Author Topic: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!  (Read 4271 times)

GuitarStv

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #50 on: July 12, 2018, 11:40:24 AM »
Well making the world a "better" place is also subjective. To come back to American prosperity, I would argue that many fundamental aspects of American living, laws and programs need serious focus before we try and fix the world. Should we fight to significantly increase the flow of immigrants before addressing our own rampant homeless problem, or fixing the broken immigration system that has thousands of refugees currently in limbo? Should we fight for politicians that would increase UN peace keeping funds, but continue the blind eye on the 500+ murders in cities like Chicago?

Ethics is far from cut and dry. Yes, we need to help others to survive as a society but the help has to be planned, focused and enduring to result in change. I do agree that investing in infrastructure helps solidify the foundation needed at home first, then look outward. Otherwise too much help, spread too thin is essentially worthless.

It's certainly possible to debate ethics in politics and come to different conclusions.  Don't expect someone from the government to solve all the problems for you though.  Don't wait for something to be perfect that will always be flawed before you take action.  You need to focus on what you personally can do.  Help at a homeless shelter a couple days a month.  Take a refugee family into your home for a while.  Become active in one of the anti-gang programs in the city that you live.  There are infinite possibilities.  That part at least is very cut and dry . . . by doing good things (things that help, rather than hurt people) on a regular basis, you help make society better.  And you'll be happier for it.

NorthernBlitz

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #51 on: July 12, 2018, 11:43:28 AM »
Well making the world a "better" place is also subjective. To come back to American prosperity, I would argue that many fundamental aspects of American living, laws and programs need serious focus before we try and fix the world. Should we fight to significantly increase the flow of immigrants before addressing our own rampant homeless problem, or fixing the broken immigration system that has thousands of refugees currently in limbo? Should we fight for politicians that would increase UN peace keeping funds, but continue the blind eye on the 500+ murders in cities like Chicago?

Ethics is far from cut and dry. Yes, we need to help others to survive as a society but the help has to be planned, focused and enduring to result in change. I do agree that investing in infrastructure helps solidify the foundation needed at home first, then look outward. Otherwise too much help, spread too thin is essentially worthless.

I think that my original point here was that looking at longer term trends (like those described in Pinker's book) shows us that we're generally doing well and improving on the metrics we care about. The doom and gloom we get about the present is very likely as overblown now as it was 4 years ago (with the possible exception of how we treat the climate).

So, I think what America need to do to continue prospering is mostly continue what it has been doing. And a big part of that is continuing to have constructive tension between those who don't want to change the things that have made the US an incredible overall success (conservatives) and those who want to overhaul things because we can do better for the people that fall through the cracks (liberals).

So I guess if there's one thing I think the US (and the West in general) needs to do better, it's have constructive discussion between political groups instead of crazy over the top partisanship.

NorthernBlitz

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #52 on: July 12, 2018, 11:45:17 AM »
Well making the world a "better" place is also subjective. To come back to American prosperity, I would argue that many fundamental aspects of American living, laws and programs need serious focus before we try and fix the world. Should we fight to significantly increase the flow of immigrants before addressing our own rampant homeless problem, or fixing the broken immigration system that has thousands of refugees currently in limbo? Should we fight for politicians that would increase UN peace keeping funds, but continue the blind eye on the 500+ murders in cities like Chicago?

Ethics is far from cut and dry. Yes, we need to help others to survive as a society but the help has to be planned, focused and enduring to result in change. I do agree that investing in infrastructure helps solidify the foundation needed at home first, then look outward. Otherwise too much help, spread too thin is essentially worthless.

It's certainly possible to debate ethics in politics and come to different conclusions.  Don't expect someone from the government to solve all the problems for you though.  Don't wait for something to be perfect that will always be flawed before you take action.  You need to focus on what you personally can do.  Help at a homeless shelter a couple days a month.  Take a refugee family into your home for a while.  Become active in one of the anti-gang programs in the city that you live.  There are infinite possibilities.  That part at least is very cut and dry . . . by doing good things (things that help, rather than hurt people) on a regular basis, you help make society better.  And you'll be happier for it.

100% agree with this.

I've only done it a few times, but I really enjoyed volunteering at a soup kitchen. It's something I would like to make more time for...hopefully after I'm FI and the demands of work and young children are lower.

shenlong55

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #53 on: July 12, 2018, 11:53:17 AM »

Selfish has become a weird word to me.  I'm no longer sure how to apply it.  The definition from above about "chiefly being concerned with one's own personal profit or pleasure" presents and odd problem for me.  If I'm chiefly concerned with my own personal profit or pleasure and I realize that the best way for me to maximize my own personal profit and pleasure is to not be chiefly concerned with my own personal profit or pleasure then am I selfish or not?  I'm still trying to maximize my own personal profit or pleasure, but I'm doing so by not being chiefly concerned with my own personal profit or pleasure...

Maybe the other part of the definition from google is the more operative part of the common usage of the term?

selfˇish
ˈselfiSH/
adjective
adjective: selfish
(of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure.

