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libertarianism | Definition, Doctrines, History, & Facts …

Libertarianism, political philosophy that takes individual liberty to be the primary political value. It may be understood as a form of liberalism, the political philosophy associated with the English philosophers John Locke and John Stuart Mill, the Scottish economist Adam Smith, and the American statesman Thomas Jefferson. Liberalism seeks to define and justify the legitimate powers of government in terms of certain natural or God-given individual rights. These rights include the rights to life, liberty, private property, freedom of speech and association, freedom of worship, government by consent, equality under the law, and moral autonomy (the ability to pursue ones own conception of happiness, or the good life). The purpose of government, according to liberals, is to protect these and other individual rights, and in general liberals have contended that government power should be limited to that which is necessary to accomplish this task. Libertarians are classical liberals who strongly emphasize the individual right to liberty. They contend that the scope and powers of government should be constrained so as to allow each individual as much freedom of action as is consistent with a like freedom for everyone else. Thus, they believe that individuals should be free to behave and to dispose of their property as they see fit, provided that their actions do not infringe on the equal freedom of others.

Liberalism and libertarianism have deep roots in Western thought. A central feature of the religious and intellectual traditions of ancient Israel and ancient Greece was the idea of a higher moral law that applied universally and that constrained the powers of even kings and governments. Christian theologians, including Tertullian in the 2nd and 3rd centuries and St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, stressed the moral worth of the individual and the division of the world into two realms, one of which was the province of God and thus beyond the power of the state to control.

Libertarianism also was influenced by debates within Scholasticism on slavery and private property. Scholastic thinkers such as Aquinas, Francisco de Vitoria, and Bartolom de Las Casas developed the concept of self-mastery (dominium)later called self-propriety, property in ones person, or self-ownershipand showed how it could be the foundation of a system of individual rights (see below Libertarian philosophy). In response to the growth of royal absolutism in early modern Europe, early libertarians, particularly those in the Netherlands and England, defended, developed, and radicalized existing notions of the rule of law, representative assemblies, and the rights of the people. In the mid-16th century, for example, the merchants of Antwerp successfully resisted the attempt by the Holy Roman emperor Charles V to introduce the Inquisition in their city, maintaining that it would contravene their traditional privileges and ruin their prosperity (and hence diminish the emperors tax income). Through the Petition of Right (1628) the English Parliament opposed efforts by King Charles I to impose taxes and compel loans from private citizens, to imprison subjects without due process of law, and to require subjects to quarter the kings soldiers (see petition of right). The first well-developed statement of libertarianism, An Agreement of the People (1647), was produced by the radical republican Leveler movement during the English Civil Wars (164251). Presented to Parliament in 1649, it included the ideas of self-ownership, private property, legal equality, religious toleration, and limited, representative government.

In the late 17th century, liberalism was given a sophisticated philosophical foundation in Lockes theories of natural rights, including the right to private property and to government by consent. In the 18th century, Smiths studies of the economic effects of free markets greatly advanced the liberal theory of spontaneous order, according to which some forms of order in society arise naturally and spontaneously, without central direction, from the independent activities of large numbers of individuals. The theory of spontaneous order is a central feature of libertarian social and economic thinking (see below Spontaneous order).

The American Revolution (177583) was a watershed for liberalism. In the Declaration of Independence (1776), Jefferson enunciated many liberal and libertarian ideas, including the belief in unalienable Rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness and the belief in the right and duty of citizens to throw off such Government that violates these rights. Indeed, during and after the American Revolution, according to the American historian Bernard Bailyn, the major themes of eighteenth-century libertarianism were brought to realization in written constitutions, bills of rights, and limits on executive and legislative powers, especially the power to wage war. Such values have remained at the core of American political thought ever since.

During the 19th century, governments based on traditional liberal principles emerged in England and the United States and to a smaller extent in continental Europe. The rise of liberalism resulted in rapid technological development and a general increase in living standards, though large segments of the population remained in poverty, especially in the slums of industrial cities.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many liberals began to worry that persistent inequalities of income and wealth and the tremendous pace of social change were undermining democracy and threatening other classical liberal values, such as the right to moral autonomy. Fearful of what they considered a new despotism of the wealthy, modern liberals advocated government regulation of markets and major industries, heavier taxation of the rich, the legalization of trade unions, and the introduction of various government-funded social services, such as mandatory accident insurance. Some have regarded the modern liberals embrace of increased government power as a repudiation of the classical liberal belief in limited government, but others have seen it as a reconsideration of the kinds of power required by government to protect the individual rights that liberals believe in.

The new liberalism was exemplified by the English philosophers L.T. Hobhouse and T.H. Green, who argued that democratic governments should aim to advance the general welfare by providing direct services and benefits to citizens. Meanwhile, however, classical liberals such as the English philosopher Herbert Spencer insisted that the welfare of the poor and the middle classes would be best served by free markets and minimal government. In the 20th century, so-called welfare state liberalism, or social democracy, emerged as the dominant form of liberalism, and the term liberalism itself underwent a significant change in definition in English-speaking countries. Particularly after World War II, most self-described liberals no longer supported completely free markets and minimal government, though they continued to champion other individual rights, such as the right to freedom of speech. As liberalism became increasingly associated with government intervention in the economy and social-welfare programs, some classical liberals abandoned the old term and began to call themselves libertarians.

In response to the rise of totalitarian regimes in Russia, Italy, and Germany in the first half of the 20th century, some economists and political philosophers rediscovered aspects of the classical liberal tradition that were most distinctly individualist. In his seminal essay Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth (originally in German, 1920), the Austrian-American economist Ludwig von Mises challenged the basic tenets of socialism, arguing that a complex economy requires private property and freedom of exchange in order to solve problems of social and economic coordination. Von Misess work led to extensive studies of the processes by which the uncoordinated activities of numerous individuals can spontaneously generate complex forms of social order in societies where individual rights are well-defined and legally secure.

Classical liberalism rests on a presumption of libertythat is, on the presumption that the exercise of liberty does not require justification but that all restraints on liberty do. Libertarians have attempted to define the proper extent of individual liberty in terms of the notion of property in ones person, or self-ownership, which entails that each individual is entitled to exclusive control of his choices, his actions, and his body. Because no individual has the right to control the peaceful activities of other self-owning individualse.g., their religious practices, their occupations, or their pastimesno such power can be properly delegated to government. Legitimate governments are therefore severely limited in their authority.

According to the principle that libertarians call the nonaggression axiom, all acts of aggression against the rights of otherswhether committed by individuals or by governmentsare unjust. Indeed, libertarians believe that the primary purpose of government is to protect citizens from the illegitimate use of force. Accordingly, governments may not use force against their own citizens unless doing so is necessary to prevent the illegitimate use of force by one individual or group against another. This prohibition entails that governments may not engage in censorship, military conscription, price controls, confiscation of property, or any other type of intervention that curtails the voluntary and peaceful exercise of an individuals rights.

A fundamental characteristic of libertarian thinking is a deep skepticism of government power. Libertarianism and liberalism both arose in the West, where the division of power between spiritual and temporal rulers had been greater than in most other parts of the world. In the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), I Samuel 8: 1718, the Jews asked for a king, and God warned them that such a king would take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day. This admonition reminded Europeans for centuries of the predatory nature of states. The passage was cited by many liberals, including Thomas Paine and Lord Acton, who famously wrote that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Libertarian skepticism was reinforced by events of the 20th century, when unrestrained government power, among other factors, led to world war, genocide, and massive human rights violations.

Libertarians embrace individualism insofar as they attach supreme value to the rights and freedoms of individuals. Although various theories regarding the origin and justification of individual rights have been proposede.g., that they are given to human beings by God, that they are implied by the very idea of a moral law, and that respecting them produces better consequencesall libertarians agree that individual rights are imprescriptiblei.e., that they are not granted (and thus cannot be legitimately taken away) by governments or by any other human agency. Another aspect of the individualism of libertarians is their belief that the individual, rather than the group or the state, is the basic unit in terms of which a legal order should be understood.

Libertarians hold that some forms of order in society arise naturally and spontaneously from the actions of thousands or millions of individuals. The notion of spontaneous order may seem counterintuitive: it is natural to assume that order exists only because it has been designed by someone (indeed, in the philosophy of religion, the apparent order of the natural universe was traditionally considered proof of the existence of an intelligent designeri.e., God). Libertarians, however, maintain that the most important aspects of human societysuch as language, law, customs, money, and marketsdevelop by themselves, without conscious direction.

