Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Game Over; you are out of lives and you forgot to reproduce.

Geoffrey Miller poses a rather Armageddonish scenario resulting from the human animal's penchant for pleasure and entertainment, suggesting the reason why we haven't encountered any real aliens is that we're altogether too fascinated by the fictional ones.  He believes that the more we get our kicks from virtual reality in all its burgeoning forms the less we'll engage in the real world and eventually become unfit and go extinct.  The environmental pressures that produced our desires to succeed, to control, to win out can be our downfall as we seek ever greater stimulation from the artificial versions of these and neglect hard, uncomfortable reality. This could be an inevitable consequence of the evolution of intelligence, hence no aliens.

I guess he has a point, but it wouldn't have bothered me so much if it weren't for this BBC report on a poll indicating that the Brits are putting off having kids in favor of having fun, living comfortably and doing well in their careers, sometimes and increasingly until it's too late.  The reader comments are  interestingly full of indignant childless people and their apologists wailing about the high cost of living and other excuses and an occasional breeder being equally indignant about all these selfish genetic failures as we slide into worldwide overpopulation.  Where will this all end, I wonder..?

The BBC also gives us a piece on philosphical thought experiments.  I found #1 particularly intriguing for its juxtaposition of the ethical questions behind donating months of your life to saving another's, someone of social value presumably much greater than your own.  Is it a duty to which one is bound, or is it something that one might do out of the goodness of one's heart? (I confess it's not really clear to me that there's a difference.) One Judith Thomson says there's no obligation, but it'd be mighty generous of you.  Then she likens it to carrying a baby to term or deciding to abort.  I'd guess that the analogy only goes so far as your consideration of the unborn child as a person with value greater than your own.  Perhaps the same goes for our choice between spawning and raising the next generation and playing a few more video games. Hmmm.

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