The first speculated on why you’re still single. We failed to settle the issue. A lot of you were indeed still single. So the debate continues.

The second gave more potential reasons, starting with the suspicion that you are not even trying, and also many ways you are likely trying wrong.

The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over again expecting different results. Another definition of insanity is dating in 2024. Can’t quit now.

You’re Single Because Dating Apps Keep Getting Worse

A guide to taking the perfect dating app photo. This area of your life is important, so if you intend to take dating apps seriously then you should take photo optimization seriously, and of course you can then also use the photos for other things.

I love the ‘possibly’ evil here.

Misha Gurevich: possibly evil idea: Dating app that trawls social media and websites and creates a database of individuals regardless of if they opt in or not, including as many photos and contact information as can be found.

Obviously this would be kind of a privacy violation and a lot of people would hate it.

but I imagine a solid subset of singles who are lonely but HATE the app experience would be grateful to be found this way.

No big deal, all we are doing is taking all the data about private citizens on the web and presenting it to any stranger who wants it in easy form as if you might want to date them. Or stalk them. Or do anything else, really.

And you thought AI training data was getting out of hand before.

All right, so let’s consider the good, or at least not obviously evil, version of this.

There is no need to fill out an intentional profile, or engage in specific actions, other than opting in. We gather all the information off the public web. We use AI to amalgamate all the data, assemble in-depth profiles and models of all the people. If it thinks there is a plausible match, then it sets it up. Since we are in danger of getting high on the creepiness meter, let’s say the woman gets to select who gets contacted first, then if both want to match in succession you put them in contact. Ideally you’d also use AI to facilitate in various other ways, let people say what they actually want in natural language, let the AI ask follow-up questions to find potential matches or do checks first (e.g. ‘I would say yes if you can confirm that he…’) and so on.

There is definitely not enough deep work being done trying to overturn the system.

Bumble gives up its one weird trick, goes back to men messaging first.

Melissa Chen: The evolution of Bumble:

– Sick of men inboxing women (“the patriarchy is so creepy and icky!”)

– Starts dating app to reverse the natural order (women now make the first move! So empowering! So brave & stunning!)

– Women complain it’s exhausting

– Reinstate the natural law


Hardcore Siege: It’s such ridiculous headline. I have never gotten an opener on Bumble besides “hey”, women never actually work go start a conversation or have a good opener, they’re literally just re-approving the ability of the man to start the conversation.

Outa: Anyone that’s used it would tell you that 99% of the time they would just leave a “hey” or “.”

Casey Handmer: AFAIK no one has yet made a dating app where the cost of sending messages is increased if you’re a creep. This would be technologically easy to do, and would let the market solve the problem.

Several interesting things here.

  1. Many ‘women never actually initiated the conversation’ responses. Women say ‘hey’ to bypass the requirement almost all the time. That is not obviously useless as a secondary approval, but it presumably is not worth the bother.
  2. This was among women who self-selected into the app with mandatory female openers, so yeah, women really really do not want to open.
  3. If you are willing to open for real and put effort into it, that is a huge advantage.
  4. Never open with ‘hey’ under other circumstances, but this makes it tough to be that upset with guys who do open with ‘hey.’ We see the shoe on the other foot.
  5. Bumble had something slightly unique about it. Now it doesn’t. It seems that the hill climb wants what it wants, and any service that tries a variant inevitably ends up back at the same old swipe.
  6. Casey’s alternative suggestion requires telling creeps exactly how creepy the algorithm thinks they are, and also charging for messages, so it presumably is a non-starter. We keep trying various versions of ‘what if we used adjusting prices to correct for externalities’ to solve problems, because that is how problems get solved, and it keeps failing because people do not like it. But yes, using a feedback system would totally work on a mechanical level if people were ok with it.

Bumble does still have at least one interesting feature, which is that you can potentially see who passed on your profile. This is huge. You can look for correlations and patterns. Even if all you knew was how many views you got and what percentage swiped how, that is a big game for being able to make decisions and improve.

You’re Single Because Dating Apps Keep Getting Worse

Long suffering dating app user Shoshana Weismann explains how a proposed Colorado bill, and other similar bills, would make this horrible experience even worse. It would require dating apps to file an annual report listing all misconduct reports, which would then become public. As in, her model of how this law would work is that if someone complains to the dating app about you, that would go in the public record. I am skeptical that is what would actually happen based on my quick reading, but none of the alternative interpretations are good, they are merely less bad. I assume Governor Polis would never sign this either way.

Another modest app proposal.

Justine Moore: It would be fun to have a dating app where you chat for a while, set up a date, and when you show up IRL you find out if it’s a real person or an AI bf/gf.

And then you have to decide if you move forward with the relationship.

Also could be the next big reality show??

mb: Isn’t this the plotline of every catfish episode

Justine Moore: yes but like everything, it needs to be reinvented with ~AI~ 🪄

Cassette AI: “Dude I just matched with a model”

“No way”

“Yeah large language”

Love it. Sure, why not. It would not shock me if the good match rate was substantially higher, because everyone is forced to put in an effort to avoid embarrassment or being thought of as an AI, so even with 50% of matches being fake you still might come out ahead. Also, who is to say you need 50% AIs in order to keep people on their toes?

You’re Single Because Everyone is Too Superficial

Roko explains that while (in his view) women ultimately do not care that much about looks, dating apps start off filtering for looks, which are fast to check and hard to fake, so looks take on massively outsized importance on apps. If you have other things to offer, you get filtered out before you can provide evidence of that, whether that is wealth, intelligence, sense of humor or anything else.

I would add, just like real life. This is not a new problem.

Nor is it a one-way issue. Even if men ultimately care about looks a lot more than women, their first impressions will care about looks even more.

This means everyone gets oversized reward for optimizing physical appearance to the extent they can modify this, along with other superficial app profile components, and get less return for actually being of value.

This is not good for civilization. As Roko says it means the market cannot clear.

It also means that highly attractive men are overvalued, the same way tall men are overvalued, whereas less attractive men are undervalued, even after adjusting for true and long term preference, doubling down on what I noted last time.

A great universal strategy is to look for a differential between what you value and what the market values. Ideally, you would train two AIs.

One AI evaluates potential matches based on typical market preferences, ideally via revealed preference data, with a large emphasis on looks. Another AI evaluates potential matches based on your own quirky preferences.

You are ideally looking for people who score well on your metric and relatively less well on the market metric. If someone is super high on both you can and should go for it but it will get rough fast, and you will always have to worry about potential rivals. Instead, focus on investigating to find an especially good match.

Also note that this is not only about looks, and includes attributes over which you have more control. As noted last time, Rob Henderson finds that women in their twenties swipe right (‘like’) twice as often for a man with a master’s degree over a bachelor’s degree. A masters is a lot easier to get than a PhD, and a lot less valuable, and this is compared to a bachelor’s, so the returns to all education look high even if every other form of return is worth nothing.

You’re Single Because You Refuse to Shamefully Falsify Your Politics

I would hope most of us want it to be one way. To what extent is it the other way?

Matthew Yglesias: My advice to the young men out there is [identifying as Republican] is going to make it a lot harder to find girls who want to go out with you.

Mike Solana: Man it’s really bad when all you have left is “vote for democrats or the craziest women alive won’t sleep with you.”

Mason: Matt completely misunderstands women here. They won’t admit it on pain of death, but the great majority of young liberal women would absolutely swoon for a man 2-8 years their senior who teases them about their politics while opening doors and paying for dinner.

I promise you, your problem isn’t who you voted for. It’s who you are and how you behave. Sorry.

If honestly identifying your political beliefs would make someone not want to date you, then you presumably do not want to date them. This is even more true if those people are doing this as part of a strategy to force falsification of your beliefs.

I thought of four potential arguments the other way.

  1. If you are looking for something highly casual and short term, then you might not care about such questions. I would first respond that even in the short term hiding yourself and what you believe can get expensive, but not always and not for everyone. I would then give the real objection. One should essentially never care only about the pure short term. The possibility of a potential long term outcome is a lot of what makes things exciting and fun, and also has much of the value.
  2. At that age you need reps and you need to know what it is like out there, and getting off the ground is hard, so you should suck it up as needed at first.
  3. Perhaps this political preference is a superficial filter, like looks on dating apps. It is not that she does not care, it is that it is not actually important to her. So you do not have to falsify your beliefs so much as dodge the question and avoid emphasis, until you connect to each other as people. There is some of this. Certainly I can respect a position of the form ‘I don’t mind dating a [Republican / Democrat / Libertarian] but I do mind dating one who won’t shut up about it.’
  4. You want to maintain strong perception of market value and social proof. I don’t love it, and you are making the problem worse and defecting, but I understand it.

