Those Uncanny Ex-Men - You'll die before the Extropians die
Freeze Head, Save Ass
by John Whalen
Photos by Christopher Gardner
Romana Machado plans to live forever. Well, if not forever then for as
long as is feasible given the current hurdles to immortality. Yeah, you
say, Don't they all? Isn't that what packs quivering mortals into the
pews each week? Isn't that the same crumbling sentiment preserved inside
those overdecorated Egyptian mummy crates?
Maybe. But Romana counts herself extremely lucky to have been born part
of the first generation in all of history with access to some pretty powerful
stuff: modern technology. You see, when Romana dies, she plans to have
herself frozen and preserved--actually, just her head--until modern science
figures out a way to beat death. To believe Romana and her cohorts, humankind
is about to enter a fresh phase of evolution, a brave new world where
old limitations like our pathetically brief life spans and embarrassingly
low-wattage brain power will become historical footnotes, like polio or
Who are these microchip Methuselas-in-waiting? They call themselves "Extropians,"
and they've engineered an upbeat, forward-thinking, accept-no-limits,
reach-for-the-stars philosophy-cum-plan of action: "Extropy."
Anything but idle dreamers, Extropians are organized; they pay dues; they
keep plenty of ice packs on hand, and they churn out newsletters and think
Extropy, explains Romana, is the exact opposite of entropy. You may recall
the depressing concept of entropy from high school physics: The Second
Law of Thermodynamics states that the universe and everything in it will
expand and cool and die a horribly tepid, pointless death. Everything
eventually succumbs to disorder and decay. Bummer city.
Present-day science and society may stoically accept that curse as inevitable,
but Romana and her fellow Extropians aim to eradicate the scourge of mortality,
or at least postpone it for a few millennia. Although that may sound like
a pipe dream, the Extropians think they're onto something. And there are
plenty who agree.
After a giddy write-up in Wired magazine last year, the Extropians' phones
began ringing like crazy, their Internet discussions overflowing with
new participants, their membership rolls growing with former mortals who
are mad as hell about dying and are not going to take it anymore! Hard-core
dues-paying membership is now hovering around 400--mostly centered in
the West, particularly in Silicon Valley and Southern California, the
capitals of techno-fetishism and death denial, respectively. Meanwhile,
interest in the group's quarterly journal is piquing, and circulation
has jumped from 3,000 to 5,000 in recent months.
Extropian thinking only begins with banishing the nuissance of mortality.
From there it really heads into outer space--literally--in terms of "off
planet migration" and lots of other outre, Star Trekish designs,
including the neat theoretical trick of "uploading" their minds
onto a vehicle superior to the human body.
Romana emphasizes her youthful health by dressing in slinky, black ensembles
that are suggestive of bondage and domination.
The movement's surprizingly coherent philosophy is spelled out in its
quasi-grammatical credo, compiled by the group's co-founder, Max More.
More's official "Extropian Principles" (which are "version-numbered
so they don't get stale," just like computer software) are summarized
thus: "BEST DO IT SO!" This Nike-like slogan/acronym conveniently
spells out the five Extropian values: "Boundless Expansion, Self-Transformation,
Dynamic Optimism, Intelligent Technology, and Spontaneous Order."
Translation: In their wide-eyed "optimism" for the future, Extropians
have rehabilitated some rather old-fashioned ideas about technological
Progress being the answer to all our problems. Extropians are definitely
pro-growth; they're all for "expanding into the universe and advancing
without end," as More's principles spell it out. They're also decidedly
anti-government, preferring the "spontaneous order" of the "free
market" to "self-proclaimed and involuntarily imposed authorities.
