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The Abolition of Loneliness

“I am lonely will anyone speak to me?”  Anonymous e-author

Many humans feel that no one loves, cares, or understands them.  They deserve a better future.  I believe that transhumanists need to annihilate the sad, estranged, socially-disconnected emotion of loneliness by creating an abundance of cures.

First we must discard the notion that loneliness is an unavoidable sorrow.  Writers like Thomas Wolfe who defined “Loneliness (as) the central and inevitable fact of human existence” need to be categorized as woefully pessimistic.  Far better to examine the vision of Kurt Vonnegut who strived in novels such as Cat’s Cradle and Slapstick to “create communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” Martha Beck of O Magazine also regards loneliness as “completely curable.”

The desire to exterminate loneliness isn’t 21st century — both the radio and the telephone were heralded as inventions that would destroy isolation.  In 1991, the New Democracy Party of Sweden trumpeted “abolition of loneliness” on its election platform, and Christopher Hitchens recently praised the internet for its success in combating the pitiful plague.  But still, forecasters fear that the increasing numbers of people who live alone will inevitably produce a rise of loneliness.

Nobody wants that to happen, so I’ve put together a list of seven possible solutions:

Artificial Families: As birth rates in developed nations have plummeted, the huge clan assemblies of bygone eras have dwindled to tiny Christmas dinners.  Familial bonds that homo sapiens require can no longer be provided by the genetically-linked.  To alleviate this, we need to create large, serious, pseudo-family units with holiday and birthday gift obligations, assigned familial roles (maternal, filial, fraternal, etc.) financial obligations and encounter group intimacy.  (Vonnegut illustrated this elixir in his “karass” team structure.)  My opinion? Meatbag gatherings must be mandated and regularly-scheduled for “AFs” to succeed.

Robots: This enormous category can provide every type of companion, from Kama Sutra sex-droids to cute cuddly kitty-bots, to academic bicker-cyborgs that you can debate every topic with… and always win.  Variations in-between will also proliferate, such as furry intellectuals that purr when petted, provide oral sex, and pontificate on post-nuclear issues.  Perhaps all humans will choose to eternally link themselves with a “daemon” companion, like those that Philip Pullman’s characters enjoyed in his Dark Materials trilogy.

Flash Mobs: Spontaneously merging into large like-minded posses is a fabulous way to vanquish the solitary blues.  I predict an explosion of future flash mobs, allowing everyone multiple choices throughout the day… i.e., Tuesday 7:30 pm, Political Rally at City Hall? Dance Jam on the Bridge?  Food Fight at the intersection of First & Main?  Look for an increase in late night activities, because that’s when many are loneliest, a condition that an orgy in a park might alleviate.  Quiet mobs will also be popular: reading, attending films, hiking together.

Genetic Therapy: Scientists recognize that predisposition to loneliness is partially inherited.  Lonely people also usually marry lonely people, thus amplifying the isolation risk in their offspring.  In 10-20 years, the loneliness DNA could be located and surgically disposed in operations similar to the elimination of other maladies such as Parkinson’s.  Another possibility is that our stock — a remnant from interdependent tribals that ate, slept and foraged together — could be “modernized” for post-Paleolithic life by lessening our need for extensive relationships.

Hologram Connection: Cell phones, emails, Skype — technology is assisting closer contact between far-away friends.  The next step is Mutual Hologram Connection: people interacting as holograms, sharing space and mingling colors.  Many people have “separation loneliness” — the the people they love most are physically unavailable.  Hologram friendships would create togetherness as “light beings” that pantomime the distant meatbags. They could sleep together (non-tactile, of course). They could watch each other eat and masturbate. All in all, a huge upgrade in intimacy, especially for people who give “bad phone” and are awkward with two-dimensional Skype.

Insta-Art: Many people channel their loneliness into art.  Music, poetry, and visual mediums are excellent ways to communicate, but… where’s the audience?  Creative loners need an online community where their expression can be posted, with guaranteed immediate feedback… just a simple “I know where you’re coming from” would be helpful.  There’s nothing sadder than a lonely painter painting lonely paintings alone that are seldom seen by anyone.  Just ask Vincent van Gogh.

