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Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being. (Albert Camus)
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    Plugging into the epic , A rational poetry of the future- An essay and interview with Max More
    Project: Polytopia, The Total Library
    “Dear Mother Nature:

    Sorry to disturb you, but we humans—your offspring—come to you with some things to say. (Perhaps you could pass this on to Father, since we never seem to see him around.) We want to thank you for the many wonderful qualities you have bestowed on us with your slow but massive, distributed intelligence. You have raised us from simple self-replicating chemicals to trillion-celled mammals. You have given us free rein of the planet. You have given us a life span longer than that of almost any other animal. You have endowed us with a complex brain giving us the capacity for language, reason, foresight, curiosity, and creativity. You have given us the capacity for self-understanding as well as empathy for others.
    Mother Nature, truly we are grateful for what you have made us. No doubt you did the best you could. However, with all due respect, we must say that you have in many ways done a poor job with the human constitution. You have made us vulnerable to disease and damage. You compel us to age and die—just as we’re beginning to attain wisdom. You were miserly in the extent to which you gave us awareness of our somatic, cognitive, and emotional processes. You held out on us by giving the sharpest senses to other animals. You made us functional only under narrow environmental conditions. You gave us limited memory, poor impulse control, and tribalistic, xenophobic urges. And, you forgot to give us the operating manual for ourselves!
    What you have made us is glorious, yet deeply flawed. You seem to have lost interest in our further evolution some 100,000 years ago. Or perhaps you have been biding your time, waiting for us to take the next step ourselves. Either way, we have reached our childhood’s end.
    We have decided that it is time to amend the human constitution.
    We do not do this lightly, carelessly, or disrespectfully, but cautiously, intelligently, and in pursuit of excellence. We intend to make you proud of us. Over the coming decades we will pursue a series of changes to our own constitution, initiated with the tools of biotechnology guided by critical and creative thinking.


    Continue reading
    A Letter to Mother Nature From Max More ,August 1999








    Eleven years ago, Max More published the above letter to mother nature and I remember at the time thinking, what marvelous way to put in a concise manner the feelings that I imagined many humans must feel.
    But above all what Max More presents is a transhumanist thought that is clear constant, and though evolving across time, his kind of rationality is a brilliant example of how our futures need not be an either- or proposition.
    If we take Ray Kurzweil as the proponent of the exponential growth into mind and Aubrey de Grey as the chief exponent of Body, I think of Max More as the chief exponent of radical sense thought.

    Let me explain.
    Max is a modern thinker of remarkable intelligence and surprising depth, his capacity for the extended application of rationality into the actualization of futures that are neither obvious nor common, is fascinating.
    He may extol the virtues of radical enhancements in all their potential glory and yet that is not where we met. In the realm of ideas and the very real dinner table where we sat and had this most strange conversation, we met in the fuzzy phase space of balanced realism.
    Balanced realism is an interesting kind of perceptive envisioning; it balances the necessary motion into unpredictability with a proactionary principle, a principle that Max More defined as follows:

    People’s freedom to innovate technologically is highly valuable, even critical, to humanity. This implies a range of responsibilities for those considering whether and how to develop, deploy, or restrict new technologies. Assess risks and opportunities using an objective, open, and comprehensive, yet simple decision process based on science rather than collective emotional reactions. Account for the costs of restrictions and lost opportunities as fully as direct effects. Favor measures that are proportionate to the probability and magnitude of impacts, and that have the highest payoff relative to their costs. Give a high priority to people’s freedom to learn, innovate, and advance.
    The Proactionary principle

    What is so special about the proactionary principle is that contrary to the common manner of thought propagated by simple emotional reactions and backed by mass media, it is a view and perspective, a philosophical principle indeed, that rejects fear as the basis of reactivity to the unknown and unpredictable.
    Indeed when I asked Max about the importance of his Extropian thought his clear answer was:
    “What was important for the Extropians was diversity and variety, in fact we rejected the concept of certainty, we always stressed the power of uncertainty, and questioning everything including our own thought processes.”
    And later on the same topic:” The fact that we have a technology does not mean that it will become widespread overnight.. Our culture is full of fear of the future, and so we came up with the proactionary idea- acts that can be done to allay risks instead of the precautionary principle.. it is my response that we need to balance risks and safety..”

