Excedo: What's in a name?

Arjen Kamphuis (mountain@knoware.nl)
Wed, 19 Nov 1997 13:14:57 +0100

Dear Tom, Max, fellow Extropians & Transhumanists of the World, Consious
Entities in all Dimensions,

Recently there has been some discussion about the name of the (still
unofficial - non-registered) Dutch Transhumanist Society "Excedo". Henri
Kluytmans, founding member, came up with this name several months ago and
we all agreed that it was right for us. Strickly speaking it's Latin but
Dutch people (most of whom have a reasonable command of English) would
associate it with words like 'Exceed' and 'Excel'. It also sound like
something fast and dynamic. We felt (and feel) this name would nicely
represent our >H idea's about the great possibilities we see in the (near)

I want to be complete and try to show the entire discussion, my apologies
for the length of this post. This post should in no way be seen as an
attack on Tom personally, he has gone trough a lot of trouble for us and we
do appreciate all the attention he has given this issue, even if we do not
fully agree with him. I am posting this because we want everybody involved
to know what is happening, possibly there's someone out there with a
brilliant idea that will solve this.

A few weeks ago Berrie, who has been working very hard on laying the
groundwork for a well-organized Dutch >H Ssociety, started an E-mail
correspondance with Tom about our name. Tom was worried that there might be
confusion between the Extropy Institute and Excedo because of the name.

------------------ Tom's first mention of the Problem ----------------------
>I'm always excited to see somebody new take up an interest in disseminating
>transhumanist and extropian ideas, and look forward to your success in
>spreading the good word. Before you go much further with your project,
>however, I'd like to ask if you might consider some alternatives to the
>name "Excedo".
>ExI uses the "ex" prefix in a variety of ways: in its name "Extropy
>Inst."; its magazine "Extropy"; its newsletter "Exponent"; its conference
>"Extro"; and so forth. Since you plan to cover many of the same topics as
>ExI, and to give them must the same interpretation, "Excedo" will most
>likely confuse people. "Is that another ExI project?" they will ask. Or,
>worse yet, they will just *assume* that ExI deserves the credit for your
>hard work.
>Furthermore, if your project succeeds and flourishes, ExI may well want to
>do some joint projects with you. But confusingly similar names would force
>us instead to keep our distance, so that people would not mix us up even
>It would be a shame to lose a potential friend for such a little reason.
>Do you see why it would be better for both your work and ours if you chose
>a more distinctive title? Let's work together to try and find a better name
>now, so we can avoid problems once you get more established. I'm pretty
>good a coining words and would be glad to help. I'm ccing Max on this, too,
>so he may have some ideas.

So a discussion started between Excedo members and Tom about alternatives.
Various Latin/Greek combinations were considered (see matrix at bottom) but
in the end "Excedo" seemed to be just right for us. Berrie wrote to Tom and

>Hello Tom & Max,
>After discussing a long time and searching for a new name, we
>still feel that Excedo is the best name.
>It has speed and all Dutch people associate it with to exceed, excel
>an improve. Which is exactly what we want to say. In Latin it
>means to improve and excel, so unless we find a very good alternative
>we all really would like to keep this one.
>Still, we don't want to start a "fight" over this, before we even have
>started to get to know each other. So, please note that we are still
>open for every suggestion you have.
>On the other hand, we do have a lot in common, and this name is telling
>it. Personally I don't mind at all that we also have "Ex" in front of
>it. It shows that we are somehow related.
>BTW: what's your relation with Excelsior regarding this ?
>Also: we have a different style, which shows (IMHO) that we are our
>own organization. Long live the diversity :-)
>Other then this, we are waiting to go "live" with the site, and make
>public statements. The only reason why we didn't go ahead already
>is because of the fact that we might change the name.
>Anyway let us know what you think.
>We are working on the same goal, so there is no doubt in my mind
>that we will work it out.

To Which Tom responded:

