Re: The Extropian Principles

Eric Watt Forste (
Wed, 14 Aug 1996 15:57:45 -0700

At 10:27 AM 8/14/96, Sarah Marr wrote:
>...with which I entirely agree, except to say that I don't think it's
>possible to say that all spontaneous orders fit the Extropian ideal, so
>should we be using the phrase Spontaneous Order to reflect such a blanket
>'good thing'? (And yes, I realize it makes a nice acronym!)

I'm beginning to think that the more general and recent the term or
concept, the more it can be understood only within an understanding of the
tradition within which the term or concept arose.

The problem with "spontaneous order" as a principle is that it arose,
mostly in the works of F. A. Hayek, quite recently in history. It arose so
recently that it's difficult to precisely identify the tradition to which
it belongs. The tradition to which it belongs is a fuzzy subset of the
Western scientific-liberal tradition, but if challenged, I might be able to
point out some examples of members of the Western scientific-liberal
tradition that are not part of the tradition to which the concept of
spontaneous order belongs, and other examples that are part of that
tradition. But I have no idea how to generalize about the boundary of this
particular subset of the Western scientific-liberal tradition.

Except that it seems to like Max and Tom's ideas and seems to be in the
process of naming itself "extropian".

I have no idea whether this comment is helpful to you or not. Lots of
people who have attempted to be generalists, who have been exposed to this
idea, and who have studied biology, economics, neural networks, and the
many other disciplines that study complex homeostatic dynamic systems, have
connected the idea of spontaneous order to their own personal conception of
the good. But as usual, idolatry is always a danger. It seems increasingly
clear that the phrase "spontaneous order" is easily misunderstood and
misinterpreted at present.

What to do about this, I do not know. One thing one could do is try to
identify the allied concepts that are associated with the idea of
spontaneous order (rich and extensive use of *local* information,
accumulation and gradual modification of information over time, softness
and flexibility) and do some education, so that this concept can emerge
unscathed into the wider intellectual world and stand independent of the
tradition that created it. Another thing one could do is to cease using the
term and try to come up with other words and phrases for getting the same
concept across in a less easily distorted form. I'm confident that
different people will try different strategies, and through this
experimentation eventually we'll figure out how to most effectively
communicate the stuff that's important for each of us to communicate.

I hope that made sense.

Eric Watt Forste <>