Idle Theorist

"Obviously my husband is a highly evolved human being."

Echoes From Cyberspace

The Idle Theory of Evolution rolled out onto the web on 1 April 1998 (All Fools Day:-), and the rest followed on 1 Jan 1999. I made no effort to advertise it. The point was to publish it: if anyone read it, that would be a bonus. By 2001, Idle Theory main page was getting about 5 hits a week. But by Jan 2002, this had jumped to about 50 hits a week. Yet this is probably an underestimate, since the hit counter is only active on Idle Theory's front page, and many links to Idle Theory point at inside pages.

Idle Theory gets a substantial number of hits from universities and colleges. And some from the U/S military, and even the Arpanet. It also gets a strange number of hits from Finland and the Philippnes.

Email, web stats, and search engines make it possible to find out, to some extent, something about the response to Idle Theory, listening to faint echoes from cyberspace.

For a long time most hits came from searches for "theory of evolution" using MSN's search engine, where for about 18 months up until April 2003 Idle Theory was (amazingly) No. 2 in the list of referenced sites. Now it's No. 63. But other search engines (google, yahoo, etc) seem to have been raising Idle Theory's ranking for the same search. It's about No. 20 on Google worldwide. And it's No. 1 for a search for "the theory of evolution" on's UK websites.

Idle Theory was No. 1 of 9,220,000 on in a search for "theory of life" in Sep 2004.

On 9 Jan 2006, Idle Theory occupied the top 3 places of 37 million in a search for "human life theory" on Yahoo.

The most remarkable recent development has been that the Orbital Siphon tucked away on the bottom of the front page has been picked up by a professor of mechanical engineering, and given as a joint paper in October 2005 at IAC2005. The siphon was well received, it seems. The result has been that for the past year I've been thinking more about the siphon and space elevators than Idle Theory. The Orbital Siphon concept was also published in the October 2006 edition of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. All you need to get into space, using solely the rotational energy of the spinning Earth, is a long piece of string.




Another green man

Idle Theory is listed in lots of web directories. But also other websites, which I usually provide an automatic reverse link if and when I find them:

Université d'Ottawa | University of Tartu | wood s lot | Wastrel Division | melissahardie | Wrongland | Automated Culture | Idlerzlounge | WolfCross | sickhappyidle | Metafilter | Haskoli Islands | The Regulars | Grover | Zeal | gonsalves | onetto | plastic | avi solomon | freeladysoul | sister amelia | looksmart | Shit Scared | antagonize | the miles away girl | Caterina | Livejournal | ospolitics | Idle Links | | CLAWS | Anxiety Culture | Crooked Timber | Good World Movement | Freegan | Blog from a room | yabz | zonalatina | Lab 3 | EmeraldInsight | calresco | twjordan | psicopolis | opals-ohana | Gold is Money | Ben Bowen | spaceelevatorblog | bicycle-diaries | stumbleupon | Yksityisetsiva | in the absence of the sacred | wordcrush | monochrom | snark | Tom Blancarte | economic apocalypse | signs of the times | Wikipedia | nomad4ever | tom campbell | Ken Elwood | Energy Bulletin | Comrade Simba | | DeviantFiends | Muddled Muses | Medicow | tscholars | thenowhereman | goofyblog | Ashvin Gunga | Michelle | HousingPANIC | Electrical Audio | gortbusters | Mission Earth | thebrooke | Idlehacker | UK Libertarian Party blog | Sketchartists | tomer lichtash |

Idlex argues Idle Theory with Hayekian bgp, June 2007, using F instead of I for idleness.

Frank Davis (aka Chris Davis) on smoking bans. Smoking is an idle time activity. If ever I can't post up new essays on Idle Theory, for one reason or other, this blog may be a way to keep adding thoughts.


Extensive quotations at caRbonated--tiadroPs weave together fragments of essays from Idle Theory. It works rather well...

The problem is that our culture does not appreciate the things I truly enjoy most in life, such as wandering around a city aimlessly, or sitting on a comfortable piece of furniture and staring absently into space--activities, if one can call them activities, that are of absolutely no value to anybody in the world but me, unless you count their value to the people who must interact with me. Usually they get to interact with a slightly happier me when I have been allowed to be sufficiently inert. (Evacuate & Flush)

Using physiological processes like cellular respiration and hormonal feedback to understand economics: life wants to find the time and space (and surplus resources) to be idle, not to prosper. Right on. (twitch)

i think concentration on economic or exchange value has kind of blind-sided the profession. idle theory points out this discrepancy in its discussion of exchange value vs. use value and offers a new framework to place economics, where time and leisure are figured more prominently in the picture. (Evacuate & Flush)

finally, a theory for the rest of us.
"Perhaps one of the main features of Idle Theory is the ease with which it can explain play and altruism." ...very appealing... (Drat Fink)

Idle Theory. That is, perhaps the purpose of Civilization is to do nothing at all. (LiberalArtsMafia)

Idle Theory. Subtitled Life Does the Least, I couldn't agree more. Abuddha memes

We are literally working ourselves to death - death of ourselves (including those parts we dissociate as "enemies"), our communities and families, and soon our Gaiaship. Work is a product of force, and in the human context a discipline akin to that of the flagellants. Why are we hell-bent on imposing the negatively (imposed) creative rather than enjoying the posi-creative (exposed) perception of "progress". Play requires no more or less energy on average than work; and is far more efficient as there is significantly less internal resistance. Abuddha memes

good Sunday reading. Calebos

Idle Theory: This site explains why you should be lazy, and gives plenty of excuses for when people bother you. phil179