. . political solutions, unquestioning obedience to leaders, and inflexible
hierarchies." They oppose "apocalyptic environmentalism,"
More writes, "which hallucinates catastrophe, issues a stream of
irresponsible doomsday predictions, and attempts to strangle our continued
Mix that supercharged libertarianism with the Extropians' cyberpunkish
dream of transforming themselves--just as we transform our miraculous
machines into ever-improving models--into superior biological mechanisms
capable of cheating death, thinking faster and smarter, looking buff at
age 70, transcending "'natural' limits imposed by our biological
heritage," flitting about in outer space, etc. Sprinkle in the upbeat
pop psychology of the 1970s self-realization movement ("Extropians
espouse a positive, dynamic, empowering attititude"). Season illiberally
with quotations from the individualist philosophers--Adam Smith's conservative
economics, Nietzsche's vision of the unfettered uberman, Ayn Rand's bootstraps-plus
egotism, and the science fiction libertarianism of Robert Stranger in
a Strange Land Heinlein, and you've got a glimmer of what Extropians are
all about: Don't tread on me, let me find my own level, leave me to my
guns, don't impose speed limits on my technology, and don't naysay the
As Extropians see it, those who worry excessively about the dark side
of progress tend to engage in "disasterbation," as Silicon Valley
Extropian (and incessant-coiner-of-punning-jargon) Dave Kreiger puts it.
Human progress for the better is inexorable, Extropians argue, if only
we just let it happen. That's not to say that Extropians are waiting around
for natural selection to do it's thing. Hardly.
Take, for instance, Romana's assertive life extension program, typical
of the Extropian plan of action. She pops vitamins, slurps nutrient-fortified
powders, and drops "smart drugs" as if she were feeding "a
very precious lab rat," as she puts it. Moreover, she works out,
body and mind. Though she's in her mid-thirties, she emphasizes her youthful
health by dressing in slinky, black ensembles that are (not accidentally)
suggestive of (take-charge) bondage and domination: shimmering velvet
catwoman outfits, pointy knee-high boots, lots of functional leather,
chains, and laces holding everything taught and together. At her day job
at Apple Computer, where she hunts for bugs in that hinky Newton thing,
she sometimes sports a custom-made pair of black leather, lace-up gauntlets
that double as fashion statement and therapy for carpel tunnel syndrome,
the computer programmer's plague. She models on the side ("nudes,
glamor photography, lingerie, that sort of thing") and has appeared
in Playboy (November 1985) and in newspaper ads for Leather Masters, the
San Jose sex boutique. She's even got a World Wide Web page on the Internet
to promote her modeling portfolio and to push what she calls her "life
Of course, there's a political, very Extropian statement behind all of
this apparent self-promotion: "Enjoying and profiting from what I
own is fully in line with my philosophy," announces Romana, who is
also given to quoting Malcolm Forbes.
And after short-sighted Mother Nature revokes the youthful vigor that
brings enjoyment and profit, Romana plans to cheat the Bitch by immersing
her head in liquid nitrogen chilled to negative 321 degrees Fahrenheit.
Romana isn't alone in this master plan--most Extropians are banking on
cryonics--the currently wishful science of freezing the dead for reanimation
in the more technologically capable future--to sidestep the Grim Reaper.
"Cryonics is the second-worst thing that could happen to you,"
says Romana. "Death is the worst thing."
It's much cheaper to freeze just a person's head rather than her entire
body. As some Extropians like to put it, "Freeze your head to save
After she "deanimates" of natural causes, Romana will have her
head cut off (less expensive than preserving the entire body) and chilled
in a temperature-controlled stainless steel container known as a dewer
until medical technology devises a cure for humankind's most stuborn affliction:
kicking the bucket.
This isn't necessarily a narcissistic yuppie obsession. After all, who
actually wants to die? Romana asks. Aside from a few hardcase, heaven-bent
religious zealots and maybe the clientele of Dr. Kevorkian, no one in
his or her right mind. Extropians aim to get off their butts and do something
Last year, when Romana addressed the kindred souls in the Northern California
chapter of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation--the leading lifetime membership
club dedicated to cryonically freezing its members for future reanimation--she
planned to title her talk, "Self-Transformation and Immortality."
