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January 20, 2009

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The catgirls are already here, in a prototype form that only works on a select few individuals: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3710987618964917848

I challenge anybody to argue, no matter how sexually open minded and unjudgmental they are, that these relationships are healthy.

Darn it, I shouldn't have told Eliezer about my specific catgirl fantasy! Now I've ruined it for everybody.

Sorry for the double post - I'd just like to ammend the normative "healthy" in my post to "desireable."

Also, Futurama had an episode on this: I Dated A Robot. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a link to the 'educational video' included in the episode. It outlines the situation in a humourours way (if you want, the full episode can be found on Google Video, but I thought it impolite to link to pirated TV on this site).

I think online dating and pick-up artist techniques attempt at combating this problem.

I object to the term "catgirl" for "nonsentient romantic/sex partner". A catgirl is every bit as sentient as Captain Picard. The word you want is "fembot".

Incidentally, which is better, for the losers in the mating game:

A non-sentient lover, or involuntary celibacy?

Doug, why couldn't a fembot be programmed to be sentient? I think the term you're looking for is "nonsentient romantic/sex partner."

Doug, I understand that the overwhelming majority of fictional catgirls (catboys) have been sentient. But you could say the same about fictional androids, and modern actual "fembots" are not what I'm talking about at all. There's a reason why the one said "a million years having sex with catgirls" and not "a million years having sex with fembots".

I hope the spirit of lost C'Mell will forgive me if I overload the term for this usage.

(Ironically, the TV Tropes page you linked to shows the nonbiological (nonsentient? AI? hive-entity?) Asakura Ryouko dressed as a catgirl, which she's not.)

Matt, that's like putting out fire with... a different kind of fire.

Aurini, "desirable" isn't normative? If you wanted to be as least judgmental as possible, you could call them the ones who got shafted by the statistics.

"I want to spend a million years having sex with cat-girls after the Singularity."
Eliezer, I think your mental picture of the cat-girl scenario is a straw-man.

Suppose you had done all the philosophy right, and you knew exactly what eudaemonia meant for you, and *then* designed a cat-girl. What would that sort of cat-girl be like? Different from your friend's imagined version in more than a few important respects, I'd wager.

"""If you take that fun and redirect it to something that isn't socially entangled, if you turn sex into an exclusively single-player game, then you've just made life that much simpler - in the same way that eliminating boredom or sympathy or values over nonsubjective reality or individuals wanting to navigate their own futures, would tend to make life "simpler"."""
For starters, a *properly designed* cat-girl mightn't necessarily make things "simpler" at all. I think the real problem is that you're imagining cat-girls which are too easy. Does playing chess against a computer still count as a "single-player game"? The computer really is trying to beat you, even if it isn't sentient or trying to beat you in the way a person would. And it's conceivable that the world's best chess-player might find playing the computer more interesting than playing other people, and he'd be right, because the games he plays against the computer really *are* more harmonious chess-games....

If you actually tried to optimize the programming of a cat-girl for the eudaemonia of the cat-girl's partner, you'd be searching mind-space for peaks of some function. The higher peaks mightn't be inside human space, or even something reachable by minor tweaks to existing members of humanity. It's not that unreasonable that this would be so: you already mention the potential for small tweaks to fix "the problem." I would add that our parallel empathic architecture is a kludge, and therefore there should be ways of behaving that look more human than the actual ways people behave. In any case, the human part of mind-space is tiny.

And if the fitness landscape is anything like the fitness landscape is for, say, intelligence, those peaks could be ridiculously high compared with anything in the human space.... Therefore, if you insist on not replacing human partners, the losses, of, not sex, not love, not praise, not challenge, not any such superficial indicator, but of *actual quality of life*, whatever that phrase actually means, could be staggering.

I'm not saying I wouldn't be saddened if the human race went its separate ways. The amount of eudaemonia gained by ones partner actually being human may really be that big. I just don't know. Maybe it really is worth an absurdly huge sacrifice to keep the human family together. But don't make the sacrifice look smaller than it actually might be.

