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Laura Deming, founder of the Longevity Fund, on being homeschooled (withprimer.com)
113 points by mksm 11 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 206 comments





I know a lot of homeschoolers. Some had great experiences. Some had truly terrible experiences. But regardless, they turned into functional, developed adults at about the same rate as publicly schooled kids.

I think it's important for parents to realize that a lot of these choices are mostly about enjoyment and convenience, and they don't need to beat themselves up if they feel like they are failing because they can't put a square peg through a round hole.

Although, that said, I think one trend I do see is that successful people had the ability to move on when they were ready. I for one was lucky enough to get to go to college early (I hated high school). I can't think of how many kids had to be stuck in the system because they were forced into a timetable.


Honestly timetable isn't bad if your school stops abusing you.

Stop punishing kids. Stop grading them like factory workers or defective products. Stop putting them all in one classroom. Change their course work to be more interactive and make an environment where people can naturally be social...

I follow this Japanese light novel where they simulate real world in a school setting. The school campus has everything - malls, bars, gaming areas, hair saloons, library, parks and everything else you would visit outside the campus. Students are given monthly allowance based on the performance of their classes and live inside the campus until graduation on their own. I wonder how feasible it would be to create something like that.

People who think that getting bullied or living in a toxic place when you have no experience in dealing with it is great make me sad. Not everyone has a decent life at home (some have dysfunctional families). For those people, it's misery on top of misery. And then there are folks with autism, bipolar and ADHD.

I was dealing with both. Broken for 2 years now. I don't have any goals, dreams or plans that I had before. Now I have to fight against pessimism at every point and is getting harder to socialize each passing days.

I have a different outlook on life now that people find very controversial or against their moral compass. But I can justify it. The disconnection keeps growing even if you quit.

Life gets better motto stings and disconnect me from others because I can't remember a single nice memory that isn't reading something obscure on the internet or communicating with other internet dwellers.

I have to ask people how they feel about something, what their thought process is and why/how. I can't understand it. I have difficulty understanding your common moral compass. I am not joking when I tell you to explain small gestures and facial expressions. And I feel sad too. I just can't show it always. I don't need to cry or look dead serious to say something serious.


It sounds like you are going through some tough things.

> I have a different outlook on life now that people find very controversial or against their moral compass. But I can justify it. The disconnection keeps growing even if you quit.

> Life gets better motto stings and disconnect me from others because I can't remember a single nice memory that isn't reading something obscure on the internet or communicating with other internet dwellers.

I am not sure if this is the right thing to say or not, but it seems like you may be stuck in a negative feedback loop. You are getting validation from people on the internet, and it is creating resentment for people in real life.

It sounds like the novel is about the nostalgia of a time in our lives when we were forced to spend time with others. I think that is a pretty familiar sentiment for a lot of people.


>I have to ask people how they feel about something, what their thought process is and why/how. I can't understand it. I have difficulty understanding your common moral compass. I am not joking when I tell you to explain small gestures and facial expressions. And I feel sad too. I just can't show it always. I don't need to cry or look dead serious to say something serious.

That's really rough, and I'm sorry you have to go through it. There are people out there that are understanding, and I hope you're able to find them sooner than later. I also hope you're able to find more things that bring you joy.


My family become dysfunctional, dreams up to death shattered, all the sacrifice for nothing. Several last years was living in horror.

Each day I strive not to become a zombie. It is easy to live in fantasies, dreams, movies, there is no exit there.

My way out is to resolve inner conflict by singing. Start from some truth - we cry when hurt, sometime can stop it, sometimes not. But there is a need. So find some really private place - forest, bathroom - and try to allow that voice. One note would be enough. It will sound awful. Do not be hard on yourself. It is mismatch between reality and expectations that hurts. No need to push it harder. Thoughts stream through mind, all the lies and unjustice, I try to not interfere. Finally there is a match between thoughts and reality - pain and support. Hours later it sounds like lullaby and I can finally see beautiful forest around.

It is hard to describe, previous attempt https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23269320


> functional, developed adults at about the same rate

This is the part where I'm going to need some academical research. I really don't know either way - but I wouldn't take your word for it (Of course you could be researching this subject for years but you have only presented me with anecdotal evidence, which can be explained by selection bias).


Absolutely. It's only relevant since the original article is more or less a single anecdote. So I figure the discussion is about sharing anecdotes.

No need to bring the discussion down to the quality of the article.

I want to homeschool my future kids but it is still illegal in my country (illegal as in: if you attempt it, the government will arrest you and send the kids to an orphanage)

Thing is: public schools here outright suck, teach lots of bullshit and are dangerous.

Private schools are crazy expensive, and although they are more useful they still teach a lot of bullshit.

Also the educational style of all schools here is outright awful, there is an article from 1950s I believe written by Richard Feynman and it still applies 100%


As someone who was homeschooled and socialized almost exclusively with other homeschoolers as a kid, I was on the fence about it.

Then I grew up and met people who went to public school. Holy cow I can’t believe people think it’s ok to put their kids through that! I can’t believe we collectively accept children being exposed to the violence and other problems that are pervasive there! It’s not surprising so many people become criminals now.


> I can’t believe we collectively accept children being exposed to the violence and other problems that are pervasive there! It’s not surprising so many people become criminals now.

But on the flip-side, would you want to go your entire life without facing any conflicts?

FWIW, I was bullied in middle school, and pretty much had to fight my way through. As in fist fighting. As an adult, I don't tolerate any bullshit - and have no problems saying so , if I'm ever in a situation. I'm not sure I'd be the same person, if I hadn't gone through the things I did (not saying that bullying or fighting is good, just that it molded me into a person with extremely low tolerance for BS and a$$holes)


Kids were knifed and shot at my high school, which wasn't even in a city that's considered unsafe / high crime. There was a race war there too, in which dozens of kids brought baseball bats and put each other in the hospital. A kid was put stabbed with screwdriver and another kid was hit so hard in the head he had a seizure. These kinds of experiences led me to homeschool my own kids.

I don’t know why school vouchers isn’t a wildly popular idea, with support crossing political lines. Allowing schools and schooling models to compete for students, and turning parents bodies into the customer is about as no-brainer a public policy as a public policy can get.

I guess the reason is that some kids are so bright that schools would compete for them, most kids are average and the schools would compete for the vouchers, but... there are some kids everyone wants to avoid. For example, that kind that will stab their classmate the moment they get their hands on something sharp (and will find a creative solution even if all objects at school are perfectly soft and spherical). Maybe one percent of population are psychopaths, and they are all kids before they become adults.

In other words, I would love to see a school system based on free association, but what about the kids no one wants to associate with? If you make the system such that one type of school can freely accept or reject students, but the other type must accept everyone, you just increased the density of the problematic kids in the second type of school, which creates a positive feedback loop because now more parents want to take their kids away from there.

Yet another problem is that the density of population is different in different places. In a big city, you can have dozen schools in a walking distance, so it is easy to choose. Then you have places where choosing another school would require an hour of travel, so people would be quite angry if their child is rejected. Should we have different rules for different places?

There are many great ideas, but it is difficult to set up the entire system so that none of its parts explodes. And sometimes removing pressure from one place means adding it to another.


Vouchers just created another form of regulatory capture. Better would be to decouple schools from zip codes and allow parents to send their kids to whatever schools they wanted.

This would crash a lot of overinflated realistate markets though. God forbid we actually take care of children and have a rational housing market.


I don't doubt your experiences, but I find it hard to believe that it wasn't considered a safe area. That seems tautologically impossible.

Some kids will "toughen up," others will spend the rest of their lives with anxiety disorders that could have been prevented if they'd had a safe environment.

Many public schools straight-up don't care about violence in their halls, or are powerless to stop it. To say that a parent must send their kids there to be beaten is wrong.


If you thrive on adversity and school doesn't offer any it is easy (even for a kid) to seek it out.

However, if you don't thrive on adversity and school doesn't provide a safe environment, you're screwed. There aren't many other choices.

That's the issue. Nobody's saying that your experiences are bad, or that conflict is bad. But some folks don't "develop bullshit tolerance" from adverse experiences in school; they develop trauma.


> But on the flip-side, would you want to go your entire life without facing any conflicts?

This is a false dichotomy. It's not like you need to be exposed to drugs, violence, and sexual assault in order to 'face conflicts'. For 100% of children, simply disagreeing with a friend, fighting on the playground, etc is enough. Unfortunately, public school provides a lot of the former, and not exactly a lot of the latter.


I think the vast majority of public schools don't have any problems with drugs, violence, or sexual assaults. I went to a pretty low-tier HS, and we never had any of that. The same type of HS where only 5%-10% of students to to college.

But with that said - my initial thought is that at schools, at least you're forced to interact with people you may not want to interact with. Good or bad, at least it preps you for the professional work, where you can't choose the people you work with.

I can only imagine that going your whole (juvenile and young adult) life with the option of being 100% selective on who you interact with, must have some bearing on what kind of person you become as an adult.

I'm not saying that friends or family don't fight from time to time, but it's not really the same as dealing with strangers.


> But with that said - my initial thought is that at schools, at least you're forced to interact with people you may not want to interact with. Good or bad, at least it preps you for the professional work, where you can't choose the people you work with.

You're not wrong, but this is a misplaced worry, IMO. Homeschooled students are consistently shown to do just as well at work as non-homeschooled students. It is a myth that homeschooled students don't interact with others. Many take classes at the local college, many take part in homeschool 'co-ops', which are not fully schools, but give that kind of experience.


As a homeschooled kid, I learned to argue with evidence against people who believed utter nonsense. I then went to play with them after. Not being stuck in school doesn't mean you don't interact with people.

Homeschooled does not mean “confined to home.” Most of us have made friends and dealt with strangers since we got out of school. Spend some time with homeschoolers before forming incorrect theories about how they spend their time.

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The school to prison pipeline is still a major problem. Don’t insult the parent poster for caring about the poor statistical outcomes of urban public school students.

Personal attacks are not ok on HN. Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and don't do this here.

What do you consider "bullshit", and what makes you the authority on making such claims?

I ask in good faith, not to mock you or anything - mostly because I've heard a wide range of similar claims.

(I do think that the educational style of many public schools is horrendous though, as it follows the old factory-line model, where you try to fit all kids into some mold, and "educate" them as fast as possible. When the reality is that there's no one-size-its-all educational model. It's highly individual, and must be tailored / optimized for each pupil, if possible.)


OP appears to be from Brazil, which does have some big issues with school quality[0]:

> Another problem for Brazil is that it is one of the few countries which does not have good basic educational statistics. Nevertheless, it is clear that too few children go to primary school. To make matters worse, more than a third of children repeat a grade at least once in primary or secondary school. This is particularly true for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This poor performance at school is linked to a high drop-out rate. Only 88.7% complete basic education and there are more than 600,000 primary age children are out of school.

> For those who do remain at school, performance is poor, reflecting poor school quality. The OECD’s internationally respected PISA survey (Program for International Student Assessment) put Brazil near the bottom of the list of 65 countries taking part, making it comparable to Albania, Jordan and Tunisia.

[0] https://www.copenhagenconsensus.com/publication/brazil-persp...


You should email me to see my past school notes. They are self evident for how much bullshit school pushes but I think it might be a different experience than most people on here. I live in remote part of India.

Most of what people do here is just write down from book to a notebook word to word. The books are horrible too (some published more than a decade ago in subjects where relevancy matters a lot) with no clarification or update from the teacher. Standard examination is not useful atleast on a school level. Many schools allow people to cheat openly and some of them even change the written answers of students (they tell them to leave it blank if you don't know the answers). This happens till 9th grade. After which, schools have less power over grading but they still get to hand out some marks which they will do for every poor student anyway. The cut off rate is extremely low to pass (around 33%). And it's also blurry because you have reservation (affirmative action based on your caste) so the end result is different for each person.