OK, by the time she got to the lectern, her more conservative neurons
had prevailed and she modified the title to "Self-Transformation
and Extreme Longevity." But her basic point remained unchanged. Extropians
and Alcor clients (whose memberships tend to overlap) are banking on "transcending"
human limits. Extropians talk about becoming "transhuman," and
when they are in a particularly bold frame of mind, they'll reach for
the adjective, "posthuman.""Like humanism," said Romana,
quoting the Extropian guidelines for the benefit of the Alcor contingent,
"transhumanism values reason and humanity, and sees no grounds for
belief in unknowable, supernatural forces controlling our destiny, but
goes further in urging us to push beyond the merely human stage of evolution."
Merely human stage of evolution? Transhumanism? What is this, the raygun
liturgy of science fiction enthusiasts--that subset of Trekkies who landed
in the "gifted" class in gradeschool? Maybe. But the Extropians
are dead serious--make that deanimated serious. They really want to become
"ex"-men, as it were. There's isn't an intentionally satirical
philosophy/religion like, say, the Church of the Subgenius. Nor is it
a bona fide religion or a cult, either, though Extropians--despite their
emphasis on individualism, are as prone to dogma as any other relatively
unified philosophical movement. The visionaries who co-founded the group
hail from Southern California. Max More and Tom Morrow founded the movement
in 1988. From there the organization grew into an idea mill that spans
newsletters, a plethora of Internet sites, and the formal Extropy Institute.
In 1991 More wrote the movement's seminal essay, "Dynamic Optimism:
Epistemological Psychology for Extropians," an eight-pronged intellectual
exegesis laden with scholarly footnotes, explaining how to adopt and maintain
a cheerful, can-do, Extropian attitude. "Optimists," More wrote,
"don't whine and moan about things that are past or out of their
control." And "optimists will question and probe at any entrenched
limiting assumptions, especially those that appear to lack a rationally
convincing basis." And like that.
Last year, the group beamed into the Sunnyvale Sheraton for the first
annual Extropian gathering, Extro1. They delivered intellectual papers,
handed out a Corporate Award "to a company engaged in extropically
important activity and run in a way unusually conducive to individual
incentive, ingenutiy and autonomy"--the Xerox Corporation, of all
things. And come June in Santa Monica, Extro2 will feature MIT's Marvin
Minsky, the so-called "father of artificial intelligence," as
the keynote speaker. Other techno-luminaries known to turn up at Extropian
events include Stanford University's nanotechnology sage, Eric Drexler--a
kind of patron saint to the Extropians--and USC's fuzzy logic guru, Bart
Kosko, who's a card-carrying Extropian with a capital E.
Minsky, who is also a dues-paying Extropian, sees the group as a sounding
board for "far-out" ideas, extreme concepts (at present) that
mainstream science is reluctant to consider. Extropians, says Minsky,
are "just a bunch of bright people with interesting ideas, so I like
to talk to some of them. For me, it's kind of a little club of people,
and if I have a radical idea, then I can get some serious discussion of
So it may be a bit premature to write off the Extropians as marginal loonbags.
As a kid, Max More was partial to X-Men comics, which starred preternaturally
gifted teen misfits with the ability to turn into human ice cubes--not
unlike Alcor clients.
Of course, the Extropian philosophy revolves around being marginalized,
and nobody personifies that unfortunate-but-galvinizing condition better
than Max More, the guiding light of the Extropian movement. Born Max O'Connor
in Bristol, England, in 1964, he got his name because "I was the
heaviest baby in the hospital ward where I was born," he explains.
The "More" surname came later--Extropians have a penchant for
renaming themselves according to their bold outlook, an outward manifestation
of their desire to remake themselves in a more godlike, posthuman image.
So what better way to top Max and push limits than to become a human paradox,
Growing up in England, though, Max felt boxed in, limited, different.
For one thing, his enthusiasm for technology--born of the thrilling Apollo
moon landing--didn't exactly have many practical outlets in England of
1970s. For another thing, his politics were, well, a bit too self-empowering
for the welfare-state mindset of Great Britain.
