Is "Extropian Greed" an oxymoron?

Perry E. Metzger (
Mon, 31 Mar 1997 12:47:42 -0500 (EST)

A fairly long time ago, realizing that I was spending more time
talking than doing, I unsubscribed from "Extropians", deciding it was
a net waste of time for me. Recently, just for the heck of it, I
joined again (getting the digest).

A recent essay by "anonymous" claiming, essentially, that Extropians
talk far better then they act, seems to have hit a nerve among many
people who have written back denouncing the essay.

I must say, however, that in my opinion there is much truth in what
"anonymous" says.

I dropped off the Extropians mailing lists many years ago largely
because I realized that I was spending lots of time talking about how
good it is to be a greedy rich bastard, and spending very little time
actually becoming one. Long before that, I noted that many -- not by
any means all, but many -- extropian types spent lots of their time
talking a much better game than they played.

The phrase "impoverished Extropian" should be an oxymoron, but there
are, in fact, a number of people associated with the Extropian
movement for whom the words "if you're so smart, why aren't you rich?"

Now, this isn't universally true among the Extropians I've met. Some
are perfectly in control of their finances and either of independant
means or well on their way to getting there.

It is, however, disquieting to me that more Extropians I know have
financial problems than the non-extropian members of the
intelligentsia that I know. (I'd draw comparisons with "average"
people in general but I don't spend time with many so I can't.) I
would have expected this to be radically the reverse, given the
laudible Extropian respect paid for capitalism, but somehow doctrine
doesn't translate into action.

This may be found in other venues as well.

Many years ago, long before I first heard of Extropians, I switched
from a high fat, meat oriented diet to a fairly healthy low fat vegan
diet. I did this purely because I want to live a long time and be
healthy while I'm alive -- a fairly common Extropian sentiment. When I
first met fellow Extropians, I expected most of them would have
similar dietary tendencies -- indeed, I expected them to be more
radical than myself, given that many of them lived in California,
which at the time was a much easier place to live comfortably while
following an alternative diet.

Instead, I discovered, much to my shock, that many Extropians (not all
by any means, but many) did not translate their desire for long
lifetimes into healthy eating -- probably the easiest form of life
extension available, and provably far more efficient than the tiny
edges most life extending substances yield. I met people happy to try
taking deprinyl(sp?) but not very willing to give up a high fat diet,
even though the former has substantially smaller effects on average
longevity than the latter.

Understand, I don't have trouble with the idea of taking life
extending substances, but I would have thought that putatively
rational people would go for the mechanisms with the biggest gain in
average lifespan first before seeking tiny improvements.

Anyway, in summary, I believe "anonymous" is probably extreme in
lumping all extropians in to the same category together -- many are
not the "altruists preaching selfishness" that "anonymous"
decries. However, I will point out that a disturbingly large number of
"Extropians" are, in fact, "altruists preaching selfishness", and that
it is indeed somewhat disturbing that comparitively many do not
practice what they preach.

Not knowing if I'll hang around for very long on the list, but...