Nov 16-18: Rationality for Entrepreneurs

CFAR is tak­ing LW-style ra­tio­nal­ity into the world, this month, with a new kind of ra­tio­nal­ity camp: Ra­tion­al­ity for En­trepreneurs. It is aimed at am­bi­tious, rel­a­tively suc­cess­ful folk (re­gard­less of whether they are fa­mil­iar with LW), who like an­a­lytic think­ing and care about mak­ing prac­ti­cal real-world pro­jects work. Some will be pay­ing for them­selves; oth­ers will be cov­ered by their com­pa­nies.

If you’d like to learn ra­tio­nal­ity in a more prac­ti­cal con­text, con­sider ap­ply­ing. Also, if you were hop­ing to in­tro­duce ra­tio­nal­ity and re­lated ideas to a friend/​ac­quain­tance who fits the bill, please talk to them about the work­shop, both for their sake and to strengthen the ra­tio­nal­ity com­mu­nity.

The price will be out of reach for some: the work­shop costs $3.9k. But there is a money-back guaran­tee. Some par­tial schol­ar­ships may be available. This fee buys par­ti­ci­pants:

  • Four nights and three days at a re­treat cen­ter, with small classes, in­ter­ac­tive ex­er­cises, and much op­por­tu­nity for un­struc­tured con­ver­sa­tion that ap­plies the ma­te­rial at meals and dur­ing the evenings (room and board is in­cluded);

  • One in­struc­tor for ev­ery three par­ti­ci­pants;

  • Six weeks of Skype/​phone and email fol­low-up, to help par­ti­ci­pants make the ma­te­rial into reg­u­lar habits, and nav­i­gate real-life busi­ness and per­sonal situ­a­tions with these tools.

CFAR is plan­ning fu­ture camps which are more di­rectly tar­geted at a Less Wrong au­di­ence (like our pre­vi­ous camps), so don’t worry if this camp doesn’t seem like the right fit for you (be­cause of cost, in­ter­ests, etc.). There will be oth­ers. But if you or some­one you know does have an en­trepreneurial bent[1], then we strongly recom­mend ap­ply­ing to this camp rather than wait­ing. At­ten­dees will be sur­rounded by other am­bi­tious, suc­cess­ful, prac­ti­cally-minded folks, learn from ma­te­ri­als that have been tai­lored to en­trepreneurial is­sues, and re­ceive ex­ten­sive fol­low-up to help ap­ply what they’ve learned to their busi­nesses and per­sonal lives.

Our sched­ule is be­low.

(See also the thread about the camp on Hacker News.)

