Note: I am testing two versions of my new post on rationality and romance.

Please upvote, downvote, or non-vote the below post as you normally would if you saw it on the front page (not the discussion section), but do not vote on the other version. Also, if your last name begins with l–z, please read and vote on this post first. If your last name begins with a–k, please stop reading and read this version instead. 


Rationality Lessons from Romance

Years ago, my first girlfriend (let's call her 'Alice') ran into her ex-boyfriend at a coffee shop. They traded anecdotes, felt connected, a spark of intimacy...

And then she left the coffee shop, quickly.

She told me later: "You have my heart now, Luke."

I felt proud, but even Luke2005 also felt a twinge of "the universe is suboptimal," because she hadn't been able to engage that connection any further. The cultural scripts defining our relationship said that only one man owned her heart. But surely that wasn't optimal for producing utilons?

And thus began my journey toward rational romance — not at that exact moment, but with a series of realizations like that about monogamy, about the assumed progression toward marriage, about the ownership of another person's sexuality, etc. I began to explicitly notice the cultural scripts and see that they might not be optimal for me.

Rationality Skill: Notice when things are suboptimal. Think of ways to optimize them.


Gather data

But I didn't know how to optimize. I needed data. How did relationships work? How did women work? How did attraction work? I decided to become a social psychology nerd. The value of information was high. I began to spend less time with Alice so I could spend more time studying. 

Rationality Skill: Respond to the value of information. Don't keep running in what is probably the wrong direction just because you've got momentum. Stop a moment, and invest some energy in figuring out which direction to go.


Sanity-check yourself

Before long, I noticed that Alice was always pushing me to spend more time with her, and I was always pushing to spend more time studying psychology. I was unhappy, and I knew I could one day attract better mates if I had time to acquire the skills that other men had; men who were "good with women."

So I broke up with Alice over a long conversation that included an hour-long primer on evolutionary psychology in which I explained how natural selection had built me to be attracted to certain features that she lacked. I thought she would appreciate this because she had previously expressed admiration for detailed honesty. Later, I realized how hard it is to think of a more damaging way to break up with someone.

She asked that I kindly never speak to her again. I can't blame her.

Rationality Skill: Know your fields of incompetence. Sanity-check yourself by asking others for advice, or by Googling "how to break up with your girlfriend nicely" or "how to not die on a motorcycle" or whatever.



During the next couple years, I spent no time in (what would have been) sub-par relationships, and instead invested that time optimizing for better relationships in the future. Which meant I was celibate. But learning.

Alas, neither Intimate Relationships nor Handbook of Relationship Initiation existed at the time, but I still learned quite a bit from books like The Red Queen and The Moral Animal. I experienced a long series of 'Aha!' moments, like:

  • "Aha! It's not that women prefer jerks to nice guys, but they prefer confident, ambitious men to pushovers."
  • "Aha! Body language and fashion matter because they communicate large packets of information about me at light speed, and are harder to fake than words."
  • "Aha! Women are attracted to men who make them feel certain ways and have positive subjective experiences. That's why they like funny guys, for example!"

Within a few months, I had more dating-relevant head knowledge than any guy I knew.

Rationalist Skill: Scholarship. Especially if you can do it efficiently, scholarship is a quick and cheap way to level up.


Avoid rationalization

Scholarship was comfortable, so I stayed in scholar mode for too long. I hit diminishing returns in what books could teach me. Every book on dating skills told me to go talk to women, but I thought I needed a completed decision tree first: What if she does this? What if she says that? I won't know what to do if I don't have a plan! I should read 10 more books, so I know how to handle every contingency.

The dating books told me I would think that, but I told myself I was unusually analytical, and could actually benefit from completing the decision tree in advance of actually talking to women.

The dating books told me I would think that, too, and that it was just a rationalization. Really, I was just nervous about the blows that newbie mistakes (and subsequent rejections) would lay upon my ego.

Rationalist Skill: Notice rationalizations and defeat them: Consider the cost of time and trust happening as a result of rationalizing. Consider what opportunities you are missing if you don't just realize you're wrong right now.


Use science

The dating books told me to swallow my fear and talk to women. I couldn't swallow my fear, so I tried E&J brandy instead. That worked.

So I went out and talked to women, mostly at coffee shops or on the street. I learned all kinds of interesting details I hadn't learned in the books:

  • Politics, religion, math, and programming are basically never the right subject matter when flirting.
  • Keep up the emotional momentum. Don't stay in the same stage of the conversation (rapport, storytelling, self-disclosure, etc.) for very long.
  • Almost every gesture or line is improved by adding a big smile.
  • 'Hi. I've gotta run, but I think you're cute so we should grab a coffee sometime" totally works when the girl is already attracted because my body language, fashion, and other signals have been optimized.
  • People rarely notice an abrupt change of subject if you say "Yeah, it's just like when..." and then say something completely unrelated.

After a while, I could talk to girls even without the brandy. And a little after that, I scored my first one-night stand.

I was surprised by how much I didn't enjoy casual flings. I wasn't very engaged when I didn't know and didn't have much in common with the girl in my bed. But I kept having casual flings, mostly for their educational value. As research projects go, I guess they weren't too bad.

Rationalist Skill: Use empiricism and do-it-yourself science. Just try things. No, seriously.


Try harder

By this time my misgivings about the idea of owning another's sexuality had grown into a full-blown endorsement of polyamory. I needed to deprogram my sexual jealousy, which sounded daunting. Sexual jealousy was hard-wired into me by evolution, right?

It turned out to be easier than I had predicted. Tactics that helped me destroy my capacity for sexual jealousy include:

  • Whenever I noticed sexual jealousy in myself, I brought to mind my moral objections to the idea of owning another's sexuality.
  • I thought in terms of sexual abundance, not sexual scarcity. When I realized there were thousands of other nearby women I could date, I didn't need to be so needy for any particular girl.
  • Mentally, I continually associated 'jealousy' with 'immaturity' and 'neediness' and other concepts that have negative affect for me.

This lack of sexual jealousy came in handy when I grew a mutual attraction with a polyamorous girl who was already dating two of my friends.

Rationality Skill: Have a sense that more is possible. Know that we haven't yet reached the limits of self-modification. Try things. Let your map of what is possible be constrained by evidence, not popular opinion.



I now enjoy higher-quality relationships — sexual and non-sexual — of a kind that wouldn't be possible with the social skills of Luke2005. I went for years without a partner I cared about, but that's okay because the whole journey was planted with frequent rewards: the thrill of figuring something out, the thrill of seeing people respond to me in a new way, the thrill of seeing myself looking better in the mirror each month.

There might have been a learning curve, but by golly, at the end of all that DIY science and rationality training and scholarship I'm actually seeing an awesome poly girl, I'm free to take up other relationships when I want, I know fashion well enough to teach it at rationality camps, I can build rapport with almost anyone, my hair looks great and I'm happy.

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It's interesting and potentially useful, and I liked some of the links; however, I felt seriously skeeved-out throughout, probably due to the combination of uncomfortably personal authorial bildungsroman (with connotations of "if you do this right, you can be just like me"), and the implied promotion of polyamory. Would work much better if you could remove the autobiographical aspects.

I felt skeeved as well. I didn't mind the polyamory plugs, and in general I like autobiographical bits, as they bring more of a human element into posts.

What bothered me was that the discussion about romance felt very cold, somehow. Talking about "suboptimal" relationships, saying that you "scored" your first one-night stand, and such. It sounded like you weren't interested in other people as, well, people.

The interesting thing is that I don't really endorse these emotional reactions to your writing. In general, I'm completely fine with PUA stuff as long as it stays ethical, which I think your post did. Nor do I feel, on an intellectual level, that there's anything wrong with considering a relationship "suboptimal" - many relationships are that. Yet the post managed to push buttons on an emotional level anyway. For that reason, I'd very strongly prefer to not see this post on the front page, as I suspect it would give a lot of people an unreasonably negative image of this community.

I agree with you on the skeeviness of the terminology of "scoring" a one night stand; interestingly, version 1 of the post instead states that Luke "had [his] first one-night stand." Although I haven't compared the versions carefully, it therefore seems like version 1 may make more of an attempt to avoid that sort of language.

