Re: PHIL: The extropian principles

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Sat, 06 Mar 1999 19:34:13 -0600

Timothy Bates wrote:
[> Yudkowsky wrote:]
> > My position, as declared about a year back, has always been that
> > "extropy" should be defined in terms of Extropians"

> That is like saying that democracy should be defined in terms of democrats.
> Instances are not a concept. An average instance is not a concept.

No, I'm saying that while "Extropy" is a useful concept describing a number of common qualities, it's a bottom-up concept like "readers of Wired magazine" and not a top-down concept like "divisible by three". You can, very profitably, define a concept in terms of instances, any time that you can abstract more information from the instances than you use in the membership criteria.

> > those beliefs most commonly held across Eric
> > Watt Forste's list of Very Extropian Persons and any people who aren't
> > on the list but should be.
> This is an argument to authority. That is why I and others reject this whole
> "lack of principle to preserve openness" argument.

Not at all. If Eric Watt Forste changes his list to include the Moonies, I will cease to cite it. And the reason is not that these people are In Charge Of Extropians, or even that they are looked upon as natural leaders, but because these are the people who make posts, write Web pages, argue points - people who not only take the name of Extropian (or not) but exert efforts focusing on that definition, and, through those efforts, create most of the pattern in the Extropian ideosphere.

No superiority is implied. If someone or something else exerts a stronger influence on the "group" - not intragroup politics or authority within the group, you understand, but metagroup information like group-image and internally perceived membership criteria - then I'd junk the list.

> > I believe that Extropianians, to the best of my knowledge of many, many,
> > people, stand for the belief that sentient life can and should seek,
> > through the use of ultratechnology: Complete dominion over the physical
> > Universe; transhuman, superhuman, and unlimited intelligence; absolute
> > freedom from all coercion; transcendence of any limit that can be
> > transcended; total knowledge of everything.
> Which is a very firm definition with many correlates and consequences which
> we can discuss rationally. Excellent! Now this puts all the cards on the
> table and real openness will prevail. For instance you have included the
> principle of absolute freedom from all coercion that I suggested should be
> an intrinsic part of extropy, but which met with wide-spread disagreement
> from several "luminaries".

Perhaps the problem is that the presentations confused what is desirable and what is possible. I should object strongly to any theory that requires me to live my life as if I were immortal.

> > Note that we may have different definitions of "freedom", and how much
> > of should be sought using modern technology, but we all agree that the
> > U.S. government exerts more coercion on its citizens than is desirable
> > and that all coercion, even if permitted as means to an end, is
> > undesirable in principle.
> Reading the recent archive, we see that this is explicitly not the case. Max
> More, for instance, says highly coercive communitarian governments can be
> extropian (even though he explicitly is not).

According to the Extropian Principles, maybe. Maybe even in practice; if the coercive government is the only way to prevent the world from being destroyed, and if it is highly liberal in practice, it could be Extropian. The Aristoi arguably have an Extropian and highly authoritative government; in that ficton, with uncontrolled nanotech having already destroyed Earth1, the necessary amount of authority is much higher.

Are you sure he meant that absolute freedom isn't *desirable*?

> Let's just treat it like science - I define intelligence as x and you define
> it as y and then we can test and see is wrong first ;-)

The only way you can test definitions is by checking implicit assumptions and by pragmatically comparing usability. Pragmatically speaking, freedom is a part of the Extropian culture and it ought to be in the definition SOMEWHERE.

--         Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.