PS: What the hell do you mean by the "east" and "west" sides of the galaxy? "West" is the other way on the other side of our planet! Someone is thinking like a Terran.

I thought a big part of the appeal of the super villain fantasy wasn't your standard of living but in comparative standard of living. It's boring if everyone has a volcano lair. People want a doomsday weapon so that they are feared and respected.

Steppenwolf, I thought about "north" and "south" but I didn't want any arguments over who got to be on top. So I used "east" and "west" instead.

In response to your main point... either (a) you're sympathizing with something nonsentient that doesn't actually have any feelings - either deceiving yourself into caring about a person who doesn't exist, or changing the value itself. Or (b) you're losing out not only on present human sympathy, but on future extensions of sympathy, the telepathic bond between lovers a la Mercedes Lackey and/or Greg Egan.

Being in a holodeck, and knowing that the people around you aren't real, has to change either your feelings or your values. That's the problem with the volcano lair, if there's no one there who's real except you. That's the simplicity I fear.

Nazgul, the "comparative standard of living" thing is one of few parts of human nature that I would seriously consider eliminating outright (see Continuous Improvement). But the environmental solution would be, indeed, nonsentient human-shaped entities of lower status, to tell your brain that you're in the elite. Though I don't know if that works - we may have a brain category for nonpeople we don't even compete with hedonically.

Our drive to do better than our neighbor is a deeply ingrained metric of how we judge ourselves. In essence we recognize that our own assessment is biased and look for cues from others. Eliminating this seems like eliminating past of the foundation of a social species.

I think you're being remarkably binary about this. I think it more realistic that non-sentient sexdroids will enable healthier relationships. When people get the urge to procreate with fitter partners they can just spend an afternoon in the holodeck. I see what you're saying as advocating keeping people a little hungry so that they appreciate food more.

I do not think you can refer to "The Christian Heaven" as if there was only one concept. One of the Spiritualist principles is something like "continuous development for every human soul". The carol refers to "the children crowned/ all in white shall wait around" which is bathetic, and it is hard to see the attraction of it. Someone said thinking about Heaven is like the foetus speculating on the nature of life outside the womb. I see the Christian heaven as being with God, who is Love, and probably with other people too: so how will your FAI maximise the best possible outcome for each individual, and the species? Finally, many Quakers would say that the kingdom of Heaven is here and now.

I do not want to defend religion here per se. I want to defend those ideas within religion which might have use or wisdom about them, including any which, if wrong, are wrong in an interesting way.

I see what you're saying as advocating keeping people a little hungry so that they appreciate food more.

If it's a little hungry and not massive specieswide sex-drive mismatch the way we have now, then sure. You don't necessarily want to match the histograms - to eliminate the current bipolar orientation of human sexuality - just nudge them close enough together that the sexes aren't so frustrated with each other.

In my head I have an image of the parliament of volitional shadows of the human species, negotiating a la Nick Bostrom. The male shadows and the female shadows are pretty much agreed that (real) men need to be able to better read female minds; but since this is a satisfaction of a relatively more "female" desire - making men more what women wish they were - the male shadows ask in return that the sex-drive mismatch be handled more by increasing the female sex drive, and less by decreasing male desire...

Maybe it's just my mortal caution speaking, but whenever I envision tampering with human nature, I try to envision soft and subtle changes. At least to start with.

Sorry. You can get your psychological nudges, I'll get my (optimized AND sentient) catgirl thank you very much.

He said an odd thing at this point. 'You never see any, hm, any
Ents round there, do you?' he asked. 'Well, not Ents, *Entwives* I
should really say.'
'*Entwives*?' said Pippin. 'Are they like you at all?'
'Yes, hm, well no: I do not really know now', said Treebeard
thoughtfully. 'But they would like your country, so I just
wondered.'
-- TT, 75 (III, 4)

I'm not sure I follow you. Yes, this would be a problem if people would, indeed, create mostly nonsentient catgirls. But I'm pretty sure that most people would prefer to have sentient companions. Even if they didn't, they'd want companions that seemed like they were sentient, and the easiest way to create truly sentient-seeming companions is probably to create companions that are sentient (remember the Zombie Arguments). So the exact problem you're describing won't be an issue.

