Re: Extropian Principles 3.0: Please comment on new version

Dan Fabulich (
Thu, 10 Sep 1998 20:21:24 -0400

Max More wrote:
>>good time to raise questions as to whether it should be called Dynamic
>>Optimism or something else.  I happen to prefer Critical Optimism, as it
>>comes across a lot more clearly than Dynamic Optimism, which I consistently
>>have to explain.
>"Dynamic" contrasts with "passive". I want to stress the idea that this
>principle does note imply a sit-back-and-wait kind of optimism. Since
there is
>now a principle devoted to rational thinking and critical rationality, I will
>leave this principle with its current name. What I have done is to start one
>paragraph like this: "Dynamic optimism and passive faith are incompatible.
>Dynamic optimism means critical optimism." That may not satisfy you but it
>should help.

<shrug> Like I say, it's pretty easy to explain to others, but I'd much rather prefer that DO's definition be self-evident rather than easy to explain.

>>In short, I hesitate to include self ownership on the list of principles
>>because, I can imagine a situation in which the concept would go obsolete.
>>In contrast, I do not ever anticipate that dynamic optimism will become
>You seem to be taking this as a political ideas, whereas it is primarily
>psychological issues of self-direction. Perhaps it will become obsolete if we
>are absorbed by a virulent borg, but until then I think it belong in the

The very concept of ownership is, IMO, political. I understand that you mean this in terms of autonomy, not necessarily in terms of holding the deed to your own person, but we have to be careful with our memes; ownership is a very deeply placed meme in our society, and we should not get too caught up in it: it is simply one technology that works. Similarly, self-direction is not the same as self ownership, though they are obviously related.

>I'm not sure what you mean by "capitalism". I nowhere use that term, since it
>was invented by anti-market people, and it has a very vague meaning that can
>include much more than free markets and spontaneous order. Capitalism can
>to a heavily regulated economy, a fascist system, and a mixed economy. In the
>Spontaneous Order principle I tried to make it clear that we do not defend
>existing institutions or even market mechanisms as optimal. Markets allow
>better processes to develop. We can also improve the workings of markets by
>figuring out superior underlying rules for the spontaneous order to run on.
>(e.g., which liability rules make most sense? How should intellectual
>be treated? Can we internalize externalities better?)

Of course, I meant the pro-market part of the document. Again, as you've seen in the past, I'm heavily in favor of this system for resource allocation; but I see it as just one specific technology.

>I welcome more comments on the more explicit pro-market statement in this
>version. It is one of the things that clearly differentiates Extropianism
>other brands of transhumanism and I wouldn't want to lose that uniqueness. I
>want it to be abundantly obvious that we do NOT pursue our transhumanism
>through coercion, central control by "experts", or other non-volutanstic

I understand that. I guess my problem with such strong and explicit references to markets is this:

	If you call yourself an Extropian, is it expected that you
         believe in particular technologies?

         Emphatically not. My definition of an extropian does not
         include a checklist of beliefs such that "So-and-So doesn't
         think we'll have self-distimming doshes by 2020; so
         So-and-So isn't an extropian." However, I do expect
         someone who uses the label "extropian" to, first, be aware
         of the accelerating pace of technology in general and of the
         likely effects of that acceleration; and, second, be informed
         about and able to discuss intelligently most of the "core"
         technologies extropians are interested in. If Joe claims to be
         an extropian, it's certainly all right with me if he's skeptical
         about self-distimming doshes, and I eagerly want to hear his
         views, if he's reasoning from an informed standpoint and
         not from mere prejudice. If Joe says doshes can never be
         self-distimming, but he hasn't even read John Doe's
         ground-breaking book on the subject, Frammistats of
         Recursion, then in my opinion Joe is just generating hot air.
         Extropians are informed skeptics. 

In that same vein, I see markets as a particular technology which extropians will use in order to grow, explore and develop. Just as I wouldn't say "So-and-so doesn't think ubiquitous nanoelectronics will be energetically feasible; he/she must not be an extropian," neither would I be comfortable saying "So-and-so doesn't think that the market system works as well as some other moneyless resource allocation system does; he/she must not be an extropian."

Yet in the section on spontaneous order we have this paragraph:

"Our support for free markets is radical rather than conservative. We recognize that current market mechanisms can be improved. Markets continue to be undermined by massive intervention by governments in counterproductive ways. In other areas, markets do not function effectively because of a failure to define and assign property rights. Resources will better be conserved and environments protected when property rights clearly who owns the resources and who is responsible for pollution and environmental damage. An absence of well-defined property rights leads to overuse of resources held in common. We see the environment and the ecosystem as itself as a vastly complex and valuable spontaneous order. An optimal relationship between the environment and us will best be achieved through free market activity within an intelligently defined scheme of property rights."

No where else in the document does one particular technology receive such a lengthy treatment; usually technologies for improvement are referred to in a list of other hopeful technologies. And again, while I happen to think that the market system is a good one, I would be uncomfortable with the idea that I would not be an extropian if I did not think so.

Extropy is not simply the libertarian branch of the transhumanist movement. :) It's important that we not tie ourselves down to any particular technology in that way, *particularly* in subtle ways like the concept of self-ownership.