Onwards and Upwards

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.

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 indefinite lifespans, 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.

Extropianism
 
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Transhumanism is an international intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.

Transhumanist thinkers study the potential benefits and dangers of emerging and hypothetical technologies that could overcome fundamental human limitations, as well as study the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies. They predict that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into beings with such greatly expanded abilities as to merit the label "posthuman."

Outline of Transhumanism

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The anti-aging movement is a social movement devoted to eliminating or reversing aging, or reducing the effects of it. A substantial portion of the attention of the movement is on the possibilities for life extension, but there is also interest in techniques such as cosmetic surgery which ameliorate the effects of aging rather than delay or defeat it.

Two popular proponents of the anti-aging movement include Ray Kurzweil, who thinks humanity can defeat aging through the advance of technology, and Aubrey De Grey, who thinks the human body is a very complicated machine and thus, can be repaired indefinitely. Other scientists and significant contributors to the movement include molecular biologists, geneticists, and biomedical gerontologists such as Gary Ruvkun, Cynthia Kenyon, and Arthur D. Levinson.

Anti-aging movement

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According to transhumanist thinkers, a posthuman is a hypothetical future being "whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by our current standards."

Posthumans could be completely synthetic artificial intelligences, or a symbiosis of human and artificial intelligence, or uploaded consciousnesses, or the result of making many smaller but cumulatively profound technological augmentations to a biological human, i.e. a cyborg

Key to this posthuman practice is the ability to fluidly change perspectives and manifest oneself through different identities.

Posthuman

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In sociology, anthropology, and linguistics, structuralism is the methodology that implies elements of human culture must be understood by way of their relationship to a broader, overarching system or structure.

It works to uncover the structures that underlie all the things that humans do, think, perceive, and feel.

Alternatively, as summarized by philosopher Simon Blackburn, structuralism is "the belief that phenomena of human life are not intelligible except through their interrelations. These relations constitute a structure, and behind local variations in the surface phenomena there are constant laws of abstract culture".

'Structuralism'


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Suppose there are the phenomena A, B, and C, and each of them is itself without any self-nature, yet they are all related. Consequently, the existence of A as "A" is determined by its relation to B and C and all other phenomena.

Everything is related to everything; nothing can be considered apart from its relatedness to the whole.

Although A is without self-nature, still it is A because of its relationship to everything else. In short, the inner structure of A includes everything else in hidden or "powerless" form. And by such relationship A is A, not B or C.

The entire universe supports the existence of any single thing, and absolutely nothing exists as an individual particular by itself alone. All things continually and simultaneously manifest themselves together as a whole. The philosophy of the Hua-yen calls this ontological reality "Interdependent Origination."

As no "individual" can exist in itself alone, it exists by the support of everything other than itself.

[Hayao Kawai]
Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy, p.101-2


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In his book, Bostrom considers a distant future in which trillions of digital minds merge into an enormous cognitive cyber-soup.

“Whether the set of extremely positive posthuman modes of being would include some kind of dissolved bouillon, there is some uncertainty,” he said. “If you look at religious views, there are many where merging with something greater is a form of heaven, being in the presence of this enormous beauty and goodness. In many traditions, the best possible state does not involve being a little individual pursuing goals.

'The Doomsday Invention: Will artificial intelligence bring us utopia or destruction?'

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If you put God outside and set him vis-à-vis his creation and if you have the idea that you are created in his image, you will logically and naturally see yourself as outside and against the things around you.

And as you arrogate all mind to yourself, you will see the world around you as mindless and therefore not entitled to moral or ethical consideration. The environment will seem to be yours to exploit. Your survival unit will be you and your folks or conspecifics against the environment of other social units, other races and the brutes and vegetables.

If this is your estimate of your relation to nature and you have an advanced technology, your likelihood of survival will be that of a snowball in hell. You will die either of the toxic by-products of your own hate, or, simply, of overpopulation and overgrazing. The raw materials of the world are finite.

