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Dalai Lama: Behind Our Anxiety, the Fear of Being Unneeded (nytimes.com)
341 points by applecore on Nov 4, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 251 comments

It's odd, the world is the safest and most stable that it has ever been. There has never been a better time to be a human being, and yet, the media and certain politicians would have you believe that there is disaster after disaster, terrorist plots afoot around every corner, feeding your fear day after day. If ever there was an example of the devil at work, then that's it(and I'm not even religious).

Uncertainty about the future has always been the same.

Don't listen to those devils.

That's ignoring risks. It's like being the richest you've ever been in 2007. True but not reassuring.

We have nukes, very worrying demographic trends in the west with massive migrations, and a declining hegemon. We're comfortable but fragile.

What I want to say is that Taleb seems to have a better handle on things than Pinker.

It's totally not.

One thing I think this conversation has highlighted is the way we think about risks to us as individuals and risks to us as a species. So whilst in the past, the thing that worried most people was illness, predation, starvation, conflict (and in parts of the world this is happening, but they are the exception) Now our worries are expressed in nuclear war and climate change.

Perhaps in the future those global worries will manifest and it will be the worst time to be a human, but right now it is the safest. Less war, less famine, less disease, more food, better health.

I totally get that this statement flies in the face of what most people experience in their everyday reality - I feel that emotional pain as well - so whilst our physical wellbeing has improved, our ability to manage our own feelings is still difficult.

But we've always had those things. Every generation has their..

(I don't want to say bogeyman as it's too dismissive, but I don't want to say pressing issue because they're really not all that pressing in the minds of the average person. Let's just go with "long-term hovering externality")

...to deal with. Society has always been remarkably fragile, and we've stepped really close to outright annihilation a few of times, seemingly saved not by the application of the best humanity has to offer, but by what appears to be happenstance.

What if someone else had been the Russian negotiator during the Cuban missile crisis?

What if a different general that time Russia's radar malfunctioned had thought we were really nuking them? Global annihilation was literally in the hands of this one person's decision!

Hell, what if the 1859 CME event were to happen again? We had some near misses a couple years ago.

There's a difference I think between ignoring a risk and not devoting 100% of our efforts and mindshare to dealing with it.

This is the truth, we've come a long way from a technological and materialistic standpoint, but we've also heavily, heavily stolen from the future, we've stolen from others.

People are losing their homes and livelihoods to deforestation, islands are being inundated with rising sea levels, fracking is polluting water tables and mass animal extinctions are a thing.

At some point the debt needs to be paid off, or we're probably going to be next.

Looking for a purpose? Give back to the natural world and I'm sure some happiness will come out of it!

God knows she needs our help.

> Looking for a purpose? Give back to the natural world and I'm sure some happiness will come out of it!

The problem is the population growth makes it hard to implement that.

Sad but true, there are just too many people. 11 billion?

According to

> https://www.census.gov/popclock/

the world population is currently at 7.35 billion people.

What's worrisome about the immigration trends?

I personally like them, and feel that they're more stabilizing than not: we're less likely to go to war with a nation of whose ethnicities make up some substantial fraction of our populace, and may be treated better in the case of war (look at German-American vs. Japanese-American treatment in WWII). But these are only my views.

You can ask Taleb about his views on Middle Eastern immigration to the West; IIRC he's from Lebanon.

>What's worrisome about the immigration trends?

Places like the US and Denmark are incredibly non-corrupt, while places like Russia, Brazil, and Nigeria are highly corrupt. Why some places are corrupt and others aren't is poorly understood magic of some sort. One fairly decent guess is something like "cultural factors" - Danish bureaucrats aren't corrupt because they expect that other non-corrupt Danes would punish them for it.

If there's a clear plan and proven successes on acculturating immigrants, I'm much less worried about opening up borders. Without that, though, we may be risking a highly nebulous yet incredibly important shared resource - the cultural norms that make our communities excellent places to live.

These “cultural factors” have to do with strong social and economic institutions like public schools and libraries, reasonably fair and legitimate court systems, a free press and freedom of association, a somewhat accountable and accessible political system, stable and reasonably clearly defined property rights, highly functioning distribution networks for basic goods and services, a fluid job market with protection of labor rights, a wide distribution of political and economic power across many regions and industries, a taxation system which leaves everyone feeling they have “skin in the game”, and so on.

There’s no evidence that immigrants (documented or undocumented) cause any more corruption or crime than native born residents. Indeed, the evidence we have in the USA generally suggests that first and second generation immigrants are less likely to break the law than other residents.

Nativist anti-immigrant rhetoric today in the USA about Muslims or Latin Americans or Chinese is nearly identical in content and structure to anti-immigrant rhetoric about Germans, Irish, Italians, Eastern Europeans, Catholics, Jews, etc. in the past. There’s no reason to believe that undocumented Guatemalans or Syrian refugees immigrating to the US today will be any different than my Irish ancestors were 150 years ago, w/r/t assimilation.

>There’s no evidence that immigrants (documented or undocumented) cause any more corruption or crime than native born residents. Indeed, the evidence we have in the USA generally suggests that first and second generation immigrants are less likely to break the law than other residents.

The immigration restrictions are a big confounder here. The US is much more likely to let doctors and engineers immigrate. If these folks then have low crime rate, it could either be because of being an immigrant or because of being a professional. If it's more the latter, that isn't great evidence for letting other kinds of immigrants in.

The US has millions of undocumented immigrants, mainly from Latin America, who work as migrant agricultural laborers, factory workers, restaurant staff, and many other low-skill jobs. From what I remember (it’s been a while since I looked at the numbers and I don’t have a link off-hand), they are involved in crimes at a significantly lower rate than native citizens.

Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, etc weren't drastically more corrupt than the United States a hundred years ago, were they? Also, "there were not problems" is questionable; this prior flow of migration may have contributed to the infamously low value of labor during the Gilded age.

> immigrants [...] commit less (or at least not more) crime

For the record I'm agnostic on this issue, but it bothers me that a lot of very smart people seem to be very convinced by this particular red herring. Cohesion of the whole can be impaired despite all the parts being of good quality, if they do not fit together very well.

The idea that immigrants “don’t fit together” with existing Americans is rhetoric pitched toward places where there are few immigrants, making the immigrants a convenient scapegoat / bogeyman because they can’t answer back. The places with substantial immigrant populations are mostly getting along just fine.

Jim and Deb Fallows have recently been doing a nice bit of traveling around the US writing about this and similar issues.



That's nice, but it suffers from a few defects:

- apparently I've committed the sin of having sympathy for the other side, so I must agree with them

- if it's rhetoric then it's also independent invention because I certainly didn't get it anywhere and never meant to imply it; I only expressed a certain possible flaw in a purportedly logical argument, and there are others (eg that higher housing prices specifically cause crime, or that competition for low-skill labor drives down wages at the bottom and causes crime, or...). The point is not one of them but all of them; the flaw is in the structure of the argument

- I'm not utilizing a fear of immigrants in my argument and I originally said that to you, not to a poor person from eastern Colorado, which makes it hard to think I was

* when questioned, you made an about-face from criminological data to sob stories, "how could you awful conservatives hate those cute immigrant faces", which is both annoying because I'm neither conservative nor against immigration, and it torpedoes your rational credibility

I think you’re taking my comment rather more personally than is reasonable. I don’t have any idea what you believe, who you sympathize with, etc.

You said “Cohesion of the whole can be impaired despite all the parts being of good quality, if they do not fit together very well.”

This sort of vague analogy has been a common rhetorical device used by anti-immigrant populists trying to stir up nativist resentment for 150+ years, without any strong evidence that it’s true. I’m calling the specific sentence out for being usually, in my opinion, toxic nonsense.

* * *

To answer your previous points:

As for the effect of immigration on labor markets during the Gilded Age, I’m not enough of an expert to say. That sounds like a topic which could fill a few academic research careers in labor history and produce several books (or probably has).

On the other hand, the research I’ve seen about low-skill immigration from Latin America in the past few decades has seemed reasonably convincing that such immigration has not had dramatic downward effects on wages for native workers and on average has boosted local wages by strengthening the economy generally, and that downward pressure on wages for unskilled factory work, etc., has a lot more to do with other factors (changes to labor law, global trade, automation, etc.). There’s obviously a lot of debate and controversy about the precise details.

> Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, etc weren't drastically more corrupt than the United States a hundred years ago, were they?

Well, they were all feudal societies with a landed aristocracy ruling by force of arms, with most of the migrants being rural peasant farmers driven off the land (often forcibly) and forced to migrate abroad due to population growth and lack of local employment opportunities. I’m not sure what you count as “corrupt”. In my opinion everything about a feudal society is inherently corrupt.

The situation of peasant farmers fleeing these countries is actually remarkably similar to the situation of migrants from southern Mexico in the 1980s–2000s. If you took my Irish ancestor’s story from the mid-19th century and set it side by side with the story of a rural Mexican peasant migrant from 1995, and changed all the names in both stories, you wouldn’t be able to tell which one was which.

>This sort of vague analogy has been a common rhetorical device used by anti-immigrant populists trying to stir up nativist resentment for 150+ years, without any strong evidence that it’s true. I’m calling the specific sentence out for being usually, in my opinion, toxic nonsense.

Toxic nonsense is what happens when people misuse the idea of scientific proof to lend credence to their political beliefs. Again, I'm not talking to the kind of people who are swayed by that kind of thing. I'm discussing a flaw in the structure of your argument you refuse to acknowledge.

Look, nobody believes "scientific proof" in relation to the things where it's really important (global warming, vaccination) anymore because it's been dragged through the mud by people who want to wave the banner of science in defense of some cause which they think is noble but where the quality of evidence just isn't as strong. That's what I'm concerned about. This is Hacker News, there's nobody for me to scare here.

And, deny it or not, you're being personal, and selective in your responses, which makes me feel this has been a rather unproductive conversation.

Tell me more about Polish government corruption in 1916. I'd be interested in what you have to say about it.

Ha ha, it didn't exist. There's only one significant figure, smart guy.

It also happens that the Irish (local) and Italian governments were a lot more corrupt than America was in 1916. Italy is much more corrupt than America to this day. You're clearly a crackpot who doesn't know what he's talking about.

>the Irish and Italian governments were a lot more corrupt

You're going to have to provide some numbers. I don't think that you understand what's going on here.

