License to Die: Life with Dignity

The death of Queen Elizabeth II brought condolences from global leaders and people from all walks of life. Her death has prompted the memories of her majestic influence that had finally come to the end after 70 years of her reign. Her legacy will remain strong. Like all others, we will miss her. What makes it sad, though, is that it is only a few months after Great Britain celebrated the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with many spectacular events to mark 70 years of her excellent service to the nation. Life is too short. Hence, we should not brag about it. The Queen’s funeral teaches important lessons about death. Death is fair to all. Death can not be cheated. We send our best regards to those who lost their dear ones this year. 

Miu Kakiya is a prolific Japanese novelist, who wrote a book called ‘The Death of 70-Years-Old (七十歲死亡法案,可決.)’ In her own imagination, Kakiya created the context where ordinary families live under the bill that enforces mandatory death at the age of 70 as the government wants to solve many societal issues around the aging population. Kakiya talks about life and society with her ingenious imagination, sharp gaze, and pleasant sense of humor. Her work has been widely praised for broadening understanding of real-world problems. Entire plot of her book is quite crazy, though. We can’t imagine the world that the government determines the moment of our death. Fiction is fiction. However, Kakiya subtly touches on social issues that Japan is already facing at the moment. It will be burdening to take care of very aged populations. 

Chie Hayakawa, a Japanese film director, raised a similar issue in her short film, ‘Plan 75’ as part of the omnibus feature film called ‘Ten Years Japan.’ Set in the near future where increasing elderly populations have become detrimental to society, Hayakawa also imagines a nation where retired seniors or other citizens deemed unproductive are systematically eliminated. In Hayakawa’s dystopian short film, the government’s ‘Plan 75’ encourages senior citizens to be euthanized to fix the problems of an aged society. It can be interpreted as a political commentary with her own view, but that is what Japan may face in the coming decades if they don’t plan for the worst. Certainly, it shouldn’t be done that way, but what if the value of human beings is measured by the bottom line of the society when there is slow economic growth and the shortage of young workers and helpers who can take care of very aged people.

East Asia is aging faster than any other region. Japan’s super-aged society is top of the league, ranked as the oldest country in the world with 29% of its population being 65 or older. By 2035, it will grow to be one third of the population. There are now more aged adults wearing diapers than babies in Japan. China is second to none. China has one of the fastest growing aging populations in the world. By 2040, the population of people being 60 years or older would reach 28% of the population. Currently, 60 years or older accounts for more than 267 million. This phenomenon will shrink the workforce and increase public spending, posing risks for public finances and necessary healthcare delivery. As a result, it increases the challenges to sustainable economic growth.

​​Managing an aging society at a scale requires sophisticated policy design addressing issues such as child care, education, employment practices, health care, and pensions. That is why effective preparation for an aging society calls for strong leadership that can build social consensus and make challenging political decisions. Policy change for the elderly requires a paradigm shift primarily in the ways that healthcare and pensions are delivered and also financed. It should be done without burdening the next generation. For example, in the U.S. alone, the nation is spending $250 billion, taking care of Alzheimer patients. That’s going to surpass $1 trillion by 2050, which is enough to take down the entire US healthcare system. 

Life expectancy has increased significantly over the past 30 years driven by numerous technological innovations, which is a good thing. But, it has enormously pushed up healthcare costs as a by-product. I am not arguing that we need a drastic measure as we saw in aforementioned fictional scenarios. However, an aging population puts budgetary pressure on society as a whole. The number of workers declines relative to the number of consumers. The ratio of those working to those not working is set to move from 4 to 1 to 4 to 2.5 by 2050. It will create a financial burden on our next generations and put enormous pressure on society as a whole. 

The elderly contribute to the economy by putting money for consumption in a variety of ways. However, prolonged life expectancy creates huge uncertainty for the elderly. The elderly would abstain from spending if there is not enough savings or social security to support their living after retirement. They wouldn’t freely spend their life-saving. Existing pensions won’t be enough. One crucial fact is that we have to live a life of the elderly, perhaps, way too long. The elderly may earn from continuing to work after retirement, but overall productivity would not be as good as they wish. If there is no proper job or reskilling training in this technologically advanced work context, life won’t be easy for them. Therefore, policymakers should consider protecting and expanding financial security and assistance programs for the elderly, including public health insurance and also universal basic income, tailored to the standard of living for the elderly beyond this existing pensions. Financial security is vital to maintain health and quality of life. 

