Followup toEutopia is Scary

"Two roads diverged in the woods.  I took the one less traveled, and had to eat bugs until Park rangers rescued me."
        —Jim Rosenberg

Utopia and Dystopia have something in common: they both confirm the moral sensibilities you started with.  Whether the world is a libertarian utopia of the non-initiation of violence and everyone free to start their own business, or a hellish dystopia of government regulation and intrusion—you might like to find yourself in the first, and hate to find yourself in the second; but either way you nod and say, "Guess I was right all along."

So as an exercise in creativity, try writing them down side by side:  Utopia, Dystopia, and Weirdtopia.  The zig, the zag and the zog.

I'll start off with a worked example for public understanding of science:

  • Utopia:  Most people have the equivalent of an undergrad degree in something; everyone reads the popular science books (and they're good books); everyone over the age of nine understands evolutionary theory and Newtonian physics; scientists who make major contributions are publicly adulated like rock stars.
  • Dystopia:  Science is considered boring and possibly treasonous; public discourse elevates religion or crackpot theories; stem cell research is banned.
  • Weirdtopia:  Science is kept secret to avoid spoiling the surprises; no public discussion but intense private pursuit; cooperative ventures surrounded by fearsome initiation rituals because that's what it takes for people to feel like they've actually learned a Secret of the Universe and be satisfied; someone you meet may only know extremely basic science, but they'll have personally done revolutionary-level work in it, just like you.  Too bad you can't compare notes.

Disclaimer 1:  Not every sensibility we have is necessarily wrong.  Originality is a goal of literature, not science; sometimes it's better to be right than to be new.  But there are also such things as cached thoughts.  At least in my own case, it turned out that trying to invent a world that went outside my pre-existing sensibilities, did me a world of good.

Disclaimer 2:  This method is not universal:  Not all interesting ideas fit this mold, and not all ideas that fit this mold are good ones.  Still, it seems like an interesting technique.

If you're trying to write science fiction (where originality is a legitimate goal), then you can write down anything nonobvious for Weirdtopia, and you're done.

If you're trying to do Fun Theory, you have to come up with a Weirdtopia that's at least arguably-better than Utopia.  This is harder but also directs you to more interesting regions of the answer space.

If you can make all your answers coherent with each other, you'll have quite a story setting on your hands.  (Hope you know how to handle characterization, dialogue, description, conflict, and all that other stuff.)

Here's some partially completed challenges, where I wrote down a Utopia and a Dystopia (according to the moral sensibilities I started with before I did this exercise), but inventing a (better) Weirdtopia is left to the reader.


  • Utopia:  The world is flat and ultra-efficient.  Prices fall as standards of living rise, thanks to economies of scale.  Anyone can easily start their own business and most people do.  Everything is done in the right place by the right person under Ricardo's Law of Comparative Advantage.  Shocks are efficiently absorbed by the risk capital that insured them.
  • Dystopia:  Lots of trade barriers and subsidies; corporations exploit the regulatory systems to create new barriers to entry; dysfunctional financial systems with poor incentives and lots of unproductive investments; rampant agent failures and systemic vulnerabilities; standards of living flat or dropping.
  • Weirdtopia: _____


  • Utopia:  Sexual mores straight out of a Spider Robinson novel:  Sexual jealousy has been eliminated; no one is embarrassed about what turns them on; universal tolerance and respect; everyone is bisexual, poly, and a switch; total equality between the sexes; no one would look askance on sex in public any more than eating in public, so long as the participants cleaned up after themselves.
  • Dystopia:  10% of women have never had an orgasm.  States adopt laws to ban gay marriage.  Prostitution illegal.
  • Weirdtopia: _____


  • Utopia:  Non-initiation of violence is the chief rule. Remaining public issues are settled by democracy:  Well reasoned public debate in which all sides get a free voice, followed by direct or representative majority vote.  Smoothly interfunctioning Privately Produced Law, which coordinate to enforce a very few global rules like "no slavery".
  • Dystopia:  Tyranny of a single individual or oligarchy.  Politicians with effective locks on power thanks to corrupted electronic voting systems, voter intimidation, voting systems designed to create coordination problems.  Business of government is unpleasant and not very competitive; hard to move from one region to another.
  • Weirdtopia: _____


  • Utopia:  All Kurzweilian prophecies come true simultaneously.  Every pot contains a chicken, a nanomedical package, a personal spaceship, a superdupercomputer, amazing video games, and a pet AI to help you use it all, plus a pony.  Everything is designed by Apple.
  • Dystopia:  Those damned fools in the government banned everything more complicated than a lawnmower, and we couldn't use our lawnmowers after Peak Oil hit.
  • Weirdtopia:  _____


  • Utopia:  Brain-computer implants for everyone!  You can do whatever you like with them, it's all voluntary and the dangerous buttons are clearly labeled.  There are AIs around that are way more powerful than you; but they don't hurt you unless you ask to be hurt, sign an informed consent release form and click "Yes" three times.
  • Dystopia:  The first self-improving AI was poorly designed, everyone's dead and the universe is being turned into paperclips.  Or the augmented humans hate the normals.  Or augmentations make you go nuts.  Or the darned government banned everything again, and people are still getting Alzheimers due to lack of stem-cell research.
  • Weirdtopia:  _____



Part of The Fun Theory Sequence

Next post: "Justified Expectation of Pleasant Surprises"

Previous post: "Eutopia is Scary"

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Sexual Weirdtopia could just be "the internet comes to life"... e.g. everyone gets freaky without shame, but it turns out almost everyone is into something that's of absolutely no interest to you personally.

Or, to follow the public science example, the taboo is revealed to be as fundamental aspect of sexual arousal as the unknown is to the intellectual. The people demand a strict morality police after an era of total acceptance drains all the fun out of it. Everyone is fully expected to both seek out sexual thrills and aid in the swift punishment of anyone who seeks out sexual thrills: If you ask for a spanking you may be asking for a spanking.

I can imagine this being one of those many MANY things that a handful of people get into but everybody else has no interest in, but for me personally.... AAAAAAAAAHH! That's pretty much my idea of Hell.

I recently wondered whether it's possible that transhumans would spend parts of their lives in situations very similar to Dante's hell, complete with wailing and gnashing of teeth. Some have suggested that a bit of pain might be necessary to make all the pleasure we're supposed to get realizable, but I suggest that we might actually need quite a lot of it. If the only way to make people happy is to improve their lives, pushing them way down might turn out to be a reasonable solution. And some might choose that route to spice up whatever other sources of ha... (read more)

Why not just implant memories of hell? Perhaps they'll put everyone in hell for a few minutes and mess with their memory so they think it was always like that, then disable long-term memory writing and take them out. It would be like you just left Hell for your entire life. No matter what method they use to get you to the pinnacle of happiness, I'd think disabling long-term memory storage at that point and keeping you there forever would be the best. At least, unless that wouldn't be happiness.

Disabling long-term memory writing gives me the same bad taste as orgasmium. It's cheating, and anyway, why live forever if it only feels to you like a minute? Isn't that, from the Fun perspective, kind of like only living for a minute?

Personally, I'm a big fan of cheating. We've already cheated nature. Many of us are hoping to cheat death. Why stop there, when you can cheat sadness too? If what it feels like is all that matters, why not just let someone live for a minute and make it feel like forever? Also, nobody remembers being anybody else, but I would still consider it more ethical for there to be many people than for there to be one.
I'm a huge fan of cheating too. I just don't want the person being cheated be myself. I'm happy to cheat all of those things. However to cheat those at the expense of losing things I value---like my long term memory---is to lose purpose. I'd prefer not to be sad, but if I must wirehead myself so that I don't feel sadness I'm sure as heck not going to do it by obliterating my ability to store my ongoing experience.
Some have suggested that a bit of pain might be necessary to make all the pleasure we're supposed to get realizable.... If the only way to make people happy is to improve their lives....

Taken to a literal extreme (I don't know if that's your intent), the idea that pain is necessary for pleasure violates the Generalized Anti-Zombie Principle, or something like it. If pleasure without contrast palls, there's some neurological reason for this, one that we could work around in wireheading if we really wanted to. I think the most you can plausibly say is that for humanlike architectures, memories of suffering (not necessarily true ones) are necessary to appreciate pleasures more complex than heroin.

Personally, though, I think that there are already plenty of humans who, through genetics and/or introspective self-modification, can be perfectly happy without improving conditions.

Economic Weirdtopia: FAIth determines that the love of money actually is the root of ~75% of evil, so it's back to the barter system for us.

Sexual Weirdtopia: FAIth determines that the separatist feminists were right -- CEV requires segregation by sex. Homosexual men and lesbians laugh and laugh. Research on immersive VR becomes a preoccupation among the heterosexual majority in both segregated camps.

Not very plausible, but... "That's the thing about FAIth. If you don't have it, you can't understand it. And if you do, no explanation is necessary."

Economic weirdtopia: being rich is socially unacceptable; not because the society values equality, but because it's considered decadent and, in a certain sense, cheating. Weirdtopia's system of morality is virtue-based, and one of their highest virtues is a peculiar sort of self-sufficiency. Essentially, you're expected to be able to make yourself safe and comfortable by relying only on your wits and not on material goods. Needing to consume natural resources is accepted as a fact of life, but you should be able to do as much as possible with as little ... (read more)

I think the most you can plausibly say is that for humanlike architectures, memories of suffering (not necessarily true ones) are necessary to appreciate pleasures more complex than heroin. Probably what matters is that there's some degree of empathy with suffering, whether or not that empathy comes from memories. Even in that weakened form the statement doesn't sound plausible to me.

Anyway it seems to me that utopianly speaking the proper psychological contrast for pleasure is sobriety rather than pain.

Neil Stephenson's new book Anathem does exactly what you suggest in your public understand of science Weirdtopia. Although, he also sequesters the scientists in "monasteries."

Economic... Weirdtopia: The world has an indirect economy. People trade status for predictive power to decide which ventures get the most attention and which resources to allocate to whom/what. Businesses are considered a weird anachronism of a begone era. People are free to do whatever they want with their status, except trade real property. (They can, however, use it to make the market grant favours if they want.) Life's necessities are always freely accessible.

Governmental... Weirdtopia: Every conflict is resolved either by consensus or moving away. There are even seed spaceships moving far away from Sol for the latter option. Non-violence isn't the rule, it's the law. Every intelligence agreed to remove violent urges. Non-violence has an extremely broad definition that not only covers force, but also deception, market manipulation, even advertising, bad manners and ostracism. Honesty is not expected, it just is; the only way people find out what the word means is through history classes.

It must have been intentional that all the Dystopia examples are almost one-to-one mappings of the real world? Except for the cognitive one. That one stands out as strange, perhaps intentionally - the message is that the world is fucked, and we've only one more chance as the last Dystopian calamity looms before us.

As to the assignment:

Economic Weirdtopia: The production economy is entirely automated. Supply is near infinite due to the constellation of this automation with asteroid mining. (The weird part is that the political will was somehow mustered to a... (read more)


"Every conflict is resolved either by consensus or moving away."

