Monday, January 5, 2009

Are You an Extropian or a Gaian?

Gaians and Extropians constitute two great divergancies in the vision of future human development.

Extropianism is a set 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 in a utopian existence and that humans alive today have a good chance of seeing that day.

Extropianism describes a type of transhumanist thought seeking human and technological co-evolution and progress. Extropians share an optimistic view of the future, expecting increasing advances in computational power, life extension, nanotechnology and the like. Many extropians foresee the eventual realization of unlimited maximum life spans and a future in which technology allows everyone to live peacefully with a high quality of life.

Gaians believe in harmonizing themselves with the unlimited potential of natural life for creative development, and a future in which we discover ourselves in a profound way as part of being human, and derive our sense of identity and meaning through our humanity. (In my writing I have referred to Extropians as Sapiens and Gaians as Humans.)

To Gaians, Extropians seem aimed at a future in which humans devour and transform this planet through their own creations, then leave Earth to continue creating new worlds throughout the universe, even if just as minds uploaded to self replicating cyborgs. Gaians see Extropian vision as a 'use it up and move on' attitude that promotes a destructive pattern of activity. 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 have as it is or if we should try to make it better.

Chances are that your personal beliefs are not as extreme as either of these points of view and most people have aspects of both in their belief systems, but many in the arts and humanities identify more strongly with the Gaian viewpoint while many designers and scientists relate to the Extropian ideas. This philosophical difference has tremendous implications for art being taken seriously as a subject in schools and design being accepted as part of the role of visual education.

1 comment:

Bonnie Diehl said...

We did not leave the Stone Age because we ran out of stones. We need to leave the fossil fuel age now. I do not want to be dependent on petrodictators anymore. Let's design our way to a wonderful future.