Extropianism in the Memetic Ecosystem

Lyle Burkhead (LYBRHED@delphi.com)
Mon, 20 Jan 1997 02:46:34 -0500 (EST)

The Low Willow and Tony Csoka asked for explanation of the

: Extropiansism, BTW, amounts to the same thing as secular Judaism.

I think I overstated my case. To say that Extropianism "amounts to the
same thing as" secular Judaism is an oversimplification.

To discuss this adequately, I would have to survey the whole memetic
landscape, and show how Extropianism fits into it. I would have to
explain what Judaism is, in memetic terms; how secular Judaism serves
its parent meme; and how Extropianism budded off as a new mutant
form of the secular Judaism meme. I started laying the groundwork
for this in the "memes (propagationsism)" thread on the old list.
There is more to this than can be even touched on in one post. I'm just
going to focus on one point.

The basic Extropian vision, as I understand it, is that the whole world
will be mechanized, the new transhuman species will emerge, and
transhumankind will expand througout space; and meanwhile the state
will wither away.

This is exactly comparable to the founding vision of the Soviet Union.
Marx and the Bolsheviks weren't trying to establish a totalitarian state
as an end in itself; the state was supposed to be a temporary thing that
would eventually render itself uncessary, and wither away. Meanwhile
the whole world would be mechanized, and the New Communist Man
would emerge. Space colonization wasn't part of the original vision,
but it was implicit; by the 1950s, the Russians were attempting
space colonization as a national project. I remember the day they
launched their first satellite (Sputnik). I was eleven. It caused an
immense sensation, almost like an announcement of contact with aliens.
In America, space was science fiction. And then all of a sudden, one
morning the radio announcer said: the Russians are in space!

Of course, they didn't get very far with this. The Soviet economic
experiment was a collosal failure. Ironically, the state did wither away,
leaving near-anarchy in its wake. But the communists did *attempt* to
mechanize the world, transform themselves, and colonize space.

The vision of a transhuman condition goes all the way back to Isaiah.

! Never again will there be in it [the new Jerusalem]
! an infant who lives but a few days,
! or an old man who does not live out his years;
! he who dies at a hundred
! will be thought a mere youth;
! he who fails to reach a hundred
! will be considered accursed.

The Bolsheviks were the first who had enough hubris to treat this as a
practicable vision, something that could be made to actually happen.
(Hubris has always been permitted; it's just that it has consequences.)

Now, Extropians also want to make it actually, physically happen, but
they want to do it within the capitalist economy. Instead of Karl Marx,
their mentors are Robert Heinlein, Ayn Rand, Marvin Minsky, Vernor
Vinge, Michael Shermer, etc.

I don't know if the connection between secular Judaism and
Bolshevism is self-evident. I'm curious: what do they teach you
about the Soviet Union in today's schools? Is the Russian Revolution
part of the history curriculum? -- at what level of detail? Is "Socialist
Realism" a concept you would encounter in an English class, or
any class? Or do you have to find out about such things on your own?