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Addendum: a great "decoupling" event was when countries stopped tying their currency to precious metals (or indeed anything material) ... first it started by introducing paper notes, and now money can exist just as an entry in a bank account. If the economy is just numbers of money then this decoupling means that the economy than grow higher than the number of atoms in the universe which is often cited as a hard upper limit.

I think that economic output is the sum of a lot of other curves. All exponentials come to stagnation pretty fast when they hit their limits, but in our history whenever that happened, there was already a new summand added to the economy which starts a new exponential growth. 

Many of the curves improve factors of things that don't grow any more. For example, many wealthy nations don't have population growth any more, but still increase per-capita output. Likewise, many nations don't have a growth of the energy input, but they're using energy more efficiently.

Machines (and energy transformations) have made it possible to decouple economic output from the physical labor of humans and animals. Electronic communication (starting with telegraphy before there even was electricty) has decoupled the transfer of information from the transfer of matter.

Electronic data processing (and AI) decouples one more thing from the need for biological brains. Even without AI, modern software does a lot of work that we already wouldn't have enough humans to do! 

Maybe one reason for the economy to have been growing over so many different epochs is that the definition of what an economy is has expanded to include more and more things, which previously didn't exist. 

With every task that machines took over from humans, humans found new tasks to create and sell even more things. And the more basic needs are taken care of, the more we focus on entertainment, status, and great projects of humanity like the settlement of Mars, and extending human lifespans. Maybe it will be during our lifetimes that machines take care of all the basic needs and humans will only care about entertainment, their social relationships, and the great projects of humanity. And many, of course, will already be satisfied fith the first two of those three points.

I suggest that some people who want to organize or help with the next meetup will gather on Sunday before or after the official end, so that the date and city can already be announced soon after. We can shoot for a six-month advance notice next time and either stick to this or extend to twelve-months if needed. (12 months advance notice seems to be quite common for big annual events, but not when something new is held the first time.)

"Learned Helplessness" and its opposite "Learned Optimism" are widely replicated results that have now become the basis for some therapeutic approaches in the academic/scientific psychology world. Seligman did a lot of work on this and got his early academy fame on this work. The character strengths and virtues on the other hand are not based on reproducible experiments, rather literature study (as Seligman writes: "lists of virtues from all cultures"). It's not knowledge and results, but rather trying to open up a new area and advocate real experimental research in that field. We'll have to wait at least a decade until the results are in ;-)

Brillyant's comment above basically gives the answer to this: beauty doesn't provide as much long-term happiness as the ICVPI facotrs (individual character, values, preferences, and interests).

Happiness levels in our society are stagnating because materialist desires only provide short-term fulfillment. No matter what good thing happens to you (be it a promotion, inheritance, marrying "the love of your life", ...) your happiness might raise for a certain amount of time but then drop back to its initial level. (Evidence of this is provided in both the books I cited originally.) A dating site which works like online shopping is not just creepy, but also actively diminishing happiness because it offers to much random choice and too little help in connecting with people. Just look at the graph:

So in a way it seems to be the case that in order to lastingly raise your happiness it is basically the only way to change your preferences. Be more social. Be nice to people. Be less judgmental.

I am just starting to do this and although it works for me, I am not yet ready to explain it, and haven't read enough to recommend and summarize. But Seligman's "Authentic Happiness" is at least a start. And "Search inside yourself" is the right thing to validate how much your preference functions has been corrupted by unhelpful external factors.

Of course they do and that's why I wrote "plus other things we don't need to get into here". The point is the beauty-fixation of men which nobody has yet denied. Drethelin even suggests it is so inert that it cannot be changed ;-)

Original for Reference: "Gelehrsamkeit schießt leicht in die Blätter, ohne Frucht zu tragen."

Thanks to all for the warm welcome and the many curious questions about my ambition! And special thanks to MugaSofer, Peterdjones, and jpaulsen for your argumentative support. I am very busy writing right now, and I hope that my posts will answer most of the initial questions. So I’ll rather use the space here to write a little more about myself.

I grew up a true Ravenclaw, but after grad school I discovered that Hufflepuff’s modesty and cheering industry also have their benefits when it comes to my own happiness. HPMOR made me discover my inner Slytherin because I realized that Ravenclaw knowledge and Hufflepuff goodness do not suffice to bring about great achievements. The word “ambition” in the first line of the comment is therefore meant in professor Quirrell’s sense. I also have a deep respect for the principles of Gryffindor’s group (of which the names of A. Swartz and J. Assange have recently caught much mainstream attention), but I can’t find anything of that spirit in myself. If I have ever appeared to be a hero, it was because I accidentally knew something that was of help to someone.

@shminux: I love incremental steps and try to incorporate them into any of my planning and acting! My mini-retirement is actually such a step that, if successful, I’d like to repeat and expand.

@John_Maxwell_IV: Yay for empirical testing of rationality!

@OrphanWilde: “Don't be frightened, don't be sad, We'll only hurt you if you're bad.“ Or to put it into more utilitarian terms: If you are in the way of my ambition, for instance if I would have to hurt your feelings to accomplish any of my goals for the greater good, I would not hesitate to do what has to be done. All I want is to help people to be happy and to achieve their goals, whatever they are. And you’ll probably all understand that I might give a slight preference to helping people whose goals align with mine. ;-)

May you all be happy and healthy, may you be free from stress and anxiety, and may you achieve your goals, whatever they are.

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