|This article relies on references to primary sources. (November 2009)|
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Extropianism, also referred to as the philosophy of Extropy, is an evolving framework of values and standards for continuously improving the human condition. Extropians believe that advances in science and technology will some day let people live indefinitely. An extropian may wish to contribute to this goal, e.g. by doing research and development or volunteering to test new technology.
Originated by a set of principles developed by Dr. Max More, The Principles of Extropy, extropian thinking 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 or mind uploading, of those whose bodies/brains have been preserved by means of cryonics.
The term 'extropy', as an antonym to 'entropy' was used in a 1967 academic volume discussing cryogenics and in a 1978 academic volume of cybernetics. Diane Duane was the first to use the term "extropy" to signify a potential transhuman destiny for humanity. 'Extropy' as coined by Tom Bell (T.O. Morrow) and defined by Max More in 1988, is "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 is not a rigorously defined technical term in philosophy or science; in a metaphorical sense, it simply expresses the opposite of entropy.
A more recent definition of Extropy has been provided by Kevin Kelly, senior maverick at Wired magazine. "Extropy is neither wave, nor particle, nor pure energy. It is a non-material force that is very much like information. Since Extropy is defined as negative entropy-the reversal of disorder-it is, by definition, an increase in order." Kelly gives this definition of extropy in his research on the evolution of technology.
In the philosophy of digital probabilistic physics, the extropy of a physical system is defined to be the self-information of the Markov chain probability of the physical system at a moment in time. This was to distinguish the probability of the Markov state of the physical system from the probability defined by entropy which creates ensembles of equivalent microstates.
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, as of August 2009, continues to exist as "Extropy-Chat"), 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 Humanity+, the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, the Life Extension Foundation, Foresight Institute, Transhumanist Arts & Culture, The Extropist Examiner, the Immortality Institute, Betterhumans, Aleph in Sweden, 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, stating that its mission was "essentially completed."
Extropism is a modern derivative of the transhumanist philosophy of Extropianism. It follows in the same tradition, hence the similarity of name, but has been revised to better suit the paradigms of the 21st century. As introduced in The Extropist Manifesto, it promotes an optimistic futuristic philosophy that can be summed up in the following five phrases, which spell out the word "EXTROPISM":
- Endless eXtension
- Transcending Restriction
- Overcoming Property
- Smart Machines
These five key points, when taken together, formulate a philosophy and world view which embraces bio-ethical abolitionism, life extension, singularitarianism, technogaianism, freedom of information and several other related disciplines and philosophies. While it does not make a firm political stance, it is most closely related to libertarian socialism (given that it supports the abolition of money and property). Philosophically, it draws from the philosophy of Jeremy Bentham and utilitarianism.
Extropists desire to prolong their life span to a near-immortal state and exist in a world where artificial intelligence and robotics have made work irrelevant. As in utilitarianism, the purpose of one's life should be to increase the overall happiness of all creatures on Earth through cooperation.
The Extropist Manifesto, written by Breki Tomasson and Hank Hyena of The Extropist Examiner in January 2010 (site since discontinued), details the ways in which Extropism has evolved away from, while building upon the original tenets of Extropianism. For example, it moves away from the original Extropian Principles by placing a significant focus on the need to abolish and/or restrict the current use of surveillance, copyright and patent laws. This philosophy, inspired in part by the philosophy of the International Pirate Party, is one of the five basic tenets of the Extropist philosophy, falling under the category "Overcoming Property". Other noteworthy topics that appear frequently in Extropist writings is the focus on equal rights for LGBT couples and individuals and a general distaste for organized religiosity.
- Max More (2003). "Principles of Extropy (Version 3.11) : An evolving framework of values and standards for continuously improving the human condition". Extropy Institute
- Cryogenics, IPC Science and Technology Press, vol. 7, pg. 225 (1967)
- Proceedings of the Fourth International Congress of Cybernetics & Systems: "Current Topics in Cybernetics and Systems", pg. 258 (1978)
- Duane, Diane. "The Wounded Sky" (1983)
- Kelly, Kevin (April 2011). "Understanding Technological Evolution and Diversity". The Futurist 45 (2): 44–48. ISSN 0016-3317.
- Extropy Institute (2006). "Next Steps". Retrieved 2006-05-05.
- The Extropist Manifesto. The Extropist Examiner (blog).
- Max More (1998). "The Extropian Principles (Version 3.0) : A Transhumanist Declaration". Extropy Institute.
- Kevin Kelly on Extropy - Kevin Kelly at The Technium, August 29, 2009
- "Transhumanism's Extropy Institute - Transhumanism for a better future". Retrieved 1 August 2013.