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Let them eat cake: Interpersonal Problems vs Tasks

70 Post author: HughRistik 07 October 2009 04:35PM

When I read Alicorn's post on problems vs tasks, I immediately realized that the proposed terminology helped express one of my pet peeves: the resistance in society to applying rationality to socializing and dating.

In a thread long, long ago, SilasBarta described his experience with dating advice:

I notice all advice on finding a girlfriend glosses over the actual nuts-and-bolts of it.

In Alicorn's terms, he would be saying that the advice he has encountered treats problems as if they were tasks. Alicorn defines these terms a particular way:

It is a critical faculty to distinguish tasks from problems.  A task is something you do because you predict it will get you from one state of affairs to another state of affairs that you prefer.  A problem is an unacceptable/displeasing state of affairs, now or in the likely future.  So a task is something you do, or can do, while a problem is something that is, or may be.

Yet as she observes in her post, treating genuine problems as if they were defined tasks is a mistake:

Because treating problems like tasks will slow you down in solving them.  You can't just become immortal any more than you can just make a peanut butter sandwich without any bread.

Similarly, many straight guys or queer women can't just find a girlfriend, and many straight women or queer men can't just find a boyfriend,  any more than they can "just become immortal."

People having trouble in those areas may ask for advice, perhaps out of a latent effort to turn the problem into more of a task. Yet a lot of conventional advice doesn't really turn the problem into the task (at least, not for everyone), but rather poses new problems, due to difficulties that Alicorn mentioned, such as lack of resources, lack of propositional knowledge, or lack of procedural knowledge.

Take, for example, "just be yourself," or "just meet potential partners through friends." For many people, these pieces of advice just open up new problems: being oneself is a problem of personal identity. It's not a task that you can execute as part of a step in solving the problem of dating. Having a social network, let alone one that will introduce you to potential partners, is also a problem for many people. Consequently, these pieces of advice sound like "let them eat cake."

Society in general resists the notion that socializing (dating and mating in particular) is a problem. Rather, society treats it as a solved task, yet the procedures it advocates are incomplete, dependent on unacknowledged contextual factors, big hairy problems of their own, or just plain wrong. (Or it gives advice that consists of true observations that are useless for taskification, like "everyone is looking for something different" in a mate. Imagine telling a budding chef: "everyone has different tastes" in food. It's true, but it isn't actually useful in taskifying a problem like "how do I cook a meal?")

Even worse, society resists better attempts to taskify social interaction (especially dating and mating). People who attempt to taskify socializing and dating are often seen as inauthentic, manipulative, inhuman, mechanical, objectifying of others, or going to unnecessary lengths.

While some particular attempts of taskifying those problems may indeed suffer from those flaws, some people seem like they object to any form of taskifying in those areas. There may be good reasons to be skeptical of the taskifiability of socializing and mating. Yet while socializing and dating may not be completely taskifiable due to the improvisational and heavily context-dependent nature of those problems, they are actually taskifiable to a reasonably large degree.

Many people seem to hold an idealistic view of socializing and dating, particularly dating, that places them on another plane of reality where things are just supposed to happen "magically" and "naturally," free of planning or any other sort of deliberation. Ironically, this Romantic view can actually be counterproductive to romance. Taskifaction doesn't destroy romance any more than it destroys music or dance. Personally, I think musicians who can actually play their instruments are capable of creating more "magical" music than musicians who can't. The Romantic view only applies to those who are naturally adept; in other words, those for who mating is not a problem. For those who do experience romance as a problem, the Romantic view is garbage [Edit: while turning this into a top-level post, I've realized that I need more clarification of what I am calling the "Romantic" view].

The main problem with this Romantic view is that is that it conflates a requirement for a solution with the requirements for the task-process that leads to the solution. Just because many people want mating and dating to feel magical and spontaneous, it doesn't mean that every step in finding and attracting mates must be magical and spontaneous, lacking any sort of planning, causal thinking, or other elements of taskification. Any artist, whether in visual media, music, drama, or dance knows that the "magic" of their art is produced by mundane and usually heavily taskified processes. You can't "just" create a sublime work of art any more than you can "just" have a sublime romantic experience (well, some very talented and lucky people can, but it's a lot harder for everyone else). Actually, it is taskification itself which allows skill to flourish, creating a foundation for expression that can feel spontaneous and magical. It is the mundane that guides the magical, not the other way around.

Sucking at stuff is not sublime. It's not sublime in art, it's not sublime in music, and it's not sublime in dance. In dating, there is nothing wrong with a little innocence and awkwardness, but the lack of procedural and propositional knowledge can get to the point where it intrudes ruins the "magic." There is nothing "magical" about the experience of someone who is bumbling socially and romantically, and practically forcing other people to reject him or her, either for that person of for those around. Yet to preserve the perception of "magic" and "spontaneity" (an experience that is only accessible for those with natural attractiveness and popularity, or luck), society is actually denying that type of experience to those who experience dating as a problem. Of course, they might "get lucky" and eventually get together with someone who is a decent without totally screwing things up with that person... but why is society mandating that romance be a given for some people, but a matter of "getting lucky" for others?

The sooner society figures out the following, the better:

1. For many people, socializing and dating are problems, not yet tasks.

2. Socializing and dating can be taskified to the extend that other problems with similar solutions requirements (e.g. improvisation, fast response to emotional impulses of oneself and others, high attention to context, connection to one's own instincts) can be taskified. Which is a lot of the way, but definitely not all the way.

3. Taskification when applied to interpersonal behavior is not inherently immoral or dehumanizing to anyone, nor does it inherently steal the "magic" from romance any more than dance training steals the magic from dance.

Until then, we will continue to have a social caste system of those for whom socializing and dating is a task (e.g. due to intuitive social skills), over those for whom those things are still problems (due to society's accepted taskifications not working for them, and being prevented from making better taskifications due to societal pressure and censure).

Comments (568)

Comment author: bigbad 13 October 2009 12:35:58AM 17 points [-]

I've always found "Just be yourself" to be particularly unhelpful advice.

"Just be Brad Pitt" is better advice, but still not helpful.

Comment author: taryneast 31 December 2013 06:22:45AM *  0 points [-]

Yes, it's along the lines of that "unless you can be a dragon, then always be a dragon" quote... it's not the kind of advice that can empower you to do something more effective.

Comment author: ata 08 October 2009 10:54:52PM 15 points [-]

That sums things up for me. To paraphrase Katie Lucas, every piece of interpersonal skills advice I've come across has, at its kernel, a very small section labelled "do magic here" -- or at least it often seems like magic to those who need that kind of advice in the first place.

As a member of that lower caste, I'm always interested in the possibility of systematizing social/dating skills. I'm currently looking into books, videos, etc. intended for autistic and Asperger people. I am neither (as far as I know), but it seems like they're the most likely to receive clear, algorithmic (so to speak) advice, because there's a recognized medical need for it. Probably it's easier for society to sympathize with them than with your run-of-the-mill geek with poor social skills, even if there are similar solutions to both of their problems. (I don't mean to belittle the problems faced by actual autistics, who absolutely do deserve that sympathy, but I also think that there should be no shame in applying the same solutions (if they work) to similar types of problems when they are faced by non-autistics.)

I'm trying a few such books right now. I might be back with some recommendations if any of them help.

Comment author: SilasBarta 08 October 2009 11:02:22PM *  19 points [-]

I'm with you on this. One small step I've taken is to compile all the rules I've aggregated from various sources about when and where it's okay to touch a woman (in the sense of "it would not be considered out-of-line to do this, though you may be politely asked to stop") into a chart. When I posted it on another forum, it became simultaneously the funniest and truest artwork I have ever produced.

ETA: Okay, because of the interest, I'll post it. Some disclaimers:

1) This is intended to give socially inept guys assurance against false accusations of being a "perv" or "too aggressive". Adhering to the chart will only mean that you will not be so labeled, and that women that complain to their friends or the venue's manager will receive little sympathy. It does not mean it is the optimal time to touch or that you won't be turned down (you should thereafter stop), just that you are within acceptable behavior boundaries and should stand your ground if you get flak.

2) To make the image less offensive, a man's body is color-coded. It refers to a woman, of course.

3) You can zoom in, at least if you permit javascript from enough domains.

With that said, here's the diagram. You'll probably laugh, or deem it true, or both.

Comment author: LauraABJ 09 October 2009 02:45:40AM 9 points [-]

Cute!!! I would note that most men are too conservative with touch in general. What you're touching is not always as important as that your touching, which immediately establishes an intimacy not achievable by mere conversation. The woman will let you know in one way or another if she wants you to stop, but she will almost never say she wants you to start, or even know it herself. Learning how to give a backrub is probably a good idea.

Comment author: Alicorn 09 October 2009 03:12:37AM *  9 points [-]

I second the backrubs. Backrubs are excellent. Nonthreatening (well, assuming you don't say anything creepy while near the neck, or stray south), casual, they feel awesome, and they're easy to segue into from the other party stretching or just saying "my back is killing me". I do recommend asking rather than just starting on one, though. Certain back problems don't react well to them, and there might be hair or a necklace or something to get out of the way, and they can be delivered in a startling way if begun without warning.

Comment author: komponisto 09 October 2009 03:41:36AM 2 points [-]

and they can be delivered in a startling way if begun without warning.

Compare George W. Bush and Angela Merkel.

Comment author: MarkusRamikin 25 June 2011 08:18:53PM *  1 point [-]

Backrubs are excellent. Nonthreatening (well, assuming you don't say anything creepy while near the neck

Now that you said that, how the hell am I ever going to resist the temptation next time :(

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 09 October 2009 12:16:44AM 2 points [-]

Thirded - but don't take my interest as evidence one way or the other as to whether most women would find such a thing offensive.

Comment author: pwno 09 October 2009 12:14:16AM 2 points [-]

Now you have to show it.

Comment author: SilasBarta 09 October 2009 02:31:20AM *  4 points [-]

Link to female-touch guide posted. (Karma currently at 666.)

Comment author: [deleted] 02 January 2014 09:10:44PM *  1 point [-]

It also depends on where the woman is from.

Comment author: taryneast 31 December 2013 06:34:05AM 1 point [-]

That's a great diagram!

I'd personally move the back of the neck to the purple zone - it can be considered intimate touch.

I'd also add feet to the diagram (they're currently in white) and I'd personally colour them purple. Note that offering a foot-massage, is often a good "move" to test the waters (or even just be nice to a friend who's had a hard day).

But I fully applaud this kind of clear instruction - I like it.

Comment author: Christian_Szegedy 09 October 2009 08:08:58PM 1 point [-]

No data on boko-maru? :)

Comment author: SilasBarta 09 October 2009 08:11:26PM 1 point [-]

Meaning "feet" in Japanese? No, not yet :-P

I'm surprised no one else has remarked on that. In the other forum I got a lot of "ROFL@No data".

Comment author: Christian_Szegedy 09 October 2009 09:06:55PM 1 point [-]

Actually, I was only advertising "Cat's Cradle", my favorite Kurt Vonnegut novel.

Comment author: wedrifid 09 October 2009 02:35:44AM *  1 point [-]

Nice one! True(ish). A bit on the conservative side, but that's probably what you were aiming at!

Comment author: Bo102010 09 October 2009 12:12:48AM 1 point [-]

Link?

Comment author: Morendil 07 October 2009 07:35:58PM 11 points [-]

Online dating sites appear to offer a counterexample to the assertion that "society resists better attempts to taskify social interaction (especially dating and mating)".

Comment author: pdf23ds 07 October 2009 07:50:58PM 8 points [-]

Given the dynamics on those dating sites, I'd have to disagree. The potential efficiency gains from more straightforward behavior and interactions made possible by the forum seems to be completely lost. People behave just like they would in live interactions, seemingly doing their best to keep the dynamics untaskified. I admit the mere existence of those sites does count as a bit of taskification, though.

Comment author: HughRistik 07 October 2009 08:02:13PM 5 points [-]

Sure, I was being polemical. Society indeed approves of taskifying dating in particular ways, yet even so, there is a deep-seated ambivalence over taskification.

Take your example of online dating. People who engage in online dating can be seen as losers, or accused of looking at prospective online partners like items on a menu.

Online dating is only a very small part of the taskification of dating. Even though a website provides an avenue where people can contact each other, what do you do then? And if you do end up meeting someone, what do you do?

The closer we get to the nitty-gritty of what people actually do when they are in front of each other, the more ambivalent society becomes about taskifying.

Comment author: Morendil 07 October 2009 09:54:27PM 4 points [-]

Hugh, your complaint as I understand it is that society not only doesn't provide rituals which turn "dating and mating" into a well defined process with agreed upon rules, but in fact actively resists the demands of people who would use such rituals.

