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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Extropianism
Posted: April 25, 2017 at 4:52 am
April 21, 2017
At 61 years old, Im moth eaten enough to remember not just John F. Kennedys assassination, but his election to the presidency. Which means that since a tender age Ive been subjected to more than a half century of the fanfaronade, buffoonery, and deceit that every four years makes this great republic look like a cross between Animal House and The Manchurian Candidate as the hoi polloi, exercising their sacred constitutional right to vote, decide who will be the most powerful person in the world.
Death is a bummer, yes, but mostly for those who are alive.
I remember, for instance, Lyndon Johnsons infamous Daisy ad, which, with powerful graphics all but assured Americans that wed be nuked by the Bolsheviks if we elected his GOP opponent, Barry Goldwater, as president.
About 12 years later, I howled with laughter along with a bunch of other Florida Gators in a local Ratskeller when the thirty-eighth president of the United States, Gerald R. Ford Jr., declared during a presidential debate that there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europein 1976!
And who can forget Michael Dukakis MI-A-I battle tank ride into electoral oblivion, Al Gores (2000) invention of the Internet, and the Howard Dean Scream of 2004?
Nothing, though, compared to the shtick we endured during the 2016 presidential campaign. Even Isomeone whose mitochondria can get overclocked by presidential politicsjust wanted it over.
Amid the hoopla over Hillary Clintons e-mails and Donald Trumps tax returns, however, you might have missed the candidacy of Zoltan Istvan, who traveled around the country in a vehicle shaped like a coffin, dubbed the Immortality Bus. In the mother of all campaign promises (one that made Bernie Sanders desire for universal health care seem trite) candidate Istvan declared that if elected president, he would allocate funds for science and technology to help us overcome death.
Overcome death? With science and technology? Well, considering all that science and technology have done so far (20 years ago watching a movie on a cell phone would have seemed like Star Trek stuff), why not? In 2013 TIME magazine ran a cover article titled, Can Google Solve Death? The subhead read: The search giant is launching a venture to extend the human life span. That would be crazyif it werent Google.
Of course, extending the human life span is one thing (following the advice in Counsels on Diets and Foods would do the trick, too), but thats as far from overcoming death as adding three inches to a yard is from infinity. These people want immortality, not longevity.
PayPal billionaire Peter Theil, for example, is one of the new ber-rich who actually hope their vast coffers can buy off the grim reaper. Theil has been investing in technology in which older people get blood transfusions from younger ones. If, as Scripture says, the life of the flesh is in the blood (Lev. 17:11),wouldnt a fresh supply of young blood be good for the flesh? The logic works. How well the technology will is, well, another matter entirely.
For those put off by this high-tech Dracula stuff, another hoped-for route to the tree of life is to map the complete neural structure of the brain, the unique neuro-chemical configurations that make you and your consciousness distinctly you, and then upload you, in bits and bytes, to a supercomputer. The idea is that if this could ever be done (not likely), your conscious self would exist unencumbered by hemorrhoids, arthritis, and all the other foibles of fallen flesh. However, this potential procedure comes with numerous questions, such as: If they create back-ups, which one is the real you?
Another strategy already being implemented is the freeze-dried approach to immortality, known as Cryonics. At the moment of death, the corpse is immersed into a vat of liquid nitrogen eventually cooled down to -196 degrees centigrade, in hopes that future technology will have so far advanced that you could be thawed out, refurbished, and sent on your merry way. A whole body freeze goes for a cool $200,000. Heads only, called Neurocyropreservation, can be had for $80,000. What good is a thawed-out frozen head? Well, if they can get this brain mapping technology down, the plan would be to thaw out the head, upload the neural structure to a computer and Voila! You are mentally, if not physically, resurrected, existing inside a computer that, ideally, could allow you to exist forever, as long as the parts can be replaced.
If all this seems tragically farfetched, it is. Its its farfetchedness that makes it so tragic, a twenty-first century testament to humanitys futile attempt to beat death, and the even more futile hope that science and technology can do it.
Science is the new God, said Roen Horn, of the Eternal Life Fan Club. Science is the new hope.
Google, please solve death! read a placard carried by a woman on the streets of New York City, another indicator of just how desperately we dont want to die.
Those hopeful mortals counting on some technician in a lab coat to outwit Mother Natures dirtiest trick call themselves Transhumanists, the trans referring to the prospect that science will enable them to transcend their humanity, or at least the one aspect of our humanity that always ends our humanity, which is death. Others call themselves Extropians, a word created to express the opposite of entropy, the physical process that describes on the atomic level why everything, including ourselves, falls apart.
The hope that science can beat death is as mythical a quest as was the search for the Fountain of Youth. Science and technology cant give eternal life. They dont need to. Jesus already has. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son (1 John 5:11). I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13).All that was needed for eternal life has been given to us in Jesus. The provision has been completed, the price paid, the promise fulfilled. And this is what he promised useternal life (1 John 2:25).
This desperate desire to escape our immediate physical demise, however understandable, rests upon the same ignorance that makes people think that Google might be able to accomplish that escape for them. Death is a bummer, yes, but mostly for those who are alive. From the perspective of those dead, death is experienced as nothing but a short, deep sleep until rising to glory at the Second Coming (for those rising at the third coming, well, things are a bit more problematic).
From Zoltan Istvans Immortality Bus to freezing corpses in vats of nitrogen, Transhumanism and Extropianism are doomed to fail. Worse, setting up science as the new God makes it less likely to trust in the only God who can give people the eternal life they so desperately want.
Of all the various approaches for immortality, Peters Theils, however painfully off track, at least has the mechanism right. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day (John 6:54). The key is blood, yes. He just needs the right source for it.
Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His next book, Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity, is set to be released by Pacific Press this fall.
Posted: March 7, 2017 at 10:08 pm
Extropianism, also referred to as extropism or extropy, is an evolving framework of values and standards for continuously improving the human condition. Extropians believe that advances in science and technology will some day let people live indefinitely and that humans alive today have a good chance of seeing that day. An extropian may wish to contribute to this goal, e.g. by doing research and development or volunteering to test new technology.
Extropianism describes a pragmatic consilience of transhumanist thought guided by a proactionary approach to human evolution and progress.
Originated by a set of principles developed by Dr. Max More, The Principles of Extropy, extropian thinking places strong emphasis on rational thinking and practical optimism. According to More, these principles “do not specify particular beliefs, technologies, or policies”. Extropians share an optimistic view of the future, expecting considerable advances in computational power, life extension, nanotechnology and the like. Many extropians foresee the eventual realization of unlimited maximum life spans, and the recovery, thanks to future advances in biomedical technology, of those whose bodies/brains have been preserved by means of cryonics.
Extropy, coined by Tom Bell (T. O. Morrow) in January 1988, is defined as the extent of a living or organizational system’s intelligence, functional order, vitality, energy, life, experience, and capacity and drive for improvement and growth. Extropy expresses a metaphor, rather than serving as a technical term, and so is not simply the hypothetical opposite of Information entropy.