Like many pre-teenage boys, Max developed a fascination with "overcoming
limits that human beings seem to be stuck with," he says. "And
at a very early age, I was interested in superhero comics--I liked the
idea of these beings who were able to do more than normal humans could."
Max was partial to The X-Men, preternaturally gifted teen misfits with
disintegrator vision and the ability to turn into human ice cubes (not
unlike Alcor clients). "They were mutants," More explains, "and
they didn't seem to fit in too well with others around them. I guess I
felt the same way. I was thinking in different ways than people around
me. So I just liked the idea of The X-Men using their special abilities
basically to protect humankind, and to try to advance things."That
also explains my interest in the occult early on," he continues,
"but I became very skeptical and decided that there wasn't any truth
in that." But there's more than one way to become an X-Man. His fascination
with space and technology led Max to consider science as a means of overcoming
those vexing human limitations. He began to ask himself questions like,
"Why do people believe that we must have a limited lifespan?"
And "Why do so many people think that death is actually good and
desirable, and that life would somehow lack something if we didn't die?"
In a sense, the supervillain in More's real-life comic book became limits
of all kinds--physical, mental, even political. Which brings us to that
other big Extropian bugaboo: onerous, oppressive, poisonous, noxious government.
"In England, when I was 17," More explains, "I got interested
in libertarian ideas at a time when nobody in the country was into that
stuff: Why do we have so many laws? Why are there so many restrictions
on our behavior and our business? And who are these people who are imposing
these controls on us? I saw parallels between all these limits--getting
off the planet, out of earth's gravity well; being able to expand into
space; overcoming the limits of human intelligence, limits imposed on
us by our genes; overcoming political and economic limits."
More majored in philosophy, economics and politics at St. Anne's College,
Oxford. He speaks in a soft Oxford lilt and has a circumspect manner that
makes phrases like "getting out of earth's gravity well" sound
almost practical, if not immediately doable. His picture in the Extropy
journal extrudes bronzed good health and a slightly teutonic aspect, making
him resemble a youngish Siegfried, or is it Roy? More's motto, not surprizingly,
is "Upward and Outward!" The Extropy Institute's logo is a graphical
version of that slogan: a pinwheel of arrows spinning clockwise, upward,
and outward. The group's official handshake--yes, they have an official
handshake--involves a high-five-like hand clasp which is then rocketed
skyward to an accompanying an shout of joy.
At Oxford, More became one of the first Europeans to sign up for cryonic
suspension. He even kept a heart-lung resuscitator in his dorm room, ever
at the ready. He organized clubs and discussion groups. Still, that feeling
of being a misfit, the evolutionary fish out of water, persisted. If More
was a Superman-manque, England, with its enervating reserve and old world
fatalism, was his kryptonite. So it seems inevitable that he would take
bold leap Westward, to the land of libertarian common sense and hands-on
self-betterment. In the United States--and especially in California--More's
ideas weren't considered off the wall in the least. Well, maybe the stuff
about transporting our minds across the galaxy like the trippy Dr. Strange
used to do in Marvel comics, but his Upward-and-Outward ideology seemed
right at home.
Is the term, "transhumanist," merely a post-adolescent way of
declaiming, "Is he strong? Listen, bud: He's got radioactive blood!"?
So in 1988 Max More and Tom Morrow, a California attorney credited with
coining the term, "Extropy," brought these philosophical threads--heavily
influenced by the teenage power reading list of Rand, Heinlein, Nietzsche,
Marvel Comics and the Life Extension Bible of vitamin savant Durk Pearson--together
in Extropy: The Journal of Transhumanist Thought.
So are Extropians (only 20 percent of whom are female, by More's estimate)
merely obsessed with adolescent power fantasies, visions of the steroid-pumped
Incredible Hulk stomping on authority figures. Is the neologism "transhumanist"
merely a post-adolescent way of declaiming, "Is he strong? Listen,
bud: He's got radioactive blood"?
