Extropian greed: an oxymoron, alas

anonymous (zylof@rigel.infonex.com)
Fri, 28 Mar 1997 15:55:15 -0800 (PST)

Extropianism, in the "big-E" phase of intense parcipation on the
list, activism, elaborate mentating beyond our circle of influence,
etc. is a stage we should all pass through. It's also
a stage we should evolve beyond, excepting perhaps a few "keepers of
the flame" who can make a living while maintaining such a state of mind.

When I hear the "Extropian ideas are greedy" critique, it reminds me of the
related misconception about Objectivists, shared by themseves and their
critics alike, that they are "selfish". Nonsense. Many are the Objectivists
out there living in near poverty (especially in light of their mental
potential), expending their engergies in selflessly trying to promote their
cause. Many have been the acts of immense ideological altruism among the
Objectivists. Objectivists are altruists promoting selfishness, whereas
they must compete with selfish people promoting altruism. If Objectvists
were consistent they'd go over to the enemy.

An analogous phenomenon exists with many Extropians. We have a philosophy
of individual self-improvement but we practice it only in the abstract, in
the imagination, in philosophizing and principalizing and argument, but
not in our daily present lives. We rant against "deathism" and eat (some
even smoke!) carcinogenic crap, drive and fly recklessly, stay overweight,
and so on. We value personal liberty, and promote privacy in the abstract,
but haven't done much of anything to increase the privacy or liberty of
our own lives. We promote the ludicrously futile efforts of Browne the
fringe whacko candidate but do little to find freedom in an unfree world.
We dream of immensely valuable future conditions but spend so much
time with these future scenarios that we are doing less that will get
ourselves to that future than the superstitious Mormon following a
culturally evolved, basic healthy lifestyle.

It's great dreaming of the future, but the future will actually belong to
those who make it there. Here are some steps I hope we can take to make it
+ Don't rant on about the virtues of selfishness, you are contradcting
yourself. If you think selfishness is so great, then you should just be
selfish and not let anybody else in on it. (Unless of course you obtain
joy by bothering people!). the people who make it to the future will
have cared immensely about themvelves, but they will also have pulled
together, to solve the many public goods problems we need to solve, such
as creating a hospitable climate (freedom for transhuman efforts in a
Luddite world), getting each other out of cryonics at the other end, and
so on.
+ be more focused on particular areas of expertise where we can
make a difference in the short term. "Tend our own gardens" -- Voltaire.
"Operate in the circle of influence" -- Covey.
+ we need to be much more _short_ sighted, greedy and local when it
comes to most of our lives. We can live and proper in the present,
creating capital with which to get to the future, in light of knowledge
of our longer-term path and potential. Don't obsess about the grass
greener over the hill and starve in the pastures where we presently
can graze, to get the energy needed to make it over the hill.

Greed is good! As is cooperation! Lose the pathological
combination of selfishness and future-obsession, but keep
in mind the lessons we have learned and the wonder awaiting us
if we succeed in the here and now.