To over simplify, take three variables. Assign 1x, 1.5x and 2x. Now calculate admission, job application (government), taxes, fees, etc rate for different people by multiplying by them.

Most schools run an after school program or similar where they help you train for the exam. Although, most of it is just giving out a sample paper to what will come in the school exams. Pretty much most students will go there if the school is rich or if it is poor, then they directly go to tuition under subject teacher.

Most schools in rural, suburban, etc are repurposed houses.

As for teachers, mostly fresh college students, mothers and people who are waiting to clear their government exam or similar. The pay ranges anywhere from 4k-20k per month (upto $310).

Periods are stacked in the most unproductive way possible. No breaks and are very short - 30-40 mins with too much subject/context switching.

Majority of kids will be abused emotionally and physically at some point. Indian schools have a mentality of class punishment so you get punished for something you didn't do often. Typical physical abuse include beating palm of your hand with a wooden or metal ruler, making you stand outside with hands up in the air or sitting in a chicken position. There are of course some extreme corporal punishments. That includes stripping (only boys), making you run outside on the ground (45C+) for hours, telling other students to beat you for being bad and public shaming tactics.

Kids are also indoctrinated with politics all the time. I mean, we have an hour long assembly to repeat how much we are proud of our country and india number one in the morning every day.

Parents usually have no idea about their own kids and are toxic (reason - poverty).

Given economic condition of India, income inequality, social mobility and unemployment. I don't think a reasonable person would wanna go through this. It's not like you are likely to have a first class life easily even if you somehow pushed your way through.

I can expand more but that's the general overview.


If you were curious after reading this comment like I was, here’s the legality of homeschooling by country:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeschooling_international_...


I’m really curious what country that is. But how about a starting a coop with other parents. Or starting your own private school?

Could you possibly share what you mean by "bullshit"? I am genuinely interested in what that entails.

"it's the stuff that life is too short for" http://www.paulgraham.com/vb.html

1. Typical stuff that they try to simplify science and thus teach stuff wrong, like the classical each area of tongue has a specific taste receptor thing.

2. Government heavily interfere with what is taught in classrooms regarding some subjects, most notoriously the government is quite heavy handed in anti-monarchy rethoric, I was actually shocked when I was in my 25s and started to find out a lot of stuff I learned as a kid were not just misrepresentations or wrong interpretation of things, but outright lies and propaganda, one interesting example: schooling here blame a lot of slavery on monarchy and nobility in general, meanwhile the monarchs actually wrote anti-slavery essays, and even made a deal with England at the time authorizing them to attack slaver ships, at some point the government even made it clearer, told England to treat all slavers as pirates, and gave them permission to even attack docked slaver ships freely. Also schools here teach government was "absolutist", but it wasn't, only reason monarch was letting england screw with ships, is because whenever he tried to make a law ending slavery, with nobility support, the liberals would vote AGAINST it (and mostly out of stupidity too, farms that stopped using slaves had bigger profits, maintaining the slaves was more expensive than paying the tiny wages they were paying to the immigrants).

3. Schooling here has a sort of mandatory political bias, not just as in... most teachers being left leaning (something kinda normal in most of western world), but as in the government explicity dictating that certain subjects need to base their theories on Antonio Gramsci, there is some infamous youtube videos where right-wing teachers argue against that with public officials, in one of the videos a teacher outright ask an official what about the parents rights to not have the kid be forced to learn that, and the official replies that the state knows best, that if they don't want their kids to be indoctrinated, they have to pull the kids from school, and face the consequences.

4. Schools here also teach a lot of useless stuff, with teachers insisting you will use all of it... but I guess this applies to most of the world.


But do you really think allowing homeschooling would improve any of this on a societal scale?

Sure, some people will do an excellent job at educating their kids, but many will indoctrinate them even more than the public school system ever would.


Even then...

If a lot of parents indoctrinate the kids to be conservative religious.

Another group indoctrinate their kids to be far-left.

Another group is anti-science.

Another pro-science...

When all these people vote, you still end up with politicians that actually represent the society.

Now if everyone is mandatorily indoctrinated in schools that teach whatever the government wants, would that be a true democracy? What happens when actual science turns to be anti-government, do you think the government would remain pro-science?


That's why education has to try to be as objective and apolitical as possible, and when the two are at odds, choose objectivity. And accept that it's never going to be perfect. Nobody is ever going to agree on where that sweet spot is and there will always be segments of the population who vociferously disagree with how some things are taught, but as long as there's a critical mass of educators making good faith efforts to achieve those ideals, the result will be imperfect but better than kids being taught random things (whatever their parents want to indoctrinate them with) by random people who aren't professional educators (the parents doing the teaching). I'm not arguing against homeschooling here, just arguing against the nihilism expressed by the parent post. I'm fine with homeschooling as long as there are educational standards and it's not just parents who want to brainwash their kids.

FWIW I was partially educated in American public schools and got no shortage of what many would consider to be anti-government messaging, at least in the sense of being encouraged to think critically on my own and taught about all sorts of occasions where people's moral convictions went against government policies so they protested or went into government or whatever to change it for the better. I also got no shortage of focus on all of the ways in which America did terrible things in the past: Native American genocide, slavery, Japanese internment camps during WW2, Jim Crow laws, etc. The focus was always on why those things were bad, how they got changed, and how understanding those things helps us perceive normalized shittiness in the present day so we can fix it and make things better. Nothing's ever completely fixed, history is just an endless process of things (usually) getting marginally better over time in the aggregate.

I'm sure there are lots of shitty schools with shitty teachers that teach blind obedience and tribalism, but those are shitty schools with shitty teachers and they need funding and improvement, rather than throw our hands up in the air and say there are no standards and no truth and everyone just believe whatever. If nothing else, education at least needs to expose people to a range of things they wouldn't be exposed to if left to their own devices, and help students learn critical thinking so they can make their own rational choices about things.

Also it's not like parents give up all rights to educate their kids when they don't homeschool them. They can teach their kids all they want about whatever they want, including things that contradict what's taught in class, for better or worse.


How difficult is it to credential a private school ? Start your own...

In California, it's very expensive and difficult. You can homeschool your own children subject to oversight and regulation, but if you want to offer schooling to children who aren't your own, the regulatory burden increases so much that you have to hire full-time staff to handle it, get specially zoned and inspected real estate, and numerous other things that effectively require you to charge a very high tuition and serve only the children of the relatively wealthy.

Exactly. School vouchers. Let’s do it.

> illegal as in: if you attempt it, the government will arrest you and send the kids to an orphanage

If you repeatedly attempt it I presume? I highly doubt that they'd send your kids to an orphanage after the first offense.

> public schools here outright suck, teach lots of bullshit

Bullshit such as what? (if I might ask)

IMO, although homeschooling is great for some kids, the cons of legalizing it far outweigh the pros. One of the most important aspects of schools is to let kids interact with other kids from different (social, economic, religious, etc.) backgrounds. Homeschooling should be banned for the same reason that religious schools should be banned, i.e., to avoid abuse, indoctrination, and segregation of kids from different (social, economic, religious, etc.) backgrounds.

If we want to allow brighter kids to learn faster then the focus should be on improving schools, not on abandoning them.


> IMO, although homeschooling is great for some kids, the cons of legalizing it far outweigh the pros. One of the most important aspects of schools is to let kids interact with other kids from different (social, economic, religious, etc.) backgrounds. Homeschooling should be banned for the same reason that religious schools should be banned, i.e., to avoid abuse, indoctrination, and segregation of kids from different (social, economic, religious, etc.) backgrounds.

This statement both doesn't reflect the actual statistics around homeschool and private school outcomes, and makes the false assumption that public schools don't indoctrinate (let alone abuse) their students.

> If we want to allow brighter kids to learn faster then the focus should be on improving schools, not on abandoning them.

Keeping kids (and parents) trapped in a broken system in the hopes that someday the system will be fixed is pointlessly cruel. It also denies public schools one of the most important tools for facilitating improvement: competition.


Such a great interview. It's fascinating to see how different education styles can have such a big impact.

While homeschooling isn't the right fit for everyone, I was homeschooled and it had a huge impact on me. My habits now for constant learning, working to complete tasks quickly, building projects with my hands (remodeling, woodworking, etc), and my desire to start companies all came from the time and energy that my parents put into crafting a unique education for me.

I'm so excited to see more and more parents considering homeschooling their kids.


One of the biggest advantages as well as disadvantage of homeschooling I think would be limiting the amount of school induced brainwashing.

I don’t mean they make kids into automatons, but there is a tendency to _tell_ kids this is right and that is wrong along ideological lines without allowing kids to discover those things for themselves.

I’m talking about things like tax policy, education, religion, government, etc.

For example, kids are indoctrinated to believe if they get good grades they can go to college and they’ll be set. That government is there to take care of you, that the education system is good, etc.

So these kids graduate, go to college, university and then wonder why after doing all that their humanities or business classes don’t land them jobs.

They should be allowed to discover more and question the whole system more. Some should be tracked for vocational schools rather than everyone expecting they are fit to work anywhere they desire... its unrealistic.


I feel like this would be a strong argument against homeschooling (and private religious schools for that matter). Because if they're home-schooled then they'll get exposed to fewer people from different social backgrounds than themselves, and that would reasonably reduce the amount of "brainwashing".

It depends for sure. However most households have a diversity of friends and the kids do have to go in group outings. Besides, depending on school district your claim might not be accurate (ie you may attend a school full of rich brats, you may attend a school full of ne’er do wells, or a school where everyone is on the lunch program) neither broadens horizons).

Religion might be a problem with strictly religious parents, but I don’t see the damage being worse than that done by school systems. I experienced way too many friends who didn’t fit in and dropped out and other kids who believed in the system and believed things their teachers told them.


People who can afford to homeschool tend to live in areas where the the local public school does not have diverse social backgrounds.

Kids get vastly more indoctrination through homeschooling than at any state school.

If Rodger Waters thinks the schools are a bit heavy , there’s gotta be a problem.

Children are very impressionable and unless their parents are attentive and let on that there’s more to things in life than school's take on things (which is potentially six hours or more of institutional indoctrination), the kids have little chance.


What data do you base that claim on?

After homeschooling, I also have a hunger for learning. It is the hunger of someone that did not always get enough to eat as a child and isn't going to let calories go by uneaten. The hunger of someone who suspects others know how malnourished they were as a kid and is afraid to look skinny. A hunger that keeps them up at night, telling them to eat and eat until sleep seizes them, then wakes them up early in the morning, so they can eat again.

Interesting. That wasn't my experience at all. Maybe hunger is the wrong word: love of learning is better.

I grew up to truly love learning and be excited for our weekly trips to the library to get more books. Then when I had access to the internet I spent so much time learning code and design. My parents taught me how to learn and then gave me access to whatever I needed (mostly just the library and a computer).


That's cool. I'm happy that some people had good homeschool experiences. I grew up in a house full of books and loved to read and it mostly turned out okay except for the constant feeling that I had never learned enough.

My point is only that homeschooling in the US has an enormous variety of outcomes. This should be expected, because there is very little oversight, even here in California where some of my siblings only acquired what education a reasonably bright child can acquire by cultural osmosis. If you think I'm exaggerating, it might because you've never had to explain to an intelligent 13-year-old that the '<', '/', and '>' they are learning to use for html can also mean less-than, division, and greater-than.