An appreciation for spontaneous order can be found in the writings of the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu (6th century bce), who urged rulers to do nothing because without law or compulsion, men would dwell in harmony. A social science of spontaneous order arose in the 18th century in the work of the French physiocrats and in the writings of the Scottish philosopher David Hume. Both the physiocrats (the term physiocracy means the rule of nature) and Hume studied the natural order of economic and social life and concluded, contrary to the dominant theory of mercantilism, that the directing hand of the prince was not necessary to produce order and prosperity. Hume extended his analysis to the determination of interest rates and even to the emergence of the institutions of law and property. In A Treatise of Human Nature (173940), he argued that the rule concerning the stability of possession is a product of spontaneous ordering processes, because it arises gradually, and acquires force by a slow progression, and by our repeated experience of the inconveniences of transgressing it. He also compared the evolution of the institution of property to the evolution of languages and money.

Smith developed the concept of spontaneous order extensively in both The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). He made the idea central to his discussion of social cooperation, arguing that the division of labour did not arise from human wisdom but was the necessary, though very slow and gradual, consequence of a certain propensity in human nature which has in view no such extensive utility: the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another. In Common Sense (1776), Paine combined the theory of spontaneous order with a theory of justice based on natural rights, maintaining that the great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government.

According to libertarians, free markets are among the most important (but not the only) examples of spontaneous order. They argue that individuals need to produce and trade in order to survive and flourish and that free markets are essential to the creation of wealth. Libertarians also maintain that self-help, mutual aid, charity, and economic growth do more to alleviate poverty than government social-welfare programs. Finally, they contend that, if the libertarian tradition often seems to stress private property and free markets at the expense of other principles, that is largely because these institutions were under attack for much of the 20th century by modern liberals, social democrats, fascists, and adherents of other leftist, nationalist, or socialist ideologies.

Libertarians consider the rule of law to be a crucial underpinning of a free society. In its simplest form, this principle means that individuals should be governed by generally applicable and publicly known laws and not by the arbitrary decisions of kings, presidents, or bureaucrats. Such laws should protect the freedom of all individuals to pursue happiness in their own ways and should not aim at any particular result or outcome.

Although most libertarians believe that some form of government is essential for protecting liberty, they also maintain that government is an inherently dangerous institution whose power must be strictly circumscribed. Thus, libertarians advocate limiting and dividing government power through a written constitution and a system of checks and balances. Indeed, libertarians often claim that the greater freedom and prosperity of European society (in comparison with other parts of the world) in the early modern era was the result of the fragmentation of power, both between church and state and among the continents many different kingdoms, principalities, and city-states. Some American libertarians, such as Lysander Spooner and Murray Rothbard, have opposed all forms of government. Rothbard called his doctrine anarcho-capitalism to distinguish it from the views of anarchists who oppose private property. Even those who describe themselves as anarchist libertarians, however, believe in a system of law and law enforcement to protect individual rights.

Much political analysis deals with conflict and conflict resolution. Libertarians hold that there is a natural harmony of interests among peaceful, productive individuals in a just society. Citing David Ricardos theory of comparative advantagewhich states that individuals in all countries benefit when each countrys citizens specialize in producing that which they can produce more efficiently than the citizens of other countrieslibertarians claim that, over time, all individuals prosper from the operation of a free market, and conflict is thus not a necessary or inevitable part of a social order. When governments begin to distribute rewards on the basis of political pressure, however, individuals and groups will engage in wasteful and even violent conflict to gain benefits at the expense of others. Thus, libertarians maintain that minimal government is a key to the minimization of social conflict.

In international affairs, libertarians emphasize the value of peace. That may seem unexceptional, since most (though not all) modern thinkers have claimed allegiance to peace as a value. Historically, however, many rulers have seen little benefit to peace and have embarked upon sometimes long and destructive wars. Libertarians contend that war is inherently calamitous, bringing widespread death and destruction, disrupting family and economic life, and placing more power in the hands of ruling classes. Defensive or retaliatory violence may be justified, but, according to libertarians, violence is not valuable in itself, nor does it produce any additional benefits beyond the defense of life and liberty.

Despite the historical growth in the scope and powers of government, particularly after World War II, in the early 21st century the political and economic systems of most Western countriesespecially the United Kingdom and the United Statescontinued to be based largely on classical liberal principles. Accordingly, libertarians in those countries tended to focus on smaller deviations from liberal principles, creating the perception among many that their views were radical or extreme. In the early 21st century, self-identified libertarians constituted a major current of the antigovernment Tea Party movement in the United States. However, explicitly libertarian political parties (such as the Libertarian Party in the United States and the Libertarianz Party in New Zealand), where they did exist, garnered little support, even among self-professed libertarians. Most politically active libertarians supported classical liberal parties (such as the Free Democratic Party in Germany or the Flemish Liberals and Democrats in Belgium) or conservative parties (such as the Republican Party in the United States or the Conservative Party in Great Britain); they also backed pressure groups advocating policies such as tax reduction, the privatization of education, and the decriminalization of drug use and other so-called victimless crimes. There were also small but vocal groups of libertarians in Scandinavia, Latin America, India, and China.

The publication in 1974 of Anarchy, State, and Utopia, a sophisticated defense of libertarian principles by the American philosopher Robert Nozick, marked the beginning of an intellectual revival of libertarianism. Libertarian ideas in economics became increasingly influential as libertarian economists, such as Alan Greenspan, were appointed to prominent advisory positions in conservative governments in the United Kingdom and the United States and as some libertarians, such as James M. Buchanan, Milton Friedman, F.A. Hayek, and Vernon L. Smith, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics. In 1982 the death of the libertarian novelist and social theorist Ayn Rand prompted a surge of popular interest in her work. Libertarian scholars, activists, and political leaders also played prominent roles in the worldwide campaign against apartheid and in the construction of democratic societies in eastern and central Europe following the collapse of communism there in 198991. In the early 21st century, libertarian ideas informed new research in diverse fields such as history, law, economic development, telecommunications, bioethics, globalization, and social theory.

A long-standing criticism of libertarianism is that it presupposes an unrealistic and undesirable conception of individual identity and of the conditions necessary for human flourishing. Opponents of libertarianism often refer to libertarian individualism as atomistic, arguing that it ignores the role of family, tribe, religious community, and state in forming individual identity and that such groups or institutions are the proper sources of legitimate authority. These critics contend that libertarian ideas of individuality are ahistorical, excessively abstract, and parasitic on unacknowledged forms of group identity and that libertarians ignore the obligations to community and government that accompany the benefits derived from these institutions. In the 19th century, Karl Marx decried liberal individualism, which he took to underlie civil (or bourgeois) society, as a decomposition of man that located mans essence no longer in community but in difference. More recently, the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor maintained that the libertarian emphasis on the rights of the individual wrongly implies the self-sufficiency of man alone.

Libertarians deny that their views imply anything like atomistic individualism. The recognition and protection of individuality and difference, they contend, does not necessarily entail denying the existence of community or the benefits of living together. Rather, it merely requires that the bonds of community not be imposed on people by force and that individuals (adults, at least) be free to sever their attachments to others and to form new ones with those who choose to associate with them. Community, libertarians believe, is best served by freedom of association, an observation made by the 19th-century French historian of American democracy Alexis de Tocqueville, among others. Thus, for libertarians the central philosophical issue is not individuality versus community but rather consent versus coercion.

Other critics, including some prominent conservatives, have insisted that libertarianism is an amoral philosophy of libertinism in which the law loses its character as a source of moral instruction. The American philosopher Russell Kirk, for example, argued that libertarians bear no authority, temporal or spiritual, and do not venerate ancient beliefs and customs, or the natural world, or [their] country, or the immortal spark in [their] fellow men. Libertarians respond that they do venerate the ancient traditions of liberty and justice. They favour restricting the function of the law to enforcing those traditions, not only because they believe that individuals should be permitted to take moral responsibility for their own choices but also because they believe that law becomes corrupted when it is used as a tool for making men moral. Furthermore, they argue, a degree of humility about the variety of human goals should not be confused with radical moral skepticism or ethical relativism.

Some criticisms of libertarianism concern the social and economic effects of free markets and the libertarian view that all forms of government intervention are unjustified. Critics have alleged, for example, that completely unregulated markets create poverty as well as wealth; that they result in significant inequalities of income and wealth, along with corresponding inequalities of political power; that they encourage environmental pollution and the wasteful or destructive use of natural resources; that they are incapable of efficiently or fairly performing some necessary social services, such as health care, education, and policing; and that they tend toward monopoly, which increases inefficiency and compounds the problem of inequality of income and wealth.

