Schedule of a typical workshop below. Click HERE for an overview of our retreats.
Ordering shown is typical rather than actual. To allow each session to have the ideal student-instructor ratio, each session is held at multiple times during the day. (Session groups are frequently remixed so that everyone gets a chance to meet and work with everyone else.)
Unwind, settle in, and start getting to know the instructors and your fellow participants through casual conversation and games.
|7:00 pm||Opening Session
What does it mean to be rational? Popular culture shows us a Spock-like figure – a narrow powerhouse, unable to deal with nuance or emotion. At CFAR, we disagree with this “straw Vulcan” archetype, and instead train whole-mind thinkers who work well across many domains, using quick and dirty heuristics as readily as careful, deliberate reasoning. Our opening session introduces the theme, style, and logistics of the workshop, as well as providing space for “unconference” style lightning talks from both instructors and participants alike.
|9:00 am||Inner Simulator
Each of us carries a rich, vibrant model of the universe in our heads, giving us access to quick, gut-level predictions ranging from where a flying ball will land to how a peer will react to a given sentence or tone of voice. Our first lesson outlines the strengths and weaknesses of participants’ inner simulators, and provides models for when and how to use them (versus when to be suspicious of them).
Ever spent hours and hours attempting to learn a skill, only to find that you’d made basically no progress? The Turbocharging class zeroes in on an explicit model of how skills are learned and improved, and provides a reference for how to get the most out of the rest of the techniques taught during the workshop.
Can you remember a time when you avoided starting on a hard task, only to find that it was easier than you expected once you began? Many of us avoid getting started on our problems because we find the very idea daunting—even if there might be an easy solution within reach. Resolve Cycles are a simple but powerful technique for focusing your mind on achieving what’s important to you even when it seems hard.
|2:20 pm||Trigger-Action Planning
If you could make only one change to your planning habits, what would you expect would have the largest effect? Our “TAPs” class reveals the underlying structure of habitual behavior, making it easier to both see and change one’s “automatic” response patterns.
Life often requires us to take long and complex paths toward our goals. Sometimes, the link between our next action and our true intention is hard to see, leading us to feel reluctant, stressed, or torn. Goal Factoring teaches participants a straightforward method for systematically breaking down a given course of action into its constituent parts, so that each may be evaluated on the merits of what it’s actually intended to achieve.
It’s easy to talk about “good faith negotiation” or “seeing the other side,” but when stakes are high and feelings are strong, it’s hard to put that advice into practice. Double Crux is an explicit algorithm for guiding honest disagreement toward productive resolution, by keeping the discussion focused on the factors that have the potential to influence either side.
Tensing up can help win a physical fight, but it won’t win a debate or improve your ability to make sound life decisions. Learn to notice and control your body’s instinctive fight-or-flight response and redirect unhelpful knee-jerk reactions; in stressful situations, remain calm and open to new information.
Discover the power of microhedonics and operant conditioning as this fun, whole-group activity lays the groundwork for the Propagating Urges classes of Day 2
|9:00 am||Units of Exchange
Value-of-information, supply and demand, opportunities for arbitrage—our Units of Exchange course is an introduction to basic economic principles as they apply to habits, decisions, and the use of finite resources like willpower and attention. Learn explicit strategies for reshuffling effort to create more time, energy, and happiness even without making changes to your larger life circumstances.
|9:40 am||Aversion Factoring and Calibration
Aversions (impulses and behaviors that cause us NOT to do things) can be helpful, but they can also be misguided. Just as Goal Factoring helped us to break down potential courses of action to see the underlying intentions, Aversion Factoring teaches participants to zero in on the particular elements that cause avoidant behaviors, such that each can be acknowledged and evaluated. Unlock the ability to try possibly-valuable things you’d previously shied away from—order new foods, change your morning routine, get that intimidating conversation out of the way, and bust the myth that is “never.”
|11:10 am||Propagating Urges 1
Sometimes we can feel a strong desire to accomplish a long-term goal but find ourselves uninspired while working on the steps for achieving those goals. Understanding the reasons why can help shift this, and can simultaneously shift your picture of what humans are.
