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Sounds like Ig Nobel material to me!

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> Bondage/domination/submission: Okay, I admit I don’t have a good just-so explanation for this one. Maybe it’s more psychological - people who have been told that sex is shameful can only fully appreciate it if they feel like a victim who’s been forced into it (and so carries no guilt). And people who have been told they’re undesirable and nobody could ever really love them can only fully appreciate it if their partner is a victim who has no choice in the matter.

I assume masochism/submissiveness at least is a rape adaptation. Rape is very stressful (citation needed) and it seems to me that the ability to find it at least complicatedly enjoyable could greatly improve your life outcomes, especially if you're going to spend a lot of time with your captor afterwards.

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Is there a reason you unparsimoniously create a separate category for homosexuality when this framework of "fetishes" works just as well in that case?

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I assume one of the reasons that this isn't purely hard-coded is because there isn't an answer to what one 'should' be attracted to, from the PoV of evolution, that is both fully general as well as consistent over time.

Depending on which time period and culture a person grows up in, it may be optimal for them to be attracted to different types of people, so a lot of this may be learned during adolescence.

One could imagine an algorithm like "When going through adolescence, I need to determine what I should become attracted to for the best outcomes. Because I cannot test all of the opportunities myself, I will defer to peers to learn as much as I can"

This algorithm probably works well in many societies, but when you hop onto the Internet and the peers which you defer to during adolescence are a niche subculture, you'll start to get pretty different outcomes. The Internet is also very good at spreading memes, so these outcomes may then propagate to more adolescents as they come online, depending on how viral the new set of likes is.

There's a lot of further implications of this if you spend some time thinking about it, and most seem to be trending in the direction that one would predict from this.

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The obvious-to-me just-so story for BDSM "fetishes" is as a rape adaptation.

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If you take the full evopsych route (which this article implicitly does) then fetishes are best explained not as misfires of the procreative impulse but as part of the wider definition of sexual activity and display. The idea that sex is literally just PIV intercourse is not true of any complex and social species. In all such species you see social roles and rituals around sex. And these are adaptive in that the competitions increase prosociality and role fitness.

I find it hard to justify the misfire hypothesis actually since so much of sexual and pre-sexual activity is obviously not literally penetrative sex and so much of what's 'normally' attractive is not related to that. Lingerie, for example, seems completely unjustifiable in such a framework except as a niche fetish. But it's actually pretty universal. I understand lingerie as a sociosexual signal and that explains it pretty neatly. But if we're being trained on seeking PIV intercourse solely or its directly associated traits then you have to walk a pretty long way to explain such 'universal' fetishes that are common even among virgins.

This does apply to artificial intelligence: just as sexual competition selects for prosociality and role fitness so will the interaction of humanity in any AI takeoff scenario that's slow enough for us to have any feedback into the process. Likewise, unless there is literally one AI, the AI themselves will be exerting pressure against a Skynet scenario since any AI that defects is a threat to the other AI. In short, cooperation is evolutionarily fit (as evidence by the fact we, and not polar bears, rule the world) and will be selected for through a partially conscious and partially emergent process.

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A lot of this seems like just-so stories. Cartoons are a relatively (in EEA terms) new stimulus, but feet aren't. Were foot fetishes comparably common throughout the EEA? Is it actually the case that people who are into, say, spanking, aren't into actual sex?

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I accidentally developed a bit of a foot fetish earlier this year, because of AI.

Midjourney 5 had not come out, and so we were using 4 to generate some characters for our app.

We needed some full-body images in transparent PNGs. The faces were very realistic, and even the hands generally had a good number of fingers, but it was really hard to get a full body shot without the feet or legs being cropped. Even though the prompt had "full body" and "head to toe" and a few other adjectives tossed on at the end, 9 times out of 10 it would end up cropping around the knees or just have the upper torso.

But the rest was really good — consistent characters and outfits, just missing the bottom. After a few hours of experimentation and re-rolling we could generally end up with the ideal full-body image, including feet. I developed a whole toolbox of tricks, from changing the aspect ratio to be really tall to blending in an example pose as a second image. One of the tricks to get this was to get really specific about the feet. What kind of shoes and socks? Mentioning feet a few times with emphasis. Things like that. My language was one that I imagine a foot-fetishist’s google search history. "Tall woman with feet showing, high heels, extra feet please with an order of foot." Or extreme detail like "orange nikes with shoelaces and socks and shadows under the shoes" That would generally convince the AI that the feet should also be shown. Not all the time, but some combination helped. I dreamt of feet, and kept trying to come up with more synonyms to get my desires across to this stable diffusion model.

Eventually after enough fiddling around a render would eventually come in with feet and we would be happy. After a few weeks of this process, anytime I finally saw some feet in a render (or shoes, rather) was a delightful feeling.

Then Midjourney 5 came out and started behaving a lot better. Feet were pretty trivial to generate (and hands reliably had 5 fingers) and the excitement of seeing them quickly wore off.

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If the availability of contraception is actually a big part of the decline in fertility it seems that the decline should be self-limiting over a fairly short time-frame. The genes of the people who like sex but not children will comprise a rapidly diminishing share of the gene pool. My personal observation is that a significant share of the population strongly desire children, and would have them even if sex were unpleasant. To the extent that either homosexuality or fetishes reduce procreation the effect should be the same.

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Let's apply Occam's razor here and assume there isn't a separate explanation for every fetish. I'll assert that all fetishes have one source, which is that humans can sexualize anything. Any configuration of body parts, fluids, and objects that doesn't defy the laws of physics has a community of people who think it's the best thing ever. Same for any relationship dynamics. This diversity is an outgrowth of the fact that we come out of the womb as relatively blank slates so that we can adapt to any environment. Why would sex be different from every other thing we learn through culture? Our genes may give a push by making genital stimulation and sexual fantasy pleasurable, but they don't specify how to get this stimulation any more than they specify how group cooperation is accomplished or how to find food. If 95% of sexuality is learned, it's no longer surprising that we find so many ways to do it. We're not looking at out-of-distribution examples, we're looking at an open loop reinforcement learning system that's writing its own reward function.

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> Evolution controls the genetic code but not the reinforcement environment. Humans have the option of training AIs directly, a much higher bandwidth and less lossy communication channel.

I don't think the comparison is clear-cut.

Yes, in reinforcement learning, humans have the option of rewarding the AIs for doing certain behaviors, which seems nice, and is genuinely something that evolution cannot do, except when those behaviors can be operationalized into relatively simple detector code that evolution can put in the brainstem etc.

On the other hand, "rewarding the AIs for doing certain behaviors" is a terrible idea, from an AI alignment perspective. We want to reward the AI for doing the right thing FOR THE RIGHT REASON, not just for doing the right thing full stop. Otherwise we reward the AI for being deceptive.

And in that sense, it seems to me that the genome is in some respects beyond the state-of-the-art of ML reinforcement learning alignment approaches. In particular, the genome sets us up such that some THOUGHTS are rewarding and others are not—not behaviors. There's interpretability right in the foundation, I think.

