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Author Topic: RE: But don't kid yourself, Atlas. Everyone gives a fuck. - Life and Humanity  (Read 3939 times)
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March 09, 2011, 05:13:22 AM
 #21

It would be nice if I could draw others in on this topic as well since I intend to spend quite a bit of time on this, so I'll insert a comment to you here too, JohnDoe.  Your paragraph here may be true in form, but in practice irrelevant.  What if no one is truly useless?
Sure, now that I think about it, it may be possible to extract usefulness from anyone. But the problem persists because many are unwilling to give me something of value in exchange for the thing I'm giving to them, effectively choosing to be useless, or worse, parasites.
Very resource-minded, aren't you.  But what if it wasn't a matter of them giving you something, and instead a matter of you learning something from or about them?  Humans are information beings--once basic needs are met material resources are significantly less valuable than information.  So in this case we are considering, for example, the natural resource of compiled life experience.  It's books you want to have in the library, specifically because you haven't read them yet.  As just one example, though of course there are more.

When I give a beggar some money there is a net loss to civilization because I'm encouraging the beggar to keep on begging. He has no incentive to work hard and produce something of value because he now knows that he can just sit down and get free money. The problem intensifies when I'm required by law to give more money to the beggar so he can have good health care and education, as now both of us are discouraged from producing anything. Why would I work hard if what I earn is going to be taken from me to distribute to others? Taking this to the extreme, where everyone is obligated to help others, would ultimately destroy civilization, as producing value is punished and freeloading is rewarded. The solution, then, is to not help that beggar. If nobody helps him then he is forced to produce something of value, or else he faces death. Whatever his fate (getting off his ass and producing or dying and not being able to leech anymore), it will be a net gain for civilization.
Uhmmm....which beggar?  You see, I would never assume that I could somehow predetermine complex behaviour of yours simply by such a primitive input as +cash.  Why does this entire class of imaginary people then get that treatment?  Seems pretty dehumanising.  When I think of my friends, and the circumstances under which I would or would not give them money, it's a pretty complex picture.  For some of them, under certain circumstances, it would be very unwise to do.  For others, in other situations, it seems like a pretty good idea.  For myself, I think that in general someone giving me more money would allow me to accomplish more of the projects on my wish list a.k.a. enable me to be more productive, since there are many productive things I wish to do but don't currently have the resources for.

When you take this to the societal level, there are also a lot of other things to consider here.  In a legal system, for example, pretty much no matter how you construct it you are looking for some kind of balance between creating consequences for anti-social behaviour and your wrongful conviction rate--the higher you set the standard of proof for guilt, the less innocent people you'll convict, and the more guilty people will go free.  Many factors will determine what you consider to be the ideal equilibrium.  Similarly with publicly funded healthcare and education, there will be a balance between the returned value to society of those who simply lacked the resources and opportunity to become as productive as they wanted to be, and those on whom resources were wasted because they ultimately provided no more value to society than they would have otherwise.  I don't see anything as simplistic as what you're suggesting here, though--the question of which equilibria optimise for different criteria is a complex empirical one with a lot of factors to account for.

In any case, I don't aim to advance a particular solution here to the general question of how best to care about other people.  I have many thoughts in specific areas of my own expertise, but I would save those for another thread.  Instead, I aim simply to demonstrate that there are objective reasons to care in the first place.  Having decided to care, I assume anyone would simply care as optimally as they knew how based on their information.
TLDR: If you sacrifice yourself to help others you are insane and hate life. In fact, you may be a cultist of the Church of Maximum Entropy and are trying to ensure that the heat death of the universe happens.
You have not advanced any significant arguments that could support this bald assertion.  It is trivial to construct situations where self-sacrificing behaviour is of universal benefit--the question in real life is more often as to which situation we actually find ourselves in.  I aim to demonstrate that our particular situation as humans is one that provides ample reason to care about the lives and circumstances of others.  Having done so, it will become pretty clear that we return to the question of what the best way is to do this, and this is heavily empirical in nature.  Still, it's difficult to construe such a position as one that is "insane and hates life".

As a personal aside, it's one thing to post unsupported generalisations on the internet--that's practically written into the manual.  But in real life I sincerely doubt you could have spent a day working alongside Mother Theresa and then said this to her face.  And I don't mean just because of the social taboo.  I mean that there's a lot of relevant information here that you'd be pretty bluntly confronted with if you really brought this down to brass tacks.  It's in this later sense that I think this conversation can be of actual value--in the sense of what you actually have to go out and live in the world, rather than just making sweeping claims about nonexistent characters in your mind.  Actually caring about other people is life-changing, frequently for both parties.