There was a popularly distributed claim recently that the gender divide is instead increasing especially among young people (source), which was disputed. Murdoch cited several graphs, including this one, note that even the max on the first graph here is still about 12%:


The men, this data claims, are getting more conservative, in many ways even more conservative than older men. The women are getting more left-wing. Neither finds the other’s politics alluring, even more than usual.

Paul Graham speculated this is due to a lack of male-female interaction, to which Nevin Climenhaga responded one could test this by looking at the impact of what siblings people have, and Scott Alexander decided to check his data. No effect:

Science Banana points out that the original finding perhaps does not replicate?

Science Banana: I haven’t been keeping track but this is at least the third dataset I’ve seen failing to replicate the finding for the US.

Ryan Burge: The finding that young women are becoming a lot more liberal [from the above graph] while young men are becoming a lot more conservative DOES NOT REPLICATE in the Cooperative Election Study. In fact, the two lines have run in almost perfect parallel for the last 15 years.


Skeptic Research Center Team: Our snapshot of five generations of the American public indicates that the gap between men and women is smaller in younger generations because men and women are both becoming more liberal (see chart on the left below). Importantly, our data also indicate that a growing percentage of Americans are identifying as moderate (see chart on the right below).


Regardless of of size of the gap, no one questions there is a substantial gap.

Since time began, the argument ‘modify who you are and what you believe and stand for and falsify your preferences because it will get you laid’ has been strong. Normally it is given a fig leaf of some kind, so I do appreciate the refreshing honesty on display. Yes, it is rather horrifying, but given the choices available I’ll take the explicit version.

Falsifying your preferences in such ways too aggressively creates negative selection. You also have to walk tricky paths, since full embrace of the explicit doctrines will imply many actions that cripple your dating opportunities and experiences. And once you start playing such games, the rabbit hole never really ends. So in general, I think this is very much not the way.

Going too hard in the other direction is also not the way. Teasing is one thing, but one needs to be able to get along, up to the point where there are those with whom you would not want to get along. There are certain things that, if said out loud especially too early, will be red flags and dealbreakers, and cripple your prospects. So do not say those things in such ways, keep it to yourself, even if the view is held by a lot of others as well. Pick your battles, then pick less battles than that. To some extent it is a skill issue where you can learn how to do it right. To some extent it isn’t.

You hopefully have much better things to talk about than politics anyway. If someone is all about the politics, they are a bad pick, even if your politics are aligned.

An interesting perspective from Scott Alexander for Valentine’s Day: Love is the one area of life where we have decided to entrust everything to the free market, so long everyone involved consents, and decided not to force anyone to do anything. Somehow, despite doing less of this in many other places, we continue to do it with love and sex and dating. So we should celebrate this oasis while we still have it.

You Are Single Because You Do Not Employ Good Strategy

Should you pull out dozens of slides and give a fifteen minute presentation explaining the movie Tenet?

I mean, in general, no, that would not be the greatest idea. You need to be very willing to abort mission if it is not working. But, if you do anything that is you, in a personal and friendly and fun way, that they are vibing with, that can work. If you make an effort, you too can demonstrate value. This is no mere ramble.

Should you buy yourself drinks?

Rosey: This is innovation I’m sorry you can’t see that.


It is almost a free action if you wanted the drink anyway. Waste not, want not.

Should you go the extra mile? Remember, if she wanted to, she would. In this case, see a cute guy at the grocery store, get his name by spying the credit card, Google him to confirm he is single, find his mother, join her book club, befriend her, casually mention that she is single, have the mom do a setup.

So which is it?

F House Bunny: Let’s not sugar coat this. She’s a stalker. A massive one. Too dumb to realise what she’s admitting.

Bennett’s Phylactery: This is actually normal & good woman behavior.

I say it is mostly the second one. Certainly I would have, at all points in my life, been fine with this type of procedure. Nowadays she would see I am married and I would never know. Back in the day, I now have an option, and one that has made real investment up front. So yeah, sounds great.

Is it creepy? Well, sure, it’s a little creepy, and would be too creepy if you did this full set of actions fully gender flipped. But the right amount of creepy is not zero, and gender flipping matters. Play to win the game.

Carpe decaf.

About one in four pulled this off at least once. That is not bad at all.

Here’s some good negative selection?

Scott Lincicome: This list raises far more questions than it answers. Far more.


You Are Single Because You Don’t Know How to Flirt

Manifold Love points out that ‘wait until you have indisputable evidence of her interest to even flirt’ is not actually the safe play. It means you are unwilling or unable to calibrate your response to the situation and play the mutual escalation dance, that you show you lack skill and are afraid and think proceeding would not be safe (so why should she disagree with your assessment?). And it means she can’t get a read on you.

Maeby: Oh nothing too fancy just a nitpick about wording!

– if u tell an average guy “women need to know they’re safe,” the guy will think “ok got it be as nonviolent and asexual as possible” So a better way to say it is “women need to know they’re EMOTIONALLY safe/attuned to”

I would not quite say ABF (Always Be Flirting) but yeah, outside of particular contexts where you need to avoid it, even if you have zero intention of ever going anywhere with it, basically always be flirting in a highly calibrated to the situation way? It’s the way to Git Gud and makes life more interesting and allows good things to happen.

Another good note, mostly so you can generalize this:

Manifold Love: pro-tip: if a woman measures her hand against yours, this is almost always flirtation.

The Manifold Love Twitter account in general has a steady stream of advice and coverage of related issues. At the time I checked it was largely amounting to ‘get out there, flirt, date, fail, pay attention to the specific person in front of you,’ which of course is very good advice, the archives seem to move around a bunch. It is mostly written by GoblinOdds, it seems, where you get more of a person figuring things out attitude. Both seem pretty good if you want that product.

Dan Kras goes on experiments in speed dating and AI matchmaking. About 57% of participants got at least one two-way match from the events he hosted, which sounds like an excellent use of time, and average rating out of 5 was about 4.4. Good product. Unfortunately, the events consistently lost money.

The AI matchmaking was based on the principle that there are some very good predictors of compatibility, especially if people tell you a bunch of things, and then you can charge for good matches since they are worth a lot. I’m not sure how much it even counts as AI. As is usually the case, it failed because it is a new dating app, and it did not have critical mass of users to start making matches.

How should you think about how often to ask?

Uncatherio: I thought you guys-interested-in-women would find it helpful to know – around here, available ladies are 3x more likely to prefer being approached more rather than less, so additional advances on the margin are likely welcome!

Among women available to men, the preference here is over 4x, although of course quality always matters, ‘hello human resources’ and all that. However, if you include the women ‘not available to men’ in the group, and assume for them it is false, this jumps closer to 1:1, so it helps a lot to do some research.

Either way it is also not the correct question. The right question, in terms of whether you are providing value by asking, is: How big is the upside for the women who want to be asked more, versus the downside for those who want to be asked less? This is a question with typically much more upside than downside, which is why women want to be asked more even though they will still (presumably) turn down the majority of the additional offers, but with exceptions where the downside is large. So the main thing to do is guard against the big downsides. That principle can extend.

So, for example, this would be a ‘big downside, don’t do that’ situation:

You Are Single Because You Don’t Date Your Married Boss

In general I am pro-flirting, and I am pro-asking, and pro carpe diem and all that.

But of course there are obvious exceptions, so yes, new candidate for worst advice ever has dropped, he insists he is sincere, and everyone had fun with it for a few days:

Simon Ohler: someone on the vibecamp forum asked: “I have a raging crush on my boss who is married and I’m EXHAUSTED by this and want it to end. How to get over a crush?”

I enjoyed giving an answer and here it is:

Hi. This is a tough one.

See it like this: A crush is a package that you carry, and it has a recipient. For some reason you have it, and you have to carry it, and it doesn’t really go away, until you post it. Until then, it will exhaust you.

