Friday, January 22, 2021

How many microcovids would you spend on a burrito?

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Relentless Tabulators often come across as zealous, maybe a little paranoid, and certainly not fun. Fortunately, Olsson shares a house with other Tabulators. She and her five roommates had to find a way to live together safely. They therefore decided to adhere to a collective risk model of their own design. Any model is only as good as the data it contains, and the virus was too new for anyone, even experts, to have perfect information. Olsson and his roommates knew it, but they weren’t going to make the perfect the enemy of the good. They wanted to protect themselves, and by extension others, by making responsible choices. But they also wanted to be freer to actually live. Maybe math would make that possible.

That day at the taqueria, as the minutes passed and his risk count increased, Olsson gave up his burritos.

Olsson’s friends are calling his Catherio, after the email address given to him while studying computational neuroscience at MIT. Two and a half years ago, at 28, she was living with her partner but missed the days when she could step out of her bedroom and instantly meet a variety of other spirits. It turns out that a friend of the university, Stephanie Bachar, was in the process of “bifurcating”, like incompatible software, from a community life situation that no longer felt at home. So one day in June, they and four friends decided to join forces and move into a beige hacienda-style townhouse in the Mission District of San Francisco. Their new home, they decided, would strike a better balance. It would be like a bash ‘- a chosen type of family depicted in Ada Palmer’s sci-fi novel Too much like lightning as a “radical haven of peace”. They named it Ibasho, the Japanese word from which hit’ is derivative, which means “a place where you can feel like yourself”.

“Being yourself” at Ibasho meant being “slightly alternative, but professional,” says Rhys Lindmark, one of the residents. He had founded an online school for “world-class systems thinkers” after a stint in blockchain ethics research. The household was “high IQ, high EQ,” as described by Sarah Dobro, a primary care physician who wears a septum ring and fauxhawk. Nerds, proud, but socially conscious nerds. They were well networked within a larger community of similar group homes around the Bay Area. It was like belonging to a more adult version of the MIT dorms. Everyone seemed to know everyone at a salon, startup, or quirky coding project. The social graph was dense.

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From the start, the friends had choreographed a sense of independent togetherness. They had a common fridge and a private one. Everyone had a different diet: paleo, vegan, gluten free, bread lover. Every two weeks, they gathered for a home meeting around a large slab table, made by one of Olsson’s friends, in the room they called “the foyer.” They made decisions by consensus, following a detailed agenda with minutes and a time limit, lest the debate take too long. When things got a little rough – say, after two roommates moved Dobro’s pottery and Olsson’s knickknacks from the fireplace mantel into a box and texted them about the “mess” – the group got together. moved to a large sofa and beanbag chairs, where they could better speak with feelings rather than logic.

Logic, however, generally dominated the day. The inhabitants of the house were all, to varying degrees, followers of rationalist ways of thinking and sought to reduce human prejudices in their daily lives. As Olsson said, the emotions they were discussing on the couch provided important data, but they came back to the table to make the final decisions.

Ibasho residents at the “foyer”: Catherine Olsson, Josh Oreman and Sarah Dobro.

Photography: Gabriela Hasbun

They were certainly people who could easily grasp the implications of exponential growth. So last winter, as the new coronavirus hit faraway places, the people of Ibasho girded themselves. At the end of February, on their bi-weekly Tuesday night open house called Macwac (milk and cookies / wine and cheese), visitors walked through a disinfection station near the front door, and toured Olsson’s party was a traveling demonstration of proper hand washing technique, using ultraviolet gel. . After that, Ibasho curled up. The following week, the rest of San Francisco too.

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