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Let’s say I want to know whether it’s safe for my friend to bike to work. My own memories are truth indicative, but so are my friends’ and neighbors [and online surveys]... The trouble is my own memories arrive in my head with extreme salience, and move my automatic anticipations a lot; while my friend’s have less automatic impact, and those of the surveyed neighbors still less...our automatic cognition tends not to weigh the evidence evenly at all. <

I sometimes wonder, though, if giving one's own experiences greater weight in situations like these (though not in the thermometer situation) is rational:

  • People lie (especially in online surveys); first hand evidence should be more valuable than evidence whose validity is in question
  • There are a large number of unknown and unanalyzed factors, some of which may vary with the individual: (I'm less/more coordinated and accident-prone, I am on better/worse terms with the rough crowd in the neighborhood, etc). This information may not be obvious enough to consciously consider.

If I have a sneezing fit every single time I encounter a bullfrog, and no one's ever heard of a bullfrog allergy, and medical science doesn't support the notion, it's still going to be difficult (and I think possibly irrational) to arrive to the pond without a kleenex. It seems to me that in gray-area situations with strong personal evidence, admitting you don't know why you don't know why is at least as rational as concluding you're wrong.


Female / Web developer / 41 years old / rural Indiana native

I've commented a few times, but not many.

Thanks for this. It looks like very useful advice.

"I threw myself into developing the skill of making friends on purpose"

I'd be interested in a comment or post about how this is done. I've never been able to do this.

Agreed. There's another reason why people might give religion the "respect" of treating it worthy of debate, while not doing so with astrology. One might feel that religious people are taking their agendas into politics and school classrooms to the detriment of society in a way that astrologists are not, and might therefore give religionists the respect necessary to engage them in debate and hopefully change their minds.

I had very strong religious experiences in my past, and became an atheist/materialist later, if that counts. So I'm guessing a later one could be similarly worked around.

Not sure what you're responding to. I never said anything about fearing death nor a not-so-good life, only immortality. And my examples (jadedness, boredom) have nothing to do with declining health.

"But most of our society is built around not thinking about death, not any sort of rational, considered adaptation to death. "

Hm. I don't see this at all. I see people planning college, kids, a career they can stand for 40 years, retirement, nursing care, writing wills, buying insurance, picking out cemetaries, all in order, all in a march toward the inevitable. People often talk about whether or not it's "too late" to change careers or buy a house. People often talk about "passing on" skills or keepsakes or whatever to their children. Nearly everything we do seems like an adaptation to death to me.

People who believe in heaven believe that whatever they're supposed to do in heaven is all cut out for them. There will be an orientation, God will give you your duties or pleasures or what have you, and he'll see to it that they don't get boring, because after all, this is a reward. And unlike in Avalot's scenerio, the skills you gained in the first life are useful in the second, because God has been guiding you and all that jazz. There's still a progression of birth to fufilment. (I say this as an ex-afterlife-believer).

On the other hand, many vampire and other stories are predicated on the fact that mundane immortality is terrifying. Who can stand a job for more than 40 years? Who has more than a couple dozen jobs they could imagine standing for 40 years each in succession? Wouldn't they all start to seem pointless? What would you do with your time without jobs? Wouldn't you meet the same sorts of stupid people over and over again until it drove you insane? Wouldn't you get sick of the taste of every food? Even the Internet has made me more jaded than I'd like.

That's my fear of cryogenics. That, and that imperfect science would cause me to have a brain rot that would make my new reanimated self crazy and suffering. But that one is a failure to visualize it working well, not an objection to it working well.

"Rationally, I know that most of what I've learned is useless if I have more time to live. Emotionally, I'm afraid to let go, because what else do I have?"

I love this. But I think it's rational as well as emotional to not be willing to let go of "everything you have".

People who have experienced the loss of someone, or other tragedy, sometimes lose the ability to care about any and everything they are doing. It can all seem futile, depressing, unable to be shared with anyone important. How much more that would be true if none of what you've ever done will ever matter anymore.

I disagree. I think that even the average long-term tortured prisoner would balk and resist if you walked up to him with this machine. In fact, I think fewer people would accept in real life than those who claim they would, in conversations like these.

The resistance may in fact reveal an inability to properly conceptualize the machine working, or it may not. As others have said, maybe you don't want to do something you think is wrong (like abandoning your relatives or being unproductive) even if later you're guaranteed to forget all about it and live in bliss. What if the machine ran on tortured animals? Or tortured humans that you don't know? That shouldn't bother you any more than if it didn't, if all that matters is how you feel once you're hooked up.

We have some present-day corrolaries. What about a lobotomy, or suicide? Even if these can be shown to be a guaranteed escape from unhappiness or neuroses, most people aren't interested, including some really unhappy people.

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