If I am right, the whole of our thinking about what we are and what other people are has got to be restructured [...] If we continue to operate on the premises that were fashionable in the precybernetic era, and which were especially underlined and strengthened during the Industrial Revolution, which seemed to validate the Darwinian unit of survival, we may have [little time] before the logical reductio ad absurdum of our old positions destroys us.

The most important task today is, perhaps, to learn to think in the new way.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p.468


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The notion that all these fragments is separately existent is evidently an illusion, and this illusion cannot do other than lead to endless conflict and confusion.

Indeed, the attempt to live according to the notion that the fragments are really separate is, in essence, what has led to the growing series of extremely urgent crises that is confronting us today.

Thus, as is now well known, this way of life has brought about pollution, destruction of the balance of nature, over-population, world-wide economic and political disorder and the creation of an overall environment that is neither physically nor mentally healthy for most of the people who live in it.

Individually there has developed a widespread feeling of helplessness and despair, in the face of what seems to be an overwhelming mass of disparate social forces, going beyond the control and even the comprehension of the human beings who are caught up in it.

[David Bohm]
Wholeness and the Implicate Order


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A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.

Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. ... The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self ...

We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.

[Albert Einstein]


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In the traditional society, the most respected person was the lama. In the modern sector, it is the engineer.

[..] The world views of the lama and the engineer are very different. The old beliefs were based on a description of reality that emphasized the unity or dependent origination of all life, whereas the new scientific perspective emphasizes its separateness.

It seems to say that we stand apart - outside the rest of creation. And to gain a greater understanding of the way nature works, we simply have to split matter into smaller and smaller fragments and examine the various pieces in isolation.

The shift from lama to engineer represents a shift from ethical values that encourage an empathetic and compassionate relationship with all that lives toward a value-free "objectivity" that has no ethical foundation.

[Helena Norberg-Hodge]
Ancient Futures: Learning From Ladakh, p.108-9


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What links:

A. The decline in bee numbers










B. The decline in Fernando Torres' career?










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When you look in the mirror you see yourself as an object. You see your eyes, you see your nose, you see your face, you see your body. And that’s pretty much what you see when you look at other people. But that isn’t all there is to you. In fact, that’s hardly any of what there is to you. 

So you could say, for example, you exist at the level of the quantum particle [...] Above that level you exist at an atomic level, and then a molecular level, and then you exist at the level of complex organs and the interactions between those organs. And then you, and then your family, and then the groups that your family belongs to. And then the ecosystems that the groups  belong to and so on and so forth until what it is that you are can expand to encompass virtually anything.
 
Now, when you look at yourself you don’t see that. You see yourself at a certain level of resolution [...] but all those other levels are equally real and equally relevant. And we in fact have very little idea how it is that you’re only able to see what you see. Almost nothing has obvious boundaries and this has real world consequences, it’s not something that’s merely abstract. 

The technical term for this problem , the problem of how to bind your perceptions to limit them, is called the frame problem. The frame problem emerges to cause all sorts of trouble for people. 

So, for example, when Henry Ford invented the automobile [he presumed he was] building an efficient means of transporting people from one place to the other. There were other unintended consequences of Ford’s  discovery.

[...] Ford happened to be a great supporter of Fascism. And the reason that he was a supporter of Fascism was because he regarded the Fascist political structure as a logical extension of the efficient methods that he’d used to assemble vehicles. So his mode of production was instantly manifested in a political philosophy.

Furthermore now - 2009 - a hundred years after the invention of the automobile, we’ve discovered some other things that the car was, other than a place to move people from point A to point B.

So for example, it turns out that the automobile and the internal combustion engine are among the most effective technologies ever devised to transform the nature of the atmosphere to heat up the world. Not only that, the car has completely transformed the nature of cities.

And these were all unintended consequences of the fact that the car was far more than what people thought it was. 