Libertarians have responded by questioning whether government regulation, which would replace one set of imperfect institutions (private businesses) with another (government agencies), would solve or only worsen these problems. In addition, several libertarian scholars have argued that some of these problems are not caused by free markets but rather result from the failures and inefficiencies of political and legal institutions. Thus, they argue that environmental pollution could be minimized in a free market if property rights were properly defined and secured.

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libertarianism | Definition, Doctrines, History, & Facts …

Libertarianism – The Information Philosopher

Libertarians believe that strict determinism and freedom are incompatible. Freedom seems to require some form of indeterminism.”Radical” libertarians believe that one’s actions are not determined by anything prior to a decision, including one’s character and values, and one’s feelings and desires. This extreme view, held by leading libertarians such as Robert Kane, Peter van Inwagen and their followers, denies that the will has control over actions.Critics of libertarianism properly attack this view. If an agent’s decisions are not connected in any way with character and other personal properties, they rightly claim that the agent can hardly be held responsible for them.A more conservative or “modest” libertarianism has been proposed by Daniel Dennett and Alfred Mele. They and many other philosophers and scientists have proposed two-stage models of free will that keep indeterminism in the early stages of deliberation, limiting it to creating alternative possibilities for action.Most libertarians have been mind/body dualists who, following Ren Descartes, explained human freedom by a separate mind substance that somehow manages to act in the physical world. Some, especially Immanuel Kant, believed that our freedom only existed in a transcendental or noumenal world, leaving the physical world to be completely deterministic. Religious libertarians say that God has given man a gift of freedom, but at the same time that God’s foreknowledge knows everything that man will do.In recent free will debates, these dualist explanations are called “agent-causal libertarianism.” The idea is that humans have a kind of agency (an ability to act) that cannot be explained in terms of physical events. One alternative to dualism is called “event-causal libertarianism,” in which some events are uncaused or indeterministically caused. Note that eliminating strict determinism does not eliminate causality. We can still have events that are caused by indeterministic prior events. And these indeterministic events have prior causes, but the prior causes are not sufficient to determine the events precisely. In modern physics, for example, events are only statistical or probabilistic. We can call this soft causality, meaning not pre-determined but still having a causal explanation.Still another position is to say that human freedom is uncaused or simply non-causal. This would eliminate causality. Some philosophers think “reasons” or “intentions” are not causes and describe their explanations of libertarian freedom as “non-causal.” We can thus present a taxonomy of indeterminist positions. It is claimed by some philosophers that libertarian accounts of free will are unintelligible. No coherent idea can be provided for the role of indeterminism and chance, they say. They include the current chief spokesman for libertarianism, Robert Kane. 1 The first libertarian, Epicurus, argued that as atoms moved through the void, there were occasions when they would “swerve” from their otherwise determined paths, thus initiating new causal chains. The modern equivalent of the Epicurean swerve is quantum mechanical indeterminacy, again a property of atoms. We now know that atoms do not just occasionally swerve, they move unpredictably whenever they are in close contact with other atoms. Everything in the material universe is made of atoms in unstoppable perpetual motion. Deterministic paths are only the case for very large objects, where the statistical laws of atomic physics average to become nearly certain dynamical laws for billiard balls and planets.Many determinists are now willing to admit that there is real indeterminism in the universe. 2,3 Libertarians should agree with them that if indeterministic chance was the direct direct cause of our actions, that would not be freedom with responsibility.Determinists might also agree that if chance is not a direct cause of our actions, it would do no harm. In which case, libertarians should be able to convince determinists that if chance provides real alternatives to be considered by the adequately determined will, it provides real alternative possibilities for thought and action. It provides freedom and creativity.Libertarians should give the determinists, at least the compatibilists, the kind of freedom they say they want, one that provides an adequately determined will and actions for which we can take responsibility.

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Libertarianism – The Information Philosopher

Libertarianism (metaphysics) – Wikipedia

Libertarianism is one of the main philosophical positions related to the problems of free will and determinism, which are part of the larger domain of metaphysics.[1] In particular, libertarianism, which is an incompatibilist position,[2][3] argues that free will is logically incompatible with a deterministic universe and that agents have free will, and that, therefore, determinism is false.[4] In the early modern period, some of the most important metaphysical libertarians were Ren Descartes, George Berkeley, Immanuel Kant, and Thomas Reid.[5] Roderick Chisholm was a prominent defender of libertarianism in the 20th century,[6] and contemporary libertarians include Robert Kane, Peter van Inwagen and Robert Nozick.

The first recorded use of the term “libertarianism” was in 1789 by William Belsham in a discussion of free will and in opposition to “necessitarian” (or determinist) views.[7][8]

Metaphysical libertarianism is one philosophical view point under that of incompatibilism. Libertarianism holds onto a concept of free will that requires the agent to be able to take more than one possible course of action under a given set of circumstances.

Accounts of libertarianism subdivide into non-physical theories and physical or naturalistic theories. Non-physical theories hold that the events in the brain that lead to the performance of actions do not have an entirely physical explanation, and consequently the world is not closed under physics. Such interactionist dualists believe that some non-physical mind, will, or soul overrides physical causality.

Explanations of libertarianism that do not involve dispensing with physicalism require physical indeterminism, such as probabilistic subatomic particle behavior a theory unknown to many of the early writers on free will. Physical determinism, under the assumption of physicalism, implies there is only one possible future and is therefore not compatible with libertarian free will. Some libertarian explanations involve invoking panpsychism, the theory that a quality of mind is associated with all particles, and pervades the entire universe, in both animate and inanimate entities. Other approaches do not require free will to be a fundamental constituent of the universe; ordinary randomness is appealed to as supplying the “elbow room” believed to be necessary by libertarians.

Free volition is regarded as a particular kind of complex, high-level process with an element of indeterminism. An example of this kind of approach has been developed by Robert Kane,[9] where he hypothesises that,

In each case, the indeterminism is functioning as a hindrance or obstacle to her realizing one of her purposesa hindrance or obstacle in the form of resistance within her will which has to be overcome by effort.

Although at the time quantum mechanics (and physical indeterminism) was only in the initial stages of acceptance, in his book Miracles: A preliminary study C. S. Lewis stated the logical possibility that if the physical world were proved indeterministic this would provide an entry point to describe an action of a non-physical entity on physical reality.[10] Indeterministic physical models (particularly those involving quantum indeterminacy) introduce random occurrences at an atomic or subatomic level. These events might affect brain activity, and could seemingly allow incompatibilist free will if the apparent indeterminacy of some mental processes (for instance, subjective perceptions of control in conscious volition) map to the underlying indeterminacy of the physical construct. This relationship, however, requires a causative role over probabilities that is questionable,[11] and it is far from established that brain activity responsible for human action can be affected by such events. Secondarily, these incompatibilist models are dependent upon the relationship between action and conscious volition, as studied in the neuroscience of free will. It is evident that observation may disturb the outcome of the observation itself, rendering limited our ability to identify causality.[12] Niels Bohr, one of the main architects of quantum theory, suggested, however, that no connection could be made between indeterminism of nature and freedom of will.[13]

In non-physical theories of free will, agents are assumed power to intervene in the physical world, a view known as agent causation.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21] Proponents of agent causation include George Berkeley,[22] Thomas Reid,[23] and Roderick Chisholm.[24]

Most events can be explained as the effects of prior events. When a tree falls, it does so because of the force of the wind, its own structural weakness, and so on. However, when a person performs a free act, agent causation theorists say that the action was not caused by any other events or states of affairs, but rather was caused by the agent. Agent causation is ontologically separate from event causation. The action was not uncaused, because the agent caused it. But the agent’s causing it was not determined by the agent’s character, desires, or past, since that would just be event causation.[25] As Chisholm explains it, humans have “a prerogative which some would attribute only to God: each of us, when we act, is a prime mover unmoved. In doing what we do, we cause certain events to happen, and nothing or no one causes us to cause those events to happen.”[26]

This theory involves a difficulty which has long been associated with the idea of an unmoved mover. If a free action was not caused by any event, such as a change in the agent or an act of the will, then what is the difference between saying that an agent caused the event and simply saying that the event happened on its own? As William James put it, “If a ‘free’ act be a sheer novelty, that comes not from me, the previous me, but ex nihilo, and simply tacks itself on to me, how can I, the previous I, be responsible? How can I have any permanent character that will stand still long enough for praise or blame to be awarded?”[27]