Also, most people will want human-like companions, not things with an obviously alien cognitive architecture. So it seems to me that a far more likely scenario is that a major fraction of the populace will go on to create themselves sentient companions, who they then live with happily ever after (or whatever). There's no divide into separate societies, since those new companions will be mainly human-like as well, and thus will have lives apart from simply being mates and will integrate into society just as much as everybody else. (This ignores the people who don't actually want companions but devoted slaves. They might split off, but they're a minority.)

No problem as I can see it.

The male shadows and the female shadows are pretty much agreed that (real) men need to be able to better read female minds; but since this is a satisfaction of a relatively more "female" desire - making men more what women wish they were - the male shadows ask in return that the sex-drive mismatch be handled more by increasing the female sex drive, and less by decreasing male desire...

I wonder how many people are reading this and screaming hubris, and if it might be a good idea to do a top-level post on FAI means no programmer-sensitive AI morality. (Or maybe you did and I forgot.)

I'm mostly with Kaj; I don't see the problem. Designing a companion seems like it will often be a superior strategy than trying to acquire one largely through trial-and-error with existing people. Why would anyone want to "catgirl" when they could make a human who was perfectly suited for them?

If anything, I think problems may come from women, who will find themselves no longer able to acquire resources by virtue of their attractiveness. Of course, if we have enough technology to create companions, we could probably easily modify women (or men) to be as attractive as the "catgirls", and maybe make women on equal footing with men in the engineering department (so they don't suffer economically).

People want to be high in the social hierarchy, it's an instrumental value stronger than almost all other human drives including sex (which is also an instrumental value). The civilization was developed only because of this drive.

Do you want to remove this strongest and most complex human drive, or populate the world with low status beings like catgirls so more people can feel they're high in the hierarchy than mathematics allows? There's no obvious third way, and catgirls seems to me like much less of a problem than drastically altering human nature by removing social status drive.

An interesting topic, but I think you've overlooked an important sex difference on the whole "each gender goes its own way" scenario. When it comes to relationships men are generally looking for an affectionate, physically attractive sex partner, so the idea of building non-sentient (or otherwise specially engineered) companions seems plausible.

But women are primarily looking for a source of material support, preferably of high social status. This pretty much requires a partner her society considers a legal person, capable of earning money and owning property, so very few women would be happy with "catboy" substitutes regardless of how well designed they are.

Obviously the end result of this unbalance isn't going to look like the current status quo, but "each gender goes its own way" doesn't seem like a plausible outcome either.

Be warned; every time you mention catgirls into a discussion on applied theology, a physicist writes some Permutation City self-insertion fanfic.

And every time a physicist plays God, we get one step closer to making catgirls reality.

Alternatively, every time someone calls the Singularity "The Rapture of the Nerds", some catgirls get physical with each other.


(Complete list.)

@Manuel Mortelmaier:

How about "Every time nerds on OB discuss human relationships, one decibel of evidence is added to the hypothesis that the singularity will look like a sci-fi fanfic novel"

Is the cat{girl,boy} scenario just a specific instantiation of the "permanent orgasm implant" problem?

rw: methods of short circuiting the sex drive falls into two categories. the first would be controlling sensory input (holodecks/virtual reality and or cyborgs). the second is bypassing the senses and directly messing with the brain itself via implants or genetic manipulation.

the second type is more prone to unintended consequences than the first.

"How about "Every time nerds on OB discuss human relationships, one decibel of evidence is added to the hypothesis that the singularity will look like a sci-fi fanfic novel""

That gets to near-certainty too fast.

is there any aspect of human existence as complicated as romance

Yes. Parenting and politics. Given a good enough model of humanity, you could probably prove that romance comes in precisely third after those two. Unlike romance, it's not even all that sensible to consider those two with non-sentient NPCs, a sign of their inherent complexity. Otherwise, good argument.