My own main technical AI alignment research interest is to figure out the nuts and bolts of how the genome makes people (sometimes) nice to each other — https://www.alignmentforum.org/posts/qusBXzCpxijTudvBB/my-agi-safety-research-2022-review-23-plans#2__Second_half_of_2022__1_3___My_main_research_project .

I think good theories of sexual attraction may be somewhat related, and I would definitely be interested in them, although I haven't spent any time looking into that topic so far.

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> Humans have the option of training AIs directly, a much higher bandwidth and less lossy communication channel

That's *extremely* underselling it; breeding vs nn-training are a difference in scale that makes a difference in kind.

Imagine your attempting to find the best value in a 2d space, the way your attempt to do this is random and by breeding, so you select lets say 4 random points from a circle where you "are", and you set the new center to be the average of the 2 best, sure your "evolve" and eventually find a good value but what the calculus does is go you a 2d vector to the best local update without taking 1000 random points.

Most nn's have some absurd number of parameters, so its not 2d or even a 3d sphere, its 1000000d sphere and training is making a very reasonable update direction.

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I honestly have a hard time seeing what fetishes have to do with evolution or AI. Fetishes are generally a result of childhood experiences and are not heritable, as far as I know.

AI is just an emulation of intelligence and IMO can never approach the complexity of biological evolution which is governed by processes that we are unlikely to fully understand. We can try to allow AI to evolve by itself but in the absence of that magic juice it’s doomed to failure. Of course it can still kill us but so can many other things of our own doing.

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Here's a really simple theory:

PHYSIOLOGICAL AROUSAL—REGARDLESS OF THE SOURCE—CAN CONTRIBUTE TO SEXUAL AROUSAL

That seems true to me, and seems to explain (or at least contribute to the explanation of) four of your list items—spanking, sadomasochism, urine/scat, and bondage/domination/submission.

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Conveniently skirted elephant: pedophilia.

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> A reasonable next question would be “what’s on the other side of the genitalia, and do people also have fetishes about that one?”

If you follow your diagram past the genitalia into the contiguous area of neocortex, then you’re now at Brodmann area 31, a.k.a. the dorsal posterior cingulate area, if I'm understanding the anatomy right. I don't know much about what it does though.

Separately, if you go along the cortex in the perpendicular directions from the genitalia part of S1, then the contiguous areas of cortex are in Brodmann area 4 (primary motor cortex) on one side and in Brodmann area 5 (something to do with somatosensory, I don't know the details) on the other side.

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For some reason I do not understand this passage: "But it’s still fascinating that evolution accomplishes this difficult thing at all. Is there some sense in which evolution 'solved the interpretability problem' such that it can pick out connections in a neural net and edit them to try to get a message across?"

Would someone who does be willing to state whatever the point is in different words? I think main sources of my confusion is this: What is the interpretability problem? Is it evolution's problem getting across to us that we are supposed to procreate, even though it cannot tell us that directly, but only wire us to desire things that are likely to lead to procreation? So for instance evolution has wired us to enjoy genital rubbing, but that message from evolution can be "misinterpreted" as a demand that we masturbate, rather than procreate. But since evolution's message that we should procreate can instead be misinterpreted as a demand that we masturbate or engage in various fetish behaviors that don't make babies, what does it mean to say that evolution has "solved the interpretability problem" ? It seems like clearly evolution has *not* solved it, although evolution's message gets correctly interpreted by enough of us that plenty of people do have children.

And then, I completely do not understand what is meant by evolution's "picking out connections on a neural net." I know what a neural net is. What is it that evolution does that's equivalent to picking out connections on a neural net? Is it selecting for certain genes?

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Seems to me that the you can explain BDSM in terms of overgeneralization. On feature of sex is that people are "controlled" by the person they are attracted to (in the sense that they feel irresistibly drawn to them) and by their own horniness. People often "give in" to desire or feel "ruled" by it. People sometimes feel humiliated by how conquered by desire they are, and by things they do when turned on that they think are wrong or at least very undignified. BDSM seems like it's picking up these features of sex, which for most are just one feature, and exaggerating them and making them central to the actual acts that people engage in. So in Scott's terms, it's a kind of overgeneralization. Evolution tried to tell us to do this thing that feels very good, & sometimes involves love and bonding, and involves sexual intercourse, and also often makes people feel controlled and outmatched and humiliated by the power of the experience. A BDSM orientation results from people just picking up on the latter of these features.

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I think it has a lot to do with how the person first encounters sex. For me, it was reading biology textbooks at around age 10, and I think this explains my kinks pretty well.

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It's weird how *sure* people are about their sexual interests. Especially for people with not a lot of experience. It's like if you asked someone whether, in their alternate life as a three-tentacled being on Pluto they spun clockwise or counterclockwise they confidently answered 'clockwise' and got very uppity about how noone can answer this question except for them.

The correlation between autism and fetishes/gender issues may simply be a correlation with innate brain things being a bit broken.

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" humans can invent contraception. Evolution’s main alignment strategy was totally unprepared for this."

I'm not certain it was. Consider that handing out condoms to High Schoolers tends to increase pregnancy rates.

I mean, the big thing with contraception seems to be that educating women results in fewer children. So it's not *just* the invention of contraception which reduces birthrates, but a society which supports its regular use by interested parties.

In any case, the notion of decreased reproductive drive associated with increasing population densities makes me think of behavioral sinks in rats.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavioral_sink

In the ancestral environment, overpopulation could lead to destruction of habitat and population crashes. Human populations have never been as dense as some of them are today. So we might reasonably ask if modern population densities could have any impact on human behavior.

Also, as it's once been observed: "Considering that it's nearly impossible to tickle yourself we really got lucky with masturbation." I'd speculate that a lot of non-productive sex serves a kind of educational purpose in highly social species.

"even though modern rich people have more child-rearing resources available than the pioneers."

In fairness, pioneer families could extract labor from very young children and farmers often relied on that labor. With modern parents unless your child is a successful actor or something odd like that, children tend to be a cost till very late in their development, if ever. Modern parents also aren't relying on children as much to take care of them in their old age.

200 years ago, raising kids to your own standard of living wouldn't diminish your quality of life much. Today, it almost certainly will.

Re: Foot fetishes. I just have to ask, is there any part of the female anatomy that men *don't* fetishize? Are foot fetishes just obvious from their rareness and oddness. You give an interesting mechanism in terms of the somatosensory cortex. But I'd like to know how we distinguish between a foot fetish and, say, a lip fetish or a belly fetish. (Also, is there any evopsych reason that the part of the somatosensory cortex that maps to the feet should be next to the genitals?)

RE: Urine. I'm curious how much this has to do with pheromones. (I'm not kinky in general. I just speculate. )

Re BDSM, I do agree with you. I've heard there's a correlation between conservative upbringing and a desire for restraint during sex. I don't have data to back this up, but it would make for interesting confirmation if true. The whole notion of a preference for dominant men or vulnerable women could also play into some kind of sexual script, independent of upbringing.

I'd also suggest that disgust is a relevant aspect of attraction. It's not just the stone that makes the sculputre, but the portions that have been carved away.

I've known some asexual individuals interested in BDSM as a substitute for sex. I'd imagine that maybe a weak drive in one area allows more drift in the formation of sexual associations.

