If children are such a good investment, why did we need a modest proposal?

Because, like with all investements, the future is uncertain, returns are not guaranteed, there are occasional crashes, and a lot of general variability.

And why are the rich, who retirements are not in doubt, so desirous of children?

Because children are not only investments in one's old age, they are useful for many other purposes (e.g. dynastic). And, of course, the rich have the same hardwired biological urges. Besides, sometimes children are just a side-effect that the rich or the powerful don't care much about (see e.g. Ottoman sultans).

Fact just isn't an epistemological category that I have, and it's not one that I find useful. There are only models.

So how you choose between different models, then? If there are no facts, what are your criteria? Why is the model of lizard overlords ruling the Earth any worse than any other model?

You use expressions like "because it's always been true in the past", but what do you mean by "true"?

aspect of the climate system that consistently and frequently chnages between glacial and near-interglacial conditions in periods of less than a decade, and on occassion as rapidly as three years

I am not sure this interpretation of the data surivived -- see e.g. this:

Here it is shown that in general, the flickers seen in ECM records probably reflect the highly non-linear response of electrical conductivity as ice approaches acid/base neutrality, rather than significant changes in the climate system.

...

I am making the argument that it is unlikely that people choose to have children in order to obtain those advantages.

Yes, and would you like to present some evidence in favour of that argument?

I am making the argument that the decline in birthrate in unlikely to be due to people adjusting the number of children they have as part of a retirement plan.

Do you have an alternative explanation for the decline in birthrate in mind? You have previously said that people just followed the lead of the elites, but why did the elites reduce their birthrate?

my assertion that human behavior is more closely linked to genetic self-interest than to personal self-interest.

I haven't been following the subject closely, but didn't the idea of group selection ran into significant difficulties? My impression is that nowadays it's not considered to be a major evolution mechanism, though I haven't looked carefully and will accept corrections.

We don't have have intuitive equipment for making long-term predictions

Well, um, I do X-) On which basis do you decide what kind of "intuitive equipment" humans have?

If you don't consider the opinions of experts evidence, what qualifies?

Opinions are not evidence, they are opinions. Argument to authority is, notably, a fallacy. I call things which qualify "facts".

Fact just isn't an epistemological category that I have, and it's not one that I find useful. There are only models.

So how you choose between different models, then? If there are no facts, what are your criteria? Why is the model of lizard overlords ruling the Earth any worse than any other model?

You use expressions like "because it's always been true in the past", but what do you mean by "true"?

My primary criterion is consistency. On a very basic level, I am an algorithm receiving a stream of sensory data. I make models to predic... (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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