Im thankful to have a job and a roof over my head and a little bit of savings. Not having to really worry about money still blows my mind now and then.

Looking across the street every day in California and seeing the homelessness crisis in full swing is an ever present reminder of what this economy and this society can do to you if you slip up for even a second and / or have even a minor run of bad luck.

Working in software isn't always easy or fun or fulfilling but its still an incredible privilege to be working in this industry.

I’m thankful for yeast. It’s so, so convenient that we have a non-pathogenic bacteria which will eat pretty much any simple sugar, can be found on the surfaces of most fruits, and is essentially effortless to cultivate, which also does a bunch of useful things like leaven bread and make a bunch of delicious short chain fatty acids (both in bread and on their own, like in marmite) and make alcohol (although that one maybe does more harm than good)!
Realized after reading this that it's American Thanksgiving today. Happy Thanksgiving to our American friends. I'm thankful for a lovely forum where we can read and share articles like this one.
I'm thankful for Hacker News and internet cultures that support and share articles like this. Things that are intellectually gratifying without being overly specific, topical, or focused on any particular goal. Just interesting thoughts for the sake of their interestingness.
I'll take this space to mention two simple life changing gratitude practices that I have habitualized:

1. Every morning, before I allow myself to look at email/news/etc, I think of three things that I am grateful for.

2. Every night at bedtime, my partner and I tell each other three things we are grateful for about each other and one thing that we are grateful for about ourselves.

I find that bookending my days with gratitude like this makes it easier to live each day in a state of thankfulness.

Thank you, a lovely list.

7, 23, 24 were driven by the common unusual political occurrence of fair economic opportunity. These rare times where a balance of power occurs, by special circumstances, between the former autocratic rulers and everyone else.

In Britain (7), domestic Royal monopolies were abolished etc creating an economic and legal environment where entrepreneurs would be rewarded. So people started investing their very expensive free time tinkering because it might lead to profit.

Ancient Greece (23) developed the Solonian Constitution which similarly protected the property rights of ‘citizens’ like never before, so Athens became a cultural center of tinkerers, hustlers, thought leaders, influencers etc, and the ideas are what we still have today. Because unlike with Ancient Phoenicia, the Greeks wrote on clay, not on perishable papyrus.

(24) Obviously the US Constitution managed to establish unusual property rights for its European male citizens, and again we see hustlers, thought leaders, influencers etc, because their efforts are far more likely to be rewarded. But this time we see what this political environment looks like close up and we see regular people’s bright ideas materialize in society because the law protects them.

I am thankful that we still today, I mean 11/26/2021 today, still maintain the balance of power that enables our egalitarian laws to stand, and hope that some new technology won’t kill that balance.

I'm thankful for existence itself. Sure, it's not always pleasant, but the mere fact that we perceive reality as we do is a fascinating rabbit hole, one that I wish I had discovered decades ago. The subjective experience of existence is one of the big unknowns left in this world, one that I don't think we'll ever truly understand. That's good though, because human curiosity is one of the wonderful, amazing things we have the capability to do (if other Earth-native, non-human sentient beings have similar curiosities, they don't have nearly the ability to explore them, that we know).

I hope everyone who reads this is having a good day today. May you all have fortune and blessing in your lives.

There is really something to the idea that despite the daily news and political doomsaying that goes on every day, it's hard for people to remember or celebrate the long progression that we've experienced towards living in the most peaceful, materially prosperous, and positive trajectory time in the history of humanity.

(I think there was a podcast on Hidden Brain about this. Also video like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwKPFT-RioU).

It's really good to periodically think about how much we benefit from, say, the miracles of air conditioning, available infrastructure and cheap travel beyond your town, clean water and air, medicine, vaccines, public health -- and reset what you're grateful for. And stop making every little transgression of modern life feel like a disastrous setback.

But of course it's very unfashionable to point this out when someone's <xyz> cause is being neglected, or is in the news and everyone is outraged. Of course when you make such comparisons you get hissed out of a room for being so callous, because anyone's relative suffering is supposed to be treated with utmost respect. And the short, acute, headline making problems are always louder than the long progression of gradual improvement.

