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Gaians vs Extropians?

The following is from external link Gaia Nation

Gaians and Extropians (aka Transhumanists) may constitute two great divergancies in the vision of future human development

On the one hand, Gaians aim at recognition of the complex of nested selves which is Gaia, at harmonizing themselves with the unlimited potential of Gaian life for creative development, and at a future in which we discover ourselves in a profound way as part of this being, and derive our sense of identity and meaning therein.

On the other hand, Extropians seem aimed at a future in which humans devour and transform this planet to their own creations, then leave it to continue this activity throughout the universe, probably as minds uploaded to self replicating cyborgs.

I suspect this Extropian vision has much to do with the 'use it up and move on' attitude that has brought us to our present condition.

Is what is offered by the Extropians really nothing more than an infinite extension of the wilderness frontier, thus allowing us to continue the same destructive pattern of activity for all time?

Anders Sandberg Responds:

I agree that there is a big difference in values between gaians and extropians; Jaron Lanier called it the Steward/Extropian division and Hugo de Garis the Terrestrialist/Cosmist views. The fundamental difference seems to be about whether we should preserve what we got as it is or if we should try to make it better. I don't expect it to be possible to reconcile these different values, and instead hope they can co-exist (if necessary by having the extropians go into space or something similar).

However, I think you are misrepresenting the extropian position. While there certainly are 'use it up and move on' extropians, they appear to be a small minority (just as I expect 'mankind is a disease that must be purged' gaians to be a small minority). In fact, the extropian mindset clearly values life and complexity; a biosphere is the embodiment of extropy! There is extropian environmentalism seeking to preserve what can be preserved of the rainforests, there have been elaborate discussions of how to spread life across the universe and let it evolve on its own with minimal (post)human interaction.

My own position is basically in agreement with Anders. I see absolutely no contradiction between the Transhumanist and the Gaian positions. In fact, I would probably define my own philosophy in thois regard as Eco-transhumanist; technology and gaianism being two complementary polarities, and technology is necessary if Gaia is to fulfill its potential and replicate biospheres through space (using humankind as the brains cum genitals!)

Hence, I would suggest, Transhumanism and Gaianism actually need each other. That is, a non-transhumanist Gaianism would be limited to primitivism and resource scarcity, and unable to get off the surface of the planet. Eiether a man-made or a natural disaster could wipe out terragen life foreever. And in any case eventually the sun will heat up and make life on Earth impossible. Conversely, a non-gaian transhumanism would be arid and sterile, mechanical or virtual without or with only the most superficial, sense of life. It is rather like Einstein's famous statement that "Religion without science is blind, science without religion is lame." If humanity and life is to survive and flourish in the future, this is the paradigm that is needed.

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page uploaded 11 April 2002, last modified 1 June 2003