Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Revisiting a great meme: "Life is a gamble"

Pleasure cannot justify suffering in any instance -- not even in instances where the pleasure experienced greatly dwarfs the negative state of desire experienced prior. Here's why:

Think of life as a six-sided die. The five greatest things about life that you can imagine occupy five of the six sides -- perhaps intense orgasms, spiritual fulfillment, growing old with a significant other, having ten trillion dollars, and access to an endless supply of great music (these definitely wouldn't be my choices; they're just examples). The sixth side is occupied by a fifteen-year battle with AIDS -- vomiting, loss of control over bowels and all.

Would you roll the die? If not, congratulations; if presented the choice to be born or to remain in your state of nonexistence, you'd choose to remain in your state of nonexistence. In other words: You wouldn't choose life.

We don't all get AIDS, you say. Well...

1. "We" don't exist as discrete selves in the first place. I remember things that happened to a ten-year-old kid, which gives me the impression that the kid was me, but he wasn't; he lacked my ideals, conceptions, desires, hormones, and even most (if not all) of my atoms. Therefore, that ten-year-old kid is no more "me" than anyone else to have ever lived -- yet all sentient organisms utilize the same chemical compounds and electrical signals in order to experience pain and pleasure, making them chemically equivalent. Clearly, then, there is no need for "me" to experience the worst parts of life: the universe experiences them, and that's bad enough.

2. It's very probable that we will all die -- most of us from cancer, possibly while in a tremendous amount of pain for a prolonged period of time.

The worst that life has to offer might not ever get inflicted upon you, but every day, we roll the die, and every day, many, many people roll the bad side. If you wouldn't want to live through it, then how can you justify its existence?

I ask again, and hope that you leave a comment with your answer: Would you roll the die?


  1. Would I roll the die? Maybe. Would I roll it for someone else? HELL NO.

  2. I wouldn't roll it. I would say that I don't care if people decide for themselves to roll it, but that'd be like saying that I don't care if people waste all of their money in casinos or make other poor life decisions. I want to help them to see how irrational their own personal choices are so that they both course correct themselves and lead by example.

  3. Well I can't disagree on that. On the whole, we're all better off in a society where people act more rationally than in a society where people act less rationally. That's a no-brainer (no pun intended).

  4. By the way, I just rolled a virtual d6 and I got a 3. See, I would have won. Curse you. ;)

  5. Haha, if only.

    A coin analogy is also good for illustrating the lack of balance between pain and pleasure. You can put the bubonic plague on one side and billions of dollars on the other to make it especially obvious.

    I'd love to get some hard statistics on who would roll the die/flip the coin, though. It'd be interesting to procure a decent sample size and ask.

  6. I might take 5/6 odds, but not 1/2.

  7. Risk aversion=Fallacy

    You stupid cunt.

  8. I've heard this before, but I've never been able to figure out what the hell it means. Wikipedia returns no results, other than an interesting study on how the human brain tends to be more easily influenced by losses than gains. Sounds like a good enough reason to avoid risk to me.

  9. Maybe this would work better if we distributed incidences of each outcome in a way that scales up to life on Earth. Let's have someone roll two, six-sided dice with the following sides:

    Die 1

    1. Starvation and all of its most odious symptoms
    2. Delicious ice cream
    3. Sex with a fairly attractive member of your preferred gender
    4. Your favorite song
    5. A side-splitting joke
    6. 250 billion dollars

    Die 2

    1. A two-year battle with stomach cancer
    2. A bad back
    3. A stomach bug (norovirus) with lots of both vomiting and diarrhea
    4. Social alienation and feelings of inadequacy
    5. Unemployment; money problems
    6. A thought-provoking film

    Let's say that the time during which your result will be applied to you is unknown; you could get to watch an awesome movie tomorrow, or you could get cancer twenty years from now (or vice versa).

    If you wouldn't play this game, then please do not force others to play it against their will, and promptly stop being a hypocrite.

  10. No good can justify evil. Rolling the dice is immoral.