But taken in perspective, by intelligent people who can discuss such things, we've really reached the age of 1% problems. (which are being exposed because our huge disastrous human-generated conflicts, etc. are decreased compared to 100 years ago). Health, social issues, etc. are such luxuries to have problems about now (and glad to have them discovered and debated), but remember how wonderful a time we live in. We aren't generally dying of terrible diseases during childhood, etc. or because of world wars. More people are living longer to experience the wonders of humanity than ever before. Although, things like climate change we'd better allow to rise to the top of our list of problems, soon...

Anyway, definitely very thankful for all these things, and all the daily unsung people who make our humanity's progress possible.

"it’s surely better than the light of consciousness vanishing entirely when the sun eats the Earth in 7.5 billion years, no?"

The Earth will lose its oxygen in about 1 billion years and undergo runaway warming in about 1.4 billion years. By the time the Earth is eaten by the Sun (if it is; mass loss by the Sun might prevent this), the Earth will have been sterilized for longer than it has currently existed.

I've done a lot of traveling in less developed countries. That has taught me to be thankful for the fact that I live in a house with heat and air conditioning, and hot and cold running water that I can drink without getting sick. Many people in developed countries (especially the U.S.) take these things for granted, but in many parts of the world these are things people only dream of.
> That the FDA, Health Canada, and the European Food Safety Authority all agree that at the doses humans consume, aspartame is perfectly safe—not genotoxic, not carcinogenic, does not cause an insulin spike—or at least has small, unknown harms, meaning that people with a sweet tooth can avoid the large, known harms of sugar with minimal exertion of willpower, and this is still true even though people for some reason seem to reject and despise this extremely lucky fact.

2020 paper published in Cell:

"Short-Term Consumption of Sucralose with, but Not without, Carbohydrate Impairs Neural and Metabolic Sensitivity to Sugar in Humans"


From Huberman Lab (deep link to part where he talks about this):


Takeaway: if you consume artificial sweeteners with foods that increase blood glucose, your brain will learn to secrete insulin in response to artificial sweeteners even when consumed by themselves. So if you drink diet soda all the time with and without snacks - you can throw your insulin regulation system out of whack and even cause pre-diabetes!

> 11. That it happens to be a game-theoretic equilibrium to have a near-equal sex ratio, although honestly, I have no idea what things would be like if that wasn’t the case and maybe it would be fine.

Well, let's think about if this would be fine.

If there were a 10:1 female to male ratio, I think we'd expect that a modern, "civilized" society would be reasonably fine for everyone. There'd probably a lot more polygamy and polyamory than we have now, but the polygamy wouldn't be the "old school backwoods fundamentalist" type, because women would be in charge of the government and effectively make all the laws. I wouldn't be surprised if there were also a requirement that all healthy males donate at the sperm bank once a month from the onset of puberty to age 50 or so. This doesn't seem too onerous.

If there were a 10:1 male to female ratio ... it would be a dystopian hellscape that's makes me shudder just to think of it. Women would have basically no rights. There'd be an incredibly high level of violence. Nearly everyone except the alpha males would be miserable a lot of the time.

Anyway, that's my idea of how things might be like in an extreme scenario. If we're talking 1.1:1 or 1.2:1 either way it might not be a big deal, though I'd expect men outnumbering women to get bad at a surprisingly low ratio, well before even 2:1.

Note that this isn't because I think men are inherently bad and women inherently good. It's simply that nearly everyone has a very strong genetic drive to reproduce. In the world with more women than men, everyone who wants to have a biological child can do so quite easily. In the opposite world, most men cannot do so, which means reproduction is a scarce resource. And we know what humans do in response to a very strong need for a scarce resource.

"That other animals have more cone cells than humans, e.g. birds with four and shrimp with up to 16, and so probably see colors we can’t even conceive of which, yeah, that limitation of our minds is frustrating, but it also hints that there are huge unseen dark continents of qualia lurking out there which someday we might find a way to visit."

