Open & Welcome Thread - September 2020

Have you read ? Curious what you think. (Disclosure: I started the company that Ben works for, which does not have hard eng problems but does have a high potential for social impact)

A Scalable Urban Design and the Single Building City

Nice post. I’m excited - is there a place where people who want to work on this sort of thing / live there can coordinate?

If you are signed up for cryonics with life insurance, how much life insurance did you get and over what term?

$100k and $250k are standardized life insurance amounts which over-fund CI by a lot. I can get a $100k 10-year term life at $11/mo and a $250k one for $15/mo. I currently get $100k life insurance through my company so I just did that. Smaller than $100k doesn’t seem worth thinking about.

I do expect to pay out of pocket once I have saved enough money for the cost not to matter, because I want to stop dealing with the logistics of proof of insurance.

Maximizing impact at startup with high EA potential?

(Context: I’m an EA aligned startup founder. I wish my employees asked questions like this :) )

First and foremost, grow into a great employee and team member. This may sound self-serving, but it’s not: I think the employees who are individually great end up in thought leadership roles — I trust them more and thus give them a lot more leeway, and then those employees can start making their own decisions and expand the scope of what we do.

I suspect that what makes employees great is different in different companies, but there are certainly likely to be similarities: cultural resonance, individual effectiveness, and communication/cooperation skills.

Second, start thinking long term but be impatient in the short term. If you really like this company and want to grow within it, and think it can support you in your growth, then your marginal impact per hour of work is likely to increase by at least an order of magnitude over the next several years. There are lots of things you can do to accelerate this trend, and you should take those opportunities — but I tend to think that trust-building takes time. Try to avoid being marginalized, and make sure your work is seen. But (at least over the first few months to a couple years) you should avoid making many short-term tradeoffs which will delay the point where you reach maximum marginal impact in the long term.

Leadership training is highly underrated. If you’ve never done management/leadership training, you can get a lot from online resources (e.g. Manager Tools podcast and such); beyond that I think there’s still a lot of gains to be had from courses, individual coaches, etc.

Do weekly or monthly reviews where you step back and check whether things are on track for your career or personal impact. Share your goals with your manager and get them to buy into what you’re trying to achieve.

Stay away from stuff that will antagonize your company in the short term (“NDA chicken”, distractions from their short term goals for you during work hours). If recruiting / getting recruiting advice is an important part of your role, it should become obvious soon, at which point it will make sense to use 80k / job postings/ whatever.

Is a near-term, self-sustaining Mars colony impossible?

There’s a thing where entrepreneurs are optimistic. Sometimes ridiculously so. This is because entrepreneurship requires a lot of optimism to think that what you’re doing can work. But that optimism can lead you astray and cause you to work on things that are too hard.

Jess and Robin will never be entrepreneurs. They aren’t optimistic enough. But Elon may be over-optimistic. The sheer scope of the project makes it hard to guess accurately what the difficulties are going to be without getting pretty far into trying it and seeing where you get stuck.

And I’m just thinking about getting a Mars colony at all. I do think “self-sustaining” is a ridiculously high bar, much higher than simply having some people living on Mars. But how important is “self-sustaining” as a short-term goal? — if the colony works at all, there will be a path where the amount of Earth resources required to sustain it shrinks over time due to market forces.

What are your greatest one-shot life improvements?

Big if true!

Going to shower right now and try this (I needed a shower anyway). Will report back...

Edit: post shower, my feet feel tingly a little bit. My methodology was to rub my feet five times firmly with a wash cloth at the beginning and end of my shower. I do feel good about life right now, we’ll see how long that lasts. Results inconclusive.

Could someone please start a bright home lighting company?

Hey wow, neat company and I’m glad you posted about it here!

Unfortunately, I get the sense that your product is up in the Coelux range of pricing, because you don’t list the price. I think a lot of people here are going to immediately dismiss it as an option given that we can’t easily figure out how much it costs.

Your marketing is also aimed at businesses instead of homes. Especially given that my post was about home lighting, do you have anything you can share about home applications of your product?

(BTW, I remember reading an article in the 90s from a tech mag - like Wired or something - about, although I had no idea what you did, but the notable thing that stuck in my brain from that article was “why on earth would anyone name a company after a horrifically addictive drug?” I’d be curious if you know what article I’m talking about and whether you have a link to it!)

Why anything that can be for-profit, should be

Thank you for writing this! I've been harping on something along this axis for a long time to anyone who will listen to me. Now I have something to link them to, which explains this much better than I ever did :)

I understand that - if you’re facing down someone else who’s armed you should obviously just comply. I’m mainly expecting this strategy would work against e.g. unarmed looters. Do you not think it would?

Adding Up To Normality

I’ve seen this advice / philosophical point a few times (and I mostly agree with it), but I don’t feel like I have a complete understanding of it. Specifically, when does this not apply?

For instance, coronavirus: to me, this doesn’t “add up to normality” and I’m trying to sort out how it’s an exception. As soon as we heard about the coronavirus, the correct action was to take prep advice seriously and go prepare; and governments moved far too slowly on updating their recommendations; etc. Life after coronavirus is super different than life before. If you were reciting “it all adds up to normality” while reading about corona, you’d probably miss some important opportunities to take quick action.

My guess is that the rule is not supposed to apply to coronavirus (perhaps it’s too object-level?) but I don’t exactly understand why not.

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