The Internet lets people indulge in wild fantasy, and Twitter is more like World of Warcraft than is commonly assumed: this effect might also be more pronounced in “smart” people than dumb ones. Being smart, or high IQ, isn’t a shield from this effect either, and if anything it may make you more susceptible to these effects. Being rich also insulates a person from the effects of excessive fantasy: the richer we are, the more we seem able to indulge fantasy, because our base human needs are met.
To be good with women, you should be able to suspend disbelief and create an alternate reality, for women to step into, but that skill can be dangerous in regular life. Or useful. Along with suspending disbelief, rock-solid frame helps a lot with women, and thus the emphasis on bringing the woman into your world and worldview. Some guys seem to forget that that frame is a creation, and they carry it through on everything, even when it’s not correct.
You see this a lot with doctors, for example, some of whom are they’re so used to being seen as experts they think they know everything about everything. Peter Thiel in his book on business and philosophy and secrets,
It’s easy to assume that natural secrets are the most important: the people who look for them can sound intimidatingly authoritative. This is why physics PhDs are notoriously difficult to work with—because they know the most fundamental truths, they think they know all truths. But does understanding electromagnetic theory automatically make you a great marriage counselor? Does a gravity theorist know more about your business than you do? At PayPal, I once interviewed a physics PhD for an engineering job. Halfway through my first question, he shouted, “Stop! I already know what you’re going to ask!” But he was wrong. It was the easiest no-hire decision I’ve ever made.
If anything, physics PhDs are probably worse with people than the average person. But there are also a bunch of professions that specialize in creating fantasy. Sales. Marketing. Even something like restaurants, with the hostess (often sexy), the waiters making you feel good (for money), and so forth. Strippers and sex workers are really creating the feeling that a guy is important, more than providing just sex or sexual stimulation. Sex and sexual stimulation are pretty commodity. Making a guy feel important is special and also difficult: that’s what OnlyFans girls are doing. Pr0n is a cheap, essentially free commodity, due to torrents and streaming sites, but a hot woman’s attention, or a simulacrum of her attention? Still has some value, it seems.
For guys, particularly nerdy guys, it helps to let go of the programmer or engineer brain when women come along, because few women care about being “right” or learning highly technical information. They’re very interested, however, in thoughts, feelings, and inner worlds, so a guy who wants to be good with women needs to learn to tap into the fantasy, narrative piece, because that’s what women want. It’s why I don’t fight over political comments with women. Lots of women, for example, have a superficial feminist stance… and if I’ve not slept with her already, I usually let minor statements about “feminism” go (if she’s deep into that world, run). Most often, one millimeter beneath the feminist stance, there’s a girl who wants to be seduced by an attractive, high-value man, just like her mother did, and her mother’s mother, and so on. When I was younger, I’ve made the mistake of talking about ideas with women, instead of experiences, tactile subjects, dreams, desires, and so on: the topics that make girls engaged and fun. “Girls just want to have fun” is the best song for understanding women, ever. She’s bored much of the time, and wants the guy to set up stimulation, excitement, and adventure, but she doesn’t do it for herself because most women don’t act, they follow.
I have f**ked “feminists” who’d be absolutely appalled by what I really think: but my goal is not to get her forebrain to realize that she’s fundamentally still a girl who wants to follow and be dominated and have a man take care of her, sexually and otherwise, and that I’m a guy who wants to f**k her brains out and do man things, and my goal is to f**k her, and not try to change her political beliefs, however poorly they match up with what attracts her. “Political” beliefs are too large scale for action. “Do I get up in the morning and go to work or school?” is small scale enough for action.
In dating, “right” means f**king, and “wrong” means not. She may have beliefs that are incongruent with her actions, but making her “congruent” is not my goal.
So, we live in this super wealthy world, which supports the creation of fantasy worlds. COVID has been interesting because some people with false beliefs about the world suffered horribly and directly from their false beliefs. If you were a 19th century person and had wrong ideas about how to farm, you’d die. Literally. Today, we’re often far removed from having wrong ideas leading to immediate tactile feedback, which is good overall, but allows us to wallow in maladaptive beliefs that signal tribal allegiances, and to live lives of powerful fantasy. Sales and marketing were much smaller professions in the 19th Century. Thiel tells the nerds who read his book not to underestimate marketing,
In Silicon Valley, nerds are skeptical of advertising, marketing, and sales because they seem superficial and irrational. But advertising matters because it works. It works on nerds, and it works on you. You may think that you’re an exception; that your preferences are authentic, and advertising only works on other people. It’s easy to resist the most obvious sales pitches, so we entertain a false confidence in our own independence of mind. But advertising doesn’t exist to make you buy a product right away; it exists to embed subtle impressions that will drive sales later. Anyone who can’t acknowledge its likely effect on himself is doubly deceived.
