My Suckitude

Yes. I suck. I have a blog, but I don't blog on my blog, which sucks. All apologies.

I returned yesterday from Tucson where I was attending the annual International Society for the New Institutional Economics conference, and enjoying the hospitality and company of Dave Schmidtz.

Let me say this about Tucson: when they say “dry” heat, they're not just saying it. I was drinking like a parched camel, yet my lips and mouth felt like I was slowly dying for want of moisture. I guess it takes getting used to for natives of >90% humidity climes. That said, the landscape was just astonishing for this Iowa boy. The saguaro forests (through which Dave took me on a hike) looked unearthly to my midwestern eyes, but beautiful all the same. The Desert Museum is lovely.

I caught up with a number of friends and acquaintances at ISNIE. Had a very nice dinner with Paul Edwards, Doug North, Timur Kuran, Mary Shirley, and Mat McCubbins at a very good, but comically pretentious, restaurant at a nearby resort. Kyle and his girl Carolyn (sp?) took me to South Tucson for Mexican hot dogs at a wonderful dingy joint with no walls and a spiffy mariachi band.

I'm working on some ideas for articles focusing on the intersection of the brain and cognitive sciences with economics. I interviewed a few folks at ISNIE, and plan on interviewing a few more. Almost none of what I get in the interviews will go in any sort of article, so I'm thinking that if I can get permission, I'll put some choice bits of interviews with smart people doing hott economic science here on the blog to satisfy your frustrated yearning for fresh Fly Bottle content. Whaddya think of that? Would it make you happy?

  • Greg N.

    I loved this comment from someone over at “Overcoming Bias”:

    “‘Goddammit’. I’d rather just have Robin Hanson talking by himself. Will Wilkinson gets on my nerves. A lot.”

    The writer even went out of his way to call himself, “don’tlikewill.” Of course, the link in the name goes to a blog called “Paleohawk,” so make of that what you will.

    Still, I thought it was funny.

  • He should just call Robin on the telephone, then. He’s a really friendly guy.

  • I am, I am friendly! Er, hope that didn’t sound to desperate …

  • Greg N.

    For the record, Will, I’m glad you were there. “Paleohawk” is a jerk, but no matter. When we’re all unfrozen hundreds of years from now, he’ll be long gone…

    Incidentally, Will: On dying, you make a distinction between “not wanting [life] to end,” and being afraid of death. If you can’t even fathom what fear of death friends would entails, shouldn’t you be indifferent about whether your life ends? I don’t want to die, in part because I like living, and because my family would be hurt, my wife would suffer, and my friends (presumably) would be sad (others, I’m afraid, might find themselves a tad happy, which is depressing). But all of those things matter to me now because I know what it feels like to see my parents hurt, etc. After death, however, I won’t know that any of that is happening, so it won’t – it can’t – matter to me. Another reason I don’t want to die is because I like living. But I don’t want things that I like doing to end because I have to move on to other, less enjoyable things, to which I can compare the really awesome thing that just ended. Work sucks more than vacation. Of course, after I die, I won’t be in any kind of position to do the comparing.

    I recognize all of that now, but I still don’t want to die, and I’m still afraid of it. I can’t explain it, and if someone asked “what are you afraid of?” I wouldn’t be able to give a satisfactory answer. But the dread is still there. I guess I just don’t understand how you can, on the one hand, affirmatively want to keep living, and on the other, not “fear” death.

  • FrankMcGahon

    It is a little ironic that Robin and Eliezer are such strong advocates for Cryonics considering the project of their blog. I am aware that Robin often cautions us not to go looking for the other guy’s biases before we consider our own and that is very good advice so I’m generally wary of accusing them of bias but in this case I can’t avoid it. It seems to me that despite (or perhaps because of) our aversion to the unpleasantness of death there has always been a human bias to overweight the probability of achieving immortality (elixirs of life and the like) and I’m suggesting that this has coloured how cryonics advocates view its prospects for success.

    Cryonics seems to me to be something close to a logical impossibility or as close to a logical impossibility as an economic “law” is to a physical law. The principal problem is that only a small portion of the technology required for a successful “reincarnation” would effectively grant immortality for living people rendering the cryonics project redundant. Nobody is going to be getting frozen if technology permits them to prolong living indefinitely. Once the technology is there to radically extend life, there would surely be little impetus to figure out how to preserve and revive frozen corpses.

    I agree that the arguments against Cryonics from squeamishness or weirdness are wrong and I also agree that the argument that “death gives meaning to life” is wrong but there is also a Lottery ticket or Pascal’s wager like flavour to many of the arguments for Cryonics which imply that the money one would spend on cryonics is negligible when compared to the huge albeit improbable reward or the psychic pleasure of thinking about becoming a multimillionaire or acheiving immortality. But we do live in a world of scarcity and that money in the here and now is not negligible. If it;s not worth spendng a couple of bucks on a lottery ticket, it certainly not worth spending a lot more than that on an approximately impossible payoff.

    Interesting interview by the way!

  • Greg

    It was a great interview, and I didn’t think that Will talked too much, but I don’t know what Robin’s other topics are, so I don’t know what I missed.

    I think that the reason that most people don’t seriously entertain cryonics is that… most people don’t seriously entertain cryonics. A striking example of group bias that I read about in the NYT magazine a few months ago was that the most powerful indicator of whether men in a certain country *that has an AIDS epidemic* use condoms is whether their friends do and I think that most people just consider cryonics outside of the realm of seriousness. Any time cryonics appears in the MSM–Ted Williams for example–it’s presented as evidence of perversion.

    As for the pain of losing all of one’s friends and relatives, for this reason, anyone that gets frozen is likely to know someone else that is also getting frozen, and as per Dan Ariely we overestimate the pain of loss significantly and seem to have a knack for moving on after traumatic events. Of course there is the matter of PTSD, but it seems to my non-expert self that this is usually the result of having witnessed a traumatic event (war, rape) rather than just receiving devistating news.

  • Kent Guida

    Will, that’s one bad case of Bush Derangement Syndrome if you won’t back the people against the regime in Iran because it might somehow reflect well on Bush. That’s just sad.

  • R. Kevin Hill

    The Green Revolution makes war far less likely, because now we know that plenty of Iranians (millions at least) dislike their government as much as the neocons do, and people here are (now, post-Iraq especially) aware of the fact that wars of liberation do great harm to the liberated and legitimize the governments that oppressed them. No one is naive enough to believe any more that a war of liberation is welcomed by its alleged beneficiaries, and the only other way to motivate people to support war with Iran is to demonize the whole country as being all of a piece, which is now impossible. In my book that’s good. Yours too, I suspect.