Women have attractive alternatives to just being a mother

I'm not sure what the difference is between this statement and "achievements other than sex and children have become markers of status".

It's like saying that Confederate slaves didn't have any available positions other than being slaves that were high status for themselves.

In a sense it's true, since all positions other than being a slave probably resulted in the slave getting hunted down and shot. Can't get much more low status than that. Alternately, you could say that those don't count as available positions at all, in which case being a slave is the highest status position among the 1 available positions.

But phrasing it that way fails to capture what's going on.

In older societies, women's alternatives to being a mother were unattractive for external reasons: women who tried to take the alternatives would face retaliation of various types, either personal or societal. You can describe that as "low status" and it's not wrong, but this is an unusual type of low status that existed because women's desires were considered irrelevant by society. It's a very noncentral example of "achievements other than sex and children have become markers of status"--such a noncentral example that describing it that way is actively misleading.

Being low status has always meant being vulnerable to social violence, and ascribing status is one of the ways that societies create and maintain social norms. The attractiveness of a position in society is dictated by the value and status society ascribes to it, and that valuation is always a set of "external reasons". Particularly low status groups or members of society, who are perceived as different or in violation of important social norms are often ascribed the status of "criminal" or "enemy" and are left especially vuln... (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.