The hotel is run as a non profit organisation, with the aim of assisting people seeking to do the most good they can with their time and other resources (following the principles of Effective Altruism) by providing them with low cost living arrangements. See here for more information about the project.
17 bedrooms (3 single rooms, 2 twin rooms, 10 double rooms, 2 dorm rooms), 12 with en suite.
Bar with seating for 40, dining room that seats 32, and lounge with seating for 12. Whiteboards*, projector and printer. Bookshelf (please bring books to add that you think guests will enjoy). The stereos in the common areas have bluetooth adaptors attached. To use, press and hold the button on the top of the dongle until you hear “waiting for connection”, then connect to RT-B6 on your bluetooth-enabled device (phone, laptop, tablet etc). Please switch off your bluetooth after use to allow others to connect (it automatically connects if you leave your bluetooth on).
Meals, laundry, cleaning, bedding, towels and basic toiletries provided (provided in the rooms are toilet paper, hand wash, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, ear plugs, eye masks. On the shelves out the back of the kitchen are more of the room supplies, plus painkillers, anti-histamines, supplements, tampons, moisturiser, nail scissors).
Exercise equipment (behind the bar) – yoga mats, pull up bar, gymnastic rings, parallettes, juggling balls. Please limit long workouts in the bar to before 1200 on weekdays so as not to disrupt others’ work.
Beach stuff (behind the bar are mats, inflatables, towels, games, balls, flip-flops, goggles. By the front door are sunglasses, sunscreen, and umbrellas).
Lost and found – in a box behind the bar.
High lumen overhead daylight lighting (5,500 lumens per LED ceiling tile, 11,000 lumens in bar); soft on-wall/lamp-based evening lighting.
*feel free to erase (apart from wifi/info in the corners, the weekly goals on the dining room whiteboard, the exercise schedule in the bar, and any current announcements). Take a picture first though in case someone wants the info.
All food provided by the hotel is vegan, and is free of charge. There is a self-service buffet in the dining room for breakfasts, lunches and snacks. Cooked dinners based on a set menu will be provided in the evening between 7 and 8pm. Please inform staff of any food allergies and intolerances. All food is communal, apart from that stored in plastic bags (in or outside the fridges and freezers). Guests are permitted to consume non-vegan food on the premises, but they will have to purchase and prepare it themselves (please store non-vegan food in labelled bags). Food & drink preparation facilities for guests are limited to a toaster, hot water machines and a combi microwave/grill/oven/streamer and air fryer in the buffet area, and kettles in the bedrooms (feel free to take tea and coffee up to rooms to use with kettle there – use the provided grip-seal bags). The fridge, freezer, cupboards and shelves in the buffet are stocked with buffet food for communal use; the fridge, freezer, cupboards and shelves in the kitchen are reserved for storage and dinner recipe items, please do not eat stuff from them. Please leave dirty dishes on the tray trolley outside the kitchen.
Cleaning & Laundry
Laundry baskets are provided in the bedrooms. If you want your laundry done (at no/no additional cost), please leave the basket outside your room door, with the laundry to wash in it, ready for collection at 10am.
Self service laundry is also available, but only outside mealtime hours (as you have to go through kitchen to get to the washing machine and dryer).
Cleaning is done weekly on Wednesdays from 10am, downstairs first and then rooms (from ~12.30), with beds made with fresh sheets and towels changed (each floor of rooms is done on alternate weeks). Please indicate with the door sign whether you want your room cleaned (or to not be disturbed).
Showers & Heating
The plumbing and heating system is somewhat antiquated. Hot water is only available with heating, and not on demand. To keep costs down, we have the hot water and heating set to go on 0630-1200, 1400-1500, 1700-1800, 2000-2100 and 2200-2300. Showers on the top floor are set to go on 0600-0800, 0900-1300 and 2000-2200. The showers are fed from hot water tanks, so if too many people have showers at once, the tanks run out of hot water and need to be re-heated from cold. Radiators in rooms can be adjusted by the room’s occupant.
Please ensure shower curtains are inside the shower tray to avoid flooding floors.
We have the fastest Wifi available in the area (76Mb/s), but have been finding that it can end up going slow with lots of people using it at once. Please limit video streaming to outside normal working hours, and use mobile data if you have free data available.
Hotel guests are required to adhere to our Code of Conduct.
