Monthly Archive for September, 2017

Gay marriage is asking a deeper question about humanity

In Australia right now, there is a intense debate about legalising gay marriage. The outcome of it will be significant. Although Supreme Courts and legislatures around the world have made it legal since 2003 (starting with Belgium), only Ireland has voted for it by the citizenry through a referendum. Australia isn’t doing a referendum, it’s a survey instead. It’s not binding, but it’s doing a good thing: creating debate.

I think this debate is a good thing because it will explore the issues, helping educate people. But I don’t think its going far enough. This is a debate that we will see again, thanks to the marvel of technology — and how Australia votes, actually helps establish the parameters of the future debates which is why it’s significant. However, before I go into that, I need to establish some assumptions with you.

(1) There is only one way to make humans without technology
(2) More humans is a universal goal of most institutions
(3) Marriage is about family

Now let me explain the assumptions

(1) There is only one way to make humans without technology

Whatever your views are on gay marriage, I hope you accept that the idea of creating a human, has long been through a male and female reproducing.

If it sounds ridiculous that I’m even pointing this out, it is because we have forgotten how much technology has changed our lives, starting with the test tube baby. For the first time in history, we could conceive a human outside of the body. In the years that have followed, we can now (almost) engineer sex cells so that two women or two men can have their DNA combined. Whatever your beliefs, you have to admit that’s a remarkable feat of science.

But the point remains, without technology, there is only one way to create humans.

(2) More humans is a universal goal of most institutions

There are two ways that an economy grows: through productivity improvements, or through population growth. This is a topic in itself, because in the next 50 years I believe there will be a crisis around economic growth as we’ve always taken for granted its growth due to population growth — with Japan, Italy and other western nations now declining in population and transioning to this new reality.

Population growth, for most countries (China being the notable exception) for most of history, have wanted more people for economic reasons. However, not just economic: if you’re fighting a war, pre 21st Century technology, you needed more people. If you’re running a institution that exists off its members contributions (like religions or nations), more people means more resources to advance the institution.

I could go on with this, but my point is simply this: let’s just take it as an assumption that human creation is built into nearly all human institutions as a positive thing.

(3) Marriage is about family

You don’t need society to have a loving relationship (other than freedom from persecution). You also don’t need society to make babies, as a man and woman. But if you’re going to have children, you want to be an integrated economic union with a partner, you want to be treated as a unit. You want to capture the tax benefits as well as the property rights to protect your progeny.  Marriage-lite, is about sharing a life with another person; but marriage full-blown, is about incubating new life into the world under the sponsorship of a couple.

(Which actually, is a point most people don’t realise about the US Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. It was about removing discrimination from couples, who were denied the same federal benefits in tax, pensions, and legal transfer as heterosexual couples.)

OK — that’s a lot of ground work. Argue if you wish on the above, but that’s not the interesting bit — let’s now get into the meat of the topic.

Gay marriage will be an issue in future about children thanks to technology and adoption rights

The US Supreme Court argument is intellectually a valid one around discrimination. But what it also does, is open up the can of worms on other issues, which I believe is at the core of resistance of gay marriage. Specifically, the rights of homosexual couples to bring up children.

If you are a progressive today, the question of gay marriage is “how could you deny people this benefit”. And for the true progressive, this would extend from not just relationships rights, but children rights — such as the right to adopt children, and engineer embryos in a test tube with the DNA of two people.

But to the progressive 50 years ago, they would have been befuddled. Because outside of adoption, the technology didn’t exist to create embryos outside of the body. Technology is now creating options we previously didn’t have available to us and it’s reasonable that we are taking time to consider its consequences.

Being against homosexual child rearing isn’t logical

If you can accept my second assumption, it can help you understand the resistance to homosexual unions and gender types beyond male and female. Because if you believe (as some people do) that being gay is a choice, then sanctioning against it is a way to preserve the growth of the population. However, technology is changing this.

If we can create a normal functioning human in a test tube, why does homosexuality matter any more?  I’ve heard the pain of gay people come out to their parents, and I assess the root issues is due to embarrassment but also a sense of loss: the parents won’t have grandchildren. However, we are nearly at the point where any two people can have their DNA recombined to form an embryo. And with the assistance of surrogates (currently banned in Australia: the ability for someone else to bring to term your baby) and a third person’s sex cell (you need a woman’s egg as a shell and for the critical mitichondia), we can give birth to a human of any combination of people.

Which, funnily enough, actually supports the goal of population growth. Homosexual couples, with technology, can be like heterosexual couples now. If we could just get over the embarrassment bit, which I think we’ve seen a sea change this decade but still not enough, we probably will see more families in future — a thing people are mourning to be in “decline”.

