it's not obvious to me that children are a good investment

I think you're engaging in nirvana fallacy. Children are not a good investment compared to what?

Again -- let's take a medieval European peasant. He has no ability to accumulate capital because he's poor, because his lord will just take his money if he notices it, and because once in a while an army passes through and basically grabs everything that isn't nailed down. He doesn't have any apprentices because peasants don't have apprentices (and apprentices leave once they learn the craft, anyway). He certainly has friends, but even his friends will feed their family before him when the next famine comes. So, what kind of investments into a non-starving old age should he make?

I don't know that we have access to facts. Everything is interpreted. Everything is a model.

OK. There were 3,932,181 births in the US in 2013 giving the birth rate of 12.4 / 1000 population (source). Tell me what kind of model is that, which theory does this piece of information critically depends on.

Because humans engage in hyperbolic discounting.

Yes, so? They still plan their retirements.

Because the rate of climate change during the Pleistocene would have made long term forecasting difficult.

Huh? Can you, um, provide some links?

The idea that people aren't, by nature, optimal decision makers is one of the core ideas of LW.

We're not talking about optimal decisions. We're talking about not screwing up. Humans are the most successful species on this planet -- they are capable of not screwing up sufficiently well.

status ... it seems to be the thing that people care most about after short term economic incentives

Evidence please. People certainly care about status, but I don't think that people always care about money first, status second, and everything else after that.

On the other hand, if you don't believe in facts, what counts as evidence in your word? 8-/

it's not obvious to me that children are a good investment

I think you're engaging in nirvana fallacy. Children are not a good investment compared to what?

Again -- let's take a medieval European peasant. He has no ability to accumulate capital because he's poor, because his lord will just take his money if he notices it, and because once in a while an army passes through and basically grabs everything that isn't nailed down. He doesn't have any apprentices because peasants don't have apprentices (and apprentices leave once they learn the craft, anyway).

... (read more)

Why people want to die

by PhilGoetz 1 min read24th Aug 2015175 comments

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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.

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