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Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on Polyhacking - Less Wrong

75 Post author: Alicorn 28 August 2011 08:35AM

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Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 August 2011 07:46:45AM 72 points [-]

(Also, spontaneously all kinds of popular. If I'd known I could get this many people interested by hacking poly I might have done it sooner.)

The following is a public service announcement to all women who naturally like at least some shy nerds.

If you are (1) polyamorous and (2) able to directly ask men you find attractive to sleep with you (instead of doing the sheep dance where you freeze motionless and wait for them to approach) - or if you can hack yourself to be like that without too much effort - it is vastly easier than you imagine to acquire an entire harem of high-status and/or handsome nerds.

(For some but not all nerds, this may require that you be reasonably attractive. Most nerd girls I know are reasonably attractive and think they are not. So if you think that you're overweight and hideous and yet oddly enough nerds spend a lot of time talking to you at nerd parties, this means you are pretty.)

This concludes the public service announcement.

Comment author: [deleted] 27 August 2011 05:06:38PM 22 points [-]

This remains true for gay male geeks, by the way.

Comment author: Mass_Driver 28 August 2011 12:34:05AM 6 points [-]

Is there a trick to identifying gay male geeks? I find that sometimes I can go to four or five nerd parties and still have no idea about the sex lives of half the people there -- the shy male nerds I know tend not to talk about dating unless they're forced to. Maybe I'm going to the wrong parties.

Comment author: [deleted] 28 August 2011 12:42:07AM *  5 points [-]

The studies I know of have found that while many people can identify orientation (EDIT: sorry, only gay/straight, don't know of any non-binary studies) based on facial appearance, voice, and other outward signs with better-than-average accuracy, participants tend to have a hard time identifying specific traits that led them to judge.

I also would be interested in any such result.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 28 August 2011 04:09:10AM 13 points [-]

Back when I was in the market, I found that asking male geeks whose sexual preference I didn't know on dates worked pretty well. Not, admittedly, the most efficient possible mechanism... and not entirely reliable, as it landed me a few dates with self-identified straight male geeks, which puzzled me... but still, it worked pretty well.

Of course, I only tried this for male geeks I was interested in dating, which may have introduced relevant selection biases.

Comment author: [deleted] 28 August 2011 04:12:38AM *  9 points [-]

as it landed me a few dates with self-identified straight male geeks, which puzzled me...

Isn't that just bizarre?! The same thing has happened to me.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 28 August 2011 07:31:43PM 23 points [-]

Is it conceivable that some of them thought it was an invitation to socialize rather than a date?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 03 January 2012 04:08:56AM 5 points [-]

In the cases I was thinking of, no, not really.

Comment author: katydee 28 August 2011 04:17:39AM 10 points [-]

Yeah, what? That's definitely not something I would have predicted. What were their detailed reactions?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 28 August 2011 05:55:52PM 18 points [-]

Mostly Kaj said what I was gonna say.

In terms of detailed reactions... well, I could summarize the common thread as "If I were going to hook up with a guy it would probably be you, and I'm not unattracted, which is surprising, and, hey, sure, why not?" followed some time later by "Nah, straight."

I generally took it roughly in the same spirit that I make a point of tasting foods that I don't like when someone who does like it identifies a good example of it, just to see whether I still don't like it... because, hey, sometimes I discover that my tastes have changed while I wasn't looking.

That said, I far preferred the ones who were clear about that being their state. (In their defense, most of them were.)

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 28 August 2011 12:06:02PM *  23 points [-]

I don't find that surprising at all. We don't have full conscious access to all our preferences: we can just make guesses based on previous data. Realizing that there are men of the same sex that you might be attracted to doesn't seem any different from realizing that although you generally dislike science fiction, there are some sci-fi stories that you enjoy.

Straight/bi/gay is a classfication scheme that often works, but by collapsing a sliding scale into just three categories it necessarily loses information. A person who is only attracted to people of the opposite sex, and a person who is attracted to people of the opposite sex and to 0.1% of people of the same sex are usually both lumped in the category of "straight".