Nothing beats old friends. We can’t buy friendship with money. Dignity comes from respect. Dignity is a given. Dignity identifies a worthy, high, and honorable condition as part of being human. We should make the elderly feel wanted and valued like all people have the right to be recognized for their inherent humanity and treated equally. Everyone does not need to be a king or queen to be dignified. Simple paid work could strengthen and restore dignity for the elderly. What we need to give them is not money, but meaning as all want to be remembered through the work we leave behind or through our relationship in life. 

Philanthropic Giving Redefined with Crypto

Philanthropic giving is huge. In America alone, philanthropic giving reached $485 billion in 2021. Despite uncertainty about further spread of COVID-19, the total amount of philanthropic giving grew by 4% year over year. Philanthropic giving is driven by mission, purpose, and passion. Donors are focused on building a more inclusive and equitable society. They also aim to drive systemic change and sustainable social progress.

The majority of philanthropic giving went to religion, education, health care, and so forth. Gifts for arts, culture, humanities, and environment also saw double digit growth. Prior to Covid-19, approximately 78 million citizens of the United States volunteered and contributed 5.8 billion hours for public benefits. Religion, sport, culture, and art are key areas where people were actively engaged in volunteering top onto their philanthropic giving. 

Some might have done philanthropic giving to receive a charitable tax deduction. Though, donors tend to provide their money, capabilities, and professional acumen to support charitable causes in ways that also sharpen up their own competitive edge. Philanthropic giving is an act of goodwill. Philanthropic giving helps to improve the well-being of humankind and prevent social problems. 

Philanthropic giving is a driving force of social change. It can be in the form of social movements for civil rights, labor, women’s empowerment, environment, and LGBTQ+ issues. Philanthropic giving is not only providing necessary funding, but also advocacy support for social change. Oftentimes, donors do not want to let their left hand know what their right hand is doing. In order to reach a critical mass of philanthropic giving, it has to be done proactively and also transparently. 

We have to learn to give. We can give our time, expertise, love, and compassion. We should also educate young generations to be equipped with knowledge, experience, and skills to be more compassionate and engaged in various social causes. We don’t have to be rich to give. None of us can ever run out of something worthwhile to give. 

Philanthropic giving also means following the frontlines. Next generation leaders can catalyze entrepreneurship and innovations for philanthropic giving from early on in their life to strengthen citizenship, organizations, and communities. 

Philanthropic giving has long contributed to education. Leading research universities around the globe have produced leaders for all sectors and fields. Universities suit their students with a broad range of skills and the inspiration to shape the world for the better. Students will go on to tackle the most serious crises of humankind such as climate change with what they have learned. 

The next generation leaders will be more representative by and large thanks to the diversity of philanthropic giving efforts. Universities can be a magnet for talent. Philanthropic giving in the form of endowment has made every part of the advanced learning experience more affordable for students from all backgrounds. Generosity building upon the tradition of philanthropic giving can help shepherd students into a brighter future. 

Philanthropic giving should be strategic so that it can prepare every mission-driven student to pursue their last job, not just first. It would help students with intellectual framework, competencies, and digital literacies that are necessary to confront the challenges of tomorrow, not just today. It shall help connect the dots especially for students to have the meeting with mentors and advisors on a potential career path and help them to build necessary career portfolios that they are destined for. Philanthropic giving has to aim to connect people with disadvantaged backgrounds to bring their personal aspirations to fruition bearing public benefits. 

Philanthropic giving certainly helps embrace obligations for those who have been privileged with their achievement and reputation. It will help them to leave the world just a little bit better off than they have found it. Science, for example, is not just for the elite or done by the highly educated. Philanthropic giving shall open science to innovatively devise solutions engaging all backgrounds and disciplines from artists to engineers or entrepreneurs.

The impact of the work of philanthropic giving is certainly beyond business. It shall focus on effect change by training most skilled and compassionate leaders for all kinds of organizations to carry on philanthropic giving efforts. Everyone has to have a sense of belonging where their values are fully supported and encouraged and feel deep in their skins that they are contributing to meaningful solutions for the betterment of society. 