I think that either part is still selfish (and that human nature makes us generally more selfish than altruistic).

I think I agree with you if you're saying that the "lacking consideration for others" part sounds like a more obvious moral problem than "concerned chiefly one's own personal profit or pleasure".

But, I think that it's tough to disentangle the two. Especially if "lack of consideration" doesn't mean "absence of consideration" but something more like "lack of action taken on consideration for others".

I'd probably argue that someone following the MMM lifestyle (which I'm not knocking because I try to follow it) isn't really any different from the general population (in a similar socio-economic status) with regard to their "lack of consideration for others".

What I think differentiates us MMM types from our peers is that instead of pursuing our concern for "profit" and "pleasure" in parallel, we choose to delay our "concern for personal pleasure" until we've amassed enough "personal profit" that our future focus on "pleasure" isn't impeded by monetary concerns.

Again, I think that's pretty much selfish by definition (with the caveat that many of us have loved ones so we're likely concerned with more than just one organism). But, I don't think that being selfish is necessarily being bad (although I think we can all think of cases where selfishness gets out of hand).

I generally think that arguments against it being selfish are ones we decided we liked after we picked the conclusion we wanted.

I wasn't really trying to make any particular point with regards to the moral issue or the MMM lifestyle issue.  My question was more of a linguistic/philosophical one.  I'm not sure, but I think the words "concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure" may apply so universally as to be almost meaningless/provide no distinction.  And again, I'm just not sure if I should consider myself selfish or not in the situation that I presented above.  These issues make me question the value of the word itself.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2018, 12:28:24 PM by shenlong55 »

NorthernBlitz

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #54 on: July 12, 2018, 01:10:43 PM »

Selfish has become a weird word to me.  I'm no longer sure how to apply it.  The definition from above about "chiefly being concerned with one's own personal profit or pleasure" presents and odd problem for me.  If I'm chiefly concerned with my own personal profit or pleasure and I realize that the best way for me to maximize my own personal profit and pleasure is to not be chiefly concerned with my own personal profit or pleasure then am I selfish or not?  I'm still trying to maximize my own personal profit or pleasure, but I'm doing so by not being chiefly concerned with my own personal profit or pleasure...

Maybe the other part of the definition from google is the more operative part of the common usage of the term?

selfˇish
ˈselfiSH/
adjective
adjective: selfish
(of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure.

I think that either part is still selfish (and that human nature makes us generally more selfish than altruistic).

I think I agree with you if you're saying that the "lacking consideration for others" part sounds like a more obvious moral problem than "concerned chiefly one's own personal profit or pleasure".

But, I think that it's tough to disentangle the two. Especially if "lack of consideration" doesn't mean "absence of consideration" but something more like "lack of action taken on consideration for others".

I'd probably argue that someone following the MMM lifestyle (which I'm not knocking because I try to follow it) isn't really any different from the general population (in a similar socio-economic status) with regard to their "lack of consideration for others".

What I think differentiates us MMM types from our peers is that instead of pursuing our concern for "profit" and "pleasure" in parallel, we choose to delay our "concern for personal pleasure" until we've amassed enough "personal profit" that our future focus on "pleasure" isn't impeded by monetary concerns.

Again, I think that's pretty much selfish by definition (with the caveat that many of us have loved ones so we're likely concerned with more than just one organism). But, I don't think that being selfish is necessarily being bad (although I think we can all think of cases where selfishness gets out of hand).

I generally think that arguments against it being selfish are ones we decided we liked after we picked the conclusion we wanted.

I wasn't really trying to make any particular point with regards to the moral issue or the MMM lifestyle issue.  My question was more of a linguistic/philosophical one.  I'm not sure, but I think the words "concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure" may apply so universally as to be almost meaningless/provide no distinction.  And again, I'm just not sure if I should consider myself selfish or not in the situation that I presented above.  These issues make me question the value of the word itself.

I think I'm in the same boat. That's why I appreciate the discussion here.

ChpBstrd

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #55 on: July 18, 2018, 01:37:19 PM »
I'm not convinced that happiness is the point of life. It's merely an emotion that drives our behavior to approach those things that cause the emotion. Pleasure (short term or long) has a causal relationship with our behavior. In that sense, we are the puppets of our own feelings and the brain chemistry that causes them. The roach that lives in your kitchen lives at this level - she scurries away from adverse light and toward pleasurable food and reproductive activities. Are most people really that different?

If living on the level of a simple robot or insect seems like a step in the wrong direction, it may be because you want something beyond happiness. Realize this. Try to figure out what it is.

A good question to ask is, what would you be willing to be miserable for? To make the difference to other people that Oscar Schindler made? To save an entire nation from injustice and conflict as Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King did? To accomplish alpha male or alpha female status as obsessive billionaires and politicians do? To make lots of babies? To achieve wisdom (see the parable of Socrates and the pig)? To escape your robotic biological default functions and attain true agency? To become a legend? To become enlightened?

