Rex Allen wrote:
> On Sat, Jun 18, 2011 at 6:08 PM, benjayk
> <> wrote:
>> Rex Allen wrote:
>>> If evolution by natural selection were correct, then it seems to me
>>> that if the overall environment remained relatively stable for an
>>> extended period of time - then regardless of how it ended up,
>>> humans would be at about same level of happiness.
>> I don't think it is generally true, though I think it is approximatly
>> true
>> if we assume humans are restricted to biological intelligence (which
>> probably won't be the case in the future).
> Though, if our technological prowess were to plateau at a level
> advanced enough that we could maintain a stable environment for
> ourselves, but short of any type of "Singularity"...then what?
I personally believe that development is an inevitable and universal part of
the omniverse. Probably ever accelerating development (my guess is
uncomputable fast development). I think there are plenty reasons to believe
in development as an universal principle: Occam's Razor + evidence,
pragmatic optimism, a consistent future for subjective immortality (which I
But okay, let's grant this won't happen.
In case technological progress might reach a plateau in a way that there are
no big paradigm changes and no exponential progress or even constant
progress anymore, it will still not absolutely halt. If you think it will,
you could more plasubily believe that biological evolution will. There is no
reason at all to assume technology will cease to change.
So, technology will still adapt to biology much faster than vice versa. As
evolution finds a way to make us more unhappy, we will already have found a
way to reverse this change for a looong time.

Rex Allen wrote:
> Barring a Chinese-style birth control regime, eventually the more
> fertile sub-groups would seem likely proliferate and eventually
> population levels would rise until we were back in the same situation
> that most of our ancestors lived in...with just enough resources to
> sustain the existing population.
Keep in mind wealthy societies tend to stop growing (even without
governmental birth control), so what you say will likely not happen.

Rex Allen wrote:
> There's a finite amount of energy and resources available on Earth, or
> even in the solar system, if we make it that far.
Yes. But we may leave the solar system. Not necessarily outwards, though. We
don't know what happens at the smallest length scales, but we know that
space-time can't exist in the same way as it does at higher scales. This may
be an opportunity to transcend what we now think of as space (3-dimensional
and quite smooth, without wormholes). Of course it will be a hard
engineering challenge to access the smallest length scales. It might even
seem impossibly difficult.
But building computers and complexifying them at the current rate also seems
clearly impossible if you know nothing about modern technology.
Even if we don't find a way to acquire more energy, technology won't lose
its power to adapt.

Rex Allen wrote:
>> But whether it serves that purpose is dependent on the circumstances, not
>> only on the relative amount of happiness and unhappiness.
>> It's not clear that there couldn't be circumstances where it is not
>> useful
>> for beings to feel much more or much less happiness (though I hope the
>> latter isn't the case).
>> If there are less treats in the environment, I guess that we would tend
>> to
>> be happier, because negative feelings are needed for avoiding (mostly
>> rather
>> acute) treats. We don't need to be unhappy to get along with each other,
>> for
>> example.
> You don't think that happiness and unhappiness play a significant role
> in the competition for social status and mates among humans?
> I would tend to think that our social relations (or lack thereof) are
> probably the largest contributor to most people's happiness *and*
> unhappiness.
Yes, but I think in a world with a more benign environment social relations
will be easier to acquire and keep stable (eg less deaths) and there will be
less reason to compete.

Rex Allen wrote:
>> So in a world where there are less treats (let's say more stable climate)
>> there would be less pressure for negative feelings and more room for
>> usefulness of happiness (let's say due to increased social interaction),
>> so
>> we would be happier on average.
> I think increased social interaction is just as likely to result in
> unhappiness as happiness.  Especially in "Malthusian" situations where
> we eventually bump up against available resources.
OK, its not what I'd expect, but I can't really think of good evidence
against it (we have nothing to adequatly compare humanity to).

Rex Allen wrote:
> Not everyone can be a winner.
> We can't *all* get the prettiest girl or handsomest guy.
> This is bound to cause unhappiness...which then (sometimes) motivates
> increased effort or a different approach on the next round.
I don't see a reason why everyone couldn't be a winner. Evolution is just
too dumb to find a good solution for everyone. Society and technology might
not be. The world is not a zero sum game at all.
Sure, some people might be bigger winner than others. But even this doesn't
have to be the case if different people prefer different things.

