How to get the benefits of moving without moving (babble)

by mingyuan9 min read13th Nov 202011 comments

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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.

Stop stagnating

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?

Babble:

  1. Move to a different room in your house
  2. Start living with different housemates
  3. Move to a different physical house in the same neighborhood
  4. Move to a new neighborhood
  5. Rearrange your furniture
  6. Redecorate the house
  7. Paint your walls
  8. Spend a lot of time in VR
  9. Meditate a lot to become more attentive to your experience
  10. Start using a different room as the default common space
  11. Go to more conferences
  12. Go on retreats for much of the year
  13. Commute to an office instead of working from home, for context change
  14. Go on a walk / bike ride / drive in a different place each day
  15. 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
    1. Maybe we have one big office building and people work on different floors
    2. Maybe we keep the offices we have and just rotate the groups of people
  16. MIRI has a permanent retreat venue a couple hours away where researchers can go any time they want
  17. Go do more touristy things in the area where you live
  18. Go to more events
  19. Transition to a different gender
  20. Change the smellscape of your environment (e.g. with flowers, candles, or essential oils)
  21. Change the soundscape of your environment (e.g. by playing music all the time, or getting a lot of birds)
  22. Walk around on stilts or in high heels
  23. If you're bilingual, do all your work-thinking in the other language
  24. Start learning a completely new field - e.g. art history for an AI researcher, or organic chemistry for a historian
  25. Get a dog
  26. Switch up your mode of transportation - e.g. if you usually bike everywhere, walk instead, or vice versa
  27. Make one of the rooms in your house a Dreamatorium
  28. Start sleeping in a tent in your yard
  29. Spend a night on the streets
  30. Don't have internet at your home, only at your office (or vice versa)
  31. Become nocturnal
  32. Read everything upside down
  33. Take drugs
  34. Take a month-long vow of silence
  35. Sing everything you say
  36. Rhyme everything you say
  37. 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)
  38. Use lasers to make yourself colorblind
  39. Drastically switch up the aesthetic of your computer-using experience - e.g. by switching operating systems
  40. Start using a different web browser so that you get different kinds of results
  41. Get imprisoned
  42. Get rid of everything you own
  43. Have a baby
  44. Get married / divorced
  45. Implant electrodes in your brain
  46. Switch from typing your thoughts into a computer to writing them on paper
  47. Build a physical model of the abstract theory you're working on, e.g. out of wood or tinkertoys
  48. 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
  49. Make new friends in a totally different social circle; their different way of thinking will help you generate new kinds of thoughts
  50. For organizations, have the ops team and researchers switch roles temporarily so that everyone can get a new perspective on the organization's goals.
  51. 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?

Babble:

  1. Have people you trust run for public office
  2. Dedicate your life to founding a secret society that inserts people aligned with your values into positions of immense power in your country
  3. Single-handedly disarm all the nukes in the world, like Superman in that one Justice League episode
  4. Buy all of the major news networks and let them mostly continue as they are but subtly make everything less partisan
  5. Write some very influential books
  6. Put sedatives in the municipal water supply
  7. Secede from your country / form a micronation
  8. Go really hard on raising the sanity waterline - e.g. get rationality training into all public schools
  9. Print ten million copies of HPMoR / the Sequences / SSC and distribute them evenly around your country
  10. Go back in time and finagle things so that there's less political polarization (not sure how, you figure it out)
  11. Find a Death Note and eliminate the people who are linchpins of social and political instability
  12. Like the previous one but in a technologically possible and yet still untraceable way, like… targeted asteroids
  13. Somehow become a big wig on Capitol Hill and spearhead some major bipartisan movement
  14. Invent a supervillain-type ray that causes all guns in the world to melt
  15. Become a Jesus / Gandhi / Forrest Gump type figure
  16. Purge Night
  17. Require mental health screenings for people before they can run for public office
  18. 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
  19. Outlaw swear words
  20. Overhaul all of the algorithms that decide what to show people on the internet, to actively counter partisanship and general polarization
  21. 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
  22. Get them vaccines distributed right quick like so we can end lockdown and therefore hopefully return to a better baseline of sanity
  23. Somehow import the collectivist values that make Japanese society so relatively functional
  24. Make the week into eight days instead, so that we get three rest days for every five workdays
  25. 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
  26. Positive singularity
  27. Build a giant fortress
  28. Get people to exercise more, because exercise is the magic that cures all ills
  29. Get people to make more art, because making art is the magic that cures all ills
  30. 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
  31. Just chill out, things are actually pretty fine
  32. More hugs
  33. 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
  34. Become a citizen of another country, just in case
  35. Just really solidify your personal social group, and pretend people outside of your bubble don't exist
  36. Follow Eliezer's suggestions to reboot the police
  37. 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
  38. Go hard on genetically modifying embryos so that within a generation everyone is smarter and more level-headed
  39. Make many billions of dollars, take over the world
  40. Build a time machine, take over the world
  41. Nukes in space?, take over the world???
  42. 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
  43. Replace a bunch of highly influential people with clones loyal to you
  44. Seduce Donald Trump
  45. 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.
  46. Hire a whole team of bodyguards so you don't have to worry about violence
  47. 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
  48. Get the Autobots to come from Cybertron and save us from ourselves
  49. Join the military, rise in the ranks, take over the military, abolish the military
  50. 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

