Second, because then we'd have to invest a lot of time explaining the logic behind each decision, or else face waves of criticism for decisions that appear arbitrary when one merely publishes the decision and not the argument.

Are the arguments not made during the board meetings? Or do you guys talk ahead of time and just formalize the decisions during the board meetings?

In any case, I think you should invest more time explaining the logic behind your decisions, and not just make the decisions themselves more transparent. If publishing board meeting minutes is not the best way to do that, then please think about some other way of doing it. I'll list some of the benefits of doing this, in case you haven't thought of some of them:

  • encourage others to emulate you and think strategically about their own choices
  • allow outsiders to review your strategic thinking and point out possible errors
  • assure donors and potential donors that there is good reasoning behind your strategic decisions
  • improve exchange of strategic ideas between everyone working on existential risk reduction

The arguments are strewn across dozens of conversations in and out of board meetings (mostly out).

As for finding other ways to explain the logic behind our decisions, I agree, and I'm working on it. One qualification I would add, however, is that I predict more benefit to my strategic thinking from one hour with Paul Christiano and one hour with Nick Bostrom than from spending four hours to write up my strategic thinking on subject X and publishing it so that passersby can comment on it. It takes a lot of effort to be so well-informed about these issues th... (read more)

Q&A with new Executive Director of Singularity Institute

by lukeprog 1 min read7th Nov 2011182 comments


Today I was appointed the new Executive Director of Singularity Institute.

Because I care about transparency, one of my first projects as an intern was to begin work on the organization's first Strategic Plan. I researched how to write a strategic plan, tracked down the strategic plans of similar organizations, and met with each staff member, progressively iterating the document until it was something everyone could get behind.

I quickly learned why there isn't more of this kind of thing: transparency is a lot of work! 100+ hours of work later, plus dozens of hours from others, and the strategic plan was finally finished and ratified by the board. It doesn't accomplish much by itself, but it's one important stepping stone in building an organization that is more productive, more trusted, and more likely to help solve the world's biggest problems.

I spent two months as a researcher, and was then appointed Executive Director.

In further pursuit of transparency, I'd like to answer (on video) submitted questions from the Less Wrong community just as Eliezer did two years ago.


The Rules

1) One question per comment (to allow voting to carry more information about people's preferences).

2) Try to be as clear and concise as possible. If your question can't be condensed into one paragraph, you should probably ask in a separate post. Make sure you have an actual question somewhere in there (you can bold it to make it easier to scan).

3) I will generally answer the top-voted questions, but will skip some of them. I will tend to select questions about Singularity Institute as an organization, not about the technical details of some bit of research. You can read some of the details of the Friendly AI research program in my interview with Michael Anissimov.

4) If you reference certain things that are online in your question, provide a link.

5) This thread will be open to questions and votes for 7 days, at which time I will decide which questions to begin recording video responses for.


I might respond to certain questions within the comments thread and not on video; for example, when there is a one-word answer.