Timeline of Center for Applied Rationality
This is a timeline of Center for Applied Rationality. Center for Applied Rationality (CFAR) is a nonprofit that organizes rationality workshops, with a focus on AI safety and existential risks.
|Time period||Development summary||More details|
|Year||Month and date||Event type||Details|
|2011||"Over the years, Yudkowsky found that people struggled to think clearly about A.I. risk and were often dismissive of it. In 2011, Salamon, who had been working at MIRI since 2008, volunteered to figure out how to overcome that problem."|
|2011 (summer)||A rationality minicamp takes place.|
|2011||July 18||The Articles of Incorporation for CFAR, at the time called the Feynman Foundation, are written. It would be approved on July 26.|
|2011||July 26||CFAR, at the time called the Feynman Foundation, is approved by the US Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.|
|2012||May 8||MIRI's April 2012 progress report is published, in which CFAR's name is announced. Until this point, CFAR was known as the "Rationality Group" or "Rationality Org".|
|2012||May 11–13||A rationality minicamp takes place.|
|2012||June 22–24||A rationality minicamp takes place.|
|2012||July 7||CFAR's Twitter account, CFARnews, is created.|
|2012||July 10||The CFAR Articles of Incorporation are amended to rename the corporation from "Feynman Foundation" to "Center For Applied Rationality".|
|2012||July 21–28||A rationality minicamp takes place.|
|2012||August 6–13||SPARC 2012 takes place. This is the first SPARC.|
|2013||August 5–17||SPARC 2013 takes place.|
|2013||December 28||Annual fundraising post is published on LessWrong making the case for why one should donate to CFAR.|
|2014||August 4–16||SPARC 2014 takes place.|
|2014||October 25–26||As an experimental "beta test", a lower-cost, 1.5-day workshop takes place in the Bay Area.|
|2014||November||First workshops in Europe take place in the UK.|
|2014||December 26||Annual review/fundraising post is published on LessWrong.|
|2015 (?)||The 2015 longitudinal study is published, covering workshops from February 2014 to April 2015.|
|2015||July 1||CFAR is included among the Future of Life Institute's Grant Recommendations for its first round of AI safety grants. The amount recommended is $111,757, for a specialized workshop for "45 of the most promising AI students". The grant would be disbursed on September 1. (Is this the same as the MIRI Summer Fellows program or some other workshop with a name? The FLI grant pages do not say.)|
|2015||July 7–26||The CFAR-run MIRI Summer Fellows program 2015 takes place. This program is apparently "relatively successful at recruiting staff for MIRI".|
|2015||August 4–16||SPARC 2015 takes place.|
|2015||December 23||The annual fundraising and review is posted to LessWrong.|
|2016||January 2||Anna Salamon posts on LessWrong talking about CFAR's mission in a Q&A.|
|2016||May||The Open Philanthropy Project awards a grant of $304,000 over two years to CFAR's Summer Program on Applied Rationality and Cognition (SPARC).|
|2016||July||The Open Philanthropy Project awards a grant of $1,035,000 over two years to CFAR.|
|2016||August 2–14||SPARC 2016 takes place.|
|2016||December 3, 12||A couple of posts are published on LessWrong by Anna Salamon. The posts discuss CFAR's new focus on AI safety.|
|2016||December 10||Possibly the first mention of Convergence is from this day. Anna Salamon describes it as follows: "Julia will be launching a small spinoff organization called Convergence, facilitating double crux conversations between EAs and EA-adjacent people in, e.g., tech and academia. It'll be under the auspices of CFAR for now but will not have opinions on AI."|
|2016||December 14||A Wayback Machine snapshot from this day shows that Julia Galef is listed under the "Convergence project".|
|2016||End of the year||Julia Galef steps down as CFAR president; Anna Salamon takes her place and Pete Michaud takes Salamon's place as executive director. In the same post, Galef announces that she is working on the Update Project, a project whose goal is "to help decisionmakers improve the accuracy of their models, especially as they relate to strategies for having a large positive impact on the world". The Update Project is the new name for the Convergence project. The Update Project receives funding from the Open Philanthropy Project.|
|2017||January||CFAR publishes case studies on its impact on existential risk. The report covers Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI), Future of Life Institute (FLI), and Arbital (an online discussion platform).|
|2017||August 6–17||SPARC 2017 takes place.|
|2017||December 17||CFAR publishes three documents on its website: its 2017 Impact Report, a 2017 Retrospective, and information on its 2017 Fundraiser.|
|2018||January 19||CFAR instructor Michael "Valentine" Smith begins posting about kenshō on LessWrong. He would follow up on the initial post in late February with "The Real-World Omega" and "Mythic Mode". Kenshō hasn't been discussed officially by CFAR (in particular, Valentine's post seems to be made from a personal capacity), but it seems to be one of the things being discussed in person by CFAR people.|
I haven't found numbers for other years, but their home page says 909 workshop alumni on 2017-07-12. The workshop FAQ says "Workshop size varies, but most are around 32 participants. Some are up to 60 participants." So that means maybe around 28 workshops have been conducted in all? It looks like older workshops only had 25 participants, so that could mean up to 36 workshops in all. And there have been at least 20 workshops, from those listed below.
|Year||Number of flagship/main workshops||Sources||Notes|
|2017||8||||5 workshops from February to May; 1 in Seattle in June; 2 "Tier II" workshops in July and December; 1 workshop for MIRI researchers in November; 1 lighter workshop prior to Effective Altruism Global in August|
Meta information on the timeline
How the timeline was built
The initial version of the timeline was written by Issa Rice.