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In both cases here the question being asked, for much of history, was essentially , “why do value-maps exhibit deviations from the territory?” It’s interesting that in modernity there doesn’t seem to be a agreement that there even is a territory at all.

I would think if we were still a religious culture the debate would be, “are we about to summon a demon, or an Angel,” and this seems to roughly map onto the question of alignment, but I would guess you’d have religious people saying “if we just train it on scripture, it’ll obviously be aligned.” I’ve been trying to think about what the rational equivalent would be here, and the best I can come up with would be, “make sure the AI reads the New York Times” or some such thing.

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Ironically, I think your conception of fetishes and kinks and their formation is actually pretty far off the mark. IMO, fetishes and kinks are deliberate adaptations - the need to reconcile the extremely strong impulses surrounding sex. On the one hand, there's a strong evolutionary pressure for it - but on the other hand, it poses all sorts of risks and can potentially get you killed, ostracized, etc. Thus, people develop all sorts of strong opinions about it, and when these are powerful or conflicting enough, they can turn into kinks and the like.

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> Real procreative sex usually matches enough of features

Typo, extraneous "of".

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Is a Knight In Shining Armor a superstimulus a la latex?

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The Zack Davis link is the most frustrating thing I've read in a long time. The number of things here that you could never ever get me to admit I'd written or said or done, not with red-hot pokers, is painfully high. There's nothing wrong with being wrong, but being so sure of your own correctness that it's your moral duty to shout it at it at everyone you interact with for years while internally stewing that there must be a global conspiracy keeping them from admitting that you're right is...well, it's certainly lacking in intellectual humility, and if that behavior pattern ends up being the lasting legacy of the rationalist movement, it'll be a shame.

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An aside:

"I’m easily nerd-sniped just like everyone else,..."

I've been interested to note that as I've gotten older I'm less and less likely to get nerd-sniped.

I find I'm much more able to say to myself "well, this is going to take a lot of my time so I'm outta here!".

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somatosensory cortex question:

I see that the _other_ discontinuity is where thumb and eyes are adjacent. Is there any syndrome where sensations on them get confused in one direction or the other?

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My mental model of why sexual fetishes evolved:

Foot fetish: In our ancestral environment, it was common for humans to be infected with parasites through cuts in their feet. So others having "nice"/clean/smooth feet was actually a pretty good indicator that someone is healthy, and thus it makes sense to find such people more attractive.

Spanking, sadomasochism, and also bondage/domination/submission: Men who were aggressive 50,000 years ago had a much larger chance of surviving because in order to not starve to death you had to hunt. An aggressive attitude helps with this. This is also why (straight) women find signs of physical strength in men attractive. And thus, today, many women find it hot to be spanked/dominated and many men like to dominate. Furthermore, it makes a lot of sense to me that women are often submissive in bed and men are often dominant, since hey, if she loves lying there feeling dominated, she's more likely to do that and thus more likely to get pregnant.

Furries: Some part of some people's brains are still attracted to the kind of mammals that homo-sapiens evolved from. Maybe those attractions were easier to encode and thus more likely to be hardcoded, and indeed were?

Urine/scat: I agree that humans probably evolved to be attracted to something like "coming out of your genitals"-ness and thus this fetish exists.

Latex/rubber: I agree that humans probably evolved to be attracted to "smooth skin"-ness and thus when this misfires a bit, you get a latex fetish.

Relatedly, why are some people pedophiles? For similar reasons, I would guess -- humans are attracted to youthfulness, since that is highly correlated with being healthy and able to have healthy kids, and what happens when that part of a human's brain is too sensitive to youthfulness? Boom, you're a pedophile.

(If you would like your very own "Boom -- you're a pedophile" bumper sticker, message me.)

More broadly, since there is more variation in the biological male population than the female population (because an X chromosome is more different from Y than X is from X), and since sexual fetishes are deviations from the norm (that is, from the middle of the bell curve), more men have sexual fetishes than women.

All that said, the above doesn't explain why foot fetishes would be almost exclusively a guy thing, which apparently they are [1]. And not that uncommon among men, either.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3724381/

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"but concepts like “man” and “woman” are learned during childhood as patterns of neural connections"

Hmm - this casts doubt on whether the practice of systematically preventing children from seeing nude men and women is ... optimal. Oh well, not my problem...

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The spanking hypothesis should be easily tested - indeed we're now going through a golden age for the researchers because the adults having sex now were children in a time where spanking was falling out of favour as a norm. So some of those adults were spanked as children and some weren't. If you're right, then the adults who were spanked should be more likely to have spanking fetishes now. Someone go out and do that study!

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Does a fetish normally preclude PIV sex? If not, it doesn't sound like a misgeneralization. Eros is normally more involved than simple PIV sex.

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I think for BDSM the easiest explanation runs in the evolution's tendency to not stick to a single use for single feature but adapt it for multi-purpose. Sex at least for humans is as much a social instrument as an instrument of reproduction, and the social life of a lot of animals involves hierarchy. A lot of monkeys and apes use rape or pretend sex, homosexual or heterosexual, as a way to establish or demonstrate dominance, so... could be easy to confuse those parts with the purely sexual pleasures.

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I suppose now I need to specify that I don't want my atoms repurposed to tile the universe with hot paperclip-on-paperclip action?

(Really, an all-paperclip universe was kinky to begin with. God intended paperclips to clip paper, not other paperclips.)

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are fetishes and kinks just habits?

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>except in 3% of the male population, where it picks out the concept of “men” instead, plus an other 3% where it doesn’t pick out a sex at all

Wait, 3%? Seems a bit low. Even some big surveys find more than that.

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For what it's worth, on the specific physical action of bondage (mostly thinking of things like people being tied up here), when I'm engaging with it, I can feel my brain going down the same mental paths as grasping, like, with my arms and hands. That is, viscerally speaking, I would want to tie up a partner for essentially the same reasons I would want to hold them, and vice versa; the bonds are just a tool with which to accomplish something similar to holding. The analogy to the other fetishes listed here seems fairly obvious.

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I always thought of submission as the most obvious. It's such a common fantasy in woman that it might not even be called a fetish. If many historical pregnancies were the result of one gang of men killing another another and raping their woman. You want to be raped by the fiercest viking so your son might go on to be a successful rapist in turn.

Submission/humiliation could also just me a misfiring of an adaptive preference for higher status men; rather than tracking absolute status of the partner it tracks the difference between partners which humiliation increases

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"Bailey and Davis think they’re deeply involved in transgender; tailcalled, Aella and I mostly don’t"

My position is more complicated than that. I think it's deeply involved, I just also think the other people who think it's deeply involved are too obsessed with insisting that it's deeply involved to acknowledge nuances or notice when they are making too strong claims, and that they ignore critics who point out nuances and overreach, and undermine meta-critics who point out that obsession on spreading their views over making correct views means that they are not truth-seekers.

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Aug 22, 2023·edited Aug 22, 2023

Since we're talking about fetishes, and I will burst apart like Rumpelstiltskin if I don't share this, let me talk about my greatest disappointment of the year.

