X-Message-Number: 7320
Date: Wed, 18 Dec 1996 12:10:14 -0500
Subject: SCI. CRYONICS choices

Michael Riskin (Cryonet # 7313), alluding to some of my remarks on
motivation, says that the best strategies (for increasing pleasure and
reducing pain over time) are "quite elusive" because of the uncertainties
involved. Of course this is true, but that should not be allowed to obscure
the needs and potentials for calculation and research.

Values and life strategy and tactics may not represent the deepest of
problems, but certainly the most important, and among the least appreciated.
Very, very few scientists and philosophers even admit the problem is amenable
to scientific investigation, thus conveniently avoiding any agonizing
reappraisal of their own mind-sets and indoctrinations.

The problem has several levels and several categories--some so difficult that
one may be tempted to throw up his hands and just back away from it. Well,
surrender has its temptations, and even its rewards. Dostoyevsky: "Men prefer
peace, even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil."
But struggle, honesty, and independence sometimes offer more in the long run.
The basic choice is to be an adult or a thumb-sucker, to live with
uncertainty or to hide under the covers. Results are not guaranteed; in the
end, the "contented cow" may have the better of it. But those who want the
maximum realistic degree of control and future satisfaction have to work and
struggle for it.

Some of the decision problems can be attacked right now, by anyone, just by
education and introspection. You must accept that "selfishness" is the only
motivation that is PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE (excluding certain highly speculative
and tenuous suggestions about the nature of the world). But you must also
appreciate the complexities, subtleties, and feedbacks that make simplistic
approaches, such as classical hedonism, foolish. You must also recognize that
changing your values--changing yourself--can in many cases only be done
gradually, by successive iteration.

One of things easiest to do--in principle--is just to review the weights you
assign to improvement in feel-good as a function of time. Nearer-term
satisfactions are appropriately assigned more value than more distant
satisfactions--but not as much more as is usually the case. Again, a more
nearly adult viewpoint will often assign more weight (than is usually the
case) to the more distant and more problematic satisfactions.

The underlying problems of the physiology of values need more than
speculation or reasoning; they need laboratory research. We need to know the
mechanics of feel-good, of subjectivity. Presumably feelings began on an
evolutionary basis and related to the basics such as the need to approach
food and avoid danger. But now a basic need can be overridden just by a
thought, e.g. by a desire to prove oneself or even just to indulge a habit.
Our actual choices or actions--as opposed to our motivations--have several
determinants. Lorenz' "parliament of instincts" is in constant turmoil; a
full understanding of the physiology of feeling may allow us to impose order
and choose optimum strategies.....But we don't have to wait for that. There
is a great deal that anyone can do, right now, given the insight and the

Robert Ettinger

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