I really enjoyed the Epstein article and right after I finished e-mailed it to my own folks.

A.S. (a hikikomori from Russia), if you aren't doing so already, start reading the Antinatalist Blog.

I feel some kinship with Doug S. (especially his minimalist conception of "the good life" or "the necessities") but I think if I were in his situation I'd hate myself.

Expand full comment

I think there is significant genetic variation unrelated to Executive Function specific to hunger and satiety signals.

When my brother hit puberty he started to spend most of his discretionary waking hours working on cars and in woodworking shops, and my Mom was constantly reminding him to stop to eat.

When I hit puberty I started to spend most of my discretionary waking hours with source code and mathematics, and in college many times I worked from one end of the day to the other without stopping to eat.

My brother and I have always been rail thin even though neither of us seem significantly above the U.S. mean in Executive Function.

Expand full comment

I think I'm rather stronger on long-term Executive than short-term Executive. It's easier for me to resist a high salary than a cookie.

Expand full comment

Ah, now it makes some sort of sense. I had interpreted your comment as saying that Eliezer was a loser, from which I had tentatively assumed you have a very bizarre way of evaluating people or have absolutely no way to evaluate a person's knowledge or intelligence without counting their degrees or years of schooling.

Don't try to be an Eliezer unless you think you are . . . a lot more disciplined.

Still confused about that. I'd have guessed that Eliezer is even stronger on Executive Function (discipline, control over impulses, able to delay gratification) than on general intelligence or fluid intelligence.

Expand full comment

"Hikikomori"? There's too much Japanese on this blog.


You sound rather depressed. I've been there too. Given time, things with seem different. Ganbare! :)


Yes, you pretty well summed up what I'm saying. Don't try to be an Eliezer unless you think you are at least as smart and a lot more disciplined, and even then only if you don't have a safer alternative life strategy.

Expand full comment

I'd never get enough inspiration to maintain my own blog. I'm much better at writing blog comments.

Also, what I specified was the minimum level of material possessions that I'd be satisfied with. A computer with an Internet connection is sufficient, but a top-of-the-line computer that plays the latest games is preferred to one that is good for Web browsing and word processing but can't play games less than four years old. A television, recent video game consoles, and video games to play on the consoles would also be very nice, but not required.

I won't say I want a pony, because I don't. ;) What I do want is a cat. I've always wanted a cat. I love cats. I'm crazy about cats. I used to read every book on cats that I could get my hands on. Cats tend to like me; thanks to all that reading, I've got a pretty good understanding of how to encourage them to like me. I don't have a cat, though, because my family is allergic and my mom won't let me keep one in her house. (My brother has asthma.)

I'm not the kind of hikikomori that's afraid to leave their room or their house. I'll go to the movies with my family, get phone numbers from girls in bookstores, and things like that. I also love to go to geeky conventions. I'm pretty social when there are people around me other than my parents; I just don't mind being alone in a room, not when there are so many games to play, books to read, and blogs to post comments on.

Oh, and my parents are borderline workaholics who love their jobs, while I ended up with what might as well be ergophobia. I'm lacking in impulse control (always have, it caused problems for me in school) and have no self-discipline whatsoever. I'm completely incapable of being productive when I don't feel like it.

What's worse is that I don't find self-discipline to be a trait I want myself to have. I want to do what I feel like doing, and I don't even want to be able to want to do what I don't feel like doing. To hell with the long run, I want to feel good now! I've deliberately cultivated a short time horizon, because I don't see the future as being better for me than the present. "Free time" is one of the things that is most important to me, and I don't see how "growing up" and becoming independent from my parents is going to get me more free time than I have now. How is spending 40 hours a week working for an employer going to get me more free time?

I've posted about my own messed-up psyche on this blog before; have I started to get boring or repetitive?

Expand full comment


Do you need a "rental sister?" I mean, I won't pry your oyster open, but really, if you are truly a hikikomori, there are safe ways out of your room if you think you'd like to try.

Expand full comment

Be a doctor, not an Eliezer!

A very strange game spindizzy is playing. Let me see if I can play.

Aspire to a cabin in the first-class section, do not aspire to save the boat from sinking or to transform it into a General Systems Vehicle.

Do not try to pull the sword out of the stone.

Be a Microsoft Certified System Engineer, not a Linus Torvalds!

Expand full comment

Rephrasing the excerpt and many comments in this blog's common terminology: "Your feelings are something about the map. Let's talk about the territory."

Expand full comment

spindizzy: speak for yourself.

Expand full comment

spindizzy, your kind of attitude is what created the whole hikikomori syndrome in the first place. It is a biased unacceptance of deviations from social "normality", where "normality" is simply what the majority does.

Have you ever considered the moral responsibility of giving birth to a child? To bring here someone new, forcing him/her to live in this mad world is not a small matter at all. In fact, no act can be more cruel than this, because no cruelty would ever happen to a person if he/she had never been born in the first place.

When I talk about these matters, people usually write me off as a madman, not even trying to logically analyse the issue.