I smoked weed a few times* (*OK, mild understatement). Each time, my anxieties disappeared, but so did my ambition, my intellect, the uniqueness of my perspective, my capability/responsibility, my self-discipline, my awareness of urgent problems, and my intelligence. Each time, a couple days later, I'd grapple with the realization that what I had done was terrifying, even if it was pleasurable. I had chosen to be the pig instead of Socrates. Was I merely taking a vacation or was it rational to trade disability for happiness? If some of the changes were permanent, should I accept that?

What if I could achieve lifetime happiness by having a sort of lobotomy and reducing my tendencies for fear, pain, insecurity, anxiety, or depression? The downside would be a rather severe disability due to a lack of awareness in those areas. Should I sign up for such a surgery? What if everyone did so?

GuitarStv

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #56 on: July 18, 2018, 02:02:03 PM »
Why should life have a point?  Just accept it for what it is.

In your example, the cockroach will never be able to achieve happiness other than through luck . . . because the cockroach can't plan ahead, can't draw pleasure from relationships formed over years, can't look back at things she has built/achieved/accomplished.  While I'd argue that there's something to be said for living simply, and enjoying the moment you're in . . . I'd also argue that doing this to the exclusion of all else is detrimental.

Don't confuse long term happiness/satisfaction with short term/damaging pleasure seeking behaviour.  Getting high on weed is very temporary, and doing so on a very regular basis is not likely to lead to long term happiness (as you've discovered) . . . particularly if you are escaping your circumstances, avoiding relationships, or numbing your reality.  You're not choosing the path to happiness if deep down you feel that what you're doing is wrong, as you described.

I'd argue that the absence of pain is not happiness.  There are many painful things I've done to increase my long term happiness (working to overcome fears, physical feats, giving up time for causes I believe in, etc.).  Pain isn't a detriment to happiness when you're accepting and enduring it to achieve a goal.

Personally, I've worked very hard over my life to get to the point where I can draw satisfaction from the person I have become . . . so getting lobotomized wouldn't seem to be very appealing at all.

Dabnasty

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #57 on: July 18, 2018, 02:03:06 PM »
I'm not convinced that happiness is the point of life.

I think it depends on what one means by happiness. Not to dismiss the good points you made but it sounds like you're relating happiness to pleasure and avoiding negative emotions (which you could argue is technically correct). Others use the word happiness as the culmination of all positive emotions, such as satisfaction, pride and any number of other emotions that don't have precise names because each one varies not only between people but between the same person at different times. As in, these other emotions are positive because they result in "happiness".

Would you accept that the point of life is to strive for the greatest amount of net positive emotions by whatever means will bring them?

ChpBstrd

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #58 on: July 18, 2018, 03:03:24 PM »
Why should life have a point?  Just accept it for what it is.

In your example, the cockroach will never be able to achieve happiness other than through luck . . . because the cockroach can't plan ahead, can't draw pleasure from relationships formed over years, can't look back at things she has built/achieved/accomplished. .....

Don't confuse long term happiness/satisfaction with short term/damaging pleasure seeking behaviour.

The pursuit of delayed gratification is still the pursuit of gratification. I think what you're saying is "we can attain more net happiness through long-term behaviors, some of them unpleasant, that a roach can't do". This is probably true, but my question is whether we should devote our lives to obtaining the most happiness possible. Even if we're able to strategize long-term or enjoy types of pleasure beyond the roach's comprehension, we're still doing what roaches do when we pursue pleasurable things / emotions.

ChpBstrd

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #59 on: July 18, 2018, 03:24:38 PM »
I'm not convinced that happiness is the point of life.

I think it depends on what one means by happiness. Not to dismiss the good points you made but it sounds like you're relating happiness to pleasure and avoiding negative emotions (which you could argue is technically correct). Others use the word happiness as the culmination of all positive emotions, such as satisfaction, pride and any number of other emotions that don't have precise names because each one varies not only between people but between the same person at different times. As in, these other emotions are positive because they result in "happiness".

Would you accept that the point of life is to strive for the greatest amount of net positive emotions by whatever means will bring them?
I like the term "net positive emotions" to describe what we're talking about.

I don't find it acceptable to think we live our entire lives for the sake of managing our own internal emotional state so that we can get more "net positive emotions". That's a very robotic life. Such a life would have no meaning to an external observer (i.e. superintelligent aliens) just like a roach's life is meaningless to us. I'd like to grow beyond being a pleasure-seeking gadget.

GuitarStv

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #60 on: July 18, 2018, 06:08:45 PM »
Why should life have a point?  Just accept it for what it is.

In your example, the cockroach will never be able to achieve happiness other than through luck . . . because the cockroach can't plan ahead, can't draw pleasure from relationships formed over years, can't look back at things she has built/achieved/accomplished. .....

Don't confuse long term happiness/satisfaction with short term/damaging pleasure seeking behaviour.

The pursuit of delayed gratification is still the pursuit of gratification. I think what you're saying is "we can attain more net happiness through long-term behaviors, some of them unpleasant, that a roach can't do". This is probably true, but my question is whether we should devote our lives to obtaining the most happiness possible. Even if we're able to strategize long-term or enjoy types of pleasure beyond the roach's comprehension, we're still doing what roaches do when we pursue pleasurable things / emotions.

