tl;dr:

We invite the broader EA/Rationality community to spend this fall in Prague. There will be a high concentration of global EA/Rationality events, workshops, retreats and seminars happening in and around Prague. While the events alone are interesting, we believe there will be additional benefits for staying around for a longer period of time and an opportunity to talk, create and meet caused by the higher density of people in one place. We will have a large coworking space available in Prague for people to work from and socialize. We also want to share with the world what we like about Prague and the local community. Prague seems to be a good place for thinking about hard problems - both Albert Einstein and Johannes Kepler made substantial progress on their fundamental research while living in Prague.

We think you would enjoy being part of the Prague Fall Season if you:

  • Want to spend an extended period of time this fall with other like-minded people, concentrated in one area, building momentum together.
  • Are interested in exploring cities, cultures, and aesthetics different from the US or UK hubs.
  • Are curious about the Czech EA/Rationality culture and want to spend some time with us.
  • Want to work on some of the projects based in Prague.
  • Want to experience what it’s like to live and work in Prague.

If you are interested you can:

===

Why Prague?

The events happening in Prague this autumn provide a Schelling point.

Prague is a second-tier EA Hub, smaller than London or the Bay area, but comparable or larger than probably any other city in continental Europe. Prague has a thriving local EA community, a newly established alignment research group, ~20 full-time people working in/with high-impact organizations (eg Metaculus, ESPR, ALLFED, CFAR), and about a hundred people in the broader EA and rationalist communities. We aim for the Season to bring in on average additional 30-60 people staying for longer, and a few hundreds of shorter-time visitors, who will participate in some event and stay for a few days before or after. 

In our experience, Prague is a very good place to live - it has the benefits of a modern large city, while being walkable or bikeable, offering a high quality of living, and overall unique aesthetics and vibes (meaningfully different from other similar hubs); a likely fit for some creative high-impact people who seek a change in their environment. 

I often get questions about why there is such a big concentration of successful and interesting people in the Czech Republic, especially in the EA/Rationality community. My answer usually goes something like this.

On a more serious note, we are quite excited about some of the virtues of the local EA/Rationality culture and would like to share them with the global community. If I were to summarize some of the key ones, they would be:

  • Doing what's needed - one secret superpower we aim for is to do what needs to be done, even if the quests are not shiny and glittering with status.
  • Sanity - Prague often feels like a more sane and more grounded place, which has distinct advantages and disadvantages; for example, if you feel you are too steady and unambitious or want to upend everything in your life, the vibes of Silicon Valley or the Bay area are likely better for moving in this direction. In contrast, if you feel the pressure of the competition for attention, networking, or similar source of stress is distracting you from useful work and you would benefit from having some time with less of that, Prague may be better for a few months or even years.
  • Work-life balance - Prague makes it relatively easy to add more nature, or art, to your life. Also, it is relatively cheap to choose basically any living arrangement, from a frat shared by 10 people to renting a place of your own.  Also, lower costs of living make it easier to have some slack and a longer runway to experiment.

Additionally, in terms of bureaucracy, the Czech Republic is welcoming to a wide range of countries. EU citizens can travel and work freely and citizens of many countries outside of the EU do not need visas to come and work here independently for 3 months. If you do need a visa, it is often possible to get it even for people from Eastern Europe or Asia, who often struggle to get visas for the UK or the US.

We really like living and working here and think that some of you may like it too, so we’re inviting you over to test it out.

Why a season?

The main benefit of doing a season[1] is having a dedicated limited time to create an increased density of people in one place. This creates more opportunities for people to collaborate, co-create and co-work on important projects in a new location - different from their usual space. This happens to some extent naturally around major EA conferences in London or San Francisco - many people are there at the same time which creates opportunities for additional events and collaborations. However, the timeframe is quite short and it is not clearly communicated that there are benefits in staying in the area longer and there is not a lot of infrastructure in place to support that.

