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Underrated Reasons to Be Thankful (dynomight.net)
971 points by dynm on Nov 25, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 336 comments

Im thankful to have a job and a roof over my head and a little bit of savings. Not having to really worry about money still blows my mind now and then.

Looking across the street every day in California and seeing the homelessness crisis in full swing is an ever present reminder of what this economy and this society can do to you if you slip up for even a second and / or have even a minor run of bad luck.

Working in software isn't always easy or fun or fulfilling but its still an incredible privilege to be working in this industry.

> Looking across the street every day in California and seeing the homelessness crisis in full swing is an ever present reminder of what this economy and this society can do to you if you slip up for even a second and / or have even a minor run of bad luck. Working in software isn't always easy or fun or fulfilling but its still an incredible privilege to be working in this industry.

I'm a senior software engineer with decades in the industry, but a few years ago I completely burned out, ended up addicted to alcohol, and lost everything.

And when I say lost everything, I mean everything. I ended up in a homeless shelter.

Climbing out from there to get back into the industry was an insane battle. I finally got control over all of it and back on my feet, but I have a new found respect for just being able to keep a roof over my head and pay bills now.

That's all I want. I use my free time to give back to society now.

Thank you so much for sharing this, its deeply inspiring and feels like really important context / wisdom for someone still at the beginning of their dev career. This is exactly why HN can be such an amazing community (imho). Im more and more thankful for that as well.

Thanks for sharing. I'm glad you're doing well.

yikes! glad you climbed back.

This strikes home for me. I come from an extended family of laborers and addicts. All of us had the same future: miserable work, low wages, multiple bankruptcies, and early death.

I’m 57. I’ve worked as a photographer for 32 years, made a great living and traveled the world. I’ve collaborated with incredible people, and seen (and documented) amazing things.

I live in a beautiful house (I paid it off years ago) in a great city. I have zero debt and have so many options about what I’ll do.

My retirement investments have been done very well (good luck getting me to stop working). I have a wonderful family and an incredible daughter.

I never take any of this for granted. I am so thankful. My siblings, cousins, aunts, etc see me like an alien creature. At 57 I’m the oldest living male in generations of my family.

I was lucky enough to have spent my youth in one of the five least expensive places to live in the United States, and I stayed. I can easily buy a home for $30,000 here, and I have done so a few times.

I was fortunate enough to find a company where I live that wrote their major systems in assembler in the late 1960's; they use UNIX/Linux to glue modern systems to a vertical wall of technical debt. This is an endless amount of fun.

I go only so far into these legacy systems (we even have an emulated VAX running VMS, which I keep at arm's distance). I should be thankful for having an unprivileged VMS account. I don't want to run that system.

That actually does sound like fun! Live that dream!

If you can and aren't already, maybe consider organising with less privileged workers for things like striking in unison. Or getting politically active to grow economy and society so it will be kinder and allow a slip up.

One of the many reasons I would never move to the US is that in Europe I don't feel like a minor slip up or bad luck will send me into financial ruin. I'll need surgery on my shoulder soon and hopefully it should be fully covered by my health insurance, no added charges. It's an example that comes up again and again and I'm sure people in your position worry less about it, but it's something I keep seeing play a role with my acquaintances and online

I moved from europe to the us because I could never become financially independent with the low compensation and high taxes in EU. I would never wish for us to ever be as unambitious and hard to grow as the eu is.

On Europe vs. the US: if you consider private health insurance in the US a part of your taxes, then the difference is not that big anymore. In fact it may even be the other way around: in the US you may be overpaying for health services if you are insured [1]

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/08/22/upshot/hospit...

You would never wish it for those that achieve growth or for the people suffering homelessness, debt, precariousness, etc? My gut tells me we both have very different ideas on what ambition is/can be, what form of growth is valuable, and how economic liberalism weighs in.

Ethics aside, the taxes I've been paying out of my salary since I've been in the industry allows me today to benefit from an incredible financial safety net as I'm attempting to put together my own R&D software company.

I think it’s quite possible to find a middle road there.

A minor slip up doesn’t ruin people financially in the US the vast majority of the time. That’s why it’s a non-issue politically.

Your perspective of US life is just shaped by what they report on in the news/reddit/here/etc. Nobody reports on the people that live boring, comfortable lives.

I know enough US citizens personally that I can assure you, I'm aware of the correction that needs to be applied but consider that you might be underestimating how bad things are in the US because you are comfortable.

I personally would not want to live in that system. I am 29, debt free, with a university education from one of the countries top universities where I spend 1.5 years extra for an exchange and having needed hospitalisation multiple times in my life. This experience is something that, statistically, not many US citizens my age have (especially the debt freeness), and I have had enough interactions with exchange students who expressed genuine surprise I had no second thought of going to the hospital to appreciate this carefreeness over the benefits the US system might bring for people like me in the happy path.

But that's personal opinion of course.

Even if a minor slip up doesn't ruin you, the paperwork, hassle and the constant fear is ridiculous. That's no way to live a civilized life - and I say this as an American who has experienced better care even in third world countries.

If you have talent, show up, and a clean criminal record, you can make it in the US without a problem. There’s more money than talent, meaning if you have talent, there are people ready to give you plenty of money. It’s not hard in and of itself. It says something that many people’s problem in the US is getting in their own way. People in other places in the world have far less mobility opportunities than we have here. I’m thankful for that.

If you compare globally sure, if you compare with Europe, the data tells a different story. The US are 27th in social mobility behind all of the northwestern European nations with high taxation (data from the WEF, infographic from the site I link to).

While Germany and the other European nations are far from perfect and I like some of the business aspects of the US, coming from money matters more in the US than in Europe, statistically.


When "other places in the world" is mentioned, one need not imagine it refers to the non-applicable places. That seems a wasted effort.

Very grateful for your notification of the existence of visualcapitalist.com (It also has RSS, though through an external provider)

I wanted to reciprocate revealing something along the lines, but apart from ourworldindata.org (which has a numeric approach instead of notional), I can only find the promising JunkChart, https://junkcharts.typepad.com/junk_charts/ , and The Economist's Graphic Detail, https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail?page=1 , blogs.

Edit: the said branch of The Economist seems very promising: the latest article, "Just like modern humans, honeybees avoid each other amid plagues // They segregate behaviours in different parts of their hives to prevent parasites from spreading" as a stub shout heading reads «Social distan-sting». Thank you dear editor!

> Im thankful to have a job

I think you've got that backwards. Everyone is thankful for money and possessions. A job is just how you happen to get them. Would you be unhappy to be very wealthy, without a job?

> seeing the homelessness crisis in full swing is an ever present reminder of what this economy and this society can do to you if you slip up for even a second and / or have even a minor run of bad luck.

I've known a lot of homeless people. Their circumstances are overwhelmingly caused by drug addition or mental illness. Not that anyone will admit to it.

If you're willing and able to work full-time, you can manage a reasonable living. There are government and private programs to support the disabled, unemployed, keep the impoverished who don't fit those categories from starving, etc. Not to mention charities, and friends/family groups who will help most anyone who doesn't get enough support from those programs, or just had "bad luck". Mental illness and drug addition does a good job of cutting you off from all those sources of support.

I feel sad for you if you see work only as a way to make money. A good job with a team that is working together towards a goal is a very satisfying experience. I would be unhappy to be very wealthy without a job. There are many people who end up lost because they don’t have a sense of purpose, and a job helps with that.