My primary motivator is happiness.  It makes me happy to help others.  It makes me happy to plan and work towards achieving a goal.  If it makes you happy to pursue things that don't make you happy . . . then knock yourself out.  :P


I'm not convinced that happiness is the point of life.

I think it depends on what one means by happiness. Not to dismiss the good points you made but it sounds like you're relating happiness to pleasure and avoiding negative emotions (which you could argue is technically correct). Others use the word happiness as the culmination of all positive emotions, such as satisfaction, pride and any number of other emotions that don't have precise names because each one varies not only between people but between the same person at different times. As in, these other emotions are positive because they result in "happiness".

Would you accept that the point of life is to strive for the greatest amount of net positive emotions by whatever means will bring them?
I like the term "net positive emotions" to describe what we're talking about.

I don't find it acceptable to think we live our entire lives for the sake of managing our own internal emotional state so that we can get more "net positive emotions". That's a very robotic life. Such a life would have no meaning to an external observer (i.e. superintelligent aliens) just like a roach's life is meaningless to us. I'd like to grow beyond being a pleasure-seeking gadget.

Why does life have to have a meaning (let alone a meaning to an external observer)?  Why do you care what a super-intelligent alien things?

Robots are a weird analogy to use here, given that they don't have emotion and therefore cannot seek pleasure.

ChpBstrd

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #61 on: July 18, 2018, 09:31:46 PM »
Robots are a weird analogy to use here, given that they don't have emotion and therefore cannot seek pleasure.

Robots can have emotions. Just write a program that sets parameter emotional_state to value=happy for ten seconds when sensor_input=chocolate. Then program the robot to maximize the amount of time when emotional state = happy or avoid a state of not happy whenever possible. You'll have an autonomous system taking steps within its context to be happy by seeking chocolate. You could also program it to smile, increase speed, relax, or behave in any other way when happy. Happy would be its true state when programmed this way and when emotional_state=happy, and nobody could say otherwise.

You could ratchet up the complexity infinitely. For example, maybe the robot can only experience happiness when sensing chocolate in the presence of other robots while upside down and after having accomplished some computational feat such as translating all of Shakespeare's works into an Aboriginal language or building another robot. With sufficient complexity, you could design a robot universe where only one in a million robots ever succeeds at experiencing happiness.

The point of my analogy is to show how mechanical it is to set a single internal state as a goal and then pursue that goal.

Quote
Why does life have to have a meaning (let alone a meaning to an external observer)?  Why do you care what a super-intelligent alien things?

I honestly don't like the term "meaning" in the phrase "meaning of life" because it implies the necessity for an external observer who creates the puzzle we are to solve, e.g. gods. Perhaps it's more clear to say I'm seeking a "rational objective to pursue while alive" from my own perspective. Hypothetical external observers are still a useful rhetorical device because pretending to explain one's actions to someone else is an accountability check, and because we can then reflect on how we act as external observers when we consider the meaningfulness or rationality of other organisms.

GuitarStv

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #62 on: July 19, 2018, 07:31:02 AM »
Robots are a weird analogy to use here, given that they don't have emotion and therefore cannot seek pleasure.

Robots can have emotions. Just write a program that sets parameter emotional_state to value=happy for ten seconds when sensor_input=chocolate. Then program the robot to maximize the amount of time when emotional state = happy or avoid a state of not happy whenever possible. You'll have an autonomous system taking steps within its context to be happy by seeking chocolate. You could also program it to smile, increase speed, relax, or behave in any other way when happy. Happy would be its true state when programmed this way and when emotional_state=happy, and nobody could say otherwise.

You could ratchet up the complexity infinitely. For example, maybe the robot can only experience happiness when sensing chocolate in the presence of other robots while upside down and after having accomplished some computational feat such as translating all of Shakespeare's works into an Aboriginal language or building another robot. With sufficient complexity, you could design a robot universe where only one in a million robots ever succeeds at experiencing happiness.

The point of my analogy is to show how mechanical it is to set a single internal state as a goal and then pursue that goal.

Fair enough.

Quote
Why does life have to have a meaning (let alone a meaning to an external observer)?  Why do you care what a super-intelligent alien things?

I honestly don't like the term "meaning" in the phrase "meaning of life" because it implies the necessity for an external observer who creates the puzzle we are to solve, e.g. gods. Perhaps it's more clear to say I'm seeking a "rational objective to pursue while alive" from my own perspective. Hypothetical external observers are still a useful rhetorical device because pretending to explain one's actions to someone else is an accountability check, and because we can then reflect on how we act as external observers when we consider the meaningfulness or rationality of other organisms.

OK.  You want to pursue a "rational objective while alive".  Check.  So, what is the rational objective you want to pursue?

I'd also like to point out that assuming you're able to choose a rational objective and pursue it . . . you're doing so because you're unhappy with your current state and this action will increase your net happiness.  Your prime motivator to do anything is always the pursuit of happiness (as you mentioned, this is a hardwired trait in all living things).  The difference between our pursuit of happiness as humans and that of a cockroach is our ability to choose the things that make us happy based on our own logic, experiences, and mental constructs.  It can go far beyond immediate hedonistic pleasure seeking.

