The technological and social changes of the last 60 years have created extreme disruptions in the way men and women carry out the mating dance. The battle of the sexes has reached a fever pitch as we are exposed to more potential partners in a day than we historically were in a lifetime, and yet mostly people operate on an implicit model of sexually monogamous relationships leading toward marriage. Sexual conflict is inevitable as the battle over women’s bodies intensifies, and the battle among women for top men does too.
XBTUSD’s Law: Online dating has a larger effect on mating than you think, even when you take this law into account.
When you change the liquidity of a market, you fundamentally change that market. OLD has changed the level of scarcity with which each market participant approaches the market; OLD has parallels to the secretary problem, which is a mathematical model that describes the optimal searching algorithm to find a mate. When thinking about algorithms, it’s often useful to start with the “dumbest thing that could work” which in this case would be “always pick the 7th person you date”. If we follow this rule, we’re essentially picking an integer at random. The probability, then, of picking the best element from an integer sequence of length N with this rule is 1/N. Once we have a base case, we can ask ourselves, could we do better?
To beat this, consider how people go about solving secretary problems in the real world. The strategy most adults adopt is to date around for a while, gain some experience, figure out one’s options and probable range, and then choose the next best thing that comes around.
In terms of the secretary problem, such a strategy would be: Scan through the first r integers and then choose the first option that is greater than any of the integers in [1,r]. The formal proof of this problem gives us the answer 1/e or ~.37.
How does this help us? The optimal solution is to estimate how many people one believes one might reasonably date in the future, say 20? We plug this into the equation, where N = 20 and N/e ~ 7. This result says that, if one wants to maximize one’s probability of ending up with the best possible match, one should date 7 people and, then, marry the next person who is better than all of those men.
However, the typical secretary problem assumes we want to maximize the chances of landing the best match, and considers all other outcomes equally bad. Most people in the dating market are not thinking this way — they want to maximize the probability that they end up with a pretty good spouse. It’s not all or nothing. In addition, people vary on key characteristics: some spouses are smarter, more handsome, wealthier, loyal, and so forth, but all positive attributes are rarely combined in a single person. Luckily, there’s a modification to the solution that maximizes the probability of finding a high-value husband or wife. The strategy is the same except we use a cutoff of the square root of N rather than N/e. So if you believe you will have the opportunity to date roughly 20 people between 18 and 35 for example, you would (somewhat seriously) date 4.5 people and then marry the next one that’s better than anyone you’ve dated previously.
This formula tells us how likely we are to find a good match as N grows, and how important it is that our early data gives us accurate information about who would be a good match. If we have a random set of integers between 1-10 (10 being a perfect match) and we only have 1 number in the set, the average match we will get is a 5. Long ago this was reality, as marriages were often arranged for reasons other than “love” or “being a good match.” Marriage was typically a political tool or an economic necessity. The “job” of a marriage was to enable both persons in it to survive, reproduce, and reinforce the community; the job of a contemporary marriage is different, for most people, and often includes nebulous things like self-fulfillment or positive feelings, rather than concrete things like “puts food on the table” or “watches the children, who don’t die from preventable mishaps.”
As our ability to fill the set with better and better candidates the likelihood of getting a better match increases. As our lifetime N grows, the solution to the secretary problem continues to grow with the square root of the number of people we can date. People should be dating more people as the pool gets better and as the potential N we can date grows. As a result, people’s standards have risen with the growth in the number of potential partners they meet in a lifetime. The secretary problem is somewhat related to the internet infinity fallacy. Our N is not infinite, and the quality of each n matters greatly for us to secure a great match. More importantly, the early data we collect tells us how to set the bar for mate value or match value in our searching algorithm.
