Applied Rationality Workshops: Jan 25-28 and March 1-4

The Center for Applied Rationality is running two more four-day workshops: Jan 25-28 and March 1-4 in the SF bay area. Like the previous workshop, these sessions are targeted at ambitious, analytic people who have broad intellectual interests, and who care about making real-world projects work. Less Wrong veterans and Less Wrong newcomers alike are welcome: as discussed below, we are intentionally bringing together folks with varied backgrounds and skill bases.

Workshop details:

The gist:

  • We’re trying to improve people’s rational agency—turn the evolutionary kludge that is a human being into something more like an entity that has goals and actually acts on them. We’ll give you tools for becoming more like Kipling’s If (or HPMOR’s Harry Potter); one exercise, insight, or habit at a time.

  • For a more detailed picture, see the schedule from our last workshop (which is close to our Friday through Sunday schedule, though we’ll be making some optimizations), and our list of applied rationality habits.

The logistics:

  • 25 participants: smart, varied, practical, bringing a variety of competencies to the table

  • 3 days of intensive course sessions, all hands-on, exercise-intensive, and performed in small groups (Friday through Sunday; it’s recommended that folks arrive on site Thursday evening)

  • 1 optional, but strongly recommended, day of intensive practice (Monday)

  • 6 weeks of one-on-one Skype and email follow-up, as you solidify your new habits and and apply them to your business or personal life.

  • A lifetime of membership in the alumni community, and connections to others with whom you can explore and collaborate for the long haul.

  • The workshop costs $3,900 for the full four days, or $3,400 if you stay only Friday through Sunday; some financial aid is available.[1]

Why we’re running broad workshops, and extending beyond the LW crowd:

CFAR’s purpose is creating a more reliable art of rationality—an art that includes LW-style epistemic rationality as part of a larger, more practical toolbox; communicated and practiced in a way that can genuinely change people.

Entrepreneurs are a highly fertile ground for developing this art. Entrepreneurs are picky, articulate, and have cross-domain real-world competencies (“business skills”, “productivity skills”) that can fuse with an art of rationality. A diverse group that includes entrepreneurs, hackers, LWers, and ambitious folk of other stripes is probably better still.

Less Wrong is where most of us got started as rationalists; I personally owe it a tremendous amount. I’ll be excited, this summer, when we run further camps targeted just at LW-ers[2] -- camps that can take the Sequences as a starting point, and can grow the base of folks highly skilled in epistemic rationality and interested in this larger art. But a CFAR which creates its rationality curriculum in contact with a wide range of talented /​ competent people will create a stronger rationality, long-term.

Who should apply?

Anyone who thinks the habits list and schedule sound awesome, and who wants to internalize these skills through systematic, structured practice in the company of talented friends and practiced teachers. Anyone wants to infuse epistemic rationality and instrumental agency into their habits, concepts, and actions. Anyone who wants to join a community of smart, practical folk refining more effective thinking patterns.

And please recommend this workshop to any ambitious, analytic friends.

Who shouldn’t attend?

These two workshops won’t be suited for everyone. You probably shouldn’t attend if:

1. You care a lot about professional polish. (One person left early from the last camp; he said his main disappointment was that he expected an organized operation with suits.)

2. You hate being near people. (Participants live on site, often in shared rooms, to facilitate conversations and community; room and board is included. Many report learning more from the informal conversations in the evening than from the sessions—the sessions are set up to provoke conversation, and the group is chosen to help each other think and change.)

3. You don’t want to try anything that hasn’t been tested in scientific studies. (We aim ultimately to have a curriculum that has been carefully tested. We randomized admissions to June minicamp so that we can track the June mini campers vs. a set of matched controls, and we’ll do similar studies going forward. But for the moment, the academic literature just doesn’t have enough work on debiasing for the peer-reviewed interventions to form a curriculum, and where previous experiments leave off, we’re running on science-literate priors, informal experimentation, and plural anecdote—which is to say, informed guesswork.)

4. You need a finished product. (We’re still developing our curriculum and you’ll be a live test, though not the first live test. On the upside, alumni already find it highly useful (see below), and you get to leave your stamp in the curriculum as it grows. You’ll be participating in something raw and alive.)

Who shouldn’t not-apply?

Following Paul Graham, I’ll conclude with some reasons not to not-apply.

One reason not to not-apply is that you’d need financial aid. If the workshops sound awesome but you can’t afford it, please take ten minutes (preferably now) and fill out our application form anyway. We will give out some partial scholarships. And even if you don’t get one, what’s the cost? You’ll have a 15-minute interesting conversation (our interviews), and we may get a chance to revisit your application in the future, when we have more sources of financial aid.

Similarly, if the workshops sound awesome but you’re afraid you won’t get in, do apply. (Even if you applied to a previous workshop and didn’t get in.) The application is quick and interesting, and what do you have to lose?

Another reason not to not-apply is that you already have a long list of habits to work on. Sometimes people think that because they already have a stack of productivity books to read, or habits that ought to help but which they’ve yet to implement, they shouldn’t come to the workshop—why add yet more habits to their “to implement” list? But this workshop will teach skills and provide social support for habit formation—we expect to substantially speed your progress through your existing “to learn” list. Plus, discover the wonders of arithmetic for estimating which habit-shifts will help most—you’ll be surprised at the surprisingness of some numerical answers.

Finally, if you’d be happy to pay for workshops that are what we say these are, but you don’t quite trust us—there’s a money-back guarantee; we’re willing to bet that this will boost your earning power and/​or well-being by far more than the cost. We’ve followed through on this before, and accept that as a cost of doing business. If you’re not certain of the benefit, do apply—we’re willing to take on the risk ourselves.

Further information:

For more info about the workshops, check out:

Workshop application form here (takes at most 10 minutes; productivity heuristics say you should do such small tasks immediately).

[1] If you’d like help talking to your company about subsidizing your workshop attendance, send me an email: anna at appliedrationality dot org.

[2] Wondering whether to attend these workshops or wait for a LWer-specific workshop? The answer depends partly on which timing works well for you (the sooner you come, the sooner you can start changing things), and partly on who you want to hang out with. Want to discuss quantum mechanics and the simulation argument? An LW-specific workshop may bring more of a sense of homecoming for those who loved the Sequences. The January and March workshops will duplicate the audience mix of the November entrepreneurial workshop, which had better social and productivity skills and better practical advice.

[!] Bonus footnote: We may be hiring another teacher /​ curriculum developer. If you’re interested, do apply. Please apply even if I already know you. Job application here.