Workshop FAQ

Basic Workshop Information

What is included in the price of the workshop?

  • The four and a half day long workshop itself
  • Room and board starting from the Wednesday evening of opening session, through the Monday morning after the workshop.
  • A paper copy of our 200 page handbook
  • Four free follow up coaching calls with a CFAR staff member
  • Access to many alumni community benefits:
    • At-cost alumni workshops. Small, free or donation-base workshops that are either deeper dives into a particular part of our curriculum, or experimental new material that we want to test.
    • Active alumni mailing list
    • Alumni events like our yearly reunion, test sessions, and frequent meetups
    • Mentorship and instructor training. This is a selective program for people who are interested in deeply learning the CFAR curriculum and potentially adding to it, and for those who are interested in teaching our material to others.

What is the price of the workshop?

$3,900 USD.

Why is it that price?

The price covers the cost of the workshop itself, plus approximately half of CFAR’s operating expenses—the other half is covered by donations and grants, most of which come from people who have been through our program, and want to continue contributing to our mission.

We believe that the price is an appropriate expression of the value of the workshop (it’s a five-day retreat, after all, and most of our participants feel that the skills they learn pay for themselves within the first year), and also having a moderately high price point allows us to subsidize participants in need of financial aid.

Is there financial aid available?

Yes. There is a pool of scholarship money for every workshop for promising participants who can’t otherwise afford to attend. Many college students receive financial aid, for example, as well as people on career paths to have large impacts in important fields.

Is the workshop payment tax deductible?

While CFAR is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, the entirety of your payment goes toward covering the services provided in the workshop. However, if you send us a donation unrelated to a workshop, that would be tax deductible and we’d be happy to provide a tax receipt for your records.

What is the admissions interview for?

The interview is mostly about answering any questions you may still have about the workshop, plus giving us a chance to understand more about you and what you’re hoping to get out of attending. It’s a “fit” check, as the workshop is not right for everyone, and the best way to find out whether it is or isn’t is a conversation.

How long is the admissions interview?

Most interviews last between 10 and 15 minutes, but may go up to 30 minutes if you have more questions than usual.

What is the schedule of the workshop?

Here is a detailed sample schedule.

Quick summary:

  • Opening session is a couple hours on Wednesday evening, after work. (Normally the exact starting time is 6:30pm, but it varies per workshop, so look at your welcome email for the exact start time of your workshop.)
  • Four full days follow, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, ending Sunday night around 10pm.
    • Even though the workshop ends on Sunday night, participants are welcome to stay until Monday morning if it’s more convenient for travel arrangements.
  • The days are quite full, with breakfast from 8am to 9am, and scheduled activities until around 9pm or 9:30pm each night.
  • There are many breaks throughout the day and a long lunch.
  • Late evenings are unstructured. Many people create or participate in optional activities during this time, or just have good conversations. Many others use the time to relax and recharge on their own.

Where does the workshop come from?

Our techniques were developed through iteration, with any given technique going through many hours of discussion, research, and refinement, along with multiple rounds of testing with real participants. In general, we “find” techniques in the following places:

  • The fields of behavioral economics, cognitive science, psychology, heuristics, and biases (authors and researchers such as Dweck, Gendlin, Kahneman, etc). Often, we will note a particularly interesting development in psychology and attempt to directly translate it into an intervention (for instance, our TAPs technique emerged from and are broadly similar to “implementation intentions”).
  • Case studies of highly effective individuals. For instance, the Aversion Factoring technique emerged from a deep exploration of our colleague Andrew Critch’s attempt to solve a motivational issue, and the Murphyjitsu technique evolved from the “prehindsight” advocated by many business leaders.
  • Our own problem-solving attempts. In addition to looking at human successes, we get a lot of content from studying our own failures, and attempting to identify the ways and places that things went wrong. This sort of inquiry led to the Propagating Urges technique, which has now transformed into Internal Double Crux.
  • Attempts to help participants, friends, colleagues, and family. We are constantly working to help others solve problems and achieve goals (for instance, through our post-workshop followups), and this process often highlights “missing techniques” that eventually become a part of our curriculum (such as Resolve Cycles).
  • Our alumni and our broader social network. There are now over 1000 CFAR alumni and an international community centered on rationality and effective altruism; that’s an enormous incubator for new ideas, new research, and new experiments leading to successful habits of mind.