In 1987, Max More moved to Los Angeles from Oxford University in England, where he had helped to establish (along with Michael Price, Garret Smyth and Luigi Warren) the first European cryonics organization, known as Mizar Limited (later Alcor UK), to work on his Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Southern California.
In 1988, “Extropy: The Journal of Transhumanist Thought” was first published. This brought together thinkers with interests in artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, life extension, mind uploading, idea futures, robotics, space exploration, memetics, and the politics and economics of transhumanism. Alternative media organizations soon began reviewing the magazine, and it attracted interest from likeminded thinkers. Later, More and Bell co-founded the Extropy Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization. “ExI” was formed as a transhumanist networking and information center to use current scientific understanding along with critical and creative thinking to define a small set of principles or values that could help make sense of new capabilities opening up to humanity.
The Extropy Institute’s email list was launched in 1991, and in 1992 the institute began producing the first conferences on transhumanism. Affiliate members throughout the world began organizing their own transhumanist groups. Extro Conferences, meetings, parties, on-line debates, and documentaries continue to spread transhumanism to the public.
The Internet soon became the most fertile breeding ground for people interested in exploring transhumanist ideas, with the availability of websites for such organizations that have joined the Extropy Institute in developing and advocating transhumanist (and related) ideas. These include Humanity Plus, the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, the Life Extension Foundation, Foresight Institute, Transhumanist Arts & Culture, the Immortality Institute, Betterhumans, Aleph in Sweden, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.
In 2006 the board of directors of the Extropy Institute made a decision to close the organisation, stating that its mission was “essentially completed.”
fr:Extropianisme it:Estropianesimo sk:Extropy Institute fi:Ekstropianismi
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Posted: at 10:08 pm
What rhymes or sounds like the word Extropianism? Extropianism, also referred to as the philosophy of Extropy, is an evolving framework of values and standards for continuously improving the human condition. Extropians believe that advances in science and technology will some day let people live indefinitely. An extropian may wish to contribute to this goal, e.g. by doing research and development or volunteering to test new technology. Extropianism describes a pragmatic consilience of transhumanist thought guided by a proactionary approach to human evolution and progress. Originated by a set of principles developed by Dr. Max More, The Principles of Extropy, extropian thinking places strong emphasis on rational thinking and practical optimism. According to More, these principles “do not specify particular beliefs, technologies, or policies”. Extropians share an optimistic view of the future, expecting considerable advances in computational power, life extension, nanotechnology and the like. Many extropians foresee the eventual realization of unlimited maximum life spans, and the recovery, thanks to future advances in biomedical technology or mind uploading, of those whose bodies/brains have been preserved by means of cryonics.
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Posted: March 4, 2017 at 1:06 am
President Joe once had a dream. I wonder if you recognise the song? Its Saviour Machune from the earl David Bowie album, The Man who Sold the World. The machine is built to solve all problems, and does so, but ends up miserable and disaffected. Its obvious that the thing was a computer, but the word machine works better in the song.
If you havent heard the song yet, its worth a listen. You can find it on Youtube. During those years, David Bowie made songs that still sound modern. That was before he learned to sing properly and became poppish. If you do head in that virtual direction, you might also want to listen to the track, The Man Who Sold the World.
First glance, the song sounds like an oddity, pardon the pun, a preposterous notion. If you go a bit deeper into things and put aside the concept of the machine, you are left with another player, President Joe who built the machine. President Joe is not particularly preposterous. There are a bunch of people out there, just like him.
The notion of the omnipotent machine is nothing new. Its one of the common strands in science fiction, and has been for a long time. The idea of an intelligent machine is old hat as well. The Turing Test scratches the surface by seeking a computer that can fool a human into believing that it too is human. Some or other machine managed to fool a couple of experts into thinking it was a 13 year old a couple of weeks ago.
Next on the horizon, we have The Singularity. That is supposed to be an intelligent machine that is able to replicate itself. After that comes extropianism, the idea of transfering a soul to a machine. All of these phenomena are fetishes, I suspect on the part of people who cannot cope with other people. If I cant cope with the vagaries of real human emotions, Ill hope that machines are more predictable. Sad. It makes me think of Pinocchio as an object of affection, if not desire.
Perhaps its not so much Pinocchios wooden nature that is the problem, but the people who worship machinesd that need to get real.
There is something else that is interesting about the song. The machine is called Prayer and its answer is law. There is definitely something in that as well, yet another get-out-of-jail card for people who really dont want to have to deal with their own thoughts and emotions.
The line that divides the two sides of the thing is the internal and the external. There are a huge number of people who need external systems to get by, not just in the starry eyed worship of tools like computers, but in slavish, slack-jawed belief in and acceptance of thought systems.
I suppose, at the extreme end of the spectrum, the most convinced and optimistic computer geek is really not much different from your average religious fundamentalist, if not in intensity of and reliance on belief, then possibly as in need of control as a bog-standard hell-and-damnation preacher or some angry worshiper at the altar of Dawkins atheism.
Machines are becoming the new cult. They define us and our lives, to the point where personal values and our own judgments become secondary resources and measures of value.
The proof of this lies in processing and graphics capability. Apparently the higher the capability, the more able the person. Yet, at the end of the day, there arent all that many people who use much more than a browser, mail and a productivity suite.
Its about the same with religion. Why do people need theological sophistication and loopholes when the actual object of the exercise is to break as many commandments as possible and ignore the validity of strictures against venal sins? One proof of this lies in the church which handed out guns to people who converted.
If there is a truth to be had from this, it is that tools make things easier but dont make them better. Systems create their own messes. Computers become more complex and less predictable. Religion needs to more enemies and more violence.
Continue reading here:
Posted: January 27, 2017 at 5:53 am
Max More (born Max T. O’Connor, January 1964) is a philosopher and futurist who writes, speaks, and consults on advanced decision-making about emerging technologies.
Born in Bristol, England, More has a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from St Anne’s College, Oxford (1987). His 1995 University of Southern California doctoral dissertation The Diachronic Self: Identity, Continuity, and Transformation examined several issues that concern transhumanists, including the nature of death, and what it is about each individual that continues despite great change over time.
Founder of the Extropy Institute, Max More has written many articles espousing the philosophy of transhumanism and the transhumanist philosophy of extropianism, most importantly his Principles of Extropy. In a 1990 essay “Transhumanism: Toward a Futurist Philosophy”, he introduced the term “transhumanism” in its modern sense.
More is also noted for his writings about the impact of new and emerging technologies on businesses and other organizations. His “proactionary principle” is intended as a balanced guide to the risks and benefits of technological innovation.
At the start of 2011, Max More became president and CEO of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, an organization he joined in 1986. 
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Posted: November 27, 2016 at 9:47 am
xkcd readers: RIES page is here
My resume (a bit untraditional, like me).
