How to apply evolutionary biology to extend your lifespan

Here is the actual reason we grow old and die. Are you ready? It’s brutal:

Let’s say there is a 2% chance that any given primitive human will die from external events each year. He might get eaten by a bear, starve to death, have a bad fall and get left behind by his tribe, get clubbed in the head, lost in the woods, etc. We can get the probability of not having been killed by an external event as (chance of being alive)^(age)
For example, at age 10 that is .98^10=81%, age 30 is 54%, 70 is 24%, 100=13%.

For any given unit of energy and nutrition, the genome can either invest in current reproductive potential or preserving the body for future reproductive potential.
For a 10-year-old, his reproductive potential is in the future so the body will invest most resources in self-maintenance.
For a 30 year old, the genome will balance the energy directed to self-maintenance and for preservation for future reproduction.
Since most humans will die by 70 due to an external event, the self-preservation mechanisms will not optimize for either.
The genome just doesn’t “care” at this point, since most of the hosts carrying its instructions are already dead. That’s when (and why) the body begins to rapidly fall apart.

One key mechanism for this process is in the cellular tumor antigen p53, mutations of which cause the majority of cancers in humans. There is a tradeoff between anti-cancer mechanisms and energy expenditure since cell-malfunction detection uses energy. Species which obtain an evolutionary benefit from long lives have much better cancer-prevention mechanisms. That’s why the naked mole rat (which lives in underground colonies) is resistant to all forms of cancer and can live for many decades while mice (which are food for many predators) live for two years.

So, the reason that we die from old age is that your genome expects you to be dead from an external cause after a few decades and does not care about keeping you alive.

Applying this logic, here are some ideas for living longer by manipulating your genes:
We can’t change our genome, but we can influence gene expression by manipulating environmental inputs. As previously stated, if your genes think that your reproductive years are in the future, they will allocate more resources to self-maintenance than reproduction.
The simplest way for men to do that is with castration: a study of Korean eunuchs showed them to live 14.4- to 19.1-years longer than the lifespan of non-castrated men of comparable social standing.
For women, studies show that the later a woman gets her first period, the older she will be when she goes into menopause and the longer she is likely to live. “Early” puberty in girls is caused mainly by excess calorie consumption and is linked to obesity. Furthermore, women stop having periods when their calorie budget does not support a pregnancy – this sends a signal to preserve resources for the future.
Doing this voluntarily is known as a calorie-restriction diet. Calorie restriction in ants, mice, fish, flies, worms, and yeast has been proven to dramatically boost their lifespan, and there is now a well-supported body of evidence that periodic fasting and low-calorie diet has anti-aging properties in humans. It works for males and females, perhaps because genes want to preserve the body for the future, and because the genes of starving men assume that the women in their tribe must also be starving.
An easier strategy of signaling to your genes that your reproductive potential is in the future is to adopt youthful behaviors. The body does not have an odometer, so the genome must rely on proxies for age, and by acting like youths, we might trigger age protective factors in the genome. Common behaviors of primitive children might be: plenty of sleep, physical play, taking care of small children, lack of stress, and learning new skills.
Richard Dawkins “The Selfish Gene” for speculation on signaling youthful behavior


A Libertarian case for a civic duty to support open immigration

1: Nations don’t have rights. Only people have rights.
2: People have a right to exclude others from their property for any reason. They have no right to exclude people from other’s property or to prevent their association.
3: In the case of infrastructure, public or private, the proper policy is to allow all peaceful people to access it freely.
4: Therefore, all States ought to have a policy of Open Immigration: no restriction of the free movement of labor. Passports and citizenship should be eliminated from our laws and vocabulary. The free movement of peaceful people across borders is a fundamental human right.
5: Therefore, restrictions on immigration violate the rights of both immigrants and those who would allow them on their property, whether it is employers, friends, spouses, or neighbors.
6: Residency in a State does not confer a moral right to another’s property or the right to make decisions about other people’s property (i.e. the right to vote). This applies whether one was born in a State or moved there.
7: Two wrongs do not make a right: the fact that we allow residents of a country to vote or collect stolen goods (welfare) does not justify using violence to restrict the free movement of peaceful labor.
8: A society must apply certain fundamental ethical and legal principles in its laws. The right to decide which principles determine its laws (i.e. participate in the political process) should be restricted to those who have proven themselves trustworthy and of sound judgment, and have the incentives to uphold their nation’s principles — regardless of how they came to live in that society.
9: The right to participate in the political process should be based on objective legal criteria, such as age, property ownership, net worth, or material contribution to certain public services.