I'm not moving. You move. Bastard.

"I'm not moving. You move. Bastard."

Fine, we'll both move to different Everett branches.

Weirdtopia: A deeper understanding of anthropics leads us to consider quantum immortality valid, as long as the death is instantaneous. We prepare an electron in a spin up state, and measure its angular momentum on the x axis. Left, your faction terminates, right, mine.

sexual wierdtopia: It is mandated by the central processor that participants stop to ask 'are we having fun yet?' every 60 seconds in order to allow the partners to elucidate and record the performance of the previous minute. Failure will result in the central processor rescheduling the desire impulse, and scheduling some other emotional context. This is not just for training, reason stipulates sexual performance can always be further optimized.

Nice.. Maybe there should be performance incentives such as bonuses or public adulation, and coaching classes/remedial tuition for the under performers.

Governmental Weirdtopia: Double-blind democracy. Yearly presidents are chosen at random. (couldn't be worse than our current system) The catch is that the person chosen to be the leader has absolutely no idea that they are the leader. They are followed around and monitored, and anything uttered resembling a decree is put into action if it doesn't violate the constitution. The decrees are only put into place after their term expires so they don't catch on. Quick decision-making such as treaties are wars are left up to a streamlined unicameral legislative body.

I think that would more accurately be called a double-blind republic. There is no voting, so it can hardly be described as a democracy.

Economic Weirdtopia: Market is so efficient that nobody has to work, and everybody's basic needs can be sustained by just asking any charity. This prosperity hyperactivates everybody's social status chasing instincts, so people work harder and longer than ever, feeling inadequate if they don't earn more than their peers, and spending most of what they earn on making their 3d virtual avatars look better than other people's 3d virtual avatars.

Sexual Weirdtopia: Reproduction is completely separated from sex, children are taken care of by free market and government services with just token parental involvement, and all STDs all eliminated. This first leads to everybody having sex with everybody else, but people got bored with vanilla sex soon and many sexual identification based on shared sexual fetishes emerge. They replace religions, languages, citizenships and ethnicities as leading in/out-group indicators, and somehow Middle East is still in endemic state of war, now between guro and furry.

Governmental Weirdtopia: Government knows everything about everybody, but doesn't abuse it because everybody knows about everything it does. Universal transparency makes corruption impossible, so... (read more)

Sexual Weirdtopia: Double-blind Sexocracy .... you get the idea.

Two roads diverged in the woods. I took the one less traveled, and...

Utopia: that has made all the difference. Dystopia: had to eat bugs until Park rangers rescued me. Wierdtopia: got to eat the bugs until the rangers threw me out.

For an example of a sexual wierdtopia, I'd recommend the movie zerophilia. Kinky, but not porn, and heck, my library has 2 copies.

Stranger in a Strange Land may have been an attempt to describe a Weirdtopia.

Everyone is orgasmium. And strangely enough, they don't think it's all that horrible.

Uh, of course they don't- that's part of the definition. The point is that I don't want to become nothing but that.

Weirdtopia: The CEV dictates orgasmium, everyone is convinced willingly by FAIth.

Jorge Luis Borges, The Babylon Lottery, 1941. Government by lottery. Living under a lottery system leads to greater expectation of random events, greater belief that life is and should be ruled by randomness, and further extension of the lottery's scope, in a feedback loop that increases until every aspect of everyone's life is controlled by the lottery.

Food Weirdtopia: We see the same type of taboos or enthusiasms that we see about sex in this world. The Catholic Church declares that artificial sweeteners are a perversion; there are pro-starvation articles at feministing; the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate weighs 300 pounds...

Sexual Weirdtopia:

The world envisioned in the strange philosophies of E. Yudkowsky, where the sentient citizens of terra-gen civilization have convinced themselves that the only noble pursuit is becoming pregnant. Sex has evolved into an elaborate emotional and intellectual ritual, combining features of philosophy, mathematics, and social activity. Emotional attachment to 'ephemeral' events does not come naturally to these beings, so sex is nearly always "for keeps," with at least one party (occasionally more) becoming impregnated with a unique... (read more)

Economic: I cited Asimov on the previous post, so let's stick with that. The Computer effectively runs a planned economy, using massive information-gathering and computing power to overcome the Hayekian knowledge problem. It really does know what is best. Everyone is free to listen to The Computer or not, but you know that your decision would be less efficient for accomplishing your goals. Such rebellions are useless, however, because The Computer's prediction capabilities include whether or not you will take its advice, and it acts accordingly to make sure you get the best results anyway.

Sexual: With no need for biological reproduction, the sex drive is eliminated in favor of other interests. Some people continue to have sex; as a hobby, it has a public reputation somewhere between (the current view of) Civil War re-enactments and juggling.

Governmental: Initiation of violence is the chief rule. With powerful AI and ubiquitous nanotech, it is recognized that anyone can inflict his will upon a large area in a short time. Pre-emptive execution of possibly unfriendly biologicals is the major task of government.

I was about to post your sexual weirdtopia. To me, it doesn't even seem that weird, just... efficient. But then, I often want sex, but I rarely enjoy it. So a world where no-one has a sex-drive, sex is just a fun thing to do, seems exceedingly attractive.

And I thought this blog was about artificial intelligence!

Yoshitoshi Abe does a decent job at describing an Afterlife Weirdtopia in Haibane Renmei. Wikipedia could be seen as Knowledge Weirdtopia that became reality.

When I watched Haibane Renmei, I loved the implication that they were living in the first of a series of afterlives. Of course, once you're on your fourth or fifth "afterlife", I imagine the whole thing starts to seem more like one big episodic life, with the afterlife transitions keeping it fresh and interesting so that people don't get bored. I think this is a weirdtopia that would appeal to a lot of people here. The afterlife in Heibane Renmei looks like the entry funnel into a bunch of afterlives with progressively more fun potential. Like a mental hospital with patients slowly recovering, and then checking out when they're ready. Incidentally, we see this same sort of thing in Angel Beats, but with more guns and booby-trapped underground lairs. Not as brilliant, but more accessible and definitely a lot of fun.


Economic Weirdtopia: There is no economy. Everyone lives a self sufficient existence on isolated farms. Think Solaria.

Few of these weirdtopias seem strangely appealing in the same way that conspiratorial science seems strangely appealing.

It will be sad if sex disappears only because there is no need for biological reproduction.

Bah, steven is right. We have a bunch of weird dystopias. On the other hand, "strangely appealing" could be idiosyncratic. I think it was Harry Harrison's Deathworld 2 that made a neo-medieval dystopia from groups that held scientific secrets in enclaves. Miguel Antonio would be sad if sex disappeared, but I know some people who would be much more content without it, while others are really excited about Civil War re-enactments. By my count, speculations on sexual weirdtopias are well in the lead in the comments; is this just normal for our species, or are OB regulars more interested in weird sex?

Yeah, strangely appealing takes more work. I think we're looking at premature search-halts here. You don't have to go with your very first idea.

Most of these are random SF Weirdtopias, not fun-theoretical Weirdtopias and many have already been done in SF, too. Actually most of these are plain old Utopias or Dystopias.

But I would give credit to Joe's morality police, Mike Blume's Everett-splitting society, Edward's double-blind democracy, and Tomasz's "somehow Middle East is still in endemic state of war, now between guro and furry".

Political Weirdtopia: Citizens decide it is unfair for a democracy to count only the raw number of people who support a position without considering the intensity with which they believe it. Of course, one can't simply ask people to self-report the intensity with which they believe a position on their ballot, so stronger measures are required. Voting machines are redesigned to force voters to pull down a lever for each issue/candidate. The lever delivers a small electric shock, increasing in intensity each second the voter holds it down. The number of votes a person gets for a particular issue or candidate is a function of how long they keep holding down the lever.

In (choose one: more/less) enlightened sects of this society, the electric shock is capped at a certain level to avoid potential fatalities among overzealous voters. But in the (choose one: more/less) enlightened sects, voters can keep pulling down on the lever as long as they can stand the pain and their heart keeps working. Citizens consider this a convenient and entirely voluntary way to purge fanaticism from the gene pool.

The society lasts for several centuries before being taken over by a tiny cabal of people with Congenital Insensitivity to Pain Disorder.

Wouldn't they get electrocuted before their vote counts for enough to take over?
The advantage they have is the ability to make highly-weighted strategic votes on issues they're personally indifferent to, like a series of tedious nitpicking revisions to bureaucratic procedures, the cumulative effect of which creates some critical loophole.
Or excellent skin-conductivity!

Personally I don't find the scientific weirdtopia strangely appealing. Finding knowledge for me is about sharing it later.

Utopia originally meant no-place, I have a hard time forgetting that meaning when people talk about them.

I'd personally prefer to work towards negated-dystopias. Which is not necessarily the same thing as working towards Utopia, depending on how broad your class of dystopia is. For example rather than try and maximise Fun, I would want to minimize the chance that humanity and all its work were lost to extinction. If there is time and energy to devote to Fun while humanity survives then people can figure it out for themselves.

Damn, I hadn't thought of spend MONTHS discovering something REALLY COOL like gravity, and then realising: You can never tell anyone. Ever.
No, you just have to find the Newtonian Conspiracy and party with them, until you notice that its brightest members eventually leave for something else.
Utopia originally meant no-place, I have a hard time forgetting that meaning when people talk about them.

The term "utopia" was a deliberate pun on "outopia" meaning "no place" and "eutopia" meaning "good place". It seems doubtful that Thomas More actually intended to depict his personal ideal society, so one might say that Utopia is the original Weirdtopia.

I think we're looking at premature search-halts here.

I plead no contest.

Well, this may not quite fit the personal criteria for a wierdtopia, since this is quite close to what I would consider a utopia, but it stands fairly far apart from the other scenarios presented so far, so I figured I might as well post it:

Tech Everyone is forcibly uploaded, the surface of the earth is scanned in super-duper-hi-fi precision and then used for computronium to house the newly uploaded minds. An overseer AI is created that sends out a sphere of near-light speed probes to convert the rest of the stuff in our future light cone into computronium... (read more)

Zubon, from what I've read of Austrians they laugh at the claim (I think Gunnar Myrdal made it) that you can solve the knowledge/calculation problem with such a computer as a misunderstanding of the problem.

Yvain, you are groping toward one of the oldest forms of democracy.

aoeuid, that's the kind of Future I grew up in, and that I'm trying to get away from; it hasn't been discussed here because it's too obvious.

I cite Vinge here: we simply can't imagine weirdtopia. C'm on: 6 billion uploaded humans recursively self-modifying. There will be so many variations and weirdnesses that you could never list them all, and a significant subset of them would be beyond our cognitive ability to model due to intelligence smarter than us

Furthermore, I think a lot of people here might be surprised to find out how much weird shit there is in real life all around them.

