tl;dr: The LessWrong team is re-organizing as Lightcone Infrastructure. LessWrong is one of several projects we are working on to ensure the future of humanity goes well. We are looking to hire software engineers as well as generalist entrepreneurs in Berkeley who are excited to build infrastructure to ensure a good future.
I founded the LessWrong 2.0 team in 2017, with the goal of reviving LessWrong.com and reinvigorating the intellectual culture of the rationality community. I believed the community had great potential for affecting the long term future, but that the failing website was a key bottleneck to community health and growth.
Four years later, the website still seems very important. But when I step back and ask “what are the key bottlenecks for improving the longterm future?”, just ensuring the website is going well no longer seems sufficient.
For the past year, I’ve been re-organizing the LessWrong team into something with a larger scope. As I’ve learned from talking to over a thousand of you over the last 4 years, for most of you the rationality community is much larger than just this website, and your contributions to the future of humanity more frequently than not route through many disparate parts of our sprawling diaspora. Many more of those parts deserve attention and optimization than just LessWrong, and we seem to be the best positioned organization to make sure that happens.
I want to make sure that that whole ecosystem is successfully steering humanity towards safer and better futures, and more and more this has meant working on projects that weren't directly related to LessWrong.com:
- A bit over a year ago we started building grant-making software for Jaan Tallinn and the Survival and Flourishing Fund, helping distribute over 30 million dollars to projects that I think have the potential to have a substantial effect on ensuring a flourishing future for humanity.
- We helped run dozens of online meetups and events during the pandemic, and hundreds of in-person events for both this year and 2019s ACX Meetups everywhere
- We helped build and run the EA Forum and the AI Alignment Forum,
- We recently ran a 5-day retreat for 60-70 people whose work we think is highly impactful in reducing the likelihood of humanity's extinction,
- We opened an in-person office space in the Bay Area for organizations that are working towards improving the long-term future of humanity.
As our projects outside of the LessWrong.com website multiplied, our name became more and more confusing when trying to explain to people what we were about.
This confusion reached a new peak when we started having a team that we were internally calling the "LessWrong team", which was responsible for running the website, distinct from all of our other projects, and which soon after caused me to utter the following sentence at one of our team meetings:
LessWrong really needs to figure out what the LessWrong team should set as a top priority for LessWrong
As one can imagine, the reaction from the rest of the team was confusion and laughter and at that point I knew we had to change our name and clarify our organizational mission.
So, after doing many rounds of coming up with names, asking many of our colleagues and friends (including GPT-3) for suggestions, we finally decided on:
I like the light cone as a symbol, because it represents the massive scale of opportunity that humanity is presented with. If things go right, we can shape almost the full light cone of humanity to be full of flourishing life. Billions of galaxies, billions of light years across, for some 10^36 (or so) years until the heat death of the universe.
Separately, I am excited about where Lightcone Infrastructure is headed as an organization. I really enjoy working with the team, and I feel like there is a ton of low-hanging fruit in doing more end-to-end community optimization. This community of rationalists, effective altruists and longtermists has achieved an enormous amount, both in scale of impact, and in coming to a deeper understanding about the world, and I think our work in reviving LessWrong and our other infrastructure projects have already made a big difference in that success.
LessWrong will have a dedicated team within Lightcone Infrastructure. Ruby will be taking the lead on that, and he already has a number of great plans for the website that I expect he will tell you about in the near future. The current team and structure is:
Jim Babcock is also paid by us as an independent Open Source contributor to the LessWrong website, and helps a lot with development. I also still fix bugs, answer support requests and write code, though I primarily spend my time on management these days.
If you want to work with us on these projects, we are hiring for three positions:
- A software engineer for LessWrong.com to assist with maintenance and expansion of the Rationalist community's online publishing hub (more info)
- A generalist to join our new campus team to build a thriving in-person rationality and longtermism community in the Bay Area (more info)
- A software engineer and product manager to be in charge of the "S-Process" application, a suite of custom software for grantmaking that we develop for Jaan Tallinn and the Survival and Flourishing Fund (more info)
We are also open to hiring people who don't fit into any of these positions, so err on the side of applying if you want to work with us. If you have thoughts on how to build a successful rationality and longtermism community, want to build a 1000-person strong campus, or have a pitch for a different infrastructure project we should run, reach out to us, and we would be excited to talk to you about working here.
Our current salary policy is to pay rates competitive with industry salary minus 30%. Given prevailing salary levels in the Bay Area for the kind of skill level we are looking at, we expect salaries to start at $150k/year plus healthcare (but we would be open to paying $315k for someone who would make $450k in industry). We also provide a generous relocation package if you aren't currently located in the Bay Area.
Apply here: https://airtable.com/shrdqS6JXok99f6EX