Just like everyone thinks they see through the fog of politics or what have you. My beliefs are commonsense; your beliefs are the result of manipulation and persuasion. How do we test our beliefs against reality? Responsibility is one aid to belief: doctors or pharmacists with wrong ideas about how a drug works will harm patients and eventually be driven out of their profession (which is not to say all doctors are right all the time: but they have a more immediate feedback cycle for being right). Hard times show you who someone is much better than soft times do. When times are good and easy, it’s easy to ignore someone’s inaccurate or even harmful statements and actions. When times are bad and hard, that’s much harder, and, when someones shows you who he is, believe him.
Men typically figure out the world a little before women do, because sex is the primary driver for action/behavior, and women don’t need to act to get sex. Women typically have a looser grasp of the world because the feedback loop between their choices and the way the world responds to them loosens the connection between the two. There is a similar divergence in feedack loops when you compare VCs to hedge fund managers. VCs typically won’t know if any of their ideas are any good for 7-10 years, the life of a fund. By that time it’s too late to change what they’re doing. They typically only get one shot. Women often continuously choose bad male partners, optimizing for the wrong things (family, especially parents, choosing spouses used to reduce this mis-optimization somewhat). But because life just happens to them, they aren’t aware they are doing the choosing, and they believe the guys choose them. Many men get lost in “red pill” or “pickup” and spend most of their time fantasizing. And yet they’re unable to bring that ability to generate and live in a non-reality into their interactions with women, because they don’t see that both situations require a suspension of disbelief.
We see powerful left-wing fantasies too… indulging in fantasy is a bipartisan phenomenon. In the 1920s – 1960s, for example, a lot of otherwise smart people on the left let themselves be infatuated by communism. I find the psychological mechanisms that lead people to take up maladaptive causes to be super interesting. Today, a powerful left-wing fantasy that’s easily falsifiable is the absurd idea that biological sex is somehow a “spectrum.” It’s not. If you put two people, both with XX chromosomes, together, you’re not getting a child out of that. Biological sex is a binary, but denying that it exists puts you on a team, in much the way that COVID denial puts someone on a team. COVID denial can have much more severe consequences, though, and those consequences spread—virally. Truthfulness and the ability to parse real-world data matter. Normal people (they’re out there!) don’t want to acquire a potentially serious disease and normal people who are on the younger side really really don’t want to spread it to their elderly family members, something that’s easily forgotten in certain precincts online. Sometimes the normal have a wisdom lacking in those who think they see through the matrix. Some of the people who are very online seem to have few real family or social connections in the real world, and it shows in their strident disregard for others. The socially adrift can gather together online and reinforce one another, which can have some positive consequences but may have some negative ones.
It’s easy to criticize things you’re not in charge of. Regarding COVID, to use one salient moment, it’s easy to pretend COVID is not a big deal if you’re not treating patients, organizing hospital capacity and ensuring it’s there, running an organization (where deciding “COVID doesn’t matter” will lead to your workers getting sick and perhaps dying), which fits the theme of twitter being for pretending and posturing. If there are no consequences for your beliefs, you can have any belief you like! Random guys on the Internet can believe whatever they like about COVID, but if doctors do, people will die. There’s a real asymmetry of feedback to belief, and an asymmetry in terms of responsibility. We can see this sort of thing on a grand scale in electing fantasists to high office. One recent fantasist may be more fantastical than the American voter, arguably: the one I’m thinking of lost the popular vote twice.
There is a tremendous gap between the people who do the actual work of keeping a society running, or the healthcare element of a society, and the people who are yammering costlessly online. One group has responsibility for real people, and the other group is wanking online, and we should keep track of which is doing which. I notice the difference between the valor of some of my friends (many of them women, I will add), who worked hard and often perilously to save lives during the epidemic, and the sneering dismissiveness of people online who are far from the front lines, and who think minor inconveniences in the pursuit of not transmitting a highly contagious disease are too much to bear. One group has responsibilities; the other is chucking rotten bananas on Twitter.
Almost all guys writing about the game seem to have oddly thin family and friend worlds and connections. Maybe that’s an artifact of writing anonymously. Normal people, though, don’t want to get their friends and families sick, for obvious reasons. But if you don’t have any of those connections or responsibilities, it’s probably easier to shrug and say, “Whatever.”
