Saturday, July 1, 2017

An Honest Conversation about Race

I write about rhetoric. I sometimes call out bad arguments. I did that recently for Tami Lahren and her remarks on abortion. I intended to do that again for RageAfterStorm, a popular German alt-right youtuber.


Rage is part of a recent influx of young females into the alt-right youtube scene. I have seen a few cropping up since my chat with Tara "Reality Calls" McCarthy. Overall I think this is a good thing, as the Social Justice Warrior crowd has been due for some competition in the social media world. It is also a good sign for the alt-right movement, as all marketers know that nothing is better for advertising than attractive young women. Most of them aren't terribly original or insightful, but at least they are easier on the eyes than Pat Buchanan. Here's a collage from our friends on /pol/ (Some, like Coulter and Malkin, are not so recent and some do not self-identify as alt-right):

Rage recently did a video about race and IQ. Unfortunately her video got pulled from YouTube. Basically she made the argument that the high rate of criminality in the black community is caused by their lower than average IQ. This is a common belief among alt-right commenters such as Tara McCarthy and Jared Taylor.

I had planned to write a long post debunking this claim but instead I'll just offer a few sentences before continuing with my main point. While there is a general correlation between lower IQ and higher rates of criminality, it is inaccurate to suggest that a group's average lower IQ is the primary cause of its rate of criminality. Evidencing this is the fact that black Americans had far lower rates of crime before the Civil Rights act. Black Americans also had far lower rates of divorce and illegitimacy in the earlier half of the 20th century. There is little evidence that a sudden change in IQ led to the dysfunction we started seeing in the black community in the 1960's. It is instead more probable that cultural change led to the spike in criminality.

One of the things I find most distasteful about the alt-right is their proclivity for abusing research about IQ and human biology. Low IQ == crime is an alt-right sacred cow that one can easily debunk with a bit of research. There are actually numerous examples of relatively low IQ communities that also have lower rates of crime than higher IQ groups. Crime is a consequence of social and cultural systems. Low IQ societies with strong social systems (such as religion) can often enjoy low rates of crime.

Now I understand why many alt-right people fall into this type of thinking about IQ. After decades of brow beating from the Left, the pendulum is simply swinging back. Having been forbidden from even talking about IQ for so long it is understandable that right wingers are making a kind of idol of it. Positioning themselves as edgy truth-tellers, alt-right commenters are twisting research about IQ to push an emotionally satisfying simplistic narrative.

That isn't to say they get it entirely wrong. Race does matter. We should speak honestly about crime and race. Black crime in America is a huge problem. However we need to be really careful before we start blaming things on genetics or IQ. While there is decent evidence showing differences in IQ between races, the link between genetics and crime is far more tenuous. If the alt-right is essentially a white nationalist movement, it should seriously consider whether the best way to win people over is with the argument that nonwhites are genetically inferior (more prone to commit crime). In an earlier era of history this might have been effective. In the current year, I doubt it.

My time living in Japan has made me more open-minded on the idea of ethnic nationalism. I believe the alt-right can be an important part of the political conversation in western nations. I really don’t have a problem with white people wanting to preserve their historical homelands. It seems that the alt-right is applying two contradictory arguments though: 1. We should limit the number of brown people coming into our countries because brown people are idiots and criminals who will make our nations worse 2. We should limit the number of brown people coming into our countries because this is our homeland and those people already have their own.

To me argument #2 is much stronger. Argument #1 I don't think has much mass appeal in modern western nations. For one it immediately turns off 99% of nonwhites. To that some alt-right people would say, "who cares what nonwhites think?" and I would respond, "the politicians whose votes they use to keep the borders open." Furthermore, Virtually all white people have nonwhite friends, a nonwhite bartender, a nonwhite coworker, a nonwhite brother-in-law, etc. They don't feel comfortable associating with a movement that brands people they care about as inferior. Argument #2 is much more defensible. Few people criticize the Japanese, the Chinese, the Kenyans, or the Chileans for preserving their homelands. It is intuitive for both whites and nonwhites living in western nations.