In my opinion and experience, the best way to get over a crush is to post the package. This means, first and foremost, to speak the truth about it. Ideally to the person who it concerns.

As you described, this is a bit risky because this is your boss. But I think a very healthy thing to do is to not rule out speaking to them outright.

Because once you begin to plan how to have this conversation, maybe how to stack a bunch of caveats before the reveal, how to prepare them to receive this unusual news – as you plan this, you will already give an energetic outlet to the crush, and the delivery process for the package starts.

Honesty is the best therapy. Crushes happen. Most crushes are not really about the other person. They are about you. They are a projection. Hence the name, and why they can RAGE.

Maybe it’s repressed eros in you, that is coming out sideways, by taking your boss into its grip. Maybe it’s something in you telling you that you should get out of this job, and a good way would be to tank your relationship with your boss. Who knows? Maybe you know? Surely your body knows?

Your boss will have had a crush before. If you make clear that you just need to get this off of your chest, you might be able to move through this and see another day, without your boss feeling too horrible. Maybe they will even support you. It’s certainly easier to deal with a truth that’s on the table, than to deal with the shifty behavior of someone who is hiding something.

Maybe as you plan, you realistically decide that it would indeed endanger your livelihood too much, if you told your boss. In that case, you need to put your eros to work elsewhere. How to do that is another topic.

One last advice I can give: Talk to your crush. And in this case, I don’t mean your boss, but your feeling. What does it want? What’s in the package? It’s clearly not a reasonable reproductive reciprocated strategy. So what is it? Talk to it until it reveals itself and what it wants, really. Maybe that way you and your boss can dodge an uncomfortable conversation.

Many blessings


Yeah, under no circumstances do you tell your married boss that you have a crush on them. In fact I’m going to go ahead and say that you almost always only need one of (boss, married) for this to apply. Both is overkill.

You Are Single Because You Are Afraid to Fail

People say this a lot:


And yes, those people are usually right.

But do not give up all hope. Sometimes they are wrong.

My first podcast appearance went well. My first formal speech won a school prize. My first Magic tournament was a victory. My first post was not even intended to be a post, and people liked it anyway.

And without getting into details, my first [something else that importantly and especially is supposed to never go well the first time] was a roaring success.

Practice makes perfect. It is not exclusive. Hard work. Clean living. Beginner’s luck!

You Are Single Because No One Likes You On Dates

If everyone you meet says ‘it isn’t working…

Amdr3jH: Good friend is mid 20s. In shape, gets over 5 million impressions per month, and roon likes on average 3 of his tweets per week + all his replies.

He gets consistently ghosted, ignored for days, or is told after a date or two that “this isn’t working.”

Modern women are broken.

Modern people and life are broken in all sorts of ways. But as always, you are the common denominator. If your dates never work then that means the problem is you.

Yes, he checks some important boxes, if the story is true. There are any number of things that he could still be doing importantly wrong. One of them, presumably, is that I am guessing he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, which stacks the deck against him. What he is offering is oversupplied there relative to demand. There are some other obvious suspects here as well.


Shoshana Weissmann: If you monetize my true dating stories all I ask for is a cut.

Definitely Not Advice (@stillnotadvice): Good friend is mid 30’s. Pretty face, no kids but wants a family, makes over $110k/year, has a huge property in the middle of nowhere.

She consistently gets ghosted, ignored for days, or is told after a date or two that “this isn’t working.”

Modern men are broken.

Alan: Good friend is mid 20s. In shape, makes over $300k/year, has a condo overlooking a great downtown.

He gets consistently ghosted, ignored for days, or is told after a date or two that “this isn’t working.”

Modern women are broken.

Charles Cooke: Maybe someone should introduce those two?

Dating is a mix of positive and negative selection.

If you are consistently failing at the ‘get a date at all’ stage, then that is tough. The modern world can make this difficult. But if you can’t find a way to get at least some dates through the apps, and you live in a populous region and have reasonable looks and a job and no obvious big red flags, that should be fixable.

If you are often getting to the first date, then failing consistently, I am positive you are doing something wrong. There is something you do not know, a skill you lack.

You’re Single Because You Are Bad at Sex

It matters a lot, no matter what anyone says.

Aella has an extensive ‘how to be good at sex’ guide behind a paywall, link goes to part 5 where she gives enough free content to be interesting on its own, as well as quite the introduction. Not evaluated or endorsed by me.

Then this thread introduces part 6, which is about what things women want versus what men think they want. It includes this graph, which I include because this is a great way to label what looks a lot like a random distribution.


Sasha Chapin strongly endorses the series, offers an important note.

Sasha Chapin: so background, i was a Canadian leftist who was successfully persuaded by a particular niche brand of feminism that masculinity is bad I would’ve thought it creepy to integrate my sexuality and my walking-around self so that they were smoothly connected rather than mutually unintelligible, and I think that’s the most important part of this series the funny thing is, this actually makes you less creepy.

A short public service on the ways in which size matters.

You’re Single Because You’re Not Hot

Aella scientifically tests the 1-10 hotness scale, using AI-generated faces to avoid the ethical issue of rating real people.

The most striking thing about the original 4Chan chart is the description assuming dramatic described correlation between features. There are five or six distinct features described as if they always line up, when they most obviously don’t. The chart makes sense exactly because it is looking almost entirely at faces. The other thing that stands out is the idea that 10s only exist in the context of your particular preference. I don’t see why you would frame it that way.

The new test mostly tells us that facial attractiveness ratings are what you would expect, and there is reasonably good consensus about it.

You’re Single Because You Don’t Know What People Care About

It is true. Not fully or all the time, but it is mostly true.

Brittany Venti: One of the biggest lies told about relationships was that men want lingerie. Imagine the disappointment you have playing dress up games your whole life, only to grow up and find out that men literally don’t care about lingerie and that it’s mostly for the woman to feel cute.

Aella: This was one of the biggest misconceptions I had going into sex work. I’d put a lot of effort into dressing like what i thought a ‘sexy woman’ looked like – lacy lingerie, red lipstick, etc. – but none of that got men as hard as a $5 short skirt and tight t-shirt with no bra.

In general, the most successful outfit for seducing men is one that is a plausibly-accidentally-accessible version of clothes you might already be wearing. Jeans that slip too low when you bend over, nipples visible through casual shirt, etc.

I think of it as there being a thing called Fashion, which is about Glamour and Impressiveness and Status and such. Then there is a different thing called Sexy. Fashion is abstract and elegant and rivalrous. Sexy is practical and lived-in and non-rivalrous. There is a correlation between the two, but it is highly imperfect. Men like both, especially when others are watching, but mostly what men care about is Sexy.

You’re Single Because You Are Inappropriate

A lot of people think quite a lot of things are inappropriate. Different worlds.

Helaine Olen: What’s really fascinating about this is that it’s women not men who are more likely to say this stuff is inappropriate.


If accurate, a quarter of people think it is not okay to have a private work meeting with someone of the wrong gender? Over a third of women are ruling out a car ride? I mean, wow. Inappropriate is not the same as not allowed, but still, wow. I presume that it isn’t actually that high and something about the framing warped responses, but even that shouldn’t be possible.

If someone actually does have a real problem with either of those in practice, that seems like a straight-up dealbreaker. For the meals, if this is ‘alone in your house’ then I could potentially see it, but if it applies to a restaurant it’s straight up nuts.

You’re Single Because of Your Pet

This statistic was rather stunning.

Derek Thompson: One of the more curious trends to jump out of the data is that many
Americans have traded people for pets in our social time.

The average time that Americans spend with their pets has roughly doubled in the past 20 years —both because more people have adopted pets and because they spend more time with them. In 2003, the typical female pet owner spent much more time socializing with humans than playing with her cat or dog.

By 2022, this flipped, and the average woman with a pet now spends more time “actively engaged” with her pet than she spends hanging out face-to-face with fellow humans on any given day.

I realize that other people like cats and dogs a lot more than I do, and get things out of them that I do not. I still feel confident in saying: Do not be the person who does this. This is a not a good idea. If you are a wilderness tracker out with your hunting dog, I mean fine, that’s a choice. But for an ordinary pet? Please, no, it will not go well.

