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His mission: Meet 10k people, one at a time, for an hour at a time (inquirer.com)
90 points by pilingual 69 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments

One way to consider this is in terms of attention, the ultimately nonfungible resource: you can pay attention to only one thing at a time, seach moment must be experienced, none can be called back.

If you live to 80 and devote your adult life from 20 onwards to meeting people, if you meet 10,000 people, you can devote about 50 hours to each of them -- a little over two days. That's sleeping or waking, working or resting.

The US House of Representatives has 435 members (add the hundred senators -- and 3 DC electors -- to get the famous 538 electoral college votes), each representing something like 720,000 citizens. Given a 2 year term, this means that each representative can devote a net total of ... just under 90 seconds per constituent.

If you wanted to dedicate your adult life to meeting everyone currently alive on Earth, 7.3 billions, you can dedicate just over a quarter second to each.

At the same time, in every second, there are 215 years of human experience lived, 14,000 years per minute, 830,000 years per hour, and 20 million years per day. Rounding somewhat.

How much of that experience can be distinct and individual, how much is shared? What are the consequences of forced attention, as with advertising, or with forced isolation?

How much can we know, and pass on, culturally? Is there a net effective intergenerational knowledge transfer bandwidth limit, and how close to that (or exceeding it) are we? How is that shared between culture, personal, technical, and poetic knowledge?

Is there a net effective intergenerational knowledge transfer bandwidth limit, and how close to that (or exceeding it) are we?

Yes, there is. I came to realize about this when my nephew born and started to grow. You need to teach him everything, literally. And there are so many things...

And that's general information. When you look at all the specialist information, and the degree to which it's mutually incomprehensible even within organisational chains (let alone in widely separated disciplines), things get frightening.

>add the hundred senators to get the famous 535 electoral college votes

Add the District of Columbia's 3 electors to get the even more famous 538 votes.

Gah! Updated, thanks.

One thing that’s commonly true in statistics: You don’t need a very big sample size to get an accurate representation of a population. I’m willing to bet you could get away with meeting 1,000, well chosen people, and get an accurate sample of society.

If you think about it, people aren’t all that unique. Most people share the same personality, same hobbies, same interests and problems in life. Most of the things in life we think apply to us (for example navigating romantic relationships) are just common patterns that are repeated over and over again with millions of people. In fact we’re all a lot less special than we think we are.

I'm willing to bet there are more than 1000 configurations, and sampling a mere 0.00001% of the population isn't going to get you much. In other words, that's sampling 1 out of every 7.3 million people. An utterly useless exercise.

Statistics is fun, isn't it?

Correct, though the exercise may not be statistical.

If you're looking at a system in which elements require some amount of mutual interaction on some regular basis, this sets your maximum grouping size. To scale up you need clusters of groups (or, sufficiently large, supergroups, etc.) to be able to function. This acts similarly to Amdahl's law.

Or, if you are dealing with a system of some size and want it to spontaneously decompose to smaller units, change its ability (or requirements for) 1:1 exchange. Mass media accomplished this in reverse, enabling mass-scale coordination and culture.

The map is not the territory. You could also say "all of Earth is just terrain", would that make every place on Earth actually the same?

We are all unique. There are no degrees to that, there's just a lack of resolution, and abstraction and simplification.

Those numbers feel oddly very meaningful. Do you have an idea if you would:

> dedicate your adult life to meeting everyone currently alive on Earth, 7.3 billions, you can dedicate just over a quarter second to each.

How many people you haven't meet would be alive when you are done?

Edit: based on current rate there would be about 7,884,000,000 people born in those 60 years.

That depends very much on overall birth and death rates, though to a first approximation: half. And half the people alive when you first began would die before you'd completed your meetings.

I've played with the concept a few different ways, some variants:

* Count only your waking, working hours -- roughly 1/3 of your life.

* Take a lifespan and divide it either by people met, or time per person, to find the other.

* Dunbar's Number, 150, divided over 60 years, works out to 146 days per person. If we look at a more historically accurate lifespan of 40 years, that's closer to 100 days experience per person, in a pre-modern tribe or village.

* You can look at training or education and life -- how many effective careers can a person have if they must undergo a college-equivalent retraining between each? A working life of 40 years divided by 4 years gives an upper bound of 10 retrainings. Either we have fewer retrainings, or shorter ones, or both, if we need greater flexibility.

* The power of combined communications, and their limitations. Conversations are two-way, and rarely scale beyond 4-5 participants. Broadcast messaging, starting with lectures, are efficient, but at the cost of interactivity and accomodation betweeen speaker(s) and listener(s).

* The multiplicative power of mass media. The same message reaching hundreds, thousands, millions, or billions of souls. Most of the most highly-repeated messages are propaganda, in the original or contemporary sense, or both.

