22 Comments

Point 30 is a direct response to point 22 😅

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Interesting point! What puzzles me is that I don't see what's forcing us to be less together. Couldn't we all decide to live with extended families again or hang out with friends instead of watching TV?

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Perhaps we have a revealed preference towards other things than happiness.

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There’s an argument to be made that, paradoxically, the history of civilization (aka technology) is one of growing further apart. It’s like an inevitable by-product of the importance afforded to the individual relative to the group. In the tribe, everyone’s got an assigned role (unless you were too much of a burden to the group and then you were left to die at an early age I guess) and everyone must pull their own weight for the survival of the group. Likewise in the (extended) family, there’s a hierarchy and roles and you have to abide by them. But as technology progresses, it allows us to rely less on one another for survival, to the point that we sometimes take the opportunity to leave the group (because it’s oppressive, or we’re more ambitious, or we hate our brother, etc). We miss out on the long-term reward that feeling connected used to bring, but we enjoy the more immediate reward of our full autonomy. Now, whether this reward is worth the price is a question at the core of most philosophical and religious thinking (eg islam means submission, clearly suggesting that autonomy is overrated). That’s also the whole appeal of the Amish way of life: you MUST reject technology to preserve community, so that all members have to rely on each other for the survival of the group. That they’ve been able to deliberately keep making this choice and grow their ranks at a rapid pace in the past decades is mind blowing, but also maybe an answer to your question: nothing is forcing us to be less together, but the price to pay to stay together is heavy (be stuck in agrarian times).

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Point 16 will pique the interest of your family members who’ve read infinite jest, an outcome of variable utility

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Yes, The Entertainment is definitely an inspiration there!

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Incredible list-- Merry Xmas thanks for this amazing substack 🙂🎄

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I hazarded at least a possible answer to your question about pie vs. cake a few years ago: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/01/america-forgot-how-to-make-pie-crust/

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Amazing, this has increased my pie knowledge by a large multiple!

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What is the exact mechanism for #3?

Thank you for excellent content, as always.

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Well it's total conjecture, but the theory is that if we got to the point where people were having kids at 90, life expectancy would surely have gone up as well!

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On point 22: Did you have anything specific in mind when coming up with this one?

On point 23: Obisidian user here; To me, the personal benefit lies in collecting all kinds of information in a semi-structured, searchable way and having it at my disposal whenever I need it. That's the value-add. Granted, a massive flat file could provide most of that.

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Genuinely have nothing specific in mind for point 22. It just seems likely to me on general principles that there should be such a thing and I find it odd that I can't think of anything.

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Re: point 26: How dare you. 🧁

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It's a funny list, but since I'm the only true nerd in my family, there's no one to argue with for most of the items. I question the premise behind some of them (e.g., I don't accept that agriculture made life worse), but I guess that's just further fodder for argument, isn't it?

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Regarding #1.

I think it's arguable that the Guinness book of records has caused harm for the many people trying and failing (or not) to do really pointless, stupid and dangerous things. There's also likely a ton of bullshit involved.

But the idea of pushing humanity to our limits and achieving the most amazing and crazy things is a value worth keeping and nurturing. So I'm going with net good.

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Tour de France: bad crashes always make the highlights... people already know the price cyclists pay.

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I found them all wonderfully wicked; some more than others. It's a cacophony of colliding conundrums; but OH, so fun to discuss, debate or postulate. 😉

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2. I embrace explicit materialism about the few things that I'm openly materialistic about (good food, books, a nice view) and many people do but are only open about them with their close ones. Explicit materialism for its own sake or to compete with others is low status.

12. Meaning in life is just satisfaction/fulfillment that gets you to the next moment.

14. This may be too technical for me. More broadly it seems to be asking what would one do with perfect self control. I think you'd develop principles and set some baseline for degrees of change over time.

26. Good cake is on the same level as good pie and fresh well made cake is better than good pie, in my opinion. Your comment could be due to only having access to good pie and ok cake.

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Nov 14, 2023·edited Nov 14, 2023Author

For 14 I was more thinking about the fact that what we want is determined by the "program" that's running in our brains. But if you could change the program that's running in your brain, you could change what you want—which might then spur you to make further changes to the program that's running in your brain. So in a situation like that if you run many iterations, where do you end up? Are there multiple different stationary points? Are you always happy in those stationary points, or might you be miserable.

For 26, I think I can concede that cake seems to benefit from freshness more than pie does!

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For 14: It may be useful to differentiate between what we say we want, what we actually want and concrete actions/decisions. What you describe is somewhat common. We adjust the "program" running in our brains to better match or justify our actions. If we had perfect control over such mechanisms life would be more interesting in some ways and more boring in other ways and also kind of scary. If I could change what I want with no residual effects from previously held desires I might end up an overly pragmatic philosophical zombie with set goals and actions and little interpersonal relationships.

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