An extropian ethic (was Ecology)

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Tue, 4 Feb 1997 14:30:43 -0800 (PST)

> > I have been a lifelong nature lover.
> Welcome to the List! I think you may be pleasantly surprised at the extent
> to which transhumanists in general and extropians in particular are
> sensitized to the scientific, social and aesthetic issues of our relationship
> to nature. As long-time ExList denizens know, this is one of my key
> interests in extropianism.

There are exceptions: I love Katherine Hepburn's quote from _The African
Queen_: "Nature, Mr. Alnutt, is what we are put on this Earth to rise
above." Nature is ruthless, cruel, unforgiving. I want to do better.

> To me these are _very_ important and apt questions for extropians and the
> transhumanist community. They cause us to look at our core values and at the
> specific technologies we choose to use to augment our power in -- and over --
> nature. As I've written before, I find Anders' "complexity ethic" to be near
> the starting point for a definition of extropian attitudes toward nature. As

Yes, that was intriguing, but I think unnecessary. I think self-interest--
which is of course interest in the survival of a specific complex form--
is sufficient to result in valuing biodiversity in general, because the
latter serves us in many ways. Education, medicine, entertainment, wealth,
and other human values depend heavily upon it. I, too, think that the
search for an extropian ethic is valuable, indeed the most valuable thing
we can do, because human ethics will affect the future more than any other
single factor (technology does nothing until it is employed by persons with
free will, according to their ethics).

Here's another try at a possible extropian ethical foundation:

(1) Since it is not possible to reach normative conclusions from
descriptive premises, I must begin by postulating a normative
value, and seeing what logically follows from that value combined
with a description of reality. I describe many assumptions of
reality below which I firmly believe are reducible to experience,
but I elide full arguments for each for brevity; I welcome
challenges to any of them. I postulate one value: my own
consciousness, and its continuation. This is a rational value
now because immortality is conceivably possible now.

(2) The continuation of my consciousness requires expenditure of

(3) Resources are finite. Ultimately, conservation of mass-energy
is the only limit, but until technology is sufficient to exploit
all energy present, resources are limited by our technology.
Competition for resources is therefore inevitable.

(4) Our own complexity is finite. It is unlikely that any one
individual will be able to either discover every means of finding
resources to use, or of physically using them. Therefore, non-
omniscient being must specialize in exploiting those resources to
which they are best suited.

(5) Intelligence is the primary survival mechanism of my species--
our specialty.

(6) Evolution--the mathematical consequence of reproduction, mutation,
and selection--is inevitable. At any time /t/ in history, the existing
complex mechanisms are those that (a) survived from time /t-1/, or (b)
are created at time /t/, by reproduction by those alive at time /t-1/.
That selection is inevitable is a consequence of (3).

(7) Other complex forms will evolve to continue themselves and use
resources at my expense if they can. To ensure the continuation of
my consciousness, therefore, it is in my interest to learn as much
as I can about the nature of such systems, and to create technologies
that successfully defend against them. Because of (5), this is the
course of action most likely to lead to my goal.

(8) The diversity of such systems serves my education and discovery by
showing me more ways to use resources, and by showing me how my own
body has evolved, which is necessary for me to understand how to
preserve my consciousness (my body being its current home).

(9) The maintenance of diversity in the face of scarce resources
requires that resources be allocated as efficiently as possible,
subject to the constraint that my own consciousness must be
preserved. The system best suited for that (which can be argued
seperately) is the system of property rights and free trade.

(10) Free trade requires freedom of action, and benevolence. Any
act of force reduces the diversity of actions by constraining a
free actor to the will of the initiator of force, thereby taking
away the victim's ability to use his owm mind to best advantage.
Since we have placed one's own consciousness as the supreme value,
from which the value of diversity was derived, self-defense can
justify force, but not greed or whim.

Therefore, it is not necessary to postulate the value of "nature"
or "freedom" or "benevolence"; merely postulating immortality as a
goal can lead to those values.