- A measure of intelligence, information, energy, vitality, experience, diversity, opportunity, and growth.
- The philosophy that seeks to increase extropy.
Extropianism is a transhumanist philosophy: Like humanism, transhumanism values reason and humanity and sees no grounds for belief in unknowable, supernatural forces externally controlling our destiny, but goes further in urging us to push beyond the merely human stage of evolution. As physicist Freeman Dyson has said: “Humanity looks to me like a magnificent beginning but not the final word.” Religions traditionally have provided a sense of meaning and purpose in life, but have also suppressed intelligence and stifled progress. The Extropian philosophy provides an inspiring and uplifting meaning and direction to our lives, while remaining flexible and firmly founded in science, reason, and the boundless search for improvement.
- 1. Boundless Expansion
- Seeking more intelligence, wisdom, and effectiveness, an unlimited 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 reason and critical thinking, personal responsibility, and experimentation. Seeking biological and neurological augmentation.
- 3. Dynamic Optimism
- Fueling dynamic action with positive expectations. Adopting a rational, action-based optimism, shunning 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.
- 5. Spontaneous Order
- Supporting decentralized, voluntaristic social coordination processes. Fostering tolerance, diversity, long-term thinking, personal responsibility, and individual liberty.
These principles are developed below. Deeper treatments can be found in various issues of EXTROPY: The Journal of Transhumanist Thought — Spontaneous Order in #7, Dynamic Optimism in #8, and Self-Transformation in #10.
Extropians recognize the unique place of our species, and our opportunity to advance nature’s evolution to new peaks. Beginning as mindless matter, parts of nature developed in a slow evolutionary ascendence, leading to progressively more powerful brains. Chemical reactions generated tropistic behavior, which was superseded by instinctual and Skinnerian stimulus-response behavior, and then by conscious learning and experimentation. With the advent of the conceptual awareness of humankind, the rate of advancement sharply accelerated as intelligence, technology, and the scientific method were applied to our condition. We seek to sustain and quicken this evolutionary process of expanding extropy, transcending biological and psychological limits into posthumanity.
In aspiring to posthumanity, we reject natural and traditional limitations on our possibilities. We champion the rational use of science and technology to eradicate constraints on lifespan, intelligence, personal vitality, freedom, and experience. We recognize the absurdity of meekly accepting “natural” limits to our lifespans. The future will bring a graduation from Earth — the cradle of human and transhuman intelligence — and the inhabitation of the cosmos.
Resource limits are not immutable. Extropians affirm a rational, market-mediated environmentalism aimed at sustaining and enhancing the conditions for our flourishing. We oppose apocalyptic environmentalism which hallucinates catastrophe, issues a stream of irresponsible doomsday predictions, and attempts to strangle our continued evolution. Intelligent management of resources and environment will be fostered by the Extropian goal of vastly extended lifespan. The market price system encourages conservation, substitution, and innovation, preventing any need for a brake on growth and progress. Migration into space will immensely enlarge the energy and resources accessible to our civilization. Extended lifespans will foster wisdom and foresight, while restraining recklessness and profligacy.
No mysteries are sacrosanct, no limits unquestionable; the unknown will yield to the ingenious mind. We seek to understand the universe and to master reality up to and beyond any currently foreseeable limits.
Extropians affirm reason, critical inquiry, intellectual independence, and honesty. We reject blind faith and the passive, comfortable thinking that leads to dogma, mysticism, and conformity. Our commitment to positive self-transformation requires us to critically analyze our current beliefs, behaviors, and strategies. Extropians therefore feel proud by readily learning from error rather than by professing infallibility. We prefer analytical thought to fuzzy but comfortable delusion, empiricism to mysticism, and independent evaluation to conformity. We affirm a philosophy of life but distance ourselves from religious dogma because of its blind faith, debasement of human worth, and systematic irrationality.
We seek to become better than we are, while affirming our current worth. Perpetual self-improvement — physical, intellectual, psychological, and ethical — requires us to continually re-examine our lives. Self-esteem in the present cannot mean self-satisfaction, since a probing mind can always envisage a superior self in the future. Extropians are committed to deepening their wisdom, honing their rationality, and augmenting their physical and intellectual capabilities. We choose challenge over comfort, innovation over emulation, transformation over torpor.