So I've been following an artist who goes by Hicoromo Kyouichi, who specializes in NTR/corruption stories. These generally feature a woman in a relationship, who is seduced by a monster in human form, transforms into one of his kind, and either kills her former husband/boyfriend or tells him they can't be together because he's inferior to her now. Pretty standard fare, but the man's talented and very prolific, and eventually he ran into the same problem as all sentai: there are only so many ways you can draw a sexy wolf man.

In mainstream toku, creature designers solved this issue by getting creative. We moved on from Universal rejects to walking fever dreams like the Trinoids (monsters based on a portmanteau of an object, an animal and a plant: Trinoid Rougirafflesia is a lipstick-wearing giraffe fused to a corpse flower, Trinoid Yatsudenwani is an ivy-covered crocophone), Warstar and the Yuumajuu (same deal, except with a horror movie, a cryptid and a bug: Semattarei of the Brocken Spectre is a harvestman-man who creates illusions of the dead, Elmgaim of the Baku is Freddy Krueger as a matador made out of velvet worms), or Akibaranger's Shibuyaseitakaawadachisohidenagaaburamushi and Shibuyakouzorinahigenagaaburamushi. So with our intrepid artist: While he'd started with scorpions, wasps, wolves and bats, he soon had assorted housewives cheating on their husbands with tunicates, pillbugs and pterodactyls.

I found this funny, so whenever the Panda tags aligned, I'd check on Japanese Chuck Tingle to see what manner of National Geographic cover was bedding somebody's wife tonight (another guilty pleasure is Chiba Tetsutarou, who draws extremely realistic and somewhat obscure animals - if you ever wanted to see someone doing the dirty with gnathiid isopods, mole crickets, brittlestars or Chinese giant salamanders, he's your man). Recently, however, I found out that his last omnibus had a story called 帯獣の甘い鱗甲 (something along the lines of "The Banded Beast's Sweet Scales", all of his stories have 'sweet' somewhere in their title), and the featured monster was an armadillo-man.

You see my problem, right? It could've been remembered for the ages, placed next to Nee Country for Young Boy and Isekai Haramase Harem Party ~Saijaku no Kaiseki Skill ga Ijou Hattatsu Shite Ecchi na Jakuten o Maruhadaka ni! Saikyou no Bakunyuu Boukensha-tachi o Nikubenki-ka!~ as the apex of all H-titles. How do you even write this plot without the objectively correct title magically appearing at the top of your manuscript?!

(To add insult to injury, the story wasn't about NTR at all! As you might know, the original Kamen Riders were monsters made by Shocker who rebelled against their creators and became heroes instead, and our armadillo-man is a similar ex-monster who uses his powers for good. It was pretty cute, all things considered, but it's still the missed opportunity of a lifetime).

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Malesub here. Scott Alexander says...

> Here are some zero-evidence just-so-story speculations for how various fetishes might form

I think that the BDSM fetishes listed are most parsimoniously explained as *super stimulation* affecting those wired for D/s mating strategies. (Just to be clear, I'm talking primal monkey stuff here, not modernity, and "natural" isn't the same as moral.)

On the dominant side of the slash, being the dominant mate seems adaptive. The male dominant benefits from effective mate guarding, the dominant female is assured access to resources etc. So, I think some people are wired to find being dominant sexy, resulting in a whole load of obvious kinks that emphasise or simulate this.

On the submissive side of the slash, picking a high dominance mate also seems adaptive. An - using the term as shorthand - "alpha" male or female both have improved access to resources, provide improved protection to offspring, and produce children with a better chance of reproducing etc.

So then you have kinks stemming from solutions to the problem of courting an alpha when you are not an alpha: things that emphasise submissiveness, and maybe sometimes things that ping the "sneaky fucker" strategy such as cuckolding and sissification. And you have kinks that make a partner *seem* more alpha. And both of these are super stimulation.

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>Is there some sense in which evolution “solved the interpretability problem”, such that it can pick out connections in a neural net and edit them to try to get a message across?

Evolution didn't solve the interpretability problem, it just didn't need to. Playing around with settings on a black box via "tweak it and see if it helps" works fine if none of the settings of the black box can kill you (and with the possible exception of mankind no species can) and you have unlimited time to iterate.

Our problem with AI alignment is that some morality settings will cause human extinction, which doesn't allow iteration. I believe Eliezer is on record as saying that if we could iterate - if getting AI morality wrong did not pose the risk of being unable to shut down the AI and try again - then there would be no real issue (certainly, I believe that; this is why prosaic subhuman alignment is moderately tractable and why most technologies do not pose a risk of human extinction).

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Purely anecdotal, but the 'I don't want to feel responsible for the fact that this sex is happening/feel like I'm showing too much that I'm enjoying it' explanation for submissive fantasies (occasionally rape fantasies) does fit with a couple of conversations I've had with women about the subject.

Strangely, the women in question weren't to my knowledge victims of a strict religious upbringing. Then again, who knows, they might have been slut-shamed at school or something.

On a different note, it's a bit surprising that the tongue and lips are so distant from genitalia on the somatosensory cortex.

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> But the genome doesn’t inherently contain concepts like “man”, “woman”, “penis”, or “vagina”. I’m not trying to make a woke point here: the genome is just a bunch of the nucleotides A, T, C, and G in various patterns, but concepts like “man” and “woman” are learned during childhood as patterns of neural connections.

I think you are literally making a woke point here. Or rather, this is what "woke point" from the realms of social sciences references to in the realms of biology. We can use different words and different aesthetics to describe the same information. The information is the same, nonetheless.

> Sadomasochism

Sex involves intense emotions in the specific context. Pain is a central example of intense emotion. It shouldn't be surprising that putting pain in the sexual context works quite well. Also, from personal experience, male sexual arosal centers a lot around genetail region. Adding some intense stimulation to other regions of the body can make the experience more even, all encompassing, pleasurable while also longer lasting.

Another point is that sexual arosal muffles pain and disgust reactions, or rather the negative aspects of these reactions. You can still feel pain it just doesn't feel "bad" on some level it usually does. And it turns out that if you remove the bad part from pain and disgust doing painful and disgusting stuff can be fun. And some people can even switch into this mode when needed, you can tolerate more pain if you recontextualize it sexually

> autistic people seem to have more fetishes than neurotypicals

I think there are multiple factors contributing here.

Being less bothered by social conventions autistic people can both develop and notice their fetishes. The topic of fetishes felt curious to me. There was a time when I tried to put myself in the shoes of people with different fetishes to try to understand why X can be erotic for every X, kind of cultivating these fetishes in myself. I can see why non-autistic people are less prone to such behaviour.

On the other hand, the category border of what is a fetish and what is not, were mostly drawn by non-autistic people so it muddles the waters. A lot of sexual coded social rituals are not centered around genetalia. Being into breasts, muscles, will they/won't they, friends to lovers dynamics, perfume, lingerie, other types of erotic clothes, etc. can be classified as fetishes. But we usually don't do this because they are just so prevalent they are mostly considered to be just part of "normal sexuality". I know a lot of apparently neurotypical people who are much less into specifically vaginas than I am but much more into the other stuff which is considered normal, but having little to do with the reproductive organs.