You can say that about any technological structure. No one knew what TV would do to the news, for example. No one knew what the internet would do to the music industry. Everything that you interact with is far more complicated than you see.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
'Reality and the Sacred'


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Class Division

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Upper class                      Middle Class                   Lower Class
Too much care                          -                              Too little care
Gentle                                       -                               Rough
Distant                                      -                                Close
Hands off                                  -                               Hands on
Many boundaries                      -                               No boundaries
Thick walls                               -                               Thin walls
Rigid                                         -                               Loose
Clean                                         -                              Dirty
Quiet                                         -                               Loud

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View #1 - Area A - (Thesis)


“People here talk loudly, and frequently shout at one another. Kids can often be heard crying, and parents shouting. Their language and tone is aggressive. Tempers fray easily. They don’t look after anything very well, be it themselves, their kids, or their environment. The streets are strewn with litter and dog muck. Their gardens and yards are in a terrible state. There is no sense of ownership or responsibility. They’re totally selfish and have no consideration of other people. They are terrible neighbours.”


View #2 - Area B - (Antithesis)


“People here are quiet and reserved. They rarely seem to talk to each other, and when they do it seems false and awkward, as if they’re holding something back, or they’d rather be elsewhere. They never show any passion, its as if they’re all afraid of each other. They seem to care more about their gardens than their families. They’re judgemental, of everyone. They always seem to be looking about with suspicious eyes. There’s no life here, everyone keeps to themselves. I bet they're all constipated.”


View #3 - Area A/B - (Synthesis)


"In Area A people live at a close distance to one another, both literally and figuratively. Their houses are smaller, and placed closer together, and many live in flats, with people above, below and to the side. Their boundaries are thin, and easy to cross or disregard. Sometimes those boundaries are so thin that they barely seem to exist at all. Things flow freely through them; smalltalk, arguments, insults, love, hate, affection, aggression - all of the things that pass between people.

People in Area A feel closer to one another, which has its upsides and its downsides. Being closer, they are more able to touch one another; sometimes with affection, sometimes with aggression. Across thin boundaries its easier to be seen and heard - to shout, laugh, cry, and interact with one another. Thus, people interact more often, albeit not always in the most convivial ways. There is a stronger sense of community here, because people know each other better.

What this area lacks are those positive things we associate with distance, and thicker walls. Privacy, for instance, is not as easy to come by, nor its corollaries - silence, seclusion, space. With distance comes the space and time to reflect, and so life can seem to pass at a slightly slower pace. The individual has more room to breathe, and to pause and reflect.

The people in Area A have different sensibilities to the people in Area B. They value closeness; they tend to prefer loud over quiet; fast over slow; expression over repression; active over passive. Those from Area B tend to favour the other side of the opposition.

When people from Area A find themselves in Area B they tend to say that it is:

- too quiet
- too clean
- too distant
- too repressive
- too little life

When people from Area B find themselves in Area A they tend to say that it is:

- too loud
- too messy
- too close
- too expressive
- too much life

As with any binary, one side always possesses what the other lacks. From where I stand here between them I can see that both have something to learn from each other."


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One of the most shameful things I can admit as a working class person is I want to be middle class - cuz look at how cooshty their lives seem to be!

If a middle class individual expects a trigger warning, maybe it's because they're able to pick and choose and control most of the environments they go to in their lives on the regular and expect it elsewhere too, and I don't begrudge them that, it's all they've known, whereas having to see some brutal shit every other day is all that other people have known.

The latter implies a heavy desensitisation that I don't think humanity should aim for - I don't like the idea that we grab everyone by the neck and point at something shit and say "look, this is what real life is like!" I don't want my working class identity to be promoted by making a mockery of the middle classes. I'd rather we destroyed class.

[Scott Wilson]
Youtube comment on 'Trigger Warning: Final thoughts and summary before ceasing transmission'


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Life and Death (and everything in-between)














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+                                                     -
Life                          -                    Death
Con-   Syn-              -                    De-
Together                   -                   Apart
Multiply                   -                    Divide
Synergy                    -                   Entropy
Synthesis                  -                    Analysis
Induction                  -                    Deduction
Construct                  -                    Destroy
Concentrate              -                    Decentrate
Conserve                   -                    Deplete
Confirm                     -                    Deny
Centripetal                -                    Centrifugal
Attach                       -                     Detach
Close                         -                    Distant
Tight                          -                    Loose
Conservative              -                    Liberal



Stay on the left too long and we seize up, become a statue.
Stay on the right too long and we fall apart, lose ourselves.

