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..

How did men benefit? Did all men benefit? Were the men also constrained by cultural roles that served to benefit women?

women's desires were considered irrelevant by society.

This is too strong a statement

Almost any statement interpreted while ignoring connotation is too strong. "Women's desires were considered irrelevant by society" means "an important set of women's desires relevant to the current conversation were considered irrelevant by society", not "all women's desires were considered irrelevant by society". Don't ignore connotation.

Context is probably a better word to use than connotation.

My argument is precisely that women's desires were considered relevant. I think that society, which, is after all about half women, never has considered the desires of women to be irrelevant nor has it ever considered the desires of men to be irrelevant. Society has definite opinions about what sorts of desires are socially appropriate, but that's very different from considering desires irrelevant. I think that your objection is about a perceived lack of social roles, especially formal social roles, for unmarried women in some subset of human cultures. Most traditional human societies also lack important social roles for unmarried men.

The transition to an emphasis on personal merit as a source of status rather than familial success has created high status social roles for both men and women outside of the context of family and reproduction. Because men were less tied to reproduction both biologically and culturally, that transition disproportionately affected men at its beginning and for a while Western cultures had many social roles for unmarried men and virtually none for unmarried women. But that was a fairly anomalous period in human history, and for the vast majority of history women have been just about as important to human economic production as men, and as the status of child production has continued to drop, fathers and mothers both have encouraged their daughters to pursue education and careers and other paths desires that lead to positions of high social status.

How did men benefit? Did all men benefit? Were the men also constrained by cultural roles that served to benefit women?

Men were permitted a wider range of roles, and a wider range of roles that personally benefitted them and fit with their desires, than women were.

You seem to be thinking "well, both men and women faced some restrictions, so there was no substantial difference between the restrictions placed on them". This is not true; not every "some" is the same.

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.