ESSAY: weaponry and extropy

Kathryn Aegis (
Sat, 20 Dec 1997 16:05:00 +0000

by Kathryn Aegis

This essay will explain more fully my thoughts regarding the subject
of weaponry as it relates to transhumanist and Extropian endeavors.
The depth of my reaction to Anton's posting shows that an exp
lanation of my perspective on this topic is in order. Anton has
already stated that the tone of his posting was not appropriate for
this list, and I, in turn, say that my outburst did little to
elevate the level of conversation on the topic. I also mis took my
own frustration at a memetic blockage for anger. Others mistook
that frustration for blind committment to a cause, but transhumanist
thought has never been a cause, and I don't agree with it being
labeled a movement. Sometimes a movement provides a convenient
framework within which to form coalitions and find networks to work
to break out of limitations. But movements also imply ideol ogy, and
ideology imposes its own restrictions.

In his second posting, Anton listed his carefully-considered reasons
for owning a gun and his contention that those reasons are extropic.
No one on this list would suggest that ownership of a gun sh ould in
any way be restricted by a government entity or removed from the
rubric of personal choice. On the other hand, if he states that his
reasons for making this choice are extropic, then by logi cal
extension other members of this list are allowed the floor to state
that they disagree. The subject of guns has become so politicized
that to state any sort opinion on it often leads to the list eners
[compartmentalizing] the speaker into one of two ideological and
opposed camps--'gun nuts' and 'peace freaks.' Extropian thought,
however, provides a more neutral framework within which to con sider
the topic.

My own credentials on the topic are both experiential and
research-based. About ten years ago, a certain network of domestic
terrorists moved into my city, headquartered themselves here, and
proceed ed to attack women and women's reproductive health clinics.
They were armed to the gills with money from the religious right and
military equipment from supremecist groups. A coalition of
activists and community members formed to respond to this wave of
violence. We all agreed, as did our local and federal law
enforcement, that to respond with armament tactics would only worsen
the situation. My role in this effort was to design tactics and train
volunteers, and I spent hundreds of hours in field work, observation
and discussion with weapons experts, security experts, martial arts
trainers, and even militia. I left after seven years of this work,
as staying up all hours of the night every week took a toll on my
health, but by then the tide had turned in our favor. We now share
information and training on the internet as part of a nationwide
network to combat the violence as it spreads to other cities.

The level of respect and patience accorded to me by these people
always amazed me, and their lessons remain with me to this day. A
core lesson taken was a basic one in the psychology of persons who
engage in the use of weapons, which I have come to think of as a
source of entropy. In devising counter-tactics, we were encouraged
to utilize the single-track mode of thinking in which a human
engages upon picking up a weapon. Over and over again, we were told
that our greatest weapon was the ability of the brain to devise
multiple solutions to problems, and that the person holding the gun
ha s probably placed all of their reliance and expectations on the
piece of metal in their hand. Fast and easy solutions rarely exist
in a violent situation; often you will have to try several methods
of dealing with it before experiencing success.

Therefore, to extend that lesson, it is not gun ownership per se
that seems entropic to me, but rather a single-track focus on guns
as a superior means for achieving certain goals, with the swift dis
missal of proposed or proven alternatives. As we move into a time
in which the exponential elongation of life finally becomes a
possibility, the subject of how we protect it or end it deserves
more serious consideration. We have over two thousand years of data
as to the effects of the continued usage of overt violence as a
solution to human conflict--do we really want to plan for several
more millenia of the same?

Extropians maintain that one of the primary methods by which humans
will achieve further evolution is the development of increasingly
sophisticated tools. And humans have devised ever more increasin gly
complex gun weaponry. But another method by which further evolution
will be achieved is through creative thought and invention--thinking
outside of the box. On a functional level, a gun can be viewed as a
tool comprised of a hollow tube and a mechanism that shoots
projectiles, much as a fountain pen can be described as a hollow
tube that shoots ink, or a rocket ship as a hollow tube that s hoots
itself through the atmosphere. Use of these implements can be
considered an engineering problem, with the counter of more
sophisticated tools.

On another level, the use to which these mechanical tools are put
leads to the inanimate tools being imbued with humanist moral
characteristics. Fountain pens are considered 'good' because of
their beauty and use in literary endeavors. Rocket ships are 'good'
because they take humans into new realms of exploration. Guns are
viewed as 'good' or 'bad' depending on whether they are utilized for
defense or attack. Religious and ethical arguments usually function
at this level, and it is on this level that most discussion is
conducted regarding the use of weapons.

On yet another level, these tools can be viewed in terms of the
paradigms that engendered and continue to support them, as well as
within the context of future trends and developments that render the
m relevant or outmoded. They become symbols of the prevailing
social system or cultural modalities. It is on this level that
futurists can most effectively analyze their utility and span of
continu ed relevance. Once inserted into the context of achievements
like space travel, human rights advances, and eradication of
disease, the paradigms that support the use of weaponry as a
solution to conflict seem increasingly limited and of a milieu that
appeals to the baser human traits. Our future progress as humans
will most probably originate in visionary thinking coupled with
diligent, unglam orous work. With a presently limited lifespan and a
limited amount of resources to invest in a future, it seems most
effective to allocate these resources and time to endeavors most
likely to produc e a sustainable human and posthuman future.