Re: PHIL: Extropianism: A Philosophy Without a Foundation

Max More (
Fri, 05 Mar 1999 00:41:41 -0800

Okay, I'll give up some much-needed sleep to address at least some of the misconceptions here:

At 01:12 PM 3/4/99 -0500, Virey wrote:
>Although not an anarchist myself, I completely agree with Anthony Garcia's
>"Philippic From the Old School", both for its spirit and its content. I also
>consider myself an "old school Extropian", considering the recent
rejection of
>libertarianism (i.e. minarchism in my case) a blatant illustration of the
>disintegration of the principles of the movement.

I find this both amusing and instructive. It's amusing because, if Anthony Garcia had his way, *you*, Mr. Virey, would not count as an extropian. So you cannot completely agree, unless you want to embrace a contradiction. While I find this amusing, its also instructive. It should at least hint at why in the maturation of my own thinking, I've broadened the scope of extropianism, while retaining its distinctiveness. The essence of extropian thinking is a set of general values and attitudes, not a set of required beliefs about means. Libertarianism--whether the anarchist kind (with or without copyright laws? with or without a possible monopoly PPL) or the minarchist kind (actually there are several varations on minarchism -- which ones do you demand that we rule out?)--is a means towards the ends of self-direction and open society, both clearly transhumanist principles.

So, you are simply wrong to say you agree completely with Anthony Garcia. The only sense in which you agree is in pushing for a narrow, ideologically dogmatic form of extropianism. The last thing in the world I want to do is bring into the world yet another dogma. But I can't stop you going off and creating one. Anthony can set up his own anarchist-extropian group. To join, you have to agree that, according to his definition of a "State", you do not and never will agree to it. (Is it okay to pay taxes now, under duress, or to use the state-funded roads, or is that too statist?) And you can set up your minimal statist extropianism, which requires people to agree to exactly the role of government you see fit. (Where do you draw the line in minarchism? Can the state provide police, or must this be contracted out to private companies? Can the minimal functions be funded by taxation, or do we have to hope that a lottery or voluntary contributions will fund it?)

Since you seem to like logic (at least the idea of it, if not the careful appliication of it), let me note again that "not requring X" does not equal "rejecting X".

>But does extropianism really have *any* principles?
>The best way to answer this question is look at how "extropianism" is

>which requires combining the three definitions that open version 3.0 of the

Ah, I see, let's throw together three definitions of different terms, then create a new definition of "extropy". Then let's attack that, rather than the real definition. Ever heard of the term "straw man"?

>This gives us:
>"Extropianism is the evolving transhumanist philosophy of those who seek to
>increase the extent of a system's intelligence, information, order, vitality,
>and capacity for improvement."

The actual (current) definition is: "the extent of a system's intelligence, information, order, vitality, and capacity for improvement." The definition of "extropy" contains no reference to "whatever set of ideas is currently held by..." any set of people. Don't conflate the defintion of "extropian" with the definition of "extropy". The former is defined in terms of the latter, not the other way around. Either you're not thinking carefully, or you're deliberately obfuscating the issue.

>In other words, this philosophy is defined as whatever set of ideas is
>currently held"...>

If we currently happen to all like tomato soup, I suppose that makes "liking tomato soup" part of what it is to be an extropian. What's gone wrong? See the preceding paragraph.

>"Extropy" is just a name that "feels good" to science graduates who have
>learned to associate its alleged opposite, "entropy", with chaos and the
>"heat-death" of the universe.
>But how is it defined? By enumeration, which is an invalid form of
>I cannot define the concept "animal" by saying; "animals are horses, cats and

>fish", which is roughly the epistemological status of the definition of

"Extropy" is not, and never has been presented as a technical definition of a real quantity that can be completely objectively quantified. I have always striven to make this clear in my writing and in all interviews. Extropy is not intended to be identical with negentropy, whether in an information theoretical or a thermodynamic sense. Extropianism is about a set of attitudes that embody desires to improve in fundamental ways using effective means.

Still, of all the points you make, this one at least has the merit of hinting at a possible way of improving the definition and Principles. I've been considering a more systematic and hierarchical derivation of the current principles from fewer underlying ideas. However, I feel much reluctance to heading in that direction, since it lends itself to monistic and dogmatic system building.

>This is not logical nit-picking, as I know some members of this group
>logic a tyrannical imposition on their minds (fine for you, I share Rand's
>contempt for those who would reject the tyranny of reality),

Here you make one of a number of unsupported sweeping generalizations. I find it hard to think of a group that has greater respect for logic than extropians. Go ahead and feel you misguided contempt. But, please, don't present *contempt* as a requirement of your version of transhumanism.

>For instance: If I classify the books in my library by colour, I have
>increased the order of a system, which makes my act "good" by extropian

No. Your act increases extropy only if the resulting order is useful to you in ways that improve your life.

If I download all sorts of crap from the Internet and store it on
>my computer, I have increased my computer's information

Obviously your intention is to attack, not to be constructive. How does downloading "all sorts of crap" increase the values set forth in the Principles? A definition is a compression, not a complete explanation. That's why you need to read the Principles. If you read them, you should understand why your example makes no sense. Filling up your computer with self-defined crap is the opposite of extropy: it costs you time and money, it may make it harder to be productive and to find the useful stuff amidst the crap you stupidly downloaded. This example is so silly, that I will say no more.

>Moreover, the various "ingredients" of extropy contradict one another. Take
>order and capacity for improvement, for instance. Doesn't Stuart Kaufman
>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.

Context, context, context. Anders has also responded constructively on this point. Extropian thinking does not value just any kind of order in any situation. That should be abundantly clear to anyone who has read any version of the Principles or other essays on the topic of spontaneous order. Extropians want to overcome limits to achievement, to intelligence, to creation, etc. Chaos, in a certain context can help this (e.g. bump a neural net out of a local error minimum). Some kinds of order (especially coercive orders) can hinder it. The "order" in the definition has to be taken in the context of the Principles.

>"Extropy" is therefore an invalid, self-contradictory concept.

No, but your argument is an invalid, self-contradictory, and confused argument that attacks an imaginary position.

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

More unsupported generalizations and assertions. What is all this "trash" that has always been coalescing around it? An open, evolving system will always have to fight off the encroachment of trash (while being careful not to too quickly through out new things as trash). I would hazard a guess that all this "trash" is anything that you don't agree with. Like Anthony Garcia, apparently you can't stand it when a philosophy doesn't condemn and exclude all ideas different from yours, even if those are ideas that propose means to the same ends.

>Extropy is a philosophy that seeks "more" of a undefined "something".
This is
>all the irony of the principle of self-transformation (into what? a toad?)
>of Max More's own nickname (more of what? dumbness?).

Great strategy for a productive argument -- conclude with an insult. (And, a point of fact, since you have a hard time getting things right, that's not a "nickname", it's simply a name.

I have no doubt that, just as in the past, the definition of extropy, and the Principles can be improved. (I already have notes for a version 4.0). I'm sorry that your kind of "contribution" does not assist that process.

Good morning. (And, in case I don't see you, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.)


Max More, Ph.D.
<> or <>

Implications of Advanced Technologies
President, Extropy Institute: EXTRO 4 Conference: Biotech Futures. See