More art, less stink: Taking the PU out of PUA

by XFrequentist3 min read10th Sep 2010636 comments


Relationships (Interpersonal)

Overview:  This is a proposal for a LessWrong Pick Up Artist (PUA)-like sub-community; PUA without the PU (get it?)1. Members would focus on the deliberate practice of social artistry, but with non-mating goals. Origins and intent of the goal are discussed, possible topics for learning are listed, and suggestions for next steps are solicited.


The PUA Community began decades ago with men that wanted to learn how to get better at seducing women. As I understand it, they simply began posting their (initially) awkward attempts at love online. Over the years, they appear to have amassed a fairly impressive set of practical knowledge and skills in this domain.

I admire and applaud this effort. However, my ability to meet women is not currently a limiting factor in my life satisfaction. In reading some of the PUA literature, I was struck how often different authors remarked on the unintended side benefits of their training: better relationships at work, better interviewing skills, more effective negotiations, more non-pickup social fun, better male friendships, more confidence, etc. These guys were able to make major strides in areas that I've struggled to improve at all in...  without even bloody intending to! This struck me as an something worth taking very seriously!

I find it alarming that such a valuable resource would be monopolized in pursuit of orgasm; it's rather as if a planet were to burn up its hydrocarbons instead of using them to make useful polymers. PUA ought to be a special case of a more general skill set, and it's being wasted. I say that my goals are noble, and as such I should have the opportunity to sharpen my skills to at least the keenness of a PUA master!

Statement of Purpose:

The purpose of this post is to open discussion on how to construct a community of developing social artisans, modeled after the useful components2 of the PUA community. If there is sufficient mass, the next goals are probably sussing out learning methods and logistics.

The mission of the hypothetical community will probably need to be fleshed out more explicitly (and I don't want to be too prescriptive), but pretty much what I was thinking was expressed well by Scott Adams:


I think technical people, and engineers in particular, will always have good job prospects. But what if you don't have the aptitude or personality to follow a technical path? How do you prepare for the future?

I'd like to see a college major focusing on the various skills of human persuasion. That's the sort of skillset that the marketplace will always value and the Internet is unlikely to replace. The persuasion coursework might include...

  • Sales methods
  • Psychology of persuasion
  • Human Interface design
  • How to organize information for influence
  • Propaganda
  • Hypnosis
  • Cults
  • Art (specifically design)
  • Debate
  • Public speaking
  • Appearance (hair, makeup, clothes)
  • Negotiations
  • Managing difficult personalities
  • Management theory
  • Voice coaching
  • Networking
  • How to entertain
  • Golf and tennis
  • Conversation

You can imagine a few more classes that would be relevant. The idea is to create people who can enter any room and make it their bitch. [emphasis added]

Colleges are unlikely to offer this sort of major because society is afraid and appalled by anything that can be labeled "manipulation," which isn't even a real thing.

Manipulation isn't real because almost every human social or business activity has as its major or minor objective the influence of others. You can tell yourself that you dress the way you do because it makes you happy, but the real purpose of managing your appearance is to influence how others view you.

Humans actively sell themselves every minute they are interacting with anyone else. Selling yourself, which sounds almost noble, is little more than manipulating other people to do what is good for you but might not be so good for others. All I'm suggesting is that people could learn to be more effective at the things they are already trying to do all day long.

Word! [EDIT: We need not be bound by this exact list. For instance, there is no way I'm going to be doing any golfing.]

I've met people who were shockingly, seemingly preternaturally adept in social settings. Of course this is  not  magic. Like anything else, it can be reduced to a set of constituent steps and learned. We just need to figure out how.

Next steps:

I have a rather long list of ideas ready to go, but they made this post kind of awkward. Plus, Scott Adam's post says much of what I was trying to get at. Let's just start the conversation.

So, what do you think?

1 I have nothing whatsoever against the majority of the PUAers with whom I've had encounters, and the title is just meant to be funny. No offense!

2 The mention of PUA drags along several associations that I want to disavow (think anything obviously "Dark Arts"). I considered omitting the fact that much of the intellectual heritage of this idea is the PUAers to avoid these associations, but I couldn't think of another way to tie it together. This idea owes its genesis to the PUA community, but the product is not intended to be its exact replica. Undesirable elements need not be ported from the old system to the new.