Tag Archives: the Bay

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?”
“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…

Bay Area Vibe

Everyone in NYC wants to be a star in some ferociously competitive industry, like finance, ¬†entertainment, fashion. Every waiter wants to be a rock musician or top chef or something. Everyone’s very ambitious, yet the elites turn out to be old, white, male, tall, and business-y.

As an ambitious, driven person, the NYC atmosphere suited me better than Chicago, where I lived for the first 3 years after college. Chicago is a great city, but it’s definitely Midwest. People get married at age 23 and live super balanced, normal lives. They leave work at reasonable hours to go hang out at sporting events. Not feeling compelled to get married or settle down anytime soon, I sometimes felt out of place in Chicago.

Californians are as ambitious as New Yorkers, but in a more gadgety, nerdy way. Everyone seems to genuinely believe their new app is going to save the world, whereas most New Yorkers don’t seem to consider that when they talk about their work. Unlike in NYC, the successful Bay area people are nerdy, young, and not always white, male, or tall. I am nerdy, young, Asian, female, and average height. No wonder I keep going back to the Bay!

Here’s some photos of new places we hadn’t gone to before: French Laundry, Muir woods, Napa, Sonoma.

Everyone’s in a Tech Startup!

Visiting friends at different companies around the Bay Area was an exercise in discovering which American Apparel cuts and sizes fit me best. For fully 17 years of my life I was an XS in everything. Then I entered the next phase of the Asian Woman’s life cycle where I’m generally an American Apparel woman’s medium.

In each photo I’m wearing some schwag I collected. Some friends are running startups out of their apartments, some work at medium sized places that had offices the size of my apartment, and some are at companies that have IPO-ed like Zynga, Facebook, and Google. Don’t listen to Yinmeng, Google has hands down the best food of our times. In fact, the first food I ate upon returning to NYC was Google food.

One of the parallel universe Nancy’s probably started Facespace in her parallel universe and looks at me with scorn, wondering why I’m spending so much time reading HPMOR while she’s out dominating the world. I have to show that chick I’m better than her! This HPMOR stuff is all part of my grand design.

The main impact of visiting the Bay area is that I am trying out all the things that have happened on the Internet in the last 5 years. When I signed up for twitter, I discovered @nancyhua was taken! The same thing just happened with tumblr. Hence @huanancy and nancythehua.tumblr.com. The inevitable conclusion is this: there can be only one. The race is on!

The possibility just occurred to me that, as long as True Names are still basically meaningless on the internet, @nancyhua etc could have been taken by people not named Nancy Hua… Probably always a good trade: buy domain and user names you think some future rich organization will pay a lot for. Maybe one day I’ll be a billionaire and pay 8 digits for nh.com like Facebook did with fb.com (Well played, Farm Bureau. Also flattering to know that the state of New Hampshire is so optimistic about my future greatness. They deserve the domain for now- what with having the best state motto of all time (Beyonce Kanye joke?)).

Bay Area Weekend Photos

Took a break from work to go biking.

Also grabbed food at Facebook, where this Tesla dined with another of its kind.

Normally I’m the only one charging in this garage but today was filled with new Roadster friends. Charging here is free so its utility is infinite.


Random people have been telling me to move to California: the veggie food, the Valley, the auto-void noncompete, the relaxed culture, and the weather all make a good case- and I haven’t even held a housewarming for my NYC pad yet! I need multiple locations: east coast, west coast, and then my ranch somewhere in Canada or Wyoming or Washington.