AllAmericanBreakfast

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How to Make Billions of Dollars Reducing Loneliness

Take my thoughts less as objections and more as opportunities. If a business can solve many or most of them, they might prosper. No reason to think it’s impossible to improve on the current rental industry, but you’d want to think through the current set of issues methodically.

AirBnb doesn’t promise anything more than a regular hotel experience in a new setting. OKCupid doesn’t promise anything at all really, except a supply of singles looking to date.

We already have robust services that supply both rental properties and people looking for housemates (the roommate equivalents of AirBnb and OKCupid).

It strikes me that the value you’re suggesting a company could provide is a positive housemate experience, achieved through some sort of algorithm or a setup in which housemates could somehow try each other out as housemates in a flexible way before they commit.

I am highly skeptical of the idea that even the most sophisticated algorithmic matching software can provide better housemate relationships through better matching than is already available. I don’t think any dating apps match people well romantically. The most effective approach with them is to just go on a lot of dates and see if anyone clicks.

It would be more interesting to me if a company figured out a way where people could move in together, stay as long as they liked, move out, try another group, with minimal hassle.

Perhaps an apartment building with pods of furnished rooms connected to a common area. People make profiles, get on the waiting list for an open pod, and the current pod mates can vote on who they want to accept next. They can’t kick out a pod mate they don’t like, but they could switch away to a different pod.

The rates are hotel prices, maybe double what the house normally rents for. When an entire pod clicks, they can move out at their leisure to a rental apartment or house.

It seems to me that this could add value to a typical hotel experience, while using a similar business model. AirBnb already provides a solution to the trust problem of strangers cohabitating.

If this kind of business existed in my city at an affordable price, I might try it. Hotels are about twice as expensive as rental apartments, though, so I imagine this would be a pretty costly investment.

You’d want lots of options for people to live with, which necessitates owning a lot of rental properties.

To avoid that problem, perhaps you could connect with landlords, offering them a cut of the profits in exchange for partnering with your service. You help them manage the properties, to cut the hassle for the landlord, and they’re able to charge higher rates, closer to hotel prices, in exchange for granting this level of flexibility to their renters.

My estimate is that you could raise prices by $4,000/mo on a six bedroom house, with the landlord keeping 25%-50% of the increase. You’d need to give them an incentive to take on an extra potential hassle and try something new.

I suppose there’s merit in a more detailed sorting algorithm. OKCupid may not be able to detect your soul mate, but it helps prevent a match between a 57 year old gay man in Seattle and a 22 year old lesbian in Austin, which is useful. I imagine a better algorithm could at least prevent mismatches like these.

The challenge is that you’d need to ensure a steady stream of clients. Otherwise, the property owners might lose money despite the higher rates. This could be hard if a pod was occupied by a person with an unpopular profile.

Perhaps you could rely on the high rates of the service to eventually incentivize them to move out. You could also put temporarily lower rates on unoccupied rooms to incentivize people to move in.

This service would probably also need to deal with people treating it like a hotel, which could dilute the utility for people treating it as a room mate try before you buy service. You could partly solve that with branding. In any case, a paying client is a good client.

How to Make Billions of Dollars Reducing Loneliness

There are already at least three companies in this space: RoomieMatch, Roomi, and Roomster. I wonder why nobody I know uses them, but dating apps are very popular?

It seems to me that the triangulation, trust, and transfer problems in roommate matching that go beyond what OKCupid has to deal with:

  • There are more than two people involved, and the difficulty of finding communal compatibility complexifies geometrically with the number of roommates.
  • By the same token, people moving in and out happens more frequently with larger numbers of room mates, often with short notice, making it hard to keep a stable equilibrium of preferences.
  • Imagine if it was easy to "date your future housemates," perhaps by living together for a month. It's already emotionally painful for people to deal with or inflict rejection in one-on-one dating. Imagine being the "odd man out" in this situation. That sounds like a recipe for really uncomfortable social dynamics.
  • Land lords often influence or even entirely control the process of finding new room mates. There are also laws around evictions that make it very difficult to kick somebody out if its not working for others, whereas there are no legal barriers to breaking up with someone you're dating if there's no marriage and no kids.
  • There's a much higher effort and commitment barrier required to move than to go on a date.
  • This is speculative, but OKCupid's success may stem from capitalizing on a cultural institution that makes romantic love feel of vast importance. By contrast, finding an ideal group of room mates doesn't have the same cultural importance: we still dream of having our own place by ourselves or with our own biological family. To have comparable success, such a service would need to create a new dream. Even if that's your dream, is it the dream of your housemates?
  • Similarly, the service OKCupid provides may be less in matching people with compatible characteristics, and more in identifying an abundance of single people and getting them hyped to go on a date. The purpose of the "matching" is to trick you into building up anticipation, not to ensure a really good fit (after all, if it did that too well, people wouldn't come back for more!). Instinct, hormones, and love do most of the work of making people stick together in the end.
  • When people do try and start intentional group houses, they're often organized around a shared social movement, which already have word-of-mouth and social media channels where people can learn about these opportunities for free.

