Extropian, extropian, and line-drawing

From: Max More (max@maxmore.com)
Date: Fri Jun 09 2000 - 10:37:12 MDT

[This is a repost of a message I just send. I thought it would help to put it under a more fitting subject heading.]

Eugene Leitl wrote:
No, honestly. Any successfull memetic cluster has to have erosion
protection. Namespace attack is still the most difficult to handle DoS.

At 10:38 PM 6/8/00, Brian Atkins wrote:
Everyone has their own view of what it means to be an Extropian. The
obvious problem is that the line has to be drawn somewhere. If you have
mormons, communists, etc. suddenly saying they believe they are Extropians,
where are we headed then? I think the principles are there to provide some
basic level, or backbone, of structure to draw that needed line. And if
you fall to the other side of the line, then I don't think you can
reasonably argue that you are an Extropian. There is nothing wrong
with that, but I think people should go make their own sets of basic
principles that they can live with; call it Queenetropy or Crocktropy
or whatever, but identify yourself with some kind of word with some
REAL MEANING behind it. [...[

I think Commissioner Gordon just flashed the Bat Signal, so here I am. :-)
I agree with Eugene that a coherent memetic cluster needs protection against erosion. So not everyone who calls themselves "Extropian" will be using the term reasonably. On the other hand, as I've demonstrated over the last ten years, the statement of what it means to be extropian does develop and (I believe) improve over time.

I also agree with Brian in what I take to be his main thrust. I appreciate Brian's stepping up to the plate to defend the integrity of "Extropian". It does indeed mean something determinate to be "an Extropian" or to be "extropian". However, I am not comfortable with the image of drawing a sharp line. If we draw a line, we will have to say that there are two kinds of people in the world--Extropians and non-Extropians. I'm right with Brian in agreeing that there will be clear cases of people who are Extropians (even if they have never heard of the philosophy). These will be those who assent to (or would assent to) the Extropian Principles. Some people will clearly be non-Extropians--those who reject the Principles. Yet I don't think it follows that we should say that someone is or is not Extropian (or extropian) in most cases.

Lee Daniel Crocker suggested that one point that might be made is that "the use of words to identify things should be less rigorous than set theory in some contexts". I agree with this. I suggest that we think of "Extropian" and "extropian" as a fuzzy set. Different people will be more or less extropian. I would not be especially uncomfortable with someone describing themselves as Extropian even if they had reservations about one of the Principles (or had a variant reinterpretation of a principle). I do go along with Brian in that a full-fledged Extropian is someone who matches the set the most closely, that is, someone who assents to all the Principles. Two points about this:

(1) We might want to encourage people to call themselves capital "E" Extropians only if they feel comfortable agreeing with all the Principles. However, we should not discourage people from describing themselves as "extropian" (with a small "e") if they agree with much or most of the Extropian Principles. It *is* a fuzzy set (Lee Daniel will shoot me for using "is" and "fuzzy" together...), so this makes sense to me. Natasha's point about inclusion resonates strongly with me. As does QueenMuse's reference to Catholic (or any religious) dogma. I do not want to push people, telling them "you're not extropian" when they may agree with the Extropian Principles in many ways. I'd rather welcome them and include them, fostering their extropian attitudes while challenging their remaining non-extropian attitudes in a respectful but firm way.

I don't especially like to take the role of saying "everyone's right here", but I suppose I am doing something like that. Brian's concern to protect the integrity of the memeplex and the meaningfulness of the terms gets my complete support. At the same time, I don't think doing this requires drawing a sharp line, and it certainly doesn't require excluding those who we think are on the far side of the line. (Not that I think Brian was doing the latter.) I think it would be sensible to reserve "Extropian" for those who affirm all or practically all of the Principles. But "extropian" as an adjective can apply to varying degrees. Even in the former case, someone might reasonably say "I am an Extropian, except that I have reservations about Principle X)".

(2) This is a slightly different point, but bears re-iterating: The Extropian Principles are *not* statements of specific beliefs. They are expressions of basic values and attitudes. I'm not sure that everyone has grasped this, since I see mention of particular technologies such as cryonics and nanotechnology in this discussion. Nowhere in the Principles does it say that being Extropian/extropian requires accepting the desirability or workability of particular technologies. Quite the contrary. I deliberately designed the document so as to be maximally open to differing means of reaching shared goals and implementing shared values. The Principles are about as non-limiting as they can be while preserving the integrity of their content.

I do think we should be very careful in labeling specific activities as Extropian or non-Extropian (with or without the capital "e"). Whether some activity contributes to living extropically depends very much on context--on the individual person, their abilities, their aptitudes, their propensities, and their circumstances. Someone once said that dancing was not very extropian. I found that quite narrow-minded. Dancing, gardening, listening to music, taking a nap, all can be perfectly appropriate in context. We cannot be constantly out producing and creating. Brian definitely reflects my own views in stressing that Extropian thinking emphasizes challenge over comfort, but that should not be taken to mean that you can never relax, smell the roses, and have fun. All of these things are vital to enjoying our lives and to flourishing and to expanding our selves. Yes, you can get too much of these things. Again, it's a matter of context and balance.

So I'm with Brian in that we should be able to constructively challenge each other regarding whether we are living extropically, and should be helpful in suggesting ways of living more extropically (e.g. how to eat for longevity, how to exercise healthily, how to develop "emotional intelligence", how to improve our cognitive skills, how to develop our social skills, how to relax most effectively in order to refuel, and how to take pleasure in every day as much as possible). Let's just steer clear of the approach that religion has mastered--that of excluding and of criticizing without understanding of context.



Max More, Ph.D.
President, Extropy Institute. www.extropy.org
CEO, MoreLogic Solutions. www.maxmore.com
max@maxmore.com or more@extropy.org

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