I agree with everything you're saying except for your usage of purpose. To me, life is not about doing meaningful and purposeful things. It's about satisfying yourself. With the right incentives, we can satisfy ourselves in ways that are meaningful and purposeful. Finding the right work with the right people is extremely satisfying. If you don't enjoy your work, it's likely you are not working on the right things or you have some mental health issues which are lingering beneath the surface.

It can be both. I would guess that most people, once they have satisfied their basic needs, begin to strive to help their kids, their friends, their community, and possibly even their country and/or world.

> A job is just how you happen to get them

I happen to enjoy my job very much. I'd feel useless and bored without it.

If you didn't have to worry about money, you'd have ample time to find fulfilling hobbies to occupy your time.

You could even do all the parts of your job that you enjoy, while skipping all the unpleasant parts of it.

I created my own job by starting my own business, which I enjoyed a lot and it paid well.

> Would you be unhappy to be very wealthy, without a job?

Absolutely. Working on stuff for my job that I’m passionate about gives me great fulfillment. Being paid for my skills is recognition from society as to the value I provide.

Eh, between the two, I'd reckon it'd be foolish not to go with the wealth. I can always get a job, or use the breathing room provided by wealth to gain skills for a job. The inverse is not nearly as reliable.

Would you be unhappy to be very wealthy, without a job?


In Seattle anyway, 90% of the homeless are either drug addicts or alcoholics. Becoming one is a choice under your control, not god smiting you.

> Working in software

is a heluva lot better than stoop labor, what people have done for millennia. Every time I work on the yard I'm reminded again at how hard stoop labor is, and how I'm glad to work sitting in a comfy chair in a warm house with the stereo playing in the background. And I can play on HN when waiting for the test suite to run.

> Becoming one is a choice under your control

To an extent. Some people are predisposed to addiction and the poor are much less likely to have the knowledge or support required to recognise or battle addiction.

I know that some people are predisposed to addiction. It's harder for them, sure, but becoming an addict is still a choice for them. I know some who chose to get and stay clean, too, despite being predisposed.

I wager that poor people are far better at recognizing addiction than non-poor. I hired a stoner once, not recognizing it. He robbed the company blind to pay his dealer.

Social workers are always trying to get the homeless addicts into rehab. They generally refuse to. It is their choice, not lack of money. In fact, I suspect that the lack of money is caused by their choice to be addicted. After all, addicts lose interest in their jobs and employers don't want stoners and drunks coming to work.

A heartless and uninformed perspective that is all too common among people born into privilege (you may not have been but in my experience, most people who believe this were).

The majority of addicts are people who have experienced trauma. Often this is childhood trauma, specifically sexual, emotional or physical abuse. Of course it may also have occurred in adulthood. Veterans are one common example but there are millions of other causes.

Shit happens man. You can be an armchair judge but it’s all too easy to go off the rails in this world. Be compassionate! Instead of “you made some bad choices” maybe try thinking, “there but for the grace of god go I”.

I never said compassion was unhelpful. If compassion helps an addict choose to stop using, great! But it's still, in the end, the addict's choice.

You could choose compassion but instead you choose judgment.

Asserting that people have agency over their lives empowers them. That does not preclude compassion for the state they're in. Not at all.

> But it's still, in the end, the addict's choice.

It seems to me your language above suffers from a false dichotomy.

One might start with a binary question such as "Do we have free will or not?".

However, a better question is "Under what conditions and to what extent are we conscious of our choices, rational in how we evaluate them, and informed enough to predict how they will play out?"

I know that some people are predisposed to addiction. It's harder for them, sure, but becoming an addict is still a choice for them. I know some who chose to get and stay clean, too, despite being predisposed.

A fairly useless way to think about when it comes to solving problems in our society.

At the end of the days, people's choices are determined by large number of factors, most of which we are unaware of or currently ill equipped to understand.

It would be like a person having a seizure and people deciding to blame said person for making a choice to be corrupted by a devil.

This is a fun one, let's take the case of mental illness.

Assume we know the person's addiction and subsequent dysfunction is from said mental illness. The person doesn't want to be treated, as is often the case. Do you

A: let him carry on as is, resulting in both self-harm alongside other externalities

B: Violate his right to self determination and have him committed to a mental institution.

A seizure is not the same thing at all. Nobody can choose to have a seizure, or choose not to have one.

Seizures were once thought to be caused by sinfulness. We used to think problem gambling was a decision, until we discovered a drug that can cause it. I don't think we know why addicts become addicts just yet, so it might be a little early to orate upon it.

A seizure is not the same thing at all. Nobody can choose to have a seizure, or choose not to have one.

Nobody chose anything without being dictated by physics, biological, sociological, and cognitive factors.

How much of a choice is it to be attracted to a given individual? Or to crave a certain kind of food? Or to be consumed with a specific kind of work? Or to care for your child?

I.e. I think we overestimate how much of a 'choice' certain outcomes are for most people.

I agree with this.

I’ve often contemplated that given that the part of me that has a poor work ethic and refuses to get help has generally won out, I would easily be on the streets if I was born into a family of low socioeconomic status, rather than having lots of savings and living in a nice apartment. Also, I’ve spiraled downwards many times, and I’m lucky that food, isolation, internet are my vices, rather than hard drugs.

In the times I’ve finally “decided” to improve my life, I honestly have no explanation for why I did that, versus continue to spiral downwards.

> In the times I’ve finally “decided” to improve my life, I honestly have no explanation for why I did that, versus continue to spiral downwards.

It's interesting how much these kinds of choices are affected by people around you. E.g. when I had classmates depending on me to finish a part of a project, or a partner needing a good night sleep, I am much less likely to goof off into the wee hours of the night playing video games or such.

Makes me wish I could have recognized this way earlier and set up periodic "check-ins" with a group of friends. I've seen some people accomplish this via "life coaches." Some people have really involved parents. Explains why people with poorer backgrounds may do worse - less of this kind of involvement. Conversely I wonder if church/temple participation helps the other way.

The choice is not the in feeling, it's in the action.

At least when it comes to addiction, there can be no recovery unless there is a conscious choice to do something about it. Nobody can save these people unless they want to be saved.

It was 100% my choice to smoke 1.5 packs per day for 20 years. Just like it was my choice to quit. The first choice was easy, the second was not. You don't choose how you feel about things, but to a large extent you choose how you act.

People often conveniently claim they had "no choice" so they can absolve themselves of responsibility for their actions.

> How much of a choice is it to be attracted to a given individual?

Don't confuse ones' choices with ones' desires. You have free will, you can indulge in the bad predilections, or not. Your choice.

Nobody said making the better choice is easy.

If I had my druthers, I'd eat nothing but donuts and ice cream all day. But I choose otherwise.

People often conveniently claim they had "no choice" so they can absolve themselves of responsibility for their actions.

Choices or no choices, or free will, doesn't absolve someone of consequences, responsibility, or reality stemming from actions being undertaken.

Reducing that situation to a 'choice' is (from an analytical standpoint) just wrong, because the mechanics at work are a lot more complex.

In the end, you can say it is a choice, but what is a choice worth, if you don't know anything about preconditions (the knowledge, the impulse control, the education, the emotional point of reference, earlier experiences, etc). Not talking about how drugs affect your ability to choose and execute what you have chosen to do.

This is a sort of response that makes the conversation stink and as well has no optimal solution would come out.

  > I know that some people
I know that this writing will make no change in your bigoted perception but at-least it might to others. So, I'm writing it.

