Re: Extropianism in the media

Max More (
Sat, 3 Aug 1996 23:46:21 -0700 (MST)

At 12:20 AM 8/4/96 -0500, Lyle Burkhead wrote:
>I think the extropian meme has succeeded in establishing itself as a=20
>commonly known term for a certain social type, like "biker" or "wigger"=20
>or "yuppie." Or "Satanist." Apparently the public has a rather sinister=
>perception of extropians, taking Moravec as the prototype of the=20
>overman who wants to become a cyborg and destroy the world. =20

I don't think "the public" has a perception of extropians. A small
percentage of the population has varying perceptions of us. Those who read
the Wired article (or many others) probably have far more positive
perceptions than some of those who read Dery's book. I received over 400
e-mail messages as a result of the Wired article. The tone, almost without
exception, ranged from curious to wildly enthusiastic. Many readers of
Dery's book will see through his interpretation. This has happened before.
I've seen it happen numerous times with cryonics -- a negative story
generates inquiries from people who want to check things out for themselves.

Dery's book is merely one source. Mentions of Extropians, including
interviews with them, appear all over, giving an entirely different=

>How wrong is this perception? Is there anyone here who is not=20
>fascinated by such thoughts? I was thinking along those lines in 1965,=20
>when I read "Profiles of the Future" by Arthur C. Clarke. =20

Very wrong I would say. Is there anyone here *except* Lyle who serious
entertains fantasies of destroying the world? Doesn't sound like many
extropians I know. (Okay, I can think of one or two who might feel that
way!) Generally extropians I'm acquainted with care about their personal
transcendence and that of anyone who seeks it too. Some of them seem to be
concerned to encourage "the masses" to come along too -- sometimes for the
pragmatic reason that the more extropians there are, the faster progress
will be (and the more interesting people there will be to communicate and
trade with). Being transhuman is a positive-sum game, not a negative one.

>Beyond PR, there is the question of what to do about Moravec, and=20
>others who entertain fantasies -- not necessarily idle fantasies - about=20
>setting forces in motion that would kill billions of obsolete people. =20
>The question is not what to say, but what, if anything, to do. If you=20
>knew that someone intended to kill almost everybody on the planet,=20
>except for a remnant who would be protected -- what would you do? =20
>Join him? Assasinate him? or do nothing? =20

Look, let's keep things in perspective. Hans is *not* planning on killing
billions of people. He is intent on creating mind children far superior
intellectually and physically to today's humans. He sees many humans
enjoying (at least for a time) leisure thanks to machines. Those humans who
choose it can join the posthumans. Those who don't, in Moravec's scenario,
*may* eventually be consumed, but then again they may not be as the
posthumans and mind children leave for space. Whatever the particular
scenario, it's not as if Hans is plotting to personally destroy anyone. I
think he's saying eventually the choice will be to become posthuman or
*risk* dying out (which is any human's fate anyway in a few decades). This
isn't quite as monstrous as you make out.

But Moravec's scenario is not necessarily the way things will actually
happen. I thing he's quite wrong about what's likely. Like many extropians,
I'd like to encourage more humans to prepare, to continuously upgrade
themselves, so that the odds of the nasty possibilities are minimized.

Upward and Outward!


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

"I have never lost that humility of soul which is the mark of the truly
great man." =97 A. Crowley