You’re Single Because You Won’t Spend Money

A man who is not cautious with his money will soon cease to have any. Yet a man who is visibly cautious with money on a date will cease to have any of those, either.

Selena: there are few things worse than dating a man who is cautious with his money,

If you notice this hesitancy on a date then just end it, his potential for greatness is non-existent.

Women intuitively understand that frugality is a psychiatric ailment.

DSM V criteria, medical fact.

You know this is true because the most frugal person you know never truly excels, they never get rich, they are completely risk averse. Frugality bleeds into every fibre of their being.

– to earn more you must spend more – to think more you must write more – to learn more you must teach more – to be loved you must love more NOBODY gets rich from saving money or investing in a 401k


Jessica Taylor: Contemporary people respond more positively to classism when it is voiced by a straight woman framing it as mate preference.

Moderation in all things. The most miserly, frugal person you know is presumably far too frugal. They are at best penny wise and pound foolish. If not, your local culture has a big problem.

Being not frugal enough? That is a much bigger problem. Being broke is expensive.

It is so sad that many people think you cannot get rich or ahead by holding down a job, saving money and investing in a 401k. This simply is not true.

When you see people who do not understand the need to care about or save money? Who think that if you have it, you should be willing to spend it? Or even worse, you should spend whatever even if it does not make sense or get anything worthwhile, and if you don’t have it? Because vibes? Run. Run as fast as you can.

Trust the premonition. Do not Live La Vida Loca.

That said, there is an important sense in which you do need to be fine with spending money. If you do not do this it will ruin the vibe. It is legitimate to care about this.

What you must avoid is allowing concerns about money to dominate thinking within the moment. It cannot be allowed to disrupt the flow of the evening. If they see you worrying about money, or worse they are forced to worry themselves, or do a bunch of calculations, that is double plus not good.

The fool’s way of doing this is to become a money pump, able to be talked into spending arbitrary amounts of money. To spend on anything and everything as if it is nothing, to show off that you are willing to spend it. That does not help you. You get nothing in exchange. You brand yourself a fool.

The wise man’s way is to engineer a situation in which the problem never comes up. Never let them see you sweat. Sweat the money in private, before the date or activity begins. Decide what you are willing to spend on or do. Choose so as to avoid proximate or conspicuous alternatives that would pressure you to spend. To the extent they are presented anyway or unavoidable, dismiss them without reference to cost.

Then, when the moment comes, embrace it and enjoy it.

This is the philosophy of Out to Get You. Engineer a situation in which you can safely Get Got or inconspicuously Get Compact. Otherwise Get Gone.

This goes beyond dating. It also goes beyond money.

You want to enjoy the moment too. I was brought up to always sweat all the details, always be critiquing and complaining and worrying. There is a lot of value and wisdom in that, it is far superior to the alternative of the unexamined life.

However, there is also a time and a place. Sometimes taking yourself out of the moment like that is terrible. When that happens, cache the issue and set it aside until later. Update on it if worthwhile, or don’t if it isn’t.

From the comments last time, Michael Roe points out another reason to stick to places that are reasonably priced, which is that it avoids putting the other person under pressure to reciprocate next time. Or, I would add, to avoid generating worries about expectations or a reason to feel bad. In general, showing people a nice time is good, but it is not good form to take people to places they themselves could not afford at all even if you are paying, with a partial exception if you are so visibly rich it is common knowledge that you can and will laugh the price off entirely.

You’re Single Because You’re Not Over Your Ex

Breakups suck.

Kyle: During college i can remember 6 male friends who went through long term relationship breakups. 3 of them lost their minds for a year and completely derailed their lives and the other 3 initiated the breakups [they’re doing well now].

Eigenrobot: how messed up people can get when a serious relationship goes under feels under-considered to me in discussing life trajectories.

Contemplate this on the tree of woe. Be careful with your heart, not that it will help

Hereward the Woke: Given that the end of even fairly juvenile or early-stage relationships can mess you up, it’s actually quite bad that our normative relationship model involves many people going through multiple might-as-well-be-divorces.

Different people get different kinds of derailed for different lengths of time. Being sad for a while afterwards and not dating anyone else for a bit is standard procedure and basically fine. Healthy, even. The key is not letting it derail the rest of your life.

Whenever one is in a relationship, one must sometimes worry about when it would be worthwhile to break up with them, and even more one must worry about when the other person might find it worthwhile to break up with you.

You’re Single Because You Thought You Could Do 25% Better

What if there was a clear rule for when breakups happened?

(While noting that this is explicitly a joke per account rules, also I mean obviously.)

Eliezer Yudkowsky: in a world of greater legibility, romantic partners would have the conversation about “I’d trade up if I found somebody 10%/25%/125% better than you” in advance, and make sure they have common knowledge of the numbers

(Marriage makes sense as a promise not to do that period; but if so, you want to make sure that both partners are on the same page about that. Not everyone assumes that marriage means that.)

Her: I am never, ever letting you go unless I find someone 75% better.

Me: Works for me.

Oh hello there Performative Allistic Twitter.

I guess people may legit not know how to express this without help, so, to reiterate: As you go on dating, you both accumulate human capital specialized on each other, and it becomes harder for someone else to be 25% better.

Furthermore if you’re marrying or have kids, you both may just not want to worry about the other finding someone 75% better. But this kind of commitment is only meaningful if you’re dating someone with the power to admit and speak aloud which algorithm they use.

Someone who performs “But I would never! Only a terrible person would think so coldly!” may very much be running a tradeup algorithm even after they marry you and have a kid, and they wouldn’t know it themselves.

Etienne: why is everyone reacting to this as if it was meant as an alternative to explicit lifelong commitment, when it’s quite obviously meant as an alternative to “trading up” anyway but without ever discussing expectations first.

shill: the responses to this tweet are hilarious because they make it very obvious when someone just does not get the mindset here. I’ll give you a hint: “125% better” etc. is not a precise measurement

Beatrice Leydier: why would you dump your partner for someone 25% better when you can just slowly nag them into becoming 25% better like a normal person.

Eliezer Yudkowsky: I sent this to gf and she messaged back “on it.”

You know what, I’ll give up and provide this thread’s actual context: GF is ex couples counselor (also ex Google SRE), and saw a reality show about troubled couples deciding whether to break up after dating a different attractive person for 3 weeks.

Nate Soares: reactions to this are like a microcosm of why you usually can’t trust humans with consequentialism.

“it ignores how relationships get better with investment” nope, that’s an increase in your value to each other that makes it harder to find someone worth trading up for.

“it ignores that the shiny new relationship has a high risk of failure” nope, that’s a reason why one might wrongly overestimate the value of a shiny new person.

it’s notable that so many people object “but ‘value’ doesn’t capture…” rather than cautioning “people might neglect the value of…”. as if the word “value” must cover only the shallow and superficial features; as if no word is allowed to capture the deeper intangibles.

It seems many people intuitively think that words like “value” can only apply to the legible and easily articulable aspects of things.

Which sure would explain why many people hate on consequentialism; [legible-consequence]alism is a much worse moral theory than [comprehensive-consequence]alism.

Mason (responding to OP): This is a recipe for off the charts neuroticism and a surprise mood disorder.

Ruxandra Teslo (responding to OP): This is such a cursed worldview.

Aella: this is the way most people operate, just nobody likes admitting it to themselves.

My apologies guys, i was wrong. i forgot about how most people actually date people either well above or below their own attractiveness level, how women don’t resonate with the message ‘you go girl, get a high quality man’ and thus it’s not present in culture at all. [goes on like this]

The alternative to having no idea where you stand is having a better idea where you stand. Relationships without very deep commitments have a threshold where the situation is bad enough that one person would leave the other even without the ability to trade up, either ‘on spec’ or because nothing is already an improvement.

Knowing you are on the edge of that is quite stressful. But not knowing if you are or not, and not knowing where the threshold might be, is not obviously better.

Is ignorance bliss, or is it paranoia? Could go either way.

I do think part of being in a typical relationship is, past the early stages, a promise not to actively pursue trading up. Until marriage you are not promising to be with them forever, or to stay barring some calamity. However you are promising that you will not engage in various activities without ending the relationship first. You cannot cheat. You cannot work to line up your next relationship. These things are not okay.