I think a company would do better to work on solving one or more of these problems.

How to Make Billions of Dollars Reducing Loneliness

They are faster when you have a lot of dishes, and often much more energy and water efficient than hand washing.

Raw Post: Talking With My Brother

Great thoughts. I share the "neutron moderator" concept of NVC.

NVC-like practices have definitely produced de-escalation in many cases. In retrospect, I perceive that it may have made the other person feel ashamed of themselves for being insulting or cruel, and having that be met not with silence or aggression, but with an honest expression of hurt.

In some cases, that has led to an extended conversation in which those feelings could be processed further, as with my brother. I count this as a successful application of NVC. That's why I felt it was not quite fitting for Alexey Lapitsky to suggest that I may have come across as judgmental or accusatory, and recommend NVC as a solution - although I appreciate his input.

However, in other instances, that moment of NVC honesty led directly to either explosion (screaming, cursing, threats, accusations) or an uncomfortable end to the conversation. Probably I could have done more in situations where the conversation just petered out uncomfortably. I could have intentionally brought up feeling like I wanted to talk more at a later time, for example.

In the "explosion" cases, it's honestly associated with one figure in my life. There is a lot of love there, but also an awareness of a high capacity for dishonesty, self-deception on their part, false memories, and inappropriate recruitment of me as their confidant. I therefore eventually decided simply to energetically shield myself, practice distancing myself from their schticks, and finding ways to sooth or divert them prior to a blowup for the sake of my own comfort.

Probably it is memories associated with this explosive figure in my life that lead me to struggle with continuing to process relational discomfort with other people who'd be more receptive. Thanks for pushing on that point. I hope I'll be able to improve my other relationships with that in mind.

Raw Post: Talking With My Brother

I've reworded this reply about 5 times now, and I'm not sure why the words are proving slippery.

Basically, my experience with NVC and other such frameworks is that they most often get offered to people who are already working hard to communicate well. Quite naturally, since they're probably receptive to help in that effort and interested in analyzing their conversational dynamics in detail. Unfortunately, it's the people who lack good communication skills who probably need NVC. When the people who are already careful communicators are also receiving the most advice about improving their communication style, the result can be self-blame, self-stifling, and dysfunctional levels of indirection and softening to the point of fundamental dishonesty.

I need to remember that intellectual conversations are also highly emotional and relational. Questioning a person's ideas can feel like a personal attack. Making a strong argument can shut a conversation down. A debate can't be kept relaxed through the one-sided application of rationalist techniques. It has to be a shared language or implicit agreement.

I think the same is true of NVC. If only one person's doing it, it's not going to work very well. It takes two. Some of my best memories are of conversations that took place between myself and somebody else schooled in NVC or something similar. Some of my worst are of applying NVC or similar techniques in a situation where the other person is used to getting their way through domineering or abusive behavior.

The benefit of NVC/rationalism in situations like that is that they help you get away clean. You don't escalate your own language or say equally stupid things. That doesn't mean they'll look at you any better - they may well invent an even worse interpretation of your behavior to justify their own abuse. But by consistently applying these techniques to a healthy degree, you'll start to perceive yourself as a kind, level-headed person who doesn't get sucked into other people's schticks as easily. This builds confidence and dissolves guilt.

This in turn makes it easier to be honest about what happened with an intimate companion or therapist. Having the opportunity to look at the situation through your friend or therapist's eyes builds wisdom that can be applied to the larger dynamics at play. It's a virtuous cycle.

Raw Post: Talking With My Brother

Are you the Maoist, or someone you know?

I don’t see my brother as irrational. I see him as thinking rationally from a different set of premises, and morally fired up about the conclusions he draws.