I have occasional fantasies of men and enjoy some varieties of shounen-ai/yaoi, but I'm almost never attracted to men in real life, though there have been a couple of exceptions. I can never figure out if I should call myself straight or bi, though straight is probably closer to the mark.

Also, sexual orientation is not a static thing, but something fluid that may change throughout life. This is particularly the case for women, though possibly also for men:

Starting in the mid-1990s, Diamond, a professor of Psychology and Gender Studies at the University of Utah, conducted a longitudinal study that tracked sexual attitudes among a cohort of non-heterosexual identified women from their late teens into their early thirties. From this work Diamond concluded that while a model of sexual orientation in which a person is unswervingly straight or gay may be appropriate for men, it is too rigid for women. Over the course of a few years, a typical woman in Diamond's study might move from being attracted to other women to being attracted to men, or vice versa, with the nature of the attraction dependent on an individual's circumstances and partner in ways that often rendered simple straight/lesiban/bisexual categorizations too coarse to be informative. This fluidity is not a matter of dilettantish sexual experimentation or repressed lesbianism in the face of homophobia. (Nor, contrary to the wishes of religious traditionalists, does it mean that sexuality is a conscious lifestyle choice that can be reset by bullying therapy.) Instead, Diamond contends, it is a natural course of many women's development which has been overlooked by both the general public and researchers into human sexuality.

Comment author: wisnij 29 August 2011 06:48:48PM 2 points [-]

I have occasional fantasies of men and enjoy some varieties of shounen-ai/yaoi, but I'm almost never attracted to men in real life, though there have been a couple of exceptions. I can never figure out if I should call myself straight or bi, though straight is probably closer to the mark.

Heteroflexible?

Comment author: JackEmpty 29 August 2011 06:55:39PM 2 points [-]

I've identified as that before, but I find it doesn't really apply well anymore.

Instead of slapping labels onto finer and finer grained levels of the fluid scale, I just have a clearly defined set of things that I will do with men, and a clearly defined set of things I will do with women, and that's sufficient for me.

Comment author: Nisan 29 August 2011 02:12:59AM 1 point [-]

I know, right? As a straight male, I keep doing this.

Comment author: Alicorn 29 August 2011 02:25:45AM 3 points [-]

Why?

Comment author: Nisan 29 August 2011 03:26:33AM 3 points [-]

I'm like Kaj Sotala, and much of what TheOtherDave said applies to me.

Comment author: Alicorn 28 August 2011 05:33:31AM 21 points [-]

Worthwhile clarification: It is not necessary to ask them to sleep with you right off the bat. You could ask to snuggle.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 August 2011 08:37:41AM 16 points [-]

Sure, and I also didn't mean to imply that this should happen on a first meeting, only at the point where you find yourself thinking, "Hm, I think I would prefer having sex with this person to not having sex with them," regardless of whether that takes a long or a short time.

Comment author: ChrisPine 28 August 2011 09:57:44AM 10 points [-]

While "acquire" and "harem" are words quite conflicting with the spirit of polyamory (and I know you were kidding), it's a good point.

Though, as a flirty poly nerdy guy, I have no personal interest in this message getting out. :-)

Comment author: katydee 27 August 2011 04:53:44PM 10 points [-]

This this this. I've spent quite some time watching with amused detachment as several of my female friends bluster around this type of interaction without ever really understanding. My advice that "hey, acquiring sexual partners is really not hard if that's what you want" generally goes unheeded, but those who do "get it" end up being shocked as how easy things really are.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 04 September 2011 03:19:53PM 4 points [-]

I've had the same experience with 'geeky' males (including myself) at college entry age. They discover its actually not especially hard to have casual sex once they get over the mental block at the idea of people finding them attractive (which seems quite common). Although 'serious' relationships seem more difficult and/or less learnable.

