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« Singularity Blogging Elsewhere | Main | Singularity Summit Summary »

May 13, 2006


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Joseph Knech

You Said:

"The confusion between cause and correlation comes from the suggestion that people as a whole are less happy today because of advanced technology. There seems to be no real evidence for this."

You weren't listening very well to what Bill McKibben said. He did not state or imply that advanced technology has caused greater unhappiness. His main point was not about technology per se, but about community vs. hyper-individualism (which underlies US culture especially).

His primary point, as I heard it -- though Ray seemed to completely not get this at all -- is that more than just talking about technological progress, we need to ask and continue to ask the more fundamental question of "to what end?".

Implicit in Ray's vision is the assumption, which he nowhere discusses explicitly, that more technology is inevitably better, and that happiness and human flourishing will be the inevitable consequence.

Bill McKibben asked us to be a little more reflective and to ask whether this is necessarily the case, and how we might explain that so few people now are genuinely happy in this most prosperous of all ages.



I think people like Bill McKibben are WAY off base in their criticisms. As long I go to, say a restaraunt, and see old people and think, "I am likely to become like that", then technological progress is going way too slow, especially in biotechnology. Bill has valid points in the issue of "community vs anarchy". However, what he has to realize is that any concept of community, as with any form of interpersoanl relationships, is based on free association. We associate with the people we like to be with and do not associate with those we don't feel we have anything in common with. The key here is that all fulfilling interpersonal relationships must be VOLANTARY. Bill McKibben seems uncomfortable with this notion.

In any case, having a finite lifespan, with age and decay thrown in, limits our ability to live the lives we want and to see the associations with other that we desire. It is a real impediment to free living.

I say lets cure aging, secure for ourselves the open, limitless futures that we deserve, then we can debate social associations to our hearts' content.


Re: BMcKibben & Happiness. Unhappiness can be a powerful and constructive force. Happiness can be a dangerous narcotic - lulling us into sleep - and sleep can be another form of denial. Would you say that relief of physical pain and suffering is relative? Technological change is a means to evolve toward some mechanical like end state. Can it be anything more than that? Should it be more than that? I believe it can - but only if we make it so. For that to happen we need to be awake!

Chris Phoenix, CRN

There are lots of positive emotions: happiness, joy, excitement, contentment; they all seem to be lumped under "happiness." Some of them are lulling, and some of them are energizing.

Yes, unhappiness can be very powerful and get a lot done. Just ask any torturer. Conversely, I don't get up in the morning because of fear of physical pain.

In middle-class 21st century America, I don't expect to feel noteworthy pain on any given day. Likewise, if I expected that I was not going to experience unhappiness tomorrow, that would not reduce my motivation. Maybe some days I'd seek joy; others, fulfillment; and some days I might choose to wallow in contentment.

I don't see any of those positive emotions as addictive. In fact, last I heard, addiction is promoted by a diminished capacity to feel pleasure.


Phillip Huggan

Technologically induced happy brain states are fine with me. They may be psycologically addictive like cannibas, but as long as they don't mimic the physiological properties of say heroin, I think it will be a positive influence to our qualities-of-living. Maybe people who play the videogame-narcotic of the future should have to pass a cursory pysch test and obtain a Driver's License-like document.


Any details or links for the podcast/videocast? I haven't been able to find anything about it.


Michael Rudolf

Regarding Bill Mckibbon's comment to "slow down", one has to wonder how he could enforce such an idea, noble and inviting as it might be.

Personally, I think that our ultimate "protection" from future distopia's would be for as many of us as possible to participate in the process, thus providing the greatest diversity of ideas and actions.

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