Saturday, April 03, 2010

Gender Homogenization Part 2

More on the theme of my previous blog. It is, after all, very complex and contentious, what with everybody and sundry having their agendas when it comes to discussing it. I take that back: few actually 'discuss' it. They either talk about it, which is what people do who basically agree about their positions. Else they argue, because it's just one of those subjects about which people who disagree will end up arguing. And, yes, I'm generalizing, but it's true anyway.

I should say a bit more about what I mean about those two potentially inflammatory terms, 'feminization' and 'masculinization'. If you'd feel better about it, look at them in terms of parameters in a description of human attributes. Their value, say, always lies in the open interval (0,1). So, and I'm being deliberately 'mathematical' about it, let's suppose we have an attribute 'T', which describes some trait that's considered male, because it's present more in the male of the population.
Consider the capability to perform spatial position mapping and movement tracking.

What's that mean? Here's an example.

Most mornings, I go out and do some sword practice, as I have mentioned in a previous blog. Some of this involves throwing short bamboo sticks into the air and trying to hit them on the way down, preferably as late as possible before they hot the ground. The reason for that is simple. They move faster the further they drop—at different rates, depending on their shape and size, whether they're spinning or not or what angle they fall at, whether they're already partially shredded from previous hits, and so on. And they accelerate—again, at different rates, depending on shape, spin, etc.

Acceleration makes things hard, because when we track moving targets we judge subsequent positions by making assumptions of constant speed. We work best when an object moves at constant velocity, and preferably it should also move at an approximate tangent to an imaginary circle with us at the center when we're trying to hit it. Things become harder when the object's trajectory is not straight, the angle to us is oblique at the time of us trying to hit it, and when there's acceleration—even if it's constant. If we're trying to hit the object with another object, which in turn is going to move along a trajectory that's possibly even more complex and whose trajectory we have to control with amazingly precise muscle coordination...well, you see where I'm going with this.

That we can do it at all is downright amazing. And you can see why it's useful and even essential—and I mean 'is', even though its obvious survival value may be more obvious in the context of hunters, who had to bring down game with projectile weapons, from rocks to spears to arrows. If they didn't, they died. So, the ones who were good at it tended to survive, and the attribute promoted itself in the gene pool.

It's also obvious that said attribute is 'male'. Women, with rare exceptions, didn't go out hunting. Hence the attribute 'T'—tracking and targeting ability— tends to be much higher in even today's males than in females. And it'll stay that way, because there's no evolutionary selection process that will change it. I think. Maybe.

Yes, there are, of course women who happen to have a high 'T' index. But that just means that, like everywhere else in biology, the distribution curve across a population of the value of this particular attribute has a long tail. But a long tail doesn't imply that the tail ends, as it were, represent more than a very few individuals. Most of the individuals with a high 'T' value will be male, and the higher the 'T', the more they will also possess other 'male' attributes. That's the way things are. At the moment.

Gender-homogenization changes those gender-indices in individuals, as well as their distribution across populations. This is not a good or a bad thing. It's just something that's happened as a result of role adjustments in human groups throughout evolutionary periods and in different contexts. In Western societies in particular, the movements from hunter/warrior societies to settled farmers and eventual urbanites, made possible by to the extent to which we see it today by the industrial revolution and what's sometimes called 'post industrial' periods, has wrought changes that, on further reflection, may indeed have evolutionary consequences.

I don't mean silly ones, like atrophied limbs because we're driving cars. But consider this: In modern industrialized societies, certain parts of the population will consist of more gender-homogenized members and couples. They will breed, probably at a fairly low rate because of the woman's tendency not to want to be just a 'baby machine', and propagate the genes that have disposed their parents toward those roles. This part of the population is likely to be come very distinct and inbred, because the gender-homogenized and unhomogenized don't mix well; at a personal as well as a cultural level. The other parts of society, those with lesser degrees of homogenization, will continue to breed like bunny rabbits, because they follow older, if you will, evolutionary imperatives. As a result, they will outbreed the homogenized members within just a few generations—which will, first of all, have the simple result that the gender-homogenized sections will simply disappear in due course. Either that or there will be some very nasty conflict between the two sections. As a secondary consequence of outbreeding the 'homogenies'†, society on the whole will in turn assume a very different profile, the consequences of which are quite unpredictable.

Don't think it won't happen. We already have an example of this kind of effect in action. It's been called the Roe Effect, and if you look at the US today, you'll see it in action with a vengeance. The whole Obama-thing and the apparently 'progressive' nature of whatever happened in the US that got him elected, that's just a blip in the overall trend toward increasing conservatism and religiod-dominated politics and social life.

The Roe effect—not a 'hypothesis', but methinks demonstrated fact, even after just one generation—is, of course, the kind of thing I was alluding to when talking about the nonsense that is the 'Singularity'. Gender-homogenization is, like everything else in human social life, a process that's subject to regulation by other competing processes; some of which, ironically, were set into motion by the process itself. And in the end the breeders have the upper hand. I know this from personal experience, because despite the massacre I performed on the Cane Toad-lets, as of recent, with all the rain, there's been an explosion of the blighters around here. For a couple of weeks you couldn't can't walk across any stretch of lawn or paddock without thousands of them leaping out of your way. Most were still tiny, thumbnail size. But others were definitely getting bigger. And every female ends up capable of laying up to 30,000 eggs every year.

How can one beat this? How can one stem such a tide?

Well, here's another bit of math. Assume you kill 10 of these things. Assume their gender distribution is 50/50. Assume that maybe 1/5 actually survives to breeding age. That means that, statistically speaking, if you kill 10, you have an excellent change of preventing 30,000 coming into being—every year, which over a canetoad's lifetime (at least 5 and up to 15 years) may average to half a million toad-lets. Not a bad return for a ten-kill. And it gets better the bigger the toads are that you kill, because it increases the probability that they're those that survive to breed.

But the math is still grim, because, let's face it, those kill-numbers are utterly insignificant compared to those that survive. But it kind of makes me feel useful when battering another one of them into oblivion.

Anyway, evolution is a tough cookie, and despite modern healthcare, there are other aspects to it—not just 'survival of the fittest'—that make it tick. All it takes is for individuals survive for long enough to reproduce, preferably several times over. Those who reproduce more will win in the end. Whatever 'winning' means.

Homogeni: Someone having a significant set of those gender attributes traditionally associated with their physical sex, decreased; and attributes of the opposite sex increased. The term doesn't exist yet, but maybe it should. Better and more descriptive, I think, than 'metrosexual'. See also 'Homogeni Coefficient.'

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