On Sat, 9 Oct 1999, Robert Owen wrote:
> What your statement suggests to me is  a feeling of impatience with
> the groups actual progress;
yep, we be impatient here.
>  a rather telling admission that so far the group has not discovered
> any practical way of implementing its program.
Not really true, I think many of us (Extropians by name or deed) practice what we can as individuals to move things forward. I've invested more money than I like to think about in dealing with the aging problem. Saul Kent has done similarly, probably more successfully than I. The people involved in the cryonics organizations demonstrate their commitment every day with their minds, hearts and bodies. You have dozens of people organizing their own local enclaves and discussion groups that you only see the tip of the iceberg of here.
> As I understand it, Extropianism is a progressive social movement whose
> primary intention is to produce a qualitatively different "mode" or "type"
> of intelligent existence.
No, you have completely misunderstood things! Extropianism is about being masochistic enough that you enjoy head banging with luddite tree huggers because you expect it to feel really good when you stop it. Its that relaxed contemplative white noise zen state that we think we will get when the pain goes away that we are all aspiring towards. :-)
> But I do ask myself, as you are apparently also are asking yourself,
> "how do we get this thing off the ground, and if we ever do, will it fly?"
It is off the ground. While "in name" Extropians/Forsight Inst./ Transhumanist/Rand orgs, etc. may only number in the few thousand, "in spirit" (when you include biotech workers, many scientists, health care workers, etc., i.e. most people who consider themselves "rational thinkers") we number in the millions.
> In other words, after translating the ideology into a program,
> can it really be implemented? Or is the well-intentioned hope
> for real human progress doomed to die, as all such plans have
> expired, from excessive idealism?
Come now, if you look at human history, except for bad "accidents" (i.e. the eruption of Thera destroying the Minoan civilization) or the spread of the plague or the dark ages, for the most part human progress has been continual and generally for the better. I think the only "expired plans" are those that "claimed" to have a "universal solution", or perhaps those led by a charismatic leader who died. We avoid those pitfialls in multiple ways -- we don't claim to have a "universal solution" (as the discussion often shows), the nature of the "philosophy" doesn't promote "leaders" so much as it does individual participation and self-generated activity and we are all trying not to die.
> Re: the "Myth of Progress", Pindar's quote and hard limits.
> The boundary situation is there, the hard edge.
Yes, and I'm on record that for our civilization it is the utilization of all of the matter and energy in the solar system and assuming that hard-dry nanotechnology is not really difficult we should reach that point within 50 years.
However, all of the "Limits to Growth" predictions in the past have failed (due to technology innovation and economic substitutions). Once we reach the pseudo-hard limits of what is physically possible and economically achievable, we expect the phase-space to shift into non-physical realms. We generally do not see "limits" in the virtual reality "idea space".