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March 09, 2011, 05:49:26 AM
 #22

It is not sacrifice to give what you want to give.

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March 09, 2011, 08:00:04 AM
 #23

It is not sacrifice to give what you want to give.
That depends quite a bit on how much you want to give.

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March 09, 2011, 10:28:55 AM
 #24

OK: Here's how I look at this:

1. You are morally obligated to not cause suffering.
2. You are not morally obligated to relieve suffering.
3. No man is entirely an island. To attempt to ignore the widespread network of interrelations that is the human condition is foolish. (just read I, pencil, if you doubt me)
4. No man should be an island. This interrelation is what makes mankind so strong. Each person can specialize, and even a poor specialist is able to work more efficiently than an excellent generalist.

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March 09, 2011, 10:49:46 AM
 #25

even a poor specialist is able to work more efficiently than an excellent generalist.

Argue this false statement to me.
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March 09, 2011, 11:55:23 AM
 #26

even a poor specialist is able to work more efficiently than an excellent generalist.

Argue this counterintuitive statement to me.
fix'd.

I have since misplaced the text that explained the concept to me, so I will attempt to explain it from memory. Any errors are mine.

Lets say we have two yard workers, Jorge and Bill.

Jorge is an excellent yard worker, and advertises that he will mow lawns, trim trees, and trim hedges. For Jorge, who is awesome at what he does, mowing a lawn takes only 10 minutes, as does trimming hedges, while the trees take 20.

Bill is a beginner, and only advertises mowing lawns. He is horrible, and mowing a lawn takes 30 minutes for him.

Bill does one yard for every thirty minutes of work. Jorge takes 40 minutes per yard. over the course of the 8-hour day, Jorge mows only 12 yards, while Bill completes 16. If Jorge and Bill work together, Bill specializing on mowing, and Jorge doing the trees and hedges, they can together, complete 16 lawns.

When bill achieves the same proficiency as Jorge, and can mow a lawn in 10 min, Jorge can further specialize, doing only hedges, by hiring someone who can trim a tree in 10 minutes.

So, a good specialist will outperform a bad specialist, but even a bad specialist out performs a generalist of any ability, in the field that he specializes in.


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March 09, 2011, 12:12:44 PM
 #27

You should check out a program called 'Connections' by James Burke (it's free on youtube). He's a famous science historian.

But that's wrong for the simple fact that innovativity comes from creativity, and creativity is the ability to draw on wide disparate sources of knowledge- often from different fields. What you said was maybe true of the society 100 years (even 50 years) ago during the industrial age, but less so today. Narrow minded people lack the ability to see the bigger picture due to their proverbial tunnel vision.

Today generalists are more important than ever in the age of the knowledge workers.
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March 09, 2011, 12:27:20 PM
 #28

Today generalists are more important than ever in the age of the knowledge workers.

 more important != more efficient.

Just try and get a degree in "science".

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March 09, 2011, 01:42:56 PM
 #29

When it comes to this point of the argument, I lose all sense of direction. As a nihilist, this is like arguing why the sky should be green.
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March 09, 2011, 01:54:48 PM
 #30

Lets say we have two yard workers, Jorge and Bill.

Jorge is an excellent yard worker, and advertises that he will mow lawns, trim trees, and trim hedges. For Jorge, who is awesome at what he does, mowing a lawn takes only 10 minutes, as does trimming hedges, while the trees take 20.

Bill is a beginner, and only advertises mowing lawns. He is horrible, and mowing a lawn takes 30 minutes for him.

Bill does one yard for every thirty minutes of work. Jorge takes 40 minutes per yard. over the course of the 8-hour day, Jorge mows only 12 yards, while Bill completes 16. If Jorge and Bill work together, Bill specializing on mowing, and Jorge doing the trees and hedges, they can together, complete 16 lawns.

so, jorge and bill complete 16 lawns, while jorge and another jorge complete 24 lawns. worst example ever.

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March 09, 2011, 02:38:14 PM
 #31

Lets say we have two yard workers, Jorge and Bill.

Jorge is an excellent yard worker, and advertises that he will mow lawns, trim trees, and trim hedges. For Jorge, who is awesome at what he does, mowing a lawn takes only 10 minutes, as does trimming hedges, while the trees take 20.

Bill is a beginner, and only advertises mowing lawns. He is horrible, and mowing a lawn takes 30 minutes for him.