Comment author: pnrjulius 07 June 2012 02:46:54AM 6 points [-]

A lot of people say that it's easy. They never say how to do it. It's like they thought just saying "It's easy" constituted a viable explanation of the method.

Also, I'm not really interested in casual sex, so if you're right that serious relationships are much harder, that's a problem.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 07 June 2012 11:09:29PM 0 points [-]

Very brief reply:* It's described as easy because you can learn it via observation and/or experimentation. Very basically you chat friendlily and escalate physical contact. A lot of this is context dependent, university students at clubs are probably far more interested in sex than random members of the population.

What are your specific issues? For a non-creepy guide try Clarisse Thorn's "Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser"

*I'm travelling at the moment so can't come up with a detailed response.

Comment author: pnrjulius 08 June 2012 11:07:31PM 3 points [-]

I guess I do have that mental block of not feeling attractive. At least, it may be a mental block; but how would I know if I'm just... not actually attractive? (This is a problem for me. I want hard data and I don't see how to get it. Social norms explicitly forbid anyone telling you that you are ugly, even if you are.)

If it is a delusion, where does it come from? And how does one get rid of it?

Comment author: Alicorn 27 August 2011 05:08:47PM *  10 points [-]

So if you think that you're overweight and hideous and yet oddly enough nerds spend a lot of time talking to you at nerd parties, this means you are pretty.

Are you saying that nerd males do not talk to non-pretty nerd females for other reasons (i.e. they are smart and funny or whatever), or simply that they don't do it a lot?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 August 2011 07:07:23PM 28 points [-]

That's a good question. I am hard pressed to think of any nerd females I've known well enough to observe them in any detail, who I would actually consider non-pretty. So to rephrase the test: If you go to nerd parties and male nerds who don't already know you seem to gravitate in your direction and then continue to be there despite not having an obvious personal stake in the ongoing conversation, this is because you are pretty.

Also, short of actually having half your face burned off a la Two-Face in the Batman series, being visibly smart and funny will boost your apparent prettiness by quite a lot.

Comment author: Jack 29 August 2011 02:00:57AM 20 points [-]

I am hard pressed to think of any nerd females I've known well enough to observe them in any detail, who I would actually consider non-pretty.

I'm torn about saying this because this kind of message probably good for everyone's self-esteem and I think nerdy girls on average should be more confident, but... what's with all these pretty nerds? Is your standard for pretty relatively low or are you just really lucky? In my experience and in common stereotype nerds of both genders are, on average, less physically attractive than the rest of the population, once you control for socio-economic conditions that influence things like diet, hygiene and exercise. Good looking people tend to end up on anti-nerd life paths earlier in life, less good looking people have less of their time taken up by socializing leaving them with more time for nerdy activities and more incentive to develop other aspects of themselves (since they can't coast on physical attractiveness). I've consistently found that less physically attractive people are more intellectually interesting.

This doesn't mean your advice is bad- nerdy girls are awesome and totally are capable of getting together with lots of nerdy guys. But I don't think we need to mythologize the nerdy female this way and it seems a bit patronizing to pretend the self-assessment of nerdy women has no grounding in reality. Just like how not everyone gets to be smart, not everyone gets to be physically attractive.

Comment author: roystgnr 30 August 2011 05:20:18PM 7 points [-]

I'd agree with your observations, except: is it wise to control for socio-economic conditions? "Well, [he/she] is gorgeous, brilliant and kind, but that's probably all because of being born within a family with positive attitudes toward physical and mental fitness, being given the free time and economic wherewithal to self-improve, and being placed in peer groups that would encourage such improvement, so I guess it doesn't really count."

Life doesn't work like a D&D stat Point Buy system - although you're right that it's sometimes similarly possible to trade INT for CHA or vice versa, that doesn't make them inversely correlated. Some people are lucky enough to have more of both to begin with, and many people are lucky enough to grow up with influences that increase both.