I see you are invested in a company catering to homeschoolers. I think it's fantastic that education is becoming easier and easier to come by. Homeschoolers need all the help they can get. As long as you are encouraging people to consider homeschooling, I hope you'll take a glance through r/HomeschoolRecovery and get a view of what happens when homeschooling goes wrong.


Public school also goes terribly bad. Graduation rates are problematic, the government’s own 2014 study on sexual abuse found that fully 10% of kids are abused at school, not counting abuse by other students including sexual abuse and bullying, some kids are promoted year to year without ever learning basic skills, many kids have to take remedial math and English in college to get up to speed, suicide rates of teens goes way down during the summer months compared to school months, schools teach to the test, funding is a a problem, California is 44th educationally in the nation, etc. As far as I can see, there is no epidemic of former homeschooled students on welfare or being any sort of drain on the state. Sure, there are bad outcomes... there are with any percentage of childhoods, period. But the advantages of homeschooling, the freedom of being able to choose with your child the kind of educational methods and resources one uses, including how learning happens, and making sure it doesn’t look like school (because that way doesn’t work for everyone), is what makes it amazing. Sure, it doesn’t look like school. It’s not supposed to, and that oversight you speak of is exactly what would kill it and make it Just like school. Which would be a problem because they don’t know what the hell they’re doing most do the time...not exactly the gold standard we should hold up as an example.

> My habits now for constant learning, working to complete tasks quickly, building projects with my hands (remodeling, woodworking, etc), and my desire to start companies all came from the time and energy that my parents put into crafting a unique education for me.

Who knows were these habits come from. There are many people who went to regular schools and share these exact same habits.


There also are many people who have severe problems with these habits due to regular schools.

Hi guys! This is Laura :) - everyone here is really cool and I can't believe this made the front page of HN so just wanted to drop my email here in case anyone wants to catch up on longevity stuff or other cool science discussion - ldeming.www@gmail.com. Sorry, I just really love geeking out and this seemed like a good place to find more thought buddies. Anyway, I love talking about most interesting things (physics / how computers work / all the stuff I don't know) so if you're down for it drop me a line!

(not sure how to verify but that's the email associated w all my public stuff / twitter posts so hopefully that's enough)


There seems to be research exploring links between blood sugar regulation (diabetes) and aging. I guess that shows up in metformin <-> aging correlations/links.

Do you have pointers to research linking liver function to diabetes and perhaps to aging research.

It’s known that non alcoholic fatty liver is common in people who will develop type 2 diabetes. But the link is not well understood. (There doesn’t seem to be a consensus on how the two are linked?).

Any solid references would be helpful, I’ve only found older nature reviews from 2006 and 2010. Maybe that’s the state of understanding but curious to get any additional pointers.

Asking for a friend :)


Peter Attia talks about metformin (https://peterattiamd.com/) also in the context of exercise and I've heard Dave Asprey (https://daveasprey.com/)talking about it.

Thanks! Do you have a list of which simple interventions have the most data behind (ex: metformin, resveratrol?), and which long shots have the most potentials (ex: rejuvenating stem cells by expressing Yamanaka factors, then reinjecting them, as bone marrow transplants have shown the new cells find their way in about every tissue)

Given that her family inherited the Murphy Oil fortune (Tulane's Department of Medicine is named after them), it's not that surprising she would have exemplary homeschooling resources

This seems like an important piece of information!

She doesn’t describe anything expensive or exclusive. Homeschooling typically does not have a cost beyond materials. What struck you as exemplary?

Come off it, she had access to a research lab at age 12! Even she said it's extraordinary.

> I really felt like I got a cheat code to life early on. It was like being Ben Franklin’s daughter or something... When I first met Cynthia Kenyon... I was 12. She very kindly offered for me to just work in her lab as a normal intern,


That opportunity is certainly extraordinary. We probably disagree on whether it’s normal for wealthy homeschooled children or should even be thought of as part of a school cirriculum.

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> How can people like Peter Thiel et al not feel disgusting spending a fortune on personal longevity when there is still starvation and hunger killing children every day?

Probably because starvation is almost never an economic problem solvable with money.


Child malnutrition in Thiel's home countries (Germany, US, or New Zealand) is 100% solvable with money, maybe even entirely with his personal money.

Why is he responsible? I thought we pay taxes to the government for that.

Indeed, are there no more prisons or workhouses?

Moving from New Zealand to UCSF to work in a lab is relatively exemplary...

>Homeschooling typically does not have a cost beyond materials

who do you think does the homeschooling?


One parent who does not work. This is typically achievable for middle class and up, depending on cost of living, of course.

Single income households are quite rare these days. In the US and Europe about 30%. In addition to that the parent needs the qualification and resources and time to actually teach.

This practically excludes all but the affluent upper-middle-class (the exception being extremely religious people who want to keep kids out of society for ideological reasons).

This family is pretty much the perfect example. She comes from oil money and her parents had the resources and connections to send her to a university lab at age 12.


Typically a homeschooling family (about 1% of households in the US) plan their lives around it, which makes it available to lower economic tiers within middle class, and occasionally lower class. It is not something that incidentally happens as income rises. A typical homeschool co-op will have a mix of blue-collar and white-collar careers among the parents who provide income.

Homeschooling also generally has cost of lost potential income for the one doing it.

Certainly the biggest expense.

She is sounds very young and she is already a venture capitalist.

> But with longevity and other deeply existential problems, the horror of what’s happening has been tragically normalized.

I will never understand this attitude. Why don't we see how valuable aging and death are? How can we possibly reframe this as a "horror". The horror is this idea that personal identity can go on indefinitely. Aging is a process of coming to terms with death. None of this is being "tragically normalized". What's being normalized is the idea that we can have everything we want all the time forever without any spiritual or material costs.


> Why don't we see how valuable aging and death are?

Because they're horrific tragedies that we should be fighting tooth and nail until they're extinguished and nobody ever has to deal with them again. They should be consigned to the history books.

> Aging is a process of coming to terms with death.

Aging is a biological problem that we continue to debug. And nothing should make us "come to terms" with being obliterated. If someone is attacking you, you don't "come to terms" with your impending injury or death, you fight back.

When a problem has thus far been a seemingly immutable property of life, it can be difficult to envision a world where that property has been overcome. It can be difficult to even see it as a problem. And it's understandable that people's first instinct is to somehow justify the status quo, that there must be a good reason that 150,000 people die every day. One step towards solving the problem is to reset that expectation, to get people to recognize the problem as a problem rather than a "fact". In the meantime, progress will continue to be made by people who see it as a problem, but far too slowly without more widespread support. Every day longer it takes is 150,000 people lost.


From an individual perspective I don't think there should be any doubt that solving death is a fantastic goal. It's the threat that is poses to the system, threats to which we have no better tool than death.

Old age and death is still the number one tool for solving: - empires and tyrants

- outdated societal opinions and prejudices (racism/sexism/etc)

- locked in privilege and wealth

- ossification of social roles

- stagnation within fields and industry ("Science progresses one funeral at a time")

We have no truly effective tools for these problems, except wait for people to die. I'd be much more supportive of ending aging if we had anything that worked.


> We have no truly effective tools for these problems

We have many effective tools for these problems. Death, in addition to everything else wrong with it, is already not particularly effective in that regard. (And "we should let 150,000 people die every day because some subset of those people are hurting others" is not a good argument.)

Societal problems should not wait for a generational time-scale. People will not wait that long, nor should they have to.


I agree: social progress, political progress, economic justice all also happen one funeral at a time. Look at Congress, CEOs and corporate boards, academic and other major institutional leaders. They're all elderly, and we have no (in practice) ability to change them out except by waiting for them to die! If they all of a sudden couldn't die, they'd be there for eternity. Imagine 600 years of Strom Thurmond and Ted Kennedy!

EDIT: I guess "geezers" is no longer PC. Apologies


I worry about what immortality would do to our legal system, moral judgments and overall progress. If a life is immortal then life preservation actually becomes priceless in a non-hyperbolic way. And that means it really does outweigh everything else -- including wellbeing and the cost-benefit of taking risks gets very lopsided. People could still do risky things individually, but any business that had inherent risks would be very difficult to do on any scale. And that includes way more businesses than just the unpopular ones. Think human drug trials, eg.

Or at least that line of thinking becomes very difficult to resist. I still want to promote the research, but like AI progress I hope we think about the second-order effects sufficiently along the way.

One of the cliches around progress in certain fields is that it requires the death of those unwilling to change. Would immortality slow down progress in those fields? Would we have to place more "term limits" on those in authority (whether political or in organizations).


Then move onto the next "immutable law of the universe" to make cry in submission: figure out how to backup mindstate and restore it into a resheathed young blank mindstate clone. Chances are good we'll have to solve both relatively simultaneously, as well as the problem space of what to do with memories/experience, which I suspect are all entangled together.

Until we go fully digital this makes no sense. Brains develop in a specific way. We become more wise during our lifetime but we keep getting worse at learning. It's not as easy as "let's fix dying neurons". Society without death would be quite retarded compared to the one we have. Retarded i.e. one that is learning much slower.

You and your beloved ones are going to die. Just accept it. This is as big of a fact as gravity given our scientific understanding. It's not about magic cure. It's just that on long enough time probability of your pattern being destroyed goes to one, whether you are a living organism, a program or some handy-wavy. That's just physics.

And if you really want to fight biology, why put longevity over decreasing suffering? So far, I would argue, artificial lifespan extension increased physical suffering despite enormous progress that we made in terms of multiple forms anesthesiology.


It's going to take a long time to move past the limitations of biology, and in the meantime we need lots of work on biology to save people we have today.

> It's not as easy as "let's fix dying neurons".

Fortunately, people working on the problem don't think it's that easy either. They're also not giving up on it just because it's difficult.

> You and your beloved ones are going to die. Just accept it.

Why is it important to you that people accept that particular premise (which I will never do), and thus stop working on the problem or supporting those who do? Why is it important to you to make this argument?

The first step towards solving a problem is refusing to simply "accept it".

> It's just that on long enough time probability of your pattern being destroyed goes to one, whether you are a living organism, a program or some handy-wavy.

We will have a very long time to deal with problems like the heat death of the universe, or shorter-term problems like our sun burning out, once we've dealt with more time-critical problems. We're not going to be able to suddenly flip a switch and everyone lives forever, but we can save as many people as we can and help them live longer and ultimately put the probability of everyone's continued survival as close to 1 as possible.

Imagine, just for a moment, a world in which actual death is so incredibly rare that one person dying makes news around the world, and after time is spent figuring out what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again, people mourn the senseless tragedy.

> And if you really want to fight biology, why put longevity over decreasing suffering?

What makes you think I do? They go hand in hand. A huge amount of suffering arises from aging-related degeneration. People working on extending lifespans are in the process extending healthy life.


> We become more wise during our lifetime

In my experience this peaks and declines somewhere before 50


I find this kind of outlook very confusing. Don't you think that assuming life to be an engineering problem is a very strong assumption? Seems a bit above my pay grade to me ...

Everything in life is an engineering problem until someone makes a breakthrough/discovery at which point it becomes an ethical, moral, political and financial problem.

They aren't going to cure death in your lifetime. you will almost certainly die of something. if you think it's healthier not to come to terms with that... well, you're entitled, but I think you'll be disappointed

This sort of leaves out the reality that decomposing bodies are a critical part of the ecosystem, and that eliminating death in humans would have huge ecological consequences beyond just the nutrients of decomposing bodies. If/when you have reasonable solutions for overpopulation, massive resource consumption by advanced societies, and pollution, then we can talk about longevity.

