Trying to solve relationships, 1st try.
I want to solve relationships, and I am not fully equipped to think about this yet, so I’m going to be posting about it here in public, and I’m looking for feedback. You may have noticed I often speak with confidence, and although there are things I am confident here, I would like input AS IF I didn’t have confidence.
First step: framing the problem.
The problem I want to solve is specifically this:
“How to have the most desirable relationship, when the man and the woman are not far from the highest mating value they’ll have in a lifetime, and when both parties are NOT interested in having children?”
The boundary constraints are:
“It is 2015-2025, the decade of fragmentation, of the polarization of the sexes, of dating apps, and of some entanglement between sexual strategies and political issues which caused the educational system to brainwash people about relationships, and the state is almost in an open war against families”
I am asking this question for selfish reasons, as I am alive in this decade, I would rather not have to have kids (I would like the choice), I also have an altruistic motivation in that I am saddened by many people who may fail to reach their full potential in a relationship.
Let me start off by mentioning the alternatives offered, and what I see as valuable and terrible in them.
Bachelor for life: Interesting, not the goal of this post.
Christian marriage: get’s a lot of things right, would be necessary to disentangle the things that are in the interest of the individuals versus the church there. The idea of the couple being under the caretaking of Jesus might have value if you think of that as putting the relationship as a third person whom both parties value above themselves.
Gorilla Mindset: Lift, spin plates (plates = girlfriends), never commit, peackock, and the women will flock. Although technically true, and certainly valuable, seems to me an innapropriate response to the problem of commitment, which I’ll discuss in depth below. I do think it makes women and men happy, so for short term oriented hedonists, I have few objections to becoming gorillas or seeking gorillas. (primatology nitpick, actual Gorillas do not behave like that at all, but the name is sticky so I’m keeping it)
Just getting Married: I consider this extremely naïve. Marriage was a vowel considered sacred, terminal, and created and organized at a time where women couldn’t really work, where people lived shorter lives on average, and where having kids was basically a given, also the world was poorer and property rights mattered far more. To “let’s just get married” now is to ignore all the obstacles to each of those former values instead of tackling them. If there was only one thing wrong, maybe people could solve it. But there are many, so I believe they need to be preemptively solved.
Serial monogamy (girlfriend-boyfriend): It is nice but it has one problem brilliantly described by Jordan Peterson: it makes the meaning of what being in a relationshp is be, in part “oh, well, you have some problems, but I can’t find anything more interesting than you, so I guess I’ll have to go with it until I find something better.” This destroys all the incentives, since both parties have both an incentive to give the minimum as well as to seek for better partners elsewhere instead of improving the ones they have and helping them be better.
Primal Poly (Evo Psych Enlightened polyamory): Quite likely a viable alternative. The most important obstacles that lie ahead in my opinion are that it also has the incentive problem of “and why shouold I not trade partners?” and it has no countermeasure viable in the age of fragmentation to the attentional collapse we are all going through.
Normal Poly: Normal poly is great for very high SMV people, but it is hard to maintain commitment in the longer run specially for women, given availability.
The problem of commitment
In the next few days I’ll discuss many problems, and propose solutions, and expect readers to propose solutions and mention problems as well. The one I think most important in the 21st century is the problem of commitment, it can be illustrated with a few questions:
1) I can have sex with so many people given dating apps, VR, etc… why should I commit? (usually asked by a man)
2) I can have relationships with so many awesome interesting people given polyamory, liberation and dating apps… why should I commit?
3) Ok, let’s say I already think commiting is valuable because it substantially changes our incentives from “give the minimum until I find someone better” to “make this person’s life as amazing as you possibly can and allow them to do the same for you, because you are together in this boat, and neither is going anywhere”, but unfortunately God died, and the abundance of potential mates is real and basically superseeded our evolutionary drive for long term pair bonding, so *how do you go about ACTUALLY commiting*?
4) Ok, let us hypothetically say you solved the problem of commitment. Now I’m here, commited by this unpoken mechanism, and I want out. Why can’t I just get out?
