EA Hotel Fundraiser 8: Life at the EA Hotel, and Testimonials

by CEEALAR 5 min read27th Jan 2020No comments

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The EA Hotel has been open for 20 months. Here we showcase, in 100 pictures and 1000 words, what life is like in and around the hotel. We then follow with some testimonials. The aim is to give people more of an idea of what the project is like on a human level. This post is part of our fundraiser series, and complements other posts focused on outputs and the case for the project.

[We are all here, on the Pale Blue Dot. Living in interesting times.]

The EA Hotel (often under cloud cover)

is situated in the UK.

In Blackpool.

Near the beach (this picture was taken from the top of Blackpool Tower).

The building - the Athena Hotel - is a guest house that dates back to c.1850.

It has a mixture of single rooms and double rooms,

12 of which have en suites.

We also have a couple of dorm rooms, which are used for short-term visitors and events.

Obviously the main activity that occupies our guests is working on their EA projects.

Checking in with the Community & Projects Manager to discuss progress.

Co-working in the bar is popular.

Sometimes even late into the night.

Although for most, the workday ends at 19:00, when dinner is served.

Our nightly communal meals give people the chance to get to know each other better, and of course, discuss the many philosophical issues relating to EA!

(Derek eating his favourite - vegan mac and cheese)

We do of course talk about other things too (like AI Safety - pictured here: participants of TAISU).

Here are some examples of dinners: curry and rice is popular.

And rarer but well enjoyed: le vegan Big Mac.

Sometimes we put on special meals - like our Christmas dinner last month (lots of vegan pies! And crackers - the Brits amongst us didn’t realise how much of a localised tradition this is).

Or celebrating a birthday.

For breakfasts,

lunches,

and snacks,

we have a self-service buffet.

A regular after-dinner activity is talks (here: Markus talking about Hormesis).

Lately we have had weekly Lightning Talk sessions, and “Theme of the Week”, where a pre-shared article is discussed.

We have also held a few events, which have been popular,

with many outside visitors attending,

packing out the place.

Group photo of TAISU participants.

When not working, exercise is a popular activity. We used to have gym sessions in the bar,

but most enthusiasts ended up getting memberships at the gym round the corner.

A popular weekend activity is games, ranging from the simple..

..to the very complex (Terraforming Mars);

and the traditional (Texas Hold ‘Em Poker)..

..to the not so traditional (Bughouse Chess).

Social activities also sometimes involve leaving the hotel. A walk on the beach,

or a pint in a beer garden.

Playing pool,

singing karaoke,

or raving it up in Walkabout.

Walking back along the beach.

The main area in town for nightlife (on a quiet night).

Blackpool is famous for its tower.

It also has 3 piers. This is the North Pier (opened 1863, when people paid 2d to walk over the sea).

This is the Central Pier (level with the hotel).

Despite a recent decline in visitor numbers, Blackpool is still a popular seaside resort in the summer.

For the tourist on a budget, there are free events like the St Annes International Kite Festival down the coast,

or the World Fireworks Championship.

For the not-quite-so-budget-conscious EA, for a few pounds you can take a ride along the coast on an old tram,

or have a go on the penny arcades.

Wandering through town

you can see some interesting street architecture.

The Promenade, early in the holiday season.

A street with colourful guest houses near us.

Our street, with its illuminations on.

Tower and backstreets from the window of room 16.

The beach is 3km long and up to 500m wide at low tide (here: a sunny September evening).

It’s ~0m wide at high tide: the sea reaches the steps (here: a stormy November afternoon).

The beach can be very picturesque, with meandering streams, pools of water,

and derelict structures.

It’s possible to walk under the piers at low tide.

Beach stretching into the distance with the South Pier visible under the Central Pier.

The steps run the whole length of the beach. Shown here: North of the Tower at high tide.

Past the end of the beach to the North you can continue walking along the sea wall.

Panoramic of Blackpool seafront from the water’s edge at low tide.

The beach is just 2 mins walk from the hotel. In summer there has been plenty of: sandcastle building..

..some acrobatics..

..racket sports..

..ball games..

..and sea swimming. (Ok, this was actually in December, but cold water swimming is meant to be good for you, right?)

Leaning into the wind!

Chilling on the beach.

Running in a wide open space!

The sunsets

can be pretty epic

(this taken from our rooftop window).

More sunsets.

We had a lot of good ones

to choose from. Nice reflection on the wet sand.

Yes this is actually a photograph with no filter.

And this one.

Throughout the autumn and winter months starlings flock in their thousands.