Yet when one researches the question "what are the formalized rituals of dating and mating", well, there's plenty of information out there. May I suggest that it would be wortwhile to yourself and to your readers to do the research, and report back on what you found, and then possibly point out any remaining large gaps?

Disclosure: I may not have much to say about dating and mating in general, as I have been out of the dating market for twenty years.

I do have a little experience in deliberately transforming myself (from 2000 onwards) from an introverted geek with no friends into an avid business networker with an excellent reputation. I found excellent procedural information for doing so in a book called "Why Should Extroverts Make All The Money".

Back around that time I formulated an informal theory that made the parallel between "finding a job through the want ads" and "finding a partner through classifieds". The gist of the theory was that in both cases there were too many incentives to lie and one would get burned quite easily. The strategy that relied on building up a social network looked a lot more appealing to me, at least in the professional domain.

Even though a website provides an avenue where people can contact each other, what do you do then?

This seems to some extent taskified, Google "speed dating". My point isn't that encounters on online dating sites systematically lead to speed dating, but that "society" has come up with at least one taskified version of the supposed "problem" of the first meeting with a prospective date. Speed dating wouldn't exist if "society" were as reluctant as you say it is to taskify in matters of intimacy.

And if you do end up meeting someone, what do you do?

That rather depends on the specifics of your problem statement. The "problem" of sexual encounters is at least partly taskified (think "oldest profession in the world")...

Comment author: HughRistik 08 October 2009 06:14:33AM 6 points [-]

Hugh, your complaint as I understand it is that society not only doesn't provide rituals which turn "dating and mating" into a well defined process with agreed upon rules, but in fact actively resists the demands of people who would use such rituals.

Dating already involves enough rules and rituals. I'm not advocating adding any more. What I want to see is more specification of how to perform under the existing rules and constraints (e.g. the constraint of the typical desires of the people you are trying to date).

Although it's often difficult to define in advance how to behave in a particular situation, it can sometimes be possible to codify the types of things to avoid, or to know what result your behavior needs to achieve, even if you must improvise how you get to that result.

Furthermore, on a more global level, it's possible to taskify the problem of learning how to date. For instance, learning how to increase your attractiveness in general, or learning how to dynamically improvise in situations of uncertainty.

I'm arguing that society is blocking problem-solving on both local problems ("what do I see when I approach the attractive stranger at this party?" or "what do I need to accomplish with the first few things I say to this person?") and global problems ("what do I need to do to develop into the kind of person who knows what to say to attractive strangers at party without even needing introspection?").

Yet when one researches the question "what are the formalized rituals of dating and mating", well, there's plenty of information out there. May I suggest that it would be wortwhile to yourself and to your readers to do the research, and report back on what you found, and then possibly point out any remaining large gaps?

What makes you think I haven't? Yes, I haven't really got specific about what exactly I think is lacking in conventional dating advice, though I might in the future if I consider it on topic for LessWrong. For now, my main topic has been an attitude about breaking down dating—and the process of learning how to date—into tasks to the extent that this is possible.

The strategy that relied on building up a social network looked a lot more appealing to me, at least in the professional domain.

One's social network is important in both business and dating. Social network is a big plus, but it isn't a prerequisite for dating.

That rather depends on the specifics of your problem statement. The "problem" of sexual encounters is at least partly taskified (think "oldest profession in the world")...

Most people do not have a problem statement that can be solved by the oldest profession.

Comment author: wedrifid 08 October 2009 09:55:07PM 6 points [-]

Most people do not have a problem statement that can be solved by the oldest profession.

I've considered the problem "how to get bulk practice in sexual techniques without completely exhausting my partners?" It may not satisfy the craving for affection but it may well satisfy perfectionistic tendencies.

Comment author: Morendil 08 October 2009 06:58:00AM 2 points [-]

You''re right, I have no reason to assume you haven't done the research. (And I regret bringing up prostitution - not a helpful example.)

I suppose what I want to say really boils down to: I am unconvinced by your assertion that "society" has this attitude you're describing, and giving more concrete details would help.

Comment author: HughRistik 08 October 2009 08:11:44AM 3 points [-]

Here we go: more concreteness with some examples of conventional advice vs. the perspective I am advocating.

Comment author: HughRistik 08 October 2009 07:32:07AM 2 points [-]

Point taken, and I'll try to get more concrete in the future.

Comment author: CronoDAS 08 October 2009 09:14:38PM *  3 points [-]

Most people do not have a problem statement that can be solved by the oldest profession.

Seconded.

To put it rather crudely, you can pay for a hole to ejaculate into, but it's a lot harder to buy genuine sexual desire or a meaningful romantic relationship.

Comment author: pdf23ds 08 October 2009 03:07:06PM *  1 point [-]

What makes you think I haven't?

Not as charitable as it could be. Contrary to Morendil, I think he did have a weak reason to assume you hadn't, and even if he didn't, you could still simply say "I have."

Comment author: michaelkeenan 08 October 2009 03:55:57AM 3 points [-]

In this context, society's enforcement mechanism is social pressure/shame. Your examples - speed dating, online dating, prostitution - are all considered more or less shameful (I know because I've seen the shamed body language of people admitting to them). This shows that society's enforcement measures are working.

Comment author: taw 08 October 2009 08:22:43AM 5 points [-]

I don't know what's your reference group, but I don't know anyone computer-literate who considers online dating shameful at all. It's a mainstream activity, and is almost becoming the default way to find people to date.

Comment author: michaelkeenan 09 October 2009 06:08:43AM 4 points [-]

It's been a couple of years since I heard censure of online dating too, and I agree that it's almost completely accepted among all the relevant people. I definitely meant it on the "less shameful" end of the spectrum.

But it's been a while since I've heard anyone condemn gays, or atheists, or blacks. I try to ward myself against availability bias by reminding myself that my social group is likely to be a weird little bubble relative to the whole world. If I encountered people thinking online dating is shameful a few years ago, then I can be sure that many people still think so. I'm confident I could find them if I try.

Ok, I just tried, with a google search, and found this, from March 2009. It looks like online dating is still shameful for some people.

Comment author: ata 09 October 2009 06:17:57AM *  5 points [-]

When I was recently considering signing up for OkCupid, I asked a few friends (actually on a forum, but a small intimate one) about their thoughts on this:

There's still a stigma. That's why people say "there's no stigma anymore!"

(...which is what I was worried about. Of course, "a witty saying proves nothing", but it makes sense -- if there weren't a stigma, there would be less need to defend it against claims that there's still a stigma, and fewer people trying to.)

Okcupid is generally thought of as acceptable as long as you don't take it too seriously. If anyone you know sees you on there, well, they have an account too.

(...which is a pretty good point too. So I took the plunge and joined.)

Comment author: pdf23ds 08 October 2009 03:11:30PM 1 point [-]

If that were the case, I'd expect to find a lot more people than I do on the main dating sites. Perhaps you meant to limit your statement to a certain demographic.

Comment author: taw 08 October 2009 06:08:29PM *  7 points [-]

Where have you been looking, and what demographics are you after?

Comment author: thomblake 08 October 2009 01:13:32PM 1 point [-]

Yes, this matches my impression of the subject.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 October 2009 09:52:34PM 1 point [-]

Online dating is only a very small part of the taskification of dating. Even though a >website provides an avenue where people can contact each other, what do you do >then? And if you do end up meeting someone, what do you do?

The algorithm for what to do when you meet someone is simple. You talk about yourself and listen to them talk about themselves and ask them questions about themselves. The goal is to get to know them and help them get to know you so that you both decide whether you are interested in spending more time together. If you are compatible and open the conversation will flow naturally, and you will both have a good time. This algorithm won't work well for you if your communications skills are poor or if you are genuinely unlikeable/unattractive. I had to work on both of those issues to become successful at dating. My communication skills are still pretty terrible, but I focused enough effort on becoming attractive that eventually it worked out.

Comment author: HughRistik 08 October 2009 08:06:57AM *  12 points [-]

The algorithm for what to do when you meet someone is simple.

As you admit, the simplicity of this algorithm is dependent on one's communication skills.

You talk about yourself and listen to them talk about themselves and ask them questions about themselves.

Interestingly, a lot of conventional dating advice insists that people shouldn't talk about themselves too much.

This is an example of advice that is trivially correct, but encourages the wrong focus. Yes, there is a danger of talking about oneself too much, but there is also a danger in talking about oneself too little.

In my experience, the best way to get someone to talk about themselves and open up is not to just start asking them questions. Instead, talk about yourself for a bit, and then ask them questions or simply shut up and they will often start talking about themselves. People tend to feel more comfortable opening up after you have shared something about yourself.

Another very common piece of dating advice is "ask open-ended question rather than close-ended or yes/no questions. Open-ended questions are great, but you can't just jump into them with someone you don't know very well, or when the conversation isn't lubricated yet.

To develop enough rapport to transition to open-ended questions, I will instead make statements, or talk about myself or what I've been up to, or I'll free associate on something in the environment. Or I will use close-ended questions! Close-ended questions are actually very powerful for several reasons:

  1. You can use them to give the other person a choice to give either a short response. The type of answer I get will let me gauge how engaged the other person is in the conversation. If they aren't engaged enough to give an extensive answer, then I just keep talking, and then try another question soon.

  2. You can use them precisely because they will elicit a short response. A property of many questions is that people will often give a short answer and ask them right back. You can make use of this. Pick a subject you want to talk about. Ask a close-ended question that relates to it (or I might use an open-ended question that I don't expect them to be ready to answer extensively). If they give a long answer, great, let them talk. But if they don't, they will often ask the question right back. And then you can answer the question any way you want. And when they listen to what you are saying, it will get them thinking about the subject and engaged. Then you bring in the open-ended questions and you will actually get interesting answers.

In short, for a conversation to flow, there are certain tasks that need to be accomplished:

  1. The other person has to be comfortable with you, to a degree that increases with the intimacy of the conversation.
  2. To talk about certain subjects, the other person needs to get thinking about them (questions like "what is your favorite music?" or "what is your type in people you are into?" are actually cognitively hard for many people to answer on the spot)

So as you can see, I agree with your advice, but I can break it down even further into the nuts and bolts of actually how to have a conversation that flows. I think about it at a much greater level of granularity because that is what has been useful for me (other people's mileage might vary). All the stuff I mention, many people already do without being conscious of it. For people who experience conversation as a problem, this greater granularity might be helpful. I'm interested in taking what is intuitive to socially-skilled people, and breaking it down into pieces and articulating it, making it accessible for people who don't currently have intuitive social skills.

For instance, I asked the question, what do you do when you end up meeting someone (e.g. from an online dating website)? Your answer was that you talk about yourself and listen to them talk about themselves and ask questions. But you skipped a step or two. A date doesn't start in the middle of conversation. It starts with saying "hi" and a few pleasantries. How do you get from there, to people talking about themselves? That's not an incredibly hard problem, but how do you do it in a strong way with minimum awkwardness, such as a long uncomfortable pause after pleasantries? Transitions between different types of conversation is a nontrivial problem for many people.

It's this level of granularity that is lacking from conventional dating advice. Dating advice typically covers certain scenarios and stages, but doesn't really discuss how to glue those pieces together and transition (e.g. when you are starting a first date, how do you go from exchanging pleasantries to starting a conversation that flows, in the minimum amount of steps and the minimum amount of awkwardness?)

Comment author: Bo102010 08 October 2009 12:34:25PM 10 points [-]

I would recommend auditing a counseling class. My fiancee is studying to become a professional counselor, and has had at least one class on how to talk to people who might be reluctant to talk. She can transcend smalltalk with my relatives in just a few steps and have actual conversations with them, something I'd love to be able to do.

Comment author: cousin_it 08 October 2009 01:07:42PM *  7 points [-]

Great skill to have. If we can find a way to teach it to LW, that would be awesome. I've seen more women than men who could do it, but it's definitely not gender-exclusive and not inborn.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 October 2009 04:58:37PM 0 points [-]

As you admit, the simplicity of this algorithm is dependent on one's communication >skills.

I guess I would say that the algorithm is simple regardless of communication skills, but the effectiveness and pleasantness changes. i have a lot of social anxiety so I would find talking about myself on a first date (something I'll hopefully never have to do again) to be very unpleasant. And yet, I know exactly how to do it in the sense that I know how to express thoughts verbally and I know what thoughts are "about myself." I would be awkward and the woman would typically form an accurate opinion of me, and especially my lack of social skills, and conclude that she didn't want a second date. This is the correct outcome.