WORKSHOP SCHEDULE: NOVEMBER 16-18, 2012


Fri­day, Novem­ber 16: Know the World

8:00 am Break­fast
8:45 am Open­ing Ses­sion. Ra­tion­al­ity doesn’t mean Spock—the com­mon themes that will bind the work­shop to­gether—build­ing ac­cu­rate mod­els of the world, figur­ing out which ac­tions lead to preferred out­comes, and man­ag­ing our brain’s in­ter­nal re­sources and al­gorithms. Plus all the prac­ti­cal stuff; how to get the most out of the work­shop; and bet­ting games we’ll be play­ing through­out. (Also, this will be the only time in the pro­gram where an in­struc­tor speaks for more than 5 se­quen­tial min­utes—the rest is all ac­tivi­ties, ex­er­cises, and in­ter­ac­tions.)
9:50 am De­liber­ate perfor­mance: Ex­plicit pre­dic­tions. Ex­per­i­ment shows that prac­tice doesn’t always lead to learn­ing—you can spend 60 hours per week work­ing and not im­prove skill! Re­search into ‘de­liber­ate perfor­mance’ shows that sim­ple changes can vastly in­crease the power of prac­tice. To dis­cover quickly where our im­plicit be­liefs are right or wrong, we’ll get into the habit of mak­ing con­scious, ex­plicit pre­dic­tions dur­ing work.
11:00 am Cu­ri­os­ity. When it comes to find­ing out the truth about your life or busi­ness, there’s no sub­sti­tute for feel­ing gen­uine cu­ri­os­ity about ques­tions. Learn to no­tice when you’re ar­gu­ing a ques­tion with­out feel­ing in­ter­ested in the an­swer. Make your­self more like­able by be­ing more cu­ri­ous dur­ing con­ver­sa­tion. Vi­su­al­ize your un­cer­tainty and use sim­ple tech­niques to re­mind your­self of what you don’t know.
12:00 pm Lunch
1:00 pm Bayes’s Rule: How much to change your mind 3-per­son work­shops (so you can choose your own tech­ni­cal level), as we ex­am­ine the pow­er­ful and sim­ple rules for weigh­ing the strength of ev­i­dence, and the qual­i­ta­tive take­aways for de­cid­ing when to change your mind in ev­ery­day life.
3:00 pm Break
3:40 pm Pro­fessed be­lief and an­ti­ci­pated ex­pe­rience What we say loudly that we be­lieve isn’t always what our brain ex­pects to see. Learn how to rou­tinely no­tice the differ­ence be­tween claiming that your poli­ti­cal can­di­date will win the elec­tion, and be­ing will­ing to bet money on their win­ning. How to mo­ti­vate your­self with­out try­ing to deny what your brain already knows.
4:50 pm Quan­tified trust and ad­vice-tak­ing Are you up­dat­ing on oth­ers’ ad­vice too much or too lit­tle? Sur­pris­ing the­o­rems show that ra­tio­nal agents shouldn’t be able to pre­dict when they’ll dis­agree. We’ll play a game that will show you whether you’re up­dat­ing too much or too lit­tle on other peo­ple’s opinions, with plenty of fast feed­back for prac­tice. (Don’t worry—it’s still pos­si­ble to dis­agree with the ma­jor­ity if you know some­thing they don’t.)
6:00 pm Din­ner
7:30 pm Bee­minder, a Tool for In­stal­ling New Be­hav­iors When you’re try­ing to turn plans for change (in­clud­ing plans you form this week­end) into things you ac­tu­ally do, it helps to have the right tool to keep your at­ten­tion on your goal and your progress to­wards it. Many of us have found Bee­minder to be a con­ve­nient, in­tu­itive, mo­ti­vat­ing soft­ware tool for es­tab­lish­ing new be­hav­iors, so we have in­vited Daniel Reeves, co-founder of Bee­minder, to ex­plain how to use it most effec­tively.
7:50 pm Over­com­ing Pro­cras­ti­na­tion Guest speaker Ge­off An­ders pre­sents tech­niques his or­ga­ni­za­tion has used to over­come pro­cras­ti­na­tion and main­tain 75 hours/​week of pro­duc­tive work time per per­son.
Night­time In­for­mal dis­cus­sion Past par­ti­ci­pants have re­ported that some of their most valuable hours were the evenings chat­ting with in­struc­tors and other par­ti­ci­pants about places where their lives and busi­nesses are stuck, and which tech­niques might ap­ply to them. We’ve en­sured there’s an in­struc­tor for ev­ery three par­ti­ci­pants, and kept night­times free for open dis­cus­sion.

Satur­day, Novem­ber 17: Know Your Self

8:00 am Break­fast
9:00 am Goal-fac­tor­ing: Fun­gible goods in ev­ery­day life Figure out all of the goals be­ing achieved by your daily be­hav­iors and brain­storm how they can be achieved least ex­pen­sively. Are you in­cur­ring large costs to buy a friend’s good­will on one oc­ca­sion, while de­clin­ing to pur­chase it much more cheaply the next day?
10:10 am Ex­pected value of in­for­ma­tion Quan­tify and guess the ex­pected value of new in­for­ma­tion you can eas­ily gather, and new poli­cies you can try out to see what hap­pens. Find the $20 in­vest­ments that might re­turn $2,000 of value, and learn to try the af­ford­able ex­per­i­ments that ‘prob­a­bly won’t work’.
11:10 am Break
12:00 pm Lunch
1:00 pm Panic Phys­iolog­i­cal tech­niques for notic­ing and con­trol­ling your body’s in­stinc­tive fight-or-flight re­sponse so that you can re­main calm, clear-minded, and open to new in­for­ma­tion in stress­ful situ­a­tions.
2:10 pm Over­com­ing aver­sions: Com­fort Zone Ex­pan­sion In a stag­ger­ingly huge uni­verse of pos­si­ble ac­tions, we usu­ally limit our­selves to choos­ing from among a tiny sub­set that are known and com­fortable. What are some sim­ple things you’ve some­how “never got­ten around” to do­ing? Would it be all that painful to try do­ing some of them? Some­times the most use­ful ac­tions are those we’ve never tried be­fore.
3:10 pm Break
3:40 pm Ex­pand­ing so­cial com­fort zones Our so­cial ranges are of­ten con­stricted to what we feel com­fortable do­ing—and star­tups need to be com­fortable ask­ing ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists for 10 mil­lion dol­lars. Figure out what your brain is afraid will hap­pen, and do sim­ple ex­per­i­ments to find out what ac­tu­ally hap­pens.
4:50 pm Pro­duc­tive ar­gu­ments Frames of mind for notic­ing valuable in­for­ma­tion even when it feels like bad news, and even when it’s pre­sented by some­one who isn’t go­ing out of their way to make you like them. A fam­ily of prac­ti­cal tech­niques for keep­ing de­bates col­lab­o­ra­tive and truth­find­ing (or de­cid­ing when to give up).
6:00 pm Din­ner
7:00 pm Com­fort Zone Ex­pan­sion—In the Field Hone your new ap­pre­ci­a­tion for slightly un­com­fortable so­cial ac­tions by test­ing them with to­tal strangers. Sur­prises and en­ter­tain­ment guaran­teed! (No, re­ally, this unit is always pop­u­lar af­ter­ward.)
Night­time In­for­mal dis­cus­sion Past par­ti­ci­pants have re­ported that some of their most valuable hours were the evenings chat­ting with in­struc­tors and other par­ti­ci­pants about places where their lives and busi­nesses are stuck, and which tech­niques might ap­ply to them. We’ve en­sured there’s an in­struc­tor for ev­ery three par­ti­ci­pants, and kept night­times free for open dis­cus­sion.

