More art, less stink: Taking the PU out of PUA

Overview: This is a pro­posal for a LessWrong Pick Up Artist (PUA)-like sub-com­mu­nity; PUA with­out the PU (get it?)1. Mem­bers would fo­cus on the de­liber­ate prac­tice of so­cial artistry, but with non-mat­ing goals. Ori­gins and in­tent of the goal are dis­cussed, pos­si­ble top­ics for learn­ing are listed, and sug­ges­tions for next steps are so­lic­ited.


The PUA Com­mu­nity be­gan decades ago with men that wanted to learn how to get bet­ter at se­duc­ing women. As I un­der­stand it, they sim­ply be­gan post­ing their (ini­tially) awk­ward at­tempts at love on­line. Over the years, they ap­pear to have amassed a fairly im­pres­sive set of prac­ti­cal knowl­edge and skills in this do­main.

I ad­mire and ap­plaud this effort. How­ever, my abil­ity to meet women is not cur­rently a limit­ing fac­tor in my life satis­fac­tion. In read­ing some of the PUA liter­a­ture, I was struck how of­ten differ­ent au­thors re­marked on the un­in­tended side benefits of their train­ing: bet­ter re­la­tion­ships at work, bet­ter in­ter­view­ing skills, more effec­tive ne­go­ti­a­tions, more non-pickup so­cial fun, bet­ter male friend­ships, more con­fi­dence, etc. Th­ese guys were able to make ma­jor strides in ar­eas that I’ve strug­gled to im­prove at all in… with­out even bloody in­tend­ing to! This struck me as an some­thing worth tak­ing very se­ri­ously!

I find it alarm­ing that such a valuable re­source would be mo­nop­o­lized in pur­suit of or­gasm; it’s rather as if a planet were to burn up its hy­dro­car­bons in­stead of us­ing them to make use­ful polymers. PUA ought to be a spe­cial case of a more gen­eral skill set, and it’s be­ing wasted. I say that my goals are no­ble, and as such I should have the op­por­tu­nity to sharpen my skills to at least the keen­ness of a PUA mas­ter!

State­ment of Pur­pose:

The pur­pose of this post is to open dis­cus­sion on how to con­struct a com­mu­nity of de­vel­op­ing so­cial ar­ti­sans, mod­eled af­ter the use­ful com­po­nents2 of the PUA com­mu­nity. If there is suffi­cient mass, the next goals are prob­a­bly suss­ing out learn­ing meth­ods and lo­gis­tics.

The mis­sion of the hy­po­thet­i­cal com­mu­nity will prob­a­bly need to be fleshed out more ex­plic­itly (and I don’t want to be too pre­scrip­tive), but pretty much what I was think­ing was ex­pressed well by Scott Adams:

I think tech­ni­cal peo­ple, and en­g­ineers in par­tic­u­lar, will always have good job prospects. But what if you don’t have the ap­ti­tude or per­son­al­ity to fol­low a tech­ni­cal path? How do you pre­pare for the fu­ture?

I’d like to see a col­lege ma­jor fo­cus­ing on the var­i­ous skills of hu­man per­sua­sion. That’s the sort of skil­lset that the mar­ket­place will always value and the In­ter­net is un­likely to re­place. The per­sua­sion course­work might in­clude...

  • Sales methods

  • Psy­chol­ogy of persuasion

  • Hu­man In­ter­face design

  • How to or­ga­nize in­for­ma­tion for influence

  • Propaganda

  • Hypnosis

  • Cults

  • Art (speci­fi­cally de­sign)

  • Debate

  • Public speaking

  • Ap­pear­ance (hair, makeup, clothes)

  • Negotiations

  • Manag­ing difficult personalities

  • Man­age­ment theory

  • Voice coaching

  • Networking

  • How to entertain

  • Golf and tennis

  • Conversation

You can imag­ine a few more classes that would be rele­vant. The idea is to cre­ate peo­ple who can en­ter any room and make it their bitch. [em­pha­sis added]

Col­leges are un­likely to offer this sort of ma­jor be­cause so­ciety is afraid and ap­palled by any­thing that can be la­beled “ma­nipu­la­tion,” which isn’t even a real thing.

Ma­nipu­la­tion isn’t real be­cause al­most ev­ery hu­man so­cial or busi­ness ac­tivity has as its ma­jor or minor ob­jec­tive the in­fluence of oth­ers. You can tell your­self that you dress the way you do be­cause it makes you happy, but the real pur­pose of man­ag­ing your ap­pear­ance is to in­fluence how oth­ers view you.

Hu­mans ac­tively sell them­selves ev­ery minute they are in­ter­act­ing with any­one else. Sel­ling your­self, which sounds al­most no­ble, is lit­tle more than ma­nipu­lat­ing other peo­ple to do what is good for you but might not be so good for oth­ers. All I’m sug­gest­ing is that peo­ple could learn to be more effec­tive at the things they are already try­ing to do all day long.

Word! [EDIT: We need not be bound by this ex­act list. For in­stance, there is no way I’m go­ing to be do­ing any golfing.]

I’ve met peo­ple who were shock­ingly, seem­ingly preter­nat­u­rally adept in so­cial set­tings. Of course this is not magic. Like any­thing else, it can be re­duced to a set of con­stituent steps and learned. We just need to figure out how.

Next steps:

I have a rather long list of ideas ready to go, but they made this post kind of awk­ward. Plus, Scott Adam’s post says much of what I was try­ing to get at. Let’s just start the con­ver­sa­tion.

So, what do you think?

1 I have noth­ing what­so­ever against the ma­jor­ity of the PUAers with whom I’ve had en­coun­ters, and the ti­tle is just meant to be funny. No offense!

2 The men­tion of PUA drags along sev­eral as­so­ci­a­tions that I want to dis­avow (think any­thing ob­vi­ously “Dark Arts”). I con­sid­ered omit­ting the fact that much of the in­tel­lec­tual her­i­tage of this idea is the PUAers to avoid these as­so­ci­a­tions, but I couldn’t think of an­other way to tie it to­gether. This idea owes its gen­e­sis to the PUA com­mu­nity, but the product is not in­tended to be its ex­act replica. Un­de­sir­able el­e­ments need not be ported from the old sys­tem to the new.