Founder @ Existential Risk Alliance (ERA) | ERA Fellowship | Cambridge Existential Risks Initiative (CERI)
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Insights of an ERA: Impactful Existential Risk Research & Talent Development


Topic contributions

A quick comment on the 2022 application: we did think about the tradeoffs between short vs long applications, and considering our target audience, we decided to create an application which not only helped us assess the applicants, but also helped them explore the research field and organise their thoughts around existential risks. Several applicants commented that they learnt something about existential risks from completing our application, and we think there was atleast some level of nebulous impact there. We are working on our 2023 application, and will have concrete updates to share by late January. 

One of the factors behind the rebrand was that ERA gives us greater flexibility over the future direction of the programme (e.g., in case if we think that running a similar programme in another location could be impactful). The rebrand was more compatible with our longterm vision for the org, and the upsides outweighed the downside of losing Cambridge from the organisation name. But the  2023 summer iteration of the programme will still be called the ERA Cambridge Fellowship.

Thanks for putting this together! We have just announced ERA (Existential Risk Alliance), and our website is at https://erafellowship.org 

Thanks for this comment - if you do run the UChicago fellowship again, we should definitely coordinate on joint impact assessment surveys.

Your finding about less x-risk-aware fellows becoming dramatically more so is very promising. It is also somewhat different from what the surveys show; I imagine multiple factors would affect reported familiarity with x-risk (e.g., types of events you ran, nature of the projects, etc.), and I would be keen to discuss this further with you over a call at some point. 

To put this in context for CERI, we received 650+ applications  for ~24 places, so we might have filtered for prior x-risk engagement to a greater extent than you did. We probably also had different theories of change, and it will be interesting to compare our approaches.

In practice the "create something which is ideologically independent from EA" wasn't really what we went for, it's more like "really hone in on this one area that lots of EAs care about". We could have phrased it better in the post.

If you are planning to work on a project with multiple people (this could be something like running an intro fellowship, or starting a x-risk initiative at your university), you should probably spend at least 5% of your time on finding your top level goal and thinking about any risks associated with your project, i.e., writing a meta strategy document. I did this when I founded CERI, and it's been one of the most useful documents which we still use for strategy meetings etc. 

This is actually something we considered at CERI, especially because of the prestigious finance internships which many people apply to in autumn. Unfortunately, the timelines did not work out for this year as we needed more time to:

  1. Build up the core SRF team (CERI as a whole went from a team of 6 to a team of 12) and foster a team culture.
  2. Reflect on last summer's programme and think about ways to improve it (we ended up developing a completely different model for the SRF).
  3. Think hard about our theories of change for the various cause areas and compile project lists.
  4. Put together an application form which will be both easy to evaluate well and beneficial for the applicants (5+ applicants thus far have indicated that the application itself was very inspirational/educational for them).

We may consider multiple rounds of recruitment for next year's SRF, depending on our impact evaluation of this summer and other factors.