If you can actively pursue and negotiate (or even try out) other suitors first, thus allowing a trade-up to be risk-free, then that is a different type of relationship. That needs to be explicit.

Is there a threshold where you would break those rules? Presumably yes. The right amount of information on that threshold is usually not zero. It also usually is not an exact formula. And there are many cases like this where in sufficiently extreme cases one likely breaks the rules, but part of the mechanism design is that you must bear the cost of breaking the rule. It is not always correct to say ‘well, if X happens I would do Y, so we should change the rules so X allows me to do Y,’ especially if you have a say in whether X happens.


Since many who read this consider it: What about under polyamory?

Aella: One underrated benefit of polyamory is u don’t have to dump anyone when you meet someone 25% better for you

One feature of polyamory is that it means continuous auditions of potential replacements by all parties. You are not trading up in the sense that you can have multiple partners, but one thing leads to another and there are only so many hours in the day.

If you are monogamous, and you meet someone plausibly 25% better, by default what happens is nothing. There is no pressure to explore that possibility, to see if you might be able to upgrade, or even find out if the person is available. It is not an issue.

If you are polyamorous, and you meet someone plausibly 25% better, or even someone 0% better (I mean the person you are with is pretty good, no?) you are honor bound to try and make it happen. This is a problem, and can become a much bigger problem (or opportunity, or both) if you succeed. You get a lot more information.

Yes, you do not have to flat out dump the original person. But if the new person is indeed better, it is not as if the original relationship is going to continue as before.

In other polyamory news, Scott Alexander tells you that you are wrong about what you think, you don’t hate polyamory, you hate people who write books.

The argument goes, people write books because they have issues, and are screwed up, and are likely destined for terrible relationships no matter what, imagine reading what ‘monogamy advocates’ were saying and how that would turn out. Most people who actually practice polyamory would give boring advice and are doing great.

I buy that the people writing polyamory books (and, by extension, blog posts) have issues, and more issues on average than other poly people. That does not mean we cannot judge what they have to say, whether or not the original article in The Atlantic was doing so fairly.

As usual, if you were making a bad generalization, stop doing so, whether or not the conclusion was true. If it is true, get there for the right reasons.

Also, few people (reading this, anyway) hate polyamory, they simply disagree about expected outcomes on a variety of fronts. I continue to think that there is a time and a place and a person where polyamory is the correct choice, but that the majority of the time someone thinks it is a good idea right here, right now, that they are wrong.

Scott then follows up with a highlights from the comments, where the arguments against polyamory seem convincing. In particular, there are fewer children, and those children that there are generally end up in worse positions and at more risk, and the whole thing is a giant time sink even when done right without overall looking better even after those costs are paid. He also promises that this link is a doozy.

Aella also makes a very good argument against polyamory here:

yatharth: oh, I see. Societies evolved taboos and rituals around sex, not because they were a morally inferior, irrational species, but because sex routinely fucked social relations up, and the cultures that survived were the ones that had guardrails in place,

Aella: this is partially why people who pull off polyamory successfully are hyper-skilled with communication, emotional regulation and self-awareness. Not saying monogomous people aren’t that, only that you don’t *have* to be that in order to pull off monogamy.

I’m sure you all know that one couple who have the emotional processing ability of a cantaloupe but have somehow stayed married for 20 years. If they’d tried poly (in today’s climate, with zero cultural support or general knowhow), their relationship woulda fallen apart.

Most people are not hyper-skilled in anything. Certainly they are not hyper-skilled in communication, emotional regulation and self-awareness.

(Almost?) nothing successful at a mass scale requires hyper-skill. If your social relational system, or any other product or service, requires hyper-skill, your system is at best for a very small group of people. Even if the product is so good for the select few that it is worth doing a lot of work to qualify, and there are many such cases, encouraging widespread adaptation of something this demanding is to do most people a disservice.

Also people hate thinking and complexity and the inability to fully relax.

Brooke Bowman: I want all of my male friends to be in happy, fulfilling relationships for the entirely selfish reason that it is SO NICE to have friendships where there’s no weirdness around ‘are they into me’ or ‘do they think I’m into them’

Ah this was polyamory erasure sorry everyone.

Tbf I do struggle with feeling anxious around poly friends for this reason, but that’s a skill issue.

I mean I suppose like almost everything else it is in some sense a skill issue. But a sufficiently difficult skill issue reduces to an issue. If you too are poly then oh boy is the skill threshold here high. It really is great not to have to worry about who is or is not into whom, or what dynamics might be going on, and to not feel like you are missing out on constant potential opportunity.

Alternatively, perhaps you could write a paper about the optimization problems involved and call it Polyamorous Scheduling. Might as well get a paper out of it.

I may have trapped priors, but all this reinforces to me that polyamory is generally a deeply bad idea for humans, albeit with notably rare exceptions that are extraordinarily good fits.

Also, there was a polyamorous dating show about couples seeking to add a third person, and yeah, missed opportunity.

Kevin: Why did they call the poly dating show “Couple to Throuple” when they could have called it “The Three-Body Problem”?

You’re Single Because You Don’t Know What You Want

What should you be looking for in a romantic partner?

Rob Henderson offers his advice. He looks at what predicts relationship satisfaction.

  1. He notes that similarity between partners is the rule but does not predict satisfaction, speculating it is necessary but insufficient. If it is so commonly prioritized or chosen and does not correlate, that could mean it is typically beneficial, it could also represent how we meet people and how matches are made in the dating market. I would assume people are roughly correctly rating similarly?
  2. Authenticity and openness with your partner tends to be reciprocal and strongly predicts relationship satisfaction. That makes sense, this is underrated.
  3. Attractiveness of your partner relative to your options predicts happiness. If you are more attractive than your partner and could do better, you will be less happy. Well yes, that makes sense ceteris paribus, but this is not obviously underrated as a consideration. In general the principle is, if you could do better, you’ll feel it, and that is in terms of whatever it is you care about.
  4. As he points out, this also suggests that trying to ‘date up’ too aggressively is a mistake, as dates once gained must be maintained. If you do this you need to ensure it is an unusually good match on details, and invest heavily.
  5. Plan ahead. The endgame for most people should be a family and children, so consider potential dates in that light from the start. That doesn’t mean never have fun but keep your eye on the ball.
  6. Here are some red flags he notes from Shawn Smith’s book Gatekeeper: Shifting responsibility for managing emotions, forcing you to play guessing games, assaulting your character (e.g. ‘you always do that’ or ‘you never listen’) and the silent treatment.
  7. Some green flags? Clarity, maturity including emotional maturity meaning things like calming yourself, accepting reality, not acting on impulse and keeping commitments, stability, inquisitiveness.

That all seems directionally right as far as it goes. That does not tell you how to prioritize.

Then there is this article in The Cut by Grazie Sophia Cristie that made the rounds about the argument for intentionally marrying an older man, in this case meeting him at 30 when she was 20.

The author starts out saying they buy lottery tickets without even checking to see if they win, and mentions asking for cigarettes, which do not seem like the ways one provides evidence of a tendency to make good choices.

I did like this line, which seems right, in at least some senses?

When someone says they feel unappreciated, what they really mean is you’re in debt to them.

The basic argument she makes is straightforward, and goes something like this: Dating a younger man means teaching and crafting them into someone women want. Then they probably leave you for another woman anyway. When you date within your own age group, the playing field is level, and you waste the years when your stock is highest. Why not skip all that, free ride on the efforts of others, find a man who highly values what you offer and cash in (in many senses) while the getting is good? A man who will tell you who he is and what he wants, so you can evaluate up front if you want to match with that. Providing what a (modestly) older guy wants will make him love you, and it will pay big dividends.

Also she endlessly complains about younger men, including her own brother, failing at what she sees as basic life skills. How dare they not know the proper way to do laundry, or pack a suitcase. Idiots. It is odd how important this sort of thing seems to her, and she is not alone.

Diana Fleischman (responding to article): Men are changed by women, often for the better. And a civilized man is a gift women give to one another, but rarely acknowledge.

Salome Sibonex: Counterpoint: You didn’t “civilize” your boyfriend, he satiated your neuroticism.

Women are more neurotic, thus less tolerant of certain things not going their way, like social niceties or home decor. I AM this woman! I make my boyfriend’s life prettier and cleaner, but this is largely for my benefit. I don’t need to flatter myself by thinking my neuroticism is a superior sensibility that civilizes degenerate men.

