Thursday, February 2, 2017

Choosing Your Neighbors

If I had my druthers, I would choose retired couples who are infatuated with my children. The advantages are numerous including:

  • They'd be quiet.
  • They'd keep an eye out.
  • They'd keep their yard tidy.
  • They'd dote on my children.
  • They'd think I invented technology.
  • They'd be dependable and predictable.

One might think I'd say sorority girls who enjoy their pool parties. Problems range from making me feel old and unattractive to finding me attractive and tempting me to throw away a lifetime for 30 minutes of bliss (or performance anxiety).

The reality is you can't choose your neighbors. And you probably wouldn't want to. Turns out those older retired couples have some bad qualities too. They are pretty good at minding your business. They are always up for conversation--ALWAYS. If they spot you in the yard, you are automatically in for a round of "Let's Talk About My Latest Doctor Visit". They know the neighborhood covenants extremely well including all the ones you are currently breaking, and they know that those covenants are not suggestions--they are serious dogma to be followed with strict religiosity. They like things as they are and better yet as they were and best yet as never changing.

There are no perfect neighbors. This documentary proves it.

Planning out and carefully choosing those around us would create a stale, uninspiring bubble world with high susceptibility to overrate the qualities we think we want and underrate those we think we want to avoid. Those biases would yield continuously disappointing results.

To a large degree you do get to pick your neighbors and they get to pick you. Our lives are characterized greatly by self selection. Fortunately it isn't the sole determining factor, though. New ideas, new opportunities, new methods: these things come from chance encounters and unplanned coordination and interaction.

Look at immigration as this microcosm writ large, and think about it from a purely selfish perspective. Every immigrant we discourage, turn away, or ban is another worker, another set of new ideas, another opportunity to discover something didn't know existed but now eagerly want.