Previously in seriesSympathetic Minds

Today I shall criticize yet another Utopia.  This Utopia isn't famous in the literature.  But it's considerably superior to many better-known Utopias—more fun than the Christian Heaven, or Greg Egan's upload societies, for example.  And so the main flaw is well worth pointing out.

This Utopia consists of a one-line remark on an IRC channel:

<reedspacer> living in your volcano lair with catgirls is probably a vast increase in standard of living for most of humanity

I've come to think of this as Reedspacer's Lower Bound.

Sure, it sounds silly.  But if your grand vision of the future isn't at least as much fun as a volcano lair with catpersons of the appropriate gender, you should just go with that instead.  This rules out a surprising number of proposals.

But today I am here to criticize Reedspacer's Lower Bound—the problem being the catgirls.

I've joked about the subject, now and then—"Donate now, and get a free catgirl or catboy after the Singularity!"—but I think it would actually be a terrible idea.  In fact, today's post could have been entitled "Why Fun Theorists Don't Believe In Catgirls."

I first realized that catpeople were a potential threat, at the point when a friend said—quotes not verbatim—

"I want to spend a million years having sex with catgirls after the Singularity."

I replied,

"No, you don't."

He said, "Yes I do."

I said, "No you don't.  You'd get bored."

He said, "Well, then I'd just modify my brain not to get bored—"

And I said:  "AAAAIIIIIIEEEEEEEEE"

Don't worry, the story has a happy ending.  A couple of years later, the same friend came back and said:

"Okay, I've gotten a bit more mature now—it's a long story, actually—and now I realize I wouldn't want to do that."

To which I sagely replied:

"HA!  HA HA HA!  You wanted to spend a million years having sex with catgirls.  It only took you two years to change your mind and you didn't even have sex with any catgirls."

Now, this particular case was probably about scope insensitivity, the "moment of hearing the good news" bias, and the emotional magnetism of specific fantasy.

But my general objection to catpeople—well, call me a sentimental Luddite, but I'm worried about the prospect of nonsentient romantic partners.

(Where "nonsentient romantic/sex partner" is pretty much what I use the word "catgirl" to indicate, in futuristic discourse.  The notion of creating sentient beings to staff a volcano lair, gets us into a whole 'nother class of objections.  And as for existing humans choosing to take on feline form, that seems to me scarcely different from wearing lingerie.)

"But," you ask, "what is your objection to nonsentient lovers?"

In a nutshell—sex/romance, as we know it now, is a primary dimension of multiplayer fun.  If you take that fun and redirect it to something that isn't socially entangled, if you turn sex into an exclusively single-player game, then you've just made life that much simpler—in the same way that eliminating boredom or sympathy or values over nonsubjective reality or individuals wanting to navigate their own futures, would tend to make life "simpler".  When I consider how easily human existence could collapse into sterile simplicity, if just a single major value were eliminated, I get very protective of the complexity of human existence.

I ask it in all seriousness—is there any aspect of human existence as complicated as romance?  Think twice before you say, "Well, it doesn't seem all that complicated to me; now calculus, on the other hand, that's complicated."  We are congenitally biased to underestimate the complexity of things that involve human intelligence, because the complexity is obscured and simplified and swept under a rug.  Interpersonal relationships involve brains, still the most complicated damn things around.  And among interpersonal relationships, love is (at least potentially) more complex than being nice to your friends and kin, negotiating with your allies, or outsmarting your enemies.  Aspects of all three, really.  And that's not merely having a utility function over the other mind's state—thanks to sympathy, we get tangled up with that other mind.  Smile when the one smiles, wince when the one winces.

If you delete the intricacy of human romantic/sexual relationships between sentient partners—then the peak complexity of the human species goes down.  The most complex fun thing you can do, has its pleasure surgically detached and redirected to something simpler.

I'd call that a major step in the wrong direction.

Mind you... we've got to do something about, you know, the problem.

Anyone the least bit familiar with evolutionary psychology knows that the complexity of human relationships, directly reflects the incredible complexity of the interlocking selection pressures involved.  Males and females do need each other to reproduce, but there are huge conflicts of reproductive interest between the sexes.  I don't mean to go into Evolutionary Psychology 101 (Robert Wright's The Moral Animal is one popular book), but e.g. a woman must always invest nine months of work into a baby and usually much more to raise it, where a man might invest only a few minutes; but among humans significant paternal investments are quite common, yet a woman is always certain of maternity where a man is uncertain of paternity... which creates an incentive for the woman to surreptitiously seek out better genes... none of this is conscious or even subconscious, it's just the selection pressures that helped construct our particular emotions and attractions.

And as the upshot of all these huge conflicts of reproductive interest...

Well, men and women do still need each other to reproduce.  So we are still built to be attracted to each other.  We don't actually flee screaming into the night.

But men are not optimized to make women happy, and women are not optimized to make men happy.  The vast majority of men are not what the vast majority of women would most prefer, or vice versa.  I don't know if anyone has ever actually done this study, but I bet that both gay and lesbian couples are happier on average with their relationship than heterosexual couples.  (Googles... yep, looks like it.)

I find it all too easy to imagine a world in which men retreat to their optimized sweet sexy catgirls, and women retreat to their optimized darkly gentle catboys, and neither sex has anything to do with each other ever again.  Maybe men would take the east side of the galaxy and women would take the west side.  And the two new intelligent species, and their romantic sexbots, would go their separate ways from there.

That strikes me as kind of sad.

Our species does definitely have a problem.  If you've managed to find your perfect mate, then I am glad for you, but try to have some sympathy on the rest of your poor species—they aren't just incompetent.  Not all women and men are the same, no, not at all.  But if you drew two histograms of the desired frequencies of intercourse for both sexes, you'd see that the graphs don't match up, and it would be the same way on many other dimensions.  There can be lucky couples, and every person considered individually, probably has an individual soulmate out there somewhere... if you don't consider the competition.  Our species as a whole has a statistical sex problem!

