Nothing shaped my transhumanist philosophy nearly as much as the Extropian movement did back in the late 90s. I was quite late to the Extropian scene, getting in almost at the very end of its normal existence. I think that my late arrival, though, was beneficial for me, in that the movement and its principles were quite mature at the time. These guys had been thinking about Transhumansim for quite a long while, and had a lot to share and teach the 20-something kid that I was.
For me, the defining part of Extropianism are its principles, shared below. My next few essays here on Medium will explore these principles in some detail. Here, I will share my own definitions and observations which may differ from the original intent of the author or movement, though I will stick to the Principles as they are defined. Please visit the Extropian site and check out the official document.
First, What is Extropianism?
“Extropy” itself is intended to be an antonym of entropy. Extropy was defined by Max More as “the extent of a living or organizational system’s intelligence, functional order, vitality, energy, life, experience, and capacity and drive for improvement and growth.”
Extropianism is a subset of Transhumanism (which is itself a subset of humanism). The primary difference to me between Extropianism and Transhumanism was always that the former had a very individualistic take on Transhumanism. Extropians place emphasis on finding your own way, on the individual over the collective, on personal freedoms over responsibilities to authority. Many Extropians are hard-core libertarians.
When I first found Extropy in the late 90s, I was a hard-core Libertarian bordering on anarcho-capitalist. Today, I consider myself a Radical Moderate and I find the Principles no less impactful now than I did then. There is nothing exclusively libertarian about Extropianism. I think it’s just the best Transhumanist home for Libertarians.
What are the Principles?
Here they are in order as presented in the official document with my short comments:
Perpetual Progress — the march towards Posthumanity is a steadily accelerating voyage. Extropians stay on target and keep moving towards it with everything they do.
Self-Transformation — Extropians should work tirelessly to improve themselves — physically, mentally, emotionally in a positive direction, proactively preparing for the future.
Practical Optimism — Today it’s all too easy to succumb to fear of the unknown. The current rapid acceleration of technology is fraught with unknowns and that causes a great deal of fear in many people. Extropians look forward to the future and work to shape it in as positive a way as possible. Extropians expect the best of all possible outcomes and do their best to ensure it.
Intelligent Technology — Extropians embrace technology as a way of improving their lives as well as the rest of humanity. Extropians work towards making our technology smarter and more able to to overcome the boundaries set by nature and man.
Open Society — information and democracy — Extropians realize that the best environment in which to improve life is one which is free and fosters an open marketplace of ideas. A transparent climate is one in which everyone can best work together to improve everything.
Self-Direction — Extropians want the personal freedom to pursue their own goals and respect the rights of others to do the same. Extropians reject authoritarian regimes which seek to put limits on Transhumanis progress.
Rational Thinking — Extropians know that objective science and its careful application via technology is the best way to improve the human condition. Adherence to dogma can only stifle progress.
I will cover each of these principles in more detail over my next several essays here on Medium. To me, Extropianism is a fresh and welcome look at Transhumanism when compared with many of the less optimistic or more collective and government focused flavors of Transhumanism.
Though these principles have been the bedrock of my personal philosophy since I was exposed to them, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy to constantly be focused on self-improvement. I’m not the best follower of this philosophy. I am by no means a proper Extropian. I just think it describes an excellent path to show how to improve life for both individuals and humanity as a whole.
See what I wrote about Why I am a Transhumanist.