More pages and topics, grouped by subject:
Dice : Links to examples of all known types of dice, mainly organised by number of sides; and lists of tabletop games telling which dice are used for each.
Exponentially Distributed Dice : Dice to roll random numbers whose logarithms are evenly distributed. Benford: It’s Not Just the Law It’s How We Roll.
Formal Power Series algorithms (for now, just the square root)
Generating Functions are discussed in the context of decimal expansions of fractions like 1/98 = 0.0102040816…
How Many Squares : One of the more popular types of mathematical troll-bait.
Hypercalc is my “calculator that cannot overflow”, available as a web app and a more powerful Perl version for UNIX/Linux/Mac OS X and Cygwin.
Integer Sequences : I have many pages on specific integer sequences like A181785 and A020916 (some of which required quite specialized high-speed programs); pages on sequence categories like 2nd-order linear recurrence and Narayana numbers; and a sorted table of sequences I find interesting, with links to these and many other pages.
Large Numbers : The -illion names, tetration and faster-growing functions, Graham’s number, and other fascinating ways to go far beyond the merely astronomical.
Lucas Garron’s “Three Indistinguishable Dice” Problem : a fun little puzzle involving how to make better use of a basically useless three-dice-in-a-box thingy. As seen on Numberphile.
mcsfind : A program that will find the simplest recurrence-generated integer sequence given some initial terms.
Minimally Complex Sequences : An exhaustive index of integer sequences generated by simple “classical” formulas.
My Laws of Mathematics : Kinda humorous, kinda serious.
Numbers : Notable properties of specific numbers, like 2.685452…, 107, and 45360.
Puzzles : Not always mathematical, but those are the ones that I seem to discuss more often. MIT Mystery Hunt stuff is here too.
Riemann Zeta Function MP3 File : Music that only a number theorist would love…
Rubik’s Cube and Other Rectangular Delights : My unique solution algorithms from 1982, some software, and a survey of similar puzzles like the 223.
Sloandora : An interactive browser for the OEIS, using a text concordance metric.
Computational Science :
I discovered that the Gray-Scott system supports patterns about as complex as those in Conway’s Game of Life. This page links to the paper I wrote and the talk I gave on the same topic.
“Popular” Science :
Orrery : A solar system model built from LEGO parts.
Size Scales Exhibit : An adapted and improved version of the AMNH Rose Center exhibit.
Slide Rules : Notes about slide rules and photos of ones I made myself.
Solar System : Some facts and figures about the planets and their orbits.
Tides : A step-by-step explanation of the tides, designed to explain all the differences that occur from one day to the next and from one location to another.
Here are most of the topics that will not be obsolete with [company]’s next release of [product].
Alternative Number Systems : A list of the most popular alternatives to fixed-point (integer) and floating-point representations, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Answers to Questions on Stack Exchange Sites : I couldn’t add corrections or comments directly, so I have published them here.
automeme : A tool for the automatic generation of “mad-libs” style texts, with a simple and powerful specification language.
Diameter-Degree or “TTL” problem : a graph theory problem related to wiring multi-processor computer networks.
Floating-Point Formats : A list of the ranges and precisions of various floating-point implementations over the years.
Functional Computation : A set of recursive definitions starting with a minimal set of LISP-like functions, and specifically related to work of Turing and Gdel.
My High-Performance Projects : Just a brief summary of all the CPU-intensive projects I’ve created over the years, from Z80 assembly-language to the present.
LogCPU : a simple, very efficient load monitor for MacOS X. (This is in the general CS category because it is a good example of elegant display and UI)
Minimal RNN Implementation in Python : A recurrent neural network that models plain text, based on this gist by @karpathy, but greatly enhanced.
MIRA : A text-only web browser with unique features, designed for scholars and others who conduct research on the Internet.
Perl scripts : The language of choice of those who have that occasional “hankerin’ for some hackerin'”
png-csum-fix : Program that recomputes the CRCs in a PNG file; also allows changing colour table (palette) entries on the fly.
Programming Languages : An automated survey of the popularity of various computer languages.
RHTF : The “embarassingly-readable” markup language I created for these webpages.
SimpleGet : A small stand-alone replacement for the perl library LWP::Simple.
The SPEC Benchmarks : Conversion formulas for the industry-standard CPU benchmarks.
This QR does not loop.
Items in this section are brand-specific, dated, and/or purely recreational.
Apple II Colors : An exact calculation of the RGB values of the lores (COLOR=) and hires (HCOLOR=) colors on the Apple ][, derived by converting through the Y R-Y B-Y and YUV systems.
Apple Product History : List of computer and PDA models released by Apple, some with details.
Chip’s Challenge : Maps and hints, and some walkthroughs, for the Atari Lynx version of the videogame.
Computer History : The history of the development of computers, with a focus on performance issues and the adoption of supercomputer design ideas into desktop machines.
The Eden World Builder File Format : Eden World Builder is a Minecraft-like game for iOS. I worked out the internal data format so I could print maps.
Eden World Builder : Other pages about Eden World Builder, including a change log and versions of my main creation Mega City Tokyo Unified.
Fitbit Flex : Technical specifications, a list of the flashing light patterns, and some instructions that should have been included in the manual.
iBook: How to Prevent Sleep : A simple, cheap and reversible way to prevent the iBook from going to sleep when you close the lid.
LibreOffice Bugs and Workarounds : Making a great free software project slightly greater.
The Lunacraft/Mooncraft File Format : Lunacraft, originally called Mooncraft is a Minecraft-like game for iOS. I worked out the internal data format so I could print maps and recover from the dreaded “terrain regen bug”.
Lynx Chip’s Challenge : My maps and hints rendered with a custom font.
MacBook Pro : mainly concerned with hard drive upgrades.
Missile : My first Macintosh program also happens to be one of the few programs that ran from the Mac’s introduction in 1984 until the switch to Intel twenty years later.
Playstation : My notes about Sony Playstation games.
Q04B : Based on 2048, with color graphics, boosts, and a lot more (artwork by Randall Munroe).
SDRAM : A list of some older SDRAM chip types giving their speed and size.
TextEdit: Fixing the Margins Bug : How to alter TextEdit’s printing code so that it respects the margins from Page Setup.
UNIX Project Build Tools : A partial history of the tools (cc, make, etc.) used to build from source and why it keeps getting more and more complicated.
xapple2 : My modifications to add accurate sound reproduction (/dev/audio) to the xapple2 Apple ][ emulator for UN*X and Linux.
Abbreviations : Common phrases that are frequently made obscure by abbreviation.
Archetypes : A Periodic Table of Jungian personality archetypes.
Associativity Matrix : A little twisty maze of thoughts, all different.
Blogs : In addition to my primary blog, Robert Munafo’s General Weblog, I also have two blogs hosted by blog-specific websites: Robert Munafo on Blogspot and Robert Munafo on WordPress.