On the other hand, even physical beauty is partially subjective. Maybe Eliezer's perceptions of it are subject to some sort of halo effect? The "known well enough to observe them in any detail" caveat seems to suggest a factor in that direction. Aside from effects of fashion, lighting, etc., real physical beauty is a superficial thing that you can judge with a glance, not something that only becomes apparent after the more important characteristics have shown themselves.

Comment author: hairyfigment 29 August 2011 04:14:35PM 4 points [-]

Is your standard for pretty relatively low or are you just really lucky?

I see another, rather obvious interpretation given the clause "well enough to observe them in any detail".

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 29 August 2011 08:01:28PM 15 points [-]

Your standards are probably higher than mine? As far as I can tell, most women are attractive. I can think of ones who aren't but they seem like exceptions. You can kinda see why it would work that way.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 September 2012 11:51:47PM *  5 points [-]

As far as I can tell, most women are attractive.

Did you actually mean ‘most women’, rather than (say) ‘most women of fertile age’?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 08 September 2012 01:05:42AM 2 points [-]

I accept your correction, albeit not literally "fertile age" (many over-40s are attractive, I admit not over-80s). I also note that I personally do not seem much sexually attracted to some younger female rationalists that seem to attract other males in the community - my "too young" threshold for sexual attraction seems set to a higher age than average. (Note which I should not have to include: This is not the same as not liking said women! You can like somebody without wanting to sleep with them.)

Comment author: Rubix 08 September 2012 06:10:03AM *  4 points [-]

Young female rationalists, plural? There's more than one of us? :P

In seriousness, I suspect that the definition of "attractive" is being used quite widely here. When someone talks about a woman being pretty to look at, they're probably talking about something mildly different from her being aesthetically pleasing - which is, again, different from said woman being conventionally attractive - and all of these are in totally different ballparks from a woman being happy and pleasant and that doing halo-effect things to her prettiness.

ETA: using the word "attractive" to refer to all these things feels like it could lead to a "My subjective experience is realer than yours" argument ('Parsley is delicious!' 'No it's not!'), or a signalling war ('I have good standards!' 'Well, I have realistic ones!')

Comment author: [deleted] 08 September 2012 01:25:06AM *  2 points [-]

my "too young" threshold for sexual attraction seems set to a higher age than average

Mine too (at least if “average” is meant among males my age, i.e. in their middle twenties), but I'd also say that there's more variance among older women than younger women: I find almost all 18-year-olds pretty-but-not-extraordinary, whereas I find lots of 30-year-olds either gorgeous or ugly.

Comment author: Solvent 31 August 2011 11:16:51AM 5 points [-]

Agreed. Also notable is that at least my mind conflates "funny/intelligent/interesting" with "attractive", entirely involuntarily.

Comment author: TraderJoe 27 April 2012 11:05:16AM *  2 points [-]

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Comment author: VAuroch 04 April 2014 05:23:38AM 0 points [-]

Is your standard for pretty relatively low or are you just really lucky?

Pretty is an intensely halo-ed trait, and people find those they know well more attractive than strangers.

Comment author: katydee 27 August 2011 11:26:39PM 14 points [-]

Weirdly enough, I know someone who had their face seriously damaged (albeit not to the ludicrous extent shown by Two-Face) and he reported that it actually made him much more sexually successful, since it gave him an instant conversation starter with just about anyone and the story of how he got it painted him in a very good light.

Comment author: Prismattic 28 August 2011 02:23:02AM 14 points [-]

I think that even in the current cultural context one should still expect the impact of "battle scars" on physical attractiveness to depend strongly on the gender of the person displaying them.

Comment author: katydee 28 August 2011 03:03:29AM 16 points [-]

A good point; that said, a surprisingly large number of heterosexual or bisexual males I know are very much attracted to signs of "toughness" in females, including scars, fighting ability, etc.