This is important because it prevents me from being resentful when some of these preferences aren’t met. Instead of thinking my partner “uncivilized”, I realize we have different preferences and sensitivities for those preferences going unmet.

Men generally care less about how suitcases are packed or whether their towel is on the floor, so they give in when women do. If both sides are reasonable, both will benefit—no self-righteousness necessary.

This moralized conceptualization of what are essentially basic sex differences encourages women to think of themselves as long-suffering under-appreciated saints, which is an unpleasant mindset and makes the reality of a relationship seem unduly negative.

This is naturally a case where somewhere in the middle, the truth lies. The right amount of attention to such matters is not zero, even purely for one’s own benefit. A lot of such actions, however, are not at all about that.

What Grazie Sophia Christie actually wanted, in general, seems like a guy with his life together, and who ran a smooth operation, and take charge and enable life to happen. That is only partly an age thing. Not that many people have that these days, no matter how old. This was a highly unusually put together guy for 30 years old.

She worries that by doing this she is defecting, ‘taking advantage of his disadvantage.’ As long as she understands what she is doing and honors the deal she is making, I do not see a problem. Her husband is doing fine. This is very much gains from trade.

However, she is very clearly defecting in the broader game. By her own model, if women did this more often, the guys in their 20s wouldn’t become the guys in their 30s that she wants them to be. She sees others as doing the work, and she wants to then reap the benefits. It is her choice how much to care about this.

How much of her model is accurate? Not zero. My guess is not much.

There are subcultures where the population growth rate is so rapid that a typical age cap causes balance issues, but if the population is roughly stable then there is nothing out of equilibrium about having age gaps. Yes, this means the youngest men miss out, but focusing on career at that age until you have yourself more together seems fine, and yes men can learn the necessary skills other ways, including now via asking a chatbot (VR experiences coming soonish), or learn them rapidly later on when they are more ready for them. And of course it also means that older women miss out if they don’t already have a match, even more than they already do, but this could be offset by having more long term matches.

You’re Single Because You’re Too Busy Writing Comments

On the not actually trying point, David doubles down (as did Cole Terlesky):

David Karsten: Three thoughts, from having been on the dating app market for the first time ever this year:

1. The fact that many folks don’t want to really succeed, they want to just “have a match happen” cannot be overstated, at every level. You’d be amazed how many people don’t want to spend $30 a month for a dating app membership, even though they’d value finding a partner at $X thousands of dollars a month. You’d be amazed how many people don’t follow up with those they text. Etc.

2. As a result, you cannot _possibly_ imagine how not-in-it-for-the-long-term the average guy on these apps are. Functionally every woman has a story about a real jerk, and often defensive comments on their profile accordingly. Being even moderately decent has above-average returns.

3. The incel movement is a detailed UX complaint about Tinder, as far as I can tell. Other apps vary quite a lot! Sometimes switching to a new app and keeping the same strategy has outsized returns.

This is great news. You can both switch apps and use superior tactics, such as ‘caring at all,’ ‘not being a jerk’ and ‘responding when they text.’ Then you can enjoy the oversized returns.

Grant McKinney says they count as not even trying, they’ve never ‘made a serious attempt at flirting,’ in terms of not trying to have it go anywhere. I pointed out that the best flirting is done because it is fun, so Grant was doing it right except for pulling back rather than continuing to escalate (or accept escalations) in increasingly risque directions when things go well.

Brett Bellmore reports the upside of online dating in getting around social phobias, and also suggests that if you are serious you consider foreign dating sites.

Brett Bellmore: My personal experience may be relevant: I literally did not date until I was in my early 40’s. In my case this was due to a traumatic childhood event; Apparently the school nerd was NOT supposed to chat up a member of the cheer leading squad; The penalty was immediate and physical, and induced a pretty severe social phobia. Jr high could be a rough place in the 70’s. Having Asperger’s didn’t help, of course.

Online dating got me past this, as my social phobia didn’t kick in unless I was face to face with a woman, and by the time the online relationship had progressed to us meeting, I’d relaxed a bit. I really can’t recommend it too much, it didn’t just get me a date, it got me married.

Here’s some serious advice: Try foreign dating sites, if you’re really looking for a wife, not just some fun. The US has become somewhat matriarchal, and when a guy from a semi-matriarchal society meets a girl from a still somewhat patriarchal society, you get a very beneficial culture clash: You both end up exceeding the other’s expectations by simply doing the minimum your own culture demands.

As well, the economic principle of comparative advantage kicks in. You may be nothing special by local standards, and still a superb catch to some girl in a 2nd world country, which means your bidding power is higher than you might think. I certainly didn’t end up married to this cutie by being a movie star…

As well, the international sites specialize in women who ARE looking for a husband, not a one night stand. Tinder might be a good place to go if you don’t like eating out alone, but is it a good place to look for a wife?

Anyway, that’s my experience.

This is the one I found my wife at, but there are a whole series of allied sites they run for different countries: Filipina Hearts.

The problem with foreign dating sites is of course adverse selection. This is the ultimate lemon market and potential trick. You run a huge risk they (either the website or the woman or both) are there to scam you or only after the visa. Claude directed me to some ‘review websites’ I will not be linking to, as they did not put my mind at all at ease on your behalf, and provided the usual advice of being generally wary of signs of trouble.

Gunflint suggests the ‘fake wedding band’ trick, as the ring puts women at ease. I am of course strongly opposed on principle, also the adverse selection is terrible and lying even by implication is bad for your soul and your future relationship, and also you risk romantic comedy hijinks ensuing if you are foolish enough to double down.

A way to get matches, but different ones?

Mike Hind: I got plenty of matches on Tinder by emphasising what I offered rather than what I was looking for. That one weird trick makes you stand out.

Marthinwurer: I have now added “I can fix your furniture” to my tinder bio.

myst_05: I can confirm “btw I’m good at [DIY]” works well.

First emphasizing what you offer them is always good marketing. This is especially true if you are having trouble getting enough matches. It has a different positive selection effect, you want them to want what you are happy to offer. It does mean you get less selection in them having what you want.

Shout points out that being asked your body count is not only something you can often strategically avoid, when you can’t avoid it this is an opportunity to send a message that matches your strategy and forward goals. Also notes that a lot of the concerns that result are ‘you will get bored with me and my lack of experience’ so if your number is coming in high you want to head that off right away or even use addressing that as a way to dodge the question.

Bob Jones requests a way for a guy to tell if they are bottom 25/10/1% desirability, and how to handle it if you are, and when one should consider giving up.

I affirm my partial answer there, which is that unless you have major health (including mental health) issues the chance you are reading this yet still unfixibly in the bottom 10% (or even 25%) is almost zero. I would add that most of the things that one needs to fix to get out of the extreme low end, things like being able to talk to people and being in a decent financial position and fitness and hygiene are almost all things you should prioritize fixing anyway, even if you had zero interest in sex or dating.

It is still useful to know where you are at. John suggests that Bumble lets you know who passed on your profile as I also noted above, which helps you know where you are at although getting a baseline is still tricky.

You’re Single and Not Getting Properly Compensated

The life of a professional bridesmaid. All she had to do was put up a Craigslist ad and she was inundated with requests, media inquiries and even marriage proposals. So if you are thinking of doing this, the market is probably still wide open.

She says she makes ‘over $100k’ stepping up to make weddings not become horrible disasters, filling in for those who do not have people they can count on. Cost starts at $2.5k, given the other costs involved sounds like the service is worth every penny and more. Alas, despite overwhelming demand she is having trouble getting the business to scale, finding the right new people is hard. It seems like a fine job, with odd but good hours overall, and a rewarding experience, but also a demanding and stressful one. Everything is so high stakes for everyone around you, all the time.

One thing that surprised me was that she succeeded while looking this good. One of the big dangers with bridesmaids is that they risk outshining the bride.

You’re Not Single and You’re an Inspiration

The story of someone who posted a video five years ago about being ugly and how depressing it is, how everyone has always treated him badly because of it, got a response that he looked kind of cute, and now they are married.

Embrace the variance.

Or if all else fails? Embrace your inner someone else.

