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Happiness: Transhumanism vs Hedonic Treadmill

FREEDO
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8/9/2013 4:16:33 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
This is both a Philosophy and Science topic.

A concept I have often put forward in these forums is the idea of the Hedonic Treadmill, in different variations. It suggests that humans have a basic position of happiness that we always return to. This can be applied on an individual or collective level. With the individual, neither the best of days or worst of days will last forever. On the collective, humans seem to display the same sort of satisfaction with life, even over the many years of scientific and political progress. Across different lands as well; the Ethiopian suffers from hunger and the American suffers from depression. It seems humans always find new ways to struggle when we figure out how to get over the old ways.

This is why I have said, if we want to find fulfillment in our lives, we should not be so concerned with the many labels we give ourselves, be they religious, political, philosophical, cultural or any other convoluted thing. Rather, we should turn our focus inwards, to better understand ourselves and what it means to truly be alive.

However, I've been entertaining another idea. What if this is not a static condition? What if it can be changed?--with science. The Transhumanists contend that the human brain itself can be altered with science, as to essentially create a new species, living in bliss.

This is not necessarily contrary to the Hedonic Treadmill. Some psychologists who have studied the phenomenon suggest that our "set point" is largely determined by our genes and not by any quality inherent in happiness.

I love the idea of Transhumanism because it reinforces my lack of concern for ideology in fixing the world's problems. The only thing we needed all long was time. We go through a traumatic growing process, strife with trouble, but eventually we get there and the bliss that follows will forever out-way the cost.

But I'm not entirely convinced. It has me wondering if there is something fundamental about the perception of "happiness" that we have misunderstood. Perhaps we'll develop the absolute ability to tinker with every neuron and gene we have, to mimic what we think endless pleasure looks like. But then, out of this, arises a new issue that we never could have understood before. Ecstasy is balanced out with a new existential boredom. No longer are we struggling. Can we really understand what kind of affect this will have on the human psyche? Our struggles have always defined us. We take pride in the pain we go through. What if pleasure is only pleasure when we can compare it to non-pleasure?

What do you think? Can humans beat the game? Or should we stop being so concerned with winning and just enjoy playing it?
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fnord
Homosapien
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8/9/2013 4:58:07 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 4:16:33 AM, FREEDO wrote:
This is both a Philosophy and Science topic.

A concept I have often put forward in these forums is the idea of the Hedonic Treadmill, in different variations. It suggests that humans have a basic position of happiness that we always return to. This can be applied on an individual or collective level. With the individual, neither the best of days or worst of days will last forever. On the collective, humans seem to display the same sort of satisfaction with life, even over the many years of scientific and political progress. Across different lands as well; the Ethiopian suffers from hunger and the American suffers from depression. It seems humans always find new ways to struggle when we figure out how to get over the old ways.

This is why I have said, if we want to find fulfillment in our lives, we should not be so concerned with the many labels we give ourselves, be they religious, political, philosophical, cultural or any other convoluted thing. Rather, we should turn our focus inwards, to better understand ourselves and what it means to truly be alive.

However, I've been entertaining another idea. What if this is not a static condition? What if it can be changed?--with science. The Transhumanists contend that the human brain itself can be altered with science, as to essentially create a new species, living in bliss.

This is not necessarily contrary to the Hedonic Treadmill. Some psychologists who have studied the phenomenon suggest that our "set point" is largely determined by our genes and not by any quality inherent in happiness.

I love the idea of Transhumanism because it reinforces my lack of concern for ideology in fixing the world's problems. The only thing we needed all long was time. We go through a traumatic growing process, strife with trouble, but eventually we get there and the bliss that follows will forever out-way the cost.

