If you've been following along with the location discussion (you probably haven't, that's okay), you'll know that I've become convinced that trying to get the community to leave Berkeley en masse is probably not a good idea. However, that leaves us in a bit of a cheeky conundrum (sorry, been watching lots of British comedy) – there are in fact real reasons why some people are excited about moving, and we shouldn't just throw all that in the garbage, even if we decide not to move.
So in this post, I want to figure out how we can get the things that we want out of moving, without moving (thanks to Aray for the general idea). The point of this is to stop thinking of move/don't-move as a binary, and instead focus on ways of achieving whatever goals are hidden at the root of our desire to move.
I'm choosing to focus on what I've come to believe are three of the main cruxes:
- Opportunity to stop stagnating / be a new person
- Political stability
- Nicer surroundings
I've taken inspiration from jacobjacob and generated 50 dumb ways to get each of the things (in spoiler tags, in case you want to generate your own!). In inviting you to do this babble challenge, I also invite you – if you so choose – to babble not on these topics, but on cruxes of your own.
We've been in Berkeley for a long time, and some people just want to move because they want to be anywhere other than the place they already are. Your physical location definitely shapes the thoughts you have and the actions you take, so if you feel stuck in a rut, shaking up your whole life by moving can sound pretty appealing. How else can we shake up our lives?
- Move to a different room in your house
- Start living with different housemates
- Move to a different physical house in the same neighborhood
- Move to a new neighborhood
- Rearrange your furniture
- Redecorate the house
- Paint your walls
- Spend a lot of time in VR
- Meditate a lot to become more attentive to your experience
- Start using a different room as the default common space
- Go to more conferences
- Go on retreats for much of the year
- Commute to an office instead of working from home, for context change
- Go on a walk / bike ride / drive in a different place each day
- Rotating offices - instead of having people from the same org working in the same place all the time, we reorganize once every one to three months
- Maybe we have one big office building and people work on different floors
- Maybe we keep the offices we have and just rotate the groups of people
- MIRI has a permanent retreat venue a couple hours away where researchers can go any time they want
- Go do more touristy things in the area where you live
- Go to more events
- Transition to a different gender
- Change the smellscape of your environment (e.g. with flowers, candles, or essential oils)
- Change the soundscape of your environment (e.g. by playing music all the time, or getting a lot of birds)
- Walk around on stilts or in high heels
- If you're bilingual, do all your work-thinking in the other language
- Start learning a completely new field - e.g. art history for an AI researcher, or organic chemistry for a historian
- Get a dog
- Switch up your mode of transportation - e.g. if you usually bike everywhere, walk instead, or vice versa
- Make one of the rooms in your house a Dreamatorium
- Start sleeping in a tent in your yard
- Spend a night on the streets
- Don't have internet at your home, only at your office (or vice versa)
- Become nocturnal
- Read everything upside down
- Take drugs
- Take a month-long vow of silence
- Sing everything you say
- Rhyme everything you say
- Call old friends you haven't talked to in years and ask for their take on the problems you're currently facing (whether personal or technical)
- Use lasers to make yourself colorblind
- Drastically switch up the aesthetic of your computer-using experience - e.g. by switching operating systems
- Start using a different web browser so that you get different kinds of results
- Get imprisoned
- Get rid of everything you own
- Have a baby
- Get married / divorced
- Implant electrodes in your brain
- Switch from typing your thoughts into a computer to writing them on paper
- Build a physical model of the abstract theory you're working on, e.g. out of wood or tinkertoys
- Take a job as a security guard or something, so you have a lot of time with nothing to do when you're not allowed to distract yourself with the internet, so you can have a bunch of unstructured thoughts
- Make new friends in a totally different social circle; their different way of thinking will help you generate new kinds of thoughts
- For organizations, have the ops team and researchers switch roles temporarily so that everyone can get a new perspective on the organization's goals.
- Completely revamp your routines – go back into explore mode for things where you've been in exploit mode a long time (e.g. restaurant choice, TV shows)
Whew, well, not all of those were completely useless! Onward!
Political and social stability
A major thing lots of people want out of moving is to get away from the stressful uncertainty of recent social and political upheaval. How can we get that without moving?
