Member of the LessWrong 2.0 team.
Curated. GDP is a measure that gets mentioned a lot. Any post clarifying what it doesn’t and doesn’t mean, how to interpret it, etc., is a major contribution.
I interacted with Leverage some over the years. I felt like they had useful theory and techniques, and was disappointed that it was difficult to get access to their knowledge. I enjoyed their parties. I did a Paradigm workshop. I knew people in Leverage to a casual degree.
What’s live for me now is that when the other recent post about Leverage was published, I was subjected to strong, repeated pressure by someone close to Geoff to have the post marked as flawed, and asked to lean on BayAreaHuman to approximately retract the post or acknowledge its flaws. (This request was made of me in my new capacity as head of LessWrong.) “I will make a fuss” is what I was told. I agreed that the post has flaws (I commented to that effect in the thread) and this made me feel the pressure wasn’t illegitimate despite being unpleasant. Now it seems to be part of a larger concerning pattern.
Further details seem pertinent, but I find myself reluctant to share them (and already apprehensive that this more muted description will have the feared effect) because I just don’t want to damage the relationship I have with the person who was pressuring me. I’m unhappy about it, but I still value that relationship. Heck, I haven’t named them. I should note that this person updated (or began reconsidering their position) after Zoe’s post and has since stopped applying any pressure on me/LessWrong.
With Geoff himself (with whom I personally have had a casual positive relationship) I feel more actual fear of being critical or in anyway taking the side against Leverage. I predict that if I do so, I’ll be placed on the list of adversaries. And something like, just based on the reaction to the Common knowledge post, Leverage is very agenty when it comes to their reputation. Or I don’t know, I don’t fear any particularly terrible retribution myself, but I loathe to make “enemies”.
I’d like to think that I’ve got lots of integrity and will say true things despite pressures and incentives otherwise, but I’m definitely not immune to them.
I’m very sorry. Despite trying to closely follow this thread, I missed your reply until now.
I also feel that this response doesn’t adequately acknowledge how tactically adversarial this context is, and how hard it is to navigate people’s desire for privacy.
You’re right, it doesn’t. I wasn’t that aware or thinking about those elements as much as I could have been. Sorry for that.
It was very difficult for me to create a document that I felt comfortable making public...
It makes sense now that this is the document you ended up writing. I do appreciate you went to the effort to write up a critical document to bring important concerns. It is valuable and important that people do so.
My hope is that inch by inch, step by step, more and more truth and clarity can come out, as more and more people become comfortable sharing their personal experience.
If you’ll forgive me suggesting again what you should have written, I’m thinking the adversarial context might have been it. If I had read that you were aware of a number of severe harms that weren’t publicly known, but that you couldn’t say anything more specific because of fears of retribution and the need to protect privacy–that would have been a large and important update to me regarding Leverage. And it might have got a conversation going into the situation to figure out whether and what information was being suppressed.
But it’s easier to say that in hindsight.
I super agree with this, but also want to note that I feel appreciation for farp’s comments here.
I found myself looking for comments that said something like “wow, this account is really horrifying and tragic; we’re taking these claims really seriously, and are investigating what actions we should take in response”
My models of most of the people I know in this thread feel that way. I can say on my own behalf that I found Zoe’s account shocking. I found it disturbing to think that was going on with people I knew and interacted with. I find it disturbing that if this really is true, how did it not surface until now? (Or how it was ignored until now?) I’m disturbed that Leverage’s weirdness (and usually I’m quite okay with weirdness) turned out to enable and hide terrible things, at least for one person and likely more. I’m saddened that it happened, because based on the account, it seems like Leverage were trying to accomplish some ambitious, good things and I wish we lived in a world where the “red flags” (group-living, mental experimentation, etc) were safely ignored in the pursuit in the service of great things.
Suddenly I am in a world more awful than the one I thought I was in, and I’m trying to reorient. Something went wrong and something different needs to happen now. Though I’m confident it will, it’s just a matter of ensuring we pick the right different thing.
It seems preeeetty likely that some leaders in the community knew more or less what was up. I want people to care about whether that is true or not.
I would be quite surprised if the people I would call leaders knew of things that were as severe as Zoe’s account and “did nothing”. I care a lot whether that’s true.
It’s easy for me to interpret comments like “Reminder that Leverage 1.0 is defunct and it seems very unlikely that the same things are going on with Leverage 2.0” as essentially claiming that, while post-mortems are useful, the situation is behind us.
My intention was to say that we don’t have reason to believe there is harm actively occurring right now that we need to intervene on immediately. A day or two to figure things out is fine.
Simply put, if I were a victim, I would want to speak up for the sake of accountability, not shared examination and learning.
Based on what Zoe said plus general models of these situations, I believe how victims feel is likely complicated. I’m hesitant to make assumptions here. (Btw, see here for where some people are trying to set up an anonymous database of experiences at Leverage).