Upvoted for distinguishing between emotional reactions and endorsed ones.
One thing that bothered me on that level was the "awesome girlfriend"-- does lukeprog like her, or does she just meet a set of specs?
I think I understand where you are coming from approximately, but for clarity what specifically would liking her entail above and beyond a set of specs?
Some sense that there's something distinct about her which would mean that lukeprog would care if she were replaced by a different woman who was as good-looking and as interested in sex with him.
This something distinct, would a more detailed set of specs qualify? In your mind, is it that lukeprog seems to have few and shallow specs that bothers you? Or is your "distinct" distinct from specs entirely?
Interesting. I don't see any problem with bildungsroman. Did you have a similar reaction to Eliezer's Coming of Age posts? Also, what's wrong with a promotion of polyamory? I definitely think it's an option that will be more optimal for some people than the default of serial monogamy. Finally, the entirety of The Sequences proclaims "if you do this right, you can be just like me (Eliezer, trained rationalist)." Were you similarly made uncomfortable by that aspect of The Sequences?

I found the Coming of Age series to be both self-indulgent and quite dull, and I think that it's very difficult to use yourself as an example of vice or virtue without running into one or both of those issues. I also find that I (more-or-less automatically) downgrade an author's ethos by a lot when he's talking about himself as an illustrative example. But for this one, it's the skeeviness factor that dominates — it's just plain creepy to hear about your love life as a source of telling anecdotes. And that's distracting.

Polyamory may be great, but the right way to promote it is not by slipping into a post the implication that it's the endpoint of rational thinking about romance. Which is what this reads as, whether you intended it to or not. If you want to advocate polyamory here (and honestly, I'm not sure that Less Wrong is the right place to do so), you should devote an entire post to it, and set forth clear arguments as to why it's the better option, rather than presuming it in your advice.

The Sequences do not consist of Eliezer promoting himself as a master rationalist, nor do they assume that you already think he is. He argues for certain positions, and the reader comes to be... (read more)

In the particular subject of dating and relationships, for anything practical or prescriptive, I actually find it really valuable when people talk about their own experiences. It helps me evaluate if (a) they are basing their conclusions on real world experience, (b) their outlook is similar to mine.
Ah, okay. Yes, if you don't like the personal-story approach in general then, well... this post isn't for you. :) Your contrast between my post and the sequences makes some sense, except that the point of the post wasn't particularly to argue for those rationality lessons. The posts arguing for those lessons are generally the ones I link to when describing each lesson.
Maybe an exploration of the notion would be a better way to go about it. Many/most people have negative reactions to polyamory, and thus an article that takes a default view that polyamory is something to work toward will garner more negative reaction than you intended/desired. Better when it's framed as "if we work on this, we can do better," not "if you do this, you can be just like me." Some community members see this place as mutual-improvement, not aspire-to-be-Eliezer (or Luke, or Anna, etc.).
I agree with the "skeevy" description, although I have to admit that as I read on, I became somewhat less skeeved. I also worry that you gloss over the negative aspects of polyamory (and I say this as someone who is in favor of polyamory) -- mainly, that it takes a lot of time and energy to get right. I also worry that you don't link to any of the literature on polyamory, despite citing literature on everything else. I also don't know to what degree your experience generalizes: do people who study relationships actually have better relationships? Couldn't your new success be due to not being 18 years old anymore (or however old you were in 2005)?
I upvoted this comment, but would like to qualify that I didn't feel very skeeved out - you were just doing things wrong, making most of the autobiography not all that useful. You try to draw general lessons, but they seemed to be explaining or justifying what didn't need to be explained or justified. I'd rather see practical lessons derived from your experiences, with no fear of saying "this is what I could have done better in that situation."
Also, found the bite-sizing of the lessons made them feel like distractions to be skipped over rather than principles that the anecdotes were illustrating.
Agree with both of these, downvoted as well. I have other comments that are not related to these, and I'll post them separately.
Upvoted for appropriate use of "bildungsroman".

I downvoted because of the assumption that there's something obviously wrong with jealousy and that monogamy is suboptimal. It's possible that both jealousy and monogamy are necessary components of reaching areas of utility that can't be accessed in the context of casual relationships. You could be gaining short-term pay off (not feeling jealous, being able to satisfy short-term urges) at the cost of higher utility long-term pay off (a traditional romantic relationship). Nothing is the story suggest that you'd obviously know if you were missing out on the latter either.

I downvoted because...

Whatever you [Luke] were split testing for (a quick look suggests "Lesson" vs. "Rationality skill") is probably undone by the first reply comments on this post compared to the other one.

An interesting observation that was noted at Hacker News a while back is that the top rated comment on almost any opinion piece is disagreement - because people who passionately disagree are more likely to look for an argument to back in the comments.

If you skim discussion sites where voting moves comments up and a culture of dissent being respected reigns - you'll see it's usually true.

But the difference between the A version and the B version is that, as of the time of this writing, B starts with "I downvoted because..." whereas A's first comment is also disagreement, but of a more encouraging sort. I think this will probably dominate the results far more than the phrasing and exact structure of lesson/skills learned.

The obvious solution is then to hide comments until a user has voted on an article. Perhaps with a third option to abstain instead of up- or downvoting. You could also test this effect with a similar AB test. Just give the two groups of readers the exact same article, but with a different first comment added by a collaborator or sock puppet.

Neither upvoted nor downvoted. I didn't learn anything new from the article, but it doesn't look obviously wrong either.

Just a note about jealousy: beating yourself up for "immaturity" whenever you feel jealous doesn't sound to me like a healthy way to self-modify, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who's just starting out. IMO it's better to err in the other direction and grow confidence until you lose jealousy as a side effect. That happened to me once and I didn't even notice the change until afterward. But I'm sure you're already happy in the place you are, so it's probably no longer relevant to you.

Good observation. I had internalized this part of Luke's advice without finding it objectionable on my first reading of the post, but now that you make me think about it more, your note seems likely to be correct and at least important to consider.
  • I'd say there's a good chance that you're equating correlation with causation, to an extent; it might not be your systematic self-improvement plan that's effective insomuch as you, yourself, have grown and matured over the past few years and are now more confident and self-assured with different needs and traits than those you had years ago. That, to me, seems like pretty typical individual maturation.

  • I'd question the inherent assumption that polyamory is inherently more ethical. While monogamy does limit some relationships from forming, it can also prompt deeper emotional bonds and trust between the partners within that relationship.

  • So too, it's unclear how long you've been in your current relationship. I'd question any analysis of "good relationships" that didn't look at quality over the course of a relationship for a significant amount of time. What "significant" is is debatable, but relationships tend to get harder as they go along, not easier, and if overall quality of one's relationships is one's goal, then initial quality would be, at best, misleading.

Long term relationship quality is not linear. It feels, from my experience, more cyclical or evolving. And yes, long term relationships have bits which are a lot harder than briefer relationships. The skills needed to be successful at polyamory, include high skill with communication, and high emotional intelligence. I think that's correlated with ethics.
* I'd certainly agree with your first point; I was more thinking in terms of the initial "high" most people feel within the initial period of a relationship. As time progresses and infatuation ceases, relationships typically become a great deal more "work" than they do when you're enamored and full of almost unconditional love. After getting used to that shift, though, I can certainly see variation over time. But I do firmly believe that the initial few months, for most relationships, are the easiest. Hence the need for an evaluation after the initial period of infatuation has faded [which it may have, but it's unclear in the OP]. * I don't think polyamory is inferior to monogamy, but I think deciding between them ought to be a case of an individual recognizing their own needs and limitations. For instance, I'm not going to tell an abuse or rape survivor with significant trust issues that they just need to rationally overcome their learned fears; it may be a significant accomplishment for them to even thrive in a monogamous relationship with trust and no jealousy. Calling that "less ethical" seems to ignore individual context and adhere to an optimal reality that ours and the people in it simply can't match.
Thanks for the agreement. One of the things I got out of learning about Polyamory was a label for infatuation, or the "high" of an initial relationship, which was less perjorative. That label is "New Relationship Energy". I've found in my life (as a compulsive starter of projects) that dopamine surge of wanting and not having is a powerful drug. The thing about Polyamory is that you're not just deciding for yourself. You're deciding within a social group. And I think decisions within social groups is the core of what we're pointing at when we talk about ethics. And that decision may include to not do something because someone you care about couldn't handle it. The opportunities for learning never stop. Thank you.

