What Next on the Slippery Slope to Freedom?

    One of my female friends has the view that monogamy is tantamount to slavery of men. Once you control a man’s access to sex, you own him. 

    This discussion requires some background briefing. 

    Fact: Men are happy when they are rubbing their penises on pleasant people or things. Or if they think they might soon. Or if they recently did. During other times, men are not as likely to be happy. But men are also human beings, and so they blame their bad moods on things like “stress” or a bad day at work.

    Women can fact-check that claim by querying a man about his mood immediately before, during, or after sex. Now compare that answer to any randomly picked minute of the rest of his day. You might see a pattern.

    That’s the Moist Robot idea in a nutshell. Our bodies and the environment jack our body chemistry, the chemistry changes what we think and how we feel, and the result is our moods. The more common view of the world is that our moods are somehow a mind-generated problem that can be fixed by thinking better, resolving annoyances, or by taking prescription meds. But sometimes the world is simpler. I can’t speak for women, but most men are going to be in a good mood if you offer them a sandwich and oral sex for lunch. Even if they say no. It just feels good to be asked.

    And ladies, if a guy thinks he has a chance of getting that sort of lunch now or any day in the infinite future, and you ask him to hand-wash your car, he will probably rearrange his schedule and maybe power-wash your driveway too. Just in case. Because it might be a good investment in the future. 

    Hence, some people would say monogamy is male slavery disguised by words such as soul-mate and “good man.”

    The man might tell himself that he does nice things because he is a nice guy, or that no one can wash cars as well as he can. But in reality the man just loves sandwiches for lunch and he doesn’t want to die lonely. He’s not a liar; he just doesn’t know that his body is driving his moods, not vice-versa. We are all under the persistent illusion that our bad moods are caused by the “problems” in our lives as opposed to the chemistry inside your skulls.

    But here’s the interesting trend I see emerging. This is where we get to the good part.

    Monogamy and marriage made economic sense when the family model involved a working (or hunting) dad and a child-rearing, cooking, mom. In this arrangement the man gives up his option to pursue multiple sex partners and in return he gets the benefits of a mate who can do the things he can’t. The two halves of the marriage make a whole. Plus you get the soul mate thing, love, heirs, and other good stuff. And obviously married women are also giving up their options for lovers and whatnot as well.

    Fast-forward to 2015 when gender distinctions are narrowing. The economic value of spouses has been reduced because of the rise of alternatives. Today women can do all the hunting and working they want. A man can hire a surrogate to carry a baby to term. A woman can go to a sperm bank for a father. The man can hire nannies, drivers, tutors, cooks, and more. So the job of “spouse” is simply less important than at any time in history. Women don’t need spouses for income or protection, and men no longer need a spouse to carry a baby, so long as a willing stranger wants to do it for money. And obviously there is adoption.

    Today only the rich can afford to outsource the work of an entire spouse. But most of those “spouse functions” will soon be automated and less expensive for all. Food will arrive at your door by inexpensive drone, with perfectly balanced meals customized to each person. Self-driving cars with cameras are probably the safest way to transport a kid, and someday probably the cheapest. And I expect apps to come along that match bored senior citizens with neighborhood kids that need to be watched while a parent works. My point is that the option to outsource a spouse – either male or female – is moving down market quickly. I think it will be a middle-class option in ten years.

    And then what happens to monogamy? Obviously many people will prefer monogamy and the traditional family unit for personal or religious reasons. It has its advantages. But monogamy will no longer be the economic and social necessity it once was. And at that point you might see a social movement to free men from the biological oppression of monogamy so they might seek happiness for the first time in modern history. 

    Everyone is different, but generally speaking, men aren’t happy without a sex life. And monogamy usually leads to a sexless future (typically defined as sex once per month or less.) Science tells us humans lose sexual interest in a mate over time, and no amount of magical thinking can stop biology’s slow march. 

    In 2015 men have the option of either giving up happiness to monogamy or being lonely and childless. I think we will see better options emerging now that the majority of adults in the United States are single. I predict that you will see an emergence of more complicated multi-person virtual “tribes” of single people who are taking care of each others’ needs in various areas so a spouse is unnecessary.