Negative, counters More. This isn't the stuff of comic book fantasy. "I
think the trend is clear: We are becoming more powerful creatures. If
you look at the technology we have in all these embryonic forms--drugs
that enable us to modify our moods and affect our impulses, if you look
at the long sweep of history, you clearly are seeing major developments
going on. So that criticism about the power fantasy is a bit one-sided.
The power we're talking about is not the power over other people--it's
the power of self-control and self-transformation."Mood-altering
wonder drugs are only part of the Extropians' hope chest of future-copoeia.
Nanotechnology, the for-now-theoretical science that someday promises
to dispatch molecular robots into our bloodstream and cells like teensy
road crews assigned to repave our flawed minds and bodies for the long
haul of immortality, is the Extropian Holy Grail of sorts. Perfectly respectable
scientists like Stanford's Eric Drexler predict that we're within a century
of obtaining the wonder technology, which as Extropians like to point
out, will put the revolution into human evolution. "With nanotechnology,"
says Mistress Romana, "everything is possible."
For instance, Extropians are banking on nanotechnology to get them out
of those liquid nitrogen tanks and back into the land of the living. There
will be cellular damage, to be sure--by today's crude standards, the science
of suspended animation still has a lot of bugs. But with nanotechnology,
they forecast, we'll be able to reassemble and rejuvenate a person's identity
and personality even if only a portion of that person's "meat machine"
is preserved. Of course, it had better be the brain, with its neurological
wiring intact--who wants to come back in a vegetable or semiconscious
zombie state? This is why many Extropians have opted for the cryonics
head plan, the "neuro option." It's much cheaper, they note
with their signature grasp of economics, to freeze just a person's head
rather than her entire body. As some Extropians like to put it, "Freeze
your head to save your ass."
"But saying, 'freeze your head' is something you're not supposed
to say," explains Romana. "Sometimes when I tell people that
I want to be frozen," she adds, "they don't understand. They
think I want to be frozen right now as a means of time travel or something
like that. And that's really stupid, because you never know if you're
going to get out of the dewer or not. It may not be possible to reconstruct
We're in Romana's new ranch-style rental home, which is tucked away in
a Sunnyvale cul de sac. Romana, her companion Geoff Dale, and Dave Krieger--Silicon
Valley's Extropian celebs, hotly sought of late by magazine and newspaper
reporters--have just moved in together. They call their digs the "Exclave,"
but its furnishings are downright suburban-normal--no hat box-size ice
chests or exotic computer gear cluttering up the Macy's living room set.
Previously, Romana ran an "Extropian boarding house" in Cupertino
(not to be confused with a commune, a concept that free-market libertarian
Extropians consider anathema).
Krieger, an extra-brainy Extropian who sits on the Institute's board of
advisors, expands on the cryonics-as-big-gamble theme: "Cryonics
is just the best alternative to decaying. It's basically just the least
abhorrent of all the possible alternatives if you happen to end up dead.
At the present, cryonics is the only way to preserve the information that
makes you up, so that future technologies can reconstruct you, if that
turns out to be possible."Kreiger is prepared for the worst. On his
wrist he wears a stainless steel ID bracelet inscribed with emergency
instructions: ". . .Do CPR while cooling with ice to 10C. . . . No
autopsy or embalming." In the event that the worst case scenario
happens, Alcor's technicians will perform the necessary surgery for "neurosuspension,"
which means they will lop off Kreiger's head at the base of the neck and,
well, wait for nanotechnology to catch up to the visionaries.
Once nanotech arrives, things will get even weirder. For instance, Extropians
anticipate someday "uploading" their intelligence and personality
onto computers--enabling each of us to have backup copies of ourselves,
for extra insurance. Per the Extropians, nanotechnology will make it possible
for us to lodge the essence of what makes us us in all sorts of strange
vehicles, from interstellar spacecraft to swarms of nanotech "foglets,"
to "Lilliputian Uploads," that is, "bodies shaped like
ours" but standing an energy-efficient "1/4-inch tall (the same
size as in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids!)," as a recent article in Extropy
put it. This, apparently, is what being posthuman--eventually--will be
all about. With the luxury of backup copies, we could travel the galaxy
by "teleportation," or just plug into the virtual reality memory
banks of risk-takers who actually made the Big Trip.