10: As citizens, we have a few civic responsibilities to our country. We don’t owe them because we were born or grew up here. Rather, our duty comes from a selfish desire for a better life for ourselves and those we care for.  Among these, is the duty to assist in emergencies, to testify against criminals, to serve on a jury when asked, and most importantly, to speak on behalf of principles which make our civilization possible and denounce those who erode it.
It’s for this last reason that everyone who values American values, civilization, and just law ought to denounce the vicious campaign against immigrants.

More: the case for open immigration in a nutshell

What if we paid for restaurants like we pay for school?

Sending my daughter a Montessori school costs about $15,000 per year. We have two daughters and plan a third child so we may be paying $45,000 per year for some time to send three kids to private school. The cost is worth it because I do not believe that public schools are capable of preparing children for success in life. My own experience as an honors student in a “quality” public school made me hate learning, failed to prepare me for college, and was a miserable social experience.

I don’t mind paying for my children’s education. What I mind is that I still have to pay for government schools that my children will never use.

Imagine if we applied this reasoning to food:

“People must eat to live, so we will force everyone to pay for Golden Corral buffets.
If you don’t like Golden Corral, you can eat somewhere else. You still have to pay for everyone else to eat Golden Corral though because Food is a Right.
If people could choose which restaurant they want to pay, Golden Corral might not have enough money to keep its buffet stocked, and people would go hungry.
Anyway, since you can afford to pay for Golden Corral *and* Five Guys, you must be rich, so paying for your and other kids meals must not be a problem for you. Also, Five Guys must take a portion of what you pay them and send it to Golden Corral, via property taxes on their building.

By the way, you can try to make food at home, but if Golden Corral’s Food Inspector does not like it, he will abduct your family and force feed them Golden Corral. After all, Everyone Must Eat.”

Censorship vs community standards: classifying content moderation on the Internet

The following hierarchy attempts to classify different levels of content moderation (or censorship, depending on the context) in order to encourage a more productive discussion on how social networks ought to regulate content.

Six Levels of Internet Content Moderation

Level 1: Anything goes
Examples: email before spam filters, darknet networks

Level 1 networks have no content filtering whatsoever. Many networks start out this way during the development/testing phase. Level 1 networks must inevitably evolve to level 2 as they become popular in order to deal with spammers.

Level 2: Content which disrupts core functionality prohibited
Examples: Bitcoin, modern BitTorrent aggregators, some root-level domain extension (.com,.net),

Level 2 networks implement protections against behavior which disrupts core network functionality. For example:
* Email has added protocols to discourage and filter spam (IP blacklists, SPM, DKIM, CAN-SPAM)
* Although though The Pirate Bay flouts copyright law, it has strong protections against fake and mislabeled torrents.
* Each Bitcoin transaction cost a small amount of Bitcoin in order to discourage “dust” transactions (spam and DDOS attacks).
* Participants in Darknet markets such as the Silk Road review vendors in order to discourage fraud

Level 3: Illegal content prohibited
Examples: Internet infrastructure services such as Amazon Web Services, Cloudflare, GoDaddy, Google Cloud, some root-level domain extension (.edu,.gov)

Level 3 networks prohibit behavior and content which is illegal within their jurisdiction. For example, CloudFlare will provide DNS and firewall services to sites that are racist, homophobic, violate copyright law, etc, as long as they do not violate U.S. law.

Prohibiting “illegal” content can be tricky because the World Wide Web is global, but laws operate within a complex geographic system. For the most part, this results in prohibition of content which violates the laws of the region where the site is hosted.

Level 4: Abusive content prohibited (“Community standards”)
Examples: Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest

Level 4 networks go beyond prohibiting content which is merely illegal and implement a set of (officially) uniform rules. These rules might ban “disruptive” or “abusive” behavior. The definition of what is “abuse” varies, but in principle, level 4 moderation is the freedom to express an opinion is respected as long as it is not “harmful” to another person or group. For example, on Reddit, you can say that you don’t like certain ethnic groups, but you would be banned for publishing the address or photo of a specific representative of “victim” groups. (Note: Individual subreddits are free to impose much more restrictive rules.)

Level 5: Unorthodox content prohibited (“Only politically correct content allowed”)
Examples: Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest (???)