Nicer surroundings

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:

  1. Move to a nicer neighborhood in your area
  2. Move to a house with a big backyard
  3. Get a water feature
  4. Get lots of plants
  5. Redecorate your house
  6. Renovate your house
  7. Put a lot of effort into optimizing your work and living setups, your commute, etc.
  8. 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
  9. Unilaterally shut down the street to car traffic and instead make it a place for kids to play
  10. Lobby for car-free roads or car-free days in your city
  11. Organize people to pick up litter in your neighborhood
  12. Generally combat the broken window effect in your neighborhood
  13. Fill your home with nice sounds and smells
  14. Plant a bunch of trees around your house
  15. 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
  16. (Western-US-specific) Fund controlled burns throughout the year all over the state to cap how bad wildfire season can get
  17. 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
  18. If you don't like urban life, relocate to a suburb within commuting distance
  19. Abolish cars
  20. Make a zen garden
  21. VR
  22. KonMari your life
  23. Put a lumenator in every room where you spend time
  24. 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
  25. Invent truly giant, like spaceship-sized air purifiers – they hover above the city and nullify all effects of pollution, wildfires, and even COVID
  26. Fill the air with happiness gas, like the Joker
  27. Exterminate all ticks / mosquitoes / whatever pest is the worst in your area
    ----
    Accepting your surroundings:
  28. 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?
  29. Mindfulness meditation
  30. See a therapist
  31. Have a conversation with someone who really likes living in the area
  32. Find a place in or near your home that you just genuinely love being, and soak up that feeling
  33. Start a gratitude journaling habit
  34. 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
  35. 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
  36. Be a tourist in your own city – benefit from all the very best things it has to offer
  37. Buy property so that you're locked into staying, and let post-hoc justification work its magic
  38. Recite the Serenity Prayer
  39. Forbid yourself from saying or writing negative things about the place you live, so as to not strengthen those neural pathways
  40. 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
  41. Spend more time with your friends and be grateful that you live near them
  42. 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
  43. Actually spend some time in a different place and think about all the things you miss about home
  44. Befriend a bunch of your neighbors
  45. Start participating in and organizing local community events so that you feel like you're a part of something nice
  46. Do community service to feel more connected to your city (not to purchase utilons, obv)
  47. 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
  48. Lobotomy
  49. 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.
  50. 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.

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11 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 11:03 PM
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Awesome lists! Those were both funny and inspiring.

I decided to mix the three prompts together. Here's my babble:
 

