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People and Relationships Don’t Improve with Age

May 27, 2012 10 comments

The effort that humans routinely put into deluding themselves has never ceased to amaze me. Consider the following as a cautionary example of what the human “mind” can come up with. You must have heard numerous people say something long the following lines..

Guy X used to chase many women when he was younger. But you cannot keep on chasing them as you age and sexual desire decreases blah.. blah.. hormones blah.. blah.. So he started settling down. blah.. blah.. Now he is kinda happy. blah.. blah..

While the above mentioned meta-story might seem reasonable it is anything but that. I could attack it on many levels, but I prefer to start by stabbing at the heart of this narrative. In case you did not realize, the meta-story is meant to CON listeners or readers into believing that.

1. Phenomena reflect the natural order or patterns of nature.

2. Behavioral patterns remain constant, regardless of changes in the external environment.

3. People change for the better, and become nicer human beings, as they age.

Do you see the rational deficiencies inherent in these beliefs? Let us dissect them, starting with belief # 1 aka the ‘natural patterns’ fallacy.

As I have said in many of my previous posts, nothing in the universe is natural or unnatural. If it is feasible, it will happen and the only question then is – how often (probability). Multi-cellular organisms recognizable to us have been around for barely 500 million years. So are the plants and animals around us ‘natural’? Saying that anything is reflective of any ‘order’ or ‘pattern’ in nature is the secular version of belief in a god aka religion. No overarching super-human entity or force drives human to form relationships, create functional societies or even exist. They happen because they can happen under a given set of conditions. Furthermore, these complex systems are dependent on external conditions- some of which are influenced by internal feedback.

Whether people form long-term relationships, act cooperatively in reasonably functional societies or even want to keep on living depends on a complex and changing matrix of options and possibilities. Let us not forget that those who are old today grew up in a world that was rather different from the one we now inhabit. Their formative years and life trajectories were influenced by a different set of options, resources and possibilities. What seems ‘natural’, and ‘inevitable’ to them is often neither.

I am not implying that we have conquered aging, death or the desire for human company. My suggestion is that the nature, context, experience and possibility matrix for all of the above has changed to such an extent that extrapolations based on an older world are unreliable. For example- we now have easily available drugs for impotence, inexpensive testosterone supplements, weight training, careers that do not prematurely wear down the body, relatively inexpensive and relatively safe prostitution (in most of the developed world), ubiquitous high-quality porn and person-to-person connectivity that transcends time zones and national boundaries. At the same time, we have a society that is increasingly impersonal, uncaring, adversarial and does not offer the type of benefits which were once considered necessary to get people to care about its continued existence.

We must also question the assumption that people “change for the better, and become nicer human beings, as they age”. How many people really become “better”,”nicer”,”more humane” or “less greedy” as they age? Doesn’t experience suggest that the converse is true? Older people are generally far more selfish, untruthful, greedy and delusional than their younger counterparts. Most older people have less of whatever ‘positive’ qualities they once had. This is especially true for women who desperately cling to anything that allows them to retain some relevance and attention. The majority of women become increasingly insufferable and demanding as they age. Yes, there are exceptions to what I just said, but they are just that- exceptions.

The question you have to ask yourself is-

Given what we know about the general direction of incentives, individual capabilities and options- Is it reasonable to expect that young men today will “settle down” in semi-dysfunctional relationships as they age- even if they wanted to do so. A related question is whether the young women of today will become “better human beings” as they age.

What do you think? Comments?