The I Ching Series (2/10): How should I prioritize my career-building projects?

In concrete terms, it's the difference between sort of bleeding from working on schoolwork all day on the computer to mindlessly watching somebody play video games on Twitch or streaming a bunch of episodes of a TV show I've watched 4 times before; versus decreeing that work stops at 10:00 PM, taking one hit on a joint on the porch (I'm a lightweight), and gabbing with my girlfriend about all kinds of stuff in a very enjoyable and emotionally-engaged way that I find exceedingly difficult to do if I haven't gone into a kind of mental and emotional "second space." Does that make sense?

The I Ching Series (2/10): How should I prioritize my career-building projects?

Thank you for the ideas and all the positive feedback! I would say that the results of this I Ching run have been quite dramatic so far. I'm excited to make a post about them when they've had more time to develop. You're right that seeking mentorship on taking on more of a leadership role would be a good idea. I'm still exploring what academic training to seek, and actually starting a new career will be several years further down the line - though obviously there will be plenty of important projects in the meantime. However, I do feel confident that I've learned a lot from my work as a teacher, and I feel good about the ways they're applying to my new projects and schoolwork. Sometimes, that only becomes apparent on reflection.

The I Ching Series (2/10): How should I prioritize my career-building projects?

Insights, Intentions, First Steps:

  • Insight: I will prioritize collaborative projects and ensure their success, deprioritize solitary skill-building projects, and reject projects related to developing the career I am involved in currently but moving away from. I will be cautious about taking on additional collaborative projects or escalating my current ones, since letting down others is frustrating to them and may risk my reputation.
    • Update: Since this post, I took on a significant new collaborative project that fits my new career direction, and have spent the bulk of my free time working on it. I did have a request to create a document with advice and insights related to experience in my former career. This seems like an important way to preserve what I've learned over the last decade as a music teacher, so I will probably do it.
  • Intention: I will take time this summer to investigate alternative community colleges and teachers, since I’ve switched academic tracks since starting at my current school. First Step: I made a list of the community colleges in my town, and listed the email addresses of the heads of their economics and math departments.
    • Update: I contacted the head of the math department at one, and scheduled a meeting for Friday.
  • Insight: Overall, I will keep a level-headed attitude with the ups and downs over this process, and understand that while plans are fragile, particularly those made for more than 6 months out, I can find workable alternatives.
  • Intention: I will assign a reasonable amount of time each day to do something intentional to add joy and ease to my life. Even if I’m not certain it will really accomplish this aim, I’ll select activities that convey the appearance of joy, trusting that performing such rituals will lead to maturity, the real thing. First Step: I made a list of fitting activities and created a Personal Growth Journal to put them in.
    • Update: I started using the late evening as a time to smoke a little bit of weed, watch TV or read poetry, and have reached out to friends more often. I have also used time-wasting activities far less during the day since making this change, and felt happier about my use of free time. However, the weed-and-TV time rapidly switched from novel and pleasant to somewhat routine. It will be hard to schedule more meaningful activities many days due to my work schedule, but it might be necessary for true "joy time."
  • Intention: I will make more of an effort to praise good outcomes of decisions and actions made by myself and others, understanding that they will usually be more modest and short-lived than I’d originally hoped. First Step: I started an “accomplishment affirmations” section of my Personal Growth Journal briefly listing what I’ve achieved today.
    • I only made one entry in "accomplishment affirmations," but have replaced it by creating a daily work tracker - a simple spreadsheet in which I list each task and accomplishment throughout the day. This gives me a more succinct and practical record that both serves as an organizing tool and as a record of what I accomplish. In general, I do feel that I've softened in my personal interactions.
  • Intention: I will look for opportunities to take positions of command, such as a boss or team leader. First Step: I guess I’ll make an “aspirations” section in the PGJ. Not sure how to take a more concrete step in this direction.
    • No obvious progress
  • Intention: I will hold myself and my collaborators accountable for failures in our duties. First Step: In my PGJ, I made a log of cautions to myself for my own small failings., and wrote two paragraphs about how I dealt with my frustrating physics teacher.
    • Writing down some of my mistakes (on tests, for example) actually did help me become more rigorous.

Hexagram:

55

Interpretation:

Fêng / Abundance

Thunder and Lightning from the dark heart of the storm: The Superior Person judges fairly, so that consequences are just. The leader reaches his peak and doesn't lament the descent before him. Be like the noonday sun at its zenith. This is success.

