RE: Misunderstandings, was are you extropian

From: altamira (
Date: Thu Jun 08 2000 - 10:38:12 MDT

Brian wrote:

<No it has nothing to do with your lifestyle. In fact I have a definite
admiration for anyone who can live in such a strongly individualistic and
self-sufficient manner. What set me off was that somehow I did get the
impression you were considering yourself to be an Extropian. I did a
rant on another post about how I feel about that. Sorry for any misunder-

I think what set ME off about your posts was that I sensed a demand for
self-sacrifice, particularly when you seemed to offer a choice between
comfort (which I interpreted as encompassing self-interest) and progress.
I've just re-read Eric Hoffer's _The True Believer_, which I was motivated
to do because I had become acquainted with a person who was a member of the
Church of Scientology (I believe that's what they call themselves), which
has all the trappings of a mass movement. What disturbed me about your
posts was that I was seeing in them evidence of the same sort of selfless
devotion to holy cause as I had seen in my Scientologist friend, although
the doctrines of Scientology and Extropy (Extropianism?) are of course quite
different. One of Hoffer's points is that all mass movements share certain
characteristics, regardless of their respective dogma.

To better illustrate where I was coming from, here's a quote from _The True

"When our individual interests and prospects do not seem worth living for,
we are in desperate need of something apart from us to live for. All forms
of dedication, devotion, loyalty and self-surrender are in essence a
desperate clinging to something which might give worth and meaning to our
futile, spoiled lives." Hoffer is using the word "spoiled" here to convey a
sense of hopelessness rather than as we would use the word when speaking of
a "spoiled brat."

He continues: "Hence the embracing of a substitute will necessarily be
passionate and extreme. We can have qualified confidence in ourselves, but
the faith we have in our nation, religion, race or holy cause has to be
extravagant and uncompromising. A substitute embraced in moderation cannot
supplant and efface the self we want to forget." "Substitute" in this
context refers to a substitute for self-esteem.

<You are right here too, and that is certainly not my belief. But what
are you planning to do with your research results? What comes next?>

My most immediate purpose for doing what I'm doing is to please myself. I
want my gardens and orchards to exist, and since they didn't exist before,
I'm working to bring them into existence. It's that simple. What comes
next depends to a great extent upon events that are not under my control. I
see the present political and economic situation (world-wide) as unstable.
If you like mathematics, there's an interesting paper by physicists Anders
Johansen and Didier Sornette (UCLA) on the web. Their models show that "both
the acceleration in the growth of the world's human population until the
1970's as well as in a proxy for capitalistic expansion {my note: they use
monthly DJ quotes for this purpose} in the United States since its creation
as a nation until present are consistent with a spontaneous singularity at
the _same_ critical time 2058 AD plus or minus 5 years." I don't have the
URL handy, but I'll find it for you if you're interested in reading the

In any event, I don't feel as though I, or anyone else, can predict the near
future with any degree of certainty. Singularities imply changes that can't
be predicted by interpolating the past. Therefore, I must answer that I
don't know for sure what next, but I feel confident in my ability to handle
whatever comes.

As far as social benefits of my research, having cultivars of food crops
which can be grown on poor soil (or on concrete for that matter) with a
relatively small input of labor and without the use of fossil fuels could
mean the difference between life and death. I see organizations such as
Monsanto and the USDA going in the opposite direction; I know with a high
degree of certainty that the foundations of their agricultural technology
are quite fragile. Because I stated that I enjoy what I do and have fun
doing it (and even that I grow flowers, god forbid!), you may have concluded
that I was like a commune-dweller of the 60's (the phrase conjures up images
of hippies with flowers in their hair amid wreathes of marijuana and opium
smoke). This is not an accurate view of who I am or what I'm doing, and I
felt resentful that you jumped to that conclusion. I don't think it was
warranted, based on the information you had access to.

You said with respect to not paying taxes:

<I certainly understand this motive myself, and I am also trying to limit
my taxes. But I don't see it as a good reason to head to the hills. At
least if I get fed up with this government I can easily move to some
other more comfortable country. In my opinion your lifestyle has put
you even more at the mercy of the government- you might find yourself
unable to relocate so easily. From my point of view, developing larger
(not smaller) amounts of financial resources allows me a greater
chance to escape. Or if I choose, it allows me to support organizations
that might help reform or protest the government. Basically in my view
having more cash is a good thing (in general), and giving up your cash
is bad (in general).>

I agree with you that in many cases money can buy freedom, time, life
itself. I have no quarrel with your decision to pursue it (aside from the
fact that in acquiring the money you're probably supporting a destructive
political system). I would ask you to pay me the same consideration by
acknowledging that you aren't aware of all my circumstances and that it's
possible that my choice may be the most logical and life-sustaining one for
me. Rather than store money, my choice has been to concentrate on gaining
knowledge, skills, and flexibility. My opinion is that THESE will be far
more valuable than money in times of rapid social change. I wouldn't be able
to concentrate on acquiring these and on doing the research I'm doing if I
were spending 40 or more hours per week making money. As I've also said, I'm
trying to figure out a way to make more money without giving up things I
value more highly. But the non-monetary assets I listed above have higher
priority for me than the money at this time.

<Sure, I support ExI and Foresight, each has received $10k from me so far
with more coming soon I hope. I am now supporting Eliezer's AI/Singularity
research indefinitely. I spend most of my time researching investment
strategies and opportunities both in public and private companies. In
my previous life (1997/98) I founded and sold, which helps
small businesses get started on the Web. Since then I helped start an
angel investing group in Atlanta that has helped many startups here get
help. I have many public and private investments, and as these grow I
intend to continue to (hopefully) divert larger and larger quantities
of cash to the above and other extropian/singularitarian efforts. I will
be 26 years old on Saturday. Someday I may start another business if
I become motivated enough, but for now I am content to let my money work
for me.>

This is certainly impressive, Brian. And BTW, Happy Birthday and may you
have a long and happy marriage! And if I might offer you a gift from the
perspective of middle age: don't ever stop creating, whether it's
businesses or music or books or new technologies. Letting your money work
for you is fine in my view (as you might guess from everything I've said),
but don't ever let your mind get lazy. Regardless of what technology is
developed to keep the body young and healthy, youthfulness of outlook
requires a vigilant exercising of the mind, learning and creating the new
and wonderful.

And now I think I'm going to recede into lurkdom for a while. I've been
spending entirely too much time sending posts to this list. You guys are an
interesting group of people, that's for sure!


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