Love seems like a high priority

Summary

Mak­ing it pos­si­ble for peo­ple to de­liber­ately fall in love seems like a high pri­or­ity, com­pet­i­tive with good short- and medium-term causes such as malaria pre­ven­tion and anti-ag­ing. How­ever there is lit­tle se­ri­ous work on it. While this pre­vents ca­sual donors from be­ing able to do any­thing about it, it also sug­gests ma­jor op­por­tu­ni­ties for well-placed re­searchers, grant­mak­ers, and busi­ness en­trepreneurs. Both repli­ca­tions and gen­er­al­iza­tions of the tiny body of ex­ist­ing work, and am­bi­tious sci­ence to figure out new paradigms and prospects, could be big steps for­ward.

If you want the short­est pos­si­ble pitch to mem­o­rize and give to fun­ders/​re­searchers, I would sim­plify it to this: at­tempt to repli­cate a 1997 ex­per­i­men­tal find­ing which sug­gested that you can make peo­ple fall in love with a ques­tion­naire and eye con­tact.

The prob­lem and the type of po­ten­tial solution

Not ev­ery­one falls in love, and when then they do, it of­ten hap­pens with the wrong time, place or per­son. What I have in mind, ideally, is a rel­a­tively quick and cheap ac­tivity, us­ing be­hav­ioral, psy­cholog­i­cal and/​or phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal tech­niques, that two peo­ple who have already matched for gen­eral com­pat­i­bil­ity (e.g. with a kind of dat­ing ser­vice) can take in or­der to in­duce a mu­tual limer­ence-like state that can nat­u­rally turn into a sta­ble long-run re­la­tion­ship.

Pre­vi­ous in­quiry and next steps

Aron et al (1997) de­vised and tested a ques­tion­naire tech­nique along with sus­tained eye con­tact, which in­duced tem­po­rary in­ter­per­sonal close­ness. Their goal was not to es­tab­lish long-term re­la­tion­ships, but to mimic re­la­tion­ship sta­tus for ex­per­i­men­tal pur­poses. Still, it could be in­ci­den­tally use­ful for pur­su­ing love, as well as a foun­da­tion for more se­ri­ous efforts. Ap­par­ently two of the ex­per­i­men­tal par­ti­ci­pants later got mar­ried. Writer Mandy Len Ca­tron also ex­pe­rienced and ex­plored the idea in a pop­u­lar ar­ti­cle and a book mem­oir, sug­gest­ing that it worked for her too. (I haven’t read the book.)

It seems to me that the cheap­est/​eas­iest next step is more longer-term fol­lowup in­quiry with the par­ti­ci­pants of Aron et al. An ob­vi­ous fur­ther step, given the repli­ca­tion crisis in psy­chol­ogy, is to at­tempt a di­rect repli­ca­tion of the ex­per­i­ment. And it would per­haps be equally im­por­tant to re­peat the study with differ­ent ex­per­i­men­tal de­signs and cul­tural con­texts in or­der to ad­dress the gen­er­al­iz­abil­ity crisis. Long-term fol­lowup sur­veys should also be con­ducted. After all this is done, we may be able to say with con­fi­dence that the ques­tion­naire tech­nique works (or not).

Quin­tard et al (2020) tested a tech­nique of syn­chronous In­ter­per­sonal Mul­tisen­sory Stim­u­la­tion (IMS) on het­ero­sex­ual women. They were able to in­duce gen­eral feel­ings of lik­ing and be­ing at­tracted to oth­ers, but found no sig­nifi­cant effect on ro­man­tic at­trac­tion in par­tic­u­lar. The au­thors write that the effects of their tech­nique may still be an im­por­tant part of in­duc­ing ro­man­tic at­trac­tion and that their con­struct val­idity is un­cer­tain, and call for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Fur­ther test­ing of this might be a good next step.