Although, I should point out that you have no objection to discussing the Irish government in 1916. If I want to argue like you, I could try to say that proves you're a moron, but maybe it's okay to be a little less than computer-level specificity while discussing the general governance of those areas. The Austro-Hungarian Empire and the British Empire were among the world's largest economies. Italy was the first country to use airplanes in warfare.

I didn't want to get into this side of the argument because it's unsavory and frankly insulting to even consider but the point is that acknowledgment of doubt is necessary for intellectual honesty in any issue this complex. The existence of certainty among people hoping for "open borders" is likely a result of wishful thinking.

>You're clearly a crackpot who doesn't know what he's talking about.

No, I'm explaining flaws in an argument which is touted as airtight and used by a lot of arrogant bullies such as yourself to shut down dissent on a controversial issue, and you're trolling. You have contributed nothing but insults because you don't have a real argument; you just try to catch mistakes (but you didn't catch any) and call people dumb.

So you're the crackpot, and get bent.

Legitimate court systems, accountable political system, protection of labor rights, they are all examples of things not being corrupt. So the reason for less corruption can't be less corruption. You're talking in circles here.

You’re missing my point, which is that the “cultural factors” are not about individual people being inherently “corrupt”, but more about institutional strength and power distribution in the whole society. The US has a long history of integrating immigrants from a variety of cultural backgrounds, historically including large numbers of rural peasants from quasi-feudal societies, and plenty of people from places dominated by local “corruption”.

Individual people make up society. If those individuals are mostly corrupt, then society becomes corrupt as well, isn't it? If a judge knows that he won't get in trouble for accepting bribes because the DA won't prosecute, then the "institutional strength and power distribution" would be affected by that. Where is the difference here?

And not to nitpick, but why are you now scare quoting corruption, when before you did not? Do you not think corruption is a real problem?

If you don't have a legitimate court system or an accountable political system it's very hard to fight corruption, which makes it rather unlikely that either of those things will be established. So the reason for less corruption now can indeed be less corruption in the past.

So if less corruption in the past is the reason there is less corruption now, how does society ever get corrupt?

I would consider the US a proven success on acculturating immigrants. Over 200 years of importing people from broken corrupt and broken regimes, creating a prosperous and relatively uncorrupt society.

But those 200 years have been far from peaceful.

Internally they have been peaceful. The major exception being the civil war which can hardly be blamed on immigration.

Yeah but that wasn't the immigrant's fault. Quite the opposite actually. Ruling white people are a major source of the history of violence.

Do you even read what you write. I see comments like this all over the internet and it amazes me how the irony of your statement completely eludes you.

You basic argument is that immigrant culture has no effect on violence but the culture of another group(the white people) does. Ok, so in that case, nations completely ruled by the culture the immigrants comes from, must inherently be free of major violence. Hmmm does that sound correct.

If anything, the west post world war 2 bred a new culture that gave birth to true liberty. The democracies formed in this period shaped the freedoms we have today, and pushed for human rights and equality. There is still progress to make, but targeting groups of people is no solution.

Btw I am Indian, and if you want to argue that ruling whites are a source of major violence, just go and read the history of India from 1000-1800. No white people, lots and lots of violence. All races are the same.

I was replying to specifically the last 200 years in America. As you right as you are it has nothing to do with what the comment was about. Also how is pointing out that the ruling class/race is responsible for violence "singling" them out? White people aren't some specific out-group here. Who fought to keep slaves? White people. Who only wanted to free the slaves to put moral pressure on other countries during they eqyptian cotton crisis? White people. Who roamed the country side after slaves were free to Lynch free men for the color of their skin. White people. Who imported crack to the inner cities? Who started the devastating war on drugs? Who defunded public welfare and health programs for the poor? Us every time.

This goes on too. Concentration camps for asian-americans, constant abuses of Native American populations, the constant harassment of immigrant cultures- none of this was imported with immigrants, it's the product of a society they desperately wants to remain homogenous

> how is pointing out that the ruling class/race is responsible for violence "singling" them out

It's not just because it stereotypes individuals, groups them, and judges them based on involuntary criteria (skin color). There is a rich history of American white culture absolutely opposed to racism. For example, white Quakers fought slavery since the 17th century, often at personal cost [1]. Countless white people died in the Civil War over the issue of slavery.

So I reject the entire idea of a 'ruling race'. I guess 'ruling class' is technically more fluid, but people often have notions of class foisted on them, including here, so it's not necessarily any better.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quakers_in_the_Abolition_Movem...


As someone who originated from a developing country and now resides in a developed one, there's much truth and not a lot of racism in that sentence.

It's not about race, it's about values, i.e. culture. Speak to an immigrant, they'd tell you this. My Aunts say it all the time - "I do miss home but we have such bad leaders....yes the food is terrible but life is so much simpler here.....people here are so trusting and kind".

Cultural norms are important and fascinating. Let's not hijack the opportunity for interesting conversation with accusations of racism.

It's treading close to the line though. It's assuming that corruption is a result of some kind of internal pro-corruption tendency in the people of those countries, rather than structural issues within the countries that would be left behind when they left. For example, one of the problems with Brazil right now seems to be that allegations of corruption and corruption investigations are themselves untrustworthy, tools used by corrupt individuals to get rid of others who might investigate them.

Because you missed it, let me help you out https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog-whistle_politics

Parent comment was using a series of phrases that are repeated to reinforce the idea of importance of cultural homogeneity and keeping out groups out in the name of traditionalism and "values."

I don't see it. I think you may be projecting your own interpretation on to the parent comment.

Okay I'm going to spell out a major factor then. What this poster was implying that they are against immigrants because they believe immigrants are inherently prone to corruption based on their country of origin. This ignores centuries of confounding factors such as possible imperial rule, internal resources collapse, or failed economic experiments and makes it purely about nationality. Somewhat importantly, op only listed PoC's nationalities. Dog whistle racism, or coded racism, is all about subtext

So here's what he/she said:

> "Why some places are corrupt and others aren't is poorly understood magic of some sort. One fairly decent guess is something like "cultural factors" - Danish bureaucrats aren't corrupt because they expect that other non-corrupt Danes would punish them for it."

How did you make the leap from 'cultural factors' to "immigrants are inherently prone to corruption based on their country of origin."?

There is nothing about inherent inclinations. The point - one I have firsthand experience with - is that the institutions the West have ("they expect that other non-corrupt Danes would punish them for it") are lacking in many parts of the world.The reason for this are complex - something the OP alludes to - but culture definitely plays a part.

Why my taxi driver gets hustled for bribes at gunpoint when in Nigeria but not in Laos, or why a lost wallet was handed in at a Kyoto train station but not in my hometown is more a matter of culture than of chance.

We can have that discussion without crying racist.

> We can have that discussion without crying racist.

I hope so, but threads like these are depressing.

It's a good thing to point out that argument <x> is often used as veiled racism, or to explain how the underlying dynamic might be more racist than we might be aware of. But what I'm seeing here is false equivalence: "because racists say <x>, <x> is a racist argument merely by association. or too close for comfort to be able to discuss at all." This shuts down any conversation and the person holding view <x> walks away feeling misjudged and quite likely still holding view <x> because we humans have trouble separating a good argument from any judgment that comes with it.

I would very much like it if we could avoid that here, even if we know for a fact that the person bringing forward argument <x> is an actual racist.

That's the point of dog-whistle politics. That's exactly it.

If you're not already part of the subculture primed to pick up on these cues--if you don't hear the dog whistle--you don't get what the speaker/writer is saying.

The famous Lee Atwater quote is a good example of this (https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Lee_Atwater).

It's plausible deniability for espousing racist views in public.

Yeah no, I'm not that complicated of a person. When I say that my community has better culture, it's because I like the cultural factors we have. People here don't care if I'm openly bisexual, whereas Uganda has lynch mobs that will set you on fire. Or how I can easily speak the truth as I see it on religious matters here, but get sentenced to torture for atheistic twitter messages in Saudi Arabia.

If having these preferences gets me called racist, then fine. Whatever. All I wanted to do was remind people that these cultural differences exist, and that I really do not want an Eternal September that threatens them. Hell, I even think that America probably should have somewhat looser immigration laws than they currently do.

Sure, you get the freedom to say and think whatever you want, about whoever you want. So do I.

So go ahead, by all means, have whatever views you want. Espouse whatever views you want.

I don't really care, because I don't know you and will never, ever need to work with you, do business with you, invite you to my wedding or holiday dinner, whatever.

All that said, dog whistle politics is a real thing, even if you or other people here don't know about it. And not knowing about the specific cues just means you're not part of the group that'll respond to that dog whistle.

"A little bit of adversity results in things, a little bit of strain, of stress, results in a little more performance on anything." - Taleb on the Lebanese diaspora


Worrisome because consequences of climate change have the potential to cause 100s of millions of humans to move in a timeframe that is impossible to deal with.

In Australia, immigration is used to increase the population, which is used to increase gdp. The problem is that infrastructure is not improved to meet the growing population, and the increase in gdp is not enough to go around for the new people, so everybody in the middle and lower class gets a smaller part of the gdp. Cities where you could afford a nice house in a quiet area become concrete jungles where people are stacked on top of each other in apartments. House prices (for the same type of house people were used to living in) increase massively due to the increase in demand.

I am assuming something similar happens in America. The increase in population just means a decrease in quality of life for the existing people.

> That's ignoring risks.

Risk prediction is one thing.

Unhinged scaremongering is another.

Taleb is a Trump like clown. Just because both have the capacity to point of hypocrisy in the system, don't let that misguide you into believing they are qualified to talk about solutions. There is no comparison to Pinker.

Taleb doesn't take himself seriously, Pinker takes himself far too seriously. Taleb is entertaining, Pinker draws out his ideas to the point of tedium. Taleb is a skeptical empiricist, Pinker likes to get lost in theory.

Pinker certainly has Taleb lapped in terms of old guard intellectual credentials. Whether that is a good thing is debatable.

Pinker isn't taken very seriously by historians: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/1tuivk/steve...

I don't think Trump would pack those venues so full of people if he wasn't somehow in tune with what a whole lot of people are thinking. He is easy to dismiss. He is not a politician. He is not pre-packaged or polished. He is not particularly well educated. But he's right--the US is not living up to its ideals. We can even run a clean election.

America ended in 2008. We've been living off of a corpse ever since. At some point everyone is going to know it.

