CFAR’s Inaugural Fundraising Drive
The inaugural fundraiser for the Center for Applied Rationality is now over, meeting its target of $83,000. Thanks to the generous pledges of several donors*, every donation to CFAR through the end of January 2013 was matched dollar-for-dollar, helping us raise over $166,000.
A letter from the President:
Almost one year ago, Anna, Michael and I (Julia) joined forces to create CFAR, out of a shared conviction that rational thinking skills can help people dramatically improve their lives and have large positive impacts on the world.
A new organization requires a great deal of support and hard work in order to become stable and self-sustaining, and to grow and thrive. CFAR has been fortunate to be founded among a community of people who are passionate about rationality and eager to get involved. With your help, this coming year we’ll be able to multiply our impact many times over.
What we’ve done in our first year:
- Through months of literature review, development, testing, and iteration, we have created over 60 hours of workshop curriculum. Our classes are built around interactive exercises that train key rationality habits (such as the habits in this checklist).
- Starting in May, we ran three highly rated 3-day and 7-day workshops for rationality enthusiasts who are part of the Less Wrong community.
- In August, we ran the Summer Program on Applied Rationality and Cognition (SPARC), a week-long program for 25 top performers in national math and science competitions. SPARC combines theoretical discussion of the foundations of probability theory, game theory, and artificial intelligence with the practical rationality techniques from our other programs.
- This fall, we adapted our curriculum for a broader set of ambitious, analytic people — including those outside the Less Wrong community. We debuted our new curriculum in a November workshop for entrepreneurs, and have two more workshops scheduled for early 2013.
- We are assessing our workshops based on their impact on participants’ lives. Our June workshop incorporated a randomized controlled trial measuring the long-term effects on participants’ thinking and life outcomes. Our November workshop includes six weeks of regular one-on-one followup, to help workshop participants apply rationality skills in their daily lives and to give us a more detailed picture of this process.
- With the help of volunteer software developers, we created the Credence Game, a game which trains people to make probability estimates that reflect the likelihood that their predictions are accurate.
- We added three of the top academic researchers on human rationality to our board of advisors: Keith Stanovich, Baruch Fischhoff, and Paul Slovic.
- We were invited by Nobel laureate physicist Saul Perlmutter to help design an undergraduate course on rationality at UC Berkeley, which will debut this spring.
Meanwhile, the network of amazing people who want to take an active role in improving human rationality has been growing by the week. We’ve been delighted and humbled by the hundreds of students, programmers, scientists, entrepreneurs, teachers, and more, who have volunteered their help and shared their own “homegrown” applied rationality techniques. One person uses thought experiments to check themselves for bias; another has tricks for staying calm and objective in arguments; someone else has a great method of getting rational habits to stick. In the spirit of empiricism, we’ve been testing out as many promising ideas as possible, collecting data on which approaches work best for other people, and collectively creating the best applied rationality possible.
What we’ll do next, with your help:
- We’ll continue to expand and refine our curriculum, exchanging ideas with the broader community, testing things out to see what works, and advancing the state of the art of rationality training.
- We’ll run more frequent workshops, for a wider range of participants, building on the core curriculum and logistical experience that we have developed.
- We’ll help the growing rationality community continue to expand and stay connected as it does, swapping tips and helping out with each other’s goals.
- We’ll run the second annual SPARC program this August, training some of the country’s brightest high school students (and future top scientists) in rationality.
With additional help, we can also:
- Hire additional curriculum developers and teachers, to accelerate the process of developing, testing, and refining rationality techniques and ways of teaching them.
- Create free online videos, training materials, and courses, to provide rationality training for a much wider audience.
- Target more of our classes at talented people who want to use rationality to help the world in high-impact ways, by offering scholarships or specialized workshops (for example, training exceptional secondary school teachers to teach rationality to their students).
We hope you’ll help this exciting project move forward. Our inaugural fundraiser comes at a pivotal time for CFAR, and your contribution — especially doubled during this matching drive! — will have a powerful impact on our ability to create a rational future.
Thank you, and happy holidays,
President of the Center for Applied Rationality
* $83,000 of total matching funds has been generously pledged by Peter McCluskey, Dropbox, Thomas Campbell-Jackson, Marcello Herreshoff, Jeremy Schlatter, Emil Gilliam, Moshe Looks, Maksym Taran, Nick Tarleton, David Manners-Weber, Zachary Vance, and Greg Stikeleather.
The Center for Applied Rationality is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Make a donation today!
Questions? We’d love to talk — contact CFAR’s president, Julia Galef, to set up a short Skype conversation about CFAR, what we’re trying to accomplish, where money goes, volunteer opportunities, and related questions.