Agent causation advocates respond that agent causation is actually more intuitive than event causation. They point to David Hume’s argument that when we see two events happen in succession, our belief that one event caused the other cannot be justified rationally (known as the problem of induction). If that is so, where does our belief in causality come from? According to Thomas Reid, “the conception of an efficient cause may very probably be derived from the experience we have had…of our own power to produce certain effects.”[28] Our everyday experiences of agent causation provide the basis for the idea of event causation.[29]

Event-causal accounts of incompatibilist free will typically rely upon physicalist models of mind (like those of the compatibilist), yet they presuppose physical indeterminism, in which certain indeterministic events are said to be caused by the agent. A number of event-causal accounts of free will have been created, referenced here as deliberative indeterminism, centred accounts, and efforts of will theory.[30] The first two accounts do not require free will to be a fundamental constituent of the universe. Ordinary randomness is appealed to as supplying the “elbow room” that libertarians believe necessary. A first common objection to event-causal accounts is that the indeterminism could be destructive and could therefore diminish control by the agent rather than provide it (related to the problem of origination). A second common objection to these models is that it is questionable whether such indeterminism could add any value to deliberation over that which is already present in a deterministic world.

Deliberative indeterminism asserts that the indeterminism is confined to an earlier stage in the decision process.[31][32] This is intended to provide an indeterminate set of possibilities to choose from, while not risking the introduction of luck (random decision making). The selection process is deterministic, although it may be based on earlier preferences established by the same process. Deliberative indeterminism has been referenced by Daniel Dennett[33] and John Martin Fischer.[34] An obvious objection to such a view is that an agent cannot be assigned ownership over their decisions (or preferences used to make those decisions) to any greater degree than that of a compatibilist model.

Centred accounts propose that for any given decision between two possibilities, the strength of reason will be considered for each option, yet there is still a probability the weaker candidate will be chosen.[35][36][37][38][39][40][41] An obvious objection to such a view is that decisions are explicitly left up to chance, and origination or responsibility cannot be assigned for any given decision.

Efforts of will theory is related to the role of will power in decision making. It suggests that the indeterminacy of agent volition processes could map to the indeterminacy of certain physical events and the outcomes of these events could therefore be considered caused by the agent. Models of volition have been constructed in which it is seen as a particular kind of complex, high-level process with an element of physical indeterminism. An example of this approach is that of Robert Kane, where he hypothesizes that “in each case, the indeterminism is functioning as a hindrance or obstacle to her realizing one of her purposes a hindrance or obstacle in the form of resistance within her will which must be overcome by effort.”[9] According to Robert Kane such “ultimate responsibility” is a required condition for free will.[42] An important factor in such a theory is that the agent cannot be reduced to physical neuronal events, but rather mental processes are said to provide an equally valid account of the determination of outcome as their physical processes (see non-reductive physicalism).

Epicurus, an ancient Greek philosopher, argued that as atoms moved through the void, there were occasions when they would “swerve” (clinamen) from their otherwise determined paths, thus initiating new causal chains. Epicurus argued that these swerves would allow us to be more responsible for our actions, something impossible if every action was deterministically caused.

Epicurus did not say the swerve was directly involved in decisions. But following Aristotle, Epicurus thought human agents have the autonomous ability to transcend necessity and chance (both of which destroy responsibility), so that praise and blame are appropriate. Epicurus finds a tertium quid, beyond necessity (Democritus’ physics) and beyond chance. His tertium quid is agent autonomy, what is “up to us.”

…some things happen of necessity (), others by chance (), others through our own agency ( ).

…necessity destroys responsibility and chance is inconstant; whereas our own actions are autonomous, and it is to them that praise and blame naturally attach.[43]

Lucretius (1st century BC), a strong supporter of Epicurus, saw the randomness as enabling free will, even if he could not explain exactly how, beyond the fact that random swerves would break the causal chain of determinism.

Again, if all motion is always one long chain, and new motion arises out of the old in order invariable, and if the first-beginnings do not make by swerving a beginning of motion such as to break the decrees of fate, that cause may not follow cause from infinity, whence comes this freedom (libera) in living creatures all over the earth, whence I say is this will (voluntas) wrested from the fates by which we proceed whither pleasure leads each, swerving also our motions not at fixed times and fixed places, but just where our mind has taken us? For undoubtedly it is his own will in each that begins these things, and from the will movements go rippling through the limbs.

However, the interpretation of Greek philosophers is controversial. Tim O’Keefe has argued that Epicurus and Lucretius were not libertarians at all, but compatibilists.[44]

Robert Nozick put forward an indeterministic theory of free will in Philosophical Explanations (1981).[45]

When human beings become agents through reflexive self-awareness, they express their agency by having reasons for acting, to which they assign weights. Choosing the dimensions of one’s identity is a special case, in which the assigning of weight to a dimension is partly self-constitutive. But all acting for reasons is constitutive of the self in a broader sense, namely, by its shaping one’s character and personality in a manner analogous to the shaping that law undergoes through the precedent set by earlier court decisions. Just as a judge does not merely apply the law but to some degree makes it through judicial discretion, so too a person does not merely discover weights but assigns them; one not only weighs reasons but also weights them. Set in train is a process of building a framework for future decisions that we are tentatively committed to.

The lifelong process of self-definition in this broader sense is construed indeterministically by Nozick. The weighting is “up to us” in the sense that it is undetermined by antecedent causal factors, even though subsequent action is fully caused by the reasons one has accepted. He compares assigning weights in this deterministic sense to “the currently orthodox interpretation of quantum mechanics”, following von Neumann in understanding a quantum mechanical system as in a superposition or probability mixture of states, which changes continuously in accordance with quantum mechanical equations of motion and discontinuously via measurement or observation that “collapses the wave packet” from a superposition to a particular state. Analogously, a person before decision has reasons without fixed weights: he is in a superposition of weights. The process of decision reduces the superposition to a particular state that causes action.

One particularly influential contemporary theory of libertarian free will is that of Robert Kane.[30][46][47] Kane argues that “(1) the existence of alternative possibilities (or the agent’s power to do otherwise) is a necessary condition for acting freely, and that (2) determinism is not compatible with alternative possibilities (it precludes the power to do otherwise)”.[48] It is important to note that the crux of Kane’s position is grounded not in a defense of alternative possibilities (AP) but in the notion of what Kane refers to as ultimate responsibility (UR). Thus, AP is a necessary but insufficient criterion for free will.[49] It is necessary that there be (metaphysically) real alternatives for our actions, but that is not enough; our actions could be random without being in our control. The control is found in “ultimate responsibility”.

Ultimate responsibility entails that agents must be the ultimate creators (or originators) and sustainers of their own ends and purposes. There must be more than one way for a person’s life to turn out (AP). More importantly, whichever way it turns out must be based in the person’s willing actions. As Kane defines it,

UR: An agent is ultimately responsible for some (event or state) E’s occurring only if (R) the agent is personally responsible for E’s occurring in a sense which entails that something the agent voluntarily (or willingly) did or omitted either was, or causally contributed to, E’s occurrence and made a difference to whether or not E occurred; and (U) for every X and Y (where X and Y represent occurrences of events and/or states) if the agent is personally responsible for X and if Y is an arche (sufficient condition, cause or motive) for X, then the agent must also be personally responsible for Y.

In short, “an agent must be responsible for anything that is a sufficient reason (condition, cause or motive) for the action’s occurring.”[50]

What allows for ultimacy of creation in Kane’s picture are what he refers to as “self-forming actions” or SFAsthose moments of indecision during which people experience conflicting wills. These SFAs are the undetermined, regress-stopping voluntary actions or refraining in the life histories of agents that are required for UR. UR does not require that every act done of our own free will be undetermined and thus that, for every act or choice, we could have done otherwise; it requires only that certain of our choices and actions be undetermined (and thus that we could have done otherwise), namely SFAs. These form our character or nature; they inform our future choices, reasons and motivations in action. If a person has had the opportunity to make a character-forming decision (SFA), they are responsible for the actions that are a result of their character.

