META: Sense and Sociability
Sat, 12 Oct 1996 09:24:52 -0400

The comments about my "eagles and parrots" Churchill quote are winging their
way back around to the "mailing list quality" discussion of a few days ago.
They raise good points which I think are worth considering regarding the
_purpose_ of the ExList. There seem to be viewpoints on the "list quality"
discussion along two axes: depth vs. breadth and "relevance". For what it's
worth, on the first, I come down squarely on both sides of the issue, i.e. I
think it's good to think and talk both deeply and widely, as others have
said. We have a lot of ground to cover if we are to see and understand all
of the complex implications of the basic ideas of transhumanism and

The "relevance" concern raises a different set of questions. Is this, as E.
Shaun Russell points out, to be a forum only for "...well thought out,
extropian discussion"? Certainly all of the comments we've seen lately about
the high volume of traffic on the list and the burden it imposes on busy
people (the kind we want to attract and keep amongst our midst) speak to the
need to keep things focused. On the other hand the list serves another
purpose, that is as a social center for extropians. We are a wide-spread
lot, circling the globe. Even the "Old Ones", concentrated on the Left
Coast, have few enough opportunities to get together face-to-face.

Private e-mails between members are a good device for developing social
relations that also intersect on the ExList. I've developed some interesting
relationships this way myself since subscribing. But the sort of bantering
commentary that has always been a part of the public forum also serves a
valuable purpose, IMHO. The Extropy Institute should be the seed-bed for
many joint transhumanist enterprises, both cultural and commercial. Such
enterprises can only happen if people get to know and trust each other fairly
well. This doesn't happen unless one see a little of the "whole person",
including sometimes seemingly irrelevant details of their biographies and
personalities. This happens with "small talk". (Personal Web pages are good
for this, too, and I look forward to the Web member directory that appears to
be one of the upcoming items on the Institute web site, but they don't
include the key element of group interactivity.)

As technology progresses, the "relevance" tension will sort itself out.
Within a few years, we'll be gathering socially in rich, common virtual
environments. I can easily envision an ExI "party room" and more or less
focused social events in virtual environments. The sort of interpersonal
synergy that will develop in such environments will be wonderful, a real
motor for more substantive developments. Until then, however, I think that
-- with the use of a little judgment -- we should tolerate the occasional
quip, pun (thank you, Hara Ra, for many a smile) and irrelevant discussion.

Greg Burch <> <> or
"Even a nod from a person who is esteemed is of more force than a thousand
arguments or studied sentences from others." -- Plutarch, *Life of Phocion*