There is also rele­vant work on in­duc­ing at­trac­tion via arousal. A va­ri­ety of stud­ies (table taken from Allen et al, 1989) have shown that peo­ple can feel greater feel­ings of ro­man­tic or sex­ual at­trac­tion when put in a situ­a­tion of arousal from other things like anx­iety or ex­er­cise. Allen et al repli­cated and con­firmed two of the pre­vi­ous ex­per­i­ments (though it was not a di­rect repli­ca­tion at­tempt, just a fol­low-up study). How­ever there are some limi­ta­tions. There are differ­ing re­sults, be­tween Allen et al and White and Kight (1984), on whether this still works when sub­jects are more aware of the source of their arousal. Fur­ther­more, it’s not clear if the re­sults will ex­tend to sub­jects who are not just in­tro­spec­tive of their arousal, but fully aware that they are re­ceiv­ing an arousal-at­trac­tion ex­per­i­men­tal effect to­wards an­other per­son, which is nec­es­sary for real-world use of the tech­nique. Also, many of these stud­ies just look at men at­tracted to women, and they should be gen­er­al­ized. Fi­nally, it’s not clear if there are any effects past the ini­tial state of arousal.

Th­ese three ap­proaches – ques­tion­naire/​eye con­tact, syn­chronous IMS, and arousal – might be done in com­bi­na­tion with each other for a more po­tent effect. And fully new tech­niques could be de­vised.

Quick com­par­i­son with solv­ing aging

Solv­ing love and solv­ing ag­ing seem like roughly similar cause ar­eas in their ba­sic pro­file, so they make a good pair for com­par­i­son. But I don’t know enough about the prospects for solv­ing love to do a good cost-effec­tive­ness calcu­la­tion, so I have to rely on the im­por­tance-ne­glect­ed­ness-tractabil­ity frame­work.

Tractability

I have lit­tle sense of the (in)tractabil­ity of ei­ther one. Aging seems to be an is­sue that should in prin­ci­ple be solv­able, but could well turn out to be a beast like can­cer in prac­tice. Mean­while it’s very un­clear to what ex­tent love can be ma­nipu­lated. There are many fac­tors af­fect­ing it, in­clud­ing in­di­vi­d­u­als’ needs and wants.

The promis­ing early re­sults of Aron et al in an ap­par­ently cheap and sim­ple ex­per­i­ment sug­gest high tractabil­ity of ini­tial re­search steps. The po­ten­tial next steps dis­cussed above cer­tainly seem eas­ier than pur­su­ing ma­jor med­i­cal sci­ence on ag­ing. It is pos­si­ble that we already have a good enough method to start in­duc­ing at­trac­tion thanks to Aron et al, though it seems clear that more re­search is a bet­ter thing to fo­cus on at this stage.

One should also con­sider the is­sue of whether po­ten­tial ther­a­pies in ei­ther cause area are eas­ily testable. If ther­a­pies are easy to test, that in­creases the pri­or­ity of de­vel­op­ing some, be­cause we can ex­pect more proven re­sults. But I don’t see much rea­son to think that pro-love ther­a­pies will be eas­ier or harder to test when com­pared to anti-ag­ing ther­a­pies.

Neglectedness

Aging is usu­ally con­sid­ered to not get the ap­pro­pri­ate amount of at­ten­tion from med­i­cal sci­ence that is war­ranted by its ma­jor im­por­tance. But it still seems to be less ne­glected than love in terms of med­i­cal and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal re­search. Ro­man­tic pairing is already served by a ma­jor in­dus­try of dat­ing ser­vices, which com­pli­cates the pic­ture, but this doesn’t ex­tend to re­search on how to de­liber­ately in­duce it. It seems that love is more ne­glected.

Importance

The na­ture of this com­par­i­son may de­pend on is­sues in pop­u­la­tion ethics. Here I will look at the im­pacts un­der a to­tal­ist view­point, as I’ve found it to be (a) the one most sup­ported by strong ar­gu­ments, (b) the one seem­ingly en­dorsed by a ma­jor­ity of Effec­tive Altru­ists, (c) the one seem­ingly en­dorsed by a plu­ral­ity of philoso­phers, ex­cept­ing those with vague/​in­de­ter­mi­nate views, (d) the sim­plest one to eval­u­ate, and (e) con­sis­tent with stan­dard ways of eval­u­at­ing the benefits of solv­ing ag­ing.