Even the soft-spoken Max More has his favorite forecasts, including a
chemical means of shutting off "crude" biological mechanisms
like pain and the sex drive. Pain I can understand--but do we really want
to shut off our sex drives like so many neutered poodles? Typically, More
is philosophical. "Sometimes we may want to enhance our sexual response,"
he explains, "at other times we may want to dampen it, so that we
can focus on other things. Maybe we want to reduce our urge towards aggression,
for instance, or modify some of those impulses."
This may be the kind of speculation that Romana refers to when she suggests
that Silicon Valley Extropians tend to be much more grounded in present-day
science than their visionary So-Cal soulmates. Romana, Geoff Dale, and
Dave Krieger would much rather talk about deanimating the government,
it seems, than the future probability that they will upload themselves
onto a computer the size of a GAME BOY.
"Free-market capitalism doesn't pretend to solve a lot of the things
that democracy pretends to solve," announces Geoff Dale. "I
finally figured out that trying to help people was actually hurting them
When I arrived at the "Exclave," Krieger was scarfing down a
Wendy's hamburger, an unmistakable vote of confidence in the power of
technology to deliver us from mortality. Then again, Krieger and other
Extropians don't like to get boxed in by any limits, certainly not those
imposed by tree-hugging ecotopian vegetarian types. Krieger, Romana and
other Extropians despise government-imposed environmental regulations
that get in the way of the free market's "invisible hand," and
they absolutely abhor taxes.
Wired magazine recently described Romana as "a hot-blooded capitalist,"
though she prefers the term "free-market capitalist." At an
Extropian party in Boulder Creek last year (the "Extropaganza"),
Romana came in dominatrix gear and carrying a riding crop, as "The
State." Submissively, her beau Geoff Dale followed on a leash, as
Krieger, who manages publications at a Silicon Valley software firm and
who used to be a technical consultant on Star Trek: The Next Generation,
is much less metaphorical. "Taxes are bad," he bluntly announces,
rocking back and forth in his chair like a junior Bill Gates. "All
taxation is bad." As with many extra-enthusiastic libertarians, there's
a strong strain of fiscal conservatism in Krieger's personal politics.
"Most of the functions of government can be fulfilled more easily
and more cheaply by private industry," he announces. "We don't
feel there's a need for a government. We don't think there's a legitimate
function for the government."
Consider drugs, chimes in Dale. That is to say, consider the Food and
Drug Administration's burdensome over-regulation of new drugs that could
be saving lives right now. "Sometimes when you regulate like this,
you save a few lives," he says. "But you also cause more deaths.
"There are always people who get stomped," he says. "Free-market
capitalism doesn't pretend to solve a lot of the things that democracy
pretends to solve. I finally figured out that trying to help people was
actually hurting them more."
Such self-help is best administered from a position of strength, Extropians
believe. "Guns are an important thing in the Extropian world view,"
he explains, "because we rely so much on individual initiative and
individual responsibility. My preferred gun of choice is a Browning 9mm,
but that's only because I've had very good results with it." He jumps
up and darts into the kitchen, returning with a shooting range target
perforated with holes near the bull's eye.
The Extropian brand of futurism is actually old hat. It's quite similar
to the sanguine belief in progress that emerged during the Enlightenment
and picked up steam during the Industrial Revolution. At that time, there
was a lot of theorizing--and rationalizing--about the benefits of Social
Darwinism. If some people had to be sacrificed as evolutionary bait, so
be it, for the greater good of the healthy individual--and through him,
society at large.
That abiding faith in the unremitting benefits of progress continued through
much of the 20th century--and only began to wilt in the past few decades,
as a sizable chunk of Americans began to see a downside to unfettered
growth and unreflective progress. In that sense, the Extropian outlook--invigorated
by recent advances in biotechnology, computers, and the like--is an unapologetic
renewal of that classic Western faith in, well, Forward, Upward, Outward.