Even though I think the alt-right gets a lot wrong about race, I am still glad to see them at least talking about it openly. If we really want to have an honest conversation about race, we need to be willing to hear controversial points of view, and we need to be civil when people get it wrong. We need the freedom to make mistakes, to bounce ideas off of one another without fear of being lynched by some internet hate mob. I give Rage props for being part of the conversation and putting herself out there. That takes more guts than many of her critics will ever show.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Random Thoughts V

A Good Quote

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

~ Bertrand Russell

Review of Logan

This was a good film. It wasn’t quite great because of some of the narrative choices in the third act. Yet it was still very good. Patrick Stewart is wonderful as a vulgar, senile Professor X. Hugh Jackman is in top form with his weathered, beaten down swan song performance as Wolverine. Few comic book movies have achieved this level of pathos. The scene where Wolverine buries the Professor was genuinely moving. I loved how unapoligetically bleak it all was. The X-Men are dead. The mutants are all gone – killed off by the machinations of human scientists. They’ve perfected mutant clones capable of easily besting the originals.

It’s over. The good guys lost. All that is left for these larger than life characters – Wolverine and the Professor, men who have saved the world countless times across the years – is to scratch out a meager living for the few days left to them and ultimately sacrifice it all for one last bout of heroism. It is indeed quite similar to The Last of Us in that way. The first two thirds of the film are almost perfect. I loved that they got their money’s worth with the ‘R’ rating as the action and language are a treat. For me the movie slipped in its final act with the children. That section felt like it belonged in another movie. I think Wolverine’s clone Laura should have remained mute. I would have preferred the ending focused on just the two of them instead of the formulaic big action set piece against a contrived final boss. These weaknesses aside, it’s still a great sendoff for the character.

The Conundrum of Miserable Women in Saudi Arabia

Frequently people will talk about women in Saudi Arabia to condemn Islam. They will point out that Saudi Arabian women suffer all manner of unfair treatment such as the fact that they are not even allowed to drive. This begs a very basic question: Are women in Saudi Arabia happy? The implications are interesting whether the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

If women in Saudi Arabia are generally happy, then it means that women can be happy living under the subjugation of men. It is not a universal truth that women must attain equality with men to be content. If women in Saudi Arabia are not happy, then it begs a follow up question: why don’t they do something about it? If they are really so oppressed and miserable, why do they not riot, or protest, or go on a sex strike, or fight back somehow? The logical conclusion is that they can’t. They are under the thumb of men, which leads to the uncomfortable conclusion that women’s rights only exist if men choose to let them.

Some might argue that Saudi Arabian women could successfully resist if they chose to, but the women are too indoctrinated and brainwashed to do this. Yet this does not change the conclusion, as now this implies men are so powerful that they can successfully collude to control the thoughts and desires of all women in a society.

So which is it? Are women in Saudi Arabia happy? Or are they unhappy? Which uncomfortable reality must we accept? That women may choose to live as the chattel of men? Or that women’s rights are conditional upon men’s preferences? Or perhaps both?

Body Positivity is Bullshit

I am overweight for my height. Through a combination of exercise and low calorie diets, over the last year and a half I lost about 40 pounds. I need to lose at least another 20. It has been a struggle. Some weeks I float up a few pounds. Some weeks I go back. It has focused my mind a lot and strengthened me. I feel overall much healthier than I did when I was severely overweight. I can run around a bit more with my friends and I enjoy long walks in the city. It is a delight to discover gradually what my body is capable of as it sheds excess fat and builds muscle.

So as you can imagine I don't have much patience for any social movement that would come along and try to say that I should have just accepted my unsightly overweight body and been "proud of my curves." In general this is only suggested to women I find. It seems to be part of a larger campaign to undermine beauty standards out of some misguided notion of egalitarianism and tolerance. This is a fool's errand. My parents are doctors. I have a very thorough understanding of the health risks of being fat. I understand well the burden obese people put on the healthcare system, on their friends, their family, their fellow travelers on an airplane, and in many other areas of society. Furthermore, obesity correlates with low IQ, thus it is unbecoming of a Mensan.

Body positivity should be about encouraging everyone to live healthy and discover the best version of their bodies.

Review of Injustice 2

This is a very fun fighting game if you do two things: 1. Ignore the story and 2. Do not take it seriously or try to play it competitively.