And my understanding is that this is how the community’s leaders have handled other episodes of abuse (based on 0 private information, only public / second hand information).
I might suggest creating another post (so as to not interfere too much with this one) detailing what you believe to be the case so that we can discuss and figure out any systematic issues.
I’d caution against pursuing people too hard about friend requests on the Internet, even if they offered. Maybe a short message saying “hey, I sent you a request in case you didn’t see it”, but then leave it at that if they still don’t respond.
IMO, is that we should tolerate some impropriety for the greater good.
I am just pointing out that trust is asked of us.
Leverage really seems like a cult. It seems like an unsafe institution doing harmful things.
Reminder that Leverage 1.0 is defunct and it seems very unlikely that the same things are going on with Leverage 2.0 (remote team, focus on science history rather than psychology, 4 people).
I am not sure how much this stuff about Leverage is really news to people involved in our other “world saving” orgs.
The information in Zoe’s Medium post was significant news to me and others I’ve spoken to.
(saying the below for general clarity, not just in response to you)
I think everyone (?) in this thread is deeply concerned, but we’re hoping to figure out what exactly happened, what went wrong and why (and what maybe to do about it). To do that investigation and postmortem, we can’t skip to sentencing (forgive me if that’s not your intention, but it reads a bit to me that that’s what you want to be happening), nor would it be epistemically virtuous or just to do so.
Some major new information came to light, people need time to process it, surface other relevant information, and make statements. The matter is complicated by forces inhibiting people from speaking both in favor and against Leverage. If there’s any reluctance to “sell out” Leverage, it’s because people want to have the full conversation first, not because of any sense of solidarity that we’re all “world saving” orgs.
Anna is attempting to make people comfortable having this difficult conversation about Leverage by first inviting them just to share what factors are affecting their participation. Oliver is kindly obliging and saying what’s going through his mind.
This seems like a good approach to me for getting the conversation going. Once people have shared what’s going through their minds–and probably these need to received with limited judgmentality–the group can then understand the dynamics at play and figure out how to proceed having a productive discussion.
All that to say, I think it’s better to hold off on pressuring people or saying their reactions aren’t normative  in this sub-thread. Generally, I think having this whole conversation well requires a gentleness and patience in the face of the severe, hard-to-talk-about situation. Or to be direct, I think your comments in this thread have been brusque/pushy in a way that’s hurting the conversation (others feel free to chime in if that seems wrong to them).
 For what it’s worth, I think disclosing that your stance is informed by private info is good and proper.
(Oops. Hopefully fixed now.)
The links contain the Brexit campaign story.
I made the decision to frontpage it, probably a mistake so I’ve changed it. My interpretation (which is maybe a bad one) about the frontpage ban on politics is it’s to avoid hot-button topics that people get riled up. I was thinking of Cummings having a lot of general dry/abstract policy models more akin to economics than right/left issues.
If you want to emphasize that power in your writing, I’d recommend that when you talk about these emotional movements you use ‘you’ pronouns or speak about a community.
This might make the writing more emotionally powerful or something, but I think it’d make the post less epistemically well-grounded. One can be more certain that they experienced an effect than they can be that others would experience it.
It feels like the “common knowledge” framing is functioning as some form of evidence claim? “Evidence for the truth of these statements is that lots of people believe them”. And if it’s true that lots of people believe them, that is legitimate Bayesian evidence.
At the same time, it’s kind of hard to engage with and I think saying “everyone knows” make it feel harder to argue with.
A framing I like (although I’m not sure if entirely helps here with ease of engagement) is the “this is what I believe and how I came to believe it” approach, as advocated here. So you’d start of with “I believe Leverage Research 1.0 has many of the properties of a high-demand group such as” proceeding to “I believe this because of X things I observed and Y things that I heard and were corroborated by groups A and B”, etc.
I think Leverage is worthy of deep criticisms (and thought so even before yesterday’s Medium post) but also what you say about “guise of objectivity” is something that bothered me about this post and I’m glad you voiced it.
The new Medium post does imply that Leverage cannot be simply lumped with other EA/Rationalist orgs (I too haven’t heard anything that concerning reported of any other org), but I don’t think that invalidates your original point that the criticisms in this post, as written, could be levelled at many orgs. (I actually wrote such a damning-sounding list for LessWrong/Lightcone).
Thanks for taking the time to recount your experiences there.I do want to register that I expect the experience afforded to fellows as part of a few-month program to be different, and milder, than want long-term employees would experience.
I will have to count. I’ve been paying out for the ones that meet the bar (quite a few! most?) and who have requested payment. I’ll say this again in a public post, but if you’ve written a book review and would like to claim the bounty, please message me on Intercom.