But I'm not entirely convinced. It has me wondering if there is something fundamental about the perception of "happiness" that we have misunderstood. Perhaps we'll develop the absolute ability to tinker with every neuron and gene we have, to mimic what we think endless pleasure looks like. But then, out of this, arises a new issue that we never could have understood before. Ecstasy is balanced out with a new existential boredom. No longer are we struggling. Can we really understand what kind of affect this will have on the human psyche? Our struggles have always defined us. We take pride in the pain we go through. What if pleasure is only pleasure when we can compare it to non-pleasure?

What do you think? Can humans beat the game? Or should we stop being so concerned with winning and just enjoy playing it?

Hello FREEDO,

Firstly sir, a good well written post in my opinion, a marvellous way to address a topic that can become solipsistic very quickly. Perhaps some sources might be welcomed.

My knee jerk reaction may well be that this is by nature a topic that correctly belongs in the philosophical section, particularly with the underline Buddhism and Zen connotations (source 1) of discovery of the self through reflection and contemplation with the removal of "labels".

Which brings me nicely onto yin-yang which I notice features in your profile picture, Happiness, is something of itself hard to define, let"s take a standard dictionary definition for the purposes of this post (source 2) included is contentment, arguably a key principle of happiness would be the absence of unhappiness, distress or the base emotion of fear.

Well if we cannot define happiness without at least referring to the absence of its opposite as a prior condition then how can only happiness exist without its counterpart.

In summary I much prefer your concluding statement, enjoy the game. I might even argue that part of happiness is having something with which to struggle against, something to strive for in the name of human solidarity and progress, even if we do not know what the ultimate goal is, neither did our ancestors, but I am glad they tried, so we must do out utmost to provide a better world for our descendants, therein perhaps we don't find happiness ourselves, but we lay its foundations for the future.

Best Regards,
Ben

Source 1:
http://www.selffoundation.com...

Source 2:
https://www.google.co.uk...
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AnDoctuir
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8/9/2013 2:07:19 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I personally am fast coming to believe that it's our worrying that's killing us. I can almost envision our reverting back to the state we were supposedly in during the time of the Garden of Eden. It's as simple as letting go, I think. Your worst fears will come to pass and so best not to have any!!
AlbinoBunny
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8/9/2013 2:23:13 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 4:16:33 AM, FREEDO wrote:
This is both a Philosophy and Science topic.

A concept I have often put forward in these forums is the idea of the Hedonic Treadmill, in different variations. It suggests that humans have a basic position of happiness that we always return to. This can be applied on an individual or collective level. With the individual, neither the best of days or worst of days will last forever. On the collective, humans seem to display the same sort of satisfaction with life, even over the many years of scientific and political progress. Across different lands as well; the Ethiopian suffers from hunger and the American suffers from depression. It seems humans always find new ways to struggle when we figure out how to get over the old ways.

This is why I have said, if we want to find fulfillment in our lives, we should not be so concerned with the many labels we give ourselves, be they religious, political, philosophical, cultural or any other convoluted thing. Rather, we should turn our focus inwards, to better understand ourselves and what it means to truly be alive.

However, I've been entertaining another idea. What if this is not a static condition? What if it can be changed?--with science. The Transhumanists contend that the human brain itself can be altered with science, as to essentially create a new species, living in bliss.

This is not necessarily contrary to the Hedonic Treadmill. Some psychologists who have studied the phenomenon suggest that our "set point" is largely determined by our genes and not by any quality inherent in happiness.

I love the idea of Transhumanism because it reinforces my lack of concern for ideology in fixing the world's problems. The only thing we needed all long was time. We go through a traumatic growing process, strife with trouble, but eventually we get there and the bliss that follows will forever out-way the cost.

But I'm not entirely convinced. It has me wondering if there is something fundamental about the perception of "happiness" that we have misunderstood. Perhaps we'll develop the absolute ability to tinker with every neuron and gene we have, to mimic what we think endless pleasure looks like. But then, out of this, arises a new issue that we never could have understood before. Ecstasy is balanced out with a new existential boredom. No longer are we struggling. Can we really understand what kind of affect this will have on the human psyche? Our struggles have always defined us. We take pride in the pain we go through. What if pleasure is only pleasure when we can compare it to non-pleasure?