Extropians are neophiles and experimentalists who track new research for more efficient means of achieving goals and who are willing to explore novel technologies of self-transformation. In our quest to advance to a posthuman stage, we rely on our own judgment, seek our own path, and reject both blind conformity and mindless rebellion. Extropians frequently diverge from the mainstream because they refuse to be chained by any dogma, whether religious, political, or intellectual. Extropians choose their values and behavior reflectively, standing firm when required but responding flexibly to new conditions.
Personal responsibility and autonomy go hand-in-hand with self-experimentation. Extropians take responsibility for the consequences of their choices, refusing to blame others for the results of their own free actions. Experimentation and self- transformation require risks; we wish to be free to evaluate potential risks and benefits for ourselves, applying our own judgment, and assuming responsibility for the outcome. We seek neither to rule others nor to be ruled. We vigorously resist those who use the institutionalized coercion of the State to impose their judgments of the safety and effectiveness of various means of self-experimentation. Personal responsibility and self-determination are incompatible with authoritarian centralized control, which stifles the choices and spontaneous ordering of autonomous persons.
Coercion, whether for the purported “good of the whole” or for the paternalistic protection of the individual, is unacceptable to us. Compulsion breeds ignorance and weakens the connection between personal choice and personal outcome, thereby destroying personal responsibility. Extropians are rational individualists, living by their own judgment, making reflective, informed choices, profiting from both success and shortcoming.
As neophiles, Extropians study advanced, emerging, and future technologies for their self-transformative potential. We support biomedical research to understand and control the aging process. We examine any plausible means of conquering death, including interim measures like biostasis, and long-term possibilities such as migration of personality from biological bodies into superior embodiments (“uploading”).
We practice and plan for biological and neurological augmentation through means such as neurochemical enhancers, computers and electronic networks, General Semantics, fuzzy logic, and other guides to effective thinking, meditation and visualization techniques, accelerated learning strategies, applied cognitive psychology, and soon neural- computer integration. Shrugging off the limits imposed on us by our natural heritage, we apply the evolutionary gift of our rational, empirical intelligence to surpass the confines of our humanity, crossing the threshold into the transhuman and posthuman stages that await us.
Extropians espouse a positive, dynamic, empowering attitude. Seeing no rational support for belief in a non-physical “afterlife”, we seek to realize our ideals in this world. Rather than enduring an unfulfilling life sustained by a desperate longing for a illusory heaven, we direct our energies enthusiastically into moving toward our ever-evolving vision.
Living vigorously, effectively, and joyfully, requires dismissing gloom, defeatism, and ingrained cultural negativism. Problems – technical, social, psychological, ecological – are to be acknowledged but not allowed to dominate our thinking and our direction. We respond to gloom and defeatism by exploring and exploiting new possibilities. Extropians hold an optimistic view of the future, foreseeing potent antidotes to many ancient human ailments, requiring only that we take charge and create that future. Dynamic optimism disallows passively waiting and wishing for tomorrow; it propels us exhuberantly into immediate activity, confidently confronting today’s challenges while generating more potent solutions for our future.
We question limits others take for granted. Observing accelerating scientific and technical learning, ascending standards of living, and evolving social and moral practices, we project continuing progress. Today there are more researchers studying aging, medicine, computers, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and other enabling disciplines than in all of history. Technological and social development continue to accelerate leading, in the eyes of some of us, to a Singularity — a time in the future when everything will be so radically different from today, and changing so fast, that we cannot accurately foresee life beyond that horizon. Extropians strive to maintain the pace of progress by encouraging support for crucial research, and pioneering the implementation of its results.
Adopting dynamic optimism means focusing on possibilities and opportunities, being alert to solutions and potentialities. It means refusing to whine about what cannot be avoided, learning from mistakes rather than dwelling on them in a victimizing, punishing manner. Dynamic optimism requires us to take the initiative, to jump up and plough into our difficulties, our actions declaring that we can achieve our goals, rather than sitting back and submerging ourselves in defeatist thinking.
Our actions and words radiate dynamic optimism, inspiring others to excel. We are responsible for taking the initiative in spreading this invigorating optimism; sustaining and strengthening our own dynamism is more easily achieved in a mutally reinforcing environment. We stimulate optimism in others by communicating our Extropian ideas and by living our ideals.
