Jay

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Problems of evil

Nietzsche said that after Man killed God*, the angels in their grief carried on trying to worship God - they didn't know what else to do.  That's how non-religious Western spirituality seems to me.  On the one hand, many people** find the idea of a personal God to be incompatible with science - it is impossible to reconcile the Beatitudes with the Red Queen's Race.  The trouble is that ideas like "all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights" and "the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice" are load-bearing parts of our culture but these ideas are based on theology and make no sense at all once that foundation has crumbled.  

Fortunately, we have one saving grace***.  Most people are not greatly bothered by these contradictions.  Human thoughtlessness FTW.

*by rendering God implausible 

** including me

*** so to speak

The Forces of Blandness and the Disagreeable Majority

I think a large part of it stems from the dominance of marketing in our culture.  Our elites are fundamentally salespeople, and insulted customers walk away.  When the social justice movement made offense its cardinal sin, our leadership found a religion it could believe in.  The only irredeemable sinners are the working class, because they're too poor to be a valuable market segment.

The Myers-Briggs model always struck me as the perfect example of American culture.  There are 16 types , and all of them are wonderful.  You are encouraged to settle into the market segment that's right for you.  I suspect a Chinese discussion of the Myers-Briggs typology would start with which type makes the most money (INTJ, I hear), and the rest of it would be about how to become an INTJ.

Is Success the Enemy of Freedom? (Full)

You'll know more as you get older.  You'll have solutions cached for more problems.  But your sheer ability to think will peak within a few years.  Unless what you do is extremely IQ-intensive you won't notice any significant decline for quite a while, but there's a reason that 30 year old mathematicians are considered past their prime.

As far as being cross with the universe, there's a support group for that.  It's called "everybody".  We used to meet daily after work in literally every bar, but the lockdowns have been rather disruptive.

Mental Blinders from Working Within Systems

If you want to try a startup anyway, here a few bits of advice:

  • Your company will be very demanding and not lucrative for quite some time.  You'll need slack everywhere else.  Avoid debt like the plague.  Relationships will be challenging.
  • When you have employees, their perspective will diverge from yours.  It's not their company.  It's not their dream.  It's just a job to them.  
  • Joining a startup is like going on a blind date.  There is a finite number of times you can do it before it becomes incredibly depressing.  The first one is an adventure, and the second one you know will be different.  After that ...

Good luck!

Mental Blinders from Working Within Systems

If a >5% chance of getting rich seems worth a <95% chance of wasting several years of your youth, then you do you.  That's how I wasted my own youth.  In retrospect I wish I'd picked one of the fun ways, but hindsight is 20/20.

Mental Blinders from Working Within Systems

As I noted below, nearly all startups fail (including the ones I've been involved in).  So in my case, the biggest barrier to starting my own company is my experienced judgement that it's almost never a good idea.

Mental Blinders from Working Within Systems

In the companies I worked for, the major investors usually had a few seats on the Board of Directors.  Also, they generally invested because they were major potential customers and hoped to use the startup's technology as a competitive advantage in their own companies.  And the investment contracts had many strings attached to preserve the investor's flexibility at the cost of the startup's. So they could (and did) renegotiate research agreements under unfavorable terms when the startup couldn't deliver as promised, trigger contractual provisions that gave them extra control if revenue targets weren't met, lead boardroom motions to replace senior management, send their people around to monitor the workplace (board members have that right), etc.  

Or they'd just shut off the funding.  A startup that has investment will almost always add staff and other costs; that's why they wanted funding in the first place.  But that means that the burn rate rises to the point where the company can't survive long without more cash*, and its current investors are by far the easiest people to tap for cash.  When they cut off the spigot, several of my employers weren't able to survive long enough to find more funding.

*It would be nice to get several years worth of cash at once, but most investors were unwilling to commit more than six months at a time.  Maybe a year, at the outset.

Mental Blinders from Working Within Systems

I've been in five or six startups, depending how you count.  If the startup is not meeting the investors' expectations and needs more cash, which is usual (nearly all startups fail), then keeping investors happy is a huge problem.*  The first six months or so of an investor relationship are usually okay, but things sour from there.  If you're exceeding expectations they're pretty mellow, I hear, but their expectations are pretty extreme and I have no direct experience of this.

*Oddly, people become unhappy when they realize you're losing their money.  

Mental Blinders from Working Within Systems

Success in the start-up world gives you money, but also gives you equity investors with many demands.  That sort of success may not actually give much freedom unless you manage to sell out, literally, in the form of trading your equity and control for cash.  Then the investors become someone else's problem and you're left with cash and freedom.

Using false but instrumentally rational beliefs for your career?

Fair enough.  I've never understood how "self-deceit" was supposed to work, though.  Self - delusion is simple enough - you believe something that isn't true.  That's probably universal.  But self-deceit seems to require you to believe something that you don't believe, and I don't understand why you expect yourself to fall for it.

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