Fun Theory

TagLast edit: 14 Sep 2020 2:49 UTC by lincolnquirk

Fun Theory is the field of knowledge studying how to design for fun in future society: it deals in questions such as “How much fun is there in the universe?”, “Will we ever run out of fun?”, “Are we having fun yet?” and “Could we be having more fun?”

From The Fun Theory Sequence:

Many critics (including George Orwell) have commented on the inability of authors to imagine Utopias where anyone would actually want to live. If no one can imagine a Future where anyone would want to live, that may drain off motivation to work on the project. The prospect of endless boredom is routinely fielded by conservatives as a knockdown argument against research on lifespan extension, against cryonics, against all transhumanism, and occasionally against the entire Enlightenment ideal of a better future.

Fun Theory is also the fully general reply to religious theodicy (attempts to justify why God permits evil). Our present world has flaws even from the standpoint of such eudaimonic considerations as freedom, personal responsibility, and self-reliance. Fun Theory tries to describe the dimensions along which a benevolently designed world can and should be optimized, and our present world is clearly not the result of such optimization. Fun Theory also highlights the flaws of any particular religion’s perfect afterlife—you wouldn’t want to go to their Heaven.

The argument against Enlightenment

Some critiques of transhumanism (and related fields such as cryonics or lifespan extension) suggest that human enhancement would be accompanied boredom and the end of fun as we know it. For example: “if we self-improve human minds to extreme levels of intelligence, all challenges known today may bore us.” Likewise, “if superhumanly intelligent machines take care of our every need, it is apparent that no challenges nor fun will remain.”

However, we can work towards determining whether and how the universe will offer, or whether we ourselves can create, ever more complex and sophisticated opportunities to delight, entertain and challenge ever more powerful and resourceful minds.

The concept of Utopia

Transhumanists are usually seen as working towards a better human future. This future is sometimes conceptualized, as George Orwell aptly describes it, as Utopia:

“It is a commonplace [view] that the Christian Heaven, as usually portrayed, would attract nobody. Almost all Christian writers dealing with Heaven either say frankly that it is indescribable or conjure up a vague picture of gold, precious stones, and the endless singing of hymns… [W]hat it could not do was to describe a condition in which the ordinary human being actively wanted to be.”

Imagining this perfect future where every problem is solved and where there is constant peace and rest—as seen, a close parallel to several religious Heavens—rapidly leads to the conclusion that no one would actually want to live there.

Complex values and fun theory’s solution

A key insight of fun theory, in its current embryonic form, is that eudaimonia—the classical framework where happiness is the ultimate human goal—is complicated. That is, there are many properties which contribute to a life worth living. We humans require many things to experience a fulfilled life: Aesthetic stimulation, pleasure, love, social interaction, learning, challenge, and much more.

It is a common mistake in discussion of future society to extract only one element of the human preferences and advocate that it alone be maximized. This would neglect all other human values. For example, if we simply optimize for pleasure or happiness, “wirehead”, we’ll stimulate the relevant parts of our brain and experience bliss for eternity, but pursue no other experiences. If almost any element of our value system is absent, then the human future will likely be very unpleasant.

Enhanced humans are also seen to have the value system of humans today, but we may choose to change it as we self-enhance. We may want to alter our own value system, by eliminating values, like bloodlust, which on reflection we wish were absent. But there are many values which we, on reflection, want to keep, and since we humans have no basis for a value system other than our current value system, fun theory must seek to maximize the value system that we have, rather than inventing new values.

Fun theory thus seeks to let us keep our curiosity and love of learning intact, while preventing the extremes of boredom possible in a transhuman future if our strongly boosted intellects have exhausted all challenges. More broadly, fun theory seeks to allow humanity to enjoy life when all needs are easily satisfied and avoid the fall into the un-fun utopian futures in literature.

