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I Want To Live In A Baugruppe

42 Post author: Alicorn 17 March 2017 01:36AM

Rationalists like to live in group houses.  We are also as a subculture moving more and more into a child-having phase of our lives.  These things don't cooperate super well - I live in a four bedroom house because we like having roommates and guests, but if we have three kids and don't make them share we will in a few years have no spare rooms at all.  This is frustrating in part because amenable roommates are incredibly useful as alloparents if you value things like "going to the bathroom unaccompanied" and "eating food without being screamed at", neither of which are reasonable "get a friend to drive for ten minutes to spell me" situations.  Meanwhile there are also people we like living around who don't want to cohabit with a small child, which is completely reasonable, small children are not for everyone.

For this and other complaints ("househunting sucks", "I can't drive and need private space but want friends accessible", whatever) the ideal solution seems to be somewhere along the spectrum between "a street with a lot of rationalists living on it" (no rationalist-friendly entity controls all those houses and it's easy for minor fluctuations to wreck the intentional community thing) and "a dorm" (sorta hard to get access to those once you're out of college, usually not enough kitchens or space for adult life).  There's a name for a thing halfway between those, at least in German - "baugruppe" - buuuuut this would require community or sympathetic-individual control of a space and the money to convert it if it's not already baugruppe-shaped.

Maybe if I complain about this in public a millionaire will step forward or we'll be able to come up with a coherent enough vision to crowdfund it or something.  I think there is easily enough demand for a couple of ten-to-twenty-adult baugruppen (one in the east bay and one in the south bay) or even more/larger, if the structures materialized.  Here are some bulleted lists.


  • Units that it is really easy for people to communicate across and flow between during the day - to my mind this would be ideally to the point where a family who had more kids than fit in their unit could move the older ones into a kid unit with some friends for permanent sleepover, but still easily supervise them.  The units can be smaller and more modular the more this desideratum is accomplished.
  • A pricing structure such that the gamut of rationalist financial situations (including but not limited to rent-payment-constraining things like "impoverished app academy student", "frugal Google engineer effective altruist", "NEET with a Patreon", "CfAR staffperson", "not-even-ramen-profitable entrepreneur", etc.) could live there.  One thing I really like about my house is that Spouse can pay for it himself and would by default anyway, and we can evaluate roommates solely on their charming company (or contribution to childcare) even if their financial situation is "no".  However, this does require some serious participation from people whose financial situation is "yes" and a way to balance the two so arbitrary numbers of charity cases don't bankrupt the project.
  • Variance in amenities suited to a mix of Soylent-eating restaurant-going takeout-ordering folks who only need a fridge and a microwave and maybe a dishwasher, and neighbors who are not that, ideally such that it's easy for the latter to feed neighbors as convenient.
  • Some arrangement to get repairs done, ideally some compromise between "you can't do anything to your living space, even paint your bedroom, because you don't own the place and the landlord doesn't trust you" and "you have to personally know how to fix a toilet".
  • I bet if this were pulled off at all it would be pretty easy to have car-sharing bundled in, like in Benton House That Was which had several people's personal cars more or less borrowable at will.  (Benton House That Was may be considered a sort of proof of concept of "20 rationalists living together" but I am imagining fewer bunk beds in the baugruppe.)  Other things that could be shared include longish-term storage and irregularly used appliances.
  • Dispute resolution plans and resident- and guest-vetting plans which thread the needle between "have to ask a dozen people before you let your brother crash on the couch, let alone a guest unit" and "cannot expel missing stairs".  I think there are some rationalist community Facebook groups that have medium-trust networks of the right caution level and experiment with ways to maintain them.


  • Bikeshedding.  Not that it isn't reasonable to bikeshed a little about a would-be permanent community edifice that you can't benefit from or won't benefit from much unless it has X trait - I sympathize with this entirely - but too much from too many corners means no baugruppen go up at all even if everything goes well, and that's already dicey enough, so please think hard on how necessary it is for the place to be blue or whatever.
  • Location.  The only really viable place to do this for rationalist population critical mass is the Bay Area, which has, uh, problems, with new construction.  Existing structures are likely to be unsuited to the project both architecturally and zoningwise, although I would not be wholly pessimistic about one of those little two-story hotels with rooms that open to the outdoors or something like that.
  • Principal-agent problems.  I do not know how to build a dormpartment building and probably neither do you.
  • Community norm development with buy-in and a good match for typical conscientiousness levels even though we are rules-lawyery contrarians.

Please share this wherever rationalists may be looking; it's definitely the sort of thing better done with more eyes on it.

Comments (162)

Comment author: Alicorn 17 March 2017 01:46:56AM 19 points [-]

If you like this idea but have nothing much to say please comment under this comment so there can be a record of interested parties.

Comment author: ozymandias 17 March 2017 03:10:33PM 5 points [-]

I am ecstatic about this idea and would participate in it at a good deal of personal inconvenience.

Comment author: KatjaGrace 17 March 2017 09:39:01AM 4 points [-]

Interested in things like this, presently have a partial version that is good.

Comment author: Yvain 18 March 2017 05:52:12AM 3 points [-]

Interested in some vague possible future.

Comment author: gallabytes 17 March 2017 04:23:47AM 3 points [-]

I'm fairly interested but don't really want to be around children.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 March 2017 04:38:00AM 7 points [-]

How around is around, and can you say more about what about a baugruppe would satisfy your desiderata that the existing group house network can't?

Comment author: OpenThreadGuy 20 March 2017 09:26:38PM 2 points [-]

I desperately want something like this, so long as it is anywhere other than the bay area. god help me, I will avoid living there if it means being as socially isolated as I currently am forever

Comment author: Tem42 20 March 2017 01:02:54AM 2 points [-]

Very interested, but not willing to move more than 2-3 hours away; am nowhere near CA.

Comment author: jkadlubo 19 March 2017 10:09:50AM 2 points [-]

Interested. Already have 2 kids. Live in Poland and would like to stay in Europe.

Comment author: Vaniver 19 March 2017 03:20:03AM 2 points [-]

I'm interested, and have been thinking for a while of how to structure it and where to put it / what properties to focus on (in Berkeley, at least). I think there's a pretty strong chance we can build a rationalist village or two (or three or...).

Comment author: erratio 18 March 2017 12:35:14AM 2 points [-]

I would like to do this in either Australia or Canada

Comment author: rlpowell 17 March 2017 03:19:14PM 2 points [-]

I'm interested in theory, but in practice I am attached to living in SF proper that may be hard to overcome.

I'll mention that in South Bay there are housing complexes that have multiple nearly-adjacent units in shared space, and it might work well to just pick such a complex and progressively have like-minded people take over more and more of it. Noticeably less awesome, but also noticeably easier.

Comment author: Vaniver 19 March 2017 03:13:44AM 3 points [-]

I believe this is what happened with Godric's Hollow--a four unit building turned, one by one, into a four unit rationalist building.

Comment author: Alicorn 19 March 2017 06:44:43AM 2 points [-]

I think this was helped along substantially by personal acquaintance with and HPMOR fandom of the landlord, which seems hard to replicate on purpose.

Comment author: Vaniver 21 March 2017 07:18:36PM 1 point [-]

My understanding is that most landlords want the friends of their good tenants to move in, because they'll likely be equally good and also living near friends will make people less likely to move out.

Comment author: katydee 24 March 2017 01:31:27AM 0 points [-]

Something like this also happened with Event Horizon, though the metamorphosis is not yet complete...

Comment author: tipsycaek 17 March 2017 07:23:01AM 2 points [-]

i am not a Known Agent around here but something like this is definitely on my goal list.

Comment author: dropspindle 17 March 2017 03:07:32AM 2 points [-]

I want this, but somewhere like Appalachia where land and such is insanely cheap and you can do some homesteading too

Comment author: Gunnar_Zarncke 23 March 2017 08:35:26PM 1 point [-]

interested, living in Hamburg, Germany and trying to buy/rent more houses in my municipality for purposes like this at least in longer timeframe. I used to have a page here where I advertised community space but was never approached. I guess it's partly a coordination problem.

Comment author: richard_reitz 23 March 2017 03:18:00PM 1 point [-]

Extremely interested, would move anywhere rationalists would set one of these up.

