You can't think that before 1889 no one ever retired...:-/

I think Wikipedia is just leaving out some implied restrictions under which the claim is valid. The point about Germany refers specifically to the preceding sentence: "Previously [....] most workers continued to work until death". The innovation of all workers retiring in age cohorts, regardless of individual ability to keep working, occurred in Germany in 1889.

Of course some people always retired, but voluntary retirement was only possible for the rich - a few percent of the population - and since most of them didn't work to begin with, retirement meant something different: withdrawing from public life, giving up public offices, passing on private holdings, etc. Wikipedia is talking about retirement of those who must work to feed themselves, it just doesn't bother specifying this fact because the whole article is about the modern world, not about history.

Before the great majority of people were workers for hire, they were farmers, who I believe also didn't retire unless forced (i.e. injured or frail).

Ah, so you're making a prediction. Note that in grandfather you said (emphasis mine): "Today automation is driving unemployment".

I meant that automation has already priced humans out of many previously profitable markets, and this will only accelerate. So far almost all people automated out of work have been able to find employment doing something else, but I believe this will not last, in part because increasingly many jobs require long and costly training.

So I predict high unemployment, defined as most people not working to earn money for food, shelter and medicine on a free market. My original comment was that in such a future, all these unemployed will have to find reasons to keep living and things to fill their time with, similar to able-bodied retirees today.

You're right that my comment was badly worded, and I'll edit it to be clearer. Thanks!

and since most of them didn't work to begin with

Really? Given that we are talking about pre-capitalist societies where working for hire (which is what you presumably mean) was not all that common, what do you think these people did? Is working in the fields "work", but managing the farm "not work"?

because the whole article is about the modern world, not about history

So then you probably shouldn't rely on this article to provide you with information about history.

Of course the idea of retirement as "not going to do anything b... (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.