Louisville

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #63 on: July 19, 2018, 08:22:30 AM »
Robots are a weird analogy to use here, given that they don't have emotion and therefore cannot seek pleasure.

...You could ratchet up the complexity infinitely. ...
Quote
Why does life have to have a meaning (let alone a meaning to an external observer)?  Why do you care what a super-intelligent alien things?

I honestly don't like the term "meaning" in the phrase "meaning of life" because it implies the necessity for an external observer who creates the puzzle we are to solve, e.g. gods. Perhaps it's more clear to say I'm seeking a "rational objective to pursue while alive" from my own perspective. Hypothetical external observers are still a useful rhetorical device because pretending to explain one's actions to someone else is an accountability check, and because we can then reflect on how we act as external observers when we consider the meaningfulness or rationality of other organisms.

Ratchet it up enough and you've got a person. We are no more than the very complex set of electro-chemical reactions going on between our ears. So, then, what's the point? There is none, when you chase the question down to this level. "Meaningfulness" and "rationality" are just more abstract parts of the program running in there.
That said, we don't generally operate our lives based on considerations way down at this level of examination. We take "meaningfulness" and "rationality" at face value for the pleasure/happiness/net-positive-emotions they make us feel.
So again I must put forth that happiness (or net-positive-emotions if you prefer) is the ultimate measure of success. It's all we've got.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2018, 08:28:54 AM by Louisville »

ChpBstrd

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #64 on: July 20, 2018, 09:59:06 PM »
Robots are a weird analogy to use here, given that they don't have emotion and therefore cannot seek pleasure.

...You could ratchet up the complexity infinitely. ...
Quote
Why does life have to have a meaning (let alone a meaning to an external observer)?  Why do you care what a super-intelligent alien things?

I honestly don't like the term "meaning" in the phrase "meaning of life" because it implies the necessity for an external observer who creates the puzzle we are to solve, e.g. gods. Perhaps it's more clear to say I'm seeking a "rational objective to pursue while alive" from my own perspective. Hypothetical external observers are still a useful rhetorical device because pretending to explain one's actions to someone else is an accountability check, and because we can then reflect on how we act as external observers when we consider the meaningfulness or rationality of other organisms.

Ratchet it up enough and you've got a person. We are no more than the very complex set of electro-chemical reactions going on between our ears. So, then, what's the point? There is none, when you chase the question down to this level. "Meaningfulness" and "rationality" are just more abstract parts of the program running in there.
That said, we don't generally operate our lives based on considerations way down at this level of examination. We take "meaningfulness" and "rationality" at face value for the pleasure/happiness/net-positive-emotions they make us feel.
So again I must put forth that happiness (or net-positive-emotions if you prefer) is the ultimate measure of success. It's all we've got.

Consider the life of Nelson Mandela. Most of it was miserable. He spent 27 years in prisons featuring hard labor, torture, and hopelessness. His wife and kids lived their lives without him, aside from the occasional letter. He got his satisfaction in the end, perhaps the ultimate example of delayed gratification. Yet, on the net, his life might have been a lot happier if he had pursued the life of an average person. If happiness is the point, was this hero mistaken?

Consider Martin Luther King. He took a bullet to the chest and never saw the realization of the Civil Rights Act. He could have been happier in more pleasant circumstances than being constantly arrested, beaten, and spat upon. Yet he chose the less happy path.

Compared to people whose life pursuits are about their own happiness, were these examples simply irrational failures? Or did their lives become something bigger than an accumulation of happy memories, forgotten upon death? One could say they were just pursuing happiness by tackling the most difficult problems, but I wonder if the term happiness has been made too broad by the assumption it motivates everything. Marathon runners accept hours/days of misery in exchange for completing the race. Do they get happiness for completing the race? I'm not sure that's the point at their level. There are much easier paths to take to put a smile on one's face, and yet here are all these people doing incredibly difficult things. Happiness functions as an excuse to do these things.

I read a study that people become significantly less happy when they become parents. Good thing there are more important things in life than that emotion, or we'd have all have been left out to die.

GuitarStv

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #65 on: July 21, 2018, 12:08:11 PM »
Robots are a weird analogy to use here, given that they don't have emotion and therefore cannot seek pleasure.

...You could ratchet up the complexity infinitely. ...
Quote
Why does life have to have a meaning (let alone a meaning to an external observer)?  Why do you care what a super-intelligent alien things?

I honestly don't like the term "meaning" in the phrase "meaning of life" because it implies the necessity for an external observer who creates the puzzle we are to solve, e.g. gods. Perhaps it's more clear to say I'm seeking a "rational objective to pursue while alive" from my own perspective. Hypothetical external observers are still a useful rhetorical device because pretending to explain one's actions to someone else is an accountability check, and because we can then reflect on how we act as external observers when we consider the meaningfulness or rationality of other organisms.