>Thanks for the update.
>I really do think it would be a big mistake for you to use "Excedo," and I
>plead for you to reconsider before going further. While I understand why
>you think that name fits you, I think you underestimate the harms that will
>come from people confusing you with ExI. Even you admit that:
>> we do have a lot in common, and this name is telling it.
>Yes, we will be doing common things. That is *exactly* why the common use
>of "ExI" will confuse people! They will assume that we have more in common
>than we do--namely, a common organization. Take it from a fellow who has
>handled these sorts of problems for *years*--it takes much less than the
>common "Ex-" mark to confuse the public, which never pays great attention
>in the first place.
>To be sure, using "Ex-" might benefit you at the start of your project. It
>would allow you to free-ride on all the positive associations that we have
>built into our mark over the years. But can't you see how it is unfair to
>ExI for you to risk confusing the public about our work, after we have
>worked so long and so hard to create a strong and positive name for
>I really do not understand how people who profess sympathy with ExI would
>so willingly set out to harm it. There must be some sort of terrible
>misunderstanding, here. Perhaps in my urge to strike a friendly note, I
>have not stated my concerns with enough force. Let me now be absolutely
>clear: I cannot regard you as a friend of ExI, Berrie, if you willingly try
>to free-ride on ExI's use of the "Ex-" mark and confuse our public about our
>I want us to cooperate, and to launch a long friendship, but I *must*
>defend ExI's interests first and foremost. Please, *please* reconsider now
>before it is too late.
>> BTW: what's your relation with Excelsior regarding this ?
>I'm do not know of what you speak, here.

Now we're scratching our heads:
Homo Excelsior is a European Transhumanist organisation/magazine that has
been around for quite some time, Our own Anders Sandberg is Vice-Chief
Editor. Why is their name no threat to the Extropy Institute we wonder? And
why has Tom only voiced his doubts about it now? "Excedo" was mentioned
several times over the last several months on the list?

We all thought this was a bit strange, especially when you comparing the
first mail by Tom with this later one. In the first mail he seems to be
worried that we won't get credit for our activities and later he 'accuses'
us (well, that's how it reads to us anyway) of trying to 'take a free ride'
on the good name of ExI.

Point is: ExI is not (yet) a 'household' name in Europe, certainly not in
Holland. We've been talking to al *lot* of people and no-one had ever heard
of the 'Extropy Institute'. Therefore (and no offence intended here)
there's not much 'free ride' to take at this moment. Transhumanism is just
awakening on this side of the Atlantic and we'd like to help make it
happen, knowing that it will be an uphill struggle.

Berrie, who has been working with heart and soul on this project and who
was the one most in favour of changing Excedo's name to something else if
this was good for transatlantic relations, took this quite personal:

>I will forward it to all the others
>> cannot regard you as a friend of ExI, Berrie, if you willingly try to
>> free-ride on ExI's use of the "Ex-" mark and confuse our public about
>> our work.
>This hurts,
>to asume that we really had the intention to "free ride" on your
>account. I'm a very postive guy, else I would even consider it
>as very arrogant to think that an organisation like yours
>can allready claim such a thing as EX.
>Please re read this, if you think it's to harsh......
>stupid me, I thought I could contribute to a new movement,
>I didn't realize enhough it's allready so big !!!
>Forgive me, and send new instuctions........
>> I want us to cooperate, and to launch a long friendship, but I *must*
>> defend ExI's interests first and foremost. Please, *please* reconsider
>> now before it is too late.
>I will !!!! AND I"M F**KING HONEST !!
>sorry, this mail of you came at the wrong time.
>I invested Months and Months, to build a structure,
>togheter with all my friends....
>"free ride" tssss..........
>> > BTW: what's your relation with Excelsior regarding this ?
>> I'm do not know of what you speak, here.
>Humo excelsior, they are on the web.
>I really hope we can get a clear sky on this ASAP :-)

He immediatly wrote another mail to explain his outburst:

>I feel I need to add something.
>We chose this name before our "relation"
>with Extropy. We chose it HONEST and
>with no idea in our mind to use it as a free ride.
>Fact: you are the first who mentioned this !
>So, we all feel.....how shall I put it.
>That you have to come up with a new name for us !?
>I hope you read this as intended !
>We/I think we gave our name a lot of thought
>and we had good reasons for choosing it.
>However, we realize we are the new ones here,
>so we are open for every suggestion you have.
>Also, we do give all of you a lot off credit for
>actually building the first structure related to
>Never the less, In holland/europe etc.....I doubt
>there are more then 100 people who have heard from
>you. Correct me if I'm wrong.
>So I think it's fair to say, that we too deserve some
>credit for taking up the task of spreading the
>positive meme and we try to contribute in our own
>Anyway, It would be nice to have some deadline
>on this name thing. And get it over with.
>We tried very hard to come up with a better !!
>Anyway, I'll get some sleep first. I also hope
>you read the mails as intended.
>Positive, open, constructive and HONEST.......
>Since, I can't forsee how you read them, I feel
>I should mention this.
>Ironicly, I am the one who is trying to
>convince the others to change it. :-)
>Hope this put a lot of things in the right
>perspective !

Tom responded yesterday evening (CET) in a very constructive way (We're
very happy about that).