To reiterate: just because he recognizes the malaise, doesn't mean he has a cure. I had a political scientist who described Communism as having diagnosed the disease (class struggle), but having been unable to come up with a reasonable cure.

"America ended in 2008" Sorry your racist ass is too upset by a black president to notice how much better things have gotten over the past 8 years

> It's odd, the world is the safest and most stable that it has ever been.

Tell that to Mother Earth, who is about to show us all who is boss. Climate change is much worse than most people realise.

You may also be unaware of what is going on in Syria, and the fact that NATO has ordered the deployment of thousands of troops to Eastern Europe to put pressure on Russia, a nuclear-armed country.

NATO put the troops in NATO member countries, at request of those NATO countries. I'm sure that's all was just to irritate Russia for no possible reason at all. After all, it's not like Russia, a nuclear armed country has been undergoing moral and intellectual meltdown last couple of years?

Do you think a small pittance of airbases and troops from NATO would do anything meaningful against a Russian assault or invasion? Let's be honest, it's nothing more than political posturing and pandering to the west so they can get access to the dangling trade-cookies that only "western friendly" nations get to have.

Of course they will do something meaningful: involve the rest of NATO into the conflict immediately, without any further bureaucratic procedure. They are not a treat or even a deterrent to Russia: it's a tripwire.

I'm not sure the parent is implying that NATO was wrong to deploy said troops. But even if it's the right move, deploying troops to pressure Russia is certainly an unnerving turn of events.

As the Dalai Lama writes, to feel needed is a basic human need. For more and more people, this need is NOT fulfilled.

So, no, this is not the best time to be a human being.

Think about how many more humans there are, and how unlikely one is to be a special snowflake. We can be special and needed by others - not to society. I don't think society will give us a role that we can emotionally engage with anymore and take pride in. The only way we can belong is to our relationships.

I agree with this, so I feel for the millions who are largely excluded from meaningful relationships because they have issues or are otherwise difficult or imperfect socially. And to be honest, who doesn't have issues or sometimes feel excluded? Or, more importantly, fear exclusion?

Social exclusion no longer means death for humans, but our brains are wired to feel that it does, and so there is an epidemic of loneliness, disconnection, and fear.

I'm not saying that the old days of completely depending on one's tribe of family and friends for survival was better in objective terms, but it was harmonious with our evolved instincts to be part of a small, mutually-connected group. Economic and social forces in a globalized society tend to act against the sustainability of such groups. So even those who are well-connected aren't as deeply connected, and are always threatened with potential loss of connection for unpredictable, uncontrollable economic or social reasons.

Your post reminded me of the Fresh Air interview with Sebastian Junger a while back [1]. I've not read the book yet, but it's on my list.

[1]: http://www.npr.org/2016/05/21/478962909/sebastian-junger-s-e...

> We can be special and needed by others - not to society.

Only because "society" is too large. For millions of years, "society" meant the same as "others", who were a hundred or so folks in your particular band of primates. You could have a personal understanding with each one of them.

Now that "society" is 7 billion anonymous people, of course you don't matter in that context. Concepts like "universal brotherhood" make no sense, because meaning and belonging don't scale.

I would argue that feeling needed fulfills a deeper need. What people really want is a sense of connectedness, which could be to other people, or to the divine.

A connection with the divine is available to anyone, at any time. It is only because science has caused us to throw the spiritual baby out with the religious bathwater that we have lost our access.

In that entire article, that is the one thing you took away and felt the need to comment about here?

He never said this was the best time for every single human being in the entire world, nor did he say that now will definitely be better than the future. I think this was obvious for anyone reading it.

It's unfortunate that you chose to focus on such a small part of the overall theme he was trying to make.

And the theme was not just about physical need, but all human need. And if the point he was trying to make was that some humans do not get the basic necessities, the article would have been about that. But the fact that we see many people that DO have their basic human needs met and still feel they have no purpose, speaks to a much larger issue than curing poverty.

Huh, did you read the comment I replied to?

If that would be the only need, sure.

I don't know why people downvotes you. It's not an obvious thing.

To convince you, I gently ask you to see this ted.com video: "What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness"


I think you are dangerously wrong.

Never before has there been a point in time where:

-A determined individual with the right equipment could shut down the information network our society almost exclusively relies upon.

-Weapons created for war could destroy the conditions for human civilization across the entire planet.

-Everyday consumption keeps people complacent while the artificially low costs contribute to and accelerate the pace of climate change, which could be almost as bad as nuclear Armageddon.

-The speed and scale of travel is such that a disease could reach every corner of the earth and kill millions if not billions of human beings (or our food!) no matter where they live or where the disease came from.

I'm not a pessismist about humanity's future but if you ignore these things you are only fooling yourself.

i don't understand your point. I'm not discounting any range of horrific tomorrows. I'm just reading The Periodic Table by Primo Levi (an Auschwitz survivor) and the future that worries me is the rise of fascism.

But you are still living in a world that is objectively the safest it has ever been for a human being.

Before the Flood - Full Movie | National Geographic - YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90CkXVF-Q8M

Perhaps because the "want of something more" is becoming less and less effective a political motivator, compared to the expedience of action tied to the "fear of something worse"? (I recognize we have an incredible capacity to crave more, but maybe there are diminishing returns of a sort in our psychology.)

As they say in finance, the only emotion more powerful than greed is fear.

But is greed more than response from fear? Fear that you won't have opportunity again in the future, that you won't be comfortable, forced lifestyle changes.. in the anxiety of not enjoying what you can use now because you feel the need to stockpile more than that; or to show off abundance. I think of fear as root of all bad, alienating emotions.

Likely a result of their need to be needed. In a world in which fewer bad things happen and people are bored by the mundane goodness of daily life, why wouldn't a news organization seek those stories 24 hours a day?

I think we blame "the media" as if the people doing it are bad, ignoring the real structural challenges to being positive.

You can be both better off than where you were and not as well off as you could be. Complacency is not the way to respond to stagnation.

I don't know if he's the originator, but Penn Jillette said one of my favorite quotes:

"Everyone always thinks the world is getting worse, but the world is always getting better."

It's really technology that is always getting better. It has been so successful that it's hard to see the decline in so many other things. Factor out technological advances when answering these questions. Are our universities really better than they were 100 years ago? Even just 50? Are our political systems any better than 100 years ago? 2000 years ago? Are our stories any better? Are our People any better? Is our art better? Are humanity's cultures better? I can find points of these where I can argue some aspect is better now than before (but that's usually due to technology -- e.g. the whole genre of sci fi first demands, well, science), and some I could argue for overall being about equal, but for any of those being overall better, I find it a hard claim to make.

For someone like say an LGBT person, western society/culture is objectively less harmful now than ever. Many more examples

Compared to the last 100 years or so? It seems some ancient cultures didn't have a problem with it at all (google "homosexuality in ancient times").

Sure but that isn't an intersectional perspective. Ancient societies also had more oppressive gender roles than today

As Poot says in The Wire: "World going one way, people another."

I always wonder: how could we improve humans? (including me).

How to detect bullshit. Make logical choices. Be respectful, etc.

Your points all touch on human nature, and no, that never changes over time.

Not really in every aspect. Frank Sinatra was replaced by Justin Bieber. How is that better? :)

That's focusing too much on one data point, the popular "teen idol" singers of the day. :)

Overall we have far more ability to chose the music that fits you personally. If some people chose Bieber, that's fine. I happen to not chose Bieber, and there's plenty of ways of creating playlists on Spotify / listen to the Pandora stations I like / surf Youtube videos / etc. where I never have to hear a Bieber.

In Frank Sinatra's day, you were limited to live performances, kind of lousy sounding radio transmissions, and kind of lousy sounding 78s. Even modern compressed music sounds better than that and there's plenty of music options in full fidelity.

There's even people picking up the crooner torch these days. Some of them have a pretty decent career doing it (I'm thinking of the Michael Bubles and Harry Connick Jrs of the world). And if you want to listen to Frank, it's easy to very quickly do that too.

For the consumers, today is probably worse only in the fact that many people don't like too much choice (http://www.economist.com/node/17723028).

The part I see arguing with more justification is that it's probably worse for many musicians overall. Music never has been a great path to wealth (unless you are lucky to become a superstar) but my impression is that a lot of the jobs "in the middle" (your local cover bands and recording studios and whatnot) are either suffering from the same wage stagnation affecting other jobs in the middle, or are gone altogether due to technological advances.

Bieber is there to make this generation feel a void so they can make a new Sinatra in the future.

No, pretty much in every aspect. If you're living in the U.S. or Europe today, your lifestyle likely surpasses that of the royalty and robber barons of 150 years ago.

What does "better" mean? If we mean that to be afforded more technological luxury is to live better, then sure, no people has ever lived better. Are we happier and more fulfilled than ever before? I don't know, but I doubt it.

Also, while the royalty and robber barons didn't have the internet or chemotherapy, they had servants to do all the menial chores most of is still have to do today, so in that respect we haven't totally surpassed them.

This is a relatively new problem, finding "happiness". It only becomes a problem after basic needs are met, food, roof over your head, steady income, low debt, healthy. People in the past had very little time to prioritize "happiness" against basic survival. Just to have the problem to begin with is a blessing in disguise, you're not struggling. I see it as a hierarchy of needs, similar to Maslow's.

> This is a relatively new problem, finding "happiness". It only becomes a problem after basic needs are met, food, roof over your head, steady income, low debt, healthy. People in the past had very little time to prioritize "happiness" against basic survival

I don't think this is really true except in times of turmoil or famine. Reading history you find plenty of people who are unconcerned about meeting their basic needs and who had a lot of free time.

This goes for lots of agricultural societies, for many hunter-gatherer societies, and even some more 'advanced' societies, though you do generally start getting class issues there.

People imagine the past as some kind of eternal, miserable struggle for existence - it wasn't like that. There were definitely bad times, bad times we can hardly even imagine today - but it wasn't the norm. Most people got along fine most of the time and often even had more free time than we do. When people are trapped in a perpetual, miserable struggle for existence - that's when you end up with revolutions and war.

> Are we happier and more fulfilled than ever before? I don't know, but I doubt it.

I'd say large swaths of the population definitely are not, but we're all responsible for making our own happiness. No one owes us anything. We definitely have the platform and infrastructure to be happy. They're just easy to take for granted because they're so good they support us even when we do.

