Ian Cruikshank

Eric Watt Forste (arkuat@pobox.com)
Tue, 08 Jul 1997 16:02:37 -0700

Michael Lorrey took the liberty of forwarding email from Ian
Cruikshank to the list. The most remarkable thing to me is that
Mr. Cruikshank spends so much time denouncing a phenomenon he has
clearly spent very little time studying. Just in case his rant
raised unpleasant questions in the minds of some people new to the
list, I want to pick out and correct a few of his grosser misstatements.

> ACQUISITIVENESS: extropians affirm the right of infinite property
> accumulation (e.g. Bill Gates).

Considering that nearly all of the observable cosmos seems to
consist of unclaimed homesteadable stuff, I personally don't have
a problem with infinite property accumulation. But Bill Gates is
a poor example, since a significant minority of extropians thoroughly
disapprove of the means by which Gates accumulated his wealth. If
we go back to the open letter Gates published in the mid-1970s
pleading for an end to the "piracy" of his BASIC software (a letter
which ended up shaping subsequent thinking, and thereby, subsequent
legal argument about intellectual property in software) we find a
number of dogmatic assertions which are hard to square with most
of the theories of anarchocapitalism and polycentric law that I've
seen defended here and in other extropian publications.

Cruikshank here commits the same sort of mistake he commits elsewhere:
he asserts uniformity and unanimity within extropian thought which
simply does not exist. The areas in which extropian thought *does*
seem to be fairly uniform and unanimous are precisely those in
which Cruikshank himself agrees with us (except perhaps his disbelief
in the second law of thermodynamics).

> COLLUSION: most also affirm that corporations should exist and enjoy
> "limited liability" and be treated as a "single person".

Current guarantees of limited liability for corporations have been
debated on this list and in other forums more specifically dedicated
to hammering out the finer points of agorist legal theory. I
personally am skeptical about the possibility of securing limited
liability for the owners of corporate entities in the absence of
an authoritarian state. Whether or not corporations (or sewing
circles or go clubs) "should exist" is a question of concern only
to those poeople who form the corporation (or sewing circle or go
club)... I can't imagine how anyone calling himself an "anarchist"
could possibly argue otherwise.

> TERRITORIALITY/CLANNISHNESS: extropians advocate creating your own
> utopia of sorts, by only associating with people who share your
> values and pursuits.

This part is right. What, does Cruikshank really wish to be *forced*
to associate with people who do not share his own values and
pursuits? Is Cruikshank begging and pleading to be locked in a pit
full of ravening extropians?

Of course we can learn a great deal by associating with people who
do not share our own values. But since extropians are still rather
rare, most of us experience the questionable pleasures of such
learning experiences on a daily basis. And when we get together
and talk about the stuff that interests us, instead of football
and McDonald's and how to better prevent people from taking incorrect
drugs, do we therefore necessarily...

> I.e., deny the existence of starving, sick, dying people world-wide,

To turn Cruikshank's "argument" against him, the same "logic"
indicates that Cruikshank's refusal to be thrust into the pit of
ravening extropians mentioned above would likewise constitute a
denial of the existence of starving, sick, and dying people worldwide.
Just a tad bit incoherent on the segue here. Fortunately, as long
as Cruikshank continues to argue against freedom of association,
not many people are going to listen to him for very long. Freedom
of association is as beneficial to the unlucky as it is the fortunate.

> SECRECY: extropians affirm cryptography as a means to allow
> unaccountable agents (accountable at most only to each other) to
> continue to squander the resources of this world for their own
> selfish enrichment.

In the first four words, he has it right, although even here there
is no unanimity, since I have see well-reasoned arguments on this
list in favor of "transparency" over the long term future. His
assertions about the motivations for extropians supporting cryptography
miss many different points: that encrypting ones speech is a form
of free speech, that privacy and security in ones personal effects
(as guaranteed in the US Fourth Amendment) is a vital protection
against the sort of tyranny that Cruikshank claims to be working
so hard against, and others.

> SELFISHNESS: extropians affirm "me-first, me-last, me-only."
> me, me, me. they talk the jive of "personal responsibility", another
> coded way of saying "no such thing as a free lunch", another of
> their pet dogmas which they ascribe as "laws of nature", for of
> course they represent the "voice of nature", or so they think.

Actually, I don't see much evidence for this claim at all. Given
that the problem of distinguishing self from other in a reliable
way is recognized by many (not all) as a very deep problem in
philosophy and computer science, and given that since most extropians
are deeply convinced that the implementation of their ideas would
improve things for nearly everyone on the planet (e. g. those who
agree with Julian Simon), one could just as reasonably argue that
extropians are deeply altruistic, since they spend an unconscionable
amount of time studying all kinds of painfully abstract disciplines
and talking about how the systems we find in the world might be
improved for the benefit of all.

Then come the slams on the second law of thermodynamics, which
Cruikshank seems not to have studied, since this is hardly a physical
law at all, but nearly a mathematical one applying to diverse
cellular automata ranging from the very simple to ones as rich and
complex as the particles and fields of our own cosmos. Of course,
it only applies to *closed* systems... like Cruikshank's mind.

(Yes, that last bit *was* an ad hominem... you needn't point it
out to me. Stop being so puritanical and allow me my sinful

Eric Watt Forste ++ arkuat@pobox.com ++ expectation foils perception -pcd