External links

See also

The Uses of Fun (The­ory)

Eliezer Yudkowsky2 Jan 2009 20:30 UTC
21 points
16 comments4 min readLW link

The Fun The­ory Sequence

Eliezer Yudkowsky25 Jan 2009 11:18 UTC
49 points
30 comments13 min readLW link

31 Laws of Fun

Eliezer Yudkowsky26 Jan 2009 10:13 UTC
57 points
36 comments8 min readLW link

High Challenge

Eliezer Yudkowsky19 Dec 2008 0:51 UTC
44 points
74 comments4 min readLW link

Com­plex Novelty

Eliezer Yudkowsky20 Dec 2008 0:31 UTC
38 points
66 comments8 min readLW link

Prole­gom­ena to a The­ory of Fun

Eliezer Yudkowsky17 Dec 2008 23:33 UTC
41 points
51 comments6 min readLW link

The Best Toy In The Park

jefftk25 Aug 2020 14:30 UTC
22 points
15 comments1 min readLW link

The Ad­ven­ture: a new Utopia story

Stuart_Armstrong5 Feb 2020 16:50 UTC
70 points
37 comments51 min readLW link

Con­tin­u­ous Improvement

Eliezer Yudkowsky11 Jan 2009 2:09 UTC
24 points
26 comments9 min readLW link

Build­ing Weirdtopia

Eliezer Yudkowsky12 Jan 2009 20:35 UTC
43 points
311 comments3 min readLW link

Map­ping Fun The­ory onto the challenges of eth­i­cal foie gras

HonoreDB7 Dec 2011 20:47 UTC
49 points
62 comments1 min readLW link

A Day in Utopia

ozymandias22 Nov 2017 16:57 UTC
15 points
10 comments5 min readLW link

Char­ac­ter­is­ing utopia

Richard_Ngo2 Jan 2020 0:00 UTC
25 points
3 comments22 min readLW link

In Praise of Boredom

Eliezer Yudkowsky18 Jan 2009 9:03 UTC
32 points
104 comments6 min readLW link

Failed Utopia #4-2

Eliezer Yudkowsky21 Jan 2009 11:04 UTC
79 points
261 comments10 min readLW link

Se­duced by Imagination

Eliezer Yudkowsky16 Jan 2009 3:10 UTC
30 points
20 comments3 min readLW link

Liv­ing By Your Own Strength

Eliezer Yudkowsky22 Dec 2008 0:37 UTC
35 points
32 comments5 min readLW link

Devil’s Offers

Eliezer Yudkowsky25 Dec 2008 17:00 UTC
34 points
47 comments6 min readLW link

Can’t Un­birth a Child

Eliezer Yudkowsky28 Dec 2008 17:00 UTC
36 points
95 comments3 min readLW link

Free to Optimize

Eliezer Yudkowsky2 Jan 2009 1:41 UTC
37 points
81 comments7 min readLW link

Harm­ful Options

Eliezer Yudkowsky25 Dec 2008 2:26 UTC
38 points
44 comments3 min readLW link

Am­pu­ta­tion of Destiny

Eliezer Yudkowsky29 Dec 2008 18:00 UTC
34 points
67 comments8 min readLW link

Sen­sual Experience

Eliezer Yudkowsky21 Dec 2008 0:56 UTC
20 points
86 comments4 min readLW link

Jus­tified Ex­pec­ta­tion of Pleas­ant Surprises

Eliezer Yudkowsky15 Jan 2009 7:26 UTC
20 points
58 comments3 min readLW link

Vi­su­al­iz­ing Eutopia

Eliezer Yudkowsky16 Dec 2008 18:39 UTC
18 points
37 comments3 min readLW link

Emo­tional Involvement

Eliezer Yudkowsky6 Jan 2009 22:23 UTC
25 points
53 comments6 min readLW link

Im­ple­men­ta­tions of immortality

Richard_Ngo1 Nov 2018 14:20 UTC
20 points
11 comments5 min readLW link

The Su­per Happy Peo­ple (3/​8)

Eliezer Yudkowsky1 Feb 2009 8:18 UTC
65 points
54 comments16 min readLW link

Is Kiryas Joel an Un­happy Place?

gwern23 Apr 2011 0:08 UTC
28 points
188 comments3 min readLW link

Mo­ral­ity is Awesome

[deleted]6 Jan 2013 15:21 UTC
133 points
437 comments3 min readLW link

[Question] What’s your best al­ter­nate his­tory utopia?

Kaj_Sotala22 Feb 2021 8:17 UTC
22 points
33 comments1 min readLW link
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