Addiction is NOT a choice, and it is a form of chemical imbalance that happens in our complex brain that makes the person get into addiction with any substance. It could be said like any other mental health illnesses. AND when the person who got addicted doesn't get enough support and the compassion (likely not from you) to the way where they can be able to stay away from their addiction, there is a possibility that such person could go worse.

> Addiction is NOT a choice

Drinking alcohol is a choice, so is sticking the needle in your arm.

> likely not from you

I support programs for treatment for addicts. Successful treatment, however, involves the addicts accepting responsibility. Nobody ever said recovery is easy. It isn't. Compassion is in order to help them recover.

But ultimately it's still up to them to make the choice.

Describing human actions as either ‘under one’s control’ or ‘not’ is an oversimplified and inaccurate world view.

I think the evidence suggests a different understanding:

1. One individual’s willpower varies significantly over time (over a day for example)

2. One individual’s set of options varies in many ways — not limited to education, awareness, culture, economic opportunity, and luck.

3. Many important actions are not consciously decided.

This plays out in many ways.

Many individuals that achieve some kind of success mistakenly over-attribute it to hard work or intelligence —- and downplay the role of culture, opportunity, privilege, and luck.

I understand that today it is popular to assert that people are just hapless victims of circumstance, that they don't have agency.

I don't buy it.

Furthermore, when people take responsibility for their lives, they tend to have much better outcomes. I'm old, and I've observed this play out constantly. Blaming others and circumstance might make one feel better, but it is completely useless.

And lastly, successful treatment for addiction and alcoholism involves the person taking responsibility for the addiction.

> I understand that today it is popular to assert that people are just hapless victims of circumstance, that they don't have agency.

I didn't assert that.

>In Seattle anyway, 90% of the homeless are either drug addicts or alcoholics

That's a big claim to make. Do you have any sources?

The "Seattle is Dying" video produced by KOMO, the local TV station.

"60 Minutes" also ran a segment on the Seattle homeless a couple years ago. They went in looking for people who were down on their luck. They found drug addicts and alcoholics.

When I hung out with a homeless guy in North Beach, SF for a good hour while he was painting his perspective on shelters was that the addicted folks were in shelters, and non-addicts that went to shelters were treated as if they were addicts. He felt rather de-humanized by the whole system and so he stays on the street.

I haven’t seen these videos yet, but I’m curious if they went to shelters or streets.

The drug addicts and alcoholics are much easier to find than the people down on their luck, who mostly are still functional and instead make up the more invisible portion of the homeless population. They are also the most easily helped by existing resources (easy cases that don’t involve rehab and can live independently).

Here's a write-up from Seattle's government about the root causes of homelessness in the city: https://www.seattle.gov/homelessness/the-roots-of-the-crisis

This is a take on the issue by the Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/homeless/why-are-p...

I remember that ST article. Their statistics have problems - for example, a big reason people lose their jobs is because of drug addiction or alcoholism. The same for evictions. The same for their own families throwing them out.

Drug addiction and alcoholism is the proximate cause of a lot of calamities in peoples' lives.

Your number of "90%" isn't even close to accurate:


Not really, he was just referring to Chronic Visible Homeless, your article doesn't break out SUD for that sub group but even at just the Chronic Homeless level (many who aren't on the street) it puts the rate at 2/3 having substance issues.

> In Seattle anyway, 90% of the homeless are either drug addicts or alcoholics.

You wrote "90%" -- a specific figure -- as opposed to writing "most" or "many". Why did you choose this number? Do you have a reference you can share?

For those who disagree, take a look at Alcoholics Anonymous. It's about making choices. I don't believe it is a mean, heartless, compassion-less organization.

California sounds so extreme in this regard. When I started working in software in the UK I made much less than say a hairdresser, and never saw homeless people (not in a city so…). I didn’t feel this stark difference that being in 2020s + SF seems to highlight.

When I'd visit London on business in the 80's, the homeless were very much present and visible. The concierge at the hotel told me not to leave the hotel before 6AM (I had jet lag and was headed out for a walk) because I'd be easy meat.

London really cleaned up in the 90s. There is still visible homeless, but nothing like US cities with homeless camps. Officially, there are a lot of "homeless" but far fewer "unsheltered"

I've lived in Seattle since the 70s. I never saw tents until recently.

I arrived in Seattle yesterday, staying in Ballard. Wow, it's bad here. Worse than it used to be pre-pandemic.

If you weren’t in a city that’s the difference. You only need to travel like 20 miles south of San Francisco to never see homeless people. Mountain View might as well be a different country.

Even things like not having to budget for groceries and the occasional going out to eat is something I often take for granted. I stay frugal, but have never really had to hem and haw about whether I should spring for the organic produce or fair trade coffee.

"I can't afford this" is a lot more difficult of a circumstance to be in than "boy that was a dumb idea to purchase some pricey, fancy, but nasty cheese on a whim"

I could agree more with this, word for word. It still hits me almost every time I go to the grocery store somehow.

I don’t think you read the piece.

I hear you man, I hear you

I’m thankful for yeast. It’s so, so convenient that we have a non-pathogenic bacteria which will eat pretty much any simple sugar, can be found on the surfaces of most fruits, and is essentially effortless to cultivate, which also does a bunch of useful things like leaven bread and make a bunch of delicious short chain fatty acids (both in bread and on their own, like in marmite) and make alcohol (although that one maybe does more harm than good)!

I'm thankful for oxygen because we can breathe it! And it can be found pretty much everywhere in the atmosphere of planet Earth. And I'm thankful for all the other elements that I'm composed of. They can even be used to do other miraculous things. Wonderful!

I'm thankful for mitochondria which allows us to use the oxygen to perform aerobic respiration, enabling more complex forms of life. It seems they were once bacteria which were somehow absorbed by eukaryote cells and turned into an organelle, an hydro-eletro-chemical power plant. Thanks bacteria!

Be careful with certain anti-bacterial drugs, they might affect your mitochondria.

Nestle is fighting over control of freshwater sources. I reckon oxygen is next.

In the future, be thankful with your wallet.

You don't have to wait. Oxygen bars are already a thing, and have been for quite a while.


For a moment, I thought it was going to be an empty chocolate bar wrapper. I wonder how much better this actually is.

Nestle uses 0.003% of humanity's fresh water consumption, so I'm sure you're properly allocating your worry budget there.

Yeast are not bacteria. They are eukaryotes.

I‘m thankful for nerds who make corrections so I can learn some interesting fact.

Actually, yeasts are unicellular fungus. I believe that fungus are the most important life-form in this planet by far.

Pretty cool, huh? :)

Fungi, like plants and animals, are eukaryotes. However, eukaryotes and bacteria occupy the same rung in the taxonomic divisions (they are domains), so it's the more appropriate correction. The third domain is prokaryotes.

My wikipedia fact checking tells me that the third domain is archaea which together with the bacteria are prokaryotes. Or did I read sth wrong?

Oh, sorry, you are correct. I remembered that archaea had gotten changes and misremembered them.

> unicellular fungus

Belongs under the Eurkaryote heading, no?


That is pretty cool! Paul Stamets is worth mentioning here. One can find a ton of media presence, books and projects from him. Very interesting stuff!

For a second I thought you were referring to Stamets on Star Trek. Stamets, mycellium... tribute or coincidence?

> Stamets is inspired by a real-life mycologist of the same name.[1]

Thanks - just saw his wikipedia page - very interesting.