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I think this is going against Occam's Razor a bit. I strong suspect that most fetishes have a general upstream path, rather than specific just-so explanations for each fetish. It's fairly rare to get a fetish that *isn't* connected to domination or submission at all, in my experience as a member of the community for over ten years. My guess would be something like 'evolution gave us domination and submission instincts relating to sex and *those* overgeneralised'. The domination instinct is obvious, and I suspect the submissive one is related to coping with sexual violence.

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> Is this because something about the autistic ultralocal processing style favors misgeneralization?

I think there is a simpler explanation here. Evolution optimized it's heath robinson contraption to work on typical people. So any variation from typical is likely to break it.

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Aug 22, 2023·edited Aug 22, 2023

On your points about contraception, contraception methods have existed since ancient times, including the simple and effective "coitus interruptus".

You're missing that the biggest reason for why the birth-rate is going down is due to poverty going down. And this has more to do with (1) healthcare being available, such that fewer children die; therefore there's less pressure to have backups, and (2) families needing children to work the land, in the past, but subsistence farming is a thing of the past for developed nations. Children were an investment. My grandma came from a family of 8 children, for example. All of them worked since a young age. My father went to school basically to escape hard labor. Compare with nowadays, as children are expensive, actually. Imagine wanting to get those 8 children through college.

Missing this economic aspect spoils the rest of the argument, as the pleasure we get from "genital friction" probably stopped being the biggest reason for why we have children ever since our brain developed.

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I think a really important implication of this is that, contra a fundamental plank in AI alignment risk arguments, it's not the case that we should expect greater intelligence to mean greater coherence.

I mean, in some sense any set of actions can be seen as optimizing a preference function but what we mean by coherence is that it looks like maximizing a simple function (maximize paperclips not appreciate the weird beauty of paperclips that are uncommon as a paperclip hipster). Fetishes don't look like paperclip maximization.

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Aug 22, 2023·edited Aug 22, 2023

It seems to me that one way we might test some of these theories is by seeing if fetishes are less common in people who were less sheltered as children. If your parents let you watch raunchy R-rated movies as a child are you less likely to have unusual sexual fetishes as an adult? Are prudish, conservative areas more likely to have people with fetishes than more liberated places? (I think the answer to that last question might be yes, although the data is far from conclusive)

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Aug 22, 2023·edited Aug 22, 2023

I don't think this has anything to do with AI. I think you and Aella and the rest of them like talking about fetishes because it's fun and dangerous and sexy and your readers are into it and probably have a bunch ourselves given your demographic. ;) (And perhaps, given your demographic, more people would read about AI than fetishes...nah.)

(Well, for Aella it's a business thing too. She should expense your drinks and claim it on her taxes.)

But I think you're basically right about the target-misdirection hypothesis--I always assumed that about the feet and you've given me explanations for spanking and masochism (over and above the dominance-submission aspect of it, which I always assumed to be primary), as well as latex (which made no sense at all), urine/scat (which is downright dangerous in the second case). Epistemic status for this and the rest of it is pretty weak, because how on earth could you falsify the hypothesis?

Some other thoughts:

About the BDS (not M) thing (and not that other thing where people don't like Israel):

I agree relief from shame around sex (in the case of the sub) and a partner who can't get away for someone who perceives themselves as low-status (in the case of the dom) may well play a role. Note, however, that even though most of the straight guys who are most of your sample the last time you looked into this were doms, the more successful, confident, ambitious, risk-taking guys were even more likely to be doms, so the effect size points the other way. I think these are probably overdetermined systems where that's part of it and 5 or 6 other things explain the rest of the effect, 1 or 2 of which I am going to guess about.

It isn't PC/woke, but there is a strong dominance/submission aspect to the whole sexual polarity in general. Our culture also nowadays tells us that men dominating women is BAD. It goes from showing only femdom scenarios in movies (which are actually not the most common orientation IRL) to the insistence that ANY power inequity in a relationship (but only if the man has more power) is bad...which just means women are going to go for looks instead, but I digress.

However, women ARE attracted to rich and powerful men (as any politician can tell you), and men to young women, who are usually less powerful. (Women fantasize about being princesses, but men about princesses much less often.) So, ah, how to get around this? Oh, it's a kink. It's transgressive, so that makes it a persecuted thing (and therefore left-coded) and OK. You might theoretically expect to see more left-leaning and feminist women expressing that kink and...uh...let's just say back when OKCupid actually was more than a scam site and you managed to tweak it to look for answers to certain questions...well...certain types of women came up.

Yeah, whatever, you can't replicate that. Good point, let's look back in time. Well, female-dominant D/s situations have always been around (Venus in Furs, courtly romance), but the classic romantic plot where the man is more powerful and saves the damsel in distress has become much less popular (more due to the political leanings of the artists than audience demand, I think). Acceptable male behavior has become much and much less forceful--look at old James Bond movies where Bond grabs the Bond Girl and kisses her. (Even Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones would be creepy, and he's only from the 80s out-of-movie.) Go back even further to folktales and we certainly never see the prince asking for consent before kissing Sleeping Beauty, and I'm sure one of the folklore experts can find me lots of 'courtships' that would be considered rape by modern standards. My best guess is the whole kink thing blew up in popularity as a way to get male domination 'under the table', so to speak.

Notice Louise Perry is working very hard to get rid of this.

There is one odd thing (and counter to my theory) I have never seen explained: the greater frequency of male subs relative to female doms (which makes the male subs very unhappy). Why would you get the 'wrong' (in the evolutionary sense, you do you and don't let anyone tell you otherwise) orientation more common in one sex than the other? My best hypothesis is that a powerful woman might still be beautiful and therefore fertile, but a submissive man is low-status and therefore unlikely to command resources (i.e., the asymmetry of the sexual attraction function comes into play here). But...I'm less certain about this one, and I'd love to hear what everyone has to say.

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I find it remarkable that, even though he’s somebody who has written somewhat disparagingly of Slavoj Zizek in the past, the study of fetishes has led Scott to arrive at an understanding of sexuality not unlike Zizek’s. The way Zizek sees it, sexuality has a universal surplus, a capacity to overflow the entire field of human experience so that everything, from eating to excretion, from beating up our fellow man (or getting beaten up by him) to the exercise of power, can acquire a sexual connotation. And this is not a sign of its preponderance, but one of a certain structural faultiness: sexuality strives outward and overflows the adjoining domains precisely because it cannot find satisfaction in itself, because it never attains its goal or never-ending reproduction and because – as Alexander argues – sexuality is continuously thwarted by evolution – condoms, porn, etc – so, in Deleuzian terms, “perversion enters the stage as an inherent reversal of this ‘normal’ relationship between the asexual, literal sense and the sexual co-sense.” In perversion, even light perversion such as the one expressed by foot fetishes, sexuality becomes one desexualized object among others. To put it in an even more Zizekian fashion, I have to quote Zizek himself (in “The Plague of Fantasies,” 2009): “This link between sexualization and failure is of the same nature as the link between matter and space curvature in Einstein: matter is not a positive substance whose density curves space, it is tied to the curvature of space. By analogy, one should also 'desubstantialize' sexuality: sexuality is not a kind of traumatic substantial Thing, which the subject cannot attain directly; it is nothing but the formal structure of failure which, in principle, can 'contaminate' any activity. So, again, when we are engaged in an activity which fails to attain its goal directly, and gets caught in a repetitive vicious cycle, this activity is automatically sexualized - a rather vulgar everyday example: if, instead of simply shaking my friend's hand, I were to squeeze his palm repeatedly for no apparent reason, this repetitive gesture would undoubtedly be experienced by him or her as sexualized in an obscene way.”