* Time vs. repetition. Some messages become widely spread, but briefly (say, Gangnam Style, played over 2 billion times). Some have been part of cultural lore for tens of thousands of years, see Idres Shah's collection World Tales for numerous examples. What does it mean for a narrative to be truly embedded in a culture, or multiple cultures?

Another element is looking at the different dynamics of information poor vs. information rich environments. I'm starting to think that a healthy function in one is pathological in the other, and vice versa. This doesn't seem widely recognised.

The 40 year lifespan caught my eye because for a long time I’d always had this idea that in our near past old people were rare. I recently learnt that in historic context that it’s skewed by a lot of infant mortality.

So if you lived over 2 years old you were probably likely to live to be a lot older than 40.

I’ll try and find a source, but at the moment I can’t remember where I read this.

Generally correct -- life expectency at birth was pretty poor, but at 5, 10, 20, ... looked increasingly more comparable to modern expectancies, at least relatively. There are numerous credible records of ancients from Greece & Rome living to their 60s or 70s, at least. In more primitive cultures, not so much. And women still faced immense risks through pregnancy & childbirth.

This makes me think that much of longevity is based both on establishing a good start (nutrition, health, and conditions during gestation, infancy, and childhood), and then generally on avoiding accidents, risks, and mishaps (exposure to disease, violence, injury) afterwards. Modern epidemiological and public health records somewhat bear this out, as a New York City Department of Public Health graph, "The Conquest of Pestilence", showing decreased mortality 1800 - 2000 (or 2015, in some versions) makes clear:


What's most interesting is how little impact "modern medicine" -- all increases since 1920 -- has provided. Though yes, by 1920 we did have germ theory of disease, and a basic understanding of nutrition.

And yes, the chart shows overall mortality, not life expectancy (through these are related). I'd like to see the latter for the same period.

I have run across several plots of life expectancy for the latter half of the 20th century. These show that most increase has not come from increasing top-end expectancy (though this has increased somewhat -- say, for white women), but by raising the life expectancy of disadvantaged populations -- the shifts for black and other nonwhite men and women have been far greater than for white men and women, in the US, for example, since 1960 and 1970. Again arguing that addressing the basics of healthcare access, hygiene, and risk avoidance offers the greatest benefits.

The mid-1850s peak suggests that modern cities, prior to notions of public health (the date of the NYC dept's formation is indicated, about 1860) were significantly worse than a more rural setting, from a health perspective. Ancient histories tend to support this notion, and there are books such as Kyle Harper's The Fate of Rome which explore the co-evolution of the Roman Empire and the diseases and plauges which, er, diseased and plagued it, with the formation of cities, trade routes, and exchange and incubation of disease vectors and agents via these.

Another thought is that the lifting of infancy / early childhood mortality represents a tremendous reduction in selective pressure on human populations, implications of which have not yet become clear. Though the possiblity that this is not entirely positive to humans occurs.

The other thought that's occurred is that this decrease in mortality indicates a

There's a lot of cynical takes here, but I like to think of this as the type of art project that can only take place on the internet, because there has to be some kind of funding involved.

It's easy to decry him for having sponsors, but that is a bizarre standard. Michelangelo had sponsors/patrons, but nobody disregards the Sistine Chapel because he was paid for it. Personally, I really want people to use the internet for weird, personal art projects that are shared with the world. Getting sponsored by WeWork instead of the Medicis doesn't change anything.

The difference is that when being sponsored by a company you have to wonder whether the content is influenced by the brands using it to advertise. If WeWork wanted him to show how great their spaces are or take down posts that denigrate them, we have no way of knowing. I suppose the Medici family could have done the same for Michaelangelo, but I doubt it

All content is designed to influence you. Just the brand association should be evil enough.

Subconsciously, you are being told whatever feeling you have about the content to associate with this brand or idea.

My dude. This is not the Sistine Chapel.

I’m doing my own version of this through my mentoring program for managers. I’m at 80 since February, and it’s been a real joy (best part of my day). I’ve had a chance to talk to managers from over a dozen countries, some of whom call me at 2AM their time (dedication) and share with me their stories of managing people all around the world.

Sometimes the sessions are energizing. Sometimes they’re sad. Sometimes they’re deeply thought provoking... However, they are always worth the hour I put into them.

My calendar is booked up this month, but September is still mostly clear :) Hope some of you sign up for a session.


i've booked a slot.

This is the kind of thing that one may get shamed for calling garbage, but it seems like he is just trying to make a clone of Humans of New York and make money by hiding ads in what’s supposed to be heartwarming human stories.

Yes, this post and his brand is full of “humble” values and what not. He may be genuine, but I don’t think it’s praiseworthy. It feels like a tool for virtue signaling.

