Happy New Year! With 2019 under way, we’d like to share some updates from the past few months and plans for the coming year.
Harm in the Community
Last year, allegations of serious harm were brought against an alumnus and community member. Since then, CFAR has been focused on understanding what happened, what mistakes we made in this case, and how we can reduce the risks of a range of potential harms. As part of this process, we published an apology and a more recent update. We are currently working towards new policies and other organizational changes, and we expect to publish a more detailed analysis soon. [Update: that analysis can now be found here.]
We moved to a new office last week! We’ll be located at 2036 Bancroft Way, a few blocks from our old building. After we’ve taken some time to settle in, we’ll be holding an open house to show off our new community space. There will also be a chance to hear updates from senior staff, ask questions about what CFAR’s up to, and mingle with other folks interested in the rationality project.
What We Did
In August we held our largest reunion yet, hosting 180 alumni and friends. Staff shared updates to CFAR’s curriculum and mission, and alumni gave talks on a wide range of topics including epistemic rigor, emotional mastery, useful fake frameworks like chakras, group coordination, and mindful communication. Plenty of s’mores were eaten, the water slide was a big hit, and many of us left feeling refreshed after a few days in the woods. We’re glad to have seen so many community members come together, and for the neat alumni project proposals and collaborations born there.
Mainline Workshop in Bodega Bay
We are now regularly running our Bay Area programs at our new venue in Bodega Bay. We ran our first mainline workshop there in September, adding 29 participants to the alumni community. It was a good chance to test our operations capacity in the new space, and we were satisfied to see that participants rated “during-workshop logistics” higher than the previous average. The venue is looking even more beautiful than when we moved in, and we’re pleased to be getting more comfortable in our new home!
Mainline Workshop and Mentor Training in Prague
With great operational support from the Czech Association for Effective Altruism, we ran a mainline workshop and our first European mentorship training near Prague. We’re excited to be fostering the increase of rationality practice in Europe and to take another step in building a denser network of alumni around the world!
AI Risk for Computer Scientists Workshops
CFAR has been collaborating with MIRI to run a sequence of “AI Risk for Computer Scientists” workshops, which have drawn many highly skilled computer scientists for an intensive 4-day introduction to AI Risk, to the basics of CFAR-style rationality, and to the possibility of doing technical research on the AI alignment problem. If you know a highly skilled computer scientist who might enjoy such a workshop (or if you are such a person), please have them complete the interest form here; previous experience with AI risk and/or rationality is not required (though it is welcome). We expect to continue running these or similar programs across the coming year. We are excited about the workshops’ potential to help with: (1) MIRI recruitment; (2) building a community of skilled computer scientists who understand the AI alignment problem more broadly (which could also help with alignment research outside of MIRI); and (3) improving CFAR’s curriculum and understanding of how to think and converse about AI alignment.
Workshop With FHI
After our September collaboration, staff from both organizations decided it would be valuable to give FHI a chance to engage with the CFAR curriculum as their new Research Scholars Program gets going. Most of the team headed to the English countryside an hour outside of Oxford to spend the first week of December engaging in a CFAR-FHI “cultural double crux.” We think we hit our main goals: to facilitate discussion of different research agendas, create a space for collaboration, and give the FHI staff a chance to practice applying some of our favorite cognitive tools. A few particularly fruitful conversations came out of the mix, and we’re excited about continuing to pursue those threads.
What We’re Planning
Mainline Workshop in Bodega Bay (Feb. 27 - Mar. 3)
We’ll be running our first mainline workshop of 2019 at the end of February. Applications are now open—apply here by February 1st if you’re interested! Note that we’ve recently revamped our admissions process and made some changes to the application form. If you’ve previously applied and haven’t heard from us, you’ll need to submit the new application form to be considered for this workshop.
Alumni rEUnion (Mar. 29 - Apr. 1)
In response to popular demand from the European alumni community, our allies at the Czech Association for Effective Altruism are spearheading the first ever CFAR Alumni rEUnion (EU pun intended). We’ll be sending staff and lending organizational support, but the Czech EAs are once again doing the groundwork required to make the event possible. We’re excited to see European community members get a chance to gather this April in the Jizera Mountains of the Czech Republic for a few days of talks, discussions, and socializing. Tickets are available now—complete the form at this link to apply!
That’s all we’ve got for now—we’re excited to be gearing up for the coming year, and we hope to see you at some of our upcoming events!
All the best,
The CFAR team