    The only gating factor I see is the added health risks of multiple partners. But I’ll bet science can fix all of that in ten years with nano-robots, stem cells, and Indogene* skin. And let’s be honest about the negative health impact of a sexless marriage, recognizing there are trade-offs in all things.


    In Top Tech Blog, here come the nano devices to play doctor inside your body. 

    And it raises my usual question: How many nano devices can a human have inside its organic frame and still remain a human? A few nano devices is no big deal. But if the nano technology evolves in time from simply fixing health problems to making your body work better in general, you might be gulping handfuls of nano robots for breakfast. You’ll be more nano device than human at some point, offloading the tasks of your internal organs and eventually even your mind to the tiny robots that are, collectively, you.

    In time (decades) I would expect the nano robots to handle your body’s basic needs better than your natural organs, thus making your human parts unnecessary one organ at a time until we are mostly robot and a little bit of skin.

    The robots don’t need to conquer us. We will evolve into them as soon as they do a better job than our natural organs.

    The good reviews keep coming for this book.


    *Fans of Defiance will appreciate that reference. Great sci-fi show, by the way.

The Value of Men

    I live in drought country (California) and this place is starting to turn into a prequel for Mad Max. Every other pickup truck on the road has huge water containers strapped to the back. That’s because the local waste water treatment plant gives away recycled water (non-drinkable) to anyone who wants to keep their lawn alive. 

    I have yet to see a woman driving one of these improvised water trucks, although I’m sure it happens because this is not Saudi Arabia. But generally speaking, these bringers-of-water are manly men who know how to fix things and do things. Somehow they all figured out how to convert their vehicles into water trucks, complete with safety straps and portable pumps to get the water to the lawn. Some have gravity solutions. It is all quite impressive. Lots of ingenuity in play.

    I reckon each of these manly men spend half a day each week keeping their lawns on life support. These are resourceful men. Men of action. Men who care about their homes.

    Oh, and they are all married, I assume. No single guy would do that stupid shit. Single guys would just let the lawn die, like 80% of their neighbors that have no trucks.

    So why do married guys put so much effort into keeping a small patch of grass alive? Well, maybe it is because they think the drought is temporary. But that would not be well-informed. We’re in this for years unless you see a guy named Noah building an ark.

    Maybe some of the men enjoy the challenge. I have to admit I felt some jealousy that these men of action were saving precious blades of grass with their ingenuity while I sat idle. My guy-genes want in on this. Trucks, tanks, hoses, pumps, and – best of all – the smug drive across town with my own improvised water truck. That is good stuff, and I totally get it. But I don’t think that thrill is what is compelling these men to action.

    My hypothesis is that the married men with trucks are trying to improve their perceived value in the eyes of their spouses.

    Humans are visual creatures. If I see you do something valuable right in front of me it means more than if I hear about something you did in the past. It works the same at your job. If your boss sees you doing something, it means more than if she hears about it later. Optics rule our perceptions.

    For many homes, the lawn is the biggest visual cue to a husband’s contribution. In all likelihood, the husband did not build the house. In a two-income household, he didn’t even pay for the entire house. But given our sexist culture, he is probably in charge of the lawn. So if the lawn goes south, he has little to show of his value. His spouse, on the other hand, is often doing one visual thing after another, involving grocery bags, kids, dinner, and keeping up the home. The husband is home at night and on weekends to witness a lot of that action, and, according to studies, he is usually doing less than half of the chores. The husband can witness his wife’s value in a clear, visual way. 

    The children themselves are also a visual representation of a woman’s value. The man contributed some sperm long ago, probably in the dark. His contribution was visually empty. But nine months of carrying a human in your belly, followed by birth, nursing, and childcare is as visual as you can get.

    A typical husband’s contribution to the family happens when he is at work. And unlike the old days where the guy might drag home some animal he killed –which would be visually impressive – today he probably has direct deposit. No one even sees a paycheck.

    In 2015, a husband is just an asshole who disappears for half of the day while the wife does all the work. I’m exaggerating, but you see my point that the man’s contribution to a marriage has turned into an abstract concept that is easily taken for granted. If money keeps showing up in the bank account, thanks to direct deposit, human nature says we will start to devalue where it came from.