Funding information for this timeline is available.
What the timeline is still missing
- CFAR apparently ran a rationality dojo; any more info on this?
- Timeline should probably mention some co-founders/early people, like Julia Galef, Andrew Critch, and Eliezer Yudkowsky
Timeline update strategy
- Official website
- Donation information and relevant documents list (including reviews of CFAR workshops) recorded on Vipul Naik's donations portal
- Jennifer Kahn (January 14, 2016). "The Happiness Code: A new approach to self-improvement is taking off in Silicon Valley: cold, hard rationality.". The New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
- Anna Salamon (March 29, 2012). "Minicamps on Rationality and Awesomeness: May 11-13, June 22-24, and July 21-28". LessWrong. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
- "Articles of Incorporation Of Feynman Foundation" (PDF). Retrieved July 9, 2017.
- "Center for Applied Rationality Nonprofit IRS Approval" (PDF). Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- Louie Helm (May 8, 2012). "Machine Intelligence Research Institute Progress Report, April 2012". Machine Intelligence Research Institute. Retrieved June 30, 2017.
- "CFAR news (@CFARnews)". Twitter. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
- rrusczyk (April 20, 2012). "Art of Problem Solving Blog : New Free Summer Camp On Math and Rationality". Retrieved July 13, 2017.
SPARC will be held at UC Berkeley from August 6th to 13th and is open to high school students, including rising freshmen and graduating seniors.
- "SPARC | CFAR". Retrieved July 12, 2017.
- "Why CFAR?". LessWrong. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
- "SPARC | Summer Program in Applied Rationality and Cognition". Retrieved July 12, 2017.
- Anna Salamon (October 2, 2014). "Upcoming CFAR events: Lower-cost bay area intro workshop; EU workshops; and others". LessWrong. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
- Anna Salamon (December 26, 2014). "CFAR in 2014: Continuing to climb out of the startup pit, heading toward a full prototype". LessWrong. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
- "2015 Longitudinal Study". Center for Applied Rationality. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- "AI Researcher Anna Salamon - Future of Life Institute". Future of Life Institute. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- "Grants Timeline - Future of Life Institute". Future of Life Institute. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- "New International Grants Program Jump-Starts Research to Ensure AI Remains Beneficial: Press release for FLI grant awardees. - Future of Life Institute". Future of Life Institute. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- "AI Safety Research - Future of Life Institute". Future of Life Institute. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- "MIRI Summer Fellows 2015". CFAR. June 21, 2015. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- Anna Salamon (April 28, 2015). "CFAR-run MIRI Summer Fellows program: July 7-26". LessWrong. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
- "Center for Applied Rationality — General Support". Open Philanthropy Project. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
We have some doubts about CFAR's management and operations, and we see CFAR as having made only limited improvements over the last two years, with the possible exception of running the MIRI Summer Fellows Program in 2015, which we understand to have been relatively successful at recruiting staff for MIRI.
- "SPARC Summer School 2015" (PDF). Retrieved July 12, 2017.
- Pete Michaud (December 23, 2015). "Why CFAR? The view from 2015". LessWrong. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
- "Why CFAR's Mission?". LessWrong. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- "Center for Applied Rationality — SPARC". Open Philanthropy Project. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
- "Center for Applied Rationality — General Support". Open Philanthropy Project. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
- "What is SPARC? | SPARC on WordPress.com". SPARC. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
- "CFAR's new focus, and AI Safety - Less Wrong". LessWrong. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- "Further discussion of CFAR's focus on AI safety, and the good things folks wanted from "cause neutrality" - Less Wrong". LessWrong. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- "AnnaSalamon comments on CFAR's new focus, and AI Safety - Less Wrong". LessWrong. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
- "CFAR Team". Center for Applied Rationality. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
- Julia Galef (February 28, 2017). "Julia Galef - I'm overdue for a career update! Lots of you who...". Retrieved July 28, 2017.
- Julia Galef (March 1, 2017). "The Update Project". Julia Galef. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
- Julia Galef (July 28, 2017). "Comment in reply to Vipul Naik". Retrieved July 28, 2017.
The new name for the convergence project (though the focus has shifted a bit since then, as well)
- Issa Rice (April 2, 2017). "Open Philanthropy Project non-grant funding". Issa Rice. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
- "Case Studies Highlighting CFAR's Impact on Existential Risk". Center for Applied Rationality. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
- "What is SPARC? | SPARC on WordPress.com". SPARC. Archived from the original on June 3, 2017. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
SPARC—the Summer Program on Applied Rationality and Cognition—will be hosted in the San Francisco Bay Area from August 6 – 17, with students arriving the evening of the 6th and leaving the morning of the 17th.
- Michael "Valentine" Smith (January 19, 2018). "Kenshō". LessWrong. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
- "The Real-World Omega". Retrieved February 24, 2018.
- "Mythic Mode". Retrieved February 24, 2018.
- Qiaochu Yuan. "Comment on "Kenshō"". Retrieved February 24, 2018.
It's seemed to me for awhile now that the stuff that people are actually talking about in person (e.g. at CFAR workshops) has far outstripped the pace of what's publicly available in blog post format and I'm really happy to see progress on that front.
- "CFAR 2017 Retrospective". Center for Applied Rationality. Retrieved February 24, 2018.