Co-found an incubator for independent AI Safety researchers (applications closed)

Full-time, remote


Deadline: Thursday, June 8th (in your timezone) → APPLICATIONS CLOSED

If your ideal job would be leading an impact-driven organization, being your own boss and pushing for a safer future with AI, you might be a great fit for co-founding Catalyze Impact!

Below, you will find out more about Catalyze’s mission and focus, why co-founding this org would be high-impact, how to tell if you’re a good fit, and how to apply.

In short, Catalyze will 1) help people become independent technical AI Safety researchers, and 2) deliver key support to independent AI Safety researchers so they can do their best work.

Would highly appreciate it if you could share this message with people who you think might potentially be interested in this role and upvote this post if you think more people should see it so we can find the best potential co-founder for this.

You can ask questions, register interest to potentially fund us, work with us, make use of our services in the future and share information here.

Why support independent AI Safety researchers?

Lots of people want to do AI Safety (AIS) research and are trying to get in a position where they can, yet only around 100-300 people worldwide are actually doing research in this crucial area. Why? Because there are almost no AIS researcher jobs available due to AIS research organizations facing difficult constraints to scaling up. Luckily there is another way to grow the research field: having more people do independent research (where a self-employed individual gets a grant, usually from a fund).

There is, however, a key problem: becoming and being a good independent AIS researcher is currently very difficult. It requires a lot of qualities which have nothing to do with being able to do good research: you have to be proactive, pragmatic, social, good enough at fundraising, very good at self-management and willing to take major career risks. Catalyze Impact will take away a large part of the difficulties that come with being an independent researcher, thereby making it a suitable option for more people so they are empowered to do good AIS research.

How will we help?

This is the current design of the pilot—but you will help shape this further!

1. Fundraising support

→ help promising individuals get funded to do research

2. Peer support networks & mentor-matching

→ get feedback, receive mentorship, find collaborators, brainstorm and stay motivated rather than falling into isolation

3. Accountability and coaching

→ have structure, stay motivated and productive

4. Fiscal sponsorship: hiring funded independent researchers as ‘employees’

→ take away operational tasks which distract from research & help them build better career capital through institutional affiliation

In what ways would this be impactful?

Alleviating a bottleneck for scaling the AIS research field by making independent research suitable for more people: it seems that we need a lot more people to be working on solving alignment. However, talented individuals who have invested in upskilling themselves to go do AIS research (e.g. SERI MATS graduates) are largely unable to secure research positions. This is oftentimes not because they are not capable enough of doing the research, but because there are simply too few positions available (see footnote). Because of this, many of these talented individuals are left with a few sub-optimal options:

1) try to do research/​a PhD in a different academic field in hopes that it will make them a better AIS researcher in the future

2) take a job working on AI capabilities (!)

3) try to become an independent AIS researcher

For many people, independent research (i.e. without this incubator) is not a good & viable option because being an independent researcher brings a lot of difficulties with it and arranging to be one requires specific skills. This drives these potential AIS researchers out of the field, delays or decreases their impact, and/​or may even incentivize them to work on capabilities research instead—instead of contributing to AI Safety research.

Other ways in which this incubator could be impactful include:

• Increasing independent researchers’ productivity by offering them helpful services and centralizing certain operational tasks.

• Helping potential independent researchers get to work sooner by reducing the friction around fundraising.

Increasing the number of research bets: additional independent research might increase the number of research directions being pursued. After all, as independent researchers individuals have more agency over deciding which research agendas to pursue. Pursuing more research bets could be very beneficial in this pre-paradigmatic field.

Improving alignment research orgs’ applicant pool: independent researchers supported by us will arguably gain better research experience than they would through the alternative options they have. This could make alignment research organizations’ applicant pool more skilled, leading to better hires for them in the future.

Note: it seems unlikely that people will not apply for roles at/​start research organizations because independent research becomes too appealing due to Catalyze’s help. However, we will keep an out for this to make sure we will not have this effect.

Why you might want to found a non-profit

  • Have a big positive impact: future developments in AI will probably influence every other problem in the world. However, trying to steer towards a future where we can use this technology for good & evading some terrifying x- or s-risk scenarios is crucial for this. Supporting others who are figuring out how to do this & enabling them to do this research is therefore potentially super high-leverage, especially when you focus on alleviating a bottleneck.