Comment author: tired_time 22 March 2017 05:19:34PM 1 point [-]

very interested, would probably move to such place

Comment author: Calien 21 March 2017 05:21:53AM 1 point [-]

Would move into one if it was where I wanted to live, but I'm tied to Canberra for the next couple of years. If Melbourne did this I'd be really tempted.

Comment author: Eneasz 20 March 2017 04:13:47PM 1 point [-]

I have a secret desire for this to become real which I fear may destroy me and/or everything I know.

Comment author: malcolmocean 19 March 2017 07:39:52PM 1 point [-]

Am very interested in this in various ways, whether as a participant or as a consultant to the challenge of how to effectively live together (something I've been studying extensively for the last few years). Not actually currently able to move to the states easily, so there's that.

Comment author: cata 19 March 2017 04:33:50AM 1 point [-]

I am really interested in this and would be likely to want to move into such a place if it existed anywhere in the Bay Area in the next few years.

Comment author: SolveIt 19 March 2017 01:23:41AM 1 point [-]

I am interested!

Comment author: Asymmetric 18 March 2017 06:07:37PM 1 point [-]

Am interested!

Comment author: plethora 18 March 2017 09:54:39AM 1 point [-]

Would be interested if I lived in a place amenable to this. Seconding dropspindle's recommendation of Appalachia, since that's where I'm already planning to move if I can get a remote job.

It may be worth looking to see whether there are any large, relatively inexpensive houses near major cities that could be converted. There are a lot of McMansion developments in the suburbs north of DC that have never looked particularly inhabited.

Comment author: Lumifer 18 March 2017 03:31:50PM 2 points [-]

relatively inexpensive houses near major cities

Oh, there are a lot of them. Are you prepared to live in a 90% black community?

Comment author: pku 17 March 2017 07:08:50PM 1 point [-]

I'm interested. I'm moving to the bay (work in MTV) in August. (I'm also interested in group houses and like kids, so if there's a shortage of grouphouse pro-kids people I totally have comparative advantage there).

Comment author: wisnij 17 March 2017 05:33:58PM *  1 point [-]

The odds are low I would be able to participate, presently being on the wrong coast, but otherwise this is highly relevant to my interests.

Comment author: SnowSage4444 17 March 2017 05:36:40PM 1 point [-]


Comment author: philh 17 March 2017 02:02:44PM 1 point [-]

I'd be interested, but not interested enough to relocate.

Comment author: Bound_up 17 March 2017 01:27:56PM 1 point [-]

Absolutely. I've been looking into the different places looking to do something like this (like the Accelerator Project). Would definitely be interested in any similar things going on

Comment author: EStokes 17 March 2017 01:15:35PM 1 point [-]

i like the idea of living in ingroupy housing (insofar as i am correctly understanding it as also being suitable for people with low socialization satiety thresholds)

Comment author: SaxophonesAndViolets 17 March 2017 01:05:45PM 1 point [-]

I'm a 19-year-old Canadian at the moment and therefore can't realistically contribute, but this is exactly how I want to live and I would totally move to the Bay Area just for this.

Comment author: Rhaine 17 March 2017 11:14:13AM 1 point [-]

Not in the US and have no friends in the rationalist community, but I would consider moving to Bay (in some years) just for the sake of living in such a baugruppe

Comment author: magfrump 17 March 2017 06:11:11AM 1 point [-]

I would be interested but am not strongly socially connected to many rationalists in person so I would feel weird about living with them right away.

Comment author: KyleMatkat 17 March 2017 05:24:55AM 1 point [-]

I would be very interested in this starting in a year or two.

Comment author: Terdragon 17 March 2017 04:49:44AM 1 point [-]

Don't live in the Bay Area yet but am very much in favor.

Comment author: Rubix 17 March 2017 04:41:15AM 1 point [-]


Comment author: VAuroch 17 March 2017 04:37:59AM *  1 point [-]

Absolutely, would move immediately. Inconveniently I am currently at the "impoverished App Academy student" level.

Comment author: Mycroft65536 17 March 2017 04:30:41AM 1 point [-]


Comment author: quintopia 17 March 2017 04:26:40AM 1 point [-]

sounds cool. if i should happen to relocate to the west coast (a distinct possibility), i'd be interested.

Comment author: palladias 17 March 2017 04:22:25AM 1 point [-]

I am interested but not planning to move to the Bay Area. I might move to Hyattsville, though: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/fareforward/2014/03/this-is-what-we-do/

Comment author: Coscott 17 March 2017 04:01:14AM 1 point [-]

I am a very interested party. I am also interested in all things related to a child-friendly group house that is close to MIRICFAR.

Comment author: gbear605 17 March 2017 03:15:20AM 1 point [-]

I think that this is a great idea and would be theoretically interested in it in the future, but there's no chance I'll be living in the Bay Area in the next four years.

Comment author: blashimov 17 March 2017 03:01:49AM 1 point [-]

Like: Houston though

Comment author: wubbles 17 March 2017 02:12:02AM 1 point [-]

I am interested! Note that zoning might make this hard, but maybe we could buy adjacent bungalows and reconfigure them. Wasn't the bay supposed to be commune friendly?

Comment author: juliawise 17 March 2017 02:22:25AM 3 points [-]

N Street Cohousing in Davis CA is a classic example of this. http://nstreetcohousing.org/

Comment author: zerker2000 17 March 2017 01:54:39AM 1 point [-]

I am an interested party ^-^

Comment author: okay 25 March 2017 12:47:28AM 0 points [-]

I'm interested!

Comment author: ThoughtSpeed 20 March 2017 07:15:49PM 0 points [-]


Comment author: mayleaf 20 March 2017 01:11:43AM 0 points [-]

I am interested.

Comment author: oge 18 March 2017 11:42:14AM 0 points [-]

Hear! Hear!!

Comment author: Sniffnoy 17 March 2017 08:07:45PM 0 points [-]

I'm an interested party except for the whole "bay area" part. :P

Comment author: Gram_Stone 17 March 2017 01:29:19PM 0 points [-]

This is neat.

Comment author: diegocaleiro 17 March 2017 03:37:35AM *  0 points [-]

This sounds cool. Somehow it reminded me of an old, old essay by Russell on architecture.

It's not that relevant, so just if people are curious

Comment author: Aestrix 17 March 2017 02:23:51AM 0 points [-]

I like this idea, too.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 17 March 2017 02:17:03AM 0 points [-]

I think this idea is worth seeking.

Comment author: alexdewey 17 March 2017 01:55:17AM 0 points [-]

I like this idea.

Comment author: freyley 17 March 2017 11:22:16AM 16 points [-]

As a rationalist who had kids while within a deep community, I will say that only some of the community (that mostly said they wanted to stick around) actually stuck around after the kids showed up. I think there's a whole series to be written about that, but I'll sketch towards it now:

  • Parents schedules are different. If you really want to see them, you have to show up, not just invite them to your nonparent parties.
  • After a dozen invites that we don't make it to, nonparents stop inviting us parents, and then we're cut off. Even if we don't show up, we appreciate the invitation - I have occasionally made it to a nonparent invitation, but only from those who persist in inviting me.
  • Immediately after the baby arrives, the best things to do to help parents are chores. Prepping and making food, laundry, cleaning, etc.
  • Now that the kids are old enough for a consistent bedtime, I'm probably best available to hang out at 5:30pm or 9pm, but not 8pm. The 9pm one relies on you visiting me, or my partner hanging out in case the kids wake up. (I love 9pm visitors). If you're a nonparent who wants to help, you can always offer to hang out after the kids are asleep so parents can go out (if they're not going to sleep by 10, which is pretty common, so don't be surprised if that doesn't work for many parents)
  • As a nonparent, expect to build familiarity with the kids over a handful of events before you can babysit. Kids warm up to adults just like people warm up to other people - often slowly.
Comment author: Gunnar_Zarncke 23 March 2017 08:48:06PM 1 point [-]

Another data point: My smallish community (7.5 couples plus some singles) managed to continue a once-a-month get-together on some friday evenings despite children getting born and growing up. I think key to this is that it's okay for parents to bring their children and let them stay awake for longer then normal (like 10 pm) or being okay with the children falling asleep on a lap or couch which talk continues.

