[sl4] Call for new SIAI Visiting Fellows

From: Thomas McCabe (pphysics141@gmail.com)
Date: Tue Dec 01 2009 - 22:16:57 MST

By Anna Salamon, posted to

Last summer, 15 Less Wrongers, under the auspices of SIAI, gathered in
a big house in Santa Clara (in the SF bay area), with whiteboards,
existential risk-reducing projects, and the ambition to learn and do.

Now, the new and better version has arrived. We’re taking folks on a
rolling basis to come join in our projects, learn and strategize with
us, and consider long term life paths. Working with this crowd
transformed my world; it felt like I was learning to think. I
wouldn’t be surprised if it can transform yours.

A representative sample of current projects:

    * Research and writing on decision theory, anthropic inference,
and other non-dangerous aspects of the foundations of AI;
    * The Peter Platzer Popular Book Planning Project;
    * Editing and publicizing theuncertainfuture.com;
    * Improving the LW wiki, and/or writing good LW posts;
    * Getting good popular writing and videos on the web, of sorts
that improve AI risks understanding for key groups;
    * Writing academic conference/journal papers to seed academic
literatures on questions around AI risks (e.g., takeoff speed,
economics of AI software engineering, genie problems, what kinds of
goal systems can easily arise and what portion of such goal systems
would be foreign to human values; theoretical compsci knowledge would
be helpful for many of these questions).

Interested, but not sure whether to apply?

Past experience indicates that more than one brilliant, capable person
refrained from contacting SIAI, because they weren’t sure they were
“good enough”. That kind of timidity destroys the world, by failing
to save it. So if that’s your situation, send us an email. Let us be
the one to say “no”. Glancing at an extra application is cheap, and
losing out on a capable applicant is expensive.

And if you’re seriously interested in risk reduction but at a later
time, or in another capacity -- send us an email anyway. Coordinated
groups accomplish more than uncoordinated groups; and if you care
about risk reduction, we want to know.

What we’re looking for

At bottom, we’re looking for anyone who:

    * Is capable (strong ability to get things done);
    * Seriously aspires to rationality; and
    * Is passionate about reducing existential risk.

Bonus points for any (you don’t need them all) of the following traits:

    * Experience with management, for example in a position of
responsibility in a large organization;
    * Good interpersonal and social skills;
    * Extraversion, or interest in other people, and in forming strong
    * Dazzling brilliance at math or philosophy;
    * A history of successful academic paper-writing; strategic
understanding of journal submission processes, grant application
processes, etc.
    * Strong general knowledge of science or social science, and the
ability to read rapidly and/or to quickly pick up new fields;
    * Great writing skills and/or marketing skills;
    * Organization, strong ability to keep projects going without much
supervision, and the ability to get mundane stuff done in a reliable
    * Skill at implementing (non-AI) software projects, such as web
apps for interactive technological forecasting, rapidly and reliably;
    * Web programming skill, or website design skill;
    * Legal background;
    * A history of successfully pulling off large projects or events;
    * Unusual competence of some other sort, in some domain we need,
but haven’t realized we need.
    * Cognitive diversity: any respect in which you're different from
the typical LW-er, and in which you're more likely than average to
notice something we're missing.

If you think this might be you, send a quick email to
anna@intelligence.org. Include:

   1. Why you’re interested;
   2. What particular skills you would bring, and what evidence makes
you think you have those skills (you might include a standard resume
or c.v.);
   3. Optionally, any ideas you have for what sorts of projects you
might like to be involved in, or how your skillset could help us
improve humanity’s long-term odds.

Our application process is fairly informal, so send us a quick email
as initial inquiry and we can decide whether or not to follow up with
more application components.

As to logistics: we cover room, board, and, if you need it, airfare,
but no other stipend.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

 - Tom McCabe
Department of Mathematics
Yale University

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