It plays fine for casual fighting game fans. I like the roster a lot. I love being able to play as Black Canary, Doctor Fate, Poison Ivy, and a host of other lesser appreciated DC characters. I don't love all of the designs and costumes, but with the massive character gear and enhancement system, you at least have a lot of room to customize. There is a massive roster of DLC characters and "premium skins" (different character but identical move set to someone on the roster) as well, though they aren't free of course. Still, my friends and I have had a lot of fun with the game. The supermoves are really cool and I love the unique character dialogues at the start of each fight.

The game has a number of balance issues that make it not suitable for competitive play, at least not until it gets a few patches. The super meter system gives zoning characters a significant advantage. Furthermore, the story is pretty awful. It's yet another Batman love letter with Superman again made the villain. It's honestly getting tired. We've been over this in The Dark Knight Returns, Batman vs. Superman, and even the first Injustice game. It isn't really that interesting anymore - this humanistic conceit that if a person is just really clever, he can defeat a nearly omnipotent Alien.

It doesn't bear any scrutiny and in the end it creates a world where super powers don't matter. In every interaction Batman can turn on and off Superman's powers like a light switch with his infinite supply of red sun grenades and gold kryptonite. The plot even has him solo fight Wonder Woman and Black Adam with no special tricks, and win. Who cares that Wonder Woman is a goddess or that Black Adam can destroy cities with his lightning. This dude in a rubber batsuit can beat both of them hand to hand. The inconsistency is just jarring in a plot that takes itself so seriously.

Some Cool Songs

Here are some links to some cool songs I like:

(Old school hip hop) Camp Lo - Luchini:
(Pop rock) Marvelous Things - Eisley:
(60's alt rock) Fire - Arthur Brown:
(old rock folk) Wimoweh - Karl Denver:
(classic rock) Apeman - The Kinks:
(videogame music) Kuzunoha Detective Agency - Shoji Meguro:

Separating Rhetoric from Reason

I read a blogpost a while ago about logical fallacies. It was framed as a reference to help people avoid making bad arguments. I found this interesting because I do not think it is accurate to describe logical fallacies as "bad" arguments. The quality of an argument is dependent on its ability to persuade people of something. The vast majority of people are readily convinced by logical fallacies. Even very intelligent people are easily swayed by emotional appeals, bandwagon arguments, and ad hominem tactics.

We need to make a distinction between rhetoric and reason. Logical fallacies are important to avoid when exercising pure reason. When engaging in scientific or philosophical investigation, one needs to rigorously apply reason to ensure that the conclusions they reach are logical. This is not the case when it comes to rhetoric. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. It is about making statements that cause people to adopt your point of view.

Most people are not convinced by pure reason. They like to think that they are, but they aren't. Humans greatly overestimate their own rationality. In general they put far more energy into after-the-fact rationalization than into actual decision making. If you wish to change someone's opinion about something, pure logic, evidence, and reason are not likely to work. Any salesman will tell you that the real trick is to get the other person to feel good about adopting a specific opinion. You have to make them feel like changing their mind makes them a better, smarter, more compassionate human being.

Most people make important decisions with their emotions. This is why memes are so powerful and part of why Trump won. People did not support Trump out of logic. They supported him because it felt good. The memes made them feel like they were fighting an evil establishment. The slogans appealed to their sense of shared outrage and frustration.

If ever you want to change someone's mind, figure out how to make them feel good about changing. Better still; make them feel as though they are changing on their own terms - as if they are deciding everything on their own and not being manipulated by some other person.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Black Panther the Alt-Right Superhero

I recently saw the trailer for the new Black Panther movie. It looks fun as any other MCU movie. I have not actually read any of his comics (I don’t read a lot of Marvel actually) so I just did some research on his background. I was surprised to discover that he is an alt-right character.

Some things I discovered:

- He is an ardent nationalist who unapologetically puts his kingdom and his people first

- Wakanda, the nation he rules, is a hereditary monarchy. They do not believe in democracy.

- Wakanda is racially homogeneous and intentionally remains that way

- Black Panther goes out of his way to protect his nation from outsiders. Immigration is not only restricted; it is impossible.

- Black Panther refuses to help poorer African nations and even turns a blind eye to struggling refugees and migrants throughout the continent, believing it is not in his people’s interest to help them.