Randolph Clarke objects that Kane’s depiction of free will is not truly libertarian but rather a form of compatibilism. The objection asserts that although the outcome of an SFA is not determined, one’s history up to the event is; so the fact that an SFA will occur is also determined. The outcome of the SFA is based on chance, and from that point on one’s life is determined. This kind of freedom, says Clarke, is no different than the kind of freedom argued for by compatibilists, who assert that even though our actions are determined, they are free because they are in accordance with our own wills, much like the outcome of an SFA.[51]

Kane responds that the difference between causal indeterminism and compatibilism is “ultimate controlthe originative control exercised by agents when it is ‘up to them’ which of a set of possible choices or actions will now occur, and up to no one and nothing else over which the agents themselves do not also have control”.[52] UR assures that the sufficient conditions for one’s actions do not lie before one’s own birth.

Galen Strawson holds that there is a fundamental sense in which free will is impossible, whether determinism is true or not. He argues for this position with what he calls his “basic argument”, which aims to show that no-one is ever ultimately morally responsible for their actions, and hence that no one has free will in the sense that usually concerns us.

In his book defending compatibilism, Freedom Evolves, Daniel Dennett spends a chapter criticising Kane’s theory.[53] Kane believes freedom is based on certain rare and exceptional events, which he calls self-forming actions or SFA’s. Dennett notes that there is no guarantee such an event will occur in an individual’s life. If it does not, the individual does not in fact have free will at all, according to Kane. Yet they will seem the same as anyone else. Dennett finds an essentially indetectable notion of free will to be incredible.

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What is Left-Libertarianism?

Aunt Merryweather Aunt Merryweather is a pseudonymous writer living in Americas capitol. Many winters ago, back in the glory days of college, she began writing down her ideas regarding the odd synthesis of libertarianism and feminism but quit before she could reach any kind of philosophical, moral, or logical conclusion on the matter.

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Elon Musk: $47,000 Model Y SUV “Will Ride Like a Sports Car”

A Familiar Car

First, it was supposed to feature Model-X-style “falcon wing” doors, and then it didn’t. It was supposed to be built in the Shanghai factory, but that didn’t work out either.

Tesla finally unveiled its fifth production car, the Model Y, at its design studio outside of Los Angeles Thursday evening.

“It has the functionality of an SUV, but it will ride like a sports car,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said during the event. “So this thing will be really tight on corners.”

Bigger than the 3, Smaller Than the X

Yes, acceleration is still zippy: zero to 60 in 3.5 seconds.

But the vehicle is less than revolutionary. It’s arguably the company’s second crossover sports utility vehicle, after the Model X, and it borrows heavily from the company’s successful Model 3. In fact, 75 percent of its parts are the same, according to CEO Elon Musk.

The back of the Y is slightly elevated in the back for a roomier cargo space. A long-range model will feature seven seats — just like the Model X, despite being slightly smaller. Range: still 300 miles with the Long Range battery pack, thanks to its aerodynamic shape.

It will also be “feature complete” according to Musk, referring to the fact that the Model Y will one day be capable of “full self-driving” that he says “will be able to do basically anything just with software upgrades.”

10 Percent Cheaper

As expected, the Model Y is ten percent bigger and costs roughly ten percent more than the Model 3: the first Model Y — the Long Range model — will be released in the fall of 2020 and will sell for $47,000. A dual-motor all-wheel drive version and a performance version will sell for $51,000 and $60,000, respectively.

If you want to save a buck and get the ten-percent-cheaper-than-the-Model-3 version, you’ll have to wait: a Standard Range (230 miles) model will go on sale in 2021 for just $39,000.

Overall, the Model Y seems like a compromise: it’s not a radical shift, but it seems carefully designed to land with a certain type of consumer — and, if Musk is to be believed, without sacrificing Tesla’s carefully-cultivated “cool factor.”

Investors seemed slightly underwhelmed, too — the company’s stock reportedly slid up to five percent after the announcement.

READ MORE:  Tesla unveils Model Y electric SUV with 300 miles range and 7-seats [Electrek]

More on the Model Y: Elon Musk: Tesla Will Unveil Model Y Next Week

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Just 19 Percent of Americans Trust Self-Driving Cars With Kids

A new survey by AAA shows that most Americans distrust self-driving cars. In the past two years, public trust in the emerging technology has gone down.

Poor Turnout

While tech companies like Waymo, Uber, and Tesla race to be the first to build a fully-autonomous vehicle, the public is left eating their dust.

About 71 percent of Americans say that they don’t trust self-driving cars, according to a new American Automobile Association (AAA) survey. That’s roughly the same percentage as last year’s survey, but it’s eight points higher than in 2017, according to Bloomberg and just 19 percent say they’d put their children or family members into an autonomous vehicle.

Overall, the data is a striking sign of public fatigue with self-driving cars.

Track Record

Autonomous vehicles, unlike some other emerging technologies, have suffered very public setbacks, including when an Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian a year ago.

“It’s possible that the sustained level of fear is rooted in a heightened focus, whether good or bad, on incidents involving these types of vehicles,” said AAA director of automotive engineering Greg Brannon in a statement obtained by Bloomberg. “Also it could simply be due to a fear of the unknown.”

Uphill Battle

The AAA survey found that Americans are more accepting of autonomous vehicle tech in limited-use cases. For example, 53 percent of survey respondents were okay with self-driving trams or shuttles being used in areas like theme parks, while 44 percent accepted the idea of autonomous food-delivery bots.

Self-driving car companies are currently engaging in public relations efforts to earn people’s trust, Bloomberg reports. But if these AAA numbers are any indication, there’s a long way to go.

READ MORE: Americans Still Fear Self-Driving Cars [Bloomberg]

More on autonomous vehicles: Exclusive: A Waymo One Rider’s Experiences Highlight Autonomous Rideshare’s Shortcomings

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Just 19 Percent of Americans Trust Self-Driving Cars With Kids

Special Announcement: Futurism Media and Singularity University

Futurism acquired by Singularity University

So, Readers –

As always, we’ve got some news about the future. Except this time, it’s about us.

We’re about to enter the next chapter of Futurism, one that will usher in a new era for this site. It’ll come with new ways we’ll be able to deliver on everything you’ve grown to read, watch, subscribe to, and love about what we do here. And also, more in volume of what we do, with larger ambitions, and ultimately, a higher level of quality with which we’re able to bring those ambitions to fruition.

As of today, Futurism Media is proud to announce that we’re joining operations with Singularity University. In other words: They bought us, they own us, and quite frankly, we’re excited about the deal.

It’s an excitement and an occasion we share in with you, our community of readers — aspiring and working technologists, scientists, engineers, academics, and fans, who carried us to where we are, who helped make this independent media company what it is today. We’ve always been humbled by your support, and we’ve worked to reciprocate it by publishing one of the most crucial independent technology and science digital digests, every day, full stop.

What this changes for you? Nothing. Really. Except: More of what you’ve come to count on Futurism.com to deliver every time you’ve read our stories, opened our emails, swiped up on our ‘Gram, watched our videos, dropped in on our events, clicked through a Byte, and so on. This partnership represents the sum total of the work you’ve engaged with, and the start of a new chapter in which we’ll be able to deliver on more of the above.

That means increased coverage of the emergent, cutting-edge innovation and scientific developments changing the world, and the key characters and narratives shaping them (or being shaped by them). It means an expanded, in-depth feature publishing program, arriving this Spring (it’s rad, and it’s gonna blow your socks off). It means more breaking news reporting and analysis. It means original media products you haven’t seen from us before — new verticals, microsites, other ways for you to get in the mix with our coverage. And yes, by working in concert with Singularity University, we’re going to have a pretty decent competitive advantage: Direct access to the characters and personas shaping our future, the people, ideas, and innovations right at the frontier of exponential growth technologies. Our branded content team, Futurism Creative, will also continue to produce guideline-abiding, cutting-edge, thoughtful and engaging content for our partners, and for the partners of SU, too. And finally, our Futurism Studios division will continue to push the envelope of feature-length narrative storytelling of the science fiction (and science fact) stories of that future.

Will this change our journalism? Not in the slightest. We’ll still be operating as an independent, objective news outlet, without interference from our partners, who will continue to hold us to the same ethics and accountability standards we’ve held ourselves to these last few years. There might be more appearances from the folks at SU in our work (not that SU’s proliferate network of notable alumni or board members haven’t previously made appearances around these parts prior to this), but by no means will SU be shoehorning themselves into what we do here.

