Consider these points: Our entire life stories are fixed by our genetics and our childhood environment (nature and nurture, more broadly), both of which we did not choose; Our bodies are slowly growing more frail and debilitated until we die of something such as heart disease, cancer or stroke (or accident before then);
#1 This point seems to imply that freewill hasn't existed, doesn't exist, and never will exist. I mean, we do have a choice of whether or not we want to suffer, here on Earth, for the rest of our lives. Nevertheless, our "life stories" can be greatly affected by our childhood experiences, without a doubt. In some cases, our life stories can be totally predetermined by our childhood experiences. However, that's not to say we can't begin the recovery process of it all. We do have a choice; we can blame one another, and even blame ourselves, or we can take responsibility by owning up to our own shit. Frankly, it all depends on the individual. Any real change usually begins on an individual level. Nobody, except you, can solve your problems...
#3 This point seems like an exaggeration, as somebody here in the comments has already mentioned.
#4 It really doesn't matter, but I thought I'd point out that the mythology of many major religions is, in fact, eerily similar.
i find it interesting that you've arrived at all these (entirely true) conclusions about the human condition, but you don't mention antinatalism. Is that a deliberate omission, or are you against antinatalism? If the latter, what possible justification could you muster for bringing about new human lives?
Beverley, what misunderstanding is that? What's your objection to #5?
Actually, #5 reveals a deep misunderstanding of the nature of evolving systems, especially living systems.
I met a traveller from an antique landWho said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stoneStand in the desert. Near them on the sand,Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frownAnd wrinkled lip and sneer of cold commandTell that its sculptor well those passions readWhich yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.And on the pedestal these words appear:"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"Nothing beside remains: round the decayOf that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,The lone and level sands stretch far away.
OZYMANDIASby Percy B. Shelley.
Oops! Apologies for the duplicate posting.
What are the terrible aspects of life we're talking about here? Disease. Mental illness. Starvation. Maiming. Plus any other kinds of suffering one can think of. Pretty much everyone is affected by some of these, either directly or indirectly. Furthermore, since this stuff isn't dealt out evenly, we find ourselves in the position of feeling 'lucky' that we're better off than some of our fellow humans who've gotten the short end of the stick. And of course, everybody dies, which isn't generally regarded as a good thing.
So, there seems to be this transhumanist vision of an approaching utopia somewhere out there on the horizon. I'll admit, it's pretty easy for someone like me to write that off as a wishthinking fantasy; but as far as evidence for such a thing goes, I think history is on my side so far. And I'm talking about the entire history of life on this planet.
But let's accept that in, say, a thousand years, we've eliminated suffering. First of all, is there any guarantee things will stay that way? Doubtful. But there's something more serious to contemplate, and that's that we're willing to waste generations of people-and here, I'm talking about the percentage that's doomed to misery simply by the luck of the draw- for a vision of a possible paradise inhabited by people who don't even exist yet, a paradise that none of the visionaries will ever see. What are we talking here? Imaginary immortality by proxy? Moreover, if these future denizens were never born, we wouldn't have to worry about providing them a paradise in the first place! The tragi-comic irony is apparent, I think.
On the other hand, if we stopped breeding tomorrow, all of us would exist until we ceased existing, just like it always is anyway. But the upshot is that the source of our worries, i.e. the quality of the future for imaginary generations which don't actually exist, would vanish. Human suffering would vanish in a generation, and untold billions would be spared. A negative utopia, if you will, signed, sealed and delivered, if we could just rid ourselves of these notions of vicarious immortality.
Why does this lump of matter even think it is "human"? Why don't we just naturally consider ourselves as general optimization processes, minds, sentiences, that just happen to be instantiated in a funny, squishy form?
There seem to be two classes of problem included in Kip's human condition: food-is-terrible problems, and portions-too-small problems. They seem quite distinct to me in terms of how we should approach them and the reasons they are tabooed.
Leslie seems to be concerned only with the portions-too-small problems - with the novel horror of the prospect of human extinction, rather than the mundane, predictable horrors of human existence. (He actually does consider whether human extinction is a bad thing or a good thing, but concludes that human extinction is bad even though human persistence certainly means unbearable suffering for billions of people - and I can't detect anything resembling an argument there - he just reports his intuition.) People interested exclusively in preventing extinction and death are also working on portions-too-small problems.
I think it's somewhat cruel to prioritize portions-too-small problems over food-is-terrible problems. If we solve the portions-too-small problems, we have actually made things worse if we have done nothing about the food-is-terrible problems (misery, lack of meaning, not being adapted to be happy in our environments): piles of maggot-infested food for everyone, whether they want it or not. Food-is-terrible problems are where the focus should be.
Also, portions-too-small problems are much more likely to function as mortality salience inductions than are food-is-terrible problems, suggesting that the taboo against discussion of portions-too-small problems is based on terror management, whereas we would have to look elsewhere to learn the reason for the taboo against discussing food-is-terrible problems.
Despite terrible flaws, we do have one thing in our favor..we *are* the original hackers. Even transhumans would have to admit it. For people this dumb, we've shown *tremendous* ingenuity and deviousness... always optimistic, always trying to move forward, always twisting and turning out of even the most miserable conditions, always looking for the next hack. It's amazing what's been achieved with so little brain-power and under such adverse conditions.
The hacker spirit is the human leitmotif. Hacking lives forever!
In your "hard question" about the sinking titanic and no lifeboats...
Telling them or not telling them is inconsequential it's going to sink and they're going to die... the real question is who designed the damn ship without lifeboats?
But... here's a tough question in return for you... if the ship does have lifeboats and enough lifeboats for everyone to get on how hard do you try to get them off the sinking ship before saving yourself? What if they don't listen... how do you persuade them... do you have a responsibility to make them hear?
I know my answer... but then again I'm one of those .001% of people who doesn't accept the worldview offered by OB
This just seems like a depressing post to me.
Call me Carl Sagan, but I think complaining about the state of things should be balanced by a healthy dose of awe and wonder at the amazing and glorious heights which our species has already reached. We are the pinnacle of the animal kingdom. Flawed, yes, but less so than any of our ancestors - and just look at our incredible potential.
This post reminded me that I should donate to the Methuselah Foundation again, so I just sent them a little money and will keep doing that periodically. I encourage others to do the same.
Given the pessimistic outline of Kip's post, I can't help being slightly amused by the quibbling over point 3. As individuals, it seems fair to say that each of us has at best a 50/50 chance of surviving the next century. And for every subjective intent and purpose, an individual's death entails an end to the "species," to the world, to everything. Consciousness is all; when it is extinguished, there's your apocalypse. The only one that counts.
At the very least, unfettered contemplation of the meta-human condition should prompt people to question whether it is decent to have children.
I wonder to what extent you've dealt with the implications of #5. Sometimes I get very depressed about what you call the "human condition," too. But then, some other times, I recall that values are contingent, and this, rightly or wrongly but inevitably, puts a little emotional distance between me and my worries. I wonder whether a brief flourishing of intelligence amid the vast interstellar coldness, wherein the interplay of evolution and human intelligence produced or invented the calculus, love, corporations, general relativity, the concept of the wave function of the universe, culture -- whether maybe that isn't pretty great, whether or not we all die of old age or are turned into paperclips.
Now of course I see that this is a view I hold, in part, as a coping mechanism. The nice thing is that, since the whole worldview is based on a certain ironic distance from values, the realization that it's emotionally motivated doesn't actually create any significant epistemic problems.
I imagine, if I were Eliezer, I would find this perspective despicable. It admits his premises but declines his nobility and austerity. But I'm not sure it's not the best thing going.