Core Values : An attempt to describe my preferences for how to prioritise life and make decisions (thus, highly subjective and in need of continual revision).
Data : Miscellaneous small bits of data I want to publish.
Extropianism : Why we shouldn’t feel quite so bad about the future.
Filk : Some funny lyrics I’ve written.
Friends : Links to Web pages of various friends and co-conspirators.
Gearing Ideas and Notes : Mosty related to my orrery work.
General Blog : A weblog of articles not limited to any particular topic.
History of Music : Focusing on the industrialized distribution of music as a recent and unnatural phenomenon.
Index to the One True Thread : Silliness and serious creativity for hopelessly obsessed xkcd fans.
Linux rules : Duh.
Mamma Mia : The Broadway musical.
MBTI : A Karnaugh map of the Myers-Briggs personality types
Mispronounced Words : My bid for the “most useless collection of data on a web page” world record.
MIT OCW 18.06SC errata : Has several corrections and a cross-reference guide to the newer textbook by Prof. Strang.
Movies : Some material I have written that relates to a few movies. (See also the Top Movies list.)
Nest Thermostat: Using Auxiliary Heat : One of the many topics that are poorly documented on the official website.
Non-Obvious Answers to the Stupid Problems Life Gives Us : like how to find a practical lid-wrench.
Non-Obvious Answers to the Senseless Impediments Google Throws at Us : pretty much what it says on the tin.
Pod People : from Apple Customers to Werewolves organized and classified for your amusement and as a public service.
PVC Espas : A musical instrument I have built.
SAMPA : A clear concise way to represent phonetics in ASCII.
South Park on the Gun Debate, Without Blood or Bullets : Fan fiction written for early 2013.
Split Sleep : Sleeping twice per day for greater efficiency
Top Movies : My list of top movies of all time, rated by attendance (number of tickets sold) in U.S. theatres.
xkcd 1190 “Time” : discussion forum index
The following links represent projects that I lost interest in.
Apple Computer : Notes about the company and its history (currently just covers the “1984” commercial)
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Posted: August 23, 2016 at 9:23 am
Quick note: I gave a brief interview at Fallen and Flawed.
Clearly, atheism is not a religion, but there has been much talk in the comments about whether or not atheism is a worldview.
So, lets check the definitions of atheism and of worldview and see if one might be a species of the other.
atheism disbelief in the existence of a god or gods
worldview1. a particular philosophy of life or conception of the world 2. a collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group
I do not see how atheism can be a worldview.
I have compared atheism to a-unicornism: disbelief in the existence of unicorns. How is a-unicornism a worldview? Its not. Atheism and a-unicornism are each a single belief about one thing. Neither of these positions tell you anything else about the person who holds them: their morals values, their political views, their driving purpose, their explanations for life or the universe, their beliefs about magic or ghosts or elves, their rationality or their intelligence.
But, Bobmo wrote:
In other words, if there is no God, then x must be true (e.g. matter is eternal, or a multiverse exists; there is no absolute morality, etc.) The same cannot be said for A-unicornism, since the non-existence of unicorns carries no serious implications.
I deny that atheism has such implications. None of Bobmos examples follow from the non-existence of gods. They may be true, but they are not entailed by atheism. As toweltowel replied: Supposing that theism implies p, and that atheism is the denial of theism, it obviously does not follow that atheism implies [not-p].
Neither an atheist nor an a-unicornist must believe in eternal matter, a multiverse, or moral relativism. And in fact, Id bet millions of them dont.
Adiel Corchado has another try:
The difference between atheism and [a-unicornism] is that unicorns provide no answers to why the world exists, why we exist, whether morality is objective or subjective, what happens after you die, etc. If unicorns dont exist that changes nothing. If unicorns do exist that changes nothing. Gods existence or non-existence on the other hand changes everything.
I have never seen a definition of worldview that uses Adiels criteria for something being a worldview. Both bare atheism and bare theism have no answers to why the world exists, why the world exists, whether morality is objective or subjective, or what happens after you die. For you to start answering those questions you have to adopt a worldview, like a particular brand of worldview naturalism or Christianity or extropianism.
Yes, even theism in the bare sense that is the opposite of atheism is not a worldview. Like atheism, theism is a single belief about one thing: the existence of a god or gods.
What else is entailed by belief in a god or gods? Absolute morality? The origins of life or the universe? The afterlife? The purpose of life? None of these things are entailed by theism, not even the origins of the universe. Not all gods are thought to be eternal, or creative. And not all theistic religions think that the gods can explain the origins of the universe, for example many varieties of Buddhism.
Atheism is the mere opposite of theism, and neither of these entail a long list of beliefs like a worldview does.
Some helpful links:
Continue reading here:
Posted: July 21, 2016 at 2:11 am
strategic philosopher Max More
Dr. Max More is an internationally acclaimed strategic futurist who writes, speaks, and organizes events about the fundamental challenges of emerging technologies. Max is concerned that our rapidly developing technological capabilities are racing far ahead of our standard ways of thinking about future possibilities. His work aims to improve our ability to anticipate, adapt to, and shape the future for the better.
In developing, communicating, and implementing better ways of foreseeing possible futures and of making decisions under growing uncertainty, Max takes a highly interdisciplinary approach. Drawing on philosophy, economics, cognitive and social psychology, management theory, and other fields, he develops solutions and strategies for minimizing the dangers of progress and maximizing the benefits.
Dr. More co-founded and until 2007acted as Chairman of Extropy Institute, a diverse network of innovative thinkers committed to creating solutions to enduring humanproblems. He authored the Principles of Extropy, which form the core of a transhumanist perspective. As a leading transhumanist thinker, Max strongly challenges traditional, limiting beliefs about the possibilities of our future. At the same time, he tempers visionary aims with analytical and practical strategizing.
As a writer, Max has authored dozens of articles and papers on topics including how to improve and apply critical and creative thinking, especially about uncertain future possibilities; the ethics of biotechnology and other technologies that directly affect humans; the philosophical implications of technological transformations of human nature; and strategic futures thinking in business. He recently wrote the Proactionary Principle, the latest of influential pieces that include “The Principles of Extropy”, and A Letter to Mother Nature. He is currently working on a book, tentatively titled Beyond Caution, that responds to resurgent neophobia with a spirited yet balanced defense of progress.
As a speaker, Max frequently lectures at conferences and companies, gives seminars, and engages in debates and panel discussions on issues surrounding the impact of emerging technologies. Known as a highly capable communicator, he is able to synthesize diverse areas of knowledge and communicate the results clearly and insightfully.
As an organizer, Max brings together a diverse range of thinkers, scientists, philosophers, artists, and entrepreneurs to examine technological and social trends and then form individual and organizational strategies for flourishing in a time of accelerated change.
As a consultant, Max (as part of the ManyWorlds team) works with companies and other organizations to improve strategic futures thinking and weave it into regular decision-making and innovation processes. This includes analyzing the interaction of technological trends, and developing strategic scenarios.