>I believe that fungus are the most important life-form in this planet by far.

Would love to hear more about this!

I'm thankful for wikipedia which has probably taught me more biology than my professors ever did. So many detailed articles, and it's actually fun to read them because they contain so many details that never seem to get mentioned in school. The abundance of links lead to a fun exploration of the subject and a massive respect for nature and its designs.

Well to be fair the poster was referring to starters for bread which contain natural populations of both yeast and bacteria. So really we should be thankful for both yeast and bacteria. :)

That said, just as the other poster I'm also thankful for pedants like yourself. This is a mistake I probably make myself all the time.

Alcohol definitely does more good, just consider the uses it has aside from being ingested.

Also, consider how many flights went smoothly because of alcohol.. I mean, outing myself as British here but (every flight) without a stuff gin or three, that woman in-front of me would have had a stern talking to I can tell you! :}

I wonder if British are more reserved because they’ve evolved to have about a unit or two of alcohol in the blood stream at all times at which point it’s the sweet spot. I jest of course. Also I’m a Brit.

I suppose that I have to put this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTSCppeFzX4 here. Many a true word…

Well, we certainly developed an effective preventative against malaria... And that's before we get to the ballmer peak [0], which I think many of us experienced at one point ;)

0: https://xkcd.com/323/

> alcohol (although that one maybe does more harm than good)!

Alcohol in the medical field is critical in doing good. A lot of harm has been prevented by alcohol.

Alcohol let our ancestors survive. Weakly alcoholic beer was far healthier than water because its production likely killed germs in the water.

> Alcohol let our ancestors survive.

Only true in dense cities and perhaps onboard seafaring vessels. Most of humanity could find unpolluted sources of water.

You could also say that, without the crutch that was small beer, humanity might have been motivated to learn and implement water treatment/purification techniques and proper sanitation systems centuries earlier.

Edward Slingerland Haha written about a hypothesis that beer was the major reason for inventing agriculture. I don’t know how well received that theory is, but it was an interesting and unique take

I recently read that that’s a myth, unfortunately.

Brewing typically involves boiling. That can kill a germ or two, or so I've read. That's true for brewing tea as well.

I had this same exact thought the last time i was making bagels. What an absolute miracle it is! And whoever came up with using it to fluff and soften bread through some natural symbiotic reliance of raw nature is just such an incredible step it seems utterly designed from above.

Yes, I’m saying maybe a god exists and loves us because they gave us bread.

Benjamin Franklin thought beer was enough proof that there is a God who loves us and wants us to be happy :-)

“Every good quote eventually gets attributed to Lincoln, Wilde, Churchill, or Jobs.”

— Benjamin Franklin

Interesting, thanks!

Looks like he actually said something similar about wine though:

We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana, as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy! (from a 1779 letter from France to his friend André Morellet)

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Yeast is a type of fungus.

True lol thank you. Meant to say “microbe”

I like this and totally agree! I baked two naturally leavened loaves of bread this morning for thanksgiving and am currently drinking a beer. On a regular day I would eat some form of yogurt as well. It really is an amazing little part of life. :)

Also yeast is used frequently in medical and biological scientific studies, and helps us learn more about the role of DNA, aging , and certain kinds of cancer.

Thankful for marmite :)

Damn right. Vegemite isn't even shiny...

Realized after reading this that it's American Thanksgiving today. Happy Thanksgiving to our American friends. I'm thankful for a lovely forum where we can read and share articles like this one.

Agreed. The tone of the HN comments section is occasionally somewhat more contentious now than a few years ago, but it has not generally devolved into the sort of partisan pissing match/bad-faith clusterfuck seen elsewhere in the interwebs. To some extent I attribute that to the fact that valuing science and reason can be a helpful quality in moderating the tone of interaction, even among anons. Which is really a lucky thing.

Prove it, you partisan hack. :)

I'm thankful for Hacker News and internet cultures that support and share articles like this. Things that are intellectually gratifying without being overly specific, topical, or focused on any particular goal. Just interesting thoughts for the sake of their interestingness.

I'll take this space to mention two simple life changing gratitude practices that I have habitualized:

1. Every morning, before I allow myself to look at email/news/etc, I think of three things that I am grateful for.

2. Every night at bedtime, my partner and I tell each other three things we are grateful for about each other and one thing that we are grateful for about ourselves.

I find that bookending my days with gratitude like this makes it easier to live each day in a state of thankfulness.

To me this sounds too much like the daily scrum meetings or stand ups where you have to come up with something just so you can say something and, in this case, go to bed.

But I only mean this as a joke. I think it is great to have "rituals" that help us look and appreciate more stuff what we have already or where we are and where we came from.

"I'm thankful for the way the adversity you gratuitously create in my life advances my spiritual practice. Sweet dreams!"

Maintaining sleep hygiene takes precedence to me over essentially anything else and coming up with four things before sounds anxiety-inducing. We do this type of thing before our evening meal, instead. For me, anyway, this is much lower stakes and so there is less anxiety. Which results in it just sort of flowing out—especially after doing it for awhile—but not in an 'autopilot' sort of way.

Part of the point of our bed time ritual is to look for and accumulate "gratefuls" throughout the day. In this way, I am training my pattern recognizing CPU to spot the positives rather than the negatives that it tends to focus on.

There’s some research behind this though. It’s the act of thinking of something to be grateful for that’s useful - it strengthens your “gratitude muscles”. It was surprisingly hard for me to come up with three new things day after day initially. Try it for a week - you have nothing to lose and the potential upside is huge!

Our family’s ancient religious practices also incorporate these rituals.

It’s great giving the children an opportunity every night to share what they are thankful for. My favorite was ‘blankets’ :)

Being grateful is good! But being jealous, angry, bitter etc. are also valid emotions, not sins. (I don’t believe in Dante’s Inferno etc.). Those emotions are signal that something needs fixing. Sometimes it can be fixed in a second if it’s a silly thing. Sometime it can take a lifetime, if it’s grieving for example.

I love this and Im going to try this with my partner. Thank you for sharing it :^)

i hope ur life gets less boring and more adventurous ;)

Thank you, a lovely list.

7, 23, 24 were driven by the common unusual political occurrence of fair economic opportunity. These rare times where a balance of power occurs, by special circumstances, between the former autocratic rulers and everyone else.

In Britain (7), domestic Royal monopolies were abolished etc creating an economic and legal environment where entrepreneurs would be rewarded. So people started investing their very expensive free time tinkering because it might lead to profit.

Ancient Greece (23) developed the Solonian Constitution which similarly protected the property rights of ‘citizens’ like never before, so Athens became a cultural center of tinkerers, hustlers, thought leaders, influencers etc, and the ideas are what we still have today. Because unlike with Ancient Phoenicia, the Greeks wrote on clay, not on perishable papyrus.

(24) Obviously the US Constitution managed to establish unusual property rights for its European male citizens, and again we see hustlers, thought leaders, influencers etc, because their efforts are far more likely to be rewarded. But this time we see what this political environment looks like close up and we see regular people’s bright ideas materialize in society because the law protects them.

I am thankful that we still today, I mean 11/26/2021 today, still maintain the balance of power that enables our egalitarian laws to stand, and hope that some new technology won’t kill that balance.