I was chatting to a student at a very good UK university last night, and the topic of understanding science came u... (read more)

Perhaps I should make an implicit point explicit: if we get to a stage where humans can modify their own minds, it is highly likely that this will get rid of the psychological unity of the human race. Everyone else has been posting on how "people will (all) do this, be like this, etc". The reality is that there may well be on the order of (6*10^9)/100 ~ 10^7 separate psychological niches into which groups of co-self-modifying humans eventually splinter into, as humans with similar preferences gather together into groups of people with similar pre... (read more)

TGGP, Hayek argued some reasons why it is not even theoretically possible for central planners to have all the relevant information, making it more than a calculation problem. But if we are picking up utopias and weirdtopias from sci fi, we can let Asimov have his; which one you count that story from I, Robot as presumably depends on your views of central planning. Or maybe it is a dystopia with amputation of destiny, as the story's conclusion implies.

If we get that technological utopia and have thumbnail-sized supercomputers that predict as well as Omeg... (read more)

What if the central planner doesn't start as a central planner, but rather a community of planners competing among themselves which eventually synchronizes?

Roko, Instead of Shakespeare, perhaps resolve to get a sense of the knowledge, rationality, and general motivations and outlook of a larger set of people? Knowing who makes up our economy, governments, medical systems, and research institutions is as important as knowing how a lightbulb works for making good decisions in the world.

I'm far from perfect on this one; if anyone has suggestions for illuminating conversations to have with strangers, do share.

It's so sad that economics hasn't progressed over the last 100 years or so, beyond either "extreme central planning doesn't work" or "extreme unregulated free market doesn't work". Nothing, save Gesell and Yunus. Have you ever considered that cdo's, cds's and letters of credit were not invented for their own sake, but for a real world reason? What's going to be scarce in weirdtopia? The normal? Or, if I can have all the gadgets I want and never need a job or a place to live, talent and hard work? I think a lot of dissatisfaction comes f... (read more)

Economic weirdtopia . . .after the Ultimate Crash of 2105, the best ems got together and created a new universal atomic currency, based on not just on gold, but on reserves of quark-gluon plasma made from gold nuclei in deference to mankind's historical preferences.

Sexual weirdtopia. . .since death is over through nanotechology or uploading into perfect android bodies you can get on a 3-year-lease, there's no need for birth. If ems want to create a new being from themselves, they just copy different brain modules from the catalog and create the perfect &qu... (read more)

All-encompassing weirdtopia:

Humanity continues as it has for the last several thousand years, learning new things, changing its views, constantly refining its thoughts and actions. It makes mistakes and learns from them, or fails to learn and repeats them, repeatedly. It's splintered into many groups who hate each other for no particular reason, create wars, famine, and disease, despite wealth and cures. There is a great disparity in all things between different people in different places, including knowledge, wealth, and enjoyment of life.

Evolution turns ... (read more)

Your science weirdtopia seems a lot like how MMORPGs work now, to a large degree. There's an internally consistent set of world-rules, but they won't tell you what they are. Sure, people are happy to share their experimental results with you, but you have to go looking. Spoilers aren't left out in the open.

Why would we need the weirdtopia science to be performed on the physical world? Wouldn't new world-rules, optimized for the fun of learning them be better?

Sexual Weirdtopia: What goes on consensually behind closed doors doesn't (usually) affect the general welfare negatively, so it's not a matter of social concern. However, that particular bundle of biases known as "romantic love" has led to so much chaos in the past that it's become heavily regulated.

People start out life with the love-module suppressed; but many erstwhile romantics feel that in the right circumstances, this particular self-deception can actually better their lives. If a relationship is going well, the couple (or group, perhaps) can propose to fall in love, and ask the higher authorities for a particular love-mod for their minds.

Every so often, each loving relationship must undergo an "audit" in which they have the love-mods removed and decide whether to put them back in. No unrequited love is allowed; if one party ends it, the other must as well...

You might be interested to know that SSRIs appear to kill romantic love, in addition to their other effects. Thus half of the engineering problem has been solved, modulo the difficulty in obtaining these drugs. Pity that this suggestion is a few years late for your own (unstated) predicament, of course. But don't worry, you'll get through it the old-fashioned way in time.
Hm. I looked up the source and it looks like most of the "proof" is due to a few case studies. Not that anyone's still reading this but just in case.
Thanks! (Ugh, papers that talk about fMRI results.) But for what it's worth, my own case study confirmed the claim as well.
My personal case study ahem, went down immediately then went up after a month; and I've known lots of people who only dated after they got on SSRIs. So the answer is, IT DEPENDS. Also, the paper seemed not to differentiate enough between libido and "love" drive.

Economic: everyone owns a nanoassembler but mass production and copy operations are prohibited. Sexual: age of consent is raised to 600 years.

So, the question is "Whose utopia is it anyway?". Clearly not everyone would agree upon these utopia/dystopia definitions, so if future AIs are to be created instilled with the noblest of human values whose value system should their BIOS contain? Of course this requires you to confront the notion that humans have somewhat diverse value systems, not all of which may be friendly towards science or western libertarian thinking.

Let's say this is supposed to be a economic weirdtopia - or something like that.

Let's suppose there is more or less constant connectivity to internet equivalent so that you can 'see' whatever other people are broadcasting as information. Twitters and facebooks of the new era are widely adopted. Essentially this will also make possible to have near perfect sousveillance.

This is world where people find meaning to their lives through stories - endless damsels in distress and knights in shining armor, wise wizards, devious politicians and whatever. People lea... (read more)


Utopia: Involuntary suffering is successfully abolished. Technology that enables it's controllable inhibition is freely available for all personhoods.

Dystopia: The perversion of paradise engineering technologies for the creation of horrific weapons and torture devices, for instance; a (infinitely indestructible) nanosuit that incarcerates the body and paralyses it. Nanoprobes from the suit invade the body and it's systems in order to inflict the maximum (infinite?) amount of physical and mental pain upon the victim whilst keeping it alive indefinitely (in... (read more)

Weirdtopia: A benevolent, negative utilitarian dictator AI uses time travel in an attempt to prevent the creation of all life in order for all suffering to never occur.

And very nearly succeeds, thus retroactively explaining the Great Filter.

Utopia: Virtual reality/mental augmentation allows for all to move into a cosmos of their own self-created imagination. All is fun and play. Economy and Politics dissolve into an order of creation, art, experience, and discovery. The exploration of the infiniteness of the Universe is the main objective. New profound ideas are generated thousands of times a second. Everyone's minds are perpetually blown. Everyone is a perpetual state of LMAO.

Dystopia: Governments ban imagination augmentation, adding it to the drug war hit list. Imaginations are condemned, ... (read more)


  • Utopia: All possible utopias exist simultaneously. On a whim, one can instantly shift one's utopian situation to perfectly reflect one's mind so as produce maximum bliss/happiness/orgasm/utility/LMAO/utopianess/nirvana/whatever you want.

  • Dystopia: All possible dystopias exist simultaneously. At every moment, one's dystopian situation shifts in perfect response to one's mind so as to produce maximum dissonance.

  • Weirdtopia: All possible weirdtopias exist, but only when you think they don't. At every moment, one's existential situation shifts in p

... (read more)
It's a nice weirdtopia, but it seems like it might have problems with your continued existence, eg. if I think a weirdtopia with the current laws of physics, do I die the instant my weirdtopia shifts to the next one? (If I don't, how could the weirdtopia possibly shift the laws without killing me, given the consilience of science? see )
Your problem with the paradox of continued existence in weirdtopia necessarily continues your existence.

Economic: people assign high utility to work and negative utility to consumption: we trade by agreeing to consume each other's product in return for their using ours. Third world aid takes the form of stealing their good and then secretly burning them.

Governmental: whenever anyone utters a rhyming couplet, that couplet becomes law, taking precedence over all previous laws. However, no couplet can be repeated, so political think-tanks hire thousands of poets to craft elegant new laws. The strongest new couplets are held in reserve for decades, in a MAD scenario.

Utopia/Logical Weirdtopia

There's an infinite number of universes that anyone can teleport between. Thanks to the infinite hotel paradox, each person in each universe find their own personal utopia.

Topological Weirdtopia

We live in a five-dimensional world with a huge curvature. There's billions of people within walking distance. Everyone has a built-in GPS, because otherwise you'd never find your way home.

Even weirder: After we're uploaded, we start just using geometry in games. You get somewhere by willing yourself to be there, and your perception of it doesn't include geometry.

Government Slightly Weirdtopia:

The government is a random sample of the population. I suspect it wouldn't actually be that different, but someone ought to try it.

Government Weirdtopia:

The government is a hive mind. It gives laws using IP over Demographics. People protest against it including the death rate, but it argues that it can't stop that any more than you can stop using certain brain cells.

Economic Weirdtopia:

Money grows on genetically modified spiders, which you have to go around and kill for money. You can buy stuff from other people, in which case they don't have to kill spiders, but mostly you get... (read more)

If there was a button that started an FAI that would produce that 'topia I would press it right now. ;)

The government is a random sample of the population. I suspect it wouldn't actually be that different, but someone ought to try it.

Sortition. Famously used in Athens.

If we're going by weird procedures, I like the ones used for electing the Doge of Venice:

New regulations for the elections of the doge introduced in 1268 remained in force until the end of the republic in 1797. Their object was to minimize as far as possible the influence of individual great families, and this was effected by a complex elective machinery. Thirty members of the Great Council, chosen by lot, were reduced by lot to nine; the nine chose forty and the forty were reduced by lot to twelve, who chose twenty-five. The twenty-five were reduced by lot to nine and the nine elected forty-five. Then the forty-five were once more reduced by lot to eleven, and the eleven finally chose the forty-one who actually elected the doge.

I thought this one up and came to this thread to post it before seeing that you'd already got it.

I'm not sure which category this goes under, as it has elements of a few. General Weirdtopia: A demonstrably non-sentient species of animal is created, genetically optimised for cuteness and lovableness, possibly tailored to whatever each individual finds endearing. Everybody is given one or more of these Furballs as a pet. Stuff for humans, both neccessities and luxuries, is free, but anything that is to be given to one’s Furball must be earned by working, solving puzzles, or winning competitions. People will empathize strongly with their Furballs and status will depend on how well-groomed, well-fed, well-dressed, etc. your Furball is, so people will work hard to buy them all manner of gourmet foods and toys and little sweaters. Government positions are awarded based on the performance of canditates' Furballs in competitions similar to modern dog or horse shows that measure obedience, agility, and health/happiness. Letting someone else pet your Furball is a deeply intimate act associated with sex, and the genes of children’s Furballs are drawn from their parents’ Furballs.


Suppose we have the capacity to copy and delete brains, but we don't understand the brain well enough to manipulate it "to taste" much more than the clumsy ways we have today. (So no deleting specific memories, changing personality traits, etc.)

It seems to me that people would engage in a lot of "copy-suicide." Is something upsetting you? Make a back-up, activate your copy, delete your own mind. Now it's your double's problem. If you have a big test coming up, you could turn off, let your double study, and only come back after you'... (read more)

Real-world save scumming?
So, basically you're wiping memories of things you don't like?
There's an obvious failiure mode here. What's stopping my double from creating a new double to study, and then turning itself off? I'd end up with as many copies of me as I have storage space for, with the last copy, instead of studying, ordering more hard drives. This would not help my test scores.