His academic background: Max has a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from St. Annes College, Oxford University (1984-87). He was awarded a Deans Fellowship in Philosophy in 1987 by the University of Southern California. Max studied and taught philosophy at USC with an emphasis on philosophy of mind, ethics, and personal identity, completing his Ph.D. in 1995, with a dissertation that examined issues including the nature of death, and what it is about each individual that continues despite great change over time.
He is currently writing a book on the forces driving us into the future and how to apply cognitive and strategic tools to improve our thinking about the resulting issues.
Born in January 1964 in Bristol, in the Southwest of England of half-English, half-Welsh ancestry. Married since 1996 to Natasha Vita-More. After living for 15 years in the Los Angeles area, Max moved to Austin, Texas in 2002.
At least since watching the Apollo 11 moon landing at the age of 5, Max has always been fascinated by the possibilities offered by technology for overcoming limits. He started a personal life extension regimen in his early teens, and created several publications to discuss ideas about space colonization, life extension, cognitive enhancement, and liberty. His deep interest in economics shifted increasingly to philosophy as he formulated a “big picture” of possible futures. At the age of 40, More has been writing about these ideas and organizing practical activity for over 20 years. Before moving to the USA in 1987, he incorporated the first biostasis organization in Britain, generating considerable media coverage. His doctoral work on personal identity analyzed the effects of technology on the self, and alternatives to current conceptions of death and identity.
Max More has become a widely recognized thinker on the philosophical and cultural implications of advanced, emerging, and future technologies. Echoing the words of his instructors throughout his education, reporters have noted his ability to explain clearly and persuasively radical and complex ideas. Jim McClellan, in his major 1995 Observer (UK newspaper) article, said: “The funny thing about Max is that while his ideas are wild, he argues them so calmly and rationally you find yourself being drawn in.”
Maxs ideas and background have been described in publications such as Wired (where Ed Regis described him as “the primary intellectual force behind Extropianism”) The Village Voice, Icon, Knowledge@Wharton, The L.A. Weekly, GQ (Britain), GQ (Spain), The New York Times Magazine, Focus, .net, and ct (Germany), the national UK newspapers The Observer, The Guardian, and The Sunday Times.
His ideas have been discussed in books including Gundolf Freyermuths Cyberland, Brian Alexanders Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion, Damien Brodericks The Spike, Chris Dewdneys Last Flesh, Mark Derys Escape Velocity, Flesh and Machines: How Robots Will Change Us, by Rodney Brooks, Erik Daviss Techgnosis, among others.
Television and video appearances include a bioethics debate on Crossfire, two series on The Learning Channel and the Discovery Channel, documentaries in France, Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands, Russia, Chile, and Belgium, the Terry Wogan Show (then Britains top talk show); CNNs Futurewatch; the CBS series Mysteries of the Millennium; several appearances on Breakthroughs: A Transcentury Update cable TV show; the documentaries New Edge and the theatrical release Synthetic Pleasures; and many other television and radio shows. Dr. Mores thinking has been discussed in a dozen books. He has also appeared in at least two novels, but continues to insist that he is a real person.
When not working, he may be found scuba diving, skiing, shooting, or in the gym weight-training or running, or at home playing with his cats Quark and Quasar and his dog Oscar.
AND? DON’T BE BASHFUL…
Marvin Minsky, the father of artificial intelligence, said of Dr. More: We have a dreadful shortage of people who know so much, can both think so boldly and clearly, and can express themselves so articulately. Carl Sagan was another such oneand (partly by paying the price of his life) managed to capture the public eye. But Sagan is gone and has not been replaced. I see Max as my candidate for that post. Ray Kurzweil, author, inventor, and winner of the Presidential Medal for innovation in technology said: Max More’s ideas are very influential among other “big thinkers,” who in turn are influence leaders themselves. Max’s writings represent well grounded science futurism, and reflect a sophisticated understanding of technology trends and how these trends are likely to develop during this coming century.
Max More: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Posted: June 26, 2016 at 10:51 am
Extropianism, also referred to as the philosophy of Extropy, is an evolving framework of values and standards for continuously improving the human condition. Extropians believe that advances in science and technology will some day let people live indefinitely. An extropian may wish to contribute to this goal, e.g. by doing research and development or volunteering to test new technology. Extropianism describes a pragmatic consilience of transhumanist thought guided by a proactionary approach to human evolution and progress. Originated by a set of principles developed by Dr. Max More, The Principles of Extropy, extropian thinking places strong emphasis on rational thinking and practical optimism. According to More, these principles “do not specify particular beliefs, technologies, or policies”. Extropians share an optimistic view of the future, expecting considerable advances in computational power, life extension, nanotechnology and the like. Many extropians foresee the eventual realization of unlimited maximum life spans, and the recovery, thanks to future advances in biomedical technology or mind uploading, of those whose bodies/brains have been preserved by means of cryonics.
Posted: June 8, 2016 at 2:44 am
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There’s been nothing like this movement nothing this wild and extravagant since way back in those bygone ages when people believed in things like progress, knowledge, and let’s all shout it out, now Growth!
The Handshake: Right hand out in front of you, fingers spread and pointing at the sky. Grasp the other person’s right hand, intertwine fingers, and close. Then shoot both hands upward, straight up, all the way up, letting go at the top, whooping “Yo!” or “Hey!” or some such thing.
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You won’t be able to do this without smiling, without laughing out loud, in fact just try it but this little ceremony, this tiny two-second ritual, pretty much sums up the general Extropian approach. This is a philosophy of boundless expansion, of upward- and outwardness, of fantastic superabundance.
It’s a doctrine of self-transformation, of extremely advanced technology, and of dedicated, immovable optimism. Most of all, it’s a philosophy of freedom from limitations of any kind. There hasn’t been anything like it nothing this wild and extravagant, no such overweening confidence in the human prospect since way back to those bygone ages when people still believed in things like progress, knowledge, and let’s all shout it out, now Growth!
Their gung-ho attitude reflects the success of digital technology, which these days allows us to create at least in cyberspace anything conceivable. You can create your own simulated universe if you want to. What’s more, you can actually get it right this time: you can start at the bottom and remake things as you’d want them to be, as they should have been made in the first place, perhaps. The Extropians take that same attitude and apply it to the real world: they extrapolate out in every dimension, along every parameter, pushing technology to its outermost limits. When you do that, and when you take the results seriously, you find that some pretty outrageous stuff becomes possible.
Just how outrageous became clear at “Extro 1,” the first formal gathering of the clan, in Sunnyvale, California, in April 1994, where there were plenty of Extropian handshakes going around not to mention the hugs and kisses. This is not a doctrine of repressing your feelings, after all, or of being embarrassed about things.