    This was an interesting reply, for Max, having coined the term ‘transhumanism’ and thus admittedly one of the ‘fathers’ of the movement aims to improve our ability to anticipate, adapt to, and shape the future for the better. That is why I asked him about his understanding of the term ‘better’.
    Reflecting silently for a few moments (in the very noisy ambience of the restaurant) he finally said that for him better means to carry a philosophy of extropy, as he originally conceived of it, a philosophy of liberation, a radical technological-humanistic urging to break out of the bonds that bind human nature.

    The funny thing that I realized during this delightful conversation was that Max is a very humble person, I say humble because truth to tell I expected someone with his credentials (see endnote) and kind of radical thinking to be, well, an arrogant libertarian.
    Not so, not at all, Max revealed himself to be a very gentle and thoughtful person, and though it is true that the original extropian publications pushed a very strong libertarian agenda, it is not so at present and has not been such for quite some time (though most articles fail to notice the change and evolution of the Extropian thought).
    Max proves to be a fiercely independent mind that does not shy of rejecting authority for its own sake, in fact one of the most impressive statements I have heard from him that evening was that:” .. Everybody is far more certain than they have the right to be.” In this respect Max More is an exponent of a brand of transhumanism that I admire deeply, a quest to unravel and in his terminology ‘unpack too strict definitions that are readily taken for granted and are much too limiting

    Such was the case when I asked him about truth:

    W: Do you believe in truth?
    Max: No I believe in the mechanism of seeking for the truth.. Big difference.



    Max exposed himself to be a humorous and keen intellect, a person of integrity and dynamism, a mind that prefers the seeking of truth as a value in itself more than a desire to settle on conventional and accepted dogmas.
    To my eyes his original descriptions of the Extropian principles show this particular point of view clearly:

    "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.

    (It is highly recommended to read the full text of the Extropian Principles here)



    Defying easy and common labels Max is a vigorous pioneer in more ways than one; his thoughts are to a certain extent a bit unpopular, so to say, especially with regard to the technological singularity, which he sees as a kind of black hole sucking in too much attention and distorting the thinking in the area (see Singularity and Surge scenarios). But his contributions to the transhumanist thought and clarity is probably the most salient and exhaustive you could find.
    Bold and calm, carrying an inner buoyancy barely perceptible, Max acknowledges gently his own vulnerability whilst allowing the strength of his convictions to pull him forward into an unknown future.

    On a more personal note:

    I wrote this short, certainly far from exhaustive, essay and interview in the hope of capturing some of the vision and maybe insights Max exemplifies, and I hope that for those unfamiliar with Max More’s thought, this will be an introduction of sorts.
    There is a great abundance of thoughts and perspectives in the Transhuman infocology, and yet to my eyes, few if any carry the temerity and maybe nerve as the one promoted by and easily accessible through the mind of Max More.
    The interest I found in this quite unusual human is twofold; Max embeds in his rationality a quest as old as human thought, the quest of infinite betterment, he does this with a flair for the poetic which I find both attractive and more importantly crucial to our co-involvement with the creation of our own futures and destinies.
    Concomitantly with his very thorough aesthetic rationality Max exhibits a natural affinity with a still non-existent future, as if to some extent his process of envisioning plays some highly sophisticated game of update and affirmation, pruning that which he believes does not belong anymore and creating in the process a pragmatic approach to what at times appears as sheer fiction (which is nothing less than an idea for mature beings).
    He is, it must be said, much more cautious than I am, a trait that in our communication has risen its head and provided some savory bites of conjoined laughter and sharp fun.
    As I saw him, Max has embarked years ago upon an adventure, desiring to plug himself deeply into the epic that is the future history of humanity, an epic that I believe he helps write, clarify and update.
    And though a deeply committed individual I met him as warrior poets convene, in utter conviviality and simplicity, in an open and critical discourse, both grand and trivial issues of self and humanity at large, interplaying seamlessly.

    Sheer fun.


    Breaking news:

    We wish to extend many warm congratulations to Max, following this announcement that just came in:

    Alcor Life Extension Foundation Names Max More, PhD, as Chief Executive Officer.
    I therefore asked Max to write a few words that will provide an overview of his views in relation to his taking the CEO position at Alcor, an appointment both important and interesting.

