Would you want to live forever? There a number of reasons you might not, including the possibility that eventually it would get boring to be alive. Enter, then, the whimsical idea of Fun Theory, which explores whether there’s a natural limit to the amount of enjoyable stimulation we are capable of experiencing in a lifetime.
I discovered Fun Theory on the brainy, futurist website LessWrong.com. In a post from a few years ago, blogger Eliezer Yudkowsky lays out the “31 Laws of Fun”— conditions that would need to apply in order for eternal life to seem appealing.
Some of the “laws of fun” come out of social psychology research. For example, a fun life is neither so easy it becomes boring nor so hard it becomes frustrating—basically we’d want to live in a perpetual "flow state." We’d also want some options for how to live our lives, which would provide an essential sense of agency, but not so many options that we’d become dissatisfied with the path we ultimately chose (as research suggests we tend to when choices multiply).
Other laws are more sci-fi in nature: What would the world need to look like for eternal life to be attractive? Fun Theory says we’d need heavy doses of “high-bandwidth sensual experiences,” like rolling in the hay or watching a sunrise over the Himalayas. Of course, it’s human nature to become inured even to a really good thing. Therefore, the article explains, the possibility of never-ending fun is predicated on our ability to get smarter over time—which would open up new experiences and challenges for our enjoyment—but not so smart, so rapidly, that the world would start to look dull.
These are just a few of the tenets of a life that is forever fun. The whole idea of Fun Theory is simultaneously mind-bending and delightful—and, indeed, it wouldn’t seem right if Fun Theory were not itself, fun.
Image courtesy of Torrey Wiley
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Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.