The Future of Sex

Our descendants will be different from us. In a competitive world, they’ll have to be; our design is hardly optimized for their world. But since they will evolve incrementally from us, they won’t be completely different.  For example, many features of the ways we talk between minds, and within minds, may lock in as interface standards.  Also, our descendants will prefer to reuse and modify complex workable modules rather than reinventing such things from scratch.

Which brings us to everyone’s favorite topic: sex. Our minds have been evolved in great detail to handle human sex. How might our descendants reuse and adapt those well-honed capabilities to deal with future mental challenges?

First, it is pretty obvious that within a century or two at most our descendants just won’t be creating descendants by randomly mixing the features of two parents, any more than firms today design new products via random mixes of old product features. No, our descendants will be more deliberately designed, with design components inspired by, if not directly taken from, a great many predecessors.  They just won’t make babies the bio-sex way.

Even so, our distant descendants will continue to form long-term alliances between minds whose qualities and loyalties are opaque. Even when one can directly peer inside, most complex minds simply have no clear place to look to see their overall abilities and loyalties. Such features are instead spread across such minds and best seen in actual behavior.  So to infer such features it can help to probe and test such minds in particular ways.  Our mental sexual toolkit is full of such ways to probe and test.

Also, when complex minds last longer than the multi-mind tasks they tackle, they must choose which minds combine to do which tasks.  And to create good incentives, minds must share some consequences of their joint performance, while committing in certain ways to outcomes they might not prefer after the fact.  Our sexual toolkit also has many useful ways to deal with these issues.

Our descendants will therefore likely recruit variations on our sexual toolkit to such tasks.   They will distinguish flings from “true love” while adapting human feelings of lust, romance, attachment, jealousy, and intimacy, and also variations on our mating dances of watching, displaying, flirting, wooing, testing, seducing, accusing, betraying, etc.

Our descendants may also distinguish male from female patterns of such behaviors. For example, some will pursue while others evaluate, some will take more risks while others play it safer, some will invest more vs. less in each relation, and some will protect against outside dangers while others nurture inside growth.

Our mental adaptations to sex are subtle and well-tuned for our mating task of slowly teasing out the abilities and intentions of others while becoming increasingly committed to and dependent on those others.  Our distant descendants will likely adapt such abilities for their many purposes.  Future sex may well change greatly to meet future needs, but it will still be recognizably sex all the same.  Long live sex!

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