It probably fits into a bigger American picture, too--the conservative
reaction against liberal politics that ferried the Republicans into power
last November. (However, like most honest libertarians, Extropians are
appalled with the GOP's tendency to toward social conservatism--as in
restricting an individual's right to choose to have an abortion.)
Still, not all Extropians subscribe to More and Krieger's "original
recipe" libertarianism. Says sometime Extropian Marvin Minsky, "They're
very free-market capitalist, among other things, and I'm not sure the
future can be done that way. I don't pay much attention to their politics."
Krieger believes the current great hope of rationalism is computer hypertext.
Essentially, the hard-core Extropians are saying, if we can't place our
faith in science (which at least can be quantified) and technology (which
at least features hard edges, right angles, measurable clock rates), what
can we rely on? Extropians--who tend to be engineers, scientists, science
fiction afficionados, and other technical folk--are extreme believers
in power of scientific reductionism, that all problems have a rational,
mathematical solution. As Romana describes her conversion to science:
"I just sort of had an epiphany regarding computers--I became aware
that there was a basic mathematical structure to the universe."
Likewise Krieger--who peppers his discourse with verbal footnotes referencing
the Key Extropian Influences, including Michael Rothschild's book, Bionomics,
and David Friedman's The Machinery of Freedom--is confident in the rational
structure of the universe. He believes that (his) Cartesian arguments,
as amplified with the force of modern technology, have the power to slay
the many false solutions bouncing around the political Weltanshauung.
Krieger believes the current great hope of rationalism is computer hypertext,
the technology that allows us to insert electronic links between computer
documents, so that when I read the New York Times online, for instance,
Krieger's rebuttal to it might appear onscreen at the click of my mouse,
right where I can't miss it. In Krieger's view, this new technology (assuming
the New York Times were to allow Krieger to insert his devastating rebuttals
into its text) will give clear-thinking syllogists the upper hand once
and for all--forever banishing wrong-headed opinion--"a moronic idea,
a completely false chain of reasoning"--from the political arena.
Hypertext, Krieger assures, "gives you the chance to put the stake
through the heart of a bad idea once and for all." The forward-looking
technocrat can, it would seem, transfer the sharp-edged logic of the microchip
to the squishy world of human affairs--if you buy the Extropian premise,
Critics might call such confidence in material Truth, with a capital T,
borderline hubris. I ask Krieger if there's something about the empowerment
of technology that leads to such a clear-cut, individualistic view of
"There definitely is," he says. "Computer programmers and
engineers in general experience a sense of power that most people don't
because they can take something and make it work. And they can see a system,
they can recognize that a system has flaws, and they can generate ideas
to fix those flaws. And they turn around and take that systems perspective,
and apply it to other systems, and see."
But because the meddling, over-regulating, mollycoddling State isn't about
buy into that premise, Extropians have devised some ambitious schemes
for end runs around Big Brother. One such plan involves getting into outer
space ASAP, thereby launching a new enlightened colony of free-thinking,
zero-g transhumanauts. Granted, the cosmic option is still a few years
off. So some Extropians have proposed a slightly more practical new society
called "Free Oceana," essentially a convoy of oil tankers on
the high seas acting as sort of floating New World, free from the "grasp
of meddling statists." As Extropian Tom W. Bell has put it, "We
could migrate toward opportunities and away from threats as if we were
Max More proposes instead a virtual New World, in cyberspace, as a more
realistic escape from the bureaucratic hassles of "The Man."
In such a Cybertopia, "we'll have things like digital money, which
the government can't trace or tax," he gleefully prophesies.
And, presumably, when it finally becomes practical to "upload"
our souls into cyberspace, big daddy government will have a hard time
fettering cyber-Gypsies. Free-thinking, posthuman binary computer code,
virtual immortals will be limited only by the tyranny computer memory.
At least until the meddling statists figure out a way to tax computer
Copyright © 1995 Metro Publishing and Virtual Valley, Inc.
Tanya Pretorius' Bookmarks: Computers, Cypherella}