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What Is Posthumanism? University of Minnesota Press

Posted: June 24, 2016 at 7:28 am

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Beyond humanism and anthropocentrism

Can a new kind of humanitiesposthumanitiesrespond to the redefinition of humanity’s place in the world by both the technological and the biological or “green” continuum in which the “human” is but one life form among many? Exploring this radical repositioning, Cary Wolfe ranges across bioethics, cognitive science, animal ethics, gender, and disability to develop a theoretical and philosophical approach responsive to our changing understanding of ourselves and our world.

What Is Posthumanism? is an original, thoroughly argued, fundamental redefinition and refocusing of posthumanism. Firmly distinguishing posthumanism from discourses of the posthuman or transhumanism, this book will be at the center of discussion for a long time to come.

Donna Haraway, author of When Species Meet

What does it mean to think beyond humanism? Is it possible to craft a mode of philosophy, ethics, and interpretation that rejects the classic humanist divisions of self and other, mind and body, society and nature, human and animal, organic and technological? Can a new kind of humanitiesposthumanitiesrespond to the redefinition of humanitys place in the world by both the technological and the biological or green continuum in which the human is but one life form among many?

Exploring how both critical thought along with cultural practice have reacted to this radical repositioning, Cary Wolfeone of the founding figures in the field of animal studies and posthumanist theoryranges across bioethics, cognitive science, animal ethics, gender, and disability to develop a theoretical and philosophical approach responsive to our changing understanding of ourselves and our world. Then, in performing posthumanist readings of such diverse works as Temple Grandins writings, Wallace Stevenss poetry, Lars von Triers Dancer in the Dark, the architecture of Diller+Scofidio, and David Byrne and Brian Enos My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, he shows how this philosophical sensibility can transform art and culture.

For Wolfe, a vibrant, rigorous posthumanism is vital for addressing questions of ethics and justice, language and trans-species communication, social systems and their inclusions and exclusions, and the intellectual aspirations of interdisciplinarity. In What Is Posthumanism? he carefully distinguishes posthumanism from transhumanism (the biotechnological enhancement of human beings) and narrow definitions of the posthuman as the hoped-for transcendence of materiality. In doing so, Wolfe reveals that it is humanism, not the human in all its embodied and prosthetic complexity, that is left behind in posthumanist thought.

Cary Wolfe holds the Bruce and Elizabeth Dunlevie Chair in English at Rice University. His previous books include Critical Environments: Postmodern Theory and the Pragmatics of the Outside, Observing Complexity: Systems Theory and Postmodernity, and Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal, all published by the University of Minnesota Press.

What Is Posthumanism? is an original, thoroughly argued, fundamental redefinition and refocusing of posthumanism. Firmly distinguishing posthumanism from discourses of the posthuman or transhumanism, this book will be at the center of discussion for a long time to come.

Donna Haraway, author of When Species Meet

Wolfe offers a smart, provocative account of posthumanism as an idea and as a way of thinking that has consequences extending from the way universities are organized to decisions regarding public policy bioethics. Although his writing is complex and demanding, the ethical and ecological urgency with which he frames his readings combines with the wide, diversified scope of his scholarship to make this a work to be reckoned with.

Wolfes book, without a doubt, supplies important insights.

Wolfe has created an incredibly useful primer on posthumanist theory. For anyone attempting to engage in academic work relating to these theories, this book is a highly recommended starting point.

Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley

It is one of those books that sucks you in almost immediately.

ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment

Readers . . . will find Wolfes analysis of both visual and audio culture to be thought-provoking.

Science Fiction Film and Television

It is a profound, thoroughly researched study with far-reaching consequences for public policy, bioethics, education, and the arts.

Science, Culture, Integrated Yoga

What Is Posthumanism? is an intelligent, extensively argued and challenging work.

Wolfes work shifts the tired terms of the debate in new and needed directions, offering strength and strategies to all those for whom simplistic, technophilic accounts of the posthuman condition are a smooth road to nowhere different.

Electronic Book Review

Tremendous intellectual, scholarly, and artistic breadth.

As a blueprint for where a posthumanist approach could take cultural theory, his book is conceptually invaluable.

Wolfes posthumanism is brilliant in the way it allows us to realize that each of the
se species might have different forms of perception, different ways of being in the world, and that those differences are actually analogous with otherness among human beings.

Wolfe deserves credit for a rich set of discussions that, taken together, bring out the interest of the intellectual trend that he calls posthumanism.

UMP blog: Discovering the HUMAN

3/24/2010 Part of the unfortunate fallout of the conceptual apparatus of humanism is that it gives us an overly simple picturea fantasy, reallyof what the human is. Consider, for example, the rise of what is often called transhumanism, often taken to be a defining discourse of posthumanism (as in Ray Kurzweils work on the singularitythe historical moment at which engineering developments such as nanotechnology enable us to transcend our physical and biological limitations as embodied beings, ushering in a new phase of evolution). As many of its proponents freely admit, the philosophical ideals of transhumanism are quite identifiably humanistnot only in their dream of transcending the life of the body and our animal origins but also in their investment in the ideals of human perfectibility, rationality, autonomy, and agency. Read more …

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What Is Posthumanism? University of Minnesota Press

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The Ethics of Human Cloning and Stem Cell Research …

Posted: June 19, 2016 at 2:37 pm

“California Cloning: A Dialogue on State Regulation” was convened October 12, 2001, by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. Its purpose was to bring together experts from the fields of science, religion, ethics, and law to discuss how the state of California should proceed in regulating human cloning and stem cell research.

A framework for discussing the issue was provided by Center Director of Biotechnology and Health Care Ethics Margaret McLean, who also serves on the California State Advisory Committee on Human Cloning. In 1997, the California legislature declared a “five year moratorium on cloning of an entire human being” and requested that “a panel of representatives from the fields of medicine, religion, biotechnology, genetics, law, bioethics and the general public” be established to evaluate the “medical, ethical and social implications” of human cloning (SB 1344). This 12-member Advisory Committee on Human Cloning convened five public meetings, each focusing on a particular aspect of human cloning: e.g., reproductive cloning, and cloning technology and stem cells. The committee is drafting a report to the legislature that is due on December 31, 2001. The report will discuss the science of cloning, and the ethical and legal considerations of applications of cloning technology. It will also set out recommendations to the legislature regarding regulation of human cloning. The legislature plans to take up this discussion after January. The moratorium expires the end of 2002.

What should the state do at that point? More than 80 invited guests came to SCU for “California Cloning” to engage in a dialogue on that question. These included scientists, theologians, businesspeople from the biotechnology industry, bioethicists, legal scholars, representatives of non-profits, and SCU faculty. Keynote Speaker Ursula Goodenough, professor of biology at Washington University and author of Genetics, set the issues in context with her talk, “A Religious Naturalist Thinks About Bioethics.” Four panels addressed the specific scientific, religious, ethical, and legal implications of human reproductive cloning and stem cell research. This document gives a brief summary of the issues as they were raised by the four panels.

