Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 19 September 2018 09:50:09PM 2 points [-]

Will did just give a TED talk.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 20 September 2018 04:10:20PM *  1 point [-]

Yes I saw, and it's great! That's a bit different to what I'm thinking of though, in that TED is more something that people actively seek out/watch.

I'm thinking in terms of pieces that reach millions of passive readers/viewers (i.e. national newspapers and TV). [Context: The EA Hotel has recently been receiving a fair few requests to do pieces of this type].

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 19 September 2018 03:36:45PM *  3 points [-]

The recent survey of the community, showed that the media has played a comparatively small role in getting people involved.

Following David Moss, I'm curious about how much mass media on EA there has actually been? Could it not just be that we are not seeing new EAs as a result of media exposure simply because there has been hardly any of it in the last few years? What are the biggest TV appearances EA has featured in recently?

Given a lack of recent mass media, it's hard to say how many productive new EAs could result from a big mainstream media piece, and in the event they do, how long it would’ve taken for them to hear about EA otherwise. [This speaking about the English-speaking world].

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 09 August 2018 05:37:20PM *  1 point [-]

The website is now up at It's possible to book via the Booking page, and the Wiki has information for guests and an FAQ. People can also book video calls to talk about proposals for free stays working on EA stuff via the Contact page (I have updated the Next Steps section in the OP to reflect this).

Comment author: weeatquince  (EA Profile) 21 June 2018 11:23:30PM 3 points [-]

Greg this is awesome - go you!!! :-D :-D

To provide one extra relevant reference class: I have let EAs stay for free / donations at my place in London to work on EA projects and on the whole was very happy I did so. I think this is worthwhile and there is a need for it (with some caution as to both risky / harmful projects and well intentioned free-riders).

Good luck registering as a CIO - not easy. Get in touch with me if you are having trouble with the Charity Commission. Note: you might need Trustee's that are not going to live for free at the hotel (there's lots of rules against Trustees receiving any direct benefits from their charity).

Also if you think it could be useful for there to be a single room in London for Hotel guests to use for say business or conference attendance then get in touch.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 08 July 2018 08:48:09PM 0 points [-]

Thanks :) Yes I have two independent Trustees now, we're in the process of registering the CIO. Good of you to offer of the London room, will let you know if anyone needs to go to London for (EA) business!

Comment author: Dunja 18 June 2018 10:21:37PM *  2 points [-]

Congrats on such a creative idea and the commitment in wanting to realize it! :) My main worry concerns a very basic premise that seems to underlie the project: that providing an optimal space for individuals to do research is likely to result in efficient and effective research. While conducting online courses may indeed be useful, conducting unguided research is not only hard, but unlikely to lead anywhere concerning effectiveness and efficiency. A junior researcher, without an access to a supervisor who has in-depth knowledge of the given subject domain, is likely to end up tapping in the dark and trying out all kinds of paths that are far from being optimal. This is why the task of a supervisor is so important: one learns which topics to focus on, which gaps in the knowledge should first be filled in, how this should be done, which blind spots are hindering one's research, etc. And that only concerns knowledge acquisition.

Knowledge production is probably even harder: without having an access to guidance concerning how to conduct e.g. empirical research, how to write academic papers, which workshops and conferences are optimal places for receiving critical feedback, which journal would be good for the given paper, etc. - one's own output is likely to remain unknown, unrecognized by the relevant community (academic or EA-related) and hence entirely ineffective.

I am not sure which steps could be taken to tackle these problems. The only solution I currently see is opening the hotel for larger project applications, by experts willing to coordinate the research done in the center, and who would regularly visit the place to guide junior researchers.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 20 June 2018 10:42:55PM 3 points [-]

Remote supervision of research is a possibility, but depends on people with relevant knowledge and experience being available. Peer support from other guests will be available to some extent, especially given the preponderance of people in the movement with postgraduate degrees. However, plenty of research can be self-directed, especially things that are more a case of collating existing knowledge than developing new science (e.g. meta-analyses, review articles, writing books). And the hotel will probably appeal to autodidacts who can plow through published texts and then build on top of them (without much need for explanation additional to what they find in writing).

The hotel is open to hosting research groups, and also conferences and workshops.

Comment author: Dunja 19 June 2018 12:09:17AM *  0 points [-]

Oh I agree that for many ideas to be attractive, they have to gain a promising character. I wouldn't reduce the measure of pursuit worthiness of scientific hypotheses to the evidence of their success though: this measure is rather a matter of prospective values, which have to do with a feasible methodology (how many research paths we have despite current problems and anomalies?). But indeed, sometimes research may proceed simply as tapping in the dark, in spite all the good methodological proposals (as e.g. it might have been the case in the research on protein synthesis in the mid 20th c.).

However, my point was simply the question: does such an investment in future proposals outweigh the investment in other topics, so that it should be funded from an EA budget rather than from existing public funds? Again: I very much encourage such camps. Just not on the account of spending the cash meant for effectively reducing suffering (due to these projects being highly risky and due to the fact that they are already heavily funded by say OpPhil).

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 19 June 2018 12:20:00AM 0 points [-]

My point (and remmelt's) was that public funds would be harder/more time (and resource) consuming to get.

There is currently a gap at the low end (OpenPhil is too big to spend time on funding such small projects).

And Good Ventures/OpenPhil also already fill a lot of the gap in funding programs with track records of effectively reducing suffering.