- Have people you trust run for public office
- Dedicate your life to founding a secret society that inserts people aligned with your values into positions of immense power in your country
- Single-handedly disarm all the nukes in the world, like Superman in that one Justice League episode
- Buy all of the major news networks and let them mostly continue as they are but subtly make everything less partisan
- Write some very influential books
- Put sedatives in the municipal water supply
- Secede from your country / form a micronation
- Go really hard on raising the sanity waterline - e.g. get rationality training into all public schools
- Print ten million copies of HPMoR / the Sequences / SSC and distribute them evenly around your country
- Go back in time and finagle things so that there's less political polarization (not sure how, you figure it out)
- Find a Death Note and eliminate the people who are linchpins of social and political instability
- Like the previous one but in a technologically possible and yet still untraceable way, like… targeted asteroids
- Somehow become a big wig on Capitol Hill and spearhead some major bipartisan movement
- Invent a supervillain-type ray that causes all guns in the world to melt
- Become a Jesus / Gandhi / Forrest Gump type figure
- Purge Night
- Require mental health screenings for people before they can run for public office
- Abolish the CDC and FDA and most bureaucracy in the US; then people won't be angry because they had to wait five hours at the DMV and they won't be sick and angry about it because they can't afford healthcare
- Outlaw swear words
- Overhaul all of the algorithms that decide what to show people on the internet, to actively counter partisanship and general polarization
- Legalize marijuana and criminalize alcohol so that when people want to use legal drugs to numb their pain they're more likely to get chill than angry
- Get them vaccines distributed right quick like so we can end lockdown and therefore hopefully return to a better baseline of sanity
- Somehow import the collectivist values that make Japanese society so relatively functional
- Make the week into eight days instead, so that we get three rest days for every five workdays
- Make an AI that's a really great psychotherapist, then provide it for free to everyone in the world, and socially normalize or even require its use
- Positive singularity
- Build a giant fortress
- Get people to exercise more, because exercise is the magic that cures all ills
- Get people to make more art, because making art is the magic that cures all ills
- Automate away the vast majority of jobs and instead free people to make art or whatever, but also invent a fully immersive virtual reality experience (like Star Trek's holodecks) so that if they don't have anything productive they want to do they can just stay out of the way while being happy
- Just chill out, things are actually pretty fine
- More hugs
- Cause a whole lot more people who think like you (or the way you like people to think) to move to your area, a la Free State Project – then at least if shit goes down, you'll be surrounded by allies
- Become a citizen of another country, just in case
- Just really solidify your personal social group, and pretend people outside of your bubble don't exist
- Follow Eliezer's suggestions to reboot the police
- Make a society just like the one in Brave New World – that was a piss-poor attempt at a dystopia given that everyone is happy all the time, aging is curtailed, and society is incredibly stable
- Go hard on genetically modifying embryos so that within a generation everyone is smarter and more level-headed
- Make many billions of dollars, take over the world
- Build a time machine, take over the world
- Nukes in space?, take over the world???
- Befriend a bunch of highly influential people (Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Kim Jong-Un, etc) and whisper in their ears like a vizier in a movie
- Replace a bunch of highly influential people with clones loyal to you
- Seduce Donald Trump
- Inundate the world with more resources than humanity could possibly use, so that there's nothing to fight over anymore. At the very least then we'd have different problems.
- Hire a whole team of bodyguards so you don't have to worry about violence
- Invent and spread widely a faster mode of travel, like hyperloop or flying cars, so that there's more global connectedness, and therefore maybe more global understanding
- Get the Autobots to come from Cybertron and save us from ourselves
- Join the military, rise in the ranks, take over the military, abolish the military
- Form a worldwide movement of people doing random acts of kindness – that's the kind of thing I thought might change the world when I was in high school, and who knows, it's not impossible
Finally, some people want to move because they just don't like the place they are all that much. I'm going to divide this babble in half, because there are two main classes of solutions: change your surroundings, or get better at accepting your surroundings as they are.
Changing your surroundings:
- Move to a nicer neighborhood in your area
- Move to a house with a big backyard
- Get a water feature
- Get lots of plants
- Redecorate your house
- Renovate your house
- Put a lot of effort into optimizing your work and living setups, your commute, etc.
