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 vulnerable to social violence.

women's desires were considered irrelevant by society.

This is too strong a statement. Many women desire to have children. That desire was hardly considered irrelevant by society. Similarly, many women desire to get married or to worship God. These desires weren't considered irrelevant by society. Quite the opposite. It was considered very important that women have these desires. Desires that led to high social status, like wanting to marry a young man in good standing in the community, were strongly encouraged. Desires that led to low or uncertain social positions like becoming a transient were discouraged, and if pursued in spite of discouragement, punished for undermining the social order. Society almost never respects the desire to become a social deviant.

A society that accords value based on nuclear family size has the social roles of mother, father, and provider and ascribes status to its members based on their success in those roles. In traditional societies, both men and women have jointly fulfilled the latter role. The proliferation of new social roles and highly-esteemed places in the community that have nothing to do with the nuclear family, (i.e. having achievements other than children become markers of status) is the reason that men and women both have a place in the community other than as parents and children.

A man living in a tribe of subsistence foragers can't ever choose to become a full-time string theorist. He can sometimes choose to become a full-time shaman or priest. Both professions study mainly imaginary things, the difference is that one of these roles is ascribed status by the community while the other is not.

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.

Again, that's not technically wrong--but stating it that way loses information.

Women in general were low status. Many of their concerns and desires were ignored unless they happened to match concerns and desires that benefitted men. The fact that women didn't have alternatives to being a mother was just a special case of that.. So increasing the status of women in general automatically increas... (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.