tl;dr: Some people on LW have a hard time finding worthwhile employment. Share advice and help them out!
Working sucks. I'd rather not work. But alas, a lot of the time, we have to choose between working and starvation. At the very least I'd like to minimize work. I'd like to work somewhere cheap and comfortable... you know, like on the beach in Thailand, like LW (ab)user Louie did. Then I could spend my spare time on things like self-improvement and ahem 'studying nootropics' all day. I'd like to travel, if possible, and not be chained to an iffy job. It'd be cool to have flexible hours. I've read The 4-Hour Work Week but it seemed kinda difficult and scary and... I just don't wanna do it. I can't code, and I'd rather not learn how to. At least, I'd rather not have my job depend on it. I never graduated from college. Hell, I never got my high school diploma, even. A team of medical experts has confirmed that my sleep cycle is of the Chaotic Evil variety. (For those who read HP:MoR, imagine Harry Potter Syndrome, except on crack. I bet a lot of people have similar sleep cycles.) I'm 18, and therefore automatically low status for employment purposes: I'm obviously much too young to make a good teacher, or store manager, or police officer. I can imagine having health problems, or severe social anxiety, or a nearly useless liberal arts degree, or just a general setback limiting my employment opportunities. And if it turned out that I wanted to work 14 hour days all of a sudden because I really needed the money, well then it'd be cool to have that option as well. Alas, none of this is possible, so I might as well just give up and keep on being stressed and feeling useless... or should I?
I bet a whole bunch of Less Wrongers aren't aware of chances for alternative employment. I myself hear myths of people who work via the internet, or blog for a living, or code an hour a day and still make enough to survive comfortably. Sites like elance and vworker (which looks kinda intimidating) exist, and I bet we could find others. Are there such people on Less Wrong that could tell us their secret? Do others know about how to snag one of these gigs? What sorts of skills are easiest to specialize in that could get returns in virtual work? Are virtual markets hard to break into? Can I just blog for an hour or two a day and afford to live a life of simplistic luxury in Thailand? Pretty much everyone on Less Wrong has exceptional writing ability: are there relatively well-paying writing gigs we could get? Alternatively, are there other non-internet jobs that people can break into that don't require tons of experience or great connections or that dreaded and inscrutable bane of nerds everywhere, 'people skills'? Share your knowledge or do some research and help Less Wrong become more happy, more productive, and more awesome!
Oh, and this is really important: we don't have to reinvent the wheel. As wedrifid demonstrated in the earlier Intelligence Amplification Open Thread, a link to an already existent forum is worth ten thousand words or more.
Here is what worked for me. I started a programming career as a university dropout, got bored of it after 15 years and started a successful freelance consulting practice, got tired of that after a while and recently redesigned my job from the ground up for more stable income and even more freedom of action than I had as a consultant.
Advice #1 is: learn how to network. Start doing it now even if you think you're "too young".
Send email to people - strangers - you think of as exemplars of the kind of success you aspire to, and ask them for one hour of their time, to give you some insight into where your own career might go, and possibly refer you to someone who could help further your goals.
Keep a Farley file, or maybe use LinkedIn to keep your contacts organized, but at any rate start thinking of these contacts as "your network" and of your network as one of your major assets in building the kind of career you want. Cultivate people in your network for their own sake, not as people who can help you. If at all possible, think first of how you can help them.
After a while - and one thing to remember is to be patient, it could take up to a couple years - your network will start generating opportunities for you. At that point, know what you want. You won't be able to say "yes" to everything, but it's crucial that you're able to say "yes" to something. You will have to take risks.
Get a notebook and write done every adult you know including relatives. Call each person in your book and ask for advice in getting a job and ask for new people you could contact for job hunting help. Write the names of these new people in your notebook, call them and ask for advice and new names. Repeat until you have a job.
Basically, a software development process think tank funded by companies who have a vested interest in ensuring that the research and education on said processes (Agile, specifically) is of better quality in the future than it has been so far. In practice this means that as of this month I get paid to write, attend conferences, organize seminars, network with people to try to match up cients and contractors when a bid is going around.
Those were things I did "pro bono" when I was a consultant; at one point I decided the consuting gigs were interfering with the volunteer stuff, and I had to choose one or the other. I picked the one that was more fun, the trick was to figure out the money angle, then convince businesses to go along with it.
To be frank I have only reached half of my financing goals so far, so this is still a work in progress with failure a possiblity.
As a survivor of a recent heart attack, I would like to make a rather surprising suggestion. If you live in big city, get a job as a bicycle courier. If near a college campus, get a job as a bicycle pizza delivery person. Get someone to pay you for getting healthy exercise. Then you can spend your spare time on sedentary intellectual activities without damaging your health.
