Center for Applied Rationality

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Center for Applied Rationality
Formation2012; 10 years ago (2012)
TypeNonprofit research institute
Legal status501(c)(3) tax exempt charity[1]
PurposeResearch and training in cognitive science, and de-biasing, to alleviate existential risk from artificial general intelligence[2]
Anna Salamon[1]

The Center for Applied Rationality (CFAR) is a nonprofit organization based in Berkeley, California, that hosts workshops on rationality and cognitive bias. It was founded in 2012 by Julia Galef, Anna Salamon, Michael Smith and Andrew Critch,[3][4] to improve participants' rationality using "a set of techniques from math and decision theory for forming your beliefs about the world as accurately as possible."[5] Its president as of 2021 is Anna Salamon.[1]

CFAR's training draws upon fields such as psychology and behavioral economics in an effort to improve people's mental habits. Jennifer Kahn visited the group and described its strengths and flaws in the New York Times.[6] CFAR has conducted a survey of participants which indicates that workshops reduce neuroticism and increase perceived efficacy.[7]

CFAR is part of the rationality movement surrounding Eliezer Yudkowsky's site LessWrong, from which CFAR originated.[8][9] Paul Slovic and Keith Stanovich have served as advisors.[10]

The group taught classes for Facebook and the Thiel Fellowship.[6]

A scholarship funded by Skype founder Jaan Tallinn has been used to send selected Estonian students to workshops held by the Center for Applied Rationality.[11]

Sonoma County incident[edit]

On 15 November 2019, four people dressed in Guy Fawkes masks were arrested for allegedly barricading off a wooded retreat where CFAR was holding an event. According to police, the suspects were uncooperative and spoke incoherently. Flyers found by deputies suggested they were protesting artificial intelligence and CFAR.[12]


  1. ^ a b c "Guidestar". Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  2. ^ "CFAR's new focus, and AI Safety - Less Wrong".
  3. ^ Segran, Elizabeth. "Inside the Rationality Movement That Has Silicon Valley Buzzing With Positive Thinking". Fast Company. Mansueto Ventures, LLC. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  4. ^ Frank, Sam (January 2015). "Come With Us If You Want to Live: Among the apocalyptic libertarians of Silicon Valley". Harper's Magazine. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  5. ^ Dvorsky, George (11 February 2012). "Why you're probably not as rational as you think you are — and what you can do about it". io9. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  6. ^ a b Kahn, Jennifer (14 January 2016). "The Happiness Code". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 15 January 2016. Retrieved 16 December 2016.
  7. ^ Matsakis, Louise (17 May 2016). "The 'Rationality' Workshop That Teaches People to Think More Like Computers". Motherboard. Retrieved 2016-12-16.
  8. ^ Chen, Angela. "More Rational Resolutions". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company.
  9. ^ Jackson, Carl (8 September 2012). "Why are smart people often so stupid?". Nerve Magazine. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  10. ^ Schubert, Stefan. "The Center for Applied Rationality: practical techniques for overcoming biases". The Reasoner, 2014, no 12, pp. 134-135. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  11. ^ "Skype founder donates 54,000 euros to Tartu University". The Baltic Times. January 14, 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  12. ^ Gafni, Mattias (18 November 2019). "Mystery in Sonoma County after arrests of protesters in Guy Fawkes masks and robes". San Francisco Chronicle.

External links[edit]