While I agree that it has a strong HONY feel and that monetizing the project via Instagram or corporate sponsorship cheapens it, I wouldn't call it virtue signaling by any means. He's dedicating 10 or 15 years of his life to the project. I think he would give up pretty quickly if it was all a tool to just say "I'm more woke than you". While he obviously comes from a privileged background, at least he's not just becoming a corporate clone like so many of us, myself included. Props to him for that

Calling it virtue signaling is a cheap way to dismiss something.

Virtue signaling is when a person trumpets their moral stance without a willingness to make any significant investment in it. This guy investing 10,000 hours into the project disqualifies it from that moniker.

So people who buy a Prius are never virtue signalling?

Conversely, are people who buy a Prius always virtue signaling?

Perhaps the appellation is an empty way to dismiss someone without engaging them?

I meant to imply the consumers of his stuff were most likely virtue signaling. Not he himself.

Your phrasing implies that dismissing someone without engaging someone is a bad thing. On the contrary it’s recognizing that most people’s opinions are based on nothing but their sense of community identity and aren’t worth engaging at all.

> are people who buy a Prius always virtue signaling?

Of course not.

I was simply responding to the idea that a significant investment is all it takes to counter the claim that some activity is virtue signaling.

"Significant" is a relative term.

Buying a Prius vs. buying a non-Prius is hardly a significant investment for people who make that choice.

I guess the more proper word here would be sacrifice, something you never get back.

Along similar lines, what do you signal when you make $1200/mo truck payments on a new $80k truck for commuting back and forth to your $55k tech 9-5 job because "you like trucks"?

There’s no incremental cost to choosing a Prius. So yes they can easily be signaling. They have to have a car so you can’t the case that “they spent $30k so they must be authentic”.

I'm 3 days late to respond to this because I was out of action for a few days.

For the great majority of people $30,000 is a non-trivial investment, one they must live with for years. Other than buying a house or having children, it is the most expensive thing most people will buy.

(ignore the exact dollar figures below .. I'm not car literate, but hopefully you'll get the idea).

Say someone bought a Mazda Miata, did the paperwork, and the dealer then sent them home in a Prius. What are the odds they would shrug and say, "Oh, ok, one $30K car is the same as any other $30K car." Zero. If the had wanted a Prius he would have bought the Prius, but he valued the Miata higher. In your scenario, the Prius buyer really wanted a different car, but was willing to buy the Prius because they wanted the world to think they were green. Fine ... but then they gave up something of value to make the statement: they will not to get to drive the car they really desired.

Is it really so impossible to imagine that someone would truly prefer to buy a Prius on its merits and not because it is making a statement?

And why shouldn't more people try to do what Humans of New York does? If that's what he's trying to do, I'm for it. Originality is overrated, and even so, I'd expect someone attempting this to find their own way of doing things.

> It feels like a tool for virtue signaling.

It's this sort of broad usage that makes me feel "virtue signaling" doesn't have any descriptive value any more.

I agree with your statement (not with the virtue signaling part, but I will ignore it for now). To me, it reminds me like one of those "I gave $100 to a stranger" youtube videos. That end up making $10k from views.

There is nothing wrong with giving $100 to a person in need, while looking all smug and dressed up, and then... the world congratulates you by giving you a lot more than you gave. Rather than... I don't know, donate the $10k to several people in need to begin with? There is a disgusting fakeness associated with all of these things. A pretense of "Look at me! We are the good guys", while we are filthy narcissistic greedy people under the skin instead. Using somebody else's misery to feed our messiah complex.

Or like those shitty "SOCIAL EXPERIMENTS", will people enjoy being around a hot mom breastfeed in public, but look down on a non-attractive mom breastfeeding in public? Facebook is littered with crap, staged, cheap money-grab, "experiments" like this.

It's like, an action that is acted on seemingly selflessly but contains hidden catches and motives.

It's not bad... just.. icky. I call this the Valentines-day-complex. It pretends to be a celebration of love, but under the hood it's all about chocolates and flowers and spending. It doesn't have to be about spending... but about spending it will be!


If you haven’t made the 10k dollars with the video you may not have it to donate.

In the end a person in need ended up with a hundred extra bucks, I’m hard pressed to think of negatively really.

Ideally we’d root out the societal issues which leave so many people outside in our nation’s big cities.

so much cognitive dissonance here I'm not even sure where to start

I don't understand your problem with people doing something tedious, somewhat interesting, that they might actually enjoy, that others might actually enjoy, and attempting to monetize it. Maybe the sponsorship works to make it worthwhile, maybe it doesn't, who cares?

I think this guy is making content that is easy to praise but in reality not very interesting- and has (hidden?) sponsor ads to boot. I think it’s pretty gross to read something to learn of a strangers life and be told to buy WeWork services as a casual FYI.