But splitting in two and generating optimized nonsentient romantic/sexual partner(s) for both halves, doesn't strike me as solving the problem so much as running away from it.  There should be superior alternatives.  I'm willing to bet that a few psychological nudges in both sexes—to behavior and/or desire—could solve 90% of the needlessly frustrating aspects of relationships for large sectors of the population, while still keeping the complexity and interest of loving someone who isn't tailored to your desires.

Admittedly, I might be prejudiced.  For myself, I would like humankind to stay together and not yet splinter into separate shards of diversity, at least for the short range that my own mortal eyes can envision.  But I can't quite manage to argue... that such a wish should be binding on someone who doesn't have it.

 

Part of The Fun Theory Sequence

Next post: "Failed Utopia #4-2"

Previous post: "Sympathetic Minds"

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"I want to spend a million years having sex with cat-girls after the Singularity." Eliezer, I think your mental picture of the cat-girl scenario is a straw-man.

Suppose you had done all the philosophy right, and you knew exactly what eudaemonia meant for you, and then designed a cat-girl. What would that sort of cat-girl be like? Different from your friend's imagined version in more than a few important respects, I'd wager.

"""If you take that fun and redirect it to something that isn't socially entangled, if you turn sex into an exclusively single-player game, then you've just made life that much simpler - in the same way that eliminating boredom or sympathy or values over nonsubjective reality or individuals wanting to navigate their own futures, would tend to make life "simpler".""" For starters, a properly designed cat-girl mightn't necessarily make things "simpler" at all. I think the real problem is that you're imagining cat-girls which are too easy. Does playing chess against a computer still count as a "single-player game"? The computer really is trying to beat you, even if it isn't sentient or trying to beat you in the way a person would. And it's conceivable that the world's best chess-player might find playing the computer more interesting than playing other people, and he'd be right, because the games he plays against the computer really are more harmonious chess-games....

If you actually tried to optimize the programming of a cat-girl for the eudaemonia of the cat-girl's partner, you'd be searching mind-space for peaks of some function. The higher peaks mightn't be inside human space, or even something reachable by minor tweaks to existing members of humanity. It's not that unreasonable that this would be so: you already mention the potential for small tweaks to fix "the problem." I would add that our parallel empathic architecture is a kludge, and therefore there should be ways of behaving that look more human than the actual ways people behave. In any case, the human part of mind-space is tiny.

And if the fitness landscape is anything like the fitness landscape is for, say, intelligence, those peaks could be ridiculously high compared with anything in the human space.... Therefore, if you insist on not replacing human partners, the losses, of, not sex, not love, not praise, not challenge, not any such superficial indicator, but of actual quality of life, whatever that phrase actually means, could be staggering.

I'm not saying I wouldn't be saddened if the human race went its separate ways. The amount of eudaemonia gained by ones partner actually being human may really be that big. I just don't know. Maybe it really is worth an absurdly huge sacrifice to keep the human family together. But don't make the sacrifice look smaller than it actually might be.

PS: What the hell do you mean by the "east" and "west" sides of the galaxy? "West" is the other way on the other side of our planet! Someone is thinking like a Terran.

This is why I consider 'catgirls' a legitimate addition to the dating game, like NPCs in so many online multiplayer settings.

But you're still missing the chance to actually play chess with actual friends. And that seems pretty important.

I object to the term "catgirl" for "nonsentient romantic/sex partner". A catgirl is every bit as sentient as Captain Picard. The word you want is "fembot".

Well, he did specify that self-modding you some ears and tails is akin to wearing lingerie. Do avoid interpreting a term specifically explained by the author to be intended as non-loaded as a loaded term.

That being said, I'd like to self-mod me a tail at some point.

Strongly concur.

Indeed, there will be catgirls in the Singularity. Furries are too common a fetish to doubt this. I even think we should coin a term now, "furmod", for transhumans who alter themselves to appear as anthropomorphic animals. It's going to happen.

Seems like it would be more polite to wait for it to actually happen, and then let the demographic name themselves.

Incidentally, which is better, for the losers in the mating game:

A non-sentient lover, or involuntary celibacy?

Maybe celibacy is worse---but they're both pretty bad.

Spoken like somebody who'd far enough up the food chain that the difference between them seems pretty small.

Take a third option.

I find the ideas of courtesans somehow less... creepy than nonsentient catgirls.

Also, If you are capable of creating catgirls you are capable of creating the Dating Advice AI?

If you have to pay them, then this is likely not satisfying their values in itself. Surely satisfying your values without dissatisfying others' is better?

Also, really? You think Dating Advice is enough?

Or the Matchmaking AI (Implying something more... human than contemporary dating sites.)

Darn it, I shouldn't have told Eliezer about my specific catgirl fantasy! Now I've ruined it for everybody.

Steppenwolf, I thought about "north" and "south" but I didn't want any arguments over who got to be on top. So I used "east" and "west" instead.

In response to your main point... either (a) you're sympathizing with something nonsentient that doesn't actually have any feelings - either deceiving yourself into caring about a person who doesn't exist, or changing the value itself. Or (b) you're losing out not only on present human sympathy, but on future extensions of sympathy, the telepathic bond between lovers a la Mercedes Lackey and/or Greg Egan.

Being in a holodeck, and knowing that the people around you aren't real, has to change either your feelings or your values. That's the problem with the volcano lair, if there's no one there who's real except you. That's the simplicity I fear.

Nazgul, the "comparative standard of living" thing is one of few parts of human nature that I would seriously consider eliminating outright (see Continuous Improvement). But the environmental solution would be, indeed, nonsentient human-shaped entities of lower status, to tell your brain that you're in the elite. Though I don't know if that works - we may have a brain category for nonpeople we don't even compete with hedonically.

That's the problem with the volcano lair, if there's no one there who's real except you. That's the simplicity I fear.

It's still, as I understand it, possible to leave the volcano lair (with your private hoverjet) at any desired time and arrange a meeting with some other real person who got bored and left their own volcano lair. If somebody didn't get bored until day 1, year 10^6 then that's when they'd go outside, and there would be million-year-old post-singularity social institutions ready to greet them.

