LessWrong readers are invited to apply to the Lurkshop

Summary: We’re running a free retreat for LessWrong users (lurkers) who aren’t yet working on existential risk mitigation but might be interested, in the hopes of catalyzing some of them into people who are. It’s called the Lurkshop. Apply here by December 1st, ideally sooner! If you refer a friend and we accept them, we’ll give you $100. We cover all costs, including flights. Please apply even if you don’t think you have skills that seem directly relevant to reducing x-risk!


Do you read LessWrong?


Are you doing anything about the dire existential warnings you’re hearing about?

(Probably not!)

If you want to be, we’re offering an all-expenses paid workshop, Dec 16 (noon) to Dec 18 (10pm) in Berkeley, CA to come meet community members, talk with each other, and otherwise engage with the main plot of the world. If this goes well we might offer more programs like this, so please apply even if the dates don’t work well for you and we might invite you to those future programs!

What? Why?

LessWrong is one of the places in the world where words mean things and people think openly about the hardest problems facing the world, and we’d like to get to know the people who read it a bit better and help them make progress on the world’s problems.

The rationality community mostly exists on online forums. Forums are great, but it’s really hard to replicate some important aspects of in-person conversations.

  • You can have different kinds of interactions and conversations in face-to-face interactions, which are useful for building trust, context, and deeper relationships

    • It’s helpful to be able to have conversations that aren’t mostly in public. There’s a lot that people want to talk about that’s sensitive or personal or private

    • It’s helpful to be able to have long conversations with lots of context that are laser focused on you and your situation

    • You probably can’t find a cofounder just by writing LessWrong comments.

  • Forums make the community feel remote and actions feel impossible

    • The rationality community is not some distant mythical group—it’s a bunch of people!

    • Many people quite like you are doing big ambitious risky projects, and seeing that helps people realize they can do those kinds of projects too

    • There really isn’t someone on top of all the important stuff. Come see for yourself how disorganized and incompetent everyone is!

Notably, this retreat probably won’t be a great way to

  • Learn a bunch of deep rationality stuff (or to learn other stuff)

    • We might have some cool talks, but mostly for tone setting, etc.

  • Get you plugged into some kind of exclusive in-group

  • Purely have fun and chill

    • Look, we’re not against fun

    • But the organizers have a mission, and it is to lash you together into an engine of grit and spite, with which we might kill the machine god.

Um, so what, concretely, will happen?

Update: We’ve put together a tentative schedule for the workshop; we will adapt it based on what participants find useful.

We will likely run some of the following:

  • Sessions on How To Actually Do Things

    • How do you go from an idea for a project, to getting funding and setting up a corporation? Which sounds hard, but isn’t?

    • And then how do you make the thing actually happen, which sounds easy, but isn’t?

  • LessWrong post writing day

  • Co-founder speed-dating

  • Someone Talks You Through How You Could Maybe Do More Useful Things With Your Life

  • Lightning talks

  • One-on-ones

  • Attending winter solstice (ETA: if there’s still space)

Who should apply?

If you like the kinds of ideas explored on LessWrong, you should apply. It’s ok if you haven’t read a ton of the material yet, though we suspect this workshop will be most useful for those who have read many of the Sequences already. What we’re looking for in the application is mostly intellectual vibrancy, agency, and the ability to build your own models of the world, more than familiarity with the community. Please apply even if you don’t think you have skills that seem directly relevant to reducing x-risk!

Isn’t this a little last-minute?

Yep. But spinning it up immediately seemed better than waiting awhile. If this one goes well, we’ll run more in the future, so even if that is too soon please still fill in the form and select the option to let us know that you’re interested in future events!

Who is running this?

We’re running this with the blessing of and input from the LessWrong team, and many of them will be visiting during the retreat, but it’s not principally organized by them. You can see the organizers here.

ETA: The workshop is funded by the Atlas Fellowship, which is funded by Open Philanthropy. It’s a side-hustle of Atlas, outside of the scope and brand of the organization, and run by a subset of our team and some external collaborators. We have a fair amount of experience running different kinds of workshops, and are experimenting with what programs targeted at other demographic and niches might look like.

Apply here by December 1st, ideally sooner!