This is based on a misunderstanding regarding the rise of qualia. It is processing power and not sensor capacity or at least both together in some combination with processing power doing the heavy lift. Humans have less cones but several OOM more neurons to make sense of what we have. So no - the shrimp doesn't see in spectacular color.

Experimentally proved:



> Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, “This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!”
I like this more unusual list of things to be grateful for, as it complements well what one is usually reminded to be grateful for. I'd like a more fundamental point there, though:

Gratefulness seems to be primarily a ternary operator: "<SOMEONE> is grateful to <SOMEONE> for <SOMETHING>." (like "a ? b : c" in C).

That second SOMEONE is the one that the being grateful is directed at, as they are responsible for things being the way they are. (Being grateful to anyone not causally connected to what one is grateful about seems most weird.)

Does that not mean that every grateful person acknowledges God's existence, at least implicitly?

>25. That evolution happened to settle on this trick of “love” to serve the interests of evolution rather than, like, causing us to feel like we’re being burned alive every time we don’t find mates or feed our kids or whatever

I liked the article but this strikes me as strange because this is clearly not the same for everyone. Depending on who you ask there's a sizeable population of people who, because of environment and genetics, cannot focus on the "love" parts of relationships and are predisposed to focus on fears of abandonment etc to stay in relationships without lots of help and drugs.

Be happy you got a decent dice roll if you regularly feel positive about your relationships, triply so if this "positive affect" guides the majority your life decisions!

I am thankful haemoglobin can carry so much oxygen without the iron in it turning to rust. Otherwise we wouldnt be able to breathe. Well described here,and i have no affiliation https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/102010332
I'm grateful to have been born in the good part of the world which allows me to be grateful that we're allowed to sustain our lifestyles thanks to the exploitation of others, and I'm not the exploited one
Im thankful for the miracle of modern medicine which has allowed my mother to see so much more of my life than otherwise would've been possible. And though there are many bad things that have led to the situation, the good things still exist also. The extension of the human life may seem strange or counterintuitively painful at the large scale but for the individual human/family is the most important thing about our modern existence.
> That the Earth hasn’t recently been hit by a solar flare as powerful as the 1859 Carrington event

Is anyone thinking about what to do? It's only a matter of time before we have another flare 2X or 3X the magnitude of the Carrington event.

Most items are speculative, subjective or even historically inaccurate.
Thankfulness as an end is not necessarily valuable or positive. I think the associated feeling does little to the make the world a better place, I put it in the same category as remorse.

Just as remorse should lead to rectifying action, thankfulness should lead to reciprocal action to provide objective value.

What's interesting is the impetus between internal perception and outward action both share is a sense of indebtedness. Thankfulness becomes a passive accumulation of debt in this lens, whereas remorse casts our hero in a more active role.

I think also actions spawned from thankfulness will be more comedic [dynamic] in nature and whereas those from remorse will tend toward the tragic [static]. The efficacy of either approach will reflect the constraints of the systems they are acting within and how well conceived the individual's solution is.

Not sure where I'm going with this. Spitballing, not preaching ...

Hot shower in the morning.

Think about it; how many of your ancestors did have the option of having a hot shower every morning. Think about the labor involved!

I'm thankful for my kiddos, single dad full time for years and after the alternative i wouldn't have it any other way. I've got a shock of white now because of them though :D I couldn't be more thankful. And I'm gonna stay single until they grow up so they know beyond a doubt how important they are.
"Oh, and also that the universe exists at all"

That's the one to keep coming back to. Could've been nothin.

I’m thankful for every HN user and moderator who helps remove political or mean comments.
I'm thankful that the freak accident of multicellular life happened, possibly once ever, billions of years ago.[1] The near impossibility of that momentous event happening could be The Great Filter that explains the Fermi Paradox.[2] Thanks for being here, fellow multicellular friends.

[1] (Start at 2:15) https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab/articles/cellm...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox

#5 is actually pretty amazing if you think about it

If zero-calorie sweeteners didn't exist I feel like we would view discovering one as a holy grail/miracle drug

I bet a ton of obesity has been prevented just due to diet soda

Imagine if the same thing existed for carbs

Was this article written by a shill for aspartame?

