A theory of male and female Sociopathy pt 1

Note: this is just a theory, developed in reaction to recent conversations. 

Let us assume, first of all, that men and women have different optimal reproductive strategies, based on their different anatomy. In case you have not experienced birth yourself, it’s a difference of calories, time, and potential death. 

In the ancestral environment (before child support laws, abortion, birth control, or infant formula):

For men, the absolute minimal paternal investment in a child–immediate abandonment–involves a few minutes of effort and spoonful of semen. There are few dangers involved, except for the possibility of other males competing for the same female. A hypothetical man could, with very little strain or extra physical effort, father thousands of children–gay men regularly go through the physical motions of doing just that, and hardly seem exhausted by the effort.

For women, the absolute minimal parental investment is nine months of gestation followed by childbirth. This is calorically expensive, interferes with the mother’s ability to take care of her other children, and could kill her. A woman who tried to maximize her pregnancies from menarchy to menopause might produce 25 children. 

If a man abandons his children, there is a decent chance they will still survive, because they can be nursed by their mother; if a woman abandons her child, it is likely to die, because its father cannot lactate and so cannot feed it. 

In sum, for men, random procreative acts (ie, sex) are extremely low-cost and still have the potential to produce offspring. For women, random procreative acts are extremely costly. So men have an incentive to spread their sperm around and women have an incentive to be picky about when and with whom they reproduce.  

This is well known to, well, everyone. 

Now, obviously most men do not abandon their children (nor do most women.) It isn’t in their interest to do so. A man’s children are more likely to survive and do well in life if he invests in them. (In a few societies where paternity is really uncertain, men invest resources in their sisters’ children, who are at least related to them, rather than opting out altogether.) As far as I know, some amount of male input into their children or their sisters’ children is a human universal–the only variation is in how much. 

Men want to invest in their children because this helps their children succeed, but a few un-tended bastards here and there are not a major problem. Some of them might even survive. 

By contrast, women really don’t want to get saddled with bastards. 

We may define sociopathy, informally, as attempting to achieve evolutionary ends by means that harm others in society, eg, stealing. In this case, rape and child abandonment are sociopathic ways of increasing men’s reproductive success at the expense of other people. (Note that sociopathy doesn’t have a formal definition and I am using it here as a tool, not a real diagnosis. If someone has a better term, I’m happy to use it.)

This is, again, quite obvious–everyone knows that men are much more likely than women to be imprisoned for violent acts, rape included. Men are also more likely than women to try to skip out on their child support payments. 

Note that this “sociopathy” is not necessarily a mental illness, (a true illness ought to make a dent on one’s evolutionary success.) Genghis Khan raped a lot of women, and it turned out great for his genes. It is simply a reproductive strategy that harms other people. 

So what does female sociopathy look like? 

It can’t look like male sociopathy, because child abandonment decreases a woman’s fertility. For a woman, violence and abandonment would be signs of true mental defects. Rather, we want to look at ways women improve their chances of reproductive success at the expense of others. 

In other words, female sociopathy involves manipulating or coercing others into providing resources for her children. 

But it’s getting late; let’s continue with part 2 on Monday. (Wednesday is book club.)

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The Candy Crush Career Track

Candy Crush, Bejeweled, Farmville, and many other games are exceedingly dumb ways to pass your time–and yet, chances are you’ve played some version of them anyway. People have, collectively, spent millions of potentially-productive hours on such games. Even more amazingly, people have spent millions of dollars in actual money on these games.

These games work because they’re addictive. Click the screen a few times, and corn appears! Wow! So you click the screen again, hoping more corn will appear. But as you “progress” through the game, each level becomes harder, takes longer, or requires more clicks. Next thing you know, you’re pulling out your phone at family functions to check on your fake corn instead of socializing with your cousins, or getting mugged on the subway because you were too busy swiping candies to pay attention to your surroundings.

Our career tracks have become far too similar.

I had the luck to catch up with a friend recently during a rare moment of down time. Way back in highschool, she decided to dedicate her life to one of those careers that shows a true commitment to helping others. Her adulthood, so far: 4 years of college; 4 years of grad school; 4 years of training; 2 years in a specialization program. By the time she has any hope of even being geographically settled instead of moving every few years, assuming she can get a job that will let her settle, she’ll be in her mid to late 30s. By the time she’s paid off her education debt, she’ll be in her 50s. Whether she wants kids or not, the question is practically moot.

It’s like the Farmville of real life, only instead of crops, you harvest degrees and grants and papers and fellowships.

Why pursue such a track? Yes, obviously, because she’s passionately committed to helping others, which is what she does. But also because our system requires and rewards such behavior.

There is absolutely no damn reason a JD or MD requires 4 years of college in addition to the programs themselves. There is no damn reason not to expedite a new doctor or lawyer or scientist or pretty much anyone else’s path to geographic and income stability.

When we ask why smart people don’t have more children, a big reason is that smart people are up to their eyeballs in debt, working 12 (or 24!) hour days, and constantly moving in hopes of finally getting enough points on their resumes to score a permanent job.

Fuck, people struggle just to get volunteer jobs.

Meanwhile, compare our friend to an Amish farmer. The work is hard. Back-breaking, sweaty, sometimes disgusting. If you’re unlucky, you could get trampled by a cow or something.

But there are no degrees. You don’t have to go to school to learn how to milk a cow and plow a field; your parents taught you that. There’s very little in the way of career advancement. You’ve been doing farm labor since you were four or so, and you’re likely to continue doing it until you die. You know you’ll probably have a job next year, how much money your crops will bring in, and if you need a new barn, your family will probably pitch in and help you out.

And the Amish have a lot of children. According to the Wikipedia, there were 5,000 Amish in 1920, and there were 290,000 Amish in 2014–and that’s not counting all of the ex-Amish who’ve left the faith over the years.

The same is true for people who aren’t Amish, but who face similarly limited career opportunities. If you can’t advance, you focus your energies elsewhere. If your phone dies because you forgot to charge it, you might be forced to actually interact with the people around you or read a goddamn book for a change.

I like having doctors. I like scientists. I can even stomach the thought of having some lawyers for certain purposes, like helping people fill out their wills. But we have to expedite the process.