Science and Biotechnology Perspectives

Thomas Okarma, CEO of Geron Corp., launched this panel with an overview of regenerative medicine and distinguished between reproductive cloning and human embryonic stem cell research. He helped the audience understand the science behind the medical potential of embryonic stem cell research, with an explanation of the procedures for creating stem cell lines and the relationship of this field to telomere biology and genetics. No brief summary could do justice to the science. The reader is referred to the report of the National Bioethics Advisory Committee (http://bioethics.georgetown.edu/nbac/stemcell.pdf) for a good introduction.

Responding to Okarma, were J. William Langston, president of the Parkinsons Institute, and Phyllis Gardner, associate professor of medicine and former dean for medical education at Stanford University. Both discussed the implications of the presidents recent restrictions on stem cell research for the non-profit sector. Langston compared the current regulatory environment to the Reagan era ban on fetal cell research, which he believed was a serious setback for Parkinsons research. He also pointed out that stem cell research was only being proposed using the thousands of embryos that were already being created in the process of fertility treatments. These would ultimately be disposed of in any event, he said, arguing that it would be better to allow them to serve some function rather than be destroyed. President Bush has confined federally-funded research to the 64 existing stem cell lines, far too few in Langstons view. In addition, Langston opposed bans on government funding for stem cell research because of the opportunities for public review afforded by the process of securing government grants.

Gardner talked about the differences between academic and commercial research, suggesting that both were important for the advancement of science and its application. Since most of the current stem cell lines are in the commercial sector and the president has banned the creation of new lines, she worried that universities would not continue to be centers of research in this important area. That, she argued, would cut out the more serendipitous and sometimes more altruistic approaches of academic research. Also, it might lead to more of the brain drain represented by the recent move of prominent UCSF stem cell researcher Roger Pedersen to Britain. Gardner expressed a hope that the United States would continue to be the “flagship” in stem cell research. Her concerns were echoed later by moderator Allen Hammond, SCU law professor, who urged the state, which has been at the forefront of stem cell research to consider the economic impact of banning such activity. All three panelists commended the decision of the state advisory committee to deal separately with the issues of human cloning and stem cell research.

Religious Perspectives

Two religion panelists, Suzanne Holland and Laurie Zoloth, are co editors of The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate: Science, Ethics and Public Policy (MIT Press, 2001). Holland, assistant professor of Religious and Social Ethics at the University of Puget Sound, began the panel with a discussion of Protestant ideas about the sin of pride and respect for persons and how these apply to human reproductive cloning. Given current safety concerns about cloning, she was in favor of a continuing ban. But ultimately, she argued, cloning should be regulated rather than banned outright. In fact, she suggested, the entire fertility industry requires more regulation. As a basis for such regulation, she proposed assessing the motivation of those who want to use the technology. Those whose motives arise from benevolence–for example, those who want to raise a child but have no other means of bearing a genetically related baby–should be allowed to undergo a cloning procedure. Those whose motives arise more from narcissistic considerations — people who want immortality or novelty — should be prohibited from using the technology. She proposed mandatory counseling and a waiting period as a means of assessing motivation.

Zoloth reached a different conclusion about reproductive cloning based on her reading of Jewish sources. She argued that the availability of such technology would make human life too easily commodified, putting the emphasis more on achieving a copy of the self than on the crucial parental act of creating “a stranger to whom you would give your life.” She put the cloning issue in the context of a system where foster children cannot find homes and where universal health care is not available for babies who have already been born. While Zoloth reported that Jewish ethicists vary considerably in their views about reproductive cloning, there is fairly broad agreement that stem cell research is justified. Among the Jewish traditions she cited were:

The embryo does not have the status of a human person.

There is a commandment to heal.

Great latitude is permitted for learning.

The world is uncompleted and requires human participation to become whole.

Catholic bioethicist Albert Jonsen, one of the deans of the field, gave a historical perspective on the cloning debate, citing a paper by Joshua Lederburg in the 1960s, which challenged his collea
gues to look at the implications of the then-remote possibility. He also traced the development of Catholic views on other new medical technologies. When organ transplantation was first introduced, it was opposed as a violation of the principal, “First, do no harm” and as a mutilation of the human body. Later, the issue was reconceived in terms of charity and concern for others. One of the key questions, Jonsen suggested, is What can we, as a society that promotes religious pluralism, do when we must make public policy on issues where religious traditions may disagree. He argued that beneath the particular teachings of each religion are certain broad themes they share, which might provide a framework for the debate. These include human finitude, human fallibility, human dignity, and compassion.

Ethics Perspectives

Lawrence Nelson, adjunct associate professor of philosophy at SCU, opened the ethics panel with a discussion of the moral status of the human embryo. Confining his remarks to viable, extracorporeal embryos (embryos created for fertility treatments that were never implanted), Nelson argued that these beings do have some moral status–albeit it weak–because they are alive and because they are valued to varying degrees by other moral agents. This status does entitle the embryo to some protection. In Nelsons view, the gamete sources whose egg and sperm created these embryos have a unique connection to them and should have exclusive control over their disposition. If the gamete sources agree, Nelson believes the embryos can be used for research if they are treated respectfully. Some manifestations of respect might be:

They are used only if the goal of the research cannot be obtained by other methods.

The embryos have not reached gastrulation (prior to 14 to 18 days of development).

Those who use them avoid considering or treating them as property.

Their destruction is accompanied by some sense of loss or sorrow.

Philosophy Professor Barbara MacKinnon (University of San Francisco), editor of Human Cloning: Science, Ethics, and Public Policy, began by discussing the distinction between reproductive and therapeutic cloning and the slippery slope argument. She distinguished three different forms of this argument and showed that for each, pursuing stem cell research will not inevitably lead to human reproductive cloning. MacKinnon favored a continuing ban on the latter, citing safety concerns. Regarding therapeutic cloning and stem cell research, she criticized consequentialist views such as that anything can be done to reduce human suffering and that certain embryos would perish anyway. However, she noted that non-consequentialist concerns must also be addressed for therapeutic cloning, among them the question of the moral status of the early embryo. She also made a distinction between morality and the law, arguing that not everything that is immoral ought to be prohibited by law, and showed how this position relates to human cloning.

Paul Billings, co-founder of GeneSage, has been involved in crafting an international treaty to ban human reproductive cloning and germ-line genetic engineering. As arguments against human cloning he cited:

There is no right to have a genetically related child.

Cloning is not safe.

Cloning is not medically necessary.

Cloning could not be delivered in an equitable manner.

Billings also believes that the benefits of stem cell therapies have been “wildly oversold.” Currently, he argues, there are no effective treatments coming from this research. He is also concerned about how developing abilities in nuclear transfer technology may have applications in germ-line genetic engineering that we do not want to encourage. As a result, he favors the current go-slow approach of banning the creation of new cell lines until some therapies have been proven effective. At the same time, he believes we must work to better the situation of the poor and marginalized so their access to all therapies is improved.