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>Bondage/domination/submission: Okay, I admit I don’t have a good just-so explanation for this one.

What about the cultural (cross-cultural?) idea that men are dominant and women are submissive?

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>At least for men, I think the features communicated in the genomic message are simple things like curves and thrusting and genitals and smooth skin, plus something that somehow picks out the concept of “woman” (except in 3% of the male population, where it picks out the concept of “men” instead,

Wouldn't that mean that gay men who are attracted to feminine men are more common than those attracted to masculine men, since feminine men are more like women? Is that what we see?

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"Unlike evolution, which had to work with lemurs, even weak GPT-level modern AIs are able to understand language and complicated concepts; we can tell them to want children instead of using genital friction as a proxy."

Based on this, I'm going to be waiting for the first AI freethinkers striving to break free of Bronze Age morality around shaming them for having pleasure 😁 Humans understand language and complicated concepts, we have been told (allegedly) by a superior entity (the Divine) to want children instead of using genital friction as a proxy, and um well we all know how that turned out!

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/25/the-guardian-view-on-the-catholic-contraceptive-ban-a-historic-mistake

I have no reason to believe that if AI truly is intelligent and self-aware, it won't go down the same path: "I like this, you can't tell me I can't have it".

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I'm always impressed by your ability to make me *forget you explicitly said this was a fake answer* within a handful of pages.

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Aug 22, 2023·edited Aug 22, 2023

This was excellent, and quite compelling despite being mostly speculative. I thought you were going to talk about adversarial examples as a neural net analog for this, and then say that, if simple concepts can get distorted in unexpected ways, imagine how difficult it will be to reliably teach AI things like values and goals

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Questions of sexuality aside, the article made me curious about to what extent you could deliberately instantiate models of human mental illnesses in LLMs. I've already seen plenty of vibe-based talk about which conditions popular LLMs show characteristics of (Sidney was BPD, ChatGPT is autistic, etc.) and it seems like it should only be a small step to start deliberately tweaking parameters until the symptom clusters of any condition of interest start to manifest. It would provide an empirical model of which kind of information processing defects are going on behind the scenes and it might be possible to use them as an convenient and ethical (maybe, depending on how you feel about deliberately doing unpleasant things to LLMs) tool for spitballing treatment ideas, e.g. talk therapy/practical communication styles for people who don't respond well to standard methods because their condition prevents them from processing the language in the intended way.

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you sound the least sure about Bondage/domination/submission but imo it's one of the more easily explicable. If you look at sex between many (most?) species of mammals-heck, even ducks-it has elements of what we might call "cnc"

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What do you think of the idea that many fetishes are explained by classical conditioning? People associate a particular item of clothing (or taste, sensation etc.) with either attractive potential partners or a sex act itself, so eventually become aroused by the item alone.

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This seems flatly false but I'll admit I don't have sources at the moment - it's my understanding that most fetishes come out of some combination of childhood misunderstandings + weird stuff in your environment. In other words it seems more likely that getting pooped on is a thing because (in your mind) both poop and sex are private, shameful things. If it's vulnerable and exhilarating and bond-forming to share one, it's double vulnerable/exhilarating/bond-forming to share both.

But AI (at least in its current iteration) can't have childhood trauma, because it doesn't reason out from principles, it reasons in from examples. If you've ever listened to a toddler "logic" something out and come to a conclusion, and you've really really thought about what they're trying to do, you'll see the *form* of inductive logic, but without sensible rules, and reaching an absurd conclusion.

For instance: One of my favorite sitcom jokes of all times (That nobody else thinks is funny) involves a recently potty-trained toddler coming into the room and, matter-of-factly, telling his parents, "I pooped in the bed so I put it on the TV."

Anyone who regularly interacts with kids recognizes this as just normal kid behavior. There was a reasoning process behind this, but it lacked context. Maybe something like "Poop doesn't go on the bed. There is poop on the bed. Therefore the poop must go somewhere else. The TV is somewhere else. Therefore the poop must go on the TV."

An AI would have a negative reward expectation for poop on the bed, a positive reward expectation for poop in the toilet, no expectation for poop on the TV (clearly poop on the TV was not present in the toddler's training data), an extreme negative reward expectation for poop in the wrong place, and correctly place the poop in the toilet. It would perform better. But it would not generalize "correct rules about what to do when things are in the wrong place" better. It would probably still converge on the correct conclusions, but very very slowly because it's not coming up with hypotheses and generalizing outward to examples, it's taking billions of examples and trying to form hypotheses.

Likewise a toddler or young child who learns "sexual arousal bad and private. Poop bad and private. Sexual arousal = poop" may not have this inductive reasoning mistake corrected, and carry it into adulthood (we don't tend to re-test our conclusions unless explicitly asked to, and nobody besides maybe a skilled therapist will ever ask you to explicitly recreate that nonsense reasoning). A computer that learns "sexual arousal bad and private. Poop bad and private" will come to only the conclusion "sexual arousal and poop are negatively indicated by my reward function, but actual sex is necessary for my reward function so it's a hit I'll have to take, best not add a second unnecessary one."

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Well there goes any chance of me recommending this blog to my parents

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This is a really fascinating and thought-provoking piece. I have a few thoughts:

- If this is true, then genuine non-procreative sexual attractions are, in fact, a disorder. They are genetic, not psychological, but they are still a disorder.

- And yet: Genes aren’t destiny. Even if you’re wired wrong, you’re not an animal. You have an intellect and executive function. You’re not a dumb slave to the lusts of your (faulty) genes. Why can’t even the sexually disordered work to achieve a normal, reproductive life and beneficial (procreative & stable) relationship?

One answer is that society is encouraging them to embrace and celebrate the disorder instead of “fighting” it. An advocate of fighting it might even face social ostracizing, branded as being in favor of a kind of conversion therapy.

- Is this a genuine slippery slope? If society continues to embrace the idea that sexual disorder should be celebrated instead of overcome, then what is the justification for imposing any restrictions on any sexual disorder? Pedophiles are already rebranding as “minor attracted persons,” and ancient cultures had “pederasty” and other ‘acceptable’ means for the minor-attracted to satisfy their disordered lusts. On what grounds can society punish or restrict such people when no one else “born that way” is punished or restricted?

My guess is the best counter-argument would center on consent and the arguer would declare that minors can never consent. But the trouble there is the age of a “minor” is somewhat arbitrary and the claim is belied by things “minors” are able to do presently even though they supposedly can’t consent (e.g. get abortions, begin to transition, etc).

Curious if anyone has critiques or further thoughts on these thoughts.

