Relationship Coding

Recently, a young woman wrote about being assaulted in her hotel room. [1] Her account appears truthful, rational and restrained despite her emotional turmoil. In all, an incredible feat, and one that could start a few mind-bending conversations.

What is the purpose of this article? Not to add another voice condemning violence, for that we have enough. Not to add another voice condemning predators resorting to violence, for that we also have enough. In case you’re doubting, however, Gentle Reader, I do wholeheartedly condemn physical violence and human-on-human predators. Castration is a good start, but only once we’re totally convinced of the crime using all means available. But enough of that. Let’s get back to the point.

The purpose of this article is to point to a much larger problem that all modern young women face; the changing nature of relationships. You may agree and say that these relationships started changing long ago, with women fighting for the vote in the early 1900s, or becoming ‘liberated’ during the 1960s. Perhaps the watershed moment was Title IX, or the fact that many more women became almost equivalent wage earners in the 1980s. All these things are true, and each has contributed to the advancement of women in our world. However, the true forces working towards equality are far deeper. Those two true forces are biology, and philosophy. Yes, these seem very different deep forces working upon us, but follow me for only a few more moments.

Biologically, we belong to an rather old family called primates. Of the primates, females are generally smaller than males. Fundamentally, we have to reproduce as a species, or the species will become extinct. Humans are slightly different, however, in that females are at least as intelligent as males, and that we are capable of copulating face-to-face. [2, 3]

Philosophically, we know that concepts such as ‘equal rights’ and ‘immutable soul’ were bantered about by eggheads for centuries. Some of these ideas go back thousands of years, but more importantly for us, the US was founded on some of these exact concepts back in the late 1700s. Our most important documents, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights acknowledge these concepts both explicitly, but also implicitly by what they don’t say.

Since then, relationships have been changing, but slowly enough such that our society could change its mores and laws to keep up. Suffragettes? Here’s a new constitutional amendment. Going to college and playing sports? Title IX.

Today we are seeing an acceleration of change. Women can easily compete in the technological world, if they wish. The digital revolution sweeping over us doesn’t care if a woman codes, or if a she uses an application. True work equivalence has appeared in more areas of our economy than ever before.

Here is where our true story begins. For even as the philosophical equality of women progresses, our biological nature remains relatively constant. Consider the pace of change, best measured in our technological world by ‘clock cycles’ alluding to the amount of time a central processing unit takes to complete one cycle of calculations. For the digital revolution, a clock cycle is generally considered to be 6 months. If you don’t have a upgrade to your software or invent a new piece of hardware in that time, then you are old news. For evolution, the clock cycle is a bit longer – about 25 years, the amount of time it takes to have children. And this is where the tectonic tension sets in. For we are all fighting against our biological roots in order to be part of modern society. Since modern agriculture developed in the Levant some 10,000 years ago, there have been only 400 generation cycles. Some evolution may have occurred, but how much is still up for debate, and is the subject of another article.

In the meantime, technological clock cycles may number in the thousands, if not more. Yes, a technological clock cycle back in the iron age meant discovering bronze, and the next cycle may have been a thousand years later. But today we are experiencing a technological cycle perhaps every year.

Given these strains, what is a young woman to do? Here is what our nascent understanding of behavior suggests.

First, always begin a relationship with the assumption that a young man is motivated by biological urges.

Second, always encounter him with the assumption that he is a dangerous predator.

Third, prepare conditions where you test that man’s motivations and propensity to prey. Instead of flailing for a weapon just out of reach, make sure it’s handy to begin with. Lock your valuables away when entertaining him in your room. Better yet, instead of letting him in your room, meet him elsewhere. As he passes each test, allow your defenses to drop one level at a time. But always prepare for surprises.

You may counter that these are not romantic in the least, and for the great majority of young men these are unnecessary assumptions. And you would be correct. But romance is a modern concept. And you should not live your life based on the vast majority of safe situations, but on the probability of encountering a life threatening situation. You wear seat belts, don’t you? Think of these assumptions as seat belts of new relationships.

You may also argue that these biological underpinnings are not relevant, we have evolved beyond them. And I would like very much to agree with you, but cannot. However, if I allow you that argument, then consider this.

Men and women have different operating systems. Not only that, but each man and woman has certain nuances within their OS that make each unique. It is the challenge of today’s lonely OS to find that person whose nuances are compatible with our own. It is the lifelong discovery of those nuances that give depth to the great loves of our time.

However, building an interface between your OS and his takes time. First of all, you can never code a perfect interface to begin with. We’ve been trying to do it with relatively static computers since ENIAC and still can’t get it right. On top of that, both your OS and his will change over time; we like to think of them as upgrades but they are just as likely to develop bugs over the years. Your interface will have to take account of those. Therefore, you must approach a relationship the same way you would code a totally new interface. Explore the target OS, understand your own, and slowly build connecting bridges along the way.

To the young woman assaulted in Krakow, kudos and good wishes. Don’t give up on the all the men of this world, but tread carefully. You are still living in a primitive world with respect to biology. But your use of technology to warn others, your courage, and your desire to make our world better are commended. I urge you to think about not only how you are changing society, but also why. Think through the implications of your actions, because you want the next clock cycle to take us forward, not back.



[3] (see episode 12 – or read the book, it’s fascinating)



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