I thought this was a pretty good post. However, I may be biased as I agree with most of the things you said.

One thing that keeps me from immediately wanting to spend time going through the same set of scholarship/practice that you did is that it seems to me like the sort of person I would want to date long-term is extremely gender-atypical, and therefore these strategies will not help me much in this regard. So all this would buy me is lots of good casual sex, which may not be worth the seemingly large initial time investment.

I also, for instance, don't think I would want to build rapport with almost anyone --- to put it bluntly, talking to most people is a waste of time from the perspective of both personal enrichment/enjoyment and my long-term instrumental goals.

I did not upvote or downvote. Some parts contained useful information (despite being somewhat cursory), but other parts seemed like other-optimizing (the mostly one-sided pro-polyamory presentation).

Normally I like seeing individual stories and anecdotes and having information broken down into small pieces. Insofar as I might be interested in self-modifying toward polyamory in the future I think that this post would be helpful.

On the other hand, I was skeeved just like many other commenters. Major parts of that may have been from:

  • I think I would have had a different initial reaction to Alice; more like an appreciation of her commitment than a sense of suboptimality.
  • You say that you "scored [your] first one-night stand" then immediately
... (read more)

One thing that really intrigues me about the comments is how negatively some people react to the personal-story element of it, contrasted with Alicorn's Luminosity sequence, where people requested personal stories because they made it easier to identify with the material.

One big difference is that Alicorn's stories were third-person, and yours are first-person; another is that Alicorn's were nominally fictional and yours are nominally factual. Of course, the content is also different, and the community has changed.

Still, I wonder how this same post would have been received in a third-person-hypothetical mode.

Alicorn also provided a first-person story which was well-received.
Compare the reaction to Alicorn's later 'Polyhacking' piece which was far more positive than reactions to either versions 1 or 2. Possible explanations: * It was a top level post, and she hadn't explicitly asked for detailed criticism so people felt less inclined to criticise, and/or were not primed to think negatively. * The articles focus was more narrow and detailed, and thus didn't have the issues that arise from compressing a lot of information into a small space. * It was also generally more polished as it was not a work in progress article but a complete one, so presumably had flaws in earlier drafts that were corrected. * Less charitable explanations: Alicorn's article set off a lot of applause/aww lights (mine included) by focusing in detail on personal affection, whereas this article apparently 'skeeved out' some people because of its seemingly detached/cold attitude to interpersonal relationships. * It is also possible (though I would assert it as definite) that commenters here share cultural tropes/background that make us better disposed to something like this coming from a woman than man.

I upvoted, but mostly because I too dislike our culture's promotion of owning other people's sexualities through monogamy, and am irritated that this is a cached thought that most rationalists either tacitly endorse or defend with crappy "evolutionary psychology".

I very strongly dislike the idea of having monogamy as the only accepted option, but I also strongly dislike the notion of polyamory being somehow inherently superior. It seems to me like mono/poly is to a large degree a personal orientation the same way hetero/bi/homo/othersexuality is. Poly people will be miserable in a mono relationship, but so will mono people in a poly one. (And like with bisexuals, there are people who can be fine with both.)

It's also worth noting that for a lot of people, their membership in these somewhat arbitrary categories is rather fluid and changes based on context and the passage of time.
Very true.
Exactly my point of view.
me too.
Can you give examples of beliefs and actions of people who believe they "own other people's sexualities."
If I am dating you, and I (explicitly or implicitly) forbid you to have sex with anyone else, then I am assuming ownership of your sexuality, by telling you what you can and cannot do with it. (I don't want to speak for eridu and jason, but this is how I interpreted the phrase in the OP.)

I believe that your interpretation of the phrase as it was used is correct, but the more I think about it, the more this is just giving an ugly name to a practice that may or may not be ugly. Any of the following could also be called "assuming ownership of another's sexuality" if you felt like calling it that:

  • "I'm aware that you want to go ahead and risk it regardless of what the doctor said, but I'm worried about hurting you and I want to wait another week."

  • "While we are in a relationship, don't have sex with HIV-positive secondary partners, especially not without a condom."

  • "Since you're into it, I forbid you to have an orgasm for the next week. And I'm going to enforce it with this device."

  • "Since you're into doing whatever I say whether it's your cup of tea or not..." (as above)

  • "While we are in a relationship, don't have sex with anyone who isn't aware of that fact, because it's dishonest."

  • "Because condoms+spermicide are the only form of reversible birth control I can personally take responsibility for and they're not very reliable, and I don't want to knock you up, please use another form of birth con

... (read more)

(I'm not sure where to put this but am saddened that more people don't mention it:) Monogamy (monoamory?) is also just a lot more aesthetic in certain ways, at least for me and probably many others. There's the rich history and culture associated with monogamy. There's more opportunity to notice small details about the other person. It's often less dramatic, or when it is dramatic it's dramatic in aesthetic interesting ways instead of ugly awkward ways. For example, there's the opportunity for implicit mutual agreements to "cheat" and the drama as those agreements are made, are used as implicit threats of blackmail, are made explicit as if just noticed for the first time but both know that's silly. That's a stupid way for things to go downhill but it has certain subtleties to it at least. Monogamy has a neat simplicity. It's generally more sustainable if so desired, and more easily broken up too.