Guests must also agree to the Terms & Conditions of their stay at the hotel.
Please return your room key to the key board in the dining room, bring down any power outlet adapters, and check the lost and found box for anything you might’ve left, before you leave.
You can book a stay at the hotel here. Acceptance of guests is at the discretion of management. There are 3 tiers with different prices, for which spare rooms are prioritised in order:
- EA working on EA projects: free (subject to approval by the Board of Trustees if staying over a month)
- EA on holiday (/working on non-EA stuff): cost price (= £10/day)
- Non-EA: market price (= £50/day double room, £25/day dorm bed)
Travel to & from the hotel
The address is 36 York Street, Blackpool, FY1 5AQ, UK. Google Maps will provide good directions for driving or public transport. Coaches (Megabus or National Express) are generally cheaper than trains, but take about twice as long. Manchester is approx. 1-3 hours away, London, 3-7 hours (depending on mode of transport).
Manchester Airport is the closest international airport.
Car parking is free on the surrounding streets, but it is often hard to find a space during the summer, especially in the day time (although you can nearly always find one within a couple of minutes’ walk after driving around for a couple of minutes). There are car parks on York Street that charge £9/day.
For late arrival (after 2200), post to the “current guests” Facebook Messenger chat (you will be added on the day you are due to arrive) when you are outside. If no answer after a few minutes, knock or ring the bell.
Blackpool and the surrounding area
The beach is just two minutes’ walk from the hotel, it is 2.5km long and features 3 piers. Walks featuring long horizons are good for thinking. There are many tourist attractions nearby. There is also the picturesque and award winning Stanley Park just a mile inland. The national parks of the Lake District, and Yorkshire Dales, and several Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are also relatively nearby. Lancaster University – rated Top 10 in the UK – is relatively close by (30 miles by road). Manchester is a bit over an hour’s drive away, or an hour and a half on public transport.
See map below for a selection of local places serving vegan food (green [note there are also countless Fish & Chips takeaways serving chips, curry sauce, mushy peas]), pubs (purple), clubs (magenta) and tourist attractions (brown). The hotel is marked in blue.
Things To Do / Group Activities
Group meeting Fridays at 5.30pm: set goals for the week, discuss hotel systems, events, meals etc.
Exercise/yoga in the bar, daily at 10am (open windows, put ceiling fans on, move tables and chairs to back, put water jugs and glasses on table, music), followed by meditation. See whiteboard in bar for schedule.
Dinner in the dining room, daily between 7 and 8pm.
Pomodoros: 1400-1800 Mon-Fri in the bar.
Hackathon, book club/reading group/working group, peer debugging/Hamming circles.
Lightning talks (new guests are encouraged to give a lightning talk after dinner as an introduction), longer presentations/seminars/workshops.
Walk along the promenade/beach/piers, sitting on the beach steps at sunset, early-morning foot races on the beach, sea swimming, beach day (beach stuff behind bar).
Football, other sports, walking, in Stanley Park.
Cooking, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, board games, drinks in the bar.
Pub crawl, night clubbing.
Blackpool resort pass/tourist attractions.
There is a group chat on Facebook Messenger for current guests and a Facebook group for past, present and future guests, staff and trustees. You will be added to these when you book/arrive as appropriate. Social events are often planned in the current guests group.
“I’m from the US [/other non-EU country], can I get a visa for my stay?” Guests coming from the US can get a six month tourist visa. This was tested recently with someone arriving from the US. They got a six month tourist visa after the immigration officer asked Greg questions on the phone (they wanted to make sure their stay was paid for and that they wouldn’t be employed). Read about their account here. Hopefully we will be able to sponsor 12 month Tier 5 charity work visas in time, so it might be possible to then return home and come back on the 12 month Tier 5. This remains to be seen/tested though. Make sure to have a return flight booked.
If coming from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea or Taiwan, and aged 18-30, you can get a Youth Mobility Scheme visa. More details here from someone who has recently done this.
“How safe is Blackpool?” Blackpool is pretty safe. The crime rate is a bit higher than the UK average, but a lot of it is just antisocial behaviour (e.g. begging, street drunks). In experience so far it has been fine walking around at night, and not any worse than London or Manchester.
“Will there be any guidance in formulating projects?” It’s expected that guests will largely self-direct their own work, or work with on-site/remote collaborators (although there may be some guidance available, depending on the area of interest, and the number/availability of other people working in that area at the hotel). If starting something new, keep in mind this advice.