They just threw it in there as something to be thankful to for, right after the sun, the earth, nature etc.

I actually wondered why the industrial revolution didn't happen in China, great to see one possible explanation menioned in the article [1].

Does anybody know other theories about this?

[1] https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2017/03/book3.htm

That even though we evolved as ruthless replication machines, we’ve somehow risen out of the muck and we currently find ourselves running cultural software that’s way out of sync with what game theory would dictate, and perhaps we can seize the moment and build a civilization that can tame the brutal dynamics that created us.

This. Our scientific understanding on how humans cooperate to not simply feed each other, but prosper with endless creative opportunities of cultivation, demonstrates we are at a tipping point to potentially permanently limit the recurrence of violence inter-generationally. Think of it as reversing unjust hereditary trauma. So many humans being born now see a path to their own prosperity, this century will be remembered as leaving the Planet of the Apes behind.

If we have something like #2, would that debunk the idea that backing things up exclusively on magnetic media (HDD, tape) is sufficient for restoration? I've never found optical media to be particularly reliable, but it might be a decent hedge against a huge magnetic event.
Great article overall.

10 and 13 are somewhat contradictory.

10 posits "the hard problem of consciousness" and "for whatever reason we have phenomenal experiences" while:

13 says "That selfhood is possibly an illusion... and the idea that you are the same person you were yesterday is an illusion your brain-meat gives to you"

I happen to think 13 is closer to the truth. As we learn more about the brain, it will become more clear that "consciousness" is just a movie your brain puts on for you. Bats and dogs and dolphins watch different movies, but we cannot say they are "not conscious."

"12: That private life exists and that markets, while we all (some?) appreciate their power to allocate resources, don’t permeate every single part of life, that there are moments of beauty and grace that aren’t best understood as competition and harnessed selfishness."

Hackernews/Facebook in annoyed response: Um, we're WORKING ON IT. Sheesh, penetrating all aspects of off-time via social networks will have to wait for Meta.

I can't tell if this article is tongue-in-cheek or not. These are all just excruciatingly detailed versions of "I'm thankful the human species came out on the positive side of a lot of dice rolls".

Just say you're happy to be alive and move on.

> Due to some [reason], an overpopulation calamity hasn’t yet happened and we might coincidentally stabilize at a level that’s somewhat close to what maximizes average utility...

Given the birthrate trends in developed countries, it's more likely the population will peak and then decline as prosperity spreads. The cause isn't hard to discern - child labor laws - they turn children from potential assets into guaranteed liabilities.

A declining population will be a bad thing; our modern way of life is built on systems that depend on growth (from Wall Street to our tax structures to the various Social Security safety nets countries have in place); take that away and we will have real problems.

Re #15 I watched a show about a boy who got infected with ecoli. The defence was plasma transfusion (I think) which was experimental at the time. He survived … barely. The bacteria tore through his body, made a hole in his stomach. The point is out sophisticated defence goes beyond the immune system into the knowledge, technology, science. Imagine what covid would be like without technology, governments, money, coordination. May have spread more slowly at the global level of course without technology but would be way more deadly.
I'm happy that ice floats.
I'm thankful for the HN moderator dang.
You'll not make me thankful for aspartame however hard you try. Some good ones there, though.
I think it's important to be thankful only about stuff that are not descriptive but took some agency to make happen. To keep rehashing that we should be thankful that sun exists or that earth has a magnetic core to shield us against the nasty solar flares, etc. fall in the first category and devalue the idea of thankfulness. Because you wouldn't be here to talk about it otherwise.

So let's show thankfulness for things that took agency to make happen so we learn to do more of those things.

I disagree with 14. Imho 'we' are implementing cruel measures by neglected and obsolete destructive systems like global unrestricted capitalism, causing a structural hunger problem and mass death in exploited/unprofitable regions.
I'm thankful we still live in a society with personal and economic liberty. Both those on the far left and the far right are trying to take those from us, and the center is vanishing as America becomes more polarized each cycle. I'm convinced one day in the future, we will no longer have the freedoms we enjoy today, so I live each day to the fullest knowing that nothing good lasts forever.
I'm thankful for living in a time when there is modern medicine, in a country with modern healthcare, without which I would not be alive today.

