Summer vs Winter Strategies

bywhpearson9y20th May 201018 comments


Abstract: I have a hypothesis that there are two different general strategies for life that humans might switch between predicated on the way general resource availability change in the society. If it is constant or increasing one strategy pays off, if predictably increasing then decreasing, another is good. These strategies would have been selected for at different times and environments in prehistory but humans are mainly plastic in which strategy they adopt. Culture reinforces them and can create lags. For value neutral purposes I will call them by seasons, the Summer strategy and the Winter strategy. The summer is for times of plenty and partying, and the winter for when resources regularly become scarcer and life becomes harsher. These strategies affect every part of society from mating to the way people plan.

The above is an idea that seems to tie up a few loose threads I have been seeing around the place. I am mainly channelling Robin Hanson here, so some familiarity with him would be useful. I'd also recommend this paper on sexuality and character traits. And the red queen.

Note: I don't have time to write a properly researched paper, so you are going to have to settle for a blog style post. So it is not front page material. But I would rather it got more coverage than in the open thread. If someone is enamoured with the idea, feel free to make a well written riff on this theme. I won't get off ended.

The summer strategy

This is selected for by sexual selection. Women want to mate with attractive powerful men when they don't have to worry about the babies being provided for by that man. Attractive powerful men have to signal there attractiveness and power, they can use lots of resources to do so. This [sexual strategies theory paper]( gives lots of good reasons why men may have been selected for what they call short term sexuality.

It is characterised by:

- Less planning needed. Credit cards. Significant Debt.

- Near thinking

- Extroversion

- Babies without fathers will more likely to survive. Women gathering resources by themselves if they lack male relatives. This leads to more promiscuous women and more promiscuous men as well, as social mores change. Short-term mating strategies do well. Breakdown of traditional monogamy.

- More extroversion in men. Due to less need for planning ahead and gathering resources you can spend more time raising your status in the tribe for more mates and the chance of cuckolding other men.

- associated with red/orange heat and warmth. Summer and harvest

- risk taking

The winter strategy

In times and locations where resources change significantly, short term mating is not so successful. A short term mating men can not rely on there being sufficient resources to raise their kids. So this selects for providers. Common things in evolutionary history that might provide this pressure is the coming of harsh winters in northern climates and ice ages that pushed people out of land. These events reduced the amount of resources available and benefited people that prepared for it.  It is nature vs person selection pressure, rather than person vs person.

It is characterised by:

- More planning and preparation. Stockpiling resources. Savings. 

- Far thinking

- Mild Introversion

- Babies without fathers unlikely to survive. Less promiscuous women. More interested in practical abilities of mate than beauty. This might be where the "myth" of women wanting a provider/gifts comes from. They did want a provider, of sorts, but still not a complete wuss. But now that we are in permanent summer, resource wise, strategies change. Long-term mating strategy is the norm for a winter strategist.

- risk averse

- social interaction more about keeping the group happy and on your side, rather than trying to be alpha. Although it can't hurt to be alpha.

- association with blue. Cold/ice. Coming of winter; time to prepare.

Some points of discussion

Men are probably more naturally summer strategists. Women are more naturally winter strategists so might not be very good at knowing what they want when they are performing the summer strategy. This has been discussed in evolutionary theory as parental investment.

Could this be an explanation for the protestant (northern European) work ethic and the success of Europe solving man vs nature problems? Due to harsher selection via more winters/ice ages?

Intelligent winter strategists go on to be part of SIAI, Summer strategists go on to be entrepreneurs (epitome of risk taking). Winter strategists in this day and age (at least in the developed world) are more likely to be extreme or odd, as the moderates are likely to be over in the summer camp.

I suspect that this is why there is some disconnect of view between the PUA advocates and some of the resident existential risk thinkers. Signalling you are summer strategist is a very bad idea for a winter strategist.

If the summer/winter divide has an element of truth, it doesn't look good for advocates of far thinking (greens,existential risk activists). As we get better and better at meeting our needs we will slip more into short term thinking and status contests (without genetic engineering at least).