Just a few months previously, at the “Extropaganza” at Mark DeSilets’s house in nearby Boulder Creek, the invitations had read: “Bring appropriate toys and gadgets, and a playful attitude. The house has a hot tub, so come prepared; please note that some clothing will be required in the tub, so as not to shock the neighbors with the sight of our transhuman physiques!” Romana Machado aka “Mistress Romana” software engineer, author, and hot-blooded capitalist, showed up dressed as the State, in a black vinyl bustier and mini, with a chain harness top, custom-made for her at Leather Masters in San Jose, California, for whom she does modeling work. She was in all that garb, carrying a light riding crop, plus a leash, at the other end of which, finally, her Extropian companion Geoff Dale, the Taxpayer, crawled along in mock subjection. The couple embodied Extropian symbolism, the State being regarded as one of the major restrictive forces in the Milky Way galaxy. These people hate government, particularly “entropic deathworkers like the Clinton administration.”
And so later on, when you threw off your inhibitions, shackles, chains, and clothes, and splashed around in the hot tub together with the VEPs on hand the Very Extropian Persons you could actually imagine that, here in the Santa Cruz mountains, the Extropians had discovered the secret of existence. You got a further inkling of what that secret was during Extro 1, which was decidedly more refined a gathering. It was the occasion for theory and reflection, for sober discussion of Extropian ideas. Like immortality, for example.
Early in the conference, Mike Perry, overseer of the 27 frozen people (actually, 17 are frozen heads, only 10 are entire bodies) submerged in liquid nitrogen at minus 321 degrees Fahrenheit (Cold enough for you?) at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, a cryonics outfit in Scottsdale, Arizona, gave a talk saying that, contrary to appearances, genuine immortality was physically possible.
“Immortality is mathematical, not mystical,” he said.
Perry, with a PhD in computer science from the University of Colorado, might well think so. A rather gaunt figure, a little rumpled and slightly stooped, he’d worked out a scheme whereby if you make enough backup copies of yourself, then everlasting life can be yours forever, always, and in perpetuity.
He explained: some of the more submissive immortalists non-Extropian immortalists, in other words had worried about the possibility of their lives being terminated by accident, murder, or some other such form of radical unpleasantness. The way to get around that in the future, said Perry, would be to download the entire contents of your mind into a computer your memories, knowledge, your whole personality (which is, after all, just information) you’d transfer all of it to a computer, make backup copies, and stockpile those copies all over creation. If at some point later you should happen to suffer a wee interruption of your current life cycle, then one of your many backups would be activated, and, in a miracle of electronic resurrection, you’d pop back into existence again, good as new.
Well, this was a vision entirely agreeable to the audience, some 70 or so Extropic presences now basking in immortalist cheer in the main conference room at the Sunnyvale Sheraton. An infinitely long life span is just one small part of the greater Extropian dream, a package that involves the wholesale transformation of man, culture, and even of nature. The overall goal is to become more than human to become superhuman, “transhuman,” or “posthuman,” as they like to say possessed of drastically augmented intellects, memories, and physical powers. The goal is a society based on freely chosen social arrangements, on systems of self-generating “spontaneous order,” as opposed to massive legal structures imposed from above by the State. And the goal is to gain as complete control over the physical universe as is compatible with natural law.
An impressive program by any standard. But if the Extropians are right, off in the dim mist is a grand new order of things, one that is not so much physical or political as it is metaphysical, founded upon a lavishly expanded conception of human possibility. No longer is biology destiny: with genetic engineering, biology is under human control. And with nanotechnology, smart drugs, and advances in computation and artificial intelligence, so is human psychology. Suddenly technology has given us powers with which we can manipulate not only external reality the physical world but also, and much more portentously, ourselves. We can become whatever we want to be: that is the core of the Extropian dream.
People have dreamed such dreams before, of course: they’ve wanted to fly like eagles, to run like the wind, to live forever. They’ve dreamed of becoming like the gods, of having supernatural powers. The difference is that now, suddenly, all of it is entirely possible. For the first time in history, science and technology have caught up to the wildest of human aspirations and hopes. No ambition, however extra-vagant, no fantasy, ho
wever outlandish, can any longer be dismissed as crazy or impossible. This is the age when you can finally do it all.
The Extropians are the first ones to realize this, the first to make a doctrine and a program out of it, wrap it up into a system, and offer it to the outside world which is exactly what they were doing at Extro 1. Nobody at the conference was pretending there were no problems involved; this was a highly literate technical bunch: computer scientists, rocket designers, a neurosurgeon, a Berkeley chemist, writers, researchers, and so on. From them could be heard a reservation or two.
“What about copying errors?” asked one of them about the immortality-through-backups scheme.
“Well, you can check one copy against the other,” Mike Perry said.
But how about the question of storage medium? Will a physical thing persist that long? Doesn’t proton decay put some limits on this? What about the possible ultimate contraction of the universe?
Well never mind! Stay your naysaying! We’re chasing after big quarry here! Eternal survival! Resurrection after obliteration! Unbounded happiness across infinite time!
Come on! We’re Extropians!
For all its gonzo metaphysics, the fact is that Extropianism is a carefully worked out philosophical movement, one whose rituals, symbolism, and mind-set are rooted in a deep and rich body of principles. The basic idea is to fight entropy the natural tendency of things to run down, degenerate, and die out with its polar opposite, “extropy.”
Extropy, according to the official Extropian Principles (version 2.5), is “a measure of intelligence, information, energy, vitality, experience, diversity, opportunity, and capacity for growth.” Extropianism, then, is “the philosophy that seeks to increase extropy.”
The principles themselves are five in number: Boundless Expansion, Self-Transformation, Dynamic Optimism, Intelligent Technology, and Spontaneous Order. They make up the handy Extropian acronym: BEST DO IT SO!
How well thought-out! How self-referentially interconnected! The five principles, the five fingers of the Extropian handshake, the five arrows on the Extropian logo, curving outward from the center like the points of a pinwheel or the arms of a spiral galaxy!
To the major Extropians, the principles are meant to be taken seriously: they’re meant to be practiced, they’re guides to action, not just a bunch of abstract theories. Take this business of Dynamic Optimism, for example. In 1991 Max More, co-founder of and primary intellectual force behind Extropianism, wrote an essay called “Dynamic Optimism: Epistemological Psychology for Extropians,” in which he enumerated eight separate strategies eight! by which you could acquire a properly auspicious view of yourself, life, and the universe. There was the technique of selective focus, for example, whereby you’d concentrate on the positive aspects of a given situation, on what you personally regarded as worthy and valuable. You’d adopt such a focus regularly, systematically; you’d make it a matter of personal policy.
“This need not require a denial of pain, difficulty, or frustration,” he wrote. “Rather it may be a matter of spending less time on unpleasantness and of apprehending unpleasant things in a masterful, empowering way instead of a helpless, victimizing way. Optimists attend to the downsides of life only insofar as doing so is likely to enable them to move ahead.”
