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—"


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"

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The catgirls are already here, in a prototype form that only works on a select few individuals:

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.

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

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".)

I think online dating and pick-up artist techniques attempt at combating this problem.

For one side of the equation. From the male perspective, Pick-up-artistry increases likelihood of getting as many, and as awesome girls as you wish, from the female perspective, it makes guys more fun to hang out with for, say, one or two months (after which the guys will be kind of, well, tired of all the effort of attracting, and will just let go). From this point of view, that is good. But there is no such thing as a promising technique for women. Girls select us for reasons we can understand, and fake until we make. We are lucky, they are not lucky, it costs a lot to have as many plastical surgeries as would be necessary to significantly change your status among your peers. They cheat as much as they can with make up. But it is harder to pretend feminility and hotness than it is to pretend extroversion and status.
Let's not even pretend that physical attractiveness, especially facial, doesn't factor just as highly, if not more-so, in the female perspective. That's about the hardest thing to cheat, especially for guys, who can't make use of make-up as easily, both social-acceptability-wise, and simply never being taught how, in most cases. Furthermore, for many people, sociability and 'faking it' are by no means easy. For instance, I have Aspergers, and let me tell you, sociability for me is likely a lot harder than wearing a push-up bra, just as an example. Even if none of the above was true, or mattered, women are just plain pickier, because evolutionarily, it makes sense. And lastly, they don't need a technique. The only reason it would become a problem for 90% of women (random made up rhetorical statistic disclaimer) is if they're aiming high. Men don't even bother aiming high, in general, unless they're so low down that the only direction is up. In modern society, sexual and to a lesser extent, romantic relations conventions are largely dictated by the woman. On equal footing, attractively, what is the likelihood a man is going to turn down a woman? Maybe women have slightly less mobility, but they start with a massive offset, in my experience.
Facial attractiveness does not factor highly for women. This is a factual issue, there is no pretending. Evidence is that women go for other stuff before that and "pay more" for other stuff. Read Mating Intelligence. Asperger is very bad for a male, I'll give you that. Obviously, in attraction, as in life, use the paretto principle. Whatever is 80% of benefit from 20% effort given you are asperger is your best shot. If your claim is that "they are pickier therefore it is harder for males" I disagree. They are indeed pickier, but males can more easily reach what they'd consider "acceptable" than women, exactly because for the evolutionary reasons you mentioned, even when women are following my advice and discounting as hard as they can for ignoring genes which won't end up in their children, they still are a lot pickier. The claim is not that having sex being a male is easier, that one is false. The claim is that for nearly any level of accomplishment "acceptable" "good" "great" and "unbelievable" finding of a sex partner, males are more likely to hit that threshold with training etc...
I'll concede the first point, but bear in mind that as I said, it is harder for men to change their facial appearance than women, so while I couldn't comment on the magnitudes involved, I'd estimate it somewhat cancels out, at the very least. I also daresay, examining my understandings that lead to this point that my mistake was implying a direct causation where a slightly finer touch was necessary. Because let's not pretend that more facially attractive men don't have an easier time of it. Of course, this presumably increases their self-confidence, etc. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure 20% effort is too low to yield anything at all. I'll let you know if I ever find a point where a given amount of effort pays off. Hmm, I see what you're saying. However, my counterargument, as I said previously, is that males start at a disadvantage, so even if they have an easier time evening the playing field, that still requires work I would broadly define as 'harder'. Perhaps that is partially my individual biases talking, but I'm not the only person I know who has expressed similar sentiments. My claim, to paraphrase yours, is that while men are more likely to hit the threshold with training, women are more likely to without. To be honest, I think I'd take that offset over mobility any day. For casual sexual partners specifically, however, I would point out that the libido difference between men and women means I daresay the gender ratios in that sort of environment aren't quite equal. As a result, I would expect a higher proportion of men than women are left without a sexual partner out of those who were looking for one.

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".

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.

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.

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.)
A very good idea, that.