It's this level of granularity that is lacking from conventional dating advice. Dating >advice typically covers certain scenarios and stages, but doesn't really discuss how >to glue those pieces together and transition (e.g. when you are starting a first date, >how do you go from exchanging pleasantries to starting a conversation that flows, in >the minimum amount of steps and the minimum amount of awkwardness?)

I think that you are somewhat unfairly criticizing conventional dating advice because the goal of that advice is not your goal. The goal of my advice was not to create a high percentage of first dates that are "successful" and that lead to second dates or whatever. The goal of my advice was to allow both people to effectively determine how interested they are in the other person so that they accurately know if they want to have a second date.

I tend to think that the kind of advice you are looking for would make the filtering function of dating more difficult. A person who tends to make a conversation flow very well regardless of who it is with will always seem attractive and compatible on a first date. The other party will then have to spend more time and effort determining actual compatibility than they otherwise would. I am much more worried about a "false positive" on a date that leads to subsequent time and energy wasting dates than I am about "false negatives" in which compatible people can't get past their communication shortcomings to see that they are actually made for each other. I just think that there are too many good options for most people (especially since the advent of online dating) to worry too much about false negatives. Everyone can find someone as long as they put some effort into searching and are honest about their status and who would be interested in them.

Comment author: pdf23ds 08 October 2009 05:31:44PM 4 points [-]

I am much more worried about a "false positive" [...] than I am about "false negatives" in which compatible people can't get past their communication shortcomings to see that they are actually made for each other. I just think that there are too many good options for most people.

Funny, I think there are very few options and thus I'm willing to tolerate a lot of initial bumpiness in communications to see whether we're ultimately compatible. To each his own. (I had a lot of communication problems early in life, and still do to a lesser extent, and that may be part of it too.)

Comment author: thomblake 08 October 2009 05:28:03PM 4 points [-]

Everyone can find someone as long as they put some effort into searching and are honest about their status and who would be interested in them.

If I take this as a statement meant to be strictly true, it rings false. It seems very unlikely that people would happen to occur in the proper proportions so that everyone would find someone. At least it seems there would be something like a 50% chance of there being an 'odd man out' even if everything else worked out perfectly.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 07 October 2009 05:02:56PM *  10 points [-]

From the shallow signaling angle, discussing problems as tokens of ability probably takes precedence over discussing tasks. In that case, one doesn't explain how to solve a problem, but is simply (implicitly) telling that one doesn't have the problem (or is able to solve it).

Comment author: denisbider 10 October 2009 04:04:42AM *  33 points [-]

I think there may be a tendency for the here-present audience to overanalyze and underpractice.

I think the following information is important for understanding this problem matter:

(1) Anyone attracted to this site will likely be a highly intelligent individual.

(2) IQ is more closely bundled around 100 for girls than it is for guys.

Implication: This here audience is mostly male.

(3) People with IQ differences of more than 2 standard deviations don't get along that great (aren't peers).

(4) Socialization with peers at a young age is crucial to social development.

(5) Primary schools bundle together people of all IQs indiscriminately.

Implication: Most of us in this here audience have been stunted in our social development by lacking peers early on, when it's important.

Implication: Because extreme IQs are much rarer in girls than in guys, we have to either compete for a few highly intelligent, intellectually stimulating females who may share our lack in social skills, OR settle for merely above average IQ females who may lack some intellectual sparkle, but may be easier to find and better socially developed.

(6) You don't learn to dance by watching videos of people dancing, and you don't develop social skills by reasoning about them. You need to practice.

Implication: People like us, who need to develop our social networks and social skills at a later age, will necessarily make fools of ourselves in the process. This mustn't stop us. We are belatedly developing skills that we should have picked up as kids, and practice is the only way to do it.

Comment author: gatormax 14 October 2009 04:26:11PM 2 points [-]

Spot on, and seemingly obvious. Why a high IQ crowd like this can be oblivious to truths that a truck driver has pointed out to me is an open question.

Comment author: LauraABJ 12 October 2009 06:46:07PM 6 points [-]

"Implication: Because extreme IQs are much rarer in girls than in guys, we have to either compete for a few highly intelligent, intellectually stimulating females who may share our lack in social skills, OR settle for merely above average IQ females who may lack some intellectual sparkle, but may be easier to find and better socially developed."

Oh come now, I doubt the problem is that there are not enough 'smart girls,' and more that smart girls go for successful men and not isolated introverts. Actually, some of my more intelligent friends complain that they can't find a man (that they would consider dating) that isn't threatened by their intelligence. I've also heard the lament that successful men want housewives, but I don't have much evidence for it. And also, how important is IQ in your mate preference really? It seems from my observations that 'nerdy' guys want quirky girls more than intelligent ones- the natalie protmans and junos (gag me with a spoon) of the world.

Comment author: Jordaan 20 October 2009 12:06:08PM 7 points [-]

just to correct a bit here, Natalie Portman apparently has a rather high IQ, her being a multilingual Harvard graduate and all... Poor example is all I'm saying, not questioning your point (yet)

Comment author: SeventhNadir 22 June 2010 08:44:53AM 2 points [-]

Actually, some of my more intelligent friends complain that they can't find a man (that they would consider dating) that isn't threatened by their intelligence.

Now is this a social narrative, a post hoc justification of a failed relationship fueled by the self serving bias, or something else entirely?

Dating is one area of interest where anecdotage should be taken with a mountain of salt.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 22 June 2010 11:59:16AM 3 points [-]

One way of testing the hypothesis that (many) men are put off by intelligent women would be to look at all the couples in a social circle. Is it true that none of the intelligent women are in heterosexual relationships?

Comment author: SeventhNadir 22 June 2010 02:08:06PM *  1 point [-]

While that idea is, in my eyes, a good blend of effective and practical, it doesn't rule out all confounding explanations. If this pattern was found, it would not necessarily prove that their potential mates were intimidated by their intelligence.

Perhaps a way of testing it would be going to a dating service and telling random men that the woman they were dating was very intelligent (regardless of her actual intelligence)?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 22 June 2010 02:25:52PM 1 point [-]

Reactions to profiles on dating services would be a good general test, though it might be harder to pull out data on particular social groups.

Do you believe that, in general people are bad at telling why they have trouble attracting partners, or do you think that the idea that men are put off by intelligent women is an especially unlikely hypothesis?

Comment author: SeventhNadir 22 June 2010 03:11:21PM *  0 points [-]

The former due to the rose tinted glasses of the self serving bias and the fundimental attribution error.

On a personal note I'm very attracted to intelligent women but I wouldn't be surprised at all if men in general did find intellectual women intimidating.

Comment author: denisbider 25 January 2010 05:48:02PM 0 points [-]

Thank you for your input, Laura, but you have not quoted a study that would persuade me that what I know from other study reports is false. As far as I know, extreme IQ's simply are more common among men than they are among women.

Since this is compatible with my own anecdotal experience, it is hard for me to be persuaded by your anecdotal experience, unless you can point to evidence stronger than that.

I would prefer this to be evidence that doesn't attempt to disqualify the whole concept of IQ because of discomfort with the findings of IQ studies.

Now, as for the other issues you raise, those are fun to discuss, so I'll engage, lack of scientific quality regardless... :)

"Smart girls go for successful men and not isolated introverts" is another way of saying "females are attracted to confidence and dominance", as well as "high IQ does not necessarily mean confidence and dominance". I would agree with that.

"Some of my more intelligent friends complain that they can't find a man that isn't threatened by their intelligence" probably means that those friends of yours aren't that hot. Their intelligence compels them to find a guy that's successful and at least as smart, but guys like that can get hot women, and guys prefer hot women to intelligent, but not that hot women.

I would personally not mind an extremely smart partner at all, but frankly, when one person is able to earn enough for the whole family, I do think it's more convenient for the other person to be someone who is along for the ride, rather than someone whose career will try to pull the partnership, and the family, in conflicting directions. A successful career woman would possibly do better with a stay-at-home husband, which do exist, although it's not quite the most traditional role.

Comment author: MichaelVassar 09 October 2009 01:37:47PM 21 points [-]

Of course, in any domain, whether, music, dance, attracting mates, or practicing medicine or law, those who have valuable skills may wish to prevent others from acquiring or using such skills in order to preserve a monopoly and one convenient way to do so is to declare the process of acquiring such skills to be immoral or illegal.

Comment author: ialdabaoth 23 December 2013 07:28:26AM *  2 points [-]

I was talking about this very process tonight when discussing this xkcd with my partner. My theory was that many people would rather make fun of someone for not knowing than show them, because it creates a scarcity of knowledge and turns experience into a zero-sum game. Mocking people who are bad at socializing instead of teaching them how to socialize seems, at least in part, to be the same problem writ large.

Comment author: Christian_Szegedy 09 October 2009 07:59:21AM *  18 points [-]

I also have a practical advise to those who try to improve their social skills especially in the dating space.

Learn some real partner dance!

By "partner dance" I mean something that requires real partnering skills like salsa, swing or tango, (rather than hip-hop or techno, etc. that have no real partner dancing scene and culture).

Although I don't do it for pick-up or dating reasons (I am married with children), I have been dancing salsa for a few years and I recognized a lot of positive effects:

  • Great workout (much more fun than anything else I tried)
  • Learned to behave much more relaxed and self-confident in the company of women.
  • Improved body-awareness, posture, gracefulness, etc.
  • Taught me how to make bodily contact in a gentle and enjoyable way and without being intrusive or offensive and feel completely natural about it.
  • Made me more aware of dressing and hygiene.
  • A form of social meditation: living in the presence, enjoying the moment by concentrating not on oneself but on someone else and the music.

But first of all: It is an awful lot of fun. Imagine that you to go to work or to a conference in a city you've never been before and at the end of the day you can be almost sure that you will find a place where there are several people of the opposite sex wait to chat with you a bit, spend a few minutes in your arms without any significant risks or hurt feelings. This was my experience at every single place I visited: I counted that within the last two years I danced in 4 different countries 15 different cities and over 30 different venues.

I am neither really young, nor good looking. It's also fair to say that I am extremely introverted, geeky and clumsy. Still, I managed to have more fun than I've ever expected. For example two months ago I went to a salsa event and was sitting around a bit between two songs when a beautiful woman came up to me and asked me to dance. I never say no, but maybe I should have, because she was so much above my level: it was almost embarrassing... Later in the night I told my wife that I danced with that amazing woman. She looked at her and told me: "Good for you, you just danced with Liz Lira" (Turned out my wife went to her workshop, during the day) Indeed: I looked her up in the net and recognized: 5X salsa world champion..., but what a nice person!

Comment author: gerg 07 October 2009 05:55:40PM 16 points [-]

Taskifaction doesn't destroy romance any more than it destroys music or dance.

This one sentence alone is worth my upvote for its sheer truth. (Although

Sucking at stuff is not sublime.

is a close second.)

Comment deleted 07 October 2009 10:45:09PM [-]
Comment author: Markov 08 October 2009 01:13:32AM 10 points [-]

What is meant here by "magic?" To me, it seems that it is synonymous with effortlessness; anyone skilled in a craft makes it look easy. In order to create this magic, a person toils in private. Since no one saw the preparation, the result looks like it came from nowhere--i.e., magic.

Comment author: Neil 09 October 2009 03:40:27PM 3 points [-]

Arthur C Clarke said it -

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Comment author: Jowibou 16 April 2010 09:25:39AM *  15 points [-]

Socialization is a social/cultural problem in a larger sense. The fact that nowadays most people learn their social skills in High School is bound to be problematic. Since we no longer have much of a ritualized, entrenched system for socializing our youth, they largely learn their social skills from other teenagers - the blind, gullible, hormonally confused and deeply irrational leading the blind etc. They go on to carry the resulting status games, irrational behaviour -- and scars -- into the rest of their lives and the whole of society. This explains much of our (barely) post adolescent culture and politics.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 16 April 2010 03:34:47PM 5 points [-]

The problem may be as much a matter of age segregation in school as it is a lack of a ritualized, formal system for socializing young people.

Comment author: Jowibou 17 April 2010 10:04:19AM *  2 points [-]

Children of widely different ages playing together are a wonderful but increasingly rare sight. I strongly agree that age segregation within schools is a big part of the problem. But in a sense it's a subset of what I'm talking about on the scale of the whole culture. I'm not advocating a return rigid to social ritual or an overly formal system - say, the Masai cattle raid or even the Scouts. But something must be found to fill the gap. Groups and subgroups of teenagers are left to make do in a system that merely tries to keep them together, under control -- and obediently consuming junk. And the rest of us end up with a social system that mirrors High School instead of schools that reflect society as a whole.

