Since our founding in 1986, advancing technological progress for the benefit of life has been at the heart of Foresight Institute’s mission. Our efforts are growing rapidly; from a doubling in fellowship applications, to new prizes, promising workshop projects, and regular virtual seminars.
On a frugal budget, our community has become a growing vector of collaboration to drive progress in underexplored technological areas, including molecular nanotechnology, longevity biotechnology, neurotechnology, AI, security, and space. However, our 2024 programs, in particular our AI safety grants, fellowship, and workshops are oversubscribed and funding-constrained.
Below is a brief overview of 2023 progress and 2024 plans, including funding-constrained areas.
We are a small non-profit and entirely funded by donations. If you are interested in advancing technological progress for the benefit of life, please consider supporting us this Giving Season. You decide which projects we can tackle together in 2024.
Our 2023 fellowship, now in its sixth year, supported sixty fellows working to overcome crucial scientific bottlenecks in biotechnology, nanotechnology, neurotechnology, space, and AI. Our fellows benefited from 1-1 mentorship with selected mentors and funders, travel-paid conference invitations to present their work, and career counseling (for instance, with Tom Kalil, Jaan Tallinn, and Sonia Arrison).
Our 2023 fellowship was greatly oversubscribed. We accepted 30% of applications, even though we felt more fellows were deserving of the fellowship. For our 2024 fellowship, the number of applicants has doubled, while we have less capacity to support them, so that in the current setting, we are only able to accept 9% of the applicants. In addition to our traditional fellowship program, this year, we have started supporting under-aged prodigy fellows, who are 13-21 years old, and in this category, we have seen a tripling of applications for the 2024 cohort, most of whom we currently cannot support.
With your help, we could increase the acceptance rate of highly deserving fellows in the face of the growing application count. In addition, it would be more efficient to be able to offer small seed grants in-house rather than matchmaking our fellows with external funders. Your funding would allow us to offer funding that applicants requested to support their work.
Our 2023 workshops each gathered fifty junior and senior researchers, entrepreneurs, and funders to advance progress in undervalued technology areas. Leading researchers highlighted potential areas for progress which were taken on by working groups to explore how to advance this area. Top project proposals were awarded a development grant to continue their work post workshop.
Our 2023 workshops, including the recordings can be found here:
In 2024, we hope to accelerate progress on technology frontiers with follow-on workshops in each field to hear progress updates from existing projects and to explore new opportunities to kick-start work in. We seek funding for travel grants which give junior talent the opportunity to collaborate with leading actors in their field, and funding to award development grants to incentivize working groups to collaborate on their project proposals post workshop.
Our planned 2024 workshops include:
Our annual Feynman Prizes have a notable track record. Awarded since 1993, and named after nanotechnology pioneer Richard Feynman, our Feynman Prizes recognize outstanding achievements that contribute meaningfully to progress on advanced molecular nanotechnology. The Prizes have become known for spotting talent early; for instance in 2016, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart was co-awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the design and synthesis of molecular machines; only nine years after he received Foresight’s Feynman Prize in Experiment.
While the Feynman Prize has received global recognition for awarding breakthroughs in molecular nanotechnology, the annual Prize of $5k is rather small, and we hope to increase it to $20k in 2024 to incentivize more researchers to pursue long-term nanotechnology progress.
In 2023, we successfully launched The Longevity Prize, a new collaborative prize platform for longevity-focused prizes, in collaboration with VitaDAO, Methuselah, and Lifespan.io. We awarded the first prize for new hypotheses about longevity approaches that deserve more attention.
You can help us fund a variety of additional prize proposals we would like to launch in 2024, including the In Vitro Measurement Prize, the Clinical Trial Designs Prize, and the Longevity Communication Prize.
We are proud to partner with 2023 Foresight Fellow Patrick Finley on his Space Lander Challenge. Patrick is a pioneer in the space community, and hopes this project will challenge the field to accelerate launch progress, while also encouraging the next generation of space enthusiasts to get involved.
