Re: PHIL: Extropianism: A Philosophy Without a Foundation

Anders Sandberg (
04 Mar 1999 19:48:47 +0100

I think the problem not just for extropianism but for transhumanism in general is that as we are growing, we also need better self-definitions, firmer foundations. But most of us likely do not want to make them too rigid or excluding. So we end up with a dilemma: Either some fuzzy definition, that allows just about anything to call itself transhumanist (like the first definition on the WTA list, which would have made Jeremy Rifkin a transhumanist :-) and would make it harder to see the serious, valuable part for all the junk. Or a stricter definition which of course invites to quarrels over who is and isn't a Real Extropian (tm), and how to modify these definitions well.

We clearly need to find some dynamical balance between these two extremes that avoids getting trapped there (hmm, sounds like the border of something... ;-). writes:

> Moreover, the various "ingredients" of extropy contradict one another. Take
> order and capacity for improvement, for instance. Doesn't Stuart Kaufman argue
> that evolution takes place in areas where a balance between order and chaos
> can be found, and that extremes of chaos and order prevent it? Well then, it
> is impossible to maximize both order and capacity for improvement.

Actually, I think this is a mistake. What is meant by "order" is unfortunately rather fuzzy. It is important to distinguish between information (which is high in chaotic systems rather than "ordered" systems) and order, in the sense of a system having symmetries and regularities of low algorithmic complexity. There is a big confusion about the meaning of these terms, but I think it is clear that the principles do not say the goal is to minimize the complexity of the world, neither do they advocate turning it into randomness.

One can do an analysis of the mutual information between an evolving population at time t and t+1 using information theory (Adami, Introduction to Artificial Life), and it suggests that there is an optimal rate of mutation where this information is maximal: too much and important information about the environment is lost, too little and the rate of evolution is too slow. It seems that we want to keep in this optimal region, if we generalize (perhaps dangerously) from genes to memes.

> "Extropy" is therefore an invalid, self-contradictory concept. This is why the
> philosophy will soon dissolve in the kind of nonsense that has almost always
> been coalescing around it, and why there's no way we can save it from such
> trash.

So you have abandoned dynamic optimism? :-) Seriously, this is obviously something that can be rationally studied, discussed and fixed. No need to be defaitist.

So, the main question seems to be: how do we define extropy?

(and what units is it measured in? Felix suggested money as the natural unit of value)

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y