Bill does one yard for every thirty minutes of work. Jorge takes 40 minutes per yard. over the course of the 8-hour day, Jorge mows only 12 yards, while Bill completes 16. If Jorge and Bill work together, Bill specializing on mowing, and Jorge doing the trees and hedges, they can together, complete 16 lawns.

so, jorge and bill complete 16 lawns, while jorge and another jorge complete 24 lawns. worst example ever.

And Jorge, bill, and the third guy, whom we'll call carlos, can complete a staggering 48 yards.

Without someone waiting around for the other guy to finish, as would happen with Jorge x2.

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March 09, 2011, 03:42:32 PM
 #32

I know, it's bullshit, right? In today's world where economy is a zero sum game, we need to edge out our competitors. Crush all other countries. Jealously guard our innovations to maximise profit. Close the sourcecode. We need a strong eugenics program to allow the weak to die off (all scientists are super healthy after all). Anybody that can't afford healthcare- tough luck! Since most of you are poor, the majority of you will be in bad health and unable to work- hah!

Dinosaur from the 40s.

Apparently choosing not to give something for nothing is a form of aggression now. How dare I refuse to give my money to some random person I've never met huh? My refusal is equivalent to stabbing that poor person in the eye! Shame on me.

Crush all other countries? I'm against countries, they require law to be maintained and I'm against law.

Jealously guard innovations? Against patents too.

Close the source code? I'm in favor of open source as it is a superior form of software development. I would not consider opening the source code to my program an act of altruism because I would be getting valuable things in return, like other people's contributions to improve the code, trust in the code, satisfaction, attention, praise and maybe even donations.

Eugenics? Against that too. If the weak are too weak to survive then there is no need for a program anyway. If they keep on living then I guess they weren't weak to begin with.

Healthcare: So just by being poor you automagically have bad health and are unable to perform any work huh? Nigga please, what world do you live in? You seriously overestimate the amount of energy required to perform work. Most of them don't work because they are lazy, not because they can't. It is way easier for them to demand to the government to steal more money from the productive to give to them than to go out and work hard. Also, from the people who seriously can't work, 99% of them have bad health because of lifestyle choices. Should I be punished because they chose to spend their money on junk food, booze and crack?


Very resource-minded, aren't you.  But what if it wasn't a matter of them giving you something, and instead a matter of you learning something from or about them?  Humans are information beings--once basic needs are met material resources are significantly less valuable than information.  So in this case we are considering, for example, the natural resource of compiled life experience.  It's books you want to have in the library, specifically because you haven't read them yet.  As just one example, though of course there are more.

When I talk about getting something in return I'm not referring only to material things, I'm talking about anything that can be of value to me, information included. If I can obtain a learning experience from someone in return for my help then I'm not sacrificing myself for that person, it is a trade where both parties are benefited.


When I think of my friends, and the circumstances under which I would or would not give them money, it's a pretty complex picture.  For some of them, under certain circumstances, it would be very unwise to do.  For others, in other situations, it seems like a pretty good idea. 

Giving money to friends is not a sacrifice. It is different than giving money to a random stranger because you are getting something in return, namely maintaining the friendship and an implied return favor that you can claim at a later time.

For myself, I think that in general someone giving me more money would allow me to accomplish more of the projects on my wish list a.k.a. enable me to be more productive, since there are many productive things I wish to do but don't currently have the resources for.

...Similarly with publicly funded healthcare and education, there will be a balance between the returned value to society of those who simply lacked the resources and opportunity to become as productive as they wanted to be, and those on whom resources were wasted because they ultimately provided no more value to society than they would have otherwise.  I don't see anything as simplistic as what you're suggesting here, though--the question of which equilibria optimise for different criteria is a complex empirical one with a lot of factors to account for.

That's what lending is for. If you are sure that you'll be able to become more productive if I give you some of my capital then you should have no problem returning it later with some added interest. Same goes for people demanding free health care and education in order to get equal opportunities. But obviously they don't want to borrow, they want free money because they think they are entitled to it, just because they are of the Homo Sapiens species.

As a personal aside, it's one thing to post unsupported generalisations on the internet--that's practically written into the manual.  But in real life I sincerely doubt you could have spent a day working alongside Mother Theresa and then said this to her face.

Mother Teresa was just as egoist as me and the rest of the world. She worked in the slums for half a century in exchange for going to heaven and probably self satisfaction. She was getting something of value out of it, so it wasn't a sacrifice.
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March 09, 2011, 04:24:37 PM
 #33

Yup. "because it's the right thing to do" translates as "because it makes me feel good"

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March 09, 2011, 05:02:49 PM
 #34

When it comes to this point of the argument, I lose all sense of direction. As a nihilist, this is like arguing why the sky should be green.
what are you referring to, Atlas?