Ratchet it up enough and you've got a person. We are no more than the very complex set of electro-chemical reactions going on between our ears. So, then, what's the point? There is none, when you chase the question down to this level. "Meaningfulness" and "rationality" are just more abstract parts of the program running in there.
That said, we don't generally operate our lives based on considerations way down at this level of examination. We take "meaningfulness" and "rationality" at face value for the pleasure/happiness/net-positive-emotions they make us feel.
So again I must put forth that happiness (or net-positive-emotions if you prefer) is the ultimate measure of success. It's all we've got.

Consider the life of Nelson Mandela. Most of it was miserable. He spent 27 years in prisons featuring hard labor, torture, and hopelessness. His wife and kids lived their lives without him, aside from the occasional letter. He got his satisfaction in the end, perhaps the ultimate example of delayed gratification. Yet, on the net, his life might have been a lot happier if he had pursued the life of an average person. If happiness is the point, was this hero mistaken?

I disagree completely.  Mandela was a freedom fighter because he was wildly unhappy with the racist policies in South Africa.  He would not have been happier if he pursued the life of an average person - he would have been confronted every day with injustice that he could not tolerate.  Fighting for what he believed in made him happier than cowing down before a superior force.  Even being in prison, he was able to draw happiness from the fact that he was there for a reason, that his cause was just, and that he was doing what was right.  That's why he wasn't filled with rage and didn't pursue vengeance upon receiving his freedom . . . the same moral compass and sense of righeousness that he relied on to provide him with happiness in his darkest hours was again relied on to provide him with happiness when times got better.



Consider Martin Luther King. He took a bullet to the chest and never saw the realization of the Civil Rights Act. He could have been happier in more pleasant circumstances than being constantly arrested, beaten, and spat upon. Yet he chose the less happy path.

Again, the path that King chose gave his life meaning . . . and thereby provided him with much greater happiness than knuckling under to pressure.  While external bad things happened to him (arrested, beaten, and spat upon) because of his choices, the internal knowledge that what he was doing was right provided him with greater happiness than choosing another path.  That's why he stuck with it.

You can derive happiness from the process, without ever achieving the end goal.  An awful lot of musicians do this for example . . . they derive happiness from the creation of music, even if the music is never going to be listened to by millions . . . and even if the music is never going to be listened to by anyone.  The process of creation is as important as the finished product.



Compared to people whose life pursuits are about their own happiness, were these examples simply irrational failures?

Every person's life pursuits are about their own happiness.  You appear to have far too narrow a definition of 'happiness', it's focused on short term incidents and pain while ignoring the tremendous benefits of taking a moral stance and working towards making the world a better place.



Or did their lives become something bigger than an accumulation of happy memories, forgotten upon death? One could say they were just pursuing happiness by tackling the most difficult problems, but I wonder if the term happiness has been made too broad by the assumption it motivates everything. Marathon runners accept hours/days of misery in exchange for completing the race. Do they get happiness for completing the race? I'm not sure that's the point at their level. There are much easier paths to take to put a smile on one's face, and yet here are all these people doing incredibly difficult things. Happiness functions as an excuse to do these things.

Happiness isn't something simple where you can point to it and say 'there, that will make you happy'.  It's a very individual thing.  Training for and running a marathon might be the most miserable experience of your life, or the best one . . . depending on who you are.  I'd argue that the people who choose to be marathon runners get happiness from the whole process of being a marathon runner.  They derive happiness by being a part of that world, by regularly performing the training, by participating in races, by seeing the adaptations their bodies make to the challenge, and by defining themselves as someone who runs marathons.  Again, happiness != immunity from pain.  In an awful lot of cases, enduring pain leads to greater happiness.  That's why people will so often choose to do so.


I read a study that people become significantly less happy when they become parents. Good thing there are more important things in life than that emotion, or we'd have all have been left out to die.

These studies typically focus on a very narrow definition of 'in the moment' happiness*.  A kid causes stress, sleepless nights, worry/concern, is a drain on resources, etc.  All of that is true.  All of it is temporary too.  I'd argue that most parents feel long term satisfaction from raising their kids . . . long term satisfaction is often the key to living a life of sustained happiness.

(*Interestingly studies appear to show that the happiness gap can be virtually eliminated by providing parents things like subsidized child care, paid sick leave, paid holidays, etc. - https://qz.com/708438/the-parenting-happiness-gap-is-real-new-research-confirms/).

ChpBstrd

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #66 on: July 21, 2018, 01:24:10 PM »
So happiness can be pain or pleasure, immediate or deferred, goal based or process based, hedonistic or moralistic, and any combination of things because happiness is based on the properties of the individual (and we learn what makes the individual happy by observing whatever they do)?

I'm sure you see the problem here. This definition of happiness lacks operational precision - i.e. how would you measure it alongside any other motive that might be proposed to exist? How does such a broad definition of happiness differ from the word "motive"?