I'm coming in late, but I will say that you should probably examine the game-design literature. They are (for good commercial and aesthetic reasons) pretty much in line with your theory of fun, and in some ways advanced of it.

Seems like the most simple solution would be to trend people towards being bisexual and reduce the need for monogamous relationships. So instead of having one perfect mate that a person spends all their time with then have many different mates that all fulfill an different essential need or hunger. I know if I was living a very long life I wouldn't want to spend it all with the same person.

My comment got flagged as spam. I'm removing the links now but would appreciate it if this comment was removed when the original gets approved.

I've never understood the fascination with cats, which is perhaps because I'm allergic to them. For misanthropic reasons, I suspect I'd prefer replacing you all with some sort of non-sentient beings (though perhaps not when I'm at my most misanthropic).

He said, "Well, then I'd just modify my brain not to get bored -" And I said: "AAAAIIIIIIEEEEEEEEE"
Why? You've just given a frightened response rather than an argument.

well, call me a sentimental Luddite
You're a sentimental Luddite.

sterile simplicity
"Sterile" is often a good thing and means safe/clean/pure. What is bad about sterile simplicity?

That strikes me as kind of sad.
It strikes me as an improvement. People should separate if they are happier that way. Let's hear it for secession!

they aren't just incompetent
Is that something you actually believe or an idea you want to discourage for reasons other than truth? I'll be the first to admit having no competence whatsoever.

doesn't strike me as solving the problem so much as running away from it
What exactly is the difference? That one sets off alarm lights in your brain while the other lets you think the ship of Theseus still retains its identity?

I'm willing to bet that a few psychological nudges
Also known as "modifying your brain". It seems its okay when brains are modified for ends you approve of but not for those of others. Like how eating certain calories "don't count" among people who are supposed to be on a diet.

For myself, I would like humankind to stay together and not yet splinter into separate shards of diversity
I suspect you've fallen under the spell of The People's Romance.


Aurini:
There is nothing objectively desirable or undesirable. I suspect it would disgust me (I've not bothered to watch the video) but I have a hair-trigger disgust reflex.

Extending Aurini's point, I think it is worth asking to what extent we have already integrated catpeople into our culture today. I think many of us would agree that the women featured in pornographic films are catwomen of a kind. What about pop stars, boy bands, etc.? What about mainstream fiction? On Firefly, Kaylee is beautiful, has an above-female-average sex drive, and falls in love with the introverted, socially awkward intellectual character - isn't she exactly the sort of catgirl most male sci-fi fans would want?

It seems like the problems you've identified here don't suddenly begin at the moment you switch on a fully convincing interactive simulation of a human being - there is a continuum, and as our technology progresses, we will naturally tend to move down it. Where shall those of us who look ahead and wish for a eudaemonic future dig our trenches and hold our ground?

(posting from a different homepage today - it seemed appropriate, given the topic)

Eliezer: I ask it in all seriousness - is there any aspect of human existence as complicated as romance? Think twice before you say, "Well, it doesn't seem all that complicated to me; now calculus, on the other hand, that's complicated."

Wait...have people indicated to you they believe otherwise--that they would actually say that and need to think twice? People not in a coma? Or haven't comedy clubs and chick flicks done their job and taught the apparently perpetually unattached who have never experienced a relationship about the irrational complexity of romantic relationships? (I am serious.)

Eliezer: That strikes me as kind of sad.

Curious. Why the attachment to the way things are? Isn't that a bit like being sad because living beings no longer reproduce by fissioning in half?

"AAAAIIIIIIEEEEEEEEE" ?

If the Singularity is the Rapture of the Nerds, self-modification of the brain must be Hell; a way to screw up to an arbitrary degree that most people don't even understand well enough to fear.

nazgulnarsil I think it more realistic that non-sentient sexdroids will enable healthier relationships. When people get the urge to procreate with fitter partners they can just spend an afternoon in the holodeck. I see what you're saying as advocating keeping people a little hungry so that they appreciate food more.

