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Alicorn comments on Unknown knowns: Why did you choose to be monogamous? - Less Wrong

48 Post author: WrongBot 26 June 2010 02:50AM

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Comment author: Alicorn 26 June 2010 05:57:48AM 30 points [-]

I feel that I am naturally monogamous - or possibly just patterned after my parents, who as far as I know are monogamous with one another. But I think that it would only be moderately difficult to perform the mindhacks to be comfortable with some types of polyamory, if the practical obstacles (e.g. how to deal with eventual children, prevent disease, present to the outside world, etc.) were all taken care of to my satisfaction.

I've been in a heterosexual relationship wherein I (but not the other party) had standing permission to have sex with other women, but I didn't find myself in a position to exercise this option in practice. (I did hit on a girl during that relationship, but she was located out of state.) This did not seem that difficult to adjust to psychologically. Possibly, this is because I attached no particular romantic emotion to hypothetical girls I could sleep with; they would serve as the functional equivalent of boyfriend-approved sex toys (whose needs and preferences would be more salient, because of course they'd be people, but nevertheless, they wouldn't occupy the same central role in my mind as an actual girlfriend would.) It's also possible that I would have freaked out completely if I'd actually had the opportunity to have sex with a woman, but this seems unlikely.

My suspicion is that I could also potentially be happy in a polyfaithful stable triad if all of the sub-relationships were virtually or completely free of drama, but more people than that, or appreciable amounts of romance/sex between triad persons and non-triad persons, or more conflict than "almost none", or any other complications, and I'd want to abandon the entire mess and find myself a nice singular partner.

I suspect that part of this inclination in myself is that I want my relationships to be permanent, reliable fixtures in my life. (I haven't managed this yet, but it is a very stable want.) Polyamories of any kind are necessarily more complicated. There are more practical obstacles, more negotiations, more neologistic rules, more outside perplexity, more spawning points for drama, more ways in which the relationship changes over time, and - if the parties involved are all inclined towards polyamory in the first place - more affordances for dissatisfaction within the established limits of the relationship. All of these things make the relationships less likely to still be around for the long haul in a more or less recognizable form, and that's not a desideratum I could give up nearly as easily as "all of my partner's nookie is for my exclusive use".

Comment author: Daniel_Burfoot 26 June 2010 01:57:00PM 13 points [-]

Polyamories of any kind are necessarily more complicated.

This seems like the core point. Monogamy isn't necessarily optimal, but it's a good satisficing solution to a bounded rationality problem.

Comment author: Blueberry 26 June 2010 04:36:16PM 5 points [-]

It seems to not satisfy some people, however.

Comment author: Kevin 26 June 2010 08:04:44PM 9 points [-]

Does your conception of monogamy extend past the Singularity? When you say you want your relationships to be permanent, does that mean you seek an actual eternal commitment as opposed to just human-level permanent?

Comment author: Alicorn 26 June 2010 10:06:57PM 14 points [-]

Actual eternity sounds pretty swell now. I don't know if it'd still sound swell after 500 years. (After that long, I might have my life sorted out well enough that I'd welcome the introduction of some complications.)

Comment author: NihilCredo 27 June 2010 04:32:26PM *  6 points [-]

As a relatively new visitor to LessWrong, I find myself moderately disturbed by the fact that that was your first thought upon reading the word "permanent".

Comment author: WrongBot 27 June 2010 05:55:44PM 14 points [-]

I was surprised no one had brought it up sooner. If we're talking about permanence, let's actually talk about what that would mean.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 13 March 2011 05:17:08PM 11 points [-]

It says something about the way I think, that to me it seems like a primary reductio of monogamy that it wouldn't scale to a million years.

Comment author: wedrifid 13 March 2011 07:04:19PM 11 points [-]

Does it say something about the way I think that I don't consider million year monogamy particularly absurd at all? A desire for a monogamous relationship is by no means an incoherent or implausible preference to have. And these people have a superintelligence as backup. I wouldn't say it seems likely but reductio definitely doesn't work here.

Comment author: soreff 13 March 2011 07:38:56PM *  0 points [-]

I wouldn't describe the idea of million year monogamy as intrinsically incoherent in the abstract. However, the scale of changes on such a time scale seem to make it exceedingly unlikely. Consider just the problems to the idea of personal identity if we just added high-bandwidth links to human brains. Even with no AIs, and even no other changes to human bodies, that one addition, no faster than an optical fiber of today's technology, could make nonsense out of what counts as a person - and therefore as to what counts as a monogamous couple.

