2011-08-15

Why women shave and wax

The hirsute women of Reddit, and the men who like them, have been downvoting my attempts to explain that the reason females remove their body hair is not just due to some mere cultural convention, but has deeper causes.

Here's the typical complaint:
We're fucking mammals for fucks sake. Hair is not abnormal. The idea that a woman has to shave and pluck and wax in order to pass muster is abnormal. The solution is for you to stop being so shallow.
I think my following response is my best so far:
The whole reason women shave and pluck and wax is because we're mammals. We have evolved to find people attractive based on their gender traits. We have evolved to associate a certain set of characteristics with manhood, and another set of characteristics with womanhood. Women shave and pluck and wax to differentiate themselves from males. A woman who does this distinguishes herself from women who look more like men. Therefore, females who don't wax are outcompeted on the sex market by those who do.

This entire situation is inevitable. We are brought to this point by evolution and game theory. We don't choose to have these preferences. We are built to prefer women that are more unlike males. Removing hair just helps make you more unlike men.

If you're female, you're burdened by the need to shave and wax. You don't want to have to do it. It's a burden to compete with other females. But you fail to see that the reason you need to play this game is because we are subject to evolutionary pressures. This is the same type of mechanic as what causes deer to have huge antlers.

Be thankful that you can do something as simple as makeup and waxing to vastly improve your attractiveness. I'm a guy, and I'm 5'7". Most women are looking for 6' plus. There's nothing I can do about my height. Now you tell me who is being "shallow".

2011-08-10

The Unemployable

I'm not sure I even need to provide a link to the UK riots. There's already a Wikipedia page about it.

I've recently been considering an idea to which these riots seem to be related. This idea is about the marginally employable - or quite possibly, unemployable.

The society we have right now rewards talent. The more talent you have, the less you need to work to enjoy material comfort. If you have lots of talent, your work can be comfortable and fun, and you might make millions. If you have mediocre talent, you can still prosper if you work hard. If you have no talent, you need to work your bottom off to pay your bills.

With talent distribution being the bell curve that it is, there are bound to be unfortunate people with little to no talent. With talent being somewhat hereditary, a disproportionate number of these are likely to be born to parents who also lack talent. This means that people without talent are more likely to be poor, and the poor are likely to be stuck there.

Not so long ago, if you didn't have a talent to contribute, you could still contribute work. Manual labor was in relative demand. If you could operate a shovel, you could find work.

As time goes by, we are replacing more and more manual labor with machines. This would be wonderful if every manual worker was able to graduate to work that takes more skill, e.g. to operate machines. But it seems to me that this isn't the case. Many people who would have done manual labor in the past, will in the future have fewer and fewer ways to help the economy.

Unskilled people in developed countries are also being squeezed by competition from developing countries. At the moment, there remain many jobs that employ manual labor. But these jobs seem to have been exported to developing countries where labor costs are lower. The people suffering the most from this are unskilled people in developed countries. The jobs that remain in developed countries take more skill. The unskilled workers have to compete for those jobs with skilled people, and are losing.

This situation pretty much requires governments to step in and bridge the gap. They have done so. The cost of cheaper products from abroad is a more expensive social state, which needs to help the unskilled workers as long as unskilled jobs remain exported.

I don't see a way of fixing that, other than allowing companies in developed countries to compete with developing countries on the same terms as permitted there. This means the same low pay, and the same lack of protection laws. This would make unskilled workers even worse off than on social welfare, so it's unlikely to happen unless the social state goes broke.

In several more decades, developing countries will become developed. Their salaries will rise, and unskilled jobs will start to come back to countries they came from.

But will a large enough number of unskilled jobs come back, or will technological progress cause the number of unskilled jobs to still be exceeded by the unskilled workers in the population?

On the one hand, national IQ levels are rising over time. I attribute this to the dominance of genes that lead to intelligence, which proliferate as people mix.

However, I suspect that technological progress will be faster than the rate of natural human improvement. Unless we invent ways of improving ourselves, I suspect that an ever-larger portion of humanity is going to find themselves on the margins of the global economy. They will be in a state where they cannot contribute, because all the work they can do will be done more efficiently through automation. In a state of ultimate technological progress, where all aspects of the production of any good are automated, there will no longer be space for the existence of anyone but the brainiest individuals, and those providing personal services to them. Everyone else will have no way of earning goods, unless they receive them as a gift from those who still play a part in the economy. It might be a direct gift, such as in charity, or a systematic gift, such as in a social state; but it will be a gift nevertheless.

Unless we invent technology to improve human mental abilities, an ever larger share of the population will become dependent on the sheer generosity of an ever smaller pool of people who have skills to contribute. Whether this generosity will be forthcoming, and in what form, is up for anyone to speculate.

We could change our system to reward effort, rather than the good it does. But that's what communism did, and it impedes progress through misuse of resources. It is better for everyone to keep rewarding that which has results, and therefore to reward talent, while giving away part of the proceeds as social welfare.

One could argue that a social welfare state where everything of value is produced by a few people, and everyone else is on welfare, could be similar to heaven. Why, yes, that in fact could be the case. We could live very well in an automated system where most of us are not needed, or even useful, in the production of what we consume.

But for examples of states where the needs of citizens can be provided for without their input, look only at countries like Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, or Saudi Arabia. Their oil exports are 40-50% of GDP, and the rest is, to a smaller or greater extent, foreign workers. Instead of creating heaven on Earth, material security has enabled these nations to indulge in dysfunctions from cultivating religion to oppressing women.

Either way, the outcome is questionable. I think a much better bet is technology to improve how well we think.