Early in the development of agriculture, was there someone who feared the simplicity of a grain silo or refrigerator in the same way? Too much food, but it's not real food: monoculture grains, none of the bruises and parasites and honest work of gathering or tracking. Losing respect for the spirit of the slain animal.

They'd be right, of course. Cheap food changed us. Destroyed the concept of what it is to be human every bit as thoroughly as a chicken destroys it's egg by hatching.

Though I don't know if that works - we may have a brain category for nonpeople we don't even compete with hedonically.

" May have ?" I'd be shocked if we didn't. The question is not whether a sufficiently well-designed machine could appeal in that way, it's whether digging up and overstimulating that particular instinct is what we really want to do.

The question is not whether a sufficiently well-designed machine could appeal in that way, it's whether digging up and overstimulating that particular instinct is what we really want to do.

Remember that the flip side of this is our envy of those who are better than us. I would argue that this is very closely linked with our obsession with equality, something many value.

Isn't there a separate axis for every aspect of human divergence? Maybe this was already explicit in asking if there is anything more complicated that romance for "multiplayer" relationships, but really this problem seems fully general: politics, or religion, or food, or any other preference that has a distribution among humans could be a candidate for creating schism (or indeed all axes at once). "Catgirl for romance" is one very specific failure mode, but the general one could be called "an echo chamber for every mind".

The expected result (for a mind that knows the genesis of the catpeople) is that eventually the catpersons will get boring, but Fun Theory still ought to allow for exploration of that territory as long as it allows a safe path of retreat back into the world of other minds. The important thing here seems to be that we must never be allowed to have catpeople without knowing their true nature (which seems to be a form of wireheading).

is there any aspect of human existence as complicated as romance

Yes. Parenting and politics. Given a good enough model of humanity, you could probably prove that romance comes in precisely third after those two. Unlike romance, it's not even all that sensible to consider those two with non-sentient NPCs, a sign of their inherent complexity. Otherwise, good argument.

I'm coming in late, but I will say that you should probably examine the game-design literature. They are (for good commercial and aesthetic reasons) pretty much in line with your theory of fun, and in some ways advanced of it.

both gay and lesbian couples are happier on average with their relationship than heterosexual couples. (Googles... yep, looks like it.)

The thought that immediately sprang to my mind, was that this result could be greatly exaggerated by homosexual couples being more likely than heterosexual couples to invent their relationship dynamic themselves, rather than following the cultural script.

Addendum:

Another factor that could be contributing to that statistic, is that there exists cultural pressure to be in a heterosexual relationship, and there also exists cultural pressure to not be in a homosexual relationship. I could easily imagine this skewing the sample even further, by creating a much higher average threshold of wanting to be together necessary for homosexuals to enter the category "couples".

In my head I have an image of the parliament of volitional shadows of the human species, negotiating a la Nick Bostrom. The male shadows and the female shadows are pretty much agreed that (real) men need to be able to better read female minds; but since this is a satisfaction of a relatively more "female" desire - making men more what women wish they were - the male shadows ask in return that the sex-drive mismatch be handled more by increasing the female sex drive, and less by decreasing male desire...

What happens to those who absolutely refuse to accept a "few psychological nudges" done to themselves? They obtain the benefit of species-wide correction yet either don't contribute to the satisfaction of the other sex or are forced into it.

Sorry, my overemphasized antiauthoritarian emotional module had to bring that up.

My comment got flagged as spam. I'm removing the links now but would appreciate it if this comment was removed when the original gets approved.

I've never understood the fascination with cats, which is perhaps because I'm allergic to them. For misanthropic reasons, I suspect I'd prefer replacing you all with some sort of non-sentient beings (though perhaps not when I'm at my most misanthropic).

He said, "Well, then I'd just modify my brain not to get bored -" And I said: "AAAAIIIIIIEEEEEEEEE" Why? You've just given a frightened response rather than an argument.

well, call me a sentimental Luddite You're a sentimental Luddite.

sterile simplicity "Sterile" is often a good thing and means safe/clean/pure. What is bad about sterile simplicity?

That strikes me as kind of sad. It strikes me as an improvement. People should separate if they are happier that way. Let's hear it for secession!

they aren't just incompetent Is that something you actually believe or an idea you want to discourage for reasons other than truth? I'll be the first to admit having no competence whatsoever.

doesn't strike me as solving the problem so much as running away from it What exactly is the difference? That one sets off alarm lights in your brain while the other lets you think the ship of Theseus still retains its identity?

I'm willing to bet that a few psychological nudges Also known as "modifying your brain". It seems its okay when brains are modified for ends you approve of but not for those of others. Like how eating certain calories "don't count" among people who are supposed to be on a diet.

For myself, I would like humankind to stay together and not yet splinter into separate shards of diversity I suspect you've fallen under the spell of The People's Romance.

Aurini: There is nothing objectively desirable or undesirable. I suspect it would disgust me (I've not bothered to watch the video) but I have a hair-trigger disgust reflex.

I'll be the first to admit having no competence whatsoever.

I dispute your claim to incompetence on the grounds that you have composed a comment coherent enough to be upvoted.

I think I can resolves, or at least explain, most of your disagreements with Eliezer.

Why? You've just given a frightened response rather than an argument.

He gave a reasoned argument here and here. I guess he just assumed that readers were unlikely to have read this without reading those other essays first.

"Sterile" is often a good thing and means safe/clean/pure. What is bad about sterile simplicity?

I think he meant a common secondary meaning of sterile: barren and fruitless. Sterile simplicity is bad because it generates less things of value.

It strikes me as an improvement. People should separate if they are happier that way.

To put it in more analytical terms, if you separate you just get happiness. If you overcome your differences you get happiness, and the satisfaction of having solved a difficult problem.

