Fun theory addresses the following problem: If we can arrange to live for a very long time with greatly increased intelligence and physical abilities, how can we continue to have any fun?
When we have intellects that can deeply comprehend every movie, novel, and concert ever created in an instant; that intimately know every twist of every forest path; that can bring joy or tranquillity to themselves at will; when we have enhanced ourselves so that we can swim under the Atlantic in a day, and navigate a snowboard down Mount Everest as easily as you or I could steer a bicycle down the street, when free-solo climbing a cliff-face poses no risk to life or limb--then what fun will remain?
The risk of boredom
Unless we can answer this question, we might be faced by endless boredom. Alternatively, we could eliminate boredom from our mental makeup. We could change our minds so that staring at a blank wall all day, every day, causes no mental suffering. This too, is a future that we don't want.
These scenarios could be seen as an argument against key hopes of transhumanism for the improvement of the human condition, including lifespan extension, human intelligence enhancement, and physical enhancement.
Transhumanists work towards a much better human future--a Utopia--but, as George Orwell aptly described it Utopians of all stripes, Socialist, Enlightenment, or Christian, have generally been unable to imagine futures where anyone would actually want to live.
It is a commonplace that the Christian Heaven, as usually portrayed, would attract nobody. Almost all Christian writers dealing with Heaven either say frankly that it is indescribable or conjure up a vague picture of gold, precious stones, and the endless singing of hymns... [W]hat it could not do was to describe a condition in which the ordinary human being actively wanted to be.
Fun Theory and complex values
A key insight of Fun Theory, in its current embryonic form, is that eudaimonia is complicated--there are many properties which contribute to a life worth living. To experience a fulfilled life, we humans require many things: Aesthetic stimulation, pleasure, love, social interaction, learning, challenge, and much more.
It is a common mistake to extract one element of the human preferences and seek to maximize it alone. If we simply optimize for pleasure or happiness, we will "wirehead"--stimulate the relevant parts of our brain and experience bliss for eternity, but pursue no other experiences. If almost any element of our value system is absent the human future will likely be very unpleasant.
The value system of humans today will also in general be true of enhanced humans, to the extent that we do change it as we self-enhance. We may want to alter our own value system, by eliminating values, like bloodlust, which on reflection we wish were absent. But there are many values which we, on reflection want to keep, and since we humans have no basis for a value system other than our current value system, Fun Theory must seek to maximize the value system that we have, rather than inventing new values.
Among the improvements to the human condition that we want to work for, intelligence enhancement is among the most important. can work towards. Because of this, among other values that must be satisfied, Fun Theory puts a particular emphasis on the values opposed to boredom: curiosity, learning, and intellectual exploration. The open question is whether the universe will offer, or we ourselves can create, ever more complex and sophisticated opportunities to delight and challenge ever more powerful minds.
Relation to Friendly AI
An artificial general intelligence which is created to help humanity (Friendly AI), and which grows to be much more powerful than us, must have as its goal the promotion of the human value system.
- George Orwell, Why Socialists Don't Believe in Fun
- David Pearce, Paradise Engineering and The Hedonistic Imperative provides a more nuanced alternative to wireheading.