We’re all familiar with the cycle, but why does it happen? I’m not content to say that civilizations swing like 3-D pendulums, where f(r, k) = A cos (C*t) + B sin (D*t) forever and always, because that gives us no insight into the working principle. What are the assumptions, and do they break down when you introduce contraception or AI technology? I will attempt to explain how I understand it.
This cycle is exists entirely on sexual and economic foundations, where conditions in different positions along the cycle’s trajectory favor different sorts of sexual and economic choices, thus selecting for phenotypes who naturally dominate the reproductive strategies which are adaptive for the conditions. To analyze the interactions between these parallel value systems, we will need some common notions:
IEV = An individual’s economic value
IEA = An individual’s economic anxiety
GEA = Group Economic Anxiety, aggregated (the inverse of which is “social mood”)
SMV = An individual’s sexual market value
ISA = An individual’s sexual anxiety
We will examine the choices of women first because they are simpler, even though they have had little lasting selection effect for at least 40,000 years (as seen by the general increase in traits selected by male sexual interest: neoteny, lower testosterone, gracility, etc).
Women consent to two sorts of sex, transactional (T) and validational (V). Transactional sex is when a woman sells her sexual market value, risking impregnation, in order to increase her absolute standard of living, preferring sexual anxiety over economic anxiety (lowers IEA and SMV, raises ISA). We will refer to T >> V women as “whores”, and observe that this strategy is preferred by most women during times of very low social mood, especially wartime, because their standard of living is much worse than they will accept willingly. Validational sex is when a woman seeks relief from self-consciousness by validating her SMV through the revealed preferences of high-status men, preferring economic anxiety over sexual anxiety (lowers ISA and SMV, raises IEA). We will refer to T << V women as "sluts", and observe that this strategy is preferred by most women during times of high social mood, when most women have very low economic anxiety to begin with.
Beta males will be defined as men whose reproductive strategy is to optimize individual economic value which can then be traded for transactional sex, whereas Alpha males will be defined as men whose reproductive strategy is optimized to seek high status relative to other men, which then results in validational sex. The strategy of Alpha males is high-risk, high-reward, and the winners of the status battle receive both validational sex and high economic value which can be traded for both transactional sex and low economic anxiety. Please note that the economic specialization of Beta males does not logically imply their average IEV is higher than that of Alpha males, because human ability in any domain is positively correlated with ability in any other (i.e. SMV correlates with IEV). Men choose their strategy based on their relative ability levels to the men around them, so that in practice Alpha strategists and Beta strategists have approximately similar average IEVs after many iterations and differ primarily in SMV.
Alphas cannot collaborate effectively to produce a high-trust group; their individual strategies are contingent upon one of them winning and one of them losing. Beta males cannot collaborate without the presence of an Alpha because the power vacuum will inspire one or more of them to adopt the Alpha strategy to obtain the uncontested validational sex and economic value of leadership. "Civilization" will therefore be defined as the economic collaboration of Alpha and Beta males in high-trust groups, which allow economic specialization and group selection. The "eucivic ascent" trajectory of the Pyrrhic Cycle is the time during which the Beta reproductive strategy is viable, because the Betas have high IEV but the social mood is not high enough that women have low IEA, and so have not yet shifted from whores to sluts.