Re: Trans-extropian principles

Eric Watt Forste (
Mon, 29 Jul 1996 20:41:56 -0700

Lyle Burkhead <> writes,
>Max More writes,
>> Extropianism has never claimed or sought to be a complete philosophy.
>Why not? Why settle for anything less?

Perhaps because it's not available yet, and will be a long time in the
building. Perhaps because some of us view "philosophy" as just a short-hand
name for "the set of all research programs we don't have a solid handle on
yet", and because some of us expect that this set will never be reduced to
the empty set.

>One of my heroes, whose name I won't mention here, said
>> The aim of human evolution is to attain a mystical vision of the
>> universe.
>I'm not sure "mystical" is the word I would use, but I agree that
>evolution does have a purpose, and his way of expressing it
>is the best I have seen. I might amend it as follows: The aim of
>human evolution is to attain a complete vision of the universe, in which
>all causal relations are manifest, down to the roots of causality.

Human beings have diverse purposes, but I see no evidence that the cosmos
has a purpose. To attribute a single purpose to cosmic evolution is IMHO an
inaccurate anthropomorphism.

I doubt that your "complete vision" is attainable, because such a complete
vision would have to make manifest all causal relations *including* the
causal chains that pass through the internals of the people "having" the
complete vision. By the time we have a complete understanding of all causal
relations in the physical world, in the human brain, and in the evolution
of human cultures, I'm sure we'll have developed the ability to perceive
and think about even more complex structures which we cannot even imagine
at this point.

In order to understand and explain things, we develop new conceptual
resources. But those conceptual resources themselves are structures within
brains which have causal effects on the world which in turn need to be
explained. Even if physics has a bottom and a top (and I've seen no
evidence of this yet), the exploration of cultural evolution has no end.
Mathematics certainly has no end in sight. As we increasingly refine our
ability to ferret out useful new historical data out of what once seemed
nothing but noise, history keeps growing faster than the passage of time.
The practice of engineering creates complex new structures with rules of
their own that need to be understood on their own terms even if in theory
they can be reduced to physical laws the same way the human beings can be,
in theory.

Once you introduce life and technology into a universe, then the complexity
of that universe will necessarily grow faster than the capacity of the
living beings in that universe to comprehend it, because their very efforts
to comprehend the existing complexity will increase the complexity of that
universe even faster. This is my personal formulation of the Law of
Extropy. (Yes, that's tongue-in-cheek.)

Some people hate this idea. They want to have everything locked up solid in
their minds and safely stowed. I love this idea. For me, this idea means
that I'll never have to worry about getting bored, not even if I become a
Jupiter brain. For me, this idea is a source of deep joy.

(Don't let this idea lead to "rapture of the future"... just because the
complexity of the universe will grow faster than our ability to comprehend
it all, doesn't mean that the complexity of the universe will grow
inevitably. It just means that if the complexity of the universe shrinks,
our ability to comprehend it will recede before that tide. So if we want
the complexity of the universe to keep increasing, we have to keep working
at it. Think thermonuclear war for an example of our ability to create new
science/math/philosophy shrinking faster than the complexity of the stuff
we want to understand is shrinking.)

As for "measure", if any of you mathematicians out there have come up with
a surefire measure of complexity (as distinguished from randomness), well,
I'd be interested in hearing about it. And I guess what I'm really talking
about here is "stable complexity" or "homeostatic complexity", but here my
ideas get vague fast and all I have to say is that I really need to study
some more maths.

Eric Watt Forste <>