Comment author: thomblake 16 April 2010 12:47:28PM 3 points [-]

This is amongst the reasons I won't send my kids to school, and try to discourage anyone else from doing so.

Comment author: wedrifid 17 April 2010 04:33:45PM 1 point [-]

I will have a similar policy if and when I happen to breed. As Jowibou alludes to, this means I will have to take the initiative in seeking high quality social interactions for my children myself. It may be a better option for my children but it certainly will not be easier!

(Care to share your thoughts on the subject?)

Comment author: thomblake 20 April 2010 02:52:32PM 1 point [-]

I know several people who were unschooled. Their parents didn't particularly 'take the initiative' in the sense of organizing 'play-dates' or other such things; but the parents did make the children a part of their lives, so the children interacted with ordinary people practically every day.

Comment author: wedrifid 21 April 2010 12:34:28AM 1 point [-]

In your judgement how well did that work for them?

Comment author: thomblake 22 April 2010 02:58:46PM 3 points [-]

Well as far as I can tell, they're all some of the most brilliant people I've met, and not socially stunted or anything. And seeing the lack of scars from schooling on these folks really makes them obvious on everyone else.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 22 April 2010 04:52:35PM 5 points [-]

Could you expand on the "scars from schooling"?

Comment author: gregconen 22 April 2010 03:09:12PM 4 points [-]

Keep in mind selection bias. The pool of people who would unschool their children is systematically different from the general population. Aspects of child-rearing unrelated to schooling (at least conventional schooling) and/or genetics probably played a role in determining the adult personality of their children.

Comment author: thomblake 22 April 2010 03:49:24PM 5 points [-]

Indeed. The eldest of them hypothesizes that it wasn't so much unschooling that caused the good effects, but more likely other factors, most relevantly "the parents having bothered to make any decision regarding their children's schooling", which has been shown to matter in other contexts.

Comment author: Jowibou 17 April 2010 10:07:41AM 1 point [-]

Have you found ways for them to nevertheless socialize with their peers?

Comment author: thomblake 20 April 2010 02:49:12PM 7 points [-]

Socializing with their peers isn't nearly as important as socializing with ordinary folks in society. Schools artificially stick a bunch of kids of the same age group together with one 'authority figure'; naturally, they learn to socialize from other kids and form 'kid culture' and act like a bunch of monkeys.

Rather than go to school and learn how to be kids, it's much better to let kids meet the neighbors and learn how to be people. Your neighbors may vary.

Comment author: Christian_Szegedy 09 October 2009 01:25:20AM *  15 points [-]

IMO, the views that rational analysis and manipulation in social context (esp. with regard to mating) is immoral or dehumanizing is based on observations that a lot of people who consciously employ such techniques often have the wrong objective function.

Consider this analogue situation: If you raise children, you definitely do a lot of rational thinking about their needs, long term interests and try help them to develop, be safe, etc. This requires a lot of objective considerations, prioritizing, even conscious manipulations on several different levels. Nobody would say that this is wrong, dehumanizing or out of place. The reason that this is intuitively accepted is that you probably do this for the right reason: in the long term interest of your children. If you have the right objective function, it is not just fine, it is required.

I think that other social interactions should not be different in this respect. You should consciously employ techniques, objectively analyze and manipulate situations, but your objective function should include the interests of your peers as well. They will sense if you genuinely care about them: Even if you manipulate them, they will be still thankful later if it happened in their long term interests.

You don't become a "manipulative bastard" just because you are manipulative, but if you are also a bastard.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 09 October 2009 01:31:06AM 7 points [-]

Yes, I agree 100%. One of the most accurate signals that shows when I trust and respect a person highly is that I not only allow but encourage them to manipulate me, because I believe that it will be to my benefit to do so. I'm pretty sure I'm unusually explicit about the fact that I do that, but I don't think I'm especially unusual in doing so.

Comment author: HughRistik 09 October 2009 06:50:04AM 5 points [-]

I completely agree with what you are getting at, but I think we should use a more neutral word like "influence" rather than "manipulation," because manipulation holds negative connotations for many people, or is considered unethical by definition.

The reason that this is intuitively accepted is that you probably do this for the right reason: in the long term interest of your children.

While the relationship between people in socializing and dating is different from the relationship between parent and child, I think your general point stands that people can ethically engage in influence when they consider the interests of the people they are influencing with.

A common rejoinder is something like the following:

"So you think you know what is good for other people, huh? Huh??"

At least, I think we can say that considering the interests of others to the best of your ability is at least necessary to engage in ethical forms of influence, if not sufficient.

Even though people may be wrong in their estimates of the interests of others, that doesn't mean that reasonable consideration of the interests of others can't be made that assess the expected value (for the other person) of influencing them to be positive.

Is there another ethical standard that is more restrictive, that doesn't completely paralyze us poor folks who actually care about ethics, leaving us to stay at home or in the corner of the party leaving the people we want to date at the mercy of those without such qualms?

Comment author: Christian_Szegedy 09 October 2009 06:39:36PM *  4 points [-]

I used the word "manipulation" as a provocation to get across my point. Exactly those negative connotations made that provocation possible. So my use of the term "manipulation" was already a manipulation of the reader.

Although "influencing" is a broader notion, it is often too general.

Let us consider the following situation: I tell my 2 years old daughter: "Do you want me to read you a story, or you rather watch some video before going to sleep?"

This is a very common technique: focusing her attention on something pleasant in order to make her do something else I want. More sophisticated variants of the same trick work even with adults, for example this is the base of all "bait and switch" scams.

I think most people would agree: I manipulated my daughter. ("Influencing" is also true, but it sounds like a strange euphemism in this context.) Still, I did nothing wrong. "Manipulating" just means that I consciously employed some technique to modify her behavior in a way she did not perceive consciously.

One could argue that manipulation is not necessary with adults, because it is always more efficient to argue rationally, so manipulation necessarily means scam.

I don't buy that, since it could even make sense to employ mind hacks on your own future self: for example enter a situation you know you won't like just to force yourself to achieve some more important goals. I think the term "I scammed myself" does not make much sense in such a situation.

Women are great manipulators. They employ all kinds of tricks to make men, each other and children to do stuff they deem desirable while avoiding conflicts. On average, they outperform the average man in this respect by great lengths, which makes a lot of sense from an evolutionary point of view. Funnily enough, women also are attracted to manipulative men, which again, makes just as much sense from an evolutionary point of view. :)

So, when women say, they like "charming men", they really mean: "shameless manipulators". Males that can manipulate well enough to show their genes are worthy enough to be combined with theirs, (at least in this respect).

Still, this does not mean, a "shameless manipulator" has to be a jerk, evil or dehumanizing. It is simply independent. Being unskilled does not imply being ethical, just that one can inflict less harm when trying hard.

This is one aspect of partner dancing I found extremely educational: Leading skills are the parallels of this kind of seductive manipulation in a nonverbal setting. Good leaders can make beginner followers to make what they want by using a set of carefully trained tricks to exploiting her own movement and momentum and modify it subtly at the right time and place to achieve their goals. It is very similar to soft martial arts that employ the same techniques in a confrontational setting.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 08 October 2009 03:37:20AM *  5 points [-]

Personally, I think musicians who can actually play their instruments are capable of creating more "magical" music than musicians who can't. ... Sucking at stuff is not sublime. It's not sublime in art, it's not sublime in music, and it's not sublime in dance.

Nicely said.

The desire to have things "just happen" can help level the playing field. The more desirable a person is, the more likely "wait for the miracle" will work for them sometimes, the more likely they are to buy into it, and thus be available and/or desperate enough for a less-desirable person who is trying to make things happen. (At the extreme, I think that very beautiful women typically spend more effort trying to avoid meeting potential mates than trying to meet them.)

Comment author: HughRistik 08 October 2009 03:50:15AM 4 points [-]

Yup, you are seeing what I'm getting at.

At the extreme, I think that very beautiful women typically spend more effort trying to avoid meeting potential mates than trying to meet them.

Yes, but even though such women may get many offers, such "potential mates" are not potential mates that satisfy their criteria. These women may need to spend effort to meet (and compete with each other) over the miniscule subset of exceptionally attractive and high status men they have their sights on.

Comment author: Zvi 07 October 2009 10:42:12PM 5 points [-]

The problem you're describing is big. Really big. Ignoring the issue of whether the advice being given is wrong, saying "be yourself" or "meet potential partners through friends" is breaking up one big problem into subproblems, which is helpful if you can get past that extra just they tack on. The real work still lies ahead, but that's still progress.

Comment author: taw 08 October 2009 08:10:21AM 4 points [-]

Society won't help you with it, if Robin and Thursday's arguments are right.

You can help yourself. In recent years there's been an explosion of information on how to get better at dating and social interaction, some of it even works.

Comment author: HughRistik 08 October 2009 08:15:40AM 4 points [-]

Yup, most of it inspired by the seduction community, which is the main influence of my thinking. However, the community is still relatively underground and controversial. I direct my criticism towards mainstream dating advice.

Comment author: pdf23ds 08 October 2009 03:14:44PM 8 points [-]

I think the biggest reason that most dating advice sucks is that good advice is only possible if you actually view the realtime performance of the person and thus get an idea of what kind of mistakes they're making. Once you see what mistakes they're making, giving good advice becomes orders of magnitude easier. Then it would be called "teaching" instead of "advice-giving".

Comment author: taw 08 October 2009 08:29:47AM 7 points [-]

Is there anything on which the mainstream advice isn't horrible? If you look at what is said about jobs/money/education/time management/happiness/depression/weight management/virtually any personal subject imaginable, the advice is invariably counterproductive nonsense.

Disregard the mainstream society, and just enjoy your dating advantage over competition.

Comment author: billswift 08 October 2009 01:11:34AM 4 points [-]

You're not the first to notice the problem, though Alicorn's terminology does make it a bit easier to describe. You should read the last chapter of David Friedman's "Hidden Order", "The Economics of Love and Marriage". He doesn't give any answers, but he approaches the same problem from a somewhat different angle.

Comment author: Bo102010 08 October 2009 02:44:01AM 2 points [-]

What an excellent book that was.

Simon Bowmaker, et al did something similar in their textbookish Economics Uncut. Recommended reading.

Comment author: thomblake 07 October 2009 07:31:25PM 4 points [-]

I need more clarification of what I am calling the "Romantic" view

Indeed. I'm beginning to think you're not talking about Byron at all!

Comment author: spriteless 07 October 2009 07:19:42PM *  4 points [-]

So, in summary, most dating advice isn't helpful because it's written by and for people who are already good at that. :o)

I can break this into some tasks I have solutions to.

Task 1: I am a severe agoraphobe. Solution: therapy helps, alcohol seems to help but makes it much worse on the hangover.

Task 2: I lack conversation skills. I want to not lack conversation skills.

2.1: Being myself involves giving non-sequitur after non-sequitur about my model collection. This upsets people! Solution: Join a model collectin' club and learn to tell model collecting stories instead.

2.2 I am uncomfortable talking with anyone at all ever. Solution: Therapy helps, alcohol seems to help but makes it much worse on the hangover. It helps me to remember that most people are too self centered to notice when I do something wrong.

2.3 I find members of the opposite gender to be alien and don't know how to talk with them! Solution: Talk with some about things you have in common? If there is a local [s]gay club[/s] GLBTQQI & Allies support/activism group, you could join it to meet people who will be less threatening due to being out of reach for reasons that aren't personal. It also means observing first hand that the barrier you thought was between males and females is in fact between most any two people who didn't choose the same career.: o)

If I knew more, I'd post it. Edit: If you know more, please post it.

Comment author: pdf23ds 07 October 2009 07:26:20PM 9 points [-]

You know, I like this article, but I just have to say: "taskification" is an ugly, ugly word.

Comment author: bigbad 12 October 2009 09:32:50PM 1 point [-]

"Analysis" is a common word for dividing a problem into smaller subproblems, and would seem to apply.

Comment author: RobinZ 07 October 2009 08:08:33PM 0 points [-]

For what it's worth, it looks like "solution" in the mathematician's sense is synonymous.

Comment author: nerzhin 07 October 2009 08:17:28PM 5 points [-]

I'd say "algorithm" comes closer - mathematicians mean several things by "solution" in different contexts.

Comment author: RobinZ 08 October 2009 01:51:26AM 0 points [-]

But what would be the verb?

Comment author: Matt_Stevenson 08 October 2009 05:49:37AM 0 points [-]

solve?

Comment author: gwern 08 October 2009 11:25:00PM 0 points [-]

'reify'? Roughly means to turn an abstraction (such as a goal) into something concrete (specific, implementable behaviors).

