X-Message-Number: 30137
Date: Fri, 14 Dec 2007 20:06:37 EST
Subject: DSS points

DSS wrote in part:
[Ettinger wrote]
>> Everyone is faced with choices, and the  rational criterion is future
>> happiness or  satisfaction.

This was abbreviated, perhaps too much.

Then DSS wrote::

>Research in this area tends to show that a person's level of   
>'happiness' is very little changed by events, in the long run.  That  
>is, a good event may lead to a boost in happiness, but the  level  
>returns to that normal for the individual shortly  thereafter.  
>Therefore, strategies to achieve happiness are not  likely to make any  
>real changes in the individual's life. 
This is also abbreviated too  much and misses much. As a  simple example, 

suppose you correct your previously reckless behavior and live  longer than you
otherwise would have. Maybe an attempt to measure your  "happiness" would show 
little change, but few would argue that the change in  behavior didn't pay 
off. The sum total of future happiness depends not only on  the level of 
happiness but also on its duration.
DSS also wrote:
>In fact, some argue that is  
>better for people to be less  happy, then the good events yield a  
>tremendous boost in happiness  and the bad ones have little effect.

This is like the fellow who kept banging his head against the  wall, and when 
asked why, he said "Because it feels so good when I stop." In any  case, this 
seems at odds with his previous statement that choices have little  long-run 
effect on happiness.
Also DSS  wrote:
>A more fundamental analysis shows that the cultural constructions   
>that provide meaning and value to the individual and society are  what  
>must be changed to yield improvements in the human condition.  My  
>podcast provides a proposal that is consistent with the  cryonics  
>movement's goals (includes a compact summary of terror  management  
>theory in the middle section):

This is a question difficult to analyze, because of the  interaction between 
the individual and society, with society "evolving" much  more than the 

individual. The human genome is believed to be very little changed  in the last

100,000 years or more, during most of which time the culture was  vastly 
and communities much smaller. Agriculture and civilization  (beginning 

roughly  10,000 years ago) brought huge changes, and the last  few centuries 
further changes.
The question of "meaning and value" is also complex and  tricky. Some would 
say that, for millennia, religion gave meaning and value to  life for large 

numbers of people, but this seems to me to be simplistic and  misleading. To see
the silliness, it is only necessary to notice the difference  in explicit 

official content of the various religions and similar ideologies. To  refer 
to an example I may overwork, communism is (was) essentially a  religion, and 
apparently gave relative comfort to large numbers of people,  without any 

promise of afterlife. The operative considerations are primarily the  approval 
society and the indoctrinated conscience. Anyone who doubts this  need merely 
investigate the extent to which the adherents of religion or  ideology 

understand and agree on the principles involved. (Clue--that extent is  very 
I tried to locate DSS' referenced podcast but wasn't able to.  Perhaps he 
could provide an easily accessed summary.
In any case, what it boils down to, as far as I can see, is  what I have said 
repeatedly. (1) We are too few to attempt a direct effort to  influence the 
structure of society. (2) The wind is at our backs anyway, since  the 

consistent gains of science and medicine make our thesis more and more  
plausible. (3) 
We need to husband our limited resources and apply them where  they will do 
the most good, viz., in gaining members and improving  cryopreservation 
Incidentally, I think it was Mark Plus who reiterated his view  that recent 
decades have been disappointing in tech progress, with no  flying flivvers yet 
etc. I think this is misleading. The last century has seen  very important 

progress in biology and medicine, which continues and  accelerates. If I had 
born a century earlier, I would have been dead  several times over. My life 
has been saved several times by modern medicine.  This does not mean that I am 
a short-term optimist on nano-medicine or anything  like that, but the sweep 
of history is on our side.
Robert Ettinger

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