Comment author: wedrifid 13 March 2011 08:25:34PM *  2 points [-]

Those inevitable large scale changes are the thing that makes monogamy a plausible option. If, one year after the emergence of a Friendly-to-them singularity, they particularly want to remain monogamous ~forever then they will. If they don't, they will not. There need be no inevitable changes in desires when the limerance fades after a few months, the few years of a produce-one-child pair bond expires or boredom after a several decades. Those are optional (given the right technology) and if they really want to be monogamous they will.

Comment author: soreff 14 March 2011 12:22:34AM 1 point [-]

You seem to be viewing a Friendly-to-them singularity as freezing in place the couple's utility functions. I agree that it might be able to stabilize it against currently-known changes, such as those you cite, fading limerance, human pair bond stability, some others. I'm skeptical about stability with respect to all important changes over a million years. Even a superintelligence is going to encounter surprises, whether from exploration of the boundaries of design spaces or exploration of physical space. Even for it, the future is uncertain - and the balancing of subgoals and values must likewise have some uncertainty. If the consequences of one of those surprises makes one or both of the members of a couple morph into something rather different, is sticking with the original bond sensible, or even meaningful? If the couple precludes all such changes, is that at all a reasonable choice over such a long time period? Is it even viable? Precluding change in the face of surprise is a dangerous choice.

Comment author: [deleted] 13 March 2011 05:59:08PM 4 points [-]

It might be that relationships can last successfully for 50-60 years but not for thousands of years -- long-lived people could have many relationships, each as long as our longest marriages.

Having several hundred 50-year relationships actually might be interesting. You have enough time to get to know your partner deeply and intimately, through fifty years' worth of life stages. It wouldn't be the "post-Singularity equivalent" of a one-night stand, because you actually do have fifty years to learn what makes that person tick, in all his subtlety and complexity. But you never have to worry about feeling trapped because hey, it's only fifty years, you've got lots more time.

Comment author: MartinB 13 March 2011 06:43:34PM 3 points [-]

The depth of the relation is not necessarily related to the time spent together.

Comment author: Kevin 27 June 2010 05:39:39PM 5 points [-]

It wasn't my first thought, but it was something I had been vaguely meaning to ask Alicorn for a while and this was an appropriate opportunity.

Comment author: thomblake 28 June 2010 04:11:21PM 2 points [-]

As a long-time transhumanist, that was my first thought upon reading the word "permanent".

Comment author: NullSet 09 July 2010 03:04:37AM 3 points [-]

The complexity of a polyamorous relationship actually makes it more stable if you look at it in terms of the group relationship and not in terms of the individual relations within it. In a triad. a person who is currently dissatisfied with one partner still has a healthy relationship with the other. One has to be dissatisfied with with the relationship as a whole to decide to leave both partners.

I see the somewhat chaotic flux present in the insides of a polyamorous relationship as no different than the trials that monogamous relationships undergo. It is simply the way that it continues to be a relationship beyond encountering those stresses that causes them to stand out.

Comment author: Alicorn 09 July 2010 03:56:45AM *  7 points [-]

The complexity of a polyamorous relationship actually makes it more stable if you look at it in terms of the group relationship and not in terms of the individual relations within it. In a triad. a person who is currently dissatisfied with one partner still has a healthy relationship with the other. One has to be dissatisfied with with the relationship as a whole to decide to leave both partners.

That simply isn't what I mean when I talk about stability. A partner is still a person of roughly the same size and importance when there are others in the same reference class, and eir entrance into or departure from my life is an event of similar significance.

Comment author: NullSet 09 July 2010 05:25:01AM 7 points [-]

I guess I wasn't clear. In my polyamorous relationship (which is not an open poly, but more of a polyfidelity), I've found that having relationships with the same people that someone you are fighting with has relationships with keeps the fight from getting to the point of separation. A fight that may cause someone to leave your life instead causes them to keep their distance for some time.

I think of it as the other relationships you share attenuating the relationship stresses such that you are not torn apart from each other. Afterwards, they hold you in proximity like stitches on a wound, to allow you to heal.

Comment author: Mitchell_Porter 09 July 2010 03:43:13AM 2 points [-]

One has to be dissatisfied with with the relationship as a whole to decide to leave both partners.

What do you call that stage - polyodium? But that would be when everyone hates everyone else. More likely is that 3 just reduces to 2.

Comment author: magfrump 26 June 2010 06:15:34AM 2 points [-]

Agreed on most if not all points.