freedom to discriminate to its heart’s content without interference from third parties. The second is that the government must be strictly forbidden to discriminate against any person or group. Continue reading “Freedom to Discriminate”

Anti-discrimination Laws

gb asked:

1. What is your opinion on Anti-Discrimination Laws on hiring and firing in a free market?

I have two, and only two, rules with regards to discrimination: First is that every entity (individual and collective) should have the freedom to discriminate to its heart’s content without interference from third parties. The second is that the government must be strictly forbidden to discriminate against any person or group. Continue reading “Anti-discrimination Laws”

Life Expectancy, Happiness, Etc.

Abhilash asked a number of questions:

We are repeatedly talking about life expectancy. But as per my understanding, long back there were many people who lived hundreds of years, right? Not only that in today’s world even if life expectancy has increased, are we living a happy and satisfied life? Probably because the resources available here are not enough or because we are not satisfied with that, we have started looking at other planets. This is what our forefathers were also doing, right? That is the reason why we have reached this level of comfort. It is true that, with the advent of technology things started evolving fast. But the process of evolution is there from the very beginning. Like Meet mentioned, since they were not aware of the comforts that will come in the future, they might not have felt that their life is detrimental. What is your thought on this?

Here are my thoughts on the matter in the order the questions were presented. Continue reading “Life Expectancy, Happiness, Etc.”

Property Rights – Revisited

In a comment to a previous post on property rights, Anirudh wrote:

If a person is his own private property, then what is stopping him from selling himself into slavery or into some sort of debt bondage? Isn’t it a slippery slope to base your opposition to slavery in terms of property rights?

First of all, self-ownership is axiomatically true. Meaning, you either accept it as self-evidently true and need no further proof; or you reject the self-ownership axiom and admit that it is both possible and permissible to own persons. In the latter case, as I have claimed before, we are talking about a society that admits slavery and therefore not the society that we aim to have or aim to explain the workings of. It is not morally permissible to own people. Continue reading “Property Rights – Revisited”

Property Rights

In a comment to the post “All Questions Considered” Anirudh asked:

Why should we have private property rights? Why is it considered a natural right or a fundamental human right? Are there cases where it makes sense to have shared or public land ownership?

Let’s start at the beginning. What’s property? Anything that can be owned is property. The stuff you have around you is property — someone (perhaps you) owns that stuff. Is the street lamp property? Yes but it is probably owned by the city, and not some specific person.

Private property is what is owned by an individual or an association of private individuals (such as a private corporation.) Public property is property owned by a public corporation or owned in common. Open access commons such as a pasture or a fishery (anyone can graze his cattle, or anyone can fish) is public property. Continue reading “Property Rights”

Our out-of-date Instincts

Many of our instincts have passed their sell-by date. They had a very long shelf-life but now after a few million years, they’ve expired. They are no longer good for what they were designed for. Why so? Because the world has changed and our brains have not.

Our distant ancestors (homo homo) evolved around 2.5 million years ago. Then ~250,000 years ago we, anatomically modern humans (home sapiens) arrived on the scene. Our brains have been evolving for a very long time and all during that time we lived in a world that was quite different from the modern world.

The first humans were nomadic hunter-gatherers. Only in the ~10,000 years did they settle down into groups of around 150 individuals or so, and began agriculture. To a first approximation, we’ve only been hunter-gathers living hand to mouth. Continue reading “Our out-of-date Instincts”

Betrayed by our Intuition

In the previous post, I presented an argument with two premises and asked if the conclusion in the third statement was logically valid. I repeat the argument here:

        1. Roses are flowers.
        2. Some flowers fade rapidly.
        3. Therefore, some roses fade rapidly.

Is that a valid logical argument?

Certainly we know from experience that some roses do fade rapidly. But that empirical fact does not matter here. We are concerned with the validity of the conclusion given the two premises.

As a matter of pure logic, the conclusion in (3) does not follow. Therefore the argument is invalid.