Category Archives: startups

What is Nancy Hua going to do next?

Someone asked What is Nancy Hua going to do next? on Quora and then people offered me credits to answer. Who can resist Quora credits? This question has been on my mind a lot. Whenever I dwell on something, it tends to degenerate to the terminal question, “What is the meaning of life?” How often do people think about this? Talking about my weird thoughts caused someone to tell me not to have a midlife crisis. I haven’t even said all the most outlandish things I think. But here’s another taste:

I don’t think I’ve achieved very much in life yet. Looking at people who’ve changed the world and helped so many others, relative to them I haven’t accomplished anything. However, I don’t feel like they’re fundamentally better than me because they’re not superhuman- they’re people just like us, and many of them were born in vastly inferior circumstances, often simply because the past sucks compared to the present. A person born in modern times can impact billions of people with a few years of work, which wasn’t true for anyone even 100 years ago. Newton’s knowledge of science and math is nothing compared to mine, and forget women born even a few decades before me. By virtue of birth, I understand the nature of reality better than Benjamin Franklin- isn’t that awesome? I don’t idealize any past golden age because it’s obvious that now is the best time to have been born. I’d rather be me, right now, than an 18th century king.

The suggestion that our species may have peaked 50 years ago is terrifying and sad. If anyone believed our species were degenerating, it’d be their top priority to try to reverse this trend. Wouldn’t it be tragic if our children looked back and wished they’d been born 100 years ago, or that things became so bad they would even prefer to have been born in Victorian England?

Similarly, there shouldn’t be a golden age of my life either- I want to always want to be what I am, to never look back and wish to be a previous version of myself. I think so far that trend has held- whenever I remember previous Nancy’s, their stupidity mortifies me and I feel thankful current Nancy is so superior in comparison, and I happily anticipate my future self dismantling my current self. I want to always feel that way, just as I always want to feel that human beings are getting better and better.

This trend of progress doesn’t arise without deliberate work. If many people hadn’t dedicated their lives to advancing our race, if Nelson Mandela hadn’t been courageous and self sacrificing, if Turing hadn’t been patriotic and determined, it’s quite possible that I wouldn’t feel blessed to have been born in this age, that our species could’ve peaked decades ago and all that would await us would be pollution and mutual annihilation. We must choose to continuously improve, both as a species and as individuals. When I think about what I want to work on, it’s with both humbleness and boldness. Why not reach for greatness? What do I have to lose- I haven’t achieved anything yet!

In general I’m looking for enormous growth. Our world has several areas offering exponential growth so there’s a lot to learn and consider. Due to my noncompete period, I can’t discuss work with non prospective partners, so ask me in 2013.

Current projects include
1) fundraising for PGSS, a nerd camp I attended in high school, http://pgssalumni.org,
2) blogging at http://nancyhua.com (this blog will probably exist until December),
3) writing screenplays,
4) trading my personal account (allowed iff I manually enter every trade),
5) researching startups.

Rationality Workshop: Valuing Choices

There was a period when every day someone would ask me why there wasn’t another HPMOR.

“When is Eliezer going to publish the next chapter? It’s been ages!”

“Stop asking me. I don’t know any more than you do. Maybe he’s busy with his 3 girlfriends- sadly he’s apparently not working on HPMOR every moment of his life. I am not privy to Eliezer’s every thought and daily agenda.”

This person would then generally begin complaining about how there would probably never be another HPMOR while I would begin an internal monologue with my fist of death. Many will never know how I grappled against my dark side for their sake.

Anyway the last time I was in the Bay area I decided to drop in on a rationality workshop at the Center for Applied Rationality to see exactly what it was that Eliezer was up to instead of HPMOR.

My genius friends, even the ones I got into HPMOR, mocked me for going to the rationality workshop.
“They’re going to brainwash you into donating millions to their AI research.”
“Nancy, can I come too so I can rock the boat and mock them for their singularity ideas?”
“Nancy’s going to some rationality class that teaches how to rationalize your crazy beliefs.”

I didn’t know what to expect, because, as far as I could tell, self-described rationalists were not really getting anywhere particularly awesome in any arenas in life; instead according to Isaacson it was the reality-distortionists who were dominating.

But the class was actually totally awesome! The above is a photo of one of the lecturers talking about thought experiments, a topic I’ll write about later. Anna (not pictured) taught us about using numbers to help make decisions.

Anna gave the example of figuring out if you should buy a faster microwave that could shave off 2 minutes a day in cooking time over the course of the microwave’s life, say 2 years. If you value your time at $50 an hour and the cost of getting the faster microwave is less than 2 minutes per day * 2 years * $50 per hour, then you should get the microwave.

Another example is if you are researching airline prices and wondering how much more time you should spend looking for a better deal. If you think you could save $100 if you research for another hour and you value your time at $100/hour, then you should spend less than (probably much less than) 1 more hour looking for a better deal.

Because Dilip had remarked to me that young people shouldn’t think their time was worthless, especially if they planned to be rich, because then one’s time is worth a lot more in expectation, I asked Anna, “If you think you’re going to be making a lot more money in the future, then you should value your current time as higher in expectation?”

Anna said, “Yes. That’s an error many college kids make, not realizing they’re going to be making 6 digits in a year or so and continuing to value their time as though it’s worth $10 an hour.”
“So if I believe I’m going to be a billionaire then I should value my time as crazily high in expectation and buy every new time saving device?”
“…Do you believe you’re going to be a billionaire?”
“Yes.”
“That’s kind of hard to do…”
“Maybe just hundreds of millions then.”

As a result of this particular lesson I now feel totally guiltless about owning 2 iPads, 2 iPhone 4S’s, and 7 kindles (each a different model) and extremely guilty about watching silly movies and getting manicures. So yeah, no more nail art and I still haven’t seen Madagascar 3…

Staying with Anna at Mobi Headquarters

I’m trying to write some shorter posts because Anna said all of my posts are pages and pages long. Here’s a short post:

When Anna invited us to stay with her in Lincoln 30 minutes from MIT, Dilip was like, “I don’t know…” I told Anna I’d try to convince him.

Winding up the green, wooded driveway, we both said, “Let’s stay a few extra days.” I said this without even seeing the house- the sparkling smell of the air was enough. Maybe I was just overjoyed to be back on US soil.

A VC gave Anna and Nii the house for their headquarters. Although we didn’t use the underground movie theater or roof deck hot tub, we made good use of the gigantic pool. I loved all the light coming into the house- many walls were windows and the sunroof in each room made the air bright. Also who knew there was such a thing as doors in the back of your closet opening into the laundry room so you could put clothes straight into your drawers from the laundry machine? And there was a tiny treehouse and groomed grassy fields flanked by trees to tumble around on.

In addition to Mobi, Anna runs the Vehicle Design Summit and is doing a fashion startup Lorien. Anna grows corn and other plants in her greenhouse area and prepares yummy foods for us that I devour while imagining murderers creeping into the huge house through one of its million entrances to take showers or something. Every time I pass the sauna I speed walk in case there’s a sweaty murderer lurking inside. This is why I need a pack of ferocious dogs- to alert me of squirrels and murderers.