Comment author: Psychohistorian 07 October 2009 09:22:36PM 9 points [-]

For most skills, some people attain a level of art which surpasses describable taskification. If you asked a professional athlete how he throws the ball, or how he runs, he might mention a few tricks, but he's not going to be able to communicate it to you; in his mind, he just does it. I coach a top university speech and debate-type team (Mock Trial); I find it easy to describe how to do basic things, but nearly impossible to describe how to do sophisticated things; it has to be demonstrated and the students have to understand it themselves, and many of them fail to do so.

To some degree, socializing works on the same level. If you're thinking your way through each step, it's going to be perceptible and you will seem awkward. To seem natural, you need to simply do. That, I think, is the meaning of statements like, "just be yourself" - if you're consciously executing some series of actions that are not natural to you, you will always be thinking and never just doing.

Of course, the challenge lies in getting to that level of comfort. I'd think your best bet is exposure, ideally via both popular media and just getting out of the house. It admittedly might help to start off with some taskified strategy, since even if it is awkward, it may be less awkward. But I think the overall attitude opposed to taskifying social interaction is the fact that social interaction, at the "artisan" level, is not describably taskifiable.

Comment author: cousin_it 08 October 2009 10:15:28AM *  36 points [-]

just getting out of the house.

...Damn! That's exactly the kind of vague advice that HughRistik decries. Imagine teaching an extraterrestrial alien to smoke cigarettes.

You: Open the pack.

Alien: (looks at pack in a puzzled way)

You: Just tear it open, man

Alien: (tears pack in half, cigarette bits fly everywhere)

...

You: Put the cigarette in your mouth.

Alien: (stuffs entire cigarette into mouth)

And so on, and so forth. "Get out of the house" is a totally useless piece of advice for the kind of person that needs it. Okay, I'm out of my house right now, what next? You remind me of Alicorn who wouldn't stop insisting that finding potential dates in your social circle is "easy" if you "just do it".

(Related: I've entertained the idea of suggesting to Alicorn that she apply her superior understanding of women to teach pickup to male students. I imagine her entering the classroom, glancing at the audience composed of actual average guys and going "...oh, you meant that kind of average? I had no idea such people even existed. Obviously, teaching them to approach women would be disgusting and a gross betrayal of my sex. I'm outta here.")

Comment author: Neil 09 October 2009 03:38:07PM 6 points [-]

I think your description of the alien with the cigarette pack highlights the fact the problem with advice often lies in the fact that it's too chunky. By that I mean the steps are described at too high a level. This can happen when there's a great difference in the levels of experience of the advisor and the advised, and the advisor has become so familiar with the processes they have been conceptually black boxed. In fact the black boxing is a necessary part of the process - you ride a bike well when you no longer think about how to ride a bike, and you socialise well when you're no longer aware of what you're doing to make your socialising successful. If the advisor doesn't realise that the advised has no idea how these black boxes work, the advice isn't worth much to him.

Comment author: pdf23ds 09 October 2009 03:52:30PM *  5 points [-]

Which is exactly why I said elsewhere in this thread that the only good advice comes when the adviser has seen the advisee (or many other advisees) make mistakes, which has the effect of breaking up the adviser's black box.

Comment author: CronoDAS 08 October 2009 09:01:01PM 3 points [-]

"Get out of the house" is a totally useless piece of advice for the kind of person that needs it. Okay, I'm out of my house right now, what next?

Indeed. Get out of the house and go where?

Just for fun: "There Is Life Outside Your Apartment"

Comment author: Alicorn 08 October 2009 12:08:45PM 7 points [-]

I've entertained the idea of suggesting to Alicorn that she apply her superior understanding of women to teach pickup to male students. I imagine her entering the classroom, glancing at the audience composed of actual average guys and going "...oh, you meant that kind of average? I had no idea such people even existed. Obviously, teaching them to approach women would be disgusting and a gross betrayal of my sex. I'm outta here."

It's not at all clear to me why I'd enter the classroom in the first place, unless I had a corresponding roomful of women and was going to play Yentl for my own amusement. I don't really consider myself someone with expertise in the matter! Apart from a few vague hints like my remarks about meeting people through other people, I've confined myself to ethical claims, not practical advice. My ethical claims have been peppered with reassuring remarks that they don't spell practical disaster (excessively demanding ethical philosophies tend not to be very popular), but they are still just ethical claims. I don't have that stellar of a dating history to draw on for practical help: mostly, I collect admirers through the Internet and they turn out to live far away. In terms of actually going to a physical location alone with a romantic interest on an explicitly-purposed date, I've been on two.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 08 October 2009 12:32:29PM 2 points [-]

It's not at all clear to me why I'd enter the classroom in the first place

Nevertheless, can you provide a reality check for cousin_it's imagination? Supposing you did seriously take up an invitation to teach pickup, and considered you had something to teach, would your first reaction to entering the classroom be to turn on your heel and walk out in contempt?

Comment author: cousin_it 08 October 2009 12:53:10PM *  18 points [-]

I wasn't trying to rail against Alicorn in particular. The general point is still worthwhile. The most evocative analogy I know is that males are entrepreneurs and females are customers: anyone who's ever been approached by slimy salespeople can empathize with most women by analogy, and anyone who's ever tried to sell a product to an uncaring world can empathize with most men. But by default neither side ever really understands how the other feels unless they take extreme pains to empathize, and most advice going over the fence ends up being useless or worse. Ethical advice given to men by women especially falls in this category, because you don't preach ethics to a starving entrepreneur who (unlike you) gets kicked in the face every goddamn day. It's... y'know... unethical.

Comment author: Alicorn 08 October 2009 01:18:07PM 12 points [-]

It's the mental leap from "aw, I feel bad that you are having trouble selling your product" to "aw, someone should take pity on you to the point of buying your product" that presents the problem. I do feel bad for people who have trouble selling, but I categorically refuse to translate that into an obligation on the part of the target market! That kind of thinking scares the crap out of me, because that is the kind of thinking that leads to various evil behaviors up to and including rape.

Comment author: SilasBarta 08 October 2009 02:27:11PM *  14 points [-]

Yes, but just the same, if you knew about someone having trouble selling a good product, and you took pity on them, one way you would probably not react is by approaching a group of such people and lecturing them in detail about all the unethical practices they shouldn't do, most of which only apply long after a sale, and many of which are commonly used by successful salespeople in a way that satisfies their customers.

And when you think about it, that's pretty much what you do here, if you apply the transformation:

make a sale --> get a date

unethical post-sale practices --> unethical relationship practices, abuse

annoying-but successful sales practices --> PUA techniques, feminist-disapproved language

See the problem?

Comment author: Jack 09 October 2009 12:16:33AM *  13 points [-]

In Analogy City there are a large number of people who have no education or work experience because they grew up on welfare and never had the opportunity for much of an education. A group of the nations best salespeople decides to do some community service and teach some of these people how to sell things on the street. Among what they teach:

  1. Don't wait to be turned down. Wash that car's windows and then demand to be paid, don't ask first. Take their picture, demand money. Hand them a homemade craft, then demand to be paid, etc.

  2. Be aggressive. The customer's money is your money, it just isn't in your pocket yet.

  3. Look extra poor so that rich people feel sorry for you and give you more. Employing young children is ideal.

  4. Go to neighborhoods Xington, Yville, and Zburg because thats where the unsuspecting rich liberals targets live and they won't be jaded enough to turn you away.

Nothing that is taught is illegal, quite. But some of the people in the city feel that teaching these methods is, nonetheless, irresponsible and dangerous. Do these people have a valid complaint? If they decided to replace the old salesperson teachings with something else would you be surprised if these new teachings included admonitions not to be too aggressive or to give services without asking the customer if they wanted them?

(I seem to hold the uncommon view that both feminism and the teachings of most PUA types are compatible and good things. But insofar as the PUA culture includes beliefs like "men are owed more sex" I don't think the reactions of Alicorn and others are that off-base.)

Comment author: HughRistik 09 October 2009 06:18:34AM *  16 points [-]

I seem to hold the uncommon view that both feminism and the teachings of most PUA types are compatible and good things

I agree that there is compatibility between pickup and feminism that is under-explored.

Both PUAs and feminists are heavily focused on the same thing: the needs and preferences of women, and how men can fulfill them. The amount of time and effort PUAs spend trying to figure out and cater to women's sexual desires is crazy. Furthermore, they often consciously make a choice to develop aspects of their personalities and identities that they know will be attractive to women.

Yet PUAs differ from feminists in their views of what women's preferences actually are. PUAs assess female criteria from what women respond to, which may not be the same as stated female criteria. Also, even though PUAs attempt to fulfill a subset of women's desires, they are not always trying to fulfill all of women's desires all the time.

Both PUAs and feminists make some errors in assessing female preferences, but feminists are more wrong: I would give PUAs a B+ and feminists an F (see this and this for some research on female preferences). (On average, feminist women differ from typical straight women. For instance, feminists are probably more likely to have gender atypical gender expression and values, so it's not a stretch to think that they might have gender atypical preferences also. As a result, feminists, particularly feminists who criticize pickup, may be out of touch with typical straight women, and fail to recognize how the aggregate preferences of their sisters are incentivizing the very male behavior that they condemn. I've seen some feminists admit that they are attracted to traditionally masculine or dominant behavior in men, but I've never seen them also think through the implications of their preferences and the incentive structure that they enforce on males.)

Contrary to the guess in your post that PUA culture might include beliefs that men are owed more sex, my impression is that PUAs want women to have sex with them not because of a feeling of obligation, but because they have fulfilled female criteria for having sex.

Some PUAs believe that they "deserve" sex in general, but what they seem to mean is that they are "worthy" of sex, not that they deserve to have sex with any particular women. Other PUAs explicitly disavow the idea that they deserve anything:

No one deserves to get laid, and that includes you and me. But you can get laid if you work at it.

...

Though you are entitled, as a man, to do whatever you want and try to get laid with the women you wnat, you are not entitled to do it without effort. That's his point. gotta put in the effort, not expect to just happen like some spoiled kid

The whole approach of seduction, as I understand it, is to raise the chance of women wanting to have sex with you for reason of being attracted to you and comfortable having sex with you. PUAs want women to want them.

This approach is not only more ethical than (a) trying to get consent to sex by bypassing women's sexual and emotional preferences (e.g. obligation, prostitution), or (b) trying to coerce women into have sex without consent... it also wins way more and sounds rather feminist!

Comment author: Jack 09 October 2009 08:10:58PM 6 points [-]

These discussions are always difficult because they involve comparing movements and schools of thought rather than propositions. PUA culture definitely includes lots of people without especially misogynist ideas. But it also is going to include people who really do have anti-women sentiments.

Feminism is almost certainly more diverse. You seem more involved in those conversations than I am at this point so I'm sure you know this. So why do you think the feminist view on female match preferences is so contrary to the studies you list? I guess there are probably radical feminists who hold views about power dynamics in relationships which would contradict those studies- but surely liberal feminists (where I include myself) don't give a shit about the mating preferences of anyone. Obviously there are views in both camps that can't be reconciled, but I think the best of both can be.

Great blog btw. Is there a post or a series of posts that will summarize your criticisms of feminism? You list of agreements on the site is almost enough for me to want to count you as a feminist.

Comment author: wedrifid 09 October 2009 12:42:13AM *  3 points [-]

But insofar as the PUA culture includes beliefs like "men are owed more sex" I don't think the reactions of Alicorn and others are that off-base.

The 'off base' part is the 'insofar as'. Objections, even valid objections can be off base if they are red herrings, objections to positions that really aren't held or being expressed in the context.

Of those analogies, it is ironic that '1)' and '3)' are actually among the first misconceptions that an analogous PUA instructor would drill out of a student. Covert contracts and supplication are terrible strategies and far more prevalent in conventional wisdom than in PUA subcultures.

Comment author: Jack 09 October 2009 01:38:58AM *  3 points [-]

The 'off base' part is the 'insofar as'. Objections, even valid objections can be off base if they are red herrings, objections to positions that really aren't held or being expressed in the context.

All this might be the case. Like I said I don't think the PUA stuff is necessarily anti-feminist. But a lot of the commenters here do a pretty good job of being targets for these objections. Put it this way, it isn't a surprise we're seeing this reaction given some of the things that have been said.

Edit: Adding that this entire discussion just looks like people seeing political signaling and then jumping on their respective bandwagons.

Comment author: Vladimir_Golovin 09 October 2009 08:27:21AM *  0 points [-]

In Analogy City there are a large number of people who have no education or work experience because they grew up on welfare and never had the opportunity for much of an education. A group of the nations best salespeople decides to do some community service and teach some of these people how to sell things on the street.