When searching for a partner there are a few things to consider: your mate value, the mate value of the person you’re evaluating, and how good of a match you are. Many of us are, not surprisingly, prone to mis-judging our own value. Mate value is both an average across the population, and different for each person evaluating that potential mate. So we have mX (individual mate value as seen by person X) and mA (average mate value as seen by the crowd). Most people are trying to partner with the person who has the highest mate value to them (mX not mA). In the short term, mate value is fixed as seen by any individual, but people’s preferences are largely shaped by the culture and context and the way we meet each other. In a society where marriages are arranged by families, people might value their mates based on their ability to provide (childcare, resources, farming) for the family. Loyalty, determination, flexibility and conflict resolution skills might also be extremely important in an arranged marriage. The more difficult it is to separate from a spouse, the more important it is to be long-term focused, to accept your partner as they are and work through any conflict. You’re stuck with each other, do you make the best of it, or do you complain? In Albert Hirschman’s formulation, we have three choices in dissatisfaction: exit, voice, and loyalty. Arranged marriages emphasized voice and especially loyalty, but modern mating markets emphasize exit. In an arranged marriage, physical attractiveness might be completely irrelevant. You can’t do much about it, you’re either attracted to your partner or not.
In contrast, in modern western society, online dating has radically altered what traits are salient and thus which we most value. For example, men’s height is offered as a filter. In a world where height is discontinuous, it’s hard to imagine a woman in a social setting being a hard “no” on a man 5’10” vs 5’9” and yet online, many women set a minimum height and then forget about it. Online, things scale to an extent that it changes from a difference of degree to a difference in kind. When women had trouble lining up dates at all, they wouldn’t have strong filters on physical traits, but online the pool is infinite and therefore women must filter by something, because men want casual sex with women more than women do men.
When women collect data through dating to calibrate their filters for the secretary problem, the data they are receiving is blended. “What is the highest mate value of a man who will mate with me” and “what is the highest mate value of a man who would marry me” are two different questions, but it is often difficult for women to distinguish the difference in their dating experiences. Typically, the highest mate value of a man for a short term relationship > highest mate value of a man for a long term relationship. When women are younger, they are more likely to be collecting data from men’s short term relationship preferences, but assuming that eventually they could convert one of these men to being a high mate value long term relationship. Unfortunately this is unlikely to be true. If a woman is using the algorithm most daters use (“to date around for a while, gain some experience, figure out one’s options, and then choose the next best thing that comes around”) they might be setting the bar too high based on a short term relationship and searching for the next option that beats that high water mark. If she sets the watermark unrealistically high during the data collection phase, the algorithm will fail her and she will already have found the best match during the level setting phase of the algorithm. Even more importantly, the tools we use to set our filters and the way in which we date changes how we experience dating itself. These problems are also made more or less acute by the male-female ratio in a given dating market.
In the modern era of app dating, women, who are already passive consumers of the dating world (accepting or rejecting offers more than making them), begin to fully shift into a filtering mindset. When the brain goes into cognitive overload and has too many choices, it attempts to reduce the search space until it reduces to a manageable amount. Online, women find that most of the men they swipe “yes” on they match with. Men are three times more likely to swipe right than women, selecting, on average, about 46 per cent of profiles, versus 14 per cent selected by women. This teaches women that their task is to match with the men who maximize the qualities the interface surfaces and then hope those men ask them out on dates. There are a number of critical problems with this strategy. While having too many great matches to go on dates with might seem like a good problem, it trains women to select for qualities that are unlikely to result in a satisfying or positive dating experience. The vast majority of humans take the default path, which requires the least thought and energy, so we are passive consumers of how these apps train us to evaluate potential partners.
Male pursuit remains inextricably intertwined with our cultural expectations of courtship. Fewer than 1 per cent of heterosexual women who self-identified as feminists said they wanted to be the pursuer. Fifty-four per cent were happy to do a bit of both, leaving a full 45 per cent who preferred to be pursued. As the behavioural economist Dan Ariely explains it, women tend to employ a ‘budget’ approach to dating, getting pickier the larger the pool gets, whereas men are more opportunistic, swiping right, basically, on anyone they’d fuck. The app dating experience changes both how we perceive our available options, and which options we see as the most preferable.
