Re: Extropianism and Transhumanism

Max More (
Fri, 11 Dec 1998 21:16:42 -0800

At 02:25 PM 12/1/98 -0700, Dick Gray wrote:
>John, Prince von Rittergeist asks:
>"Please forgive a novice's question, but could someone give me a clear
>distinction between Extropianism and Transhumanism? From what I've been
>able to glean from the web, Extropianism seems to be a subset of
>but I would appreciate a clear explanation of what the differences are
>between the two."
>Well, John, I used to think that extropians were explicitly libertarian
>transhumanists, but since the founder has - to my surprise and chagrin -
>recently disavowed that definition, I find myself wondering as well. So,
>Max, aside from assent to the EPs, what exactly is the distinguishing
>characteristic nowadays?

Assent to the Extropian Principles *is* what defines an Extropian, so if someone disagrees significantly with the Principles but otherwise can plausibly be called a transhumanist, there you have your difference. For instance, one of the Extropian Principles is Open Society. Non-Extropian transhumanists may want to collectively organize society and push it into the future under the control of supposed experts (technocracy).

Many Extropians may believe that a consistent and effective commitment to an Open Society and to the other principles implies libertarian, but this need not be so, unless you want to use an exceedingly loose definition of "libertarian". The term "libertarian" also comes along with a lot of assumptions that may be untrue of many extropians, such as belief in "natural rights", rejection of democracy in principle, opposition to government provision of anything whatsoever, etc.

I think it would be counterproductive to require a commitment to "libertarianism" -- however that was to be defined -- before one could be called an Extropian. If we do that, shall we then decide whether you need only be a minimal statist, or must you be an anarchist? What about an anarchist who wants to run her personally owned community like an absolute monarch?

In version 3.0 of the Principles, I've made it clearer what is crucial about the Extropian view. The Principles are not there to push specific beliefs. Libertarianism is a specific belief or set of beliefs about how best to organize society. Some Extropians might believe that a system not fairly called "libertarian" would actually do a better job of sustaining and developing an open society--a society of progress and improvement. I'd feel rather silly telling someone "You can't call yourself an Extropian since you belief that government action is the only currently feasible means of dealing with a genuine problem that affects practically everyone."

Obviously many system are incompatible with the Open Society principle. In many cases it may be unclear, especially in dealing with issues of transition from what we have to what we'd like to see. Is today's democracy essential for maintaining an open society? Can we improve the democratic process to make it better, even if we cannot abolish all taxes and government control?


Max More, Ph.D.
<> or <>
Consulting services on the impact of advanced technologies President, Extropy Institute:,