Level 5 networks go beyond level 4 in that they not only prohibit content which is intended to harm specific people or groups, but also certain ideas, views, theories or ideologies which are not harmful or abusive of a specific group.
Arguably, the examples above have started to engage in occasional level 5 moderation, while claiming to only apply level 4. For example, Facebook banned all links to a site which hosts plans to 3d printed weapons. Links to the site did not violate any law of specific Facebook rule (the links were banned as “spam”, even when posted to one’s own profile.) Twitter and Facebook often ban rude behavior and namecalling of minorities.
The recent ban of Alex Jones could be classified as level 5 moderation, though I’m not familiar with which specific content caused the ban

Level 6: Only high-quality content permitted (“Walled garden”)
Examples: New York Times, Apple App Stores

Level 6 networks are “whitelist” rather than “blacklist” networks and impose strict content filtering rules. For example, apps submitted to the Apple App Store must meet strict technical and content criteria, including bans on politically-sensitive or adult-only content. Newspapers and individual blogs are level 6 networks since they only publish content approved by their editors.


The above is meant to be merely a factual description of the categories of online moderation. Below are my opinions about the appropriate level of moderation for various networks. This level is dependent on factors such as the business model and specific use case of a given network. There is a lot more I could say on this topic, but I will conclude with a set of general principles:

Five principles for appropriate content moderation on the Internet

  1. Basic Internet infrastructure (HTTP,TCP/IP,SMTP,Bitcoin) ought to impose level 2 moderation. This is both for the above reason, as well as the fact that laws differ between nations and infrastructure is the wrong place to reach a consensus on which laws ought to be enforced. Attempting to impose regional laws on infrastructure leads to the lowest common denominator being enforced, which effectively happened when GPDR Compliance had to be applied globally or EU citizens banned because most online services do not have the technical means to selectively enforce it.
  2. There is a place for Level 2 communities. The Internet ought to have a place to allow content to be posted regardless of legal status. Actual law (what politicians legislate) and just law (laws that respect people’s rights) often differ and providing a space for corruption and malicious actors to be exposed is a valuable service of the Internet, even if comes with territories such as markets for stolen credit goods, child pornography, and others. It’s important to remember “darknet” networks are merely resistant to censorship and de-anonymization, not immune from law enforcement.
  3. Social networks need to decide if they are infrastructure or content moderators. If they are infrastructure, they ought to practice Level 3 moderation. If they want to present “the best content” to users, they ought to explicitly adopt level 6 standards.
  4. Level 5 moderation is not always wrong, but ought to be limited to ideologically-explicit communities. For example, religious and political groups (such as this site!) are entirely right to impose ideological restrictions on content. Broad-based social networks aimed at society large (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) should not practice level 5 moderation.
  5. Moderation should always be explicit. I personally experienced the harmful impact of censorship disguised as technical errors in mainland China. It is disappointing to see similar practices now being done by Facebook when ideologically-sensitive content is marked as “spam” or links added to posts fail to render due to “technical error.”

Seven reasons why Facebook is wrong in their censorship of

Seven reasons why Facebook is wrong and dishonest in their censorship of Code Is Free Speech dot com:
1: Code Is Free Speech dot com only hosts free and publicly-available information (how to build a weapon using a 3d printer) and does not sell any prohibited products or services.
2: The website is protected by both the first amendment (freedom of speech) and the second (freedom to bear arms). Prohibition of the information on the site is unconstitutional. As a business, Facebook is not bound by the U.S. Constitution, but as an American company, it ought to respect it.
3: It is misleading to say that as a private business, Facebook is merely imposing their community standards. Facebook probably censored the site because their political/legal team fears real censorship from Congress if they do not act independently, just as Hollywood censors movies because of the explicit threat that Congress will do so otherwise. Private censorship under implied threat is still censorship.
4: By labeling links to the site as “spam” and “malicious” Facebook is lying to their customers, since the links I post to my own profile cannot be spam (by definition, they are not unsolicited), and the site hosts no “malicious” malware (I personally checked it).
5: None of the actions the site enables are illegal. It is not illegal in the U.S. to build non-prohibited weapons for personal use or to distribute information on how to do so. Information on how to build weapons can be found at your local library. While courts have issued an (unconstitutional) order to prohibit an unrelated site from publishing this information, the site in question is not subject to any such order, and Facebook has not been prohibited from publishing links to any such site.
6: The right to self-defense is a fundamental human right. All freedom-loving people and businesses out to support the people’s right to protect their loved ones from harm. It is proper to condemn companies which take a stand against basic human rights.
7: The way Facebook has chosen to block the site resembles the dishonest way that totalitarian regimes censor the web. For example, the Chinese government does not censor the Internet directly. It directs (nominally private) ISP to censor connections to prohibited sites in a way that mimics technical problems. You will not see a “this site is banned” message when you try to visit Facebook in China. Your web browser will report one of a variety of technical errors in trying to reach the site. Many sites are partially or intermittently blocked, or access is simply degraded. As a result, many Chinese are not even aware that 90% of the foreign Internet is censored. The way Facebook has chosen to censor links to the site mimics this approach and sets a dangerous precedent for the future. The people have a right to know when they are denied their freedom of speech.