    But if that same husband spends half a day each week doing his manly water-gathering task, and his lawn is the greenest on the street, and his big manly water truck is parked in the driveway, that’s a guy who contributes in a visual way. I think that is the driver of this behavior.

    My other hypothesis is that I don’t own a truck so I am writing an insulting post about men who do. I can’t rule that out. 


    In Top Tech Blog:

    – Ford is putting cameras on the exterior of its cars. If others follow, it won’t be long before someone builds a storage device so you have a record of everything that happened around you. Being a criminal keeps getting harder.

    Drone technology is coming to toys. Soon we will have many more ways to terrorize a sibling.

    – And some engineers at Stanford figured out a cheap way to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. I wonder what it feels like to invent something that could change the entire world. I drew a comic today.

Voluntary Parent Tests

    Humorists have often pointed out that you need a license to go fishing but you don’t need a license to create a human being and ruin its life through bad parenting.

    I can’t imagine my government requiring a license for parenting, no matter how sensible the idea sounds. To do so would be incompatible with basic freedom.

    But what about a voluntary test for parents?

    I think you would see immense social pressure for newlyweds to pass a voluntary parenting test whenever children are in the plan. At first the test would be a novelty and I imagine it would generate ridicule. But in time it could become the first question anyone asks when you announce your engagement. “Did you both pass the parenting test?”

    The government could offer tax incentives for anyone who passes the parenting test. That would be a good investment for the country because better parenting is probably good for the economy in the long run.

    Another thing I would like to see is kids writing reviews of their own parents. All you need is a Yelp-like service for reviewing parents, with a twist that the reviews are NOT public. Only approved professionals (doctors, therapists, teachers, other experts) would see the reviews. This allows experts to jump in with some useful parenting advice for both the kids and their parents. My healthcare provider, Kaiser Permanente, would be ideal for such a service. They’re big on preventative care.

    And imagine Big Data someday helping you set child “consequence” levels. For example, if Big Data says taking away a teens phone for three days gets a good result but taking it away for a month just makes things worse, that would be good to know. And it would be easier for parents to defend a punishment as "fair” if Big Data supports it. A parent will still need to adjust his or her strategy for the personality of the child, but it is useful to have a starting point.

    And here’s a suggestion for helping low-income kids get a leg up. Imagine a law that says any child born into a household below a certain income level can be voluntarily matched up with two mentors from high income families. And let’s imagine there is an online service for making those matches. And one can imagine the government offering tax incentives for folks who are part of a successful mentoring arrangement.

    The future of parenting, I hope, is voluntary parenting tests, Yelp-like reviews of parents (non-public, to invite professional intervention), Big Data to guide parenting strategy, and a voluntary mentoring program for low-income kids that is supported by tax incentives.

    Would any of those ideas work?

    ——— In other news ————

    Cyborg rats with brain implants are here! But let’s not make cyborg rats that are too smart, okay? That has trouble written all over it.

    And how about the self-driving car that went across the country 99% unaided? Maybe it’s just me, but I have lots of questions about the 1%.

    And finally someone is making a running boot that does some of the running for you. But only 7% of it. I can’t wait for them to get the other 93% done so I can do some serious sleep walking.


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    My book on success: "I feel the best I have ever felt after reading a book.” –  Puget Sound Paralegal  (Amazon 5-star review Feb 20, 2015)

The Two Biggest Problems in the United States are Food and Marriage

    Here’s the problem with food:

    Broccoli is food.

    Cake is food.

    Those two things are not the same. Broccoli is good for your body and cake is not. When you have two items that are almost opposites, they probably should not have the same name. Would it make sense to have only one word to cover both criminal and victim?

    I know you hate big government, so imagine what follows as a thought experiment. Imagine the government passes a law to label all edibles as one of these two categories:

    1. Food, or
    2. Entertainment (cake, french fries, junk food, candy)

    As a parent, it is hard to tell a kid to avoid unhealthy food. My hypothesis is that it would be far easier for both kids and adults to avoid edibles labeled “entertainment.” This idea is inspired by my hypnosis background and my hobbyist understanding of persuasion and psychology.

