Posts Tagged ‘transhumanism’

27
Jun

Extropy +10: The Principles

by adminadam in articles

The words of Max More are too well composed, too precise to emulate, so I have decided to provide a simple introduction and then let the rest speak for itself. The original, The Extropian Principles 3.o, is also to be found here on Max More’s own site.

Introduction


The term ‘transhumanist’ comes with significant baggage concerning the ethics or unethical-ness of modifying the human body and mind — indeed this is one of the foundational principles in Extropianism/Transhumanism — that of ‘hacking’ and ‘modding’ our essence, so to speak. Neo-luddites site this and our oft-demonstrated inability to reign in progress before significant disruption of the biosphere occurs, just look at the recent BP oil spill, or Chernobyl, or Global Climate Change/Chaos, or the Pacific Plastic Swarm for examples. Neo-luddites in particular (in addition to many other concerned citizens) have a number of justifiably rational fears about new technologies and their implications, such as nanobots and the grey-goo scenario. But in the words of the great Isaac Asimov, “If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them”.

Transhumanism and Extropianism are, of course, centered on progress. And although progress can lead to its own fair share of problems, the goal in Extropianism/Transhumanism is also to discover innovative ways of preventing the kind of greed-fueled disasters for which science and capitalism are often blamed. So, let’s not oversimplify by saying that Neo-luddites are anti-progress and Extropians are pro-. I would like to argue that Extropians are neither extremist nor hyper-capitalist when it comes to progress, but that they take the long view on the development of civilization in general.

Transhumanism and Extropianism are philosophical frameworks that provide a rationale for expanding our knowledge of ourselves, our knowledge of the universe, and our ability to affect change in those two realms.

“No mysteries are sacrosanct, no limits unquestionable; the unknown will yield to the ingenious mind. We seek to understand the universe, not to tremble before mystery, as we continue to learn and grow and enjoy our lives ever more.”

To dig a little deeper, we can say that the Extropian’s work is to push the bounds of science and philosophy in attempts to improve not only the human situation and human conditions, but also our capacity to understand and innovate further. But this is nothing new; humans have been building up these capacities since before we diverged from other apes. Every survival-enhancing behavior and trait gained since that point has led us here: enhanced social skills, complex displays of emotions, tool use, language, agriculture, mathematics, writing… All these things have served to further and spread innovation in our species in a directional arrow of evolution. And what that arrow points to is, in fact, of the greatest concern to Extropians: the reduction of entropy to the greatest possible point — metaphorically that is; by way of increasing extropy (definitions below).

Were our species to die out, it is not certain that any others would come into our place as intelligent, tool-using, environment-manipulating mammals with a capacity for language and empathy. It is all these traits that have made our civilization possible, and to be fair, a bit unstable. The Extropian has considered many of the existential risks we face and seeks, to the greatest extent possible, to gather, maintain, and make permanent the genetic, cultural, philosophical, and technological innovations that have emerged on our planet. And the best way to do this is to continue to build upon what we have done, to reach past our limits and imagine even greater accomplishments and greater enlightenment, and more freedom and equality for everyone.

The meme thus comes off sounding quite naive and idealistic, at times with a libertarian/anti-authoritarian streak, and perhaps with the feel of a cult. But if anything, this is a cult dedicated to the intentional evolution of our species, in the best ways possible. And, as we will see, we have already been modifying ourselves significantly since the beginning of civilization. Books are a medium of information transfer that brought about significant innovation. Tools are a part of our heritage that pass themselves on through usefulness alone. Medicine is surely a ‘hack’ for our natural, biological operating systems, so to speak. And who is to say that we should abandon any of the more recent knowledge sharing engines like the internet, even if it creates new problems while solving older ones. What else can we expect but to be confronted with new limits when we break down the old? And that is precisely what Extropianism prepares us to expect. Entropy is a worthy adversary and, ultimately, our species is in a race against time. So without further ado, I present:


THE EXTROPIAN PRINCIPLES — Version 3.0

A Transhumanist Declaration, ©1998. By Max More.

EXTROPYthe extent of a system’s intelligence, information, order, vitality, and capacity for improvement.
EXTROPIANSthose who seek to increase extropy.
EXTROPIANISMthe evolving transhumanist philosophy of extropy.

Extropianism is a transhumanist philosophy. The Extropian Principles define a specific version or “brand” of transhumanist thinking. Like humanists, transhumanists favor reason, progress, and values centered on our well being rather than on an external religious authority. Transhumanists take humanism further by challenging human limits by means of science and technology combined with critical and creative thinking. We challenge the inevitability of aging and death, and we seek continuing enhancements to our intellectual abilities, our physical capacities, and our emotional development. We see humanity as a transitory stage in the evolutionary development of intelligence. We advocate using science to accelerate our move from human to a transhuman or posthuman condition. As physicist Freeman Dyson has said: “Humanity looks to me like a magnificent beginning but not the final word.”

These Principles are not presented as absolute truths or universal values. The Principles codify and express those attitudes and approaches affirmed by those who describe themselves as “Extropian”. Extropian thinking offers a basic framework for thinking about the human condition. This document deliberately does not specify particular beliefs, technologies, or conclusions. These Principles merely define an evolving framework for approaching life in a rational, effective manner unencumbered by dogmas that cannot survive scientific or philosophical criticism. Like humanists we affirm an empowering, rational view of life, yet seek to avoid dogmatic beliefs of any kind. The Extropian philosophy embodies an inspiring and uplifting view of life while remaining open to revision according to science, reason, and the boundless search for improvement.

1. Perpetual Progress — Seeking more intelligence, wisdom, and effectiveness, an indefinite lifespan, and the removal of political, cultural, biological, and psychological limits to self-actualization and self-realization. Perpetually overcoming constraints on our progress and possibilities. Expanding into the universe and advancing without end.

2. Self-Transformation — Affirming continual moral, intellectual, and physical self-improvement, through critical and creative thinking, personal responsibility, and experimentation. Seeking biological and neurological augmentation along with emotional and psychological refinement.

3. Practical Optimism — Fueling action with positive expectations. Adopting a rational, action-based optimism, in place of both blind faith and stagnant pessimism.

4. Intelligent Technology — Applying science and technology creatively to transcend “natural” limits imposed by our biological heritage, culture, and environment. Seeing technology not as an end in itself but as an effective means towards the improvement of life.

5. Open Society — Supporting social orders that foster freedom of speech, freedom of action, and experimentation. Opposing authoritarian social control and favoring the rule of law and decentralization of power. Preferring bargaining over battling, and exchange over compulsion. Openness to improvement rather than a static utopia.

6. Self-Direction — Seeking independent thinking, individual freedom, personal responsibility, self-direction, self-esteem, and respect for others.

7. Rational Thinking — Favoring reason over blind faith and questioning over dogma. Remaining open to challenges to our beliefs and practices in pursuit of perpetual improvement. Welcoming criticism of our existing beliefs while being open to new ideas.

1. PERPETUAL PROGRESS

Extropians seek continual improvement in ourselves, our cultures, and our environments. We seek to improve ourselves physically, intellectually, and psychologically. We value the perpetual pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Extropians question traditional assertions that we should leave human nature fundamentally unchanged in order to conform to “God’s will” or to what is considered “natural”. Like our intellectual cousins, the humanists, we seek continued progress in all directions. We go beyond many humanists in proposed fundamental alterations in human nature in pursuit of these improvements. We question traditional, biological, genetic, and intellectual constraints on our progress and possibility.

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