And so on through seven more steps. Stoicism: optimists “don’t whine and moan about things that are past or out of their control.” Questioning of limits: “Optimists will question and probe at any entrenched limiting assumptions, especially where these appear to lack a rationally convincing basis. Only an iron-clad demonstration of impossibility (such as Goedel’s incompleteness theorem) will stop them; even then optimists will be careful not to draw unnecessarily frustrating conclusions.”
The tract was fitted out with the usual scholarly apparatus: footnotes, bibliography, and references to thinkers ranging from the church father Tertullian, circa 200, to contemporaries like Robert Nozick and Ayn Rand.
Imposing as it all was, it was merely Max More’s latest attempt to go beyond the limits, something he’d been doing since birth.
“According to my mother I was named Max because I was the heaviest baby in the hospital ward where I was born,” he said.
That cataclysmic event occurred in Bristol, England, in 1964. Later, at age 5, Max was transfixed by the moon landing and was fascinated by high technology and the future. He idolized the superheroes of various types that he read about in comic books: he craved their X-ray vision, their disintegrator guns, their ability to walk through walls.
“When I was about 10, I went through a period of real interest in the occult. I was very interested in the idea of any kind of paranormal powers, having abilities beyond the normal human ones.”
He even started a club, called Psychic Development and Research, at the school he attended, for the purpose of exploring the nether realms. But the more he actually learned about the occult, the less he was convinced that there was anything to it, and ultimately he became an all-out rationalist. The only reliable way of gaining knowledge, he decided, the only way to accomplish anything worthwhile, was through hard science and cold logic.
Later on, he attended St. Anne’s College, Oxford, where he majored in philosophy, politics, and economics. Always very big on organizing things, he started up new clubs and discussion groups, published magazines, and became, he claims, the first person in Europe to sign up for cryonic suspension the process of being frozen at death in hopes of later revival. He kept a heart-lung resuscitator in his dorm room, just in case. “People used to go in and see that, and it added to the odd impression, along with my several rows of vitamins on the shelves.” Not to mention the 3,000 science fiction books.
He got his degree and, tired of England’s dreary mood, lit out for the States.
“Going to Los Angeles was a wonderful thing. It had this glamorous feel to it, it was just a huge thrill being there. I remember going on the freeways and looking up at the sign and seeing Los Angeles and saying, ‘I’m really here! Wow!'”
This was the land where everything was possible. Sunshine! Palm trees! California girls! Minor impediments like smog and earthquakes did not figure into his personal equation. But a change of name did.
“In Southern California, everybody changes their name: actors do, writers do. I knew I wanted to be a writer and become known, so that I could spread these ideas better, so I thought I might as well change my name,” which until then had been Max O’Connor.
He spent a year thinking up a new name for himself, finally deciding on the word, More.
“It seemed to really encapsulate the essence of what my goal is: always to improve, never to be static. I was going to get better at everything, become smarter, fitter, and healthier. It would be a constant reminder to keep moving forward.”
It would also be the start of a trend among Extropians: Mark Potts became Mark Plus; Harry Shapiro became Harry Hawk.
“It’s a great expression of self-transformation,” said Tom Morrow, a Silicon Valley attorney, about renaming himself. “This is how I’m changing myself: I’m going to change the way people think of me because people think of you, in part, by the way you’re named. Also we pick descriptive names, which is a trait the Quakers also shared
; they often named their kids with descriptive names like Felicity or Charity. You see that same trait in Extropians. They hold their values so dear, they want to be associated with them more than by just holding them. They want to be known by them.
“And also,” he added, “it’s a fun sort of thing.”
Fun, indeed, would be the sixth Extropian principle, if there were one. It was Tom Morrow, at any rate, who began using the term “Extropy,” invented the Extropian handshake, and, together with Max More, co-founded Extropianism, back when both of them were graduate students in philosophy at the University of Southern California.
By the time Morrow and More were getting their master’s degrees in the subject, the ideas of souped-up humans that had been percolating through Max’s head since childhood had been reinforced by certain doctrines of the Western philosophers, some of whom had advanced like-minded, or at least highly sympathetic, notions. Aristotle, who’d founded logic as a formal discipline and had done pioneering research in biology, professed an ethics of self-realization, the notion of fulfilling one’s highest potential. There were the philosophers of the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, thinkers like Voltaire, John Locke, and Adam Smith, who claimed that genuine knowledge was in fact possible, that nature was knowable, and that progress was desirable and good. There was Ayn Rand, who put forward the conception of “man as a heroic being,” able to perform untold feats of imagination and creation. And above all there was Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19th century philosopher who explicitly advocated mankind’s transforming itself into something far superior.
“All beings so far have created something beyond themselves,” wrote Nietzsche. “Do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man?”
There was much that needed to be overcome, that was for sure. Human beings had almost too many flaws, chief among them being the unholy trio of sickness, aging, and death. Beyond that there were vast surfeits of human evil: wanton excesses of fraud and deceit, mindless violence, prejudice, police states, and so on and so forth. It did not make for a pretty picture, especially considering that all of it was rectifiable, totally reversible through human action.
“I teach you the overman,” Nietzsche had said. “Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?”
What Max More and Tom Morrow did in 1988 was to start up the journal Extropy. By challenging culturally entrenched notions about the inherent limitations of humankind, they’d show how the species could pull itself out of the mud. Sickness could be wiped out, aging reversed, life spans lengthened, intelligence increased, states replaced by voluntary societies and all of this in the first issue! The print run was just 50 copies, but even so it was hard to get rid of them.
“We basically forced them on people,” said More. “Anybody who might be interested, anybody who was our friend, we tried to get them to take a copy. Go on, just read this!”
Which they did. It was pretty far-out, this stuff audacious, but strangely stirring in its own way. One issue proposed “a new dating system” to replace the Christian calendar. Why should Extropians mostly atheists and agnostics be forced to use a dating scheme based on the birth of Christ? Why not start from Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum, the book that in 1620 set forth the modern scientific method, in which case 1990 would be 370 PNO (post Novum Organum)? Or start from Newton’s Principia, maybe. Something reasonable.
Along the way there was an attempt to create a nomenclature that lived up to Extropian doctrine. And why not? This was a total philosophy, and so it deserved its own proprietary rhetoric. Soon a whole panoply of extropically flavored neologisms had sprung into existence: Extropia (coined by Tom Morrow), a community embodying Extropian values; Extropolis (from Max More), an Extropian city located in space; extropiate (from Dave Krieger), any drug having extropic effects. There was smart-faced (from Russell Whitaker), “the condition resulting from social-use extropiates: ‘Let’s get smart-faced.'” And there was the instantly-memorable disasturbation (another Dave Krieger invention), “idly fantasizing about possible catastrophes (ecological collapse, full-blown totalitarianism) without considering their likelihood or considering their possible solutions/preventions.”
