The Redoubtable Eliezer Yudkowsky is now addressing a new set of Big Questions about our upcoming TechnoRapture:
How much fun is there in the universe? What is the relation of available fun to intelligence? What kind of emotional architecture is necessary to have fun? Will eternal life be boring? Will we ever run out of fun?
But what about sex, you ask? Well, you can take the emotional modules that make sex pleasurable and hook them up to solving the Rubik's Cube, but this would be a philosophical problem, since the Rubik's Cube is probably less complex than sex and is furthermore a one-player game.
What I want to do now is propose combining these two concepts - the concept of modified emotional drives, and the concept of an unbounded space of novel problems - to create an Infinite Fun Space, within which the Singularity will never be boring. In other words, I propose that a necessary and sufficient condition for an inexhaustible source of philosophically acceptable fun, is maintaining emotional involvement in an ever-expanding space of genuinely novel problems. The social emotions can similarly be opened up into an Infinite Fun Space by allowing for ever-more-complex, emotionally involving, multi-player social games.
The specific combination of an emotional drive with a problem space should be complex; that is, it should not consist of a single burst of pleasure on achieving the goal. Instead the emotional drive, like the problem itself, should be "reductholistic" (yet another Hofstadterian term), meaning that it should have multiple levels of organization. The Food Drive associates an emotional drive with the sensory modality for taste and smell, with the process of chewing and swallowing, rather than delivering a single pure-tone burst of pleasure proportional to the number of calories consumed. This is what I mean by referring to emotional involvement with a complex novel problem; involvement refers to a drive that establishes rewards for subtasks and sub-subtasks as well as the overall goal.
To be even more precise in our specification of emotional engineering, we could specify that, for example, the feeling of emotional tension and pleasurable anticipation associated with goal proximity could be applied to those subtasks where there is a good metric of proximity; emotional tension would rise as the subgoal was approached, and so on.
So does this mean that an author can use Singularity Fun Theory to write stories about daily life in a post-Singularity world which are experienced as fun by present-day humans? No; emotional health in a post-Singularity world requires some emotional adjustments. These adjustments are not only philosophically acceptable but even philosophically desirable. Nonetheless, from the perspective of an unadjusted present-day human, stories set in our world will probably make more emotional sense than stories set in a transhuman world. This doesn't mean that our world is exciting and a transhuman world is boring. It means that our emotions are adapted to a hostile universe.
Nonetheless, it remains extremely extremely true that if you want to save the world, now would be a good time, because you are never ever going to get a better chance to save the world than being a human on pre-Singularity Earth. Personally I feel that saving the world should be done for the sake of the world rather than the sake of the warm fuzzy feeling that goes with saving the world, because the former morally outweighs the latter by a factor of, oh, at least six billion or so. However, I personally see nothing wrong with enjoying the warm fuzzy feeling if you happen to be saving the world anyway. (Singularity Fun Theory!)