Buh? (This comment appears to fail to bridge any nontrivial inferential distances.)
Okay, I shall give an overly melodramatic personal answer, and perhaps it will reflect the preferences of others and perhaps not. But my real answer is really quite specific, I think, even if I would have other reasons if this one didn't dominate: There is a certain type of perfection that is hinted at by some of my closed-eye visuals, for example when my mind is altered, that is more of a feeling than anything. The image that is most central to this feeling is a brief image of a modern apartment, elegantly furnished, smallish but not cramped, over 30 stories above ground level overlooking a nice part of some big city. It's night time, and the apartment is in shadows, and no one is home. But I can feel that there's a couple that lives there, and I feel the subtle elegance of that kind of life. It's like... they're young, rich, well-dressed but not showy, well-cultured but not show-offs. They're at peace, especially with each other, though they spend most of their time apart. They radiate a certain gentleness and a certain elegance, but it's subtle and you'd only really be able to tell if you looked, but if you looked it'd be obvious. They have a single luxury car, an expensive guitar, an expensive DSLR, expensive furniture and a refrigerator filled with quality food, but they don't have many possessions nor any real responsibilities. They vacation often. Neither has many friends, and their friends don't much overlap, but the friends they have are close, and varied in skills and interests. A photographer, a mathematician, a monk, a business executive; though by no means are their friends one-dimensional. The couple lead a life that could scarcely be simpler, and yet with so many hints of richness, a certain kind of complexity that springs from the recursion of mutual understanding that is only tractable when everything is elegant. But really those are all just details that are filled in by the emotional tone of the image of that apartment, masked in shadows with no
I'm a very aesthetically oriented person, and a happily married one, but this conflation of aesthetics with the happiness of a relationship feels very strange to me. Have you tried making things suit you aesthetically and found that it really makes you happy, or is this all theory?
Eliot: and of course
I read about a rather large number of dystopias, weirdtopias with strongly dystopic aspects, and cultures with awful practices, and never before have I wanted to run away from a lifestyle this badly. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
This comment actually succeeds in conveying ideas.
Eenh. It could well be that I'm still missing something, but that sounds like it fails on at least number 2 of Eliezer's laws of fun. We've reached the point in the conversation where I go "okay" and politely depart rather than telling someone what they should or shouldn't want, though.
It's very possible that I (naively introspectively) value "fun" a lot less than others do. As a human, I care a lot more about (the aesthetics of) perfection, probably because I'm so disturbed that so few others seem to care about it like I do and thus see "caring about (the aesthetics of) perfection" as my comparative advantage. As a transhuman or a Buddha, /shrugs.
I share this entire sentiment and feeling :( I hold out for the hope that i wont always share this feeling.
In the sense that it is very difficult to understand or that everything it says is obvious or some combination of the two?
More the former, though I don't think that it's difficult-to-understand in the usual sense - my impression is that it's distinctly more subjective than that. I understand that some people find monogamy aesthetically pleasing, and can write that off as personal preference and ignore it in general. You seemed to be trying to give a better model than that, but none of your examples really hit the mark, there. (Is the bit about cheating supposed to be a good thing or a bad thing?) I'm actually somewhat inclined to argue the 'noticing details' point, even - that's mostly a matter of having the opportunity to observe a person in a variety of situations, in my experience, and it seems to me that adding an extra spouse or two would help with that, not hinder it.
Babyeating is also just a lot more aesthetic in certain ways, at least for me and probably many others. There's the rich history and culture associated with babyeating.
How is this related to preferences or aesthetics concerning relationship styles? (If you want to argue that monogamy is some value that I hold because I haven't reflected upon it enough or thought things through from first principles and am instead supporting the legacy system out of status quo bias or Stockholm syndrome, as is really the only non-obvious argument to make, then you'll have to go about it a lot more directly. If you're saying that monogamy is reliably painful for at least one party where polyamory counterfactually would have eased that pain then you would need to substantiate that claim with evidence. If you're not trying to say that then what are you trying to say, besides "My experience and introspection tell me that I don't seem to share your values!"?)
You are reciting culturally-inherited cached thoughts about monogamy that seem as alien to me as babyeating is to humans. Your statements don't have much information associated with them, but are just cheers for monogamy.
Ah, but that isn't particularly true in the way you're thinking it is---why be so uncharitable? I wouldn't assume that your aversion to monagamy is the result of culturally-inherited cached cheers; it's not socially polite or epistemicly hygienic. Anyway. I did indeed get many of my aesthetics from my culture, but insofar as you're implying that I have not carefully reflected upon those aesthetics, you are mistaken. (Like many folk here I am significantly more reflective than your average person, and reflective on my process of reflection, and so on, because I mean what else do I have to do all day?) I agree that my statements don't have much information to them, but I don't really see them as "cheers" for monogamy---more like "things that I notice I like about monogamy relative to polygamy". I do have some personal experience on the matter, I'm not simply armchair theorizing or extrapolating from books. It is clear that I should have added a sentence to that effect, or a clause saying "in my experience" to the relevant sentences.
Nobody ever went broke underestimating humans.
See the U.S. governments recent political crisis, and the resolution.
If I believed you (I don't) then I would point out that this should not lead you to weaken your estimation of Will's point.
Will made very few points, and instead, cheered for monogamy. I intended to point this out by replacing the thing being cheered for, monogamy, with a different thing in the LessWrong zeitgeist, babyeating.
Non-Babyeating is also just a lot more aesthetic in certain ways, at least for me and probably many others. There's the rich history and culture associated with non-babyeating. I think you are misusing the example. The lesson of three worlds collide wasn't that Babyeaters should obviously stop eating babies, it was that different beings have different and potentially mutually incompatible values. Why in the world would Baby-eaters want or work towards changing away from finding Baby-eating aesthetically pleasing? Edit: I don't really understand all the down votes, can someone explain to me why I'm wrong or why the post isn't constructive? :)
Good analysis. But I think someone's dislike for a thing doesn't necessarily stem from some easily verbalizable "actual problem" they have with the thing. Deontological rules sound to me like something people just make up. Individual datapoints of moral intuition are higher up in the causal chain than the nice-looking curves we fit to these points.
I interpret it as "here are some verbal symbols I can use to manipulate my feelings about a given subject via a vaguely associated other concept that I have a certain emotional affect associated with". It certainly isn't something that follows logically and nor is it useful for myself. But evidently it is a useful diff to apply to Luke's previous mental state.
Do you see a difference between that, and stating a intention to leave the relationship if the other person has sex with someone else? Luckily I currently live in a time and place where these two scenarios are often functionally similar.
Yes, as long as it is not intended as a threat. If not meant as a threat, then it is just a statement of your own preferences (e.g. "I strongly prefer not to be in a relationship that is non-monogamous"). I find such preferences highly suboptimal, but I'm willing to accept that some people are unable to alter them.
That's how I would interpret it, too, but I don't think that's a necessary component of monogamy, despite being the way that many people practice it. Someone could say "I want to be in a monogamous relationship with you if you want to be in one with me," i.e. the desire for monogamy should be reciprocal rather than forced. A romantic relationship is, ideally, a mutual agreement.
What if I just hang out with you and am ok continuing to do that regardless of your answer, but I tell you in advance (at an early stage before precedence hardens into informal rules or pair bonding takes root) that I won't commit to a long term relationship unless an agreement to keep the relationship in certain parameters is acceptable to you?
That seems like the optimal course of action, holding the parameters fixed. We could also talk about optimizing the parameters for the mutual benefit of the pair, but it is nonobvious to me how one should do that. My intuition points towards something like polyamory, but it's way too easy to generalize from one example in this situation for me to have much confidence in that.

I haven't decided whether to upvote or downvote yet. For now a quick note about the intended method of getting feedback: I don't know if A-H has the same number of people roughly as from I-Z. Moreover, there may be other issues if some cultural groups are more likely to have surnames that end in a letter from one part of the alphabet.

Sure. It's a quick and dirty solution. Supposedly, 'k' is the median first letter of last names.
Also, some people use more than one name (my legal name has me reading this one, but the name I use has me reading the other one - I wound up reading the other and skimming this), and some cultures don't use an alphabet enough like the English one for "A-H" to even make sense.

Here I am on this post now! And... gosh, I'm annoyed that there's not enough difference between the two posts for it to be worth my time to look over both. I understand your motivation, but as a reader I...

Feel cheated.


But seriously. I do feel kind of bothered that you put the reader through a serious inconvenience just for the purpose of your own statistics. Is it a logical thing to do? Yes. But I'd really like to have two posts to read out of your little experiment, not 1.1 posts.

It doesn't seem like this strategy will continue to be effective when you are no longer a young man. Is this a short-term strategy?

It doesn't seem like this approach will yield stable and reliable companionship into old age.

There is no mention of the desire for offspring in this post. Historically the point of sexual relationships has been offspring, the nominal "reason" for dating has been to find a suitable partner with which to raise offspring.

Sorry if this post is unbearably quaint, but I can't figure out why you're even bothering with all this. I mean, save yourself the trouble, just remain celibate or use prostitutes.

It doesn't seem like this strategy will continue to be effective when you are no longer a young man. Is this a short-term strategy?

Why does it seem unlikely to remain effective? He radically improved his general social skills, and made himself much better at initiating new relationships (of all kinds, not just romantic). Why would said skills atrophy?

It doesn't seem like this approach will yield stable and reliable companionship into old age.

Why not? At a minimum, why would being better at starting new relationships make him worse at maintaining ones already in place?

There is no mention of the desire for offspring in this post. Historically the point of sexual relationships has been offspring, the nominal "reason" for dating has been to find a suitable partner with which to raise offspring.

History need not dictate our preferences. If we demanded that all sexual relationships lead to children homosexual relationships would be illegal, as would ones where one partner was infertile, and marriages would be dissolved upon a female partner reaching menopause.

Sorry if this post is unbearably quaint, but I can't figure out why you're even bothering with all this. I m

... (read more)

I like the personal example of using rationality to figure out what will really make you happy. I don't like the implication that what you learned about yourself would also be true of everyone else. For example, the implication that everyone could or should be polyamorous is not adequately justified.

Hmmm. Not an implication I intended.
I got that impression from 1. your description of your attitude as one of "full-blown endorsement of polyamory" and 2. your characterization of the main obstacle to polyamory, jealousy, as "'immaturity' and 'neediness'", and as morally objectionable, insofar as it is associated with "the idea of owning another's sexuality."
Ha! Those are very good reasons to have that impression. Instead of 'endorsement' I should have said that I adopted polyamory. As for the second point, I'll try to clarify my position in a later draft. I will note that among the Bay Area rationalists I usually find myself being the one who has to defend the idea that non-polyamory might be good for some people, in the face of those who basically equate 'rational relationships' with 'polyamorous relationships.' :)

With 70% probability, after reading this, I'd so totally do you.


