Finding new support for SIAI Research Fellowship

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Thu Nov 07 2002 - 03:51:06 MST

Brian Atkins wrote:
> Hello all. I'm sorry to announce that due to a long series of personal
> financial issues, Sabine and I will no longer be able to support the
> Singularity Institute materially. We will of course continue
> non-material means of support, including remaining members of the board
> of directors. I do want to stress that this action is taken solely due
> to our finances, and not out of any change in our viewpoint that SIAI is
> well worth helping.
> Just to be clear, this should not affect SIAI's plans, or the donations
> it has accumulated (and continues to accumulate) in its main fund. The
> only effect will be that Eliezer's research fellowship is now going to
> have to find alternate means of funding. Assuming that funding can be
> found then things will continue as before.
> Eliezer will follow up with more information about his own situation.

First, let me reassure everyone that I am not in immediate jeopardy. I do
have some savings stored up, and one of our previous major donors has made
a stopgap contribution to provide another four months (starting in the
month of November) of the Fellowship.

However, I do need to find another source of support for the Research
Fellowship, soon. The previous Fellowship was $24,000/year, but the
Atkins also donated rent-free living space on property they owned. My
guess is that $32,000/year is probably a more realistic estimate of what
would be needed to maintain parity, although $24,000/year would certainly
be a lot better than nothing. (It would be enough to survive on, but
going to conferences and so on would probably be ruled out.)

In the event that I cannot find any source of funding, I will burn savings
to continue working on the Singularity full-time until my savings reach a
danger point. If by that time no new support has been found, I will
attempt to find a job that leaves me enough mental energy to continue to
accomplish at least some work on the Singularity. I would consider this
scenario a failure. There's a difference between knowing you have to try,
and expecting to succeed. The work that needs doing cannot realistically
be done on a part-time basis.

As there is now a specific subproject that needs immediate funding, there
is a better chance than previously of receiving funding from foundations.
  However, the vast majority of big private foundations: (a) have areas of
interest that are too tightly bounded to allow for maverick,
category-defying, ultraleveraged projects like the Singularity Institute;
(b) have funding cycles with very long periodicity, meaning that no
additional funding would come in for many months; (c) are run by
committees whose members are afraid of looking foolish to each other. If
any of you have suggestions for private foundations that are *good*
prospects - not "Gee, it sure would be nice if the Ford Foundation stepped
in, wouldn't it?", but foundations whose grant criteria you have examined
and whose mission actually seems unusually appropriate to the Singularity
Institute - please let me know. An example of what I would consider a
"good prospect" is the Ashoka Foundation. (With respect to Ashoka, please
do not helpfully mess up my chances by flooding them with nominations.
I've already asked someone to consider nominating me if he feels I fit
Ashoka's criteria.)

If you know somewhere I can find lists of comparatively small private
foundations and donor-advised funds - i.e., the sort of grantmakers that
are often controlled by one or two founders who can make fast personal
decisions without answering to others for their actions - please let me
know. A small, fast, flexible foundation seems like the best bet.

Most likely of all is funding from individuals. If you know of an
individual whom you think might be (a) reachable and (b) interested in
funding the Research Fellowship - again avoiding suggestions such as "It
sure would be nice if Bill Gates stepped in, huh?" - then please let me
know, or (if you are a friend or associate) contact this person on your
own initiative.

Please note that, as I am both a Research Fellow and a Director of the
Singularity Institute, only donations specifically released by the donor
to the Fellowship fund can be used for that purpose. This is not a legal
requirement, but it is the voluntary, self-imposed policy of the
Singularity Institute. If you wish a contribution to be used for the
Research Fellowship, please say so.

If you are reading this and you have the resources to support the Research
Fellowship, in whole or in part, on a once-off or continuing basis, please
consider offering your support. The work of the Singularity Institute is
not finished, nor is the work of the Research Fellowship. Even for those
attainable first steps which have already seen substantial progress as the
result of the Research Fellowship - such as building a Singularity
movement, and developing as much specific Friendly AI theory as possible
in advance - a great deal more work yet remains. Please consider the
matter of the Singularity Institute, and humanity's continuing
acceleration toward the Singularity, and the question of Friendly AI, and
decide whether you would like to see further progress made. If you have
the ability to help, then please help.


Eliezer S. Yudkowsky    
(Still a) Research Fellow of the Singularity Institute

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