Local Ordinances of Fun

by Alicorn 4 min read18th Jun 2012156 comments


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.