I didn't upvote or downvote-- the post doesn't seem wildly different in quality than other vaguely ok posts I've seen.

It took me a while to get past sympathy for Alice to think about other aspects of the post. What is your understanding of your mistake when breaking up? I've got my own theory, and I'm curious about whether they'll match.

I'm surprised that you got so much good out of research.

I think there was a comment tweaking you for needing to figure out that women are looking for positive subjective experiences. (One annoying thing about the double pos... (read more)


i would find this a more compelling narrative if you explained more clearly the ends towards which various actions were directed. What kind of relationship[s] did you want, at each stage of this process? Are there other goals for which these means would have been more or less applicable?

My initial reaction was "Upvote". Then I read the comments, thought about it some more, and decided to upvote anyway.

I'm also reminded of this...

Neither voted up nor down. For one, the thought that there's another post out there was extremely distracting as I was reading. I kept speculating on what was different and whether it was a kind of test (of the reader; clearly it's presented as a test of the article).

As for the structure of the article, it seems unfocused. There are a few good bits here and there, but it's mostly a repetition of things I've seen many times elsewhere. I would have gotten more out of a post that explores your approach to polyamory in more detail and leaves the other stuff out.

Now I'm going to go read the other version, since I'm curious, but I promise not to vote on it one way or the other.

I wasn't sure where the post was going. It has interesting, potentially useful points, but I wasn't clear on the goal of the post. The first heading gives a clue, but I think it would be helpful to expand on this.


Upvoted for several different reasons:

1: I liked the general progress of the story. It contains several thematic elements that in general I find appealing (finding emotional happiness, building skills)

2: I know people who I believe this advice would be of great help to. Specifically this section:

Every book on dating skills told me to go talk to women, but I thought I needed a completed decision tree first: What if she does this? What if she says that? I won't know what to do if I don't have a plan! I should read 10 more books, so I know how to handle eve

... (read more)
Re #2: OK, so now I'm really curious. Why do you think that a section in a blog post encouraging people to follow the advice in books will be of great help to the people you know? I infer that these are people who are making the same error Luke describes making, an error he continued to make despite reading books that specifically cautioned him about it. So I would expect that they would similarly continue to make that error, despite reading a blog post that specifically cautions about it. What am I missing?
I actually found a post that I had made which I had in the back of my mind when I was typing my response. To sum up, I had a similar discussion a month ago, and I stated: "But I am very serious that you should consider asking the people who seem to be reacting poorly. I am just guessing. It may be a good guess, or it may be totally off base. But it's just a hypothesis. You should still want to gather evidence from the source. Even if it's personally awkward." as a way of advising someone to talk to other people. But Zed presented "I have to disagree with your conclusion though: why gather evidence from the source? Well, in the best case I end up extrapolating from 3 data points and in the worst case I end up alienating people unnecessarily. I want to gather evidence from the source, but the act clearly has negative expectation! Rationality is not an excuse for self-destructive behavior. So given my options I'd much rather learn from the experience of others." as a counter argument for not doing so. At the time, I didn't agree with him, but I didn't seem to have a good way to phrase it, so I didn't say anything, because I didn't have sufficient time to come up with an argument before the thread got older and It had left my active mind. So that was sort of left as an unresolved argument that trailed off. And then today, I read lukeprog's point, and I thought "Oh, THAT's what I should have said in that argument weeks ago!" The person I was discussing with may have just been making a rationalization, and I should have tried to point that out. It's also possible he might not have been, but the conversation could have continued on that grounds.

I don't see what you plan to gain from splitting the article into two slightly different versions - you won't have the statistical power to get results that would, e.g., convince me to change my article-writing behavior about anything important.

I was hoping to get data that would inform my article-writing behavior.

No vote, because I don't typically vote unless something sticks out.

I thought the article was pretty ok. I liked reading your story of personal development. :) The short sections with clearly labelled points were effective. I don't have too much objection to the specific advice you mentioned, except: there were certain ones that apply to, yes, a nice large portion of people, but an individual might find that they are more compatible with people outside that portion (eg. people who appreciate math jokes as flirtation) and I think it's worth looking for that compatibility even if it's not as common.

Neither upvoted nor downvoted. It contains material that would be helpful for some in the LW community, but you personally come off as a bit callous in the process, and that's fairly off-putting.

Second the neither upvoting nor downvoting part. While I enjoyed the humor, I'm not actually sure I want to encourage it on LW - Luke being Luke, there's all the hard science I want in the links, but for other contributors...?

And now I have to go read the other version to try to figure out what the difference was and what responses Luke expected!

You don't touch too much on the ways by which you form relationships, but if the approaches described in the "Use Science" section are indicative of what you always do, I'm appalled.

It surprises me that your "rational" approach to getting women involves being largely dishonest about who you are to them. Why avoid talking about politics, math, programming, and religion if that's what you enjoy talking about? If she doesn't, then maybe you shouldn't be together. If forming a satisfying relationship is truly your goal I don't think this is... (read more)

It surprises me that your "rational" approach to getting women involves being largely dishonest about who you are to them. Why avoid talking about politics, math, programming, and religion if that's what you enjoy talking about?

He's optimising one of the steps in his funnel. If there are three steps you need to get through to form a relationship; flirting, dating/intellectual compatibility, relationship compatibility, and success in each is 0.1, 0.1, 0.1, it takes a thousand tries to get a success. If by improving your flirting skills you move to 0.3, 0.1, 0.1, you only need 333 tries.

And as I read it he wasn't dishonest, he just optimised step 1, flirting. Flirting is fun, but with the majority of people it isn't compatible with serious intellectual conversation. He didn't hide his intellectual interests, he just didn't present them at a time when it would be sub-optimal given his goals.

I don't think there are. I would never say I've "flirted" with someone, yet I am in a committed, long term relationship. I don't go to bars, I've never asked a girl for her number, or anything like that. I just get to know people I'm around. If I find that I'm compatible with someone, I express interest.
I could have phrased that much more clearly. The important point is that improvements at each stage of the funnel are multiplicative. I do not believe that there's a well-ordered sequence of steps that you have to go through in order either but I do believe that given any complicated goal there's a sequence that works best on average. If this is true, an improvement at any stage is beneficial. If the intermediate steps as well as the end goal are of value to you (fun, provide utility, make you happy) then it makes sense to improve the steps in the funnel in sequence from the beginning. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts/experiences on relationship formation. I find it difficult to believe you've never flirted with someone if you're in a relationship but that's likely because we are using "flirting" to mean different things. You have not deliberately gone out with the goal of meeting potential mates but when you have met them socially you've expressed interest. Assuming this lead to dating there was flirting on the date (by my definition). You do things as a couple, have conversations without other people, attempt to provoke "chemistry", (usually unconsciously) ramp up touching, build rapport by having intimate conversation that's (usually) meaningful to both parties. All of this escalates until it leads to either relationship formation, sex, or both. That's what flirting means to me. What do you think of when you think of flirting?
I don't necessarily define flirting differently in terms of actions, but to me it has the connotation of being between two people who don't know each other very well. I've only been in a few relationships, and they've all gone in the same manner - we're brought together by circumstance, school, activities, work, etc. We find we get along well, and become friends. We become better and better friends, until it morphs into a relationship. I recognize that I'm not at all typical or normal, but it's worked for me.

It surprises me that your "rational" approach to getting women involves being largely dishonest about who you are to them.

I disagree. There are times with my friends and family when I don't talk about politics or religion, either, because those subjects don't work for particular situations. I was never dishonest about my views or values, and they inevitably came out after I spent more time with someone.

Perhaps I should rephrase my point. The entire “using science” section seems as though you have constructed a methodology by which you must act in order to have successful relationships. Insomuch as this methodology is not how you would normally act, you’re being dishonest. If you smile when you would not ordinarily smile, you’re projecting a false persona onto yourself. And if you change the subject by saying “it’s exactly like” something you know it is nothing alike, you’re openly, intentionally, and unequivocally lying.

I don't think this is dishonest.

