Re: Nextropians.
Sat, 19 Jun 1999 09:58:47 EDT

I'd like to reiterate some points that Max made recently about the role of the list, the "whereabouts" of valuable list "old-timers" and "extropians elders" and the progress of transhumanism generally.

Many of the people who were early members of ExI and of this list's ancestors are still very much associated with ExI, but aren't associated with the list now because they're simply too busy. Very many of the core projects moving what I call the "transhumanist agenda" forward have now become more than full-time jobs. At least one of the people whose name is associated with transhumanist ideas as much or more than Max More's is doesn't even open his own email any more because he's too darned busy. As much as such people are missed from this forum, their absence is a good thing: It means that the original transhumanist vision that informed extropianism was essentially valid and that we're moving into a time when really smart people are doing a lot more than just talking.

One might conclude from this realization that the extropians online community has served its purpose as a "seed pod" and that its time has passed. Rather than the image of a "seed pod", however, I think that a more correct and valuable analogy is to an incubator. With such mainstream figures as Francis Fukuyama (and *George Will*!) considering "post-humanism" to be a valid view of our future, the number of people coming to our ideas for the first time is increasing every day. Subscription to this list is one of the primary means that newcomers to our ideas have for judging them. Just as some of the bright lights of the original subscribers to the extropians online community have gone on to become active pioneers of our post-human future, new subscribers to this list now and in the future will help to carry forward the torch lighted by the original pioneers. It will take far more people than can be completely enumerated in one posting to this list to follow through on their trailblazing work. Maintaining this forum as a place for quality discussion of transhumanist and extropian ideas and values is important work and people who do their part to maintain a high quality of discussion here do our common cause a great service by providing a good introduction and exposition of our ideas. Advanced discussion here is also very important: New ideas ARE incubated here and they DO feed back to folks who aren't on the list.

Indicating that we are a friendly social community is also just as important: Bright people want to be associated with open, fair and kind individuals. Conversely, those who degrade the quality of discussion here may literally postpone key developments by turning away new talent and enthusiasm: The young biologist, artist, physicist, writer, computer engineer or investor who turns away in disgust at petty squabbling is one less bright mind that could be put to the task of building a better future.

If you feel that you've mastered "the basics" and that it's time for you to broaden your personal involvement in transhumanism and ExI beyond just subscribing to the list, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. Organizing and hosting the EXTRO conferences are some of the primary functions ExI performs and constitute some of the highest value ExI adds to the transhumanist community. Plan on attending this year's conference in August. Better yet, volunteer to help with some of the many details of hosting the conference that we'll have to take care of. Become a full-fledged member of ExI (it's not expensive) and support the group with a few dollars. Consider making a one-time donation -- even a small one -- to help defray the cost of this year's conference or some other project. Form or join an existing local ExI chapter or transhumanist discussion group.
(Billy and Jocelyn Brown have recently done a great job of getting the
Textropians group organized down here on the Third Coast -- thank you!)

As Robin pointed out, take the time and effort to write an article for Extropy Online. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper, or even an editorial. Send a copy of an interesting article or web page or even just a note to a local TV reporter -- they'll often do stories based on ideas suggested by viewers. (Some of us down here in Texas have been interviewed for surprisingly well-balanced stories on cryonics.) Contact a high school or college professor about giving a guest lecture.

Become a Senior Associate of the Foresight Institute, an organization with a close and synergistic relationship with ExI. If you live in the Bay Area, you can volunteer to help out at Foresight: Chris and Tanya can always use a little assistance with the mundane -- or even the less mundane -- work of doing the astonishing number of things that Foresight and IMM do. Get in touch with Alcor or another of the cryonics organizations: They can often use volunteer help. Explore participation or membership in many of the organizations that share values with extropianism, like Cato and Reason.

Something that a lot of the suggestions above have in common is personal face-to-face networking. There is an increasing number of active transhumanist projects under way in the world and getting to know the people involved is one of the best ways to get involved yourself. ExI's, Foresight's and Alcor's conferences and their analogs in Europe are the best way I know to meet the real actors in the growing transhumanist movement. Developing the web of personal contacts "behind the scenes" is one of the most important function served by ExI and Foresight (I know that a lot of real work got done at the hotel bar Saturday night at the last Foresight conference -- our future was HAPPENING there.)

So the bottom line is that it's not "all just talk", but the "talk" is a vital part of "it".


     Greg Burch     <>----<>
     Attorney  :::  Vice President, Extropy Institute  :::  Wilderness Guide   -or-
                         "Civilization is protest against nature; 
                  progress requires us to take control of evolution."
                                      -- Thomas Huxley