Hello, everyone! With the summer coming to an end here in Berkeley, we’d like to share some of what CFAR has been up to and where we’re headed.


Permanent venue
After a few months of intense renovating, designing, and decorating led by Adam Scholl, Luke Raskopf and Adom Hartell, CFAR’s permanent venue in Bodega Bay is up and running! A big thank you goes to the alumni and volunteers who contributed their time, effort, blood (just some minor scrapes, don’t worry), sweat, and tears – we appreciate all of your support in making the place beautiful!

We’ve already hosted one workshop, MSFP 2018, on site; you can find more details on how the program went below. We’re excited about continuing to tweak and improve the physical space as we ramp up our event schedule in the coming months.

We are excited to announce that we received a $600,000 unrestricted grant over two years from the Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative (BERI). We’ll be using the funds in a variety of ways, aiming at achieving BERI’s and our shared goal of “reducing risk from technologies that may pose significant civilization-scale dangers.”

Long Term Future Fund
We also received a one-time $174,021 unrestricted grant from the Long Term Future fund, supported by many of you! The Long Term Future Fund supports “organizations that work on improving long-term outcomes for humanity [and] seek to reduce global catastrophic risks, especially those relating to advanced artificial intelligence,” and we plan to use the funds to catalyze our progress on that mission. Our new experiment with a more generous employee commuter benefit policy matches the grant’s intention to “trade money for saving the time or increasing the productivity of [our] employees,”.

Brienne Yudkowsky is working with CFAR as a research contractor. She’ll be focusing on original seeing.

What we did

Earlier this summer, CFAR and MIRI teamed up to put on this year’s MIRI Summer Fellows Program. The event was a debut for both the new venue and MIRI’s summer interns; it was also a chance for participants to wrestle with the concrete and abstract problems of AI alignment, put some of our more advanced content into practice, and build off each others’ insights and energy. Graduates from MSFP of previous years have gone on to work for MIRI and other AI safety teams, as well as run MIRI-X workshops and do significant independent research.

In July, the Summer Program on Applied Rationality and Cognition was held in the East Bay with support from CFAR staff. A handful of new instructors joined the program this year, bringing some new energy to the mission of helping talented high school students apply their quantitative thinking skills to their lives and the world. Classes and activities included zero-knowledge proofs, “Shoulds,” Puzzlehunt, improv games, “Introduction to Feelings,” and “Advanced Feelings.” Check back with SPARC’s website later this year for updates about next year’s program!

In July, CFAR staff helped run the European Summer Program on Rationality in St. Andrews, Scotland. Another cohort of curious, ambitious, and mathematically skilled students joined instructors for two weeks of exploring themselves and the world. Instructors lead classes and activities ranging from Murphyjitsu to deep learning algorithms to quantum physics to Defense Against the Dark Arts (the rationality version, of course). We’re excited to see the program becoming leaner and more efficient as it enters its fourth year. Keep an eye on the ESPR website for updates about ESPR 2019!

What we’re planning

Alumni Reunion (August 17th-20th)
One week until the Alumni Reunion! If you’re excited about hearing updates to our core curriculum, getting a view of some of our Tier-II workshop content, and socializing with other alums in the sylvan mountain range of Boulder Creek, CA, you won’t want to miss it. Tickets are still available, and your purchase of one includes: sleeping accommodations and food for the duration of the event, as well as access to campfires, a waterslide, and 150-180 interesting minds (among other things). We hope to see you there!

Partnership with FHI (August 27th-September 7th)
We are partnering with FHI to see if we can help make the organization and their staff more effective. We believe that FHI is doing important work that may reduce x-risk, and we hope to improve their ability to do so while also gaining an opportunity for our researchers to garner insights about applied rationality generally and group rationality specifically. CFAR will be sending a few staff members to visit FHI at the end of August, and we plan to have a larger contingent return later to host a CFAR workshop for FHI staff. We’re thinking about possibilities for other types of engagement in the future, such as workshops for people that might be good candidates to work at FHI.

Mainline workshop in Bodega Bay (September 12th - 17th)
The first mainline workshop in the new venue will take place in a little over a month. We’ve received over 100 applications already and are expecting a strong set of participants.

Mainline workshop in Prague (September 20th-25th)
For the second year in a row, we’ll be running a mainline workshop in Prague for interested folks in Europe. We’re glad to be collaborating once again with the Czech Association for Effective Altruism, as their comprehensive, on-the-ground logistical support has made the long trip from Berkeley possible. There’s still time to apply before applications close tomorrow, August 11th, at 12pm PDT – submit yours here if you’re interested!

Mentorship training in Prague (tentative dates: September 28 - October 1)
With two workshops’ worth of alumni having joined us in the city, we’ll be ready to welcome in a new cohort of mentors. As our alumni network broadens, we’re eager to continue growing our mentor community and adding to the list of experienced practitioners around the world.

As always, our Alumni Community Dispute Council is available for alumni who would like to receive mediation, resolve disputes, or simply share concerns about the community. Reach out to ACDC at disputes@rationality.org for more information.

We’ll be sending an end-of-year newsletter in December – in the mean time, keep an eye on the website for updates to our workshop schedule!

All the best,
The CFAR team