I am more attentive to my personal appearance, the cleanliness of my surroundings, etc etc when I'm courting somebody. I am sure they were aware of this. The way much [all?] of society works, extra efforts to impress somebody are viewed as signalling the effort they're worth. It's not deceitful, because the other party understands the signal being sent. To show up on a date looking or acting slobby would be read as a signal that you weren't very motivated.

I think camouflaged changes of conversation topic are likewise not misleading. They're a routine social artifice that most people use and that anybody can notice if they care. The people who don't notice the topic shift are the people who weren't firmly attached to that topic and have no reason to object.

Yes, I think we have very different ideas about how the social world works and should work. You may have deontological attitudes about social norms, for example. It would probably take more time to work through those differences than I have at the moment. Welcome to Less Wrong, by the way!
I'm not at all a Kantian - I'm quite decidedly a rule utilitarian, and in that vein, I think you would have more fulfilling relationships if you would just be yourself. And that's just counting the utility function from your side, not hers. She would undoubtedly have a higher utility function if you were (more) honest. That being said, my entire perception of your character is based solely on your one paragraph, which set off a large number of negative stereotypes I have about the male gender. I sincerely hope I have a misconception of how you act.
Hard to sum up my character quickly. I certainly feel like an open, honest, genuine person. I'm also quite happily 'myself'. Trying to make relationships work any other way would be weird. Indeed, my communication with the 'awesome poly girl' is probably far more open and direct than is the communication in most relationships. And people in meat-space generally seem to like me.
Well, as I said, I'm not exactly an expert on your character. But what you described in that section sounds more to me like a pick up artist, more along the lines of Barney Stinson. How would you interpret it if you read what you wrote from the perspective of an outsider and that was all you knew about their character? Well I wouldn't necessarily call that a high standard. ;-) But as I indicated, I am massively cynical about the male gender (OK, fine, I'm cynical about everyone, not just men...).
Which part gives you the Barney Stinson vibe? Drinking liquid courage before talking to girls? Telling them directly I think they're cute and would like to grab a coffee with them sometime? Not talking about politics?
I'll try to take you though my feelings as I read the article: (But Barney Stinson was, of course, an exercise in hyperbole - I just love HIMYM) I started out thinking I would really, really like the article and relate to your experiences. It's always made me sad when exes can't maintain some form of relationship, and I've always managed to in the past, and try to encourage others to as well. I think that was the first line that bothered me, largely because it was a stereotype, and that I know many, many women for whom it is not true. Secondarily, it bothered me because it seemed to imply that you should act confident even if you are not in order to attract women, which I disagree with on ethical principle. The "act this way to get laid" vibe continued for me in the "Use Science" section. This is what I was thinking as I read it. No! If you like talking about these things, power to you, and if the person to whom you're talking is put off by this, then it's better to learn that now, as opposed to later. Same as above - if you really enjoy telling stories and she enjoys listening to them, what's the harm? Let conversion flow naturally, don't force it places because of certain prescribed rules. This didn't really bother me. I'm from the south - smiling is polite, and I try to smile at people - it makes me happy, it makes them happy, and as a rule utilitarian, I can't be opposed to that. But I am opposed to smiling at a girl to make her feel comfortable for the sole purpose of sleeping with her, which is what it came across as, to me, even if you didn't mean it. This is fine by me. Well, saying it is. If you think a girl's cute, tell her. As I've said, I think honesty is always the best policy. But worrying about whether or not your other signals are "optimized" makes it come across as just another gimmick to me. This is what made me the most angry, because it's actively and intentionally lying about something. You know that it's not just like something, yet you

At first i had the same feelings about the article you did.

But then i remembered what my life-coach taught me: "All behaviours start out as "gimmicks", after some time of training they go from gimmick to part of your natural behaviour and lose their gimmickness"

This was the best lesson i ever learned as refusing to use gimmicks has put me at a serious disadvantage to those people whole naturally learned about the gimmick when they where little children.

Like luke, using gimmicks has been the best thing to happen for my work and private life. (also people who know that im gimmicking appreciate the effort i put into bettering our relationships and actively help me)

One can easily construct examples of behaviour for which this is not true. The easiest (and most absurd) examples would be instinctive - breathing, eating, etc. So it is clear that not all behaviours start out at gimmicks. But is it, as a rule, generally true? I still think not. Did your pursuit of rationality start out as a gimmick? Mine certainly did not. I don't know anything about you beyond that (at least, presumably I know that, since you're on this site) so it's hard to come up with further examples. But I'll go ahead and make some safe generalizations. Did you learn mathematics or physics by gimmicks? What about the most recent project at work? Did you complete that project by use of gimmicks? Perhaps I am an idealist. Well, not perhaps. I am an idealist. But my reaction, upon noticing that the world (and especially the business world) operates by gimmickry is not to participate in it, and perpetuate the continuation of the system, but to oppose it in whatever manner I can.
there are some instinctive functions, but those are mostly limited to basic survival. The examples of breathing and eating are 2 things that most adults are doing incorrectly. To learn proper breathing you will have to apply a gimmick until your body and minds learns how to breath properly and you dont give it anymore consious thought. When a baby is born the doctor will use a gimmick to make the baby breath for the first time. And yes, i learned all the things you mentioned by using gimmicks, in fact the first thing i learned in school is guessing the teachers password. Maybe we should taboo the word gimmick. My definiton of gimmick: "A conscious change in behavior" Something stops being a gimmick when: "The behavior occurs unconsciously" At first you suck at math and have to study hard, then after some practice calculation results come naturally.
Ah yes. Well we mean very different things when we use the word gimmick. My definition would be more along the lines of "a concealed, usually devious aspect or feature of something, as a plan or deal", which is one of's definitions.
So intention is probably the main problem. If your ethics do not condone the intention behind the "trick" you consider it a "gimmick" and hence a bad thing. I think lukeprog has not been clear enough on his intentions which causes newer users to read it as an evil gimmick promoting article.
Well, not the intention. I'm a utilitarian. But I think the consequences are worse for my definition - especially when you consider the utility function of the person being lied to.
I think the standard refutation is supposed to be "Does this dress make me look fat?"...
To which "Well, that color/style/fit/whatever doesn't particularly flatter you. Shall we look for something else?" is an acceptable response in any relationship I'm willing to care much about preserving, all else being equal. But, sure, one can easily imagine situations in which all else is not equal. (Which is to say, I don't share the OP's view.) Tangentially: someone asked me roughly that question once, somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I replied, roughly, "Hypothetically speaking, given a choice, would you rather have evidence that a friend of yours was willing to answer questions honestly even when the honest answer incurred a potentially high social cost, or would you rather have evidence that your friend was willing to conceal an unpleasant truth so as to spare your feelings?" They thought about it for a bit and somewhat hesitantly chose the former, and I told them they looked lovely (which they did). That left them puzzled for quite a while.
The best answer I've heard to such questions is 'I can't tell; you'll have to take it off so I can get a better look'.
If you truly respect the person asking you that, the only answer you can give is an honest one.

Your comment qualifies as a proof that I disrespect most people, including some of my loved ones. You could view it as a reductio ad absurdum of my opinion, or of your opinion; whichever you like better.