> They had servants to do all the menial chores most of is still have to do today, so in that respect we haven't totally surpassed them.

That's a myopic view. What do you call robots and computers that operate at orders of magnitudes of efficiency?

> I'd say large swaths of the populace definitely are not, but we're all responsible for making our own happiness. No one owes each of us anything.

That may be the case, but the way society functions in general, social norms, trust, community, and the like have a massive impact on individual happiness. We "make" our happiness within that framework. Individual choices and failings are part of, say, the misery associated with opiate epidemics, but the conditions for them don't occur in healthy societies.

> We definitely have the platform and infrastructure to be happy.

But do we, to a greater extent than ever before in human history? Does social media make people happier? Cellphones? Modern family law and norms? An economy that encourages people to move across the country in search of new jobs? Are industrial societies more or less happy than agricultural societies? Postindustrial societies? Is our 'infrastructure' for 'better' lives really that which promotes happiness more than any other in human history?

> What do you call robots and computers that operate at orders of magnitudes of efficiency?

Incredible achievements based on the hard work and genius that have revolutionized the modern economy and made many things possible that were once impossible.

That doesn't mean they make life better (depending on your definition of better) or people happier (relative to what?)

A 'robber baron' was rich enough to do whatever they wanted. They never had to do a single menial chore in their lives, if they did not want to. No dishwashing, no food preparation, no clothes folding, no babysitting, no grass cutting. They didn't have a boss who could tell them what to do and threaten them with the loss of their livelihood. They could work as little or as much as they wanted, with no effect on their lifestyle unless it was truly extravagant. They had unlimited, truly free time.

I don't know that I'd be happier in that case, but sitting here now I feel pretty confident I could exchange Netflix, Hacker News, my cell phone, and transcontinental flights for that in a heartbeat. Maybe even advanced medical care.

I don't want to hold robber barons up as living a lifestyle we should aspire to. I'm simply saying that yes, in many ways, their lives were better in simply material terms than the way the average person lives today; it is nice to have a dishwasher, but it is even better to not have to wash dishes. It is nice to not be a chimney-sweep, but unlimited free time is better than 40-80 hours a week devoted to keeping yourself employed.

> unlimited free time is better than 40-80 hours a week devoted to keeping yourself employed

I just want to touch on this last point. I read the rest of your responses, but I think your philosophy boils down to this single misconception.

Unlimited free time doesn't make you any happier than employment.

Dissatisfaction is born out of these relative comparisons you're making and not spending your attention on what matters: constant inner growth through learning and challenging yourself in addition to appreciating what you have. Nobody is forcing you to work, but if you want to maintain your lifestyle, you should make the best of it. Plenty of employed people are happy with their jobs.

As a rule, I don't make relative comparisons - I did here because I wanted to highlight a difference that exists between the allegedly worse lifestyles of robber barons in 1916 compared to average people in 2016.

I don't disagree that constant inner growth through learning and challenging myself is important. It's just my learning and challenging has more to do with the relationships I have with my friends, family, and community, and with my hobbies and personal interests (which are economically worthless), and not with learning new Javascript frameworks so I can take time away from doing the above to write web applications.

I make what of it I can - and I do get some mild enjoyment out of many jobs, particularly when I get to work closely with customers to solve their problems - because that's the way the world works in 2016, but I'm not going to lie and say I think it's a great thing. It is hard to imagine being less happy in a life where I could do what I wanted without worrying about whether it paid the bills.

You might enjoy it, but many people dislike retirement and return to work.

I'd also be owning a house or a farm not renting.

Justin Bieber can sing at least as well as Sinatra. They are about equal in prickishness. Bieber is still alive, so he wins.

If you are rich and already in the top class, then maybe.

But it's not terribly good for the middle class.

If you are rich and already in the middle class, then maybe.

But it's not terribly good for the poor class.


Don't let wealth create unneeded divides. When you enter the mindset of "us vs. them" you will always be unhappy.

Edit: I grew up in a very poor community and our family yearly income was well under the poverty line (20,209 in Canada). The middle class has always been the richest people in the world for me. Now that I am part of it, I don't feel rich at all. However, I know that I am lucky. It's question of perception. Don't let them divide and conquer you for political gains.

While I agree you should try to be content with what you have, there's nothing wrong with aspiring to more. The middle class is being eroded away leaving us with a much larger group of have nots, and an increasingly hard to enter group of haves.

I wouldn't have a problem with this except a lot of the haves are in that group via genetic lottery, nothing that they actually did or earned.

If genetics determines all, then we should sort people to tasks best suited for their genetics. Ashkenazi Jew? Work on advancing gene therapy and retroviruses so humans now and in the future can be freed from genetic determinism. European? Build civilization. African? Physical labor/sports. East Asian? Also build civilization. To each is given the minimum necessary to do their genetically determined purpose, ignoring any abstract "human" needs for all. Surplus is captured by the State and hoarded, some used to incentivize the Jews to have more children since their problem is the most important. Eventually the Jews will succeed and no one will have any excuses anymore.

That's not a world I'd like to live in. But it would solve you having a problem with inequality. Or maybe you just need a different perspective to not put so much into genetic determinism in the first place.

I think the OP was referring to people being born into wealth. ie. trust-fund babies.

Also, WTF did I just read

OP said "a lot" of the haves, so I get the impression they think it's actually a lot and justifiable to start imposing corrections to the problem on the lot of haves. My real issue is just the idea that more than a tiny fraction of the "haves" are in that group by genetic determinism, either from the lottery of being born to one's parents (and inheriting their genes, and their money, which they got somehow) or the other lottery of being born to a particular (and perhaps in today's economy, privileged) race. We all have to play the hand we're dealt, but the world and the brain are dynamic enough that there are lots of ways to play even when you have poor initial conditions. Having a problem with seemingly some large amount of people not having to play as hard is odd, especially when it's likely a much smaller set of people than imagined.

Mindfuck of the day achieved, back to work...

> OP said "a lot" of the haves, so I get the impression they think it's actually a lot and justifiable to start imposing corrections to the problem on the lot of haves.

That's a hell of a leap of logic. If you want to attempt to make the argument that being born into money gives you no intrinsic advantages in life, that's your argument to make. Access to resources (in the modern world, money) is a HUGE advantage. I'm not jaded, I don't hate the rich nor do I want to forcibly remove their wealth, I recognize that the motive to attain wealth is the single greatest motivator ever applied to people and the primary reason capitalist societies are (by most measures) the most successful.

It's worth noting, however that the much derided and in recent history scaled back Estate Tax was originally intended to prevent the creation of a permanent landed gentry in the United States, or if you've never used that term, a group of wealthy estates that own so much they can effectively live from birth to death on the incomes of their properties. I would argue we have one, albiet not as bad as the one that inspired the law but one nonetheless.

The failing of this counterargument is that I'm not advocating for equal results of all people, I'm advocating for more or less equal opportunity. There are plenty of factors at play that we cannot control; genetics are indeed one, as are number of involved parents, upbringing, what the child is exposed to, etc. but there are at least a few that we can help control and access to capital is one of them.

Welcome to Gattaca.

But it is terribly, terribly good for the middle class.

Penicillin, socialised medicine, low violent crime rates (#), no need to hunt our food, no need to build our own shelters or rub sticks together to make fire.

The finest actors of this and past generations wait for me in my living room while I pee, something that past kings could not even achieve, I travel vast continents in the time it takes for a long sleep, I was the first of my father's line to go to University as a youth. As a consequence I can read and write (almost coherent sentences). The energy I consume per day would be equal to 40 slaves but I enslave no-one (directly) [##]

Maybe we can make an argument that for the current white western male middle class, it is not as good as it was 50 years ago, but perhaps Frank Sinatra would like an iPhone, or modern throat surgery? I do know Sammy Davis Jr would prefer the Civil Rights he would enjoy in Vegas today than in the 50s.

Compared to only a hundred and fifty years ago we are amazingly better off in every measurable way, compared to a thousand its almost shameful. If that does not make us happy, that's a different issue. After all we were only promised the pursuit of happiness.

[#] See Steven Pinkers "Better Angels of our nature"

[##] See Prof. David Mackay - http://www.inference.eng.cam.ac.uk/sustainable/book/tex/sewt...

No need to hunt for food isn't even a good thing. We are designed to hunt. We actually like doing it. Now, people don't get enough exercise or the right type of exercise and so after our 9 hours of work, we have to go to the gym and simulate physical work. Most people also hate their jobs because we were not designed to sit on a computer all day.

No need is a good thing. Ignoring our evolutionary heritage in our daily lives a bad thing

Anyway, any hunter from ten thousand years ago would laugh at the energy I expend in the gym. Hunters expend intelligence in order not to expend energy

>> If that does not make us happy, that's a different issue.

Why ?

Fair point. I guess we are socialising our way up Maslow's hierarchy

How many middle-class people had instant access to 90% of the human knowledge and entertainment 30 years ago?

How many have instant access right this second?

Life is far easier and more convenient than it used to be. Most of the middle-class live as better than kings of past centuries.

> How many middle-class people had instant access to 90% of the human knowledge and entertainment 30 years ago?

But at the same time as they got that, they lost access to things their parents took for granted like job security and reliable health care and thriving, stable communities. Getting access to Wikipedia is great, but it does not automatically balance that scale.

> reliable health care

Health care is more available to humanity than at any time in history.

Let me guess: your parents were WASPs.

Yet you have enough food, shelter, health. My comparison is about the whole of human history.

As far as I can tell, the qualify-of-life of the middle class is astoundingly high compared to almost-everyone in almost-all of history.

Most people aren't living in abject poverty for the first time in the history of mankind. Sure, it's not all roses, but we're moving in the right direction.

It may not be as good as it was 50 years ago, but there's a case to be made that it's nearly as good as it ever was prior to 1900.

It's better in every way. Racism, sexism, apartheid, LGBT, corporal punishment...

Exactly. Most of the people I hear that try to make the case that it was better, even a few decades ago, are usually white and/or male.

If you genuinely think these are the best markers for improvement in society, you must be an extremely lucky person. Having a job, having a job that doesn't completely suck, having enough money to move out of your parents house at the age of 30. These are things that people are facing today. In Australia, there are lots of people that are still living with their parents into their 30s because they simply can't afford rent or a mortgage.

