How Not to Make Money

post by diegocaleiro · 2014-01-24T20:36:07.078Z · score: -3 (32 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 18 comments

Sarcastic Practical Advice Series: 1 How Not to Make Money

I'm calling this a series because I would like it to be a series, feel free to write your own post on "how not to do something many people want to do", especially you, future me. 

 

I'm very good at not making money, and maybe this is a skill you have found yourself needing to perfect

But worry not. Stop rationalizing! I'll teach you some of the craft before you can say all the palindromes in the Finnish language. 

 

(1) Be one of those people who actually turn knowledge, general knowledge, into personally designed actions/policies. The kind of people who, upon learning that driving is more dangerous than being attacked by spiders, and experiencing the first person evolved fear of spiders, understands that he should be as afraid of driving badly as he is of spiders, or much more, and drives accordingly.

(2) Understand that there is no metaphysical Self, only a virtual center of narrative gravity (Read Dennett), whose manner of discounting time is hyperbolic (Read George Ainslie), weirdly self-representative (Read GEB), and basically a mess

(3) Read Reasons and Persons, by Parfit, and really give up on your Naïve intuitions about personal identity over time. Using (1) act accordingly, i.e. screw future retired you

(4) Go through a university program in the humanities, so no one tempts you by throwing money at you after you graduate - This has happened to an academically oriented friend of mine who graduated a Medical Doctor, but actually wanted to be in the lab playing with brains. - If you can make into Greek Mythology, or Iranian Literature, good for you, Philosophy is ok, as are social sciences, as long as you do theory and don't get into politics or institutional design later on. If you go to psychology, you are dangerously near Human Resources, so be sure to be doing it for the reasons Pinker would do it, because you want to understand our internal computer, not to treat people. 

(5) Have some cash: This seems obvious, but it’s worth reminding if you are a machine discounting hyperbolically, you'd better be safe for the next two months. 

(6) Study research on happiness and money: Money doesn't buy happiness, and when it does, it's by buying things to others, regardless of Price. Giving a bike, a Porsche, or a Starbucks coffee to your friends provides you the same amount of fuzzies. Use (1) act accordingly. 

(7) Be curious: If you are the kind of person who knows by heart that the Finish language is more propense to palindromization, you are in a great route not to make money. If you get really excited about space, good for you. If you are so moved by curiosity you can't sleep before you finally figure it out, worry not, money ain't coming your way. Don’t forget all those really cool books you want to read.

(8) Avoid being Anhedonic: Anhedonia is one of the great enemies of those who don't want to make money. If all feels more or less the same to you, there is great incentive to go after the gold, it won't harm you much, and it will afford you the number one value of the Anhedonic, a false sense of security, and the illusion that happiness lies somewhere ahead of you in the future.  If you can be thrilled or excited by the latest Adam Sandler movie, if a double rainbow will make you cry like a baby even in a video, and if you watch this sax video with a young, healthy, fertile female more than once because it’s a good video, rest assured, you’ll be fine.

(9) What do you care what other people think?:
Feynman nailed this aspect of the no-money making business. You may not have noticed but everyone, especially your family, thinks you should make money, Graham says

All parents tend to be more conservative for their kids than they would for themselves, simply because, as parents, they share risks more than rewards. If your eight year old son decides to climb a tall tree, or your teenage daughter decides to date the local bad boy, you won’t get a share in the excitement, but if your son falls, or your daughter gets pregnant, you’ll have to deal with the consequences. - How to do what you love.

It’s not just parents; everyone gets more shares of your money than of your excitement. If this was not the case, Effective Altruists would be advocating roller coasters and volcano lairs with cat people, not high income careers.

(10) Couchsurf and meet couchsurfers and world travelers: If you never did it, go around couchsurfing for a while. As it happens, due to many factors, travelling all the time, a dream of the majority, is cheaper than staying in one spot. Meeting world travelers like 1Mac Madison, 2Puneet Sahani, 3Frederico Balbiani, and 4Rand Hunt  made me realize, respectively, that: 1 It’s possible to travel 2/3rd of the time as a CS major; 2 Indian Citizenship and zero money won’t stop you; 3 Not speaking English or wanting to work with what gave you degrees doesn’t stop you; 4 Spending 90 dollars in 100 days is possible. You’ll feel much less pressure to make money after meeting similar people and being one of them.