Sun­day, Novem­ber 18: The Big Picture

8:00 am Break­fast
9:00 am From life­hack­ing to life-pro­gram­ming Guest speaker Yan Zhang ex­plains how to use the prin­ci­ples of de­liber­ate perfor­mance and the be­hav­ioral psy­chol­ogy of games to re­struc­ture your life for max­i­mum fun and skill ac­qui­si­tion.
10:10 am How to ac­tu­ally change your mind Sta­tus quo bias, sunk costs, mo­ti­vated skep­ti­cism—there’s a long litany of ex­per­i­men­tally dis­cov­ered bi­ases that pre­vent us from chang­ing our minds. Learn to beat some of the worst ob­sta­cles to pivot­ing your busi­ness, drop­ping the hire who pre­dictably won’t work out, or ad­mit­ting that your cofounder was right all along. (This will make you sur­pris­ingly pop­u­lar com­pared to never chang­ing your mind. Really.)
11:10 am Break
12:00 pm Lunch
1:00 pm Ex­pected value of think­ing styles You spend thou­sands of hours run­ning var­i­ous de­fault thought pro­cesses, some that are cu­ri­ous and ac­cu­mu­late knowl­edge, some of which are mak­ing up more and more rea­sons why you don’t need to worry about that pro­ject com­ing up to­mor­row. Try some sim­ple value calcu­la­tions for which thought pro­cesses are most helpful, and learn to spend more back­ground time in those.
2:10 pm Op­ti­miz­ing self-pre­sen­ta­tion Guest speaker Liron Shapira de­scribes the so­cial pre­sen­ta­tion sig­nals you send ev­ery mo­ment whether you in­tend to or not, and how to make them say what you mean.
3:10 pm Break
3:40 pm In­stal­ling Habits Use some of the sim­plest and best-tested prin­ci­ples in ex­per­i­men­tal psy­chol­ogy to re­in­force the be­hav­iors you want to want, and avoid pun­ish­ing your­self for do­ing things you want to do again. Oper­ant con­di­tion­ing ad­vises us to pay at­ten­tion to im­me­di­ate re­wards and pun­ish­ments (like think­ing of ev­ery­thing that could go wrong, the mo­ment af­ter you press ‘Send’ on an email). Learn to train your “in­ner pi­geon”.
4:50 pm Clos­ing ses­sion Con­nec­tions be­tween the units that wouldn’t have made sense pre­vi­ously (e.g., tak­ing an al­gorithm-based view of your­self; ask­ing which al­gorithms you want to be run­ning). Set-up for the six weeks of fol­low-up, and for ap­ply­ing the ma­te­rial in your daily life.
6:00 pm Din­ner
Night­time Party Fun, de­com­pres­sion, and fur­ther dis­cus­sion.

Note: Order­ing shown is typ­i­cal rather than ac­tual. To al­low each ses­sion to have only 6 par­ti­ci­pants, each ses­sion is held at mul­ti­ple times dur­ing the day. (Ses­sion groups will be fre­quently remixed; ev­ery­one gets a chance to meet ev­ery­one else.)


Click here for the work­shop overview

Click here to apply

[1] Many at­tend­ing the camp will be en­trepreneurs; but there will also be folks from fi­nance, pro­gram­mers, man­agers, and oth­ers who com­bine an­a­lytic think­ing with an in­ter­est in am­bi­tious, real-world pro­jects.