- Wakanda is an anti-globalist society with little interest in sharing its wealth and resources. In the trailer Klaw explains how the nation's supposed poverty is all a front.

- Wakanda is anti-multiculturalism and a traditionalist society. They have proudly retained numerous religious, ethnic, and gender-based traditions for centuries.

T’Challa, the Black Panther, would not have much interest in Black Lives Matter or contemporary progressive politics. Sure, he would support black nationalists and fight white racists (he fought the Ku Klux Klan in one comic). However he showed more interest in empowering his own people than in trying to win handouts from whites. In the Doomwar story arc he even went so far as to destroy all of the vibranium upon which his nation relied, forcing his people to become prosperous and independent without it.

I am certain there are some turbonerds out there that could contest my characterization by finding some comic panels where Black Panther demonstrates liberal beliefs and opinions. Much of the tension of his character arc is the struggle between tradition and modernity. Still I think my basic point stands.

There are other examples of very nationalist / traditionalist royal characters in comics. Wonder Woman and Aquaman are both very protective of their people and often cultural chauvinists. However since neither of them are even human, it is hard to apply contemporary political labels. Black Panther is human and he leads a nation on a real continent – Africa.

Alt-right people should support the Black Panther movie. They should meme it all over social media and attend screenings en masse. Proudly show solidarity with him. It would mess with a lot of people's heads.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Random Thoughts IV

Learning the Japanese Anthem

It took a bit, but I finally memorized the Japanese anthem. I can sing it fairly well now.

Why did I bother to learn this? Have I gone full weeb? Well, maybe. I'm an immigrant. I live here now. I think knowing the anthem is the least I can do to show appreciation for my new home culture. I think it is actually a decent litmus test for immigrants and their level of assimilation.

The Denial of Identity

All human beings look to the sky and struggle with one basic existential question: Who am I? They answer this by looking inward and outward. They derive an identity. Our identity is a composite of our biology and environment. We get it from family, friends, neighbors, television - the wider culture. We also get it from those immutable unchosen characteristics - our sex, our ethnicity, our height, etc. These things matter. Being a man is fundamentally different from being a woman. Most black people would be offended at the suggestion that white people can fully understand what it is like to be a minority. Being black makes us different. Stand up comics, friends talking honestly among themselves, and individuals in their private moments all understand this. And it isn't a bad thing.

This is an area where I disagree with leftisim. The militant insistence that there are no differences between races, no differences between men and women - it takes something away from us. Healthy well-adjusted people learn to appreciate their identity. Most women I think are happy to be women, and appreciate men for the ways in which men are unique. Men I think often enjoy being around only men, but at the same time love femininity in women. Living in Japan has made me appreciate the ways in which Japanese people are unique. We've got to celebrate our differences.

It has become fashionable to complain about identity politics of late. So long as people seek an identity, identity politics are not going anywhere.

Are Transgender People Offensive?

I had a conversation with a conservative Chinese girl the other day and she expressed strong opposition to transgender women. She said that she found it offensive that a man could put on a wig and a dress and have equal standing with natural born women. "These men do not know what it is like to grow up as a girl. They never get a period. They can never get pregnant. They don't have our hormonal differences. All they do is mimic some female stereotypes. They degrade the concept of womanhood with their role-playing." I expressed a more agnostic view. While I think gender dysphoria is a real mental condition I am skeptical of surgical reassignment as a proper clinical response given the high suicide and depression rate among transgender people. Still I respect people's right to do as they wish with their bodies.

This girl then brought up Rachel Dolezal and asked me how I felt about white people claiming to be black after darkening their skin. "How would you feel about a white guy putting on baggy clothing, talking Ebonics, and acting stereotypically black and then claiming he is now a black man?" I thought about it and decided that yeah, that would actually be pretty offensive. It wouldn't matter if he had some weird brain condition that made him act that way. Being black is not about matching some stereotypes. Hell, I don't match most common black stereotypes at all, yet I am a black man and my being black is a fundamental component of my identity. A man who likes wearing dresses and acting feminine is still a man, just as a tomboy with short hair and a gun collection is still a woman. Again, I don't have any personal issues with transgenders, but I get why other women would not see them as "true" women.