Comment author: mdcaton 28 August 2011 07:34:31PM 9 points [-]

I always counsel young males with still-healing injuries that will leave scars to think of good stories. As for females, most straight men I know are attracted to signs of toughness that don't otherwise confound the usual health-and-fertility signs (skin and hair), so scars might not always work. But anecdotes from LW commenters are not likely to be representative of the general conversation. Many women I know in SoCal that have impressive degrees from awesome schools hide their credentials for fear of scaring off men, and are surprise than I am surprised. That's still the world we live in.

Comment author: Nisan 29 August 2011 02:09:10AM 2 points [-]

That's still the world we live in.

If I were feeling super snarky I'd say "That's SoCal". But your point is well-taken.

Comment author: michaelsullivan 30 August 2011 06:54:05PM *  12 points [-]

Even if you do have half your face burned off a la Two-Face in the Batman series, being visibly smart and funny will boost your apparent prettiness by quite a lot.

I find that most people have some things attractive about them. If they are interesting and kindly disposed toward me, it is not hard to focus on the attractive features, and blur out the less attractive features. It works very much like the affective death spiral, but with no real negative consequences.

Once you find enough things attractive about someone, you enter the spiral, and you begin to notice the very attractive square line of Harvey's non-burned jaw, and just don't even notice the scary skeletor burn face anymore, or you might even find little parts of it that start to look interesting to you.

Well, this all assumes a counter-fictional Harvey that doesn't go fully dark-side, or recovers at some point to something like his former moral and mental self.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 30 August 2011 09:27:41PM 26 points [-]

And no matter who you are, there's someone out there who thinks you're hot.

(while talking about the Harry Potter movies, before she'd started on MoR)

Erin: ...I did like the fluffy things, though.

Me: Fluffy things?

Erin: I forget what they're called.

Me: (thinks for a bit...)

Me: Dementors? The flying corpses in shrouds?

Erin: Yeah! Dementors are cute.

Me: Puppies are cute. Dementors are not cute.

Erin: Puppies are food.

Me: Help me, I've been shipped to Bellatrix.

Comment author: lessdazed 30 August 2011 09:47:13PM *  4 points [-]

In my experience, women generally much more naturally focus on good features and ignore average ones, though men do too. That said, I dated a hand model with a lazy eye...never saw nicer hands in my life! The eye was a bad feature from pretty much any human perspective, it's not logically impossible for a person to have all their features be such features.

Also, I think rats are adorable. Any other rat lovers out there?

There's possibly even someone out there who likes "<X" as a favicon more than "Lw". Outlandish, I know, but there's probably one person out there.

Comment author: thomblake 30 August 2011 10:17:47PM 5 points [-]

There's possibly even someone out there who likes "<X" as a favicon more than "Lw". Outlandish, I know, but there's probably one person out there.

I find this hard to believe.

Comment author: [deleted] 30 August 2011 10:19:45PM 0 points [-]

I do exist!

Comment author: thomblake 01 September 2011 01:37:00PM 5 points [-]

And now there is a favicon that is worse than all favicons that have come before. Clearly we are approaching the capability to have a recursively self-worsening favicon. Huzzah!

Comment author: anonym 31 August 2011 04:35:16AM 2 points [-]

Rat lover here. They're adorable little creatures, and have distinct personalities and quirks. The only shortcoming of rats is that they don't live that long, so you're having to deal with the death of your cherished little friends every 2 or 3 years or so.

For anybody who likes rats or is just curious to learn more about them, I highly recommend the most awesome ratbehavior.org

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 31 August 2011 04:18:19AM 1 point [-]

Rats are adorable. Disregarding fur texture, I'd be hard pressed to choose between a rat and a guinea pig, for cuteness.

Comment author: Clippy 30 August 2011 10:09:00PM 9 points [-]

Are there any paperclip-maximizer-lovers? How about paperclip-maximizer's-humanoid-robot-lovers?

Comment author: [deleted] 30 August 2011 07:03:04PM 3 points [-]

Seconding this from direct experience -- and I would also add that what people find attractive is much more subjective than is commonly taken for granted.