Dynamic optimism and passive faith are incompatible. Faith in a better future is confidence that an external force, whether God, State, or extraterrestrials, will solve our problems. Faith, or the Pollyanna/Dr. Pangloss variety of optimism, breeds passivity by promising progress as a gift bestowed on us by superior forces. But, in return for the gift, faith requires a fixed belief in and supplication to external forces, thereby creating dogmatic beliefs and irrationally rigid behavior. Dynamic optimism fosters initiative and intelligence, assuring us that we are capable of improving life through our own efforts. Opportunities and possibilities are everywhere, calling to us to seize them and to build upon them. Attaining our goals requires only that we believe in ourselves, work diligently, and be willing to revise our strategies.
Where others see difficulties, we see challenges. Where others give up, we move forward. Where others say enough is enough, we say: Forward! Upward! Outward! We espouse personal, social, and technological evolution into ever higher forms. Extropians see too far and change too rapidly to feel future shock. Let us advance the wave of evolutionary progress.
Extropians affirm the necessity and desirability of science and technology. We use practical methods to advance our goals of expanded intelligence, superior physical abilities, self- constitution, and immortality, rather than joining the well- trodden path of comfortable self-delusion, mysticism, and credulity. We regard science and technology as indispensable means to the evolution and achievement of our most noble values, ideals, and visions. We seek to foster these disciplined forms of intelligence, and to direct them toward eradicating the barriers to our Extropian objectives, radically transforming both the internal and external conditions of existence.
Technology is a natural extension and expression of human intellect and will, of creativity, curiosity, and imagination. We foresee and encourage the development of ever more flexible, smart, responsive technology. We will co-evolve with the products of our minds, integrating with them, finally merging with our intelligent technology in a posthuman synthesis, amplifying our abilities and extending our freedom.
Profound technological innovation excites rather than frightens us. We welcome change, expanding our horizons, exploring new territory boldly and inventively. We favor careful and cautious development of powerful technologies, but will neither stifle evolutionary advancement nor cringe before the unfamiliar. Regarding timidity and stagnation as unworthy of us, we choose to stride valiantly into the future. Extropians therefore favor surging ahead — delighting in future shock — rather than ignobly stagnating or reverting to primitivism. Intelligent use of biotechnology, nanotechnology, space and other technologies, in conjunction with a agoric free market system, can remove resource constraints and discharge environmental pressures.
We see the coming years and decades as a time of enormous changes, changes that will vastly expand our opportunities and abilities, transforming our lives for the better. This technological transformation will be accelerated by genetic engineering, life extending biosciences, intelligence intensifiers, smarter interfaces to swifter computers, neural-computer integration, virtual reality, enormous and interconnected databases, swift electronic communications, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, neural networks, artificial life, off-planet migration, and nanotechnology.
Extropians emphasize self-generating, organic, spontaneous orders over centrally planned, imposed orders. Both types of order have their place, but the under-appreciated spontaneous variety are crucial for our social interactions. Spontaneous orders have properties that make them especially conducive to Extropian goals and values; we see spontaneously ordering processes in many contexts, including biological evolution, the self-regulation of ecosystems, artificial life studies, memetics (the study of replicating information patterns), agoric open systems (market-like allocation of computational resources), brain function and neurocomputation.
The principle of spontaneous order is embodied in the free market system — a system that does not yet exist in a pure form. We are evolving away from tribalism, feudalism, authoritarianism, and democracy towards a polycentric system of distributed power shared among autonomous agents, their plans coordinated by the economic network. The free market allows complex institutions to develop, encourages innovation, rewards individual initiative, cultivates personal responsibility, fosters diversity, and decentralizes power. Market economies spur the technological and social progress essential to the Extropian philosophy. We have no use for the technocratic idea of central control by self-proclaimed experts. No group of experts can understand and control the endless complexity of an economy and society. Expert knowledge is best harnessed and transmitted through the superbly efficient mediation of the free market’s price signals — signals that embody more information than any person or organization could ever gather.
Sustained progress and effective, rational decision-making require the diverse sources of information and differing perspectives that evolve in spontaneous orders. Centralized command of behavior constrains exploration, diversity, and dissenting opinion. Respecting spontaneous order means supporting voluntaristic, autonomy-maximizing institutions as opposed to rigidly hierarchical, authoritarian groupings with their bureaucratic structure, suppression of innovation and dissent, and smothering of individual incentives. Our understanding of spontaneous orders grounds our opposition to self-proclaimed and involuntarily imposed “authorities”, and makes us skeptical of political solutions, unquestioning obedience to leaders, and inflexible hierarchies.