Legal Perspectives

Member of the State Advisory Committee on Human Cloning Henry “Hank” Greely addressed some of the difficulties in creating a workable regulatory system for human reproductive cloning. First he addressed safety, which, considering the 5 to 10 times greater likelihood of spontaneous abortion in cloned sheep, he argued clearly justifies regulation. The FDA has currently claimed jurisdiction over this technology, but Greely doubted whether the courts would uphold this claim. Given these facts, Greely saw three alternatives for the state of California:

Do nothing; let the federal government take care of it.

Create an FDA equivalent to regulate the safety of the process, an alternative he pointed out for which the state has no experience.

Continue the current ban on the grounds of safety until such time as the procedure is adjudged safe. Next Greely responded to suggestions that the state might regulate by distinguishing between prospective cloners on the basis of their motivation, for example, denying a request to clone a person to provide heart tissue for another person but okaying a request if cloning were the only opportunity a couple might have to conceive a child. Greely found the idea of the state deciding on such basis deeply troubling because it would necessitate “peering into someones soul” in a manner that government is not adept at doing.

The impact of regulation on universities was the focus of Debra Zumwalts presentation. As Stanford University general counsel, Zumwalt talked about the necessity of creating regulations that are clear and simple. Currently, federal regulations on stem cells are unclear, she argued, making it difficult for universities and other institutions to tell if they are in compliance. She believes that regulations should be based on science and good public policy rather than on politics. As a result, she favored overall policy being set by the legislature but details being worked out at the administrative level by regulatory agencies with expertise. Whatever regulations California develops should not be more restrictive than the federal regulations, she warned, or research would be driven out of the state. Like several other speakers, Zumwalt was concerned about federal regulations restricting stem cell research to existing cell lines. That, she feared, would drive all research into private hands. “We must continue to have a public knowledge base,” she said. Also, she praised the inherent safeguards in academic research including peer review, ethics panels, and institutional review boards.

SCU Presidential Professor of Ethics and the Common Good June Carbone looked at the role of California cloning decisions in contributing to the governance of biotechnology. California, she suggested, cannot address these issues alone, and thus might make the most useful contribution by helping to forge a new international moral consensus through public debate. Taking a lesson from U.S. response to recent terrorist attacks, she argued for international consensus based on the alliance of principle and self-interest. Such consensus would need to be enforced both by carrot and stick and should, she said, include a public-private partnership to deal with ethical issues. Applying these ideas to reproductive cloning, she suggested that we think about which alliances would be necessary to prevent or limit the practice. Preventing routine use might be accomplished
by establishing a clear ethical and professional line prohibiting reproductive cloning. Preventing exceptional use (a determined person with sufficient money to find a willing doctor) might not be possible. As far as stem cell research is concerned, Carbone argued that the larger the investment in such research, the bigger the carrot–the more the funder would be able to regulate the process. That, she suggested, argues for a government role in the funding. If the professional community does not respect the ethical line drawn by politicians, and alternative funding is available from either public sources abroad or private sources at home, the U.S. political debate runs the risk of becoming irrelevant.

“California Cloning” was organized by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and co-sponsored by the Bannan Center for Jesuit Education and Christian Values; the Center for Science, Technology, and Society; the SCU School of Law; the High Tech Law Institute; the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Community of Science Scholars Initiative; and the law firm of Latham & Watkins.

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The Ethics of Human Cloning and Stem Cell Research …

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Wage slavery – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted: March 26, 2016 at 8:44 am

Wage slavery refers to a situation where a person’s livelihood depends on wages or a salary, especially when the dependence is total and immediate.[1][2] It is a pejorative term used to draw an analogy between slavery and wage labor by focusing on similarities between owning and renting a person.

The term wage slavery has been used to criticize exploitation of labour and social stratification, with the former seen primarily as unequal bargaining power between labor and capital (particularly when workers are paid comparatively low wages, e.g. in sweatshops),[3] and the latter as a lack of workers’ self-management, fulfilling job choices, and leisure in an economy.[4][5][6] The criticism of social stratification covers a wider range of employment choices bound by the pressures of a hierarchical society to perform otherwise unfulfilling work that deprives humans of their “species character”[7] not only under threat of starvation or poverty, but also of social stigma and status diminution.[8][9][10]

Similarities between wage labor and slavery were noted as early as Cicero in Ancient Rome.[11] With the advent of the industrial revolution, thinkers such as Proudhon and Marx elaborated the comparison between wage labor and slavery in the context of a critique of societal property not intended for active personal use,[12][13] while Luddites emphasized the dehumanization brought about by machines. Before the American Civil War, Southern defenders of African American slavery invoked the concept of wage slavery to favorably compare the condition of their slaves to workers in the North.[14][15] The United States abolished slavery after the Civil War, but labor union activists found the metaphor useful. According to Lawrence Glickman, in the Gilded Age, “References abounded in the labor press, and it is hard to find a speech by a labor leader without the phrase.”[16]

The introduction of wage labor in 18th century Britain was met with resistance&emdash;giving rise to the principles of syndicalism.[17][18][19][20] Historically, some labor organizations and individual social activists have espoused workers’ self-management or worker cooperatives as possible alternatives to wage labor.[5][19]

The view that working for wages is akin to slavery dates back to the ancient world.[22]

In 1763, the French journalist Simon Linguet published a description of wage slavery:[13]

The slave was precious to his master because of the money he had cost him … They were worth at least as much as they could be sold for in the market … It is the impossibility of living by any other means that compels our farm labourers to till the soil whose fruits they will not eat and our masons to construct buildings in which they will not live … It is want that compels them to go down on their knees to the rich man in order to get from him permission to enrich him … what effective gain [has] the suppression of slavery brought [him?] He is free, you say. Ah! That is his misfortune … These men … [have] the most terrible, the most imperious of masters, that is, need. … They must therefore find someone to hire them, or die of hunger. Is that to be free?

The view that wage work has substantial similarities with chattel slavery was actively put forward in the late 18th and 19th centuries by defenders of chattel slavery (most notably in the Southern states of the US), and by opponents of capitalism (who were also critics of chattel slavery).[9][23] Some defenders of slavery, mainly from the Southern slave states argued that Northern workers were “free but in name the slaves of endless toil,” and that their slaves were better off.[24][25] This contention has been partly corroborated by some modern studies that indicate slaves’ material conditions in the 19th century were “better than what was typically available to free urban laborers at the time.”[26][27] In this period, Henry David Thoreau wrote that “[i]t is hard to have a Southern overseer; it is worse to have a Northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself.”[28]

Some abolitionists in the United States regarded the analogy as spurious.[29] They believed that wage workers were “neither wronged nor oppressed”.[30]Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans argued that the condition of wage workers was different from slavery, as laborers were likely to have the opportunity to work for themselves in the future, achieving self-employment.[31] The abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass initially declared, “now I am my own master”, upon taking a paying job.[32] But later in life, he concluded to the contrary, “experience demonstrates that there may be a slavery of wages only a little less galling and crushing in its effects than chattel slavery, and that this slavery of wages must go down with the other”.[33][34] Douglass went on to speak about these conditions as arising from the unequal bargaining power between the ownership/capitalist class and the non-ownership/laborer class within a compulsory monetary market. “No more crafty and effective devise for defrauding the southern laborers could be adopted than the one that substitutes orders upon shopkeepers for currency in payment of wages. It has the merit of a show of honesty, while it puts the laborer completely at the mercy of the land-owner and the shopkeeper.”.[35]

