Re: History of Transhumanism and Extropy

Nicholas Bostrom (
Sat, 1 Nov 1997 00:31:03 +0000

Max wrote:

> At 03:59 PM 10/30/97 +0100, you wrote:
> >Nicholas wrote:
> >
> >> Roughly speaking, the difference is that extropianism includes the
> >> political doctrine that something like anarcho-capitalism is a good
> >> thing. Thus every extropian is a transhumanist, but not every
> >> transhumanist is an extropian.

> The above description of the difference is misleading.

Yes, I agree. Those four lines I posted were confused and I
appologize for my mistake.

> Extropianism is defined by the Extropian Principles. Those principles do
> not -- and never have -- included libertarian, and certainly not the
> specifics of anarcho-capitalism, as defining ideas. The Principles convey
> certain shared attitudes and values that make one an extropian, not
> specific beliefs about the best organization of political or economic
> institutions.

Not even the belief that something broadly like libertarianism is a
good thing? There has been some debate on whether this list is an
appropriate forum for discussing "basics", and I got the impression
that this in practice ment arguing about the merits of
libertarianism. I think several people scolded Erik Moeller about
that about half a year ago, though I didn't follow the thread very

> Certainly, you cannot uphold Spontaneous Order while
> wanting an all-powerful state that directs all activity centrally

As a clarification: Could a person who held the following belief be
an extropian: "The likely only way to avoid a nanotechnological
disaster ending life on earth is if there is a world-wide
dictatorship, where the dictator coerces people into following his
will. So I believe in dictatorship and coercion"?

Anyhow, I now think the following is an accurate statement of
the difference between transhumanism and extropianism (though perhaps
not one that is very useful for newbies):

Extropianism is transhumanism plus the claim that the Extropian
Principles (by Max More) are right. Thus you can't be an extropian
without being a transhumanist, but you may be a transhumanist without
being an extropian.

>There are people who could be called
>transhumanists who apparently do not value critical thinking, and
>who look to scientifically implausible methods for overcoming human
>limits. As our ideas spread, I expect to see religious versions of
>transhumanism -- Christian Transhumanism, Islamic Transhumanism, and
>(not too far from their current beliefs) Mormon Transhumanism.

I disagree. As you wrote yourself in the Extropian Principles 2.6:

"transhumanism values reason and humanity and sees no grounds for
belief in unknowable, supernatural forces externally controlling our

Therefore I don't think that christians, muslims or mormons could be
transhumanists. I think we should rule that out in our definition of
the term "transhumanism"; otherwise the concept of transhumanism
degenerates into:

transhumanism = extropianism - balls&brains

which I strongly object to! While I favour keeping the concept of
transhumanism rather open and inclusive and a bit vague, I think it
is memetically useless to define it as, say, "any doctrine that we
can (and should) overcome our biological limitations" without making
any reference to technology or anything that sets us apart from all
those religious people who believe in an afterlife or whatever. We
need a general term to denote people who think *like us* (whether
more specifically we are extropians or not), and "transhumanism" is
the best such term we have.

"Islamic Transhumanism" is comparable to "Christian Science".

Nick Bostrom