Eigenrobot: My wife is mad at him because he “doesn’t understand what women want at all, he’s just mimicking Ryan Gosling” and its working anyway.

“Although he had to have understood it to some extent because he understood watching the movie together would be a bad idea.”

Anonymous: This really happened.


Sandrone: If you’re in stochastic parrot pivot to stochastic gosling.

Actually I think he understands perfectly well.

Remember, she is out there.

Bill: Can we all agree, gentleman?


Your Moment of Zen

Speaking truth to power.

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26 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

Very interesting post! I enjoyed it! Just had some thoughts about the poly section.

If you are polyamorous, and you meet someone plausibly 25% better, or even someone 0% better (I mean the person you are with is pretty good, no?) you are honor bound to try and make it happen.

I'm not sure why you'd be honour bound to make that work. Maybe the phrasing is just being hyperbolic but I don't think refraining from pursuing a romantic relationship damages your poly honour.

Most people are not hyper-skilled in anything. Certainly they are not hyper-skilled in communication, emotional regulation and self-awareness.

If you define "hyper-skilled" as "way more skilled than average" then what you're saying is true by definition. If its not defined relative to everyone else in a given culture, I think you can certainly say most people are hyper skilled at communication, emotional regulation and self-awareness in ways which their culture requires of them.

For example, most people in highly religious/authoritarian cultures are adept at those social skills which prevent them from being ostracized and condemned. Not reacting violently to insults would be considered hyper skilled in some cultures whereas it's the minimum in others.

With that In mind I don't think polyamory is as unrealistic or as demanding in its requirements as you make it out to be. People tend to become hyper skilled socially when it's a requirement for what they're doing, and when it's normalized within their culture. If other structures are in place to replace the requirement for those particular skills, they won't develop.

Polyamory probability selects for people who are socially skilled in the ways that help with polyamory, but being polyamorous also helps to develop those skills.

I think it's fair to say that for many or most people it would be too costly to try to switch from monogamy towards polyamory when they've already been highly invested in developing their monogamy toolbox. I think that's very different from saying only a small percentage of people have the capacity/potential to flourish being poly.

Scott then follows up with a highlights from the comments, where the arguments against polyamory seem convincing

I read most of the comments and I think pretty much all of the arguments against polyamory are coming from monogamous people with very limited/no experience with polyamory or polyamorous people. Not to say that discredits their arguments, but I'm typically pretty sceptical of arguments about lifestyles that are widely considered distasteful, coming from people who are far removed from those lifestyles, based on a couple anecdotes, if any.

Monogamous people are also already having way fewer children, and the type of person deciding to be polyamorous probably correlates pretty strongly with the type of person already deciding not to have kids. I don't think there's really good arguments that kids of poly people will be worse off, most of those arguments refer to practices which aren't essential to being Poly. Many of the arguments appeal to reference classes that aren't particularly applicable to a scenario where things are being done with care intentionally as opposed to as a result of scarcity, neglect, and unforseen challenging circumstances.

One feature of polyamory is that it means continuous auditions of potential replacements by all parties. You are not trading up in the sense that you can have multiple partners, but one thing leads to another and there are only so many hours in the day.


Polyamory is not that different from monogamy in this respect. It's just that in monogamy "having a relationship" is a binary: either you have it or you don't have it. In polyamory, there is a scale, starting from "meeting once in a blue moon" all the way to "living together with kids and joint finances". So, if in monogamy your attitude might be "I will not trade up unless I meet someone x% better", then in polyamory your attitude might be "I will devote you y% of my time and will not reduce this number unless there's someone x% better competing for this slot". (And in both cases x might be very high.)

More generally, I feel that a lot of arguments against polyamory fail the "replace with platonic friendship" test. Like, monogamous people also have to somehow balance the time they invest in their relationship vs. friends vs. family vs. hobbies etc, and also have to balance the time allocated to different friends. I know that some mono people feel that sex is some kind of magic pixie dust which makes a relationship completely different and not comparable in any way to platonic friendship, but... Not everyone feels this way? (In both directions: I simultaneously consider romantic relationship comparable to "mere" platonic friendships and also consider platonic friendships substantially more important/committing than seems to be the culturally-prescribed attitude.)

Also, it feels like this discussion has a missing mood and/or a typical mind fallacy. For me, monogamy was a miserable experience. Even aside from the fact you only get to have one relationship, there's all the weird rules about which things are "inappropriate" (see survey in the OP) and also the need to pretend that you're not attracted to other people (Not All Mono, but I think many relationships are like that). All the "pragmatic" arguments about why polyamory is bad sound to me similar to hypothetical arguments that gay relationships are bad. I mean, there might be some aspects of gay relationships that are often worse than corresponding aspects of straight relationships. But if you're gay, a gay relationship is still way better for you! Even if you're bi and in some sense "have a choice", it still seems inappropriate to try convincing you about how hetero is much better.

Warning: About to get a little ranty/emotional, sorry about that but was hard to express otherwise.

Finally, not to be that girl, but it's a little insensitive to talk about this without the least acknowledgement that polyamory is widely stigmatized and discriminated against. I know it's LessWrong here, we're supposed to use decoupling norms and not contextualizing norms, and I'm usually fully in favor of that, but it still seems to me that this post would better on the margin, if it had a little in the way of acknowledging this asymmetry in the debate. 

Instead, the OP talks about "encouraging widespread adaptation". What?? I honestly don't know, maybe in the Mythic Bay Area, someone is encouraging widespread conversion to polyamory. In the rest of the world, we only want (i) not be stigmatized (ii) not be discriminated against (iii) having some minimal awareness that polyamory is even an option (it was certainly an eye-opening discovery for me!) and (iv) otherwise, being left alone, and not have mono people endlessly explain to us how their way is so much better [My spouse tells me this last bit was too combative. Sorry about that: we are certainly allowed to have respectful discussion about the comparative advantages of different lifestyles.]

There is something I have been exploring, being back into the dating market in the USA after more than a decade of blessed expatriatism, and am currently seeing people and exploring all this.

Culturally, what are women supposed to do for men?  No stative verbs (am/is/are/was/were/be/being/been), no nouns, no adjectives, but like what are the top 5 action verbs that women should be doing for a man and if she isn't, there should be a good reason or maybe he's going to leave?  Or even 5 or 6 important ones or even mundane-but-expected ones?  I can think of a list with regard to men, some of which are simple like hold the door or bring flowers, some of which are complex (like the thing above about flowing well with money)...  but what verbs are like totally important and expected for women to do?

I think it's a disservice to women to not have some explicit expectations or even setting bars.  But the answers could also just be in my own blindspot.  I'm curious and I hope the question is appropriate here.

Most of the useful ones are fairly symmetrical. Things like taking care of health and appearance for yourself but also more effort than you would otherwise on the margin because you care about your partner's experience. Taking note of things that seem specific to your partner/make them happy and noticing opportunities to do them. Noticing that the way your partner expresses care is probably the way they also wish they could receive it, and symmetrically noticing that the ways you keep expressing care for your partner are ways you secretly want care and doing the counterintuitively difficult emotional work of learning to ask for it instead of resenting their lack of mind-reading.

Creating space in which your partner can be vulnerable to expose their real preference (e.g. sexual preferences). Both men and women have a pretty hard time with this (especially any gender-narrative dystonic preferences) and often have had some pretty hurtful rejections in the past from other unthinking young people.

Then there are things that people present as if they are relationship obligations and try to avoid the emotional maturity of having them be explicitly discussed requests instead of tacitly held/resented demands. Such as coddling their coping mechanisms while not being allowed to acknowledge that you are paying costs to accommodate them (or you doing this to them).

Men often wind up in the valley of bad emotional sensitivity where they think that going into these sorts of things will make them unattractive/feminine (see: gender-narrative dystonic), mostly because they haven't had solid models of masculine emotional space-holding from their fathers and older male peers, modern age siloing isolates people from a lot of feedback from older people at every stage of life. They don't have a context in which to train the first awkward 100 hours of these skills. I think this is often why people report things like circling being very helpful.

I am afraid that even asking this question would be perceived as horribly patriarchal today.

My parents' generation would probably say "cooking" and maybe a few more things, dunno.