Making effective use of a spontaneously ordering social system requires a degree of tolerance and self-restraint, allowing others to pursue their lives as they choose, just as we wish to be free to go our own way. Mutual progress and fulfillment will result from a cooperative and benevolent attitude towards all those who respect our rights. Tolerating diversity and disagreement requires us to maintain control of the impulses built into the human organism, and to uphold demanding standards of rational personal behavior. Extropians are guided in their actions by studying the fields of strategy, decision theory, game theory, and ethology. These reveal to us the benefits of cooperation, and encourage the long-term thinking appropriate to persons seeking an unlimited lifespan.
These are principles not only of belief but of action. We become transhuman only when we have fully integrated these values into our lives, when we have consciously transformed ourselves ready for the future, rising above outmoded human beliefs and behaviors. When technology allows us to reconstitute ourselves physiologically, genetically, and neurologically, we who have become transhuman will be primed to transform ourselves into posthumans — persons of unprecedented physical, intellectual, and psychological capacity, self-programming, potentially immortal, unlimited individuals.
As posthumans we will both embody extropy and generate more — more intelligence, information, energy, vitality, experience, diversity, opportunity, and growth. As we progress from human to transhuman to posthuman, our understanding and application of these Principles will evolve with us. The Extropian Principles are a new operating system for our selves; always seeking to improve upon them, we will avoid dogmatizing them. The Principles derive their value by guiding us to our true goal: the maximization in our lives of extropy.
These books are listed because they express Extropian ideas. However, appearance on this list should not be taken to imply full agreement of a book or its author with the Extropian principles, or vice versa. Reading just the first ten books listed will illuminate many components of the evolving Extropian worldview.
Paul M. Churchland: Matter and Consciousness
Richard Dawkins: The Selfish Gene
Eric Drexler: Engines of Creation
David Friedman: The Machinery of Freedom (2nd Ed.)
Hans Moravec: Mind Children: The Future of
Robot and Human Intelligence
Ed Regis: Great Mambo Chicken and the
Julian Simon: The Ultimate Resource
Robert Anton Wilson: Prometheus Rising
Ayn Rand: Atlas Shrugged (fiction)
Marc Stiegler: The Gentle Seduction (fiction)
Harry Browne: How I Found Freedom in An
Paul M. Churchland: A Neurocomputational Perspective
Stephen R. Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective
Mike Darwin & Brian Wowk: Cryonics: Reaching For Tomorrow
Ward Dean & John Morgenthaler: Smart Drugs and Nutrients
Freeman Dyson: Infinite in All Directions
Eric Drexler: Nanosystems: Molecular
Machinery, Manufacturing, and
Eric Drexler, C. Peterson with Gayle Pergamit: Unbounding the Future: The
F.M. Esfandiary: Optimism One
Robert Ettinger: The Prospect of Immortality
Man Into Superman
FM-2030: Are You A Transhuman?
David Gauthier: Morals By Agreement
Alan Harrington: The Immortalist
Timothy Leary: Info-Psychology
J.L. Mackie: The Miracle of Theism
Jan Narveson: The Libertarian Idea
Jerry Pournelle: A Step Farther Out
Ilya Prigogine and
Isabelle Stengers: Order Out of Chaos
W. Duncan Reekie: Markets, Entrepreneurs and
Albert Rosenfeld: Prolongevity II
Julian Simon and
Herman Kahn (eds): The Resourceful Earth
Alvin Toffler: Powershift
Robert Anton Wilson: The New Inquisition
Roger MacBride Allen: The Modular Man
Greg Egan: Quarantine
Robert Heinlein: Methusaleh’s Children
Time Enough for Love
James P. Hogan: Voyage To Yesteryear
Inherit the Stars
Charles Platt: The Silicon Man
Eric Frank Russell: The Great Explosion
Robert Shea and
Robert Anton Wilson: Illuminatus! (3 vols.)
L. Neil Smith: The Probability Broach
Bruce Sterling: Schismatrix
Vernor Vinge: True Names
“The Ungoverned” in Across Realtime
My thanks to all those who have commented on the numerous drafts of the revised Principles, especially Jamie Dinkelacker, Derek Ryan, and Ralph Whelan.
(c)1993 Max More
President, Extropy Institute