To be picky, the timescale/locations of #23 is way off:

Socrates (Athens= 470–399 BC

Plato (Athens) 423-348 BC

Aristotles (Athens) 384–322 BC

Archimedes (of Syracuse) some 2-3 centuries later 287-212 BC

Euclid (of Alexandria) was active in Alexandria around 300-270 BC

Hyppocrates (of Kos) 470-360 BC

Pytagoras (of Samos) 570–495 BC

Thucydides (Athens) 460-400 BC

Herodotus (of Halicarnassus) 484-425 BC

Aesop (?) 620-564 BC

Solon (Athens) 630-570 BC

Pericles (Athens) 495–429 BC

Aristophanes (Athens) 446-386 BC

Sophocles (Athens) 497-406


>That some unknown miracle blend of circumstances happened to arrive in Athens in 500 BC leading a tiny city of 250k people to produce Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Archimedes, Euclid, Hippocrates, Pythagoras, Thucydides, Herodotus, Aesop, Solon, Pericles, Aristophanes, and Sophocles, and that it might be possible to intentionally recreate such conditions today around the world and spur incredible human flourishing, and why aren’t we working on this?

is more accurately something like:

In the course of several centuries over a vast territory comprising almost all inhabited mediterranean countries some 10-15 people excelled in their fields and many of them happened to live in the main city (and cultural capital) of the area.

Sounds a lot less a miracle, between 630 and 300 BC is three centuries.

Also, the capital of a major economic/military power will usually attract the ambitious people from the surrounding regions. Its equivalent to saying "wow, so many famous actors lived in Hollywood!"

> is more accurately something like:

> In the course of several centuries over a vast territory comprising almost all inhabited mediterranean countries some 10-15 people excelled in their fields and many of them happened to live in the main city (and cultural capital) of the area.

Your restatement excluded what I think is the most interesting part:

>> and that it might be possible to intentionally recreate such conditions today around the world and spur incredible human flourishing, and why aren’t we working on this?

"Why aren't we working on this" seems like a very good question, one that you don't hear very often - "Why don't we even encounter these sorts of questions more often?" might be an interesting sibling question.

Because recreating such conditions isn't possible, basically because such conditions never existed and the idilliac setup the article seems to describe never happened.

The article seemingly conveys (at least to me) the idea that "by miracle" all those famous philosophers, writers and mathematicians were in the same place at the same time (and possibly had coffee or dinner together), this simply never happened.

So, if the idea is about creating brand new conditions (which ones?) capable to create a city/location where - over three centuries - a handful of people, excelling in their field lived, this has already been done, let's say Rome 200 BC - 100 AD, London 1600-1900, i.e. more or less the capitals (administrative and/or cultural) of large empires that lasted several centuries.

My interpretation of the intended meaning[1] of the author was to attempt to reproduce ~conditions conducive to producing this sort of effect.

If you reconsider the idea under this reframing, does it seem like more of a reasonable, "maybe worth a try"-class idea?

[1] where "such conditions" ~= "of the kind, character, quality, or extent"

What about saying that such conditions exists right now in contemporary world. We have great amount of thinkers and scientists and technologists and populists and cult leaders.

All of them producing and moving world forward. It is crowded competition, actually.

Yep, the cynic in me thinks that actually creating the conditions where a dozen people's speculation on stuff dominates discourse for a couple of millenia like the Greek philosophers is less about the quality of speculation, and more about ensuring that not much else of note is written down...

Lots of stuff gets written down nowadays, but so much of it is crap, and most of everything kind of vanishes into the ether of old forum posts as time marches on.

A lot more crap or even super high quality thinking vanished in that era.

Socrates was even refusing to write at all. All we know is what Plato wrote for his own reasons.

I wonder if it would be possible for these people and others to produce in a more collaborative manner, perhaps with a shared roadmap, strategy, etc. To me, it seems at least plausible, what's your take?

Socrates was not particularly collaborative. Lived through dictatorship+revolution led by his students and got killed after. The resentments were real. Quite a few people were tortured and killed in that story of betrayal, revolution, contrarevolution, amnesty and broken amnesty.

Like seriously, it was way more violent and bloody then your average western society now. And we don't even go to regular wars against other cities and don't keep slaves. Neither of those two are collaboration.

And now you can actually become citizen without being born from citizen father.

This difference would be advantageous to us though wouldn't it?

Some of those haven't been reported to sit foot or have much to do with Athens!! At least Archimedes and Pythagoras.. Even Aristotle was a foreigner to Athens, although he learned a lot from his Athenian counterparts! Herodotus wasn't Athenian either!!

That today, thousands of years later, we have managed to retain what those people said or wrote is also a very good reason to be thankful.

Plus, Archimedes not only was from Syracuse (Italy) but flourished under a complete (even if benevolent) monarch.

And Aristippus the inventor of capitalism? :D Or Antisthenes the one I use to see how the mental issues were valued in the past? :D

Also #23 is mostly based on slavery. It's easier to have smart elite when nobody really works

Slavery was widespread.

(7) was driven by the invention of patent law. Expressly royal monopolies on inventing stuff.

(23) is because it's not independent random events. First, Plato literally taught Aristotle and was taught by Socrates. Second, Athens was the capital of an empire (okay, technically a league) so of course the best and brightest descended on Athens.

So, literally like Hollywood attracting actors or SV attracting startups, it's a self-perpetuating cycle.

I'm thankful for existence itself. Sure, it's not always pleasant, but the mere fact that we perceive reality as we do is a fascinating rabbit hole, one that I wish I had discovered decades ago. The subjective experience of existence is one of the big unknowns left in this world, one that I don't think we'll ever truly understand. That's good though, because human curiosity is one of the wonderful, amazing things we have the capability to do (if other Earth-native, non-human sentient beings have similar curiosities, they don't have nearly the ability to explore them, that we know).

I hope everyone who reads this is having a good day today. May you all have fortune and blessing in your lives.

I wish more people were aware that we are likely the only radio-using sapients in a 4'ish light year sphere around us [1] (4.4 ly for a 1MW broadcast, where the most powerful radio transmitter in the world is at 2MW). And that we're roughly in the center of the KBC Void [2], about a billion light years from the nearest "normal" baryonic density of the currently-known universe.

We might not be alone inside the KBC Void, but if we aren't, they and us are on a pretty isolated island of sapients in the currently-known universe.

Sapience is astronomically, vanishingly rare as far as we can tell so far. Some of us treasure it and are thankful for it accordingly. Perceiving reality at the level we do, with the understanding we only scratched an atom of the total surface so far, is both inspiring and humbling at the same time.

[1] https://www.quora.com/How-far-do-radio-signals-travel-into-s...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KBC_Void

Maybe other sides of the universe is teaming with complex life but we live in an isolated island?

My current personal belief is that the universe is currently rife with life on a number of planets, but they're all so far apart that they might as well be the only ones from the perspective of each planet. I feel that it's highly arrogant of humans to presume that "there is no other life in the entire universe, except for Earth".

Yeah if there was nothing at all things would be a bit dull.

There is really something to the idea that despite the daily news and political doomsaying that goes on every day, it's hard for people to remember or celebrate the long progression that we've experienced towards living in the most peaceful, materially prosperous, and positive trajectory time in the history of humanity.

(I think there was a podcast on Hidden Brain about this. Also video like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwKPFT-RioU).

It's really good to periodically think about how much we benefit from, say, the miracles of air conditioning, available infrastructure and cheap travel beyond your town, clean water and air, medicine, vaccines, public health -- and reset what you're grateful for. And stop making every little transgression of modern life feel like a disastrous setback.