What do you think? Can humans beat the game? Or should we stop being so concerned with winning and just enjoy playing it?

Would we work as hard and play as hard if we were always happy? Would our ability to survive diminish? Would our problem-solving nature diminish?
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FREEDO
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8/9/2013 6:56:25 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 4:58:07 AM, Homosapien wrote:
Well if we cannot define happiness without at least referring to the absence of its opposite as a prior condition then how can only happiness exist without its counterpart.

This could, however, be an issue dealing with language and not with any inherent nature of happiness. Afterall, it's impossible to define anything without citing either synonyms or antonyms. Which shows that definitions are not even what give words their understanding, as it is all quite circular. Understanding arises out of perception. So then, can we not really resort to such resources for understanding happiness at such a level. We can only ask ourselves: Is it possible for me to feel truly happy without knowing pain? I think people will give may different answers to that. And, besides this initial uncertainty, the door is open to the possibility that, even if a correct answer exists now, the answer may not always be the same in the future when conditions have been altered.

I think only time will tell.
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fnord
FREEDO
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8/9/2013 6:57:47 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 2:23:13 PM, AlbinoBunny wrote:
Would we work as hard and play as hard if we were always happy? Would our ability to survive diminish? Would our problem-solving nature diminish?

I don't think we would lose any of these things. More likely, become better. But it's beside the question.
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vbaculum
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8/9/2013 7:01:58 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Eventually we will just have technology that puts us in states of permanent happiness. That has always been the goal of science and technology, and eventually we will arrive there - whether it takes 30 years or a million.

Perodic unhappiness is not required for happiness. The purpose of the highs and lows of life are easily understood in the context of natural selection, but there is no reason to believe that happiness per se needs unhappiness as its sustenance.
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AlbinoBunny
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8/9/2013 7:02:12 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 6:57:47 PM, FREEDO wrote:
At 8/9/2013 2:23:13 PM, AlbinoBunny wrote:
Would we work as hard and play as hard if we were always happy? Would our ability to survive diminish? Would our problem-solving nature diminish?

I don't think we would lose any of these things. More likely, become better. But it's beside the question.

I don't find eternal happiness for happiness's sake that attractive of an option.
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FREEDO
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8/9/2013 7:04:32 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 7:02:12 PM, AlbinoBunny wrote:
I don't find eternal happiness for happiness's sake that attractive of an option.

You would if you were in it.

Unless it didn't really work and, as I suggested, creates a new sort of "existential boredom".
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FREEDO
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8/9/2013 7:09:17 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 7:01:58 PM, vbaculum wrote:
Perodic unhappiness is not required for happiness. The purpose of the highs and lows of life are easily understood in the context of natural selection, but there is no reason to believe that happiness per se needs unhappiness as its sustenance.

It's not that happiness "needs" unhappiness or that it feeds off it in any way. Rather, that being happy is related to "understanding" happiness which is also related to understanding unhappiness.
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AlbinoBunny
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8/9/2013 7:10:37 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 7:04:32 PM, FREEDO wrote:
At 8/9/2013 7:02:12 PM, AlbinoBunny wrote:
I don't find eternal happiness for happiness's sake that attractive of an option.

You would if you were in it.

Unless it didn't really work and, as I suggested, creates a new sort of "existential boredom".

I mean, if it makes my behaviour worse, or makes my life less self-fulfilling, sure I'd still be happy, but I wouldn't want to be... :P
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Such
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8/9/2013 7:12:39 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 2:07:19 PM, AnDoctuir wrote:
I personally am fast coming to believe that it's our worrying that's killing us. I can almost envision our reverting back to the state we were supposedly in during the time of the Garden of Eden. It's as simple as letting go, I think. Your worst fears will come to pass and so best not to have any!!