Chocolate and other Drugs: Raw chocolate (cacao) and dark chocolate are well-recognized as medicines that relieve “loneliness anxiety.”  Phenylethylamine (PEA) has been pinpointed as the crucial chemical. This antidote for lonely emotions needs to be advertised and ingested, along with other hormones and nootropics that provide us with a feeling of interspecies-camaraderie.  Safe and effective varietals of presently illegal “social drugs” should also be created.

The massive sickness of loneliness can only be overthrown by a concerted societal effort.  My suggestions are short, measly, skeletal, incomplete.  Dear readers, if you’ve got any ideas – please participate by posting your  cures in the Comment section below.  If nobody does this, if my request is ignored, it will make me feel isolated, and well, you know…

References:

hologram communication

The Hedonistic Imperative

Lonely Vincent van Gogh letters

Chocolate & Loneliness

Robot Companions

Artificial Family Units

Gene Therapy

17 Comments

  1. Interesting short article. I really enjoyed it. I think that loneliness is on the one hand exacerbated by new technologies and transformations in society (among them the dissolution of traditional familial and societal structures), but on the other hand new technologies provide far greater potentialities for togetherness, it just requires some additional (mental and physical) effort to meet in person.

    I’d like to add to the Artificial Family category – Robert A. Heinlein speculated about non-traditional familial structures in many of his novels, such as the polyandrous line-marriage (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Line_marriage) in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moon_Is_a_Harsh_Mistress#Politics_and_society) and the concept of polyamory (http://www.serolynne.com/heinlein.htm), with some examples from the real world. In his talk in Helsinki at Transvision 2006 W. S. Bainbridge also urged transhumanists to experiment with Alternative Family structures (http://www.transhumanismi.org/tv06/presentations/William%20Sims%20Bainbridge%20-%20Across%20the%20Abyss.pdf) (slides 47-50).

    Finally, I would like to add that regular and proper meditation techniques and introspection reduce the “frightening” aspects and sorrow of being alone, as one gets more acquainted with ones inner world and more serene. I think that many people in modern societies are less willing (and able, as no one has thought them how) to be alone, especially if they’re not comfortable with their own inner self (just think of the times we turn on the music and TV just so we don’t have to be directly confronted with our own mind). We all need some degree of in corpo presence spent with other sentient (or at least seemingly sentient) beings, but time spent alone is something that can also be enriching and pleasant, if it is engaged properly (which then would not actually produce what we refer to as loneliness).

  2. When it comes to escaping loneliness, I always wish for something like StrarTrek’s HoloDeck where a lonely being( any entity capable of feeling loneliness) could run programs to venture from our past to their future and subside their loneliness with the richest of experiences. They could also self-replicate, maybe get cloned, upload their personality to a machine,or could use HoloDecks for creating their holographic replicas and counterattack loneliness by entertaining [or irritating] themselves :)

  3. Personally I see us developing along those lines already.

    Why do you think MMOs are so popular? I have a hundred thousand solitary games, I play them rarely, unless they are part of a series I have followed for years, like Xenogears/saga or Final Fantasy.

    Instead, I spend way more time on MMOs. Why? Because there are PEOPLE there. People who I can interact with, talk to, hang out with, etc.

    Artificial families? What do you think a Guild is?

    For fifty years, we developed technology that made us more isolated. More detached, more alone. in the past decade that has all changed. We’ve made technology to bring us together more, from facebook, to foursquare, to twitter, to video games, to the latest iPhone gadget video calls. Even our solo gaming is becoming more social, with console games developing “shared spaces” like XBox live, and so on. The interfaces like the wiimotes and the Kinect are giving us better methods of “BEING THERE” remotely, allowing us to share each others company in new ways.

