There are a lot of people in our little house!
The house is at Shattuck and Essex in southern Berkeley. There’s a commercial retail space on the first floor, as well as a tiny one-bedroom apartment. On each of the second and third floors there’s a four-bedroom apartment.
We have rented everything except the second floor. The windows of the commercial space are papered over, so nobody thinks there’s a business there, and the space is used for our morning and afternoon sessions, as well as Less Wrong meetups and such. But most social activity that isn’t sessions goes on in the four-bedroom apartment, which is a little too small to really have a comfortable space for hanging-out-and-talking. That activity mostly happens in the kitchen and living room.
The kitchen is about the size of a typical bedroom, and it has two refrigerators and a large table in it, so it’s a bit cramped. There are only a few chairs in the kitchen, so if people are talking there, most are standing up, and people are talking across the table.
The living room has a bay window and five doors off of it. It’s easy to fit a bunch of people in here to chat. There are at least nine chairs and a mattress on the floor. It could probably fit four mattresses side-by-side if the chairs were moved. It’s better for talking than the kitchen, but so far, more social activity has gone on in the kitchen, probably because it’s easier to start conversations when preparing or eating food. It’s hard to eat in the living room since there’s no tables, so people usually eat standing around in the kitchen.
This group of folks is a bunch of exceptionally well-adjusted nerds. Many study computer science or math. Many love tabletop roleplaying, video games and/or board games. All are smart, learn quickly and want to learn faster. 90% are within the 20-30 age group. The average social ability and physical attractiveness of our group seems above average for the 20-30 age group.
Pretty much everyone here will participate in ad-hoc “calibration experiments”: if a question of fact comes up in a conversation, before looking it up, the participants produce predictions. If it’s a binary question of fact, then you just give your uncertainty level, expressed as a probability. If it’s a numeric value, then a confidence interval is more appropriate. People usually use a 90% or 95% confidence interval. Finally, someone looks up the answer – if it was outside the confidence interval, then your calibration takes a hit. You are on target if your calibration takes a hit only once every ten times you give a 90% confidence interval. So far I’ve been wrong about 3 or 4 times out of maybe 15 predictions, so I’m not doing so hot and I am trying to adjust my calibration.
Besides the people who live here, lots of Singularity Institute-affiliated people visit all the time. Michael Vassar is here right now; Eliezer Yudkowsky was here yesterday, and Anna Salamon the day before. There are two other SingInst communal houses nearby in Berkeley, called Slytherin and Outpost. I haven’t visited these yet but I expect to this summer. Besides the 12 or so who live here regularly, during the day there are usually 5-10 SingInst affiliates who wander through the house and talk with people. These people rarely sleep at the apartment, though there are some who do on occasion.
People like to drink and smoke weed, though this has not happened with much intensity. We went through a decent amount of beer fairly quickly last week, but this week we haven’t had any alcohol and our conversations have been of similar quality. 1:30am seems to be the median time by which everyone has crashed, and I’m one of the people who usually stays up until everyone is going to bed. I usually get up just before 9:30am, when we usually meditate and make breakfast.
Send me any other questions you have about the social atmosphere. I can probably answer them.