by Romana Machado
This essay is for anyone who looks to a better future, but has not yet begun an aggressive course of personal action towards that goal. Action is necessary, because "rust never sleeps." If you do nothing, personal entropy wins. Entropy is a measure of increasing disorder, a force of nature that opposes the life of each person, driving all dullness, depression, disease, death, and decay. Personal entropy is your sworn, sleepless enemy. There is much that each person can do, privately, to win against it.
You can fight personal entropy by increasing personal extropy. What is personal extropy? Extropian Principles define extropy as "a measure of intelligence, information, energy, vitality, experience, diversity, opportunity, and capacity for growth." How can personal extropy be increased?" Self-transformation is a process that increases personal extropy", explains Extropian philosopher Max More.
Self-transformation can begin with simple activities. Don't wait for tomorrow's technologies! You can combat personal entropy now,.with a campaign for personal enhancement through applied technology and hard science. In this spirit, I offer five ways you can start to win right now.
One. Care for your mind. The Extropian Principles declare that "...living vigorously, effectively, and joyously, requires dismissing gloom, defeatism, and ingrained cultural negativism." But how can we do this? We can cultivate healthy optimism by making use of recent advances in psychology.
For example, if it seems difficult or pointless to improve yourself, you may be depressed. Mild depression is far more common than most people realize; some estimate that it affects up to seventy per cent of the population. It may be the world's number one public health problem. Depression is an agent of entropy, and can lead to personal, social, and financial ruin. Depression can be caused by physical factors, or just by habits of thought.
Recently, there have been great advances in treatment of the physical factors that cause depression, especially in the use of new drug therapies such as Prozac. Prozac is now the most frequently prescribed mood-altering drug in the U.S. Other new antidepressants, such as Deprenyl and melatonin, have been shown to extend lifespan and improve mental performance.
As Princeton psychologist Dr. David Burns points out in Feeling Good, cognitive therapy also represents a significant breakthrough in the treatment and prevention of mood disorders. Cognitive therapy is a fast-acting technology of mood change. Rigorous scientific research and critical scrutiny confirm its positive effect.
The first principle is that your moods are created by your thoughts. Our habits of thought are often formed by accident, or taught to us by others while we are not wary enough to object to ideas that do not serve us. Cognitive therapy affirms our need to find out and review the thoughts that create our moods and actions.
There are many other examples of recent advances which may be helpful in other common personal disorders. Just as your best physical health is not merely the absence of disease, your best mental health is not just the absence of insanity. Knowing the latest techniques of dealing with major problems can be useful in dealing with smaller difficulties, too. Remember, "if there's no gardener, there's no garden."
Two. Care for your body. Why not get the best possible performance out of what you have now? By following a program of regular exercise, nutrition, and supplementation, you can fight entropy on a visceral level every day. You can create a better body for yourself, right now, without waiting for advances in uploading, and without a large investment. Fran Finney points out in Exercise And Longevity:, "There is ...one simple factor that we can add to our lifestyle that is arbitrarily cheap, has little, if any risk of shortening our lifespan, and increasing evidence shows that making this simple factor a daily part of our lives, we can certainly retard some aspects of the aging process. That factor is ...in a nutshell, exercise."
Fitness makes it possible to enjoy the present to the fullest. It has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety, and boost resistance to disease. Physically fit people look good as well as feeling good. Recent psychological research confirms that looking good enhances your social life, and probably your finances, too.
Using "smart drugs" and nutrients may also help you to get the best out of what you've already got. Smart drugs are substances that can enchance physical or mental performance with few unwanted side effects. Dr Ward Dean explains their positive effects in Smart Drugs II:, "People can experience improvements in memory, IQ, reaction time, mood, energy level, sensory perception, sexual arousal and response, music appreciation, and more. The intensity of effect varies greatly from person to person and drug to drug, and can range from no perceptible effect at all to a profound life-transformation.".
Three. Care for your financial security. Take advantage of what remains of capitalism and buy your own freedom to pursue life's options. It really does not matter how brilliant you are if you cannot realize your dreams. Attaining financial goals requires strategy as well as personal effort. As personal finance expert Lynn Robbins notes in his useful book Uncommon Cents, "Correct financial principles must be learned and applied in order to solve financial problems and increase future opportunities." Effective financial planning can help you to use newer technologies sooner, as newer technologies are often more costly to use at first. What you spend now shapes your future self. Keeping track of your spending can help you to reveal your true priorities in action. Will you buy more computer power, or more life-extending supplements, or erase debts? Budgeting can help to balance your priorities, and increase your personal extropy by expanding your opportunities and capacity for growth and change.
Four. Empower yourself. The Extropian Principles state that "We are evolving...towards a polycentric system of distributed power shared among autonomous agents." To be prepared for a future that may be full of difficult changes, and survive in an entropic world, take personal responsibility for your security. If you are good at self-defense, you need not regard yourself as a powerless victim. Self-defense encourages your sense of autonomy and personal power. Following a course of study in martial arts may help you to develop the proper attitude towards the use of force in self-defense. Learn the proper use of devices and techniques that can protect you from harm.
Five. Get a cryonic suspension contract. Though entropy's final assault - death - cannot yet be completely avoided, the most rational means of surviving past death available today is through cryonic suspension. Cryonic suspension arrangements need not be expensive, and in most cases are funded by life insurance policies that cost less than 45 dollars a month. From Cryonics: Reaching For Tomorrow, a publication of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation: "The goal of cryonics is the transport of patients to a time when substantial control over life exists, to an era when medicine can repair and regenerate whole organs and bodies as easily as we set broken bones today." When you have made these arrangements, neither death nor afterlife need concern you; you can more effectively bring your focus to the present, and the real possibilities of the future.
Max More, "Extropian Principles v 2.5", Extropy #11 (vol.5 no.1), Summer/Fall 1993.
Max More, "Technological Self-Transformation", Extropy #10 (vol.4 no. 2), Winter 1993.
David D. Burns, M.D., Feeling Good.(Avon Books,1992).
Fran Finney, "Exercise and Longevity", Extropy #9 (vol.4 no.1), Summer 1992.
Ward Dean, M.D., John Morgenthaler, Steven Wm. Fowkes, Smart Drugs II: The Next Generation (Health Freedom Publications, 1993). Available from Health Freedom Publications, P.O. Box 2515, Menlo Park, CA, 94026. This book also contains good references to books on vitamin supplementation.)
Lynn G. Robbins, Uncommon Cents (Franklin International Institute, 1989). Available from Franklin International Institute,Inc., P.O. Box 25127, Salt Lake City, UT 84125-0127. The Franklin system of time management is worth checking out, as well.
Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Cryonics: Reaching For Tomorrow (Alcor Life Extension Foundation, 1993). Available from Alcor Life Extension Foundation, 7895 East Acoma Dr. #110, Scottsdale AZ, 85260-6916