We’re excited to announce Cavendish Labs, a new research institute in Vermont focused on AI safety and pandemic prevention! We’re founding a community of researchers who will live together and work on the world’s most pressing problems.
Uh, why Vermont?
It’s beautiful; it has one of the cheapest costs of living in the United States; there’s lots of great people; it’s only a few hours away from Boston, NYC, and Montreal. There’s even a train that goes there from Washington D.C.! A few of us briefly lived in Vermont during the pandemic, and we found it to be a fantastic place to live, think, and work. Each season brings with it a new kind of beauty to the hills. There are no barriers to a relaxing walk in the woods. There's practically no light pollution, so the cosmos is waiting outside the door whenever you need inspiration.
What are you going to be researching?
We have a few research interests:
1. AI Alignment. How do we make sure that AI does what we want? We’ve spent some time thinking about ELK andinverse scaling; however, we think that AGI will most likely be achieved through some sort of model-based RL framework, so that is our current focus. For instance, we know how to induce provable guarantees of behavior in supervised learning; could we do something similar in RL?
2. Pandemic prevention. There’s been a lot of talk about the potential of Far-UVC for ambient disinfection. Understanding why it works on a molecular level, and whether it works safely, is key for developing broad-spectrum pandemic prevention tools.
3. Diagnostic development. We're interested in designing a low-cost and simple-to-use platform for LAMP reactions so that generalized diagnostic capabilities are more widespread. We envision a world where it is both cheap and easy to run a panel of tests so one can swiftly determine the exact virus behind an infection.
How’s this organized?
We'll be living and working on different floors of the same building—some combination of a small liberal arts college and research lab. To ensure we’re not too isolated, we’ll visit Boston at least once a month, and invite a rotating group of visitors to work with us, while maintaining collaborations with researchers around the world.
We’re actively searching for collaborators in our areas of interest; if this sounds like you, send us an email at email@example.com! Our space in Vermont isn’t ready until late spring, so in the meantime we’ll be located in Berkeley and Rhode Island.
At the same time, we’re looking for visiting scholars to come work with us in the summer or fall: if you’re interested, keep an eye out for our application!
Apparently Cavendish, VT is the place where Phineas Gage had his famous accident. They’ve even got a memorial!
Also, Nettie Stevens was born there!
Hi Derikk! I'm a huge fan of Cavendish Labs and I'm proud to say that I liked it before it was cool. This is a big step towards doubling the number of full-time alignment researchers currently working on earth. Plus, if something happens to Dustin Moscovitz just like all the other billionaires, I can see Cavendish VT becoming one of the main AI safety hubs of the world.
What are rent prices like? Is there an apartment complex nearby, or is that redundant because can you just outright rent a house for $1000 a month or something?
we found it to be a fantastic place to live, think, and work. Each season brings with it a new kind of beauty to the hills. There are no barriers to a relaxing walk in the woods. There's practically no light pollution, so the cosmos is waiting outside the door whenever you need inspiration.
I'm based in the DC area, and I'm definitely taking that train for my vacations (iff I'm invited, of course). NYC, Boston, DC, and SF all have traffic, pollution, and noisy hotels.
Hi Trevor! I think you made some good points about the benefits of trying different models for AI safety research, especially to guard against tail risks. I'm excited to test out this relatively low-budget alternative to working in the Bay.
Cavendish is actually under 3 hours from Boston (and 2.5 hours from Harvard or MIT). Rent isn't $1000, but we did find a beautiful place for the summer for under $1/sqft/month.
They also picked the Los Alamos site for the Manhattan project because it was remote (i.e. far away from potential Japanese or German bombardment) and the view of the nearby mountain range would invigorate the scientists. The military built an entire town there for that, with the schools and centrifuges and sewage system and everything.