That Poppy

I am becoming obsessed with this girl. What is her deal exactly? Her music is tolerable, but the weird "promo" videos she does on her main channel are hypnotic. There seems to be some subtle political and cultural commentary. For example Famous Politician and This Red Pill. Her "creator", Titanic Sinclair also has his own goofy channel. I really appreciate high concept art and just the commitment to a bit shown here. I'm genuinely captivated. Looking forward to see where they go with it.

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy 2

The Marvel formula is not complicated: 1. Lots of humor 2. Lots of snazzy special effects 3. Charismatic and sexy leading men. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Doctor Strange, and Guardians of the Galaxy have all successfully applied this template. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 continues the tradition with two hours of reddit-approved fluff. You get another disposable one-off villain. You get plenty of 80's references and music. You get an inoffensive story that (happily) isn't connected to all the other Marvel movie madness and basically leaves things in the same position as the start of the film. There are two legit awesome action scenes, a few solid one-liners, and a surprisingly powerful ending that will give you the feels for a brilliantly cast supporting character. Overall I enjoyed it. It's a simple movie that entertains without leaving much of an impression. It is the cinematic equivalent of cotton candy or a 90 second roller coaster ride.

Japan Hologram Girlfriend

Japanese men are apparently turning to virtual girlfriends more and more as the technology gets better. This new hologram girlfriend offers an interesting example. Many commenters call the men who use such things "pathetic," and lament that it will only reduce Japan's birthrate. The thing that struck me however, is just how little these artificial girlfriends actually do. They don't cook, they don't have sex, they don't earn money. All they do is greet you cheerfully in the morning and say nice things. To think that a man might actually buy such a thing and then conclude he now has no need for a wife or girlfriend. It shows just how little men actually want from women. Men are simple, self-sufficient creatures. Ladies, take this to heart: You don't need to be beautiful. You don't need to be a gourmet chef. You don't need a fancy job. You don't need to be a sex goddess. You don't need to be smart. All men want is that little bit of sugar - that little bit of feminine sweetness. Just smile, be cheerful and nice to a man, and he will happily serve you until the day he dies.

Neoteny and Japanese Women

Neoteny is the phenomena of adult organisms retaining characteristics from their childhood. Karen Straughan did a good video thoroughly covering the topic. (start at 12:11 for the key part) The fact that women are far more neotenous than men is extremely important. Neotenous features are perceived as more attractive by males and inspire an instinct to protect and provide. In general men are attracted to youth. This is why cosmetics for females are designed to make them look younger.

In Japan female neoteny is on another level. For one, Japanese women just tend to look much younger than they are. I have seen women in their 50's that would easily pass for late 20's. Furthermore, the whole concept of 'kawaii' is centered around a kind of childish innocence. It isn't just the schoolgirl fashion or makeup either. It is the behavior. The high voices, the childish mannerisms, the body language, the attitude toward sex - all of it creates this general cultural feeling of masculine = parent and feminine = child. I think a similar dynamic exists in most societies actually just because of how we have evolved as a species, however it is just hyper-emphasized in Japan. It can be very hard for westerners to adjust to this, particularly some of the lolita artwork you might see that appears to sexualize children. Excessive fetishization of neoteny leads to pedophilia.

A Movement Not a Club

I have seen a lot of silly Twitter arguments in both left and right wing communities lately that always seem to boil down to purity testing. People always want to have these different litmus tests to decide if you are a proper right-minded progressive or conservative. On some fundamental issues I think this is fair, but it is important for activists to understand the difference between a movement and a club. A private club can be as pure as it wishes. In fact that's precisely what the membership like about clubs - that they are exclusive. In this regard I think it is great for men, women, Asians, Star Trek fans - whoever, to have spaces to themselves. A social movement by contrast has to grow in order to create change. Progressives handicap themselves to the extent that they are hostile toward whites and males. Similarly the Alt-Right has a lot of people that seem to want to hang a "No Girls" or "Whites Only" sign on their front door. Good luck getting anything done that way.

A Quote

"Programs must be written for people to read, and only incidentally for machines to execute." ~ SICP first edition

Keiyaku Kekkon Update

My side project:

Still fixing bugs in my spare time. Got some help from a contractor on some annoying UI things. The site has a few dozen users and is still coming along. Probably a few weeks out from what I would comfortably call a Beta version - something stable enough to market aggressively.