In short, there is no adaptive value of sexual conflict per se. Many conflicts and their outcomes are purely maladaptive byproducts for both sexes. If women and men could agree in advance on a compromised middle-ground solution that was perfect for neither but acceptable for both given the circumstances, they could avoid many of these costs. For each offensive adaption, however, selection favors defensive adaptations in the other, producing a never ending coevolutionary arms race-an endless cycle of reciprocal adaptations and counteradaptations. Like the Red Queen of Lewis Carroll’s classic, each must continue running as fast as possible just to avoid losing ground.
Both sexes employ evolutionary adaptations to counteract the other sexes’ defenses. If nature was about “happiness,” we would all lay our evolutionary cards on the table and mate with everyone, but the species would fail, or not be optimized. It will always be the female of the species role to select for the best genetic material and the highest likelihood of that offspring succeeding and the males job to attempt to mate with as many healthy females as possible. App dating has permanently altered female’s ability to select good long term mates shifting their preferences towards criteria they historically valued only in short term mating.
- Kindness & Understanding
- Exciting Personality
- Good Health
- Physical Attractiveness
In 2013, OkCupid launched an app called Crazy Blind Date, which sent about 10,000 people on blind dates with no information about the other person. In a result that flabbergasted the founders, the two participants’ looks had almost no effect on whether they had a good time, even in cases in which one person was significantly more attractive, as measured by other online daters.1
However, online, women are being taught to select the most physically attractive men—and men who are good at dating itself (more on that later), which is a group that may be distinct from “men who would be good at being long-term partners.” Men’s traits end up being compressed into a blend of the most attractive qualities easily discernible via the app’s interface. Despite what women report they want in a mate, Tinder’s interface makes it nearly impossible for women to select for the top five qualities they care about: instead, women are forced to select for the attributes the tools make legible (physical attractiveness).
When men and women go on a date, we see the evolutionary arms race up close.
In short-term mating men consistently desire more partner variety across cultures. In addition, men view many women as “above threshold” in attractiveness, but women tend to be attracted primarily to men in the top twentieth percentile2. This gives women the upper hand in the sexual marketplace. Third, men are willing to lower their standards for casual sexual encounters. A man who is an 8 will go to bed with a woman who is a 6 if it requires minimal investment. Men and women both seek partners 25% higher in mate value. When a woman reaches up in mate value, those men are willing to relax their standards in mate value if it is for short term casual sex, while the woman is most likely looking to secure a long term mate at the upper end of her mate-value range. “Why am I being pestered by guys I don’t care about, but the men I’m genuinely attracted to seem to show little interest in me? You’re an 8 who is chasing after 10s being pursued by 6s.”3
Men can learn to effectively facilitate this experience of connection, and the men who are really good at dating do learn how to do this, which further alters the market. On top of the structural problems presented by OLD, when it comes to dating, most women have a fixed mindset: their dating outcomes are a result of fixed traits-they can’t change them. If you look at how women speak and behave, they assume little to no agency for their dating outcomes; they are passive consumers of what men offer. How they feel is their reality. On a date, most women see their role as interpreting their own subjective experience…how did he make me feel? How did I feel when I was with him? Rather than going on a date believing they have a role in creating a connection, they go on dates to see if they feel or felt a connection. If the date _feels _surface level, most women will “next” the guy because they are hoping to feel a deeper connection, they just don’t know how to create it, which favors those men who are good at small talk and spiking her emotions and related behaviors that lead to the feeling of connection (which is often distinct from real connection).
As a result, the structure of modern online dating is a trap for women who want long-term commitment (that is, most women) because it teaches them to select for men who are good at dating. This is similar to how the academic industrial complex selects for students who are good at school and who are obedient, yet unable to think critically. Women select the most attractive (physically attributes and status) men who are about 25% above their mate value. They end up in “situationships” with these men because men who put in the effort can learn how to make a woman feel what she needs to feel to have sex with them.