But of course it's very unfashionable to point this out when someone's <xyz> cause is being neglected, or is in the news and everyone is outraged. Of course when you make such comparisons you get hissed out of a room for being so callous, because anyone's relative suffering is supposed to be treated with utmost respect. And the short, acute, headline making problems are always louder than the long progression of gradual improvement.

But taken in perspective, by intelligent people who can discuss such things, we've really reached the age of 1% problems. (which are being exposed because our huge disastrous human-generated conflicts, etc. are decreased compared to 100 years ago). Health, social issues, etc. are such luxuries to have problems about now (and glad to have them discovered and debated), but remember how wonderful a time we live in. We aren't generally dying of terrible diseases during childhood, etc. or because of world wars. More people are living longer to experience the wonders of humanity than ever before. Although, things like climate change we'd better allow to rise to the top of our list of problems, soon...

Anyway, definitely very thankful for all these things, and all the daily unsung people who make our humanity's progress possible.

Related: a TED talk by Steven Pinker about his analysis on whether the world is getting better or worse: https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_is_the_world_getting...

didnt he goto that TED talk on epstein's jet? ;)

The bigger issue is that historians and sociologists tend to complain each time he makes sweeping claims about their area of expertise.

"it’s surely better than the light of consciousness vanishing entirely when the sun eats the Earth in 7.5 billion years, no?"

The Earth will lose its oxygen in about 1 billion years and undergo runaway warming in about 1.4 billion years. By the time the Earth is eaten by the Sun (if it is; mass loss by the Sun might prevent this), the Earth will have been sterilized for longer than it has currently existed.

Also, thankful that (despite the timescale for O(1) changes to O2 in the atmosphere being ~10 million years) not once since the Precambrian did O2 levels fall low enough to wipe out vertebrate life.

Although I'm not sure it's really correct to be thankful for effects of observer selection bias.

I think it is perfectly correct. It is a great thing to be an observer and I'm thankful I can be subject to the effects of observer selection bias. :)

This is assuming that humanity or our successor won't do any stellar engineering or starlifting, or moving the Earth for that matter.

I've done a lot of traveling in less developed countries. That has taught me to be thankful for the fact that I live in a house with heat and air conditioning, and hot and cold running water that I can drink without getting sick. Many people in developed countries (especially the U.S.) take these things for granted, but in many parts of the world these are things people only dream of.

Oddly, I regularly think about how great plumbing is, and I've been noticing this for the past 5-10 years, I think (I'm in my 40s).

I think one day I was probably in the shower and thinking about how awesome it was to have a hot shower. Then I started thinking about how great not having to use a "night soil pot" or an outhouse is, especially in hot or cold weather.

I don't think I've spent as much time contemplating the joy of HVAC systems, but I know I've thought about them from time to time.

> I don't think I've spent as much time contemplating the joy of HVAC

You haven't spent enough time in hot, humid climates. Go to Houston in the summer and you will not have to contemplate for long.

I've been there. I've also been to Taiwan in the summer multiple times.

Without air conditioning???

No, fortunately. AC is pretty pervasive there, and my mother-in-law's house has it.

OK, well, try it without AC some time and you will be amazed how quickly you will learn to be thankful for it :-)

Modern plumbing and sanitation is one of those things that’s nearly invisible and taken for granted, but is almost miraculous how well it works most of the time. If I had to choose, I’d rather have a weeklong electric outage than a weeklong water supply disruption, it’s not even close.

> That the FDA, Health Canada, and the European Food Safety Authority all agree that at the doses humans consume, aspartame is perfectly safe—not genotoxic, not carcinogenic, does not cause an insulin spike—or at least has small, unknown harms, meaning that people with a sweet tooth can avoid the large, known harms of sugar with minimal exertion of willpower, and this is still true even though people for some reason seem to reject and despise this extremely lucky fact.

2020 paper published in Cell:

"Short-Term Consumption of Sucralose with, but Not without, Carbohydrate Impairs Neural and Metabolic Sensitivity to Sugar in Humans"


From Huberman Lab (deep link to part where he talks about this):


Takeaway: if you consume artificial sweeteners with foods that increase blood glucose, your brain will learn to secrete insulin in response to artificial sweeteners even when consumed by themselves. So if you drink diet soda all the time with and without snacks - you can throw your insulin regulation system out of whack and even cause pre-diabetes!

Sucralose isn't aspartame...

apparently it applies to all artificial sweeteners, including plant based ones like stevia

"That other animals have more cone cells than humans, e.g. birds with four and shrimp with up to 16, and so probably see colors we can’t even conceive of which, yeah, that limitation of our minds is frustrating, but it also hints that there are huge unseen dark continents of qualia lurking out there which someday we might find a way to visit."

This is based on a misunderstanding regarding the rise of qualia. It is processing power and not sensor capacity or at least both together in some combination with processing power doing the heavy lift. Humans have less cones but several OOM more neurons to make sense of what we have. So no - the shrimp doesn't see in spectacular color.

Experimentally proved:



It's still true that if we had cones outside our current color range we'd have new qualia, even if animals don't.

In 100 years it will probably be possible to genetically engineer humans with more or extended range pigments, which are sensitive to IR / UV.

Or maybe we'll just have bionic hyper-spectral eyes which plug directly into the optical nerve.

…and sadly those humans still won’t be able to describe their experiences in any way we would understand. “It’s just its own color that’s separate from all the others. You know, the color the black lights are”.

Would we? It seems possible that some other sensation could be overloaded as well - ie seeing red where others see only blackness...

I mean, it seems clear we don't have any real consistent definition for qualia. I'd argue that every distinct color you can see is a different qualia, although an argument could be made for a single "color" qualia which takes on different forms.

fair enough. But qualia is the feeling that you get. So presumably, if you were to see "extended red", it would not seem to you - unless you consulted your less fortunate fellow-beings, that there was anything special about this red ...

> Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, “This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!”

Obligatory: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Manga/TheEnigmaOfAmig...

> "This hole...! It was made for me!"

> A short horror manga story by Junji Ito. A boy named Owaki, and a girl, Yoshida, meet on Amigara Mountain, where an unsettling discovery has been made. An earthquake has created a huge fault in the mountain, and human-shaped holes are scattered across the face of the fault line. It soon becomes clear that the holes are "calling" to the people they are shaped like. So what happens when they enter the hole? Well, you can be sure that massive amounts of claustrophobia and Nightmare Fuel are involved.

Imagine if it actually was! That'd be pretty funny I think.

It's all perspective.

> 11. That it happens to be a game-theoretic equilibrium to have a near-equal sex ratio, although honestly, I have no idea what things would be like if that wasn’t the case and maybe it would be fine.

Well, let's think about if this would be fine.

If there were a 10:1 female to male ratio, I think we'd expect that a modern, "civilized" society would be reasonably fine for everyone. There'd probably a lot more polygamy and polyamory than we have now, but the polygamy wouldn't be the "old school backwoods fundamentalist" type, because women would be in charge of the government and effectively make all the laws. I wouldn't be surprised if there were also a requirement that all healthy males donate at the sperm bank once a month from the onset of puberty to age 50 or so. This doesn't seem too onerous.

If there were a 10:1 male to female ratio ... it would be a dystopian hellscape that's makes me shudder just to think of it. Women would have basically no rights. There'd be an incredibly high level of violence. Nearly everyone except the alpha males would be miserable a lot of the time.

