Email policy: I receive a large number of emails that I cannot always respond to, so I tend prioritize emails coming from a short list of collaborators, and from threads that I have initiated myself. If I do not respond to your message, I apologize.
What I’ve been doing
Since February, 2017 I’ve been a researcher in the field of AI safety at the Center for Human-compatible AI, in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at UC Berkeley. My research aims to identify mathematical issues with the safety of future artificial intelligences… sort of like cybersecurity, but for future, non-human agents. I think the impact of AI on future civilizations is likely to be huge, and I think working to make that impact as positive as possible is a huge opportunity to do good for humanity.
Prior to this, from 2015 to 2017 I was a research fellow at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute in Berkeley, CA. Before that, I worked as a quant / stock trader / data scientist for a financial trading firm in New York City. Before that, in September 2013 I took leave from a mathematics postdoc at the NSF Mathematical Biosciences Institute in Columbus, Ohio, to build and expand the Center for Applied Rationality (CFAR) in Berkeley. And just before that, in May 2013 I finished my PhD in mathematics under Bernd Sturmfels at UC Berkeley, with mentor Shaowei Lin. My thesis research was in algebraic statistics, with applications of algebraic geometry to the study of causal inference and machine learning models. I switched from pure algebraic geometry to algebraic statistics in fall 2011 because machine learning has become so incredibly cool that I just can’t help thinking about it.
Also during my PhD between 2011 and 2012, I cofounded the Center for Applied Rationality in Berkeley, which is now a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit with 7 full-time employees and many volunteers. CFAR runs workshops teaching techniques for rational decision-making and action-taking, on the basis of empirical findings in cognitive science, and of course, data collected from previous workshops. It’s the best education per-dollar I’ve ever seen available, anywhere. Check it out.
“Critch” is not a nickname someone made up by combining words; it’s my real last name, from birth.
Where I’m from and where I’ve been
I was organically grown in a tiny fishing village of about 250 people called Hillview in Newfoundland, Canada, where I learned how to be happy, and I proudly consider Newfoundland English to be my native language. I attended high school in Clarenville, Newfoundland (class of 2004), and went to Memorial University of Newfoundland for my undergrad (class of 2006). Then I started my PhD studying analytic geometry at the University of Toronto, but soon decided that I liked algebraic geometry more, so I got an MSc from Toronto instead (class of 2008), and started a new PhD in algebraic geometry at Berkeley. I moved to Rome in January, 2010, where I was a visiting scholar at Università degli Studi Roma Tre. I moved back to Berkeley in August, 2010, to New York City in April, 2014, and back to Berkeley for a third time in September, 2015… if you noticed a pattern here, you’re right: Berkeley is definitely my favorite place to live so far 🙂