Doug, why couldn't a fembot be programmed to be sentient? I think the term you're looking for is "nonsentient romantic/sex partner."

Sexbot? It appears in the original post.
Also, 'fembot' is sometimes used as a derisive term for feminists which could cause confusion. Sexbots

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.

"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 ... (read more)

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 dunno, chess against an AI is pretty compelling

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.

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.

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).

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.

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 h... (read more)

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.

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


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)

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.

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'm mostly with Kaj; I don't see the problem. Designing a companion seems like it will often be a superior strategy than trying to acquire one largely through trial-and-error with existing people. Why would anyone want to "catgirl" when they could make a human who was perfectly suited for them?

If anything, I think problems may come from women, who will find themselves no longer able to acquire resources by virtue of their attractiveness. Of course, if we have enough technology to create companions, we could probably easily modify women (or men) to be as attractive as the "catgirls", and maybe make women on equal footing with men in the engineering department (so they don't suffer economically).

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.

An interesting topic, but I think you've overlooked an important sex difference on the whole "each gender goes its own way" scenario. When it comes to relationships men are generally looking for an affectionate, physically attractive sex partner, so the idea of building non-sentient (or otherwise specially engineered) companions seems plausible.

But women are primarily looking for a source of material support, preferably of high social status. This pretty much requires a partner her society considers a legal person, capable of earning money and ow... (read 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.)


@Manuel Mortelmaier:

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"


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

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.

"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.


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.

Seems like the most simple solution would be to trend people towards being bisexual and reduce the need for monogamous relationships. So instead of having one perfect mate that a person spends all their time with then have many different mates that all fulfill an different essential need or hunger. I know if I was living a very long life I wouldn't want to spend it all with the same person.

2Paul Crowley
I am bisexual and polyamorous, but I don't see any reason why everyone should be the same way.
mm maybe people should be the same way so that it was not the case, for any persons passion, that it could not be fulfilled uniquely due to the passionatee's natural inclinations.

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 ... (read more)

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. 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. I think he meant a common secondary meaning of sterile: barren and fruitless. Sterile simplicity is bad because it generates less things of value. 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. 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. I think Eliezer says what the difference is most explicitly here: To put it succinctly, solving the problem would allow

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

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 comple... (read more)


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.
Must... resist... archive binge!

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... (read more)

@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.

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.
I was generalizing about male nerds, specifically their fantasies and perceptions not women.
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. 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. 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.
Sorry for dragging down our average, guys!
Shun the group norm violator, he makes us look bad in front of others. Shun! Shun!
You were doing both. Male nerds is obvious, women is more implicit: 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.
This. My mistake then. Thanks to daenerys for pointing it out! :)
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.
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.
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.
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.
She will probably also get persued by 6s, 7s and lazy 8s - just not for long term relationships. This is definitely true.
And if the latter then I'm rather impressed with the open mindedness of the ethics committee!
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.

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

Why would anyone want to "catgirl" when they could make a human who was perfectly suited for them?

If catgirl technology precedes pseudo-human technology, corporations may shape our preferences so that we truly prefer the catgirls.


Sure this isn't a utopia for someone who wants to preserve "suboptimal" portions of his/her history because they hold some individual significance. But it seems a pretty darn good utopia for a pair of newly created beings. A sort of Garden of Eden scenario.

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

Michael Vassar,

Clarify? What was your side of the position?

"Where 'nonsentient romantic/sex partner' is pretty much what I use the word "catgirl" to indicate, in futuristic discourse." - 40 comments in this thread, and not a word about Kzin?

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.

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...
... (read more)
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.

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.

I feel it's necessary to link this post to this xkcd. Carry on.

But you missed this one?
Is that relevant to this post? Or the more recent discussions?
You know, I saw your comment in the "Recent Comments" page and thought it was on a different discussion (the obvious one). It's late, I should be in bed.

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.)

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... (read more)

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. 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.

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.


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".