Comment author: Dunja 18 June 2018 11:14:40PM *  0 points [-]

But this is not about whether academia is on the same page or not; it's about the importance of pushing the results via academic channels because otherwise they won't be recognized by anyone (policy makers especially). Moreover, what I mention above are funding institutions offering the finances of individual projects - assessed in terms of their significance and feasibility. If there is a decent methodology to address the given objectives, even if the issue is controversial, this doesn't mean the project won't be financed. Alternatively, if you actually know of decent project applications that have been rejected, well let's see those and examine whether there is indeed a bias in the field. Finally, why do you think that academia is averse towards risky projects?! Take for instance ERC schemes: they are intentionally designed for high-risk/high-gain project proposals, that are transformative and groundbreaking in character.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 18 June 2018 11:51:27PM 0 points [-]

There is an analogy with speculative investing here I think - for something to be widely regarded as worthwhile investing in (i.e. research funded by mainstream academia) it has to already have evidence of success (e.g. Bitcoin now). By which point it is no longer new and highly promising in terms of expected value (like Bitcoin was in, say, 2011) i.e. it is necesssarily the case that all things very high in (relative) expected value are outside the mainstream.

AGI alignment is gaining more credibility, but it still doesn't seem like it's that accepted in mainstream academia.

Anyway, I think we are probably on a bit of a tangent to what AISC is trying to achieve - namely help new researchers level up (/get a foot in the door in academic research).

Comment author: Dunja 17 June 2018 05:41:14PM *  1 point [-]

I very much understand your hope concerning the AI talent and the promising value of this camp. However, I'd also like to see the objective assessment of effectiveness (as in effective altruism) concerning such research attempts. To do so, you would have to show that such research has a comparatively higher chance of producing something outstanding than the existing academic research. Of course, that needs to be done in view of empirical evidence, which I very much hope you can provide. Otherwise, I don't know what sense of "effective" is still present in the meaning of "effective altruism".

Again: I think these kinds of research camps are great as such, i.e. in view of overall epistemic values. They are as valuable as, say, a logic camp, or a camp in agent-based models. However, I would never argue that a camp in agent-based models should be financed by EA funds unless I have empirically grounded reasons that such a research can contribute to effective charity and prevention of possible dangers better than the existing academic research can.

As for the talent search, you seem to assume that academic institutions cannot uncover such talents. I don't know where you get this evidence from, but PhD grants across EU, for instance, are precisely geared towards such talents. Why would talented individuals not apply for those? And where do you get the idea that the topic of AI safety won't be funded by, say, Belgian FWO or German DFG? Again, you would need to provide empirical reasons that such systematic bias against projects on these topics exists.

Finally, if the EA community wants to fund reliable project initiators for the topic of AI safety, why not make an open call for experts in the field to apply with project proposals and form the teams who can immediately execute these projects within the existing academic institutions? Where is this fear of academia coming from? Why would a camp like this be more streamlined than an expert proposal, where a PI of the given project employs the junior researchers and systematically guides them in the given research? In all other aspects of EA this is precisely how we wish to proceed (think of medical research).

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 18 June 2018 11:09:49PM 0 points [-]

For more on the thinking behind streamlined non-mainstream funding, see

I don't think academia is yet on the same page as EA with regard to AI Safety, but may well be soon hopefully (with credibility coming from the likes of Stuart Russell and Max Tegmark).

Comment author: Denkenberger 18 June 2018 04:15:13AM 0 points [-]

This says 20% of EA is vegan or vegetarian, so I would guess less than 10% vegan. Granted, the hard core EAs you are attracting may be more likely vegan, and you are lowering the barrier if someone else is reading labels and is hopefully a good cook. But I still think you are really limiting your pool by having all meals vegan. I understand you want to be frugal, and vegan from scratch is cheaper, but animal product substitutes are generally more expensive than animal products.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 18 June 2018 02:14:29PM 8 points [-]

I've not yet had anyone say it's a dealbreaker (and of course people are allowed to buy meat from takeaways - or microwaveable burgers etc - with their spending money if they are really craving it..). Whilst frugality comes into it, the main reason for the all vegan catering is ethics.

Also, I'd put money on the 2018 survey coming out with higher numbers for veg*anism :)

Comment author: Khorton 11 June 2018 05:17:40PM *  4 points [-]

"In many ways this won’t be a typical hotel (non-profit, longer term stays, self-service breakfast and lunch, simplified dinner menu, weekly linen/towel changes, EA evening events etc), so I’m not sure how much prior hotel experience is relevant. Really anyone who is a reasonably skilled generalist, passionate about the project, and friendly should be able to do it."

I think this is where we disagree. It's taken me years to develop the (rather basic) domestic skills I have. I think it would be quite a challenge for someone like me, who can competently manage a household, to competently manage a hotel with 17 people. For example, when I organized EA London's weekend retreat and oversaw the housing, cooking and cleaning for 25 people, it was really hard and I made some significant mistakes.

This worries me because a large majority of the EAs I meet in London are worse at cooking/cleaning/household management than I am. If I'm not currently capable of the task, and most EAs are less capable than I am, then I wonder who CAN do the job.

There are a couple of things I might be wrong about: maybe people are better at domestic tasks outside of London, or maybe there are one or two exceptional candidates (and that's really all it takes!). But based on my experience, I really don't think "anyone who is a reasonably skilled generalist, passionate about the project, and friendly should be able to do it" - or at least, not to a high standard, not right away.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 12 June 2018 01:36:48PM 0 points [-]

when I organized EA London's weekend retreat and oversaw the housing, cooking and cleaning for 25 people, it was really hard and I made some significant mistakes.

Would be interested to hear more details about this (fine to PM).

Also, it's unlikely to be 17 guests all at once to start with, things are ramping up gradually so far (have a few people booked in over the next few weeks), so the learning curve should be relatively gentle.

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