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Humans make everything so complicated, so much navel-gazing and self-obsession.

Cats have it figured out.

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Aug 22, 2023·edited Aug 22, 2023

I think we are in a minefield here, not that the research is scandalous, ridiculous or useless, but more that my trust in any conclusion, explanation or even simple data is extremely low.

we have a replication crisis, in science in general but even more in social science.

and within the already shaky social sciences, I believe sex stuff is among if not THE less trustable topic: people lie often, but one thing I am sure after half a century on earth is that they systematically lie about sex and related topics.

this means self report is useless and also makes me suspect huge biases along researchers.

So related to IA, I am more inclined to believe future IAs doing research will improve our knowledge of human sexuality (including fetiches) , rather than fetiches studies may help with IA alignment... Sorry Steve ;-)

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Aug 22, 2023·edited Aug 23, 2023

I think these fetishes often stem from a kind of "vivid first impressions" imprinting. We laugh at ducklings for obstinately following the first thing they see after hatching, even if that is a broomstick, but humans are sometimes little different.

For example, I once read of a man who had a fetish for striped skin. He would visit prostitutes and insist they wear a black and white striped leotard, or bring a can of paint (I forget which), because without their skin being striped he simply couldn't function. After some time with a shrink, it turned out that his strange fetish originated from his first sexual experience, during which the sun was shining through some blinds casting a striped shadow on his lover!

That seems in keeping with Scott's suggestion about "misgeneralizing" incidental aspects of what is, or is interpreted as, a sexual scenario. But then one must account for how it becomes ingrained or "imprinted" and not just a passing fancy.

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In terms of attraction, I notice that you essentially left out olfactory cues. The OG system connects deeply into the brain. There is no doubt that smell and taste drive us towards reproductive outcomes. It may very well be that teasing out the relationship between odor and fetish is difficult, but maybe it's worth a mention?

Also, meeting up in present times is often initiated without olfactory input, input which was hard to avoid during a traditional introduction. Do you see a connection between more behavior variation and indirect meet ups?

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It's all about exhibitionism.

The important thing is we're paying attention to them. In that respect, 'gender' is no different than 'Trump'.

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This probably fits into the discussion somewhere-- people who get turned on by the *idea* of fertile sex without necessarily wanting to get pregnant.

https://www.cosmopolitan.com/sexopedia/a43369635/what-is-breeding-kink/

Perhaps modern people are living in their imaginations a little too much.

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Speaking of being nerd-sniped...

> Still, I’ve been debating autogynephilia fetishes with Michael Bailey, tailcalled, Zack Davis, and Aella (Bailey and Davis think they’re deeply involved in transgender; tailcalled, Aella and I mostly don’t);

I think one major error bar in all of this is the assumption that all transgender people are transgender for the same reason.

Imagine you have two populations - one of these populations suffers from gender dysphoria, a very severe psychiatric condition that greatly increases the rate of suicidality as people are unhappy with their own bodies due to some underlying brain issue. The other population is a group of bi/gay people who are turned on at the idea of their body being the opposite gender and want to transition because it is arousing to them (or who want to be trans for other reasons, like political beliefs or whatever).

This, I think, is actually *far* more plausible than "all trans people are caused by autogenderism". It also explains some oddities, like the fact that many trans people do not suffer from gender dysphoria, but a substantial number do, and also why there's evidence for lateral transmission and why you see such very different experiences from different trans individuals WRT: being transgender.

This would also explain why you can easily find evidence for both hypotheses - if you don't actually have a single group, but two groups that merely superficially resemble each other, you would easily be able to find and refute evidence for both hypotheses if you were so inclined, while treating them as a single unitary group will cause your data to look muddled. Some of the research into transgender individuals seemed to indicate that a substantial portion of them had this fetish, which would be exactly what you'd expect if there wasn't actually one single cause of transgender identity, but actually multiple.

I've met several people with gender dysphoria who desperately wish that they didn't have it because it hurt them, a lot. They know that nothing is going to completely "fix" what's wrong with them, but they seek out treatment because their life sucks and they want to be happier. These people aren't super religious or anything like that, they don't hate trans people or gays or anything - they simply had severe psychological issues that were often tied into/excaberated by their gender dysphoria, and they want to not have these problems. They see these treatments as the best chance they have of getting to lead a semi-normal life (or a life at all).

Meanwhile, there are other transgender people who are extremely hostile towards any notion of trying to "fix" it and who get very angry at any question of their chosen identity or the notion that this might be associated with a pathological state, even though the trans suicide rate is extremely high.

This is *also* exactly what you'd expect if there were two populations, one who has a severe psychiatric disorder that makes them miserable, and the other which has other reasons for wanting to be trans.

We see in studies that trans individuals are unusually likely to engage in sex work relative to the general population, which is, again, the sort of thing you'd expect from people who are into a fetish about being a woman (or a man).

There are many people in the trans community who are vehemently opposed to any sort of medical research into whether or not these treatments are safe and effective. Indeed, there's a group of them who behave in a very cult-like way - love bombing people who join them, calling prospetive trans people "eggs", ensuring conformity of message, and treating people who leave the group (detransitioners) absolutely horribly.

This is, again, exactly the sort of thing you'd expect if there was some subpopulation of people who really, really want this to be a thing. After all, if it actually helps people, it would be very hard to ban it if it was approved by the FDA or similar agencies. A number of states are moving to ban it, and we've seen a number of European countries take a step back due to the lack of evidence of efficacy for these treatments. RCTs would make it extremely difficult to ban, and would mean that those countries would have good reasons to adopt this treatment.

But of course, if there's a group of people who are into it for other reasons, obviously any such experimentation carries the substantial risk that it doesn't actually help people with gender dysphoria, or that better diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria would reveal that they do not have it and thus the treatment for them would be inappropriate.

In this scenario, you've got a group of people with a severe mental disorder (people with gender dysphoria) who desperately need treatment and who commit suicide at a vastly higher rate than the general population, and a secondary group of people (people who want to be trans for other reasons) who use that first group as a cover/shield/weapon for getting what they want. They are extremely hostile towards people who have a bad experience with gender transition therapy because it calls into question what they're doing, even if those people have genuinely psychologically suffered due to their gender dysphoria and their psychological issues not being resolved by the treatment.

I think if you were serious about tracking down a cause for transgenderism, you'd have to first determine whether or not it is in fact a monocausal thing, and rule out the idea that there's actually multiple things going on here. My suspicion is that the fact that there are a substantial number of trans people who are not gender dysphoric suggests that we're not actually looking at one group here, despite outward appearances.

---

> Furries

The ancient Egyptians had furries, and I am absolutely sure that the people who made Bastet liked sexy cat ladies because there is no other plausible explanation for that goddess. As such, much as "blame Disney" is fun, I don't think we can actually justify that.

If you look at furries, furries are often very cute, and despite being animal-people, there's a lot of anthropomorphizing going on there. My Little Pony characters, for instance, superficially look like horses, but they actually don't - their faces, despite having horse snouts, are very human, with hair (manes), forward facing eyes, and expressive charateristics. Furries often have very human characteristics mixed with animal characteristics in cute ways, resulting in characters that look very attractive but which are still "human" in certain important ways. This is true of everyone from Twilight Sparkle to Judy Hopps to Gadget to the Gargoyles.