Now, obviously you can make a reductio ad absurdum out of this and argue that by my logic, no one should separate ever. But that's obviously not what I mean. Maybe you should separate when you have an impossible problem, or a ridiculously hard problem that takes ludicrous effort to resolve. But for more moderate problems trying to solve them seems like a good idea. Considering that 60-50% of US marriages do not end in divorce, gender relations seems like a more moderate problem.

Let's hear it for secession!

Generally secession seems overrated as a problem-solving device. It strongly reminds me of the socialist desire to burn down society and start anew, except that secessionists at least have the decency to isolate the part of society they live in before they start the burning. When your problems are building up it's tempting to just throw everything out and start anew, while not noticing the massive new problems doing that causes. To avoid breaking the rules talking about current politics, I'll use the Roman Empire as an example. Historians generally agree that after it broke up the standard of living went down for the people living in its former territories. Whatever benefits secession generated were far outweighed by the new problems caused by increased difficulty of trade, migration, and mutual defense.

What exactly is the difference? That one sets off alarm lights in your brain while the other lets you think the ship of Theseus still retains its identity?

I think Eliezer says what the difference is most explicitly here:

If you delete the intricacy of human romantic/sexual relationships between sentient partners—then the peak complexity of the human species goes down. The most complex fun thing you can do, has its pleasure surgically detached and redirected to something simpler.

To put it succinctly, solving the problem would allow for more interesting and complex fun than running from it.

Also known as "modifying your brain". It seems its okay when brains are modified for ends you approve of but not for those of others.

Technically, it's pretty hard to do anything without modifying your brain. If I decide to learn a new skill I am modifying my brain. Obviously there are some ways of brain modification people regard as acceptable, like learning a new language, and others people regard as bad, like lobotomies. I'm not quite sure what acceptable modifications have in common with each other, but it seems like Eliezer thinks his "nudges" are much more similar to learning than they are to lobotomies.

I suspect you've fallen under the spell of The People's Romance.

I assume that you are talking about the article by Daniel Klein. The phenomenon Klein criticizes is the tendency of people to tolerate intrusive Big Government if it serves as a means to the end of uniting people, not the desire to unite people in and of itself. In fact, Klein is careful to state that unity is a positive thing, it's just that its positiveness is vastly outweighed by all the awful things the government does once it gets tons of power. As Klein says it's "Not all bad, just not worth it."

@Mike Blume

"On Firefly, Kaylee is beautiful, has an above-female-average sex drive, and falls in love with the introverted, socially awkward intellectual character - isn't she exactly the sort of catgirl most male sci-fi fans would want?"

No. That would certainly freak the nerd out. M. Vassar and I have several times discussed this problem - nerds seem to integrate their low status, so often if any even half-decent skirt shows an interest in them they reject instantly, thinking "wow, I know I'm a loser, so you must be worse to like me." Nerds would do better to uncoil from the defensive crouch of that identity ASAP.

I think nerds fantasize about women being more like men psychologically in the sense of them being the ones who take initiative and risk loss of face in courtship.

I think nerds fantasize about women being more like men psychologically in the sense of them being the ones who take initiative and risk loss of face in courtship.

You know when you generalize about "Women", you are probably going to annoy most the females on here, who tend to be less gender-normative. (I'm not saying it's "right", I'm just saying it's likely to happen.)

For example, there are those of us who are quite willing to take initiative. I expect you'll find a higher percentage of females in rationalist communities v. general population fall into this camp, as they are more likely to examine research which has shown that when a female chases a male, she is more likely to end up with a higher quality mate.

The theory is that if she waits for guys to ask her, she is operating in "rejection mode", where instead of going after exactly what she wants, she ends up with the lowest common denominator of a guy she's dated that didn't get rejected. (I don't have time to find and back this up with a link to said research, but feel free to post it if you find it, or if you find research that shows the opposite).

It has certainly been my experience that if i just go after a guy I am interested in (ask him out, make the first moves, etc), I am more likely to end up with what I want, versus if I only date guys who chase me.

You know when you generalize about "Women", you are probably going to annoy most the females on here, who tend to be less gender-normative. (I'm not saying it's "right", I'm just saying it's likely to happen.)

I was generalizing about male nerds, specifically their fantasies and perceptions not women.

You were doing both. Male nerds is obvious, women is more implicit:

women being more like men [...] in the sense of [X]

clearly implies a belief that, generally, women are to some degree less X than men. It's possible that you meant to attribute this belief to the male nerds as well as the desire in question, but this was not clear in the post. The generalization, as well, may be correct or not - it certainly corresponds to traditional western courtship ritual of the past century.

It's possible that you meant to attribute this belief to the male nerds as well as the desire in question,

This.

but this was not clear in the post.

My mistake then. Thanks to daenerys for pointing it out! :)

You were directly generalizing about males, but indirectly generalizing about females. By saying "Men wish women took more initiative." (paraphrased) Then you are indirectly saying that women don't take much initiative.

True? Probably....But I assume less so in the LW community, and us LW females are only too happy to point that out.

Likewise, if I said "Women wish men weren't so messy", then there is an indirect generalization in that statement that "Men are messy".

I didn't think I was generalizing women, rather the generalizations nerds (and by this I obviously meant male nerds) tend to believe.

Whether the generalization itself was accurate or not didn't cross my mind since it seemed mostly immaterial to the subject at hand.

Likewise, if I said "Women wish men weren't so messy", then there is an indirect generalization in that statement that "Men are messy".

I read that as implying "Women think men are messy". I'm not a native speaker, perhaps to avoid such miscommunication I should rather stick to my regular, more verbose style, English writing style. So thanks for the feedback!

But since we are on the subject. Men are messy. Women are more passive in romance. At least it seems more likley than not.

True? Probably....But I assume less so in the LW community, and us LW females are only too happy to point that out.

Why? Perhaps women adopting on average a more passive strategy is a good thing in some way. In any case I don't see why talking about specific populations needs to be followed by disclaimers that people on LW might not be like that ... well duh, the site is pretty non-representative.

men are messy

Sorry for dragging down our average, guys!