>I appreciate your good will, and I take you at your word that you intend no
>harm to ExI. But I have a duty to ExI to protect its interests, and it has
>almost no assets but for its good name. I thus have to make sure that, for
>*whatever* reason, people do not decrease the distinctiveness of "ExI",
>"Extropy", "Exponent", "Extro", and so forth.
>We have in the past had *severe* problems with people using our trademarks
>in ways that would confuse the public and, in some cases, convey very
>impressions. You sound like you have some good work in mind, I'll grant,
>but to the extent that more and more people use "Ex-" related names in the
>same context as our work, we get less and less leverage over the *really*
>problematic cases.
>I have tried again and again to help you find a new and fitting name. That
>is far more than I have done in the past in similar situations, but you
>strike me as a genuinely sincere and nice fellow. So, I'll continue trying
>to help if I can, and invite you to suggest what I can do. But I certainly
>do not regard it as my duty to find you another name. It is quite clear
>that we started using "ex-" names first and that you deliberately adopted
>"Excedo" to show some sort of relation to our work. OK, I'm flattered. But
>I would prefer that we find some other way (say, actual content of your
>ideas and references in your publications to ExI) to show that relation.
>I should mention that, as an alternative, we could establish a more formal
>relationship via a license. This would not have to be anything formal, but
>Max would want to weigh in. Personally, I do not prefer this option, but I
>offer it for your consideration.
>You have no doubt thought things through so far as your interest goes, but
>let me just add a point that you may have missed: I'm not sure it shows
>very much creativity and independent thinking to adopt a name that sounds so
>similar to what someone else has used. Isn't taking a radically new
>approach to old issues part of your program? A more distinctive name
would, I
>think, better support your claim to innovation.
>I'll have to look into "Homo Excelsior", but if it always uses those two
>words together, it poses much less of a problem for us than "Excelsior"
>alone would. (Perhaps that suggests a solution for our problem!)

The last paragraph may be the solution to all this, we're thinking and and
all ideas are welcome.

It is important at this point to state clearly that we did not, repeat
_not_, choose Excedo in relation to Extropy. We chose it in relation to
Transhumanism. That's why no one of us came up with the possible
missunderstanding between Extropy and Excedo. Again: there's no good name
to 'take a free ride on' or to damage because, save a few, no-one has ever
heard of ExI in the Netherlands and most of Europe (Americans should
appreciate that Europe is lagging several years when it comes to the
widespread use of E-mail and the WWW).

Becoming a part of of ExI is not a practical option for us at this time
because some of the Libertarian views expressed on the ExI-site would lead
to great PR-problems for us given the Dutch social-political arena. To make
a difference we have to be a part of society, not a fringe group. This
aside from the fact that they may conflict with some of our personal opinions.

This entire discussion could, of course, be very bad for the longterm
relationship between our embryonic organisation and ExI and we don't want
that. We want to be partners with ExI, work together, learn and make our
contributions to the prolifiration of >H memes. We realize that we're just
starting and would be honoured to be a 'younger brother' to ExI, but not a
little child that needs to be told how to behave. Mutual respect must be
the basis of any relationship.

It would be a great loss of opportunity not to connect the globally
dispersed drops of awakening Tranhumanism and create an ocean of ideas
(From Tom's mails I understand you already have a small lake ;-). We truly
want to work together with *all* transhumanist organisations around the
world, emphasizing the many values and goals we share. No-one will benefit
from dispersed splintergroups who squibble over what they should call
themselves and each other. We share so much, let's make that the basis of
our relationship.

Most respectfully,

Drs. Arjen Kamphuis jr
Master of Science in Science & Policy
BS Philosophy
BS History
Co-founding member Excedo, the Dutch Transhumanist Society
Co-founder Helix, Science & Policy Study Society
Co-founder Utrecht Debating Society
Mountain Leader, Royal Dutch Alpine Society
Certified IBM IT-specialist

(and did I mention I _always_ feed the cat on time? ;-)


Matrix (incomplete) of various names that were proposed and their meaning
in different languages (I hope I got the formatting right):

> ned eng latin engels
> foresight prudentia
> super eximius superb, excellent
> prestantia superiority
> supernus superior
> hoger niveau higher level
> pluris
> overschrijden exceed emiror to wonder at exceedingly
> excedo to exceed, to pass
> beyond
> validus exceeding, mighty
> excel anticipo
> precedo excel, surpass
> praesto excel
> virtus excelence, courage,
> character
> verbeteren improve
> lenio make better
> toename increase adaugeo increase, make greater
> aggero
> amplexus increase, improve
> autus increase, growth
> progressio increase, progress,
> advance
> progressus going forward
> cresco to grow, increase,
> expand

Arjen Kamphuis | Learn as if you will live forever.
mountain@knoware.nl | Live as though you will die tomorrow.