By the end of the workshop, you probably will have a lot of ideas in mind for habits to install, practices to begin, and/or material to review. This is likely to consume a fair amount of attention in the weeks following the workshop. In this class, we’ll focus on developing and refining systems for getting the most out of the workshop without overdoing it or spending a lot of ongoing attention.
|3:30 pm||Comfort Zone Expansion (CoZE)
It’s often the case that trying new things feels uncomfortable: we’re stepping out of the familiar and into situations where we probably aren’t very skilled. A key part to expanding our competencies is learning how to be okay with necessary discomfort. In this class you’ll practice making a kind of internal shift that can help calibrate your sense of difficulty to match the task at hand.
Propagating Urges 2
This is where participants put the theory from “Propagating Urges 1” into hands-on practice. When different parts of one’s psyche disagree about which actions are useful, the result is often action that you “have to” do, but that feel pointless, boring, aversive, or unmotivating. We’ll practice shifting this through productive internal dialogue and the building of new, robust plans.
Turning Comfort Zone Expansion from theory into practice! Participants in the CoZE lab design and execute cheap experiments to replace their anticipations and expectations with actual data. What really happens when you make requests of a stranger, sing in public, or reveal your inner weirdness? Only one way to find out. Surprises and entertainment guaranteed!
Pedagogical Content Knowledge
PCK is the intersection between knowledge of teaching and knowledge of a specific domain. It’s the difference between good teachers and bad ones—the ability to identify the specific needs of a student, and the expertise to know exactly what words, examples, or activities will help them fill the gap. This class introduces the concept of PCK and offers hints for acquiring it, in preparation for the day’s “tutoring wheel.”
|10:00 am||Flash Classes
Keeping the goal in mind, learning how to be a useful mirror, identifying productive insights—these quick, 20-minute classes provide participants with concrete tips and strategies as they prepare to learn by teaching.
|11:00 am||Tutoring Wheel (and lunch)
Revisiting six of the lessons from days 1 and 2, the tutoring wheel has participants move back and forth between teaching a specific technique to their peers, learning five other techniques in turn, and repeated debriefs with a staff expert. The quickest way to find the holes in your own knowledge is trying to help someone else with a similar problem!
|4:00 pm||Narrative and Identity
Ever laughed off a situation that might have otherwise made you furious? Found yourself invigorated by activity that had previously been exhausting? Noticed yourself speaking and acting differently when in the company of specific people? Context and narrative have a profound effect on our thoughts and actions, making certain choices easier in one case and harder in another. This class provides participants with a model for looking at their own various identities, deciding which ones need changing, and learning how to switch between them deliberately.
|6:00 pm||Hamming Questions (and dinner)
What are the most important problems in your areas of interest? What are the key bottlenecks between you and your goals? The “Hamming” story provides participants with a concise process for zeroing in on the critical issue, and small-group discussion circles spend time building an understanding of, and a plan for overcoming, each individual’s relevant obstacles.
|9:00 am||Flash Classes
In preparation for deep partner problem solving sessions, our instructors offer quick, 20-minute lessons on identifying root causes, understanding internal conflict, and remembering to look for obvious actions.
|10:00 am||Pair debugging 1
Together with partners, participants take multiple 20-minute sessions to dig deeply into their specific goals and problems, either solving them on the spot or building robust and durable plans for future action.
|1:00 pm||Flash Classes
Between rounds of pair debugging, instructors offer further mini-lectures on making discrete/immediate progress, achieving deep and fundamental understanding, and the value of considering painful alternatives.
|2:00 pm||Pair debugging 2
Iterating on the process, participants enter a second round of pair debugs even better prepared to solve important problems.
|4:40 pm||Flash Classes
Having both learned and applied all of CFAR’s major techniques, participants receive a final set of lectures on productively moving forward, covering practice-in-motion, metastrategic thought, productive overlearning, and five-second versions.
Closing Session and Lightning Talks
Participants and instructors gather to share their reflections on how it all fits together and what they plan to do when they get home to start making use of these tools, followed by an afterparty in which participants, staff, and alumni of previous workshops share their own unique insights into rationality and lives worth living.
…and 6 Weeks of Followup
CFAR arranges for multiple threads of followup. Each participant is paired with a peer followup buddy, and also given the option of four one-on-one Skype conversations with a trained CFAR mentor, for planning, discussion, and debugging. We send out weekly reminders and exercises via email, and also run six group hangouts to review and practice core techniques. Finally, all graduates gain access to our alumni network, including an archive of hundreds of rationality-related questions and posts, and regular alumni gatherings and activities.
Back to our retreats overview.