One key benefit of these get-togethers is (and that is kind of a general rule) that the more parent and children are there the less the parents have to care for the children because those mostly enjoy themselves and if just one parent mostly suffices to fix things.

Comment author: freyley 17 March 2017 11:10:59AM *  16 points [-]

Cohousing, in the US, is the term of art. I spent a while about a decade ago attempting to build a cohousing community, and it's tremendously hard. In the last few months I've moved, with my kids, into a house on a block with friends with kids, and I can now say that it's tremendously worthwhile.

Cohousings in the US are typically built in one of three ways:

  • Condo buildings, each condo sold as a condominium
  • Condo/apartment buildings, each apartment sold as a coop share
  • Separate houses.

The third one doesn't really work in major cities unless you get tremendously lucky.

The major problem with the first plan is, due to the Fair Housing Act in the 1960s, which was passed because at the time realtors literally would not show black people houses in white neighborhoods, you cannot pick your buyers. Any attempt to enforce rationalists moving in is illegal. Cohousings get around this by having voluntary things, but also by accepting that they'll get freeriders and have to live with it. Some cohousings I know of have had major problems with investors deciding cohousing is a good investment, buying condos, and renting them to whoever while they wait for the community to make their investment more valuable.

The major problem with the coop share approach is that, outside of New York City, it's tremendously hard to get a loan to buy a coop share. Very few banks do these, and usually at terrible interest rates.

Some places have gotten around this by having a rich benefactor who buys a big building and rents it, but individuals lose out on the financial benefits of homeownership. In addition, it is probably also illegal under the Fair Housing Act to choose your renters if there are separate units.

The other difficulties with cohousing are largely around community building, which you've probably seen plenty of with rationalist houses, so I won't belabor the point on that.

Comment author: freyley 17 March 2017 11:16:26AM 8 points [-]

The cohousing conference ( http://www.cohousing.org/2017 ) is a great place to get questions answered and learn from the folks who've been doing this for a while. The Bay Area definitely has a handful of solid cohousings, and often they give tours and talk to folks who are interested in setting them up.

(I'm happy to talk about this further, but may well lose track of this thread. feel free to email me or catch me on the slack.)

Comment author: freyley 17 March 2017 11:20:59AM 6 points [-]

There are a handful of developers who specialize in building cohousings so that folks interested in living in one can focus on building community and then all moving in together. In Portland one of the longer persisting ones is Orange Splot. http://www.orangesplot.net/ I'm sure there are Bay Area ones, and it's possible the folks at Orange Splot know them. I'd expect they'd also show up at the Cohousing Conference.

Doing both community development and building development is, of course, three times as hard as just doing the community development part and moving in to a building that someone else prepares for you.

Comment author: jsteinhardt 20 March 2017 02:31:47AM 2 points [-]

Any attempt to enforce rationalists moving in is illegal.

Is this really true? Based on my experience (not any legal experience, just seeing what people generally do that is considered fine) I think in the Bay Area the following are all okay:

  • Only listing a house to your friends / social circle.
  • Interviewing people who want to live with you and deciding based on how much you like them.

The following are not okay:

  • Having a rule against pets that doesn't have an exception for seeing-eye dogs.
  • Explicitly deciding not to take someone as a house-mate only on the basis of some protected trait like race, etc. (but gender seems to be fine?).
Comment author: Douglas_Knight 20 March 2017 07:07:23PM 2 points [-]

Your experience is probably about controlling who lives in a single household. Freyley's comment was about his "first plan," ie, condos, which is pretty much what Alicorn was talking about. The issue is about scaling up from a single apartment to a building or neighborhood.

But, yes, it is important to pay attention to what is fine in practice, which is often quite different from the law, in both directions.

Comment author: Viliam 20 March 2017 10:09:54AM *  0 points [-]

It would probably be reasonable to pay a lawyer for providing a definite answer and a list of legal strategies.

I mean, my first reaction after reading about the Fair Housing Act was "nah, that cannot really be a problem, I am sure there are dozen simple ways how to circumvent this". But then the second thought was "...and this is probably the same thing those people in 1960s (and later) who didn't want black people in their neighborhood were thinking too... so there were probably already decades of legal battles with various strategies and counter-strategies, and it would be foolish to just do five minutes of armchair reasoning and pretend that I know better than all those people who did it for a job, and whose profits depended on it."

(An example of a simple strategy I imagined: Could all people interested in living there create a cooperative enterprise, buy the whole area as a company, and then sell or rent it to their members? Because while you are in the company mode, it seems legal to buy "all or nothing"; and when selling or renting to the members, you simply won't advertise the fact that you are selling or renting. -- Sounds reasonable to me, and I don't see how this would be a problem... other than that someone probably already tried this to create a white-only neighborhood, and I don't know what happened afterwards.)

Comment author: Lumifer 20 March 2017 02:33:49PM 1 point [-]

There is also that thing that the US is now more of a regulatory state and less of a place with the rule of law.

Comment author: RedMan 20 March 2017 12:47:34PM *  1 point [-]

Your corporate plan would likely work. White nationalist Craig Cobb attempted to purchase large tracts of land in Leith, ND with the express purpose of providing them exclusively to white nationalists. Some aspect of this plan appeared to get him around the Fair Housing Act.

I believe he was run out of town along with his little club, so the best advice would be basically 'avoid advertising outside of rationalist circles', and don't antagonize your non rationalist neighbors.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 20 March 2017 07:12:55PM 0 points [-]

Could all people interested in living there create a cooperative enterprise

Freyley listed this second and said that its major problem is financing, not FHA, implying that this scheme is at least some protection.

Comment author: evand 18 March 2017 10:22:17PM 1 point [-]

On the legality of selecting your buyers: What if you simply had a HOA (or equivelent) with high dues, that did rationalist-y things with the dues? Is that legal, and do you think it would provide a relevant selection effect?

Comment author: Lumifer 19 March 2017 01:03:36AM 2 points [-]

It will select for rich people.

Comment author: Viliam 18 March 2017 05:49:49PM *  12 points [-]

I have recently read Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities, which is a book containing experience and advice for people wanting to build a community. The book is about ecological communities, which may differ in some aspects from the rationalist ones, but I believe most things are valid generally.

Some points I remember:

Do not overestimate people's commitment, no matter what they say. When the moment comes to actually put down the large amounts of money, don't be surprised if most of them suddenly change their minds.

Do your research in advance -- how much the project will cost, what kinds of documents and permissions you will need, and whether your plan is actually legal. (Ask people already living in similar communities. Actually, visit them for a few days, to get a near-mode experience. All of you.)

Good fences make good neighbors. Whatever were your original agreements, expect people to change their minds later and to remember something different than you do. Then you will need a paper record.

For any kind of group decisions, you need very precise rules for (1) who is and who isn't a member, how to become one and how to stop being one; and (2) what happens in case of prolonged disagrement. Outside view says that "we will do everything by consensus" is magical thinking predictably leading to a disaster.

It helps to identify your vision, and describe it in "vision documents" as clearly as possible. You might be surprised that people who previously seemed to agree with non-specific details, will suddenly find things they object against. (Better to find it now than after you have all moved.) Also, this will be helpful in future to explain your community to potential new members.

It is a bad idea to introduce power imbalances, such as "the rich members volunteer to intially pay for the poorer ones" or "someone can lend their unused private building to the community", because that can make later intra-group negotiations really unpleasant (e.g. when you have a vote about something the rich members have a strong opinion about, and they end up in the minority). If there is a need to lend money between members, do it completely officially, so that the fact that "X owes money to Y" cannot be used as a leverage against X.

It is probably a good idea to have together some lessons on communication skills. You need to be able to talk about sensitive topics where you disagree, without it making you feel disconnected. But you also need to hold each other accountable for things you agreed upon.

Filter people for emotional maturity. Seriously. Some people can cause insane amounts of unnecessary drama. And that applies not just for founders; you should also agree on some selection process for new members in the future. Also, newcomers should become provisional members first, participate in the community life and contribute some work, before they become full members. (Good interview questions: how have you supported yourself financially in the past? describe your long-term relationshops, school and work experience.)