You can help us sponsor one of the 2024 space lander challenges to support ambitious young people to build self-landing rockets. Potential prizes to support include thrust vector control hotfire, throttleable engine hotfire, tethered hover, touchdown, and hop.
In August 2023, we successfully launched The AI Safety Grants Program in three categories:
While the grant went live 3 months ago, we already received more than eighty applications and made three grants to date. However, we consider fifteen applicants worthy of seed funding which is more than we can fund with our allotted $1M budget. We are actively seeking funders interested in collaborating on growing the program in 2024.
In 2023, we have grown our monthly virtual seminar series, an application-based monthly seminar group in which new research findings and projects are presented to give participants the opportunity to meet potential collaborators in their field. This year, the group applicant rate grew by 20%, our top seminar this year counted more than 100 participants, seminar views on Youtube reach up to 50k in views, multiple organizations use our seminars as onboarding videos for their employees, and participants nominated monthly seminars to fill our schedule well into Q2 2024.
Now that our seminars are becoming a virtual Schelling Point for STEM communities, enabling practitioners across the globe to stay up to date on new advances, find collaborators, and present their successes, we would like to update the seminar quality to reach new talent. This includes the entire seminar pipeline, from onboarding leading presenters, to seminar production, and promotion with the goal to reach 100k views on our leading seminar in 2024.
To onboard new talent and funders to underexplored technology domains, we are building technology trees that provide a roadmap of the field, including major actors, and outstanding bottlenecks. The trees are now used by multiple communities to plan progress in their field.
You can explore our 2023 tech trees here:
In 2024, we received funding to update our Longevity tech tree and build a human AI cooperation tech tree using an AI-tool that will make the trees interactive. Additional funding would enable us to create interactive Whole Brain Emulation, Molecular Machines, and Space tech trees.
Inspire Existential Hope Futures
As we celebrate our 1 year anniversary of the new Existential Hope platform, we saw a 30% surge in listeners of the Existential Hope podcast. This year’s episodes have featured great thinkers like David Deutsch, Liv Boeree and Kevin Kelly on how we can build a positive tomorrow. Every episode comes with a curated list of resources, and an Hope Drops, an art piece that paints a picture of an exciting future.
As part of our ongoing commitment to inspire hope and foster meaningful dialogue, we plan to expand our online Existential Hope Platform in 2024. Your support would enrich the platform with interactive Existential Hope scenarios, and improved introductory resources on critical technologies for positive long-term futures.
Build Existential Hope Futures
In February this year, we held our very first Existential Hope Day focused on exploring positive Existential Hope scenarios for science and technology, shifting the focus from the threats they pose to the possibilities they present for our future.
In 2024, we are taking a hands-on approach to foster flourishing futures from AI through an Xhope AI Institutions hackathon. This event aims to prototype new institutions and frameworks specifically designed to address real-world challenges and opportunities arising from TAI development. By funding the workshop, you sponsor the travel for promising junior attendees.
Support Existential Hope Fellows
In our sixth year, the 2023 Existential Hope Fellowship supported fellows working on critical scientific challenges while minimizing existential risks, for example by emphasizing the importance of differential technological development—a strategy promoting the safe evolution of technology by accelerating beneficial advancements while delaying harmful ones. By funding our 2024 fellowship, you support a tighter collaboration across those advancing technologies and those focused on preventing risks from these technologies.
As a donor, you fund the beneficial development of science and technology that is too ambitious to be supported by legacy institutions. We welcome your donations via stripe, check, crypto, or stock on our donation page. Foresight Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, so your donation is tax-deductible in the US as permitted by law.
As a Foresight supporter, we invite you to join a relevant technology track, including our seminars, workshops, or Vision Weekends – our annual end-of-year festivals gathering our technology tracks to envision positive futures. As a Foresight Patron ($10k annually), you are invited to join our personal longevity group to explore how you can extend your own lifespan. You can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, directed funding requests, or ideas for collaboration.
Thank you for advancing beneficial futures enabled by technology with us.
We are a small non-profit and entirely funded by donations.
Doesn't the Foresight Institute run a lot of workshops that have fees that are paid by participants?