Summary: We outline the case for CFAR, including:
CFAR is in the middle of our annual matching fundraiser right now. If you’ve been thinking of donating to CFAR, now is the best time to decide for probably at least half a year. Donations up to $150,000 will be matched until January 31st; and Matt Wage, who is matching the last $50,000 of donations, has vowed not to donate unless matched.
Our workshops are cash-flow positive, and subsidize our basic operations (you are not subsidizing workshop attendees). But we can’t yet run workshops often enough to fully cover our core operations. We also need to do more formal experiments, and we want to create free and low-cost curriculum with far broader reach than the current workshops. Donations are needed to keep the lights on at CFAR, fund free programs like the Summer Program on Applied Rationality and Cognition, and let us do new and interesting things in 2014 (see below, at length).
CFAR’s long-term goal is to create people who can and will solve important problems—whatever the important problems turn out to be.
We therefore aim to create a community with three key properties:
Competence—The ability to get things done in the real world. For example, the ability to work hard, follow through on plans, push past your fears, navigate social situations, organize teams of people, start and run successful businesses, etc.
Epistemic rationality—The ability to form relatively accurate beliefs. Especially the ability to form such beliefs in cases where data is limited, motivated cognition is tempting, or the conventional wisdom is incorrect.
Do-gooding—A desire to make the world better for all its people; the tendency to jump in and start/assist projects that might help (whether by labor or by donation); and ambition in keeping an eye out for projects that might help a lot and not just a little.
How can we create a community with high levels of competence, epistemic rationality, and do-gooding? By creating curricula that teach (or enhance) these properties; by seeding the community with diverse competencies and diverse perspectives on how to do good; and by linking people together into the right kind of community.
Progress to date
College courses: We helped develop a course on rational thinking—for UC Berkeley undergraduates, in partnership with Nobel Laureate Saul Perlmutter. We also brought several high school and university instructors to our workshop, to help seed early experimentation into their curricula.
Increasing visibility: We’ve been working on increasing our visibility among the general public, with alumni James Miller and Tim Czech both working on non-fiction books that feature CFAR, and several mainstream media articles about CFAR on their way, including one forthcoming shortly in the Wall Street Journal.
Progress to date
A two-day “Epistemic Rationality and EA” mini-workshop in January, targeted at alumni
An alumni reunion this summer (which will be a multi-day event drawing folks our entire worldwide alumni community, unlike the alumni parties at each workshop);
An alumni directory, as an attempt to increase business and philanthropic partnerships among alumni.
About $7k for our office space
About $3k for miscellaneous expenses
About $30k for salary & wages, going forward
We have five full-time people on salary, each getting $3.5k per month gross. The employer portion of taxes adds roughly an additional $1k/month per employee.
The remaining $7k or so goes to hourly employees and contractors. We have two roughly full-time hourly employees, and a few contractors who do website adjustment and maintenance, workbook compilation for a workshop, and similarly targeted tasks.
Savings and debt
Our main goals in 2014:
Building a scalable revenue base, including via ramping up our workshop quality, workshop variety, and our marketing reach.
Community-building, including an alumni reunion.
Creating more connections with the effective altruism community, and other opportunities for our alumni to get involved in do-gooding.
Research to feed back into our curriculum—on the effectiveness of particular rationality techniques, as well as the long-term impact of rationality training on meaningful life outcomes.
Developing more classes on epistemic rationality.