Self-employment became less common as the artisan tradition slowly disappeared in the later part of the 19th century.[5] In 1869 The New York Times described the system of wage labor as “a system of slavery as absolute if not as degrading as that which lately prevailed at the South”.[31]E. P. Thompson notes that for British workers at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, the “gap in status between a ‘servant,’ a hired wage-laborer subject to the orders and discipline of the master, and an artisan, who might ‘come and go’ as he pleased, was wide enough for men to shed blood rather than allow themselves to be pushed from one side to the other. And, in the value system of the community, those who resisted degradation were in the right.”[17] A “Member of the Builders’ Union” in the 1830s argued that the trade unions “will not only strike for less work, and more wages, but will ultimately abolish wages, become their own masters and work for each other; labor and capital will no longer be separate but will be indissolubly joined together in the hands of workmen and work-women.”[18] This perspective inspired the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union of 1834 which had the “two-fold purpose of syndicalist unions the protection of the workers under the existing system and the formation of the nuclei of the future society” when the unions “take over the whole industry of the country.”[19] “Research has shown”, summarises William Lazonick, “that the ‘free-born Englishman’ of the eighteenth century even those who, by force of circumstance, had to submit to agricultural wage labour tenaciously resisted entry into the capitalist workshop.”[20]

The use of the term wage slave by labor organizations may originate from the labor protests of the Lowell Mill Girls in 1836.[36] The imagery of wage slavery was widely used by labor organizations during the mid-19th century to object to the lack of workers’ self-management. However, it was gradually replaced by the more neutral term “wage work” towards the end of the 19th century, as labor organizations shifted their focus to raising wages.[5]

Karl Marx described Capitalist society as infringing on individual autonomy, by basing it on a materialisti
c and commodified concept of the body and its liberty (i.e. as something that is sold, rented or alienated in a class society). According to Friedrich Engels:[37][38]

The slave is sold once and for all; the proletarian must sell himself daily and hourly. The individual slave, property of one master, is assured an existence, however miserable it may be, because of the master’s interest. The individual proletarian, property as it were of the entire bourgeois class which buys his labor only when someone has need of it, has no secure existence.

Critics of wage work have drawn several similarities between wage work and slavery:

According to American anarcho-syndicalist philosopher Noam Chomsky, the similarities between chattel and wage slavery were noticed by the workers themselves. He noted that the 19th century Lowell Mill Girls, who, without any reported knowledge of European Marxism or anarchism, condemned the “degradation and subordination” of the newly emerging industrial system, and the “new spirit of the age: gain wealth, forgetting all but self”, maintaining that “those who work in the mills should own them.”[44][45] They expressed their concerns in a protest song during their 1836 strike:

Oh! isn’t it a pity, such a pretty girl as I Should be sent to the factory to pine away and die? Oh! I cannot be a slave, I will not be a slave, For I’m so fond of liberty, That I cannot be a slave.[46]

Defenses of wage labor and chattel slavery in the literature have linked the subjection of man to man with the subjection of man to nature; arguing that hierarchy and a social system’s particular relations of production represent human nature and are no more coercive than the reality of life itself. According to this narrative, any well-intentioned attempt to fundamentally change the status quo is naively utopian and will result in more oppressive conditions.[47] Bosses in both of these long-lasting systems argued that their system created a lot of wealth and prosperity. Both did, in some sense create jobs and their investment entailed risk. For example, slave owners might have risked losing money by buying expensive slaves who later became ill or died; or might have used those slaves to make products that didn’t sell well on the market. Marginally, both chattel and wage slaves may become bosses; sometimes by working hard. It may be the “rags to riches” story which occasionally occurs in capitalism, or the “slave to master” story that occurred in places like colonial Brazil, where slaves could buy their own freedom and become business owners, self-employed, or slave owners themselves.[48] Social mobility, or the hard work and risk that it may entail, are thus not considered to be a redeeming factor by critics of the concept of wage slavery.[49]

Anthropologist David Graeber has noted that, historically, the first wage labor contracts we know about whether in ancient Greece or Rome, or in the Malay or Swahili city states in the Indian ocean were in fact contracts for the rental of chattel slaves (usually the owner would receive a share of the money, and the slave, another, with which to maintain his or her living expenses.) Such arrangements, according to Graeber, were quite common in New World slavery as well, whether in the United States or Brazil. C. L. R. James argued that most of the techniques of human organization employed on factory workers during the industrial revolution were first developed on slave plantations.[50]

The usage of the term “wage slavery” shifted to “wage work” at the end of the 19th century as groups like the Knights of Labor and American Federation of Labor shifted to a more reformist, trade union ideology instead of worker’s self-management. Much of the decline was caused by the rapid increase in manufacturing after the industrial revolution and the subsequent dominance of wage labor as a result. Another factor was immigration and demographic changes that led to ethnic tension between the workers.[5]

As Hallgrimsdottir and Benoit point out:

increased centralization of production… declining wages… [an] expanding… labor pool… intensifying competition, and… [t]he loss of competence and independence experienced by skilled labor” meant that “a critique that referred to all [wage] work as slavery and avoided demands for wage concessions in favor of supporting the creation of the producerist republic (by diverting strike funds towards funding… co-operatives, for example) was far less compelling than one that identified the specific conditions of slavery as low wages…[5]

Some anti-capitalist thinkers claim that the elite maintain wage slavery and a divided working class through their influence over the media and entertainment industry,[51][52] educational institutions, unjust laws, nationalist and corporate propaganda, pressures and incentives to internalize values serviceable to the power structure, state violence, fear of unemployment[53] and a historical legacy of exploitation and profit accumulation/transfer under prior systems, which shaped the development of economic theory:

Adam Smith noted that employers often conspire together to keep wages low, and have the upper hand in conflicts between workers and employers:[54]

The interest of the dealers… in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public [They] have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labor above their actual rate It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms.

The concept of wage slavery could conceivably be traced back to pre-capitalist figures like Gerrard Winstanley from the radical Christian Diggers movement in England, who wrote in his 1649 pamphlet, The New Law of Righteousness, that there “shall be no buying or selling, no fairs nor markets, but the whole earth shall be a common treasury for every man,” and “there shall be none Lord over others, but every one shall be a Lord of himself.”[55]

Aristotle stated that “the citizens must not live a mechanic or a mercantile life (for such a life is ignoble and inimical to virtue), nor yet must those who are to be citizens in the best state be tillers of the soil (for leisure is needed both for the development of virtue and for active participation in politics)”,[56] often paraphrased as “all paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind.”[57]Cicero wrote in 44 BC that “vulgar are the means of livelihood of all hired workmen whom we pay for mere manual labour, not for artistic skill; for in their case the very wage they receive is a pledge of their slavery.”[58] Somewhat similar criticisms have also been expressed by some proponents of liberalism, like Henry George,[9]Silvio Gesell, and Thomas Paine,[59] as well as the Distributist school of thought within the Catholic Church.

