Re: Difference between Extros and >Hs?
Sun, 5 Sep 1999 16:43:14 EDT

In a message dated 99-09-01 11:23:17 EDT, (Eliezer S. Yudkowsky) wrote:

> I hate to ask a question that sounds this newbieish, having been around
> the list for three years, but what exactly *is* the difference between
> Extropians and transhumans? Stating that a "DC transhumanist group" is
> "70% Extropian" implies a much more noticeable distinction than I've
> been modeling - but then, having not gotten around to any conventions
> yet, I wouldn't have any way to notice a division into groups.

Being engaged in a dialogue in another forum that has included this question, I have some thoughts ready to hand on the subject. Taking into account that the following is part of a larger context, I pass along some of my current thinking on the question you pose:

. . . "[T]he distinction between transhumanism and extropianism" is a subject that sparks quite a bit of discussion - so much so that I've given up trying to be involved in every such discussion I'm aware of. Many people say that extropianism is somehow a subset of transhumanism. I prefer to say that extropian values are transhumanist and that extropianism is a transhumanist philosophy. My personal, perhaps quite idiosyncratic take on the question is that extropianism is a world-view that derives from valuing what happens in nature when complexity spontaneously creates information processing systems (thus my ethical system of "mind morality"). We are most uniquely such systems and thus valuing this is simply a function of self-actualization and self-valuation. From a simple application of the Golden Rule (which is really just an extension of the "cosmological principle" of "no privileged observers" to the realm of values), other extropian values of tolerance and non-initiation of force or coercion are derived. . . .

. . . But "transhumanism" as a cultural movement does not, I believe, purport to be an all-encompassing world view in the same way that most religions purport to be, for instance. It is compatible with a wide (but not indefinite) range of basic world-views. Thus there could be socialist transhumanists and even, I suppose, nihilist transhumanists, just as there are socialist and nihilist humanists. (I believe one could not be an "extropian nihilist" and it would be difficult, I imagine, to try to craft an "extropian socialism".) . . .

. . . "Transhumanism" is as broad a term as "humanism"; the "transhumanist dialogue" has just begun, in many ways (although I'm often amazed at the few prescient pathfinders we can look to as intellectual forebearers - like Butler's Erewhon and Shelley's Frankenstein). Consider "transhumanism" to be a defined arena in which discussion should take place - some of the few "constraints" on that dialogue being a value system that encourages individual autonomy and a continuation of the process of increasing human potential. Within that arena, extropians have a more clearly defined set of values - essentially those of the Enlightenment; if Thomas Jefferson had lived today I feel absolutely sure he would have been an extropian. . . .

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