    In the short term, the day after you change the names of things, nothing much would be different. But over time, the different labels would sink into people’s minds and become a substitute for rational thought. In twenty years the idea of turning to “entertainment” because you are hungry will feel silly.

    This sort of label change would destroy the fast-food and traditional supermarket industry in about five years. Today a busy parent will take a kid to McDonald’s because it feels as if the convenience outweighs the cost. But I guarantee that if the sign on the door said “entertainment” instead of some suggestion of “food,” every parent in my neighborhood would feel shamed to be seen there. The peer pressure would be overwhelming. If you doubt that, try telling your neighbor you aren’t into recycling and watch the look of horror on his face as he judges you.

    Humans are not rational creatures. Words rewire our brains and turn us into different creatures. Normally we have some control over which words are influencing us, and that is a good thing. At the moment, we are being victimized by the word “food.” Realistically, we won’t be able do an exorcism on that word and remove the “entertainment” part because the food industry uses Congress as finger-puppets. That’s why this is just a thought experiment.

    But if it could happen….Imagine a world in which most people are eating healthy food. Suddenly everyone looks better to each other, so our social lives and our sex lives are enlivened. Our health expenses drop, and the quality of our lives zooms. I can tell you from experience that when I evolved from a bad diet to a good one, nearly every part of my life improved. And the difference is huge. My body at age 57 is far superior to my body in my twenties primarily because of an improved diet. And I thought I was in good shape in my twenties. Diet isn’t a small thing in your life. It is the main thing, because it shapes your success in every other realm, from sex to business.

    Now let’s talk about marriage.

    Divorce is one of the most expensive, horrible, and wasteful things a person can experience. It is terrible for the kids, terrible for finances, good for lawyers, bad for employers, etc. Half of marriages end in divorce. And those people typically remarry and either divorce again or, all too often, live unhappily ever after. The entire process is insanely inefficient. 

    Unfortunately, in 2015, marriage is probably the best system we have for raising kids. But as a thought experiment, imagine that the government removes all laws favoring marriage. You get no tax breaks, no nothing. And instead the government encourages people to set up alternative social systems that solve the problems of divorce.

    How do you solve the divorce problem? Ask any economist. It is quite easy. I’ll give you a solution in one word: diversification.

    In marriage, if something bad happens to one person, or one person becomes a jerk, the system breaks. Any engineer will tell you that is a poorly designed system. But if, for example, you had a small tribe of people cooperating for mutual interest, a bad day for one of them wouldn’t be a death blow for the tribe. If your love interest hates you today, you have three others on call. If you get sick and need childcare, there are ten people ready to help.

    Don’t have time to exercise because of driving kids around? That’s no problem if your tribe has some designated after-school drivers. Is it hard to buy and prepare healthy food? No problem if some members of your tribe are great cooks and like cooking in bulk.

    I won’t design a full alternative to marriage here because people are different and one solution does not fit all. The main idea is that marriage is perhaps the biggest economic problem in the country that isn’t food-related. Marriage made sense in old-timey days. But with the help of the Internet it would make more sense for people to organize around what works instead of what we know does not.

    You will be tempted to point out in the comments that hippy communes didn’t catch on. I’m not talking about poorly-engineered hippy communes. That’s like comparing a Model-T to a Tesla. I think that with some creative thinking, and maybe some experimenting, society could develop modern alternatives to marriage that remove the divorce problem.

    I hear whispers that these sorts of arrangements are already happening, but because non-monogamy is shamed, you don’t hear much about it. Marriage will go away eventually, as all bad systems do. Single people recently became the majority in this country. Can we speed it up?



    Check out the latest news on holograms and teleportation on Paul Worthington’s Top Tech Blog.

    See Tamra Reid’s Berkeley Start-up Review blog for the most interesting start-ups coming out of the Berkeley start-up ecosystem (second only to Stanford in number.)

    And don’t miss Vivian Giang’s post on the dangers of smiling 🙂


    My book on success: “…the best business book I have read in the last decade.” (Amazon 5-star review Feb 26, 2015)