I don’t think that differ­ences in value the­ory mat­ter much here: I can’t think of value the­o­ries which would uniquely value or de­value is­sues of love rel­a­tive to is­sues of mor­bidity and mor­tal­ity. There are prob­a­bly some tra­di­tion­al­ist views which say that ag­ing doesn’t mat­ter be­cause it’s part of the hu­man con­di­tion or what­ever, but I’m happy to ig­nore those.

Scope of di­rect impact

Aging hurts the en­tire pop­u­la­tion, so ev­ery­one could benefit from anti-ag­ing ther­a­pies. Those who die from other causes such as in­fec­tious dis­eases, ac­ci­dents and suicides will not get the benefit of longevity, but in the mean­time they could still be healthier and hap­pier thanks to re­ju­ve­na­tion ther­apy.

Some peo­ple find mu­tu­ally re­quited love nat­u­rally any­way, but they could get it sooner, and per­haps with part­ners who are bet­ter on prag­matic grounds.

There is also a pos­si­bil­ity that peo­ple will de­cline to adopt the tech­nol­ogy. Peo­ple cur­rently have a va­ri­ety of spiritual and philo­soph­i­cal rea­sons to ob­ject to ei­ther kind of treat­ment, not to men­tion plain aver­sion or dis­gust. How­ever, it’s wholly un­clear how these at­ti­tudes will ac­tu­ally de­velop and af­fect so­ciety once effec­tive in­ter­ven­tions are offered for adop­tion.

Over­all, nearly ev­ery­one will be af­fected by these in­ter­ven­tions, so scope doesn’t give much rea­son to fa­vor ei­ther one.

Direct change in av­er­age qual­ity of life

As­sum­ing that pop­u­la­tion size re­mains the same af­ter ei­ther in­ter­ven­tion, we are com­par­ing one very long life (cen­turies or per­haps longer) with mul­ti­ple peo­ple who are born and dy­ing with bet­ter ro­man­tic ex­pe­riences. This is difficult.

Se­nior peo­ple seem to be hap­pier than younger adults, but it’s difficult to say what this im­plies for the hap­piness of peo­ple who live a long time with­out ag­ing. Op­ti­misti­cally speak­ing, peo­ple could get the best of both wor­lds – benefits from both youth­ful phys­iol­ogy and life ex­pe­rience.

End­ing ag­ing would seem ob­vi­ously benefi­cial for im­prov­ing sex life. There isn’t a clear re­la­tion­ship be­tween ag­ing and sex­ual satis­fac­tion, at least from younger to older adults, but solv­ing ag­ing may al­low peo­ple to re­tain youth­ful viril­ity and at­trac­tive­ness while also ac­quiring the “skills and strate­gies” as­so­ci­ated with age.

One im­pact of switch­ing to an ag­ing-free so­ciety is that peo­ple would spend much less of their lives as chil­dren, pro­por­tion­ally speak­ing. I can’t find good ev­i­dence on the qual­ity of life of chil­dren com­pared to adults; it is not an easy com­par­i­son. My cur­rent opinion is that child­hood is prob­a­bly worse on av­er­age. Chil­dren seem to suffer from high sen­si­tivity to fre­quent phys­i­cal and men­tal trau­mas, but – de­spite the vague and du­bi­ous nos­talgic no­tion of ‘in­no­cence’ – don’t seem to ex­pe­rience com­pa­rable ex­pe­ri­en­tial highs. Much of the per­ceived value of child­hood comes from their free­dom and in­de­pen­dence, rather than be­ing very young per se. If we solved ag­ing, we could spend less re­sources on rais­ing chil­dren, and could then spend those re­sources on sup­port­ing adults in early re­tire­ment or longer va­ca­tions, so that the gen­eral pro­vi­sion of free­dom and recre­ation in so­ciety would not de­cline.