"Romance is complex" is a very common cached thought, but unless my experience is utterly freakish, a wrong one. My partner and I get in fights, like anybody does, but not over anything particularly mysterious or complex. Sure, part of the pleasures of early romance is discovering the various nuances of someone, until you have a better working model of them than yourself, but the joys of a relationship aren't over after that point. You may end up taking joy in the merely real.

I say this as someone frequently helpless and confused when it comes to how to deal with friends, strangers, co-workers, &c.

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I had not heard the term catgirl before reading it on Lesswrong. Does this come from the story in The Man-Kzinn Wars series about the woman who gets gradually converted into a Kzinn female (which are only borderline sentient), or is this from some other niche in nerd culture that I am not familiar with?


But I can't quite manage to argue... that such a wish should be binding on someone who doesn't have it.

I would have had a problem with this post if not for that line.
I'll take a nonsentient perfectly tailored romantic partner anyday. Or perhaps better yet self-modify to no longer require interpersonal entanglement.

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.

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


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

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


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.)
Animals can't feel interest?
(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.
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.

Having a non-sentient romantic partner is masturbation.

I like masturbation and all, but ultimately it is just like any other self-time, such as eating a tub of ice cream while watching one of those guilty-pleasure-romcoms.

Catgirls : Book reading :: Romance : Intelligent conversation

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

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

What happened to boardgames?

Well, obviously the correct decision isn't catpersons OR human partner. The correct decsion is catpersons AND human partner.

Although I would say that in many many instances the average person wouldn't be a more satisfying sex partner than the average catperson. And that goes double for when the catperson is designed by genetically modified to have a human body and a cat's brain, which is probably the quickest path to catpersons from here.


Okay, maybe I don't want to spend a MILLION years doing this.

But once the technology is available, I want my consciousness transferred from a male body into a female body. Then I want to have sex/flirting/cuddling with a large number of women. And I want the sex to involve my unusual fetish.

Thing is: once we have the technology, there will be a large number of men transferring their consciousnesses to female bodies in order to pursue female-female sex and relationships, and the more men do this, the larger the potential mating pool for these men (who will no longer be men) because they will mate with each other.

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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 do... (read more)