To Marx and anarchist thinkers like Bakunin and Kropotkin, wage slavery was a class condition in place due to the existence of private property and the state. This class situation rested primarily
on:

and secondarily on:

Proponents of anarcho-capitalism such as John Frederic Kosanke, in contrast, believe that in the absence of restrictive statutory regulations and political cronyism, the natural pursuit of property and capital allows a positive sum enrichment of all actors. Employers and employees, as buyers and sellers of services, become peers on an equal footing.[61]

Fascism was more hostile against independent trade unions than modern economies in Europe or the United States.[62] Fascist economic policies were widely accepted in the 1920s and 1930s and foreign (especially US) corporate investment in Italy and Germany increased after the fascist take over.[63][64]

Fascism has been perceived by some notable critics, like Buenaventura Durruti, to be a last resort weapon of the privileged to ensure the maintenance of wage slavery:

No government fights fascism to destroy it. When the bourgeoisie sees that power is slipping out of its hands, it brings up fascism to hold onto their privileges.[65]

According to Noam Chomsky, analysis of the psychological implications of wage slavery goes back to the Enlightenment era. In his 1791 book On the Limits of State Action, classical liberal thinker Wilhelm von Humboldt explained how “whatever does not spring from a man’s free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very nature; he does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness” and so when the laborer works under external control, “we may admire what he does, but we despise what he is.”[66] Both the Milgram and Stanford experiments have been found useful in the psychological study of wage-based workplace relations.[67]

According to research, modern work provides people with a sense of personal and social identity that is tied to

Thus job loss entails the loss of this identity.[68]

Erich Fromm argued that if a person perceives himself as being what he owns, then when that person loses (or even thinks of losing) what he “owns” (e.g. the good looks or sharp mind that allow him to sell his labor for high wages), then, a fear of loss may create anxiety and authoritarian tendencies because that person’s sense of identity is threatened. In contrast, when a person’s sense of self is based on what he experiences in a state of being (creativity, love, sadness, taste, sight etc.) with a less materialistic regard for what he once had and lost, or may lose, then less authoritarian tendencies prevail. The state of being, in his view, flourishes under a worker-managed workplace and economy, whereas self-ownership entails a materialistic notion of self, created to rationalize the lack of worker control that would allow for a state of being.[69]

Investigative journalist Robert Kuttner analyzed the work of public-health scholars Jeffrey Johnson and Ellen Hall about modern conditions of work, and concludes that “to be in a life situation where one experiences relentless demands by others, over which one has relatively little control, is to be at risk of poor health, physically as well as mentally.” Under wage labor, “a relatively small elite demands and gets empowerment, self-actualization, autonomy, and other work satisfaction that partially compensate for long hours” while “epidemiological data confirm that lower-paid, lower-status workers are more likely to experience the most clinically damaging forms of stress, in part because they have less control over their work.”[70]

Wage slavery, and the educational system that precedes it “implies power held by the leader. Without power the leader is inept. The possession of power inevitably leads to corruption in spite of good intentions [Leadership means] power of initiative, this sense of responsibility, the self-respect which comes from expressed manhood, is taken from the men, and consolidated in the leader. The sum of their initiative, their responsibility, their self-respect becomes his [and the] order and system he maintains is based upon the suppression of the men, from being independent thinkers into being ‘the men’ In a word, he is compelled to become an autocrat and a foe to democracy.” For the “leader”, such marginalisation can be beneficial, for a leader “sees no need for any high level of intelligence in the rank and file, except to applaud his actions. Indeed such intelligence from his point of view, by breeding criticism and opposition, is an obstacle and causes confusion.”[71] Wage slavery “implies erosion of the human personality [because] some men submit to the will of others, arousing in these instincts which predispose them to cruelty and indifference in the face of the suffering of their fellows.”[72]

In 19th-century discussions of labor relations, it was normally assumed that the threat of starvation forced those without property to work for wages. Proponents of the view that modern forms of employment constitute wage slavery, even when workers appear to have a range of available alternatives, have attributed its perpetuation to a variety of social factors that maintain the hegemony of the employer class.[43][73]

Harriet Hanson Robinson in an account of the Lowell Mill Girls wrote that generously high wages were offered to overcome the degrading nature of the work:

At the time the Lowell cotton mills were started the caste of the factory girl was the lowest among the employments of women. … She was represented as subjected to influences that must destroy her purity and selfrespect. In the eyes of her overseer she was but a brute, a slave, to be beaten, pinched and pushed about. It was to overcome this prejudice that such high wages had been offered to women that they might be induced to become millgirls, in spite of the opprobrium that still clung to this degrading occupation.[74]

In his book Disciplined Minds, Jeff Schmidt points out that professionals are trusted to run organizations in the interests of their employers. Because employers cannot be on hand to manage every decision, professionals are trained to ensure that each and every detail of their work favors the right interestsor skewers the disfavored ones in the absence of overt control:

The resulting professional is an obedient thinker, an intellectual property whom employers can trust to experiment, theorize, innovate and create safely within the confines of an assigned ideology.[75]

Parecon (participatory economics) theory posits a social class “between labor and capital” of higher paid professionals such as “doctors, lawyers, engineers, managers and others” who monopolize empowering labor and constitute a class above wage laborers who do mostly “obedient, rote work”.[76]

The terms “employee” or “worker” have often been replaced by “associate”. This plays up the allegedly voluntary nature of the interaction, while playing down the subordinate status of the wage laborer, as well as the worker-boss class distinction emphasized by labor movements. Billboards, as well as TV, Internet and newspaper advertisements, consistently show low-wage workers with smiles on their faces, appearing happy.[77]

Job interviews and other data on requirements for lower skilled workers in developed countries particularly in the growing service sector indicate that the more workers depend on low wages, and the less skilled or desirable their job is, the more employers screen for workers without better employment options and expect them to feign unremunerative motivation.[78] Such screening and feigning may not only contribute to the positive self-image
of the employer as someone granting desirable employment, but also signal wage-dependence by indicating the employee’s willingness to feign, which in turn may discourage the dissatisfaction normally associated with job-switching or union activity.[78]

At the same time, employers in the service industry have justified unstable, part-time employment and low wages by playing down the importance of service jobs for the lives of the wage laborers (e.g. just temporary before finding something better, student summer jobs etc.).[79][80]

In the early 20th century, “scientific methods of strikebreaking”[81] were devised employing a variety of tactics that emphasized how strikes undermined “harmony” and “Americanism”.[82]

Some social activists objecting to the market system or price system of wage working, historically have considered syndicalism, worker cooperatives, workers’ self-management and workers’ control as possible alternatives to the current wage system.[4][5][6][19]

