Re: Extropianism in the media
Sun, 4 Aug 1996 11:42:17 -0400

In a message dated 96-08-04 00:21:46 EDT, Lyle Burkhead writes:

> I think the extropian meme has succeeded in establishing itself as a
> commonly known term for a certain social type, like "biker" or "wigger"
> or "yuppie." Or "Satanist." Apparently the public has a rather sinister
> perception of extropians, taking Moravec as the prototype of the
> overman who wants to become a cyborg and destroy the world.
> How wrong is this perception? Is there anyone here who is not
> fascinated by such thoughts? I was thinking along those lines in 1965,
> when I read "Profiles of the Future" by Arthur C. Clarke.
> If Moravec is *not* a prototypical extropian, then the meme has a serious
> public relations problem. Dery's book was a public relations disaster.
> But then, memes are as selfish as genes, and will find their own way to
> survive. Memes decide which other memes to mate with, and their
> parents can't always control their choices.
> Beyond PR, there is the question of what to do about Moravec, and
> others who entertain fantasies -- not necessarily idle fantasies - about
> setting forces in motion that would kill billions of obsolete people.
> The question is not what to say, but what, if anything, to do. If you
> knew that someone intended to kill almost everybody on the planet,
> except for a remnant who would be protected -- what would you do?
> Join him? Assasinate him? or do nothing?

This and Max's response about Moravec are interesting. I confess to not
having read Moravec's "Mind Children" -- I will, but feel I already had most
of the ideas folks have talked about as being in that book 25 years ago.
(Also inspired by Clarke; although it was the chapter in "2001" entitled
"Experiment" for me.)

I've encountered a lot of thoughtless "fear and loathing" for concepts
fundamental to the extropian philosphy and agenda in otherwise fairly
intelligent and well-educated people -- both before and after I'd heard of
the word "extropian". I recall a very bright woman accusing me of being a
"Nazi" because I advocated radical human genetic engineering and many who
have called me "cold" because I want to upload. Ironically, the ex-husband
of the woman who called me a Nazi years later had some very unflattering
things to say about Moravec in an e-mail exchange with me. That same fellow
characterizes extropians as "hyper-yuppies".

So some see us "techno-bikers" and others as "hyper-yuppies". As Anais Nin
said, "We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are." (But an
aside: In my time, I've been both a "biker" and a "yuppie" ... hmmmm .... )

To a certain extent, the "problem" arises from a misunderstanding of the role
of compassion in the extropian world-view. As I've written on the >H list,
there is *nothing* in the extropian philosophy that is inconsistent with
compassion. My vision of my own self-transformation does not include
"leaving compassion behind" by any means; far from it. I would hope my
capacity for pathos would be magnified along with every other capcity of the

The "inimical post-human superman" to which Lyle refers is a good moral
problem here. It was, in fact, the subject (sort of) of an exchange I had
with Rich Artym on the >H list regarding his "Unlimited Individual Freedom"
(UIF) concept -- a set of ideas about which I have well-known reservations.
But I offer for consideration that the problem is only one of degree, not

The means exist today for a capable individual or small group of individuals
to destroy whole cities. Moral monsters blow up airplanes full of innocent
people now. As things are now, we entrust our safety with regard to these
things largely to the state. In the stateless or "state-minimal" world to
which we look forward here, how will we react to such threats, magnified in
the quantity of the threat, but no less evil?

Answering that cacooning one's self in high-tech defenses or gettin' the hell
outta Dodge are fine for an individual, but take no account of compassion. I
shall leave my own thoughts on tsolutions to this hard problem for another
day ...

Greg Burch <> <> or
"How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in't"
-- W. Shakespeare, _The Tempest_