Nerd…Sex…Apocalypse!?

The 2010 Singularity Summit was a veritable explosion of interesting information, heralding a near future that promises to be exponentially more interesting still. Though it is hard to isolate the most interesting reflection that the conference prompted in this enthusiast, there was certainly one that stuck out as the most unexpected. In my numerous conversations with speakers, Singularity Institute fellows, and summit-goers, I was rather surprised to find the topic of “seduction” or “pick-up artistry” popping up more often than the topic of “strong AI;” references to NLP, Niel Strauss, Ross Jeffries, and Mystery more frequent than references to Von Neumann, Kurzweil, or Turing. Perhaps this should not have surprised me as much as it did considering the average level of mathematical knowledge of a summit-goer; a metric which is usually inversely proportional to that of social grace. People with brilliant academic minds often don’t have the opportunity or inclination to develop sound strategies for seducing women. Their hard work and sacrifice, which often results in true progress for mankind, are scarcely recognized by women in the sexual marketplace. It is rather comforting to think of these deserving but shy people finding the sexual strategies that they couldn’t develop intuitively in a book or two, helping them develop these strategies rationally. My surprise should have also been preempted by the phenomenal success of Niel Strauss’ book “The Game,” but for some reason I did not take this for the kind of reading pursued by the average Singulatarian. An uneasiness soon began to creep into my stomach.

An idea then dawned on me; one that was much more terrifying than the idea that some rogue genius or two at the conference may hold the secret to building Strong AI or some other uber-powerful technology. If the nerdiest people on the planet are getting in on the seduction game, if they too aim to master this difficult art, then we are potentially on the brink of a dramatic and exponentially proliferating arms race. I was not so much worried about a rogue genius or two roaming the Hyatt Regency armed with vast arsenals of clever, pre-articulated machinations, as they could do no more harm than the average “operator.” No, what scared me was how widely this information has been disseminated and with how much devotion and energy these geniuses invested themselves. Are we perhaps one bong-load away from a sexual Manhattan Project? Suddenly the glowing, utopian vision of a future with free energy, ubiquitous computing, and the elimination of scarcity began to be replaced with a more disturbing, dystopian vision of the future as a sprawling, neon-lit LA nightclub.

The military arms race has been going for millenia, limited only by human ingenuity and the constraints of his materials. Man’s creativity has unleashed a stunning diversity of killing machines so complex as to be indistinguishable from magic if viewed from the eyes of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Man has invested countless times more energy into war than he has into peace and has invested countless times more energy into mating than he has into war. This vast reservoir of human motivation to out-compete in the sexual marketplace is about to be unleashed by the science of seduction and unlike the military arms race, the arms race of sexual strategies is limited not by the constraints of man’s materials, but instead by his ingenuity alone.

The universal proliferation of seduction literature seems at first to undermine my concern, as everyone will be equally well-armed, leveling the playing field. This has the unfortunate consequence, however, of requiring everyone to adopt these new strategies. This is the very nature of an arms race: one must adopt the new technology if he is to compete or bring things to a stalemate of mutually assured destruction. The Colt .45, the “gun that won the west,” was also called the “great equalizer,” and the “peacemaker,” yet it made very little peace, equalized nothing, decimated the Indian populations of the western US, and then simply led to the development of the Gatling. Niel Strauss describes a comical scene where groups of would-be operators break out their big guns on the Sunset strip only to find them preempted by the prior sorties of numerous other operators. They were shot down with the countermeasures of laughter and contempt from women now armed with valuable experience. While initially relieving, this story of new weapons being quickly met with new countermeasures just sets the stage for yet more weapons development.  As someone who is somewhat intimidated and certainly put off by the existing sexual marketplace, with all of its attendant posturing and bullshit, the idea of a runaway arms race truly turns my stomach. Not only will every guy have to be well-versed in the history of “The Game” so as to avoid strategies long rendered impotent, but he will also have to religiously arm himself with the state of the art in order to stay ahead of new female countermeasures. This is far worse for women, who must play catchup; fighting a defensive war against an unstoppably tenacious foe keen on preemptive strikes. This looks like a futile, meaningless future of paranoia, disingenuous banter, and mounting sexual frustration; a future where a “roofy” is more likely a dose of sodium pentathol slipped into a guys drink than a dose of Rohypnol slipped into a girls. Are we on the brink of seeing seconds, then minutes, then hours tick away on the sexual doomsday clock?

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