The American philosopher John Dewey believed that until “industrial feudalism” is replaced by “industrial democracy,” politics will be “the shadow cast on society by big business”.[83]Thomas Ferguson has postulated in his investment theory of party competition that the undemocratic nature of economic institutions under capitalism causes elections to become occasions when blocs of investors coalesce and compete to control the state.[84]

Noam Chomsky has argued that political theory tends to blur the ‘elite’ function of government:

Modern political theory stresses Madison’s belief that “in a just and a free government the rights both of property and of persons ought to be effectually guarded.” But in this case too it is useful to look at the doctrine more carefully. There are no rights of property, only rights to property that is, rights of persons with property,…

[In] representative democracy, as in, say, the United States or Great Britain […] there is a monopoly of power centralized in the state, and secondly and critically […] the representative democracy is limited to the political sphere and in no serious way encroaches on the economic sphere […] That is, as long as individuals are compelled to rent themselves on the market to those who are willing to hire them, as long as their role in production is simply that of ancillary tools, then there are striking elements of coercion and oppression that make talk of democracy very limited, if even meaningful.[85]

In this regard Chomsky has used Bakunin’s theories about an “instinct for freedom”,[86] the militant history of labor movements, Kropotkin’s mutual aid evolutionary principle of survival and Marc Hauser’s theories supporting an innate and universal moral faculty,[87] to explain the incompatibility of oppression with certain aspects of human nature.[88][89]

Loyola University philosophy professor John Clark and libertarian socialist philosopher Murray Bookchin have criticized the system of wage labor for encouraging environmental destruction, arguing that a self-managed industrial society would better manage the environment. They, like other anarchists,[90] attribute much of the industrial revolution’s pollution to the “hierarchical” and “competitive” economic relations accompanying it.[91]

Some criticize wage slavery on strictly contractual grounds, e.g. David Ellerman and Carole Pateman, arguing that the employment contract is a legal fiction in that it treats human beings juridically as mere tools or inputs by abdicating responsibility and self-determination, which the critics argue are inalienable. As Ellerman points out, “[t]he employee is legally transformed from being a co-responsible partner to being only an input supplier sharing no legal responsibility for either the input liabilities [costs] or the produced outputs [revenue, profits] of the employer’s business.”[92] Such contracts are inherently invalid “since the person remain[s] a de facto fully capacitated adult person with only the contractual role of a non-person” as it is impossible to physically transfer self-determination.[93] As Pateman argues:

The contractarian argument is unassailable all the time it is accepted that abilities can ‘acquire’ an external relation to an individual, and can be treated as if they were property. To treat abilities in this manner is also implicitly to accept that the ‘exchange’ between employer and worker is like any other exchange of material property … The answer to the question of how property in the person can be contracted out is that no such procedure is possible. Labour power, capacities or services, cannot be separated from the person of the worker like pieces of property.[94]

In a modern liberal-capitalist society, the employment contract is enforced while the enslavement contract is not; the former being considered valid because of its consensual/non-coercive nature, and the later being considered inherently invalid, consensual or not. The noted economist Paul Samuelson described this discrepancy.

Since slavery was abolished, human earning power is forbidden by law to be

capitalized. A man is not even free to sell himself; he must rent himself at a wage.[95]

Some advocates of right-libertarianism, among them philosopher Robert Nozick, address this inconsistency in modern societies, arguing that a consistently libertarian society would allow and regard as valid consensual/non-coercive enslavement contracts, rejecting the notion of inalienable rights.

The comparable question about an individual is whether a free system will allow him to sell himself into slavery. I believe that it would.[96]

Others like Murray Rothbard allow for the possibility of debt slavery, asserting that a lifetime labour contract can be broken so long as the slave pays appropriate damages:

[I]f A has agreed to work for life for B in exchange for 10,000 grams of gold, he will have to return the proportionate amount of property if he terminates the arrangement and ceases to work.[97]

In the philosophy of mainstream, neoclassical economics, wage labor is seen as the voluntary sale of one’s own time and efforts, just like a carpenter would sell a chair, or a farmer would sell wheat. It is considered neither an antagonistic nor abusive relationship, and carries no particular moral implications.[98]

Austrian economics argues that a person is not “free” unless they can sell their labor, because otherwise that person has no self-ownership and will be owned by a “third party” of individuals.[99]

Post-Keynesian economics perceives wage slavery as resulting from inequality of bargaining power between labor and capital, which exists when the economy does not “allow labor to organize and form a strong countervailing force.”[100]

The two main forms of socialist economics perceive wage slavery differently:

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Alleged cryptocurrency scam took in $21Mwith nominal …

Posted: at 3:43 am

Further Reading In a new report, the court-appointed receiver assigned to investigate an alleged cryptocurrency scam has found no evidence of “any legitimate Gemcoin or other viable business.”

In October 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it had sued a Southern California company over an alleged Ponzi scheme resulting in a loss to investors of at least $32 million. If the governments accusations are correct, that would make Gemcoin one of the largest digital-currency-based financial schemes ever.

Thelawsuit came days after the United States Marshals Service and the Arcadia Police Department froze assets and raided corporate officesin Arcadia, north of downtown Los Angeles. Alliance Finance Group and its assets were promptly put into the hands of a court-appointed receiver, whose job it remains to examine what went wrong.

Numerous online promotional videos in many languages claim that Gemcoins parent company Alliance Finance Group and subsidiary United States Fine Investment Arts (USFIA) controlled $50 billion in amber mine assets in Latin America. The companies touted the fact that because Gemcoin was “backed” by these amber mines, this cryptocurrency had inherent value.

According to the February 2016 report, the receiver, Thomas A. Seaman, located over $21 million in gross receipts through the end of 2015. He wrote:

At this point, due to the volume of electronic data and disorganized manner in which it was kept by the Receivership Entities, the Receiver has not yet been able to identify the entire scope of the USFIA enterprise, the number of investors, or specific amounts invested by investors and distributed to them. The Receiver’s work to analyze and better understand the investor data, with the assistance of his forensic computer specialist, is ongoing.

Aside from some income generated by the hotel and rental properties, the Receivership Entities had no significant source of income other than money raised from investors. The Receiver has verified that virtually none of the assets described in online and written marketing materials actually exist. Instead of mines located around the world, millions of dollars in precious gems, and houses and cars available to be awarded to investors, the Receiver has found only costume jewelry, boxes of rocks, and bins filled with tens of thousands of little rings of nominal value.

Steve Chen and the companies associated with Gemcoin also face a proposed class-action lawsuit on behalf of alleged victims filed in state court in Los Angeles.

The lawyer who brought the state case, Long Liu, did not immediately respond to Ars request for comment.

“Before it was just speculation, but now we have concrete evidence to show where the money went and how it was transferred,” Liu told the Pasadena Star-News this week. “All of these companies were set up to defraud investors and to hide the money.”