Anyway, that's my idea of how things might be like in an extreme scenario. If we're talking 1.1:1 or 1.2:1 either way it might not be a big deal, though I'd expect men outnumbering women to get bad at a surprisingly low ratio, well before even 2:1.

Note that this isn't because I think men are inherently bad and women inherently good. It's simply that nearly everyone has a very strong genetic drive to reproduce. In the world with more women than men, everyone who wants to have a biological child can do so quite easily. In the opposite world, most men cannot do so, which means reproduction is a scarce resource. And we know what humans do in response to a very strong need for a scarce resource.

Wow, this seems like our society needs to control this ratio in the future! We can have more peaceful society if we reduce "men count" to keep ratio above 1:1.1 (male:female) :-)

This is done “accidentally” with major conflicts in history. Post WWII Soviet, for example. Lots more men than women got killed during the war and the post war male:female ratio is (from memory) around 1:1.15

I like this more unusual list of things to be grateful for, as it complements well what one is usually reminded to be grateful for. I'd like a more fundamental point there, though:

Gratefulness seems to be primarily a ternary operator: "<SOMEONE> is grateful to <SOMEONE> for <SOMETHING>." (like "a ? b : c" in C).

That second SOMEONE is the one that the being grateful is directed at, as they are responsible for things being the way they are. (Being grateful to anyone not causally connected to what one is grateful about seems most weird.)

Does that not mean that every grateful person acknowledges God's existence, at least implicitly?

> Does that not mean that every grateful person acknowledges God's existence, at least implicitly?

No. It means that the emotion of gratefulness isn't always a simple reduction to what you have there. Similarly, I think thwave who replied to you is also wrong. The emotion doesn't have to always follow such a simplified framework or be legibly caused. Of course it has to have some causal chain, but I think the legibility could be as opaque as "X is grateful for Y because Z suggested that maybe they should be" where Z didn't have anything to do with Y, Y doesn't necessarily do much for X, and so on. It doesn't make the emotion of gratefulness any less valid. I expect the ways the emotion could come about is varied enough to avoid these simplifications.

Actually, it depends on if there is free will, which by definition is supernatural, else we have as much choice to be grateful as a rock.

Unless gratefulness is actually binary (x is grateful for y), and directing this gratefulness towards someone is completely optional. (One might argue that the object of gratefulness is optional as well, and you can be grateful simpliciter, in an unqualified way. But to them I'd say there's an implied, general, object: the world, life, existence, or something like this.)

> That second SOMEONE is the one that the being grateful is directed at, as they are responsible for things being the way they are. (Being grateful to anyone not causally connected to what one is grateful about seems most weird.)

How does one go about (accurately) decomposing causality in a system this complex and poorly understood though?

This is also good point. Maybe the following paragraph can help. "causes is the two things coming together or being together, which is called ‘association;’ they suppose the two things cause one another. Also, since the non-existence of one thing is the cause of a bounty’s non-existence, they suppose that the thing’s existence is also the cause of the bounty’s existence. They offer their thanks and gratitude to the thing and fall into error. For a bounty’s existence results from all the bounty’s conditions and preliminaries. Whereas the bounty’s non-existence occurs through the non-existence of only a single condition.

For example, someone who does not open the canal to water the garden is the reason and cause of the garden drying up and the non-existence of bounties. But the existence of the garden’s bounties is dependent on hundreds of conditions besides the man’s duty and the bounties come into being through dominical will and power, which are the true cause.

Yes, ‘association’ is one thing and the cause is another. You receive a bounty, but the intention of a person to bestow it on you was the ‘associate’ of the bounty, not the cause. The cause was divine mercy. If the man had not intended to give you the bounty, you would not have received it and it would have been the cause of the bounty’s non-existence. But in consequence of the above rule, the desire to bestow cannot be the cause of the bounty; it can only be one out of hundreds of conditions.... from meaning of Quran "

And a system founded on a complete misunderstanding of the ternary operator

> That second SOMEONE is the one that the being grateful is directed at, as they are responsible for things being the way they are. (Being grateful to anyone not causally connected to what one is grateful about seems most weird.)

It is also common to be grateful to <SOMEONE> for <ATTRIBUTE>. For example, I'm grateful to various people for who they are, by which I mean their worldview, their values, and their personality. Generally speaking, these aspects are not under full control of the individual -- they are the result of a complex interaction of their genetics, their experiences, their intentions, their opportunities, their choices, their habits, and much more.

> Does that not mean that every grateful person acknowledges God's existence, at least implicitly?

I'm not following.

I am thankful haemoglobin can carry so much oxygen without the iron in it turning to rust. Otherwise we wouldnt be able to breathe. Well described here,and i have no affiliation https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/102010332

>25. That evolution happened to settle on this trick of “love” to serve the interests of evolution rather than, like, causing us to feel like we’re being burned alive every time we don’t find mates or feed our kids or whatever

I liked the article but this strikes me as strange because this is clearly not the same for everyone. Depending on who you ask there's a sizeable population of people who, because of environment and genetics, cannot focus on the "love" parts of relationships and are predisposed to focus on fears of abandonment etc to stay in relationships without lots of help and drugs.

Be happy you got a decent dice roll if you regularly feel positive about your relationships, triply so if this "positive affect" guides the majority your life decisions!

I'm grateful to have been born in the good part of the world which allows me to be grateful that we're allowed to sustain our lifestyles thanks to the exploitation of others, and I'm not the exploited one

Yaay! Me too. Wait.. :/

Im thankful for the miracle of modern medicine which has allowed my mother to see so much more of my life than otherwise would've been possible. And though there are many bad things that have led to the situation, the good things still exist also. The extension of the human life may seem strange or counterintuitively painful at the large scale but for the individual human/family is the most important thing about our modern existence.

> That the Earth hasn’t recently been hit by a solar flare as powerful as the 1859 Carrington event

Is anyone thinking about what to do? It's only a matter of time before we have another flare 2X or 3X the magnitude of the Carrington event.

If it really would set power lines alight, there isn’t a hell of a lot you can do aside from going off the grid and having a small warehouse full of electrical wiring.

Emergency and catastrophe planning has to happen at the national level. I would like to see more leaders (especially these days) come into office with ideas about how to recover from catastrophic events quickly.

> Emergency and catastrophe planning has to happen at the national level. I would like to see more leaders (especially these days) come into office with ideas about how to recover from catastrophic events quickly.

Me too. I'm hoping we'll get lucky and a relatively small-scale catastrophic event will occur, demonstrating to us how ill prepared we are both materially and socially/culturally/cognitively/etc, and that lesson will provide the incentive for us to launch a serious project to get our act cleaned up.

And in the event that no political leaders rise to the occasion, I am hoping that normal civilians realize there is a problem and begin seriously discussing the risks we are running, perhaps eventually leading to some sort of a plan that our leaders do not have the ability to formulate, or perhaps even realize we need.

> I'm hoping we'll get lucky and a relatively small-scale catastrophic event will occur ... and that lesson will provide the incentive for us to launch a serious project to get our act cleaned up.

The current pandemic makes me pessimistic regarding this. There is basically no wake up and preparations for a 10%+ mortality virus. And that without discussing where the virus came from...

By what mechanism do they set power lines on fire in a way that it wouldn't set the lines in my house on fire? Is it the power lines themselves or is it just vicious currents being induced in the lines that cause devices plugged on the other end of the power lines to go up in smoke?

If the grid just shut off power for 24 hours until the CME passed would that solve the problem?