But I don’t care what he does. It was just a comment. You’ve made several that imply I care a lot, which makes me seem unreasonable. If that was unintentional, please don’t do that. If that was intentional then go suck a different lemon, because I’m really not that bitter about this.

Its not necessarily you, your post attracted others in this thread that do care more and there isn't a good way to address them all except replying at this level.

I think its completely benign.

I would be a little annoyed if the stranger’s life was a fake feel good story like the ones seen on Linkedin these days, but even then I would just accept the entertainment for what it is: entertainment. Ad supported entertainment.

It's America. In the immortal words of Dr. Detroit: ALL FOR SALE

I had a buddy in business school who insisted on meeting every one of our classmates for a coffee chat (~400).

By the time he got to me, it was the middle of our second (and last year). I was skeptical since I thought it was kind of weird, plus most friend groups had formed by that point.

Turned out to be one of the most intriguing conversations I ever had. We became very close friends after that.

No short cut to friendship. Sometimes you just gotta get face to face and see how things go.

Just to satisfy my personal curiosity: how successful was he after schooling? I have to imagine this outgoing / network-driven personality makes one quite successful.

He’s looking to buy a company / working in micro private equity. Well suited for it.

Seems like a strange mission. The fact that he's unemployed, lost his girlfriend, lives with his parents, and must monetize his efforts via 22k Instagram followers makes the exercise feel a bit sad to me. Perhaps he will learn and grow from this and it'll be worth it. I hope so.

Then again, few people are able to do this, and if his parents are willing to subsidize his project, he might gain valuable insight that he couldn't do at... say, 40 and a family.

This feels like a project I have planned with programmers the next time I'm in between jobs.

I spent a couple hours the other night lying awake in bed dreaming of spending one year trying to help someone new every day. I was thinking it would be cool to dedicate each work day of the year to meeting someone new and offering my hours that day to help them in whatever way I could. The help could range from washing their car, running an errand, to picking up garbage on their street, to writing some code or spinning up a website for them.

I thought it would have a really nice dual effect of pushing me to get to know a bunch of people and also teach me something about serving and helping others.

Then I started thinking about how to leverage social media to pivot it into meeting more and more interesting/important people and monetizing it. Quickly realized that would undermine the original intent of the project and make it into something else entirely that I did not like.

I don’t understand the appeal of meeting 10,000 different people as that sounds like too much quantity and not enough quality time but to each his own.

It is super interesting to see someone else living out a version of an idea that at 2am sounded like a pretty original concept.

After 10,000 hours of meeting people, I would think one would have some well-honed skills required for managing people. Of course being a good manager requires more than just understanding people. But that level of empathy and instincts are valuable skills for anyone who wants to work with people.

Better for interviewing related jobs.

Couldn't he just get a job where he gets to help out a lot of people? Sales? Anything customer facing. This would be a good way to 'monetise' the meeting thousands for an hour 'dream'.

You could use this approach to get into elected office, if you actually started now for an election four years hence then you could get in without party affiliation.

As it is there is something peculiar and narcissistic about this project, how can you build real friendships if you are spending all of your time doing these ten thousand one-off meetings.

Sales is business. It would be weird to spend an hour with each potential customer talking about their personal life. If you can do that, you must be selling something expensive, and that's going to limit who you can talk to.

He wants to spend an hour per-person with 10,000 people, rather than meeting 10,000 people in a single hour.

So he could do 10,000 eye tests, teach 10,000 people first aid, try to sell 10,000 cars or fleece 10,000 people out of their pensions, all on a one to one basis.

He is not rock star enough to meet 10,000 people in an hour.

He mentioned this. He wanted to do something that was detached from sales as it cheapened the experience.

Sounds like this man could make real impact working at a senior person's home.

I was #2163 - I responded to an instagram post he made as he was passing through town, and we were able to make something work. I really enjoyed talking with him for an hour!

Pretty cool to have been part of the mission.

I actually scrolled through his IG to find your post - so cool!

Good on you for taking part.


I wish I remembered the person's name, but there is a guy in London who did a start up and made a fair amount of money. Since then he spends his time talking with different people to get ideas. He'll buy you a hamburger (at one of the upscale hamburger places no less) to talk to you for an hour. I never ended up chatting with him (I got busy), but a friend of mine did and said that it was quite a good experience.

I thought this article might have been about that guy. It's a bit different, though. The person I'm thinking about is independently wealthy and thinks this is a productive use of his time. I think he's gathering data for a new startup, but unfortunately I didn't get a chance to talk to him about it.

Startup vanity metrics transposed to real life interactions.

I just asked 3 friends for fun to fly to the US to meet him. I'm half joking, half serious.

I think I want some variety in my life :P

This is not particularly new concept, but the internet is a huge market so the cake is big enough I guess.

His project reminds me of Marina Abramovic “The artist is present” she held in MoMA (https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/marina-abramovic-ma...).

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