You're presuming that the person in question wants to hear the truth. If they don't, then the truly respectful response is not the same as the honest one.
And you're presuming that if you respect someone you should just give them what they want... I'm astonished that so many people advocating the spread rationality don't strongly object to allowing people you presumably care about to continue their delusions.
Okay, let me correct my previous line: If they don't, then the truly respectful response is not necessarily the same as the honest one. Of course there are situations where you should tell the truth, even if the other person doesn't want to hear it right then. But there are also many situations where people are genuinely better off with their delusions, and breaking them would only do harm. Advocating the spread of rationality does not give you a license to impose your own preferences on others regardless of how they feel about it. That includes the case where your preference is "people should only believe in true things".
No it does not. But their asking me the question gives me a license to answer it honestly.
Thanks! This was indeed quite helpful.
Sure thing.
Aye, but if you learn to smile as an ordinary action, you're just changing your true persona. Thanks to the way humans are wired, a habit of regularly faking smiles will generally lead to a person who genuinely smiles a lot. The exceptions seem to generally be those who have an investment in the smiles staying fake.
Yes, but that wasn't the way it was presented. Or at least not how I read it.
I will readily concede I am tact-filtering here. I leave it to him to say if it's accurate, but it's what I've done in similar situations, so I'll give him the benefit of the tact-filter :)
RobertLumley said: It's not clear to me any behavioral methods for self-improvement are possible with this view of ethics. For instance, a therapist for a shy person might tell them to avoid fidgeting. But fidgeting is the way they usually act. Is suppressing fidgeting dishonest?
Since the above comment makes no mention of ethics, I'm confused as to why you've replied here. You (all) seem to be assuming I have a deontological ethical theory, which, as I have said over and over and over, I do not. The argument has not been made yet that acting as Luke says he acts brings higher utility to him and the people with whom he interacts. If you wish to discuss ethics with me, do it on those grounds.
I took "dishonest" and "false persona" as moral judgments, though perhaps you didn't intend them that way. Anyway, I am quite happy to talk about rule utilitarianism. I think a rule that allows people to experiment in order to improve their social and romantic abilities is good for everyone, as long as their experiments are non-harmful to others. Likewise, I think a rule that allows people to expand their personality is good for everyone. Let's say that through his research process, lukeprog managed to improve his social and romantic experiences. Meanwhile, his net effect on other people he interacted with was neutral or positive. If that was the case, then a rule allowing this sort of social experimentation seems like it passes rule utilitarian muster. I realize that lukeprog didn't phrase his post in this way, because he doesn't talk much about the benefits of his behavior towards others (except for his mistake of invoking evolutionary psychology while breaking up with a girlfriend). Yet if lukeprog feels that his behavior had a positive or neutral result for the people he was interacting with, then he might not have found it necessary to say so, because he might not have realized that people in these threads might believe that his behavior had some of nefarious impact merely because he brought a hypotheco-deductive framework along for the ride. lukeprog could have spent more time discussing positive female reactions to him, but then it could have looked like he was boasting. On the subject of learning to be more confident, I realize that you would consider behavioral methods to be a form of lying: I have a couple objections: 1. It's difficult to determine whether a display of a personality trait is a "lie" or not, because it's hard to say what the "truth" is, due to the situation and due to the fact that people can change their self-narrative. 2. Not all forms of lying are bad. A rule utilitarian should subscribe to different sub-rules that apply to diff
I absolutely agree. But I don't think it was necessarily good for him or for the people he encountered... I'll concede this. But from my perspective, Luke essentially admitted he was lying with the bit about "it's exactly like". Taken in that context, I think the rest of that section reads very differently. I can't say what the effects of his behaviour were, are, or will be. But I can say that I would be very insulted if he had tried such tactics on me - it's a belittling of my intelligence to expect me to not notice such blatantly obvious ploys. And in the context of relationships, it comes across as, in my opinion, being womanizing and disrespectful towards women. And as I've pointed out elsewhere it seems inconsistent for him to not care about their rationality. And maybe he is not disrespectful towards him, but it is definitely how the post read to me, and I still strongly object to it on those grounds. Again, I agree. I did say almost always. And I've even distinguished between things lukeprog described that I thought were worse than other things. I have said almost the exact same thing. And I think that's the large difference. I have done similar things as well, and, for me they were incredibly destructive, and set me back several years in development of my social skills. And it wasn't until I started analyzing the sources of my emotions that I became confident in myself and who I was. I discarded emotions that weren't based in rational thought, and I accepted and embraced those that were. Perhaps the best lesson to take from this is not to prescribe a single formula to a plethora of people. I will openly admit that I have done that. Before reading the (at times harsh) reactions to my comments, I was honestly astonished that the methods lukeprog (and you, and others) tried would actually work for someone. I spent many years faking confidence and tiptoeing around social protocol, and I was miserable and horribly insecure. I still can't imagine that ever b
It seems like we do have some areas of agreement, and I'm going to focus on the areas where our perspectives are different. He seems to think his exploration had positive consequences for himself and for others, given that he has written this post. His perceptions may not be correct, but they are all we have to go on. Which tactics would you find insulting? Not talking about politics or programming? Maintaining emotional momentum? Displaying confident behavior? Changing topics in conversation by free-associating? Asking for a number while in a rush? lukeprog observes the preferences of (a subset of) women, and attempts to self-modify in order to fulfill their (perceived) criteria. I'm having trouble seeing what the problem is, and how such a practice would disrespect women's rationality. I seems like a more cognitive approach was most helpful for you. For other people, a highly behavioral approach might be useful. For me, both have been useful. It's complicated. Not all of my efforts to expand my personality have succeeded. I eventually do hit a limit of extraversion, for example, beyond which I feel fake and drained. So I do relate to what you are saying. Luckily, some of my attempts at changing my behavior have stuck, and also succeeded in changing my attitudes and sense of self. It was only by pushing my personality to its limits that I gained a sense of what it could do.
Perhaps it's useful to note that all of lukeprog's "tactics" look to me like normal socialization or extensions thereof? Tailoring one's subject matter to one's audience is very normal. Avoiding esoteric or controversial topics with people one doesn't know well is a simple logical extension of this. The "when flirting" qualifier is relevant in that it implies a new acquaintance; different heuristics apply when dealing with people one knows more about. This is a fairly basic social skill. (By which I mean that it's applicable everywhere, not that it's trivial to learn. Possibly also noteworthy: The definition of 'correct emotional momentum' can vary from group to group and situation to situation.) Body language is important. Signaling that one is in a socially-interactive mode when that's true is good practice. Nonverbal communication conveys a lot of information. Treating that communication as real is generally wise. I'd question the assertion that people don't notice these changes of topic, but this kind of behavior is quite normal in most real-time conversation contexts and will generally not be questioned unless it appears to be malicious. Also, to make it perfectly clear: I'm not talking about flirting, dating, or any other romantic or pickup context with any of the above - I don't have (or want; I'm asexual and a-romantic) enough experience to do so. I'm talking about normal, peer-to-peer socialization.
I think that's exactly what we're discussing - whether or not they are "normal socialization or extensions thereof".
First and foremost, the shifting of conversational topics, I would find very insulting. If you can't talk to me normally without desperately reaching for conversational topics, maybe we just shouldn't be talking. Secondly, I would probably list intentionally avoiding conversational topics like politics. If you're not a blue or a green, I'd love to talk about politics with you. (And if you are a blue or a green, I don't really want to talk to you at all...) And if you don't like talking about politics, maybe we shouldn't be together, if I do. Third, is probably this business about "emotional momentum". I had no idea what that even meant when I read it. I'm still not sure I do. I have never considered what "stage of conversation" I'm in. If I think of something that's relevant, I say it. It generally works pretty well for me. I had no objection to the quote, but to the rest of it. The rest of it makes it seem like lukeprog's only goal is sex, particularly the words "totally works" and "optimized". Ultimately conversation should flow, regardless of who you're talking to. If it flows, you don't need to worry about stilted rules like this, which is the primary source of my objection. I wouldn't want to talk to someone constantly worrying about what to say next - it would seem very forced, I'm sure. As a sidenote, and perhaps I'm alone in this and perhaps I'm not, it's hard to tell - I am massively introverted. I don't know if that is a source of difference or not (I would imagine most other LWers are as well) but I thought I'd throw it out there.
The technique described is generally used when one or both parties have run out of interesting things to say on the topic at hand - it's a transitional technique. The interesting point is that it's possible to transition to arbitrary topics rather than there having to be some logical connection between the two. I don't see why you'd consider that 'desperate reaching', but suspect it has to do with the specific topics you're imagining someone switching to. Does it seem less objectionable if you specifically imagine someone transitioning to an arbitrary but interesting and engaging topic? This seems... odd, to me, as an objection. Do you really expect every one of your friends to share every one of your interests, and you to share every one of theirs? Or is it just "topics like politics" that you're applying that expectation to? What do you mean by "topics like politics", and why is that category special? If I'm understanding lukeprog correctly, this refers to monitoring your conversational partner and switching topics or modes if they seem to be losing interest, though that's a simplified description of the skill. I think this is also what you're describing by 'flow', and - importantly - it doesn't come naturally to everyone. To people to whom such skills don't come naturally, or people trying to communicate about the skills, breaking them down into explicitly-described sub-skills as lukeprog did is often quite useful.
No, not at all. I wouldn't at all enjoy a conversation that went along the lines of "Yeah, the weather's great outside, but I hear it's supposed to rain tomorrow." "Yeah, you know what that's exactly like? Aumann's Agreement Theorem". That's just absurd. Admittedly, that's a contrived example, but I suspect that any examples that were "completely unrelated" as lukeprog said, would be equally absurd. No, I don't. And if the person I'm talking to doesn't want to talk about politics, that's fine. But I'm not going to intentionally avoid talking about politics just because they might not want to - that's leaping to a conclusion based on no evidence. And I mean any topic really, just politics and religion are the two quintessential examples of "impolite" topics.
The problem with that example, as far as I can see, is that the transition is trying to force a level of engagement that hasn't been established yet, which would fail even if the topic being transitioned to did have some logical connection to the weather. A better example: Transitioning from a funny, engaging story about someone's cousin's roommates' sister's wedding and the greased pig that got loose at the reception to a similarly engaging point of interest about Aumann's Agreement Theorem and how it applied to a recent decision to donate to a particular charity. Given that the topic being considered "impolite" implies that most people won't like most possible conversations on the topic, no, it's not based on no evidence - it's just based on evidence about people-in-general or people-in-a-given-culture rather than a specific person in particular, which is a reasonable starting point in figuring out how to approach them. (Yes, this pattern-matches with the pronouns debate that comes up here from time to time. The significant difference is that female LWers are likely to object to being called by male pronouns, whereas politics-liking conversationalists are unlikely to object to their conversational partners bringing up non-politics topics of conversation. The parallel of having to actually gather information about people to interact optimally with them is accurate, though.)
But if you used the phrase "That's exactly like", I think it would sound equally forced. Or at least it would to me. I don't think it does. People generally love it if you agree with them - it's impolite because you don't always agree. Many people are happy to drone on for hours about their political beliefs, which is what makes it impolite. If you can be respectful about politics, I see no reason not to bring it up (if you want to). And if the other person can't be respectful, then that gives you (in my book, what would be) a significant reason to not pursue a relationship with that person.
At this point I think it's a matter of empirical testing - meaning, in this case, observing people, since the question is about what people do in the course of normal conversations. This is a significant part of why I said "most possible conversations". I would guess that it's possible to have a political conversation with most people that they'll enjoy - but reliably doing so takes more information than you'll generally have about someone you just met or are in the process of meeting.
Well, he clearly states that it isn't:
I didn't mean someone in the specific. In fact, the phrase "with someone" is entirely unnecessary and confusing, in context. I'll delete it, thanks.
Oh, I did indeed misunderstand you. Whoops.
At what point, in your mind, does he discard rationality?
What I wrote wasn't very clear. I feel as though he is dismissing and discarding his interest in the rationality of the woman whom he is pursuing.
Okay, thanks for the clarification. While I would personally want to date someone else who is fairly rational, it is not clear that every rationalist should have this preference. In particular, it seems likely that most people don't know what they actually want out of a relationship until they've been in several. This seems likely to be the case even for people who think that they do know what they want out of a relationship. (Possibly interesting anecdote: I am in the awkward situation of simultaneously believing the above paragraph and believing that I know what I want out of a relationship without having been in several.)
I disagree. Your rationality is my business. Aumann's Agreement Theorem is also interesting to consider in this context. But that being said, my point was about the inconsistency of his behaviour. Luke wrote a piece posted on a blog dedicated to improving human rationality. He could have kept his revelations to himself, but he didn't, presumably because he wants other people to learn too. And he should. I think that's great. That's why I'm here. But then proceeded to show complete disregard for other people's rationality. His behaviour in his relationships seems to me to be inconsistent with his participation in this community.
The wildly manipulative nature of your methods is, indeed, "appall[ing.]" It's notable that the impetus for this exercise was a perceived suboptimal situation based on little more evidence than a perceived "spark of intimacy" on the part of your partner, hardly anything falsifiable (and even further, you make no mention of consulting said partner about the seeming negative value judgment inherent in your dismissal of monogamy, which is by no means a given -- that's just bad practice). The discussion that builds the guiding premise for this hoopla is reduced to a fait accompli and not given adequate bearing in a balanced "rational" decision. It seems deceptive not only to your partner, then, but also to your audience to cloak your "rational" endeavors under the guise of maximizing mutual utility when the real compelling interest here is your own, and, I would argue, not the quality of any future relationship(s), but the ease and quantity, rather than quality, of acquaintanceship and sex. There are also significant issues of rhetoric, particularly with the uses of "own," "data," and "quality," but they hardly seem to carry bearing without significant explanation; this essay contains yawing gaps of information. Downvote.
This is a great post, as evinced by the upvotes, and especially good for a first post! I have one nit to pick however, which is that you use the second person ("you") to refer to the author of the original post, in a subcomment. I might in general phrase that first sentence as, say, "The wildly manipulative nature of the original poster's methods,..." Anyway as jsalvatier says below, welcome to LessWrong!
Welcome to LessWrong! You may have fun introducing yourself on the welcome thread.

