I always thought parents only want their children to do well for their own status signaling...

I could be in trauma though :D

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Interesting theory with possible disturbing ramifications. We're in the midst of a huge demographic shift thanks to longer lives and fewer births. In other words, the population is aging, and the concept of retirement at 65 is being actively challenged for economic reasons. Add to that the billions being invested in age reversal and life extension science and we'll become a society where older people don't really make room for the dwindling number of young people. If you're correct, intergenerational conflict is unavoidable. (I write a substack on the topic of the economic importance of older people at https://www.longevitygains.com/)

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May 18, 2023·edited May 18, 2023Liked by David Pinsof

Very interesting essay. I think you're onto something with your ITC theory.

Re: the two footnotes, there are a few things I can think of that might be contributing factors to both.

(1) As it relates to life satisfaction, "perceptions of intergenerational improvement," and "optimism for the future," I think concept creep plays a big part in making it appear as though things are not getting better even when they actually are, thus making people more pessimistic about the future.

The bottom line from this research article on concept creep sums up my point well, and speaks volumes about our times, I think: "Social problems may seem intractable in part because reductions in their prevalence lead people to see more of them."


More on that study and "how progress blinds people to progress" here: https://rabbitholemag.com/how-progress-blinds-people-to-progress/

(2) Concept creep may also explain some of the increased deaths of despair among black men in particular. The police shootings that you mentioned are one area where, at least as I understand the data, things appear worse than they actually are (which is not to say that things are good, just that they may be less bad than they seem). The numbers below reflect that.

US police killings 2013–2023:


US fatal police shootings 2015–2023:


More on how "fatal shootings by police used to be much more common": https://reason.com/2023/01/12/police-killed-1183-people-in-2022-despite-a-viral-claim-thats-not-a-record-high/

Three other things that might explain the deaths of despair among men generally and black men in particular:

(a) Men are more likely to kill themselves to begin with, and that overall number is rising


(b) Men are increasingly feeling purposeless, isolated, and adrift in many areas of modern-day life and society—they are also going backwards in some of the areas where women are advancing (in eduction, for example). Not that it's a zero-sum thing. It's not. It's just that we've not yet addressed many of the unique (and in some cases new) issues facing boys and men like we've been working for a relatively long time now to do for girls and women.

(c) Working-class boys and men in particular—a large share of which are black—are not doing well economically. Richard Reeves has done great work covering this. In his book (and to some extent on his Substack—https://ofboysandmen.substack.com/) he goes into great research-heavy detail on all of this.

This video summary from him covers both male deaths of despair and the economic issues specific to working-class men (e.g., they're earning lower wages, dropping out of the labor force, losing occupational stature, and so on):


Just some thoughts. I'm very much looking forward to reading more of yours here.

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Aug 24, 2023Liked by David Pinsof

I think brains in jars hooked up to simulations more reliably & more effectively solves this problem, it just obviously comes with ethics & agency concerns.

The two weaknesses I see in your method are instability and unsustainability.

It's unstable because the older individual doesn't care about the next generation as a whole, they care about themselves, and then their offspring. This means that they will vote for policies that benefit themselves the most which most likely consequentially benefit their in-group, which would likely be in a similar age-range. There would need to be some aggressive marketing for this concept to reverse this effect, but the group with the most power to execute that marketing would be their own group.

It would be unsustainable due to the logistics of continued growth, science will eventually end & physical demands will halt productivity progress, those pesky laws of thermodynamics will get in the way, especially near the end of scientific progress if we agree that accessible truth regarding how reality works has a finite amount.

Another way to solve for this is to trick the individual into thinking they're outcompeting their peers while simulating those interactions. Eden is a warehouse full of brains in jars connected to simulations where you are the only conscious agent. That's the only scenario where I can see 'losers' not experiencing being a 'loser' but still being able to generate a 'winner.'

It's either that or we hope that our subconscious is dumb enough and consistent enough to be predictably manipulated through some type of mental practice.

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Jun 25, 2023Liked by David Pinsof

Hey - where'd everybody go? I thought thiis party was just getting started.

Maybe I missed it but key to your thesis is the means to achieve it, productivity growth. The nice thing about productivity growth is that it allows us to out-compete our elders with not too much environmental impact. Our elders can still play but at some point they leave the workforce.

There's always the risk that we get so good at things that we put each other out of work, but we can just work less, make the same amount, spread the wealth, and save resources all at the same time. Idealistic - a bit, I know, but having more leisure time is also a win over the prior generation.

We also have a historic precedent - the post WWII era, where all these things come true. Still we are in the midst of an energy changeover - sort of like when we changed from coal to oil between the wars. That's making things bumpy right now.

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To me, "death of despair" reads as despair being killed, ie one is now free of despair having killed it. Maybe "death from despair"?

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You are wrong about your first assertion as it is one of the the biggest academic fields. Sociology and anthropology.

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deletedMay 16, 2023Liked by David Pinsof
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