Re: An extropian ethic (was Ecology)

Hal Finney (
Tue, 4 Feb 1997 17:07:25 -0800

I'm not convinced that extropian ethics can really lead to results
that are at all compatible with modern-day environmentalism.

First there is the issue I raised earlier, that the diversity produced
by nature may pale in comparison to what we will have in a few decades.

I am also unconvinced by the argument that studying nature will shed
light on our competitors and teach us more about our own evolution so
that we can survive better. The only significant competitors we will
have are other people. Nobody is going to be threatened by the three
toed sloth. And improving our own function will probably be best done
by studying our own bodies, and even more by conceiving new and better
augmentations. We will be able to move so far beyond nature that
information from digging up plants and studying bugs will be of little
relevance to our survival.

Besides that, there is also an externalities/public-goods problem.
The benefit to me of turning the local vacant lot into a revenue-producing
parking lot will probably be much greater than the negligible loss of
diversity that it causes to the ecosystem as a whole. That lot is a
tiny fraction of the earth's surface and paving it over won't cause
much loss of diversity, while the profit from developing it is a very
tangible monthly income.

Millions of decisions like this by people all over the world will lead
to an outcome where the amount of diversity on other people's lands
is less than I would want to see. My preference is external and not
reflected in their decision to convert their property to productive use.
Biodiversity in this broad sense is a public good. If one of us lives
in a world with protected rain forests, we all do. And individualist
economic systems tend to underproduce public goods.

In a contrarian mood -