A whirlwind tour


by Eric Bruylant Nov 29 2016 updated Mar 17 2017

A rapid tour of Eric's thoughts on the accelerator project.

(Back to Accelerator home)

This is a rapid overview of my model of the project, packaged as a tour set in a future where this works, around a year after the initial move. In this story the location is far from complete, but the initial focused setup phase is over and we've had people passing through for a while.



A new batch is arriving today! Two of them were referred by EA friends who stayed previously, one by CFAR, and one has been accepted for a trial period at FHI and wants to level themselves up first. There's also a previous resident who's come back with a friend to focus on making progress on the website for their ETG startup. They'll spend 1-6 months as residents. They'll then go back into the world to join other organizations and projects with plenty of emotional runway, many new skills and ideas, and some lasting friendships with other people trying to improve the world.

The first week will be a mix of induction and free-form engagement with the current residents, gently guided by their two assigned mentors (usually one long term and one short term resident). Arrivals are encouraged to be curious about the culture they're arriving in. During the first week, they'll have an extended discussion with a facilitator who will help them assess their current skills, goals, and motivations, and discuss ideas for ways they could grow and make progress (topics to learn, people to communicate with, projects to join).

One of the arrivals does not have remote work or enough savings to pay for rent, despite it being extremely low. They therefore will be spending half their productive hours volunteering to cover their food and board. They'll help cook the large shared meals, induct new residents, furnish and re-colonize abandoned buildings to expand capacity, put up new hexayurts, drive to the nearest city to pick up equipment, food, and other supplies, and generally be available to do tasks which keep the place running or make it even more awesome. Other residents may opt to help with these tasks, and some paid long-term residents are available to pick up slack and organize things.

Long-term residents may come and go as they choose. They are often involved with maintaining and improving the accelerator, though some are entirely focused on external projects or research.


Focus space

There's a no-talking no-distractions workspace in one building, with a choice of open space or private alcoves, and an infinite supply of coffee and nutritionally complete meal replacements. People are encouraged to log time spent in the focus space and set their computers to block all distractions while there. There are norms of socially reinforcing people for getting a solid day of work or study done.

Social and eating space

There's a large open-plan space where food is served, with comfortable sofas, tables, outdoor seating, and an amazing view. Residents may buy and make their own food, but most people love the self-serve healthy hassle-free shared meals made from cheap bulk-bought and often local food, with both carnivore-friendly and veggie/vegan options.

Discussion / talks space

We host talks by residents and guests about a wide range of topics. Recently we've been advertising as a space for interesting conferences, but none have signed up so far.

Comfy space(s)

Sometimes, you just want everything to be soft. We try to accommodate that.

Private spaces

Most people live in separate or couple rooms, with much less space-pressure allowing less cramped private living space. There are also large dorms and various sizes of Hexayurt.

Old buildings

Not all the buildings on the plot have been recolonized yet, some are still in a state of disrepair. The more stable ones can be fun to explore, and great for alone time or getting deep into conversations.


Since the site is constantly being developed, one building is the designated workshop. It's got a collection of tools and plenty of materials, so there's no need to go into town before doing a bit of DIY or other maker-type activity. Remove trivial inconveniences!


Having easy access to nature is pretty awesome, especially when you have great friends to explore it with.


We have the standard utilities. Electricity (either grid or solar+storage), (hot) water, fast internet, aircon, etc. Getting it all set up was not easy, but a significant portion of the budget was reserved for it, this was a major consideration when picking the location, and modern technology can do incredible things.

Bathing and toilet facilities

There's a mobile toilet and shower block, and a more permanent solution has just come online. Some of the buildings have toilets. Creating a sauna is on the open projects list online, but no one's picked up responsibility for leading it yet, perhaps one of the new arrivals will!


Responsibility, not committee

Designated dictators with autonomy within a domain and personal responsibility perform far better than committees. They're selected for caring about the task, seeking out advice when unsure, updating their models, and generally making good judgement calls.

Public updates

Residents give five minute flash talks updating the group on their progress, generally at least once every few weeks. This helps with motivation, spreads good ideas, sets up contacts, and creates common knowledge of active projects.

Open communication about personal development

People often don't receive useful feedback about the way their behavior affects others, or how to gain important life skills. This is especially true of relationships, leading to all sorts of terrible misunderstandings. We help people signal that they're looking for feedback, and give them actionable, non-judgmental advice.

Resolving interpersonal tensions

As much as we try and create environments conducive to harmony and give people tools to resolve difficulties, there will always be misunderstandings and clashes. There are several well-developed processes, built intentionally and outside the heat of the moment, for moving forward. For example Mediation, Separation (temporary mutual disengagement), Interventions (creating safe space for calmly and constructively identifying patterns which disrupt others), and Exclusions (asking people who are persistently net negative or who break critical norms to leave).


When residents are leaving, we try to send them off with a boost. The eating / social space becomes a party space.


We've had one festival so far, with residents inviting a few of their most awesome friends to visit for an extended weekend. It was a lot of work, but wildly successful in terms of contacts created and interest produced.


Fostering deep friendships

Humans are adapted to have strong social support networks, which the modern world all too often fails to provide. We try to engineer an environment which causes these, and gather understanding about what works well. Things on the list of ideas include assigning people weekly review buddies, sorting people into houses, setting up norms of people recommending people to each other, writing lists of interests in public, and asking for more ideas.

Making good habits visible

Humans are are natural mimics. If you want people to adopt healthy habits (e.g. getting enough sleep, mindfulness, meta/object level balance) giving them visible positive example goes a long way.

Okay, this sounds great, but how do we get there?