Life, by contrast with inert matter, is usually
regarded as essentially busy, active, and dynamic. But maybe life is
not different from inert matter. Perhaps life, just like inert matter,
does the minimum - and we would gain a deeper understanding of life
if we saw it not as trying to busy itself, but seeking to be idle. Perhaps
human life, human society, technology, ethics, law, and religion have
all arisen as an attempt to minimize effort. If so, the imperative of
all life, and of human life, would not be 'Keep Busy' and 'Do Something',
but 'Keep Still' and 'Do Nothing'. This is the speculation of Idle Theory.
Idle Life Model - the simple physical model of life used in Idle
Central to Idle Theory is a physical understanding of life as alternating
between two states: busy and idle. While busy, a living
creature works to maintain itself. While idle, it is either inactive
or engaged in some non-maintenance activity. Depending upon their physical
constitution and the environment in which they find themselves, all
living creatures operate somewhere on a scale which extends from being
nearly continuously busy at one extreme, to being nearly continuously
idle at the other extreme. That is, some creatures must work very hard
to stay alive, and others hardly at all. Those creatures which, even
working continuously, are unable to maintain themselves, disintegrate
Survival of the Idlest - Index of essays on the Idle Theory of Evolution.
Applied to the theory of evolution, this approach to life argues that
during times when all creatures must work harder to survive, the least
idle are the most likely to die, and the most idle are the most likely
to survive. Natural selection favours the idlest. The fittest creatures
are the idlest creatures, who survive to pass on their genes to subsequent
life - index of essays
of Economics - The primary purpose of economic systems is to free
people from work.
Human life, in Idle Theory, is another variant of natural life. Human
life, historically, is taken to have been hard. The uniquely human response
was the development of tools. These tools speeded up human work: a knife
enabled materials to be cut more quickly; a bag allowed materials to
be transported more rapidly. And since they expedited work, the use
of these tools increased human idleness. The inherent purpose of an
economic system is to free people from work.
Free Agents - while humans are constrained to necessary work, they
are not free to choose to do as they like.
Increased idleness means, on the one hand, increased chance of survival,
but it also gives humans idle time in which to engage in activities
other than self-maintenance. It is in this idle time that humans can
do as they wish, rather than as they must, and they can think, talk,
and play - i.e. act as free moral agents. In Idle Theory, humans are
seen as part-time free moral agents, only free to the extent that they
of Ethics - ethical behaviour increases idleness.
Idle Theory only concerns itself with tools, tool trading systems,
codes of conduct and laws which serve to increase human idleness. It
cannot address the question of what humans, to the extent they are free
moral agents, should do in their idle time. To this extent, Idle Theory
is a restricted theory.
Rosy Vision - modern Western society optimistically assumes
that human life is perfectly idle.
Idle Theory's critique of modern Western ethical and economic thought
is that these optimistically assume that humans are completely free
agents, that human life is perfectly idle, and human trade is concerned
with distributing pleasurable luxuries.
Idle Theory is an exploration. It does not pretend to be either complete
or authoritative. It doesn't even claim to be right.
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