If you are like Mitchell_Porter, and wish to spend your spare time on serious math-like creativity, then you definitely need 4-6 hours of mindless physical activity in the middle of your wake cycle, with intense intellectual activity at the beginning and end of the day. No one can maintain peak intellectual productivity for long periods without some scheduled downtime.
A good job for mindless physical activity: cart-pusher at Walmart. I did this in high school, and it is still easily the best job I've ever had. You work at your own pace, you're outdoors, the managers usually ignore you (so you don't even have to obey dress code). Mostly I just screwed around with my coworkers.
Basically you just spend all day walking (with occasional bursts of hard physical exercise). I lost 40 pounds in the first 6 months and got into the best shape I have ever been in. There's also a kind of pleasant exhaustion after putting in 8.5 hours.
ETA: These jobs are extremely easy to get: even though I lived in an economically depressed area, I was hired without even an interview. A woman from HR called 90 minutes after I submitted my application.
When you say it this way, Will, you needlessly exclude readers not yet familiar with the scientific content of this site, and you give the superficial impression of subscribing to Deepak Chopra or other New Age woo-woo.
Why not? I'd recommend at least giving it a whirl and seeing if you like it. Especially web programming.
Someone with your mental abilities could find (web) programming enjoyable, useful, and perhaps even profitable, so don't write it off too soon.
From personal experience I agree with all those bullet points, and wish to add one more: having the ability to write simple computer programs can be extremely useful in other information-related endeavors. Next time you or one of your friends is burning a lot of time doing a repetetive task on a computer, wouldn't it be nice to be able to turn an hours-long task into the work of 15 minutes with a simple script?
Many organizations heavily rely on computers for their day-to-day business, yet do not understand how to take advantage of them to reduce required human effort.
Kill boring work: become an amateur computer programmer.
Becoming an amateur computer programmer takes quite a bit of work, but at least it's not boring work.
It really depends on what someone needs you to do. There are a few different approaches to web programming, which include different workflows and different ways of breaking up who does what. Generally, most things on the web can be broken up into "front end" and "back end", which change meaning based on context. "Front end" can usually be divided into "design" and "implementation [or] programming". "Back end" can usually be divided into server administration, the database, and programming.
I work at a small firm (in person) and so do both front-end and back-end programming, but usually someone will specialize in one or the other or some aspect of it. For folks condemned to work in the world of Microsoft, there is usually a lot of complicated technical work to interface various proprietary Microsoft technologies using abstract frameworks on the back end.
The traditional back-end setup in the Unix world is what used to be called LAMP (back when people felt the need to call it something) - a machine with a Linux OS running the Apache web server and MySQL database engine, with Perl ... (read more)
Back end programming just means the programming of what you want your site to actually do, as opposed to how you want it to look. i.e. it's the part that actually qualifies as "programming" (coders really hate it when web designers refer to web design as "programming").
If you're just setting up a web site based on an existing code base (like how LW is based on the reddit code), then there may not be any back end programming that needs to be done. But if you're actually creating something original, somebody needs to actually write the code to make it do what you want it to do.
Like say we were trying to create LW from scratch. You've laid out all your HTML and CSS and images and whatnot for how you want everything to LOOK. But there are all these buttons and stuff, like the "Create New Article" button in the top right. You can lay out where that button is and what it looks like, but what actually happens when a user clicks on it? That's where back end programming comes in - probably you respond to the click by creating a new row in an article table in your database, which has a schema you've created, specifying all the fields that need to appear - the ... (read more)
My observation is general. 'Money for survival' is close to the minimum ambition that will require (emotionally) hard work, and learning and doing things you seriously suck at that will make you feel stupid. Maximising the chance of existential win is far, far greater. This is why observations such as those are useful in as much as they are identifying a problem that may need to be worked around.
This is one of the most prevalent forms of self sabotage in existence.
I don't think that's a good argument against itsunder9000: I've seen plenty of supposedly sophisticated people who you would expect to be able to distinguish from placebo advocate things which did not do jack for me in my own blinded or randomized experiments.
For example, the people who praise LSD microdosing have generally taken more psychedelics than I've even heard of; and what happened when I did a blind randomized self-experiment? No effects (1 trend toward benefit, 1 trend towards harm). Seth Roberts had been self-experimenting for decades longer than I have, and believed that treadmill usage benefited his spaced repetition performance; what happened when I did a randomized self-experiment while skeptical? Statistically-significant harm to my spaced repetition performance, the opposite of what this sophisticate's introspection told him. Seth Roberts thought vitamin D at night hurt his going to sleep and taken in the morning, improved his awakening the next morning; what happened when I did a blind randomized self-experiment? I found that he was right about the first thing, and wrong about the second (no benefit). And so on.
