responses to the californian ideology

Eric Watt Forste

an extropian

Implacable in its certainties, the Californian Ideology offers a fatalistic vision of the natural and inevitable triumph of the hi-tech free market - a vision which is blind to racism, poverty and environmental degradation and which has no time to debate alternatives.

These are interesting characterizations, perhaps to be expected after a broad survey of a widespread and ill-defined memetic phenomenon. I'd like to use them as the springboard for my response, just to emphasize a few points which have not received as much attention from the three responses published so far as I believe they deserve.

Since the widespread "Californian Ideology", perhaps, is blind to racism, poverty, and environmental degradation, and perhaps has no time to debate alternatives, I'd like to redirect attention to the extreme core of the ideas being criticized and see if these criticisms apply to that core. The core of which I speak is specifically extropian thought, and some aspects of it which your essay rather glossed over.

In the last few years, one topic of frequent debate and discussion among extropians has been critical methodology. Ever since Eric Drexler called attention to the role played by debate and discussion (of as richly diverse a set of ideas as possible) in coming up with good ideas and desirable futures, extropians have become increasingly aware of the importance of paying close attention to the ideas of those who disagree with us. On the extropians mailing list, there has been a long-running discussion of Popper's and Bartley's ideas of "pancritical rationalism", the idea that the best way to improve our ideas is to examine them as critically as possible, to try to discover how we are wrong and correct it, which is generally easier and more effective than trying to prove ourselves right, which latter can have the effect of miring us in stupid commitments to our own mistakes.

Accordingly, in an extropians web page which I've been editing for the last two years, I've included links to Mike Huben's Critiques of Libertarianism, and now to your own very interesting essay, as well as to other sites criticizing extropian ideas and related "Californian Ideologies". Unfortunately, I didn't notice as many links in your own essay to websites setting forth the ideas you criticize.

While I can't speak for the broader wash of communities that you lump together as "Californian ideologues", the extropians have certainly been discussing problems of economic inequality, racism, and environmental degradation. Discussing alternatives is the one activity that many of us single out as most important in trying to bring about our hopes and dreams. This is why I welcome contributions such as yours, because your unsympathetic viewpoint is far more likely to be successful in discovering flaws in our ideas than my own sympathetic viewpoint is. If anything, many extropians are frustrated not by criticism of their ideas, but by the shortage of discussion about them, especially the shortage of well-thought critical discussions such as your own.

That we do not accept without question the sorts of solutions that have been so far proposed for the problems of racism, economic inequality, and environmental degradation emphatically does not mean that we are uninterested in solving those problems, nor that we think those problems do not exist. And if we feel that time is short and that change of some kind is inevitable, that only drives home to us the vital importance of debating alternatives now, before choice is forced upon us.

Though I've used the word "we", I'd like to emphasize that I'm speaking for myself and those who I know agree with me on these things, not for the extropian movement, nor for the Extropy Institute, and certainly not for all the "Californian ideologues" in the world.