    And practical VR is going to open that up like never before. Instead of a chat box, You’ll converse face to face via avatar, one tied directly into a full body scanner so every emotion and expression on your face is expressed, even if your AV (avatar) is an elf or a troll, or a klingon. We’ll build networks of friends and “family” around the globe, create entirely new “social groups” free from the shackles of religious dogmatic definitions, and the master/slave relationship it has foisted on humanity for centuries.

    But will we end loneliness? No-one can say. We can build a network to connect all of humanity together, and give you endless possibilities to end your isolation, but in the end, it’s up to you to reach out, knowing that by doing so, you risk rejection, pain, and heartbreak.

    Or you may find the answer to your every hope and dream.

    Only time will tell.

  4. I would argue that the problem is already largely solved, and that it is only a matter of adoption.

    To preface this: Many of us who are “loners” by personality unintentionally drive away others. We seek only to secure our much-needed moments of peace and isolation. Without these periods we tend to become overwhelmed, depressed, and increasingly morbid. I for example require about 2-4 hours daily, but fortunately I have an understanding wife and a toddler who understands about as well as can be expected. The trouble is we still desire and need interaction with others, but we tend to get so nasty under pressure from our more extroverted family and friends that we soon find ourselves without either and our social needs unmet – with the same consequences as any other thus deprived. Compound that with our often unusual tastes and interests and it would seem the “genetically lonely” are doomed to either depression from too much socialization or not enough.

    Enter the network, our salvation. While the quality of interaction leaves something to be desired, it does allow us to perfectly meter our social time. No obligatory attendance to social events in order to maintain relationships for the times we desire them; no getting stuck at bars for uncomfortable periods, waiting for the drugs to wear off so we can go home; no awkwardness over leaving the party early; no difficulties with our often spontaneous desire for human contact, since there is bound to be someone awake who shares our interest and speaks our language somewhere around the globe. As in all things, the network drops the cost of organization and planning to zero which suits us well as we have already discovered.

    Combine that with ever-improving telepresence technology and the quality problem is quickly being solved as well. If you stick to mainstream tech you may be forgiven for not realizing the potential for other-than-sexual purposes of technology developed by the porn industry (not that I’d accuse Hank of being ignorant or those things), but they’re charging ahead in enabling lifelike presence over the net. Is it a substitute for actual, factual reality? Probably not, at least for now, but it is already a satisfactory supplement.

  5. Loneliness is all its cracked up to be. The solutions to loneliness in your article assume that everyone is well educated, connected to the latest technology, has the financial muscle to pay for the suggested toys, and is able to solve their own problem. While movies like to portray the “lonely millionaire” the fact of the matter is that the most lonely people are the sick, the poor, the unemployed, the old, and the infirm. These people need others to help them break their loneliness which makes it increasingly unlikely that help will arrive.

  6. Yes good suggestions ….the Future emotional and social intelligences and the abillity to control our own emotional states with rational behavior will decrease future lonliness .
    Higher degree of self awareness and understanding …social media will reach new dimensions trough tech …..that allows people to connect virtually as real.
    Groups that share common personality ,culture, innterests could be virtually availible 24 hours/day over computers. The social / lonliness gene could be modified upon request with various strenghts and charachters….

  7. I enjoyed your response. As someone who’s been alone all my life I can relate. I’ve never really been able to form long term friendships because of the maintenance costs. The problem with introversion, is introverts desire something that’s eventually bad for them. Small amounts of loneliness are okay, but large quantities cause depression. The only way to reconcile these opposing needs is like you’ve said.

    To be honest I get most of my social needs met through the internet. I’m able to meet people on my own terms.

  8. In person, i.e. real physical meat body me, it really doesn’t matter whether people are around or not. Even in the midst of a crowd I can feel lonely, because the “real me” isn’t present.

    But in secondlife, I am. The “Real me” has finally had a chance to come out, interact on my own terms, in my own body, and with my real personality, not the highly edited one that I am forced to wear at all times in physical flesh.