> This sort of leaves out the reality that decomposing bodies are a critical part of the ecosystem

Buy fertilizer. Of all the possible attempts at arguments that could possibly be raised in support of letting people continue to die, the last one I'd expect is "those human lives are more valuable as rotting corpses to fertilize plants".

> If/when you have reasonable solutions for overpopulation, massive resource consumption by advanced societies, and pollution, then we can talk about longevity.

1) There are documented studies that people have less children and do so less quickly when they feel safer. And in any case, it's a very big universe and this is not a reason to let 150000 people die every day.

2) We can and have built more efficient ways to make use of resources, and we will continue to do so. Killing off humans is not a reasonable way to solve resource consumption problems. The primary problem of excessive resource consumption is that it threatens human lives, which makes it utterly self-defeating to argue that humans should die so we use less resources.

3) Pollution is a serious problem. We've only got the one planet (for now), and we need to take care of it and make sure it continues to support life and help life flourish. So by all means let's solve that problem. Fortunately, we've got billions of people, and we're capable of working on multiple massive problems at once. (You might also recognize that one of the biggest problems with pollution is people not acknowledging it as a problem; there's a parallel here.)

4) People will continue to talk about longevity, and more importantly actually work towards fixing the problem. Once people understand that we can actually do something about it, consciously choosing to not do something about it is a choice measured in lives lost, and inaction becomes far less excusable. Trying to stop other people from doing something about it is tantamount to murder, in much the same way as trying to stop a doctor from treating a patient.


We should fix health span first, not life span. I would rather live 80 like a champ to the last day and then just drop dead, then few more years on ibuprofen and friends.

They're heavily correlated, and nobody is talking about just increasing the length of life without also inherently making people healthier. People talking about working on longevity are talking about giving you more years where you feel 30 or 40, not just more years where you feel 90.

Quite some time ago, I remember scrolling Imgur and there was a short video of some people in jeeps watching a lion (or a couple lions?) chase a young hippo across the road. Several people in the comments remarked that they couldn't believe no one tried to help the hippo, and I thought it was interesting that they didn't consider that helping the hippo meant starving the lion.

I feel the same way about organizations that rescue injured wild animals that aren't endangered. It's certainly nice for the injured animal, but there's some creature out there that doesn't eat as a result.

I haven't thought much at all beyond the usual sci-fi tropes regarding human immortality, but I think it's very difficult to fully appreciate what circle of life means.

Edit: I also think it's perfectly plausible that technological advances could indefinitely offset the environmental impact of human immortality or greatly increased longevity, I just wanted to point out my observation that in most of nature, death is very important for continued life.


> decomposing bodies are a critical part of the ecosystem

Is this true? Most human bodies (at least in the US) decompose in cemeteries (not exactly verdant ecosystems) or are burned. Plenty of other organisms will continue to die, there's plenty of carbon to recycle without human contribution.

> If/when you have reasonable solutions for overpopulation, massive resource consumption by advanced societies, and pollution, then we can talk about longevity.

We already have to solve these problems (well, except overpopulation, I don't think this is a real problem). I think it's reasonable for us to work on longevity in parallel, just as we work on curing cancer in parallel.


A relatively simple solution is that the price of admission for biological immortality is voluntary sterilization. No doubt this would be circumvented by the elite, but it probably wouldn't lead to runaway population growth.

"A relatively simple solution.... is voluntary sterlization". We're discussing what would be one of the most consequential technological changes in the existence of humanity. There are no "relatively simple solutions".

"If a young child falls on the train tracks, it is good to save them, and if a 45-year-old suffers from a debilitating disease, it is good to cure them. If you have a logical turn of mind, you are bound to ask whether this is a special case of a general ethical principle which says “Life is good, death is bad; health is good, sickness is bad.” If so – and here we enter into controversial territory – we can follow this general principle to a surprising new conclusion: If a 95-year-old is threatened by death from old age, it would be good to drag them from those train tracks, if possible. And if a 120-year-old is starting to feel slightly sickly, it would be good to restore them to full vigor, if possible. With current technology it is not possible. But if the technology became available in some future year – given sufficiently advanced medical nanotechnology, or such other contrivances as future minds may devise – would you judge it a good thing, to save that life, and stay that debility?

The important thing to remember, which I think all too many people forget, is that it is not a trick question."

http://yudkowsky.net/singularity/simplified/


> if a 120-year-old is starting to feel slightly sickly, it would be good to restore them to full vigor, if possible

That is far from clear. It is even far from clear that this is true all else being equal, and all else is definitely not equal. Extending longevity exacerbates the strain on global resources caused by overpopulation -- most notably at the moment, the capacity of the planet to absorb carbon emissions, but that's a detail. Exponential growth is not sustainable on a finite planet. If carbon weren't the limiting factor, it would be something else.

But we humans were designed to die. Our evolutionary purpose is to raise children to the point where they are able to have children of their own. A longer lifespan than that doesn't advance our reproductive fitness, and so we're not designed to live any longer than that. So even if we could tweak our bodies to live longer, it is not a foregone conclusion that this would be healthy for our minds and souls.


> A longer lifespan than that doesn't advance our reproductive fitness, and so we're not designed to live any longer than that. So even if we could tweak our bodies to live longer, it is not a foregone conclusion that this would be healthy for our minds and souls.

It's also not a foregone conclusion that this wouldn't be healthy for our minds and souls. The problem with death is that it's irreversible. At any point, you can decide you're too bored or too miserable, and end your existence. But once that decision is made - usually for you - it cannot be reversed. So it's better to err on the side of more options, i.e. more years to live.


> Extending longevity exacerbates the strain on global resources

Suppose we didn't die. Would you start killing people (yourself or others) in order to "reduce the strain on global resources"?

It helps to not take the status quo as a given, or as immutable.

> So even if we could tweak our bodies to live longer, it is not a foregone conclusion that this would be healthy for our minds

We're going to need to solve that problem too. I'm currently supporting people working on Alzheimer's research, for instance.


> Suppose we didn't die.

You may as well say, "Suppose there were unicorns." All sexually reproducing organisms die.


Solving a problem starts with seeing it as a problem rather than an immutable fact. And "suppose we didn't have the problem" is a thought experiment. In this case, it helps show the moral equivalence between killing people and stopping people from living longer.

I'm not saying we should stop people from trying to live longer. I'm saying be careful what you wish for.

I am aware that there are many additional things we'll have to solve as people live longer. Bring them on, they're better than the alternative.

And I appreciate that you aren't saying that we should stop people, but others are, and that's a serious problem.


To be clear: I do think it's a bad idea (or at least fraught with all manner of peril), and I do want to stop people, but not by force, but rather by persuading them that it's a bad idea, which is what I'm trying to do here. But if I fail to persuade you, I'm not going to stand in your way.

And I would like to persuade you to stop that, because I believe that in doing so you're making it marginally more likely that more people will die.

What would it take to convince you that whatever problems you're envisioning, they are not worse than 150,000 people dying every day, or 100 people ever minute? Take whatever value you attach to an individual specific identified human's death, say someone you actually care about dying rather than just a statistic, and try to imagine that happening almost twice a second, forever. There are problems that are still worth considering in comparison to that, but they're few and far between, and they all also involve human lives (e.g. "making the planet uninhabitable"), so they need solving at the same time and nobody is arguing for not solving them.


> What would it take to convince you that whatever problems you're envisioning, they are not worse than 150,000 people dying every day, or 100 people ever minute?

You'd have to start by convincing me that death is unconditionally bad.

If you could dramatically improve the quality of life for a million people by prematurely killing one, would you do it?


> > What would it take to convince you that whatever problems you're envisioning, they are not worse than 150,000 people dying every day, or 100 people ever minute?

> You'd have to start by convincing me that death is unconditionally bad.

That's not a point I'd try to argue. I'd argue that on balance, a human life has positive value, a human death is horrifically bad, and that the net value of 150,000 people dying every day is at the very least negative, not positive. Is that a point you're disputing?

I want to establish a baseline here, because while there are plenty of counterarguments to be had, I don't want to spend time mentioning or pointing to counterarguments for positions you don't hold or points you don't wish to argue. Which of the following (if any) are accurate descriptions of a position you hold?

1) You're arguing that on balance, there are resource constraints that make life worse for everyone if there are more people in the world, that people living longer (let alone forever) is on balance worse for people in the world, worse than the harm of those people dying. I can think of plenty of counterarguments to this.

2) You're arguing that there are specific people who will do a great deal of harm to society, that that harm would be substantially greater if those specific people live forever, and that there's less harm caused by killing them (or "letting them die", which you might not see as equivalent, though I do). There are plenty of counterarguments for this position.

3) You're arguing that on balance, society needs some kind of regular "turnover" of who is in power, and that death helps serve this function, and that this function is important enough to justify continuing to let mass numbers of people die. I know plenty of counterarguments for this too.

4) You're making some other argument tantamount to a "tragedy of the commons", where the incremental value of an individual human life is positive but you're concerned about the limit as those numbers keep going up and other numbers don't.

5) You're arguing that for some reason other than the above, most or all people should die, and that this is on balance not a bad thing, or even that this is a net good. This would be a rather broad gulf of fundamental values to attempt to bridge; I can imagine some places to start but it'd require a lot more information about exactly what your values are that support this position.

(I'm also going to reiterate, as my own baseline, that every time you imagine a number of people dying and try to assign a net value involving that, you would need to imagine every one of the 100 deaths per minute, 150,000 per day, 57,000,000+ per year, every single one being as awful as someone you personally care about being killed. That's incredibly hard to do, and it's hard for anyone to process on that scale either; the most I've managed is to calibrate to "mind-bogglingly worse than any possible intuition I can fathom even taking into account everything I've said here".)


> on balance, a human life has positive value

Yes, I would agree. But that value derives from the process of living. The value of a human life is analogous to the value of a movie. That value only manifests itself while the movie is playing, not when it is sitting on the shelf. And dying is an essential part of that process, just like a movie coming to an end is an essential part of that process.

> a human death is horrifically bad

Only if it ends prematurely or painfully. Otherwise it's just part of life.

And though it would not be my primary argument, I would also agree with #1, 3, and 4, or at least variations on those themes.


> But that value derives from the process of living.

Ultimately how someone spends their boundless time is up to them, but in general I'd agree that the point of life is to live, not just to exist, yes. But in general, people working on longevity do it so that people can live more. And the purpose of going on existing forever is to be able to go on living forever. That value doesn't become less over time.

> That value only manifests itself while the movie is playing, not when it is sitting on the shelf.

Can you un-metaphor this to a point about humans?

> And dying is an essential part of that process

And there you've completely lost me. Right now it feels like you're speaking in metaphor, analogy, and cached responses. Humans are not movies, and life is neither film-like nor has a plot that needs to end; on the contrary, humans are a source of boundless novelty and creativity. Why do you believe it to be essential that life end? What, precisely, do you see as bad about not dying, and in particular, worse than the alternative of continuing to live?

I'm genuinely curious at this point, because thus far the only underlying arguments I've seen you mention anywhere in this thread seem to be roughly "we evolved to reproduce and then die, a longer lifespan doesn't serve reproductive fitness", as well as that we have a finite planet with finite resources and you expect immortality to lead to infinite growth. The simplest counterargument to the former is just "so what?"; there's no argument there for why we cannot direct our considerable concerted efforts towards surpassing that, nor for why we shouldn't. The counterargument to the latter I've made in https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23645480 .

There's far, far too much science fiction and fantasy featuring "immortality angst", of people who live forever and think that's a bad thing. Far too much of that angst relies on metaphors and words designed to sound profound (e.g. "life is precious because it's fleeting"), and those aren't even arguments, nor do they hold up to a moment's thought.