Shun the group norm violator, he makes us look bad in front of others. Shun! Shun!

research which has shown that when a female chases a male, she is more likely to end up with a higher quality mate

Was it an observational study or a controlled trial? If the former, then correlation doesn't obviously imply causation here. For example, the female's decision to chase could depend on the quality of the male.

Was it an observational study or a controlled trial? If the former, then correlation doesn't obviously imply causation here. For example, the female's decision to chase could depend on the quality of the male.

And if the latter then I'm rather impressed with the open mindedness of the ethics committee!

The Gale-Shapley solution the the stable marriage problem shows that suitors get their best choice among stable pairings. It seems like a reasonable conclusion to draw that women who behave as suitors will get a "better" match than those who are passive.

For example, the female's decision to chase could depend on the quality of the male.

I don't remember any of the details, but the fact that "the female's decision to chase" relies on the quality of the male was pretty much how the whole theory worked...

(I am going to quantify/rank people's matability, so that I can make my point quickly. But I do not necessarily think you should do this to actual people, IRL.)

Say Sue is a 6. She will probably be "chased" by 4s and 5s. If she doesn't pursue men herself, then she will date these guys until she finds one that is good enough to not break up with, and end up marrying him.

IF however, she is willing to do the chasing, she will probably chase 7s and 8s (she has 4s and 5s knocking at her door. There is no reason to "chase" them.) Men have had less practice and experience being chased, and are therefore less likely to turn a female down.

Another way of thinking of it (for guys)- There might be girls that you wouldn't bother to pursue, but if she pursued you, you would probably date her.

Say Sue is a 6. She will probably be "chased" by 4s and 5s. If she doesn't pursue men herself, then she will date these guys until she finds one that is good enough to not break up with, and end up marrying him.

She will probably also get persued by 6s, 7s and lazy 8s - just not for long term relationships.

Another way of thinking of it (for guys)- There might be girls that you wouldn't bother to pursue, but if she pursued you, you would probably date her.

This is definitely true.

Imagine a hypothetical world where every female has an equal chance of deciding to chase if the stars align just right: the man is above her rank+1, there's a convenient opening, the circumstances are such that society won't frown on her chasing, etc. In that world, the females who ended up chasing would have better mates, but that would depend only on random circumstances and not on the female's inner dispositions.

I'm not saying that world is our world, just that an observational study doesn't provide an obvious way to distinguish that world from ours. Adopting the habits of successful people can sometimes help, but only if those habits are among the causes of success, not just correlated with it.

You know when you generalize about "Women", you are probably going to annoy most the females on here, who tend to be less gender-normative.

Less gender-normative being key. We're not complaining about the statistical outliers, as nice as you are, because most people aren't lucky enough to find many of them.

Extending Aurini's point, I think it is worth asking to what extent we have already integrated catpeople into our culture today. I think many of us would agree that the women featured in pornographic films are catwomen of a kind. What about pop stars, boy bands, etc.? What about mainstream fiction? On Firefly, Kaylee is beautiful, has an above-female-average sex drive, and falls in love with the introverted, socially awkward intellectual character - isn't she exactly the sort of catgirl most male sci-fi fans would want?

It seems like the problems you've identified here don't suddenly begin at the moment you switch on a fully convincing interactive simulation of a human being - there is a continuum, and as our technology progresses, we will naturally tend to move down it. Where shall those of us who look ahead and wish for a eudaemonic future dig our trenches and hold our ground?

(posting from a different homepage today - it seemed appropriate, given the topic)

That's an excellent point. I think that we can learn a lesson from the way current "catgirl-like" things are treated in the present when thinking about catgirls in the future.

Generally, it is considered sad when a person in the present does not have any romantic relationships with other humans and instead spends their time with pornography, romance novels, and other "catgirl-like" things. However, it is not considered sad when a person is in a healthy romantic relationship, but occasionally consumes a little porn on the side (this is the exact sort of relationship I am in). Some people do object to their romantic partners consuming porn, but this is generally motivated by some type of jealousy, not by a feeling that that person is failing to live up to their human potential.

So it would be sad if the human race fissioned, as Eliezer described in the future. But I don't think it would be at all bad if people continued to have normal relationships, but occasionally fooled around with a catgirl on the side.

But I don't think it would be at all bad if people continued to have normal relationships, but occasionally fooled around with a catgirl on the side.

Especially when it comes to non-mutual fetishes. Why should you bring down your own satisfaction if you don't have to?

Sorry. You can get your psychological nudges, I'll get my (optimized AND sentient) catgirl thank you very much.

I'm not sure I follow you. Yes, this would be a problem if people would, indeed, create mostly nonsentient catgirls. But I'm pretty sure that most people would prefer to have sentient companions. Even if they didn't, they'd want companions that seemed like they were sentient, and the easiest way to create truly sentient-seeming companions is probably to create companions that are sentient (remember the Zombie Arguments). So the exact problem you're describing won't be an issue.

Also, most people will want human-like companions, not things with an obviously alien cognitive architecture. So it seems to me that a far more likely scenario is that a major fraction of the populace will go on to create themselves sentient companions, who they then live with happily ever after (or whatever). There's no divide into separate societies, since those new companions will be mainly human-like as well, and thus will have lives apart from simply being mates and will integrate into society just as much as everybody else. (This ignores the people who don't actually want companions but devoted slaves. They might split off, but they're a minority.)

No problem as I can see it.

Doug, I understand that the overwhelming majority of fictional catgirls (catboys) have been sentient. But you could say the same about fictional androids, and modern actual "fembots" are not what I'm talking about at all. There's a reason why the one said "a million years having sex with catgirls" and not "a million years having sex with fembots".

I hope the spirit of lost C'Mell will forgive me if I overload the term for this usage.

(Ironically, the TV Tropes page you linked to shows the nonbiological (nonsentient? AI? hive-entity?) Asakura Ryouko dressed as a catgirl, which she's not.)

Matt, that's like putting out fire with... a different kind of fire.

