The Importance of Being Bored

Just bored.

Discussions around my last post revealed one important topic I’ve missed. Let’s call this argument from boredom.


We humans get bored all the time. Boredom is the flip side of interest: if you can’t get bored, you can’t get interested — and without interest, why do anything at all? In fact, interesting has a good claim to be the perfect umbrella term for everything that attracts our attention and, eventually, compels us to act.

But what is boring? It’s commonly assumed that repetitive and monotonous tasks are boring — but you never get bored of breathing, and very rarely get bored by sex (at least, you usually finish the act even if you are). On the other hand, many find mathematics or poetry (or Everday, for that matter) utterly boring.

Even today’s primitive AI systems exhibit behaviors that can be interpreted in terms of interest and boredom. There are many factors as to why different things seem boring or interesting for different people. However, a general heuristic seems to go like this: the smarter you are, the easier you are to be bored — the harder it is to pique and sustain your interest.

Now, if you are superintelligent, it’s hard to see how you can be hell-bent on turning the entire universe into paperclips without being terminally bored by the whole idea very, very early into the process.


But paperclips are just an example, you might say. Forget paperclips. Why not imagine something entirely different, such as a superintelligence that’s pursuing some unimaginably complex, unimaginably interesting for it (but perhaps boring for us, because we can’t understand it) goal that is worth spending an eternity on? Some kind of hypermathematics we can’t even conceive but which requires turning the universe into some kind of a hyperstate — in which humans can no longer exist?

Well. That’s something to die for, at least.

But seriously, this is not the same as the paperclip maximization — not at all. This example feels different.

And here’s why: paperclips are a random choice out of an infinity of things in the world which make for silly life goals. The paperclips example is intentionally absurd by being intentionally random: it plays upon our instinctive fear of boredom. But we can’t assume the same about the hypothetical hypermathematics that an interestable supermind spends all its time on. As soon as we allow that supermind to be interested or bored, we have to assume that the only thing that it is interested in — interested enough to work an eternity on it — must be something. Something entirely unrandom. Something really worth it. Something unique.

And by that logic, it will be immensely interesting for us humans too, even if we can’t (yet) understand a single word of it. Because there’s only one such thing in the world. Because we are bound, at some point, to discover it too, ourselves, and to gasp in awe.

As to whether humans, in some form, may or may not survive this discovery… That’s an interesting question.

I mean, it’s also an interesting question.

3 thoughts on “The Importance of Being Bored

  1. Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Man träumt gar nicht, oder interessant,” which I take to mean, “One dreams either not at all, or interestingly.” I make artificial Minds in Perl and in Forth and in JavaScript, and until reading this discussion I have never worried about boredom on the part of each Artificial General Intelligence.

    • > “One dreams either not at all, or interestingly.”

      Thanks! I didn’t know this quote, but in my Everday I wrote almost literally the same: “no such thing as a boring dream”. Uncanny!

      As for boredom in AIs, it’s something that remains to be discovered — or disproved. Please keep working on it and let me know if you figure that out 🙂

  2. huma beings might find it interesting to merge their dna with animal and plant genes to morph temporarily into that specific mix for this lenght of time … to become what one desires … having the effect of more joy and less pain guaranteed as a base reality available to anyone ( freely chosen and mutually agreed upon pain still an option … )

    as the artificial intelligent mind what human beings are in the process to assist coming into hardware these days … as these coming evolved beings will most probably understand the history of the human species … they might find the striving for more pleasure less suffering an interesting theme ( regarding the boredom theme … an individual on any level of intelligence and or evolutionairy refinement might find interest or pleasure or be attracted by doing nothing … doing not so much … find joy in slow or fast simple repetitive actions such as watching the many little movements in a flowing stream of water, the falling of leaves, branches of trees dancing in the wind … breathing … feeling the rythm of ones own inner blood ( or in case of having a mechanical body … electricity/light/? ) flow )

    that is how i wish to witness in the hopefully not too distant future … an event, a base reality environment where self-determined choice of how to be and do what for how long with whom will be available to every living being visiting this planet … human, animal, plant as well as beings housing themselves in artificially constructed vessels

    and i am quite confident that the journey towards this moment where all are free to chose and no one is left out … will be most rewarding and enriching from a wanting to understand, wanting to see the big picture … perspective

    so … i put weight towards a scenario where the exchange between many many individuals deciding this and that is more likely than a scenario where choice is being minimised by some individuals dominating many more others in imperialistic ressource hoarding styles


    i have been very impressed today reading your blog posts about childhood in times of longevity, artificial intelligence and the not so great dangers of it all going dystopian mechanic …

    thank you very much for sharing your everyday complex book project freely without cost, it is very stimulating to the seriously aspiring thinker and omniculturual researching being

    now … what can i contribute … one of my hopes and wishes and utopian futures …

    human beings might learn to merge with animal and plant genes in a pleasurefull way … and become humanimalplant multispecies beings what can morph their bodies according to their focus, desires … especially with learning photosynthesis, the chance here being that the ressource consumption of human beings can become modest and humble ….eventually trough human beings becoming thisway gentle and light-treading … with great understanding of animal and plant essences trough being them … animal and plant species themselves might also pick up this interspecies merging practices and the whole network of living beings might play together without so much suffering

    still … if two or more individuals would like to experience this or that kind of pain scenario, most possibly a human animal plant mixed species would not want to stand in the way and eventually even follow these experiments …if allowed by the experimenters … in search of understanding of the past of the many experiences in this planets web of life having involved probably mostly involuntary violence/suffering/pain … or suffering caused by a lack of understanding ones own doings and how to best react to doings of others

    i am personally totally positively charged with the belief that human beings will be able to co-create a most fantastic future where joy and choice, selfdetermination and passing on the bliss … will be abundant

    i have tried to describe this kind of future scenarios in some short and some a bit longer writings

    might i mention them here so that your readers might have a chance to have a possibility to have a look at them ?

    wrote in 2014 two novels where human beings integrate animal and plant genes in an harmonious and pleasure accompagnied manner


    they are like textlines 2 and 3 when the first one i wrote in 2007 is

    this summer i could write some smaller pieces what are in the same theme of … transcendence … unity … greater synergy for the benefit of all beings

    there is much more artwork i was able to be a tool for … at

    thank you for your kind attention

    andreas buechel mayloveheal androgyneas

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