A dedicated season improves coordination and creates incentives for people to concentrate at a particular place in the world for a limited period of time allowing them to both get the benefits of being in a hub, and the flexibility of living where people prefer. Hopefully, more places also have their seasons at various times of the year that make it easier to coordinate and decide where people spend their time - for example, we believe a couple of months in the Bay (possibly in winter) could become one of the seasons. Especially as people’s baselines of their environment vary and so it is useful to have options for working all over the world in various cities and cultures with different vibes and aesthetics. As a side-effect, seasons could lead to a reduced amount of air travel, time lost to jetlag, and similar costs to the core members of the community who currently travel a lot. 

How do I get involved?

Apply for a residency

We are hosting the Prague Epistea Autumn Residency program during the season

As part of the residency, we will provide:

  • A stipend
  • Reimbursement for travel, accommodation, and other relocation expenses
  • A desk in our new coworking office space (more details to be announced soon!)
  • Access to local organizations and people
  • An opportunity to participate in the programs and events we will be organizing in the fall (such as CFAR workshops)
  • A retreat nearby Prague with other participants of the residency program

We think that the residency is a great fit for you if you:

  • Are working remotely on a project and are looking for a change of scenery and pace from your current place.
  • Are looking to start a new project or make a big decision and need inspiration/stimulus.
  • Want to spend an extended period of time this fall with other like-minded people, concentrated in one area, building momentum together.

The residency is for up to three months between September and November 2022.  

In addition to all of the above, we think that Prague is a particularly good place to get a new perspective when working on challenging problems. Interestingly enough, Albert Einstein found Prague to be the perfect place to develop his general theory of relativity. He moved to Prague in 1911 and stayed for 16 months before moving back to Zurich. Free of the heavy teaching load that had burdened him as an associate professor at the University of Zurich, he focused on developing his general theory of relativity. While in Prague, he wrote 11 theoretical papers on physics and developed two important theories in Prague: deflection of light and gravitational redshift.

Einstein wrote a special introduction to the Czech edition of About the Special and General Theory of Relativity in Plain Terms. "I am pleased that this small book ... should now appear in the native language of the country in which I found the necessary concentration for developing the basic idea of the general theory of relativity, which I had already conceived in 1908. In the quiet rooms of the Institute of Theoretical Physics of Prague's German University in Viničná Street, I discovered that the principle of equivalence implies the deflection of light rays near the sun by an observable amount," he said and later added that Prague was “so beautiful, it would justify living here a lot longer”.

Apply by August 10

Work from Prague

To the extent that it is possible to attribute our success to various factors, we’d say that one of the biggest parts is that we’ve always had a physical community/office space where we could meet, work and hang out. Epistea Space in the Dharmasala teahouse has been the heart of the Czech community since 2016 and has served us well but it is not big enough for the season, and also for the continuous growth of the community. Therefore, we are launching a new office space in a beautiful house in downtown Vinohrady (a popular historic part of Prague). It will have a good number of small office spaces (each office for 1-8 people), common areas for meals or hanging out, multiple meeting rooms, a large common space for events, a garden, a nap room, a gym, and, of course, a tea room. It is also right by Grébovka, one of Prague’s popular parks. We will be sharing more details about the space soon.

If you want to apply for a desk there or want to visit for a couple of days, please fill out this form.

Get a job in Prague

Prague-based organizations are hiring! There are many opportunities to work on projects based in Prague. Apply here.

Come for one of our events

There will clearly be a lot happening in Prague in Epistea Space but there is more. We will also be running events outside of Prague at a new permanent venue (~75 min by car/train). Apply for one of the events happening in Prague (or close to Prague):

CFAR workshops

We will be adding more events as they get confirmed.

Just visit!

If none of these options work for you, perhaps you want to visit Prague for some time. If that is the case, let us know at info@praguefallseason.com

Who we are

We are mostly the team that brought you the memorable EAGxPrague conference. We loved the energy and the momentum at the conference and thought it was a shame that everyone was in town just for a weekend. So we decided to turn a weekend into 12 weeks and have everyone come back to experience why we chose to live and work here out of all the possible places in the world.

Specifically, currently working on the Prague Fall Season are:

Irena Kotíková

Jiří Nádvorník

František Drahota

Antonín Kanát

Jana Meixnerová 

Martin Hrádela

 

Advisors:

Jan Kulveit

Elizabeth Garrett

If you want to join the team, apply here!

