Most people do not have open-ended interests the way LWers do.

Marvin Minsky said something similar a few years ago, to the effect that most people don't have "real goals," unlike the scientists Minsky knows who tell him that they have personal lists of problems that they would like to solve, but the problems will take longer than their current life expectancies.

Mike Darwin also mentioned this as a problem in an essay he published in Cryonics magazine back in 1984:

Darwin thinks that the arrival of practical superlongevity will shake out a whole lot of people who can't use it constructively - they'll die any way, in other words - based on an analogy to how we still haven't adapted fully to the recent wealth revolution. He references Elvis Presley as an example of maladaptation to great wealth; but since Presley died in 1977 and most of you don't remember him, you might think of, say, Michael Jackson or those buffoonish Kardashians as more recent examples of people who have wealth that they don't know how to use well.

Not really buying the analogy between massive wealth and superlongevity. Virtually unlimited access to super-stimulation such as fame, drugs and any other rush you could want to get your hands on doesn't seem all that comparable to an unlimited supply of everyday normal life.

The everyday reality of living forever isn't going to be shockingly more exciting than regular ol' not living forever. There will be new awesome and crazy stuff, but you'll have had lifetimes to grow used to them. People born into them will think of them like how we currently think of ... (read more)

Why people want to die

by PhilGoetz 1 min read24th Aug 2015175 comments


Over and over again, someones says that living for a very long time would be a bad thing, and then some futurist tries to persuade them that their reasoning is faulty.  They tell them that they think that way now, but they'll change their minds when they're older.

The thing is, I don't see that happening.  I live in a small town full of retirees, and those few I've asked about it are waiting for death peacefully.  When I ask them about their ambitions, or things they still want to accomplish, they have none.

Suppose that people mean what they say.  Why do they want to die?

The reason is obvious if you just watch them for a few years.  They have nothing to live for.  They have a great deal of free time, but nothing they really want to do with it.  They like visiting friends and relatives, but only so often.  The women knit.  The men do yardwork.  They both work in their gardens and watch a lot of TV.  This observational sample is much larger than the few people I've asked.

You folks on LessWrong have lots of interests.  You want to understand math, write stories, create start-ups, optimize your lives.

But face it.  You're weird.  And I mean that in a bad way, evolutionarily speaking.  How many of you have kids?

Damn few.  The LessWrong mindset is maladaptive.  It leads to leaving behind fewer offspring.  A well-adapted human cares above all about sex, love, family, and friends, and isn't distracted from those things by an ADD-ish fascination with type theory.  That's why they probably have more sex, love, and friends than you do.

Most people do not have open-ended interests the way LWers do.  If they have a hobby, it's something repetitive like fly-fishing or needlepoint that doesn't provide an endless frontier for discovery.  They marry, they have kids, the kids grow up, they have grandkids, and they're done.  If you ask them what the best thing in their life was, they'll say it was having kids.  If you ask if they'd do it again, they'll laugh and say absolutely not.

We could get into a long argument over the evolution of aging, and whether people would remain eager to have kids if they remained physically young.  Maybe some would.  Some would not, though.  Many young parents are looking forward to the day their kids leave.

A lot of interests in life are passing.  You fall in love with a hobby, you learn it, you do it for a few years, then you get tired of it.  The things that were fascinating when you were six hold no magic for you now.  Pick up a toy soldier and try to play with it.  You can't.  Skateboarding seems awesome for about five years, and then everyone except Tony Hawk gets tired of it.

Having kids might be like that for some people.  Thing is, it's literally the only thing humans have evolved to be interested in.  Once you're tired of that, you're done.  If some of you want to keep going, that's an accidental by-product of evolution.  And there was no evolutionary pressure to exempt it from the common waning of interest with long exposure.

The way to convert deathists isn't to argue with them, but to get them interested in something.  Twist them the way you're twisted.