Yet: Where the opportunity exists, we’ll absolutely seize on the chance to co-create and catalyze action together to shape the technology and science stories on the horizon, to say nothing of that future itself. We’ll continue to make quality the primary concern — and they’re here to support that mandate, and augment this team with additional resources to accomplish it. If even the appearance of a conflict presents itself, as always, we’ll default to disclosure. But it’d be absurd of us not to take advantage of the immense base of knowledge our new partners in Mountain View have on offer (an apt comparison here would be, say, Harvard Business Review to H.B.S. or M.I.T. and our contemporaries at the MIT Technology Review).

We’ve been circling this partnership for a while; they, fans of ours, and us, fans of theirs. The original mandate of Futurism as written by our C.E.O. Alex Klokus was to increase the rate of human adaptability towards the future through delivering on the news of where that future is headed. Singularity University concerns itself with educating the world on the exponential growth technologies changing our lives. It’s a perfect merging of interests. Where exponential growth technologies are concerned: One only need look as far as the way online advertising and social platforms changed the economics of media to see this. To find a home with a growing institution that will prove increasingly vital to the growing global community they’ve already established in spades is the best possible outcome. And no, we didn’t get crazy-rich or anything. But we did galvanize the future (and all its possibilities) for everyone at this company, and our ability to keep serving you, our readers.

We’re immensely proud of the scrappy, tight team here; and especially you, our community of readers and partners we’ve grown with these last few years. We’re proud of the product we’ve created, especially last year, when we steered away from reliance on social media platforms for an audience, and reconfigured an editorial strategy around the priority of driving you directly to Futurism.com daily, by prioritizing quality, topicality, reliability, and on-site presentation (shocker: it worked). Now, we proud to be able to do more, better, of what we’ve always done here:

Tell the stories of tomorrow, today. On behalf of the entire Brooklyn-based Futurism team, thanks for being along for the ride so far, and on behalf of the new Futurism x Singularity University family, here’s to more of where that came from.

The future, as ever, is looking bright. We can’t wait to tell you about it.

– Foster Kamer
Director of Content

James Del
Publisher

Sarah Marquart
Director of Strategic Operations

Geoff Clark
President of Futurism Studios

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Elon Musk: 2019 Will Be “the Year of the Solar Roof”

During the unveiling of Tesla's highly anticipated Model Y, CEO Elon Musk announced that the company would focus on its Solar Roof and Powerwall in 2019.

Looking Up

During the unveiling of Tesla’s highly anticipated Model Y Thursday night, CEO Elon Musk shared his vision for his company’s immediate future — and it had little to do with cars.

“This is definitely going to be the year of the Solar Roof and Powerwall,” he told the audience, according to Inverse — a sign that Tesla is shifting its focus from the road to the home, with the ultimate goal of creating a fully sustainable future.

Pretty Picture

In August 2017, Tesla gave the world its first glimpse of an installed Solar Roof, and it looked, well, a lot like any other roof. But that was the point — Tesla’s solar tiles didn’t have the jarring appearance of many home solar panels.

That aesthetically pleasing design — combined with the tiles’ affordability and “infinity warranty” — had solar energy expert Senthil Balasubramanian predicting Tesla would be a “game changer” for clean energy.

With the exception of the occasional massive battery project, though, we haven’t heard much about Tesla’s home energy products since then. The company spent much of 2017 and 2018 focused on getting through the Model 3’s “production hell” and dealing with the fallout from Musk’s latest public misstep.

Under One Roof

But now that Model 3 production is humming along, Tesla has the bandwidth to shift some of its engineering focus back to its Solar Roof and home batteries, according to Musk — and that should go a long way toward helping the company meet its ambitious goal of a more sustainable energy system.

“Solar plus battery plus electric vehicles, we have a fully sustainable future,” Musk told the audience Thursday. “That’s a future you can feel really excited and optimistic about. I think that really matters.”

READ MORE: Tesla Solar Roof: Elon Musk Declares 2019 Will Be the Year of the Roof [Inverse]

More on Tesla: Solar Expert Predicts Tesla Will Be a “Game-Changer” for Clean Energy

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Elon Musk: 2019 Will Be “the Year of the Solar Roof”

This Guy Spent a Whole Week In a VR Headset

Jak Wilmot, co-founder of Disrupt VR, an Atlanta-based VR content studio, spent 168 consecutive hours in a VR headset, locked up in his apartment.

The Dumbest Thing

Jak Wilmot, the co-founder of Atlanta-based VR content studioDisrupt VR, spent 168 consecutive hours in a VR headset — that’s a full week — pent up in his apartment.

“This is quite possibly the dumbest thing I’ve ever done, but welcome to a week in the future,” he said in a video about the experiment.

To make the experience even more futuristic, Wilmot livestreamed the entire week on Twitch late last month, later uploading a wrapup video on his entire week on YouTube.

The rules were simple: he could switch from a computer-based Oculus headset to a different, untethered headset for thirty seconds while his eyes were closed. His windows were blacked out, he said, so that his physical body didn’t have to rely on the daylight-dependent circadian rhythm.

His more mobile VR headset had a built in camera in the front, so that he was able to “see” his physical surroundings — but not directly with his own eyes.

“Everything is in the Headset”

Wilmot worked, ate and exercised inside virtual reality. Sleeping in the headset turned out to be “more comfortable” than Wilmot anticipated, though his eyes burned a bit.

“If one is feeling stressed, they can load into a natural environment for ten minutes and relax,” he said in the video. “If one is feeling energetic, they can dispel energy in a fitness game — these are like the new rules of the reality I’ve thrown myself in. Everything is in the headset.”

VR Connection

Wilmot believes that virtual reality is what you make it. If you want to be alone, you can spend time by yourself in a gaming session, slaying dragons in Skyrim VR. Or you can chose to join the cacophony of VRChat — a communal free-for-all multiplayer online platform that allows you to interact with avatars controlled by complete strangers.

“VR is stepping into the shoes of someone else, or stepping into a spaceship and talking to friends,” said Wilmot. “It’s very easy to find your tribe, to make friends, to communicate with others through a virtual landscape, where its no longer through digital window [like a monitor], but actually being there with them. To me that’s what VR is — connection.”

Escaping Virtual Reality

After seven days of living inside the headset, Wilmot took off the goggles and relearned what it’s like to live in the real world.

Experiment_01… ????????

Subject Status… ????? pic.twitter.com/HC0Jqb3aZq

— jak (@JakWilmot) February 27, 2019

Apart from slight dizziness and some disorientation, he came back to normal almost instantly.

One major advantage to not living inside a VR headset: “oh my gosh,” he said, “the graphics are so good.”

READ MORE: This Guy Is Spending A Full Week In VR, For Science [VR Scout]

More on virtual reality: Sex Researchers: For Many, Virtual Lovers Will Replace Humans

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This Guy Spent a Whole Week In a VR Headset

How Can We Build Cities to Accommodate 6.5 Billion People?

By 2050, 6.5 billion people will choose to live in cities. These individuals will require employment and access to better healthcare from an infrastructure that is already extremely vulnerable. The Global Maker Challenge asked makers and innovators to help put forward solutions for this issue, and they delivered.

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How Can We Build Cities to Accommodate 6.5 Billion People?

Samsung Is Working on Phone With “Invisible” Camera Behind Screen

A Samsung exec has shared new details on the company's efforts to create a full-screen phone, one with the camera embedded beneath the display.

Punch It

Just last month, South Korean tech giant Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S10, a phone with just a single hole punched in the screen to accommodate its front-facing camera.

On Thursday, a Samsung exec shared new details on the company’s intentions to create a “perfect full-screen” phone, with an “invisible” camera behind the screen to eliminate the need for any visible holes or sensors — confirming that one of the biggest players in tech sees edge-to-edge screens as the future of mobile devices.

Hidden Tech

During a press briefing covered by Yonhap News Agency, Samsung’s Mobile Communication R&D Group Display Vice President Yang Byung-duk said the company’s goal is to create a phone with a screen that covers the entire front of the device — but consumers shouldn’t expect it in the immediate future.

“Though it wouldn’t be possible to make (a full-screen smartphone) in the next 1-2 years,” Yang said, “the technology can move forward to the point where the camera hole will be invisible, while not affecting the camera’s function in any way.”

Quest for Perfection

This isn’t Samsung’s first mention of an uninterrupted full-screen phone — as pointed out by The Verge, the company discussed its ambitions to put the front-facing camera under a future device’s screen during a presentation in October.

That presentation included a few additional details on how the camera in a full-screen phone would work.

Essentially, the entire screen would serve as a display whenever the front-facing camera wasn’t in use. When in use, however, the screen would become transparent, allowing the camera to see through so you could snap the perfect selfie — and based on Yang’s comments, that new innovation could be just a few years away.