"The other girl is a Brandy. Her date is a Clint. Brandy and Clint are both popular, off-the-shelf models. When white.trash high school girls are going on a date in the Metaverse, they invariably run down to the computer-games section of the local Wal-Mart and buy a copy of Brandy. The user can select three breast sizes: improbable, impossible, and ludicrous. Brandy has a limited repertoire of facial expressions: cute and pouty; cute and sultry; perky and interested; smiling and receptive; cute and spacy ... Clint is just the male counterpart of Brandy. He is craggy and handsome and has an extremely limited range of facial expressions." -- Neal Stephenson, Snowcrash
Are you suggesting that my scenario would make men look fake or make them all look the same? Because if you can't imagine what I suggested without that happening it implies at least one of two things: 1. I described it poorly. 2. You need a better imagination.
First, I would like to suggest that "using technology to upgrade every man's body" is available right now. People usually call it "going to the gym". As to whether I need a better imagination, let me quote you Eric Hoffer: When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.
The gym is not nearly as powerful as the technology I'm talking about. I'm talking about biotechnology / transhuman technology. Men given the genetic short end of the stick can't reasonably expect to look fit no matter how much they work out, unless they don't have a job or any time consuming responsibilities. And no I'm not a jealous fat guy. I'm not athlete, but I'm in decent shape. And what I'm talking about here is upgrading the average man's attractiveness so that it's on par with the average woman's attractiveness. Nobody complains that all women look the same. In fact women look very diverse. I'm talking about a scenario where men look as diverse as women do. Also due to supply and demand, there would be an incentive for men to look diverse to match the diversity of women's desires. A higher supply of Ryan Gosling clones than there is demand for Ryan Gosling clones would create incentives for men to look different from Ryan Gosling.
Yes, but the gym has a decisive advantage: it's real and the transhuman technology is imaginary. That's flat out false. Men given the genetic short end of the stick cannot be expected to win the Olympics. But just looking fit a very low bar. By the way, the ripped look is mostly a function of low (<10%) body fat, not of how much you lift. Which aren't all that diverse if you're talking about looks.
Lorem Ipsum
Sure. Since we're imagining things, technology can give you any body you want and it doesn't even have to be human. But that's pretty obvious, so I'm wondering what's the point that you want to make. There are a whole lot of background assumptions here, beyond assuming that body upgrades are available. You are assuming that somebody can allow or deny them. You are assuming that this somebody cares about diversity of body types (in which case they might incentivise you to grow a couple of extra limbs or switch to a radial-symmetry body plan instead of staying fat and flabby, by the way). You are assuming these upgrades are a sufficiently big deal so that you don't want to do one each time you get bored or your girlfriend changes. Etc., etc.
In the context of the comment thread about a sci-fi story that's not terribly relevant, though.
Huh, for some reason I was under the impression that this was the comment thread to this other post.
I largely agree, but: 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. Given the backlash against PUA I wouldn't be entirely sure of that, even though improving appearance might be less taboo than improving behavior.
Well people dislike PUAs because they see them as emotionally manipulative and dishonest, (which is sometimes true) and I don't think problem would be present here.
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 see that you are new on LW. LW is a place that's about actually thinking critically and not simply talk about magic pill interventions. The gym does what you were talking about. It might not have been what you where thinking about. What makes you believe that's true? Leaving out people with real disabilities for the sake of the discussion.
I'm not new to lesswrong. I'm active on the Facebook group and have read most of the sequences. My mom is a doctor, and she says genetics are the biggest factor in what people look like. I know that's not a perfect source but it's worth something EDIT: Yeah I know that's a really shitty argument, but it's not so much an argument as it is a clarification of where I got the idea. But anyway, doesn't it seem a bit far fetched to say that anybody can become muscular if they just work hard enough? That sound a lot like saying anyone can become rich if they just work hard enough, or anyone can learn calculus if they just study hard enough. In real life people have different levels of natural ability, different privileges and other advantages. That's one possible interpretation of my words. But what I'm intending to refer to. I'm talking about biotechnology / transhuman technology. Try listening to what I'm actually trying to say. The gym is irrelevant to my actual point.
"Anyone can become muscular if they just work hard enough" sounds to me a lot like "anyone can become fat if they just eat enough." Both of those seem pretty plausible to me, even though admittedly it is harder for some than for others, in both cases.
When I was between the ages of 14 and 20 I was 135 pounds no matter what I ate, and I didn't watch my diet at all. I imagine I could have gained weight if I "tried hard enough" but it would have involved eating obscene amounts of sugary and fatty foods. We're talking about an "epic meal time" everyday style diet.
I fully understand what you are trying to say. The problem is that thinking about the issue that way is inproductive. You don't engage with the actual knowledge we have about making people more fit. In the LW context "my mum told me" is not a good argument. There's a reason why "appeal to authority" is generally considered to be a logical fallacy. The importance is not how the idea sounds but what we know about the effects of various interventions. But even if we look at the way the idea sounds, if a hunter gatherer can't build muscle he likely won't procreate. That means there are strong evolutionary pressures for humans to be able to build muscles. There aren't similar pressures for learning calculus. I haven't made that claim. It's not simply a matter of working hard. It's about training in and efficient way an eating the right diet.