Stop­ping ag­ing would make the ac­tual ex­pe­rience of dy­ing rare; nat­u­ral deaths could the­o­ret­i­cally be made in­definitely rare or nonex­is­tent. Mor­bidi­ties as­so­ci­ated with ag­ing could be greatly re­duced or ended. See this post for de­tails.

On the other hand, in­duc­ing love would provide ma­jor di­rect im­prove­ments for sub­jec­tive well-be­ing over a pe­riod of decades. Some of the known down­sides of love could be miti­gated since peo­ple would mu­tu­ally in­duce it with part­ners, per­haps se­lected on the ba­sis of ob­jec­tive com­pat­i­bil­ity crite­ria.

It’s not clear which in­ter­ven­tion would be more benefi­cial here. My per­sonal view is that the costs of the ag­ing cy­cle are less than the value of a hy­po­thet­i­cally ideal love life (leav­ing aside the in­di­rect so­cioe­co­nomic im­pacts of these things, to be dis­cussed shortly). I took a small Twit­ter poll of peo­ple’s prefer­ences which had split re­sults, but per­sonal iden­tity is­sues might have con­founded it to pro­voke pro-longevity re­sponses.

Over­all, both in­ter­ven­tions would have large di­rect pos­i­tive im­pacts on qual­ity of life, and it’s not clear which is greater.

Im­pacts on pop­u­la­tion size

Aging would grow the hu­man pop­u­la­tion by avert­ing deaths, but it’s not clear if many peo­ple will keep hav­ing more gen­er­a­tions of chil­dren as they grow older. Love can grow the hu­man pop­u­la­tion by cre­at­ing more sta­ble cou­ples will­ing and able to raise chil­dren. I would guess that solv­ing ag­ing will do more to grow the pop­u­la­tion.

To be clear, I think a larger pop­u­la­tion is a good thing in ex­pec­ta­tion. The cur­rent value of pop­u­la­tion growth is weakly pos­i­tive, ac­cord­ing to the Can­di­date Scor­ing Sys­tem (see the policy po­si­tion on abor­tion). How­ever, pop­u­la­tion growth in the fu­ture – af­ter anti-ag­ing or pro-love treat­ments are de­vel­oped and widely de­ployed – seems to have stronger up­sides and weaker down­sides. It is likely that en­vi­ron­men­tal challenges will be bet­ter solved with fu­ture tech­nol­ogy, the de­mo­graphic tran­si­tion will be ex­ac­er­bated, the pop­u­la­tion will de­cline, and in­hu­mane an­i­mal farm­ing will de­cline. Note that even though some en­vi­ron­men­tal challenges (like cli­mate change) will be­come more dire in the fu­ture, ex­cess pol­lu­tion in the fu­ture is still not as bad as ex­cess pol­lu­tion now, be­cause the pol­lu­tants will spend less time dam­ag­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

Over­all, this is­sue pro­vides a weak rea­son to fo­cus on anti-ag­ing.

Eco­nomic impacts

Solv­ing ag­ing would likely be a huge step for­ward for the econ­omy. The lower rate of pop­u­la­tion turnover would mean less ex­pen­di­ture on school­ing, and the re­duc­tion in mor­tal­ity/​mor­bidity would greatly re­duce the bur­dens of health­care and so­cial ser­vices. Peo­ple could ac­cu­mu­late greater amounts of skills and ex­pe­rience over longer work­ing ca­reers. See this post for de­tails on the ‘longevity div­i­dend.’

The eco­nomic benefits could be rather un­evenly dis­tributed if longevity treat­ments are only af­ford­able to a small part of the pop­u­la­tion. Per­ma­nent so­cial strat­ifi­ca­tion could en­sue if re­ju­ve­na­tion ther­apy re­mains just ex­pen­sive enough to be out of reach of poor peo­ple over their life­times while be­ing con­tin­u­ously af­ford­able to high-pro­duc­tivity peo­ple. Within demo­cratic coun­tries, a com­bi­na­tion of tech­nolog­i­cal progress, eco­nomic growth, gov­ern­ment welfare and pri­vate char­ity should head off this po­ten­tial prob­lem in a rea­son­ably timely man­ner. In au­toc­ra­cies and be­tween differ­ent coun­tries, there is more risk of per­ma­nent strat­ifi­ca­tion, but again the most likely sce­nario is that re­ju­ve­na­tion ther­apy will pro­lifer­ate sooner or later, just as with other med­i­cal tech­nolo­gies.