There are different options: You can buy or rent several houses or flats for individual members of families, and then one extra place which will be common. Or you can buy a piece of land with several houses. Or a piece of land without houses, and build them. Or you could buy an office building or an abandoned factory, and then rebuild it. Members can own their places; or you could together create a legal entity that owns everything, and all members rent it from that entity. That entity may be able to take a loan.

Have a debate about what is your position on:

  • preferred distance from: schools, shops, nature, traffic nodes, other important places
  • lifestyle: vegetarianism / veganism, families, pets, sexual behavior, drug use...
  • financial issues: will everyone contribute equally, do member rights depend on their respective contributions, which property or expenses specifically are shared
  • politics: what about religion, is it okay if members are politically active, is it okay to publicly support politically active people

Have monthly meetings, with an agenda and a facilitator; only members can vote; take notes and archive them. (The logs will be useful to show to new members in the future.) Specifically, keep records about agreed upon tasks and dates. To make sure everyone is trivially involved even before you buy something, require a symbolic financial contribution from the members (remember, only those can vote), e.g. $100 for joining, and $10 as a monthly fee. Keep financial records.

How to create positive emotional bonds: talk about your life; cook and eat together. (Once in a while.)

Comment author: RomeoStevens 20 March 2017 01:27:30AM *  4 points [-]

Additionally: if only one member seems enthusiastic about thinking/planning/enforcing this kind of stuff that is a very bad sign. In such a situation when that person burns out the community slowly dies.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 17 March 2017 05:53:34AM *  12 points [-]

I've looked into housing prices for multi family complexes and they scale sublinearly with number of bedrooms. The biggest obstacle is that people aren't really willing to invest significant fractions of their income in them currently (because you don't want to have to gather 8 investors for an 8 unit, chaos/life happens). Ideally something like 3 people/couples who think they are relatively stable would take on responsibility for an 8 unit with a significant fraction of their income. This is a risk, but one of the top regrets of old people is becoming socially isolated. I think investing a significant fraction of ones income in what will eventually turn partially into semi-passive income (once the mortgage is paid) and partially into their community it is okay to invest a larger than usual fraction of income in. This will still likely take an individual slightly more wealthy than your average techie to eat a larger chunk of the down payment than others and thus own more of the equity in the income stream.

I suspect this is fairly impossible in the bay area which has the lowest conscientiousness people in the US AFAIK.

Edit what I mean by pointing out low conscientiousness is that many people are incredibly short sighted and will defect when short term opportunities look better ie they will not tough out a few years of sub-optimal financial arrangement ie people don't actually grasp the concept of investing in a community. Related to why our kind can't cooperate.

Comment author: juliawise 17 March 2017 11:14:01AM *  15 points [-]

Yeah, when I looked into cohousing this is what I concluded too. My husband and I ended up buying a house with 6 bedrooms and occupying two of them (then adding two more family members and building two more bedrooms.) None of our housemates would have bought in because they're not sure how long-term they want to be here, but they're happy to be renters and we're happy to own the building.

To us it's important that the arrangement be flexible; rather than a single big house we bought a house that had been divided into two apartments, so if we ever want to stop having housemates or we can't find housemates who want to live with us, we can pick the smaller or the larger apartment and rent the other one out. There's also some possibility of our kids wanting to rent from us in 20 years, which we think will work better if they can have their own apartment. I wouldn't have wanted to sink our savings into something that would really only work in one configuration.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 17 March 2017 09:13:37PM 3 points [-]

Thanks a lot for sharing. I think there's something valuable to be learned from how you've managed to maintain option value.

Comment author: drethelin 17 March 2017 06:37:45AM 6 points [-]

All the higher conscientiousness people realize how bad of an idea it is financially to try to live in the bay and move elsewhere

Comment author: username2 17 March 2017 08:49:43PM 9 points [-]

I feel a little bit morally obligated to point out the following.

The FBI estimates that each child has almost a 25% chance of being molested, that 4% of adults are sexually attracted to children, and that 70% of children were molested by people they knew and trusted. These number seems to at least roughly comport with my personal understanding of the world and my knowledge of the lives of people close to me.

The horrifying ubiquity of sexual predation of children must at least be mentioned under "Obstacles".

The unfortunate reality is that invitations to group living situations select for predators. No, your radar is not tuned to keep them out. No, you cannot sufficiently vet them after a few hours of interaction and observation of their children. If you think I'm being paranoid, I would argue that no, if 25% of children are likely to be molested, you're probably not being paranoid enough.

I would love it if this weren't true, but this is the world we live in.

I'm sure there are measures that can be taken to ameliorate this issue, but just ignoring it is not one of them.

Comment author: Viliam 18 March 2017 06:20:45PM *  12 points [-]

I want to urge people to not dismiss this without a thought. And it's not just about children.

There are already a few sexual predators hanging around with the rationalist community. I can't say names, because it is typically a "they said, they said" situation, and these types usually have a lot of practice at threatening legal consequences for "slander". (But if you know someone who used to be around and suddenly lost all interest at coming to your meetups, it might make sense to ask them discreetly whether they had a bad experience with someone specifically.)

I personally often don't care much about the statistics for general population, because we are obviously not average. Problem is, "not average" doesn't in itself show the direction. For general intelligence, we are obviously smarter, and that generally correlates with lower (detected?) crime. On the other hand, we also seem to score quite high for unusual sexual behavior in general.

As long as each family has a door they can close (and everything necessary to survive the day is inside), living in a community doesn't seem worse than simply living with neighbors. But there are good reasons why neurotypical people require long time before they start trusting someone; so "they are a member of the same community" should never be used as a replacement for "I have a lot of personal experience from gradually deepening interaction with this specific person". In other words, just because someone says "hi, I also like Less Wrong", doesn't mean I would invite them to my home and leave them alone with my child. Some nerdy people may need to be explicitly reminded of this.

Comment author: Rubix 18 March 2017 07:18:55PM 1 point [-]


Comment author: Alicorn 17 March 2017 11:29:30PM 8 points [-]

I'm pretty sure the solution to this problem is not "trust no one, be a hermit".

Comment author: username2 18 March 2017 01:16:17AM 1 point [-]

I think the word "trust" probably wouldn't exist in a rationally designed language. If I know the base rate of pedophiles is 4% then I will expect that each person I meet has a 1 in 25 chance of being one. If they demonstrate certain qualities to me I will gradually update downward until I reach a point where they become an acceptable risk. There's absolutely no reason to trust anybody on this front without such an analysis.

Comment author: Rubix 18 March 2017 01:49:05AM *  13 points [-]

Source on those statistics, please? I find the claims dubious: in particular, the 25% figure seems to come from this "information packet", which is unsourced and uncited, suggesting that it may not exist. The two Jensens, Cory Jewell and Steve, seem to build a career around inflating the numbers associated with child sexual assault. I can't find sources for either of the other figures.

My stake in the game: I strongly distrust statistics given about child sexual assault unless they are highly specific about what is being discussed, for two reasons.

One is that the definition is incredibly vague: some sources mean "an adult engaging in intercourse with a minor under 13", others mean "touch intended to be sexually gratifying, of a minor under 18, by another party of any age", and definitions run the gamut. Another example: under this website's definition of child sexual abuse, "any sexual activity between adults and minors or between two minors when one forces it on the other (...) like exhibitionism, exposure to pornography", I was sexually abused at 11 when a chatroom troll sent me a link that turned out to be Two Girls, One Cup.

My second reason for reservation around these statistics is that they rarely take into consideration the preferences of the minor. When I was a minor, I had healthy and fulfilling sexual relationships; under many existing definitions, I was sexually assaulted by my loving sixteen-year-old boyfriend when I was sixteen, and under many more I was sexually assaulted by him when he turned eighteen and I was still seventeen. This seems ridiculous and objectionable to me.

A last note: I agree that it is impossible to tell from a few hours of interaction whether someone will abuse your child. Many people can't tell even after years of loving marriage whether their spouse will abuse their children, so "demonstrating acceptable qualities" is not a very good intervention. The absolute best defense against one's children having unwanted/traumatic interactions is to tell them how to set boundaries, tell them to yell if they're touched in a way they don't want, tell them that their body is their own and that nobody gets to touch it without their permission. This has the virtue of defending against all manner of abuse and mistreatment, at the hands of parents, extended family, family friends and acquaintances alike.

