Raise the topic of cryonics, uploading, or just medically extended lifespan/healthspan, and some bioconservative neo-Luddite is bound to ask, in portentous tones:
“But what will people do all day?”
They don’t try to actually answer the question. That is not a bioethicist’s role, in the scheme of things. They’re just there to collect credit for the Deep Wisdom of asking the question. It’s enough to imply that the question is unanswerable, and therefore, we should all drop dead.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad or easy question. Hedonic psychology shows that people don’t really know what makes them happy. Therefore we need Fun Theory, a discipline that deals with questions such as:
- “How much fun is there in the universe?”
- “Will we ever run out of fun?”
- “Are we having fun yet?”
- “Could we be having more fun?”
The more advanced humans know that doing exciting activities is more fun than owning exciting stuff.
But back to more fundamental issues. How can you have the most fun possible? Probably through something orgasmium:
In the transhumanist lexicon, “orgasmium” refers to simplified brains that are just pleasure centers experiencing huge amounts of stimulation—a happiness counter containing a large number, plus whatever the minimum surrounding framework to experience it.
And there are transhumanists who promote this goal:
The transhumanist philosopher David Pearce is an advocate of what he calls the Hedonistic Imperative: The eudaimonic life is the one that is as pleasurable as possible. So even happiness attained through drugs is good? Yes, in fact: Pearce’s motto is “Better Living Through Chemistry”.
Yudkowsky somehow doesn’t like this scenario. He has more glorious visions:
….when it comes to the question, “Don’t I haveto want to be as happy as possible?” then the answer is simply “No. If you don’t prefer it, why go there?”
There’s nothing except such preferences out of which to construct Fun Theory—a second look is still a look, and must still be constructed out of preferences at some level.
In the era of my foolish youth, when I went into an affective death spiral around intelligence, I thought that the mysterious “right” thing that any superintelligence would inevitably do, would be to upgrade every nearby mind to superintelligence as fast as possible. Intelligence was good; therefore, more intelligence was better.
Somewhat later I imagined the scenario of unlimited computing power, so that no matter how smart you got, you were still just as far from infinity as ever. That got me thinking about a journey rather than a destination, and allowed me to think “What rate of intelligence increase would be fun?”
…you don’t actually want to wake up in an incomprehensible world, any more than you actually want to suddenly be a superintelligence, or turn into orgasmium.
Yeah, it makes much more sense to create meaningless challenges and become slowly but gradually smarter and happier instead of becoming godlike instantly. Haha, this is so obvious, haha, how stupid do you have to be if you disagree with that, haha?!
People who talk about an existential pit of meaninglessness in a universe devoid of meaning—I’m pretty sure they don’t understand morality in naturalistic terms. There is vertigo involved, but it’s not the vertigo of meaninglessness.
This argument is soo persuaaasive! “Which argument” you ask? Silly human! You’ll understand Yudkowsky when you’re older and wiser.
There’s a broad class of goals that aren’t suitable as the long-term meaning of life, because you can actually achieve them, and then you’re done.
To look at it another way, if we’re looking for a suitable long-run meaning of life, we should look for goals that are good to pursue and not just good to satisfy.
Or to phrase that somewhat less paradoxically: We should look for valuations that are over 4D states, rather than 3D states. Valuable ongoing processes, rather than “make the universe have property P and then you’re done”.
Timothy Ferris is again worth quoting: To find happiness, “the question you should be asking isn’t ‘What do I want?’ or ‘What are my goals?’ but ‘What would excite me?'”
You might say that for a long-run meaning of life, we need games that are fun to play and not just to win.
Exactly. We not only need arbitrary challenges, we need arbitrary, never-ending challenges.
Why should this “valuable ongoing process” be a process of trying to do things—why not a process of passive experiencing, like the Buddhist Heaven?
…How much of the human brain could you eliminate, apart from the pleasure centers, and still keep the subjective experience of pleasure?
I’m not going to touch that one. I’ll stick with the much simpler answer of “I wouldn’t actually prefer to be a passive experiencer.”….But once you strip away Buddha telling me that Nirvana is the end-all of existence, Nirvana seems rather more like “sounds like good news in the moment of first being told” or “ideological belief in desire” rather than, y’know, something I’d actually want.
Haha, silly Buddhists! Haha, so dumb.
Racing along a track, it matters that the other racers are real, and that you have a real chance to win or lose.
So true. I mean, we don’t want to live in Nozickian experience machines! That would be awful! We would only think we engaged in pointless endeavors, but in reality that would be false. Which would make our endeavors completely pointless!
There must be the true effort, the true victory, and the true experience—the journey, the destination and the traveler.
That’s right. Our meaningless endeavors have to be truly meaningless.
We can already see that wireheading wouldn’t be as much fun as facing genuine challenges in real life. Think about all the computer games you’ve played, heck, take only the best like Diablo or Baldur’s Gate. Let’s face it, those games weren’t that good. In fact, they totally sucked in comparison to the true joys of your real life. You can’t compare the fake experiences of simple computer games with genuine love or true friendship.
Thinking e.g. about my first girlfriend shows me every time how beautiful and marvelous life can be. If you’re willing to truly open yourself to other human beings you can experience true love.
Just kidding, of course. I go for Baldur’s Gate.
To sum up:
We want to roll a really heavy rock up the hill forever and for real. Anything else would be pointless.