    Why? Because I was born with a defective chromosome, and got a y when I should have had an x. Then I had to live in Texas during the time before they knew bovine growth hormones affected humans. I was a small kid. I should have grown up to be an average sized adult, instead I got stuck with being a giant.

    Do you have any idea how isolating it is being an intelligent woman with an extroverted personality, who wants to make lots of friends, who is instead forced to be an introvert because her external body is diametrically opposite what it should be? And who is forced to hide this at ALL TIMES because otherwise it destroys any possible chance I have for finding work, or being able to socialize outside of a trans or gay bar, where I’m constantly being hit on by the wrong sex?

    Isolation is my life. It’s only on the net where “I” get to be “me”

    And people like me are all over the net. People who can’t be who they really are IRL because they are trapped in a web of isolation because they have to conform to other peoples stereotypical expectations.

    So, I understand exactly where you are coming from, if from a possible quite different outlook and reasoning. IRL I’m an introvert, because IRL I have to live lies I’ve grown to hate and be “someone” I’ve never been.

    If you’ve read any of my articles here on H+ on VR, it’s this exact freedom that electronic socialization offers to our “inner mental self images” that I think is likely to drive massive research into Genetics, Nanotech, and Robotics, precisely because it will lead to such things as Roxxxie, the sexaroid, who is just a forerunner of the fully lifelike, remotely telepresent “sex surrogate” robots that will allow lovers to play with each other “virtually” over the net, or social environments in which both IRL and Virtual people are present. We are opening up an entirely new kind of “social network” that allows “Mental selves” to interact freely, without having to cope with a physical shell which is at odds with our “true self”.

    Sure, we’re going to have ten thousand Darth Vaders running around, because youth always emulates a variety of “personas” as it seeks to define it’s “Self” but that freedom to “be yourself” in the larger net will enable us to find new ways to interact, and develop new “stereotypes” that are less xenophobic and detrimental, and lay a foundation for a world in which everyone realizes that people are just people, and we all only have the one planet.

    We’ll form new tribes. Of that I have no doubt, it’s genetically programmed after all. But hopefully those tribes will be composed of people who are no longer lonely, or isolated in a crowd because their “inner me” is walled away behind a mask.

    And hopefully, that lack of loneliness will make us a little less likely to kill each other.

  9. A decent article, but if we’re going to hold conjecture about the future of technology, lets go a bit deeper…

    Assumption 1: All conscious being are ingrained with the same unending question, “Why am I here?”

    This can also be translated as, what’s the meaning of life/god/science/art/consciousness/self etc. It appears that this question is ingrained in our very biology and that our brains are hardwired to ask that question. It is part of the recursive necessity that creates the thing that we call consciousness. This recursion also allows us to create things like art/science/religion/the human experience or condition. So what is consciousness? What is self? What is the real difference between you and I or anyone else for that matter?

    Assumption 2: With biology excluded, the only difference between myself and any other conscious being is perspective, a completely subjective experience.

    What creates this thing called “me?” It’s not my brain, as that is constantly changing. As new information is learned, the brain grows and rewires connections to accommodate this. If I implant a neodymium magnet in my body, eventually my brain will grow, dedicate, and rewire a new section of my brain to fully process this new sensory organ, artificial as it may be. How do I know that the me of yesterday is the same as me right now typing these words? The answer is that I remember the me that was yesterday. If you could implant my “consciousness” into someone else’s memories, I would cease to be “me” and become “that person.” With this in mind, I’m going to create a hypothesis about the nature of consciousness.

    Assumption 3: There is a distinction between “consciousness” and “self.” They are two completely separate entities.