Solv­ing ro­mance would not be likely to achieve much eco­nomic im­pact. One study found that stu­dents in in­tense pas­sion­ate love performed worse at two sim­ple tests of cog­ni­tive con­trol. This is one study that has not been tested for repli­ca­tion, and the link with ac­tual eco­nomic pro­duc­tivity was not es­tab­lished, so this is only weak ev­i­dence. How­ever it seems pretty plau­si­ble that be­ing pas­sion­ately in love re­duces your pro­duc­tivity.

Eco­nomic benefits are likely, but not proven, to cor­re­spond to greater long-run sub­jec­tive well-be­ing. (See the long-run­ning de­bate over the Easter­lin Para­dox.) It is more clear that eco­nomic progress will lead to ac­cel­er­ated ex­pan­sion of hu­man­ity with a larger pop­u­la­tion and ex­trater­res­trial set­tle­ment.

Over­all, this is­sue gives a ma­jor rea­son to fo­cus on anti-ag­ing.

So­cial change

End­ing ag­ing would re­duce gen­er­a­tional turnover. This would in­hibit so­cial change.

There are a cou­ple ways to think about this. First, let’s stick with the fo­cus on welfare. Hu­man­ity has broadly, though not con­sis­tently, moved to­wards a more in­clu­sive and egal­i­tar­ian per­spec­tive that cares about more be­ings’ hap­piness and suffer­ing. We’ve also got­ten bet­ter at poli­ti­cal and so­cial or­ga­ni­za­tion. And we can see var­i­ous con­texts where peo­ple’s cur­rent val­ues, poli­ti­cal and so­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions still have plenty of room for im­prove­ment through change. This sug­gests that con­tin­u­ing hu­man­ity’s so­cial change is very im­por­tant. But this is too en­thu­si­as­tic a po­si­tion, for not only does gen­er­a­tional turnover cre­ate im­pe­tus for so­cial change, but it also cre­ates some of the prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with so­cial sta­sis. New gen­er­a­tions have differ­ent val­ues, make new de­mands and per­ceive greater un­fair­ness in the cur­rent sys­tem. End­ing ag­ing would there­fore re­duce the un­der­ly­ing need for so­cial change as well as the ac­tu­al­iza­tion of it. Of course, nei­ther would be elimi­nated; peo­ple can still get new ideas and val­ues over time, and so­cial change is of­ten driven by eco­nomic changes and sci­en­tific progress rather than mere ideas. So over­all, ac­cel­er­ated so­cial change seems good for so­cial welfare, but it’s not as im­por­tant as one would pre­sume from a naïve com­par­i­son be­tween the so­cieties of our­selves and our an­ces­tors.

So­cial change could also be meta-eth­i­cally im­por­tant. As­sum­ing that there is moral truth and hu­man­ity con­verges upon it, we would prob­a­bly want more so­cial change even if the con­se­quences seem neu­tral or bad un­der our cur­rent frame­work. I dis­agree: there is no moral truth, and if fu­ture gen­er­a­tions start to care less about global hu­man and an­i­mal welfare, we must un­equiv­o­cally con­demn that. For this rea­son, and for method­olog­i­cal sim­plic­ity in this com­par­i­son be­tween the two in­ter­ven­tions, I’ll ig­nore this ”moral progress” take on the value of so­cial change – but you may want to keep it in mind.

Mean­while, it’s not clear what in­duc­ing love can do for so­cial change. Maybe it gives peo­ple greater con­nec­tions and un­der­stand­ing of other peo­ple’s per­spec­tives, but peo­ple tend to pur­sue part­ners who are similar to them­selves, rather than mak­ing con­nec­tions across so­ciopoli­ti­cal di­vides. Love could in­spire peo­ple, or some­thing like that.