It's also a bit circular to say whatever unpleasant thing people are doing is actually them obtaining happiness because only happiness could persuade them to do unpleasant things. "Happiness" is reduced to a semi-meaningless word we use when talking about motivation, based on an assumption it is the only motivation that could explain the observed behavior.

pecunia

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #67 on: July 21, 2018, 01:43:19 PM »
A great country takes care of its people.  It takes care of all of its people.

Of course opinions may differ.

GuitarStv

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #68 on: July 21, 2018, 04:01:25 PM »
So happiness can be pain or pleasure, immediate or deferred, goal based or process based, hedonistic or moralistic, and any combination of things because happiness is based on the properties of the individual (and we learn what makes the individual happy by observing whatever they do)?

I'm sure you see the problem here. This definition of happiness lacks operational precision - i.e. how would you measure it alongside any other motive that might be proposed to exist? How does such a broad definition of happiness differ from the word "motive"?

It's also a bit circular to say whatever unpleasant thing people are doing is actually them obtaining happiness because only happiness could persuade them to do unpleasant things. "Happiness" is reduced to a semi-meaningless word we use when talking about motivation, based on an assumption it is the only motivation that could explain the observed behavior.

No.  I'm sorry that I'm not clearly conveying my point.  I'll try to do better.

Happiness cannot be pain or pleasure.  The path to achieve happiness may involve pain though.  While it can be fun for a while, hedonism (in the sense of immediacy and serving only the self) is rarely the path to lasting happiness.

Happiness is quite variable - what makes one person happy won't necessarily make another happy.  There are general guideline that seem to work for most people though.  For most people, happiness is derived by some combination of building lasting social/emotional connections, aligning one's life with one's moral stance, and regularly challenging one's body and/or mind.

Happiness is the prime motivator for all actions that a person takes in life.  Nobody wants to be unhappy.  If something is guaranteed to reduce a person's net lifetime happiness, they won't do it.  If something is guaranteed to increase someone's net lifetime happiness, they will do it.  So yeah, it's fundamentally linked with 'motive'.  You can call it circular reasoning if you would like, but I'd argue that it's a tautology.

Of course, just because seeking happiness is the prime motivator doesn't mean that the actions that result from descisions always increase net happiness.  As mentioned, it's a tricky business and quite variable.  If you were bullied by your parents, you might think that abusing your spouse will make you feel happy because it will put you in a position of power . . . but this will likely not end up in sustained happiness for you.  This is why discussion about happiness like we're having is fundamentally important to the development of each person . . . and why every religion and an awful lot of philosophy devotes significant chunks of time to try to lead their followers to their interpretation or understanding of the path to lasting happiness.

anisotropy

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #69 on: July 21, 2018, 04:19:31 PM »
Not fully onboard with how "net life-time" happiness is the universal motivator for all life, but I will sit this one out, I don't know enough about it to have anything meaningful to say, although it sounds quite plausible.

Speaking of life, what's with the water bears? Is it because they can live in space?

GuitarStv

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #70 on: July 21, 2018, 04:45:07 PM »
Not fully onboard with how "net life-time" happiness is the universal motivator for all life, but I will sit this one out, I don't know enough about it to have anything meaningful to say, although it sounds quite plausible.

Speaking of life, what's with the water bears? Is it because they can live in space?

I like both their adaptability and 'don't give a fuck' attitude.  :P

Louisville

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #71 on: July 23, 2018, 10:50:28 AM »
How does such a broad definition of happiness differ from the word "motive"?
It doesn't.  A person does what they want to do exactly because it makes them happy within the framework in which they exist.

Further, you seem to want quantifiability with this measure of happiness. I agree, non-quantifiable measures aren't measures at all.
If a person says they're happy, they are. That is the measurement. You don't need a separate quantifier of happiness. If you think you're happy, you are. If you think you're miserable, you are.

One could say that that there's a problem with self-reporting this measure (the only way to get it), but I don't see why surveyed people would be dishonest about this.

BookLoverL

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #72 on: July 24, 2018, 01:52:46 AM »
I, too, like happiness as a goal in life. Certainly I think it's far better than constantly trying to grow the economy when we all live on a finite planet so that will have to be achieved by messing around with the figures once a certain point is reached.

In fact, my whole personal system of ethics is founded on a mix of happiness, freedom, and sustainability. The happiness is not generally short-term pleasures, though. If you partake in short-term pleasures which don't ultimately advance you in some way, you will, in the medium-to-long term, find that you feel dissatisfied and empty. The kind of happiness I think we should be aiming for is that long-term satisfaction, that deeper happiness, which comes from being on a direction in life that you find worthwhile, from achieving personal growth, or from similarly long-term pursuits.

This type of happiness sometimes needs you to put yourself through short-term discomfort or pain in order to achieve it. Imagine that somebody works out regularly, and they're in pretty good shape. The workouts themselves will be uncomfortable, but in general, the fit person will easily be able to run for a bus, to lift their backpack full of groceries/library books/whatever, to climb trees, to dance, and to move their body in general, which will increase their overall happiness. In contrast, somebody who never works out and who eats poorly and who ends up becoming morbidly obese will have had hits of short-term pleasure from the food they keep eating, but will ultimately spend most of their life in pain, from their back, their knees, their chest, and they won't be able to spontaneously climb a tree, for instance. Generally they are more likely to be unsatisfied with their life, and ultimately the short-term "tasty food" pleasure will not be enough to mask the pain. This is why I advocate being in reasonable shape for everyone who can, even though I don't see it as immoral to be out of shape, but rather non-optimal: because I want them to be happy.