A virtual toast to Idle Theory is in order. Cheers! qi

Conjecture: For Americans, it would appear that our parents' generation and the one preceding it experienced some of the highest levels of idleness in all of human history. Maximum idleness has decreased somewhat as our economic system has become less efficient (as all systems do over time if the effort is not made to update and repair them). We who were raised in comparatively easy times set our expectations based on what we saw, and our estimations are now inaccurate. Everyone's real wages have stayed the same while living expenses have gone up. Meaning we have to work harder to tread water. No one was prepared for it; we are scrambling at the last minute to adapt and we are not happy about it. fiat lex

Near the top of that page is one of the most important sentences I've ever read, something that everyone in industrial society is screaming from their bones, but that no one ever speaks: "Any creature that is continually busy stands at the threshold of death." Ran Prieur 5 Jan 2007

This reminds me of a brilliant site that I haven't looked at in years: Chris Davis's Idle Theory. There's much more on the site, but here are a few tastes. Idle Theory on evolution: Ran Prieur 4 March 2010

This morning Garret linked to articles about idle theory and the purpose-driven life but in the day's early game in Germany, there was no doubt that Argentina is a believer in the latter as they won 6-0, destroying over Serbia and Montenegro in the next to last game that will be played under that name... Bill Says This

There is a lot of talk in anarchist circles about "Why Work?" and "Idle Theory" But That doesn't do it for me. Theo Musher 28 Jan 2007

... an interesting "take" which results in a completely different picture philosophically. AT&T forums

"Idle Theory just has to be the work of sixth formers who scraped five grade Cs, and are only staying in education because Blair/Brown is paying them to do so. It's that, or you're a mischievous bugger who's anticipating a slow news day, and you know that some of your readers will follow your links and be sent apopleptic by them!" codalmighty

Over the years, Chris Davis has taken this view and expanded it into a fully fledged social, economic, political and ethical system which he terms Idle Theory. Whilst there are historical precedents for some of the ideas that I've been talking about (e.g. from Russell and Lafargue), I'm not aware of anyone other than Davis who has attempted to pull things together in such a comprehensive manner. Whilst I don't agree with all of his conclusions, I'd heartily recommend that you have a read through some of the material on his website -- you just might come to the conclusion, as he and I have, that the basic premise of traditional economic thought is deeply flawed. Patrick Vessey UKLP blog

Someone pointed me to this earlier. It's so fascinating, I'm reproducing it here. Old Holborn June 2010


I just had an epiphany when I read your article on Idle Theory. Obviously my husband is a highly evolved human being. Now I understand! (D 2001)

It is at least a new slant on things, which is a rare thing. (RH 2001)

Your essays on idleness are wonderful, and convincing... It is a refreshing perspective... I wonder how the world would change, if children were given a glimpse of this perspective early in their careers! How many of us would be, rather than do! Keep the essays alive and broadcast them far and wide (GW Dec 2001)

when i first came across your site it was almost revelatory (kl Jan 2002)

Your theory has got to be the most amusing piece on evolution I have ever read. I realize it is a serious and quite profund piece, but ever so delightful to read. (SB 2002)

I have to say that it [your website] is by far the most remarkable thing I have ever come across on the internet (RW 2002)

I have been spellbound by Idle Theory for the last several hours. It's both amazing and enlightening.... Does it ever get around to postulating an "alternative political system?" (AS 2002)

Your writing style is fascinating. Thank YOU.(ER 2002)

I ran across your website and found it extremely interesting... I would love to have a chance to interview you. (TL 2003)
...and he did too.

people like us should throw the torches in the air to light things up for a while. ( YL 2003)

a nice sort of evolutionary Taoism ( CL 2003)

I wish you well with Idle Theory - I always thought it was a unique/original/valid take on economics. I imagine, though, that there's not a big audience for a scientifically/ philosophically precise approach to the subject (especially not among orthodox economists). Pity. (BD 04)

amazing work (TH 2003)

IDLER 33The Idler magazine has published a (decapitated) version of an essay of mine. This is the first time anything about Idle Theory has made it into print, to the best of my knowledge. Sincere thanks to Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson, and apologies for being a bit difficult - I'm not used to editorial oversight.

The problem (of excessive and unnecessary work) seems to stem from the market economy in capitallist system (predominatly western) and planned economies in socialist systems. These systems insist upon a fixed working day (atleast 5 days a week) and it is an unquestioned axiom of each major system that each adult be fully employed, whether or not this is feasible or viable. Somewhere the cart was placed before the horse and work became more important than people. (GH 2006)

I found your work fascinating, and would like to go over the entire site much more slowly when I get the chance. But in the meantime, I found one piece of information puzzlingly absent. There is nothing about you. (pe 2 Mar 2001)

No, there isn't much about me. As I see it, I'm presenting an idea, not myself. (2009 update: there's more about me in the History of Idle Theory)

The biggest surprise of all is that a handful of people seem to have understood Idle Theory's scope and simplicity. Of course, if you write something, you hope that someone will understand what you mean. But when I published Idle Theory, I really didn't expect that anyone would understand such an unorthodox and counter-intuitive idea, about which there is no literature (that I have ever found), and for which there is hardly any precedent. It was the complete absence of this simple idea in the literature which drove me to try to give it expression: if someone else had already done so, why bother?

Idle Theorist

Author: Chris Davis
First created: 2 March 2002
Last edited: June 2010