(11) Don’t experience Status Anxiety: The World suffers from an intense affliction. Alain de Botton named it Status Anxiety. You are not just richer than most people nowadays. You are unimaginably, unbelievably wealthy (in term of resources you can use) in comparison to everyone that ever lived.  But the point is, the less time you spend comparing, regardless of who you are comparing with, the happier you feel.

(12) Be persuadable by intellectuals outside traditional science, like De Botton and Alan Watts, but not by really terrible The Secret style self-help.

(13) Consider money over-valued: In economics, the price of things is determined by the supply and demand of that particular thing. The interesting thing is that demand is not measured by how many people want something how badly, but this multiplied by each person’s wealth…  If so many (wealthy) people value Rolex watches, they will be overpriced for you, especially if they are paying in luck, inheritance, or interest, and you are paying in work (though both use money as a medium).
Money is a medium of trade, how could it be over-valued?
Simple, there are many other mediums of trade (being nice, becoming more attractive, being a good listener, going to the “right place at the right time”, knowledge, enviable skills, prestige, dominance, strength, signaling, risk – i.e. stealing, Vegas, or bitcoin - , sex, time, energy). If you think these items are cheaper than money, you go for them as your medium of trade. And indeed they are cheaper than money, because everyone knows that money is valuable, and nearly no one thought consciously of the trade value of those things.

(14) Fake it till you don’t make it: My final advice would be to try out not spending money. Do it for a month (I did it for two), set a personal unbearably low barrier according to your standards. Dine before going to dinner with friends, by bike, of course. Carry water instead of buying it. Deny any social activity that would be somewhat costly and substitute it for some personal project, internet download, or analogous near-free alternative. Exercise outside, not in the gym. Take notes on how good your days were, you may find out, as did Kingsley that: “We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”  Furthermore, with Barry Schwartz, you may find out that less is more, and when you have fewer options of what to do, this gives you not only happiness, but extra capacity to use your psychological attention to actually do what you want to do, do as Obama did, save your precious share of mindspace.

 

There, I hope you feel more fully equipped not to make money, should you ever need this hard earned, practical life-skill. You’re welcome. 

18 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by gjm · 2014-01-25T00:12:10.515Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

This seems a curious hybrid between (1) sincerely intended advice on how to live a less-money-oriented lifestyle without sacrificing happiness and well-being, and (2) sarcastically intended advice on how to make your life worse by throwing away opportunities to get richer.

If it weren't for the explicit statement that it's sarcastic, I'd have taken it to be much more #1 than #2. Given nothing but the explicit statement that it's sarcastic, I'd assume it to be much more #2 than #1. As it is, I find myself wondering whether I'm interpreting some of this almost exactly opposite to how Diego intends.

comment by diegocaleiro · 2014-01-25T00:27:35.577Z · score: -5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Intends? or signal...

comment by gjm · 2014-01-25T01:02:23.553Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

OK, I give up.

comment by diegocaleiro · 2014-01-25T01:19:10.274Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Seriously though, this is all about agitating your guts. My guts are profoundly agitated when I think that advice on not making money should be given only if it was pure sarcasm, yet, on the other hand, I truly think items 1-14 are saying something that speaks to me on a deep level. I experience discomfort with this polarity, and, unable to react in other ways, I offer my best to cause the same revulsion/excitement in other beings of my kind. In vain hopes that someone will drag me out the abyss of bewilderment, I put the conundrum into public sight. Revulsion I caused since we are counting about 70 (edit: 35ish) votes so far, approximately half in each direction. But I don't truly hope anyone will bother solving the problem, that's were the Joker enters, and the vain hopes leave...

comment by Nisan · 2014-01-25T06:25:29.259Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I experience discomfort [...], and, unable to react in other ways, I offer my best to cause the same [in others].

