r vs. K Selection is not Alpha vs. Beta

by laidnyc

I’ve only had a handful of true “holy shit” moments of clarity in my life.  One was at age 17 when I realized girls want you more when you pay less attention to them. Another was finding Milton Friedman’s Free To Choose series and realizing my college Econ professors were full of shit (The Chicago School is flawed but those videos still massacred sanctimonious progressivism).  Another was reading Sperm Wars.

My most recent full stop holy shit moment was last year at some point when I stumbled upon r vs. K-selection theory.  A good narrative is here (click the links and read in order).  It has flaws, the author tries to box r-K into democrat-republican a little too transparently, and he tiptoes around the theory’s more unpleasant implications (cough RUSHTON cough), but it is a hard-hitting work nonetheless.

Roughly speaking, the theory states that the K-selected mate with fewer partners, but are choosier about mate quality, and have fewer offspring but invest more parentally.  The animal comparison is the wolf.  In contrast, the r-selected mate a lot, and less discriminately, and have more offspring that they care less about.  The animal comparison is the rabbit.

Now, obviously any “reproductive strategy” will be of interest to the game community, where everything gets broken down into terms of alpha and beta.  But there’s a problem, folks.  Namely, r vs. K-selection does NOT parallel alpha vs. beta.

Consider the following assortment of people:

Bisexual men are r-selected.  Traditionalists are K-selected.

Antonio Cromartie is r-selected.  Pat Tillman was K-selected.

Feminists are r-selected.  The Patriarchy is K-selected.

Rockstars are r-selected. The guy who invented bitcoin is probably K-selected.

Mystery is r-selected.  Your grandfather was K-selected.

Ghengis Khan is r-selected.  Ronald Reagan is K-selected.

The guy who bangs a fat chick on a dry spell is r-selected.  The guy who’d rather jack off is K-selected.

Barney Stinson is r-selected.  The other guy is K-selected.

Your mom is r-selected.  My mom is K-selected.

Now note that these examples are mixed.  This is not about r selection is good vs. K selection is bad, nor vice versa.  A K-selected man can send tingles straight through every woman he meets, or he can be a shut-in AV Club nerd.  An r-selected guy could be a master of picking up women, or he could be a porn addict.  Remember, just because someone WISHES to pursue an r-selected strategy doesn’t mean they will be successful at it.  You can be r-selected and not be able to get laid.  Likewise, you can be K-selected and pass up tons of pussy to raise a family.

The main applicability to game, though, is that the sexual market of today does seem to reward r-selected indicators:


But status is situational.  These short term mating strategies matter today, and they may have mattered back on the african savannah when you needed to mate with as many women as possible before you got gored by a hippo.  But true r-selects wouldn’t last even 2 generations in a cold, scarce environment where creative problem solving and rearing children to adulthood rule the day.  That’s where K-selects come in.  But then they got a little too good at problem solving. They created quick and easy warmth, food, communication, transportation. What happens when things are comfortable for everyone?