BTW. If society does not prepare for the next Carrington Event, it will suffer greatly. Technology is great, but it would be stupid to create too hard dependencies on it. Also, there will be a next pandemic - as there always have.

> That large animals like humans seem to be able to develop sophisticated defenses against parasites that parasites can’t counter-adapt against, meaning that parasitism is way less of an issue for us than it is for smaller animals, which is good because parasites are bad.

The lack of parasites probably leads to most auto immune diseases in humans.

I'm thankful for all the humans over the centuries, all over the Earth, that created music which I can experience, now, effortlessly. I'm thankful for all the strong feelings that that music awakes. Thank you everyone putting their heart out there through music.
There's an interesting paper that touches on #2. From Assistant Professor Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi. Definitely worth a read.


>That even though the turn humans made from hunter-gatherer bands into agriculture pretty clearly made life worse, it eventually led to the industrial revolution

Which also made life worse to begin with. Without the enclosure movement depriving peasants of their land and pushing them to work in the factories in horrendous conditions for pitiful pay it likely wouldnt have happened.

Though I'm pretty thankful for the workers' movement that followed that led to innovations like the weekend and criminalization of child labor.

I am thankful for online bill payment. I remember my dad having to go and queue up for paying electricity and water bills every month - even when it was sweltering hot.
Only 12 hours ago I was grateful the we hadn't been hit by another, even more dangerous, COVID variant but's that's back on the table now.
I'm thankful for the Internet, you wouldn't be reading this otherwise
I really like this idea of listing things to be thankful for. I might just start up a mega list in my house for my kids to contribute to. Maybe a binder? Something we can revisit together and contribute to.
how about: Ice is less dense than liquid water, so it floats. That means bodies of water don't freeze solid in the winter, which would have precluded life anywhere colder than the tropics.
Hahaha this article is a lot more meta than I thought it would be on a Thanksgiving morning.

Great article nometheless; it seems like we just got really, really lucky.

Alternative title: “All the things that make it so that I can experience typing this into something we call a computer.”
That rotten milk is edible and quite tasty AND that heated up again it becomes semi-fluid and even more delicious than before.
Great now I'm terrified by how utterly screwed the world will be when another Carrington Event happens.
Every day you can wake up, put your feet on the ground and stand up, is a beautiful day.
Feelings wheel is the most underrated thing I have discovered this year.
Well that article made wonders with my preexisting depression
I’m thankful for Hacker News and this post
I really like that list!


Sometimes I think #1 could have gone either way, and that would still be OK. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Not about to start being grateful for aspartame, sorry ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
> meaning that people with a sweet tooth can avoid the large, known harms of sugar with minimal exertion of willpower

Aspartame tastes so awful I can't see how that's going to make me thankful.

0. That some HN commenters rush to call bullshit out when they detect a lot of it.
Not going to argue my point or bring up any real evidence because this guy didn't either, but Hunter Gatherers absolutely lived better lives than we do now and the amount of human beings who die to homocide or suicide is higher now than during that time period. This time period is hell, just look at suicide rates and mental illness rates. No other point in human existence has our life held as little meaning as it does now. And our biggest killer in the West happens to be a disease that has some of the worst comorbidites. Most people in the west are living their life in a inflammation, sleep deprived, vitamin defficient, hormonally disrupted brain fog.

I also don't think people realize how the suffering of lack of pleasure and of short excruciating pain like being eaten, is infinitely better than a lifetime of stress, deppression, and nihilism. Slavery to pleasure is the worst hell, and most of us are enslaved in one way or another.

p.s. False positivity doesn't do shit for your brain, it can actually cause harm. Even if it could do something good, you are basically just brainwashing yourself to have a less truthful understanding of the world. Joy is self-evident for Joyful people and doesn't require deceiptful mantras.