Comment author: Jack 28 August 2011 11:09:11PM *  8 points [-]

(instead of doing the sheep dance where you freeze motionless and wait for them to approach)

Actually, what's happening is they're giving the nerdy male 3-4 obvious body language signals telling him to approach. The nerdy male just misses them.

Fellow males, please learn to read body language so that all these hot nerdy girls stop feeling like they're ugly because nerdy men don't respond to their flirting.

Comment author: wedrifid 29 August 2011 01:10:19AM 6 points [-]

(instead of doing the sheep dance where you freeze motionless and wait for them to approach)

Actually, what's happening is they're giving the nerdy male 3-4 obvious body language signals telling them to approach. The nerdy male just misses them.

Sometimes. But since Eliezer mentioned girls who think they are unattractive some the signals are probably not nearly so clear.

Comment author: Jack 29 August 2011 01:28:11AM 1 point [-]

You're suggesting the girls think they are unattractive because their unclear non-verbal signaling fails to yield positive feedback from men? This is plausible though Eliezer also mentioned nerdy men who are notoriously bad in this regard.

Comment author: wedrifid 29 August 2011 01:36:06AM 11 points [-]

No, I'm suggesting that "Actually, what's happening" should be "Sometimes what is happening". It isn't only the nerdy guys who aren't playing the game correctly. Sometimes nerdy girls don't signal correctly either, especially those with low self esteem. And that's ok, just something that can be improved on.

Comment author: Jack 29 August 2011 02:06:19AM -1 points [-]

Obviously this is an issue where nearly everything everyone says is a generality and accuracy could be improved by hedging.

Comment author: Wes_W 26 July 2013 03:37:05AM 5 points [-]

Fellow males, please learn to read body language

How would one go about doing this? It would be useful, but I don't know where to start.

Comment author: Jack 26 July 2013 04:31:10AM *  2 points [-]

This is the best free, online resource I know of. But there are tons of books, even courses out there.

Comment author: shokwave 29 August 2011 12:03:17AM 2 points [-]

nerdy men don't respond to their flirting

It's hardly flirting if it's body language from across the room and neither party has said a word to each other. At that point, you're not even sure they know you exist - and how could they be sure that you are aware of their existence? No, you have to talk to them - at least be in the same conversation as them! - to begin flirting with body language.

Comment author: Jack 29 August 2011 12:49:49AM 4 points [-]

Nope. Not sure what to tell you if you're not already aware this isn't so.

Maybe a study documenting it?

Comment author: gwern 29 August 2011 12:43:10AM 1 point [-]

There are not such things as suggestive glances, eye-locking, inviting postures, etc.?

Comment author: Iabalka 28 August 2011 10:26:26AM 0 points [-]

The "sheep dance " is likely a result of a huge amount of "happy" (Adrenaline, dopamine, Serotonin) hormones being released in the brain(or even "limerence" (see for example Physical effects section from the "limerence" article on Wikipedia)). It is a very enjoyable state which I would even try to prolongate as long as possible (meaning over the course of several encounters). Isn't it better to advice the male nerds to follow some of the courses on the bootcamps on how to dress or how to behave more masculine or to learn something from experts like lukeprog (for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvcuZhDWLgg or some of his other (earlier) posts on LW)

Comment author: smk 28 August 2011 07:26:28PM 4 points [-]

how to behave more masculine

If my husband had done that I likely wouldn't have been as interested in him.

Comment author: sketerpot 28 August 2011 08:29:23PM *  9 points [-]

Well, sure -- but other people would likely have found him more interesting. Congratulations on things having worked out for you, of course, but there are a lot of other good people who each of you could have married.

Finding good romantic partners is very probabilistic. Does increased masculinity increase a man's expected attractiveness to a random person? I think that, for men who aren't already very masculine, it definitely does.

Comment author: TraderJoe 27 April 2012 11:06:56AM *  1 point [-]

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