The bigger question

All this is actually a debate on a much bigger issue: are we ready to play God, and evolve into a new human species?

The moment we can engineer sex cells, is the moment we can decide what DNA we want in that embryo. We are using technology to create human life with precision. Allowing gay couples to create their own baby is simply an insight into the much bigger debate of should we even be playing God?

Which is why I think more debate is needed. This isn’t just a debate about relationship equality, but about homosexual child rearing. But actually it’s not even that which matters: this debate will be seeding the battle of the future, which is human-designed embryos, where we will also be able to decide what genes we want.

This is an emotive topic. It’s complicated. But if we apply a purely rational, logical approach to this issue, what would it be?  Well, let me help with this and phrase it another way: I believe this evolution is inevitable because it won’t be practical to have the activity restricted. We would need every country in the world to ban it, but you only have to look on drugs as an example of how even that doesn’t work, a $360 billion industry.

Consequently, you will have a choice: where you can choose to remain a Homo Sapiens Sapiens, much like how the sibling of our shared ancestor chose to stay in the trees as monkeys and apes, or accept this evolution of the human species.

The irony being this isn’t actually a vote towards this future or not, because it’s going towards one outcome anyway. What it is actually is, is a vote of how ready you are for it.

And that’s ok if you’re not ready…because I’m sure if you ask the monkeys and apes, they are very happy.

Bitcoin as Store of Value

JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, on the back of China’s announcement to throttle cryptocurrency, made comments yesterday that shook the market.  (It’s not the first time he’s done this.)

He supported blockchain technology for tracking payments but then goes onto to say it’s illegal to trade Bitcoin at the bank and that’s it’s a currency that is associated with criminal activities.

It’s comical to hear this. How can the CEO of a Bank, both support Blockchain (the thing that Bitcoin invented) but trash Bitcoin? To me it points to one very obvious fact: Bitcoin itself is a threat and he’s on a consistent PR smear campaign.

Why Bitcoin is a threat
Customer deposits, where people store their money for protection, is the basis of banking. Banks use those deposits to then do lending activities that actually make them money, such as lending up to 10x what they hold as deposits in the forms of mortgages. Those same lending activities, not only make them money but can also be packaged into new financial products, such as mortgages bundled into securities (like the ones that created the 2008 credit-crisis).

Why is Bitcoin a threat? Because it has the potential to fulfill a function that only government fiat currency and gold have every achieved and that now banks are the custodians for: store of value.

If Bitcoin becomes the Store of Value in the world, people would move their customer deposits to Bitcoin. And the affect of that would be catastrophic to today’s banks.

Does Bitcoin have a fighting chance to be this?
Well, first of all its achieved an adoption that I think is irreversible. The only thing that could stop Bitcoin now is if governments make it illegal — but even then, it would require every government around the world to act in unison. Because all you need is one island nation, acting an a clearing house, to fulfill the needs of Bitcoin. (And the nation that realises this will become a new financial centre of the world.)

Secondly, the characteristics of Bitcoin are remarkable. What’s going on right now is real work is being generated, to create a hash. That hash and encryption function, will continue to be generated until 21 million Bitcoins are created. And then the supply stays constant!

The significance of this is there is a fixed supply: which means inflation will not exist (rather deflation), a pretty critical feature of where you want your Store of Value. Real work, and hence, value is behind it; and the token itself has a real use beyond being a string of characters — such as acting as a token to authenticate a Blockchain network which will underlay the future Internet.

I agree that there is a bubble right now: the hype driving it makes the price unstable. But I also believe that Bitcoin itself will get to $10,000 in value, without a doubt purely due to human psychology. But that’s not all, it should one day equal in my opinion  all the narrow money of the world which is $29 trillion  (if you want to be conservative, I’ll accept Gold which is $7.8 trillion). So if Bitcoin right now is worth $64,406,377,384 on 16,563,637 coins in supply, it’s price should be $3,888.42 but calculated on all the coins it will ever issue (21m), it’s $3066. But if the market value reaches $29 trillion, then 1 BTC will one day be worth $1, 380, 952 which is a 450x multiple on current prices ($371k if you use gold).

The question about Bitcoin is not about should it exist or not: the truth is, no one can control it. If you believe all the governments of the world will ban it, then maybe — but I believe human’s aren’t that capable on something that isn’t life threatening.

The question about it being a better store of value in the world is also not really a question: by design, it’s superior. (But admittedly the governance mechanisms behind it to create a secure system, are still being worked out and being tested– such as the SegWit2 rollout in November which put this question in doubt.)

Which leads to  the ultimate question, in lIght of the above:  do you accept it to be the Store of Value in the world? And that is the million dollar question (or, ahem, $1.381m question).