Re: Why do we seek to transcend ourselves?

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Mon Jul 15 2002 - 09:43:06 MDT

Ben Goertzel wrote:
>> > My hypothesis is that the modern human psyche generically contains a
>> > certain lack, a feeling of emptiness. Obviously this is far from an
>> > original idea! It's been called many things -- a feeling of
>> > aloneness, meaninglessness, purposelessness, existential angst...
>>Obviously a great many people feel this way. But why would the human
>>psyche generically contain it? Where does it come from?
> According to Freud, in his great book "Civilization and its Discontents," it
> comes from the fact that large parts of our brains want us to run wild as
> animals, yet civilization forces us to constrain our activities in ways that
> are "unnatural" to these parts of our brains.
> According to David Bohm, in "Thought as a System," it comes from the
> "fragmentation of mind" that modern culture has brought, as opposed to the
> "wholeness" of the primitive mindset and the greater wholeness of the animal
> mindset before it.
> According to Indian religions, it's due to the "veil of Maya" preventing us
> from perceiving true nirvanic reality underneath...

Well, all of those are obviously wrong except Freud, who as far as I
know never checked to see whether hunter-gatherer civilizations feel
existential nihilism.

Got any others? I must profess myself completely uninterested in what
various authorities have thought about this, unless you believe their
answers are correct. This is not a religious issue, it is a question of
fact. A feeling of existential nullity is a physical event in a
physical universe; it has a cause.

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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