    This takes a bit of explaining and imagination on the part of the reader. Since I have defined “self” as the total quantity of our experience (our memories), I can now form the hypothesis that the consciousness that I experience is the EXACT same consciousness that every other being experiences. The only difference between my consciousness and someone else’s is that it is being filtered through a different set of memories. I’m skipping some small details such as the physical way that each individuals brain/body functions, but that is not necessary for this blurb. The point I’m making is that consciousness is one thing. There are not billions of conscious entities in the world, only one large entity that can be described as consciousness. This entity is filtered through our memories and the way that our brains/bodies behave to create the phenomenon of self that we all currently enjoy. Even from a solipsism philosophy, this theory survives. Since there is only one consciousness filtered through billions of different ‘now’ experiences, I truly am the only one that exists, but the definition of ‘I’ is changed. Instead using the sum of my experiences to define I, consciousness is the ‘I’, and self is the current facsimile of this consciousness. ‘I’ (consciousness) is the only true being in the universe. With this information in mind, how do we apply it to the problem of loneliness?

    Assumption 4: Empathy over sympathy.

    It is easy to sympathize with someones plight, to imagine yourself in their shoes, but does that really mean you understand them or their plight? It is my deduction that the answer is a very absolved “no.” In order to understand someone we must understand ALL of them. We have to share their memories and experiences and understand how they perceive their problem and the severity with which it affects them. My solution is “shared experiences.” Find a way to truly empathize with the other members of our species. Now I’m going to pose a question. If two people share all of their memories with each other and all real time experiences are experienced by both subjects, what is the difference between the two entities besides biology? Now extend this to all members of the human race. Now extend this to all conscious entities in the universe (if humanity is not the only creature capable of consciousness.) If you ask me, this is beginning to look like a multilocational single entity. The sense of self would not be lost because you’ll be able to remember the day when you chose to partake into the massive infrastructure that is currently all conscious beings. You’ll be able to remember the times before this event, your childhood, your crappy job at McDonald’s when you were 16, the first time you made love, etc. You will be a piece of a far greater organism who’s parts are all equally important. Your physical/mechanical/whatever body will be a piece of the overall perception of the entity called consciousness. How could anyone claim to be lonely when you are connected to everyone? How can anyone reject you when they can completely empathize with you? When, indeed, they ARE you?

    The solution to loneliness: develop a means technologically to share memories and real time experiences with all conscious beings.

    Note: Under this theory, there is no longer a problem with uploading. The “you” that is biological will be the same “you” that is mechanical. All of your memories will still be there. Since there is no separation between the consciousness that the biological you and the mechanical you experience, you will be the same sum of memories filtering the same conscious entity.

    Disclaimer: This is only my theory of what consciousness is and is limited by my current knowledge of philosophy/science/psychology/physiology. I’m currently a student and hold no degrees at the moment. If there are any painfully apparent flaws in my hypothesis’ or assumptions, please let me know as I’d like to learn more with an endless cycle of hypothesis, test, observation…

  10. so much about you — quite a revelation. I actually tried to find out who you were a while ago
    and I decided incorrectly that you were a bearded Brazilian man named Jorge who lived in Sao Paulo
    and worked in biotech. Mush be another Valkyrie Ice. But thanks for telling us your point of view,
    and it is great that you are part of this magazine’s community. I am always appreciative of your
    participation.

  11. In the singularity we will all be as one or dead before we get there – so don’t worry about loneliness in the future – but in the here and now well let’s just say after a long long time I found loneliness to be a state of mind that can be dealt with, by understanding. The more I understand the more lonely I become, as the old saying goes – it’s ? at the top….. :)

    Ignorance is bliss…… that’s why so many people are happy in their ignorance.
    To learn more about this intricate relationship… try reading this totally free online e book, – http://www.heaven-or-hell-its-your-choice.com

    A book for all you lonely smart singularity lovers.

  12. Only Valkyrie Ice I know of or seem to find on Google is me. If you’ve found another one, I’d be shocked. I’ve been Val nearly 20 years online.

    IRL I’m usually known as L.S. McGill. Val is the name I will be changing it too when I have the money. That other one is just a fiction I’ll be happy to be done with.

  13. I wish to express my deepest admiration for Valkyrie, for not letting biological accidents prevent her from seeking happiness. The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human right. We are all trapped in meat cages, from which we transhumanists hope to escape. But, for some persons, this is more difficult to endure than for others.