Digital assets are poised to disrupt philanthropic giving. Crypto donation is like a lab for philanthropic giving. Some progressive blockchain leaders now make it possible to donate crypto currency to support STEM (meaning science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. Donors tend to be young high-net-worth individuals. 

Philanthropic giving in crypto is also inspiring young generations to give by matching and facilitating directly between donors and recipients. It provides a cause-based impact investing opportunity for crypto holders in unprecedented ways. Blockchain projects would offer donors the opportunity to easily participate in and monitor the philanthropic giving of projects they support. 

Crypto donations are expected to be the fastest growing trend in philanthropic giving. Tax authorities like the IRS classify cryptocurrency donations as property, meaning they are not subject to capital gains tax and are tax-deductible. Hence, philanthropic giving is tax-deductible to the fullest extent permitted by law. 

Some progressive churches in Silicon Valley accept crypto, for example, that is no different than accepting a stock, property, or contribution-in-kind. Nonprofit leaders in education should also consider acceptance of such digital assets as part of philanthropic giving. They should also determine whether to sell the donated crypto promptly. Like many other donated assets, school administrators should decide if they would keep it as an investment or not.

Philanthropic giving is like a bet on how to move the needle on a social issue. Similarly, crypto holders would appreciate the long-term value of their bold investment positions. They can choose to bring that approach to their philanthropic giving as if they are investing in ideas and projects that may take years to manifest like making grants to education that take a generation to realize. 

Bringing the mindset of crypto investing to philanthropic giving especially in education presents uncharted opportunities to elevate new causes and potential solutions. It will help bring up a fresh view on long-standing social challenges. Practice of philanthropic giving is not simply a windfall to people poorer than donors. Instead, it is an effective and thoughtful way to continue building the world and expanding the horizon of what crypto can do for the world. 

BAYC NFTs: The Power of Generating Value From Digital Assets

Intellectual property is a powerful tool to give a sense of ownership to the original creator. Hence, intellectual property has to be well protected in the law. Oftentimes, small ventures lack the resources to effectively protect their intellectual properties or, in short, IPs. Even if the modern concept of intellectual property has evolved since the 17th century, primarily in Europe, intellectual property law could date far back. In medieval Europe, for example, guilds or associations of artisans were granted authority by the governors to regulate their respective industries. 

NFT.NYC in late June was a great success. NFT.NYC is the largest and most respected conference for the NFT (non fungible token) industry. Amid a crypto currency crash, the NFT.NYC conference could have been a disaster. But, it received over 20,000 attendees. As some said, NFT.NYC grew into the Super Bowl of NFTs. 

Out of the flood of party invitations for NFT.NYC, ApeFest, in its second year in the row, received the most attention. ApeFest only allowed people to enter, who hold Mutant and Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs. the hottest NFT project in the world. From Times Square to Pier 17, where ApeFest was physically held, many familiar monkey faces bombarded on digital signages, posters, and social media platforms. ApeFest showed the true fandom culture of the NFT world. ApeFest was independently organized and could surpass the popularity of NFT.NYC soon. 

The Bored Ape Yacht Club, or in short, BAYC, is a collection of 10,000 unique Bored Ape NFTs. They are digital collectibles living on the Ethereum blockchain. BAYC is one of the most successful NFT projects building upon the strongest community in the NFT space. BAYC is the brainchild of Yuga Labs, a venture-backed Web 3 marketing firm. 

Yuga Lab is wickedly clever as it has created such a unique sense of exclusivity with 10,000 programmatically generated Bored Ape digital collectibles without any traditional marketing mixes. There was no advertising, search marketing, or extensive social media promotion. 

Instead, BAYC harnesses the power of the community by connecting people together. Yuga Lab makes a BAYC brand to become a badge of honor and a clear symbol of social status in the crypto and NFT frenzy. BAYC NFT is an only pass for those who were brave enough to get on it early on and continues to possess it, which opens up a door to the exclusive community.

BAYC is a new threat to Disney as it is growing its influence as a global power house of new intellectual properties. BAYC was collectively worth $25 billion or about 12% of the market capitalization of Disney in May 2022. If someone purchases a BAYC NFT, then he owns the intellectual property rights that are tied up with his possession of NFT. 