Racism and sexism and other terms are used more for political purposes these days then they are for anything of worth. Why didn't you mention the discrimination people with autism face, for example? Autism simply isn't a useful political tool because it doesn't get enough votes. Yet people with autism face more discrimination then the types you have listed. It is politics and nothing more.

You are obviously a white male. You have no credibility when it comes to denying discrimination. You have never been in danger of being fired or lynched for some intrinsic characteristic.

> It may not be as good as it was 50 years ago

If you're a white male.

Who wasn't sent to kill or be killed in South East Asia against your will.

Women's self-reported happiness has dropped over the last 50 years [1], so possibly add "women" too.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/26/opinion/26douthat.html

I don't know. There was a study done recently among the Amish, who in many ways live like it's 1900. It found that they we're as happy as billionaires.

I'm presuming that should read "that they were as...". My first interpretation was that you were Amish yourself.


With few exceptions, human life is better in 2016 than in 1966.

Not terribly good, but certainly /better/.

> There has never been a better time to be a human being, and yet, the media and certain politicians would have you believe that there is disaster after disaster, terrorist plots afoot around every corner, feeding your fear day after day

Could you point me to a quote from the article that tries to make us believe that there is a disaster after disaster?

As far as I know, the article seems to have an objective opinion. It mentions that it's bad, but it's much better than it used to be. Which is basically your point.

Or was your opinion unrelated to the article?

If you're referring to safety from physical harm you're correct. But I'd argue that the erosion of many social safety nets has left a lot of people less economically secure.

But "economic security" as relative to their peers at this time is very different from the worst case for all their ancestors. Perhaps even the worst off are much better off now.

In a comment thread on a forum I am offering a non-nuanced binary view.

How economically secure does a hunter gatherer or subsistence farmer feel, with no medicine, lots of superstitious practices and complete dependence on the crops/weather... etc.

The problem is that satisfaction is completely relative.

A hunter/gatherer with no medicine and loads of superstitions doesn't feel anxious when everybody else is a hunter/gatherer with no medicine and loads of superstitions too. They feel anxious when they are that way, but they can look over a fence and see other people living in nice houses and living forty years longer than they do.

Progress is not uniformly distributed, and even in "advanced" societies there are wide and growing gaps between a small, privileged few and the rest who have to make do with much less. It's completely understandable why that would make people anxious, even if they have access to Netflix.

That depends on the person's beliefs.

Whether or not you experience the feeling of security is just as much about your internal representation of the world as it is about the external world.


Read a Dickens novel and tell me about how great the social safety nets in Victorian England were.

So said the Hittites when the Sea Peoples swept in from the seas in the West and the Kaskians surged down from the mountains in the East.

So said the Romans when the Teutons migrated their men, women, and children into Italy and took town after town.

So said the Sasanians when the Mohamaddans swept up from their deserts with swords and zealotry.

So said the Native Americans when the white man brought more and more of his kin to North America.

The Romans averted demographic destruction because they acted before the migrants achieved a sure enough foothold. The Hittites were the mightiest people on Earth at the time (they were the first to work iron). The migrants they took in, first thinking they would prove useful as mercenaries to fight their enemies, destroyed them. The Sasanians ruled the powerful Persian empire. A bunch of fanatical desert nomads relying on brutal Assyrian war strategies wiped them out. Native Americans controlled an entire hemisphere, but ended up all but wiped out of the upper half of that. They had centuries to get rid of their migrants, but instead remained fractured, with parts of them allied with the migrants and others against them.

The most racially diverse nations do go to war with outsiders less; yet, they are also the ones with the most internal crime, distrust, suffering, and injustice. India's Untouchables, South Africa's Apartheid (followed by South Africa's through-the-roof black-on-white rapes and murders after the ending of Apartheid), Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Germans and Jews in Germany.

If you'd prefer science over history, here are 24 studies in Europe, America, and other places on the effects of ethnic and cultural diversity on group cohesion, trust, strife, civility, and harmony:


It would be nice if we could all just join hands and get along. Unfortunately, humans compete for resources, and cooperate with each other for those resources against other groups. One of the primary ways we divide ourselves is by relatedness (the selfish gene). The more homogeneous the society, the more it trusts and cooperates; the less homogeneous the society, the more it distrusts and divides.

I was in Paris a little while ago and people were saying that Americans were canceling because of fear of terrorism because of the recent attacks. That just shows that Americans can't do math, because they have far higher odds of getting in a fatal car accident on vacation then being victims of terrorism. The probability of being a victim of terrorism in France is truly negligible.

I agree with your sentiment but this is hardly limited to Americans - I've read and heard many Europeans discuss avoiding American all together due to the perceived risk of gang shootings, mass shootings, terrorism, and run in's with the TSA. I suspect that a small percentage of travellers modify their plans due to poor risk assessment skills but there are many reasons tourism may be down in some areas.

Mr. Narrator, did someone say that fear is or was rational?

Aside from that, not going to france in such a case would be an additional perceived risk not an alternative one.

> "Uncertainty about the future has always been the same.

Don't listen to those devils."

You can call me a devil if you wish, but to me this is a classic example of a half truth. If you are already inclined to believe it, then you'll see it as the truth. If you're not inclined to believe it, then you won't see it as the truth.

To give some examples of people who are less likely to see it as the truth, go and tell Yemenis and Iraqis and Syrians that life has never been better. I'd imagine you'd be seen as a little bit kooky.

Would you do that, would you tell people who are facing famine that life has never been better? I'd suggest you wouldn't, because deep down you know what you're saying is only half true.

I agree. There are some really shitty things going on in the world. I'm talking from a Western perspective. However, objectively, and globally, most people, most of the time are way more better off.

I mostly agree with your view, but I wonder how you can reconcile it with the unfolding environmental disaster and loss of biodiversity across the globe.

It's never been a better time to be a human. It's never been a worse time to be any other species on earth.

But even for humans the quality of air/water/etc. has been going down for some time in many places.

And everywhere is full of people - it's becoming harder to be able to get lost in nature or to have real adventure.

Just because the average has improved, doesn't mean there can't still be people with serious problems.

You are assuming that being the safest and most stable is better for humans. Then you make a claim that humans have never had it better, yet you are not millions of years old, so literally have no idea if that is true or not.

I understand where you are coming from, because people are brainwashed into "progressive" ideology and globalists "the world always gets better because of globalisation", but they don't really make sense. Human genes don't match modern society, so it is impossible for there to be a better time then when our genes were our closest match to society.

This is an idea that will come as a shock to people, but it is true. I don't really care to debate it because it is obvious. Also, if you just want to take less shocking ideas, you can see that developed countries have declined in the last few decades.

> the devil at work

It's just money (power/manipulation/dominance) at work. With increasing intensity, which of course is sick.

Uncertainty about the future maybe, but our experience and training into dealing with randomness and chaos is near zero.

I find the modern world a bit absurd now. The industrial revolutions have diminishing returns since a few years. We're chasing pokemons instead of dealing with the important things (social structures, education, health). Things are done but still at the surface only.

Economic and quatifiable indicators might be higher than ever, but I'm not sure existences are better.

it doesn't matter if something is rare if it happens to you. the fact that i can imagine some terrible situation for me personally is all that's required to feel anxious. not listening to my own mind isn't an option, and i can't just choose not to imagine a constant, ever-varied carousel of horrors.

There has never been a better time to be a human being

Very myopic, first world, privileged view of the world.

If you want to be convinced otherwise, just look at some Gates Foundation† reports: non-first world is progressively getting better in basically every possible metric, and the fact that they're not at first-world levels yet is a non-sequitur.

† or whatever else report on the situation should you ever hold some disdain about Gates stuff.

The non first world is on a roll just now, in terms of wealth and life expectancy at any rate.

What/who devils? The Dalai Lama?

I don't think the issue he is addressing is 'safety and stability' - in the common sense.

Families, for example are a lot 'less stable'. So are many communities - at least in the Western world.

On the community level - consider a place like Detroit - which is an example of many, smaller cities esp. in the rust belt. That kind of community blight can wear on people.

I don't share that optimism. I think there is a normalcy bias at work here. It's going to catch up with us all at once.

Yes, the poorest among us are materially well-off, by any historical comparison. Yet the article speaks to how we're doing psychologically and spiritually. It's a little glib to tell people they'd better get happy and appreciate how much better we have it than ye olde folks of yore.

Trump has gotten this far by stirring up rust belt fears of human obsolescence. Less-educated white males are seeing their place in society disappear. If you don't think "the rest of us" have to care about that, wait and see the response as autonomous vehicles take out the trucking industry.

Even if Trump loses this time, the same underlying sentiments will produce more Trump-y candidates in the future, unless something can be done to create real change and ways for all sorts of people to be active and valued participants in our society. It's important to recognize the pain and suffering behind the fear of being unneeded.

Interesting questions abound:

If prescription anti-depressants worked, wouldn't Americans be the happiest people ever?

We already know behavioral advertising changes one's perception of oneself -- does that shift affect well being?

What's the psychological cost of commodifying one's special moments as social media posts?

How do we engage undocumented kids who feel sidelined by the lack of paths toward rewarding careers?

How do our attitudes toward birth, death, and caring for the very young and very old work against well-being?

Why do we measure economic health of our country without reference to the distribution of ownership of capital? (We carefully measure the number of wage slaves, but who's measuring the number of people who own productive enterprises? Stocks are too far removed from "productivity" and shouldn't count.)

> If prescription anti-depressants worked, wouldn't Americans be the happiest people ever?

Just like depression is more complicated than "not happy enough", anti-depressants are more complicated than "drugs that make people happier".

Oh no please not Trump again, he's got all the bad press in the Western World. I read a Dalai Lama article to bust into Trump bad press yet again.

Someone's gotta build and repair those self driving trucks, ey? And it won't be robots or software developers with a laptop, it's gonna be non educated hard working males of all colors who are not afraid to get their hands dirty.

Otherwise your politicians are gonna orchestrate WW3 for all the non educated males to participate, because the Pentagon's got all the latest and greatest toys they spent trillions in taxpayer money on and they're dying to try them out.

I hope that the self driving trucks part will work out well. But it's still Silicon Valley vapour, until we've got better batteries and solar powered charging stations in the desert, not to mention Alaska.

>>Someone's gotta build and repair those self driving trucks, ey? And it won't be robots or software developers with a laptop, it's gonna be non educated hard working males of all colors who are not afraid to get their hands dirty.