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In all things there is a pull towards dissolution, and an opposite pull towards unification. This tug of war is everywhere, at all scales; from a society, to the bodies that make up that society, to the cells that make up those bodies.

It is the interchange between life and death.

Life is a combining of things; to preserve life, things must be kept together. Death, on the other hand, strives to pull those things apart.

When we look at a society we can see these processes. There are always those who pull towards the centre. These are the individuals who aim to preserve the status quo, who want to keep things as they are. We could call this a drive towards life, inasmuch as change would mean death to society in its current form, for it to be reborn in another. And of course, that new form would require its life force - those pulling inwards - in order to keep it healthy.

There are also those who pull in the opposite direction, towards the outside.  They want to pull society apart. We could call them change agents, and they represent the drive towards death, death being synonymous with change.

Neither of these are any better than the other. Context defines their value. When something is not working, when it must be pulled apart, then those that seek to keep it together could be described as dysfunctional. When something is working, and must be kept together, then the situation is reversed.

Status-quo agents will always insist that it is working; or that, at the very least, it is ‘okay’; that death is too extreme; that change is not necessary.

Change agents will always insist that it is not working; that it is never okay; that change is always necessary.

Perhaps it remains, then, to those that lie in-between to decide what is necessary; life, or death?

None of us are ever all for life, or all for death. We all contain both poles within us. However, it may be true to say that we contain them in differing amounts. So there will be some that are inclined towards the status quo in any given situation; who feel an urge to conserve and protect. And there are others who are more inclined to pull at the seams; to question and critique. So whilst we all lie in between life and death, some lie nearer to one than the other. It is their combination that produces balance, and health. It is, therefore, imperative for the health of any collective, that all voices are given an airing.

It is context that defines which voice is heeded in any given situation. If you have something that works then you would be wise to amplify those voices that seek to keep it together and to diminish those voices that seek to pull it apart. If you have something that does not work then the opposite is true.

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Barthes disapproves of any art that merely makes itself available to gratify its culture.

According to this view, Fisher-Dieskau is flattering petit-bourgeois society by offering it an image of its own perfection, of the sense of itself as perfect. He allows his talent to coincide with the particular kind of perfection a petit-bourgeois culture dreams of. Panzera’s art, apparently, set itself aslant its culture.

For the same reason, Barthes prefers Landowska to other harpsichordists, and Lipatti to other pianists: their playing is never flattened to perfection, they don’t add intention to the music or fuss over its every detail, contrary to petit-bourgeois art which, according to Barthes, is ‘always indiscreet.’

[…] Barthes argued that every aesthetic merit depends upon an interrogative and ultimately subversive relation between the art and its society. There should always be a certain recalcitrance.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 58



Those at the periphery are interested in deconstructing culture, rather than perfecting it. They seek alternatives to the status quo - new paths, new solutions, new forms. They adhere to the principle of destruction, and are moved by a centrifugal force.

Those at the centre adhere to the principle of creation, or consolidation, and are moved by a centripetal force. They are interested in the perfection of certain prescribed forms.

Barthes was, perhaps, someone who dwelled at the outskirts, and as such wasn’t interested in confirmatory, petit-bourgeois art. Barthes valued art as exploration, as a means to find alternatives to the conventional forms of the centre.

Donoghue paints him as a partisan, as someone who was committed to the ideals of the periphery to the exclusion of the centre. Accordingly, he doesn’t value art as confirmation: he insists that art always ought to be interrogative, subversive, and recalcitrant in its relation to society; that it ought never to be entirely enamoured. As a partisan, he cannot (or will not) see the value of his opposition; he cannot enjoy confirmatory art, it repels his sensibility (and his politics).

In Barthes’s view, society can never be entirely good, or good-enough; it must always be questioned.

It seems to me that society should be both questioned, and accepted. In other words, there must be those elements within it that confirm it, and those that deny it. Society itself exists as a tug of war between these factions. As with most partisans, Barthes, seemingly, can't admit to the value of his opponent; perhaps because to do so would be to weaken his hand. He is embattled; and in a battle any gesture of reconciliation may be turned against you. 


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