Ladder Theory and Local Optima

According to the Ladder Theory, women have two “ladders”. One is the “good ladder” where they rank and place men they want to fuck. The rest of the men get placed on the “friends ladder”. Men on the other hand have only one ladder (though I beg to disagree).

The question is what your strategy should be if you end up on top of the “wrong” (friends) ladder. On the one hand, you get your “dove“‘s attention and mostly get treated well there. On the other hand, that’s not where you intended to end up.

Far too many people at the top of the friends ladder remain there because they are not bold enough to take a leap. They think it is possible to remain there (so that they “preserve the friendship”) and at the same time make their way into the dove’s good ladder.

Aside 1: The reason they want to hold on to their friendship (though that’s not the reason they got close to the dove) can be explained by “loss aversion” – having got the friendship, they are loathe to let go of it. This leads them to pursuing a risk-free strategy, which is unlikely to give them a big upside.

Aside 2: A popular heuristic in artificial intelligence is Hill Climbing , in which you constantly take the path of maximum gradient. It can occasionally take you to the global maximum, but more often than not leaves you at a “local maximum”. Improvements on hill climbing (such as Simulated Annealing) all involve occasionally taking a step down in search of higher optimum.

Behavioural economics and computer science aside, the best way to analyse the situation when you’re on top of the friends ladder is using finance. Financial theory tells you that it is impossible to get a large risk-free upside (for if you could, enough people would buy that security that the upside won’t be significant any more).

People on top of the friends ladder who want to preserve their friendships while “going for it” are delusional – they want the risk-free returns of the friendship at the same time as the possibility of the grand upside of getting to the right ladder. They should understand that such trades are impossible.

They should also understand that they might be putting too high a price on the friendship thanks to “loss aversion”, and that the only way to escape the current “local optimum” is by risking a downward move. They should remember that the reason they got close to their dove was NOT that they end up on the friends ladder, and should make the leap (stretching the metaphor). They might end up between two stools (or ladders in this case), but that might be a risk well worth taking!

PS: this post is not a result of my efforts alone. My Wife, who is a Marriage Broker Auntie, contributed more than her share of fundaes to this, but since she’s too lazy to write, I’m doing the honours.


The big deal about the half-girlfriend

When all of twitter outraged about Chetan Bhagat’s latest masterpiece “half girlfriend” I didn’t know what the big deal was. Given that concepts such as ladder theory, friendzone, GBF (Gay Best Friend), FGB (Foremost Girl Buddy), Goalkeeper Theory and Petromax are all so well documented and accepted, it doesn’t take much of a leap to get to the concept of “half-girlfriend”, as described in the flipkart summary of the book. 

It seemed to me that the people that were outraging were all pseud-types who had hardly been single in their youth and how looked down upon IITs and IITians (for lacking social skills; and guilty as charged on that count). That they were people who subscribed to a certain view of how friendships and romances and relationships should function, and who were incapable of appreciating any alternate mechanisms. I could think of them as the people who got madly outraged when I put out my now classic blog post on petromaxing in business schools nine Deepavalis ago.

But now that the book has already come out (I have no plans to read it since I don’t read fiction. Moreover, considering myself an authority on alternate mechanisms of romantic relationships, and am married to someone who considers herself an authority on conventional mechanisms of romantic relationships, I don’t think I can bear being lectured upon on such topics), and people that I know, or people that know people that I know have started reading it, I realise why the outrage is all about. Consider this sample which I got on one WhatsApp group this morning:



The first reaction is that the quality of writing is horrible, but then that’s how Chetan Bhagat writes, and that’s how the audience he writes for wants him to write. And then the whole crassness of the implementation of the concept in the book hits me – while the concept of half-girlfriend might be a bloody good one, with wide-ranging implications and mechanism designs, it seems like (based on the above limited sample) the concept as instantiated by Bhagat doesn’t hold a candle to its potential!

I’ve now crossed the floor. I’m now in the camp of the people who believe that Chetan Bhagat’s Half Girlfriend is cringeworthy – and I find it cringeworthy not because of the concept (which I think is rather worthy), but because of the way that Bhagat seems to have butchered it and made it appear crass and “LS”. By writing this book, Bhagat has nipped in the bud what might have been a phenomenal alternative relationship concept. And that is unforgivable.

I don’t normally quote sitcoms, and I don’t normally watch sitcoms, but given we are on the topic of alternative relationships mechanisms, I can’t help but put a short video featuring perhaps the greatest purveyor of alternative relationship mechanisms of all time – Jeffery Murdoch from Coupling. I couldn’t find an extract from the episode, so here is the full first episode of the first season of Coupling in all its glory! May you be able to get rid of your unflushables!

The Theory of Consistent Fuckability and Ladders for Men

Ok so the popular Ladder Theory states that men have only one ladder. It states that all men want to sleep with all women, and they simply rank every woman on the scale of how badly they want to sleep with her or whatever. Women, on the other hand, have two ladders – the “good” ladder, and the “friends” ladder, which allows them to get close to men without harbouring any romantic/sexual thoughts. Since men are incapable of exhibiting such behaviour, you get the concept of Gay Best Friend.

However, this absence of dual ladders for men exists only if you look at the short term. If you are a man and you are looking for a long-term relationship with genetic propagation as a part of your plans, I argue that the female twin ladders can be suitably modified in order to separate out “friends” from potential “bladees”. In order to aid this, I present the Theory of Consistent Fuckability.

From the ladder theory, we know that every man wants to sleep with every woman. For a fruitful, long-term, gene-propagating relationship, however, this is just a necessary but not sufficient condition. As I had argued in another post, given that divorce is usually messy, the biggest cost in getting married to someone is the opportunity cost of getting into long-term relationships with the rest of the population. And if you are involved in gene-propagation, it is ideal if neither of the propagators cheats on the partner – from the point of view of the child’s upbringging and all such jazz.

So if you are a man and you want to marry someone, you must be reasonably sure that you want to sleep with her on a consistent basis. You should be willing to do her every day. If not, there is a good chance that you might want to cheat on her at a later date, which is not ideal from your genes’ point of view.

A small digresssion here. You might ask what might happen to “ugly” women (basically women considered unattractive by a large section of men). However, the argument is that the market helps you find your niche. For example, if you want to cheat on a woman, there must be other women who are superior (on your scale) to this woman who want you to do them. Assuming that I am extremely unattractive and the fact that not too many “attractive” women will want to do me, I should be able to set my “consistent fuckability standard” appropriately.

Returning to the point, when you are evaluating a woman for MARRIAGE (note it doens’t apply to shorter term non-gene-propagating relationships), you will need to decide if you will want to have sex with her on a consistent basis. And based on the answer to this question, you can define the universe of all women into two – those that you want to do consistently and those that don’t. And they form your two ladders.

Now, reasonably independent (maybe there’s a positive low correlation on one of the ladders) of this consistent fuckability factor, you can evaluate the women on other factors such as emotional compatibility, strengths, weaknesses, culture fit and all that jazz. And rank them on those. And then use this distinction on the consistency factor and you will have your two ladders. So you have the “friends” ladder – which is differnet from the friends’ ladders of women in the sense that you want to sleep with them but not on a consistent basis. And there is the “good” ladder of those who you want to do consistently.

To summarize, consistent fuckability is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a fruitful, multiplicative, gene-propagating long-term relationship; and because of this, under certain circumstances, men also develop a pair of ladders.

Currently listening to: When I’m Sixty Four, The Beatles