Against “gender-neutral parenting”

Parents have a responsibility to teach their children gender-normative behavior for the same reasons that they ought to teach their kids good manners.

Manners, customs, and fashions serve to create a social environment in which the behavior of other people is predictable and facilitates cooperation. While many aspects of culture can vary dramatically without any social impact (ethnic foods, dance outfits), there needs to be a consensus on other aspects of optimal social function. Some manners are arbitrary whereas others have an objective basis. For example, greeting others is objectively important for conflict avoidance, whereas whether we shake hands, or touch noses is arbitrary. Yet there needs to be a consensus even on arbitrary customs when they facilitate critical social functions. You are expected to dress up for an interview or funeral, even if the definition of “dressed up” is different in Wall Street, San Fransisco, or Hawaii. Attending an interview while sloppily dressed creates uncertainty about the applicant’s future behavior: does he lack culture, respect, or work ethic?

The above is merely to say that it is important for customs and manners to be broadly in consensus in a society or community.  We have to judge other people in order to understand their intentions and establish relationships. Customs provide the language by which we mediate our relationships. We can teach our children to be open-minded in the sense of being open to new ideas and different ways of life. However, they still need an inner framework to establish healthy relationships.

In the case of gender, extensive research has shown that boys and girls have biological predispositions to gender-specific behavior. Boys play with cars and girls play with dolls mainly because of biological reasons (though the exact mechanism may be unknown), not cultural ones. Other gender differences are purely cultural. Girls wear dresses and ponytails and prefer pink mostly due to historical chance. Thus, if we want girls and boys to adopt these gender-normative customs, they have to be taught. This usually happens automatically and unconsciously when parents, relatives, and friends encourage gender-normative customs.

My point is that this is a good and necessary aspect of our culture for the same reasons that teaching children to say “hello” and “thank you” is necessary. Without such direction, customs would become unpredictable, causing other people’s behavior to become unpredictable, and civilization to erode.

Men and women specifically need modalities of interaction to temper undesirable aspects of our sexual drives. Primitive human societies without such customs tend to engage in perpetual violence, both between males and in male-female relations. Animal societies which lack culture entirely are far more brutal, for example, by routinely killing or expelling young offspring when a new dominant male takes over. Culture and established gender norms were invented by man to keep such violence and chaos in check.  Having said that, the vast majority of boys and girls are prewired to accept gender-normative customs, and eager to adopt them.

The above is not a comment on transgender people. It is a comment on parents who attempt to raise their children in a “gender-neutral” way. There is no such thing — biology will assert itself one way or another. All that “gender neutral” parenting accomplishes is to fail to educate their child on an important aspect of social interaction and cooperation and handicap them in their future social relationships.  I am not suggesting that parents ought to raise children to behave exclusively in stereotypical gender-normative ways.   I’m suggesting that parents should (1) acknowledge inherent sex differences between girls and boys and (2) prepare them for successful social and romantic relationships.

(Reposted from my Facebook post)

Is Bitcoin a help or a hindrance to criminals?

From my Quora answer:

The way this question is phrased is problematic.

Are pencils useful to criminals? They can be used to write down schemes for robbing banks, kidnapping letters, etc.

What about guns? Weapons give criminals an edge in committing crimes.

Of course, pencils and guns can be used against criminals as well. Most people would agree that it’s a good idea that weapons exist (even if you think that only the policy and military should have them) — otherwise, the strongest bullies could force their will on everyone else, and society would collapse.

So what you should really ask is – will Bitcoin lead to more crime or less?

Arguments for more crime:

* The quasi-anonymous nature of Bitcoin makes it very convenient for extortion payments, bribes, etc.

* Stealing Bitcoin can be easier than stealing cash given that it is portable, easy to transfer, the transactions are irreversible, etc.