Yeah I know it's a shitty argument I admit it. I see. But does this imply that we shouldn't use transhuman technology to make people more muscular? If we could use such technology, why wouldn't we?
That's besides the point on many levels. There isn't a clear line between existing technology and transhuman technology. The technology that we have that produces the effect of a muscular body the fasted is steroid hormones. We outlaw their usages for purposes of appearance enchancement. To me it sounds like you haven't thought about the subject to have an informed opinion if you simply ask "why wouldn't we?". There are a lot of practical issues that come with using technology like steroid hormones to make men look more attractive that you don't think about if you think about magical transhuman technology the way your initial post framed the issue. You argue that we are wrong to outlaw the usage of steroid homones to allow men to look more attractive but you don't provide any arguments towards that conclusion. If you say you want something that's even more transhuman than artificial hormones we are likely talking about something like gene therapy. That means you get even more medical risks than you get with steroid hormones.
Are you saying that technology to enhance the appearance of the male body without having unwanted health effects is so implausible that it will never happen? Because over the long term (200-1000 years from now) I prefer to avoid saying "technology X will never happen" unless there's an actual law of physics that says so. Remember that this is just speculation.
You didn't say anything about technology not having "unwanted health effects" before. That's like saying: "Remember that I don't know what I'm talking about". There a variety of knowledge available about the effects of various technological options to increase muscle mass. The fact that your comments are not inspired by that empirical data but by baseless speculation is what I'm criticising. Productive conversations about healthcare technology are those that are grounded in empiric reality.
That was supposed to be implied. Allow me to quote Facing The Intelligence Explosion by Luke Muehlhauser: You appear to be acting like that virtual assistant. People's suggestions can only properly be understood in the context of common sense. And generally it is considered okay for people to speculate by saying "hey, what if X happens, it might be a good idea" as long as X is possible and the speculator is not asserting X definitely can or will happen. It's pretty crazy to enforce a rule against speculation and brainstorming. You appear to be reacting as if I'm saying: "hey we will definitely be doing X in the future! There is no reason not to and no reason it could go wrong." The difference between speculation and baseless assertion is the difference between making a tentative suggestion in what could happen and making an uninformed suggestion about what will happen.
Implying that new technology generally comes without risk or sideeffects is typical for transhumanist writting but it's also badly wrong. Most new technology has risk or sideeffects at the time it get's adopted. I didn't say baseless assertion but baseless speculation given that you don't seem to have covered the basic research of looking into the issues surrounded the existing technology, your speculation about future technology is per definition baseless.
Lorem Ipsum
Should we develop technology X? has a lot to do with: What do we expect the likely effects of the adoption of technology X happen to be?. Thinking that the two questions have nothing to do with each other is highly problematic. I don't think that the discussions about terraforming Mars on LW are done by people who haven't thought about the existent technical options for terraforming Mars. The problem is not that you speculate but that you ignore what we know as a society about the various interventions for the problem while you speculate.
Lorem Ipsum
You don't say what you mean with they. They fit the criteria you stated in the opening post. Engaging with reality would help formulatting better criteria. Saying the gym isn't good because you can't teach everyone calculus is not engaging with the issues of the gym.
Lorem Ipsum
If I say: "You don't say what you mean with they" then there nothing overconfident about that statement. It simply shows that I know of multiple possible interpretations, while you might or might not be conscious of them. If you are you could specify your argument. Scientific thinking is to seek for disconfirmation of claims. The fact that vague claims can be read in a way that's not disconfirmation doesn't mean that it's good to read them that way. Being to vague to be wrong is bad.
They are the biggest factor in what people look like by default, if they don't apply effort to change.

Is there any significant difference between finding sentient beings who self-modify into becoming sentient catgirls for the purpose of serving you in your volcano fortress and engineering de novo sentient catgirls who desire to serve you in your volcano fortress?

Short answer is "yes, probably" but depends a lot on what you mean by... well, basically each of the words in the sentence. (There's a bunch of other sequence posts that are relevant in some way to this question although I'm not sure I can find them easily offhand)

An answer of "There is probably one but I can't figure out what it is." is equivalent to an answer of "I can't find one."

I'm not making a mathematical conjecture that is probably true but might not have a proof; I'm asking what is wrong with engineering fully sentient catgirls who want to serve people in a volcano fortress that isn't also wrong with allowing existing people to follow their dreams of changing themselves into sentient catgirls and serving people in a volcano fortress.