To the blog owners:The feeling of goodness of bringing someone into this world is the single most harmful example of a human bias I know of. Probably it is worth writing about some day. But the "political incorrectness" makes it impossible, I guess.

Expand full comment

"If I have a small room maintained at a comfortable temperature in which I will not be disturbed,"

Someday you are going to want kids of your own, and that isn't the way to do it.

Be a doctor, not an Eliezer!

Expand full comment

@Daniel Reeves

"Statements such as "I believe" and "I think" should be revised out of every essay in which they occur."

Your French reading copy of Montaigne must be heavily redacted then. Pity.

@Doug S

"If I have a small room maintained at a comfortable temperature in which I will not be disturbed,"

You should consider your own blog. Reading this release of your inner hikikomori is most enlightening. Your mother seems like the strongest argument for Freud I've run across in a long time, if I may be so bold.

Expand full comment

I asked my mom about this again today, and she hedged. She demanded that I describe the category of mistake I meant. I suggested someone taking his life savings to Vegas for the express purpose of losing all of it, and she said yes, if it's his money, he has the right do that. (I suspect that she probably wouldn't let me do that, though.)

Anyway, my father has said that much of his concern with my behavior results from the fact that it reflects badly on him. This is not a trivial or idle concern. For example, the local school system has repeatedly acted under the assumption that my disruptive behavior was the fault of my parents, and basically treated them as though they were on trial for child abuse in all their dealings with the school system.

(I eventually ended up in a special education school, which, all things considered, probably did me more harm than homeschooling would have. There were basically two kinds of students at that school: "retards" and "evil geniuses." Guess which peer group I ended up identifying with? Eventually, around 8th grade, the normal curriculum caught up with me, and I successfully integrated myself into the normal public schools. Whenever I read about mathematical child prodigies, I keep thinking, "That could have been me, if someone had given me the kind of instruction I wanted.")

Expand full comment

I once asked my parents if people have a right to make their own mistakes, and they were adamant that people do not have the right to make their own mistakes. They said that, for example, doctors do not have the right to make their own mistakes, because if they do, they can be sued for malpractice. (My mom is a doctor.)

That isn't an example of 'making one's own mistakes', primarily because it directly affects other people. What your parents are in effect saying is that people cannot be permitted to make choices for themselves - powerful authorities must ensure that they make the 'correct' choice, however they define 'correct'.

I'm sorry, Doug S., but your parents are idiots. (You have my deepest sympathies.)

Expand full comment

Oddly, I was still the smart one, or at least one of the outspoken smart ones, in some of my Huge State U classes. I managed to impress my freshman calculus professor enough that I got a cash award. Does that make me weird?

There's a good chance that, in some ways, I could be the textbook example of "overparented child." My parents do not allow me to fail. For example, when I told them that I would not attend my early morning college classes because I was just going to sleep through them anyway, they said that was unacceptable. I said that the only way I would go is if they took me to class themselves... so they did. They had me stop sleeping in my dorm room, and my mom would literally wake me up every morning and drive me to class to make sure I attended the lectures. I went to every 8:10 AM class, never heard a word the professor said, and learned everything from the textbook and homework assignments.

I once asked my parents if people have a right to make their own mistakes, and they were adamant that people do not have the right to make their own mistakes. They said that, for example, doctors do not have the right to make their own mistakes, because if they do, they can be sued for malpractice. (My mom is a doctor.)

When left to my own devices, I spend all day surfing the Internet and playing video games. This greatly distresses my parents, who are concerned about how I am going to make a living if I refuse to do anything unpleasant, such as get a job. (I am currently 25 years old and job-free.) The things I find important, other people find trivial, and vice versa. I've always been very good at schoolwork, but I find no satisfaction in it whatsoever. It's a horrible analogy, but being a top student always felt to me like I was being honored for being the best performing slave on the plantation. I never found going to school desirable; instead, I always did it because it was the most tolerable among bad choices. (What I am proud of is this. I earned that because I wanted it, and not because I was being coerced.)

What I want is to be in a position in which nobody can make demands of me that I feel I have no choice to comply with. Right now, if I, say, don't want to take care of the laundry, I don't have the option to let it sit in the hamper for another day, because I am financially dependent on my parents. I resent being interrupted when I am doing something, but what ironically makes it worse is that the demands are so reasonable and minimal that I can't justify my resentment of, say, being told to go to the grocery store, as anything other than petty selfishness. (Which I freely admit it is.)

I don't need much money. If I have a small room maintained at a comfortable temperature in which I will not be disturbed, enough food to avoid being hungry, and an Internet connection, that's basically enough for me in terms of material possessions. Oh, and a flush toilet and toilet paper would be nice, too. Unfortunately, I don't think I have enough savings (I have about $30,000 in the bank) to "retire" to even this minimal existence, considering the price of housing in the United States. (Could I live a "college student dorm room" existence on $30,000 for 70 years in some foreign country?)

This is probably too long for a blog comment, but what the heck.

::clicks post::

Expand full comment