  14. *blush* Why Thank You Giulio.

    I don’t generally talk much about being trans because in the grand scheme of things others have had it far worse than I. But I do what I can to crusade for a far more fundamental set of rights than just equality for the LGBT sector of the populace, that of humanities right to morphological freedom.

    I am a trans, but I am also much more, since being a trans just means becoming female. I’m pretty sure that stem cell technology will make that possible within a decade, allowing me to not only have the external appearance, but the internal biology as well. For a lot of people, this alone is going to shake their fundamental “world view”. I already have to deal with people who can’t wrap their head around how a 6 foot 5 inch, built like a NFL linebacker, all too male, person like me can be a woman inside, yet science has proven without a doubt that my brain is more feminine than masculine because I was given the right set of chemical signals during pregnancy to make my brain female, despite my xy chromosome. I have science to prove I have a womans brain in a man’s body, but my external appearance is all that matters to 99% of the world.

    And yet, daily, I find people in the net who are suffering that same issue. Far beyond just trans, I find people who want to be elves, and vampires, and trolls, and klingons, and furries. Everywhere I go I find people who’s “mental core self” is utterly at odds with their “physical shell”

    And I am not talking about people who are “play acting” like thousands of teen “twilight vampires” or emulating this or that game character. I’m talking about the millions upon millions of people who spend miserable lives because “who” they are doesn’t match “what” they are.

    I hate my body, because I’m a woman, not a football player, but how many people are there out there who would give everything to have the body I view as a curse? Who would love to be tall, broad shouldered, and co-ordinated? We FORCE people to act in a manner consistent with our stereotypes based on nothing more than physical appearance, regardless to how damaging this is to them.

    Think about that kid in school who so desperately wanted to be a sports player, tried as hard as he could to be good at something athletic, but who was constantly ridiculed for it because he was skinny, uncoordinated, and unattractive? We base far too much of our interpersonal interactions on appearances, demanding every “attractive” person be extroverted, every “unattractive” person be introverted, every male be “masculine” and every woman be “feminine”. We treat people like me, who’s internal self and external self don’t match, like freaks unless they conform to those behaviors we deem are “appropriate” for their physical appearance.

    But the net provides a freedom from that. By eliminating the “physical” stereotypes, it enables people to simply be themselves. Yeah, a lot of people online are just exactly who they are in real life, but for every person you find perfectly content with themselves, I’ll lay you odds you’ll find a dozen like me, who have an “online persona” which is much more aligned with their “mental self image” than their physical body. Think about the “truism” of the net, “assume every girl you meet is a G.I.R.L (Guy In Real Life)”

    Do you truly think that as we develop VR applications that we are going to meekly accept being shoved back into our “physical stereotypes” with avatars that conform exactly with our physical appearance? You can’t even find that in SL, how much more “appearance improvement” do you think Augmented Reality is going to allow? We already have AR apps that allow virtual characters to appear in real world settings as if they were there. We’re developing lidars and THz wave scanners and all sorts of other tech which will allow us to superimpose Virtuality on Reality, do you really think we’ll not use it to do what we have done for millennia, and use it to cosmetically enhance our appearance? It might start out with “shopping programs” that allow you to “try on a new look” before buying that outfit, or styling your hair, but it will progress to applications that replace your actual physical presence with a virtual Avatar that looks however you chose.

    And we as a planet with be forced to face the fact that physical appearance is a terrible metric of who someone actually is. And we will use those advances we make in biological science, and medical science, and computer science, to make the physical world adapt to our mental realities.

    And as those of us trapped behind these masks of other people’s expectations begin to be able to live lives free of masks, that loneliness which is our constant companion may finally end as we finally get to be the people we’ve always been inside.

    And that freedom means far more to me than just the freedom to be female. Because I’m not “just” female.