Aurini, "desirable" isn't normative? If you wanted to be as least judgmental as possible, you could call them the ones who got shafted by the statistics.

I'm pretty sure Ryouko is biological. She's pretty much the same as Yuki, and if you cut her she will bleed. Granted, it will be pretty hard to cut her, and if she's not otherwise occupied she'll heal immediately, but she still bleeds. Also, while Yuki is generally more athletic than God, God did beat her in the marathon, so she can apparently get tired.

When I consider how easily human existence could collapse into sterile simplicity, if just a single major value were eliminated, I get very protective of the complexity of human existence. ,,, If you delete the intricacy of human romantic/sexual relationships between sentient partners - then the peak complexity of the human species goes down. The most complex fun thing you can do, has its pleasure surgically detached and redirected to something simpler.

This is outstanding stuff - deep and important.

But if you drew two histograms of the desired frequencies of intercourse for both sexes, you'd see that the graphs don't match up, and it would be the same way on many other dimensions.

This is probably true - but may be overestimated because of the different resulting distributions in frequency of intercourse between the sexes. Men and women have the same amount of heterosexual intercourse on average. But a Swedish study, "The web of human sexual contacts: Promiscuous individuals are the vulnerable nodes to target in safe-sex campaigns", Fredrik Liljeros, Christofer R. Edling, Luís A. Nunes Amaral, H. Eugene Stanley and Yvonne Åberg, in Nature June 21 2001, which I've seen a graph made from, indicates that once you get beyond people who've had sex with a few people in their life, for every woman who's had sex with N men, there is a man who's had sex with 3N women. This means that most of the sex going on is different women having sex with the same superstuds, and that the typical woman has sex with about 3 times as many people as the typical man does.

Men and women have the same amount of heterosexual intercourse on average.

Look at that statement. Tell me what's wrong with that statement. But, on the flipside, thank you. That made my night. I may have woken somebody up laughing.

This means that most of the sex going on is different women having sex with the same superstuds, and that the typical woman has sex with about 3 times as many people as the typical man does.

Because, as should be obvious, women almost certainly have an easier time of obtaining sexual partners, albeit perhaps not within the standards they would like to set.

"How about "Every time nerds on OB discuss human relationships, one decibel of evidence is added to the hypothesis that the singularity will look like a sci-fi fanfic novel""

That gets to near-certainty too fast.

People want to be high in the social hierarchy, it's an instrumental value stronger than almost all other human drives including sex (which is also an instrumental value). The civilization was developed only because of this drive.

Do you want to remove this strongest and most complex human drive, or populate the world with low status beings like catgirls so more people can feel they're high in the hierarchy than mathematics allows? There's no obvious third way, and catgirls seems to me like much less of a problem than drastically altering human nature by removing social status drive.

He said an odd thing at this point. 'You never see any, hm, any Ents round there, do you?' he asked. 'Well, not Ents, Entwives I should really say.' 'Entwives?' said Pippin. 'Are they like you at all?' 'Yes, hm, well no: I do not really know now', said Treebeard thoughtfully. 'But they would like your country, so I just wondered.' -- TT, 75 (III, 4)

nazgulnarsil I think it more realistic that non-sentient sexdroids will enable healthier relationships. When people get the urge to procreate with fitter partners they can just spend an afternoon in the holodeck. I see what you're saying as advocating keeping people a little hungry so that they appreciate food more.

PUA techniques suggest that this may actually help. If men are able to score with hot women on the holodeck, this may make them feel more "alpha", which will then make them better at picking up women - and more attractive to women (so women win too). This is just another variant of the lower-status bot technique to hack our status modules so that everyone feels high status.

Although, it suggests another defense of catgirls, which is to design catgirls that help guys learn to deal with women better. This is not as good as nudging the sexes preferences to improve the statistical overlap, but it is a possible use of early catgirls to make human relationships more fulfilling. And the catgirls would be much easier to design than the sentient uber-fulfilling partners that some commenters posited.

Our drive to do better than our neighbor is a deeply ingrained metric of how we judge ourselves. In essence we recognize that our own assessment is biased and look for cues from others. Eliminating this seems like eliminating past of the foundation of a social species.

I think you're being remarkably binary about this. I think it more realistic that non-sentient sexdroids will enable healthier relationships. When people get the urge to procreate with fitter partners they can just spend an afternoon in the holodeck. I see what you're saying as advocating keeping people a little hungry so that they appreciate food more.

Be warned; every time you mention catgirls into a discussion on applied theology, a physicist writes some Permutation City self-insertion fanfic.

And every time a physicist plays God, we get one step closer to making catgirls reality.

Alternatively, every time someone calls the Singularity "The Rapture of the Nerds", some catgirls get physical with each other.

(Complete list.)

The male shadows and the female shadows are pretty much agreed that (real) men need to be able to better read female minds; but since this is a satisfaction of a relatively more "female" desire - making men more what women wish they were - the male shadows ask in return that the sex-drive mismatch be handled more by increasing the female sex drive, and less by decreasing male desire...

I wonder how many people are reading this and screaming hubris, and if it might be a good idea to do a top-level post on FAI means no programmer-sensitive AI morality. (Or maybe you did and I forgot.)

I see what you're saying as advocating keeping people a little hungry so that they appreciate food more.

If it's a little hungry and not massive specieswide sex-drive mismatch the way we have now, then sure. You don't necessarily want to match the histograms - to eliminate the current bipolar orientation of human sexuality - just nudge them close enough together that the sexes aren't so frustrated with each other.

In my head I have an image of the parliament of volitional shadows of the human species, negotiating a la Nick Bostrom. The male shadows and the female shadows are pretty much agreed that (real) men need to be able to better read female minds; but since this is a satisfaction of a relatively more "female" desire - making men more what women wish they were - the male shadows ask in return that the sex-drive mismatch be handled more by increasing the female sex drive, and less by decreasing male desire...

Maybe it's just my mortal caution speaking, but whenever I envision tampering with human nature, I try to envision soft and subtle changes. At least to start with.

