SI’s Summer 2012 Matching Drive Ends July 31st

The Sin­gu­lar­ity In­sti­tute’s sum­mer 2012 match­ing drive ends on July 31st! Donate by the end of the month to have your gift matched, dol­lar for dol­lar.

As of this post­ing, SI has raised $70,000 of the $150,000 goal.

The an­nounce­ment says:

Since we pub­lished our strate­gic plan in Au­gust 2011, we have achieved most of the near-term goals out­lined therein
    In the com­ing year, the Sin­gu­lar­ity In­sti­tute plans to do the fol­low­ing: If you’re plan­ning to ear­mark your dona­tion to CFAR (Cen­ter for Ap­plied Ra­tion­al­ity), here’s a pre­view of what CFAR plans to do in the next year:
    • Develop ad­di­tional les­sons teach­ing the most im­por­tant and use­ful parts of ra­tio­nal­ity. CFAR has already de­vel­oped and tested over 18 hours of les­sons so far, in­clud­ing classes on how to eval­u­ate ev­i­dence us­ing Bayesi­anism, how to make more ac­cu­rate pre­dic­tions, how to be more effi­cient us­ing eco­nomics, how to use thought ex­per­i­ments to bet­ter un­der­stand your own mo­ti­va­tions, and much more.

    • Run im­mer­sive ra­tio­nal­ity re­treats to teach from our cur­ricu­lum and to con­nect as­piring ra­tio­nal­ists with each other. CFAR ran pi­lot re­treats in May and June. Par­ti­ci­pants in the May re­treat called it “trans­for­ma­tive” and “as­ton­ish­ing,” and the av­er­age re­sponse on the sur­vey ques­tion, “Are you glad you came? (1-10)” was a 9.4. (We don’t have the June data yet, but peo­ple were similarly en­thu­si­as­tic about that one.)

    • Run SPARC, a camp on the ad­vanced math of ra­tio­nal­ity for math­e­mat­i­cally gifted high school stu­dents. CFAR has a stel­lar first-year class for SPARC 2012; most stu­dents ad­mit­ted to the pro­gram placed in the top 50 on the USA Math Olympiad (or performed equiv­a­lently in a similar con­test).

    • Col­lect lon­gi­tu­di­nal data on the effects of ra­tio­nal­ity train­ing, to im­prove our cur­ricu­lum and to gen­er­ate promis­ing hy­pothe­ses to test and pub­lish, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with other re­searchers. CFAR has already launched a one-year ran­dom­ized con­trol­led study track­ing rea­son­ing abil­ity and var­i­ous met­rics of life suc­cess, us­ing par­ti­ci­pants in our June mini­camp and a con­trol group.

    • Develop apps and games about ra­tio­nal­ity, with the dual goals of (a) helping as­piring ra­tio­nal­ists prac­tice es­sen­tial skills, and (b) mak­ing ra­tio­nal­ity fun and in­trigu­ing to a much wider au­di­ence. CFAR has two apps in beta test­ing: one train­ing play­ers to up­date their own be­liefs the right amount af­ter hear­ing other peo­ple’s be­liefs, and an­other train­ing play­ers to cal­ibrate their level of con­fi­dence in their own be­liefs. CFAR is work­ing with a de­vel­oper on sev­eral more games train­ing peo­ple to avoid cog­ni­tive bi­ases.

    • And more!

    In an­other post, I com­pared the goals in our Au­gust 2011 strate­gic plan to our cur­rent situ­a­tion, sum­ma­riz­ing:

    That’s it for the main list! Now let’s check in on what we said our top pri­ori­ties for 2011-2012 were:

    1. Public-fac­ing re­search on cre­at­ing a pos­i­tive sin­gu­lar­ity. Check. SI has more peer-re­viewed pub­li­ca­tions in 2012 than in all past years com­bined.