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Ron Paul investment ad predicts currency crisis, civil unrest

Posted: October 30, 2015 at 6:41 pm

Ron Paul at the launch of Rand Pauls presidential campaign in Louisville last month. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

While Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul continues his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, his father is starring in an ad that warns darkly that the United States is teetering on the brink of a devastating financial crisis whose effects can only be avoided by following his investment advice.

Hi, Ron Paul here, the former GOP congressman and two-time Republican presidential candidate says in the radio ad published by BuzzFeed. Today I have an urgent message for every American whos retired or thinking about retiring soon. You see, our own governments disastrous policies have now put you, me and everyone over the age of 50 at great risk. Sometime in the near future, were going to have yet another financial crisis. This one wont be solved with bailouts, and it will hit seniors the hardest.

The 79-year-old warns of a coming economic armageddon one not backed up by mainstream economic projections. According to a recent report from Moodys Analytics, the U.S. economy is expected to grow 3 percent for the year despite a slowdown due, in part, to an unseasonably bad winter. And the value of the U.S. dollar has increased almost 15 percent from last year.

I fear there will be civil unrest, a drop in stock prices, pension fund collapses, big changes to Social Security and Medicare, the erosion of personal liberties, bank and brokerage closings and ultimately a major crisis as the U.S. dollar is rejected for almost any nonpaper alternative, Paul continues.

Ron Pauls doomsday view could complicate his sons bid for the GOP nomination as Rand Paul looks to run a more mainstream campaign than did his father, who lost three separate bids for the presidency before leaving Congress and becoming a source of investment advice for apocalyptic thinkers.

This is the second most interesting father-son psychodrama in the presidential race, Washington Post political reporter Karen Tumulty told Yahoo News last month. On one hand, [Rand Paul] wants to draw distinctions [with Ron Paul], but on the other hand, tap into that energy his father was able to build.

The minute-long spots direct listeners to a website that includes a 54-minute infomercial-style video produced by Stansberry & Associates Investment Research, a conservative investment advice newsletter.

Dr. Ron Paul strongly believes when the next crisis hits, there will be no warning, and the government wont save you, a voice-over says. Go online to http://www.ronpaulwarning6.com, where youll learn simple steps you can take to protect your retirement.

In the video, billed as an exclusive interview with the 12-term former congressman, Paul says the pending crisis will be worse than our Great Depression.

In short, I believe that we as a nation are on the brink of a massive financial crisis infinitely worse than the crisis of 2008, he says. And thats because it wont be a banking and mortgage problem but a full-blown currency crisis the likes of which weve never experienced in this country. The savings of millions of people could be wiped out overnight. The stock market could crash by 50 percent or more. The way of life weve enjoyed as Americans for over 50 years could come to an end. Its not a question of if this will happen, but when.

The former Libertarian presidential candidate says that as a result of the inevitable currency crisis, the middle class gets wiped out, the way you work, live, retire in America everything is going to change.

But the real killer, Paul says, will be the effect of all this on our society and on our liberties.

Ron Paul also appears in a similar, Stansberry-produced video carrying the same message.

People wont have any clue what to do when theres a line around the block just to access the ATM, he says. I think well see problems in the big cities especially in fact, were already seeing the beginnings of that: Ferguson, the riots in New York and Detroit.

The informercial eventually offers viewers a $49.50 Stansberry hard-copy Survival Blueprint that includes, among other tips, the strategy that can save you and your neighborhood, how to quickly open a foreign bank account and the secret paper currency used by the worlds wealthiest people.

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Those who try to leave the website are even prompted with a pop-up warning: Please: Dont wait until its too late.

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There’s a new way to invest in Bitcoin — But buyer beware …

Posted: September 18, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Buying actual bitcoins has proven dangerous, to say the least. Just look at the unbelievable turbulence in Bitcoin prices — the currency’s value shot up 6,000% in one year before collapsing in value — and the alleged fraud at the Mt. Gox Bitcoin exchange that led many investors to lose money.

In theory, an exchange-traded fund, or ETF, that mirrors the price of Bitcoin would offer a somewhat safer alternative. Think: something akin to SPDR Gold Shares ETF (GLD), which tracks gold prices.

But no Bitcoin ETFs have been created. An effort by the twins Cameron and Tyle Winklevoss to do just that has been waiting two years to receive approval from regulators. The Securities and Exchange Commission is still trying to figure out how to define and oversee Bitcoin.

This week, ARK Investment Management announced a full embrace of the digital currency. Its ARK Web x.0 ETF (ARKW) became the first ETF to invest in bitcoins.

“Current prices present an attractive entry point for our investors,” Cathie Wood, ARK’s founder and chief investment officer, said in a statement.

But before taking a leap, it would be smart to read the fine print of the ETF, which trades under the ticker symbol “ARKW.”

First, it’s not a pure play on Bitcoin. Even though it announced the Bitcoin play, the ETF is actually an investment in what it calls disruptive technologies. The crypto currency represents just a slice of its holdings, packaged along with Netflix (NFLX, Tech30), LinkedIn (LNKD, Tech30) and athenahealth (ATHN), a cloud-based provider of electronic health records.

Related: Chinese gamblers are all about Bitcoin trading

It’s investing in pink sheet security, not actual Bitcoin

Second, the ARK ETF is not actually investing directly in bitcoins. It’s buying shares of something called the Bitcoin Investment Trust. Most people haven’t even heard of that.

That trust started trading in May on the pink sheets under the ticker symbol “GBTC.” It’s got a market valuation of under $40 million and very little trading volume.

The pink sheets, also known as the over-the-counter market, provide less transparency and oversight from regulators. They’re like a Wild West alternative to the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq.

“Pink sheets are where most investors aren’t willing to tread,” said Matt Hougan, CEO of ETF.com, a research firm.

GrayScale, which sponsored the Bitcoin trust, defended the decision to list on the pink sheets and noted that a number of major foreign companies such as Adidas (ADDDF) and Roche (RHHBF) list their U.S. shares there.

Related: Winklevoss twins say Bitcoin will explode beyond $1 trillion

Spotty track record at mirroring Bitcoin

Another problem is that the investment hasn’t really mirrored the price of Bitcoin, which defeats the purpose. At times the trust’s shares have spiked or surged — even though underlying Bitcoin prices were relatively calm.

“You’re not really getting Bitcoin here. You’re getting a Bitcoin derivative that kind of tracks the price of Bitcoin — but not really well,” said Hougan. “There are a bunch of leaps of faith in that chain of command.”

The ETF company brushed away these concerns, suggesting that price volatility is actually a good sign.

Another risk for the investment is regulatory. The trust warns investors in disclosure documents that its future may be jeopardized by looming regulation from the SEC.

Related: Former fed in Silk Road case stole $820,000 in bitcoins

Bitcoin is not for the faint of heart

All of this is on top of the inherent risk that goes into investing in anything that has volatility of Bitcoin.

Founded in 2009, Bitcoin burst onto the financial scene this decade as investors looked for an alternative to traditional currencies. Prices skyrocketed more than 6,000% in 2013 before peaking at nearly $1,250.