  • Entice your directionless, mobile, remotely-employed, twenty-something friends to move to your area. Practice radical honesty with regard to what it’s like to live there.
  • Find out how much of your regular diet you can replace with rice and beans before your quality of life drops too much. It might be a lot, and food is expensive.
  • Have a friend visit you for a week, and goad them into expressing opinions about your town/city. See with fresh eyes, vicariously.
  • Get some sweet genital piercings
  • Visit a bunch of places that you have been told are “nice to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.”
  • Go for a long walk.
    • Longer than you just imagined.
      • Still not long enough. Think bigger.
  • Experiment with wardrobe changes and keep an eye out for changes in how people treat you.
  • Reread “The Intelligent Social Web” and pick one small thing to try to influence in your own web. (For example, if your family uses lazy insult-based humor as their default mode of relating, try imagining the conversation tree in advance and memorizing good retorts.)
  • Intentionally build up an appreciation of all of the little cosmic jokes around you. (Did you know that Netflix doesn’t let you watch any Captain America movies if you’re located in the US?)
  • Try calling a friend every day during lockdown.
  • Wear progressively more makeup every day until someone comments on it
  • Get into a friendly rivalry with your friends over who has the best home workout during quarantine
  • Boop your dog’s nose with your own nose. Heheh awww.
  • Set up a video conference room that lets you amble around with free hands instead of sitting at a desk or holding your laptop out in front of you.
  • Try Direct Primary Care (DPC) and supplement with high-deductible insurance
  • Squeeze your dog’s tail and see what they think about that
  • Get a dog for your dog
  • Get a health-share plan
  • Make your dogs wear diapers and treat them like precious little babies. When your friends express distaste for this, simply appeal to cultural relativism and ask them to leave.
  • Stay in an AirBnB for a couple of weeks with no easy internet access. Break your routines and rethink your life.
  • Pick some regional peculiarity or stereotype and try and lean into it. If you live in Berkeley, try lowering your Conscientiousness with drugs. Do some Hippy Flipping and then see how long you can talk about the trip without your friends trying to change the subject. If you live in Canada, start peppering in “eh” to all your sentences, until it stops feeling like a deliberate and ironic affectation. If you live in Oxford, dress up even more. If you live in the American South, try becoming a football fan. Try to set personal record for hours spent talking about football in one day. If you live in Michigan, buy a camo jacket, make a quarterly gun budget, and start hitting the range at least once a month. If you live in New York, start acting like an apprehensive, surly asshole...or an au courant and haughty élite--either way, stay focused on the negative. If you identify as a rationalist, do any of the above and put an awesome rationalist spin on it.
  • Start writing a novel featuring people like you and your peers. It worked for the protagonist of the 2002 hit comedy “Orange County”
  • Quit memes, cold turkey. If you’re already clean, start imbibing them in huge amounts.
  • Try babbling?
  • Put the dog in a headlock and give em a kiss on the snout.
  • Try actually using one of your rationality techniques for once. Start a journal, make a pro/con list, google it, write down a line of retreat, write your hypothetical apostasy, readdress the hamming prompts, generalize your financial budget, or so on.
  • Clean your damn room. Take pictures of it while it’s clean, frame them, and hang them up.
  • Trade some money and convenience for mobility and flexibility. Use the mobility and flexibility to have a summer home and a winter home.
  • Delete your twitter account, delete the app, and surround it with barriers and encumbrances in your browser.
  • No Dad, YOU'RE a disappointment!
  • Try an elimination diet.
  • Get some coordinated motion with your people. I hear this is one of those deep human needs.
    • Join a sports league. Or just somehow be playing a group sport on a regular basis, with people you like for non-sports reasons.
    • Dance parties. Dance classes?
    • Watch some action movie about an elite special forces unit pulling off some crazy extraction or something. Imitate what you see, except with paintball guns. (Real flashbangs though, obviously.)
    • Gnarly escape rooms that require human pyramids and shit.
  • Get vaccinated and go out for a karaoke night with your peeps.
  • Infiltrate your local MRA group and write an ethnography
  • Instead of shopping around for a "good school", try making your own rationalist homeschool. The teachers can help the students make and do real things that aren't forgotten 2 weeks after the exam.
  • Urban exploring
  • Toughness is a virtue. Don’t activate the heater and the long sleeves as soon as the first snowflake of the year hits the ground. Try cold meditation or something. Become worthy of the ancestors whom you sing about once a year at solstice. 
    • Same but opposite for hot summers
  • Grift all your friends into joining your niche fetish subculture by approaching each of them privately and telling them that all your mutual friends have already privately signed up for the next kink event. It’s like a Dominant Assurance Contract, except instead of putting money at stake, it’s your social capital and reputation for honesty. This is in fact how DomCon got its name*.
  • Less unethically: get your favorite friends to come visit you and intermingle with your local friends. Get your visiting friends to talk and behave in ways that look especially cool and enviable to your local friends. Get them to discuss/do things you wish your local friends would discuss/do.

*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:

  • Home
    • Redecorate or remodel
    • Arrange a furniture swap with friends and neighbors
    • Marie kondo your stuff
    • Give friends a virtual tour of your space and ask what they would change
    • Ask your friends for virtual tours of their spaces for ideas
    • Have a garage sale / get rid of a bunch of stuff
    • Buy land
    • buy a house
    • buy a condo
  • Work
    • Ask for a raise
    • Ask for a promotion
    • Interview at other companies
    • Get career coaching advice (80k / EA folks are pretty practiced at this!)
    • Give career coaching advice (showing up, as a professional in my 30s, to EA / early career events has been more fulfilling than I thought it would be)
    • Go to conferences in your field
    • Go to conferences in the field you want to be in (strongly recommend this)
    • Join vocational groups (meetups, etc) to connect with folks in your field
    • Give presentations about your job/work at vocational groups
    • Try moving around weekend days (wednesday/sunday?)
    • Try working from home (okay this would probably have been more useful pre-pandemic)
    • Change up your commute (bike or walk or public transit or drive or motorcycle)
    • Join a carpool with people you think are cool to be in cars with
    • Start a carpool with people you think are cool to be in cars with
    • Take an online course (bonus: get your work to pay for it)
    • Get a professional degree (online or night school or whatever)
  • Relationships (mostly not romantic)
    • Make it easy for other people to schedule 1:1s with you (calendly / etc)
    • Reach out to possible mentors you would want to have
    • Reach out to possible mentees (many people I know could be great mentors but are too uncertain to take the first step towards mentorship themselves)
    • Retire a mentor of yours that you're no longer getting lots of value out of (but maybe still be friends?)
    • Start a book club
    • Start a paper reading group
    • Start a running group or gym group
    • Host more parties (post-vaccine)
    • Go to more parties (post-vaccine)
    • Join a monastery / religion / church / etc (not for everyone)
    • Start a religion / etc (I think the anti-digital movement has room for a neo-luddite group to coalesce, but thats a separate post)
  • Other
    • Find a counselor or therapist
    • Turn off your internet after dark
    • Go on a 10 day silent retreat
    • Spend a month in an RV
    • Travel much more often (for me this could be "travel at least 3 days every month" but for others could vary)
    •  

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.