Arguments for less crime:

Governments steal far more than common criminals by inflating the money supply and collecting taxes. Bitcoin makes it impossible to steal by inflating the money supply (of Bitcoin) and makes it harder to collect exorbitant taxes.

For example, read:

Why are Venezuelans mining so much bitcoin?
Inflation at 8900% Turns Venezuelans to Bitcoin In Record Volumes

* If Bitcoin is properly secured (on hardware wallets, in a vault, in your head), it can be harder to steal. Again, most theft is committed by governments, especially in the developing world, and cash is a lot easier to find that properly protected cryptocurrency.

How many cryptocurrencies will survive the infancy period?

Reposted from Quora:

The best way to estimate how many cryptocurrencies will survive the infancy period is to look at other markets.

For example, how many social networks survived the infancy period?

Facebook has 63% market share:

If you use a stricter definition of “social network” to mean “feed-based platforms based around personal profiles” Facebook has over 99.8% market share. Google+ and Diaspora are well under 1%.

What about Search Engines? Google has 87% market share.

What about Desktop Operating Systems? Windows has 82%.

What emerges from looking at these and other markets is that network effects lead to a dominant player, a secondary minor player, and about three competitors with marginal market share.

However, if you expand the definition of the market, the picture can change dramatically. For example, if you include mobile device in the “operating systems” market, Android is #1 at 41. Likewise, Facebook’s dominance varies from 60% to 99.8% based on how strictly you define “social network.”

Let’s apply these insights to cryptocurrencies:

A single dominant cryptocurrency is likely to emerge with 90%+ market share. Given the strong network effect of money and the probable lack of nation-state restrictions on adoption (unlike the USD), the dominance may be over 99%.

However, if we expand the market definition to “cryptographic assets” or “digital assets” then we need to include tokens and securities such as Ethereum and ERC20 tokens. This expanded definition may see the leader’s share drop to 60–70%.

Why the US desperately needs open borders to avoid economic disaster

Reposted from Quora:

I would argue the USA desperately needs open borders to avoid economic disaster.

Consider that:

1: There are 11 million ordinary, hard-working people willing to risk their lives and prison time to create a better life for their families.

2: There are 11 million American business owners who need hard-working non-professional workers desperately enough to break the law

3: US immigration law makes it nearly impossible for honest, hardworking non-professionals to become Americans legally.

Why are American businesses so desperate for workers that they are willing to break the law? There is a record number of unfilled positions in small businesses. America’s population is aging, and this will cause severe economic problems due to the unsustainable nature of our welfare programs.

The chief problem is the USA has been surviving on IOUs for decades, funding wars and welfare programs with debt. Trump’s budget means the welfare-warfare state is more unsustainable than ever, and within a decade, baby boomers will bankrupt social security and other programs.

The USA must have young, hard-working immigrants to avoid economic collapse. Illegal immigrants are even better since they pay into social security and Medicare/Medicaid taxes, but are ineligible to collect benefits.

The free movement of labor across borders is the single most beneficial variable in the US economy:

“According to the paper Economics and Emigration: Trillion-Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk? (2011) by Michael Clemens at the Center for Global Development, open borders could lead to a one-time boost in world GDP by about 50-150%.

Want a global economic boom? Open the borders

” typical workers in developing countries would see annual wages more than double, from an average of $8,903 today to $19,272 with open borders. That is, the typical worker in the third world would end up making about double the individual poverty line in the United States today. “

A world of free movement would be $78 trillion richer

Capitalism is (mostly) made from love

A car drove by today with the words “wealth is just stuff” plastered all over it. There is nothing wrong with “stuff” but this claim is wrong. Wealth is mostly made of love.

Most wealth is business ownership, not iPhones, Porsche, and private jets. Rich people stay rich because they invest the majority of their wealth in companies rather than fritter it all away on material possessions. Most business value comes from the relationships and goodwill it generates, not “stuff.”

For example, why is Apple worth $500 billion?

If you sold all the land, buildings, and computers that are the property of Apple Inc, you will not get back 1% of Apple’s value. The “stuff” behind wealth isn’t worth much.

Apple is valuable because of the relationships that its employees have with each other.
Apple is valuable because its employers love their jobs and the company they work for.
Apple is valuable because its customers (like me!) love its products.

Without loving employees or loving customers, Apple would be worthless – just a pile of “stuff” on dirt lots.
Capitalism is (mostly) made from love.