Comment author: username2 18 March 2017 04:51:34PM 3 points [-]

I couldn't find the original page I was getting those numbers from, but here's another that gives a bit more granularity. It does seem like that 25% number interprets "sexual abuse" very broadly, but the more detailed numbers are still horrifying and still cause for alertness.

A last note: I agree that it is impossible to tell from a few hours of interaction whether someone will abuse your child. Many people can't tell even after years of loving marriage whether their spouse will abuse their children, so "demonstrating acceptable qualities" is not a very good intervention. The absolute best defense against one's children having unwanted/traumatic interactions is to tell them how to set boundaries, tell them to yell if they're touched in a way they don't want, tell them that their body is their own and that nobody gets to touch it without their permission. This has the virtue of defending against all manner of abuse and mistreatment, at the hands of parents, extended family, family friends and acquaintances alike.

Indeed, I didn't say "this is a horrible idea, Alicorn." I was just trying to mention this consideration, which I was a bit surprised not to see mentioned in the original post. If the children are all well-educated about how to respond to attempted abuse, and the adults all know this, a strongly abuse-deterring environment is created.

Comment author: Lumifer 18 March 2017 03:23:46AM 0 points [-]

Y'know, there is a medical diagnosis for this...

Comment author: username2 18 March 2017 09:43:50AM *  0 points [-]

I'm also pretty sure the solution is to NOT put your children in a shared living situation with a dozen other possibly-predacious adults. There is a middle ground of having a secure, private environment for your family with walls and clear separation. Such as most conventional living situations.

Comment author: tenshiko 18 March 2017 12:16:33AM 6 points [-]

If these statistics are likewise correct, about half of child molestations involve a direct family relationship. "Stop adding children to your family" seems like a pretty unrealistic method of preventing child molestations from occurring. Then again, a pretty substantial chunk of child molestors are trusted non-relatives, so I see how the baugruppe would disproportionately enable that demographic.

"Do not let parents be alone with their own children" likewise seems pretty unrealistic. Would you want to suggest that a non-parent should be limited in their time alone with a child?

Furthermore, there will only be one baugruppe. Perhaps two. Aren't the participants in such an enterprise disproportionately likely to be economically advantaged with consistently present parents, and therefore less appealing targets for child molestors?

Comment author: username2 18 March 2017 09:53:24AM 2 points [-]

The whole point of the objection. as I (different persona) interpret it, is that a shared living situation is effectively adding more adults to each family. The whole point is to have one big cohesive group living together, which means a lot more people in the same proximity and familiarity as family members in more conventional arrangements.

Put differently, the underlying causes of why most predation seems to come from family has nothing to do with sharing genetic material, but rather things like availability of opportunity and trust. Both of which are features of this shared living environment. So we should expect the individual risk to be higher than 1 in 25 and in fact closer to the rates from family members.

Comment author: Jonathan_Lee 18 March 2017 07:29:23PM 4 points [-]

Even if it's the case that the statistics are as suggested, it would seem that a highly effective strategy is to ensure that there are multiple adults around all the time. I'll accept your numbers ad arguendo (though I think they're relevantly wrong).

If there's a 4% chance that one adult is an abuser, there's a 1/625 chance that two independent ones are, and one might reasonably assume that the other 96% of adults are unlikely to let abuse slide if they see any evidence of it. The failure modes are then things like abusers being able to greenbeard well enough that multiple abusers identify each other and then proceed to be all the adults in a given situation. Which is pretty conjunctive as failures go, and especially in a world where you insist that you know all the adults personally from before you started a baugruppe rather that letting Bob (and his 5 friends who are new to you) all join.

You also mention "selection for predators", but that seems to run against the (admittedly folk) wisdom that children at risk of abuse are those that are isolated and vulnerable. Daycare centres are not the central tendency of abuse; quiet attics are.

Comment author: drethelin 18 March 2017 03:19:28AM 3 points [-]

This is paranoid, but even if it wasn't: The more people living in one house the LESS likely someone is to get away with molesting someone else unnoticed.

Comment author: username2 18 March 2017 04:44:04PM *  3 points [-]

As the other anonymous said, this doesn't follow at all. A group living situation creates a larger field of "trusted adults" per child. Unless all the adults are mindful of these risks, a situation arises where any adult may at any time be put in charge of watching any child or children. This is frankly the textbook definition of what not to do.

If the adults are mindful of the risk, then they can be open about it, and ensure that two or more adults are always tasked with watching children, so that the adults can watch each other. And even this may eventually cease to be necessary.

Also, I find that your definition of paranoid must be different from mine if you look at those statistics and think "nothing risky going on here". I have to assume you have no personal experience with this issue. I can't help but feel like people in this thread are conflating a feeling of "I don't want this to be true and I don't want to have to think about it" with "this is obviously overly paranoid".

Comment author: drethelin 18 March 2017 09:44:28PM *  4 points [-]

I think the statistics you quote are exaggerated in order to terrify. When I tried to look up "4% of adults are sexually attracted to children," for example, I found nothing. Similarly, the news is often full of stranger danger fears because terror is what gets attention and therefore revenue and funding. And as others have said, they also include stuff like 18 year olds having sex with 17 year olds, which some people may find unacceptable but I don't.

Comment author: gjm 19 March 2017 01:38:41AM 7 points [-]

Note also that "4% of adults are sexually attracted to children" is a very different statement from "4% of adults are likely to molest children if left alone with them".

(I suspect rather more than 4% of adults are sexually attracted to Angelina Jolie[1], but that doesn't mean they'd molest her if left alone in a room with her.)

[1] Chosen by putting "famous actress" into Google and picking the first name it gave me. If she isn't your type -- she isn't particularly mine, as it happens -- feel free to imagine I chose a different name.

Comment author: username2 19 March 2017 02:05:30AM 0 points [-]

Sounds a lot more like rationalization than rationalism.

Comment author: drethelin 19 March 2017 02:52:34AM 0 points [-]

This is why we need downvotes.

Comment author: username2 19 March 2017 05:38:44AM 0 points [-]

I was being quite serious. When given a quantitative argument you responded with a grab bag of abstract objections not backed by data but vaguely supporting your original viewpoint. A natural human response designed to keep one from changing their mind, generally called rationalization. I encourage becoming aware of when this is happening and use that awareness to improve your model of the world.

Comment author: ozymandias 19 March 2017 03:12:06PM 3 points [-]

I think an accurate qualitative argument is better than a sourceless quantitative argument.

Comment author: Lumifer 19 March 2017 04:19:05PM 1 point [-]

When given a quantitative argument

Numbers are not particularly magical and being quantitative doesn't imply the argument is more likely to be correct. After all, "there are lies, damn lies, and statistics".

Comment author: Viliam 20 March 2017 10:41:50AM 2 points [-]

ensure that two or more adults are always tasked with watching children, so that the adults can watch each other.

This may feel exaggerated, because many people not living in communities are not following this rule consistently either. People often leave their children alone with grandparents or babysitters. Sure, there is a risk involved, but... life sometimes gives you constraints.

Comment author: username2 18 March 2017 09:56:45AM 1 point [-]

That seems entirely unjustified. More people and ore space means more threats and more opportunities. Most child molestation happens from a SINGLE close and trusted family member, acting alone. Yet your same argument could be applied to the single-family household -- with a family living together it is more likely that someone else in the family will notice. But the data doesn't seem to support that.

Comment author: drethelin 18 March 2017 09:49:45PM 1 point [-]

most single family households have a lot fewer than 10-20 people in them.

Comment author: RedMan 20 March 2017 12:29:38PM *  0 points [-]

This problem is an easy one to solve. Implicit association tests are effective at discriminating pedophiles from non-pedophiles.

Have 'age of consent' set as a community norm (keep it legal folks!) and 'must score under community-assessed maximum tolerable score on the pedo-IAT' as a condition of moving in.

You'd be the first neighborhood association to take this sort of strong, invasive(?) measure for preventing child abuse in a close knit community, I don't think they do this in Celebration, Florida (or whatever the Disney World community is called)


Note, any implementation should also include eye tracking, or another analytic to detect a user looking away and clicking at a constant rate. Looking away and clicking to advance at random or at a constant rate is the only mechanism for defeating an IAT.