Presumably it will mostly be the people who currently repair the trucks continuing to do so, which still creates the problem of what to do with the former truck drivers replaced by autonomous drivers.

Autonomous truck towers for instance. Because there's gonna be a lot of towing until the autonomous trucks work out.

The reason Trump has so much hype, is because Trump creates enough bad press without the media having to lift a finger. It's easy for them to stir up controversy and bad press because he makes it easy for them.

Almost every statement he makes is geared to generate hype and bad press. Which is working. I've heard more about Trump, what Trump says about Foo, and what Trump says about Hillary, than I have Hillary.

without the media having to lift a finger

The media has been full-court press against Trump for months.

> It's a little glib to tell people they'd better get happy and appreciate how much better we have it than ye olde folks of yore.

You are speaking for the Dalai Lama's intent with this blaming statement. "Glib" is Germanic and means "slippery". And while only he can speak to whether he is being slippery or not with his words, given the words themselves do not blame I doubt that is the case here. However, the Dalai Lama is likely attempting to double bind readers, which means a polarized view of his words will manifest if the readers themselves are deep in dissonance.

In other words, it's your own doing speaking for others and ask leading questions as a result of digesting his "opinion". For example, if prescription and anti-depressants "worked", that would imply we all agree to what "worked" meant together. We don't, which is part of the situation in the US and with comments that blame.

Trump has gotten as far as he has because a good number of people are allowing Trump to speak for them and their own internal dissonance with blanket blaming statements that are in direct conflict with reality and can only be "solved" by breaking reality "out here". America does not need to be great again because being "great" is a transitory trait. Things don't become great because we want them to be great. Great just happens as a result of everything coming together in a holistic (and efficient) solution.

Humans will continue seek to solve their dissonance in a cost effective manner, but ultimately it is on each of us to solve our own dissonance without being judged for our inability to do so OR told how to solve it. We all have dissonance, and it's the internal acceptance of that dissonance, or sin for you Christians, that will allow us to break it.

That's a big challenge today given software makes just about everything more efficient. I think we've found it more convenient to lean on others options with these new found inefficiencies. The Dalai Lama suggestions are wise, given we'll continue to struggle to find meaning in a world with less jobs and more judgement.

BTW, it's my belief that the affects we are seeing with today's societies are related to the ones we experience in architecting private and public cloud services.

Sorry, I was speaking in agreement with the article, and in opposition to the idea expressed in the comments that material progress plus Netflix ought to satisfy and fulfil the human heart.

I heartily agree that dissonance is a formidable force in the world with devastating consequences -- I like your name for the concept. I'm saying we can't afford to ignore the painful realities of those who feel disenfranchised. Also, let's be more aware of subtle ways in which technological advances may augment internal dissonance.

> let's be more aware of subtle ways in which technological advances may augment internal dissonance

Seems like a testable hypothesis.

I like 'silky', but the original quote was in the context of speaking for others, i.e. the Dalai Lama speaking for other's happiness. It's a common issue with Buddhism, which is why they say to let others solve their own dissonance, but do so in a way that forces them to do so without external influence. In many ways that's "tricky" business.

"In America today, compared with 50 years ago, three times as many working-age men are completely outside the work"

I was taught that work is one of only two uses for a man. That other being a good father. It must be wrong but it is an unshakable thought. I can't imagine how I would hate myself if I couldn't provide. This fear, even though I have no dependents, is far greater than my fear of being unneeded.

Maybe it's different for other people.

So few men vocalize this fear. I lost a brother-in-law to suicide because of this. Thank you for sharing this.

I wasn't explicitly taught this - but as someone with no dependents, I relate quite strongly to this.

> I can't imagine how I would hate myself if I couldn't provide. This fear, even though I have no dependents, is far greater than my fear of being unneeded.

it's one, if not the biggest, fear of my life. my wife is a college student and a housewife (college is different in brazil, it's not fulltime like in the us). not being able to provide would mean we would suffer a bit.

i have a recurrent dream where i go look at my bank account/savings and it's zeroed, meaning i can't pay our bills. i always wake up really freaking scared.

God that sounds horrible.

this fear drives you to save more. My parent's generation had large saving and near 0 debt(except house) because of the fear of loosing. As the society advances, like I believe in Scandinavian country, the risk of not being able to provide food, health, education to kids and family goes down. This alleviates the fear and allows people to take more risk and still a happier life.

Anecdotally, I've been thinking about this. "Being needed" is can also be looked at as "having a sense of purpose".

Today, the only "Sense of purpose" is wealth accumulation and debt reduction. There is very little we can do with:

- Family (marriages, divorces are way too high)..not permanent

- Community (everyone lives in distant houses and neighbors change frequently)..not permanent

- Kids (nobody can afford one), parents (either divorced, separated or in an old-age home)--not permanent

- Friends (too little time to socialize, too much competition, competing with the Joneses, too much changing locations, hard to make new ones)...not permanent

There is very little satisfaction in fighting for the above because NO effort to above leads to PERMANENT satisfaction (except maybe wealth). Therefore, demotivating any real sense of purpose for anything besides digits on your online accounts...which really isn't the same as "being needed".

In my experience wealthy people != satisfied people.

Take heart! Plenty of marriages do endure. Community does exist. People can and do find joy and meaning in raising kids on paltry incomes. Friendship is possible!

Relationships can be more satisfying when you drop the expectation that your efforts will be reciprocated. Giving can be its own reward.

As to your “not permanent” points: The realisation that the only constant in life is inconstancy goes back to at least 17th century. It's part of the human condition.

That's gross oversimplification for western amateur audiences. His Holiness is trying to speak the language of common western consumer.

Behind our anxiety is ignorance. Period. Ignorance is described as a veil that obscures the view of what is from so-called primordial awareness or Atman, if you wish - the aspect of the whole (Brahman) in us. (The Buddha explicitly rejected the notion of Atman, but numerous later Indian (tantric) writers messed everything up). It is like continuous day-dreaming. The meaning of Awakening is literal awakening from this habitual delusional day-dreaming to what is.

Most of our fears are due to misapprehension of reality, like classic mistaking of a rope for a snake, and our attaching to (and hence the fear of losing) that illusory my self, which is nothing, but an appearance to ignorant and confused introspection.

This crude formulation is as old as Upanishads.

I agree. Hard not to when practicing insight leads to those same conclusions.

Having said that, I think this perspective is worth examining. I usually find an example of the emotional energy and start probing it to see if it holds up -- that is to say, do I really sense a fear whose encoded story is 'to not be needed'? How does that flow? Maybe it is there and maybe it isn't.

This is a different perspective, also interesting and worth examining: http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-reasons-trumps-rise-that-no-on...

It isn't surprising that comfortable pop psychology is more welcome on the NYT opinion pages than esoteric theology.

There is no known contradiction of original Buddha's doctrine with modern evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience. The modern notions of Cognitive Dissonance, cognitive biases, framing effects and modern western philosophy of mind only supports Buddha's views.

The only applicable critique is that original Buddhist doctrine is too general and allows flexible interpretations, nevertheless lots of scholars would maintain that Buddha's approach is one of the earliest attempts of systematic study of the mind using an imperfect method of introspection (famous Upanishadic neti neti doctrine is, perhaps, the earliest known to us), leaving validation of the insights to everyone who wished to follow the same path.

Buddha's investigation into the nature of reality and mind, which obscures it, is qualified for philosophy - precursor of modern sciences, not a religion (there is literally nothing to be saved). Theology has been developed by various competing sects hundreds of years later.

I'd like to read everyday articles like these. We are drowned in hateful speech. Would feel better reading something like it.

As a counter to hate I recommend anything by Jiddu Krishnamurti, especially Think on These Things and The First and Last Freedom.


"Medium: Growth hacking your way into SF gentrification."

A question that comes to mind: What is the future of "meaningful work" If technology is poised to render sustenance-based work obsolete? The utopian idea is societies where education, arts and entertainment are what we consider to be "work." It's something that's been talked about since the industrial revolution, but assuming it's a multi-generational shift how do we set course to ensure a sense of well being in the human species?

This is such a good point!

I have a feeling industrial based societies will automate themselves out of relevance. Because those who are bored will just find things for themselves to do anyway. Crafts, cooking, gardening etc, stuff people did before the industrial revolution.

In some ways it's the end of the treadmill and we'll be back at square one.

> In some ways it's the end of the treadmill and we'll be back at square one.

Well, there's something to be said about a peaceful, physically healthier, longer lived, and better nourished humanity. Even if it all boils back down to cooking, cleaning, maintaining the homestead, and taking care of the family in the end.

This is the big missing piece with basic income: People need meaning in their lives as much as they need money.

I am not very knowledgable about basic income and don't (yet) have a strong opinion one way or the other on it. But, in my understanding, the idea is that not having to worry about meeting one's basic needs then frees them up to do things that are more meaningful with their lives.

As a gainfully-employed programmer, this doesn't really fit my current life situation (because there is bountiful well-paying work that is fulfilling to me)... but I can understand how people who are not in as fortunate a situation might have to sacrifice a lot of time and energy towards unfulfilling jobs which leave them without the ability to pursue more meaningful goals.

Maybe, maybe not... but certainly worth some experimentation.

Personally I do not feel my job adds meaning to my life. In fact it deprives me of the time and energy to pursue the meaningful things I actually want to do.

I have a similar view (although protestant work ethics would probably disagree), and while a basic income will not provide meaning (nor is it supposed to), “primum edere deinde philosophari” is still true. Any pursuit of meaning would be literally meaningless if we go hungry every day.

It seems like you're halfway to understanding why basic income is a good solution.

The most common objection to BI is that people won't be incentivised to work. But as you point out, they still want to feel appreciated.

So people will have to work to find meaning and it will be better than now, because it will have to be meaningful work, not just busy work.

> ...and it will be better than now...

Will it? What if someone's "meaningful work" is destructive, hateful, or even violent? Will giving abusive people more freedom to pursue their inner desires make for a better world?

Meaning has next to nothing to do with income and sustenance. Problems with those can easily distract you from the very concept of stepping back and looking at meaning to your life. Excess of those can be their own burden as well.

Some sort of basic income really doesn't change much at all, besides helping to remove distractions from the destitute to be freer to pursuing meaning.

For most people, meaning has a lot to do with value creation. Corporations are institutions for value creation. If most people were equipped to create value on their own we'd see a lot more entrepreneurs.