Would that be so bad?
FREEDO
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8/9/2013 7:13:26 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 7:10:37 PM, AlbinoBunny wrote:
I mean, if it makes my behaviour worse, or makes my life less self-fulfilling, sure I'd still be happy, but I wouldn't want to be... :P

Again, you've posited a situation in which the happiness is corrupted. Transhumanism suggests that it won't be.
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fnord
AlbinoBunny
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8/9/2013 7:13:36 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 7:09:17 PM, FREEDO wrote:
At 8/9/2013 7:01:58 PM, vbaculum wrote:
Perodic unhappiness is not required for happiness. The purpose of the highs and lows of life are easily understood in the context of natural selection, but there is no reason to believe that happiness per se needs unhappiness as its sustenance.

It's not that happiness "needs" unhappiness or that it feeds off it in any way. Rather, that being happy is related to "understanding" happiness which is also related to understanding unhappiness.

If someone had never ever been sad, they wouldn't understand what people meant by sadness. The thing is, with this happiness thing, what other emotions can't we have?
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Such
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8/9/2013 7:14:00 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 7:02:12 PM, AlbinoBunny wrote:
At 8/9/2013 6:57:47 PM, FREEDO wrote:
At 8/9/2013 2:23:13 PM, AlbinoBunny wrote:
Would we work as hard and play as hard if we were always happy? Would our ability to survive diminish? Would our problem-solving nature diminish?

I don't think we would lose any of these things. More likely, become better. But it's beside the question.

I don't find eternal happiness for happiness's sake that attractive of an option.

I'm not sure whether it's viable without the lack thereof against which we can juxtapose it, however, I would like to know why you wouldn't consider that attractive?

I think it sounds lovely.
FREEDO
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8/9/2013 7:18:35 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I should also mention that Transhumanism doesn't necessarily entail that all pain is abolished. Only unintentional pain.

If we come to the conclusion that we need some, we can adjust for that.

Perhaps, in the future, all people will have the opportunity to go through a special trial of difficulty, with bliss waiting on the other end.
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fnord
Sidewalker
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8/9/2013 7:24:05 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 4:16:33 AM, FREEDO wrote:
This is both a Philosophy and Science topic.

A concept I have often put forward in these forums is the idea of the Hedonic Treadmill, in different variations. It suggests that humans have a basic position of happiness that we always return to. This can be applied on an individual or collective level. With the individual, neither the best of days or worst of days will last forever. On the collective, humans seem to display the same sort of satisfaction with life, even over the many years of scientific and political progress. Across different lands as well; the Ethiopian suffers from hunger and the American suffers from depression. It seems humans always find new ways to struggle when we figure out how to get over the old ways.

This is why I have said, if we want to find fulfillment in our lives, we should not be so concerned with the many labels we give ourselves, be they religious, political, philosophical, cultural or any other convoluted thing. Rather, we should turn our focus inwards, to better understand ourselves and what it means to truly be alive.

However, I've been entertaining another idea. What if this is not a static condition? What if it can be changed?--with science. The Transhumanists contend that the human brain itself can be altered with science, as to essentially create a new species, living in bliss.

This is not necessarily contrary to the Hedonic Treadmill. Some psychologists who have studied the phenomenon suggest that our "set point" is largely determined by our genes and not by any quality inherent in happiness.

I love the idea of Transhumanism because it reinforces my lack of concern for ideology in fixing the world's problems. The only thing we needed all long was time. We go through a traumatic growing process, strife with trouble, but eventually we get there and the bliss that follows will forever out-way the cost.

But I'm not entirely convinced. It has me wondering if there is something fundamental about the perception of "happiness" that we have misunderstood. Perhaps we'll develop the absolute ability to tinker with every neuron and gene we have, to mimic what we think endless pleasure looks like. But then, out of this, arises a new issue that we never could have understood before. Ecstasy is balanced out with a new existential boredom. No longer are we struggling. Can we really understand what kind of affect this will have on the human psyche? Our struggles have always defined us. We take pride in the pain we go through. What if pleasure is only pleasure when we can compare it to non-pleasure?

