On a very basic level, I am an algorithm receiving a stream of sensory data.

So, do you trust that sensory data? You mention reality, presumably you allow that objective reality which generates the stream of your sensory data exists. If you test your models by sensory data, then that sensory data is your "facts" -- something that is your criterion for whether a model is good or not.

I am also not sure how do you deal with surprises. Does sensory data always wins over models? Or sometimes you'd be willing to say that you don't believe your own eyes?

I don't understand what you mean by trust. Trust has very little to do with it. I work within the model that the sensory data is meaningful, that life as I experience it is meaningful. It isn't obvious to me that either of those things are true any more than the parallel postulate is obvious to me. They are axioms.

If my eyes right now are saying something different than my eyes normally tell me, then I will tend to distrust my eyes right now in favor of believing what I remember my eyes telling me. I don't think that's the same as saying I don't believe my eyes.

group selection

When you said "more closely linked to genetic self-interest than to personal self-interest" did you mean the genetic self-interest of the entire species or did you mean something along the lines of Dawkins' Selfish Gene? I read you as arguing for interests of the population gene pool. If you are talking about selfish genes then I don't see any difference between "genetic self-interest" and "personal self-interest".

The idea of the genetic self-interest of an entire species is more or less incoherent. Genetic self-interest involves genes making more copies of themselves. Personal self-interest involves persons making decisions that they think will bring them happiness, utility, what have you. To reiterate my earlier statement "the ability of individual members of that species to plan in such a way as to maximize their own well-being."

is a series of appeals of to authority

Kinda, but the important thing is that you can go and check. In your worldview, how do you go and check yourself? Or are "streams of sensory data" sufficiently syncronised between everyone?

And I go look for review articles that support the quote that people care about social status. But if you don't consider expert opinion to be evidence, then you have to go back and reinvent human knowledge from the ground up every time you try and learn anything.

I can always go look for more related data if I have questions about a model. I can read more literature. I can make observations.

I don't understand what you mean by trust.

If your model(s) and sensory data conflict, who wins? Which one do you trust more?

Since you're saying you have no access to the underlying reality (=territory), you have trust something. I am not sure what do you mean by "meaningful".

If my eyes right now are saying something different than my eyes normally tell me, then I will tend to distrust my eyes right now in favor of believing what I remember my eyes telling me.

Well, clearly that can't be true all the time or you'll never update your internal... (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.