    2. Outreach /​ ed­u­ca­tion /​ fundrais­ing. Check. Espe­cially, through CFAR.

    3. Im­proved or­ga­ni­za­tional effec­tive­ness. Check. Lots of good progress on this.

    4. Sin­gu­lar­ity Sum­mit. Check.

    In sum­mary, I think SI is a bit be­hind where I hoped we’d be by now, though this is largely be­cause we’ve poured so much into launch­ing CFAR, and as a re­sult, CFAR has turned out to be sig­nifi­cantly more cool at launch than I had an­ti­ci­pated.

    Fundrais­ing has been a challenge. One donor failed to ac­tu­ally give their $46,000 pledge de­spite re­peated re­minders and re­quests, and our sup­port base is (un­der­stand­ably) anx­ious to see a shift from move­ment-build­ing work to FAI re­search, a shift I have been fight­ing for since I was made Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor. (Note that spin­ning off ra­tio­nal­ity work to CFAR is a sub­stan­tial part of trim­ming SI down into be­ing pri­mar­ily an FAI re­search in­sti­tute.)

    Re­form­ing SI into a more effi­cient, effec­tive or­ga­ni­za­tion has been my great­est challenge. Frankly, SI was in pretty bad shape when Louie and I ar­rived as in­terns in April 2011, and there have been an in­cred­ible num­ber of holes to dig SI out of — and sev­eral more re­main. (In con­trast, it has been a joy to help set up CFAR prop­erly from the very be­gin­ning, with all the right or­ga­ni­za­tional tools and pro­cesses in place.) Re­form­ing SI pre­sents a fundrais­ing prob­lem, be­cause re­form­ing SI is time con­sum­ing and some­times costly, but is gen­er­ally un­ex­cit­ing to donors.

    I can see the light at the end of the tun­nel, though. We won’t reach it if we can’t im­prove our fundrais­ing suc­cess in the next 3-6 months, but it’s close enough that I can see it. SI’s path for­ward, from my point of view, looks like this:

    1. We finish launch­ing CFAR, which takes over the ra­tio­nal­ity work SI was do­ing. (Be­fore Jan­uary 2013.)

    2. We change how the Sin­gu­lar­ity Sum­mit is planned and run so that it pulls our core staff away from core mis­sion work to a lesser de­gree. (Be­fore Jan­uary 2013.)

    3. Eliezer writes the “Open Prob­lems in Friendly AI” se­quence. (Be­fore Jan­uary 2013.)

    4. We hire 1-2 re­searchers to pro­duce tech­ni­cal write-ups from Eliezer’s TDT ar­ti­cle and from his “Open Prob­lems in Friendly AI” se­quence. (Begin­ning Septem­ber 2012, ex­cept that right now we don’t have the cash to hire the 1-2 peo­ple who I know who could do this and who want to do this as soon as we have the money to hire them.)

    5. With the “Open FAI Prob­lems” se­quence and the tech­ni­cal write-ups in hand, we greatly ex­pand our efforts to show math/​comp­sci re­searchers that there is a tractable, tech­ni­cal re­search pro­gram in FAI the­ory, and as a re­sult some re­searchers work on the sex­iest of these prob­lems from their de­part­ments, and some other math re­searchers take more se­ri­ously the prospect of be­ing hired by SI to do tech­ni­cal re­search in FAI the­ory. (Begin­ning, roughly, in April 2013.) Also: There won’t be classes on x-risk at SPARC (ra­tio­nal­ity camp for young elite math tal­ent), but some SPARC stu­dents might end up be­ing in­ter­ested in FAI stuff by os­mo­sis.

    6. With a more tightly honed SI, im­proved fundrais­ing prac­tices, and visi­ble mis­sion-cen­tral re­search hap­pen­ing, SI is able to at­tract more fund­ing and hire even more FAI re­searchers. (Begin­ning, roughly, in Septem­ber 2013.)

    If you want to help us make this hap­pen, please donate dur­ing our July match­ing drive!