Any statistical argument is more prone to misinterpretation than a classical calculus argument. Thiel some more,
There are several different frameworks one could use to get a handle on the indeterminate vs. determinate question. The math version is calculus vs. statistics. In a determinate world, calculus dominates. You can calculate specific things precisely and deterministically. When you send a rocket to the moon, you have to calculate precisely where it is at all times. It’s not like some iterative startup where you launch the rocket and figure things out step by step. Do you make it to the moon? To Jupiter? Do you just get lost in space? There were lots of companies in the ’90s that had launch parties but no landing parties.
But the indeterminate future is somehow one in which probability and statistics are the dominant modality for making sense of the world. Bell curves and random walks define what the future is going to look like. The standard pedagogical argument is that high schools should get rid of calculus and replace it with statistics, which is really important and actually useful. There has been a powerful shift toward the idea that statistical ways of thinking are going to drive the future.
With calculus, you can calculate things far into the future. You can even calculate planetary locations years or decades from now. But there are no specifics in probability and statistics—only distributions. In these domains, all you can know about the future is that you can’t know it. You cannot dominate the future; antitheories dominate instead. The Larry Summers line about the economy was something like, “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but anyone who says he knows what will happen doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Today, all prophets are false prophets. That can only be true if people take a statistical view of the future.
The misuse of statistics lets people support spurious arguments. And there are guys who’ve already put this in a political context and are thinking about commenting about a set of policies or beliefs I don’t have. But if you come to a sufficiently wrong answer and you’re in a position of sufficient power to implement that wrong answer, you get disaster. Sometimes, it takes a lot of disaster to make a point. There are still a few communists running around today, or people arguing that “real communism has never been tried.”
The situation is somewhat like the “three-body problem,” a problem where you only have an iterative solution and there is no equation that can solve for it. Most people can’t handle a number of perspectives.
Maybe I still can’t, and I definitely couldn’t when I was younger. In jobs when I was a kid, I’d often think the managers were idiots, in part because I’d never managed anything or been in charge of anything, and had to balance competing interests. When I started being the boss, it gave me a lot more respect for and empathy for bosses. Some bosses still suck, but sometimes a boss who seems like an idiot is facing problems the line workers don’t see.
Still, although the comments above may imply that only reality matters, alternate realities are valuable because it’s the only way you can create something great. That’s how entrepreneurship works. Theranos is an example of alternate reality going too far. Tesla and SpaceX are examples of just barely making it. Musk, and the many others who worked on Tesla and SpaceX, did have a strong technical basis for knowing that what he wanted to accomplish, could be accomplished. That they executed is borderline miraculous. Musk is someone who has a strong vision for the future but also a strong sense of what is possible and what has to be done, and he doesn’t lie to himself, mostly, except about timelines and the validity of self-driving. His timelines are delusional but the fundamental products aren’t. One paradox of entrepreneurship is you need a vision of a future that doesn’t exist combined with the ability to execute that vision, and a lot of people have one or the other but not both. Entrepreneurs need to incorporate feedback.
Some hot women have terrible personalities because guys will put up with endless bullshit for a chance to f**k them. Guys have a strong incentive to say yes to whatever they say or do. It’s easy for them to never or rarely take negative feedback seriously: It’s always someone else’s fault or circumstances, or it’s just unfair. I do have empathy for them though, it would be nearly impossible to experience the world in the true way. How could they react any other way? Their world is constructed on positive feedback and desire from men. A sufficiently hot woman sees the world very differently than a typical guy does. Their reality is highly mediated by male desire. Is your world the highly mediated world of Twitter, or the very concrete real world?
How can someone be really good in one domain, but not in another? Maybe it’s just a contrarian stance in general? But the problem w/ stuff like HCQ or vitamins or whatever, is that we have a lot of research on the topic. That’s the subject of The most stridently asserted opinions will disappear down the memory hole: the people vigorously arguing one thing a few months ago have completely forgotten they ever argued it. The problem is the unwary who took their advice: some paid with their health or life.
The problem with having “I’m a contrarian” as a basic orientation to reality is that in many cases, the consensus view is right. Being against the consensus view merely because it’s consensus is not a path to being more right.
One guy observed in private that red pill and pickup is “an ideology that is based around seeing the world as it is, not as how you wish it to be, and it’s right about a lot, but it’s also produced the most toxic delusional group of people I’ve ever come across.” I don’t quite agree with the assertion, but he has a point. “What is reality? How do we know?” are questions running throughout Red Quest and, I’d argue, throughout life. “Game” is, properly considered, about psychology. And this essay is the same: why do people do what they do? Say what they say?
The higher IQ you are, and the further you are from the precipice of physical disaster, the better you are at rationalizing, and inventing. Rationalize and invent while a hurricane bears down, and you might die from your inventiveness. We probably didn’t evolve high IQ to get at the truth: we did it to seduce each other and form coalitions. We do team games, and “team games” often don’t include “understand things that are factually true.”