(I don't really have much comment about America and its prospering or non-prospering, being English, except to say that its current effective empire is probably not sustainable, especially with the deep divides in politics over there, and therefore change will be inevitable whether Americans particularly want it or not.)

kei te pai

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #73 on: July 24, 2018, 03:16:29 AM »
Just have to say I deeply love the thought of spontaneously climbing trees, and if more people did it the world would be a better place.

ChpBstrd

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #74 on: July 25, 2018, 09:06:22 PM »
How does such a broad definition of happiness differ from the word "motive"?
It doesn't.  A person does what they want to do exactly because it makes them happy within the framework in which they exist.

Further, you seem to want quantifiability with this measure of happiness. I agree, non-quantifiable measures aren't measures at all.
If a person says they're happy, they are. That is the measurement. You don't need a separate quantifier of happiness. If you think you're happy, you are. If you think you're miserable, you are.

One could say that that there's a problem with self-reporting this measure (the only way to get it), but I don't see why surveyed people would be dishonest about this.

The measurement of happiness may be straightforward. The question is, how can we demonstrate whether or not additional motives - separate from happiness - motivate people, when we reflexively say "guess it makes them happy" in response to whatever people are doing? Suppose we are scientists trying to determine whether one motive exists or two motives exist. How could we ever discover there are actually two motives if the definition of happiness is so broad as to encompass any set of motives? (In reality, social scientists use statistical models or factor analysis to group survey responses into concepts.)

But we're not finding anything if "happiness" swallows all other possible motives. For example:

Altruism - "guess it makes them happy to help others."
Sex drive - "guess it makes them happy to breed."
Freud's thantos - "guess it makes them happy to have a death wish."
Addiction - "guess heroin is how they seek happiness."
Survival instinct - "guess staying alive makes them happy."
Hunger - "guess it makes them happy to not be hungry."
Pain - "guess it makes them happy not to hurt."
Spirituality / Awe - "guess it makes them happy to think about the universe."
Curiosity - "guess it makes them happy to know more."

GuitarStv

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Re: America needs to significantly change to prosper!!
« Reply #75 on: July 26, 2018, 07:49:58 AM »
How does such a broad definition of happiness differ from the word "motive"?
It doesn't.  A person does what they want to do exactly because it makes them happy within the framework in which they exist.

Further, you seem to want quantifiability with this measure of happiness. I agree, non-quantifiable measures aren't measures at all.
If a person says they're happy, they are. That is the measurement. You don't need a separate quantifier of happiness. If you think you're happy, you are. If you think you're miserable, you are.

One could say that that there's a problem with self-reporting this measure (the only way to get it), but I don't see why surveyed people would be dishonest about this.

The measurement of happiness may be straightforward. The question is, how can we demonstrate whether or not additional motives - separate from happiness - motivate people, when we reflexively say "guess it makes them happy" in response to whatever people are doing? Suppose we are scientists trying to determine whether one motive exists or two motives exist. How could we ever discover there are actually two motives if the definition of happiness is so broad as to encompass any set of motives? (In reality, social scientists use statistical models or factor analysis to group survey responses into concepts.)

But we're not finding anything if "happiness" swallows all other possible motives. For example:

Altruism - "guess it makes them happy to help others."
Sex drive - "guess it makes them happy to breed."
Freud's thantos - "guess it makes them happy to have a death wish."
Addiction - "guess heroin is how they seek happiness."
Survival instinct - "guess staying alive makes them happy."
Hunger - "guess it makes them happy to not be hungry."
Pain - "guess it makes them happy not to hurt."
Spirituality / Awe - "guess it makes them happy to think about the universe."
Curiosity - "guess it makes them happy to know more."

Happiness can be used in many broad ways.  That's why we've used specific qualifiers . . . 'sustained' and 'long term' when describing the type of happiness that people should be aiming for.  Distinguishing between motives is important - but only really in determining whether something is going to result in short term or long term happiness/unhappiness.

Altruism, learning, and coming to terms with your own particular brand of spirituality all tend to generate this sort of happiness.

- A death wish, survival instinct, and addiction do not.
- Satisfying a sex drive, doing heroin are short term and temporary and do not.  (Although having a satisfying sex life within a relationship can help your long term happiness).
- Hunger/Pain avoidance do not.  (While certainly it's difficult to be happy while starving, it can also be difficult to be happy when you overeat and become obese.  Most people accept temporary pain/discomfort to achieve long term happiness - as with the previous marathon runner example.  Generally, I'd argue that neither of these are really essential for long term happiness.)

So there you go.  By applying the terms that were discussed earlier in the thread, we've narrowed your list of nine motives that happiness could describe down to three.