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.)


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.