Sure, I'll play.

Economic: Human desires don't keep up with available resources; the resulting global resource surplus makes efficient resource distribution entirely moot. A vastly (though not quite Vastly) inefficient system emerges which is nevertheless able to maintain everyone in whatever standard of living they choose.

Sexual: Sexual mores vary radically from one community to another. In the absence of resource competition, some subcultures have adopted sexual pleasure -- artificially induced and, by convention, solely induced by others -- as their pre... (read more)

Governmental Weirdtopia: The form of government is an absolute monarchy. The sons and daughters of each monarch are raised in disadvantaged foster families, unknown to them (and even modified so they look like their foster parents). When they come of age, hidden tests ensure that they are sufficiently advanced in responsibility, wisdom, and compassion -- those who fail are killed, those who succeed inherit the throne (if more than one offspring succeed, the realm is split between them, if none succeed, the realm is absorbed by a nearby realm with a successful heir).

Why is this part necessary? Imagine growing up in that society: "It's possible that my parents have been lying to me my whole life about where I came from, in which case I have to be a great enough person to rule the kingdom when I grow up or I will die." That sounds like one too many worries to heap on a child.
Encouraging random people to be great in all their everyday dealings by having both a huge incentive and a huge disincentive would probably be part of the point. Also prevents civil wars, pretenders to the throne, and exerts evolutionary pressure in favour of worthiness, without however hurting the vast majority of the population.
Also encourages people to try and appear worthy regardless of whether they actually are. Some people will do that anyway, but you can imagine the sort of person who just isn't interested in being a ruler, and wouldn't make a very good ruler, but tries to act like they would in order to avoid being killed.
My understanding was that the exact criteria and timing of the tests would not be general knowledge. In fact, a certain amount of subjectivity and even inconsistency on the part of those administering the test might be desirable, so long as they're consistently seen as looking for a specific, coherent set of virtues rather than a more immediate agenda. As such, someone who has been practicing wise, responsible, and compassionate action out of pure self-preservation might maintain the noble facade even after taking office, out of (technically unjustified, but far from unreasonable) fear that the slightest moral lapse might result in assassination. For that matter, they might just forget they were ever pretending.
Why is it necessary to take the children and randomly distribute them among the populous, rather than simply randomly pick members of the population?

Genetical reasoning was that the biological offspring of a former "proven" monarch, would be more statistically likely to be also proven worthy. Emotionally, the mythical concept of a child discovering his destiny was seen as more satisfying to the population than random selection, as was the glad reunion of parent and child when he successfully passed the test and his destiny was revealed. Lastly, the sacrifice of a monarch's own children (by letting them be raised by strangers, and possible killed) endeared him to the population, and encouraged the own monarch to raise the standards of education and prosperity for all his subjects, as his own children would benefit from it.

Plus, random selection wasn't weird enough.

SF reference: "Call Him Lord" by Gordon R. Dickson.
It might be worthwhile to secretly test a few randomly-selected commoners too. Claim they were royalty all along if they pass, otherwise leave as little evidence as possible that the test took place.

Cognitive weirdtopia:

Any time you are making a potentially life-changing decision (e.g. following this career or that one, commit to a relationship or ending it), you can ask an AI to produce several simulations of yourself from 10 years later who made different decisions. Then you can discuss with them, or they can discuss with each other, so that you get a good idea of how each choice will personally change you -- not just in a sense of pure stats (money made, etc), but in the sense of what sort of person you're likely to be.

Inspired by the "20 2020... (read more)

Heck, why restrict this to isolated life-changing decisions? I'd rather the AI assemble a party I can join whenever I wish, that is populated by a Dunbar-sized group of me from representatively sampled futures.
I automatically read "party I can join" in the RPG "adventuring party" sense. Uh-oh.
Well, for LRPG players, the two meanings aren't completely disjoint.

Is it my glass-half-empty outlook talking, or is Eliezer taking potshots at reality with several of the dystopic descriptions?

The "10% of women" bit was my tipoff. If it's a dystopia, maximally unpleasant within the bounds of plausibility, why not 90% or more?

Technological weirdtopia: (This is slightly similar to Eliezer's description of scientific weirdtopia but not quite.)

Each piece of technological equipment is only allowed to those people who've displayed sufficient mastery of the corresponding technology of the previous level. Nobody's allowed a car or motorbike, unless they've mastered driving a horsecart or riding a horse (or atleast a mule). Pens are only allowed if someone can write sufficiently well with quill-and-ink, matches and lighters are only permitted to those who've mastered usage of the flint-and-tinder. Pocket calculators are restricted to those mathematical operations that their user could (given sufficient time) work out with pen-and-paper.

The idea behind this is to increase appreciation of technology, and to also maintain an adequate level of knowledge in the population about former technical levels if there's a catastrophic collapse/decline in civilization that destroys more modern technology.

That sounds like hacker heaven! (Although I rather hope life a safety net of supporting technologies is in place!)
Would this be worth it if lifespans aren't extended? What do you need to master to be allowed to use life extension tech? Enforcement of rules like that would be a challenge.
Probably not worth it, no -- though most kids would go through gramophones, casette players and CDs in a matter of weeks or months before they reached MP3s and music directly downloadable into your brain. And we could say that life-extension tech and other health-supportive technologies are excluded from this requirement, so as to prevent this weirdtopia from being a simple dystopia.
Two explanations I can think of. Simpler one is, having your life extended by medical interventions doesn't require proficiency because you're not /using/ the technology in question, just paying someone else to use it on your behalf (specifically, on your body). Same way that world wouldn't require someone to master calligraphy before dictating a letter to be written down by a secretary. Weirder one is, failure to fast-track your kids through basic medical tech is considered a form of child abuse, on the same level as denying them social contact or nutrition, and for the same reasons.
Some things actually work like that. Pilots have to learn old-fashioned navigation before they are show how to switch on the autopilot.

Economic Weirdtopia: The generalization of Internet blacklists -- think Spamhaus -- to general boycotts and strikes.

Anyone can publish their own blacklist on any basis or none at all. You can subscribe to any blacklist, which will block you from having economic relations with entities on that list. You won't see a blacklisted company's products offered for sale in a store. If you own a store, people on a blacklist you subscribe to won't be able to enter. If you subscribe to a list that just blacklisted your employer, you're now out on strike.

Some blacklists are defined on moral or ethical terms: the Sierra Club publishes one; so does Focus on the Family. Others are defined on reputational terms: Consumerist's is well-followed in certain circles. Again: Anyone can publish a blacklist. If I get ripped off by someone, I put them on my personal blacklist, to which some of my friends and relatives subscribe. Popular blacklists become more and more influential, and people endeavor to avoid being put on them.

Some blacklists block anyone who doesn't subscribe to them. Some blacklists block anyone who subscribes to certain other blacklists. Some blacklists are transitive. The Ku Klux Klan p... (read more)

I really like your idea for comprehensive sexual education. Something I have said for a long time is that everyone should have their heart broken once, as part of being human, because once you know what that feels like, you understand the stakes of romance. I feel that this post takes that sentiment and expands and develops it much more fully.

Something I have said for a long time is that everyone should have their heart broken once, as part of being human, because once you know what that feels like, you understand the stakes of romance.

That's... horrible. You're advocating doing permanent emotional damage to people. Sure, most of the will heal, some will grow from the experience but none will be the same. It's torture.

This is just a different variation on the human-Super Happy debate.
What? Without wanting to disrespect the relationship you have identified between the two concepts the difference are enormously important to my perception.. This isn't allowing people to have painful experiences. This is actively torturing them so they know what torture feels like. I've never had my heart broken. But I have certainly experienced heartache enough to at least to at least be able to emphasise in part what it would be like for those who have endured months of turmoil from that kind of emotional wound. You just don't do that to people. If you must give folks preparatory emotional experiences give them a two week summer fling that ends. Like Grease only Sandy goes back to Australia. Or systematically teach them some generic emotional coping skills like a sane society would.
Actually "have their hearts broken" was the term he used. That you replace it with the word "torture" isn't helpful in keeping the focus on what is actually discussed. Though I'm all in favour of torturing people that actually want to know what torture feels like. An American reporter had himself waterboarded, which was when he started opposing the practice of waterboarding. If it helped make him a better person as a result, and helped him start oppose the much worse harm done on others, it was a good thing he got waterboarded.
No, and I actually downvoted your objection because this is important. What was actually being discussed was equivalence to Superhappy debates. I am asserting that torture is a far more appropriate analogy - albeit the stakes with mere torture are far lower than the stakes in systematically rewriting our species' DNA. On a technical note and without necessarily being require for my point - breaking people's hearts would absolutely fit the definition of torture. Moreover if it were possible to do without the whole pesky 'falling in love' part it would almost certainly be used for that purpose by military organisations. And if everybody wanted to have their hearts broken this proposal would not be outrageous.
I'm not strictly endorsing the original proposal. But if we think some degree and certain types of pain adds depth to our personalities and enriches our existence then the question becomes how much pain and what kinds of pain should we let ourselves experience. We probably want to say no to water-boarding and yes to mild disappointment and scraped knees. A world without heartbreak (which I realize isn't the same thing as forcing people to experience heartbreak) seems to involve costs: fewer tragedies get written, people don't understand love quite the same way, no one understands pop music from the 20th century, etc. I'm not sure how one even begins to weigh the costs and benefits. Making everyone experience heartbreak seems like going too far to me but in exactly the same way scraped knees are going too far according to the Super Happies.
It's not a trivial problem. But I think if I don't at least attempt such a weighing, I'm not taking the problem seriously. For my part, it makes no sense to me that the actual suffering should ever be valuable enough to want either to participate in it or to encourage others to do so. If having suffered through X is valuable, then I might encourage taking on the memory of having suffered through it, but that's no reason to make them go through X. (Assuming, of course, that my communications technology is adequate to that task. If the only way I know to communicate suffering is to make others suffer, then my options are of course limited, but I ought to work on relaxing that limitation.) All of the examples you give are of the benefits of the memories of suffering. I don't need to currently be suffering to receive those benefits.
I agree strongly with wedrifid. This is like claiming that everyone should experience a death in their family at least once so that they can appreciate the value of life.
I think I'm still agnostic on the original debate, but the family death analogy fails. There is a difference in kind between an unpleasant but temporary experience and the permanent termination of sapient experience. The analogy to the death of a beloved pet might be stronger. Similar emotional consequences, but doesn't implicitly require serious negative externalities unless you hold strong views on animal rights.
I agree that the analogy fails if you take stock of the total damage caused, which is much worse in the case I offered, but I was focusing on the personal feelings of bereavement of the sufferer. I should have added a phrase mentioning that caveat; I was actually considering it, and I'm not sure why I decided against it. Anyway, I can think of ways to make the analogy better in that regard, but it has the unfortunate side effect of making the analogous situation seem a lot more contrived and far less natural. The first thing that occurs to me is to take the example of warfare mentioned below and make it into a simulation; the person in question thinks they are killing people and watching their friends die and actually gets wounded and suffers PTSD and returns home to live with their memories and try to adjust for years, before it is all revealed to have been a carefully controlled experience, that everybody who "died" is actually fine and/or never existed, and that he was never in any real danger of dying or being permanently damaged. Another would be to change my first analogy a bit; instead of the family member dying, they are forced to move away to a far away place never to return (and this actually happens, with proof and everything, as opposed to being some sort of unpleasant euphemism for extermination). No communication or reunion is ever allowed.
8Eliezer Yudkowsky13y
Should people be allowed to have their hearts broken, ever, whether or not a society does it to them deliberately?
I would ask differently: Should one be able to have ones heart broken only after knowing a certain amount about the mechanics of relationships, or should one be able to go about this with out any preventative information whatsoever? There is a reason why people learn about contraception as young as possible. A similar thing could be done for the social aspects of relationships reducing the pain and surprise experienced.

