Extropianism, defined

Extropianism ties into transhumanism and the definition of a posthuman.

From Wikipedia’s entry on extropianism.

Extropianism, also referred to as extropy, is an evolving framework of values and standards for continuously improving the human condition. Extropianism describes a pragmatic consilience of transhuman thought guided by a conscious, pro-active, self-directed approach to human evolution and progress. (Extropians were once concisely described as libertarian transhumanists, and some still hold to this standard.)

Originated by a set of principles developed by Dr. Max More, The Principles of Extropy, extropianism stems from the transhuman tradition of F.M. Esfandiary and as conceptualized by More, places strong emphasis on rational thinking and practical optimism. According to More, these principles “do not specify particular beliefs, technologies, or policies”. Extropians share an optimistic view of the future, expecting considerable advances in computational power, life extension, nanotechnology and the like. Many extropians foresee the eventual realization of unlimited maximum life spans, and the recovery, thanks to future advances in biomedical technology, of those whose bodies/brains have been preserved by means of cryonics.

Extropy, coined by Tom Bell (T. O. Morrow) in January 1988, is defined 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. Extropy expresses a metaphor, rather than serving as a technical term, and so is not simply the opposite of entropy.

The Extropy Institute

In 1987, Max More moved to Los Angeles from Oxford University in England, where he had helped to establish (along with Michael Price, Garret Smyth and Luigi Warren) the first European cryonics organization, known as Mizar Limited (later Alcor UK), to work on his Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Southern California.

In 1988, “Extropy: The Journal of Transhumanist Thought” was first published. This brought together thinkers with interests in artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, life extension, mind uploading, Idea Futures, robotics, space exploration, memetics, and the politics and economics of transhumanism. Alternative media organizations soon began reviewing the magazine, and it attracted interest from likeminded thinkers. Later, More and Bell co-founded the Extropy Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization. “ExI” was formed as a transhumanist networking and information center to use current scientific understanding along with critical and creative thinking to define a small set of principles or values that could help make sense of new capabilities opening up to humanity.

The Extropy Institute’s email list was launched in 1991, and in 1992 the institute began producing the first conferences on transhumanism. Affiliate members throughout the world began organizing their own transhumanist groups. Extro Conferences, meetings, parties, on-line debates, and documentaries continue to spread transhumanism to the public.

The Internet soon became the most fertile breeding ground for people interested in exploring transhumanist ideas, with the availability of websites for such organizations that have joined the Extropy Institute in developing and advocating transhumanist (and related) ideas. These include the World Transhumanist Association, the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, the Life Extension Foundation, Foresight Institute, Transhumanist Arts & Culture, the Immortality Institute, Betterhumans, Aleph in Sweden, TransVision in Europe, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.

In 2006 the board of directors of the Extropy Institute made a decision to close the organisation.

Criticisms of the Extropy Institute

Many participants in the Transhumanist community criticize various members of the community as self-promoters who spend too much time attempting to claim credit for achievements or coining a term rather than making legitimate progress towards the goals and objectives of Transhumanism. For instance, note that the Transhumanism article on Wikipedia spends as much time discussing the history of Transhumanism and assigning credit for various achievements to various people as it does describing the actual philosophy and objectives of Transhumanism. It is felt by many Bioconservatives, and more moderate Transhumanists, that this is a heavy restriction which holds the movement back from attaining its objectives as efficiently as it would prefer. Though Transhumanists assert that this is something to be countered, Bioconservatives generally feel that it is endemic and inherent to a movement which, so they believe, is based entirely upon self-aggrandizement.

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