Thursday, August 6, 2009

Even More on the Missing Entwives

So, we all know that I'm trying to figure out where all the women are, and why they aren't programmers like me.

This article doesn't touch on the subject directly, but it addresses a lot of the pop-psych that gets tossed around in the conversation. The article is long and detailed and interesting and you should read it. If you don't have the time or the inclination though, a summary:

Women, individually, are more important for survival than men, basically since their part of the reproductive process is the critical path. One man can make 9 babies in 9 months, but that job would take 9 women. This means that women have a higher chance of passing on genes than men, which in turn makes it more important that every woman have decent genes.

Evolutionarily speaking, you want to play it safe with the women since they're likely to reproduce. You can afford to take chances with the men since screwing up on one is okay.  Another can have more children and make up for the loss.

There are a bunch of attributes where men have a higher variance than women.   Height, IQ, math capabilities, whatever.  Similar mean, but at the extremes, there are more men both at the top and at the bottom. So dudes are more likely to have Wikipedia-worthy achievements, but are also more likely to be homeless or in jail.  Men have pretty uniform tastes in women, but women show a lot of variance in their preferences.

Guys are expendable. It's okay to get a few failures in the pursuit of greatness. That model moves well into a social paradigm of negative sum status hierarchies and competition. Status hierarchies have a lot of losers and a few winners. Losers might be dead soldiers,  lowly office drones, football players who never made the big time or whatever,  but in any case they're probably having fewer children than the winners.  Things work out for society though: the winners can have a lot of children.

We need relatively more women to succeed though, so the few winners vs many losers model doesn't work as well. This model moves well into a social paradigm of cooperation instead of competition.

Unfortunately, cooperation works best in small groups and scales linearly. Competition works in large hierarchies and scales geometrically. So you've got one group that's optimized for the things that make social life work: small, interdependent, cooperative groups. Then you've got a second group that's optimized for the things that make social life scale: large, competitive status hierarchies. Hierarchies like politics, corporations, the military, and sports teams.

So, two questions:

1) Is this an accurate model of how things work in the world?

2) If so, what if anything can or should be done about it?

6 comments:

Devin said...

1. You seem to have done more than summarize. The FA doesn't make any mention of the 9-month thing, though that seems like a reasonable explanation for the imbalance. (Disclaimer: I just skimmed a bit.)

2. So, will thousands of years of monogamy equilibrate this imbalance?

Me said...

1. The nine month thing is actually a Mythical Man Month reference, and you're right, I penciled that in. The point about wombs being the choke point is from the article though.

2. The question is: if the imbalance exists, could thousands of years of monogamy take place? They surely haven't yet. Any elites in our society who want them can and do have multiple partners.

Devin said...

1. Ah, yes, missed that. (I wouldn't mind seeing citations in this transcript.)

2. Hrm. I was going to assert that, on average, we're more monogamous now that we're properly civilized[1], but then we probably don't beat people that threaten to steal our women as often. So, I dunno.

[1] I would imagine not *all* elites who want multiple partners do, if you exclude social pressure from their wants.

Me said...

Prostitution is still alive and well as an industry, I think. Perhaps its birth control that's the big change.

Melissa said...

Those who are more likely to use birth control have fewer babies, so how does that propagate so well?

But that's way off topic. This theory doesn't really resonate with me (what a girly way to put it, eh?). If women are the choke point, then shouldn't they have the power to be more choosy. Shouldn't women be less likely to take chances since they know they only have so many shots? Men should take as many chances as they can talk into bed because they can shoot so often. If men can't talk women into bed, then women are being choosy and not taking chances.

Me said...

You've got it right, Melissa, but you're agreeing with the article, not contradicting it. Perhaps you read it backwards. =)