Over­all, this is­sue pro­vides a weak rea­son to pre­fer in­duc­ing love.

Cul­tural capital

End­ing ag­ing would mean that peo­ple would ac­cu­mu­late more ex­pe­rience and mem­o­ries. This kind of wis­dom could be quite valuable in a va­ri­ety of so­cial and poli­ti­cal con­texts. On the other hand, the re­duced fre­quency of new peo­ple with new ideas and per­spec­tives might be a se­ri­ous loss.

In­duc­ing wide­spread ro­mance might give some kind of cul­tural or artis­tic in­spira­tion to peo­ple, but prob­a­bly won’t have much effect. It might dis­tract peo­ple in the same way that it can dis­tract them from eco­nomic work.

Over­all, this is­sue doesn’t give a clear rea­son to fa­vor ei­ther in­ter­ven­tion.

Families

Re­duc­ing or end­ing age-re­lated deaths would greatly re­duce the on­set of tragedy and grief for friends and fam­i­lies.

Solv­ing ag­ing might cause peo­ple to sort into more sta­ble fam­ily re­la­tion­ships, be­cause they have more time to figure things out, or it might cause them to jump around and ex­plore more fre­quently due to in­creased dis­com­fort at the idea of be­ing stuck to one per­son for a literal eter­nity.

In­duced love would be more clearly use­ful for im­prov­ing fam­ily sta­bil­ity, and would thereby re­duce the prevalence of chil­dren be­ing raised by sin­gle or feud­ing par­ents. Many trou­bled cou­ples already make ac­tive at­tempts to stay to­gether for the sake of their chil­dren, and they would pre­sum­ably be en­thu­si­as­tic early adopters of this kind of ther­apy (as­sum­ing it can help fix a re­la­tion­ship as op­posed to start­ing one).

This is­sue doesn’t give us much rea­son to fo­cus on ei­ther in­ter­ven­tion.

Evolution

End­ing ag­ing would slow hu­man evolu­tion. This might ac­tu­ally be good. Or it might be bad.

In­duc­ing ro­mance could shift the tra­jec­tory hu­man evolu­tion as part­ners would likely be se­lected on more de­liber­ate grounds. But it’s not clear if this will have a ma­jor im­pact.

Over­all, this is­sue doesn’t give a clear rea­son to fa­vor ei­ther in­ter­ven­tion.

In­ter­stel­lar travel

Solv­ing ag­ing could ex­pe­d­ite in­ter­stel­lar travel. Real­is­tic manned voy­ages to the near­est po­ten­tially hab­it­able ex­o­planets or ex­o­moons would likely take 2-5 cen­turies, ac­cord­ing to the Can­di­date Scor­ing Sys­tem (see the sec­tion on space ex­plo­ra­tion). (If you have heard spec­u­la­tions about 60-120 year in­ter­stel­lar voy­ages, you are prob­a­bly think­ing about mis­sions to Prox­ima Cen­tauri b, which most likely has deadly ra­di­a­tion and prob­a­bly lacks a good at­mo­sphere or sur­face wa­ter.) The lack of crew con­ti­nu­ity on such an in­ter­gen­er­a­tional mis­sion is com­monly re­garded as a sig­nifi­cant ob­sta­cle to in­ter­stel­lar travel, and solv­ing ag­ing could largely avoid this prob­lem.

How­ever, such mis­sions also face risks of so­cial in­sta­bil­ity and bad men­tal health. In­duc­ing ro­mance could be very helpful for ad­dress­ing this prob­lem, though it still (to me) seems like a less use­ful thing than solv­ing ag­ing.

Re­gard­less, the space­ship could be cap­tained by ar­tifi­cial gen­eral in­tel­li­gence in­stead. In the ex­treme case, space­ships could be de­signed as very small, very fast un­manned von Neu­mann micro-probes, and hu­mans might be raised de novo. Th­ese sce­nar­ios seem to be more likely, de­spite the sci-fi fo­cus on manned mis­sions. So solv­ing ag­ing prob­a­bly wouldn’t di­rectly ex­pe­d­ite in­ter­stel­lar travel.