How do I apply for a slot in the house? I'm tired of living by the sword and would love to relocate to a tech hub but don't know anyone.

Comment author: philh 22 March 2017 12:22:17PM 2 points [-]

I am skeptical that the IAT can accurately detect pedophiles. The article is paywalled, so I can't say anything specific about it, but I can gesture in the general direction of the reproducability crisis.

Comment author: username2 18 March 2017 09:31:38AM 7 points [-]

Rationalists like to live in group houses

... wha? Can someone explain this? I have absolutely no idea what this is reference to, or why it might be. I consider myself a rationalist, and I very much prefer living alone. I like my privacy. Same goes for many other rationalists I am friends with in real life. Not everyone likes having roommates.

More to the point, this seems entirely orthogonal to rationalism. What is Alicorn talking about here?

Comment author: Lumifer 18 March 2017 03:29:53PM *  6 points [-]

It's founder effects. I doubt that rationalists in general like to live in group houses. I am quite willing to believe that a particular group of rationalists in San Francisco who all tend to hang together in meatspace (and, not incidentally, are into polyamory) would like to live in a group house.

Comment author: mayleaf 20 March 2017 01:29:29AM *  2 points [-]

Yeah, a lot of Bay Area rationalistsphere people currently live in group houses. I have the impression that this is true of NYC rationalistsphere as well, but less true in other cities.

And yeah, I suspect that a lot of confusion arises from eliding "people who read LessWrong and other rationalist blogs and identify as rationalists" and "a specific social circle of Bay Area and NYC inhabitants who know each other IRL (even if they originally met through online rationalist communities)." The latter group does in fact tend to live in group housing; I have very little idea about the former.

Comment author: CBHacking 20 March 2017 08:48:17AM *  1 point [-]

Moderately true of Seattle as well (two group houses, plus some people living as housemates or whatever but not explicitly a Rationalist Group House). I'm not sure if our community is big enough for something like this but I love this idea and it would be a point in favor of moving the bay area if there was one there (that I had a chance to move into) but not one here.

Comment author: jkaufman 18 March 2017 03:29:14PM 6 points [-]

Rationalists don't all like group houses, but compared to the rest of the population they disproportionately like them. There have been several in person meetup groups that have started houses, and these have generally gone pretty well. (Ex: Citadel in Boston)

Comment author: Dustin 19 March 2017 05:52:10PM 0 points [-]

I'm skeptical that meetups are representative of rationalists in general.

Comment author: helldalgo 17 March 2017 06:13:08AM *  7 points [-]

I don't ever plan to move to the Bay Area, as I like where I live and have a spouse with strong preferences about staying here and never California, but I support this project and others like it (like Bendini's Kernel Project). Let me know if there's administrative stuff I can do to help coordinate the project.

Things I can do:

-Research into cooperative housing

-Editing any docs the project needs if things like conflict resolution are going to be formalized

-Making phone calls if/when property is found and scheduling viewings

-Helping navigate the finance side (I'm currently working as a financial analyst)

EDIT: I have spousal support for trying to facilitate something much like bendini's project in Boise, ID. For people who don't want to live in the Bay or the UK, Boise is a nice little city with a medium-sized tech industry and a fairly libertarian culture, if that matters to you. We're willing to host people here and show them around the city, as well as put out feelers for job opportunities. The cost of living here is also incredibly low compared to the Bay Area.

Comment author: Sniffnoy 17 March 2017 04:32:14AM 6 points [-]

Thought: You might want to look at existing cooperative houses for possible models of how to run things. Here in Ann Arbor we have a number of them -- although since most of them are part of a central organization (the Inter-Cooperative Council) which takes care of a lot of things, some of that might not generalize very well. Still, there are plenty of other ones not part of such organizations.

NASCO may have a number of relevant resources here -- both in terms of, what other co-ops are there to look at, and also more direct resources on how to run a co-op (sample bylaws, lease documents, etc.). I think they have lots of stuff for helping out new co-ops, people trying to start co-ops, etc.

Unfortunately they seem to be focused on student cooperatives, but it looks like as long as your co-op is near a college campus it can join, whether it's for students or not, and that condition can likely be satisfied. But that's for existing co-ops anyway; not sure how it works if you want their help starting a new one. But I'm pretty sure they have some way of helping with that? Maybe not NASCO itself? Apparently co-ops which are "development service member" help with this? I really don't know much about this. But this might make a good starting point.

There does appear to be one NASCO co-op in the bay area, called "Cooperative Roots". Or you could talk to the Berkeley co-ops (not a NASCO member), though from what I know about them I'm not sure how great a model they would be (I hear they're very centrally run, with individual houses having little autonomy).

Also thought: Some of the ICC houses in Ann Arbor were originally frat houses before the ICC bought them. That might be one way to get houses. Unfortunately the ones I've seen that were obtained this way generally didn't have layouts that were really optimized to be a good co-living spaces, for whatever reason, but such a house will likely still be better for such than houses not really intended for co-living at all.

Comment author: gwillen 17 March 2017 08:06:30AM 5 points [-]

This is interesting and I am interested in it. (I live in the distant far reaches of southbay which makes my interest maybe less relevant than it could be.) I see a few major sticking points.

  • If not everyone is paying their own way, a sticking point is the arrangement of who pays how much, accounting for the fact that individual people's desire to pay for individual other people may change over time, and people's financial situations may change over time, and kicking people out of their housing on short notice is bad, and housing in the bay area is already very expensive so the prospect of paying a premium to subsidize others, especially unspecified others, may be unpalatable.
  • As you say, dispute-resolution: It will be necessary to regulate people's behavior and it will sometimes be necessary to expel people, and this is the usual problem of expelling people from communities -- which is already so hard that communities typically handle it poorly it and are sometimes destroyed by either doing it or failing to do it -- except that money and people's housing will be at stake in this case, which not only raises the emotional stakes significantly (as if they weren't bad enough), it adds financial and maybe legal stakes as well.
Comment author: MrMind 17 March 2017 01:13:33PM 4 points [-]

Rationalists like to live in group houses.

Do they? I personally hate sharing living spaces. Am I the weirdo? I suspect it's an American custom, not something proper of rationalists per se.

Comment author: plethora 18 March 2017 09:59:46AM 5 points [-]

It's a coastal, urban American custom. To a first approximation, it's illegal to build in coastal cities and most of the land in them is uninhabitable because crime.

Comment author: Lumifer 17 March 2017 02:59:11PM *  3 points [-]

Not an American custom, this is basically founder effects (aka semi-random cultural idiosyncrasies of this particular group).

From a European perspective, the American custom is to live in huge McMansions on gargantuan tracts of land.

Comment author: username2 18 March 2017 09:41:02AM 1 point [-]

This is most absolutely not an American custom. I wasn't even aware it was a rationalist thing (?!). I live in the bay area, I know many rationalists here, and this seems totally out of left field. I'm kinda surprised at how Alicorn writes as if this is totally normal and expected thing.

Comment author: mayleaf 20 March 2017 01:19:50AM *  3 points [-]

As another Bay Arean rationalist, I can confirm that a large part of my rationalist social circle lives in group houses in the Berkeley/Oakland area. I'm a bit surprised that you haven't encountered this as well?

Generally the group houses are 3-5 rationalists in their twenties or early thirties living together -- sharing common spaces, but having private bedrooms (or bedrooms shared only with a romantic partner.)

I suspect that the prevalence of group housing is in part due to Bay Area rent being really high (making it more attractive to share an apartment/house as opposed to rent a one-bedroom on one's own). I also have the vague impression that current 20-30-year-olds in the US are more likely to live in group housing than has been true in previous generations? (Many of my non-rationalist friends in this age group also live in group houses.)

Comment author: CBHacking 20 March 2017 08:40:45AM 2 points [-]

Hell, it's not even just the bay area; Seattle has two explicitly-rationalist-group-houses and plenty of other people who live in more "normal" situations but with other rationalists (I found my current flatmate, when my old one moved out, through the community). Certainly the bay area rationalist community is large and this sort of living situation is far from universal, but I've certainly heard of several even though I've never actually visited any.