NFTs are yet highly speculative investments, but BAYC could be a good investment opportunity, not only due to the perks that come with ownership, but also a promising road map of its utility as a widely applicable intellectual property. Smart contracts could further accelerate its usage beyond the fandom community.  

In only a few months since the initial BAYC release, BAYC soared. Many famous athletes have acquired BAYC NFTs. Soon after that, it was followed by multiple merchandise drops, including a collaboration with long-standing streetwear brands like the Hundreds. There have been many prestigious appearances of BAYC NFTs across multiple media outlets and also top art auction houses like Christies and Sotheby’s. 

Now, BAYC characters are in the comic books, animations, soft drinks, coffee and ice cream franchises. It is yet hard to estimate the full valuation of licensed commercial activities of BAYC, but all we can tell now is that there shall be more monkeys popping up here and there in the coming years. 

A NFT with character brand recognition will have future utilization across multiple mediums. When we think about a potential buyout of the intellectual property, BAYC’s insanely high price tag can be justified as it is valued based on projected revenue, not its so-called scarcity score card. 

In June, the floor or entry-level price for a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT fell below $100,000 for the first time since August 2021. It was down by 70%+ after Bored Apes launched and had approached nearly $429,000. It could further downplay for a while amid a crypto volatility, but directionally and emotionally, BAYC is heading toward long-term growth trajectory as its NFT commercial value continues to accrue. 

Earlier this year, Yuga Labs, the creators of the BAYC and spin-offs the Mutant Ape, announced that it had acquired the intellectual properties of Larva Labs, which invented CryptoPunks. Yuga Labs also bought Meebits NFT collections. IP licensing models could greatly differ between different NFT projects. Yuga Labs’ licensing model allows a broader commercial use. Yuga Labs now encourages the third party and the community of creators to incorporate CryptoPunks and Meebits into their Web 3 projects. 

Ultimately, the potential of what can be done with NFTs will be stated in the terms of licenses. Existing brands are likely to have longer and more complicated licensing processes to protect their most valuable core intellectual properties and maximize their bargaining power. Getting permission from Disney, for example, could take months to years. That’s how license business has been done for decades in the name of brand control. 

Generative and new creative projects like BAYC are far more likely to have broader rights granted to their NFT holders powered by rapid contractual process under the original creator’s governing protocol. This concept would create a sea change in the world of intellectual properties. 

Pairing the global recognition of the BAYC with individual NFTs that have their own recognizable characters and brands, could outpace the value of existing intellectual properties that are owned by large media companies. Fueled by its community fandom power, it won’t take too long to catch up with what decades old media companies have done. 

Further relaxing the usage of intellectual property provides immense opportunities. The fandom community’s ability to get more actively involved will ultimately further seed new ideas and creative projects. Now, coupled with CryptoPunks and Meebits, Yuga Lab will further extend its proven marketing tactics to other intellectual properties powered by NFTs so that the use of NFTs could quickly evolve beyond the fandom community to create enormous mass market appeal and commercial success

Longing for Higher Power

Nothing is certain but death. People increasingly respond to their deepest human needs. We have a natural need to feel connected to the world, to others, and religious traditions. Anthropology, philosophy, or neuroscience can’t simply answer the question if the higher power really exists. We tend to look for patterns, structures, and causes for everything. But, there is no single right answer for our divine purposes and our hopes for higher power.

Religious belief has deeply influenced human society. Many people could claim that they have grown out of religion with their accumulated assets, knowledge, and social influence. But, even today there are a lot of people who are not generally content with their life. People do not appreciate the purpose of their limited lifespan on earth. They hardly find profound connections between their life and other societal endeavors. 

The power of religion helps us to shape our vision on the world and actions on each other. Hence, there is an urgent need for a more sophisticated understanding of religion beyond any discipline. The world we live in is facing a stream of shocking events. In times of such uncertainty and crises, more people will look to religions or philosophical wisdoms for guidance and consolation. 

But, in reality, fewer people regularly attend religious services. Theology or philosophy is one of least popular subjects at higher education. Many people claim that religion has no longer significance in their life. Our faith is in flux. Many people leave their childhood family tradition in faith before the age of 24 and oftentimes, they change it more than once. It is such a public myth saying that people do not like change. People don’t resist change. But, in reality, they just resist being changed. 

