TLDR: I'm launching Good Futures Initiative, a winter project internship to sponsor students to take on projects to upskill, test their fit for career aptitudes, or do impactful work over winter break. You can read more on our website and apply here by December 11th if interested! 

Good Futures Initiative

The Good Futures Initiative is a 4.5 week internship in which students can use their winter break to lead high-EV projects. Projects could take many forms, but each project produces a final product while accomplishing one of these three goals:

  1. Skill up the intern in order for them to work on AI Safety or Biosecurity in the future.
  2. Let the intern explore an aptitude for an impactful career.
  3. Create impact directly. 

Good Futures takes place remotely from December 18th-January 25th, with a minimum of 12 hours of work per week. Accepted applicants will receive a $300 stipend and up to $1000 in funding for additional time or project fees. I expect to accept ~12 interns. The final number will depend largely on my capacity, but I may offer a lower-effort version of the program for promising applicants who I can’t fully fund/support (with a cohort for weekly check-ins and invites to guest speaker events).

Example projects

 These project examples are far from perfect. At the start of the internship, I'd work with each intern to be sure they're doing the best project fit for their goals. That being said, I’m excited by projects similar to (and better than!!) these.  

  • Skilling up by working on AI Safety technical projects that have been posted by existing researchers, with the goal of creating a lesswrong post detailing your findings. For an example of a potential project to work on, Sam Bowman posted the following project:
    • Consider questions where the most common answer online is likely to be false (as in TruthfulQA). If you prompt GPT-3-Instruct (or similar) with questions and correct answers in one domain/topic, then ask it about another domain/topic, will it tend to give the correct answer or the popular answer? As you make the domains/topics more or less different, how does this vary?
  • Exploring an aptitude for communications by creating 2 articles on longtermist ideas and submitting them to 10 relevant magazines for publishing. 
  • Create impact by translating 3 relevant research papers from AGISF into Mandarin and posting them somewhere where they can be accessed by ML engineers in China. 

In addition to leading a focused project, interns will have weekly one-on-one progress check-ins with me (accountability), guest speaker events (expertise), and a meeting with a cohort of ~5 other interns working on projects (community). 

Our projects are student-directed. Although there will be guest speakers who have expertise in various topics, weekly advising/mentorship will be focused on helping students learn to self-sufficiently lead projects and build skills, rather than technical help executing the projects. E.g.: Accountability, increasing ambition, figuring out how to increase a project’s EV, making sure interns focus on the right metrics each week. Students are encouraged to apply for technical projects that will help them upskill/test their fit for technical work and reach out to additional mentors during the internship.

Rationale

This internship fills a few gaps the EA community has in the process of getting students/recent grads to seriously pursue high-impact work. 

  • Students have a lot of time over winter break, but few obvious opportunities for impactful work, structured aptitude testing, or focused skilling-up.
  • There are a lot of students or recent graduates interested in switching to a more impactful career, but aren't sure of the best way to do this. This program works with these students to design next-step plans and make sure they're executed. 
  • People who want to use their winter break for impact usually lack access to structure, community, mentorship, accountability, and financial support. 
  • It’s easier to make sure you complete your goals if you’re getting regular feedback and accountability, but there are few available mechanisms to do this. 

What to Know Before Applying 

This internship has a focus on supporting students interested in reducing existential risk. Other project topics/aptitude testing for impactful careers will be considered, but the projects need to meet the same bar for effectiveness. 

Since this internship is aiming to help people better understand their aptitudes and skills in order to pursue high-impact work in the future, it’s very helpful for the admissions process for us to have an understanding of why a person wants to pursue a project. You’re encouraged to email alarichardson@berkeley.edu to talk about your ideas if you have a project to propose. I might request a meeting with you to get a better understanding. Alternatively, you can meet with me (Aris Richardson) at EAGx Berkeley to discuss your project ideas in person! 

Applicants will fill out this project proposal form and turn it in as part of the application. There’s a project type called “Professor Bertozzi’s” – this is a project that’s separate and available to UC Berkeley students who have already applied for the project, so please ignore this. 

Non-students can apply, but this internship is generally designed for students and recent graduates. 

Finally, if you're in doubt about whether you're "good enough" to apply but are hoping to use your winter for impact, just apply! I even have an option in the application for people to apply for accountability even if they aren't accepted into the full internship. (This accountability would likely mean that an applicant joins a group of other students to check in with weekly during the winter.)

How you can help!

There are many ways researchers, community builders, and other experts can be helpful in making this a great learning experience for the interns if they’d like to!

I’m still seeking:

  • Guest speakers on project management, their own research agendas, etc.
  • Experts who would be interested in mentoring students (from as little as a one-off half-hour meeting to weekly check-ins with students) 
  • Recommendations for more impactful projects students can work on (if the project is already on an AIS list, I’ve likely seen it!)

If you’re a researcher working on existential risk interested in helping with any of the above, I’d love to hear from you! For example, you could let me know if you’re interested in having a student assist you in your research or take on an easier project that you wish someone would do. You could provide mentorship in whatever capacity works best for you. 

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7 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 10:48 PM

This sounds like a great idea! I like the idea for the structure.

will add this opportunity to the EA opportunity board!

This link seems to be broken? 

Thank you! Sorry. The link has been corrected now.  EA opportunity board

Thank you! Sorry. The link has been corrected now.  EA opportunity board

Thank you (both)!