Re: META: To my fellow Extropians

From: Jim Fehlinger (
Date: Thu Apr 26 2001 - 05:28:43 MDT

Brian Atkins wrote:

> To the apparently few actual Extropians (the capital "E" ones, you know
> who you are) left on this list, may I suggest we spend the next few weeks
> doing some serious schooling and "education" of the sizable crop of newbies,
> trolls, and gibbering incompetents who have made this list almost unusable?

You know, not so very long ago (mere weeks, in fact), I would
have taken a blast like this very much to heart myself, checking
my fly, running to the mirror to see if green stuff was stuck between
my teeth, and in general angsting about whether I had any business
"bothering the grownups" of this august company.

Now I'm more inclined to shake my head at the crude attempt to use
this sort of generalized guilt as a tool of intimidation, rather than
some more entertaining and enlightening form of social control
(argument, anyone? wit? humor?).

I have never, in fact, called myself either an extropian or an
Extropian, and I think one of the great things about this list is
that it's not necessary for me to do so in order to post here. If I had
to sign something equivalent to the Thirty-Nine Articles in order to
participate here, I'd be gone.

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:

> ...I've been told on more than one occasion by some of my most cherished
> subscribers - the ones with major identities outside SL4 - that they'd tried to
> subscribe to the Extropians list, but had to unsubscribe after a fairly
> short time because of the volume of sheer unintelligent babble.
> I honestly don't understand why Max More and Greg Burch aren't panicking
> about this.

In off-list correspondence, I recently commented to someone how grateful
I was to Max for not slapping me down for some of my more off-the-wall
posts to the Extropians. My correspondent replied that I clearly didn't
understand how the list works -- that Max is, by and large, a "deus
absconditus" who almost never intervenes, content-wise, unless things
degenerate into the sort of repetitive rant exemplified by the periodic
outbreaks on the subject of gun control.

I'm a little dismayed by your control-freaky attitude, Eliezer -- if
nothing else, it's a waste of energy. You already have a little
corner of the Internet where you can be god-emperor -- your SL4 and
Singularitarians' lists. You sound like a print magazine editor
two or three times your age harrumphing about competition from
"irresponsible" journalists on the Web (like the editors of some
hi-fi magazines I read).

My friend F, by the way, subscribed to the Extropians' for a while,
and had to unsubscribe because of the sheer volume. He didn't say
anything about 'unintelligent babble' -- it was just more than
he cared to wade through every day, especially since he participates
in other lists. I still forward stuff to him that I think he might
be interested in.

And again the broadly-directed elitist swipe -- this business about
"cherished subscribers ... with major identities outside [the list]".
What the hell does that mean? They have Nobels, Pulitzers? They've
been on the cover of _Time_? They've been interviewed by Barbara
Walters? Damien Broderick has a substantial presence in the
memesphere outside this list, but he's never used it as an excuse
to intimidate or bully anybody, and he's willing to deal with
people on the basis of the content of their posts **to this list**,
without sniffing around to see Who's Who. You know, the real
Somebodies of the world probably don't have a lot of time to spend
on the Internet, and the ones that do either have to do it anonymously
(can you imagine Bill Gates posting to this list under his own name?)
or by means of forums with the requisite amount of privacy and
exclusivity (like your own Singularitarians' list, n'est-ce pas?).

Take a hint from Clay Shirky ("In Praise of Evolvable Systems", ):
"The effects of this ease of implementation... are twofold: a huge increase
in truly pointless and stupid content soaking up bandwidth; and, as a
direct result, a rush to find ways to compete with all the noise through
the creation of interesting work. The quality of the best work on the Web
today has not happened in spite of the mass of garbage out there,
but in part because of it."

Ah, but then you've decided that evolution is a dangerous process.

Jim F.

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