There is also weird sea life.

And of course lots of sea birds.

These juveniles sometimes have all night parties on the rooftops (thankfully we have copious amounts of earplugs).

Sorry, nothing for you in here, mate!

The Lake District is 1½ - 2½ hours’ drive. This year some of us went up Scafell Pike

(at the top!),

crossed a stream after getting

a bit lost on another walk,

and summited Helvellyn. (Here’s Greg, out of breath and behind after little more than half an hour!)

Walking back after abandoning another walk (Buttermere) due to torrential rain and gale-force winds.

We’ll wrap up by showing some other activities at the hotel. Morning meditation.

Meditation of a different kind.

Our resident pianist.

Our resident hairdresser.

Friday group meeting: announcements, planning events for the next week.

The end.

Testimonials

Fredi Backtoldt: “The hotel with its great atmosphere helps me to put my values into action and that’s what I’m trying to do here!” “I heard about the internship position through one of my many new acquaintances I made at the Hotel. The Hotel enabled me to financially to do the unpaid internship. The atmosphere of the Hotel keeps me motivated and increases my productivity.”

Saulius Šimčikas — “Living in the hotel helped [me] to focus on work.”

Rory Švarc - “[I] find the communal atmosphere of the hotel a fantastic place to discuss many different cause areas, given [my] current focus is on the ‘explore’ side of the explore/exploit tradeoff.”

Jaime Sevilla — “I stayed for a week in the hotel, where I did some shallow research on open source game theory. This exercise was useful for me to explore the possibility of and ultimately decide against working independently on technical AI safety research.”

Derek Foster - “It gave me somewhere to stay when I had run out of money, increased my productivity and runway, and expanded my network of potential collaborators.

Linda Linsefors - “Life at the Hotel has made me much more motivated and allowed me to put considerably more focused hours into studying. I also managed to find some collaboration... received a great amount of mental debugging help and emotional support from other Hotel residents… Being able to use the Hotel as a venue for events has made me able to do more events for less effort.

Max Carpendale - “It extended my runway considerably… there is a 75% chance I wouldn't have gotten my current job at Animal Ethics if it wasn't for the Hotel. ...the Hotel has been very helpful for personal growth and for my lifetime impact as an EA.

Kris Gulati - “The Hotel has helped substantially... The Hotel has given me the opportunity to apply to the top PhD programmes in the UK (Oxford, Cambridge, LSE etc.)

Samuel Knoche - “For an autodidact, the Hotel is ideal. It allows one to have full control over one’s learning progress, while also providing the social support to stave off depression, and stay productive… universities and startups in the education space have a lot to learn from the EA Hotel model.

Chris Leong - “It freed up my time - without which my investigations into Logical Counterfactuals might not have proceeded very far, instead ending up on a long list of things to pursue some day and perhaps even forgotten.”

Denisa Pop - “the Hotel has provided me a supportive, encouraging and motivating environment, with people who share similar values.”

Markus Salmela - “The Hotel provided essential financial support... Other Hotel residents were often helpful for my projects, giving good suggestions and being generally supportive, which led to noticeably greater motivation and productivity.”

Davide Zagami - “the EA Hotel provides me time and space to think about AI Alignment and to educate myself about Machine Learning, as well as other topics. My general productivity improved considerably, as well as my ability to bounce off ideas with other people in real time.”

Anonymous 1 - “The Hotel has given me the freedom to leave home and begin to put my values into action. I can study what I’ve wanted... talk to and learn from plenty of intelligent people who I would have never approached had they not been in my immediate environment. I am a lot happier at the Hotel than I would’ve been otherwise.”

Anonymous 2 - “The Hotel provides an environment where I can do research without having to worry about finances or even preparing food. I can also be more clued-in to EA and bounce ideas off people. In addition, I have already been to 3 AI safety-related workshops in my time here (organised by Linda) which have been helpful for me in various ways: giving talks, airing ideas, having conversations with people, hearing other ideas”

Hoagy Cunningham - “Now I have a fast-growing network in the field [AI Safety] and the ability to contribute to projects in a variety of ways.”

Edward Wise - “[The Hotel] gave the funding necessary for me to research and begin writing ... the community of the Hotel has encouraged me to shift my focus toward the future. In particular, I’ve been inspired to pursue a career mitigating existential risk, and taken steps toward achieving this.”

Michele Campolo: “My productivity has increased since I joined the Hotel; moreover, getting feedback from other guests interested in AI safety has been really useful to me.”

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