Rex Allen wrote:
>> I find it probable that there are many biological and pre-industrial
>> beings
>> in the multiverse that are significantly more happy than us because of
>> this
>> (it's very unlikely that it would be close to paradise, though, I guess).
> In an infinite multiverse...I tend to think that every possible
> variation would occur a (countably) infinite number of times.
But this begs the question of what possible variatons are... Clearly not
everything that we can express as a possibility is really a possibility. We
can say "what if nothing exists", even though nothing existing is not a

Rex Allen wrote:
> And so there would be the same number of happy and unhappy people...a
> countable infinity of each.
This is an gross oversimplification of how the world works. It might be we
can't count people in a uniquely defined way. Maybe not all (countable)
infinities are equal.
Also it might be that there is a limited number of distinguishable persons
that are unhappy. An infinite multiverse does not imply that there is an
infinity of everything in practice (we don't care for indistinguishable
objects, or unstable objects that can be described but not experienced in
the way stable objects can be experienced).

Rex Allen wrote:
>> Rex Allen wrote:
>>> There has to be some optimum "motivational" mix of happiness and
>>> unhappiness...and I'd think it's always approximately the same mix.
>> I think this is a too simplified conception of what happiness and
>> unhappiness are for. Whether we are motivated does not  only depend on
>> whether there is an appropiate mix of happiness and unhappiness (though
>> this
>> I agree this is factor), but whether in the situations where it is useful
>> to
>> be unhappy we are unhappy and when it is useful to be happy, we are
>> happy.
>> If there are less reasons that would make unhappiness a useful thing,
>> there
>> will be less unhappiness (see my example above).
> I'll agree that there is likely a certain degree of dependence on
> contingent circumstance.  In an infinite universe improbable things
> will happen infinitely often...
Yes. But let's not forget there might be impossible and inevitablethings.

Rex Allen wrote:
>> Rex Allen wrote:
>>> Which brings me to my next point. IF this evolutionary theory were true,
>>> then scientific advancements only increase human happiness to the extent
>>> that it puts us into situations that we're not well adapted to.
>>> AND, given enough time (and mutation), we should adapt to all scientific
>>> advancements...and a key part of this adaptation will be to reduce the
>>> amount of happiness that they generate.
>>> We can only be "happier" than cavemen when we are in a situation that we
>>> are not well adapted to.
>> I think if we take scientific advanvement into account what you say
>> becomes
>> quite wrong.
> Only if scientific advancement does away with evolution by natural
> selection.  Maybe by using mutation-free cloning instead of good
> old-fashioned sex.  Or eliminating death by natural causes.
> So my opening sentence began:
> "If evolution by natural selection were correct..."
> If we were to do something that resulted in us no longer being subject
> to evolution by natural selection, or if evolution by natural
> selection were false to begin with, then I guess the whole thing is
> moot.
Evolution by natural selection being correct does not mean it applies to
everything. Even if it will still apply, science and technology might be
stronger forces.
But, OK, perhaps you meant "if natural selection will be the dominant force
in the shaping of humans and humanity related structures".
In this case, I don't know whether to agree with what you said, because
honestly I find it to be highly unlikely and in case it is true the universe
would be so strange that I don't expect my predictions to be of any value.

Rex Allen wrote:
>> First, we can't adapt very much biologically to scientific advancement
>> because science changes us faster than biology can react to. The more
>> scientific advanced we are, the more this becomes true.
> You think that science will continue it's current rate of progress?
> For how long?  And then what will happen after it plateaus?  See my
> scenario above.
I think it will accelerate its rate of progress  (and I guess also
accelerate its pace of acceleration, etc.) and continue indefinitely.
Of course there still may be temporary plateaus for various reasons. Or they
may be catastrophic events. But in any case, at some point we will recover
or another species (maybe on another planet or galaxy,...) will take our
place (and recover everything about us that is of value). I don't think the
universal drive towards higher order, complexity, consciousness,
intelligence and (eventually) happiness can be stopped by anything,

Rex Allen wrote:
> Order increases because this universe is structured in such a way that
> "disordered" mutants get out-competed by their unmutated brethren -
> while order-increasing mutants out-compete their unmutated brethren.
Yes, and I don't believe this is a coincidence but that it reflects
something deeper about the universe.
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