Interesting I went through a similar assessment of my sexual and social results, and ultimately reached similar positive results with a different arrangement.

So I broke up with Alice over a long conversation that included an hour-long primer on evolutionary psychology in which I explained how natural selection had built me to be attracted to certain features that she lacked. I thought she would appreciate this because she had previously expressed admiration for detailed honesty. Later, I realized how hard it is to think of a more damaging way to break up

... (read more)

Upvoted for it brings an interesting discussion.

I didn't upvote or downvote (and haven't yet read the other article), because I generally don't unless I feel strongly about the content of a post, one way or another, and I didn't, aside from wanting to argue about polyamory and such.


Having now read them both individually and then side by side, the other is far better. The other comment I made still stands though, for both articles.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

I seem to have put in a lot less effort to get what seem to me to be similarly awesome results. This very weakly implies that a lot of your skill gaining might not have been necessary:

There might have been a learning curve, but by golly, at the end of all that DIY science and rationality training and scholarship I'm actually seeing an awesome poly girl, I'm free to take up other relationships when I want, I know fashion well enough to teach it at rationality camps, I can build rapport with almost anyone, my hair looks great and I'm happy.

I didn't reall... (read more)

It sounds like you and lukeprog are doing a lot of the same things, and have the same skills... the difference is that you managed to attain these skills without needing to study them so much. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I'm sure there are people who might work as hard as lukeprog, and still not attain the results in dating that either you or him achieve, because they are starting off as more unattractive and socially impaired, or they don't learn quickly. If you're turning heads, then you are either great at fashion, or you are more attractive than a "7" (at least, to a sufficient proportion of women). For some people, it takes work to attain this skill. Not everyone has hair that looks great with minimal work, and some people have to spend time and effort learning how to maintain it. Based on what I know of you so far, I suspect that you are substantially above the mean in attractiveness to women (or at least, to a certain subset of women). It sounds like you've developed a lot of the prerequisites without needing to try very hard. While I will congratulate you, I'm not sure that your experience suggests that lukeprog's skill development was not necessary. He just needed to work harder to put together a similar amount of skills and attractiveness. Due to a different biology and social experience, it takes different people different amounts of work to attain the same skills.
Upon reflection I was overlooking a few different sources of sheer luck that are pretty important; e.g. for some reason I excelled at picking up 8.5-9.5s when I was lucky enough to meet them---perhaps because they were invariably smarter than the many 7s who for some reason I generally didn't do well with, or 'cuz they invariably had less friends than nearly another type of girl for some reason? Anyway, it wasn't obvious to me before that 1. decent looks, 2. very high intelligence iff clothes are high quality, and 3. confidence around 8s and 9s are all traits that can be genetically gifted to you, and that their combination in a single person is more than just additive. Obvious but non-obvious. Thanks for the even-handedness as always, HughRistik.
I've seen a photograph of you and you are strikingly handsome. And if you talk anything like the way you write, you give the impression of having a high opinion of yourself. That's my explanation right there.
[citation needed]
Bleh, I have a cute story about how I almost got one such citation, but there's no way I'm posting it under a name that's linked to a Facebook account. I'll just say it involved a high school yearbook and a "list of accomplishments".