I'd like to read more on this, but I couldn't figure out from your comment whether it refers to a real-world event or it's just pure fiction -- all Google searches I tried lead to this comment. If what you wrote above is based on a real event, could you post a link to it?

(To clarify -- I'm interested in salesmanship proper, not in getting laid.)

Comment author: wedrifid 09 October 2009 05:33:41PM 5 points [-]

Analogy City is hypothetical.

Comment author: wedrifid 08 October 2009 03:56:07PM *  4 points [-]

I would be disappointed if you refrained from making this kind of contribution independently of the author out of deference to social bullying.

Comment author: Bindbreaker 09 October 2009 02:37:55AM 3 points [-]

All these posts referring to people selling themselves as products and so on reflect an extremely commodified view of sex, which can be very harmful. I wouldn't continue with this analogy.

Comment author: SilasBarta 09 October 2009 02:59:24AM 4 points [-]

Well, understanding the relationship between men approaching with romantic interest, and salespeople approaching is very important, because men have a good understanding of -- and sympathy about -- the latter. I think the insight the analogy yields outweighs the negative connotations.

Comment author: Cyan 09 October 2009 03:30:05AM *  3 points [-]

I'm a man, and I have little understanding and no special sympathy for salespeople, nor did I ever think of my romantic aspirations in terms of selling myself. I only ever had success when I stopped pursuing.

Comment author: CronoDAS 09 October 2009 03:03:33AM 1 point [-]

If you prefer, you could frame it as an audition to join a band...

Comment author: wedrifid 09 October 2009 03:07:50AM 0 points [-]

I've never really grasped the 'objectification' concept, but does this count?

Comment author: Bindbreaker 09 October 2009 05:01:37AM 1 point [-]

Yes.

Comment author: pdf23ds 08 October 2009 04:34:23PM 7 points [-]

It's the mental leap from "aw, I feel bad that you are having trouble selling your product" to "aw, someone should take pity on you to the point of buying your product" that presents the problem.

Could you point out where someone made that mental leap in this convo? I didn't notice it.

Comment author: Alicorn 08 October 2009 04:35:42PM 3 points [-]

It's not made explicitly here. I don't accuse anyone present of making this leap, but it seemed worth warning against.

Comment author: HughRistik 08 October 2009 04:23:58PM *  5 points [-]

It's the mental leap from "aw, I feel bad that you are having trouble selling your product" to "aw, someone should take pity on you to the point of buying your product" that presents the problem.

I agree that such a mental leap would be a big problem, but I don't think such a leap is implied by cousin_it's post, so I'm not entirely sure why you are bringing it up. Part of the problem of sales is that the target market is not obligated to buy.

Yet I do think your post raises a good point: sales and seduction have different ethical constraints. I believe that truly ethical seduction requires not merely consent, but enthusiastic consent, and minimization of reasonably predictable "buyer's remorse" after the fact. Sales is not always held up to the standard of enthusiasm and minimization of remorse on the part of the buyer (but perhaps it should be).

Comment author: DanArmak 08 October 2009 04:51:18PM 6 points [-]

Sales is not always held up to the standard of enthusiasm and minimization of remorse on the part of the buyer (but perhaps it should be).

We have (at least in my country) consumer protection laws. One of them says you can return a product within 14 days of purchase and receive your money back. With this, I think ethical sales standards are fine as they are. Since it's not applicable to the seduction "market", it should be held to the highest ethical standard.

Comment author: wedrifid 08 October 2009 03:49:32PM 5 points [-]

kind of thinking that leads to various evil behaviors up to and including rape.

I don't approve of rape and I also despise seeing it used fallaciously to support a political agenda.

Comment author: cousin_it 08 October 2009 04:12:50PM *  3 points [-]

I didn't see her doing that.

Comment author: Alicorn 08 October 2009 03:51:22PM *  3 points [-]

Can you explain how you think I am fallaciously using rape to support a political agenda, if you think I'm doing that?

Comment author: wedrifid 08 October 2009 04:11:37PM 9 points [-]

Silas explained one of the reasons this particular analogy doesn't hold. (You also argue against a straw man.)

As for political agenda: This is not the first time you have made statements of the kind <support of efforts towards developing male social skills> should be considered <negative feminist language up to and including rape>. I greatly prefer your insights into rationality over your comments on anything to do with males. The quality of reasoning is almost incomparable.

Comment author: Alicorn 08 October 2009 04:30:43PM 8 points [-]

I will now attempt to clarify:

Males developing social skills is great. Social skills are wonderful, rewarding things to have, and I think anybody who would like to learn to interact with other people politely and pleasantly should.

"Social skills as possessed by men (who are attracted to women)" is a much broader category than "the ability to get into sexual or romantic relationships with women (who are attracted to men)". You can use social skills to interact with family members, platonic friends, co-workers, neighbors, classmates, teachers, strangers, students, clients, employees, bosses, fellow members of any club or other social or hobby organization, and any other class of person you will ever interact with. Potential mates are only one of these categories, although of course there is overlap.

Social skills as used by men to get into sexual or romantic relationships with women do not consist entirely of things I would describe with "negative feminist language". Many of these skills are, at least potentially, honest, respectful, and non-threatening.

The attitude that the "target market" of the "product" of the man attempting to pitch himself as a potential mate owes him something is the attitude that I condemn. If nobody has this attitude around here - which is what I must think you're getting at by saying I argue against a straw man - that's great! My heebie-jeebies are for naught! I can walk the streets of Lesswrongburgh safe in the knowledge that no one thinks they are entitled to my attention, affection, personal charms, or set of body parts.

If someone in the studio audience does think that the men who have or want to learn these social skills are owed something by the women in whom they show interest, then I contend that this thought is dangerous because it can lead to evil behaviors, up to and including rape. Among the excuses trotted out by rapists, right up there with "she had on X article of clothing and was asking for it", are variations on "she owed me". So when there starts to be talk about women owing anything to sexually interested men, this starts to make me feel like an Israeli hearing chitchat about how the land my house sits on is owed to Palestine. People who think they are owed something might try to take it.

Comment author: thomblake 08 October 2009 04:28:31PM 1 point [-]

This is not the first time you have made statements of the kind <support of efforts towards developing male social skills> should be considered <negative feminist language up to and including rape>

That seems entirely off-base to me.

Comment author: cousin_it 08 October 2009 01:33:17PM *  3 points [-]

Well... you're absolutely right! I'm on my second project right now, and would never dream of guilt-tripping a client into a sale :-) But still, a lot of successful projects get started without much regard for ethics. This especially applies to online communities: LessWrong's launch is actually an outlier. Creating hundreds of sockpuppet accounts to simulate active life on the site is pretty much standard industry practice, Myspace got its startup push from a huge spam emailing (insider info I saw somewhere), etc. Because the choice is either this or 5 visitors/day, month after month, who look at your comatose website and leave.

For an especially clear-cut example, SEO is certainly unethical from the customer's point of view, but I absolutely have to do it, and will. Sounds a bit like PUA practices, no?

Comment author: thomblake 08 October 2009 01:55:46PM 6 points [-]

For an especially clear-cut example, SEO is certainly unethical from the customer's point of view, but I absolutely have to do it, and will.

SEO is not unethical when it focuses on findability. Making your site reachable by the people who are looking for it is not manipulative - it's just good customer service.

If you are doing something unethical, you should reconsider whether you "have to" do it. Hurting your customers is not good business, and you're making yourself an enemy of the people you purport to help.

Comment author: thomblake 13 October 2009 10:58:35PM 3 points [-]

Creating hundreds of sockpuppet accounts to simulate active life on the site is pretty much standard industry practice,

I have been unable to find folks who'll verify this for me. I'm pretty well-read on Internet startups, and I've never found a serious source suggesting it.

Myspace got its startup push from a huge spam emailing

This InformationWeek article cites Sanford Wallace as the source of this rumor, and I was unable to find anyone else claming this happened. Given his reputation, I seriously doubt this is true.

Comment author: HughRistik 09 October 2009 06:08:19AM 2 points [-]

I think it's quite possible in principle to be successful at pickup and seduction, even for beginners, while maintaining regard to ethics. I run a quick expected value calculation on just about anything I do.

The reason it is difficult in practice is because some of the ethical standards applied to men learning conscious seduction are bogus and would not hold up if applied to female mating behavior, or to naturally skilled men who do exactly the same thing unconsciously. Such standards would ban large swathes of human social behavior if applied consistently.

Applying a reasonable moral framework is not much of an impediment to learning and practicing seduction, yet there are certain bloated, anachronistic, non-reality-based, moral frameworks that are. In the extreme, we can see radical feminists John Stoltenberg and Robert Jensen who have come to believe that participating in heterosexual sex is currently unethical because it is so oppressive to women, and turned towards celibacy (Jensen's essay is titled "Patriarchal Sex," but I don't see it available online for free anywhere).

Comment author: [deleted] 08 October 2009 08:57:49PM 7 points [-]

I can recognize the attitude from my youth and I think it is really counterproductive. It leads to the kind of bitterness expressed in this line:

a starving entrepreneur who (unlike you) gets kicked in the face every goddamn day.

a man who sees himself that way isn't going to be attractive to women. If you restrict yourself to thinking about meaningless sex, then yes it is true that the relationship between men and women is pretty asymmetrical. An average woman can probably consume as much meaningless sex as she wants without too much effort, whereas for most men there is a lot of effort involved in obtaining meaningless sex. However, if you consider quality monogamous relationships the situation is much more symmetrical. There is a significant search effort for both sexes in finding a quality compatible partner that reciprocates their feelings.

For most people long-term committed relationships are the goal, so for most people the world is fairly symmetrical. It may not feel that way in your early 20s though.

Comment author: DanArmak 08 October 2009 09:11:33PM 8 points [-]

For most people the goal is medium term relationships, interspersed with meaningless or nearly meaningless sex, and eventually a long term relationship with perhaps children.

Women (who want this) tend to get it. Men who want this, in many cases, get nothing for the first 10 years and then jump straight to the long-term relationship stage. Saying "it doesn't feel that way in your early 20s" seems to imply your teens and 20s don't really matter if it turns out all right in the end?

Comment author: [deleted] 09 October 2009 05:26:57PM 3 points [-]

For most people the goal is medium term relationships, interspersed with >meaningless or nearly meaningless sex, and eventually a long term relationship >with perhaps children.

I was thinking about it across people rather than across an individual lifetime. If you asked all the adults in the US what kind of romantic relationship they are most interested in, most of them will say long-term monogamous. After all, most of them are in long-term monogamous relationships. This is consistent with what you are saying, just a different way of looking at it.

I will say though that while this kind of path is very common its not the only desirable or good one. Tons of people get married as virgins and lots of other peoples have lots of other different romantic paths. I also don't think that the involuntarily celibate path (at least up to a certain age) is the worst one available. Who would you rather be, a 24 year old nerd who has never had a date, or a 24 year old playa appearing on Maury for the 8th time to be told "you are the father!"?

Saying "it doesn't feel that way in your early 20s" seems to imply your teens and 20s >don't really matter if it turns out all right in the end?

Now that I am happily married the utility difference to me of one more or less relationship in my past is really small. So, in that sense my lack of romantic success between say 16 and 20 really doesn't matter. It matters about as much as the fact that I got a C in 9th grade geometry given that I went on to kick ass at math later on in high school and in college.

That being said, 9th grade math was really frustrating for me, as was trying to date in high school and college. One way I could have dealt with that frustration was to learn PUA techniques to increase my success. I doubt that would have worked well for me. I think it would have helped me if I had known then that it was only temporary. Once I got a good paying job, spent some time at the gym, and gained a little maturity, suddenly girls started wanting to go on a second date, even though I still wasn't a great conversationalist. In that case I still wouldn't have gotten laid much, but I would have stressed about it less.

Comment author: DanArmak 09 October 2009 09:00:45PM 2 points [-]

Now that I am happily married the utility difference to me of one more or less relationship in my past is really small.

But for the person whose present became your past, the utility difference was enormous. And that's what really matters. Even if you're sure you'll be happy later, you can't ignore being unhappy right now.

Once I got a good paying job, spent some time at the gym, and gained a little maturity, suddenly girls started wanting to go on a second date, even though I still wasn't a great conversationalist.

It's perfectly reasonable that you needed more skills or attributes for this success. But age should not, of itself, be one of these attributes, as long as you're dating people your own age.

