Hello, everyone! With spring already starting to look like summer here in Berkeley, we’d like to share some of the exciting things going on at CFAR.


Leadership change
In case you missed our last big update, we have a new Executive Director! Timothy Telleen-Lawton started full-time with us in January, bringing his “unusual mix of process obsession and open-hearted exploration,” as former ED Pete Michaud put it. We’re excited to push forward with a new leader at the helm, and Tim has wasted no time jumping into the role. For more details on the change, see our last newsletter.

Permanent venue
We’ve officially purchased our new venue in Bodega Bay! A generous $800,000 grant from BERI allowed us to make the down payment. We’re planning to host our first workshop in this former bed and breakfast house this summer.

We’ve long had our sights set on being able to run more programs, workshops, and events without the considerable costs of dealing with a temporary venue. If we were to run the same number of workshops each year as we did in 2017, we expect to save $315k per year (not including the down-payment).

Thanks to Adam Scholl for initiating the search and making this happen. As the project is winding down, he’s ramping up his research efforts, leading a collaborative investigation into chunking and working memory.

New hire
Luke Raskopf recently joined the full time staff after completing an internship that started in January; we’re excited to keep him! Luke made his debut as an instructor at the mainline workshop in April. He will also be designing operations at our new venue and taking point on external communications. Luke found his way to CFAR by way of teaching at ESPR in 2017, and he’ll be helping organize that program this year.

What we did

Mainline workshops
We’ve run two mainline workshops (January 24th and April 4th) since the start of the year. Both landed solidly in the top quartile of our track record, as measured by participant satisfaction.

Mentor training
Between those workshops, we held a mentor training in March and welcomed in our largest cohort of new CFAR mentors yet! We’re excited to have more trained mentors to volunteer at our mainline workshops, help participants understand the material, and follow-up with them after the workshop. We think of these trainings as an opportunity for our mentors to deepen and fine-tune their applied rationality skills, thereby growing the community of practitioners who can both distribute and add to the art.

Programmer workshops
In addition to those mainline events, we put on two “Rationality and AI Risk for Programmers” workshops designed to introduce our curriculum and content to a more technical crowd. We’ve been encouraged by the results so far!

Website updates
We’ve retooled a number of sections of the website. Most of it is simply standard housekeeping (Team, Jobs, Press), but we’ve also made a few meaningful changes which we hope reflect our efforts to continue refining CFAR’s purpose and methods (Mission).

What we’re planning

We have a number of programs and events already nailed down, as well as a few more still in the planning stage. We’ll share announcements about those as the details are ironed out, but here’s a look at what’s coming up:

AI Summer Fellows Program (June 27th - July 14th)
We’re already gearing up for this summer’s AISFP. The program is designed to prepare participants for doing technical research on AI alignment. Attendees will have a chance to collaborate with experienced researchers and get a boost to their rationality skills from some of our more advanced content. Find more details on the program here!

SPARC (July 22nd - August 2nd)
The Summer Program on Applied Rationality and Cognition (SPARC) will be held once again in the East Bay. As we have in past years, we’ll be lending support and manpower to the project. Applications are closed, but direct any interested future participants to the program’s website for a look at what the program has to offer.

ESPR (tentatively July 16th - 29th)
In a related vein, we’re excited to announce tentative dates for SPARC’s European sister program, the European Summer Program on Rationality. CFAR will once again be contributing staff to ESPR this year, and we’re expecting to bring together yet another group of accomplished young people. High-school age students interested in math, cognition, world-saving, and rationality can apply here!

Alumni Reunion (August 17th-20th)
Our 5th annual Alumni Reunion is coming up in August! We like to think of the reunion as an unconference – a chance for our alumni to practice their agency, showcase what they’re developing, and explore what they’re excited about. We’ll also be sharing updates to our core curriculum and offering alumni a view of some of our Tier-II workshop content. Expect campfires, a waterslide, pair debugging, circles of all types, and very cool people (among other things). Tickets are available now — grab one before they sell out!

Mainline workshop (September 12th - 17th)
With a full summer, our next mainline workshop is currently scheduled for September. Stay tuned for any updates to the schedule, and we’ll keep you posted.

Remember, if you want to report concerns, receive mediation, or you are aware of someone or something that might be a concern to you or others in the community, reach out to our Alumni Community Dispute Council at disputes@rationality.org.

We’re looking forward to a year of change and growth, so keep an eye out for more updates!

All the best,
The CFAR team