Today's post, Higher Purpose was originally published on 23 January 2009. A summary (taken from the LW wiki):


Having a Purpose in Life consistently shows up as something that increases stated well-being. Of course, the problem with trying to pick out "a Purpose in Life" in order to make yourself happier, is that this doesn't take you outside yourself; it's still all about you. To find purpose, you need to turn your eyes outward to look at the world and find things there that you care about - rather than obsessing about the wonderful spiritual benefits you're getting from helping others. In today's world, most of the highest-priority legitimate Causes consist of large groups of people in extreme jeopardy: Aging threatens the old, starvation threatens the poor, extinction risks threaten humanity as a whole. If the future goes right, many and perhaps all such problems will be solved - depleting the stream of victims to be helped. Will the future therefore consist of self-obsessed individuals, with nothing to take them outside themselves? I suggest, though, that even if there were no large groups of people in extreme jeopardy, we would still, looking around, find things outside ourselves that we cared about - friends, family; truth, freedom... Nonetheless, if the Future goes sufficiently well, there will come a time when you could search the whole of civilization, and never find a single person so much in need of help, as dozens you now pass on the street. If you do want to save someone from death, or help a great many people, then act now; your opportunity may not last, one way or another.

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11 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 11:09 PM

If you live as long as you want, what would you do to make sure to not run out of purposes in life?

EDIT: restated to be more neutral, to reduce the chances of people presuming that I have a deathist agenda.


Fuck "purposes in life". I wasn't born with one, I never wanted one, and I would not describe myself as having one. I have never performed one single altruistic act because it was My Purpose; everything I've ever done for others, I did because I actually cared. And if my brain is programmed to become miserable when it runs out of reliant victims, which it doesn't seem to be but this might be abnormal, then it is buggy and should be fixed.

I don't see how one would realistically work out the answer to that in advance. Is there any particular reason you think it would be important to know ahead of time?

Well, personally, I have a mental list of careers I'd love to spend some of the "next lifetimes" on, but I am not at all sure that were I to live and stay young and healthy indefinitely, would not decide to just goof off for a millennium or two first, and eventually forget all about my original aspirations. This is presuming no singularity-type events, of course.

This is a legitimate question and I don't see why its getting downvoted without response.

This just seems like one of those questions that it's a waste of time submitting an answer to - I'm more curious about what shminux had in mind with it.

Edited the original to reduce this type of misunderstanding.

If you live as long as you want, what would you do to make sure to not run out of purposes in life?

l'm willing to grapple with that for as many centuries as it takes.

If you live as long as you want, what would you do to make sure to not run out of purposes in life?

I am naturally curious. I pretty sure I'm not going to run out of a universe to explore.

If you live as long as you want, what would you do to make sure to not run out of purposes in life?

Not die. Keep fit. Beyond that, I'd deal with the problem if it ever arose.

I'm not the same person I was even twenty years ago. What could I possibly plan against the day I'm a hundred years older, or a thousand, beyond surviving to be there?

Also relevant.


You could always associate with causes/groups such that you knew that in your absence the cause would go on, and have a life dangerous enough (taking chances on interesting experiences, etc.) such that your half-life was short enough that this didn't become a problem. Though that might not be 'living as long as you want' for some people.

I don't know if this is a new problem. People lose their purposes in life all the time. They tend to find new ones, especially when groups of people are involved. These things are remarkably fluid, and do not necessarily correspond one to one with external physical reality.