READ MORE: Samsung Seeks Shift to Full Screen in New Smartphones [Yonhap News Agency]

More on Samsung: Samsung Just Revealed a $1,980 Folding Smartphone

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Samsung Is Working on Phone With “Invisible” Camera Behind Screen

This Tech Could Secure Medical Implants Against Hackers

Many of today's medical implants communicate via Bluetooth, which makes them vulnerable to hacking, but a new system could change that.

Heart Hack

An implanted medical device can dramatically improve a person’s quality of life — or even save their life outright.

However, the devices come with serious security vulnerabilities, and it’s not hard to imagine the damage a person could do by hacking someone’s pacemaker, insulin pump, or brain implant.

Now, researchers from Purdue University have found a way to prevent hackers from intercepting the wireless signals used to communicate with implanted devices — and their creation could ensure the “internet of body” remains secure in the future.

Watch This

Many people monitor their implants via electronic devices, such as smart watches or smartphones, with the implants and devices communicating over Bluetooth.

Those wireless signals can extend as far as 10 meters away from a person’s body, according to the Purdue researchers – meaning someone in the vicinity of the implant owner could intercept the information — and perhaps manipulate it.

In a new paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers detail how they created a prototype watch that avoids this issue.

Short Leash

According to the researchers, their watch can receive a signal from anywhere on a person’s body, but instead of communicating over Bluetooth, the electrical signals travel through the person’s own body fluids to reach the watch, never extending more than one centimeter beyond the person’s skin.

As a bonus, the system also requires 100 times less energy than Bluetooth, according to the researchers — but its ability to protect incredibly sensitive communications could be reason enough for the technology to replace Bluetooth for implant applications in the future.

READ MORE: Your body is your internet – and now it can’t be hacked [Purdue University]

More on implants: New Brain Implant Could Translate Paralyzed People’s Thoughts Into Speech

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This Tech Could Secure Medical Implants Against Hackers

Here’s How Hackers Stole $15 Million From Mexican Banks

In April, bank hackers stole the equivalent of $20 million from Mexico's central bank thanks to a network rife with security flaws.

Ocean’s Once

In April 2018, hackers stole the equivalent of $15 million from Mexican banks — and now we know how they probably did it.

Penetration tester and security advisor Josu Loza was one of the experts called in to respond to the April heist, and on March 8 he presented his findings at the RSA Security conference in San Francisco.

Based on his analysis, Mexico’s central bank wasn’t doing nearly enough to protect its clients’ money — but other financial institutions could avoid the same fate if they’re willing to work together.

Easy Money

On Friday, Wired published a story detailing the information Loza shared with the audience at RSA’s conference. Based on his assessment, the success of the heist was due to a combination of expert bank hackers willing to spend months planning their crime and a banking network rife with security holes.

During the presentation, Loza made the case that the hackers might have accessed the Banco de México’s internal servers from the public internet, or perhaps launched phishing attacks on bank executives or employees to gain access.

Regardless of how they first got access, Loza said, the main problem was putting too many eggs in one security basket. Because many of the networks lacked adequate segmentation and access controls, he argued, a single breach could provide the bank hackers with extensive access.

That enabled them to lay the groundwork to eventually make numerous money transfers in smaller amounts, perhaps $5,000 or so, to accounts under their control. They’d then pay hundreds of “cash mules” each a small sum — Loza estimated that $260 might be enough — to withdraw the money for them.

Cyber Insecurity

The bank hackers are still at large, but the heist appears to have served as a wake-up call for the Banco de México.

“From last year to today the focus has been implementing controls. Control, control, control,” Lazo said during his presentation, according to Wired. “And I think the attacks aren’t happening today because of it.”

He also noted the need for companies to collaborate to defend against cyberattacks.

“Mexican people need to start to work together. All the institutions need to cooperate more,” Loza said. “The main problem on cybersecurity is that we don’t share knowledge and information or talk about attacks enough. People don’t want to make details about incidents public.”

READ MORE: HOW HACKERS PULLED OFF A $20 MILLION MEXICAN BANK HEIST [Wired]

More on hacking: Hacker Figures out How to Drain $1 Million in Cash From ATM

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Here’s How Hackers Stole $15 Million From Mexican Banks

Slack Just Removed a Bunch of Hate Groups

Workplace messaging app Slack just announced that it banned 28 accounts that were known to be affiliated with hate groups.

Violating Terms

Slack, the team collaboration app commonly used to connect people within workplaces, announced Thursday that it had deleted 28 accounts that were clearly affiliated with hate groups, according to the company’s blog.

The announcement, sparse on concrete details or specifics, states that hate groups are explicitly unwelcome on the app and that Slack will continue to investigate and act on any future reports of hate speech or illegal activity.

“Today we removed 28 accounts because of their clear affiliation with known hate groups,” the statement reads. “The use of Slack by hate groups runs counter to everything we believe in at Slack and is not welcome on our platform.”

Joining the Fight

In recent years, major platforms like Facebook and Twitter have struggled to keep white supremacists and other hate groups from spreading their messages across the internet, though both ban Nazi messaging in Germany, where Holocaust denial is illegal.

Smaller scale platforms like Discord also recently started acting against hate groups, according to The Verge, which speculates that Slack’s focus on business communications instead of cultivating largescale communities may have helped the company avoid the issue of online hatemongering.

Real World Consequences

When hate speech is allowed to propagate online, it can lead to real-world violence — like the murder of Heather Heyer at a 2017 white supremacist rally. But banning hate groups and de-platforming the people behind them, as Slack claims to have done, is a successful strategy.

When right-wing activist Milo Yiannopolous was no longer permitted by online platforms to spread his racist and misogynistic viewpoints, he found himself effectively powerless and millions of dollars in debt, according to The Guardian.

“Using Slack to encourage or incite hatred and violence against groups or individuals because of who they are is antithetical to our values and the very purpose of Slack,” the company’s statement reads. “When we are made aware of an organization using Slack for illegal, harmful, or other prohibited purposes, we will investigate and take appropriate action and we are updating our terms of service to make that more explicit.”

READ MORE: Slack says it removed dozens of accounts affiliated with hate groups [The Verge]

More on content moderation: The UK Government Is Planning to Regulate Hate Speech Online

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Slack Just Removed a Bunch of Hate Groups

Presidential Hopeful Beto O’Rourke Belonged to Infamous Hacker Group

2020 Presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke was reportedly part of the hacktivist group known as the Cult of the Dead Cow during his teenage years.

Political Hack

Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke just admitted to spending his teenage years as part of the Cult of the Dead Cow (CDC), a group of hackers that first coined the term “hacktivism.”

O’Rourke, who failed to unseat Senator Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterm election and recently decided to run for president instead of challenging Senator John Cornyn in 2020, told Reuters that he credits the hacker group for helping develop his worldview — an intriguing admission for an unusual candidate who skateboards and used to play in a punk band.

Hacker-Lite

According to Reuters, there’s no evidence that O’Rourke actually engaged in any sort of serious hacking, though he did cop to stealing the long-distance phone service necessary for reaching the online message boards of the day.

Rather, O’Rourke seemed to spend his time in the Cult of the Dead Cow writing and sharing fiction with the community, such as a short story he wrote at age 15 about running over children in a car, Reuters reports.

“We weren’t deliberately looking for hacking chops,” CDC founder Kevin Wheeler told Reuters, describing the group’s attitude during the period of time O’Rourke was most active. “It was very much about personality and writing, really. For a long time, the ‘test,’ or evaluation, was to write [text files]. Everyone was expected to write things. If we were stoked to have more hacker-oriented people, it was because we’d be excited to have a broader range in our t-files.”

Formative Years

“There’s just this profound value in being able to be apart from the system and look at it critically and have fun while you’re doing it,” O’Rourke said. “I think of the Cult of the Dead Cow as a great example of that.”

The presidential hopeful, who espouses a mix of traditional liberal and libertarian views, describes the group as a sort of network for outcasts from society.

“When Dad bought an Apple IIe and a 300-baud modem and I started to get on boards, it was the Facebook of its day,” he said. “You just wanted to be part of a community.”

READ MORE: Beto O’Rourke’s secret membership in America’s oldest hacking group [Reuters]

More on hacktivism: It’s Now Scary to Be A White Hat Hacker Thanks to the US Government

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Presidential Hopeful Beto O’Rourke Belonged to Infamous Hacker Group

States Are Approving Cannabis to Fight Opioid Addiction

Risky Maneuver

So far, two U.S. states, New York and Illinois, have legalized the use of cannabis to help treat chronic pain as an alternative to addictive opioids.