Women hate PUAs because PUAs have figured out how to date effectively and seduce women with a minimum of commitment. Game, and PUA is premised on the idea that love and lust are a set of chemicals that get released when a woman feels a certain way about a man. A woman used to be able to trust her evolutionary programming and assume that any man who could make her feel this way could only do it by being genuinely committed to taking care of her infor the long-term. She could assume that man wasn’t connected to a neural network constantly testing, updating, teaching, learning and sharing the results of hundreds of thousands of men’s experiences with women. Historically there just wasn’t enough stored knowledge, or time for a man to learn the complexities of the female attraction system on his own. A woman could trust that even if she misjudged a man’s intentions, and interpreted her feelings as a signal of a man’s long term commitment to her, that other men would step in and protect her from her impulses and/or pressure the man to behave honestly.
PUAs show emotions can be programmed. Love and lust are not unique, which is why there is a multi-billion dollar industry that teaches humans to more effectively
manipulate…I mean communicate with each other. Every time you interact with another human you are programming their brain and triggering certain emotions in hopes of creating an ally who is more likely to work with you rather than against you in the future. Women are trusting of their emotions. Their emotions are how they understand the world.
After the Industrial Revolution and feminist movement, women often met men through work, and other places where they spent a lot of time with men. In these contexts it was unlikely that over a long enough time period a man could trigger a woman’s attraction system without being genuinely committed. Deception was possible, but much harder to pull off, and social norms prevented most men from engaging in casual sex. This allowed connection to grow naturally and a woman to evaluate a man on the things that actually matter (hint, it’s not looks, or not primarily looks).
Attraction grows over time. The Spark is not a thing, and yet, women are becoming ever more reliant on men who can quickly engineer the feeling of connection. Technology and narrative delivery mechanisms (Instagram, television, other forms of amusing ourselves to death) have trained women to think that physical attractiveness is the most important criteria when selecting a man to go on a date with. Many women say, “I would have never swiped right on my husband.” Logan Ury, dating guru and writer of “How Not To Die Alone” swiped left on her husband! Luckily, she knows better now, and as the Chief Scientist at megacorp Match Group’s Hinge dating app you can trust her to design the dating experience to be what’s best for women…lol.
Typically, a woman will give you three dates to feel a spark. Three dates is roughly equal to 5 - 10 hours spent together. Most quality men can’t engineer attraction fast enough and so when women don’t feel a spark they move onto the next match. Ironically, these are typically the exact men who possess the qualities that make for the long term relationships women so desperately desire. Women hate dating apps: they install and uninstall them, speak about them like a second job, and cry on their friends shoulder because they’re stuck in another “situationship” with the proverbial alpha chad. They have a deluge of attractive men in their inboxes who are interested in short term mating, and often do so with the lure of long term mating. Unfortunately, dating apps are designed to be addictive, and so women take breaks from the apps, only to return and repeat the same cycle. Most humans are unable to observe their own patterns, and so women keep going on dates hoping to find the rare man who has learned to engineer attraction fast enough (PUA) to avoid being passed on for the next guy in her phone because she didn’t “feel a spark”. Paradoxically, it is the men who can generate a spark that fast who mostly won’t stick around, because those men _enjoy _the variety. They are the rare few who can create the spark women have been trained to fixate on.
Women believe dating is about going on enough dates and waiting until they feel…something. They ask things like, “how do you know if you’re in love!?”, “how do you know if he’s ‘the one?’” which belies their belief that the key element in dating is the ability to recognize love, rather than create it. Women’s penchant for passivity in dating, combined with a self reinforcing feedback loop of preferences shaped by app dating, has created the conditions for a catastrophic outcome for the most empowered generation of women in history.
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