Notes: May 15, 2022

6 min read

I would love if you added comments! You can do so using the Curius (opens in a new tab) chrome extension.

I write these notes every few weeks and share them with a few friends. I decided to try making one public.

1. There are two ways to view your gut. One way is that it’s primitive, so you shouldn’t trust it. The other way is that it’s highly complex — smarter than your rational self, and your rational self just rationalizes what your gut thinks. I believe the second.

2. To get someone to be vulnerable with you, you can ask “Do you want to be vulnerable with each other?”

3. Who are the types of people who are drawn to community houses? Do they tend to have good relationships with their families?

4. Everybody loves people. Even people who are not very social love people.

5. Sometimes you need to repeat your question a second time to get a true answer. For example:

“How are you?”

“I’m good!”

“Wait, how are you actually?”

They proceed to tell me what they’ve been struggling with.

6. How do you help a friend who is going through a hard time? You can try to give advice. You can ask questions — instead of explicit advice — to help them work through the problem.

Or you can just “be there” for your friend and support them. How do you “be there” though? There’s the “just listen” approach. In the “just listen” approach, it’s not enough to just listen; you need to ask questions which get them to share.

You can give them a hug if you’re in person. You can resort to cliches and tell your friend “you’ll get through this” (which might be underrated). You can check in with your friend later to show them that you care.

What strategies do you find work best? Are there any good books on this?

7. There are two types of unkindness: being cold and having bad morals. A friend said that they’re okay with being friends with people who are cold, so long as they have good morals.

8. Market makers are like PID controllers (opens in a new tab).

9. You should hold onto your priors loosely when someone tells you how they feel. Oftentimes I’m tempted to think “what happened shouldn’t make you feel that way” but it’s likely that my priors are just wrong.

10. I don’t like that Judaism has a points system for good deeds. It’s called Mitzvahs. Instead of doing something good because it’s good in and of itself, the good deed becomes a selfish act to increase your score. For example, when I went to visit my ill grandmother, my mom said “that’s a big mitzvah.”

11. A friend said there’s a phase transition in a company when they reach their Series B fundraise. After Series B, employees realize that the company will succeed with or without them. So they start prioritizing what they want over what the company wants: they work less, they want to be promoted, etc.

12. Companies own more than just a product — they own a neighborhood around their product. If someone else copies their product and makes only a slight change, people won’t switch to their product. The change needs to be significant. Within the neighborhood that the company owns, the company has design power. For example, Slack does not send notifications if someone reacts with an emoji to your message. It’s unlikely that a Slack duplicate with emoji notifications will succeed in a market where Slack exists.

The decisions a company makes within their neighborhood are crucial! More/less ethical versions of the same company could fall in the same neighborhood.

13. Crying is an honest report about how you’re feeling. In a world with so many people being fake, crying is one of the few authentic emotions we have left.

14. So many people who work in neurotech come from an electrical engineering background. Why?

15. Grades are useful in that they force you to commit to a class. You won’t give up when something is hard or not fun because if you do, you won’t get a good grade.

16. The biggest difference between in-person and remote work is that in-person is synchronous and remote is asynchronous.

17. Why do humans like looking at old photos? Is there any evolutionary basis for nostalgia?

18. “A trailblazer with a generous heart for all living beings” was written on a tombstone I saw. I thought this was awesome.

19. My brain hurts a tiny bit when I’m close to coming up with a question. If my brain could talk, it would tell me, “Raffi, isn't your model of the world sufficient? Why are you making me do more work?” One hack for me is to keep a note called “Questions about X,” which gives me permission to ask questions.

20. Justin Glibert says he likes doing things that don’t have a playbook (opens in a new tab). AI research has a playbook because people have done it before. Software startups — even though they’re hard — have playbooks. There was no playbook for SpaceX.

21. I hate how I search for validation. My search for validation explains why I was nervous to meet people I looked up to. What if they don’t like me? Twitter is partly to blame for my search for validation: on Twitter, you’re only exposed to one slice of a person. In reality, people aren’t as different from you as you think they are.

22. When I used to go to SF parties, I would tell people about the low-cost brain scanner I was working on. People were wowed and I liked that (though I didn’t like that I liked that). Now, I’ve become illegible — not just at SF parties, but to my family, my friends, and even myself. It’s hard to be legible when you’re in exploration mode.

23. Should I use Twitter? On the one hand, it seems useful for finding people to work with. But I don’t want to change who I am to get more attention on Twitter. More importantly, I worry that using Twitter will satisfy my desire for validation and make me want even more validation.

24. When I think of posting on Twitter “to find collaborators,” I think my subconscious self doesn’t care about that and cares mostly about validation. But if my conscious self wants to use “finding collaborators” as its reason for using Twitter, my subconscious self won’t complain. “As long as I get my validation,” my subconscious says.