Yudkowsky invites the readers to write comments describing possible “weirdtopian” futures, i.e. worlds that are neither utopian nor dystopian, but pretty strange.
We humans need hope. To get up every morning, we need to believe that there is at least a small chance that things will, eventually, get better. That doesn’t mean we should believe every quack doctor. But a vague hope that the future will be kinda cool is ok, even for rationalists.
We also should be pleasantly surprised by the future. To know in advance what will happen, even if it is mainly good, makes life rather boring. (I don’t agree with that, at least not entirely.)
What we need to maintain our interest in life, is a justified expectation of pleasant surprises.
Thinking too much about future utopias is pretty dangerous. Fantasies about the glorious future can consume all your attention and may gradually drain your life force.
Some symptoms that indicate that something has gone wrong:
You’ve lost most of your hobbies and passions. The present mostly annoys you. The only thing that keeps you from committing suicide is the hope that you’ll get to “heaven” if you endure this crap here long enough.
Hm, sounds familiar.
If we would lose the ability to get bored by repetitive tasks we would just play the most awesome video game or listen to the best song over and over again, for all eternity. Which would be boring.
Of course, we should only get bored with mid-level concepts, and not with very high-level activities like thinking or learning. The same applies to low-level activities like e.g. breathing.
I don’t know. Why keep the emotion of boredom? It would be way easier without it. Actually, I think boredom is often rather annoying. I don’t want to have to search for new music because I can’t enjoy to the old stuff anymore. This is just a waste of time. (Another good example of the same phenomenon is porn.)
But yeah, a world full of video game junkies is not very heroic.
The emotion of sympathy is probably even more important than boredom. Nobody likes psychopaths.
Today I shall criticize yet another Utopia….
This Utopia consists of a one-line remark on an IRC channel:
living in your volcano lair with catgirls is probably a vast increase in standard of living for most of humanity
I’ve come to think of this as Reedspacer’s Lower Bound.
Yudkowsky thinks that this is a failed utopia. The most complex emotion is probably romantic love and it would be kinda sad if we lost it. But love, especially between men and women has also its downsides:
Mind you… we’ve got to do something about, you know, the problem.
Anyone the least bit familiar with evolutionary psychology knows that the complexity of human relationships, directly reflects the incredible complexity of the interlocking selection pressures involved. Males and females do need each other to reproduce, but there are huge conflicts of reproductive interest between the sexes. I don’t mean to go into Evolutionary Psychology 101 (Robert Wright’s The Moral Animal is one popular book), but e.g. a woman must always invest nine months of work into a baby and usually much more to raise it, where a man might invest only a few minutes; but among humans significant paternal investments are quite common, yet a woman is always certain of maternity where a man is uncertain of paternity… which creates an incentive for the woman to surreptitiously seek out better genes… none of this is conscious or even subconscious, it’s just the selection pressures that helped construct our particular emotions and attractions.
And as the upshot of all these huge conflicts of reproductive interest…
Well, men and women do still need each other to reproduce. So we are still built to be attracted to each other. We don’t actually flee screaming into the night.
But men are not optimized to make women happy, and women are not optimized to make men happy. The vast majority of men are not what the vast majority of women would most prefer, or vice versa.
But Reedspacer’s solution seems rather, well, unromantic:
I find it all too easy to imagine a world in which men retreat to their optimized sweet sexy catgirls, and women retreat to their optimized darkly gentle catboys, and neither sex has anything to do with each other ever again. Maybe men would take the east side of the galaxy and women would take the west side. And the two new intelligent species, and their romantic sexbots, would go their separate ways from there.
…Our species does definitely have a problem. If you’ve managed to find your perfect mate, then I am glad for you, but try to have some sympathy on the rest of your poor species—they aren’t just incompetent. Not all women and men are the same, no, not at all. But if you drew two histograms of the desired frequencies of intercourse for both sexes, you’d see that the graphs don’t match up, and it would be the same way on many other dimensions. There can be lucky couples, and every person considered individually, probably has an individual soulmate out there somewhere… if you don’t consider the competition. Our species as a whole has a statistical sex problem!
Yudkowsky describes a failed utopia in which men and women live on different planets but are otherwise pretty happy and have super-beautiful “catgirls” and “catboys” respectively.
(Needless to say that I would kill for getting into this world.)