“I’d like to supplement my income with other, non-EA, work, whilst at the hotel as an ‘EA working on EA projects’, staying for free” guest, is this ok?” If working on revenue generating, non-EA, stuff, reducing the amount of funding by the proportion of time spent on the other stuff makes sense (if at the hotel this would come in the form of requiring the guest to pay something toward their stay). So if it was 25% of time spent on other stuff, and the cost of hosting is £5,700 a year (current best estimate), then that would mean paying £5,700/4 = £1425/year or £27.40 a week (which is pretty much just the £30 stipend being cancelled out). The limit of this for EAs is just the “EA on holiday” rate of £10/day + forgoing the £30/week stipend.)
“I have funding for my project/work/study, can I stay at the hotel for free?” If you are drawing a salary, or otherwise have a source of stable income, we would appreciate it if you could contribute toward your stay at the cost price of £10/day.
“I’m staying for free working on EA stuff, how can I get my stipend?” If you have a GBP (£) bank account, let us know the account number and sort code and we’ll set up a standing order. If you don’t have a GBP account, please set one up – Revolut is a phone app that is easy to set up and allows you to hold multiple currencies and convert between them commission free, at the market exchange rate (i.e. that shown by Google). If you are from the US, you aren’t able to open a Revolut account – let us know if you come by a solution for having a GBP account that doesn’t lose anything in conversion (i.e. not PayPal).
“What is there in the way of quiet study space?” Most guest rooms have desks in. In terms of common space, there is the bar, dining room and lounge. So far most people have been using all of these areas to quietly work throughout the day (in the evenings there are communal dinners and games/socialising).
“Can my partner stay?” Yes. If you are sharing a room and they are not working on EA stuff, they would be expected to contribute £5/day (to cover food and utilities). They can book here selecting the option “Double/Twin room (visiting an EA sharing a room with them) [£5/night]”.
“I have a question not answered here/have an inquiry/would like to offer a suggestion/feedback.” Please contact us here. To leave anonymous feedback, leave the email field blank. You can also use this form to report things that need fixing in your room or make a complaint.
“I would like to chat with you about a proposal for a free stay/have a look around the hotel.” You can book a call with one of the trustees by following the links at the bottom of the contact page.
Greg Colbourn – Has been into EA for years but has moved into working on related things (including founding this project) full time relatively recently. Previously, he studied Astrophysics (undergrad), and Earth System Modelling (PhD), and worked on 3D printing/open source hardware (business with a view to EA). He has dabbled in investing (mainly crypto), and studying subjects related to AI Safety, of which he hopes to do more of.
Florent Berthet – Florent is a social entrepreneur who cofounded Effective Altruism France. He also founded and is the director of a Sudbury school in Lyon. After teaching entrepreneurship at an engineering school for 3 years, Florent now works full-time at Good Growth, a new initiative that helps high-impact organisations be more effective by connecting them with experts from various fields.
Sasha Cooper – Has been involved with the EA movement in various capacities since its inception, and currently works as a software developer for Founders Pledge.
Denisa Pop [Guest Representative, Sep-Dec 2018] – “I’m a former counseling psychologist specialised in cognitive-behavioral therapy. I also have a background in human-animal interaction (PhD), but what I enjoy most is bringing people together (e.g. through organising conferences such as EAGx, TEDx), because I find this to be a great way to inspire and create impactful change in the others. I like doing different types of work in parallel (such as research, counseling, organizing stuff), so at the hotel I’m working on three projects: Human Welfare Taskforce (you’ll probably hear more about it soon); organizing events together with EA Netherlands; writing a scientific research article. The atmosphere here is great, both for working and for living, cause I can always choose between having privacy and interacting with like-minded people (for serious discussions and for fun) “
Toon Alfrink – Toon co-founded LessWrong Netherlands in 2016, taking part in hosting its various events. He gives talks about EA and AI Safety, having addressed crowds at various venues including festivals and fraternities. He studied AI at Utrecht University, and runs RAISE, a charity dedicated to helping AI Safety students on their way. His main goal is mental health on both the personal and the communal level, applying eastern wisdom with western rigour. He believes that real impact starts at home, and as a hotel manager he hopes to put that into practice.
