Re: Economy, Ego & Extropians

Dan Hook (
Wed, 21 May 1997 18:51:50 -0400

> Thanks for your feedback. From an extropian p.o.v, I agree that
> robotics has beneficial ramifications to a broad spectrum of our
> society, provided our current work ethic evolves along with the
> technology. Ask any blue collar worker whose livelihood has been
> usurped by technology, they'd likely have a different (albeit
> knee-jerk) view.

Yes, I have had a few laughs over that one. I just tell people, that is
those who will be taking white collar jobs, that I intend to make people's
lives better by kicking them out of work. On a side note, when people say
we cannot automate anymore they are saying that society's mental capacity
is stretched to its fullest. How pessimistic.

> I'd need more convincing about your statement "The best way to help
> people is to help yourself." Sounds kinda like the Republicans in
> 80s with their trickle-down economics. It's also like the glass is
> half-empty, half-full concept. It may be a very complex path from
> results of your efforts to the benefit they perceive (and they may
> be well-informed enough to even perceive it). Therefore, the
> seems to require an installation of "faith" to power it. OTOH, you
> can't help/love others until you help/love yourself. I agree with
> that conceptually. It's just in our culture, the "pure concept"
> becomes an entangled mess of complex exceptions and exclusions when
> filtered through the bureaucracy, the propriety and materialistic
> mindset.
> Bottom line: you can't help another person who is drowning if you
> in a vulnerable position of going under yourself. So I do agree
> those of us who are capable should get our ducks squarely lined up
> (financially and otherwise). However, I don't think we need to
> extra time wringing out our wet clothes while the needy continue to
> thrash in water over their heads. They don't KNOW how to swim.
> Whether it's their fault or they deserve what they get is secondary
> when they are about to perish.

I'll admit to a decent probability that "The best way to help others is to
help yourself," may only work in a completely free market but I can come up
with a good argument for it now. Say I have the choice between wringing
out my clothes and saving the drowning people (at little risk to myself
other than wet clothes). There is a decent chance that once this person
has recovered they will be grateful and may do something for me. For
instance, they may buy me dinner or give me some sort of reward or just owe
me a favor (assuming I will see them again). So long as the probability of
reward X the amount of the reward is greater than the cost of wet clothes
(p X a > c) I will be helping myself by helping another. This can be
extended to a real world situation by considering the chance that educating
a large number of people will end up benefiting you (either directly or
indirectly) more than any other use of your resources.

Of course, in a completely free market, prices will indicate where
resources are most in demand.

That faith jab was a low blow. ; )

> Also, let me just reiterate that financial investment is not an
> I disdain. I'd like to become more adept at understanding the
> mechanism and I'm appreciating the contributions made along this
> thread. I am concerned at how quickly we forget where we came from
> our own financial climb. Our "standard of living" gets higher, we
> want more "stuff" and there seems to be less connection to the
> community needs and our ability to assist.

Once again, assisting others can be seen as a form of investing. Good
feelings can be considered a return as well. It's important not to condemn
someone for enjoying a 42" television more than the good feelings generated
by helping others. Enjoyment is somewhat irrational anyone (of course,
that does not mean its a bad thing, just it is a goal to be pursued by
rational means).

> Looking to the future with a more extropian outlook, I'd like to see
> move beyond the current concept of market economy. Nanotechnology,
> its promise of providing everything from manufactured electronics to

> assembled filet mignon, could facilitate a smooth transition from a
> hoarding, survivalist self-oriented mentality to a connected,
> supportive and benevolent one. I think utopia is possible and I
> to believe that humanity isn't capable of transcending instinctual,
> animalstic tendencies to survive at all costs.

That's what extropy is all about. I am trying to move beyond human
instincts (beyond human actually) and, in the end, I intend to carry others
with me. By that time hoarding will be irrelevant. The more material
resources one has the more freedom they have (they have the option to give
it away as well). In a post human existence more material resources will
mean investment in the self through faster hardware and expanded memory
(granted this is an oversimplification but forgive me for being human, it's
a condition I'm working on overcoming).

> If extropian thinking means pushing the envelope, I'd like to
> the eventual elimination of the apathy we use as a protection
> feeling for those who "have not" (those on the economic edge who
> unluckily fall off) or "can not" (mentally ill/emotionally abused).

> The other group, the "will nots"--that group of non-contributors who

> prefer non-participation--are a tougher group for which to drum up
> genuine compassion. I don't know how to regard people who expect to

> live in a structured community but not contribute to it.

If nano-tech makes giving someone shelter as easy as dropping a few coins
in a tin can than this will not be a concern.

> As I become more aware of the tenets of libertarianism, I'm still
> sure at how compassion for the disenfranchised sector fits into the
> schema. From what I can perceive, impassive and continuous giving
> considered a dysfunctional form of "enabling", only serving to
> perpetuate their lack of usefulness. I don't want to have tax
> going toward a feeble welfare system, one so over-burdened with
> bureaucracy that people blatantly take full advantage of it and suck

> it dry. But how can I stand in judgment of that type of person when

> in some capacity, we all take advantage of a system, whether it's
> driving past the agreed upon speed limit, eluding building permit
> rules, excluding items on our tax returns, or using company e-mail
> spout our personal agendas <G>. The welfare hackers just seem more
> obvious and, perhaps despicable, because they are lower in the class

> system and provide no ongoing contribution to justify the
> of their higher class fellow citizens.

Actually, I'm just evading unjust limits on my freedom. I never agreed to
those constraints and since there is a monopoly held by force I have no
other options. LGW did a good job of expressing the problems with the
welfare system in general.

> Perhaps a question to end with is how does extropian
> living/thinking/feeling empower beyond the self? Is
> the tried-and-true solution to community/national/planetary
> enhancement or is it merely a notion of the noble-minded
> intellegencia?

I guess the question is this: Is society as we know it today built on
selfless giving? I think the answer is an obvious no.

Dan Hook