I disagree with the idea that the desire to die is normal for humans.

The vast majority of humanity, spanning hunter-gatherers to information economy techies, believe in some form of consciousness which continues after the physical body as passed away. They believe this to the point that, if you disabuse them of this notion, they'll enter a spiritual crisis and begin to feel that life is meaningless. The older people get, the more enthusiastically they believe this.

If the collective fantasy common to our entire species doesn't reflect an extremely powerful human wish to live longer than we currently do, I don't know what does.

When the average person says they want to die at 80, what they really mean that they want to leave this world for another at 80. They don't want to continue things as they are, or re-live their youth - they want to move on to a different sort of existence.

But practically speaking, I think you might be right that getting someone interested in something worldly would encourage them to stay on in this world longer, and in the end that might be better than trying to explain that death means really death (once we actually have the option to stop true death which doesn't seem like a long shot, which realistically we really don't yet).

In Europe with higher rates of atheism you still don't get a majority of people to want to live forever.

5David_Bolin5yI don't think the belief in life after death necessarily indicates a wish to live longer than we currently do. I think it is a result of the fact that it appears to people to be incoherent to expect your consciousness to cease to be: if you expect that to happen, what experience will fulfill that expectation? Obviously none. The only expectation that could theoretically be fulfilled by experience is expecting your consciousness to continue to exist. This doesn't actually prove that your consciousness will in fact continue to exist, but it is probably the reason there is such a strong tendency to believe this. This article here [http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/27458/] talks about how very young children tend to believe that a mouse will have consciousness after death, even though they certainly do not hear this from adults:

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.