Re: The Extropian Principles

Max More (
Sat, 27 Jul 1996 13:01:48 -0700 (MST)

Lyle, thanks for your feedback. The definitions, principles, and
explanations of Extropianism can always be improved.

At 12:15 AM 7/27/96 -0500, Lyle Burkhead wrote:

>> EXTROPY -- A measure of intelligence, information, energy, vitality,
>> experience, diversity, opportunity, and growth.

>Measure? in what units? Does this definition really say anything?

Clearly it says a fair bit. It says, very basically, what extropy is and
thus what it is not. As a brief definition it does not purport to explain
the concept in depth. I have been torn between the virtues of brevity and
informativeness in the definition. When I explain the idea verbally, I
always expand on the definition, qualifying terms and ensuring the audience
understands that it=92s not intended as a techical term (it=92s not meant to=
exactly the opposite of entropy either in a thermodynamic or a information
theoretic sense).

Despite the resulting incomplete precision, the brevity and simplicity of
the definition show their benefits in the typical reactions I've heard from
it. These are generally positive, and most people seem to get a ready grasp
of the basic idea right away.

An earlier definition I used described extropy as "the process of
increasing=85" rather than as a measure. Someone objected to that. I don=92t
recall their grounds, though I presume it was that extropy should be the
thing or collection of things being increased rather than the process=

Perhaps "measure" is not the best term to use here. I am not attached to it
and welcome better suggestions. The term "measure" might imply, contrary to
what I want, that extropy is a techical term referring to exactly measurable
physical quantities. While it does refer to a collection of forces and
tendencies, *some* of which are (or in principle might be) exactly
measurable, overall it is not a thing that can be measured scientifically.

How about defining extropy as:

"The extent of a person=92s or a culture=92s intelligence, information,
vitality, diversity, opportunity, and personal growth." [I=92ve recently
shortened the list of items to these.]

I removed "experience" because it=92s just too vague. As you rightly note,=
should we seek to increase experience per se? Of course, that=92s not the
suggestion; it=92s experience of extropic kinds, but that would make the
definition partly circular. The idea behind "experience" was that gaining
more experience (through experimentation and longevity) leads to wisdom,
greater effectiveness, and so on. I dropped "energy" because it can be
subsumed by "vitality". The latter includes longevity and personal energy.

>> EXTROPIANISM -- The philosophy that seeks to increase extropy.

>Assume you can measure all these things; why are we supposed to want=20
>to increase them? I can understand increasing intelligence, vitality, and=
>opportunity, but some of the others are problematic. =20
>Do you really want to increase diversity? Does this mean you=20
>oppose the homogenization of cultures? =20

Diversity is a component of extropy that applies to societies. Diversity of
thinking, of approaches, does seem to be healthy for humans and transhumans.
Do I oppose the homogenization of cultures? Depends what you mean. When most
people say "homogenization of cultures" I take them to mean the way you can
find all kinds of ideas, philosophies, religions, political beliefs, ways of
doing things, etc. all within one geographical area, rather than each of
these being tied to its own location. If that=92s what is meant, I don=92t=
a problem with such homogenization. Differing approaches and ideas still
continue, and their mutual criticism is actually likely to be enhanced by
their mutual proximity.

If you are asking if I oppose the flourishing of all cultures except one,
then yes. It=92s not the kind of thing I can really actively oppose, but I
would be disturbed to see this kind of cultural homogenization, unless,
maybe (and unbelievably!) it was the result of the destruction of almost all
cultures due to effective rational criticism.

>I suppose "energy" refers to=20
>energy available for use in the economy, and "growth" refers to=20
>economic growth. Do you want to increase these, no matter what? =20
>Why is this axiomatic? =20

No, it refers to personal energy primarily, though the increasing
intelligence, information, and related production that extropians seek is
likely to require ever more energy. (Try going to the stars on a small
energy budget.) "Growth" also refers to personal growth. Since that may not
have been clear, I=92ve lengthened the definition by adding the qualifier.
It=92s still shorter than the old definition.

>Consider the expression "The philosophy that seeks to... " =20

>Does this mean that your metaphysics, your ontology, your logic, your=20
>philosophy of mind, your ethics, and your aesthetics will be determined=20
>by the need to increase the eight quantities that must be increased? =20

No. Extropianism has never claimed or sought to be a complete philosophy.
It=92s a set of attitudes and values that involve seeking the things listed=
the definition. I believe that the best way to live according to those
values is to recognize reality, rather than imposing our preconceptions on
it. The philosophy of Extropianism seeks to explain the desirability of
these values and to encourage more people to reject indefensible and exitial
(destructive to life) beliefs in favor of extropic attitudes.

Upward and Outward!


Max More, Ph.D. =20
President Extropy Institute (ExI)
Editor Extropy