> Only if it ends prematurely or painfully. Otherwise it's just part of life.

It's always premature as far as I'm concerned. I intend for it to one day stop being part of life. Why do you believe that to be bad?


> humans are a source of boundless novelty and creativity

No, they aren't. It only seems that way to you because you haven't lived very long yet, and what life you've lived has been lived at one of the most propitious times in the history of the universe. You've known nothing but peace and prosperity and discovery of new things, and so it's easy to imagine that this can go on forever. And maybe it can. But it won't.

Just as a purely practical matter, humans are not going to survive beyond the heat death of the universe. They are extremely unlikely to survive when the sun becomes a red giant. So even with arbitrarily advanced technology, the time available is finite. A few billion years may be better than a few dozen, but no matter what it's going to be finite. And a good thing too, because you really don't want to live forever. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, forever is a long time. A really really long time. You just won't believe what a vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly long time it is. I mean, you may think a few billion years is a long time, but that's just peanuts compared to forever. In an unbounded amount of time you can read every book that has ever been written and every book that could ever be written an arbitrary number of times. You can watch every movie, play every game, write every program, learn every fact that can be expressed in a text shorter than the current size of Wikipedia and you still won't have made a perceptible dent in an unbounded life. Long before you get to the non-existent end you will be bored out of your skull and you will yearn for oblivion.

But all of this is academic because, again, as a practical matter human civilization is unlikely to last this millennium, maybe not even this century. The human species will likely go on, but civilization is probably toast. Unless something really radical changes really soon, we're looking at a climate tipping point happening before the end of this century. Whether that actually ends up destroying civilization before the end of the century is open to debate, but once the permafrost releases its methane there's no coming back from that. We're looking at 5-10 degrees C of warming after that, and no way is this round of civilization going to survive that. If you really want to make a dent in the world, that is the problem you need to be looking at because it is going to dominate everything else in your lifetime, no matter how much you manage to extend it.


> It only seems that way to you because you haven't lived very long yet

Neither of us have. But nonetheless, humanity continues to get better, and I'm familiar with a great deal of research on the nature of novelty, creativity, and fun, in the face of not only endless life but increasing intelligence. It's one of many, many problems that have solutions.

(And as an aside, anyone who truly decides that life is not worth living can always decide they don't want more of it, but that would be short-sighted and pessimistic.)

> Just as a purely practical matter, humans are not going to survive beyond the heat death of the universe. They are extremely unlikely to survive when the sun becomes a red giant.

We have billions of years to solve both problems. People two hundred years ago could not envision the society of today. It seems the height of both pessimism and hubris to believe that you can accurately predict the limitations of humans billions of years from now. The latter problem we understand now.

And more generally, there are many people working on existential risks to humanity, though more would always be welcome.

> And a good thing too, because you really don't want to live forever.

Do not presume to tell me what I want by projecting your own desire to die someday.

> You can watch every movie, play every game, write every program

And more will be created, because again, humans are a source of boundless novelty and creativity. And new forms of collaborative entertainment and edification and fulfillment will arise, many that we cannot yet envision. New forms of envisioning will arise.

> as a practical matter human civilization is unlikely to last this millennium, maybe not even this century

By all means, please work on solving that problem, rather than spending energy telling other people not to solve other problems in parallel.

> If you really want to make a dent in the world, that is the problem you need to be looking at

A massive number of people are already looking at that problem. And without going into a massive tangent, that problem hardly needs more technical solutions even if I were a climate expert; that problem needs political experts, among other things.


> Neither of us have

I've lived longer than you have.

> We have billions of years to solve both problems

That's true, but we don't have billions of years to solve climate change. But no matter how much time you have, you cannot get around the fact that exponential growth is unsustainable even with arbitrarily advanced technology. Unless you can find a way to exceed the speed of light (and good luck with that) resources can only ever grow quadratically.

> It seems the height of both pessimism and hubris to believe that you can accurately predict the limitations of humans billions of years from now.

No, it is your unbounded optimism which is unjustified, unless you can figure out how to do an end-run around relativity.

> Do not presume to tell me what I want by projecting your own desire to die someday.

First of all, I don't want to die. Dying sucks. But living forever would suck more.

And I didn't intend "you don't want..." to be taken literally. What I meant was something more along the lines of: I know you think you want to live forever, but I claim that's because you have not fully thought through the consequences, and if you were able to live forever you would find that it's not as great as you think. But that just seemed a little too wordy.

> And more will be created

No, this is the thing you have not fully taken on board. Human creativity only seems unbounded because our lives are so short and so we're only able to sample a tiny fraction of what is possible. But with a truly unbounded life span that would no longer be true. You really could experience every possible sensory input an arbitrary number of times, and eventually you would get sick and tired of everything.

> please work on solving that problem, rather than spending energy telling other people not to solve other problems in parallel

Those are not mutually exclusive. Part of solving climate change is persuading as many people as possible to work on it. Furthermore, one of the principal drivers of climate change is complacency and boundless optimism, the blind faith that some other smart person will figure it out and everything will be OK. It won't.

> that problem needs political experts

That too. But it also needs you. And everyone else.


> resources can only ever grow quadratically.

Growth can be cubic if you're expanding outwards at a constant speed and assuming (on a large enough scale) an even distribution of matter in space.


No. The total amount is cubic over time, but the growth is the derivative of this, hence, quadratic.

But this is irrelevant. The point is, resources are polynomial at best. They can never keep up with exponential growth in the long run, barring new physics.


> I've lived longer than you have.

Let's not play that game. Neither of our relative ages matter for the purposes of extrapolating to billion-year lifespans, nor do they render you particularly qualified for deciding whether such people will get "bored". Far more qualified people than either of us have done research on the topic, and I have at the very least read many research papers and articles by those who do.

> No, it is your unbounded optimism which is unjustified, unless you can figure out how to do an end-run around relativity.

The sun burning out is a problem we can already hypothesize ways to solve now, given technologies whose development has a scale of "centuries" or "millennia" rather than "billions of years". The most obvious solutions involve leaving the planet, and that doesn't even touch on the possibilities of stellar engineering. That's easily imaginable within the scope of today's science fiction, let alone the unforeseen technology of even thousands of years from now. I feel quite safe making the prediction that, conditional on humanity lasting the billions of years between now and then, the sun's expansion will not destroy civilization, humanity, or any non-trivial number of lives.

Much more critical existential threats, likely to be a problem on much shorter timescales, include nearby celestial events, collisions, or other things we don't have billions of years' to prepare for.

As for longer-term problem of continued existence in the universe, I wouldn't hazard a concrete prediction, but I'm sure we'll learn a great deal more about physics between now and then, not to mention likely existing in a form where thought and subjective perception of time (as well as the ability to solve problems) can occur far faster than "one second per second". In any case, I think it is safe to predict that people will not actually give up on that problem until actual effort is put forth attempting to solve it for a very long period of time.

Besides, my optimism has come up against cynicism and fatalism far worse than yours and survived unscathed, and it continues to serve me well. I don't find that fatalism is conducive to actual solutions. (And when it comes to actual predictions, I aim for accuracy rather than either overestimation or underestimation, but I find that hope tends to help as long as it accompanies actual action.)

> First of all, I don't want to die. Dying sucks. But living forever would suck more.

That's a testable hypothesis. If it turns out to be possible, why not try it and find out, before deciding in advance how you'll feel countless years in the future? Not like you couldn't change your mind later if you still feel the same way.

> You really could experience every possible sensory input an arbitrary number of times, and eventually you would get sick and tired of everything.

There are entire branches of research dedicated to exploring and solving this problem. That research looks at concepts like what we actually find interesting and fun (for one example, problems that are difficult enough to be a challenge but not so difficult that we can't make progress or learn something), the classes of things we can find fun at different intelligence levels, and ways to ensure that the number of interesting things to experience grows faster than the amount of time available to experience them in. In short, no, you will not get bored.

(And that's not even getting into very dangerous failure modes like "oh, what if I just modify myself to not get bored", which is incredibly problematic but still a more interesting hypothetical attempt at actually trying to solve the problem rather than giving up.)

> That too. But it also needs you. And everyone else.

I already have a problem to dedicate my life to. Many others do not, and they would be better people to target with your advocacy. I would suggest that you'd do much better focusing on "this is an important problem to work on" rather than "drop this specific cause and work on this one". Fortunately, humanity is capable of doing more than one thing at once, and in fact should do more than one thing at once. These goals do not conflict with each other, and a much smaller set of people is able to work on one than the other, which strongly suggests a benefit to specialization.


> Let's not play that game.

It's not a game. I know what it's like to be your age. You do not yet know what it is like to be my age (but you will, and when you do, remember this exchange). You're right that the difference doesn't matter on billion-year time scales, but I do know some things that you do not yet know, but which you will come to know. In particular, I know what it is like to have subjective experiences that convince me of the truth of propositions I would not have accepted without having experienced them directly. (Actually, you know what this is like too. You just aren't extrapolating that experience.)

> The most obvious solutions involve leaving the planet

To realize your ambitions it is not enough for some humans to leave the planet. They all have to go. And not just the seven billion of us that are here right now, but the quadrillions or more that will exist after millions of years of exponential growth with no death.

But all this is irrelevant. The details of how the sun ends or how to deal with that don't matter. The point is that no matter how it all plays out, you will eventually hit the fundamental limits imposed on growth by physics, so if you're really serious about producing unbounded life spans you have to have a plan for that. Sooner or later, the second law of thermodynamic is going to come for you. In fact, if you think about it, the goal of producing even a single unbounded life span is quite literally the the same goal as producing a perpetual motion machine, one that just happens to be implemented in human biology.

> why not try it and find out

I've already told you: because it is possible to know now that it will necessarily end badly. Exponential growth is unsustainable, not because of technological limits, but because of limits imposed by fundamental physics. If we don't limit our growth by choice, the laws of physics will do it for us sooner or later, and that will not be pleasant.

So in the long run we have to either die or stop having children. There is no other option.

> problems that are difficult enough to be a challenge but not so difficult that we can't make progress or learn something

You have clearly not come to grips with what an unbounded life span actually looks like. Unbounded is fundamentally different from finite-but-really-really-long-compared-to-what-we-have-now. In an unbounded time you can hit all kinds of limits on novelty that you will not hit in a long-but-finite time.

> you'd do much better focusing on...

Perhaps, but I find it valuable to engage with smart people I don't agree with to test my positions against the strongest opposing arguments. Every now and then I discover that I'm wrong about something that I was very sure about going in. I'm actually kind of sad that didn't happen this time. I would love for someone to convince me that I'm wrong about this.


I'm going to pull the most important part of my response up to the top, because I think there's an important difference in your last comment that changes the fundamental nature of this argument. Which is to say, you've moved away from trying to argue a point that I will never agree with, to making an argument that is much closer to true, and to which I have more hope that you will agree with my response below.

> So in the long run we have to either die or stop having children. There is no other option.

This is a very different statement from your previous assertions that we have to die, period. You're now allowing for at least one other alternative; there are many more alternatives, many of which would be more palatable (to people today or more importantly to people millions of years from now), but now that you've allowed for at least one alternative, that substantially changes the nature of the "resource constraints" argument, and it's no longer framed as a unsolvable problem. That seems like progress.

If your argument had started out as "we need to avoid growing our resource usage exponentially for an unbounded amount of time", then I would have mostly agreed with you on that. (I would add caveats like "assuming nothing improves in our fundamental knowledge of physics that allows for more alternatives", but that does not invalidate the point.)

