Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thinkin' bout automated bosses

like Uber. Your "boss" is an algorithm that says "you get 4.7* or above, you can keep working; if not, you're fired."

Like, in a sense, great (as long as this algorithm is known); you get people to do the job right! If you don't do the job, you're out. Easy as that. In contrast, full-time jobs are super-sticky (esp in Europe, but even here in the US): it is very hard to fire someone.

Obviously the Uber route has these terrible effects on the drivers - they never know if they'll be working tomorrow, they're already in debt because they bought this car to drive for Uber and now they're fired for some arcane reason (maybe even unknown reason), they've got to work 14 hours a day to meet the mandatory minimum number of rides or something.

But I'm wondering if the stickiness of full time jobs also helps companies. Like, if you join a new company full-time and then have a bad first couple months (because you're trying to learn a new thing, or just getting to know the people, or you have a family emergency or something), you're not fired; the company ideally finds a way to help you succeed, and then they've got a productive longer-term employee instead of having to start all over. This stickiness is a smoothing factor that helps the company think long term about you instead of short term.

(that, or stickiness does hurt companies, but we've just got too much pro-worker regulation here. I'm open to the argument, but it seems unlikely in 2017 America. hmm.)

Edit: now, there's nothing about Uber that means they have to be so short-term thinking. You could imagine them taking your average rating after, say, your first year, and if it's still not 4.7 by then, ok, now you're out. But then you'll have people who will milk it for a year, be crummy, and get paid for a year before they quit. And I guess office-job people are less likely to do this because they have more human connection and are not inclined to milk the system for all it's worth.

(but then, current workers are not stunning examples of being super excited about their jobs anyway.)

Monday, March 27, 2017

"Purely Logical Debate"

I am just signal boosting an SSC post again, but in particular I like his rules for a debate. He calls it a "purely logical debate" out of necessity. I don't love the term because it sounds like something only nerds would love, but I don't have a better idea, so let's go with it for now. In general, to be a "purely logical debate", it must be a:

1. Debate where two people with opposing views are talking to each other (or writing, or IMing, or some form of bilateral communication).
2. Debate where both people want to be there, and have chosen to enter into the debate in the hopes of getting something productive out of it.
3. Debate conducted in the spirit of mutual respect and collaborative truth-seeking.
4. Debate conducted outside of a high-pressure point-scoring environment.
5. Debate where both people agree on what’s being debated and try to stick to the subject at hand.

(much more background in the post)

I'm tempted to say "I would like to Purely Logical Debate, and only Purely Logical Debate." And then either of us can pause the debate if we feel that the other is breaking a rule, and we can go back and correct it.

(fwiw, I also agree with his statement that people rarely change their minds all at once, and that the "backfire effect" is probably not as ironclad as we think.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New Meme Suggestion: Repeater Jim

Here is an uncomfortable fact of working life:

Alice: I think X.
Bob: are you sure?
Charles: what about Y?
Dave: I don't know, I don't believe X, I have to see for myself.
Jim: I think X.
Bob, Charles, and Dave: Oh yes, X is definitely true. Good idea, Jim.

Here's my SNL-skit proposal: in the future, each woman gets a male robot named Repeater Jim who just follows her around and repeats what she says, so men will listen to her ideas. (it would be named "Jim" just because that's the first name that popped into my head.)

Here's my actually-not-satirical real-world proposal: men, volunteer to be Repeater Jim. Like, team up with a woman or women in your workplace, and try to repeat what they say as often as possible. As soon as the other men go "oh yes definitely X", say "yes, I agree, thanks to Alice for suggesting this idea."

(obviously this should be addressed more widely too; Repeater Jim is a band-aid, not a fix for women being ignored. but, a band-aid is better than no band-aids. and maybe people have an "ohhh" moment about their unconscious biases every now and then when they realize they got Repeater Jimmed.)

(n.b. not just about women; this also applies to people of color and probably pretty much every minority.)

For the record: if any of y'all ever need me to be Repeater Jim, let me know, I'm happy to help.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The New Consumerism

I remember reading something about how sincerity, not irony, is the ethos of our generation. (oh, here it is.)

(set aside for a minute how terribly quixotic it is to try to define "the ethos of our generation." of course there are a million subsets of our generations, all with different ethoses.)

Anyway, I like this, obviously.

A similar thing occurred to me when I was shaving. I mean, I used to use shaving cream, like the Gillette stuff from a can that comes out all foamy. I've since been trying an array of different other creams from more hippie brands because, I guess, "down with the man" etc? But really, shaving cream is pretty good, for me at least: it's easy, quick, I cut myself less, washes out easier. I don't know that there are big externalities, and if there's something that's 10% better out there, it's really not worth fussing myself about.

I'm provisionally calling this "new consumerism" - not just taking the crummy mass-market thing because it's there and I want the shiny new thing that's marketed the best, but because I really tried a lot of the other things out there and realized that this thing is actually pretty good.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I feel like I should be recording wisdom through my ages

It would be pretty fun to look back and think "here's what I thought at 20, 25, 30, 35, etc", for two reasons:
1. it would probably be pretty funny
2. seriously, though, I probably actually forget some wisdom over the years. There are probably things that my 20 year old self thinks, that I should still think, but that I let atrophy for whatever reason.

Here's one for now: start with trust. When you go into a new relationship, assume that everyone's at least honest and not trying to screw you. (related: never assume malice when it might just be stupidity) Of course, as soon as they break that, bets are off. But in the meantime, start with trust.

An example: landlords. I tend to go into any renting experience assuming the landlord is pretty decent. Sometimes I am proven wrong, but most of the time they are pretty decent. I think some other people have worse experiences with the same landlords. Whether you think your landlord is nice or mean might be kind of self-fulfilling.
(I understand some people have other experiences. there are also huge confounds because I rent market-rate places and I'm a white dude. fair. just my experience here.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The title page for the Life Hacks book I'll write someday

Life Hacks
by Dan Tasse

1. Call your book "Life Hacks" so people will buy it
2. Be kind of glib so people will continue reading
3. Make them think they're in on the joke