    MM: " As a transhumanist, I look forward to a future in which I, and everyone who wants to, has progressively overcome their nature-imposed limits on intelligence, emotional refinement, achievement, and enjoyment. All those future possibilities (and the difficult challenges that will accompany them) can only be realized if we stay alive. The lack of substantial progress in understanding and halting aging over the 30 or so years since I became deeply committed to radical life extension is disturbing. I've also seen several good friends die, some of them permanently and irreversibly. These factors are part of the reason I'm jumping back into cryonics. Rather than hoping that anti-aging research will pick up the pace sufficiently to save my life and the lives of those I love (as well as those I just tolerate!), it seems to me that cryopreservation is a vital back-up plan.

    In our loosely defined community of transhumanists, human augmentation advocations, and life extensionists, we strongly agree on the desirability of extending our life spans. Yet too many of us fail to take some of the measures that could make a significant difference to our prospects for future life. I've always tried to take care of my health, although I've often been far from perfect. Recently, that's led me to become an enthusiast for the "paleo diet" and exercise program.

    Starting over 24 years ago, it's also why I made arrangements for my cryopreservation, and why I co-founded Alcor-UK (as it came to be called) in 1986.

    As the new CEO of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, I am now officially asking fellow transhumanists: If you're not signed up for cryopreservation, *why not*? Yes, I know there are all kinds of reasons, often perfectly reasonable. But I'd like to challenge those who don't have this back-up plan in place to reconsider those reasons. I'll also be happy to talk with anyone interested in signing up but who sees obstacles in their way, whether it's financial, family opposition, doubts about the feasibility of cryopreservation, or distance from cryonics organizations.

    I'm honored to have been given the CEO position by Alcor's board of directors, and look forward to raising the organization to new heights, protecting our existing cryopreserved patients, while growing the organization and improving its practices and technology.

    A bit of history about my early involvement in cryonics: I first became interested in cryonics in the early 1980s, regularly reading Cryonics magazine. In 1986, I traveled from England to Southern California to spend six weeks immersed in cryonics training and practice, mainly from Mike Darwin and Jerry Leaf. Jerry took me to UCLA where he instructed me on cannulation in dogs. While in California, I became an Alcor member (the 67th member at the time), and remained one for many years. Returning to England, I led the founding of Alcor-UK (originally Mizar Limited), becoming its president, and began producing the organization's magazine/newsletter, Biostasis. I did many radio, television, and newspaper interviews to launch the organization, right up until the day I left the country to pursue graduate studies at the University of Southern California.
    *
    We wish Max a fruitful and successful leadership of this important foundation and believe it is a positive move both for him personally and the Alcor foundation and for those of us that are already or may yet join the ranks of cryo-extensionists.



    Endnotes:

    Max More has been featured widely in diverse media outlets

    For some extensive reading go to Max More dot com (his own website)

    Selected viewing and readings:

    Watch this Video: Max More - Singularity Summit at Stanford: Cognitive and Emotional Singularities: Will Superintelligence come with Superwisdom?

    On Becoming Posthuman

    THE EXTROPIAN PRINCIPLES-Version 3.0 - A Transhumanist Declaration

    Essay: The Overhuman in the Transhuman


    This is the third in a series of interviews under the heading of a new project :
    Free Radicals- interviews with possibilities

    Free radicals are extraordinary humans that promote the emergent paradigm shift of post humanity.
    There is no claim of objectivity here but an unabashed bias towards a techno-optimistic, aesthetically pleasing future evolution of humanity.
    The humans I have chosen to interview reflect different perspectives of multidimentionality and multiversality as regards the change and transformation of human nature.


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    Comments:


    giulio     Mon, Dec 27, 2010  Permanent link
    Thanks Wildcat for publishing this great article and interview, and congratulations to Max for his new role as CEO of Alcor.

    To answer Max' question "If you're not signed up for cryopreservation, *why not*?":

    I am signed, with the Cryonics Institute. However, I don't have much hopes in successful suspension, because there are too many regulatory obstacles for us Europeans, for example it is very difficult to ship frozen patients to the US. Also, cryonics is too unPC for today's nanny state control freaks, and I fear they will put up more and more obstacles. Unfortunately our live-and-let-live approach to life extension (and life in general) is out of fashion.

    Having said that, I hope to be frozen, but as an intermediate step to post-biological life via mind uploading. And I am very interested in alternative non-cryo personal preservation schemes like chemical preservation (see http://brainpreservation.org/) optimized for future uploading.
     
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