As a side note, having the resources to sustain biological reproduction is the least of the potentially exponential resource concerns that would apply in the kinds of hypothetical future worlds I'm talking about; another would be the expansion of resources used by individual people as part of their own subjective thoughts and perceptions, becoming more intelligent by having a literally more powerful brain.

(Please note that objections about why the specific alternative you raised seems unpalatable aren't needed here; the point was that you are now observing there's at least one alternative, and I'd be quite happy with the resulting reframing of the problem as one of not having exponential growth in an assumed-finite universe. There are many, many ways to address "don't grow exponentially without bound".)

To quickly outline other options, barely scratching the surface but making it clear there's depth here: once we start talking about the primary resource being some form of computation, other possibilities include sharing computational cycles and affecting subjective perception of time or speed of thought; think "time multiplexing" rather than "space multiplexing. (That's also making some assumptions about how time, physics, and computation will work, and I think it's reasonable to assume we still have a lot to learn about all of those things. Leaving aside the open question of whether the multiverse is finite.) I would also observe that the form and perception we will have millions or billions of years from now is likely to nearly incomprehensible and unrecognizable to us today.

> To realize your ambitions it is not enough for some humans to leave the planet. They all have to go. And not just the seven billion of us that are here right now, but the quadrillions or more that will exist after millions of years of exponential growth with no death.

Yes, that was the point: if the planet were no longer habitable and we could not fix that, the remaining people who had not already left for other planets or parts of space would have to do so at that point. (That is, again, assuming that in five billion years we still think that's the most reasonable way to solve the problem, as opposed to any of the other myriad options we may have at that time.)

"quadrillions" seem highly unlikely to be on this planet to begin with, even if we've built both up and down to its limits; long before we could be anywhere near that point, many will have already left the planet, if not the solar system.

Populations grow more slowly or not at all when people feel substantially safer. Also, see above.

> Actually, you know what this is like too. You just aren't extrapolating that experience

I have in fact done such reasoning, based on different premises and additional information you aren't including, and have thus come to different conclusions.

Becoming older will not change my goals, just my experience and relative capabilities. And I've already made advance commitments to consciously avoid letting myself become more cynical or jaded with age and experience. On the contrary, I find that my sources of novelty and happiness and hope tend to grow over time.

Also, lest you feel that I don't have any caution or acknowledgement of concern in the reasoning I'm doing: The scale of problems I'm talking about wanting to solve here do, in fact, require an abundance of caution and concern to reason about and solve. That caution goes into things like "how do we avoid horrible failure modes like 'just modify yourself to not get bored' and other paths that effectively lead to wireheading", and "will we get the logic right on a computer that ends up running a universe-scale simulation", and "how do we make sure the systems we build prevent any possibility of cascading failures, at least on par with the level of redundance and resilience demonstrated by biological systems", and "how do we prevent either the physical or digital equivalent of grey goo". See "Security Mindset" ( https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2008/03/the_security_... ) and extrapolate to universe-scale problems; the security mindset is a great place to feed in caution, cynicism, and pessimism, and that's where much of mine goes.

> You have clearly not come to grips with what an unbounded life span actually looks like.

I have, in fact. I understand exactly what you're alluding to when you suggest that there are a finite combination of possible inputs. That's also assuming that the state of the person processing those inputs is the same and has not changed. And that in turn gets into questions about memory and recall and integration of our experiences. (We do not, today, remember literally everything we've ever perceived, and our memories are effectively selective, subjective self-stories of our experiences and perceptions. We should exercise great caution before making modifications to how we handle memory and experiences.) The bigger concern will not be the combinatorial limits on possible inputs; the bigger concern will be the number of combinations of brain configurations; you didn't even make the argument about how in a finite space there may be a limited number of total brain configurations you can have. All of those, however, are limits far far far more distant than the age of the universe.

To get past roughly 120, we need to solve aging and degeneration. To get past thousands of years, we need to solve accidental death, and ultimately move past biology. To get our species safely past millions of years and myriad existential threats, we'll need to distribute ourselves around the universe and otherwise have more redundancy, as well as having much more capability to predict and respond to those existential threats. To get past billions of years, we need a lot more understanding about the fundamental nature of the multiverse. "Number of unique brain configurations" is a problem we may have to deal with even further in the future than that. I don't think it makes sense to avoid solving the first problem because we don't yet know how to solve some of the later ones.

In case it isn't abundantly clear, I am well aware that the probability of personally making it through all of those, given that the first hasn't even happened yet, is not great. There's a difference between hope (which I have in abundance) and naivety (which I avoid). And I make a conscious effort to not fall into the "not thinking about it" trap that most people have about death. But I'm still going to do everything I can to work on the first few problems (in order of priority), and from my perspective, non-zero is always better than zero. As long as I'm alive I'll continue to have hope.

> I'm actually kind of sad that didn't happen this time. I would love for someone to convince me that I'm wrong about this.

I'm hoping that the observations above help in that regard. Beyond that, I hope that time will help. Perhaps when humanity survives climate change you will have more hope, since that seems to be your foremost concern; if it does not, and saying "I told you so" brings you solace, feel free. I wish you the best of success in taking concrete actions to make humanity more likely to survive.

(This will be my last comment on this thread.)


> > So in the long run we have to either die or stop having children. There is no other option.

> This is a very different statement from your previous assertions that we have to die, period.

Actually, it's not. I would have thought it was self-evident that ceasing to have children was not a viable option, but apparently you don't see that, so I will explain: the desire to have children is woven deeply into the human psyche, indeed, into the psyche of every living thing that has a psyche, for a very simple reason: genes that build brains that want children reproduce better than genes that build brains that don't.

The only way to achieve immortality without unsustainable exponential growth is to asymptotically reduce the reproduction rate to 0. The more immortals you have, the fewer of them will be able to have children without exhausting the resources of the universe. And if you think this is a small price to pay for immortality you really don't understand human nature, or even life itself.

> Populations grow more slowly or not at all when people feel substantially safer.

That's true, but you will never reduce the growth rate to zero organically. You will always have some people who want a child. Among mortals this is not a problem. As long as the reproduction rate is <= 1 this is sustainable. But the sustainable reproduction rate in a population of immortals is zero, and you will never achieve that absent draconian enforcement because Darwin.

> I'm hoping that the observations above help in that regard.

Not at all. All you've done is provide evidence for my initial hypothesis, that you are hopelessly naive.

> (This will be my last comment on this thread.)

That's fine. Check back in 20-30 years.


This really sounds like mind-body dualism. There's no difference between our "minds and souls", and we weren't designed to do anything. We have woken up and find ourselves in our present circumstances. But we don't have to accept them. We choose our destiny.

I was using the word "designed" metaphorically. Of course we were not actually designed. The point is that our fundamental nature is determined by evolution, and evolution only "cares" about reproductive fitness, so that's what we're "optimized" for. (I put these words in scare quotes because evolution doesn't actually "care" about anything, and it doesn't optimize, it merely satisfices.)

I think one big problem I see is that there becomes no need for younger generations. It’ll all be old people. If you have low turnover then there is little change —society stagnates.

If people had discovered 3x lifespans and birth rates were thirded in the 1900s, we’d be living near-ossified lifestyles (and other things) from back then.

Also, the longer you live the more mental trauma there is to deal with. One lifetime is enough. As it is we have enough people who slowly decline and go crazy.


A key dynamic shift that might offset this is that "old people" would suddenly have to plan for thousands of years. Many of the problems that generations currently solve are due to short-term thinking.

I think you’re being way optimistic. Longer lifespans means you can procrastinate and put things off even further.

Agreed... “people shouldn’t live forever... except for me” seems to be a popular sentiment, but it’s along the lines of “people shouldn’t get this or that freedom/resource... except for me.”

Could you describe what you think the spiritual and mental costs are?

I love life (I've been fortunate to live in health and relative privilege) and would very much prefer an additional 150 years before eternal nothingness, assuming sound mind and body. It's not clear to me what spiritual downsides I would experience.


The only reason we exist is because our genes "wish" to remain immortal. Not dying is the fullest realization of our biological (and likely only empirically valid) purpose. Science also suggests that consciousness ceases with death. It seems strictly preferable to exist as opposed to not exist. Looked at this way, pursuing immortality is utterly rational. In fact, it's surprising this isn't our highest current priority.

"Genes" remaining immortal is quite distinct from an organism remaining immortal. I would say that death+reproduction is a better solution to preserving genes than immortality.

> I would say that death+reproduction is a better solution to preserving genes than immortality.

It's just the solution nature came up with. It's also optimal at a population level and far less so at the organism level.

Again: it is strictly preferable (by a very wide philosophical margin) to exist than to not exist. Of course, anyone who believes otherwise would be welcome to not participate in the concept of biological immortality.


> It's just the solution nature came up with. It's also optimal at a population level and far less so at the organism level.

My point is that what is optimal for the organism is different than what is optimal for it's genes, and that trying to derive the biological purpose based on the "desire" of our genes is invalid (or at least, it does not imply that our purpose is to continue existing as individual organisms).

> Again: it is strictly preferable (by a very wide philosophical margin) to exist than to not exist.

Agreed, which is why I think religious pursuits are also perfectly rational. If there is some eternal, transcendent reality outside of the material world, and we have a chance of participating in that reality, it is preferable to do so.

I hold nothing against those who would wish to extend human life. My critique was just regarding what I understood to be your chain of reasoning from genetic imperative to biological purpose.


I think the nuance of what I was implying got lost there. It seems likely there is no inherent purpose to human life and that we're simply an accidental byproduct of the natural laws of our reality.

Yet the closest identifiable thing we could conceivably call a "purpose" is gene propagation. I should have clarified that this isn't necessarily a "good" purpose. In fact, much of what is programmed by evolution is arguably net detrimental insofar as it is readily exploited.


Ageing in particular is hugely expensive (most medicine is spent on the old and the old cannot work effectively) and causes incalculably huge ammounts of suffering (COVID-19? War? Racist killings? Rape pandemics? Drug addiction? None cause as much suffering as ageing).

Is it wrong to repair someone's heart, brain, joints, skin, bones, kidneys, liver or muscles? If not, why is it wrong to prevent them degenerating in the first place?


I think “the idea that we can have everything we want all the time” has been normalized for Peter Thiel (et al), so he’s working on the “forever” aspect.

I hate this perspective. Aging and imminent death aren't valuable. This is a view popularized by "deathists" and those paralyzed by fear of death.

Death is the greatest equalizer.

It worries me that even now you have rich people that are 70 and are still trying to make more money abusing other people. Imagine if you could keep your wealth for 50 more years. Further more if money is the gateway to 50 more years. Money would be even more important than it is now.

I really don't want to significantly expand lifespans unless we can keep things fair for everybody.


I don't think it's good to make 99% suffer because 1% could keep their wealth.

> Why don't we see how valuable aging and death are?

Death is the greatest weakness of humanity, and to think otherwise is fatalist. We don't have to live eighty years at best and die. We can do better.

If everyone on this planet had solving death as their single-minded focus, we'd accomplish it within our lifetimes.


> If everyone on this planet had solving death as their single-minded focus, we'd accomplish it within our lifetimes.

This is a particularly advanced form of wishful thinking.


It's not wishful thinking. It's not going to happen.

We can, however, do a better job of championing science and long-term thinking.

I think setting a high water mark inspires people to reach for the stars, if only to land on the moon.

I like to imagine that world so that I can see the delta between.


> Death is the greatest weakness of humanity, and to think otherwise is fatalist. We don't have to live eighty years at best and die. We can do better.

Science advances one funeral at a time. ~ Max Planck

I'd add to that that it's not only science that advances in this way.