Also, any manned in­ter­stel­lar coloniza­tion mis­sion would prob­a­bly have to launch well af­ter 2100, which is long enough that per­haps both challenges will be solved any­way. In­ter­stel­lar coloniza­tion will likely re­quire a sort of tran­shu­man­ism and/​or ad­vanced drugs to adapt to harsh en­vi­ron­ments, which may en­tail enough gen­eral sci­en­tific knowl­edge that we’ll be able to con­trol things like ag­ing and love any­way.

Over­all, this is­sue doesn’t provide much rea­son to fa­vor ei­ther in­ter­ven­tion.

Re­search spinoffs

Re­ju­ve­na­tion ther­apy has been spec­u­lated to be use­ful for an­i­mals as well. The gen­eral line of re­search could also un­cover cures for can­cer or other dis­eases in hu­mans.

It is very hard to see how an­i­mals could benefit from tech­niques to in­duce love in hu­mans. But in­duc­ing love might lead the way to­wards benefi­cial cog­ni­tive treat­ments for hu­mans in other con­texts. It might provide a way to shut down un­re­quited love or nasty re­la­tion­ship trou­bles, which could be ex­tremely valuable.

Summary

Solv­ing ag­ing and in­duc­ing love have ma­jor and similar di­rect benefits to hu­man qual­ity of life. Solv­ing ag­ing is much bet­ter on eco­nomic grounds and does more to grow hu­man­ity, though it also in­curs a cost of in­hibit­ing de­sir­able so­cial progress. The im­pacts on cul­ture and fam­i­lies are un­clear and difficult to judge. Solv­ing ag­ing would slow hu­man evolu­tion, but it’s not clear if this is good or bad. Both lines of re­search have sig­nifi­cant po­ten­tial for spinoffs.

Over­all com­par­i­son: love and ag­ing are com­pa­rable priorities

Solv­ing ag­ing seems a bit more im­por­tant. In­duc­ing love ap­pears more ne­glected. Its tractabil­ity also ap­pears fa­vor­able at this early stage. Over­all, they seem like similarly high pri­ori­ties.

Corol­lary: fix­ing love is com­pet­i­tive with fight­ing ne­glected trop­i­cal diseases

Aging re­search is in turn com­pet­i­tive with malaria pre­ven­tion, which is one of the most effec­tive di­rect in­ter­ven­tions against global poverty and dis­eases. Thus (by tran­si­tivity) in­duc­ing love seems com­pa­rably valuable to stan­dard an­tipoverty work, though of course it could still be worse than big­ger is­sues of eco­nomic growth.

Op­tions and recom­men­da­tions for Effec­tive Altruists

There isn’t a ready place for peo­ple to donate money to re­search on in­duc­ing love, but if some­one was in a po­si­tion to do se­ri­ous re­search or grant­mak­ing or maybe start a kind of busi­ness offer­ing so­cial ser­vices, I would say that look­ing at in­duc­ing love ap­pears bet­ter than marginal re­search efforts against ag­ing. The re­search path for this is­sue looks promis­ing; it is high-risk/​high-re­ward, but at the same time it could be started with straight­for­ward repli­ca­tion and gen­er­al­iza­tion stud­ies as op­posed to difficult paradig­matic shifts or true ex­per­i­men­tal cre­ativity. Of course, more am­bi­tious sci­ence could also be very benefi­cial here.

Those with psy­chol­ogy re­search skills will have to think more care­fully about the whether they should fo­cus on love, on more or­di­nary men­tal health, or on an­i­mal psy­chol­ogy (with an eye to­wards im­prov­ing con­di­tions on farms, or un­der­stand­ing their well-be­ing in the wild).

The pri­ori­ti­za­tion of this cause area may also be aided by a closer look at how much benefit peo­ple get from be­ing in love.