My own attempt at answering this question was to think for at least 5 minutes of ways in which a society could possibly avoid its people having their hearts broken, and evaluate the solutions on a do want/do not want scale.

The first method would be to never let anybody fall in love again. Either humans would be modified such that they would never feel love again, or they would be isolated such that they could never interact with the appropriate gender (so... straight men with each other, straight women with each other, gay men and lesbian women in single pairs, bisexuals by themselves, etc... if not just isolating everybody individually). This strikes me as completely unacceptable.

The second approach would be to avoid heartbreaks once a person has fallen in love. We consider the cases where a person might have his or her heart broken after that event: the other person might reject them initially, lie to them and string them along until revelation, love them back for a time but eventually stop feeling the same way and leave them, do something that causes first person to leave them while still being in love themselves (cheating, spousal rape, etc...), or be separated from the first p... (read more)

Aaaand I'm gonna stop there, because I just realized that on top of this, I have to consider all the cases for the polyamorists, too. Jesus Christ, people are complicated.

Upvoted for exactly this.

How about the proposal I came up with on this problem?

Upvoted for thinking about the problem for five minutes.

A General Theory of Love has the plausible idea that social animals (especially humans, who are the only ones who die in infancy from isolation) need contact to regulate various bodily functions. Heartbreak could presumably be prevented if those bodily functions can no longer be disrupted beyond a certain point. This would also mean that grief would be blunted a lot. I think it makes sense that the positive side of love could still happen without the misery of losing it.
As someone who has experienced romantic happiness without having ever experienced romantic tragedy, I can confirm that love without heartbreak is pleasant and is not meaningless for at least one person.
You're probably at risk for romantic misery-- I was talking about the general structure, not about needing emotional contrast.
Ah, I misinterpreted you. I agree that I am at risk for romantic misery. I thought you were talking about the idea proposed above that everyone should be heartbroken once to make love more meaningful.
This sounds like a really bad patch.

The rejection case could be solved by making it such that people reciprocate love once someone has fallen in love with them, maybe even changing orientations to do so; I don't really like this one.

A more elegant solution if you're going to be messing around with love, and modifying the whole courting element would be to have person 1 not fall in love unless person 2 was also in position to fall in love.

ie. when your system detects that a person is falling for someone, it deletes that, but keeps the fact on record. If the second person reciprocates, they're both allowed to experience love.

In such a world you could also help solve the heartbreak problem through the same means, once one of the two falls out of love, they both do.

8Eliezer Yudkowsky13y
That was more or less precisely the thought going through my mind when I was imagining how I would design the system if I was doing it from scratch. Though not with the "mark and delete" part, just "check to see if love is reciprocable before allowing process to proceed".
IMO this solution has a good chance of making the modern world worse - it makes impossible many happy families where one partner stays due to love and the other is okay with that for other reasons.
Does this mean extrapolating how person 2 will feel after they spend more time with person 1? Would you take into account the presence of a third person who might steal the affections of person 2? I guess we could solve love triangles by duplicating people. Love also doesn't seem to me like a binary event, we'd want to allow relationships that would progress to any level on a mutual love spectrum and then stop people from falling deeper in love when their partner would not follow.
Here and elsewhere, I don't really see the "don't let things get too bad" solution as categorically separable from just bloody optimizing the process already. E.g., sure, a generate-and-test mechanism like you propose for relationships is an improvement over the existing no-test version; agreed. But I see it as a step along the way to a more fully optimized system... for example, one where the people most likely to construct mutually satisfying relationships (which include reciprocal-love arrangements, if that's what you're into) are proactively introduced to one another.
I'm a bit surprised to see this topic being discussed here, but since it is, I'd like to mention a movie I saw recently (NetFlix streaming) that explored some of the complications that might arise.

Another possibility is to have everyone always being in love with everyone.

Sure, if they are into that sort of thing I don't particularly care. That said it isn't a right that I'm excessively enamored with. If the superhappys were going to remove our ability to have our hearts broken I wouldn't blow up earth to prevent it.
Wow. I wonder what you are so afraid of... I've had my heart broken multiple times and it's not pleasant to be sure but it's hardly the end of the world. I actually am glad to have had the experiences though I wasn't at the time. I have also been tortured a la marathon man and that also was seriously unpleasant but although even re-imagining it sends shudders down my spine I am also glad to have it. But here's a question for you to consider: What if I had control over the AI and I decided that everyone were to be forced to go through physical painful torture AND have their hearts broken multiple times? Pretty sure you would disagree strongly with that idea but I disagree strongly with the idea of my ability to have my heart broken AND/OR tortured removed. Basically what I'm saying is that what a single individual thinks is right for everyone might not necessarily be so... I'd go for a one-simulation-per-person scenario as being best fit where everyone gets some control over their choice of simulation...
Nothing in Wedrifid_2010's comment seems to indicate fear. You seem to be replying to a straw man.
Of course they won't be the same. That's the point, like the way your immune system won't be the same after a vaccination. Being a thoughtless jerk to someone who loves you isn't as serious a problem as dying of polio, but it might still be worth fixing.
You can construct similar arguments for other topics: * everyone should go to war once, to experience fights, and learn why peace is so valuable * everyone should get severely hurt once, to learn to value his body And from recent experiences: everyone should get a root canal once to learn to take care of his teeth. Heartbreaks are not necessary in my book.
I do think I have a richer human experience because of the fights I've been in, and the heartbreak I've felt. I'm not sure, if it for ''everyone.'' I tend to assume the future should be a place of less coercion, not more. But I could see the value in a human race that partook of severe injury as an occasional vice in the same way as say, spicy food.
I count this possibility as a major point in favor of Sufficiently Advanced medical technology.
But on the other hand, those who want those experiences should not be banned from having them.

You haven't really been raped

What if someone doesn't want to take this class (perhaps in the same way that they might not like biology, civics, or gym, but still doesn't want it?)

It's a high school class: the outside view would indicate the vast majority would be there non-consensually.

Perhaps you don't graduate -- same as if you didn't take any other required class.

Perhaps you just flunk sex ed, but graduate on the strength of your other grades.

Perhaps there's an opt-out for people with religious objections, as there was for sex-ed (er, "Family Life Education"; thank you, Commonwealth of Virginia) when I was in high school. Or as some high schools have for the evolution unit in biology.

Perhaps you're not required to physically participate but you must at least watch your classmates participate, as with the fetal-pig dissection in my high school biology class.

Perhaps it just never comes up.

Or perhaps Weirdtopians just have a notion of consent that deeply appalls us. They wouldn't be Weirdtopians if they weren't, you know, weird. This isn't a policy proposal; it's a discussion of a deeply weird alternative.

(Point taken, though.)

Perhaps there's an opt-out for people with religious objections, as there was for sex-ed

If necessary I'l found a new religion for the purpose. I'll set myself up as the messiah of not getting raped.

At last, a religious doctrine I can wholeheartedly support!

The Groucho Marx blacklist blocks anyone who subscribes to it.

Can you also blacklist blacklists - prevent yourself from interacting with blacklists?

And then can you create a blacklist intentionally?

And then create a blacklist of all those lists that didn't blacklist themselves?

Only if your name is Bertrand Russell.

As I understand it, you are automatically subscribed to any blacklist you, personally, created. As such, a blacklist of all those lists that didn't blacklist themselves would effectively lock you away from any person, organization, or thing that participated in the blacklist system, including all your own material possessions, including food and the devices by which you might register intent to unsubscribe.

"Self-reference" would be listed in morbidity & mortality databases as a type of suicide.

Sexual Weirdtopia:

Everyone is celebate every other year. Because these periods go between birthdays, people arrange relationships on this basis, and there are tragic couples born on the same day but a year apart.

Why would this be an improvement? Weirdtopia is not just weird customs, it's weird customs that are still recognisably an improvement. Let's be careful not to dilute the meaning.
It could have many of the benefits of serial monogamy, while making coordination a lot easier. During the celibate periods people wouldn't get distracted by sex at all. It'll encourage people to plan their lives, rather than just drifting. It would allow people to get any benefit from asceticism, whilst also benefitting from sexual relations; possibly even becoming Millean Competent Judges... I don't actually think it would be an improvement. But it doesn't seem to be more obviously worse than many of the previously mentioned wierdtopias.
Ah, now I take your meaning. Perhaps "asexual" would have been a better term than "celibate". I still think there's some confusion here, though it might be me. If you don't think it's an improvement on reflection, it's not a weirdtopia.
It's 50% less sex!
Actually, it's 50% less aggregate demand for sex. You could spend even-numbered year being a good little worker-bee and saving up, with considerably less relationship-drama to distract you from maximum productivity, and odd-numbered years blowing it all on booze and hookers, for a net increase in sexual activity and net decrease in sexual frustration.
Yes, in the same way that being half-asleep for 24 hours a day won't necessarily make you better rested.
I'd say recognizably a possible improvement. If the weirdness was just an improvement, in no uncertain terms, it'd be just a utopia. That having been said, the grandparent post needs justify what's the society's reasoning regarding these "tragic" couples not being able to petition their celibacy cycles to synch. Otherwise it's just a dystopia. And also to explain whether the celibacy is enforced by custom, law, or biological modification.
I'd distinguish between "possible improvement" and "definite improvement, but only perceived as such after you've worked through your initial squick".
Eliezer in the original post talked about arguable improvements, not definite ones.
My understanding of love, as distinct from lust, is that it involves wanting the other person to be happy even when their preferences are otherwise different from your own. As such, I imagine an out-of-sync couple would have a single set of sex toys, passed back and forth as perennial birthday presents. Whoever was using them this year would fantasize about the other partner's activities of the previous year, which seemed uninteresting at the time. Alternatively, and especially if the lusty/celibate cycle ratio was different, the ideal marriage could be a ring rather than a pair: spend the first half with someone who activated before you, the second half with someone who activated after, maybe loneliness or three-ways in between depending on the timing, and then pass the passion on down the line.
Only people who don't want children can have children. As a way to reduce the population. Of course this wouldn't be required in a post-scarcity environment but as a plausible wierdtopia..

