What is Authenticity, Robin Hanson?

My comment on an intriguing piece by Robin Hanson here.

You are wrong Robin. Authenticity is not a tiara on your head nor is it farting in public. I also object to the idea that there might be no ‘real you’ or a ‘real me’.

So what is authenticity?

Start by asking: what is water? Two molecules of diatomic Hydrogen gas and one molecule of diatomic Oxygen gas forming two molecules of water. The important bit is what is usually not shown in the equation, it is the fact that this equation produces Energy, a tremendous amount of energy.

The reverse is then true to produce, say, Hydrogen from water – this will require energy to be added to the reactants.

This energy that makes and masks the true building blocks of yourself is the determination of authenticity. Being authentic is not a matter of displaying who you really are, nor is it hiding a part of your essence. Rather, it lies in not having to utilise an enormous amount of energy to do either, in this example just showing your Oxygen and detaching your Hydrogen to hide it from view.

You may ask, why go through all that effort of hiding and displaying? To fit in of course, we are social creatures after all. We want to be loved, be accepted at great cost, even if it means partial acceptance or acceptance based on deceit.

Thus authenticity is all connected to energy. It may explain why as we get older and possess less energy, our need for acceptance diminishes. We turn into cranky old men (or women), unwilling to bend so much to social norms and conventions as when we were younger, choosing instead to bend whatever is left of our energy towards the pursuits we care about most. Maybe not surprisingly then that older people report greater levels of satisfaction.

We are living in an age of greater social acceptance where we celebrate our differences rather than squash them. Just like natural systems find their equilibrium at the lowest energy state, so shall we in reclaiming our authenticity.

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