Tag Archives: Objectivism

Google’s Pony Express & An Objectivist Theory Of Video Games

Around midnight on April 14th, 1860, the rider on the first westbound run of the Pony Express clattered into San Francisco, California, on his horse. The mail he carried had been borne at a gallop across the desert of the American West. He was the last rider in a ten-day relay that began in St. Joseph, Missouri. Ultimately, the journey of the Pony Express would continue criss-crossing the country for eighteen months, transmitting messages about the gold rush in California, Lincoln’s inauguration, and the Civil War.

The Pony Express company conceded to the transcontinental telegraph in 1861, losing the government mail contract the company’s founders had sought. But it had forever heightened expectations of speed in letter delivery, and, of course, had gained a place in the American imagination.

155 years have passed since that day, and there was no better celebration of the Pony Express’s memory than Google’s instantly iconic doodle last week. And there was no better entity to do it: The Pony Express’s founders sought to compartmentalize and distribute a 1900 mile pilgrimage across America in order to speed up communication. Google now compresses massive amounts of data and connects billions of people in order to put a world of information at our fingertips.

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Ayn Rand, the Movies, and the Idea of America

This article was originally published at FEE.org.

Ayn Rand’s monograph “Textbook of Americanism,” now published on FEE.org, is virtually unknown. Written during a decisive turning point in history, it was delivered by Rand personally to FEE’s founder Leonard Read in 1946. The monograph represents Rand’s desire to draw stark lines between an emerging postwar collectivism and the individualism she believed built America. She joined others in pointing out that collectivism had wrought the horrors the world had just endured.

“Textbook of Americanism” also represents her worldview as it came to be shaped by her childhood experiences with communism, her early love of film as a means of artistic expression, and her perceptions about the future of freedom.

As a young student in Russia at the dawn of the Bolshevik takeover, at a small theater for silent films, Rand caught her first glimpse of the New York skyline. The silhouette burned in her mind, a symbol of creative passion and unbounded achievement, outlining the edges of her growing philosophy of individualism.

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Bitcoin and the Ayn Rand Imagination

This article was originally published at The Atlas Society.

The Atlas Shrugged movie is now accepting Bitcoin to join their web forum, called Galt’s Gulch Online. Limited content is available for free to all visitors of Galt’s Gulch Online, but premium content, such as the new Atlas Shrugged Part 3 teaser trailer, is available only to “producers” who pay a fee. And that fee can now be paid in Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is a digital money sweeping the world and offering some degree of freedom from government currencies. It imitates the scarcity of a material currency (e.g. gold) by means of an algorithm, which places a limit on the amount of bitcoin that can be “mined” from its source by those who maintain the transaction ledger. As Rob Wile puts it, “It’s like a giant interactive spreadsheet everyone has access to and updates.”  Continue reading Bitcoin and the Ayn Rand Imagination

approaching anarchy

I’m really drawn to the individualist, market, and existentialist descriptions on this fantastic chart I found. Evolving from a starting point of classical liberal — basically I intellectually inherited minarchy as a default of Rand’s Objectivism, and hadn’t questioned it much until more recently.

Now I mostly just hold on to a vague minarchist position out of

  1. lingering skepticism about the development of gang warfare and “a market of force,”
  2. wide-eyed, beagle-like trust in the power of written laws to manifest justice,
  3. general reluctance to change my mind too easily, and
  4. the fun of annoying anarchists.

types of anarchism

 

The Objectivism of Minecraft

Thanksgiving evening at home — snow on the ground outside, the hum of the dishwasher in the kitchen, half-eaten pies on the counter. The “kids” of the family have taken over the living room: my sister, my two brothers, and I. The TV displays a videogame called Minecraft and they pre-emptively defend it to me: it’s more than meets the eye, they say. When they start playing, I understand their warning. The graphics are blocky and old-school. The 1st-person protagonist looks like a lego man. “Mountains” in this digital world are more like green and brown staircases. When you approach the trees, their “leaves” are revealed as pixelated green cubes.