I have lots to say about these, but I want to start with my main proposal, which is to create a new commitment mechanism, with the following desiderata:
P1) It is not mediated by State (because the state has no interest in your wellbeing)
P2) It is not mediated by the Church (because not every single interest of the church aligns with yours)
P3) It does not last forever (because forever is a really long time and we live long and technological progress is accelerating exponentially)
P4) But you CAN’T LEAVE while it lasts. (because that aligns the incentives of the two parties the best in terms of improving themselves, see video in first comment, being the best possible partner, falling even more in love, having healthy sexual lives, etc…)
P5) It is renewable (you can do it again if when it ends you want to do it again with the same person)
P6) Human psychology can do it, and it game theoretically sound (the Nash equelibrium makes everyone happiest and that kind of thing)
Ok, so that is a tall ask, but we can import what worked:
To get people to commit and not leave, evolution invented pair bonding and the agonizing suffering of breakups, which is a deterrent, thanks evolution, but not a sufficient deterrent.
The church and primitive societies invented the public commitment “everyone saw them making vows, so it would be stupid to just ignore it” which kind of helps, but has been sufficiently discredited by ideologies since the 60’s that is hardly optimal as a mechanism.
The state used a legal enforçable contract which originally would make both parties take a heavy toll. But unfortunately a mixture of political opportunism and feminism made the contract so obviously horrendous for man that no man in his right mind would partake in state assisted childloss russian roulette, and who wants to not be a millionaire merged into one game.
Evolution and traditional culture together also used time as commitment device, so the longer it took to merge the organisms into the miracle of sex, the more investment the parties did, the less likely they used to be to depart. But due to fragmentation and abundance of perceived partners I don’t think this makes the cut any longer.
So what do we do?
What is important about these is that they are costly to leave. so my proposal is to cut the middle man, and make it directly very costly to leave. This could be a cost in money with an escrow, a cost in public shaming by soliciting public shaming, etc… Basically, I think love is great as a reward mechanism, fear of loss a decent deterrent, but both need a push in our ever accelerating times. So an explicit conversation and commitment to redouble efforts to make your partner’s life awesome – that’s the reward side – and actual enforçable mechanisms of quadrupling down on the cost of leaving. I’m dead serious. The reason people don’t do costly punishing with external locus of control is simple: it works.
What about time?
This whole thought process started for me when talking to Alton Sun who had mentioned something like a relationship where there is a “renewal meeting” of sorts where after a year both parties rething the relationship what they want from it and commit to doing one more year of it.
I think 4 years is the appropriate amount instead, and that is what I want to endorse. My thinking is that 4 years is a period long enough that you really care about improving the other, it is proportional to how long memories last in our mind (3ish years) before they plateau, during adulthood, it is close enough to how long evolution designed love without babies to last (the oxytocin trigger lasts 2-4ish years) and people change a fair amount during 4 years.
But then we have the incentive problem, which is that as the last round of any given cooperative game approaches, the incentive to be awesome diminishes. Granted that is a problem. Evolution addresses this by making iterated interactions where you never know how many more there will be. So randomness actually solves this problem to some extent.
Given you can renewal vowels, that helps a lot in the case I’m suggesting here. Because you want to be the best possible partner to have a higher chance of renewal.
That however is not enough, because a part of you may choose to back off, so you actually start slacking a little bit. To avoid that, I propose addressing this problem also directly. We (game theorists) don’t know how to solve this enforcement mechanism, but we do know that randomness helps a lot. So actually after 4 years, what happens is not that you do “the talk”, but instead you throw a dice which with 25% will make you be together 1 more year, and 75% you have “the talk” and decide to renewal vowels.
This utilizes everything I know about relationships, evolutionary psychology, game theory, constraint theory, time management, motivation reserch, and psychology I can think of.
I hope you can get past the fact that it sounds sort of strange when you compare it to the whole talking snake garden with almightly gods and that kind of thing which is the counterfactual, or with the State laying down in bed with you and your spouse and trying to pitch you against each other, or with an ideological commitment to feminism preventing you from living one of the most amazing experiences we get to have as the Symbolic species.
So, what do you think?
And also, which aspect should I write about two days from now?
(Edit: I would like this to be widely shared, so if you don’t mind sharing with your friends so they too comment here, that would be nice. I need good ideas and good objections to do this right)
I’m not leaving. – Jordan Peterson, on the value of commitment