Failure is inevitable if we are committed to grow. Before any workout or run, it is important to give a few rounds of body stretches to increase the flexibility of our muscles so they don’t cramp. When we try to practice stretches for resilience capability, therefore, we can become more adaptable to any changes and spring back from any failures. 

We all tend to fear failure. That is probably why we often stop giving a try. We are more likely to grow faster toward success if we learn from each other based on our failures, not only success. A willingness to be vulnerable and share our experiences of failure with others, therefore, is such a critical part of being more resilient in any circumstances. This effort could start with self-awareness and our search for authenticity. But, most importantly, being a part of a community can make us feel as if we are a part of something greater than ourselves.

It is not always easy to be 100% transparent on our own, especially in the world where others seem to have a much better life, at least on their Instagram account. We all like to put our best self forward and hide our weaknesses. That is human nature. Though, there is incredible power when we are true to ourselves and share our authentic stories about how we have gained our strength in the face of failure.

Having a sense of community unites us. When we share our vulnerable, but genuine ourselves with others, people in the community can see a part of themselves through the lens of our journey. Then, together, we can move forward, gain confidence, and do something great for the betterment of society. 

Creating positive influence is a full-time job. We can’t always control what could happen to us, but we can certainly control how we respond to that. We should learn how to positively respond to failures and hardships. We should choose to do so. It is important to know that increasing our ability to bounce back from failure is not a one-time event. It is a life-long journey. 

Modern societies are built on public institutions. Institutions are designed to address societal challenges in some form. But, these institutions are under severe pressure regardless of religious affiliations, social affinity, or intellectual origin. The trust and legitimacy is among the most important issues on the societal and political agenda of public institutions. For example, institutions based on hierarchy and control (ex. military, bureaucracy, and the state) often provide the greatest facilitation of evil. 

Learning through religious and moral education will enable us to recognize religion as an important expression of human nature. It is important to learn about and learn from the beliefs, values, practices, and other religious traditions. Spiritual practice could strengthen our perspective for a better future. We always encounter challenges in our life, but we can still stay hopeful during crises and persevere. Spiritual growth is, therefore, our enhanced ability to deal with life and bounce back from any difficulties.

The primary purpose of religious leadership in the public institutions is therefore to ensure spiritual success through process, material, and training improvement for each individual member. It is not about building humongous new temples or legacies. It will be only accomplished through collaboration among different individuals such as teachers, parents, community leaders, and so forth.

Healthy spiritual life gives a sense of peace, wholesomeness, and balance among the physical, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of the human-being. The path to spiritual excellence will be full of struggles and suffering. It often includes experiences that are frightening and painful. Compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering. With compassion, you can feel warmth and build desire to help others.

Spiritual values should be a part of education. Children will learn better when they know the purpose of their life and spirituality. That said, it will grow our mind, body, and soul and will eventually form our character. The purpose of spiritual education is, therefore, to fulfill the divine potential of human-being. It prepares them for struggles and suffering by giving them the tools they need to keep on learning throughout the many tough circumstances that will come to them. When we speak of spirituality, please forget about large institutional propertiea or complex procedures to make you feel religious. We don’t need that.

It is strongly recommended that education in values and spirituality is at the core of what we are supposed to teach with the goal of enriching human personality. Voluntary simplicity for spiritual life saves a lot of overhead costs. At the end of the day, it will protect people or institutions from the temptation to add to resources through sometimes unfair or dishonest means.

Be Aware: The Singularity is Near

Artificial intelligence would exceed human intelligence. Elon Musk once said that AI would grow vastly smarter than humans. Musk pointed out that AI would overtake the human race by 2025. In contrast, some experts say the rise of artificial intelligence would make the most of us to be better off over the next few decades, not replace, nor make humans extinct.

The singularity is a conceptual and meta-physical term. When it comes to a technological jargon, the singularity is often described as a point in time when innovation reaches critical mass. At critical mass, new innovation must be widely adopted. Technological growth explodes and shall be kept self-sustained at the singularity.