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March 09, 2011, 05:29:19 PM
 #35

Yup. "because it's the right thing to do" translates as "because it makes me feel good"

Not sure if sarcastic or not so I can't respond.
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March 09, 2011, 05:30:28 PM
 #36

http://www.amazon.com/Virtue-Selfishness-Signet-Ayn-Rand/dp/0451163931

This thread right now.
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March 09, 2011, 05:34:15 PM
 #37

Yup. "because it's the right thing to do" translates as "because it makes me feel good"

Not sure if sarcastic or not so I can't respond.

Not.

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March 09, 2011, 05:43:05 PM
 #38

Healthcare: So just by being poor you automagically have bad health and are unable to perform any work huh? Nigga please, what world do you live in? You seriously overestimate the amount of energy required to perform work. Most of them don't work because they are lazy, not because they can't. It is way easier for them to demand to the government to steal more money from the productive to give to them than to go out and work hard. Also, from the people who seriously can't work, 99% of them have bad health because of lifestyle choices. Should I be punished because they chose to spend their money on junk food, booze and crack?
Read more of these books.

When I talk about getting something in return I'm not referring only to material things, I'm talking about anything that can be of value to me, information included. If I can obtain a learning experience from someone in return for my help then I'm not sacrificing myself for that person, it is a trade where both parties are benefited.
If you read a book, is that a trade between you and the book?  Or its author, or its publisher?  What type of contract did you have with your parents to raise you?  Did you fully repay their investment?   Have you refunded the universe its increased entropy for your existence?  Who do you pay when you enjoy a sunset?  What are you getting out of this conversation?  Not everything in life is commerce.

Giving money to friends is not a sacrifice. It is different than giving money to a random stranger because you are getting something in return, namely maintaining the friendship and an implied return favor that you can claim at a later time.
A friend is going away and you will never see them again.  No parting gift?

That's what lending is for. If you are sure that you'll be able to become more productive if I give you some of my capital then you should have no problem returning it later with some added interest. Same goes for people demanding free health care and education in order to get equal opportunities. But obviously they don't want to borrow, they want free money because they think they are entitled to it, just because they are of the Homo Sapiens species.
There are other types of productivity.  Most of the projects I had in mind wouldn't yield any income, which is why I can't take out a loan to do them.  Lots of people's life work never ends up on the balance book, and would never be accepted as payment on a loan.

As a personal aside, it's one thing to post unsupported generalisations on the internet--that's practically written into the manual.  But in real life I sincerely doubt you could have spent a day working alongside Mother Theresa and then said this to her face.

Mother Teresa was just as egoist as me and the rest of the world. She worked in the slums for half a century in exchange for going to heaven and probably self satisfaction. She was getting something of value out of it, so it wasn't a sacrifice.
It's always interesting to me when ultracapitalists create this kind of equivocation on sacrifice or selflessness.  Don't get me wrong, it's fully necessary to make your viewpoint hold any kind of cogency, but it also creates this miraculous loopy truism where anything anybody does must ultimately have already been selfish.   So isn't it fair to say that everyone throughout history has already been following your proposed philosophy, and it has no implications for our further action like mine does?  You can't rail against selflessness if it doesn't exist--pick a definition for it (any definition!) and then we can continue the conversation.  I do have a suggestion, though--for most people selflessness is behaviour optimised for the benefit of others at the potential expense of my benefit or desires; while selfishness is behaviour optimised for the benefit of myself at the potential expense of others' benefits and desires.

Which all kind of brings us back to the question I actually asked--at the end of a day with her, would you have turned to her and told her she is insane and hates life?

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March 09, 2011, 05:47:15 PM
 #39

Yup. "because it's the right thing to do" translates as "because it makes me feel good"
Not sure if sarcastic or not so I can't respond.
Not.
This is a perfectly satisfactory way to develop these topics imho, though it's not how I do it.  I aim to present the argument to a person's conscience--whether they decide to respond in conscience or not is up to them.  I would suggest, however, that there are significant consequences to suppressing one's conscience, and I don't mean just for other people.

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March 09, 2011, 05:51:43 PM
 #40

I'm afraid I only ever suffered through The Fountainhead--the arrogance was too stifling for me.  Ignoring other conversations here, though, what's your reaction when you read my post?

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