Local Ordinances of Fun

Pr­ereq­ui­site read­ing which you will prob­a­bly want open in an­other tab for refer­ence: 31 Laws of Fun

Un­pref­aced, this post might sound a lot like I’m just pick­ing on Eliezer, or Eliezer’s par­tic­u­lar set of “laws”. I’m sort of do­ing that, but only as a tem­plate for ways to pick on Laws of Fun in gen­eral. The cor­rect re­sponse to this post is not “Here is my new, differ­ent list of N things that will satisfy ev­ery­one”.

(Well, it would be if you could do that. I’m skep­ti­cal.)

If I pur­ported to come up with gen­eral laws of fun, I might or might not do a bet­ter job. Prob­a­bly I’d do a bet­ter job com­ing up with a frame­work for my­self; I might also be more cau­tious about as­sum­ing hu­man ho­mo­gene­ity, but I doubt I’d do an unas­sailable job. And an unas­sailable job is prob­a­bly nec­es­sary, if ev­ery­one will abide by Laws of Fun for­ever. An unas­sailable job of Leg­is­lat­ing Fun is needed make sure that some peo­ple aren’t caught be­tween un­wanted men­tal tam­per­ing and, prob­a­bly not Hell, but a world that is sub­tly (or glar­ingly) wrong, wrong, wrong.

Please do not as­sume that I out­right en­dorse un­men­tioned laws; these are just the ones I can pick at most ob­vi­ously.

I fully ex­pect to be told that I have mi­s­un­der­stood at least half of these items.

6 sits un­com­fortably. The sa­van­nah is where we were de­signed to sur­vive, but evolu­tion is miserly; it is not where we were de­signed to thrive glo­ri­ously. (Any species de­signed to thrive glo­ri­ously there which was ac­tu­ally put there would find its de­scen­dants get­ting away with more and more cor­ner-cut­ting un­til they found a more effi­cient fron­tier. Crea­tures that can fly don’t keep flight just be­cause fly­ing is awe­some; they must also need it.) I want a home de­signed for me to thrive glo­ri­ously in, not one that takes its cues from the en­vi­ron­ment my an­ces­tors eked out a liv­ing in. I sus­pect this is more like a tem­per­ate-clime park than a bak­ing sa­van­nah, and it might be more like an ar­chi­tec­turally ex­cel­lent house than ei­ther. “Win­dowless office” is not the fair com­par­i­son. That is not how we de­sign places to put peo­ple we like.

8 sounds just wrong, or like a mis­state­ment. Why should we get bet­ter and bet­ter? Ob­ject­ing to flat awe­some­ness sounds like a mat­ter of deny­ing that it is flat. Per­haps it just sounds te­dious for things to be the same level of awe­some­ness for­ever, per­haps it sounds in­evitable that the he­do­nic tread­mill will pull down­ward, but that te­dium or tread­mill means the awe­some­ness is not re­ally flat. If it’s ac­tu­ally awe­some, by all means let’s take a fly­ing leap there and carry on for­ever. (Cer­tainly things should not get worse over time.)


10 sounds like it’s miss­ing an op­tion. What can peo­ple do for each other? In our world, but­tons do stuff for us, be­cause peo­ple with whom we are in­ter­de­pen­dent made them do that. In the an­ces­tral en­vi­ron­ment, peo­ple ate food that oth­ers hunted and gath­ered, they listened to mu­sic oth­ers played, they car­ried stuff in bas­kets oth­ers wove, etc. Gifts are good. Spe­cial­iza­tion is not evil. Cer­tainly hu­mans should do things, but what if I want to play the flute now and only have flute-whit­tling down as my ac­tivity for cen­tury sev­en­teen?

12 sounds okay pro­vided it is not in­ter­preted to for­bid re­ally great video games, role­play­ing sce­nar­ios, fic­tion in gen­eral, etc.

13 clashes with a lot of the other laws. (What if I don’t want to live my life ac­cord­ing to things like, oh, Law 9 [AAAAAH]? Is some­one go­ing to stop me from plan­ning my­self a pre­dictable fu­ture?) Peo­ple might work best un­der differ­ent rules, too.

15 isn’t even a law, it’s a prob­lem state­ment. Same with 16.

17 sounds like ar­tifi­cial difficulty. Just be­cause there is a challenge there and I don’t have the road to get around it doesn’t stop me from ac­knowl­edg­ing that some­one else does. If there is an AI around, and it could get me out of this jam, a psy­cholog­i­cally-un­tam­pered-with Ali­corn will re­sent that it is mak­ing me do stuff if I don’t hap­pen to want to do it, the same way I re­sented busy­work in school that didn’t hap­pen to in­ter­est me. Even­tu­ally I plan to try mak­ing my own but­ter. In the mean­time, I’m glad that’s not a step in mak­ing scram­bled eggs.

20 sounds idiosyn­cratic or case-by-case. (I take it to be in­tended as a stronger state­ment than the mere “there are situ­a­tions where you can tell peo­ple true things and it doesn’t help them”—even if that’s al­most false there has to be some per­verse sce­nario to make it so.) Some­times—of­ten—I just want peo­ple to tell me stuff. See also 17; the fact that some­one else knows, even if noth­ing I can do will get them to tell me, makes my not-know­ing some­thing of a fake prob­lem.

23 sounds like an out­right con­tra­dic­tion of 22. What do you want to do—solve prob­lems by mess­ing with the en­vi­ron­ment, or “nudge” peo­ple to solve a “statis­ti­cal sex prob­lem”? Are there not any en­vi­ron­men­tal changes that would ac­com­plish this? Con­doms made a dent, didn’t they? What would liter­ally perfect birth con­trol and dis­ease pro­tec­tion do? More en­ergy, bet­ter health, more time? Liter­ally perfect pri­vacy? Bet­ter in­for­ma­tion for ev­ery­one about how to be good in bed? Non-twisted cul­ture to raise new minds in? Op­tional perfect body/​avatar mod­ifi­ca­tion for ev­ery­one? That took me three min­utes to come up with. Leap­ing straight to “nudges” is… dis­com­fit­ing!*

27 and 28 are use­ful tools for fic­tion and in­ter­est­ing thought ex­er­cises, but it is not how we build houses (mine is right-side-up and has its plumb­ing in its bath­rooms rather than on the roof, thank you). It may not be how we should build eu­topias in which we hope to ac­tu­ally live. I like com­fort. I ex­pect cul­ture to change rad­i­cally—the way cul­tures do when time passes and/​or things change—once ev­ery­one has set­tled into tran­shu­man­ity, but the form that tran­shu­man­ity takes needn’t it­self be fright­en­ing, and try­ing to de­sign this in sounds like a bad idea.

The gen­eral un­der­cur­rent through the laws “peo­ple should not have [ac­cess to] X” thing sounds prob­le­matic. Un­less we plan to de­ceive them about the na­ture of the posts­in­gu­lar­ity uni­verse, their not be­ing al­lowed X will be known to be some­body’s fault. Some­one be­lieved in some Laws of Fun that they pro­grammed into an AI that de­ter­mined that the best way to op­ti­mize for that kind of Fun was to dis­al­low X. Some­body is go­ing to want X and some­body will be dis­ap­pointed.

It is one thing to have a Eu­topia that is scary, but it sounds so ter­ribly sad to have one that is dis­ap­point­ing.

And I have never yet sincerely over­es­ti­mated hu­man het­ero­gene­ity.

*I think Eliezer in gen­eral as­signs more-than-av­er­age im­por­tance to gen­der as a fac­tor in per­son­al­ity, any­way… of­ten in a het­eronor­ma­tive way.