There are a lot of other problems to deal with besides just sex. As somebody with no success at all just getting into relationships, I imagine that could be a place for a viariety of improvemnts.

I ask it in all seriousness - is there any aspect of human existence as complicated as romance?

Politics.

Edit: It seems I was not the first to say so.

80 comments and nobody complained about the volcano lair part? That sounds kind of dark and cramped and hellish.

You are underestimating the size of a volcano. Also it being hellish is part of its charm.

You don't get a real volcano lair, which might be dark and cramped, and might also be subject to nasty dangerous gases and at risk from lava. You get an optimized meme-volcano lair which is roomy, well-lit, mostly safe, only adds drama when it improves the story, and is lavishly appointed.

In the same spirit, cats and girls are capable of being annoying, though in rather different ways. Catgirls are only annoying if it's cute.

That's a clearer and better way of saying what I was implying. The volcano would be about as "hellish" as the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean attraction is "pirate-y". A few dark passages and boiling kool aid lava would do it for most people. A dragon or a fire god might also be a cool addition.

You could have lots and lots of carved obsidian stuff. And geothermal power.

Meta: This post seems to have a problem where all marked-up text has no whitespace around it. (If it were possible to apply the changes, I would take the time to fix it.)

I do not think you can refer to "The Christian Heaven" as if there was only one concept. One of the Spiritualist principles is something like "continuous development for every human soul". The carol refers to "the children crowned/ all in white shall wait around" which is bathetic, and it is hard to see the attraction of it. Someone said thinking about Heaven is like the foetus speculating on the nature of life outside the womb. I see the Christian heaven as being with God, who is Love, and probably with other people too: so how will your FAI maximise the best possible outcome for each individual, and the species? Finally, many Quakers would say that the kingdom of Heaven is here and now.

I do not want to defend religion here per se. I want to defend those ideas within religion which might have use or wisdom about them, including any which, if wrong, are wrong in an interesting way.

The catgirls are already here, in a prototype form that only works on a select few individuals: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3710987618964917848

I challenge anybody to argue, no matter how sexually open minded and unjudgmental they are, that these relationships are healthy.

The link no longer works. Would you mind explaining what it was or providing an updated one?

Link works, it redirects to youtube. It seems to be about men who are in "romantic relationships" with... sex dolls.

The technology is going to improve, and get even more tempting. And maybe this is good; it will weed out this sort of self-obsessed narcissist from our gene pool.

Until the technology develops into a good enough superstimulus that almost everyone chooses to use it.

I had to laugh....calculus is WAY easier and simpler than romance.

He said, "Well, then I'd just modify my brain not to get bored -"

And I said: "AAAAIIIIIIEEEEEEEEE"

AAAAIIIIIIEEEEEEEEE meaning ‘if you're willing to do that why don't you just wirehead yourself?’, right?

But seriously, I can't see why someone would prefer catgirls to real women if they don't also prefer prostitutes to girlfriends. So I'd just have asked him, “Why aren't you spending all of your disposable income on prostitutes, then?”

Catgirls would probably display more interest than the median prostitute?

That post was specifically about non-sentient catgirls. (Sure, you said “display” not “feel”, but under some sufficiently strong version of the anti-zombie principle it's impossible to convincingly do the former without the latter.)

(I'm assuming you mean ‘non-human animals’.) It depends on what you mean by feel and by interest, I guess. And BTW non-sentient is a stronger condition than non-sapient -- according to some definitions, even insects are sentient.

Where "nonsentient romantic/sex partner" is pretty much what I use the word "catgirl" to indicate, in futuristic discourse. The notion of creating sentient beings to staff a volcano lair, gets us into a whole 'nother class of objections.

The link makes it clear that "nonsentient" is being used to mean "not-a-person", not 'incapable of feeling even as much as an insect'.

Thanks. (I was thinking about an improved version of the inflatable doll, now I'm thinking of the verðandi in Failed Utopia #4-2 but with much-less-than-human intelligence, say that of a domestic dog. I can see why some men would prefer that to a prostitute -- but I suspect that many of those who don't have sex with prostitutes now but say that they would enjoy catgirls after the singularity do so because of differences between near- and far-mode thinking.)

I personally find particularly unintelligent women pretty unattractive even when thinking in terms of short-term relationships based mostly in sex.

The Verthandi in Failed Utopia seem not even vaguely catgirllike: I think that the genie there just created two entire races.

Important thing: Most of my really big romantic fantasies involve either being really powerful and meeting a lover with high but unrealized potential and raising her to my level, or consist of meeting a powerful lover and her raising me to her to my level. This seems rather at variance with catgirls.

Eliezer, I've been pondering reconciliation between male and female sex/relationship preferences for a while, so I really like this line of thought:

Eliezer said:

The male shadows and the female shadows are pretty much agreed that (real) men need to be able to better read female minds; but since this is a satisfaction of a relatively more "female" desire - making men more what women wish they were - the male shadows ask in return that the sex-drive mismatch be handled more by increasing the female sex drive, and less by decreasing male desire...

This is what pickup artists in the seduction community are doing: getting better at reading women's minds (through evolutionary psychology and pseudo-empirical observation/testing), and attracting women such that women's sexual interest is aroused. When you have studied pickup, you realize that a large amount of the gap between male and female desires is due to societally-enforced incompetence with the opposite sex, on the part of both sexes. Of course, male pickup artists are stacking the deck in their direction, according to male-typical relationship preferences (which include relationships, but which are stacking in the casual direction a bit more than female-typical preferences). Hopefully, a counterpart to male pickup will become available to women which will give women a level of insight into male sexual psychology similar to what pickup artists have into female sexual psychology (not that many women don't already have this type of savvy).

Once the opposite sex's preferences and behaviors stop looking so black-boxy, I think there will be greater potential for harmony between the sexes.

To be honest, I really don't see men being anywhere near as complex as women. I fully admit that I'm biased, but I honestly believe that men have simpler drives in relationships, and are far more open, especially collectively, as as to what those drives are.

