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Idle Theory

Life Does The Least

Preface (2009)

An outline to Idle Theory.

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.

The Idle Life Model - the simple physical model of life used in Idle Theory.

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 and die.

The 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 generations.

Human life - index of essays

Outline of Economics - The primary purpose of economic systems is to free people from work.

Essays on Economics - Tools and luxuries. Cost, value, price, and money.

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.

Part-time 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 are idle.

Outline 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.

The 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.


These days...

Idle Theory is an exploration. It does not pretend to be either complete or authoritative. It doesn't even claim to be right.

Echoes from cyberspace


Orbital Siphon

Idle Theory is set out in a series of linked essays, most of which are indexed in either Evolution Index or Human Life Index. The essays are subject to changes and additions. This site will always be in construction. Editing Policy.

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