Comment author: MugaSofer 02 January 2014 07:22:54PM 2 points [-]

An average woman can probably consume as much meaningless sex as she wants without too much effort

Is this actually true? Seriously appealing for evidence either way. (I have a pet theory that we overestimate how attractive the "average woman" is for Reasons.)

Comment author: IlyaShpitser 02 January 2014 09:15:41PM 7 points [-]

Is a pet theory a formerly stray theory that you decided to start feeding, because it was cute, and that you stroke in your super villain moments?

Comment author: bramflakes 03 January 2014 12:56:27AM 5 points [-]

I used to have a pet theory but it died when I stopped feeding it evidence.

Comment author: bramflakes 03 January 2014 12:53:17AM *  2 points [-]

Your theory doesn't seem to stand up to the data, here and here. It seems it's women that underestimate male attractiveness. Men's judgments are almost symmetrical. Data is from Okcupid surveys.

(obvious confounds: people that use okcupid may not be representative of the population generally, both for the raters and ratees.)

Comment author: Manfred 03 January 2014 05:10:53PM 3 points [-]

In order to make the data from OKCupid correspond to an underestimation, you have to equate the arbitrary 1-5 rating with some absolute measure like "quintile of attractiveness." This does not necessarily hold.

Comment author: Nornagest 03 January 2014 05:54:27PM *  2 points [-]

There is some grounding in the OKCupid data, but it comes from the functional meaning of the point scores: when two people mutually rate each other four or five stars, they're both notified. A score of four or five is therefore a weak way of saying "I find this person attractive enough that I'd like to meet them". (We aren't necessarily talking strictly physical attraction, though; "everyone knows" that the scores are based on photos more than profile text, but I have no idea how true this actually is.) Scores in the 0..3 range have no direct effects, but they may be anchored in some way by the fraction of people rated 4 or 5.

This is all to the best of my knowledge; I haven't been active on OKCupid for a couple of years and they might have tweaked the interface since then. On the other hand, I do remember seeing those analytics pages when I was active.

Comment author: Vaniver 03 January 2014 04:42:29PM 3 points [-]

It seems it's women that underestimate male attractiveness. Men's judgments are almost symmetrical.

I'm not sure "underestimate" is the right description here; my opinion (as an androphile) is that the male attractiveness distribution is heavily skewed, basically in the way that women think it is, if the 1-5 scale measures the underlying strength of attraction rather than quintiles. (3s, 4s, and 5s all fall in the top quintile of male attractiveness, but it seems that there are much larger gradations there than there are in the top quintile of female attractiveness.)

And for the underlying question of access to sex, the message distribution is more important, but isn't scaled correctly for comparisons between the two.

Comment author: [deleted] 03 January 2014 05:46:40PM *  0 points [-]

I'm not sure "underestimate" is the right description here; my opinion (as an androphile) is that the male attractiveness distribution is heavily skewed, basically in the way that women think it is, if the 1-5 scale measures the underlying strength of attraction rather than quintiles. (3s, 4s, and 5s all fall in the top quintile of male attractiveness, but it seems that there are much larger gradations there than there are in the top quintile of female attractiveness.)

I'm not an androphile myself, but that's my impression too, for various reasons (see e.g. the paragraph starting with “Similarly” in this post).

Comment author: [deleted] 03 January 2014 06:21:15PM 2 points [-]

BTW, here's the post the graphs were taken from.

Comment author: ChristianKl 03 January 2014 08:17:38PM 1 point [-]

It doesn't show that woman underestimate male attractiveness. It shows that in online dating woman are in generally able to focus on the more attractive candidates.

Comment author: [deleted] 03 January 2014 05:39:04PM *  1 point [-]

It seems it's women that underestimate male attractiveness.

What would that even mean? Remember that attractiveness is a two-place word. Women are underestimating how attractive men are to whom? Would a more natural description of the OKC data that men are in average less attractive to women than vice versa?

(I think you misunderstood what MugaSofer meant, which he better explained in his reply. IIUC what he hypothesized is that if you picked an actually median women and you asked people what fraction of the female population are less attractive than her, you'd get an answer much less than 50% -- e.g. because below-median women are underrepresented in mass media compared to above-median ones, or something.)

(obvious confounds: people that use okcupid may not be representative of the population generally, both for the raters and ratees.)

Well, for starters, it's mainly used by single people, so very desirable people are filtered out unless they are also very picky.

Comment author: bramflakes 03 January 2014 08:25:12PM 1 point [-]

Remember that attractiveness is a two-place word I think you misunderstood what MugaSofer meant, which he better explained in his reply.

Both correct, my bad.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 January 2014 08:48:19PM 2 points [-]

(I have a pet theory that we overestimate how attractive the "average woman" is for Reasons.)

Agreed.

(Exercise for the reader: next time you are in a bus/classroom/mall/somewhere, look at all the women around you, mentally sort them by attractiveness, and look at the median one.)

Comment author: EHeller 03 January 2014 12:17:37AM 1 point [-]

Survey data on sexual behavior:

http://www.iub.edu/~kinsey/resources/FAQ.html

It doesn't tell us about voluntary vs. involuntary abstinence, but it does have information about frequency, etc. Men are more likely to have had sex in the last year then women, but young women are slightly more likely to have had sex in the last year then young men.

Comment author: Vaniver 02 January 2014 10:25:28PM 0 points [-]

I believe almost all of the effort involved deals with enforcing quality standards, and so as stated it seems true.

Comment author: cousin_it 09 October 2009 06:49:28AM *  1 point [-]

This:

There is a significant search effort for both sexes in finding a quality compatible partner that reciprocates their feelings.

doesn't prove this:

if you consider quality monogamous relationships the situation is much more symmetrical

which is false. Alpha men have are just as disproportionally desired as relationship partners, as they're as sex partners. Gotta ask where'd you get your conclusion anyway? What are your citations?

Comment author: thomblake 09 October 2009 12:38:52PM 3 points [-]

What are your citations

It's kindof late in the discussion to ask people to get out of their armchairs. A good deal of the disagreement here has been people disagreeing about the bare facts.

Comment author: wedrifid 09 October 2009 05:30:53PM *  1 point [-]

Really? I haven't seen too much disagreement about bare facts. I have seen more disagreement regarding the way things should be, the applicability of certain analogies, the validity of lines of reasoning and the relevance of refutations. Bare facts about the external world barely played a part in the disagreement.

Comment author: HughRistik 09 October 2009 07:24:23AM *  5 points [-]

Actually, I think joe might be right. Think of it this way: Women are dramatically more selective than men about sexual partners. Yet are they dramatically more selective about relationship partners than men? I doubt it, and I would anecdotally suggest that:

P( man is interested in a relationship with a woman | he is interested in sex with her ) < P(woman is interested in a relationship with a man | she is interested in sex with him )

So the selectiveness would then be more symmetrical for relationships than for casual sex.

This is compounded by the fact that since women are hypergamous and tend to try to "date up," the men at the top of the ladder have lots of options and can afford to be very picky about relationship partners. Anecdotally again, at the highest ranks of desirability, men seem to be at least as picky about relationship partners as women are.

which is false, as evidenced by the large number of men who are willing to enter into a relationship just for the sex and still aren't getting any.

But these aren't the men that women are most likely to want relationships with. Men at high levels of desirability don't need to enter relationships to find sex. Getting those dudes into a relationship is much harder for a woman, and takes skill. (This is where I think many female dating complaints come from. My suspicion is that females are typically trying to "date up" in terms of percentile attractiveness, while males struggle to date at their same level (or lower) of percentile attractiveness, because their female counterparts are busy chasing men of higher percentile attractiveness who just aren't that into those women.

If I'm right about the math and the empiricals, then we have an inevitable situation where both sexes experience a challenge: what you want, you can't get... and what you can get, you don't really want. Women (on average) are struggling to date up, which means that men are struggling to date people of similar percentile attractiveness.

So who wins in this situation? That's a complex question, and all I'll say for now is that the variance in the advantages of this system are probably greater for men than women: I bet the men at the top do better than most women, who in turn do better than most men, but I'd need to think about it more and conceptualize how I'm defining "better."

Comment author: CronoDAS 09 October 2009 07:57:48AM 3 points [-]

What would "dating down" look like, for a man?

The standard advice is that if your standards for being in a relationship are too low, to the point where it seems as though practically everyone meets them, this is called being "desperate" and will make people want to avoid you.

Comment author: wedrifid 09 October 2009 05:44:44PM 5 points [-]

As with most sound dating advice there are exceptions and in most cases doing the 'wrong' thing with confidence and intent ameliorates or even reverses the effect. If a man chooses to date below the maximum attractiveness that he could get with effort for reasons other than desperation he can be expected to have more success (in the short term) than if he pushed his limits. The challenge he faces to maintain social dominance is reduced. Laziness (or pragmatism) is not the same as neediness.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 January 2014 08:54:01PM 0 points [-]

Alpha men have are just as disproportionally desired as relationship partners, as they're as sex partners.

Are they? ISTM the men most likely to have been in a stable, happy relationship with an awesome woman for years don't much resemble the men most likely to have one-night stands.

Comment author: Alicorn 08 October 2009 01:14:42PM 5 points [-]

No, I don't think I would. I'd keep that in reserve if any of the students harassed me, which if they're that impressively awful they might, but I'd probably still give it a try. I mean, I attempt to teach philosophy to non-major freshmen once a week, and I don't give up on the ones who are abominable at it.

Comment author: bigbad 11 October 2009 06:35:15PM 0 points [-]

There are really two problems here. The first is that single men and women can have a hard time meeting each other. The second is a mismatch between the expectations of each and the reality.

We all have an idea of what we're looking for in a mate. That idea owes a lot to the media, and it isn't all that realistic. She is looking for a man with smouldering good looks and a deep sensitive streak (full disclosure: I'm a man, and most of the time I don't even care about my own feelings). He is looking for a woman who is paying for her math degree by stripping. Only very rarely are these expectations fulfilled.

Comment author: Psychohistorian 09 October 2009 02:20:40AM *  4 points [-]

Damn! That's exactly the kind of vague advice that HughRistik decries.

I wasn't trying to communicate a thoroughly systematic method for acquiring social skills, so I confess that this phrase may have been a bit vague.

That said, it's English, not a formal language. "Just get out of the house" does not mean, "position yourself in some location X such that X is not a member of the subset of locations within your house."

The expression means that one should get out of the house and go to places that are conducive to some form of social interaction. Appropriate places vary tremendously from person to person, which is why the phrase is so non-specific. But if you pick some social event or scene where there are likely to be people vaguely similar to you, and you keep going to these events, there's a pretty good chance you'll meet interesting people and get better at socializing generally, if you need work at that. Hell, as long as you pick some social event where you don't actually have contempt for everyone there, and you keep going out even after things go poorly, you're probably going to do OK.

You can't expect to be a great skier the first time you hit the slopes, and if you give up because you're falling too much, you'll never even be a competent skier. You can't expect to have decent social skills if you don't make a sincere effort to socialize. I understand that, in some cases, people sincerely try, deal with falling down a lot, keep trying, and still fail. I admit I have no easy solution for that. But I think that's a pretty small minority of cases. If I'm wrong about that, please correct me.

Comment author: bigbad 10 October 2009 02:31:01PM 10 points [-]

"But if you pick some social event or scene where there are likely to be people vaguely similar to you"

I suspect that for most of us, such scenes consist almost exclusively of dudes.

I have trouble meeting women, and it's due to three major constraints:

1) I'm not religious, so church is out.

2) Bars bore me.

3) I haven't identified any other venues where a 30-something guy can approach women in a sociable context.

These constraints may be typical of the Less Wrong readership.

Comment author: anonym 10 October 2009 05:28:32PM *  2 points [-]

An additional concern is not being able to find women with compatible intellectual interests (I don't mean having or not having specific interests but being interested and capable of thinking/talking about intellectual topics). Fortunately, there are dating sites. OkCupid seems to trend smart, but there are lots of others too. If you live near a good university, you can also attend evening special lectures and events of that sort that are heavily attended by graduate students. They often have a socializing aspect to them after the event.

Comment author: bigbad 10 October 2009 09:35:19PM 0 points [-]

I don't live near a university (the local Christian college does not, IMHO, count). I've tried dating sites, but never had any luck with them. I tried a meeting of my local professional society, but I was one of three people under 50.

Comment author: ChristianKl 13 October 2009 11:35:21PM -1 points [-]

The reason bars bore you, is probably that you lack the social skills. Practice happens to be a way to develop skills.

It boils down to the fact that you aren't willing to pay the price of experiencing some boredom to develop social skills. It simply a silly constraint.

As Christian Szegedy wrote above, bars where there's partner dancing such as Salsa, Swing or Tango are probably the best way.