I think the Japanese Konkatsu (marriage matchmaking) industry is ripe for disruption. There are so many sites and services these days and many of them charge ridiculous prices. People are just so desperate to find a partner. I think with the right marketing Keiyaku Kekkon could be a major player.

I also think there is a wider market out there for someone creative enough to tap it. The basic concept behind Keiyaku Kekkon is the idea of pre-negotiated peer-to-peer relationship contracts. A person wants some type of relationship with another human being. Instead of cruising bars / churches / 4chan, they use a web platform with a community of people offering contracts. The closest thing I can think of to this today is Craigslist with its personals section, but this is far from optimized. Whether you want offer a spare room in exchange for having a tall woman throw tomatoes at you, or you need a friend to help you fix old motorcycles - we all have things we can offer in exchange for getting some type of desired interaction from a fellow homo sapien.

Keiyaku Kekkon is, to my knowledge, the first stab at this idea in a formalized way. I hope to see the concept validated.

The Perils of Remote Work

I have worked remotely a lot over the years. Here are some things to look out for if you are seeking to get into the "work all day in my pajamas" game.

1. Physical Health

Having to commute to a job guarantees a minimum amount of exercise. Working from home does not. You can easily have days go by where you never leave the house. This could be because you are swamped with work or responding to alerts, or any number of things. Since you are working alone you don't get those natural little bits of physical activity from office life - going for a walk with a manager, grabbing lunch with someone, walking over to a colleague's desk to ask a questions, etc. You have to make a conscious effort to get out daily and do something. This can be harder than you think if you're an introvert. You may have several days where there is really just no need. So you need to get a good routine in place lest you end up putting on weight.

2. Mental Health

Some people are antisocial. For them the isolation of remote work is a feature not a bug. I found this true for myself to some extent. I genuinely like being alone when I can. However over the long term, working remotely will blunt your social skills. Whether or not you consider your coworkers friends, the daily close proximity I think is helpful to most people if only because it keeps them practiced in manners and social cues. In the worst case scenario the isolation of remote work can exacerbate other mental health issues - everything from minor neuroses to depression. When you are around other people there is at least the chance that someone might notice if there is something wrong with you.

Having an active social life outside of work hours can mitigate much of this. That will at least help you to avoid the sense of loneliness that can sneak up on remote workers. The trouble is that even if you keep busy outside of work, you are still missing out on an important category of socialization - professional interactions in a work environment. I experienced this firsthand after a long stretch of working remotely and then attending a company conference. It was really jarring. I recall feeling very anxious and being really awkward around everyone. After enough time passes you sort of forget how to act in an in-person team meeting, or business conference.

3. Work Habits

What's the old quote? There are lies, damn lies, and working from home. It is true that working from home requires more accountability. The office environment at least offers peer pressure. Every now and then someone might look at your screen and catch you on reddit. If you are slacking you might notice it in people's body language and eye contact. You can feel the atmosphere and detect a lot of nonverbal cues. When you're on your own at home, you have to hope that your manager is giving you sufficient feedback and that your JIRA ticket record speaks for itself. Unfortunately I think it is human nature to take advantage sometimes - to squeeze in an errand or some Dark Souls PVP because why not? I've got two monitors and extra time. Who's going to know? There exceptions to this issue of course. Some people do their best work from home. Still it's something to keep in mind.

4. Acculturation

This is only an issue for immigrants. I have found that working remotely while living in Japan has stalled my ability to properly integrate into society. Since I am not in a Japanese office with coworkers, I don't get to practice my Japanese speaking as much as I would like. I have found that my knowledge of Japanese social etiquette is lacking, and that I am not as up on current events and culture as I would like. In other words, working remotely in a foreign country can solidify your position as an outsider. Again, it's solvable with planning and deliberate efforts, but the problem largely disappears by just working on-site.

5. Career Progression

This one can sneak up on you. In a company where most of the employees are on-site and a handful are remote, it is easy for the latter workers to be overlooked when promotion time rolls around. It is a natural human bias to have more trust and concern for people that are physically present. Sure, Andy out in Toronto pushed some great features last quarter. But he wasn't out drinking with me until 1 am like Tim. I haven't been able to shoot the shit with him in the break room like with Mike. I don't actually see him with that determined look in his eye at his desk 10 hours a day reviewing code like I do with Sarah.