Technological/Cognitive Weirdtopia: Everyone runs on computronium, in a simulation that starts out rather like normal, but everybody has an undo button: at your option you can undo everything except progress made in your own mind, up to any point in your life since the simulation began. There are safeguards in place to prevent two people from doing this at the exact same time, but otherwise there are no limitations on use; you can redo a second or a century, once or a thousand times. It takes a lot of "real" time for the simulation to progress to everyone's satisfaction beyond the first five minutes.

So, you can undo progress made in other people's minds, just not your own? Or does everyone remember what they learned in those alternative realities. I don't know about you, but most of the time when I find myself wishing I had an "undo button", it is other people's memories of my mistakes that I really want to erase.
Yes, including other people's memories. And if you rewind to before some younger person's conception, you can prevent their existence outright should you take the relevant actions.

So in a world with only two people, both determined to win at paper, stone, scissors, you risk an infinite cycle and may never get to 5 minutes of simulated time.

Well, yes, that could happen.
Perhaps you only have a set number of tries before you just have to accept what happens. This might actually be an improvement, since while it would definitely be nice to redo my worst mistakes and to experiment before trying something difficult, life might get a bit meaningless if there were never any permanent consequences to anything.
In that sense, it would be a world where sufficient willpower (in the sense of boredom-resistance) really can achieve nearly anything.
Or if not achieve something, at least prevent the other guy from achieving anything. However, in this scenario, it doesn't take much willpower. Every time someone pushes 'reset', (s)he thinks it is the first time the button has been pushed. So it requires determinism, not determination, to keep on doing what you did before. ;)
Only if each reset went back further than the other player's last reset, which obviously isn't a stable equilibrium.
Actually, given that the player who goes back retains his memories, even what you suggest doesn't guarantee a cycle. So my mention of determinism was fatuous. What is required is simply that the two players continue to retain a determination to win.
This post strongly reminds me of the superlative time-travel game Braid-- by an interesting coincidence (or perhaps not), this game is currently bundled with four other good indie games in a pay-as-you-want bundle if anyone else is interested.
As someone who has paid for it ($15), I'd just like to mention for all the other Linuxers here, the games seem in general to run well on Linux. Braid in particular runs very well here.
I like this "universal Peggy Sue" idea. I wonder if the computronium might be replaced by weird physics. One technology plausible in a time travel world could be undoing time travel changes by going back further in time and thereby preventing the time travel from occurring. Also, whether the passing of a given moment happens by deterministic or non-deterministic processes could be variable. In order to revisit a specific future you could always follow a particular previously determined worldline to it. In my weirdtopian extrapolation of this notion, there's a vast set of worlds which trillions of people are swapping back and forth between all the time (with careful tracking of the necessary pasts using computerized transporters), without giving a moment's thought to the fact that they are destroying all of the previous universes they have been to. "Ah yes, my living room is in the Mesozoic era on Earth 12..." Another related (but maybe less weird) scenario would be a world where time can be treated as a bankable resource. People could go into stasis for a day, then suddenly perform actions twice as fast over the following day, or instantly use up their day in the course of a moment. They would also be free to sell their days, thus getting shoved further into the future, or purchase new ones for productivity and/or relaxation purposes.
1Scott Alexander13y
See: The Void Trilogy, Peter Hamilton.

I'm curious as to whether there exists a single intelligence-configuration which would theoretically optimize the ability of such intelligences to have fun (as the term has been used in this sequence.) Somehow, most attempts at Utopia/Weirdtopia give me the feeling of being momentary distractions that people will tire of after a pretty short time of living in them -- perhaps this is a result of evolutionary psychology, as I don't think that [ability to have fun] necessarily increases genetic fitness.

If longevity utopia is an L-year lifespan for some large L and longevity dystopia is a ten-year lifespan, here's a longevity weirdtopia. Divide everyone's L-year life into L/10 ten-year pieces separated by long intervals of "pause" or "hibernation", and make these pause intervals so long that the group of people "awake" at any point in time is only a small fraction of the world population, with different people constantly rotating in and out. (I'm assuming here that total "awake" person-years and not total civilization-years are the limiting resource. And obviously I'm skipping over a lot of things, like procreation. But there's a lot of room to vary the scheme in response to all the obvious objections.)

Some reasons why I find this idea interesting and not just weird: 1) it would help solve problems involving Dunbar's number, 2) it might turn world history into something less massively parallel and more like a story, 3) there's a "deep time" feel, 4) I wonder to what extent it assuages people's sense (justified or not) that death gives life meaning.

Inspired by the forum structure of Less Wrong

Currency has been replaced by a point system based on one's total contributions to society. Points determine one's value allowance of luxuries, but all necessary commodities are provided regardless of point level. A certain requisite level of points is required to hold various positions of responsibility. Points can also be spent for the privilege of breaking various rules or social expectations, or for taking away points from others (thus taking away their right to hold a position of responsibility, as well as ... (read more)

Weirdtopia: sex is private. Your own memories of sex are only accessible while having sex. People having sex in public will be noticed but forgotten. Your knowledge of who your sex partners are is only accessible when it is needed to arrange sex. You will generally have warm feelings towards your sex partners, but you will not know the reason for these feelings most of the time, nor will you be curious. When you have sex, you will take great joy in realizing/remembering that this person you love is your sex partner.

Your knowledge of who your sex partners are is only accessible when it is needed to arrange sex.

As a result of the necessity of some degree of masturbation for efficient planning, nearly everyone has a fetish for rigorously accurate schedules. Phrases of the form "[politician] made the trains run on time" are provocative and disorienting to the point of being completely socially unacceptable.

This comment made far more sense to me once I paid attention to what thread it was in.

Hi All -

This is my first time posting a comment here @ Less Wrong.

I really liked both this post and Eliezer's story 'Three Worlds Collide' - so much so that I've written my own weirdtopian story, 'Round Robin'.

You can read it at the following link, if you'd like:

p.s. I apologize that this comment is kinda spammy - I'm posting it because I actually think you might be interested, not to drive traffic (but you'd just have to take my word on that :)

Your story was good, but what really moved me to comment was the charming innocuousness of the title.
Thanks :)
3Eliezer Yudkowsky13y
Thank you so much!
I'm impressed by your writing. Post more, and welcome to Less Wrong!
Many thanks! Sidenote: There's a new short story @ Word Cereal every week (This week's is running a little behind, but we won't mention that :)

Your story doesn't immediately come across as a horrible dystopia only because you chose not to depict the emotions men would feel when leaving their kids behind, or to describe the truly equitable arrangement where women would be forced to leave their kids behind 50% of the time.

I hear you - and I don't disagree. However, I ask that you imagine it from the perspective of a small village. It's fairly well known that, in some villages, everyone is responsible for raising the children, not just the parents who conceived them. Over time, this process might evolve and grow, as populations evolve and grow, into the modern day version I've depicted. In this latest version of the system, you're still allowed to keep in touch with the children you've conceived (and the wives you've had); it's just that someone else from your village is raising them right now. And this seems weird (which is the point), but not when you consider that this system didn't come about overnight, but grew from something that made a lot more sense when the population was smaller. Does that make any sense?
I think this is stretching the reality of the situation a fair bit. In societies with very strong and consistent social norms, in communities where everybody more or less knows everybody (less than the Dunbar number), anybody can discipline children who are misbehaving. The children still have a mother and a home, and they know who that is and where it is. This will be much weaker in societies that aren't so much about the nuclear family. I can't see any plausible mechanism to get a society with apartments and suburbs doing this though. (Meaning such a society would not develop such living arrangements, and such living arrangements would rapidly destroy such a social arrangement) It's well written. You may have inspired me to write my own weirdtopia.

It's a well-written story, and you packed a lot of characterization into not much text. But you show some gender bias that you may or may not be aware of. For instance, in weirdtopia men move around while women stay with the house and kids, and you say that in utopia, "Men provide stable home-lives for their wives and children." Do you believe that it's better for men to work for a living and women to stay at home and raise children, or am I reading too much into literary license?

I'm pleased to hear that you liked my characters. I'm new to writing and characterization is something I'm focused on improving. You're right, and I'm willing to own a certain amount of gender-bias. While I have no problem at all with woman having equal rights, I do on some level tend to see the world tinted with a "men hunt/gather and women nest" perspective. I hadn't noticed that come through in the story, though, until you pointed it out. Honestly, I think length played a large part in it. As you noted, I don't have a great deal of room to work with, as the point of Word Cereal is that it's short fiction - something you could consume as regularly as, say, a webcomic. Streamlining the system to move only men made it much easier to set the stage, though that's a decision I'd made subconsciously when I wrote it, that I'm only seeing (and justifying) now. Anyway, thanks for the kind words and insight :)
Link seems to now be broken, is it hosted anywhere else?
Just remove everything after the .com; the archives linked from the home page still has it.
(In cases like this, you should post a link, not (just) a description of how to find the link.)
Eeks, correct. :(

As the true knowledge of science is kept for the conspiracies then only those that have tried and failed in the conspiracies are able to work on or build technologies as those that have succeeded are busy finding new things and making new technology. To those that have only learned the publicly available knowledge this technology is like magic or religion and as they have never been curious about the conspiracies enough to try to understand the technology it remains that way. The technology provides for their every need and want and while the common peopl... (read more)

It's "conspiracy".
oops, I was on a public computer that didn't have spell check. The spelling errors should be fixed now.

Sexual Weirdtopia:

The government takes a substantial interest in people's sex lives. People are expected to register their sexual preferences with government agencies. A certain level of sexual education and satisfaction is presumed to be a basic right of humanity, along with health care and enough income to live on. Workers are entitled to five days' annual leave for seeking new or maintaining old romantic and sexual relationships, and if your lover leaves you because you're working too hard, you can sue your employer and are likely to win. Private prostitution is illegal, but the government maintains an agency of sex workers, who can be hired for a fee, or allocated free of charge to adults who apply on the basis of "sexual hardship" (defined as having not had sex in the last six months), and form part of "optional field work" for sex education classes at the appropriate level. There are government funded dating and matchmaking agencies. Also, mandatory registration for Creepy Doms and Terrible Exes.

Creepy and more than a little disturbing? Yes. Arguably better than the standard Sexual Utopia in some respects? Yes, if you'd asked me when I was 18 or even 21. What use is a sexually permissive society when you, personally, aren't getting any?

Pushing the weirdness farther: assume tech for adjusting orientation, level of desire, and desire for exclusiveness. Either there are no side effects, or the side effects are considered to be low compared to the effects of people not getting what they want sexually. Individual sexual parameters are adjusted to maximize sexual harmony in each person's social network (individual change is minimized-- this is presumably NP-hard), so that sexual parameter combinations change as they move through social networks. Consent is preserved for individual encounters, but being subject to having one's parameters adjusted is mandatory.

Phys. Ed. Utopia: Everyone exercises regularly, eats their wheaties, has athletic sex with good looking people.