Derek Foster – “I’ve got some background in philosophy, education, public health and health economics. I’m currently researching ways of incorporating subjective wellbeing into health care prioritisation for the next Global Happiness Policy Report.”
David Kristoffersson – “Software engineer, thinker, and organizer. I have a background as R&D Project Manager and Software Engineer at Ericsson. I’ve worked with FHI. I co-organized the first AI Safety Camp. I’m currently doing AI and existential risk strategy with Convergence and this is what I’ll be working on at the hotel when I return in September. I enjoy figuring out the most fundamental questions of how reality and humanity works.”
Chris Leong – Chris is currently focusing his research on infinite ethics, but his side-interests include decision theory, anthropics and paradoxes. He helped found the EA society at the University of Sydney and managed to set up an unfortunately short-lived group at the University of Maastricht whilst on exchange. He represented Australia at the International Olympiad in Informatics and won a Gold in the Asian Pacific Maths Olympiad. He’s studied philosophy and psychology and occasionally enjoys dancing Salsa.
Davide Zagami – Davide completed a bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering and decided to head as an autodidact towards contributing to AI safety and AI alignment technical research. He strives to learn as much as possible and is hungry for evidence about how he can personally mitigate existential risks. He leads the content development of RAISE (http://aisafety.camp/about/), a non-profit organisation which is creating an online course for AI safety.
Past guests include:
Gavin Leech – “I’m a data scientist at a giant insurer. I write an EA blog here. I like talking about the far future, machine learning, analytic philosophy, statistics as applied epistemology, tech solutions to social problems, and social solutions to tech problems. During my first stay at Athena I worked on the Prague AI Safety Camp and wrote my first LessWrong piece, on technological unemployment. I’ll be back!”
Mathilde Guittard – “Senior Associate at Invesco (finance), I work on big real estate projects around the world. It is a bit an earn to give situation that allows me to donate monthly to EA charities. I try to spread the word. I also care about social entrepreneurship and finding effective ways to improve global health (mostly through nutrition) in order to reduce poverty/human suffering in order to increase equality of chance so the best people can make the world a better place. Still pondering if my next move will be in impact investment or in global health. My stay in the hotel inspired me to take a step forward global health and to reach out more often to EA community.”
John Maxwell – “I’m a software developer and entrepreneur, and I’ve been thinking about effective altruism for nearly ten years now. I cofounded MealSquares, a nutritionally complete food bar company, and I have a degree in computer science from UC Berkeley. At the hotel, I am focused on acquiring deeper knowledge of machine learning and thinking about AI safety (this essay of mine won $2000 in the AI alignment prize).”
[Please send us a short bio if you are staying, or have stayed, at the hotel and would like to appear here.]
Number of guests over time:
(last updated: 10th Jan 2019)
Projects (List of things people have been/are/will be working on):
Setting up an x-risk strategy organisation.
Volunteering – working on hotel building.
Working on hotel building and day-to-day running of hotel.
Studying AI / Machine Learning.
Researching ways of incorporating subjective wellbeing into health care prioritisation for the next Global Happiness Policy Report.
Studying Machine Learning.
EA events organising, Human Welfare Taskforce, psychology research.
Moral philosophy thesis on the Demandingness Objection to Utilitarianism.
Transitioning to full-time AI safety research & engineering; reading, writing papers, coding, applying to AI safety grants and jobs.
EA London Retreats (Life Review Weekend, Careers Week, Holiday/EA Unconference).
Studying Computer Science, Maths, Philosophy.
Working on an app for Decision markets.
Anthropics and decision theory research.
Work for the Organisation for the Prevention of Intense Suffering.
Work for European Summer Program in Rationality.
Working on hotel administration.
Suffering-focused EA author collaborating with others.
Researching Infinite Ethics.
Researching Invertebrate Suffering.
Collaboratively setting up an x-risk strategy organisation (2 people).
Advising guests on fitness and hotel systems.
Writing books on AI (fiction) and Wild Animal Suffering (non-fiction).
Collaboratively distilling AI Safety material for an online course (Road to AI Safety Excellence) (2+ people).
Studying Economics, revising for the GRE.
Studying philosophy, writing up explorations of EA related questions.
Collaboratively writing up AI Safety research (2 people).
AI strategy research.
AI Safety research.
Responding to left-wing / Marxist critiques of EA.