Proactionary principle

An ethical principle formulated as part of extropian philosophy, the proactionary principle is formulated by the extropian Max More as follows:

People’s freedom to innovate technologically is highly valuable, even critical, to humanity. This implies several imperatives when restrictive measures are proposed: Assess risks and opportunities according to available science, not popular perception. Account for both the costs of the restrictions themselves, and those of opportunities foregone. Favor measures that are proportionate to the probability and magnitude of impacts, and that have a high expectation value. Protect people’s freedom to experiment, innovate, and progress.

The Proactionary Principle was formulated as an opposing view point to the Precautionary Principle which is based on the concept that consequences of actions in complex systems are often unpredictable and irreversible. The Proactionary Principle is based upon the observation that historically, the most useful and important technological innovations were neither obvious nor well-understood at that the time of their invention. Dr. More recommends 10 principles in his paper [ Proactionary Principle] :

#Freedom to innovate
#Symmetrical treatment
#Renew and Refresh

In theory, sufficient study of the variables of any proposed course of action may yield acceptable levels of predictability. In this regard The Proactionary Principle can be looked upon as the philosophical formulation of the accepted mathematical principles of "extrapolation" and the logical principles of "induction".

However, "sufficient study" may in some cases be impractical. For instance, in releasing a new life form into the biosphere — whether genetically-modified plant, animal, or bacteria — one would have to simulate the biosphere to achieve "acceptable levels of predictability." While the innovator of the new life form might point out that such a simulation would be a heavy burden, the other life forms in the biosphere could suffer irreparable harm in the case of an untested release. More's first principle, freedom to innovate, would place the burden of proof on those who propose a restrictive measure.

The opportunity cost of imposing a restrictive measure must be balanced against the potential costs of damage due to a new technology, rather than just considering the potential damages alone.

ee also


External links

* [ Proactionary Principle, authored by Max More]
* [ Commentary from "Fight Aging!"]
* [ The Open Future: The Reversibility Principle] (, March 6, 2006 article)
* [ The Extropy Institute]

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