If someone has been artificially kept alive beyond their natural lifespan, and you had the power to reverse the effect such that they instantly died, would that be ethical?

Attempting to preserve the status quo of aging and death is the same thing in a more roundabout way.


At what age would you like to have:

- Alzheimer's?

- Cancer?

- Arthritis?


If you don't believe progress can be made, then don't worry about others who strive to make it. Worst case they're wrong. Best case, you're wrong and the whole world moves upward.

Otherwise it's just crab bucket mentality.


"Laura Deming, founder of the Longevity Fund, on being an heiress with nearly infinite resources to pursue her dreams".

I think the homeschooling is likely second to being rich in terms of her world view and success.


The article also describes her as a scientist and I'm struggling to figure out why. According to Wikipedia she did lab assistant work at ages 12-13 but dropped out of university after accepting a $100,000 Thiel Fellowship to become a venture capitalist. If she does any actual longevity research work I haven't been able to find it.

Yes exactly. Anyone rich can be a scientist with the right PR. This us the postmodern dystopia we live in. (Alternatively, always has been like that, in some sense.)

>I grew up homeschooled in NZ with a hilariously small amount of context for what the real world was like.

kind of a blunt take here but yeah, homeschooling will do that because its limited to what your parents know. Public schools work to immerse kids in a diverse environment with many people from many different walks of life. they work to build soft skills like empathy, listening, and conflict resolution. she says she taught herself "calculus and probability and statistics, and French literature and history" betraying her heritage. The wealthy are notorious francophiles (Fussell, Paul, "Class: A Guide Through the American Status System")

Homeschooling may have played a part in her success, but money likely played an even more prominent role in getting a twelve year old into UCSF and MIT from half a world away. The average homeschooled kid is much more likely to miss social cues, stumble through a difficult interaction with feckless ineptitude, or even parrot their parents own myopic stereotypes or falsehoods. Schools may teach "bullshit" to some, but they also arm kids with critical thinking skills. the conflicting role of educator, caregiver, and lawgiver projected by homeschool parents virtually guarantees kids will never rise to challenge the education theyre given. Theyll learn only what theyre told.


"The average homeschooled kid is much more likely to miss social cues, stumble through a difficult interaction with feckless ineptitude, or even parrot their parents own myopic stereotypes or falsehoods."

Curious if this is something you have direct experience with/referencing a study or if you're just repeating the commonly held trope. I work at a school that has welcomed a large number of former home schoolers and I find your comment contrary to my experience with dozen of home school kids.

Additionally, describing public schools as a place where empathy, listening, and conflict resolution happens is counter to my experience working with public school districts. Genuinely interested to learn where you're coming from with your comment.


As a homeschooling parent, we hear this trope all the time and it has not been borne out by our experience at all. My wife and I probably both have above-average social skills, but our kids are all well-spoken, empathetic, and kind for their ages, and we tend to have to help them unlearn the social "skills" they learn from their friends who go to public school.

And we're not really sticklers when it comes to behavior, we mostly just want them to not be rude and to think about other people when they do things that impact other people, and we have not found that kids who attend public school are especially likely to possess those qualities. (I also went to public school and spent a good part of my early adulthood unlearning crappy social behavior that was learned in school).


As a former homeschooled child (K-10, I started attending community college in 11th grade) who is still in contact with many dozens of friends I met through homeschooling, I would agree. I would say that my homeschooled friends probably average just a bit better in the social skills department than my friends who attended private and public schools. That said, my homeschooled friends almost all came from middle-class, two-parent households from the suburbs, so my guess is that any advantage in those skills was more likely to be due to that than their schooling.

If you keep your kids locked at home 24/7 they will certainly have difficulty learning how to talk to other kids and adults, but nearly nobody does that. Most homeschooled families were involved in organized classes and activities with other families, even 20-30 years ago and my impression is that those experiences have only increased.


Isolating kids is bad, but modern schools are a very weird, artificial (and often unpleasant) social environment. Many of the social skills you learn in them are useless or even harmful:

http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html

Also, homeschooling doesn't mean you can only learn from your parents. You can use any other resource that's available to you.


From the pg essay you linked:

> Nor, as far as I can tell, is the problem so bad in most other countries.

So why is this a distinctly American problem? If we understand the answer to that question, might that help us solve the problem?


It's not. Don't trust someone with no relevant knowledge about the world telling you that the only place he has experience with is exceptional compared to the rest of the world.

> The average homeschooled kid is much more likely to miss social cues, stumble through a difficult interaction with feckless ineptitude, or even parrot their parents own myopic stereotypes or falsehoods.

"The average homeschooled kid". Stereotypes. Hm.


> I grew up homeschooled in NZ with a hilariously small amount of context for what the real world was like. In retrospect, it was totally ideal.

You missed the next sentence which seems to contradict the argument you're making. There's absolutely no evidence that the author is missing "critical thinking skills". It sounds like the positive reinforcement from the father created an idea that anything is possible (which probably is missing from most people who go through the traditional education system).

No one is arguing that all homeschooling is great. It's going to depend on the teachers/parents. This seems like an example where it worked out really well.


> Public schools work to immerse kids in a diverse environment with many people from many different walks of life.

Public schools are a reflection of the communities they're placed in and in much of rural America diversity isn't at play.

Astra Taylor's response to a critique (of the paywalled article below) demonstrates the nuance (https://nplusonemag.com/online-only/online-only/learning-in-...)

> I actually chose to go to public high school in Georgia for three years, where I saw the good and bad first hand. Unlike Goldstein, who glories in having “benefited from 13 years of public education in one of the most diverse and progressive school districts in the United States,” the school I attended was predominantly African-American and viciously segregated, with the white kids funneled into advanced and gifted courses while everyone else, the vast majority, languished. Thus, in my essay I ask, “Are schools social levelers or do they reinforce the class pyramid by tracking and sorting children from a young age?” Any honest progressive needs to admit the answer is both

Your take is kind of obvious, but it's too monolithic. There are certainly some of my old friends that match your description to the T: socially awkward, insular knowledge, holding onto their parent's religious extremes.

But they also have siblings that are polar opposites, for example one got a PhD in Evolutionary Bio (much to their parents ire).

I think you're absolutely right that money and class are at the center of this, 'yacht schooling' is definitely a thing and their experiences should not be extrapolated generally.

Paywalled, but these stories also worth a read and N+! is well worth the money. * https://nplusonemag.com/issue-33/essays/homeschool/ * https://nplusonemag.com/issue-13/essays/unschooling/


Exactly—one anecdote about homeschooling doesn’t apply generally. In the US, the average homeschooled kid is likely to be raised in a very religious family with little to no science education.

Absent the religiosity, the same can be said for the average public schooled kid.

The fact that homeschoolers in the US are likely to be religious also tells you nothing about homeschooling if done by someone who's not particularly religious and cares about science.

There are statistics out there about the academic performance of homeschoolers, and all the evidence out there shows that they have better academic performance than public school kids.

Even then, it's an uneven distribution. Homeschooled in Montana? Probably. Homeschooled in the Bay Area? Probably not.

I was homeschooled and it worked out well for me. You have to be intrinsically motivated and have a deep curiosity about the world. Actually, all kids are born curious but they lose it over time as adults get annoyed with all their questions! I appreciated the freedom to blow an entire day learning about something just because it was interesting. This turned out to be super valuable for my career. Being homeschooled gave me the chance to play with computers all day and I started coding at age 10. This gave me a huge head start on my peers who didn't start coding until college. I also credit homeschooling for teaching me to think outside the box. As a kid I always complained about the social aspect and the lack of team sports. I found ways to interact with other kids, but it took a lot of intentional effort. My mom was an English teacher and my dad was an engineer, so they were reasonably equipped for the task of giving me an education. It's not for everyone, but I'm thankful I was homeschooled.

Glad it worked out for you, did you eventually went to college or were you completely educated without institutions?

Yeah I gradated w/ a Computer Science degree from Clemson. My siblings all graduated college as well.

Is homeschooling actually better once you control for the types of people who are capable of doing it? I would imagine a good chunk of people who homeschool their children are incredibly active in their children's education, by definition. These children I would argue, would be fine with or without homeschooling.

Homeschooling also just seems unsustainable. Modern society generally requires two parents to be working. Can an average family afford to homeschool their children? At least in the USA, most indications give a pretty firm "no."

That being said, I really enjoyed this article. People definitely should have more control over their education and how it relates to their own children's needs.


Yeah, it seems like an anti-pattern. Also, it's supposedly better for children to be educated by a great educator and most parents, like most people, are not.

The fact of the matter is that the implicit assumption of many pro-homeschoolers is that most professional educators - either for individual or systemic reasons - are also not good educators, and would rather take their chances. I can't entirely blame them.


Well... If a child is "different" (Aspie, say), or bullied, or had serious health issues, or even just really gifted, homeschooling might be the best answer.

But even if none of those things is true, I keep hearing about classroom size as one of the key determinants of educational outcomes. Well, what's the classroom size for a homeschool? It's however many kids you have. Let's use the standard family size, 2.3 kids. The average school classroom size is around 20 in the US. Well, how much does 2.3 vs. 20 make up for the parent not being a great educator? And what if the person with 20 isn't a great educator either?


I think this point is underappreciated. The key question isn't "Is a parent a better teacher than a professional teacher?", the key question is "Can a parent teach 1 or 2 or 3 of their own children, better than a professional teacher can teach 25?"

It seems like it should be a close call for the vast majority of parents, so at the very least, the question of whether to homeschool should hinge on other considerations.


> Also, it's supposedly better for children to be educated by a great educator and most parents, like most people, are not.

Most teachers aren’t great educators either, speaking as someone who did it for five years. Homeschooling parents have fewer students and care much, much more about them.


In some cases it will not be better. In some cases it will be better. It is important that homeschooling remains an option for those cases.

Is it though?

I feel like this is a strong case of "what is best for society is not best for each and every individual".

If allowing homeschooling will help 100 kids to learn faster and be happier, while at the same time causing another 1000 kids become socially isolated by giving their parents the authority to more easily cut them off from the rest of society and indoctrinate them, then is that trade-off really worth it?


I believe if you think that 91% of parents are going to indoctrinate their children in a way that harms society, that society is probably doomed, as that 91% should theoretically have control of the government already...

> I believe if you think that 91% of parents are going to indoctrinate their children in a way that harms society

The numbers were just chosen to give a counter-point and are purely hypothetical, but even then I think you are misrepresenting them with your 91% statistic.

The 100 good and 1000 bad experiences only represent home-schooled kids in my example, they do not represent all kids (as I presume most kids would still attend normal schools).


I'm sorry, I misunderstood what you meant for the numbers to represent.

But I think if you're going to assume that most homeschooled kids are going to have a bad experience, you have to confront the fact that a ridiculously large number of public school students end up functionally illiterate, or innumerate, or mentally ill or traumatized as well.

I think far too often, it's the crappiest homeschool outcomes being compared to ideal public school outcomes, though I'm not accusing you of this.


“One thing he (her father) told me was ‘action comes before motivation’ - that’s always been an incredibly powerful thing in my life.“

Good advice!


Ha, yes this was my favorite line as well.

Homeschooled, myself. Academically, I have a MS CS. My sibling has a PhD. It worked, academically.

I don't particularly recommend it for anyone without substantial need. I would put genius-level children at that level. We weren't geniuses.

I can imagine an... alternative... schooling coop which would work well. But there are whole volumes of good behavior that I had to intake as a teen & young adult that homeschooling had no ability to teach me.

Parents of homeschooled kids don't notice, I think. Because this is about peer behavior and interaction. Not child-parent interaction.