What do you think? Can humans beat the game? Or should we stop being so concerned with winning and just enjoy playing it?

You don't think Transhumanism is an ideology?
"It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive." " C. W. Leadbeater
FREEDO
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8/9/2013 7:25:25 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 7:24:05 PM, Sidewalker wrote:
You don't think Transhumanism is an ideology?

It can be.
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fnord
AnDoctuir
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8/9/2013 7:26:02 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 7:12:39 PM, Such wrote:
At 8/9/2013 2:07:19 PM, AnDoctuir wrote:
I personally am fast coming to believe that it's our worrying that's killing us. I can almost envision our reverting back to the state we were supposedly in during the time of the Garden of Eden. It's as simple as letting go, I think. Your worst fears will come to pass and so best not to have any!!

Would that be so bad?

No, not at all. Must 'revert' always be taken negatively?
AlbinoBunny
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8/9/2013 7:30:33 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 7:13:26 PM, FREEDO wrote:
At 8/9/2013 7:10:37 PM, AlbinoBunny wrote:
I mean, if it makes my behaviour worse, or makes my life less self-fulfilling, sure I'd still be happy, but I wouldn't want to be... :P

Again, you've posited a situation in which the happiness is corrupted. Transhumanism suggests that it won't be.

I've heard some arguments that "people work harder" etc. when they're happy, but I feel that emotions are risky things to meddle with. Sure consider it, try it, w.e., but just be wary. I do like the diversity of emotions though, I would prefer to just water down the chronic emotions sometimes; rage, despair, anxiety etc. whenever I want to. Even that could have negative repercussions though, but we're already meddling with those emotions to some extent, and it seems like it is beneficial to curb them.

As with most situations like this, I'm just arguing for us to pace ourselves and think it through. :P
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AlbinoBunny
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8/9/2013 7:32:31 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 7:14:00 PM, Such wrote:
At 8/9/2013 7:02:12 PM, AlbinoBunny wrote:
At 8/9/2013 6:57:47 PM, FREEDO wrote:
At 8/9/2013 2:23:13 PM, AlbinoBunny wrote:
Would we work as hard and play as hard if we were always happy? Would our ability to survive diminish? Would our problem-solving nature diminish?

I don't think we would lose any of these things. More likely, become better. But it's beside the question.

I don't find eternal happiness for happiness's sake that attractive of an option.

I'm not sure whether it's viable without the lack thereof against which we can juxtapose it, however, I would like to know why you wouldn't consider that attractive?

I think it sounds lovely.

Because I want to actually achieve things too. Like if I could either have sex with a robot which has the most amazing feeling vagina for my whole life, or real women, I would choose the women. What happens in reality matters to me just as much as the emotions I associate with it.
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FREEDO
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8/9/2013 7:35:09 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 7:30:33 PM, AlbinoBunny wrote:
but we're already meddling with those emotions to some extent, and it seems like it is beneficial to curb them.

It's good you brought that up. I have a friend who is perfectly fine when she takes her medication. But when she's not, she spirals into uncontrollable depression. This is Transhumanism at work.
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AlbinoBunny
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8/9/2013 7:45:51 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 7:35:09 PM, FREEDO wrote:
At 8/9/2013 7:30:33 PM, AlbinoBunny wrote:
but we're already meddling with those emotions to some extent, and it seems like it is beneficial to curb them.

It's good you brought that up. I have a friend who is perfectly fine when she takes her medication. But when she's not, she spirals into uncontrollable depression. This is Transhumanism at work.

"Transhumanism (abbreviated as H+ or h+) is an international cultural and intellectual movement with an eventual goal of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.[1] Transhumanist thinkers study the potential benefits and dangers of emerging technologies that could overcome fundamental human limitations, as well as study the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies. They predict that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into beings with such greatly expanded abilities as to merit the label "posthuman".[1]"

http://en.wikipedia.org...

