Mini-camp on Rationality, Awesomeness, and Existential Risk (May 28 through June 4, 2011)

by AnnaSalamon3 min read24th Apr 201187 comments


Events (Community)Community

Meet fellow LW-ers, hone your rationality, and get on a path toward reducing existential risk and becoming more awesome.

Who: You and a class full of other aspiring rationalists and world-changers, from around the world.

What: A week-long mini-camp, filled with hands-on activities for applying rationality to your life, your goals, and existential risk reduction.  (See details in the FAQ.)

When and where: Saturday May 28 through Saturday June 4, 2011 in Berkeley, California.

Why: Because you’re a social primate, and the best way to jump into a new way of thinking, make friends, and accomplish your goals is often to spend time with other primates who are doing just that. 

Other reasons:

  • Sing karaoke, develop body language skills, and generally try things, building courage.
  • See the San Francisco Bay area.
  • Get an inside look at the Singularity Institute.


Anna Salamon  Divia Melwani 

Anna Salamon  Luke"prog" Muehlhauser Divia Melwani

Cost:  Room[1], board, and tuition are paid for by the Singularity Institute (see below).  Getting here is up to you.  (A limited number of scholarships are also available to cover the costs of flights; so if you’d love to come but can’t afford it, apply anyhow.)

A week isn’t long enough to learn rationality or how to prevent existential risks.  It isn’t long enough to acquire a cool career or master the skills that will help you succeed. But it is long enough to get on a path toward doing these things.

So if you’ve been wanting the above, now is your moment.  Come meet us! See what we can help you do.

Apply now.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1.  I’m older.  Should I still apply?

Yes!  We’d really love a more diverse crowd around here, with a wider set of experiences and skills.

2.  I’d like to come, but I’m not sure you’ll accept me.  Should I still apply?

Absolutely!   You can fill out our form in as little 10 minutes.  What’s the harm?[2]

3.  I’d like to come, but I can’t afford the flights.  Should I still apply?

Yes.  A limited number of flights scholarships will probably be available.

4.  Can I come for just part of the time?

Yes. If work or other obligations prevent you from coming for the full week, we are open to partial visits.  You’ll miss out on some of the activities, and some of the sessions will make less sense without the prereqs; but for mini-camp, part of a visit is better than none.

5.  What will we do, exactly?

We're still working out the details.  But our current model:

  • Daily schedule: Every day, you'll get two three-hour course sessions, meals shared with other participants, and shared social activities such as soccer, poker, karaoke, and trips to bay area sites.
  • Rationality: Eight three-hour sessions.  You'll develop a map of your rationality strengths and gaps, write out your goals, practice many specific techniques (e.g. Fermi calculations; applying Bayes' theorem and cognitive biases to daily life; seeing how fungibility can boost your goal achievement), and learn how to continue learning rationality after the program.
  • Social effectiveness:  Five three-hour sessions, covering: why social reality is so important for achieving goals rationally; reading and using body language; developing a fashion sense; and developing social courage and success.
  • Reducing Existential Risk: Three three-hour sessions, discussing AI risks, other existential risks, large-scale risk reduction strategies, and what can be done today.
  • Individual meetings: You'll also be able to schedule one-on-one appointments to discuss career paths you may want to take (we can help with statistics on earnings in different professions, and strategy for getting in), how to start a LW meet-up or similar community, and how to get involved in existential risks-reducing research.

6.  I’m new to all this.  Will it make sense?

If you’ve read at least twenty posts from the core sequences, yes it will.  If you haven’t: why not read them now?

7.  I’ve already read the Sequences seventeen times, and also I’m a self-made billionaire[3] with three PhDs.  Will I learn anything new?

I hope so.  We’re covering a good range of material, and we’ll be focusing on the fundamentals -- pieces that you get some mileage from knowing a little, and more mileage from knowing more thoroughly, and integrating into all aspects of your thoughts.

We’ll also aim for an atmosphere in which everyone is free to make mistakes and to try things, and in which people are receptive to a wide range of skill levels.

8.  Why is the Singularity Institute paying for this?

We're trying to reduce existential risk -- to increase the odds that an eventual Singularity is good, from the perspective of humane values.  To do this, we need more rational, effective people -- people who can train to do the needed research, who can fund that or other work, and who can otherwise exert influence toward good outcomes.

So, we're hoping you'll come out to the SF Bay Area and spend a week boosting your personal effectiveness, having fun, and growing community.  Similar past ventures, notably the old visiting fellows program, have shown that this can be fruitful; and so, since the full rationality boot camp is too long for many, we wanted to offer a shorter version that more people could try.

Apply now.

[1] More exactly, we provide a bed in a shared room at a house rented by SIAI.  You can also stay elsewhere in the local area if you prefer.

[2] Sometimes people say they’re “afraid of wasting our time” by sending in an application.  This is ridiculous.  If you’re interested in us, we’re interested in you.  Also, it takes just seconds to read someone’s form, and many of the highest-value people have been the ones who hesitated to apply.

[3] Okay, fine, this isn’t really a frequently asked question.  But seriously, we’ll be covering a lot that isn’t in the sequences -- and the flesh-and-blood experience of meeting other aspiring rationalists is hard to duplicate.


ETA: Women, especially, please apply!  It's time to make LW a more whole community; rationality applies to any career and life-circumstance, but we need a broad set of people, careers, and life-experiences to create that rationality.

ETA: Applications for mini-camp are now closed.  Also, everyone who applied to mini-camp should now have heard back as to whether they got in (except for the few who didn't answer our emails requesting an interview).  If you applied but haven't heard back, check your spam filter and then email annasalamon at gmail dot com.  Also, if you'd like to be emailed about any future mini-camps we may run, please email annasalamon at gmail dot com.  We received 112 applications for just over 20 spots in mini-camp.