No matter how great Andy is, he just can't leave the same type of impression as the people that are there. I have seen some orgs where it is implicitly understood that off-site guys are not to be considered for leadership roles. Sometimes it is explicit, as happened with Yahoo and their crackdown on remote work. This issue is the hardest to solve because ultimately it is out of your hands as an individual. It is up to your company to have a strong remote work culture that puts off-site people on an equal footing. That doesn't just happen - it takes effort and entails a cost to the company. Most will not incur that cost if they do not see the benefit.


The point of this post is not to trash the concept of remote work. I think remote work is extremely important for the future of the global economy and all developed societies. It is critical that we have more flexible work arrangements, particularly for parents with small children and talented people with other unique situations that make on-site work difficult.

However there are pitfalls to consider. It's not as simple as having a wacky Slack chatbot. All of the issues I bring up in this article are solvable. The problem is that the solutions often take carefully planned deliberate efforts. People are not always capable of this. Thus you have to look at the real human toll of long-term remote work arrangements and find ways to mitigate the negatives. Remote workers need to be mindful of the physical and psychological effects over the long term. Companies need to be honest about how remote work can influence career progression.

Like anything else people need to consider the tradeoffs. Remote jobs can be a godsend or a curse depending on your situation.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What is Keiyaku Kekkon?

 Here's a good song for this post:

"Keiyaku Kekkon" is a Japanese phrase that literally means "Contract Marriage." It is basically a marriage arrangement where the husband and wife write down their expectations of one another for their relationship. The contract can include anything from housework, to financial responsibilities, and even sex life details. The concept of "Keiyaku Kekkon" became popular in Japan over the last year because of television drama called Nigeru No Wa Haji Da Ga Yaku Ni Tatsu. (The drama also created the Koi Dance meme)

I watched that drama and got the idea of creating a Contract Marriage service.

So why is Contract Marriage a good idea?

Imagine going on a date with someone and knowing, before you even shake their hand, that this person has the exact same vision of married life as you. All the hard questions about children, career, household roles - all of it is already settled.

That's basically what Keiyaku Kekkon does by matching people on contracts. It removes a lot of the anxiety men and women have about committed relationships. Many men today are skeptical about the benefits of marriage. With Keiyaku Kekkon, they can see up front and in writing exactly what they stand to gain from having a wife. Women similarly benefit. They need not waste years of their time trying to entice a man to commit to marriage. They can know at the start whether the man intends to support her career, allow her to be a stay-at-home mom, or seek some middle ground.

I think the concept has value to a lot to people who dream of marriage but worry about finding a compatible partner. It may ultimately be a niche market, but we have to start somewhere to try to improve the institution of marriage. Marriage is important for society. Healthy cultures encourage marriage. But unfortunately marriage has been in decline in developed countries for some time. Declining marriage rates lead to a number of social, economic, and demographic problems. I think there are four big reasons for the decline of marriage:

1. The economy - the transition to two-income households
2. The culture - attitudes about marriage, sex, and gender
3. The legal system - family courts and welfare policies
4. The logistics of dating and matchmaking

I will dive into these issues in more detail in later writings. For now I'll just say that the severity of each of these problems differs by country. In Japan for example, I think number 4 is a much bigger issue given the relatively high rate of virginity and the greater separation between men and women. In America I think numbers 2 and 3 are much more serious. Keiyaku Kekkon cannot do much to help with problems 1 and 2, but it can help a bit with problem 3 and a lot with problem 4.

Keiyaku Kekkon is only a week old. It is still in alpha and only has a few dozen users. It is completely free to use during this period, so I encourage people to sign up and tell their friends. Over the next few weeks I will be busy fixing bugs, promoting the site on social media, and going to startup events to pitch the idea. I have spoken with a few seed investors and registered Keiyaku Kekkon with several startup sites. With a little funding, I think I could make the site much nicer and do more aggressive marketing.

Check out the site to learn more. Still in need of more alpha users for feedback. Let's make marriage great again!