Lightcone Infrastructure is looking for funding and are working on the following projects: 

  • We run LessWrong, the AI Alignment Forum, and have written a lot of the code behind the Effective Altruism Forum.
  • During 2022 and early 2023 we ran the Lightcone Offices, and are now building out a campus at the Rose Garden Inn in Berkeley, where we've been doing repairs and renovations for the past few months.
  • We've also been substantially involved in the Survival and Flourishing Fund's S-Process (having written the app that runs the process) and are now running Lightspeed Grants.
  • We also pursue a wide range of other smaller projects in the space of "community infrastructure" and "community crisis management". This includes running events, investigating harm caused by community institutions and actors, supporting programs like SERI MATS, and maintaining various small pieces of software infrastructure. 

If you are interested in funding us, please shoot me an email at habryka@lesswrong.com (or if you want to give smaller amounts, you can donate directly via PayPal here). 

Funding is quite tight since the collapse of FTX, and I do think we work on projects that have a decent chance of reducing existential risk and generally making humanity's future go a lot better, though this kind of stuff sure is hard to tell. We are looking to raise around $3M to $6M for our operations in the next 12 months. [1]

Edit (June 23): I've now given a lot more details on how we operate and what we work on in the comments. I would recommend checking them out if you want to more context on our work.

  1. ^

    Two draft readers of this post expressed confusion that Lightcone needs money, given that we just announced a funding process that is promising to give away $5M in the next two months. The answer to that is that we do not own the money moved via Lightspeed Grants and are only providing grant recommendations to Jaan Tallinn and other funders.

    We do separately apply for funding from the Survival and Flourishing Fund, through which Jaan has been our second biggest funder. We also continue to actively fundraise from both SFF and Open Philanthropy (our largest funder).

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Are you happy to share a rough breakdown for what you plan to spend the $3-6M?

I wrote a bunch of comments over on the LessWrong side going into detail on various aspects of our plans for the future, including spending plans, so probably good to check those out (e.g. this comment). 

To give a very rough high-level overview over how I expect this money to be spent: 

  • ~$1.7M for interest payments and Rose Garden Inn upkeep, which includes running an office space, hosting a lot of events, running a lot of events ourselves, and providing space for visiting scholars to sleep and work
  • ~$1.5M for core salaries. We are likely to reshuffle our internal team structure a bit, but at least right now around 50% of those salaries go to the LessWrong team, and the other half goes to the campus team. I expect we will probably focus more on online things in the next year, so assume that more of that will go into things like developing LessWrong and the AI Alignment Forum.
  • $0 - $4M in FTX clawbacks. We sure got a bunch of money from FTX and at some point the creditors will probably come asking for it. I currently think we morally owe back around $1.5M, though there is some messy game theory here that makes me a bit more confused about that number, and legally it's very unclear how much we owe back.
  • $500k on some projects in the reference class of printing LessWrong books, running a big AI Alignment conference, paying research prizes, paying for whistleblowers and investigations into potential bad actors in AI Alignment/EA/Rationality/X-Risk. I don't have super specific plans here, it's just on the order of what we've spent in the past on some set of projects like this.

I currently think we morally owe back around $1.5M

This might be morally accurate, but perhaps you shouldn't be saying it online in case it emboldens people to sue you looking to claw back lots of money related to this case? I'm wondering if there's a group of attorneys analogous to ambulance-chasers but for the FTX scandal.

Yeah, I thought about my policy here for a few hours and talked to some of the relevant stakeholders about the tradeoffs here (like our fiscal sponsor CFAR) and made a conscious decision to talk about this specific thing. 

I currently think the incentives don't really change that much, and I am willing to not pay that money back if someone is trying to do something extortive, though yeah, even the game theory of talking about this stuff feels kind of messy and makes me sad.

I appreciate Lightcone's willingness to mention its potential legal and ethical clawback exposure to prospective donors. (At the same time, I recognize there could potentially be valid reasons for other organizations not to do so in certain circumstances.) 

running a big AI Alignment conference

Would you like the domain aisafety.global for this? It's one of the ones I collected on ea.domains which I'm hoping someone will make use of one day.

Possibly! I'll reach out if our plans for this ever materialize, I was mostly just trying to give an example of a thing we've considered.

Hi Habryka,

I do think we work on projects that have a decent chance of reducing existential risk and generally making humanity's future go a lot better, though this kind of stuff sure is hard to tell.

Is there any impact/cost-effectiveness analysis of your past work one can check?

What's the counterfactual impact of that $3-6M? Would you have to cut some of the activities you mentioned without it? Is this money to expand to be activities? Something else?

What's the counterfactual impact of that $3-6M? Would you have to cut some of the activities you mentioned without it? Is this money to expand to be activities? Something else?

At least this year, this is quite hard to answer, because really the majority of this money would go to paying off things like interest on our loan, and not-going-bankrupt when the FTX creditors start knocking.

If we end up with a very substantial funding shortfall, my guess is this would mostly cause us to focus on renting out the Rose Garden Inn more to somehow make enough funds to cover our obligations. In the worst case we would default on our loan and sell the Rose Garden Inn property, though that would be a pretty protracted affair that would really hurt. 

It does really feel a bit like this year marginal funding is more directly funging against something like "probability of the continued existence of Lightcone Infrastructure at all" instead of some specific programs, because of the way our liabilities are structured and past commitments we've made.

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