You even have a lot of precedural stuff to keep your mind occupied (not feel boredom) when you concentrate on dancing stuff.

In some sense a lot of people feel that they need the procedural stuff to be able to train social skills without getting bored.

Freakonomics had a section where they came to the conclusion that good parenting isn't about what actions a parent completes but about what kind of a person the parent happens to be.

Exposure to social interactions changes yourself. If you happen to lack social skills it means that you have to go out of your comfort zone. It your choice whether you are willing to pay the price.

Comment author: thomblake 13 October 2009 11:58:36PM 8 points [-]

The reason bars bore you, is probably that you lack the social skills.

That seems like an odd hypothesis. "Bored" is not how I describe my emotional state when I'm engaging in some activity for which I lack skill.

For my part, I find bars boring because there's nothing entertaining to do there. I don't even see how people have interesting social interactions in them; most bars I've been to have been very loud, and the people have been drinking excessively, such that one cannot even have an interesting conversation. But then, my hearing is terrible in loud places, so YMMV.

Comment author: blacktrance 02 January 2014 07:33:04PM 0 points [-]

The reason bars bore you, is probably that you lack the social skills. Practice happens to be a way to develop skills.

Not the grandparent commenter, but bars bore me because I don't find socializing with strangers in a bar setting to be particularly interesting. For me, it'd be like riding a unicycle - something I don't know how to do, but I can tell I wouldn't enjoy that much anyway

Comment author: [deleted] 02 January 2014 08:44:15PM 0 points [-]

Not the grandparent commenter, but bars bore me because I don't find socializing with strangers in a bar setting to be particularly interesting.

What about going there with people you already know?

Comment author: blacktrance 02 January 2014 08:57:13PM 0 points [-]

If I want to spend time with them, a bar is far from the optimal place to do it.

Comment author: ChristianKl 02 January 2014 08:25:46PM 0 points [-]

The post you quote doesn't advocate going there for the purpose of enjoyment but to achieve secondary objectives.

If you have a goal, and path A to the goal is boring, that doesn't mean that going down path A is automatically out of question.

You might find a better path than A, but if A is the only thing you are left with, go down A even if it's boring if it brings you towards your goal.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 29 October 2009 10:45:56AM 1 point [-]

3) I haven't identified any other venues where a 30-something guy can approach women in a sociable context.

Science fiction fandom. In my (UK-based) experience, it contains substantial numbers of both sexes and all ages. And all body types, for that matter.

Comment author: CronoDAS 09 October 2009 02:58:12AM *  2 points [-]

I've had some success at meeting people and having conversations with them. On the other hand, anime conventions are bad for meeting someone you hope to see a second time, because, chances are, the person you're talking to lives in another state or something.

Comment author: thomblake 09 October 2009 03:50:56PM 2 points [-]

anime conventions are bad for meeting someone you hope to see a second time

Look for small, local conventions - they're often hosted by universities. There might be one in your area. Of course, those have a tendency to foom if they're any good (like Connecticon), so it's a moving target.

Comment author: Nornagest 02 January 2014 07:45:18PM *  3 points [-]

I'm not sure this is good advice. Cons (and especially anime cons, which tend to skew a lot younger) depend on leading a lot of socially awkward people to talk to each other, and as such basically live or die by the skills of their organizers. If you're restricting yourself to small local cons, and you're not very lucky, you naturally get organizers who are either inexperienced or incompetent.

That's tolerable if you already know a good chunk of the attendees. But if not, it's hard to overestimate how bad this can go. When I last attended a similar con, for example, I met several people I immediately disliked, attracted one (1) stalker, and enjoyed the spectacle of an attendee being dragged out by the police after getting too handsy with his partner at a cosplay event. I did not meet anyone new that I'd have cared to meet again.

Comment author: wedrifid 08 October 2009 11:16:27AM 2 points [-]

And so on, and so forth. "Get out of the house" is a totally useless piece of advice for the kind of person that needs it.

It's really not that bad as far as advice goes. If you get out of the house you'll get bored. Then, inevitably, you'll find something to do. Usually it will involve either other people, exercise or something that expands your cultural experience. All good steps. In fact, 'get out of the house' is rather important advice even to those who have thoroughly absorbed all the relevant mating advice. Sometimes it is easier to learn how stuff works than actually do it.

I've entertained the idea of suggesting to Alicorn that she try applying her superior understanding of women to teach pickup to male students. I imagine her entering the classroom, glance at the audience composed of actual average guys and go "...oh, you meant that kind of average? I had no idea such people even existed. Obviously, teaching them to approach women would be disgusting and a gross betrayal of my sex. I'm outta here.

All too true.

Comment author: gatormax 14 October 2009 04:46:34PM 1 point [-]

Dude that shit had me rollllling! Props.

And it fits right into the framework. Having a smoke is a task for a human, but a problem for the alien.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 January 2014 08:58:44PM 0 points [-]

I imagine her entering the classroom, glancing at the audience composed of actual average guys and going "...oh, you meant that kind of average? I had no idea such people even existed. Obviously, teaching them to approach women would be disgusting and a gross betrayal of my sex. I'm outta here."

Average guys or average single guys? The latter is lower than the former for obvious reasons.

Comment author: SilasBarta 07 October 2009 10:43:16PM 2 points [-]

For most skills, some people attain a level of art which surpasses describable taskification. If you asked a professional athlete how he throws the ball, or how he runs, he might mention a few tricks, but he's not going to be able to communicate it to you; in his mind, he just does it

Except that the level of art I (and I think Hugh) am talking about guidance for, is more analogous to learning the rules of the game than doing some part of it very well. And teaching someone the rules of a game is generally not regarded as difficult.

Comment author: HughRistik 07 October 2009 10:59:37PM 2 points [-]

Rules of the game, yes. But also the technique by which the athlete throws a ball. He cannot describe how he throws a ball now, but he or his coaches can describe the process he went through and the drills he practiced to get to that level of unconscious competence.

Comment author: SilasBarta 07 October 2009 11:02:25PM 1 point [-]

Good point. I accept that correction.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 07 October 2009 10:14:34PM 5 points [-]

Can you say what you want without appealing to this "society"? "Society" is only people dealing with each other. What do you want some individual person to do, or not do, to fix the problems you see? Because I do not recognise the picture of "society" that you are drawing. I have never encountered the "Romantic" view outside of advice columns in women's magazines. The real people that I know generally do think deliberately about -- taskify, if you must -- how they deal with people. Just read a random collection of LiveJournals to see examples. Read SF perzines. People -- the successful ones -- think about this stuff all the time.

However, they may not be able to give you any more advice about it that they could about how to ride a bicycle. And they're under no obligation to make the effort.

Comment author: barrkel 07 October 2009 09:20:27PM 5 points [-]

Given that it's such an important problem in people's lives, I am somewhat perplexed as to why it isn't covered in school. Given the effect choosing a mate can have, it should be a substantial part of the curriculum.

Comment author: taw 08 October 2009 08:12:02AM 6 points [-]

The truth about it is not politically correct enough for school, there's no way this is happening.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 09 October 2009 05:27:11AM 3 points [-]

The truth about it is not politically correct enough for school, there's no way this is happening.

But that doesn't explain why there isn't bad advice in school. I suspect that spriteless is correct, about diversity of parents.

Comment author: spriteless 08 October 2009 12:44:39AM *  4 points [-]

I got a video on "don't hate you're friend's new girlfriend because she's taking his time from you" video in sixth grade. But I expect the lack of videos is to avoid offending parents who have their own ideas?

Comment author: Strange7 22 April 2010 05:20:05PM 2 points [-]

http://ua.johntynes.com/content_comments.php?id=P1743_0_3_0

A clever appeal to people's fear of systematized socialization.

Comment author: teageegeepea 07 October 2009 09:13:28PM 2 points [-]

Any artist, whether in visual media, music, drama, or dance knows that the "magic" of their art is produced by mundane and usually heavily taskified processes. You can't "just" create a sublime work of art

Not even the very lucky and talented? Not a completely rhetorical question, this is all completely outside of my domain competence.

Comment author: Markov 08 October 2009 01:03:40AM 6 points [-]

Even the lucky and talented have to be taught the skills of their craft and continue to practice regularly. They just get to see a payoff earlier than everyone else.

Jascha Heifetz: "If I don't practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it."

Comment author: HughRistik 08 October 2009 01:20:01AM 4 points [-]

"You know that I immerse myself in music, so to speak — that I think about it all day long — that I like experimenting — studying — reflecting."

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Comment author: composerzane 08 October 2009 07:03:14PM -1 points [-]

Personally, I think musicians who can actually play their instruments are capable of creating more "magical" music than musicians who can't.

this statement requires a clarification for several terms: can "instruments" refer to a digital sequencer? turntable(s)? microphone, loop pedal, effects pedal, etc? a rewired speak and spell? a laptop running generative algorithms?

"Magical" might need a touch more clarification as well.

if it does include those, then the statement ends up a tautology; musicians who can play music well can play music better than those who can't play music well...?

Comment author: freyley 07 October 2009 10:03:27PM 1 point [-]

I was just lamenting this morning how my todo list, a set of tasks for the next few days, was depressing me. When I wrote it, it was a great joy to get all these things out of my head, but now that all I had to do was follow them, it felt mechanical and boring. I could rewrite the list and gain some excitement about a few of the tasks that way, but instead I've been trying to figure out the why of this feeling, and your post gets me right back into it.

I think there's an ideal working state -- perhaps the state of Flow is describing it, or perhaps that's simply some peoples' ideal working state, and there's a more general form of it (I'll use flow for this comment). In this ideal working state, we're constantly encountering problems that are within a known scope. So they're problems -- we don't immediately know how to handle them -- but they're scoped problems, so we know how to figure it out. This is fun, because there are problems, but they're solvable problems.

Dating advice you describe as useful does the opposite of flow -- it creates tasks. Tasks, because they don't require the overcoming of scoped problems, are boring. Taskifying things make them routine, easy, and boring. Taskifying itself can be in flow. Re-taskifying recreates the sense of flow and allows a task to fall within that flow.

What I would want isn't taskified advice, it's the experience that would allow dating to feel flowful.

(I've italicised to try to mark flow as a technical term. Please let me know if I should change the format.)

Comment author: pdf23ds 07 October 2009 10:36:37PM 3 points [-]

Hmm. My intuition is that Flow is no more or less than intimate familiarity with a repertoire of tasks/procedures/heuristics used to reliably solve scoped problems. Do you think Flow could be applied to, e.g., piano performance? What about debugging programs? "Flow" as used in wider culture could certainly be applied that way.

The difficulty of communicating/teaching many procedures and heuristics is the problem with trying to taskify dating advice, IMO.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 08 October 2009 03:40:38AM 4 points [-]

I agree - "flow" happens to masters who have taskified the process and practiced it so many times that it becomes procedural rather than declarative knowledge.

Comment author: LauraABJ 09 October 2009 01:32:11AM 1 point [-]

Yes. This can definitely be done with sex/romance, but it seems that many people want everything to work perfectly the first time... Sorry folks.

Comment author: CronoDAS 08 October 2009 07:02:14AM 2 points [-]

Do you think Flow could be applied to, e.g., piano performance?

I've experienced the state called "flow" when playing the piano, so consider this a big. fat, YES.

You are talking about the same thing I'm talking about, right?

Comment author: HughRistik 07 October 2009 10:25:20PM *  2 points [-]

Thanks for reminding me about flow. Flow lets you dynamically generate algorithms and solutions, and there is no real substitute for it for solving certain problems.

Yet flow depends on your activity being neither too easy nor too hard. Taskification is still applicable to problems that require flow, just not in the same way. You cannot consciously taskify your entire procedure, but you can do the following:

  1. You can taskify some of the component tasks involved, such that you can flow. For example, you cannot taskify the entire problem of salsa dance, but you can taskify the process of learning the component steps such that you are able to flow. Without having technique at a certain level, flow is impossible. Taskification can get you the necessary technique. Sometimes doing a task in a conscious, clunky, non-spontaneous way will build the skills necessary to do that task from flow on the fly. That's how musicians and dancers typically learn.

  2. Taskify the process of getting into flow, at which point you let the flow take over.

Comment author: freyley 08 October 2009 01:43:37AM *  1 point [-]

Yeah, I think you're attempting to take over a separate concept (fluency?) with your idea of taskification. You generate tasks when you want to complete something piece-wise, and it may be valuable to break complex things into tasks for explanatory purposes, but fluency isn't based primarily on understanding the tasks as tasks, it's based on experience and, well, fluency.