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 is being debated.

Is it? On which facts do we disagree?

I'm not sure what you mean by fact. You made the claim that in reality people have children because they think it's a good retirement option, and that they choose the number of children that they will choose to have based on how many children they will need in order to make sure they don't starve to death in the real world. You are claiming that humans have evolved the psychological capacity to make decades long judgments in a reasonably optimal way and that they use that capacity when deciding how many children to have. That is a claim about reality. If it were true, it would be a fact. I think that it is false. I think that people choose whether or not to have children based on culture, and that culture is largely determined by the rules "Copy what most people are doing" and "Copy what successful people are doing". (That's not a commentary of the depth or richness of culture. Complex systems often have simple rules.) I also think that successful people in the present and near-past have tended to have less children and I think that the falling birthrate can be attributed to that. I'm fairly sure that the falling birthrate has much more to do with cultural definitions of success than with anyone's concern for feeding themselves 40 years in the future.

Unlike planning for retirement, achieving success within your cultures definition of it (i.e. status) is very important from a genetic evolution status and would be selected for. I think it's much more likely that evolution equipped humans to seek cultural success, than it is that evolution equipped humans to sacrifice having children based on concerns for how best to spend their reproductively inactive retirement.

I don't understand why you think that human allegiances have to be founded on the nuclear family.

They don't have to be, but I think that empirical evidence points to family ties binding more tight than others.

I'm not sure what you mean by fact.

I mean an observable and testable chunk of empirical reality. Not a theory, not an explanation, not a model.

You made the claim that in reality people have children because...

That's not a fact, that's an explanation/theory.

You are claiming that humans have evolved the psychological capacity to make decade

... (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.