- Become friends with everyone on your block, knock down the fences in your backyards, and make the area behind your houses a big private park
- Unilaterally shut down the street to car traffic and instead make it a place for kids to play
- Lobby for car-free roads or car-free days in your city
- Organize people to pick up litter in your neighborhood
- Generally combat the broken window effect in your neighborhood
- Fill your home with nice sounds and smells
- Plant a bunch of trees around your house
- Invent a way to replicate the effects of the Harry Potter notice-me-not spell, so that most people can't perceive you, so you don't have to deal with them
- (Western-US-specific) Fund controlled burns throughout the year all over the state to cap how bad wildfire season can get
- Secure all your furniture to the walls per earthquake best practices, so that you don't have to worry about things falling on you if there's a big earthquake
- If you don't like urban life, relocate to a suburb within commuting distance
- Abolish cars
- Make a zen garden
- KonMari your life
- Put a lumenator in every room where you spend time
- Decrease your exposure to your surroundings by staying home all the time (I bet a lot of you are already doing this :P) – then you only need to make your house good, which is way easier than making a whole city good
- Invent truly giant, like spaceship-sized air purifiers – they hover above the city and nullify all effects of pollution, wildfires, and even COVID
- Fill the air with happiness gas, like the Joker
- Exterminate all ticks / mosquitoes / whatever pest is the worst in your area
Accepting your surroundings:
- Purposely go out in the world with a childlike sense of wonder – What kind of tree is that? Can you believe that cars exist? Can you believe that people exist?
- Mindfulness meditation
- See a therapist
- Have a conversation with someone who really likes living in the area
- Find a place in or near your home that you just genuinely love being, and soak up that feeling
- Start a gratitude journaling habit
- Remind yourself that the other places you've lived or might want to live aren't perfect; make a list of the ways in which those places aren't as good as your current city/area
- Remind yourself of the positive reasons that you initially ended up in your current location, and maybe try to get back some of that magic
- Be a tourist in your own city – benefit from all the very best things it has to offer
- Buy property so that you're locked into staying, and let post-hoc justification work its magic
- Recite the Serenity Prayer
- Forbid yourself from saying or writing negative things about the place you live, so as to not strengthen those neural pathways
- Think of all the people you would never have met and things you would never have done if you hadn't been where you are
- Spend more time with your friends and be grateful that you live near them
- Think of all the ways you could have it worse – e.g., maybe Berkeley has some problems with being dirty, but it sure beats the slums of Mumbai
- Actually spend some time in a different place and think about all the things you miss about home
- Befriend a bunch of your neighbors
- Start participating in and organizing local community events so that you feel like you're a part of something nice
- Do community service to feel more connected to your city (not to purchase utilons, obv)
- Have kids, because kids need friends and need to go to school and stuff, which will cause you to become more integrated into the community
- Listen to Bobby McFerrin's Don't Worry Be Happy on loop until it sinks in. As a bonus you could buy one of those creepy fake fish to sing it for you.
- Post all over social media about how much you like the place you live – put #aesthetic pictures of it on Instagram, extoll its virtues on your Facebook, fight people on Twitter who don't like it. Eventually you will hopefully have convinced yourself you like the place, or at the very least, it will be too awkward of a social move to admit that you don't.
Well there you have it! I'd be interested to hear either other people's answers to these prompts, or their own cruxes. While I've largely made up my own mind on whether it's a good idea to move, I think most people still feel pretty unresolved. At the very least, it seems like there are real problems that need to be addressed – and if we don't move, we need to find other ways to address them.
Awesome lists! Those were both funny and inspiring.
I decided to mix the three prompts together. Here's my babble:
*That’s not true, I just made that up. Puns like that just write themselves, I'm sorry.
This is amazing, I cried from laughing.
this post is pure gold. If I could give more Karma, I would give it :)
I'd also love to see the reverse! How can we keep the benefits of not moving while actually moving.
Mod note: I've frontpaged this post (as opposed to previous "where should the Bay move?" posts), since it seemed more generalizable to people in various other location situations.
I really appreciate how this and the previous posts does a lot to describe and frame the problems that moving would solve, such that it's possible to make progress on them.
I think it's harder to clearly frame the problem (or clearly break a big/vague problem into concrete subproblems).
Anyways, some babbling:
Is there a reason the political ones are so incredibly more unrealistic than the relocation ones?
Oh sorry, I thought this might be self-evident, but the reason is that fixing the global geopolitical situation is just a much more difficult problem than fixing your own workflow or happiness, so it was a whole lot harder to generate ideas.
Thank you for your reply. I was reading the political question to be about what you as an individual could do. Then it is a surprising explanation and I do not have that much trouble coming up with ideas for that case.
Even if you apply all the good ideas in this list, you've still got one big problem: You're still in Berkeley.
Interesting mix of post on an important topic and babble. I'm not really concerned by the moving debate, except if it was outside of the US, because my biggest issue with the Bay Area is getting a visa and having to live in the US.
Also, some of these are actually hilarious. I like the bilingual and the water supply ones.