Don't get me wrong, I think we'll need BI, but it won't be enough.

"Most people"? For one, there's a huge rate of unhappiness among those who have created vast value, and on the flip side a ton of people giving up on finding meaning in such metrics to better find their own meaning in spiritual, humanitarian, or personal niche pursuits.

I think it has a lot more to do with the act of creating something yourself, not necessarily the "value" of what's being created. I'd say especially so when corporations and such are involved, and especially regarding non-owners.

It's an interesting source. Tibetan society pre-1940s (most recent Chinese invasion) was incredibly feudal. The Dalai Lama was the top of the feudal society, both monarch and high priest. I've spent a bit of time in Tibet, and the Tibetans dearly love the current Dalai Lama. Now, maybe he's an exception for reasons of being a leader in exile, and a general scholar and nice guy.

But I wonder, in most feudal societies, do the serfs feel needed by their societies and their monarchs?

The comments in here remind me of this video:


Eric Schmidt takes the side a lot of people here take, which is "everything is getting better", and Peter Thiel takes the other side, that things aren't getting better.

I don't think things are getting better at all. You can easily just use your own metrics and then come to the conclusion that everything is getting better. The problem is, your metrics are bullshit so you are coming to the wrong conclusion.

I have seen all kinds of metrics used in here like "don't have to hunt", "live longer", "safer", "can watch netflix". I don't think any of these things have to do with whether or not people's lives are getting better.

You can just take one of those metrics - "live longer", and see that in itself, it can't measure "getting better", because you can live for 80 years and have a terrible life, or have 60 years of an excellent life.

I think people in silicon valley are just completely clueless and are making the wrong bet, which is why they never see things like Trump coming. Things aren't getting better and people know it.

I am not certain the author of the article has identified the true cause/root of the problem. To me, the need to be needed is certainly important, but, I do not think that that need is the true cause of the anxiety described in the article. The way the western world has reacted to immigration and socio-political landscape currently obtaining is not well explained by the need to be needed as explained in the article.

To me, the need to be needed/fear of being unneeded takes a back seat to the idea of 'other'. The otherness of the migrants, of the new persons, the lack of 'connection' with them certinly is a better explanation than the feeling of being superflous.

My view is that if we, as humanity in general, could only see each other first as individuals and secondly as persons with intrinsic worth - basically treat each other as we would a treasured member of our family, their troubles with the same sense urgency with which we would treat our close friend, brother, sister in the exact same circumstances, then the world would be a better place for all.

But, it feels like this is naïve, not 'realistic' or 'practical' there is too much standing in the way, at least thats what it looks like to me when I attempt to do so. It gets overwhelming, emotionally anyway. To me, behind our anxiety, as humans, is the fear of what would happen if we truly saw others as though they were ourselves. Really and truly. I am not sure we can do so, because we would realize just how fucked up the world was. I for one would rather not, the shame, fear is too much. I would rather build a wall and tell myself there is not much I can do, I do not have enough to help, I would be disregarding my responsibilities. But I know the truth. I am just scared.

And although all the world’s major faiths teach love

That's not what I see when I look into the holy books. Let's be frank here, faith and religion are still the tools to turn ordinary people into genocidal maniacs.

I know what you mean (turning someone into a pillar of salt, killing infidels, etc), but there's a stark difference between the "tenants" of a religion and the single books that drive them. Hence why there's a million different flavors of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc - they all take their given "book" and interpret it differently.

If you generalize Jesus' teachings, they're hard to argue as immoral - be good to your fellow man, abandon your earthly possessions, wash the feet of another because he is your fellow, stuff like that.

Anyway my point is, a tool is just a tool to be used as you will. Religious texts can be used to bring people together or start a war, obviously - just look at the current shitstorm surrounding "radical islamic terrorism." There are over a billion Muslims in the world, 99.99% of whom live peaceful lives - and a small percentage are convinced to turn their religion into an ugly justification for bloodshed. No religion is immune to this.

> If you generalize Jesus' teachings, they're hard to argue as immoral - be good to your fellow man, abandon your earthly possessions, wash the feet of another because he is your fellow, stuff like that.

Well, Jesus generalized his own teachings like this, quoting the scriptures of his time, in the gospel of Matthew:

> “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

If God doesn't exist or isn't a good God, then it's not hard to argue that following Him could be immoral and teaching people to follow Him is surely immoral. And that's speaking as a Christian.

Paul even wrote, "...if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.... If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied."

> Anyway my point is, a tool is just a tool to be used as you will.

This point is well taken, though I would rephrase it. People take all sorts of things and then change them to suit their purposes. Jesus himself railed against this sort of thing, calling religious hypocrites "vipers" and "whitewashed tombs".

> No religion is immune to this.

Well, certain religions are certainly against this sort of thing. I'd argue that someone who has taken Jainism, say, and added violence, they've invented a new religion and stolen (and corrupted) the word "Jainism". This sort of thing has happened to Christianity for 2000 years. There's no copyright on the word. Just like a hacker can do whatever, say he's from Anonymous, and everyone takes that assertion on face value.


You are confusing religion used for political and self-serving means, with the selflessness teachings that are common with many holy books including Buddhism and Christianity. It is humans that corrupt religion when we want to be gods or worship and obsess about the wrong idols.


Which "holy books"?

Religions are more than their holy books. The Old Testatment preaches a hateful and parochial worldview, but the vast majority of Jews and Christians are perfectly normal human beings.

This is a refreshing and useful article in light of the upcoming election and political fallout. It's a reminder that the world, despite the media/politics, is getting better and better, and consequently the need for human labor is decreasing. The Dalai Lama doesn't offer any answers, only recognition of the "problem" and hope that we can collectively find a solution.

It's especially important for us as the very people who are actively trying to make human labor obsolete. As a generally libertarian minded person, I find this is a very compelling article for compassion in a relentlessly utilitarian society.

to be fair though, if you're feeling severe anxiety you should go see a doctor.

i've been seeing a lot of articles on hn lately that are like "just think your way into a good mood yay" or "heres arbitrary reason for how you feel etc" when we all know there's many environmental or genetic factors that play into how our minds develop.

maybe it's the fear of the being unneeded or maybe if you have anxiety you should talk to someone or it's likely both.

"Severe anxiety" was probably not the best choice of words.

I believe from a Buddhist perspective, anxiety is a pretty basic thing, i.e. it is considered the normal state of the not-yet-enlightened person.

There is a lot of discussion on HN (in this thread and in many others) about what we will do when technology replaces a significant fraction of our jobs. People are talking about a 10%, 50%, or even 99% reduction in the workforce size due to technological advances (mostly AI).

I totally reject the conclusion that the workforce will be significantly reduced by any imminent technology. Look at humans throughout history. We have continuously invented ways to automate (or nearly automate) away the labor behind our needs and desires, but people have been working 40+ hour weeks since the industrial revolution. It seems that our wants and needs advance as quickly, or even more quickly, than our ability to meet them with technology.

I think a good analogy (for this crowd) is personal computing. Every year our computers get much faster, yet the overall "speed" of the experience remains about the same. Why? Because as soon as we get our hands on a new CPU we go and write a program that requires more CPU power, rather than simply watching our old programs run faster. I don't think there is anyone out there running Netscape on Windows XP on top of a brand new Intel Processor with 32GB of RAM.

I think we are being a combination of overconfident and unimaginative when we think we are on the brink of a technological utopia where DeepMind AI does our job for us. We are unable to imagine the wants we will have in the future. This is by definition, if we could imagine them we'd have already started working towards them!

I will present a concrete example, one that's overused but still effective. Consider the smartphone. This is a device that is pocketable, affordable to ~50% of the world's population, and can answer nearly any factual query in seconds. I think if you had told someone in the 90s about that they would assume we'd have vastly more leisure time. We'd have fired all the librarians, replaced the teachers with machines, and our children could complete 12 years of education at home in a fraction of the time. But of course this is not what happened. In fact we created more work for ourselves, I bet half the people in this thread are employed by a company that makes software for smartphones. We didn't know we'd want 100 apps and games on each phone, but now that we're here we won't easily give them up.

I don't mean any of the above to sound negative. This is a wonderful thing! This infinite cycle of desire is what has driven us to this point and is what will drive us into the future. But the one negative consequence (in my opinion) is that humans will not soon be a leisurely species. We will keep busy, and we will keep inventing things to busy ourselves with.

I totally reject the conclusion that the workforce will be significantly reduced by any imminent technology.

Your main point is correct, but take in account this, too: So far technology has replaced or created new jobs requiring not much more in terms of skills. To make a very simple example: cars were not extremely more difficult to drive than a cart. And way easier (less physical strength required, for example) than riding a horse.

So if someone was intellectually capable of learning to drive a cart, they could probably manage a truck. People leaving their farm (thanks to increased mechanization of farm labor) could move to the city and work in a plant or in a blue collar job with little training.

Of course, advances in science and technology also created whole new jobs that required a lot of study (I dunno... Engineer, Chemist) but it was not like everyone who was made redundant as a cart driver or a farmer would move to the nearest city and become a scientist.

So the problem seems to be this: assume that half of the truckers will be made redundant in 10 years. How many of them will succesfully "pivot" in something else, like truck AI programmer? 1 in 1000? Of course, they could become ... truck mechanics... but, wait... we already had mechanics working on human-driven trucks, and the fact that some trucks are now autonomous will not require an large amount of extra repair shops to cater for them. So, what will the not-truck-driver-anymore guys do?

Also another factor - the minimum viable skill level rises.

In Spain, some years back (6 centuries?), being able to read and write, could get you respect and lifetime employment. Being able to read silently - reputation and awe. Without your lips moving - quiet speculation about deals with the Devil.

Now being able to read gets little Casey to middle school.

It's not hard to image a few years out, a little Casey with more category theory than almost anyone here, and a better feel for system decomposition and design. Also with more numerate physics than most current physics 4th-year undergraduates, and a better understanding of biology than many current first-tier medical school students. Low bars all.

I've seen two threads here today, saying things like 'that new Javascript tooling is bafflingly complex' and 'they wrote something incomprehensible about functors returning monoids'. Welcome to the future.

Maybe the future is like immigration - you often lose a generation - one that works really hard, for little joy, so their kids can make it. Only the future really doesn't need or want the work many have to offer. And with wealth and education inequality, their kids may not have much of a chance either.