This connotation of reaching the singularity is sometimes articulated along with a bit of negative nuisance. For example, some says that technological growth becomes so big at the singularity to the extent that technologies become uncontrollable and irreversible. AI would have many positive impacts, but it could also result in unforeseeable negative changes to the human race.

We have to cope with AI. There is fear, uncertainty, and mixed feelings. AI, robots, and other innovations may put millions of us out of work in a few years. If we adapt well and if highly intelligent systems are well within the scope of our purposes, the future could be promising. We can rather focus on what humans are truly good at.

Raymond Kurzweil is one of living legends. He has had many great inventions. He also started an alternative education institute called Singularity University in 2008 along with Peter H. Diamandis, a founder of X Prize Foundation. Singularity University aims to educate, empower, and inspire leaders to leverage exponential technologies to solve humanity’s grand challenges. Two co-founders believed that exponential technological advancement could give anyone at anywhere the ability to create a positive impact.

For reference, Raymond Kurzweil has picked an example and argued that the technological advancement in medicine such as gene therapy and bio-informatics would help humans to continuously repair and replace defective components in our bodies and prolong life. Medical advancement would allow people to protect their bodies from the effects of aging and make life expectancy much longer.

The singularity comes with an important notion of self-directed learning and self-sustainable attribute. Superhuman intelligence is about to be invented through the amplification of collective human intelligence and the power of artificial intelligence. Superhuman intelligence is a good thing as it would bring many positive outcomes. Superhuman intelligence powered by AI would help humans solve complex problems and keep our inventive skills and creative souls to become more effective.

At the singularity, AI may have fundamentally different cognitive qualities and abilities than biological human intelligence. There are things that humans can do, but AI can’t. AI will be more capable, but still, there are things that AI can’t easily copy such as making moral decisions or inventing something on their will.

The idea of creating human-like technology has a long history to trace back. This idea emerged during and after World War II when scientists like Alan Turing, a British mathematician, discovered that machines could become more than just computing systems. The Turing Test is one of the most important philosophical cornerstones of artificial intelligence and modern computation.

During wartime, technology creted by mathematicians and scientists like Alan Turing helped to break the Nazi’s codes that were regarded unbrekable with human computation skills. It was unfortunate to lose one of the most innovative thinkers in the 20th century from accidental poisoning. His sexual orientation as a gay man was violating laws during that time to the extent putting him not only under stress but also to a criminal charge.

Turing’s story inspired many people to pursue their careers in artificial intelligence, make movies like the Imitation Game, and establish the Alan Turing Institute, one of largest national institutes for data science and artificial intelligence in the United Kingdom. It is a joint venture with leading universities including Oxford and Cambridge with initial £600M investment. The specific role of the Institute is to provide the expertise and fundamental research into data science and artificial intelligenceg that are needed to solve the complex real-world problems.

Perhaps, true artificial intelligence doesn’t exist yet. The word, the singularity, doesn’t stick to one specific meaning, elther. Scientists have laid down principles that have molded the historical record of the relationship between humans and the machines to solve the problems. It may all depend on the context. But, the singularity describes a future that technology growth is reaching out to a new level of massive advancement at one point.

Now, the notion of the singularity leaves the question whether we can control it or what not. Will we ever control the world with our minds or can we even take control of our future? Perhaps not. However, the consequences of the singularity and its potential benefit or harm to humans have been vastly debated over and over. Many tech companies like Google throw their weight behind a new school like the Singularity University or the Alan Turing Institute. That will help forerunners prepare for a future when machines become smarter than humans. We just don’t know when, but it will surely come.

The singularity Is near. In a few years, AI will help significantly speed up complex decision-making and make people more productive. AI will make humans smarter and more efficient. The singularity at the core may not be the ultimate no man’s land. Many researchers would agree that current forms of AI cannot have their own emotions, but they could mimic it. Hence, human Intelligence should also relate to adaptive learning and experience like machines do. There are many qualities in humans that AI cannot easily replace at any point in time, though.

One of the most important prerequisites for the singularity is education. We shall invest in education to train people for a new future. MIT alone invests $1 billion into a new school devoted to AI. Tech leaders spend nearly $20 billion on AI per year. There is no downturn in sight. If we understand what AI is capable of and understand the this domain well, we can start make further discernment of what AI can truly do, not that we just fear about it. More precisely, we must lead it.