Further along there was a concerted attempt to flesh out the Extropian dream. Tom Morrow, the Extropian legal theorist, wrote articles about “privately produced law,” showing how systems of rules can and do arise spontaneously from voluntary transactions among free agents, without the assistance of Mother Government. He also wrote about “Free Oceana,” a proposed community of Extropians living on artificial islands floating around on the high seas.
Still, all of that was mere theory. Back in the real world, Morrow and More established a sort of intergalactic headquarters for Extropians, the Extropy Institute, a nonprofit California corporation. Soon there was also a bimonthly institute newsletter, the Exponent, as well as an electronic mailing list. And in a short time, Extropianism seemed to have acquired all the trappings of a major cultural phenomenon, with a succession of parties, weekly lunches, T-shirts (“Forward! Upward! Outward!”), and even an Extropian “nerd house,” called Nextropia, in Cupertino.
Operated by Romana Machado, the aforementioned “Mistress Romana” who in real life works in the Newton division of Apple Computer (she’s also the inventor of Stego, a program that compliments traditional encryption schemes see “Security Through Obscurity,” Wired 2.03, page 29), Nextropia is an Extropian boarding house, a community of friends. Just don’t call it a “commune.”
“The very term makes us shudder,” said Max More, who doesn’t even live there. “It implies common ownership. Still, for all their journals, newsletters, e-mail lists, and other forms of obsessive communication, it cannot be said that the Extropians are taking the world by storm. Although recent issues of Extropy have boasted print runs above 3,000 and are being carried by some newsstands, total membership in the Extropy Institute was only about 300 at the time of Extro 1, while roughly 350 were reading the e-mail list on a regular basis. But what the Extropians lack in numbers they make up for in sheer brains; at various times people like artificial intelligence theorist Marvin Minsky, nanotechnologist Eric Drexler, and USC professor Bart Kosko (of fuzzy logic fame) have been found lurking on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Drexler, indeed, is something of a patron saint among Extropians, the reason being that his books, Engines of Creation and Nanosystems, some members feel, chart the path to the Extropian future. Tiny robots working with molecules, the theory goes, will bring us extreme longevity (Drexler does not speak of “immortality”), health, wealth, and indefinite youth.
No surprise then, that at the Extropian Banquet and Extropy Awards Ceremony, at Extro 1, Drexler emerged as star of the show. This was after Hans Moravec (father of the downloading idea) gave the keynote speech; after Romana Machado, in her leather gauntlets, enumerated “five things you can do to fight entropy now”; after Tom Morrow, the attorney, talked about private legal systems; and after Max More proposed his “epistemology for Extropians,” according to which all doctrine, but especially Extropian doctrine, was to be considered forever
open to inspection, criticism, and improvement.
After that it was trophy time. There at the front of the room, the banquet room of the Sunnyvale Sheraton, up on a sort of ceremonial altar-table, was a line of actual Extropian trophies. Designed by institute member Regina Pancake, they featured the Extropian starburst in a disk of clear Lucite set into a black plastic base. There was the Corporate Award, for example, “to a company engaged in extropically important activity and run in a way unusually conducive to individual incentive, ingenuity, and autonomy.” And the winner was the Xerox Corporation.
And so on for six more awards, including, eventually, the award for Technical Achievement, which went to Drexler. He, for his part, confessed to a strong bent for Extropianism.
“I agree with most of the Extropian ideas,” he said later. “Overall, it’s a forward-looking, adventurous group that is thinking about important issues of technology and human life and trying to be ethical about it. That’s a good thing, and shockingly rare.”
So are these people crazy, or what? The question has occurred to them.
“I had a very interesting conversation with a mental health professional last week,” said Dave Krieger. Krieger, director of publications for a software company, had been a technical consultant to Star Trek: The Next Generation.
“In preparation for the panel discussion, the one about warding off dogmatism, I’d given her a few issues of Extropy, including one that has the Extropian Principles in it, and I said, ‘Look this over and tell me: Are we crazy? Is this a world view that you or your colleagues would consider to be insane? Or psychologically unhealthy? Or neurotic?'”
Well, not exactly. But, in fact, she couldn’t really say one way or the other.
“She said that they encounter so many people with defeatist attitudes, the attitude that they can’t change their lives and that they can’t improve things, that she could see the benefits of Extropianism.”
That was on the one hand. On the other hand, the whole thing was still pretty outlandish. “She didn’t want to use the word ‘receptive,'” said Krieger. “She didn’t want to be quite that strong.”
Others, however, were far less restrained. “They haven’t convinced me that I’ll be resurrected a thousand years from now not that it matters” said Julian Simon, a University of Maryland economist who has written for Extropy. “But they sure are right about rejecting unimaginative and counterproductive notions of closed systems. Resources aren’t ‘finite’ in any significant sense.”
“They’re extremists,” said Marvin Minsky, about the Extropians. “But that’s the way you get good ideas.”
As it was, Minsky himself almost joined the institute. “I’d like to be a sustaining member,” he told Max More. “The trouble is that since about 1970, when we got our first ArpaNet, I became almost unable to lick a stamp. I will, if necessary, but I’d rather phone you a credit card number.” But the institute, unfortunately, had not quite gotten around to that.
It soon will, however. Extropy is an idea whose time has come.
“We see this need for transcendence deeply built into humanity,” said Max More. “That’s why we have all these religious myths. It seems to be something inherent in us that we want to move beyond what we see as our limits. In the past we haven’t had the technology to do that, and right now we’re in this difficult period where we don’t quite have the technology yet, but we can see it coming.”
And if the worst happens and you should die before the technology arrives, the plan is to put yourself on hold for the duration, which is why the major Extropians are signed up for cryonic suspension. Max More, Tom Morrow, Simon Levy, Dave Krieger, Romana Machado, Tanya Jones, Mike Perry they’re all ready to have their heads frozen when the time comes. Tanya Jones, indeed, jokes about having a dotted line tattooed around her neck, together with the words cut here.
And why not? How else to make it over the crest, over the slight hill rise, over the next little bit of technology that’s left to climb before we can rush down the other side, to the new tomorrow, when all things will be possible? Some incredible things are going to be happening, if and when we get there.
“I enjoy being human but I am not content,” said Max More.
Exactly! That was it! That was the secret, the big Extropian key to the universe: appreciate what you’ve got, but without being overly satisfied with it. There’s always something better far better! waiting in the wings. You’ve just got to get yourself out there.
Who could deny it? And who’d not want to be there, in the grand future, when the VEPs, the Very Extropian Persons, wake themselves up, shake off the dust of past ages, and fly off to the far reaches of the galaxy?
You, too, could join the party the Extropaganza Maximum! Just remember, when you get there, that it’s right hand out in front of you, fingers spread and pointing at the sky. Grasp the other person’s right hand, intertwine fingers, and close.
Then zoom your hand up, straight up, all the way up!
Upward! Outward! Reach for the stars!
For more Extropian information, e-mail email@example.com.