I didn't believe that much in the placebo effect befo... (read more)
Do you know Randall Munroe well enough that you could convince him to hang out on LW? I want xkcd comics about timeless decision theory so much now that I have thought of the possibility.
Looks like the ideal place for you is college. Almost everything in your post points to the lifestyle:
"Flexible hours": Check; "Studying nootropics": Check
"Travel": Check (study-abroad programs); "Not be chained to an iffy job": Check (Avoiding downtime on your resume can "chain" you to a job, but school is not considered downtime.)
"Spend my spare time on things like self-improvement": Check (I never did as many side-activities as I did in college; and a liberal arts degree is often understood in terms of "self-improvement").
"Sleep cycle of the Chaotic Evil variety": Check; "Work 14 hour days ... cool to have that option": Check (I studied and did other activities non-stop in college; and a degree helps you work long hours for lots of money once you have it).
Whether you want to do college; or have the energy; or the money; or can get into a prestigious enough program, is another question. But you can get into state schools without a strong high-school diploma by getting good community college grades; state schools are pretty cheap; and some of them have some very good honors programs.
Despite the general anti-school tenor on LessWrong, some of us actually learned something in college, and enjoyed it too.
I make my money teaching/ tutoring. This has the wonderful benefit of requiring me to re-familiarize myself with a wide range of topics and giving me a reason to study. Particularly wonderful as i have a hard time sticking with a topic without a reason.
I think that this is something that many LWers could benefit from.
I'm one of them. I code from home for 1 or 2 hours a day and make more than enough to live comfortably in Moscow. But, unfortunately, there's no magical secret to it.
I'm 27 now (turning 28 in a couple weeks) and started to earn money coding when I was 15. I changed employers a lot and learned a lot. (Worked from home a lot, too, and did many contract jobs.) At my current job I initially worked in the office for two years, so they got to know and value me. Then last winter I told my employer that I wanted to work from home with one office day a week, while taking a salary hit. They agreed and told me the salary would stay the same.
From where I stand, "snagging gigs" is not really a problem. Finding qualified people is the problem. Every successful software company in the world wants to hire every good engineer they can get.
Hmm, you're 18? The most financially helpful thing that happened to me when I was 18 was that a smart girl with well-to-do parents fell in love with me. But I suppose it's hard to make this happen deliberately.
Look at salary data to help decide what kind of occupation to pursue.
Data for the U.S. is here:
Thanks for posting this! I'm very interested in such advice.
Maybe we don't have to do it alone? Do people know of ways for groups of us who don't want to work to band together and get by?
Super Awesome Co-Op for Rationality, Organic Farming, Programming, Meditation, and Other Cool Stuff!
To be honest it'd be pretty awesome... we could live in yerts somewhere in Northern California and get by on self-sufficient power generation via solar panels and farming, and make additional money by giving seminars about rationality, meditation, programming, anything we were good at. We'd have tons of time to teach each other things and read text books and stuff. Sooooo cultish but so awesome. But I think the cultishness factor means it would be damaging to the rationality and Singularity memes, even if we never overtly discussed the Singularity.
That's too first-order hipster. Too "hippie environmentalist cult" (that's, like, so relatively mainstream, man). Much more fun to signal "technophile libertarian sci-fi cult". Can we could build a miniature liquid fluoride thorium reactor instead?
Is there any way to go more meta-contrarian? Like, by eating liquid fluoride thorium instead and generating power with genetically modified giant venus flytraps? Fuck it, let's generate power with chocobos and get all our nutrition from LSD.
Please don't let being practical get in the way of jokes.
Edit: Unless it's a practical joke.
Complete with a lone trail leading to an isolated yurt for those staging an all-out crisis of faith.
I'm amazed that noone has posted a link yet to the Existential Risk Reduction Career Network. Or maybe someone did and I haven't noticed.
Here's the description on the site's front page:
This network is for anyone interested in donating substantial amounts (relative to income) to non-profit organizations focused on the reduction of existential risk, such as SIAI, FHI, and the Lifeboat Foundation. For more information on existential risk, please see Nick Bostrom's original paper, or Wikipedia for a brief overview. We are a community of people assisting each ... (read more)
Despite some ethically dubious suggestions and a healthy dose of nonsense and self-promotion, The 4 Hour Work Week has some very helpful material relating to this topic. It's worth reading for the genuinely valuable ideas in amongst some less great material.
I'm interested in hearing the experiences of any LW members who've managed something like this as well.
Off the top of my head:
There are other elements which might trigger ethical qualms for others but which didn't bother me like the idea of personal outsourcing.
Isn't he just "Kevin" to those of us who subscribe to roughly human distributions of terminal values?