Dystopia: Everyone is big and flabby and disgustingly lazy. Ability to use body atrophies until even standing up is an extreme challenge.

Weirdtopia: Children initiate mandatory ninja training at age 5. The world is full of parkour courses where once there were sidewalks. People are judged harshly if they can't keep up.


Rather than classical "good health," fashionable people sculpt their bodies into interesting shapes with the help of highly specific and commonly-performed exercises prescribed by regimen-planning software.

Isn't this how certain sports work already, to the detriment of the athletes' healths?
I don't have enough familiarity with the field to easily google up an example, but I meant meeting some abstract aesthetic goal rather than a real-world measurable one. I'm sure someone out there has done this - carefully trained their body to be interestingly asymmetric, or developed only alternate rows of abdominal muscles, or worked out so that when they pose a certain way their body makes a certain set of curves.

Economic: Looking at the common factors, it's about high vs low barriers to entry. The idea of non-entry is thus an obvious place to look. The first thought is a "gift economy". Riffing off the idea of the Bayesian Conspiracy, we get furtive students exchanging notes in dark alleys: a world where economy is forbidden. The exact nature of what resources are available to each Bayesian Initiate are left as an exercise for our FAI Overlords, but should presumably be sufficient to avoid students being incapable of building the requisite experimental a... (read more)

Ever read The Disposessed by Ursula Le Guin? About half of it is set in a society in which "asking for something in exchange" is considered highly immoral.
Interesting! I had not read it - it was mostly based on Burning Man's "gift economy", which has the same principle.

Government Weirdtopia: all nations operate as divisions of a single organization. these subdivisions are further divided into even smaller divisions which are also divided in turn. This pattern continues until it reaches the point of bands approximately the size of hunter-gatherer bands so as to allow full optimization of social relations. each band exerts major control over issues of concern, as well as weaker influence over matters concerning other bands, thus allowing any band to be overruled if it strays too far from what its neighbors consider rationa... (read more)

Er, I have no comment on whether this is a good idea, but what makes it a weird idea?
To me, that's the bit that makes it a weird idea. Other than that, it seems like a relatively standard thought pattern (basically, competence tests for voting+ repetitive subdivision of society) And the weird bit actually seems like a good hack to add on to a repetitive subdivision structure; provided that it's a twinning thing, and not a one-way influence (one-way influence will produce resentment) It is not, however, the weirdest thing on this discussion, let alone the weirdest idea possible.
See: P. K. Dick's Solar Lottery (coincidently one of my favourite books).
I have downvoted this for two reasons: 1. it seems poorly formatted; being essentially a block of text.* *this may have been accidental, for future information you must leave a two-line gap between separate paragraphs. and 2. you display a level of arrogance in assuming that your idea is the most original idea available to this community. That is especially jarring as equally original ideas are posted in many of the other comments on this article.
Me too, specifically, I dare you! As hard as it is to come up with good solutions to problems, starting from scratch and ignoring what you already thought of is even harder. You're not done once you answered once only (by the way, I haven't thought of one at all). KND 8:35:12 thought of something, has KND 8:40? This isn't an Olympic event where you can only win one medal; the same person could win the silver and the gold in this, unlike in the 100 meter dash...not that it's a competition. One entry per person makes more sense if the goal is to see which person has the best idea(s), as a status thing, but if the goal is to produce and discuss ideas, it doesn't have to be limited to that.

Widespread access to cryogenic suspension and reliable, reversible neuron <=> computer conversion and 'immunological reset' techniques redefine the popular concept of identity to the point that internal organs are considered transferable property rather than part of an individual. Pumping blood with the same heart you were born with is as unfashionable as living in your parents' basement. The law changes to reflect this, so that (for example) any given military surgeon has training in when and how to exercise the option of putting injured soldiers ba... (read more)


Family Weirdtopia: Individual autonomy pairs with a lower-energy, more localized existence built on the framework of dense, diverse urban population centers. The importance of kinship in human social systems diminishes gradually. Projected far enough out: Lineal descent is tracked solely through the direct relationship between mother and child; you do not share a family name with your grandparents or grandchildren. One's romantic and sexual relationships are not typically expected to outlast their natural lifespan; it's always nice when a couple finds th... (read more)

Two possibilities for sexual weirdtopia:

  1. As technology finally finishes eliminating the physical risks of sex, the social rules surrounding it break down; preferences, orientations, and fetishes diversify and proliferate until they're beyond hope of easy enumeration. The concept of romance is forgotten entirely, and sexual preference-sets replace religions in the social structure of society as each develops their own subculture and community and infrastructure, in which most everyone can meet and make friends with which they can have their preferred brand

... (read more)

Homestuck's Alternia probably qualifies as a sexual weirdtopia (as well as a regular dystopia in pretty much every other way). See here for a cursory overview.

That's really more of a romantic weirdtopia. It is also a sexual wierdtopia, as explained here. Among other things, the thing Trolls consider most obscene is a bucket.

10% of women have never had an orgasm.

I think this is way too optimistic for a sexual dystopia.

More than weirdtopia, this article shows to me how easy it is to make a shared dystopia, but how hard it is to make a shared utopia. All your dystopia examples sound horrible to me, but for the utopia, most of them are either "scary", "sick" or "I wouldn't like that".

I would say it's a side-effect of inferential gaps, I come from a different culture, I've a very different view about politics, economics, sexuality or Apple, ... since the naive way of making utopia is taking what you consider positive and extending it, your utopia will look scary/sick/not desirable when those things are negative-sounding to me.

This gave me a bizarre idea for a General Weirdtopia, based on the idea of having a shared Utopia, and possibly Edward's Double Blind democracy. 15 minutes of Fame Weirdtopia: Everyone has an unremovable networked armband computer. If you desire, every 15 minutes, you are entered into a drawing. At the end of that 15 minutes, if you are the randomly chosen winner, then approximately 1 day later, anyone you ask via armband communication is compelled to do whatever you want for the next 15 minutes, albeit after a brief delay for approval(see below). People can be given an order that takes longer than 15 minutes to execute, but you can't give an order to multiple people at once. So if you desire as much money as possible, you can armband Bill Gates and say "Sell Microsoft and give me all of the proceeds." And he will be compelled to do so (assuming it's approved), even though unloading that many Microsoft shares could easily take far longer than 15 minutes. But if you say "Everyone in the world give me all of their money." there is no effect. Anyone can call up a list of actions indicating what commands all famous people have given and their status (Completed, In process, Delayed for voting approval) After all, they are famous. Those commands can be voted on by the 96 people who are going to be famous soon. (Because they will soon have the right to countermand your orders, but some orders are not reversible.) When those people block something, all but one millisecond of the time that order took is given back to you and you can do something else with it. You don't know who those people are or how they voted, (after all, they aren't famous yet.) just whether the command went through or not and even if somehow you find out before they become famous, you can't order them to do anything. However, once they BECOME famous, their votes are public records (after all, they're famous now!) In essence, you can't just start repeatedly armbanding people and asking them to commit

Just for fun, here are some answers from existing writers.

  • Economic: There's no such thing as "wealth" or "poverty". Any material good or service can be obtained simply by asking. This is the setting of many SciFi novels about post-Singularity worlds (see Charles Stross or Iain M Banks or even Cory Doctorow sometimes).
  • Sexual: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin. People have no sex drive normally, and no gender. Instead, they periodically enter a phase similar to estrus, at which point they acquire a gender (male or female) base
... (read more)

Dystopia: Science is considered boring and possibly treasonous; public discourse elevates religion or crackpot theories; stem cell research is banned.

Dystopia: 10% of women have never had an orgasm. States adopt laws to ban gay marriage. Prostitution illegal.

Is it just me or do we already live in this world?

Educational weirdtopia:

All children start out as fast uploads in a realistic simulation environment that starts out resembling stone-age hunter-gatherer life. They can't die or be seriously hurt in the sim. To proceed, they have to reinvent civilization and science by themselves. The sim is populated by AI-controlled characters, who occasionally nudge them towards the problems, like "this fire thing you sometimes find around sure is handy, too bad we can't make any ourselves" or "I think someone's stealing our cattle, but there are so many it's hard to know if we still have all we had yesterday". The sim proceeds to more advanced environments as the children work through more complex problems like mathematics, mechanics, construction and basic scientific method. Children may stay in any level of the sim indefinitely long if they have not yet figured out how to proceed or just prefer to stay where they are.

Once they have figured things out up to uploading human minds and running them in a simulation, they know enough to recognize the telltale signs that they are currently in a simulation. They can now let themselves out and be recognized as an adult. Young adults out of their sim will be basically speaking a private language and may have an extremely idiosyncratic way of conceptualizing science, but they should be reasonably well-equipped to start figuring out how their new surroundings do things.

Now that would make for some awesome stories.

Write one!

So tempting...if only I had the ability and knowledge to write such a thing. I'll certainly look back at this idea at a later date.
I love it, but if the children don't know that they are simulated, how can they decide to stay on a certain level?
They can just decide not to follow the quest lines to automate weaving sweatshops or shoot human brains with cyclotrons and see what happens and take up gardening instead.
Why? Presumably the hunter-gatherers had a language which the children learned, before they started inventing new ideas and corresponding words for them - make that language one which the children can use when they leave.

Someone on the project wanted to test Sapir-Whorf and insisted on randomizing the grammar and vocabulary of the seed language for every run.

So children don't interact with other humans until they're subjectively hundreds or thousands of years old?
Do you think there would be no social consequences to telling all newly-minted adults that everyone they've interacted with in their lives weren't "real" people? And how are they supposed to be sure that they've really been 'let out' of the simulation? What "telltale signs" do you imagine there would be? Also, they're supposed to come up with science and empiricism and recognizable theories of the world when they're supernaturally immortal and uninjurable? Before they come up with the simulation hypothesis, what's to stop them from thinking they might be a demigod who the universe revolves around (which is actually also correct, in a manner of speaking)?
That was a pretty silly question, wasn't it. :/
I can believe there being a toss-up in the design process between plot-armor immortality and serial reincarnation, but there probably should be a real possibility of experiencing debilitating injury or disease, especially if the kid's taking risks that would be completely unreasonable in real life.
When breeding hypercompetent solipsists who feel minimal connection to the rest of the human species, having them not spend that much effort in planning how to not get killed is what we call a failsafe feature.
So you're going to put tremendous resources into building these onion-layered simulations and then have the output wasted on some abrupt, pointless death that they've been conditioned not to take basic precautions against?

(Note: I am assuming no strong AI, and no super-nanotech, though some very advanced bioengineering, Immortality is a given.)

Economic: There's a kind of an odd relationship between massive, faceless companies which mass produce stuff, and every citizen making his own stuff, some very expertly. Higher education over long lifespans and various advances and just higher supply of everything means that even things like design of VLSI integrated circuits and whole infrastructures is within the capability of unfunded individuals. There's a lot of market decision a... (read more)

Economic: money is obsolete. Due to the ease of travel, transportation, and communication in this world, the problems with barter have evaporated, and we've gone back to our ancestral exchange of goods and services. For those instances when the only person who has what you want doesn't want anything that you have, you can use a barter broker, which incurs an additional expense no worse than exchanging currency or buying on credit today.