My first thought is that some of my projects are collaborative. That means we’ve made commitments to each other. My decision to cut these projects or increase my commitment will impact other people. Making sure others feel like I’ve treated them well in our collaboration is as important as adding another line to my resume. Therefore, all else being equal, I should prioritize collaborations, make sure that I’m treating others well and receiving good treatment in turn, and should be especially cautious before taking on further collaborations or escalating my current commitments.

The fact that I’m attempting a major career change after ten years in the workforce makes the language about “the descent before him” unpalatable to me. A more optimistic reading is that I’m “descending” from the zenith of my previous career. I have ideas from time to time about how I could have done more - building a larger business, hiring employees, starting a summer camp. Maybe it’s merely saying that it’s time to let these plans go: a graceful exit, feeling that I don’t need to squeeze in more to feel successful. This suggests that I should not add new projects toward furthering my old career.

You are in a position of authority in this situation. Archetypally, you are the New King, returned from your quest to claim your throne. However, you are enlightened enough to realize that you are merely a part of a cycle, and that you must someday yield your throne to the new kid in town, the younger, faster gunslinger, the young turk, the next returning hero, the next New King. Fretting about the inevitable descent is senseless. For now you must play your role to the hilt and use this gift of power to govern your world as best you can. You are the best person for the job. That's why you were chosen. Give it your personal best.

I did not consider that I might be fretting about my long-term decline in the context of prioritizing these short-term projects. Perhaps I am trying to do too much all at once, trying to run faster than the younger generation in order to stay ahead of the competition. I should at least make sure I do a great job at the collaborative projects I’m committed to. Achieving a good and timely result there is more important than investing extra time in learning new skills.

Chên is movement; Li is flame, whose attribute is clarity. Clarity within, movement without-this produces greatness and abundance. The hexagram pictures a period of advanced civilisation. However, the fact that development has reached a peak suggests that this extraordinary condition of abundance cannot be maintained permanently.

This connects with my value that I should have a good, conscious reason for making consequential decisions. All my projects are aligned with my fundamental desire to seek a more highly-impactful and rewarding career. I feel as though I haven’t invested enough time in looking at alternatives, and too often dive in. For example, there are a number of community college programs in my area. The one I’m attending was chosen for reasons that are no longer relevant. I’m pursuing a different academic track, and so I should probably make a stronger effort to meet or at least look up all the faculty who teach classes in this new area. Maybe there are better options. I keep pushing that into the background because it feels like another unfun thing on my plate, another uncertain and potentially disruptive decision to make.

After spending some time with the second half, which seemed more mysterious to me, I felt it might be suggesting a more cautious outlook on the future. It may be that changes in civilization that are beyond my control will profoundly impact my career trajectory in ways I am unable to anticipate. I can’t time the market, and it’s good to plan ahead, but I should take my plans for more than 6 months out lightly, and those for more than a year out as fragile. It may be that some of my projects are depending on enough factors that there’s always a risk they’ll collapse. My community college might get no state tuition subsidy and triple its rates. I might spend a year building up a relationship with a teacher, only for him to have a heart attack and die. Donald Trump might be elected for a second term.

In the face of risk, it makes sense to diversify and hedge my bets, while keeping a level head and not responding overmuch to the ups and downs. Both in terms of personal reward and altruistic impact, I think I’m making the strongest bet I can; I have to trust that over the next few decades, future-me will ride the waves as well as possible, whether seas are stormy or calm. When those risks hit, I can take time to reassess, but if I’m hedging and diversifying appropriately, I should be able to mitigate the impact to some extent.

THE JUDGEMENT

ABUNDANCE has success.

The king attains abundance.

Be not sad.

Be like the sun at midday.

Being a student means frugality with my money and time. It’s stressful at times, and can make me sad about what I’m missing out on. This could mean to stay positive about the tradeoffs - my main strategy - or it could be suggesting that I aim for a full, abundant life for myself even in the midst of all the work. I have to admit that the question of how to have an abundant life right now is far from my mind. I don’t want to see these as “lost years.” Maybe I really do need to be as proactive and energetic about bringing an abundance of joy into my life as I am about working hard.