PUA techniques suggest that this may actually help. If men are able to score with hot women on the holodeck, this may make them feel more "alpha", which will then make them better at picking up women - and more attractive to women (so women win too). This is just another variant of the lower-status bot technique to hack our status modules so that everyone feels high status.

Although, it suggests another defense of catgirls, which is to design catgirls that help guys learn to deal with women better. This is not as good as nudging the sexes preferences to improve the statistical overlap, but it is a possible use of early catgirls to make human relationships more fulfilling. And the catgirls would be much easier to design than the sentient uber-fulfilling partners that some commenters posited.

@Mike Blume

"On Firefly, Kaylee is beautiful, has an above-female-average sex drive, and falls in love with the introverted, socially awkward intellectual character - isn't she exactly the sort of catgirl most male sci-fi fans would want?"

No. That would certainly freak the nerd out. M. Vassar and I have several times discussed this problem - nerds seem to integrate their low status, so often if any even half-decent skirt shows an interest in them they reject instantly, thinking "wow, I know I'm a loser, so you must be worse to like me." Nerds would do better to uncoil from the defensive crouch of that identity ASAP.

Yes, when a character gets a Magical Girlfriend, "I'm not worthy of you!" is one of the most common reactions.

Why would anyone want to "catgirl" when they could make a human who was perfectly suited for them?

If catgirl technology precedes pseudo-human technology, corporations may shape our preferences so that we truly prefer the catgirls.

Sure this isn't a utopia for someone who wants to preserve "suboptimal" portions of his/her history because they hold some individual significance. But it seems a pretty darn good utopia for a pair of newly created beings. A sort of Garden of Eden scenario.

Wow is that NOT how I would characterize my side of the position that I have discussed with Frelkins.
Just...WOW!

Michael Vassar,

Clarify? What was your side of the position?

"Where 'nonsentient romantic/sex partner' is pretty much what I use the word "catgirl" to indicate, in futuristic discourse." - 40 comments in this thread, and not a word about Kzin?

In my head I have an image of the parliament of volitional shadows of the human species, negotiating a la Nick Bostrom. The male shadows and the female shadows are pretty much agreed that (real) men need to be able to better read female minds; but since this is a satisfaction of a relatively more "female" desire - making men more what women wish they were - the male shadows ask in return that the sex-drive mismatch be handled more by increasing the female sex drive, and less by decreasing male desire...

What happens to those who absolutely refuse to accept a "few psychological nudges" done to themselves? They obtain the benefit of species-wide correction yet either don't contribute to the satisfaction of the other sex or are forced into it.

Sorry, my overemphasized antiauthoritarian emotional module had to bring that up.

Eliezer, I've been pondering reconciliation between male and female sex/relationship preferences for a while, so I really like this line of thought:

Eliezer said:

The male shadows and the female shadows are pretty much agreed that (real) men need to be able to better read female minds; but since this is a satisfaction of a relatively more "female" desire - making men more what women wish they were - the male shadows ask in return that the sex-drive mismatch be handled more by increasing the female sex drive, and less by decreasing male desire...

This is what pickup artists in the seduction community are doing: getting better at reading women's minds (through evolutionary psychology and pseudo-empirical observation/testing), and attracting women such that women's sexual interest is aroused. When you have studied pickup, you realize that a large amount of the gap between male and female desires is due to societally-enforced incompetence with the opposite sex, on the part of both sexes. Of course, male pickup artists are stacking the deck in their direction, according to male-typical relationship preferences (which include relationships, but which are stacking in the casual direction a bit more than female-typical preferences). Hopefully, a counterpart to male pickup will become available to women which will give women a level of insight into male sexual psychology similar to what pickup artists have into female sexual psychology (not that many women don't already have this type of savvy).

Once the opposite sex's preferences and behaviors stop looking so black-boxy, I think there will be greater potential for harmony between the sexes.

Could we argue that forced "combat" with the opposite gender is good training for negotiating cooperation with hostiles towards futures higher in our preference ranking?

Err, and that such training is valuable.

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