I see dead media

Dating = hacking

This is pretty amusing: A few years ago, Eric Raymond — open-source hacker and essayist par excellence — wrote “Sex Tips For Geeks: The Art of the Pickup”. My favorite part of the essay begins when he offers his central tip on acquiring confidence: “Fake it.”

I realize that this goes against all the standard advice you get from the usual well-meaning people, who will begin and end with “be yourself”. If yourself is chronically inept with attractive women, this advice sucks. You need to learn method acting. At that party, watch guys who are chatting up women effectively. Imitate them. Don’t worry too hard about replicating their mental states or understanding why they do what they do; if you do their moves understanding will happen naturally over time. Play the role of confident person until you become it.

In one sense, the essay is as irreparably dorky as you might imagine, with its insistence that the cardinal rule in dating is that “women can smell fear”. So I immediately wrote this off as yet another attempt by geeks to cope with the social chaos of everyday life by rigidly systematizing it. How typically nerdy!

But then it occurred to me that of all fields of human endeavour, dating is the one most crowded with desperate how-to manuals and Skinnerian throughput analyses of emotional states, all in the service of cowherding a partner into desired behavior. Women had The Rules, which counselled women to conceal their real personality and pretend to be undemanding, while also remaining paradoxically inaccessible. Meanwhile, men have the byzantine techniques — including the infamous “neg hit” — outlined in Neil Strauss’ upcoming The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. When it comes to mating, it seems, everyone’s a hacker. When did we turn into a nation of social engineers?

(Thanks to F!lter for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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