Yep, that is a thing people do sometimes.

comment by 9eB1 · 2014-01-25T04:31:40.799Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

My guts are profoundly agitated when I think that advice on not making money should be given only if it was pure sarcasm, yet, on the other hand, I truly think items 1-14 are saying something that speaks to me on a deep level.

The reason one would only give advice on not making money sarcastically is because there is no goal served only by not making money (with rare exceptions, like making too much money right before the populist revolution comes with guillotines). Sometimes it's a good tradeoff to avoid making money in order to serve your happiness or other ends, and there is much commentary and practical advice on such things (e.g. how to be happy with less money, evidence that things other than money are more happiness-enabling).

Perhaps you are uncomfortable because you feel that there should be a single path to happiness or satisfaction, or that you should be able to follow every path to happiness simultaneously, but that is not the case. Some paths are mutually exclusive and whether each will satisfy an individual depends on that individual. One can be happy traveling the world with their 100 possessions and sleeping on strangers' couches every night. One can be happy being the CEO of a multinational conglomerate (maybe donating your income to GiveWell). But one can't be happy by doing both of these at once, because that ain't an option.

Revulsion I caused since we are counting about 70 votes so far, approximately half in each direction.

I don't think the quantity of votes shows that people are feeling the same revulsion that you are. I believe it shows a disagreement on whether this topic is suitable to Less Wrong. PhilGoetz made a post that reminds me of this one and I made a comment germane to this question there. If you are accurately describing your intentions with the post, then the post may be too much like a performance art piece for ~50% of the audience, rather than a serious investigation or question. The tone of sarcasm frequently suggests that one has made up their mind about a topic and is not open to further discussion, rather than seeming to be a genuine inquiry, if you really wanted help "solving the problem."

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-25T06:31:06.490Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

about 70 votes so far

No, it's 9 to 11.

comment by diegocaleiro · 2014-01-25T08:05:03.078Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Actually I double counted, I thought it was 35 ish votes, 47% positive with a negative one net. meaning one vote is about 3% of votes. I am always confused by the combination of some net results plus statistics on the karma system.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-25T08:21:31.366Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

No, you quadruple counted.

comment by DanielLC · 2014-01-25T01:39:45.847Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Money doesn't buy happiness

Really, because I found some good deals on GiveWell.

Oh, you mean my happiness.

comment by diegocaleiro · 2014-01-25T02:30:42.880Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, one can't be sarcastic while wearing the Effective Altruist Hat. Its just too hard. Well, some people do it, but they get paid for it, so I don't want to risk it!

comment by Neotenic · 2014-01-25T02:27:01.099Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah.

comment by jamesf · 2014-01-24T21:29:49.443Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Many of these seem false to me, generally the ones that claim understanding things and curiosity will help you not make money. I think more than half of my free-time reading in the last several years has increased my money-making ability in my expected career (software) to some extent, and a sizable portion of that was probably pretty close to optimal among things I could realistically be doing with that time (admittedly, that is a factor in what I choose to read; practicality appeals to me). My infovorism has made me a good technical communicator, and my exposure to decision sciences and cognitive biases right here on LessWrong over the past few years seem to make up a sizable portion of what people learn in an MBA (granted, those are more about signaling and contacts than knowledge), to say nothing of all the computer science and software engineering and statistics knowledge I've accumulated.

One notable counterexample who is not me: Warren Buffett, currently the third wealthiest human.

Warren Buffett says, "I just sit in my office and read all day."

What does that mean? He estimates that he spends 80 percent of his working day reading and thinking.

"You could hardly find a partnership in which two people settle on reading more hours of the day than in ours," Charlie Munger commented.

When asked how to get smarter, Buffett once held up stacks of paper and said he "read 500 pages like this every day. That's how knowledge builds up, like compound interest."