And for high-skill individuals feeling secure and smug, it's amazing what we're starting to be able to do, combining machine learning with human/software hybrid processes, to deskill professional work. ;)

How many of us are really blessed with the option of having leisure? I can take a list of open jobs and then filter it to part time jobs and watch the list shrink to a tiny fraction of what it was. And these are jobs mainly aimed at piss poor students who could spend a few evening or weekend hours in exchange for some disposable income. The salary is bad, you don't make a living doing these jobs.

If you think most people pay for 100s of apps, you're probably wrong. Get out of the tech bubble, go spend some time with blue collar workers, they probably don't care about that smartphone all that much. The advertisers might've convinced them to buy one, and they might be browsing facebook or news with it, and that's likely the extent of what they know to do with it. And even when they buy apps, or subscribe to netflix, that money is absolutely nothing compared to rent and food and all that. I have a hunch that the thing in their pocket isn't making their life that much better. Look, it's just something people have. And they kinda have to have one. You really might have to get out of the tech bubble to see it.

I think too many people here equate having a job with having a meaningful life or "feeling needed". I truly think we could come up with an infinite amount of bullshit jobs for the entire population, jobs that don't serve any of our basic needs. Jobs you could get kicked out of any time. These jobs are not a gateway to meaningful life, they are a chore people go through so they can afford to pay the bills. These people aren't needed, if they quit, there's always someone else who needs to pay the bills too. If anything, that creates anxiety and makes you feel unneeded.

And if you're unemployed, it's very stigmatising. The society wants to tell that you're a freeloader, a burden, a problem that needs to solve itself. You're unneeded unless you're making money and paying taxes. Up until you're employed, you need to justify your existence to the society at large. You might get enough money to survive, not enough to lead a meaningful life. You can't afford to try and start meaningful endeavors yourself, unless you're a very convincing and charismatic person or willing to take a big risk (or both). Your only hope is getting a job, quite possibly some bullshit job that doesn't really need to be done, and in particular doesn't need to be done by you. If anything, you're the one who has to convince somebody that you're the one who should get to do that job in place of another person. You have to explain the employer why you should be needed (even though they're the ones hiring..).

Telling such a person that he should be happy because he can have mobile apps or netflix or infinite entertainment on youtube is very inconsiderate.

Where are all the four hours or three days a week job opportunities that give people the chance to enjoy more leisure?

I've only read about the experiments, say in Sweden, where some people's day was reduced to six hours, and I remember the workers feeling uncomfortable because other people got envious about it.

Any analysis of anxiety that does not distinguish between males and females is going to be extremely hamstrung.

Each half of the species has very different socio-biological failure modes.

Is anxiety a failure mode? Or is it somehow exactly what's needed to tell us that something's missing?

The distinct failure modes being the source of anxieties.

These problems and anxieties stem from a belief that things are unfair. Be it racial biases, economic disparity, or policing offensiveness, many of these complaints boil down to this: In such a "modern" society, shouldn't we be finally past these problems? Why does it look like they're getting worse?*

People contrast the problems they face against the positive strides they see elsewhere, and it foments an us-vs-them mentality, projects a "f- you, got mine" on the positives, and increases outlooks of entitlement.

This is a continually escalating and divisive cultural cancer that's erupting. However, it has little to do with feeling "unneeded" (though obviously in the lost jobs cases that's mixed in), but rather more of people feeling actively antagonized. It's a mess.

(* answer: greater information flow and media that profits from outrage)

Not necessarily. For most people, yes. But for those with eyes open the anxiety and agony is that our solutions are needed but that we cannot enlighten human societies. The best we seem to be able to do is either fund activities on our own or find those who have kept themselves true enough to be able to understand, recognize, correctly learn, and practice truths. But it's difficult to find those who want to know, so while valuable, this way is quite arduous and lonely. The Dalai Lama may talk about western psychology's abandonment and bonding conditions, but he has not wanted to meet even me as I know the one truth that he has not been able to realize even half of one of Buddha's teachings.

It's odd to see this sort of philosophy/theology posted on here, but since the subject was broached, from the article:

> Virtually all the world’s major religions teach that diligent work in the service of others is our highest nature and thus lies at the center of a happy life.

Actually, Ecclesiastes (great read for all philosophy geeks) is a long discourse of happiness, the point of life, etc. Its final conclusion was:

> Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

The core of Judeo-Christian theology is the supremacy of God and trust that following His instructions is the best way to live the best possible life. Of course there is a lot of teaching about how to care for others, and there's a lot of teaching against selfishness, but that is the result of following a good God, not the point in itself.

Ecclesiastes actually brings up charity as wise, but falls far short of saying it's the point of life. It points out that there's limits to human knowledge. In my wording, help people, because that could be you tomorrow, but the person you save from a fire today could drown tomorrow. You'd need to be able to see the future to utterly help someone, and only God has that kind of foresight. So if you trust that God exists and is good, you should obey His teachings.

> Indeed, what unites the two of us in friendship and collaboration is not shared politics or the same religion. It is something simpler: a shared belief in compassion, in human dignity, in the intrinsic usefulness of every person to contribute positively for a better and more meaningful world.

I'm eager to collaborate productively with everyone. But if you're interested in being my friend, you need to understand where I come from. I value human life because mankind was made in the image of God (imagao dei). My eagerness to give human compassion, dignity, and usefulness another shot grows out of my trust in God and his teachings that say to do just that. But I do that in spite of the track record of humanity, not because I have faith in what humans will do in the future. Who knows the future?

There's a bit of an "all religions are the same" meme out there, and it's important to correct it, especially when respectable people repeat it.

Article is about modern human psychological well-being; comments are about how materially satisfied modern (Western) humanity is, so what's the fucking problem, gosh!? The best part is the latter doesn't actually discount the former, it just trivializes its importance.

Oh HN, never change.

I Want You To Want Me [0]. Some of us just want to love and be loved.

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbw-PVwBU9k

if you have paywall issues: https://archive.fo/yBrfC


Please stop reposting this. See also https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10178989.

Didn't think so.

Can you please quote from my above comment the part where paywalls are discussed?


Click the "web" button under it, then select the result from the Google search

This works much less well, for many people.

For NY Times, the fact that I have non-persistent cookies as a Firefox extension helps greatly. For other sites (WSJ especially) I've got to jump through several more hoops.

Given that the goal on HN is discussion of the article, and that the workarounds aren't evident or foolproof, this is a consistent pain point.

And simply using the "web" button does not consistently work. You should be aware of this.

Did you actually try this yourself? It presents a login page for me when I do this.

Incognito mode worked for me.

Me too, thanks for mentioning that


These sites in particular are not fully paywalled - search for the title and click through from google for wsj, and nytimes gives you 10 articles free per month (which resets if you use an incognito window).

Whether this is the "right" thing to do is another question. I do really wish there were more micro-payment enabled articles since I primarily get my news from twitter/fb links or aggregators like HN, and I can't reasonably subscribe to every news source that might ever have an interesting story posted to HN.

Because, in the case of the first two, they are offering some of the only real journalism that remains. The latter is just fantastically adept at churning out gobs of clickbait.

The term "real" is subjective.


It's not going to help if you bring up downvotes, check the site rules.


Or in other words free readers will be unneeded/unwanted by quality content...

Here is a link: https://archive.fo/Ro6Vc

Incognito worked for me

Oh, thanks.

For as prolific as he is, the Dalai Lama doesn't pop up on my radar much. But here he is in the NY Times opinion pages sharing monism.

This speaks to a broader human truth: We all need to be needed.

There's an old but relevant perspective on life. We value ourselves by how much we can contribute to the lives of others.

Still though, I'm left wondering, what combination of forces summed up to this particular writing crossing my path?

Leaders need to recognize that a compassionate society must create a wealth of opportunities for meaningful work

Oh, there it is. A message about the importance interpersonal relationships to self worth is co-opted and reduced to nothing more than calling on the government to make sure everyone is feeding their 40 hours into the system.

I don't understand how "meaningful work," when the Dalai Lama says it, means "40 hours into the system." My understanding of Buddhism is "meaningful work" or "meaning" can be slaving away 60 hours a week at your own company, sitting on concrete tinkering away at a motorcycle, or even living on a mountain shaving your head and relinquishing all possessions. The idea is to "find meaning," that is, only do things that for you are important and for you give you a sense of purpose.

This is a common misconception in my line of understanding of Buddhism. From how I see it, there's not even a "me" or "you", maybe there's a "I am you; you are me", or "nothing at all", depending on the line you may follow.

For me, Buddhism teaches about selflessness, not stuff like carpe diem or find meaning of live or whatever; also teaches about the dangers of dying and being reborn/transmigrate in a much worse state, so we should quickly get out of this cycle of suffering. If you are sharp (in terms of Budddhism) you will want to fix this ASAP. If you are not so sharp, they will have to use expedients to slowly show you whats the proper path to happiness - for example showing that clinging to stuff doesn't bring lasting happiness.

Getting out ot our own ignorance requires real effort, not just reading and making assumptions from the comfort of our views.

I don't understand how "meaningful work," when the Dalai Lama says it, means "40 hours into the system."

Look to the paragraph where people outside the workforce are implied to feel superfluous. Perhaps the people outside the workforce are the most self-actualized of us all. But that possibility is ignored, both in the op-ed and by the reader. Not even the idea that they have the opportunity to be.

I'm going to butcher the sentence I quoted earlier. Perhaps you think it changes the meaning, perhaps not. That's not the point, see below...

"Leaders [] must create [] opportunities for [] work"

My point is, it's a well-worn political trope to call on leaders to increase employment opportunities. If that wasn't the point, why use language that is so similar, or at least could be confused for it. Why not call on leaders to segue our society to one where people can focus on meaningful work that typical job time commitments get in the way of?

>> society must create a wealth of opportunities for meaningful work

You could interpret this line in different ways. One is your interpretation.

Another one would be: Currently, people need work to feed themselves. Why not make thier job meaningful(and good for the human spirit), instead of, say the work at the factory(meaningless and negative for the human spirit), which there are many like it ? In fact , this could be an interesting use of automation.

Or another way: many people do benefit from a good structure in their lives, not everybody is a self motivated entrepreneur or software developer like found here . Why not, together, think of such structures ?

"Feeding their 40 hours into the system" is the opposite of "meaningful work".

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