>My dad just always told me that I was exceptional

I was under the impression that this runs contrary to current thinking.

i.e. Tell kids they're the best and they stop taking risks for fear of failure. Rather encourage effort & persistence.

Anyway...sometimes I think the whole elite private schooling model are the sweet spot. Actual effort goes into the teaching without the social isolation that (often) comes with home schooling.


We homeschool our 5 kids but sometimes I think we shouldnt. Something I tell my wife, kids, parents, well wishers, hecklers and friends is that parents get both too much and too little credit for how their kids turn out.

Stay involved. That's what homeschooling (done well) forces you to do. Ask questions, allow failures, try (you WILL fail) to practice detachment, and understand that you do not.


This is super interesting! I wonder what other homeschooled people think of their experiences!

I was homeschooled, and there are a wide range of homeschoolers in the US. Generally it breaks down into three categories: "religious", "hippie", or "academic".

It sounds like Laura was from academic branch, where her parents were probably very engaged, and thought they could do a better job than the school system--which is great.

My parents, and most of their friends who homeschooled were from the religious branch of the movement, which is fairly large in the US. Their main motivation was to basically prevent the school system from teaching us things they didn't approve of, like evolution, etc. Of course, we learned about evolution, but from a very different (and very incorrect) perspective.

Regardless, we still took standardized tests, and performed really well on them every year. Overall I did fine in college--aside from a few academic blind spots, and I'm doing fine as a programmer today. The social stuff was a steep learning curve once I hit college, but I made it.

I will say there are a number of people I know who didn't "make it out". College can be a really big jump for a lot of these kids.


When I was in high school, my school district had a homeschool program where you'd meet up with a teacher once a week and they'd give you the same tests (and general course plan) that you'd do if you were in a regular school. It was awesome! The best part was I could take the tests any time to finish a class sooner. So I did a lot of my 2 semester classes in one, and then took community college classes.

It's too bad there aren't more things like that.


I was homeschooled my whole life. It was fantastic. I wish I had more of a chance to socialize with other kids after school or something, but I'm not any worse for wear for it. I feel like I learned a lot more than people did in public schools, and that it's really served me well. It allows for a very personalized education with a very good student-to-teacher ratio. You can be pushed where you're capable and can do more, and you can receive personal help where you struggle.

It's not for everyone, but I've met a lot more homeschooled people since, and I've never met someone who's wished they hadn't been.


I was homeschooled K-8th, went to a traditional school for high school, and then a big public college (University of Florida) and dropped out Junior Year to move to SF and join a startup.

My parents' goal for our (me and my siblings') educations was basically just to teach us how to think. They cared a lot more about what we were like at 25 than what we'd be like at 15. I found this to be super freeing, and something I valued a lot.

We didn't have much money growing up, and my dad worked 3 jobs so that my mom could stay home and homeschool us. My mom was actually a public school teacher, and wrote a paper in college on why homeschooling should be illegal. I have always loved her willingness to change her mind on that once she realized that public school wasn't the best fit for us.

My parents both sort of split the "education" responsibilities, and they really tried to empower us to view learning as a journey we could join them on vs. something that was compulsively forced upon us. So, whenever possible we would learn things from the "real world" vs. a textbook or classroom setting. I remember when we were learning about the pulmonary system, my mom convinced a local butcher to give her some cow lungs so that she could show us how inflating / deflating lungs worked. When we learned about the founding of America, she put us in a van and drove from Florida to all 13 colonies and visited all the historical sites.

I found the transition to traditional school and then a big public university with 50k students to be quite easy. I also played a lot of sports growing up, and I find that sports / music / other forms of community tend to give kids plenty of socialization, and the "homeschoolers are socially awkward" meme is a bit of a myth in most cases.

Anyways, it was hugely positive for me. It's not for everyone, and requires a specific type of parent with a specific type of motivations, but I think it can be incredible for many families.


I enjoyed reading this recent post from Nathan Barry, which tells some of his story: https://nathanbarry.com/homeschool/

Thanks for sharing! Glad you enjoyed the article.

Thanks for posting this... I found his write up super interesting.

Thanks for sharing! this is super cool!

Some of them dislike it intensely and don’t want to talk about it.

An extremely intelligent friend of mine is one of those people, and he has hang ups about it.

Note that there are good home schooling experiences as well, but there may be some selection bias regarding the stories we typically hear.


If you want an eye-opening, follow https://www.reddit.com/r/HomeschoolRecovery/ for a bit. I've seen some really terrible examples of homeschooling that left people stunted and overwhelmed by the world. The best I've seen is from parents that spent an immense amount of time working with their kids and who went out of their way to expose their kids to ideas that the parents didn't necessarily agree with.

The worst outcome I've seen has been my sister, who is in her thirties and rarely leaves my father's house.


Meh... if you want to read about the trauma of public schools just read the 'normal' mental illness subreddits. Public schools is so normalized that all the trauma it causes isn't attributed solely to schooling. Think of the number of kids upset about being bullied, suicides from peer pressure, etc.

I was homeschooled and I have mixed feelings about it. I turned out very well socially adjusted and I am very gainfully employed. I don’t have a specific direction for this comment but I’m happy to answer questions if people have them.

I live in an area where homeschooling is fairly popular. There were some snide remarks before Corona, but these days it seems like it's not looked down upon so much.

A lot of people talk about repairing decrepitude of the body, but what about decrepitude of ideas and world views?

What if advancement depends on the death of people with outdated ideas?


About 0.7% of the American public dies each year:

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db355.htm

An idea that sees its support changing substantially faster than 0.7% per year is not primarily driven by older members of the public dying.

The original Civil Rights movement, the fight for gay marriage, cannabis legalization -- all of these saw public acceptance shift much faster than population turnover can account for. Do you have examples in mind of trends that actually required the die-off of older people?


"Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time?" - https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.20161574

Another one is dictators. It seems like it took Franco's death for things to change in Spain, and Salazar's brain hemorrhage to change things in Portugal. Would Mubarak have been able to control the situation in Egypt if he was physically younger?


Would people wait for their death if it was not coming?

Yep. Death is the one true source for renewal we have. A world without death is a world with potentially immortal dynasties and dictators straight out of Altered Carbon.

Science progresses one funeral at a time, markets function by companies dying out, at the very fundamental biological reproduction relies on death.

If you think 70 year old politicians and university deans are corrupt, wait for the 400 year old boomers. The end of death is essentially the beginning of stagnation. It's a libertarian fantasy pushed by Thiel et al, because death is the one last thing these people can't buy themselves out off.

Death puts a natural end to even the worst individuals, wiping the slate clean is, sadly but necessarily, what keeps our species and our culture moving .


I also grew up in NZ idolizing Faraday. I feel sad to see obviously smart and passionate folks like this with deep technical interests end up in venture so young.

I'd rather have smart, passionate people with deep technical interests judge whether to fund my company than a dumb, lazy person who doesn't know math or science :)

Exactly, with her background and informed outlook [1] she’s probably picking up on ideas that other investors would miss. In addition, being in venture now doesn’t preclude direct involvement in research or startups in the future.

[1]: https://www.ldeming.com/longevityfaq


I think the homeschool movement has become too extreme. You can do homeschool if you want. But you also need to learn from others. The school system does help. I went to a 4-year university. I got a degree in Computer Science. I think it's very valuable. It helped me build a good career. I would say half of the professors were solid.

At school, after lectures, we have to do homework. It's a practice to get a deeper understanding of the knowledge. Then we have to take test. It's a validation of our understanding. People certainly cheat their ways through college. But if you are into learning, you can learn a lot.

Laura Deming mentioned that she had a hard time with entropy. I think this is because of not having a formal education. Entropy is an overloaded term. It means different things in different fields. In physics, it means one thing. In information theory, it means another thing. If Laura had gone to a university to study the concepts in different classes, she would have grasped the concepts. Laura is likely a generalist thinker, polymath. That's why she has a hard time digging into deep concepts. To really understand them, you need to practice (homework) and validate (test).

I work in cryptocurrency space. Vitalik is another generalist, polymath thinker. He makes some wild claims like quantum computer can break Proof of Work. If you study Computer Science, you'd see how dubious this claim is.

You don't know what you don't know.

Schools are good for teaching you what you don't know. Both Vitalik and Laura come out of the Thiel Fellowship. When you are young and got chosen by a billionaire, it may have gotten you hype up about your intellect. You buy into your billionaire's view. You think professors are idiots. Nowadays, social media give people a microphone. So they get even more indulgence. They see themselves already successful.

I think the young generation, like Laura and Vitalik, is talented. But they live in the fame bubble too early. Albert Einstein had this problem. He was an early achiever. He made his important discoveries when he was young. Those achievements became burden. He had a hard time with quantum mechanics. He spent endless time with the theory of everything. He was miserable in his later life.

I teach my kids at home after their public school time. When they grow up, I hope there're still good universities for them to go. Go to school, take some test, you'd see how much you really understand.


Homeschooling is a very important freedom for parents to retain. Otherwise, parents are increasingly at risk of not being in control of how their children are raised. Schools and colleges are increasingly politicized and are being used by politicians and activists to instill certain values into children early on. Those values are derived from whomever has the most power in a given jurisdiction.

For instance, in Seattle there is a push from activists to introduce progressive politics into schoolrooms, to influence children's culture and values beyond what is appropriate. It started with the NAACP pressuring Seattle Public Schools to introduce ethnic studies into their K-12 curriculum (https://www.king5.com/article/news/education/seattle-school-...). Then the school board proposed converting subjects like math into propaganda channels for social justice politics (https://reason.com/2019/10/22/seattle-math-oppressive-cultur...). Now they're planning to include gender identity material as early as Kindergarten (https://mynorthwest.com/1676789/rantz-mandatory-sex-ed-kinde...). In each instance, I see that the parents' role is being overridden by the state, going far beyond the mandate of core education and clearly into the realm of controversial politics.

I am not trying to just single out Seattle or progressive politics, mind you. It's just what I'm most familiar with. In Arkansas some schools teach that the age of Earth is a controversial topic (http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/201...). And outside the US as well, governments use education as a means to undermine parents and steal away their children's minds, turning them into willing adopters of the government's values/culture/politics (https://www.hrw.org/report/2020/03/04/chinas-bilingual-educa...).

Homeschooling and school choice more broadly (like charter schools) are the antidote to having children propagandized. Homeschooling is generally very successful, to the point that it is viewed by some as a threat to public education (https://reason.com/2019/01/22/homeschooling-produces-better-...) and now there are activist researchers claiming that homeschooling is vector for child abuse despite evidence to the contrary (https://www.educationnext.org/harvard-law-professors-attack-...). I hope people take note and fight to retain their rights as parents.


The focus of this comment struck me. Seems to me that education of children involves influence - even a "hands-off" approach influences, no? So, apart from questions about physical safety and measurable/occupational skills taught, these points seem to touch on the greater question of who or what should be an influencer, and to what degree?

Western culture (my personal background) has seen shifts in answers to this question over the past centuries... and not in isolation from other shifts in viewpoints about cultural interactions.

Are we going in a direction that is good? All I can say for sure is that it becomes increasingly easy for me to focus on myself and current times while ignoring children and what they will grow into, and increasingly harder for me to understand the reasons my parents, grandparents, etc thought and reasoned the way they did. Again, a slice of the world, but if my experience is widespread, that surely affects how decisions about education are currently being made.


This is an off-topic point, but perhaps this TED talk by James Flynn might give you a perspective to understand why your parents and grandparents tought: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vpqilhW9uI

It posits the idea that the way of thinking back then was different, because they had to overcome different cognitive challenges from us today. This would shape how people back then viewed the world.




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