Re: Extropian Principles 3.0: Please comment on new version

Dan Fabulich (
Fri, 04 Sep 1998 14:52:34 -0400

Max More wrote:
>This *is* a first draft of version 3.0, so there should be plenty of places
>where the writing could be improved. My goal is to accurately and *clearly*
>communicate our shared values and attitudes. Another goal in this version
>is to slightly tone down the style so that it feels more sober, but without
>losing all of its original spirit.

Since it looks like we've decided to ditch BEST DO IT SO in this version (BIST DO IT SO SORT doesn't have the same ring to it ;) ), now seems like a good time to raise questions as to whether it should be called Dynamic Optimism or something else. I happen to prefer Critical Optimism, as it comes across a lot more clearly than Dynamic Optimism, which I consistently have to explain.

Also, a style note: it looks like number 7, Rational Thinking, is in a smaller font in the table of contents than the rest of the principles. Since, presumably, we would consider this just as important as the other principles, it should have the same heading level. :)

And while I'm on this topic, I'd like to say a little bit about Rational Thinking. I like rational thinking, but I can't say that without giving a little disclaimer, one which I didn't see in the principles.

When I toss a ball to you, your brain solves a differential equation so that it can move your hands to the right place to catch it. Children as young as five can do this. This is not to say, however, that children as young as five are ready to learn calculus, but that the brain is capable of reaching correct rational conclusions without being conscious of the process required to reach it.

When we say that someone has solved a problem instinctively, that doesn't mean that they've done it wrong, nor does it mean that they weren't being rational (or even non-rational) as they were doing it. Rather the difference is simply that the process by which they solved the problem is unknown, even to the thinker.

Why might this sort of thinking be valuable? Why not consciously work out all of your conclusions, which would add to clarity of thought and avoid confusion? Of course, instinct is often a lot faster than the meticulous layers of thought required to solve problems rationally and explicitly. But more importantly, instinct may ultimately be the only way by which we can "think outside the box," as it is often called: to break free of old paradigms and to think about a problem in a new way. I think that if Extropians were to reject instinct as a mental tool we would have far more to lose than to gain.

Rational thinkers of the past have often rejected the line of reasoning I present above; today, in the common vocabulary, "rational thinking" is believed to be contradictory to instinctive problem solving; without making explicit disclaimers like the one I gave above, I can think of no way to make it clear that Extropians welcome instinct as a mental tool, but insist that it must also be supplemented by a conscious criticism of our own ideas.

In the same vein, while I happen to think that self-ownership is a good idea, I consider it only extrinsicly useful. If a new form of neural net *were* to make ownership of all kinds obsolete while satisfying supply and demand in a manner better than capitalism ever could, then I would support it. As such, I hesitate to consider it a principle. Yes, I understand that these principles are themselves open to criticism and change, but at the same time I can't even begin to imagine a situation under which I would reject boundless improvement (a good word change!), for example. Similarly, as far as I can tell, boundless expansion would be impossible without self transformation, a dynamic form of optimism, intelligent technology and spontaneous order.

In short, I hesitate to include self ownership on the list of principles because, I can imagine a situation in which the concept would go obsolete. In contrast, I do not ever anticipate that dynamic optimism will become obsolete.

Similarly, the spontaneous order section has been rewritten as a much stronger affirmation of capitalism than I saw in v2.6. As anybody who has read many of my posts know, I think capitalism is a great idea; but it isn't necessarily the best idea. On the other hand, I DON'T anticipate a better system of resource allocation that doesn't directly make use of spontaneous order. That's why I think spontaneous order should be a principle, but capitalism shouldn't, nor should the idea of spontaneous order become so strongly linked to capitalism as to make the ideas indistinguishable.

That's all for now.


PS I've been having problems with the timestamping on my posts. By my clock on the wall, I'm writing this e-mail at 2:53PM on Friday, September 4, 1998. Does this look right to you?