    I’m a white haired, bat-winged, spade tailed, cloven hoof, pointy eared, and horned female. I don’t care who thinks that is “weird”, “strange”, “offensive” or even “insane”, because the person I am forced to be now is far more insane to me. And the sooner we can end this endless stereotyping based on physical appearance, the sooner the insanity will end.

  15. I would restate assumption 1 as a “Quest for meaning”. However, this “quest” is driven by our biological instincts. We are genetically driven to form collectives, and to compete within those collectives for status. This directly translates into the “quest for meaning” because we all want to not only belong to a “higher” system of collectivity, we want to be “important”, i.e. of high status within that “higher order”. It is thus an illusion. We create meaning as we go along, it is not imposed from without.

    Assumption 2 is valid, but you jump from the argument that the mechanism of consciousness is identical for all “conscious” beings to the conclusion that this means that there is only one single “consciousness” in assumption 3, when empirical data seems to indicate that the universe is quite happy to make untold billions of duplicates of a working “program” and re-use it in endless variations. This indicates that while the program is identical, it is “instanced” in an infinite number of “copies” running in parallel, as opposed to a single program running in an infinite number of platforms. i.e. nature appears to favor running desktop pcs with networking, as opposed to a server with terminals all accessing a single “master program”. Unless we discover some means for a “universal consciousness” to transmit information across the entire universe in zero time, simple physics also favors “many copies” vs “single master copy”

    POV is certainly the “defining difference” between each “instanced” copy of consciousness, and each POV is unique, regardless of if the “consciousness program” is exactly the same. This holds true not only for humans, but for all forms of “consciousness”. Your “self” is the unique result of all past experiences, and continuity is what is needed to ensure that “self” is preserved. The physical substrate does play a large role in this POV, and certain inputs may be needed to ensure that continuity is maintained, but by and large this substrate appears to be mutable, and possibly even substitutable, so continuity appears to be the primary “essential component” in “self”

    Which means that if two people “merged continuities” as you suggest in assumption 4, the resulting “self” would NOT maintain continuity, or individuality. The result would be a “composite” self unique from BOTH sources, and provide no continuity for either of the two sources, and thus result in their destruction.

    However, if rather than “merging” it were possible to “share POVs” in a manner in which the “self” is not merged, but merely “observing” then empathy could become greatly enhanced, and it could enable greater understanding between individuals.

    It would still not address loneliness, as this is part and parcel of that “quest for meaning”. We seek similar people to surround ourselves with to share thoughts and experiences with, because we are social animals. We need those “differences” between “self” and “not self’ because the interactions between all our different POVs enables us to increase the survival odds for our “tribe” Loneliness occurs when we have no “tribe” or when we have a “tribe” which is highly dissimilar to ourselves. Even if the entire world “merged” what would result would be a single unique being in which no individual “POV” survived, and who would thus have no access to a “tribe”

  16. Ah, so nice to see that we are finally starting to wake up.

    http://www.teleologicalevolution.com

  17. I have a somewhat inverse relationship with games compared to you – I spend the vast majority of my time in single-player games and only a little time in online games (but love every minute of both). I suppose that is because we come to isolation from different places – me by preference, you by circumstance.

    I agree about the concept of guild as artificial family. While I was tanking in World of Warcraft for a raid guild the people I depended on most were as close as family – my raid leaders and healers were brothers and sisters to me. We were involved in each-others’ personal lives (with and without invitation), we spent hours every day together, we learned to deal with our quirks and differences harmoniously. In many ways I knew them better than I knew my biological family, at least during that couple year span of our lives.

    That we drifted apart almost instantly as we dropped off the game is also interesting; as tight as these familial bonds get, they are also flexible and easily liquidated. This has been observed before, and usually in a vaguely negative light – but I say it’s a good thing. All the joy of friendship and family and none of the grief when things fall apart, or when you would like them to. How can that be bad? Freedom of association with no baggage, minimal stress, and a safe, clean break if things get really bad. I don’t understand the fetishism surrounding negative emotions personally – it does nothing good for our physical or psychological health.