  • Personal development: charity entrepreneurship constantly pushes you to grow. Every day presents fresh challenges and opportunities to improve.

  • Autonomy: you are not forced to follow ineffective courses of action just because your manager insists on it. You have the ability to decide and steer what you are working on.

  • Career capital: gain experience in entrepreneurship, leadership, recruiting, negotiation, marketing, decision-making, communication, management, and much more. No matter what you will do in the future, a lot of the new things you learn will be transferable to other roles.

  • Flexible work schedule: whether you are an early bird or a night owl, you can tailor your work schedule to suit your preferences or move your weekend days around.

  • Varied work: one day you will be talking to customers, another day you will be fundraising, interviewing potential employees or strategizing about how to maximize our impact.

  • Purposeful work: Numerous jobs feel trivial, like being a small part of a massive system designed to sell consumer goods. But as a charity founder, you have the chance to prioritize what you believe in.

  • Pride and fulfillment: show yourself that you can build something great from the ground up.

  • No unnecessary internal bureaucracy: you’re making the rules.

  • Pick your colleagues: as one of the founders, you get to influence hiring decisions. Who you work with will strongly influence how much you enjoy the work you are doing.

  • Tangible impact: while the biggest chunk of your impact in assisting the AIS research field will be indirect (and not as tangible), you will also have a direct effect on the individuals you will help do their work better. Observing this first-hand will make this job extra gratifying.

About you

It’s a plus but not a prerequisite for you to have experience in (charity) entrepreneurship, working at a start-up, EA/​AIS organization, or any other somewhat relevant working experience. Above all, you largely recognize yourself in the following description:

  • You’re entrepreneurial & action-oriented: you find that thinking through your actions is important, but you are also excited to actually make things happen!

  • You deeply care about improving the world: it is easy to get off course so when you are steering the ship you need to be altruistic and truly care about maximizing your impact.

  • Optimizing is your thing: you’re always coming up with better ways to do things—from loading the dishwasher to changing the world.

  • You like challenging yourself: you’re not looking for a simple life but for one full of interesting puzzles to solve that push you to grow and achieve results.

  • You’re proactive: you don’t wait for others’ permission, you will undertake or solve something when you think it is important and someone should do it.

  • You’re very conscientious. You are organized and good at meeting deadlines. You may also like spreadsheets so much that your friends think you may get married to one at some point.

  • You can juggle several priorities at once: you enjoy the challenge of having many things going on at the same time and being able to switch between them.

  • You’re emotionally resilient & persistent: when starting an organization you will inevitably have to handle major setbacks, run into problems, and put out fires. If this is very challenging to deal with for you, this role might not be the best fit. You are someone who will change strategies when this is the better thing to do but who will not give up on their goals.

About your co-founder

Your co-founder would be Alexandra Bos, currently based in Amsterdam.

  • Passionate about helping as much as possible to solve the problems in this world. Excited about non-profit entrepreneurship as a way to achieve this. Involved with EA for around 2.5 years.

  • Got to the last round (top ~3%) of Charity Entrepreneurship’s selection process for their past incubation round.

  • Relevant prior experience includes setting up and leading the TEDxLeidenUniversity organizing team for 1.5 years (a now self-sustaining organization).

    • Experience with fundraising, hiring, project management, logistics, coaching, marketing & management (overseeing a team of 16 student organizers)

  • Recent graduate with BsC in Governance, Economics and Development.

  • Main strengths: generalist, mission-driven, strategic, and a creative problem-solver.

  • People-person though with little technical background.

Should you apply?

A general piece of advice: when in doubt, always apply! Don’t let imposter syndrome get the better of you ;)

Candidates with all sorts of backgrounds are welcome to apply and the application should not take too much time.

Salary: dependent on your needs & fundraising outcomes.

Application process

To apply, please fill out this form. If you already have your CV ready, it should take around 10-25 mins to fill out. The second round will consist of an interview, followed by a third round (and possibly a fourth round) where we assess our fit for working together. The whole process should be finished around mid-June.

Application deadline: Thursday, June 8th (in your timezone) - but feel free to apply earlier, it will speed up the process.

You can ask questions, register interest to potentially fund us, work with us, make use of our services in the future and share information here.

Link to this post but in a Google Doc