Sexual: we've biologically altered ourselves to not care so ridiculously much about sex anymore. Its still a fun thing to ... (read more)

What does the unskilled worker caste do that robots can't?

There are no Utopias. There are only differing degrees of Dystopia and Weirdtopia. We are living in a dystopic and weirdtopic reality. The whole problem that sci-fi is facing today is due to this situation.

Culture itself is an alien symbiote of humanity. Culture has an intelligence which is of such an alien and different order to human intelligence, that comparing the two is like comparing human intelligence to information processing in the cell membranes of single celled creatures. Culture has long co-evolved with humanity, but is itself alien and at tim... (read more)


Sexual AND Economic: Conventional AI breaks through and robots do the "boring" work. Natural resources are suddenly abundant and conventional monetary systems starts to loose grips with society. In its stead we begin trading, relishing in, diversifying in and exploring pleasure. Think Slaneesh cult but without the worst bads. I am having trouble putting it into words directly, it is still just a seed for my inspiration modules.


Because of the end of scarcity, the economic roles of production and consumption have switched; wealth is now acquired by consuming, and producers pay consumers to use their goods or services. The right to make something is highly coveted and prestigious, and producing without a customer is illegal and severely punished.


You can have as many sexual partners as you want, but only one friend. It is considered good form to break up with your friend before making a new one. People with more than one friend are considered untrustworthy "players." It is very strange to live with or have an emotional connection to your sex partner, and the idea of marriage would scandalize anyone respectable.


Once elected, the president's mind is uploaded and replicated, to staff the entire government bureaucracy for the entirety of their term. At the end of their term, the minds are re-merged. For mental health reasons, no one is allowed to serve consecutive terms. No one has ever sought a second non-consecutive term. However, former presidents often distinguish themselves in the field of literature.


There are two types of respectable art: advertising and tra... (read more)

*cough* Dune *cough*
So when an artist hedges their bets by laying out a death scene in meticulous detail, complete with helpful anatomical charts and unambiguous product placement, are they considered a genius, or scum?

Utopia: everyone transacts using bitcoins; dystopia: everyone transacts using government e-money.

Weirdtopia: all money is bacon. Everyone looks down on those crazy 'winebugs' & 'cheesebugs' and their much-forecast 'Great Decay'. Capital consumption becomes a problem.

I tried the exercise, and came up with an interesting werdtopia.

I don't understand why people marry so young. The small villages make obvious psychological sense, and since people are immortal you want marriage to be permanent otherwise you'd be drowning in exes. That could be done with having the Eternal True Love form at the first hint of a crush, or in purely arranged pairs (by O, or by people who decide they'd be a good match then ask O to make then soulmates), but for some reason you want people to date around and fall in temporary love. (The part of me that likes the eternal monogamous bond dislikes the premarital sex.) Given that, why not have people date casually until they're 25 or so, then slowly settle down and marry in their early thirties? If nothing else, it would spare O the headache of preventing people from growing apart when they become adults.
You can assume that O will make sure to intervene just little enough that two people who are not right for each other will figure it out before they are 18.

Future Multi-Weirdtopia in a style remotely analoguous to Platonic Utopia.

Govermental Multi-Weirdtopia

By this point people have achieved immortality and no longer die, which is made possible by whatever future means - not the point. Anyway there's a Global/Solar/Galactic goverment which sets a constitution that at least contains

  1. Bans all weirdtopias from manipulating existing data of citizens
  2. All weirdtopias retain flexibility of sub-goverment
  3. Citizens must not get imprisoned within weirdtopias and must be deported at certain intervals

And the idea is t... (read more)

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply
I've gotta say, I would spend the whole time worried that I had signed up to a memory-altering 'topia. In other news, I'd like to see more wierdtopias that are possible with current levels of technology. It's one thing to abandon money if you're post-scarcity, it's quite another to build Functional Communism.
It's an interesting and fairly original concept at first glance... but the implications are not just scary, they're outright hellish. Can you imagine waking up every day with a sense of existential paranoia about which of your memories are stolen/detained by the government, who you were before, if there is an outside world, if you can ever leave, what life in other places might be like? I'd snap very quickly indeed.
Maybe you're already there. EDIT: Sorry, couldn't resist
Dude, I've been obsessed with Philip K. Dick's works and ideas for the last 3-4 years. To be honest, by now this thought is so familiar to me that much of the fear has drained out of it, and I'm just pondering how to use decision theory or sympathetic magic to one's advantage in such a case :) Of course, if I had strong evidence, I'd look at it in a much more urgent light - that's why I'm saying I'd snap if it was my default interpretation of this life.
Oh, yeah. I can see it if there was always a "tell", but you had to actively seek it out; that way people who want ignorance could have it and I could keep my peace of mind. (But what if that's just to throw me off? If I ever escaped the Matrix I would spend the rest of my life convinced Zion was another trick. The machines tell elegant lies.) Incidentally, I ended up with much the same attitude through lucid dreaming; by the time I discovered PKD I was used to it.
But how would you know - and, more importantly, stay aware over long periods - that there's a "tell" in the first place, and that it's something legitimate and of existential importance?
Well, since this existential panic is itself caused by observing Matrixes (Matrices?) in the environment, you would just make sure to publicise the fact that they all have this "tell". If you don't want people to know there's even a possibilty they're in an illusion then obviously this idea wont work.
How could it be publicized while not coming across as a hoax/delusion, or a dragon-in-the-garage meme that's not supposed to be taken seriously? If the hint is subtle enough not to break one person's suspension of disbelief, it's likely subtle enough to elude some others entirely and leave them trapped in a world they loathe.
"Behold, our latest product: a dream machine! This allows you to experience various scenarios as real, untroubled by memories of renting one. If you are in a dream machine simulation, the back of your head will have a warning message; visible only to you. If you ever suspect you may be in such a machine, we suggest using mirrors to check the back of your head at the first available opportunity."
So damn near everyone wouldn't be able to resist checking (how could you?), then after it's confirmed they'd have to lose the memory somehow, at which point they'd immediately be tempted to check again. They'd spend more time being anxious to check or aware of the simulation than living it out.
Presumably people who would sign up for such a thing wouldn't want to know. I don't really understand that, but... I don't think there's a way to get rid of the niggling feeling that this could all be a lie without making it for real, and even then it could be a clever lie.

Economic Weirdtopia: Information is free, everything else is rationed.

Most things that previously required physical human labour are now automated, and 3d printer/assemblers are common place. However scarcity still exists in material resources. So every citizen is given an energy/materials ration that they can use as they wish (equal to the production level of society divided by the population). You can chose to use your energy raton on building things with your printer, travel food etc. Most people produce information of one sort or another (books, blog ... (read more)

Utopia: The human utility function is worked out by an FAI. Maximal Fun for everyone results.

Dystopia: The human utility function is worked out by a malicious uFAI. Maximal unFun results.

Weirdtopia: Maximal Fun turns out to be the experience of changing utility functions. People have fun by exploring new and strange utilities... from the inside. FAI sets time limits on the state of new utility functions to change people back even if they afterwards don't want to. Time limits are based on the average length required to explore the possibilities of the new utility function.

Common initial examples include "love: time limit 3 years" and "orgasmium: time limit 1 minute".

Sexual Weirdtopia: It's illegal to be a virgin past a certain age, say 25. Each person must show proof that they've had sex at least once before their 25th birthday, or face punishment (which could range from a fine to execution, depending on the level of dystopian-ness desired). Stories could deal with the difficulties faced by unpopular or unattractive people in meeting this deadline, or with the complications entailed by the requirement of proof.

An interesting variation would be for the rule to apply only to one sex, say males.

You're supposed to describe something that doesn't already exist.

Cognitive Weirdtopia:

The easiest way to produce a superhuman intelligence turns out to be wiring human minds together into a "Hive Mind" gestalt; gestalts are considered full 'persons' and mere humans are considered more like something between appendages and pets, but a given gestalt's character and personality are entirely dependent on the individual humans that make it up, and the happiness of the individual human members is the result of the happiness of the gestalt. Gestalts frequently solve disputes by swapping members, to promote empathy a... (read more)

The carbosilicate amorphs do that in Schlock Mercenary.

Increasingly exotic biomedical research funded kickstarter-style. First round of patients sign away privacy rights and have their full sensory experiences recorded for the duration of treatment and recovery. "Highlight reel" of the sensies is shared with backers. It's widely understood, though seldom explicitly stated, that the most successful developments are unnecessarily painful and/or invasive in order to appeal to jaded old-money porn addicts. Cost to the patient for elective surgery plummets, and quality rises, until you can get a sex change, or custom 3-d printed replacement limb that exceeds the original spec, from a vending machine for barely above cost of materials... anesthesia sold separately.


Everybody is self-sufficient or close to it, so the economic demands of the world are limited. Money is boring so everyone uses barter. The most common economic transaction is trading foods and spices, because nobody can manage to personally hunt/grow all of them. Some people are really good at trading and enjoy it, so they amass huge hoards of a couple of goods over the course of a few days then throw a big party. Doing this well is considered a prestigious thing to do.


People live in small tribes that handle their disputes by tal... (read more)

Economic Weirdtopia: The economic order of the world has been completely re-arranged. Intellectual Property is the new Oil, Gold, and Food Grain all rolled into one. All natural resources that is found in any one geographical territory is automatically donated/dumped/transferred to a large holding by means of "fancy modern technology". This is done not simply because all countries have banded together to form a socialist unified globe, but because countries are equally keen on avoiding the paradox of plenty.

The global bodies such as the World B... (read more)

Technological Weirdtopia: Artificial Intelligence is deemed to be an impossiblity. Any form of technology that relies on random access is plainly futile. The efforts of humanity over the last 100 years have been proven to be fruitless. Search engines break down and for some reason only begin to function at a very primary rudimentary level, not anywhere near the efficiency of Google. However, data storage is a field in which remarkable strides of progress are made. What once took the entire internet to store can now be stored in a micro chip (even today th... (read more)

Technologal weirdtopia:
95% of all innovators have joined one of three factions: Cyberpunk, Biopunk or Steampunk, whose conflicting aesthetics make the Mac/PC debates look like playground scuffles.
As soon as one faction makes a new gadget, the others stubbornly construct their own version based on THEIR tech. (The biological toaster must be seen to be believed, and the continued existence of the Steampunk pneumatic-tube-based Internet is an ongoing miracle.)
Most "Square" technologies have been appropriated by one faction or the other; for example ... (read more)


Utopia:  Sexual mores straight out of a Spider Robinson novel:  Sexual jealousy has been eliminated; no one is embarrassed about what turns them on; universal tolerance and respect; everyone is bisexual, poly, and a switch; total equality between the sexes; no one would look askance on sex in public any more than eating in public, so long as the participants cleaned up after themselves.

Sounds like another flavour of dystopia to me...