[SEQ RERUN] Interpersonal Entanglement

by MinibearRex1 min read7th Feb 20136 comments


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Today's post, 20 January 2009 was originally published on 20 January 2009. A summary (taken from the LW wiki):


Our sympathy with other minds makes our interpersonal relationships one of the most complex aspects of human existence. Romance, in particular, is more complicated than being nice to friends and kin, negotiating with allies, or outsmarting enemies - it contains aspects of all three. Replacing human romance with anything simpler or easier would decrease the peak complexity of the human species - a major step in the wrong direction, it seems to me. This is my problem with proposals to give people perfect, nonsentient sexual/romantic partners, which I usually refer to as "catgirls" ("catboys"). The human species does have a statistical sex problem: evolution has not optimized the average man to make the average woman happy or vice versa. But there are less sad ways to solve this problem than both genders giving up on each other and retreating to catgirls/catboys.

Discuss the post here (rather than in the comments to the original post).

This post is part of the Rerunning the Sequences series, where we'll be going through Eliezer Yudkowsky's old posts in order so that people who are interested can (re-)read and discuss them. The previous post was Sympathetic Minds, and you can use the sequence_reruns tag or rss feed to follow the rest of the series.

Sequence reruns are a community-driven effort. You can participate by re-reading the sequence post, discussing it here, posting the next day's sequence reruns post, or summarizing forthcoming articles on the wiki. Go here for more details, or to have meta discussions about the Rerunning the Sequences series.

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I know it is often assumed in intellectual circles that people value relationships that are sophisticated and mentally engaging to some extent. But I have not seen any evidence for this being true for humanity in general. Could it not be the case that people actually value relationships that are as simple as possible? For example, it is well-known that people tend to prefer relationships with people of the same ethnic background and culture, social class, etc.

Also, about 'giving up', you could say the same thing about a lot of things. It used to be the case that if you were able-bodied, you were expected to hunt for your food or otherwise trudge into the forest to gather berries. Nowadays most of humanity just buys their food from someone else. Of course, some might still value a meal that is procured by one's own hands, but the majority of humanity nowadays has more important concerns on their mind and the small rewards gained through hunting do not really justify the time and effort required, except for recreational purposes.

It could be that people are happier in simpler relationships, but nature has other plans .....

Hunting or foraging had psychological rewards, which aren't necessarily small or unjustifiable -- eg. feeling more capable and in control. The question is rather whether these gains can be obtained another way.

In the case of hunting, they can.

In the case of relationships with other sentient beings, I have so far seen nothing that looks like it produces equivalent effects.

Overall your post seems to be about what people value, rather than being addressed at the topic of the original post : what helps people be complete people -- what are the essential dimensions of human living.

A successful counterargument to the original post would demonstrate that relationships were not necessary, rather than not valued

(People's values are not a good guide to what's actually good for them. Lopsidedness prevails.)

In the case of relationships with other sentient beings, I have so far seen nothing that looks like it produces equivalent effects.

The point I was trying to make is that perhaps future technology will find something. Perhaps the catgirls will satisfy romantic/emotional needs as well, without the complications that human partners bring in to the equation.

Lopsidedness prevails


People do value good things, generally at the expense of valuing good things of different types.. (eg. financial security is good, romance is good, friendship is good, community involvement is good, focus is good, purpose is good. But all of those things are much less good for you if taken without the others. This applies directly to the catgirls scenario.)

This is probably more a function of social/practical pressure and shortness of life than anything else.

The result being an incomplete life (in the sense of having one or more important dimensions of human experience absent or rare in your life).

TL;DR / IOW: People are good at valuing good things in bad proportion.