Why Aren’t Transhumanists More Successful at Love?

A lovestruck Romeo sings the streets a serenadeAt H+ Magazine, Katja Grace asks whether we are getting “better at romance,” or, more precisely, “more romantically efficient.” In case you’re wondering about the definition:

A romantically efficient person gets more affection and orgasms for the same input of searching and pining, just as an efficient farmer gets more grain and pigs for the same amount of land and dirt.

So much for, well, romance.Incidentally, Grace claims without apparent irony that “oddballs and pornography enthusiasts” are the people who have contributed the most to our romantic efficiency. This means that, basically, the Comic Book Guy is her ideal of the most romantically efficient, and presumably, happy and satisfied, person in our society:UPDATE: See also Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal on efficiency.

Transhumanist Tech Failures

Every organization experiences technical difficulties now and then; that’s just a fact of technology. But there is always a delicious irony when it happens to transhumanists, those starry-eyed prognosticators of unfathomable technical power and absolute technical mastery.
This week’s serving of ironic technical failure comes from one of our most reliable sources of easy material, Michael Anissimov. On Monday this ignominious post appeared on the RSS feed for his blog, Accelerating Future:
You can click the screenshot to enlarge it, but in case you can’t read it, it says “I understand that my server is infected with malware and has been flagged by Google, I’m currently in the process of backing everything up and reinstalling. It’s not that simple of a task so please be patient.” Rough times. I’d link to his site, but evidently the malware remains and it’s not safe to visit; if you go in Google Chrome, you’ll see this:
What would the technical term for that be — an infestation of unfriendly un-AI?
This is not an isolated incident, of course. Until recently, the RSS feed for H+ Magazine had some pretty impressive screw-ups on a regular basis. I happen to have taken some screenshots of my favorites (these are all real, and there are many more like these):
And probably the best (this one, I believe, is from the site itself):
(Sic on Phil B[r]owermaster.) One might wonder about the wisdom of entrusting Humanity+ to people who can’t seem to figure out HTML.
One last example. In doing a wrapup post on the first day of the H+ Summit last summer, I noted:

The talks on the first day were plagued by various technical problems, particularly on Apple computers, that delayed the presentations. The organizers joke this off by noting that at least it’s not as bad as Steve Jobs’s recent embarrassment with Apple products not working at an Apple conference. Yeah, except Steve Jobs is only suggesting that we purchase his computers, not that we literally live in them.

I wanted to dig up some video clips to actually show you what I was talking about, but when I went to the streaming video feed for the conference and clicked “More Videos” to see if there was some sort of archive, this — no joke — is what I found:
[UPDATE: See the follow-up post here.]

“The Geek’s Guide To Getting Girls”

H+ Magazine‘s “humorist” Joe Quirk (author of “The Meaning of Life Lies in Its Suckiness,” which we discussed here) has penned another literary triumph. Watch out, Voltaire:

It wasn’t until her bikini thong hit me in the face that I recognized her. It was the sophomore from Holy Cross College I’d interviewed yesterday who had said her deepest desire was to marry a mature gentleman who would see her not just as a piece of flesh but as the intelligent entrepreneur she planned to be. I didn’t recognize her up on that stripper pole on the beach amid all this Spring Break mayhem. She had complained it was difficult to land a good man with all these loose girls sending the wrong impression.

He goes on to weave the latest evolutionary/social psychology/biology research into a story about how he “headed to Spring Break in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, so I could observe these principles at work in the courtship behavior of drunken beach apes.” Wherein he indeed describes what he sees as if viewing primates, complete with descriptions of how women’s menstrual cycles alter their mating preferences, etc.
Here’s the kicker: the main principle Quirk wants to relate (perhaps with the aim of lending some reassurance to the self-image of the magazine’s likely readers) is that women are attracted not to alpha males but to men with social respect and intelligence. “Female primates can tell the difference and boink accordingly.” Classy.
From this, he assures us, “At Spring Break in 2011, science nerds will get more sex than jocks and cheerleaders, because science nerds will understand the biology of human desire.” (Which sounds hilariously if probably unintentionally like the response in Revenge of the Nerds to the cheerleader’s query “Are all nerds as good as you?”: “Yes. Because all jocks think about is sports. All we ever think about is sex.”)
Maybe I’m missing something here, but this seems to conflict a bit with all of that social respect and intelligence stuff. If there’s one thing I know about women, it’s that talking about how hormonal and easily manipulated they are isn’t likely to endear you to them.
It doesn’t speak well of H+ Magazine that they would publish this sort of thing. There’s the question of the scientific validity of these claims, not to mention the article’s apparent ignorance of the “Seduction Community”, which has been attempting a similar (if arguably more respectful) project for decades. And then there’s the writing itself, which should make anyone with even a shred of respect for women and women’s rights shudder. Some of the commenters on the piece try to defend it as just a joke, but it sounds a bit more like the rantings of a few bitter science/engineering students I knew in college who tried to couch their misogyny in supposedly humorous or scientific language.
Appropriateness aside, I’d like to suggest that this piece is indicative of a deeper tension within transhumanism between the ev/social science outlook that wants to view humans as little more than animals and the Enlightenment outlook that wants to raise humans to the level of equal beings endowed with supreme individual rights and wills. The application of the former outlook to ethics leads to some attitudes that are directly in conflict with the latter. To put it another way, treating people in practice as little more than animals leads to some pretty un-Enlightened ideas and behavior. More about this later.
Update: Elana J. Clift, author of the work on the “Seduction Community” I linked to, adds in an email that the H+ article “sounds similar to a lot of the (b.s.) pop psychology/anthropology that people in the Seduction Community blather on about…. [I]n addition to women’s rights and sexism against women you might mention how this kind of crap is harmful to men and how they are taught to view themselves, their intentions, their bodies, etc.”

Now you can ignore the Singularity while checking Facebook on your laptop

The Singularity is coming this summer to a new course available at Rutgers University. The instructors are father-son duo Ted and Ben Goertzel (respectively), and a cabal of guest speakers will make appearances, including James Hughes, Aubrey de Grey, and Robin Hanson, as well as a variety of other colorful characters, including one possibly from a cartoon. According to H+ Magazine, this is the first-ever accredited college course on the Singularity, although it’s certainly been at least a subject of discussion in college courses before.
Naturally enough, the course will be conducted entirely online, and will feature virtual classroom discussions. All well and appropriate, and I’m actually really thinking of registering, except you still have to “attend” classes two nights a week just like a regular class, and that’s a big time commitment. If only there were some way for me to absorb all that information without all the hassle.
Also of note: the official textbook for this first-ever accredited college course on the Singularity is Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near. Which I have it on good it authority makes the course unserious and unacademic, so consider yourself warned.