And then prices collapsed, losing two-thirds of their value last year alone. While Bitcoin has actually calmed down a lot lately, it’s still down 27% this year to $230 apiece.

Related: Greeks rushed to Bitcoin as Grexit loomed

CNNMoney (New York) September 18, 2015: 11:53 AM ET

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Interview Bitcoin Beloved by Billionaire Bubba

Posted: April 13, 2015 at 11:49 am

Reid Hoffman has an expert eye for promising tech startups. The LinkedIn chairman and co-founder’s early stakes in Facebook, Airbnb and Dropbox prove he’s able to see the next big thing before most of us even know what it is — and its paid off for him time and again.

These days, the so-called startup whisperer is placing his bets on Bitcoin. As a full-time partner at venture capital firm Greylock Partners, he claims his primary focus is to invest in world-class entrepreneurs with new categories of ideas with the possibility of massive scale. One of those entrepreneurs is Wences Casares, co-founder of Xapo, an ambitious, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Bitcoin wallet and storage startup. With Hoffman leading the charge, Greylock invested $20 million in Xapo last year.

Bitcoin has the potential to be a massively disruptive technology, Hoffman wrote in a post announcing the investment last July. It is the leading digital currency and its growing fast.

Related:LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman: Success Tips From Silicon Valley

Then, in November — a month before Bloomberg declared Bitcoin the worst-performing currency of 2014 — he announced a hefty personal stake in Bitcoin that he brokered, a $21 million investment into Blockstream. The Montreal-based startup aims to improve upon Bitcoins blockchain backbone, the shared public ledger upon which the virtual currencys entire network relies.

We caught up with the father of online professional networking recently to find out why hes betting big on Bitcoin and why he thinks the controversial cryptocurrency is here to stay. What follows are portions of that interview, edited for clarity and brevity.

Related: Why This Internet Pioneer Thinks Bitcoin Has the Power to Break the Cycle of Poverty

When did Bitcoin first pique your curiosity and when did you become a believer? I first got into it after speaking with Wences Casares, who I refer to as Patient Zero for Bitcoin in Silicon Valley. Patient Zero is the first infection of a viral contagion.

Id been paying attention to Bitcoin because a couple of other people that Wences had talked with, like Katana Capital founder Charlie Songhurst, had also talked to me about it and said that it was very important. No one had made the argument in a way that stuck yet, but it made me curious. I started to really think about it, so I sought out Wences in the summer of 2013. We had a fairly thorough conversation. He articulated very strong positive theories about Bitcoin and I began to feel empowered.

Related: IBM Looking at Adopting Bitcoin Technology for Major Currencies

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William Mougayar – Bitcoin, Blockchains and Cryptocurrency: 3 Pillars of a New Economy – Video

Posted: April 11, 2015 at 7:48 am



William Mougayar – Bitcoin, Blockchains and Cryptocurrency: 3 Pillars of a New Economy
Great keynote speech by William Mougayar at our last Investment Meeting. The Bitcoin train includes two revolutions in one: money and finance, exploiting currency programmability; and…

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Beginner’s Guide to Mining Bitcoin

Posted: March 21, 2015 at 9:50 pm

One of the biggest problems I ran into when I was looking to start mining Bitcoin for investment and profit was most of the sites were written for the advanced user. I am not a professional coder, I have no experience with Ubuntu, Linux and minimal experience with Mac. So, this is for the individual or group that wants to get started the easy way.

First thing you need to do is get a Bitcoin Wallet. Because Bitcoin is an internet based currency, you need a place to keep your Bitcoins. Got to http://www.bitcoin.org and download the Bitcoin client for your Operating System. Install it the client will begin to download the blockchain. Downloading the blockchain can take a long time and will be over 6GB of data. If you have data caps, I would recommend ordering a copy of the blockchain on DVD to keep from going over as it is growing exponentially. Click to order the bitcoin blockchain by mail. Once the client is up to date, click New to get your wallet address. It will be a long sequence of letters and numbers. One of most important things you can do is make sure you have a copy of the wallet.dat file on a thumb drive and print a copy out and keep it in a safe location. You can view a tutorial on how to create a secure wallet by clicking the link on the top of the page. The reason is that if you computer crashes and you do not have a copy of your wallet.dat file, you will lose all of your Bitcoins. They wont go to someone else, they will disappear forever. It is like burning cash.

Now that you have a wallet and the client, you are probably roaring to go, but if you actually want to make Bitcoin (money), you probably need to join a pool. A pool is a group that combines their computing power to make more Bitcoins. The reason you shouldnt go it alone is that Bitcoins are awarded in blocks, usually 50 at a time, and unless you get extremely lucky, you will not be getting any of those coins. In a pool, you are given smaller and easier algorithms to solve and all of your combined work will make you more likely to solve the bigger algorithm and earn Bitcoins that are spread out throughout the pool based on your contribution. Basically, you will make a more consistent amount of Bitcoins and will be more likely to receive a good return on your investment.

The pool that Im involved in is called Slushs Pool so I will be giving instructions on how to join there but feel free to look at other options. Follow the link to go to their site and click the Sign up here link at the top of their site and follow their step by step instructions. After you have your account set up, you will need to add a Worker. Basically, for every miner that you have running, you will need to have a worker ID so the pool can keep track of your contributions.

If you are mining with an ASIC, please go to our Mining with ASICs page. The following will only pertain to GPU miners.

Most of the mining programs out there are pretty complicated to setup and will frustrate your average user. Recently a great program has come out to get the most basic of users started. The program is called GUIMiner. Click the link and download the program (Be careful, some of the ads are set up to look like the file download). Install and run the program and add in your information from Slushs Pool. Remember that the user name is actually the worker name. The worker name will be your user name, dot, worker ID (username.worker ID) and the password from that worker ID.

Mac users should look into using Astroid

Now that you are set up, you can start mining. If you feel like you want to make more Bitcoins, you might want to invest in mining hardware.

To see how much your current hardware will earn mining Bitcoins, head over to the Bitcoin Profitability Calculator.

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Know your genome: Invitae sets terms for $75 million IPO

Posted: February 2, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Invitae, which offers consumers a suite of genetic tests as a single service, announced terms for its IPO on Monday. The San Francisco, CA-based company plans to raise $75 million by offering 5.4 million shares at a price range of $13 to $15. At the midpoint of the proposed range, Invitae would command a fully diluted market value of $436 million.

Invitae, which was founded in 2010 and booked $1 million in sales for the 12 months ended September 30, 2014, plans to list on the NYSE under the symbol NVTA. J.P. Morgan is the sole bookrunner on the deal. It is expected to price during the week of February 9, 2015.

Investment Disclosure: The information and opinions expressed herein were prepared by Renaissance Capital’s research analysts and do not constitute an offer to buy or sell any security. Renaissance Capital, the Renaissance IPO ETF (symbol: IPO) or the Global IPO Fund (symbol: IPOSX) , may have investments in securities of companies mentioned.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.

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Know your genome: Invitae sets terms for $75 million IPO

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