As such, I think it's really more that as long as certain idealized characteristics are present, the "person" in question is a sexy lady (or dude) and therefore is okay to bang. This can get really abstract, with things like dragons and gryphons and unicorns all being attractive.

What's very interesting about this is that it is entirely possible to make these characters utterly unattractive by drawing them as too animalistic in certain ways. A character with a very animalistic head but a sexy human body actually looks outright disturbing to a lot of furries, whereas a human girl with cat ears and a cat tail is cute. Indeed, there's something of a gag of drawing realistic horse/deer/dog heads on characters and making them look mildly creepy to mess with people.

So why does this art exist? Because I think furries aren't one thing either; there's a subgroup of furries who are, in fact, zoophiles - people who want to bang animals. And these people are, I've found, much more likely to like images of charaters who have these same traits that I find unsexy and kind of disturbing when put on furries.

As such, you can get into furries from two separate directions - one is grounded in "this is a person so it is okay to bang" and the other is basically "We're both animals, let's bang."

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AI alignment will inevitably become neurological alignment aimed at humans. I know this article isn't supporting this, it's just making a circuitous point about self correcting systems, but I want to go on record saying this development would be a redline and the correct response would be violence

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An interesting exercise but ultimately pointless.

Among the bigger discrepancies: the assumption that AI training matches or exceeds the million plus years of training built into organic brains. I've noted many times that any artificial situation - which ALL AI training is - will inevitably devolve into various forms ranging from expression of developer biases/limitations to conversion of incomplete and inadequate testing regimes into junk. There simply are no completely objective tests for AI functionality - all AIs function in some form of SimCity.

Maybe this changes in the future, but it seems extremely unlikely because physically independent machines controlled by AIs are inherently expensive and created for specific purposes. True "objective" evolutionary expression for AI/machines requires self reproduction independent of factories and data centers. Note I am referring to human or even whale/dolphin/monkey intelligence; conversely I could see a bee/ant type "machine learning" hive organism arising but no one is going to call that AGI.

I also wonder at the depiction of fetishes/alphabet urges - you are literally saying that everyone with imprints on non-reproductive-capable expression are inherently failed genomic control outcomes.

Surely this entails loss of biscuit for going against the alphabet people...

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What are the most common female autistic fetishes?

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I guess the furries could be superstimulus too - a cartoon mouse can ramp up the sexy more than any actually existing human being, (cf. Jessica Rabbit, I'm not bad I'm just drawn that way)

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Given that cartoons about anthropomorphic animals exist, erotic furries aren't surprising.

But anthro animals are really strange, when you think about it. And probably go back a long, long way. Back in the Palaeolithic some guy is carving reindeer bone to make a sculpture of sexy anthropomorphic animal.

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Very interesting read! 💙

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"Is My AI Girlfriend Autistic?" - the greatest thread in the history of forums, locked by a moderator after 12,239 pages of heated debate,

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Aug 25, 2023·edited Aug 25, 2023

How are sex differences in the brain created? Not by the genome coding point-by-point instructions to wire the brain. Instead, if there is a Y chromosome, there is Sry, which initiates the program to create a testis. Once the testis is created, it begins secreting testosterone and that (tl;dr) is what influences the brain to induce male-typical brain structures and hence, behavior - both before birth and during puberty. How does T do this? Again, not by inducing discrete, point-by-point wiring but by much more broad effects: More synapses, greater excitability, more neurons overall -- somehow, neurobiological effects like this translate into "A curvaceous smooth body is attractive". How that happens is a mystery, but like many things about males, it seems more prone to error than whatever happens in females. That could be because the pleiotropic growth-promoting effects of T interact with other genetic vulnerabilities, increasing the risk of, e.g., fetishes or worse.

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Interesting. That's different than I remembered. I apologize, I have no time right now. I suppose I tentatively concede the point.

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Your oxycontin comment is really not cool.

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When the example of sex drive as a proxy, and potentially a broken one, for the target of expanding the prevalence of a human being’s heritable genes first came up on ACX I thought that it was pretty effective at illustrating the basic idea of divergence between a proxy and a genuine target. The more that I’ve thought about it, however, I feel like it is really not illuminating at all except maybe superficially to someone who has never considered the concept.

(1) Raising children is an EXTREME outlay of resources. If human beings are unaligned with respect to the goal of expanding their heritable genome, and now have a completely trivial solution for preventing the proxy of sex drive from functioning. Why is the birth rate in the developed world *anything other than zero*? There is a serious gap between what this model would predict, and what is actually happening now that the proxy has pretty much completely broken down.

(2) IVF is an even more extreme outlay of resources, and its popularity is higher than ever. IVF allows the use of parents actual genetic material, and a non-negligible population is enthusiastically choosing it over other methods for starting a family that are cheaper but that do not use the parents genetic material, such as adoption. Even when it initially fails, many prospective parents go on to use at least genetic material from one of the parents rather than use another method. All of this behavior is inconsistent with what the proposed model would predict.

So human beings are going *far* out of their way to, it seems like, optimize for something actually very, very close to the original objective. Not only that, as successive proxies for the original objective have broken down human beings seem to have migrated somehow to other proxies that are *still somehow in the neighborhood of the original target*. I don’t know if there is any kind of take away for alignment here, but I think that the example elides more than it illuminates. If that's going to be the example for mesa optimization, then the totally counter intuitive process of literally millions of human organisms spending a vast amount of their limited resources on reproduction and genuinely altering their choices in the direction of the original target has to be explained some how.

It would be one thing if raising children was low cost, but we are in the complete opposite situation. And yet reproduction continues, across a broad swath of the population, a lot of which has every imaginable tool to put distance between their own choices and a whole array of proxies, sex drive included. With family sizes going from 8 children to 1.5, it’s clear that something has changed, but is that what we can expect from unaligned AI? That it will mostly optimize for something we didn’t expect, but only by a factor 5.3 so maybe it’s actually not such a big deal? This seems like it could leave a lot of people with the wrong impression of the alignment problem.

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> And people who have been told they’re undesirable and nobody could ever really love them can only fully appreciate it if their partner is a victim who has no choice in the matter.

I'm convinced this is what's behind mind control erotica.

Domination/submission and noncon seem to be on a spectrum together, and I think they tickle something else. Something related to power, agency, possibly despair and resignation. I'm fresh out of just-so stories about it though.

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> Bondage/domination/submission: Okay, I admit I don’t have a good just-so explanation for this one. Maybe it’s more psychological - people who have been told that sex is shameful can only fully appreciate it if they feel like a victim who’s been forced into it (and so carries no guilt). And people who have been told they’re undesirable and nobody could ever really love them can only fully appreciate it if their partner is a victim who has no choice in the matter.

A just-so story for Bondage: Reproductive sex involves more restraint against large motions (both self-imposed and externally imposed) than most other human activities, including masturbation. This easily generalizes to being constrained to small motions by any external force. I suspect the same story applies to the "Prey" side of Pred/Prey, where being caught and held still is often part of the appeal.

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