Basically, a lot of your advice is heavily dependent on your interests. You might accidentally find that you have a ton of valuable technical skills and are an effective communicator with surprisingly good decision-making ability if you read the wrong things for too long.

comment by diegocaleiro · 2014-01-24T23:46:01.151Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

(keeps sarcasm sign lifted): Yeah, well, you can't win all the time right? If you happen to be curious not in general, but about the very few things that actually help you make money, then maybe, if you are lucky, over the long run, this may end up helping you make some money. Now think about the things you are curious when you are 15, or things you'd be curious even if you had 13 million dollars... Most people would take no interest in the things that would provide money to them if they didn't have the 13 million. If you are one of the exceptions, as maybe Buffet (a notable exceptional human being in general) try to focus on the other things, and you'll be able to not make money in no time! Finally consider this basic argument against making money, which may help you in your quest: For things that enough people know about and want to do badly enough (going to waterfalls, bikeriding, reading great fiction, taking the subway) there is no incentive to pay people to do it. Money is invested to make sure people are coerced into doing something they would not have done otherwise. Wages are the way in which we coerce people to do things that not enough others were willing to do, but need being done by someone. Because humans share much of their historic, cultural and genetic profiles, and thus interests, it is very likely that the sort of thing people would pay John Smith to do does not coincide with the sort of thing John Smith would be doing without the finantial coercion. If there was a twin earth in which this trend is reversed, where I would be paid to read intellectually stimulating stuff like LessWrong, date the most incredible people, design the coolest projects and have others implement them, hike to waterfalls where the sun is perfect and the water fresh. If such place existed, then maybe I'd be writing a "how to make money" internet blog post, like is everyone else in this universe. But who'd find the irony there?

comment by jamesf · 2014-01-25T06:32:39.575Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Most people are primarily interested in things that won't go very far in making money, and basically everyone likes to do a lot of things they won't ever get paid for; both are undeniable. "Be interested only in things that do nothing to increase your ability to earn money" is a very good way, indeed just about the best way, to not make money.

Your sarcasm is appreciated :-)

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-25T09:17:02.144Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Because humans share much of their historic, cultural and genetic profiles, and thus interests,

I'd guess a sizeable fraction of LWers are interested in things other than those with the largest markets, though.

And here I quote this for the n-th time...

I can only speak for myself. Unlike most people, I don’t “work” at all, in the sense of doing anything with the conscious goal of making money. All I do is think about what interests me, and discuss the results of that thinking with other people. As long as governments (and philanthropists like Mike Lazaridis) are willing to pay me for my non-work, I’m happy to take their money. If they ever stop paying me, I guess I’ll have to find some other source of income.

-- Scott Aaronson

comment by Prismattic · 2014-01-25T00:20:59.544Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Finnish, not Finish.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-25T09:08:52.780Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(1) Be one of those people who actually turn knowledge, general knowledge, into personally designed actions/policies. The kind of people who, upon learning that driving is more dangerous than being attacked by spiders, and experiencing the first person evolved fear of spiders, understands that he should be as afraid of driving badly as he is of spiders, or much more, and drives accordingly.

Check. (Spiders scare me less than the red inbox icon on LW, but driving often scares the crap out of me.)

(2) Understand that there is no metaphysical Self, only a virtual center of narrative gravity (Read Dennett), whose manner of discounting time is hyperbolic (Read George Ainslie), weirdly self-representative (Read GEB), and basically a mess.

Check (kind-of -- I haven't read Dennett or Ainslie but I think I know what you're talking about).

(3) Read Reasons and Persons, by Parfit, and really give up on your Naïve intuitions about personal identity over time.

Check (kind of -- haven't read Parfit, but).

Using (1) act accordingly, i.e. screw future retired you.

No. Just because future me isn't the same as present me, doesn't mean I should defect against him in the prisoner's dilemma.

(4) Go through a university program in the humanities,

Damn it! Too late!

so no one tempts you by throwing money at you after you graduate

Ah. Well, if you are in the ‘right’ country, no one will tempt you that way if you graduate in a hard science either.

This has happened to an academically oriented friend of mine who graduated a Medical Doctor,

And medicine would count as “humanities” and not something it's easy to make money with? scratches head