Why CFAR spreads altruism organically, and why Labs & Core make a great team

Following on “Why scaling slowly has been awesome for CFAR Core”, here are two other questions I’ve gotten repeatedly about CFAR:

Q2: Why isn’t altruism training an explicit part of CFAR’s core workshop curriculum?

A: Because paid CFAR attendees expect help with their goals, only some of which are altruistic.

CFAR’s core workshops charge admission fees (although financial aid packages also exist), and when customers pay for an applied rationality workshop, they’re asking you to help with their existing values, not to change them. So, especially early on, it was much more effective for CFAR to not offend paying customers by “advertising” Effective Altruism (EA), and to instead let EA spread organically between participants… which works well when you’ve already given preferential admissions and financial aid to EA enthusiasts.

The risk of offending folks is probably less now that EA is more popular, and even less in programs where you admit people for free to explicitly recruit them to a new area (e.g. x-risk), which is why CFAR needs more funding to run more free programs.

Q3: SPARC workshops and CFAR Labs seem highly worth supporting, but I can’t really see the reason to continue with CFAR Core and its workshops. Why not put all talent and monetary resources into CFAR Labs?

I would actually highly encourage you to earmark donations to CFAR Labs if you feel that way 🙂

But I think CFAR Core is still very much needed, for two reasons:

(1) CFAR Core is more scalable and provides access to a larger and more diverse talent pool for solving important problems.

CFAR Core’s alumni network has been tremendously useful to date: as a recruitment network for other organizations like MIRI and FHI, as a volunteer base for groups like FLI and AI Impacts, and as a source of rapid solutions to problems like FLI suddenly needing a website (which was created for free by a certain CFAR alum’s very-successful company).

As well, for CFAR’s Labs’ sake, the diverse competencies of CFAR Core workshop attendees will be needed to build effective organizations around the more niche competencies of some researcher / innovator types coming out of CFAR Labs, and having a large social network to draw on for that sort of thing is just a good idea.

(2) In the long term, CFAR Core might be able to fund CFAR Labs.

There do not yet appear to be enough donations to securely sustain CFAR Labs, so CFAR Labs will quite plausibly remain financially dependent on the revenue of CFAR Core unless the donor situation changes. It would be great if big donors can solve the problem, but otherwise, CFAR Core is an important financial contingency.

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