A while back, LessWrong poster Aysajan put up a post asking to be someone’s apprentice. He talked about it with johnswentworth, who I recently confirmed via meeting him in person is awesome and does reliably interesting work, and an apprentice experiment was born.
As John says, you gotta admire the chutzpah. Asking for what one wants is a known to be successful but highly underused strategy, I presume mostly because of the permanent global chutzpah shortage and the associated danger that it might result in mild social awkwardness.
In addition to the highly successful use of chutzpah, this also points out that apprenticeships are also a known to be successful but highly underused strategy. My feelings about so-called ‘schools’ are well known, but education is great, and apprenticeship is one of the best ways to get an actually excellent and useful education.
I’ve been an apprentice, regardless of whether it was called that, and it was awesome. At Jane Street they have a formal education process, but the core of how you get good is an apprenticeship. You learn from the best, by working with the best and asking them questions. I believe I am a natural trader, but I am good largely because I learned from working directly with three of the best in succession at three different jobs. I know Magic and game design by spending tons of time talking and working with top Magic players and game designers.
I’ve been a mentor of sorts a few times. That’s mostly been great too, and I’m plausibly taking on another one now, although I’m cheating because he is already exceptional and largely does not need the help.
Thus, we have two overpowered strategies here that the world needs more of: Apprenticeship and Chutzpah. Lowering the activation energy required for either or both of them seems great, as does providing encouragement.
Both can of course be overused and abused. Too much of the wrong kind of chutzpah is no good for anyone, and apprenticeship can turn into a bunch of not very useful unpaid work, or end up holding people back. In the context of posts like this, I am not much worried about either of these failure modes.
For this post/thread I will focus on apprenticeship. In particular, I want to see if I can give social permission and a coordination mechanism that can perhaps take place in the comments (reminder that my posts have two comments sections, the primary one at DWATV and a secondary one at LessWrong).
Replies to this post should take the form of any of the following:
- [MENTOR]: A non-binding indication of potential interest in mentorship. Mention that you might, at some point, be interested in taking on an apprentice. This commits you to nothing. Make sure to indicate what you’d be teaching them and what project would likely be involved, and open with [MENTOR]. You are free to include contact info, or not include it and monitor replies.
- Replies to this comment to indicate potential interest in being the apprentice, marked [APPRENTICE], which should include a method of further contact.
- [APPRENTICE]: A non-binding indication of potential interest in being an apprentice. Mention that you might, at some point, be interested in being an apprentice. This commits you to nothing. Make sure to indicate what you’re interested in being an apprentice in and learning, and an indication of what’s motivating you.
- Replies to this comment to indicate potential interest in being the mentor, marked with [MENTOR], which should include a method of further contact.
- [NORMAL] You’re free to comment as per normal, but start with [NORMAL] in the top-level for clarity.
- [NYCBUSINESS] if there’s some chance, depending on what it is, that you would want to do the thing I talk about below.
Cost of speaking up is low, potential upside is high, and hopefully not too much chutzpah is now required.
As for me: Right now, my main focus is on game design. We hired two new designers this week, both of whom I’m super excited to work with on Emergents, so for now my card is full. Depending on how much bandwidth I prove to have, I could consider mentoring someone at some point in either game design (on either Emergents or my other project), in trading (although I kind of already know who that would likely be if it happened), or someone I trusted sufficiently who wanted to work on Aikido. I might also want to be an apprentice at some point, likely in something AI-alignment related, but that would be a long way off.
I’ve also got another project potentially in the works that I’d love to work with someone on, which would involve someone taking on a likely-more-than-full-time job and a lot of responsibility, starting and running a business I want to exist. It would be hard work and require a self-starter, and all that, but won’t require you to do startup fundraising – it would be a real business, and would succeed or fail organically. It would be local to New York City. If you think you might be the person for the job, you can mention that with [NYCBUSINESS], tell me as much or as little as you’d like, and if/when I’m ready I will reach out. Again, this commits you to absolutely nothing.