Re: disappointing responses

Perry E. Metzger (
Thu, 3 Apr 1997 14:41:54 -0500 (EST)

> From: (Robin Hanson)
> and that you weren't
> getting much value from posting, then of course you did well to change
> your priorities. But why must you assume we share your problems and
> values? Maybe most of us are making reasonable tradeoffs between
> health, wealth, and enjoying life. Part of enjoying life is
> participating in communities such as this one.

I in no way mean to suggest (and did not think I was suggesting) that
one shouldn't subscribe to things like "extropians" or enjoy the
fellowship of others.

I was far more suggesting that many people spend their time far more
in the "wouldn't it be neat if" rather than in the "how to" mode of
thought, and dream of the future rather than following through and
attempting to achieve the realization of their dreams.

Not everyone, of course, need share the same values or desires. (The
world economy works precisely because people have a diversity of
desires and skills.) I would not suggest that every extropian become a
computer programmer tomorrow or some such.

I would, however, suggest this: achieving dreams is usually more
satisfying that merely having them. Most Extropians dream of a life
without end and without unreasonable constraints. A surprisingly large
fraction, however, do very little in the way of attempting to actually
achieve that sort of life for themselves. I don't believe in the
concepts of universal good and evil, so I will not judge people for
not attempting to achieve their dreams. I will, however, suggest that
most people are happier if they actually are moving forward toward
them rather than simply thinking about them.

I will also point out that I did not start this thread. "Anonymous",
whomever s/he is, did. I merely reacted to the way that, almost like a
bunch of antibodies lining up against a foreign invader, or group of
fundamentalist christians ganging up on someone discussing atheism,
the list membership "rejected" the posting by "Anonymous" without
giving it serious consideration. As I noted, some of the comments
(like "selfishness isn't measured in dollars") seemed fairly inane --
after all, the point was not "you should be more selfish" but instead
"you may find yourself much happier if you have the financial means to
achieve your personal goals".

Since part of being an Extropian is (I would presume for most people)
to achieve the sort of personal apotheosis dreamed of in "BEST DO IT
SO", I would assume that criticism -- even self criticism -- would be
an important part of Self Transformation. After all, to Self Transform
implies 1) that you are not happy with your current world line, and
that 2) you want to shift it in response to a critical analysis of
what is wrong with your current condition.

> From: Steve Witham <>
> Since most people think that ego is one of the main motivations that
> drives rich people, maybe you could explain how it can do the reverse.
> Do you think others might have similar problems involving ego?

"Ego" in the colloquial sense doesn't usually drive people
forward. Generally, I think it holds them back.

People have an unhealthy tendency to become dogmatically attached to
their ideas and their lifestyle. This tends to make people reject
important information -- especially when the are incorrect. People
frequently have trouble admitting *even to themselves* that their
position is incorrect or that their actions are counterproductive. I
attribute this to "ego" in the sense that often the problem is
emotional attachment to one's world and world-view (often conflating
one's self worth with the "truth" of one's ideas), and not an
inability to think things through clearly *if one is willing to*.

In my opinion, the beginning of wisdom is the ability to say "I was
wrong about that -- I had better revise my closely held view based on
the facts".

> >would not have made any had I not recognized that a problem existed.
> Perry, recognition like that that actually effects a person's life
> is rare. Something made it possible for you to see your life differently.
> Probably, you already saw your life differently from the way any of us
> see our lives.

I'm possibly rather different from most people. I say "possibly"
because I frankly don't know what other people's inner lives are like
in this regard.

For those that remember me, you may recall that I came to my current
views (i.e. anarchocapitalism and the notion that the free market isn't
just to be tolerated but that in fact "to be rich is glorious", to
quote the new Chinese Communist Party mantra) as an adult, having
spent many years as a self-acknowledged socialist. Over a period of
time, however, I realized "I was wrong", and changed my viewpoint 180
degrees. Such adult changes in world view happen, but they are hardly
universal. I know many others who have not done the same even
confronted with strong reason to do so.

On many occasions I've had a sudden internal "snap" as I've realized
"you know, that viewpoint that I've held is not just incorrect but
actively damaging to my self interest -- I had better revise my

I'm not certain that I'm particularly unusual in this respect, but
I've noticed than many other people around me of all stripes *seem* to
have a much higher tendency to bring ego into their decision making
processes. They wrap their feeling of self worth in with their belief
in the "correctness" of their world view or thinking, so it hurts to
think "I was wrong" -- thus making them avoid that path of reasoning
once they've made up their minds. This makes a "pan-critically
rational" world view hard, because to be a pan-critical rationalist
means that you have to be willing to accept the notion that tomorrow
morning any of your closely cherished beliefs might suddenly be

In my opinion (and this is just my opinion), to live well especially
in a fast paced, ever changing world, you can't be overly attached to
one's ideas or one's activities. You can work for six months or a year
very hard on a project and have the conditions that made the project
worthwhile disappear. You could be horribly devastated by this, but it
won't make your life any better to do so. Similarly for ideas, people
(nothing wrong with mourning but you can take the deaths of friends
too far and torture yourself about their loss) or anything else. Every
once in a while, one finds ones self confronting the approaching need
to detach ones' self from something. Resisting changing one's opinion,
habits, etc. for reasons of "ego" only causes more pain. You should,
in my opinion, keep your goals in mind, rationally consider whether
you should continue with your job, your course of study (or lack
thereof), your world view, etc., and, if rational examination makes it
look like it is getting in the way of where you want to be, let go.