It helpful to cultivate creating fictional worlds as a skill and being able to use it with women, while also being aware that you’re doing it, rather than it happening passively. In other words, don’t believe your own bullshit. The guys at the Capitol Hill insurrection riot on Jan. 6 came to believe the bullshit, somehow. They’re an easy example. Spending too much time online, too much time in fantasy worlds, can erode your ability to see where the fantasy ends.
5 thoughts on “The Internet fantasy bubble: the gap between the responsible and the spectators”
I love this post. I think this gets at some fundamental things rarely discussed in TRP. I’ve been thinking and writing about reality and it’s shift for a while. The ability to create realities is growing exponentially. There are those who see it and leverage it (Elon), and those who are consumed by it (Pat Stedman). And yet, it has always been this way, nothing new under the sun.
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Great post as usual. Lots to unpack here. You explain things really well. You will make for a great teacher or a journalist/writing paid stuff in newspapers/magazines.
Nothing I didn’t already know but just a refresher on the stuff I already know and drive a pleasure from getting my worldview confirmed/reading someone like minded. We have chatted on here and on email briefly previously too.
“Being rich also insulates a person from the effects of excessive fantasy” True but also more you have to lose more reality based you have to be to conserve what you got. Someone who is rich cannot afford to be fantastical. Someone who has nothing to lose, on the other end, can do what they want and it won’t matter much except take them upwards if they do things right. I am an expat, moved from a third world country to first world. One of the things i hate about here is being excessively protected/shielded from reality based feedback. First world is rich and people are excessively protected from reality in forms of state benefits, state housing and what not. Upside is no one dies or suffers greatly but people become fantastical and mentally weak (all the snowflaky stuff or first world problems you see are due to this), as compared to third world where you don’t have time to indulge in fantasies, state doesn’t protect you or offer you any handouts. You have to do stuff by yourself, so there is more focus on individualism. You get immediate reality based feedback, if you don’t work you don’t earn you will go hungry and die.
First world makes you complacent and takes away your ambition as people are punished/taxed heavily for working harder/earning more; joys of socialist welfare states.
I have met very few doctors who think they know everything about everything due to being seen as experts in their field. Maybe it’s location dependent, this will be seen more in USA and Asia, not in Europe though where majority of doctors suffer from impostor syndrome at some point in their career.
Physics PhDs – yes expert in one field doesn’t make you an expert in others. If you believe so, you will be punished for it.
Take PUAs who recently thought they were expert on politics (this is same group who are covid/racism/climate change deniers like their leader Trump), some of them lost thousands betting on a Trump win and they had 50% chance of getting it right. That’s a reality based feedback.
“particularly nerdy guys” – i always thought i was more logical as compared to you know those stupid emotional people. I have recently realized people are more emotional than logical , even if those who think they’re logical. As you said everyone is prone to effects of advertisement. Maybe i still am more on the logical side of spectrum than most.
“instead of experiences, tactile subjects, dreams, desires, and so on: the topics that make girls engaged and fun” – i have always had difficulty with this as compared to my natural friends in college who were good at this stuff. Any idea how to get better at this part?
About hot women’s deficient feedback loop and lacking real feedback – this is why women love guys who don’t shy away from telling it how it is (not always but more than most especially agreeable nice guys who will say anything to get a piece of that ass). Smart women have figured it out that the way to develop their personality is with reality based feedback and put themselves in position to get this.
Biological sex a spectrum – Again this ties in well with first world’s state protection, protection from harm and hunger is good for the public, but protection from reality is disastrous. State has made laws on this, sex being a spectrum, gender is fluid and other similar stuff. Apparently “misogyny” is unlawful too now after recent protests, no idea what’s the definition of misogyny and how far with they take it. Maybe this stuff is good for the state as it keeps public blind to reality and more compliant. But there will be a cost to pay for this at some point and God knows what cost will be paid.
Truthfulness – Have you watched Chernobyl? Thats a great display of the cost of lies and value of being true.
“every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid”
Covid deniers – yes again these people are protected from the cost of it. Many such paid with their lives
Re bosses being idiots and then empathising with them after you have been in position of responsibility – i had the same experience and went through same journey.
“in many cases, the consensus view is right.”
Tyler from rsd had a great video recently on overton window where he talk about similar stuff. There is a balance to strike there. Just because something is main stream or not main stream doesn’t make it right. Main thing is to question things, do your research and develop reality based mental map of world and how it works. More reality based you are, more successful you will be.