Michael Vassar,

Clarify? What was your side of the position?

"AAAAIIIIIIEEEEEEEEE" ?

If the Singularity is the Rapture of the Nerds, self-modification of the brain must be Hell; a way to screw up to an arbitrary degree that most people don't even understand well enough to fear.

Furthermore, in this case, it's unwarranted. It has been theorized that, under ideal conditions, boredom would take longer to become noticeable.

Eliezer: I ask it in all seriousness - is there any aspect of human existence as complicated as romance? Think twice before you say, "Well, it doesn't seem all that complicated to me; now calculus, on the other hand, that's complicated."

Wait...have people indicated to you they believe otherwise--that they would actually say that and need to think twice? People not in a coma? Or haven't comedy clubs and chick flicks done their job and taught the apparently perpetually unattached who have never experienced a relationship about the irrational complexity of romantic relationships? (I am serious.)

Eliezer: That strikes me as kind of sad.

Curious. Why the attachment to the way things are? Isn't that a bit like being sad because living beings no longer reproduce by fissioning in half?

Sorry for the double post - I'd just like to ammend the normative "healthy" in my post to "desireable."

Also, Futurama had an episode on this: I Dated A Robot. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a link to the 'educational video' included in the episode. It outlines the situation in a humourours way (if you want, the full episode can be found on Google Video, but I thought it impolite to link to pirated TV on this site).

You amended "healthy" to "desirable" to make it less normative? You have a very different definition of normative than I do.

"Healthy" is really an evaluative term (to use Sen's definition); it's both descriptive and normative, and difficult to separate. It is in an objective sense healthy to have ten fingers instead of nine, two arms instead of one, based on what is, as a scientific fact, the baseline template model for Homo sapiens. But on the other hand, it's also better to have these things, at least typically; and people generally want to be healthy, even in the sense of conforming to the specifications of the baseline template model. So is it descriptive or normative? It's kinda both, and I think that's all right.

"Desirable" on the other hand... that's straight up normative, unless you're only using an unusual meaning like "what it is possible to desire" or "what some humans actually desire". (In these latter cases, cannibalism is apparently "desirable".)

In a nutshell—sex/romance, as we know it now, is a primary dimension of multiplayer fun.

What happened to boardgames?

Could we argue that forced "combat" with the opposite gender is good training for negotiating cooperation with hostiles towards futures higher in our preference ranking?

Err, and that such training is valuable.

Wow is that NOT how I would characterize my side of the position that I have discussed with Frelkins. Just...WOW!

Yes, when a character gets a Magical Girlfriend, "I'm not worthy of you!" is one of the most common reactions.

rw: methods of short circuiting the sex drive falls into two categories. the first would be controlling sensory input (holodecks/virtual reality and or cyborgs). the second is bypassing the senses and directly messing with the brain itself via implants or genetic manipulation.

the second type is more prone to unintended consequences than the first.

Is the cat{girl,boy} scenario just a specific instantiation of the "permanent orgasm implant" problem?

I thought a big part of the appeal of the super villain fantasy wasn't your standard of living but in comparative standard of living. It's boring if everyone has a volcano lair. People want a doomsday weapon so that they are feared and respected.

I don't know.

I think that a major appeal of Minecraft is the pressure toward making volcano lairs. (in a game where many people can have them).

It may have some aspects of 'I have a cooler house than you', but I don't think it's JUST about that. For example, note how hard it can be to be creative with your living space unless you have a ton of money, and how much McMansions are loathed by people who would prefer one to their own house on strictly hedonic issues.

I remember when I was a teen, my father and I would sometimes talk about different awesome ways our home and those of our neighbors could have incorporated the local terrain. Everyone else's houses also being awesome would be way better than just our house being awesome.

We despaired at the invasion of the McMansions primarily because the contractors had killed every living thing on the lots and replaced them with very low-grade rock gardens, when the lots had been heavily forested immediately before. For the expenditure they had put in, they could have done way better. If they had spent the same amount and come up with a house that was sufficiently awesome for that price tag, and not killed the local jukes and tree narfs, we would have been stoked instead of dismayed.

THere may be a pressure towards unexpectedness and some other contextual stuff. One fantasy of mine is a tiny apartment with a totally inconsistent-to-the-outside rococo interior, and I have sometimes thought about other odd ways of re-furnishing dense city architecture.

Aren't supervillian lairs often made in such a way to somehow connect to personality of the supervillian?

Edit: Also, if volcano lairs actually existed, I imagine a lot of other interesting supervillian-worth dwelling ideas would spring up.

Thought: Something we could do (eventually) to make the world a better place is to use technology to upgrade every man's body. Make most men taller, more muscular, leaner, etc. Men who currently have relatively less attractive bodies will get a larger upgrade than men who have relatively more attractive bodies to make it fair. But make sure there is still variety in what men's bodies look like.

Do this until the average man is as sexually attractive to the average women as the average woman is to the average man. That would solve a lot of problems. And I don't think either gender would be uncomfortable with that scenario.

Edit: We could also upgrade things like smell and voice timbre.

Edit2: The gym is not nearly as powerful as the technology I'm talking about. I'm talking about some kind of biotechnology or transhuman technology

We have that technology. It's called "The Gym". People who are already muscular gain less additional attractiveness from it.

Original comment edited to account for this objection.

I largely agree, but:

Thought: Something we could do to make the world a better place is to use technology to upgrade every man's body. Make most men taller, more muscular, leaner, etc. Men who currently have relatively less attractive bodies will get a larger upgrade than men who have relatively more attractive bodies to make it fair. But make sure there is still variety in what men's bodies look like.

You don't even need that much technology -- part of the reason why the average man is less attractive to the average woman than vice versa is that the former isn't even trying.

And I don't think either gender would be uncomfortable with that scenario.

Given the backlash against PUA I wouldn't be entirely sure of that, even though improving appearance might be less taboo than improving behavior.