Comment author: username2 20 March 2017 07:26:43AM 1 point [-]

Nope, not in my social circle. I know quite a few self-described rationalists. Most are not in shared living setups, although 2 are. Those two have regular roommate situations where the roommates were not selected for being rationalist.

Frankly there are all sorts of alarm bells going off about the idea of seeking out shared living situations where everyone is from the same rationalist community. Smells of cultism... I on the other hand highly value interacting with people of different backgrounds and base belief systems.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 17 March 2017 02:55:29PM 1 point [-]

An American Rationalist subculture question, perhaps. Certainly NOT America as a whole.

Comment author: bendini 17 March 2017 05:59:58AM 4 points [-]

I am organizing a project that is 95% this, and people are flying to the selected location later this month for a 3-day meetup

My project: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1wmVZJiDjTjxmVshSFSk2rH-b8GLiQ0DJ0Cw1hyOnswM/edit?usp=sharing

Anyone who would be interested in this is welcome to join us

Comment author: Rubix 18 March 2017 01:56:45AM *  4 points [-]

I voiced my reservations about this project in the feedback form, but in summary for public record:

I approve of:

  • a thriving in-person rationalist or rationalist-adjacent community ("community" for short) existing somewhere that's not a metropolis

  • a community that does not oblige its members to "live rationally" according to some consensus definition thereof

  • a community encouraging people to experiment with their lives and gain real-world rationality skills

I have reservations about:

  • the claim that the rationalist community as it exists is predominantly upper-middle-class.

In particular, it seems very likely to me that Bendini's sense of alienation from the UK Cambridge Solstice is best explained by the demographics of Cambridge, rather than the demographics of rationalists. I know many high-profile rationalists who do not come from upper-middle-class backgrounds and who spend their money carefully. Most of the rationalists I know in-person are college dropouts, not Oxbridge elites. There's plenty more I could say on this issue.

  • the tone of the project

  • the difficulty of immigrating to the UK

  • the degree of similarity to Alicorn's bagruppe idea - there's one line about kids, but this doesn't seem like a thoroughly kid-oriented project.

Comment author: Strangeattractor 17 March 2017 05:06:52AM 4 points [-]

I don't live in the Bay Area, nor do I wish to move there, but I have some thoughts.

It may be that the way to accomplish this is to start a housing co-operative, or a non-profit organization.

The Rochdale principles, which many co-operatives adopt are: Open, voluntary membership. Democratic governance. Limited return on equity. Surplus belongs to members. Education of members and public in cooperative principles. Cooperation between cooperatives.

If that seems like something you can live with, then you might want to go the co-op route. If you want to have more control over who joins, and the "open voluntary membership" is a sticking point, then a non-profit might serve your needs better.

In Canada, where I live, becoming a registered charity is much more difficult than becoming a non-profit. In the United States, it is easier to get charity status. My friendly neighbourhood local makerspace, founded by a bunch of my friends, decided to be a non-profit rather than a registered charity or a co-op.

You might find resources related to housing co-operatives or non-profit governance that could help. They have some experience with being able to resolve disputes and keep community standards. I know of some where I live, but I'm not familiar with what's available in the Bay Area. Resources about intentional communites might help too. This is anecdata, but I've heard mostly horror stories about intentional communites, and mostly good things about co-ops, and co-ops near where I live in Ontario are sought-after places with long waiting lists even when they don't include government-funded subsidized housing, so if I was going to set this up I'd lean more toward the co-op side of things.

Comment author: ete 17 March 2017 04:09:02AM 4 points [-]

This probably won't make sense in the early stages when there's just a small team setting things up, but in the mid term the accelerator project (whirlwind tour) hopes to seed a local rationalist community in a lower cost location than the bay (current top candidate location is the canary islands). I imagine most would prefer to stay in more traditional places, but perhaps this would appeal to some rationalist parents?

Comment author: illicitlearning 17 March 2017 02:05:20AM 4 points [-]

I would totally live in a Bay Area rationalist baugruppe if it were brought into existence!

I think that it would be totally possible to find an appropriate space pre-existing in the Bay somewhere that we could acquire and populate without having to worry about construction or the like. Evidence: something becoming more popular in the Bay Area is the idea of a "co-living" space. I toured one in San Francisco with a boyfriend of mine during his last housing search, and it was a charming dormitory-like multistory arrangement where each floor had several bedrooms, a bathroom, a living area, and a kitchen, with larger communal hangout spaces in a basement and everything connected by flights of stairs in the back. While we were there, the people living there spoke of other similar spaces in the city that they had contact with. More casually, my own living situation also resembles a baugruppe - I live in one of eight duplexes on a private lot, half of which are populated with good friends of mine. If rationalists bought out the landlord, it would not be much work to transform it into a baugruppe. I bet there are other apartment buildings or lots that would fit the bill, if we put in the legwork of finding them.

Actually, it occurs to me that I know the founder of Radio Eden (a co-living space in the Bay Area aimed at temporary or transitional tenants who just need to crash somewhere in the Bay for a few months). I'll talk to her about how she made that happen and see if she has any advice on how we could make this happen!

Comment author: jaibot 20 March 2017 03:57:42AM 2 points [-]

Seattle is thinking about putting together a Community Center. This would basically be a house that we collectively rent out, with maybe one or two people living there at below-market rates to take care of the space and do upkeep. Here's a post on Tumblr outlining the thinking so far by one of the people spearheading the effort: http://fermatas-theorem.tumblr.com/post/158612649028/what-if-seattle-earationality-got-a-community

Comment author: Lumifer 17 March 2017 02:55:16PM 2 points [-]

So that's like a hippie commune, but middle-class? ...oh, you want to live in San Fran? Sorry, upper-middle-class :-/

Comment author: username2 18 March 2017 09:57:27AM 1 point [-]

Knowing some people personally who grew up in hippie communes, I don't think a single one of them would recommend this.

Comment author: Rubix 18 March 2017 07:22:01PM 3 points [-]

I grew up in a hippie commune and I recommend this!

Comment author: James_Miller 17 March 2017 02:35:59AM 2 points [-]

Strange that this kind of thing almost never happens where you get people with similar worldviews deliberately coordinating to live in the same building or neighborhood. It might be easier to start with a rationalist group vacation home.

Comment author: drethelin 17 March 2017 06:10:54AM 4 points [-]

A lot of places actually have laws against more than few unrelated people living in the same house.

Comment author: plethora 18 March 2017 10:02:23AM 0 points [-]

Yes, so you send everyone out and hide most of the beds when the inspectors come around.

This is probably not desirable for communities with children, but it's common for co-ops in places with those laws.

Comment author: Lumifer 18 March 2017 03:33:22PM 0 points [-]

Yeah, and then you end up with Ghost Ship situations...

Comment author: ialdabaoth 21 March 2017 01:10:35AM 1 point [-]

I do not know how to build a dormpartment building and probably neither do you.


Comment author: Alicorn 22 March 2017 10:47:00PM 0 points [-]

Hi! What would you need to construct a dormpartment building?

Comment author: ialdabaoth 23 March 2017 10:12:00PM *  1 point [-]

Well, obviously first we'd need land. What land we get will determine who is legally allowed to build a dormpartment building, and what techniques and materials they're allowed to use.

That said, if it was up to me, I'd probably want to build something out in the Arizona desert, probably near Snowflake, and I'd want to use cinderblock construction. The great thing about that is that you're basically making giant lego-houses out of hollow concrete blocks and mortar.

So step one would be getting a bulldozer to level the land, then a cement truck and a shitload of cement to make a foundation (highly recommended we get a construction company to do that part, rather than doing it ourselves), then build up from there. A backhoe to dig out large water tanks and a septic system will be necessary, assuming this will be somewhere off-grid.

The great thing is that solar is actually doable these days, so we could get REAAAALLY cheap off-grid land, build a big-ass solar farm, and then our only issue is potable water, which is doable with a reverse osmosis system and a large enough catchment tank, if you don't care about living too close to a major city.

