Sex

Every sex cultivates an attractive trait well before the opposite sex has had a chance to know what's happening

When women say they dress more for other women than for men, it's because they're playing a bigger game than men can understand. In the grand scheme of things, the fashion of one sex is meant to appeal to the other sex, but men can only appreciate a sliver of the fashion acumen of women. Women want to be ahead of limited apparent male taste and appeal to man's subconscious tastes. Hence, women instead compete to be the most fetching of the fetchers. They depend on each other to create beauty contests and assess each other's skills, rewarding each other's fashion sense with status, but ultimately they are competing in those same contests.

Likewise, men too are bonded by elaborate rituals to sort each other out. Women may never know the convoluted adventures men partake in to create novel and abundant professional and creative successes. If a man only has a few minutes to convince a woman whether or not to mate with him, that man will seek all of the advantages he can get. Are the men who run Fortune 500 companies doing so to impress women? Perhaps in the grand scheme of things, but that thought isn't what gets those CEOs up in the morning or allows them to tolerate a boring meeting. It's a sense of mission or intrinsic reward that motivates them. For if someone is driven just by the minimum needed to impress a member of the opposite sex, their genes would likely be out-duplicated by someone willing to impress the already minimally impressive.

If Singularity stories often include infinite sexual fulfillment, don't Fleshlights and 3D porn mean it's already sort of here?

Weaved into The Age of Spiritual Machines are some of the benefits of the Singularity, one of which is the fulfillment of infinite sexual fantasies. Upon reading those bits, the imagination goes to a holodeck or some other completely immersive virtual reality with tactile feedback.

But if we use a symptom-based measurement of the Singularity, can we consider that we might already be there? The access to high-resolution porn at our fingertips today is very high. If you use a Fleshlight in conjunction with a large-screen monitor and HD-quality porn, typing specific fantasies you want into free video search engines, then it's pretty close to a holodeck. If you add in a 3D TV, you're even closer. If you acquire a remotely operated Fleshlight and connect a webcam that triggers certain contractions based on what happens on screen, at what point is this checkbox of the Singularity finally complete?

The American Dream is financed by the tolls of American marriage

Stephanie Coontz, in Marriage, a History, posits that marriage in America is unique in history, not for its individual features, but for the lump-sum of them. The ideal of the Leave It to Beaver, happily-ever-after, nuclear family of the 1950s is new in history in that it bundles the expectations for affection, division-of-labor, co-habiting, financial co-mingling, and monogamy into the institution of marriage. In other words, American marriage is difficult, which would explain the high divorce rates.

That is not to say, though, that marriage shouldn't be difficult. Precisely the opposite, American marriage is difficult because American life is such a high stakes game. America, the land of opportunity, is more hierarchal than average. Because of its land, population, wealth, and overall standing, the country owns a giant chunk of the top of the global pyramid. In order to climb that pyramid, it's best to be a child of one of those nuclear families. For example, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are two of America's greatest success stories (at least according to an American definition of success), and they were the children of loving, engaged, two-parent households living in the suburbs. Steve Jobs's case is even more interesting since he was an orphan. With dedicated two-parent households, each parent can take on a handful of myriad beneficial roles in child-rearing, such as encouraging a child's extracurriculars or building wealth to afford great college tuitions or sizable backyards in expensive utopias such as 1960s Mountain View, California or Seattle, Washington.

Such benefits for children might come at the expense of parental happiness. In order to sustain the ideal marriage, the husband and wife must cease caring about sex with outside partners, they must have a love that starts out as lust and evolves into a deep friendship that is sustained, and they must collaborate relatively easily in dividing and spreading their responsibilities. The closest analog in the past was when the husband and wife were business partners, working the same farm. When that arrangement ceased post-War, the nuclear partners had to engage each other's minds, and comfortably sit and watch TV together while transferring knowledge to their children. Good parents are expected to moonlight as tutors and character role models for their children, as opposed to teaching their children a family trade. Those couples that can't check off all these boxes then collapse into a strained unhappiness or divorce. Those that do, get their American dream.

The replacement fertility rate could stand at 1.0 if we assume only women need to replace themselves

Fertility rates for developed countries are declining, with the United States at 1.86 per woman and Europe at 1.59. Fertility rates are even lower for sub-groups within those populations who are white, educated, or wealthy. The headlines surrounding these usually involve panic and surprise, the latter of which is caused by how counter-evolutionary it seems to have a fertility rate lower than the replacement rate (2.00).

However, no nation has a fertility rate lower than 1.00, and while having one child is a marked departure from having two children, it's all a giant leap from having no children. Childlessness is the termination or failure of evolution, whereas having at least one child is still the continuation of evolution.

And it may not even be an issue with continuity, but rather our poor definition of replacement. We assume the replacement fertility rate is 2.00 because there are two parents involved. If we only consider the female's perspective, the replacement rate could be 1.00, since women only have to replace themselves. Theoretically, if the world had one man, a global fertility rate of anything just above 1.00 could still replace the world.

Times of upheaval reward the mediator, who can obviate entire institutions, such as marriage, by simply getting in touch with their prime directives

The war between the sexes is inevitable, but so is détente. Social customs and institutions are like treaties that automate the process of compromise between man and woman. When there is social upheaval, such as what we've seen in the past 70 years (thanks to contraception, equality in the workplace, equality in the home, etc.), the customs are no longer useful. Given the high divorce rates and the subsequent acrimony, we're back to open warfare between the sexes.

But the sexes need to mate, and so they cling to the old institutions, naively hoping this time will be different. Or they smash themselves together with one-night stands while keeping their fingers crossed, hoping that somehow blindly following their nature is the path to happiness.

In times like these, meditation is critical because it returns us to first principles. Instead of waking up one day, proclaiming to the world, "I want to get married" or "I want a girlfriend," you say, "I want love" or "I don't want to be alone." You cut through the institutional prescription and get back to basic need fulfillment.

Times like these favor the independent thinker, so long as they are also emotionally intelligent, or barring that, have tools like meditation. Sure it takes them longer to get what they want—because essentially the indie has to re-invent a new compromise between the sexes—they'll ultimately be happier living from their prime directives.

Times before or after this, though, when social structures were or will be in place, reward the conformist. Perhaps before 1950, it paid to be a "good son" or "good daughter." To be a rebellious free-thinker was to resign yourself to wandering the lands, searching in vain for someone who fits your particular needs just right.

Women have more energy than men for the same reason they have more flexible bodies than men

Women seem to have more energy than men, which may have evolved for the same reason women have more flexible bodies than men. Since men initiate sex, they get to choose sexual positions more often than women, and as a result, they can pick positions that are more comfortable for them. Meanwhile, women have to be ready for whatever position a man throws at them. Likewise, if a man initiates sex at his convenience, when he is properly rested, a woman has to be ready to match his energy as well. This explains the relative ease with which we picture power-walking women on their morning workouts continuing on with their friends while their male partners cut out a little early to catch their breath.

This disparity of convenience between the sexes may explain other phenomena, such as the disparity in drinking between men and women. While you are more likely to see men in drinking contests, it seems like women are the ones more ready to accept another drink and maintain composure, ready to outlast her female rivals for another shot at a prized mate.