Don't go for the get-rich-quick (or get-free-time-quick) schemes. You're 18 frickin' years old! The most reliable strategy would probably be:
My current work is more alternative than I would have expected. I'm an appellate lawyer working from home for the quasi-governmental "panels" established by my state to represent indigent defendants in criminal and juvenile dependency (meaning, the state took their kids away for neglect or abuse) appeals. I'm not a trial lawyer -- I only show up in court at all for up to an hour or so for oral argument -- and that only comes up infrequently. Most appeals are conducted entirely through written briefs. On an hourly basis, the pay is pretty good... (read more)
If you're truly smart, truly rational, and with the goal function you describe in your post, an obvious answer is to play poker on the internet. But beware: if it turns out you're not actually as rational as most of us on Less Wrong think we are, it probably won't work out.
I hear that everywhere too. It's a selection effect: most of the population aren't smart and rational enough to be long-term winning players and it's these people you hear complaining, while the good players go on quietly winning.
It's definitely true that the games are getting tougher every year, because the community is learning to play better, so the threshold of ability you need to be a winning player is constantly increasing. But it's not that high yet.
Now let's talk about your two bugbears, bots and collusion.
You never ever have to worry about bots. The goal in poker is to seek out and play against bad players, while tolerating the presence of good players. It's completely irrelevant whether these players are controlled by humans, machines, or some combination. (In practice, except possibly for heads-up limit hold'em, good players are still better than the best bots published in the academic literature anyway.)
This is something you have to worry about, but in practice it's not that big a deal, especially if you play at low limits, where it's not going to be worth the bother for competent players to collude. There have been only a handful of times when I've ... (read more)
This is an interesting observation, but probably not that surprising: if you had a superior poker bot that was consistently profitable, why on earth would you publish it?
Generalizing, if someone working at a bank or hedge fund developed a superior theory of economics, and that theory could be used to make money through trading, why would they tell anyone else about it? Once the knowledge became public, it would no longer be profitable.
Yeah, Two Plus Two is a good source of advice on everything poker-related. People can also email me if they wish, I make my money by playing poker.
And when choosing a rakeback site (you do need one), feel free to support a fellow LWer and SIAI-supporter by choosing mine :)
(It's actually kind-of half-finished; I haven't really started to promote it, and haven't polished the content. But it does work.)
EDIT: One of the ways in which that site of mine is "unfinished", is that it has a marketing attitude to a degree. I built it based on a template that has that attitude, and haven't yet decided whether I'll go along with that attitude or modify it to be fully trustworthy in the sense that marketing language isn't.
So to a degree, take what you can currently read there with a grain of salt. (You can email me for fully honest answers without a marketing attitude, and as mentioned, Two Plus Two forums are good.)
Would this be a good time to mention that I sell custom and pre-designed pinback buttons online? ;) Or, perhaps, that I'd be interested in doing some kind of skill trade for a better website for it? (I'd love to outright pay someone to do it, but I can't afford to. I'm able to do it myself, but I really don't want to.)
A topic I'd like to see addressed in this area is "how to make your resume/cover letter make you look like the badass you really are, but have no paperwork to prove." I have the opposite of your "typical nerd" problem--I'm... (read more)
I was about to make the same suggestion as mattnewport, (4 HR workweek).
I'm an impoverished/overworked grad student, though, so I'm obviously not an expert on how to live a comfortable, low-stress life.
Ridiculously irregular sleeping patterns are fully compatible with standard freelance work in software development and similar fields.
Internet-only work doesn't work yet, you'd need to meet with real life people once or twice a week, and be extremely responsible over email when you're available to compensate for your reduced availability due to time-shift, but other than that it works just fine for me.
Grey markets are fun. Selling stuff is a good way to make money. Just some random observations.
Anime Community Marketing Associate
(if anyone here is seriously considering applying let me know, I'm willing to help with resume tweaking or teaching you how to present yourself as knowing community/SEO stuff that you might not yet know)
For food, check out the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program). It's easier to be eligible than I anticipated: an individual that has a net monthly income of $903 and less than $2000 worth of countable resources can get $200 of food money per month. They do require you to be employed, but you might be able to get away with doing minimal part-time work.
(It's a US government program but I'm guessing that similar programs exist in other countries.)
Some great advice on here (particularly this post http://lesswrong.com/lw/2qp/virtual_employment_open_thread/2o49?c=1 ).
What about reaching out to one another through LinkedIn?
I just recently found out about it, and I'm optimistic about it finding me something decent while I wait for my writing career to take off. Even if it doesn't pay off immediately, I doubt it would hurt being connected to you guys professionally. My page is: http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/davis-aurini/24/865/b51/
(Yes, I put in 'LessWrong' in under Groups/Organizations. While I've manag... (read more)