Comment author: Lumifer 24 March 2017 03:51:25PM 2 points [-]

I think you and Alicorn have drastically different ideas about the end product :-)

Comment author: ialdabaoth 23 March 2017 10:18:00PM 0 points [-]

On the other hand, if you actually need this to be somewhere near the Bay, then I don't know what to tell you, because I'd basically need to go to school for something like 12 years to get all the necessary certifications to prove that I know how to do what I know how to do.

Comment author: Alicorn 23 March 2017 10:39:22PM 1 point [-]

I would be happy to approve of a project elsewhere from afar but the Bay has the key ingredient of job density and preexisting community mass. Also in Arizona I would melt.

Comment author: Dustin 19 March 2017 05:44:31PM 1 point [-]

Rationalists like to live in group houses.

Do they? This seems like a pretty strong claim to make.

Comment author: Alicorn 19 March 2017 07:55:52PM 1 point [-]

I considered adding [citation needed] after that sentence but thought it was probably pretty obvious. I guess not everybody goes to rationalist group house parties all the time.

Comment author: Dustin 20 March 2017 01:51:49PM *  1 point [-]

Consider that the phrase seems like a pretty effective way to out-group other people.

Comment author: drethelin 21 March 2017 04:34:00PM 0 points [-]

Consider that if you focus on a single throwaway generalization from a longer essay that you're the one outgrouping yourself.

Comment author: Dustin 24 March 2017 06:54:37PM *  0 points [-]

1) It's not readily apparent to me that it is readily apparent to all potential readers that it is a throwaway generalization.

2) I'm not sure what you mean by "focus on". Are you claiming that someone who notices that some might feel outgrouped or that someone who does feel outgrouped are going to be unable to read, comprehend, and/or appreciate the rest of the post? Are you claiming that the rest of the essay makes it readily apparent that the phrase under discussion is just a throwaway generalization? Are you claiming that everyone should always recognize throwaway generalizations and not react to them? Are you claiming that throwaway generalizations do not ever say anything about the mindset of those who are using them?

Comment author: mindspillage 18 March 2017 03:10:26AM *  1 point [-]

This would probably have to be less expensive long-term and at least as convenient as my current living situation (apartment in the south bay) for my partner and I to be interested, but it is something I think we would consider. (I would be more interested in the social group aspect, and he would want low social obligation but would be interested in resource-sharing. I have not yet actually asked him about this post.) In particular, there are plenty of things that are reasonable and useful if shared in small groups (tools, recreation equipment, etc.) but a bit silly for personal use and difficult to share with strangers. I am not interested enough to do the heavy lifting of initial organizing.

(I do like the idea of having neighbors pre-selected to be inclined to be "neighborly"--I am happy to watch a child/water plants/play in your garage band/copyedit your report if you will do similar things when I need it. I know little enough about most of my current physical neighbors that we don't know what we can ask of each other.)

Comment author: RyanCarey 17 March 2017 11:23:02AM *  1 point [-]

Two thoughts:

1 - Why buy? Can't you rent? Personally, I'd get most of the value by living with friends across two floors of a large house (Event Horizon) or in two nearby houses on a street (The Bailey). A few stable families could buy a big house later per Romeo.

2 - Suppose you actually buy a small dormitory or an old tiny hotel. Call this the hard mode version of the project. Such a building would accommodate at least the 20 you're looking for. But it would require commensurate investment. If I imagine pitching this project, my story for some rationalist investor is that it's a socially responsible investment that will pay itself back with some risk and low ROI but that nonetheless delivers social value by growing the rationalist community. But what projects would be run from such a venue, and what is my case for such? I could imagine mitigating the downside risk by arranging a Free-State-Project--like signup, with some deposits. I could increase the upside by promising to make a chain of such houses. I could buffer the EV by just already being a proven competent impressive startup founder. The hard mode version of the project does seem valuable, but not necessarily that valuable compared to how hard and expensive it is. It would take a serious leader to actually drive it.

Comment author: drethelin 18 March 2017 03:21:44AM 5 points [-]

A huge advantage to buying over renting is you actually get to be in charge of what's done with the space and who lives there, as opposed to a landlord who has different desires. A landlord might want to sell the land to build a zoo, or kick you out so his newly turned 18 son can live there, or simply just not want to divide up the units in your apartment in such a way as facilitates your plans because that'll reduce the building's value.

Comment author: drethelin 17 March 2017 06:24:28AM *  1 point [-]

Are there legal barriers to renting property you own only to people in your ingroup? I feel like there must be, especially in California.

Also I second the housing co-op idea, there are a bunch of them here and they seem to work pretty well for the people who live there.

A possibly useful hack for this is kickstarter/tinder type thing, where people can propose buildings, and people announce how much money they would be willing to pay to own what percentage of, a specific place on the market where the next step is only triggered if enough people sign up with a sufficient amount of money that it's worth actually looking into pooling money and purchasing it.

Comment author: Sniffnoy 17 March 2017 08:11:50PM *  1 point [-]

I don't know about California, but here in Michigan at least I believe it is legal so long as the building is a "shared dwelling space". If it consists of separate apartments, then no you're not allowed to discriminate like that. (Note: Not a lawyer, there may be subtleties I'm missing. Just stating this as a potentially useful starting point.)

Comment author: SnowSage4444 17 March 2017 04:42:30PM 0 points [-]

That sounds wonderful. I've lived alone almost my whole life... It'd be nice to have a family.

Comment author: Lumifer 17 March 2017 03:09:55PM 0 points [-]

Heh. So many people came out of the woodwork...

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 17 March 2017 04:52:48AM 0 points [-]

"a street with a lot of rationalists living on it" (no rationalist-friendly entity controls all those houses and it's easy for minor fluctuations to wreck the intentional community thing)

Has anyone tried this? While it doesn't give a very integrated solution, it seems very easy to do. Why do you say that it is vulnerable to minor fluctuations? Having separate units on the same street seems quite robust to me.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 March 2017 05:22:11AM 2 points [-]

I mean that if someone moves out, the landlord is likely to choose a nonrationalist to rent the place, and that streets seldom have many houses available all at once for a coordinated move.

Comment author: illicitlearning 17 March 2017 07:50:44PM 4 points [-]

My current landlord has allowed our friends to apply to other places on our lot before they are put on the market, and has also agreed to rent to people in our friend group and below-market rates. I think landlords do get value from tenants encouraging their friends to move in, because they can be expected to be similar quality tenants and make each other less likely to leave.

Comment author: juliawise 17 March 2017 11:27:04AM *  2 points [-]

It might depend on the market, but I live up the street from a three-apartment building that was occupied by a co-op for a long time. The co-op residents enforced stuff like not messing up the house, and because lots of people wanted to live in the co-op the landlord never had to worry about vacancies.

Assuming the landlord likes the initial group of tenants, having a group of tenants who will pre-vet new tenants and will find those tenants themselves should be very appealing.

This would require patience and risk-tolerance on the part of the initial group, if they're renting apartments or buying houses in an area where they hope more will become available but don't know when (and don't know that their friends will still want to join them when space is available.)

Comment author: KatjaGrace 17 March 2017 09:37:11AM 1 point [-]

In my experience this has been less of a problem than you might expect: our landlord likes us because we are reasonable and friendly and only destroy parts of the house when we want to make renovations with our own money and so on. So they would prefer more of us to many other candidates. And since we would also prefer they have more of us, we can make sure our landlord and more of us are in contact.

Comment author: KatjaGrace 17 March 2017 09:30:57AM 1 point [-]

I and friends have, but pretty newly; there are currently two houses two doors apart, and more friends in the process of moving into a third three doors down. I have found this good so far, and expect to continue to for now, though i agree it might be unstable long term. As an aside, there is something nice about being able to wander down the street and visit one's neighbors, that all living in one house doesn't capture.

Comment author: KPier 17 March 2017 01:54:09AM 0 points [-]

I would live in this if it existed. Buying an apartment building or hotel seems like the most feasible version of this, and (based on very very minimal research) maybe not totally intractable; the price-per-unit on some hotels/apartments for sale is like $150,000, which is a whole lot less than the price of independently purchasing an SF apartment and a pretty reasonable monthly mortgage payment.

Comment author: helldalgo 17 March 2017 06:11:52AM *  0 points [-]

[commented in the incorrect place]