RE: Risk vs. Payoff

From: Eugene Leitl (
Date: Tue May 08 2001 - 09:36:34 MDT

On Tue, 8 May 2001, Ben Goertzel wrote:

> The desire to have children is clearly NOT orthogonal to the desire to
> never die, either in terms of common human psychology or in terms of
> biology.

I always suspected I was a freak, thanks for confirming it ;) What I meant
to say that I don't mind having children, but I don't consider them as my
proxies. I do not go on living in them in any meaningful way after my
worldline ends, as the genome does not encode the person, nor do a few
disparate meme make up a person, not even a fragment of a person. Kids are
nice, kids are horrible, but they're just kids. No more, no less.

> In biological terms, neither the desire to live forever nor the desire
> to have children are "irreducible." They are both at least largely
> reducible to the desire to propagate one's DNA. (Or, to put it
> differently, of the desire of one's DNA to propagate itself using
> one's human body/mind as a medium)

I do not deny that the DNA is modulating my decisions, but the result is
the same: we do things because we want them. We can't dump all our
motivations in a purely rationalizable terms. Whenever one pursues a chain
of logic, one invariably winds up at some basic unquestionable motivations
which are not rooted in reason. I believe Aleks was implying that the
desire to live forever was somehow wanting in comparison to the
constructive tasks accomplished by having biological or memetic children.

While I do not deny that these tasks are constructive (in fact I might
still engage in some of them) they're in no meaningfull way better (in
absence of a global metric) than the desire to live on, while shifting
from pure Darwin to a mix of Darwin/Lamarck, and to joing the stellar
Diaspora. Whatever floats your boat.

> In psychological terms, I'm curious: does the person who wrote this
> actually ~have~ children? There is a real subjective feeling that I

The person in question (who's that? hey, that's me!) does not have
children. Of course the fact of having a child expresses some latent
biological programmes, modulating your behaviour. If you know young
parents, you're surely aware of what I mean. Some of them are even aware
of what is happening to them, as their attitudes are being rather
forcefully readjusted. Biology is nothing to be trifled with.

> have that my kids carry on some "essence" of myself. I am sure that I

I do not deny your subjective experience, of course, but this does in no
way invalidate absence of such subjective experience in my case.

> am not the only parent to have this feeling. And it seems mighty
> plausible that this feeling originates, evolutionarily, from the fact
> that a parent's DNA wants the parents to protect his/her children.

That seems like a rather probable assumption to make. It is interesting
that the shift is so profound that the loss of control itself is perceived
as a positive thing.

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