At first you claimed that people choose to have children because they are making an optimal selfish long-term retirement decision and that they choose to have children as a good investment in service to that goal. Now you're saying that people don't really choose to have children for that reason, but that they have children in response to biological pressures and cultural norms.

Biological pressure is always there and it's still there in the countries with 1.x children per women, so clearly it's not sufficient by itself.

As to cultural norms, how in the world do you think they appear? They don't magically sprout fully established out of nowhere. If a lot of people in a society decide that having children is a good investment for old age and that society does well -- here is your new cultural norm.

cultural norms ... are largely dictated by the perception of which behaviors are regarded as high status

I strongly disagree with this idea. Culture is much much wider, deeper, richer, and more useful than trying to emulate high-status behaviours.

There are lots of durable human social institutions other than the nuclear family.

That, actually, depends on the circumstances. But in any case, do you really suggest making friends as a good solution to who-will-feed-me problem? Don't forget that they will get old, too.

The reality is precisely what is being debated.

Is it? On which facts do we disagree?

I am making the claim that the choices that populations of people make, esp. with regard to family size, can be understood in terms of evolution and selection, and that they should reflect, in some form or fashion adaptations consistent with genetic self-interest.

OK. So how does that work for contemporary first-world countries with birth rates far below replacement?

It seems to me that here you're just labeling your claim "reality".

No, I am labeling the observation of empirical birth rates "reality".

That, actually, depends on the circumstances. But in any case, do you really suggest making friends as a good solution to who-will-feed-me problem? Don't forget that they will get old, too.

Human tribes have been a thing for about as long as there have been humans. People with an important role in the tribe don't starve to death. And yes, friends age, and so do children. You can make friends that aren't the same age as you. I don't understand why you think that human allegiances have to be founded on the nuclear family.

The reality is precisely what i

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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.