I can easily go 24 hours without power, but not months.

My understanding is that the flare will induce currents in the sub-station transformers, and this is the big problem. Not sure if disconnecting them helps to prevent damage.

Hopefully our satellites are there to detect it and hopefully the world reacts quick enough to shut down the power grid. Would still be horrible, but there are mitigations.

Most items are speculative, subjective or even historically inaccurate.

Maybe that's why I found this article kind of weird or off-putting. A lot of these things, if they happened or didn't happen, would have meant I wouldn't be alive and thus I wouldn't know to be unhappy about it.

Many things we are traditionally thankful fit the same criteria. I'm thankful for my business partner who I may never have met under different circumstances. Just because something could not have been, doesn't mean you can't be thankful it did.

Thankfulness as an end is not necessarily valuable or positive. I think the associated feeling does little to the make the world a better place, I put it in the same category as remorse.

Just as remorse should lead to rectifying action, thankfulness should lead to reciprocal action to provide objective value.

What's interesting is the impetus between internal perception and outward action both share is a sense of indebtedness. Thankfulness becomes a passive accumulation of debt in this lens, whereas remorse casts our hero in a more active role.

I think also actions spawned from thankfulness will be more comedic [dynamic] in nature and whereas those from remorse will tend toward the tragic [static]. The efficacy of either approach will reflect the constraints of the systems they are acting within and how well conceived the individual's solution is.

Not sure where I'm going with this. Spitballing, not preaching ...

I think thankfulness is more of a tool to be used to counter act nihilism. That's why it can be useful. not on its own, but as a buttress against despair.

I think this very good point. There is an undeniably good vibe to it. Maybe something akin to a general faith?

>Thankfulness as an end is not necessarily valuable or positive.

I strongly disagree. I moved to a new city and the experience allowed me to truly appropriate all the things I have. My living situation only improved slightly but being thankful has massively improved my mental health.

> Thankfulness as an end is not necessarily valuable or positive.

Yes it is; it makes me feel good.

If the inherent value is solipsistic and self-justifying, then it is more likely to be detrimental to the overall system. This would make it a net negative.

I'm thankful for my kiddos, single dad full time for years and after the alternative i wouldn't have it any other way. I've got a shock of white now because of them though :D I couldn't be more thankful. And I'm gonna stay single until they grow up so they know beyond a doubt how important they are.

Hot shower in the morning.

Think about it; how many of your ancestors did have the option of having a hot shower every morning. Think about the labor involved!

"Oh, and also that the universe exists at all"

That's the one to keep coming back to. Could've been nothin.

Some, like Stephen Wolfram, say that the universe must exists, that non-existance is not possible.


On the other hand, nothingness has no cause or means for suffering.

Which comes back to #19:

> That even if, as most scientific-minded people seem to assume, there is no afterlife, that’s not ideal, but is much better than other possibilities like, say, being tortured for eternity.

Like, we could all be a bunch of Boltzmann brains[1] popping into existence in an empty universe, writhing with unimaginable pain in every pseudo-neuron of our temporary brains. But it's not like that, at least yet. Which is pretty cool.

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

There is no "we" that could be like that if it's boltzmann brains all the way down. It could very well be mostly unimaginable agony that exists, it's just that the temporary boltzmann configuration of "posting a thought on HN as a human with human memories" happens to not be a part of that.

I'm thankful that the freak accident of multicellular life happened, possibly once ever, billions of years ago.[1] The near impossibility of that momentous event happening could be The Great Filter that explains the Fermi Paradox.[2] Thanks for being here, fellow multicellular friends.

[1] (Start at 2:15) https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab/articles/cellm...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox

When we understand that life is an opportunity rather than a given, it really changes our perspective on life.

I’m thankful for every HN user and moderator who helps remove political or mean comments.

#5 is actually pretty amazing if you think about it

If zero-calorie sweeteners didn't exist I feel like we would view discovering one as a holy grail/miracle drug

I bet a ton of obesity has been prevented just due to diet soda

Imagine if the same thing existed for carbs

I wonder why #5 singles out aspartame though.

That's really weird. I'm not thankful for aspartame or other sweeteners, and even less thankful for corrupt food agencies approving them. Refined sugars aren't healthy, but aspartame isn't a solution. In my household, a kilogram of sugar lasts for months if not a year. Yes, we do buy food with added sugar, but always avoid artificial sweeteners, except when they are unavoidable in drugs or food supplements. I'm 192cm 75kg in early 40s and just occasionally ride a bike or take a walk.

#5 is like: I'm thankful that you can smoke a cigarette and not die immediatelly of it.

What science are you basing that on?

> When your body processes aspartame, part of it is broken down into methanol.

Which is also found in citrus fruits.

Do you think those are unhealthy too?

> Aspartame is one of the most rigorously tested food ingredients.[5] Reviews by over 100 governmental regulatory bodies found the ingredient safe for consumption at current levels.[6][7][8][9][10] As of 2018, several reviews of clinical trials showed that using aspartame in place of sugar reduces calorie intake and body weight in adults and children.


I'm basing it on common sense: don't take anything artificial if you don't have to.

The same science claimed that DDT is safe, eating sugar is good, mRNA vaccines are safe, etc.

Because its the most famous/infamous and is the most studied.

I actually wondered why the industrial revolution didn't happen in China, great to see one possible explanation menioned in the article [1].

Does anybody know other theories about this?

[1] https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2017/03/book3.htm

Armchair philosopher - From my reading, it appears that the corporation structure really took stronghold in Europe, giving huge incentives to tinkers and risk takers.

That, and the collapse of Dutch East India outposts to British East India company opened up access to new trade. Resources from the new world also jumpstarted the process. It was the perfect combo of corporate incentives and unrestricted access to global resources that propelled people to wealthier lives and thus, higher level of productivity (you can spend years researching on steam engines if you don't have to spend your life farming). This is exactly the state of America since after WW2, if you were to compare.

In comparison, China was not handed any colonies, lacked the corporation structure and was caught up in dynastic infighting. There was no new world to extract resources from and almost certainly wasn't united the way it is today.

No systemic incentive structure and inability to access global resources left people in poverty or produced little in the way of innovation.

There's a very good book that goes into it (and other things) by Ian Morris - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Why_the_West_Rules%E2%80%94For...

I assume the intent of that item is to be thankful that the industrial revolution happened at all, not that it happened in England specifically.

Personal opinion: same reason why it didn't take off in ancient Greece (steam engine was invented back then) , no shortage of cheap labor.

There’s an argument to be made that the Black Death broke Europe (or especially Britain) out of a local minimum, by killing off labor. This reduced the necessary rate of return to physical capital and innovation. (Why invest in an iron plow, when you can just set more serfs to the task with wooden ones?) and ultimately this planted the seeds of the industrial revolution.

though Hero’s engine is a steam engine, it is practically useless as anything besides a curiosity and certainly could not have powered an industrial revolution

Yes, but I am confident if there would have been demand, they would have improved on it. It can open temple doors so I do not think it is too far away from a useful machine.

I'd recommend guns germs and steel by Diamond if you're interested in such thoughts. He doesn't cover china, but the book is basically about this topic. Nice easy read, recommended if you've got time to kill over the holidays.

Same reason it didn't happen in the Gupta Empire in India

This is clearly an idealistic approach. A materialistic view is better explained in Fernand Braudel's "Civilization and Capitalism, 15th–18th Century".

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