Re: What is to be done?

Jay Reynolds Freeman (
Sat, 22 Mar 1997 13:33:11 -0800

> What is to be done?

The Squirrel attempts to observe the list convention of not debating
fundamentals, and will continue, yet he feels obliged to point out that
the association of transhumanist technological goals with libertarian
and anarcho-capitalistic political economics may be disadvantageous to
both, and will certainly appear forced and unconvincing to persons who
believe in one (whichever) but not the other. Certainly there are many
thoughtful persons who find no obvious connection between these two sets
of ideas.

Thus, in the 1960s and 1970s, there were plenty of people much into
the "turn on, tune in, take over" socialist vision of the time, who
thought that strong government and massive centrally-funded programs
were the best way to bring about advanced technologies, and who looked
forward eagerly to doing just that after the "take over" part had been
accomplished. Many of those persons are still around, and are no doubt
somewhere between bemused and pleased that a bunch of flakey
libertarians (their hypothetical term, not one the Squirrel would use
himself -- some of the Squirrel's best friends are libertarians...) have
also finally figured out that high-tech is neat. The Squirrel trusts
that many of them will be at least open-minded enough to say, "Welcome,
Extropians, to the wonderful world of technological optimism! We need
all the help we can get, even from clueless newbies like you."

But consider a person predisposed toward technological optimism, who
does not think much of libertarianism or anarcho-capitalism. There are
lots of people who don't think much of libertarianism and
anarcho-capitalism, so the Squirrel submits that this case is worth
considering. On first contact with Extropians, such a person might say,
"Aw, it's just a bunch of libertarian kooks spewing -- it's not worth my
time to listen to them." One can miss out on a lot by labeling people
"kooks", but on the other hand, when time is limiting, a being who has
not transcended may perhaps be forgiven for seeking science in _Nature_
rather than in _The_National_Enquirer_, even though the latter does get
it right now and then. Yet whether libertarians and anarcho-capitalists
are kooky or not, the cause of technological optimism is thereby damaged
by the association.

Similarly, a person leaning toward libertarianism, who did not think
much of technological optimism, might dismiss Extropians as just a bunch
of of technological optimist kooks spewing, and the cause of
libertarianism would thereby be damaged. There are lots of people who
don't think much of technological optimism, so this case is also worth

Thus to link technological optimism and transhumanist technological
goals on the one hand, with libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism on the
other, risks eliciting positive responses from only those persons
already predisposed to both, and negative ones from nearly everybody
else. Yet there are probably far more people who look favorably on just
one (whichever) of the two idea sets, than on both.

Thus a strategy for "what is to be done" might be to distance
transhumanist technological goals from libertarianism and
anarcho-capitalism, at least at the public-relations and educational
interface to the rest of the non-transcended world.

-- Jay Freeman, First Extropian Squirrel