Ask anyone on the street, and they would probably tell you that cannabis helps people chill out. The chemical similarities between cannabis and opioids make it seem, anecdotally, like cannabis could help reduce opioid addiction. Both drugs mitigate similar symptoms and usher in similar experiences – but cannabis is far less dangerous on its own.

But anecdotal evidence only goes so far.

Mixed Bag

While it’s hard to criticize something that could help alleviate the opioid epidemic, the physiological impact of treating either chronic pain or opioid addiction with cannabis hasn’t undergone nearly the same rigor of scientific study as other medical treatments, according to Scientific American.

Overall, scientists have faced many challenges when it comes to experimenting with cannabis. Though Scientific American reports that some clinical research is finally starting to support it, overall, there’s just not a lot of evidence backing up that anecdotal hunch.

But because other opioid addiction treatments like methadone already work, and because cutting people off of them can be dangerous, scientists argued that switching people already taking prescription opioids over to a prescription of cannabis could actually be dangerous in a perspective letter recently published to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Pain Factor

The big question is whether cannabis will not only be able to help people already addicted to opioids, but also the chronic pain that the opioids may have been for in the first place.

In this case, research is once more limited. Plenty of studies suggest that cannabis treats pain, but a research paper published in European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience earlier this year found that most cannabis pain studies had severe limitations, calling their findings into question.

Legalizing marijuana could help people find all sorts of new treatments. And while exploring new tools to help treat people affected by the opioid epidemic is commendable, cannabis likely won’t end up being the answer.

READ MORE: Can Cannabis Solve the Opioid Crisis? [Scientific American]

More on cannabis: New Senate Bill Would Legalize Marijuana Nationwide

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States Are Approving Cannabis to Fight Opioid Addiction

New Rocket Engine Could Whip You From London to Sydney in 4 Hours

The makers of a new hypersonic rocket engine say it could whip flights from London to Sydney in just four hours, traveling at five times the speed of sound.

Rocket Plane

The makers of a new hypersonic rocket engine say it could whisk flights from London to Sydney in just four hours, traveling at five times the speed of sound. That’s a flight that can take 20 hours on a conventional jetliner.

According to the BBCUK company Reaction Engines says it’s gearing up to test the futuristic craft in Colorado — a startling vision of the future of transportation that could also, if the engine lives up to the hype, inform the future of spaceflight.

Screaming Fist

Reaction Engines, which has backing from the Rolls-Royce and Boeing, calls the new rocket engine the Sabre. It inhales air at lower altitudes, but works more like a rocket when it gets higher up.

“The core can be tested on the ground, but it’s the core that gets you air-breathing from the ground up to the edge of space, at which point there is no more oxygen to breathe and the system transitions to the pure rocket mode,” said Shaun Driscoll, Reaction Engines’ program director, according to the BBC.

Orbiter

The company also says the Sabre engine could push the frontiers of spaceflight, by sending crafts straight into orbit without multiple propellant stages, according to the BBC, which also reported that the the European Space Agency recently signed off on a design review for the Sabre engine.

“The positive conclusion of our Preliminary Design Review marks a major milestone in Sabre development,” ESA’s head of propulsion engineering Mark Ford told the broadcaster. “It confirms the test version of this revolutionary new class of engine is ready for implementation.”

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New Rocket Engine Could Whip You From London to Sydney in 4 Hours

NASA: Space Travel Is Causing Astronauts’ Herpes to Flare Up

Tests show that dormant herpes viruses reactivate in more than half the astronauts who travel on the Space Shuttle and International Space station.

Dormant Viruses

Tests show that dormant herpes viruses reactivate in more than half the astronauts who travel on the Space Shuttle and International Space station, according to new NASA research — a phenomenon the space agency says could pose problems for deep space missions.

“During spaceflight there is a rise in secretion of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which are known to suppress the immune system, ” said study author Satish Mehta, a researcher at Johnson Space Center, in a press release. “In keeping with this, we find that astronaut’s immune cells — particularly those that normally suppress and eliminate viruses — become less effective during spaceflight and sometimes for up to 60 days after.”

Less Effective

In research published last month in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, Mehta and colleagues found that astronauts shed more herpes viruses in their urine and saliva than before or after space travel. The culprit, they suspect, is just the stress of spaceflight.

“NASA astronauts endure weeks or even months exposed to microgravity and cosmic radiation — not to mention the extreme G forces of take-off and re-entry,” Mehta said in the press release. “This physical challenge is compounded by more familiar stressors like social separation, confinement and an altered sleep-wake cycle.”

Minor Symptoms

Fortunately, symptoms were relatively rare. Out of 89 astronauts the team studied, only six experienced herpes breakouts in space, according to the paper — a rate of about seven percent.

The viral shedding also got worse the longer the astronauts were off Earth, leading researchers to worry the phenomenon could represent a challenge for deep space travel.

“While only a small proportion develop symptoms, virus reactivation rates increase with spaceflight duration and could present a significant health risk on missions to Mars and beyond,” reads the press release.

READ MORE: Dormant viruses activate during spaceflight [Phys.org]

More on herpes: Immune Cells Working Together To Kill Herpes Virus Captured on Video

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New Robot Hand Works Like a Venus Flytrap to Grip Objects

A team from MIT and Harvard has created a robot hand that's not only strong, but also soft — and it could usher in a new era in robotics.

Versatile Touch

If we want robots to take over more tasks for humans, we need to give them more versatile hands.

Right now, many robot hands can only complete specialized tasks. Ones that are strong often have trouble with tasks that require a delicate touch, and soft hands often don’t pack much of a punch when it comes to strength.

But now, a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University have created a robot hand that’s not only strong, but also soft — and it could usher in a new era in robotics.

Show of Hands

The team drew inspiration for its hand from the origami magic ball. Rather than using some sort of finger-like grippers, their cone-shaped robot hand envelopes an object and then collapses around it, much like a Venus flytrap captures its prey.

The pressure applied is enough for the hand to lift objects up to 100 times its own weight, but it can also handle far more delicate, light objects. A video released by MIT demonstrates the hand’s ability to pick up everything from a soup can to a banana.

Soft, but Strong

University of California at Santa Cruz robotics professor Michael Wehner, who was not involved in the project, praised the hand, noting its novelty in an interview with MIT News.

“This is a very clever device that uses the power of 3-D printing, a vacuum, and soft robotics to approach the problem of grasping in a whole new way,” Wehner said. “In the coming years, I could imagine seeing soft robots gentle and dexterous enough to pick a rose, yet strong enough to safely lift a hospital patient.”

READ MORE: Robot hand is soft and strong [MIT News]

More on robot hands: This AI-Operated Robotic Hand Moves With “Unprecedented Dexterity”

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New Robot Hand Works Like a Venus Flytrap to Grip Objects

Astronomers Just Found 83 Giant Black Holes at Universe’s Edge

An international team of researchers says it's found 83 new supermassive black holes at extreme end of the visible universe.

Hole Story

An international team of researchers says it’s found 83 new supermassive black holes at extreme end of the visible universe — by looking at light that took so long to reach Earth that it dates from the early universe.

“It is remarkable that such massive dense objects were able to form so soon after the Big Bang,” said Michael Strauss, a professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University involved in the research, in a press release. “Understanding how black holes can form in the early universe, and just how common they are, is a challenge for our cosmological models.”

Squad Goals

The discovery was made by 48 astronomers around the world who described the findings in five new papers in The Astrophysical Journal and the Publications of the Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

The finding was based on data taken with the Hyper Suprime-Cam, a “cutting-edge instrument” at the Subaru Telescope at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, in Hawaii, which the researchers combined with readings from three more powerful telescopes around the world.

Quasar Theory

The newly-discovered black holes are quasars, which shoot out matter in powerful jets. The researchers are hoping that more datagathering and analysis will shed light onto how some of the earliest quasars in the universe formed.

“The quasars we discovered will be an interesting subject for further follow-up observations with current and future facilities,” said Yoshiki Matsuok, a researcher at Ehime University who worked on the discovery. “We will also learn about the formation and early evolution of [super massive black holes], by comparing the measured number density and luminosity distribution with predictions from theoretical models.”

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Astronomers Just Found 83 Giant Black Holes at Universe’s Edge


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