  1. ^

    Hat tip to Elizabeth Garrett for the original idea of seasons, both in one's personal life and as a coordination mechanism for the community as a whole.

159

New Comment
10 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 3:51 AM

When will people hear back about their applications? I think if I were to do something like this, I'd want to plan it well in advance, so hear back soon

I’m always excited to hear about another push to establish strong EA working communities outside of The Bay and Oxbridge. But this makes me realize a concern I have with the proliferation of “hub projects” — are they separate efforts cancelling out?

Hubs are good[1] because densifying talent increases innovation and community-building. However, if hubs are funded to draw people to their hub, and they are entirely drawing people from other hubs (that are themselves funded to do the same)… I think we can see this would be a poor use of funding.

However, I assume this concern loses its teeth upon contact with reality. I bet what is happening with 2nd tier hub projects like this[2] is that they’re primarily drawing people near them and catching some wandering, hub-less talent for short periods. In that case, they seem like a reasonable use of resources. 

But as far as hubs are good meta-EA projects, I wonder how much coordination there should be to ensure we avoid the silly zero-sum race to the bottom dynamics as we see in the USA, where states will outbid each other to lure companies to their area. Is this coordination happening already? One rule that seems reasonable (and may already be implemented) is to prioritise offering residencies to hubless people (all else equal).

  1. ^

    The logical conclusion of developing one hyper-hub seems bad because EA knowledge and talent should be geographically diverse, assuming we want EA to survive a catastrophe. 

  2. ^

    I’ve recently heard about Boston, Cape Town, Bahamas, and Berlin but I’m unsure how much they (outside of the FTX Bahamas one, which is) are offering residencies

It seems to me that there is some subtle confusion going on here. 

0. It's actually more about the 'Season'.

1. This isn't really "a push to establish a community outside of The Bay or Oxford", as that community already exists in Prague for some time. E.g. Prague had it's coworking space since ca 2017, sooner than almost anywhere else, already has something like ˜15 FTE ppl working on EA/longtermist relevant projects, etc.  I think to some extent what happened over past few years was the existing Prague hub focused too much on 'doing the work' and comparably less on 'promoting the place' or 'writing posts about how it is a hub on EA forum'. So, in the hub dynamics, more than 'establishing something', perhaps you can view this as 'creating common knowledge about something' /  'upgrade'.

2.  I think structure with 'one giant hub' is bad not only for suving physical catastrophe, but mainly because more subtle memetics and social effects, talent-routing, and overall robustness. For example: if the US cultural wars stuff escalated and EA become subject of wrath of one of the sides, it could have large negative effects not only directly due to hostile environment, but also due to secondary reactions of EA, induced opinion polarization, etc. 

3. On practical level, I think the strongest current developments toward  multi-hub network structure are often clearly sensible - for example, not having visible presence on the East Coast was in my view a bug, not a feature. 

Agree with all three points, but most critically with #2. And only having hubs in the US and UK is very much non-ideal for a variety of reasons.

Also +1 that having hubs in US and UK is sub-optimal.

To your knowledge, have there been any efforts to systematically compare different hub candidates? I'd be curious to see the reasoning behind why location A might be more preferable than B, C, D, etc.

There was an earlier attempt here.

I think you're right in your third paragraph. I lead a small group far outside of a 'hub' and I'd find this really useful as being immersed in a fully EA environment for some time. It wouldn't so much being a case of pulling me FT to Prague, but more a chance to spend time in an EA environment that is different from my home one. That's largely what was behind my own application, anyway.

“ EU citizens can travel and work freely and citizens of many countries outside of the EU do not need visas to come and work here independently for 3 months”

Anyone have any details on what kinds of visas are b available and for what countries?

Very cool idea!

but comparable or larger than probably any other city in continental Europe. Prague has a thriving local EA community, a newly established alignment research group, ~20 full-time people working in/with high-impact organizations (eg Metaculus, ESPR, ALLFED, CFAR), and about a hundred people in the broader EA and rationalist communities.

In case you (or anyone else) is curious about the size of EA communities in continental Europe: We did a quick headcount of FT EAs in Berlin and got to 30+.