People at Workshops

Who attends CFAR Workshops?

Our workshops have included research scientists, business leaders, entrepreneurs, top students at all levels of academia, professors, psychologists, physicians, computer scientists, data scientists, software developers, nurses, teachers, and more.

We have had people from all continents (except Antarctica!), and most workshops include participants from at least three continents.

Our participants range in age from 18 (minimum) to 70-something. Median age is 25, half of participants fall into the 22-30 range. 10% of our participants are over 40.

Who should attend?

  • People interested in existential risk, and/or effective altruists. In our almost five years of running workshops, we have built a wide network of similarly-motivated people, making it easy for our alumni to gain access to open conversations and a large number of growing organizations.
  • People who want to make a positive impact on the world. In addition to existential risk, our material is geared toward and useful to those seeking to ameliorate global poverty, armed conflict, animal suffering, disease, as well as those seeking to advance space exploration, longevity research, global coordination, and many of the other efforts that are likely to define our century.
  • Students. CFAR content is highly useful to those facing large and complicated choices in their near future, and this certainly includes people in gap years, undergraduate programs, and graduate/PhD/postdoc programs.
  • People at times of transition. For example:
    • People deciding on a course of study
    • People at the beginning of their career
    • People considering leaving or upgrading their career

Who shouldn’t attend CFAR workshops?

  • People uncomfortable with extensive socialization. Our workshops take place over four and a half days, with over 12 hours per day of classes and conversations, and participants generally sleep in shared rooms and eat meals as a group. If that seems torturous to you, then you might not be a good fit for the workshop.
  • People with high anxiety, emotional volatility, or lots of current, pressing stress. The workshop asks participants to jump in with both feet, and much of the content centers around actively wrestling with one’s current problems and goals. If you are under deadline pressure, attached to your status quo, or generally have difficulty dealing with uncertainty and confusion, you may find the workshop overwhelming or destabilizing, and should consider taking a pass.
  • People looking for something we’re not providing. For example, CFAR is not an academic neuroscience symposium, nor is it a traditional “corporate training seminar.”

How many people will be at my workshop?

Workshop size varies, but most are around 32 participants. Some are up to 60 participants.

Regardless of the size of a workshop, the participant to staff ratio is always between 2 and 3 to 1. In other words, if your workshop has 32 participants, there will be between 10 and 15 staff members present.

The format of the workshop also splits the group most of the time, with the most common split being 3 groups. In other words, if your workshop has 32 participants most of the time you’ll be the room with a maximum of 10 or 11 other participants plus several staff members. You’ll often be split into even smaller groups than that.

I’m not 18 yet, can I still attend?

Unfortunately, we can’t accommodate participants who are below 18 years old at the core workshops.

One reason is that our insurance won’t allow it, and government regulations are stricter for programs that admit minors.

A better reason is that the workshop curriculum is designed with college students and young professionals and academics in mind, and relies on a body of experiences that high schoolers generally will not have had, and thus will find significantly less useful.

One option you have is to apply for a workshop when you turn 18. Another option for some high school students is the SPARC program for highly talented math students.

Other CFAR Programs

Are you going to start running programs for minors?

We are very interested in developing programs for high school students and even potentially middle school students, insofar as those programs could move the needle on existential risk, but we don’t have any concrete plans for those programs yet.

Are all workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area?

Most are. We historically have run one workshop per year on the east coast around the New York or Boston area, and very occasionally have run workshops in other places like Oxford, in the UK, and Melbourne, Australia. Workshops outside the Bay Area are rare, however.