[ExI] Interview w/ Max More "Plugging into the epic , A rational poetry of the future"
kanzure at gmail.com
Tue Dec 28 15:49:10 UTC 2010
2010/12/28 Natasha Vita-More <natasha at natasha.cc>
> Max wrote the high-spirited "Letter to Mother Nature" eleven years ago.
> This article recalls that essay in a heady interview with Max.
“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.*…
A Letter to Mother Nature From Max More ,August
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
If we take Ray Kurzweil<https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Ray_Kurzweil>as
the proponent of the exponential growth into mind and Aubrey
the chief exponent of Body, I think of Max More as the chief exponent
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 <http://www.maxmore.com/proactionary.htm>
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
Indeed when I asked Max about the importance of his
Extropian<http://www.maxmore.com/extprn3.htm>thought his clear answer
“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
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
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
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
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
*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
*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
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
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
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
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
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 <http://www.paleodiet.com/>" 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
As the new CEO of the Alcor Life Extension
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.
Max More has been featured widely in diverse media outlets
For some extensive reading go to Max More dot com
<http://www.maxmore.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
On Becoming Posthuman <http://www.maxmore.com/becoming.htm>
THE EXTROPIAN PRINCIPLES-Version 3.0 - A Transhumanist
Essay: The Overhuman in the Transhuman <http://jetpress.org/v21/more.htm>
This is the third in a series of interviews under the heading of a new
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.
1 512 203 0507
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