I am perfectly happy that the patriarchal roles are no longer shackling women.  I would not like to roll back time, personally, on these matters.  I hope my question doesn't come across this way -- it is just that I am confused about expectations.

How can expectations exist without roles? When everyone is free to do whatever they want to, no one can expect anything specific...

Well, we can still have general, i.e. not gender-specific expectations, such as: people should be nice and emotionally mature. Nothing wrong with that. But it seems like the traditional gender roles also provided some gender-specific "hacks", and now we don't have them.

Or you could ask which traits are valued at the dating marketplace, or more specifically at the part you are interested in. But there is no general answer anymore; it depends on what you are looking for. For example, if you want to have a traditional relationship, it would make sense to behave according to the traditional roles, and expect the same from your potential partners. Other subcultures have different rules. And I suppose most people are confused, do random things, get random results, then hopefully learn and try something different.

I think this list may successfully convince some to stay off the dating market indefinitely. Who in the world has time to work on all of this? At best, this is just a massive set of to-dos; at worst, it's an enormous list of all the ways the dating world sucks and reasons why you'll fail. 

Upon reflection: This is a good collection of information, even if it is rather discouraging to read. May we all find exceptions to the unfortunate trends that seem to characterize the modern dating landscape.

FWIW, from glancing at your LinkedIn profile, you seem very dateable :)

Very kind of you to say. :) I think for me, though, the source of the emotion I felt when reading this series was something like: "Ah, so in addition to ensuring we are dateable ourselves, we must fix society, capitalism (at least the dating part of it), culture, etc. in order to have a Good Dating Universe." Which in retrospect was a bit overblown of me, so I think I no longer endorse the strong version of what I said in that comment.

People should focus way more on things that make them better partners because they make you a healthier more rounded person and way less on idiosyncratic dating market dynamics imo. When you climb the health hill you meet others also climbing the health hill. When you climb fake hills you meet others climbing fake hills.

I did actually get a hit after adding "I can fix your furniture" to my tinder bio. I then managed to fumble it and not get a date because I don't know how to flirt. Still, progress!

If it helps, I can help match people in the rationality-adjacent circles through You can find my contact information in my profile.

Follow up idea based on the stalking section:

  • Write an algorithm that finds the shortest distance from any person through connections to desired person using social media like X or Instagram
  • Ask nodes to contact the target node or ask secret matchmakers to create a set up with a convincing pretext such as inviting them to rationality events!
  • Automate steps in the process and involve others.

As I have said elsewhere:

Dating apps are broken. Maybe it's better dating apps die soon. 

On the supplier side: Misaligned incentives (keep users on the platform) and opaque algorithms lead to bad matches. 

On the demand side: Misaligned incentives (first impressions, low cost to exit) and no plausible deniability lead to predators being favored.

Real dating happens when you can observe many potential mates and there is a path to getting closer. Traditionally that was schools, clubs, church, work. Now, not so much. Let's build something that fosters what was lost, now double down on a failed principle - 1-to-1 matching.  

Are you libertarian about this specifically? Do you think it's better if people also have the choice of dating apps? Or would you ban them if given the choice?

I said die, not kill. Let the predators continue to use the dating platforms if they want. It will keep them away from other more wholesome places.

Cassette AI: “Dude I just matched with a model”

“No way”

“Yeah large language”

This made me laugh out loud.

Otherwise, my idea for a dating system would be that given that the majority of texts written will invariably end up being LLM-generated, it would be better if every participant openly had an AI system as their agent. Then the AI systems of both participants could chat and figure out how their user would rate the other user based on their past ratings of suggestions. If the users end up being rated among each others five most viable candidates, 

Of course, if the agents are under the full control of the users, the next step of escalation will be that users will tell their agents to lie on their behalf. ('I am into whatever she is into. If she is big on horses, make up a cute story about me having had a pony at some point. Just put the relevant points on the cheat sheet for the date'.) This might be solved by having the LLM start by sending out a fixed text document. If horses are mentioned as item 521, after entomology but before figure skating, the user is probably not very interested in them. Of course, nothing would prevent a user from at least generically optimizing their profile to their target audience. "A/B testing has shown that the people you want to date are mostly into manga, social justice and ponies, so this is what you should put on your profile." Adversarially generated boyfriend?

As noted last time, Rob Henderson finds that women in their twenties swipe right (‘like’) twice as often for a man with a master’s degree over a bachelor’s degree.

Causal or association?

Manifold Love: pro-tip: if a woman measures her hand against yours, this is almost always flirtation.

Totally did not know this. Is this true?

2. Authenticity and openness with your partner tends to be reciprocal and strongly predicts relationship satisfaction. That makes sense, this is underrated.

Is this causal? I mean, maybe being yourself and open works for people who happen to already be relationship-compatible. People who are not would be worse off by trying to be themselves. I think I have been burned in the past a lot by that kind of advice, although my experience is too much of an anecdote to infer an average.


Manifold Love: pro-tip: if a woman measures her hand against yours, this is almost always flirtation.

Totally did not know this. Is this true? [10% react x 2]

A little taken aback by this response. It's not just flirting, it's outright romantic. Asking this is like asking if a woman resting their head on a mans chest and purring is "flirting". I didn't realize this was a common experience for guys not in a relationship with the particular woman.

Look, I've measured hands with women, and not personally done it out of a relationship but I've seen women resting their heads and purring, and I don't think it was flirting. Either this or I totally don't understand social relationships (possible!) Do you think this is cultural? I'm Italian, are you US American?


It might very well be cultural. As an American I literally cannot imagine doing either of those things with a woman I am not in a relationship with. I've never seen anybody else do them either.

[M]aybe being yourself and open works for people who happen to already be relationship-compatible. People who are not would be worse off by trying to be themselves. I think I have been burned in the past a lot by that kind of advice, although my experience is too much of an anecdote to infer an average.


I think you are maybe using a different definition of "worse off." I would submit that a relationship that is maintainable only by being inauthentic and unopen is, in the long run, significantly worse than no relationship, both because of the experience of being in it, but also because of opportunity cost.

That's different than holding some things back at the beginning, or keeping some impolite thoughts to yourself sometimes. But if your goal is a long-term partnership, you move further away from that goal by spending time and energy on someone you know you aren't compatible with.

Thinking about it, I suspect I was not getting what "authenticity and openness" means. Like, it's not "being yourself and letting go", and more "being honest", I guess? Could you give me >= 2 examples of a person being "authentic and open"?

So I guess I'm not sure what you mean by that. I think it might be easier to support what I'm saying in the negative. Some example of inauthenticity or un-openness might be:

  • Consciously faking your personality (in a way that you wouldn't want to maintain as an essentially permanent change)
  • Lying about what you want out of the relationship
  • Pretending to like/dislike hobbies or interests that you actually strongly dislike/like

The problem with doing these things is that, to the extent that doing them was necessary to gain the relationship, you are now stuck with a relationship that is built on a papered-over incompatibility. If your plan is that you will fake a completely different personality/goals/interests, then you will now be in a relationship where you have to permanently keep faking that stuff while constantly being wary that your new partner might find out you were faking plus you have to spend a lot of time and energy doing stuff and/or interacting with someone you don't actually like, or else ending the relationship and being back at square 1, except that you've invested time/energy that you won't get back. There can be toned-down good versions of this bad strategy tho, I think, which are more like "putting your best foot forward" than like "being inauthentic."


Truth: Looking for a life partner, getting desperate
Good strategy [probably depends on age, for this one]: Open to various possibilities, see how it goes.
Bad strategy: Your date says they are really only looking for short term fun, and you agree that's all you are looking for too.


Truth: A talkative person who loves debating ideas
Good strategy: Tone it down a little, try to listen as much as you talk and try to "yes, and" or "that's interesting, tell me more about what led you to that" your date's points rather than "no but" (you can often make similar points either way)
Bad strategy: Just agree with everything your date says; even if you actually have a strong opposing view


Truth: Don't really care for hiking much
Good strategy [when trying out someone who loves hiking]: "I haven't been too into that before, tell me what you love about it? I'd be open to giving it another shot"
Bad strategy: "OMG I love hiking too!"


The problem that all these bad strategies have in common is that if they are successful,  you end up with something you don't want.

Ok, then I agreed. I was interpreting the advice in a different way, but your interpretation looks more reasonable.