Plus, I know I should be so sceptical because I love pleasure for pleasures sake (I know that isn't Transhumanism), but I can see how it can go wrong. One of the dangers to be aware of, among the many benefits which I'm sure it can bring (and some it already does). :P
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Eitan_Zohar
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8/9/2013 9:12:34 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 1:28:56 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
Appropriate reading:

http://www.parrhesiajournal.org...

Seriously, how much do you know bout transhumanism? You go on Lesswrong or something?
"It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book."
Eitan_Zohar
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8/9/2013 10:46:55 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 4:16:33 AM, FREEDO wrote:
This is both a Philosophy and Science topic.

A concept I have often put forward in these forums is the idea of the Hedonic Treadmill, in different variations. It suggests that humans have a basic position of happiness that we always return to. This can be applied on an individual or collective level. With the individual, neither the best of days or worst of days will last forever. On the collective, humans seem to display the same sort of satisfaction with life, even over the many years of scientific and political progress. Across different lands as well; the Ethiopian suffers from hunger and the American suffers from depression. It seems humans always find new ways to struggle when we figure out how to get over the old ways.

This is why I have said, if we want to find fulfillment in our lives, we should not be so concerned with the many labels we give ourselves, be they religious, political, philosophical, cultural or any other convoluted thing. Rather, we should turn our focus inwards, to better understand ourselves and what it means to truly be alive.

However, I've been entertaining another idea. What if this is not a static condition? What if it can be changed?--with science. The Transhumanists contend that the human brain itself can be altered with science, as to essentially create a new species, living in bliss.

This is not necessarily contrary to the Hedonic Treadmill. Some psychologists who have studied the phenomenon suggest that our "set point" is largely determined by our genes and not by any quality inherent in happiness.

I love the idea of Transhumanism because it reinforces my lack of concern for ideology in fixing the world's problems. The only thing we needed all long was time. We go through a traumatic growing process, strife with trouble, but eventually we get there and the bliss that follows will forever out-way the cost.

But I'm not entirely convinced. It has me wondering if there is something fundamental about the perception of "happiness" that we have misunderstood. Perhaps we'll develop the absolute ability to tinker with every neuron and gene we have, to mimic what we think endless pleasure looks like. But then, out of this, arises a new issue that we never could have understood before. Ecstasy is balanced out with a new existential boredom. No longer are we struggling. Can we really understand what kind of affect this will have on the human psyche? Our struggles have always defined us. We take pride in the pain we go through. What if pleasure is only pleasure when we can compare it to non-pleasure?

What do you think? Can humans beat the game? Or should we stop being so concerned with winning and just enjoy playing it?

Why is happiness the goal? What's the point of doing anything if we are perpetually happy?
"It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book."
FREEDO
Posts: 21,057
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8/9/2013 10:48:15 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 10:46:55 PM, Eitan_Zohar wrote:
Why is happiness the goal? What's the point of doing anything if we are perpetually happy?

Your question seems nonsensical.
GRAND POOBAH OF DDO

fnord
000ike
Posts: 11,196
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8/9/2013 10:49:55 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 9:12:34 PM, Eitan_Zohar wrote:
At 8/9/2013 1:28:56 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
Appropriate reading:

http://www.parrhesiajournal.org...

Seriously, how much do you know bout transhumanism? You go on Lesswrong or something?

Cody_Franklin is one the smartest and most knowledgeable people I've ever interacted with. I'm not sure what to make of your tone here.
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
Eitan_Zohar
Posts: 2,697
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8/9/2013 11:15:05 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 8/9/2013 10:48:15 PM, FREEDO wrote:
At 8/9/2013 10:46:55 PM, Eitan_Zohar wrote:
Why is happiness the goal? What's the point of doing anything if we are perpetually happy?

Your question seems nonsensical.

OK, let's start with why maximal happiness is a worth goal.
"It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book."