But here is the charm: Minecraft is a game of building. As the title suggests, it’s a game of mining and crafting. In other words, it’s a game of discovering and creating values in the world. While there is an over-arching structure to the game, it’s mostly opaque — a vague mission to move through a few different levels and eventually find a portal. The game never requires that you pursue the mission, and most of the fun is found in collecting resources and building things. For instance, you can chop wood from the trees and use the wood to fashion tools, construct a shelter, and build its furniture. As you become more adept, you can build fancier structures. My sister and brothers proudly show off houses incorporating caves, a big stately building with a dome and dozens of rooms, and their prize creation: a house built elegantly on stilts over the water.

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Interview at Students For Liberty

I was recently interviewed by the wonderful Lexxie Monahan at Students For Liberty, as a profile for my involvement with Alumni For Liberty. I talked about my work at The Art of Reasoning and The Atlas Society, my passion for libertarian feminism, and how I became interested in liberty.

“I’ve also always been interested in the individual’s emotional and spiritual experience, inner life, and the existential and romantic aspects of personal freedom, independence, and creativity.”

I also talked about discovering The Atlas Society, and the beginning of a lifelong interest in the philosophical meaning of time.

“I signed up to give a speech about epistemology and concept-formation; it was not a very good speech. ‘Concept formation’ is an extremely broad and difficult topic: I was an undergrad trying to summarize it in 20 minutes. I was in way over my head, the entire time. But I had one moment where I articulated something well, and that was noticed — about how the measurement omitted in the Objectivist axiomatic concepts was the measurement of time.”

Read more, here:
Success in the non-profit world: An interview with Laurie Rice

 

Feminism and the Future

Imagine a rich, new media landscape—one that extols complex heroines whose lives expand a young woman’s sense of the many ways that it is possible to be; one that de-emphasizes sexuality and appearance as the measures of a woman’s worth. Imagine energized women smartly banding together to solve social problems—using micro-financing to enable other women to launch businesses, for example—instead of leaning dependently on a paternalistic government. Before we look deeper into what our future could be, let’s consider feminism’s trek to date.

In the last 150 years, the United States has accepted a basic ideal of equality between males and females. Best understood, this ideal holds that men and women are first and foremost individuals who live by reason. As such, both men and women have the same requirements for freedom and the same potential for achievement. The belief in these core ideas is what Joan Kennedy Taylor, a feminist and Objectivist intellectual, called “the individualist feminist impulse.”

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Did Objectivists End the Draft?

This article was originally published at The Atlas Society.

In the mid-1960s, a handful of individuals from Ayn Rand’s inner circle set out to end the draft. Few know the story of their activism. Just how powerful was their influence over Nixon?

IT WAS NIGHTFALL IN BOSTON; April 16, 1967. A wet, icy wind blew off the Charles River and howled down the wide channel of Massachusetts Avenue, gusting into narrow alleyways, and rattling the windows of Jordan Hall on Gainsborough Street. Inside, anticipation was building as the murmuring crowd took their seats on rows of white, wooden benches. Then she appeared; America’s most controversial individualist: Ayn Rand. People leaned over the balconies to catch a better glimpse of the best-selling novelist and diminutive philosopher who stood at the podium. Applause broke out; Rand took in the scene, scanning the room. Her penetrating gaze drifted up to the second level balcony, past the large, gilded clock which faced her. She began in earnest: “The question of the draft is, perhaps, the most important single issue debated today,” Rand said, “but the terms in which it is being debated are a sorry manifestation of our anti-ideological ‘mainstream.’… A volunteer army is the only proper, moral—and practical—way to defend a free country.”

Ayn Rand’s speech, called “The Wreckage of the Consensus,” was her first sustained look at the Vietnam War and the draft. Just one week later, Dr. Martin Luther King would stand at the same podium. And four months prior, General Lewis B. Hershey, the long-time head of Selective Service and the public face of the draft, addressed the forum.

Rand opposed the draft because it was a statist infringement on the right of the individual to own his own life.

Ayn Rand’s position on the draft, like so many of her ideas, was a contrast to both Left and the Right. Rand opposed the draft because it was a statist infringement on the right of the individual to his own life, and because it relied on an ethic of duty and sacrifice. Rand’s philosophical system,Objectivism, which grounded man’s right to life in his faculty of reason and the conditions of his survival, provided a context for consistent, integrated arguments against the draft.

The young intellectuals in Rand’s inner circle—students of Objectivism, at the time—often used the context of her philosophy as the basis of their own activism. And it was now that they began to ask themselves, “What will it take to end the draft?”  Continue reading Did Objectivists End the Draft?