Maybe that means setting aside “me time” every day, making more plans with friends, being more open to taking trips, buying things I like, being OK with OK but always looking for fuck yeah. I think that would mean considering actions that I currently neglect or reject because they would make me joyful, rather than productive, and intentionally taking a gamble on them. It may be important to start with the appearance of joy and abundance, the ritual, and trust that over time, it will mature into the real thing. I’m going to make a list of several easy activities that might bring me joy, and intentionally set aside a reasonable amount of quality time for them every day, and see if it’s adding to my life.

It is not given to every mortal to bring about a time of outstanding greatness and abundance. Only a born ruler of men is able to do it, because his will is directed to what is great. Such a time of abundance is usually brief. Therefore a sage might well feel sad in view of the decline that must follow. But such sadness does not befit him. Only a man who is inwardly free of sorrow and care can lead in a time of abundance. He must be like the sun at midday, illuminating and gladdening everything under heaven.

This quote reminds me that it’s necessary but not sufficient to have a will directed toward greatness. Regression to the mean is a thing; time and tide ruin all structure. I need to be excited and glad of the opportunity to make even modest achievements. I need to be in the habit of praising what I and others do, always looking for and speaking to the good. This is a caution to LW and EA perspectives, which often focus on raising concerns and doubts, and can give rise to a somewhat mechanistic discourse. There’s a time for sober deliberation, and a time for praise and delight in whatever positive outcomes are achieved. I do feel as though I’m focused so much on the former that I’m neglecting the latter.

Perhaps I can make a mental habit of expressing more gladness for the positive outcomes of my decisions, and to counter activity bias by reminding myself that I also have agency over aspects of my life that I’ve come to take for granted, and that they also warrant continued alternations of praise and deliberation.

THE IMAGE

Both thunder and lightning come:

The image of ABUNDANCE.

Thus the superior man decides lawsuits

And carries out punishments.

This image seems both mysterious and harsh to me. I’ve never considered thunder and lightning as symbols of abundance. To me, the “superior man” is who I’m becoming: a person capable of shouldering big responsibilities and working with adults. Currently, I work with children, and have cultivated a kindly, receptive, soft persona. This image suggests that I’ll need to make myself into a force of nature, a mover and shaker, sticking by my decisions once they’re made, in order to have the kind of impact I want. This doesn’t seem too relevant to my current projects, since I’m not in a position of command in any of them. It might suggest that I should fight for such a commanding role as a way to prove myself, something I had not considered before.

It could also mean that just deciding to disrupt my life and pursue a different career, despite the objections and disbelief of my family and friends, is a way of taking command in this way. I need to cultivate credibility as an authority, from the way I speak and dress, to the way I live, to the roles I take on. In all that, it’s important to remember that on collaborative projects, my decisions will impact other people: it’s not all in my head.

This hexagram has a certain connection with Shih Ho, BITING THROUGH (21), in which thunder and lightning similarly appear together, but in the reverse order. In BITING THROUGH, laws are laid down; here they are applied and enforced. Clarity [Li] within makes it possible to investigate the facts exactly, and shock [Chên] without ensures a strict and precise carrying out of punishments.

I think this is about taking analysis seriously and putting it into action. Only in this way does thinking matter. I’ve made some important decisions already, and it’s important to implement them and enforce them despite the barriers the world puts up and my own rebelliousness.

The focus on punishment here is challenging. I think about this very little. I’m not a governor or manager, and have no authority to punish anyone except myself. However, in my projects, people will no doubt let me down in various ways. I need to be prepared at least to formally acknowledge violations and issue reprimands to others, or to call myself to account, when there has been a failure of responsibility. “Strict and precise” means going beyond merely feeling bad and letting it go. It means having somewhat more of an explicit process, by which violations are tracked, and appropriate punishments are considered before they are carried out.

Timeliness matters too. I once was accused of improper lane violation, and contested the ticket I received in court. The officer never filed a report, and didn’t show up for the court date, so it was automatically dismissed and my record was cleared.

Come to think of it, I’ve actually been doing reasonably well with this. When I had a sloppy and disorganized physics teacher a couple quarters ago, I called him on it, brought in the relevant college authorities, and was very proactive about making sure I was treated fairly.

That suggests that these projects will have value not only as concrete accomplishments, but also in supplying me with stories I can tell to establish my ability to work through challenges and demonstrate my personal and productive virtue. That will require some reflection, perhaps after the fact, as I am doing here. Part of a good court system is maintaining accurate and fair records. So perhaps I should also be creating a journal of these sorts of stories and engaging in periodic reflection of this kind.

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