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Recently, Ben Pace wrote a well-intentioned blog post mostly based on complaints from 2 (of 21) Nonlinear employees who 1) wanted more money, 2) felt socially isolated, and 3) felt persecuted/oppressed.

Of relevance, one has accused the majority of her previous employers, and 28 people of abuse - that we know of. 

She has accused multiple people of threatening to kill her and literally accused an ex-employer of murder. Within three weeks of joining us, she had accused five separate people of abuse: not paying her what was promised, controlling her romantic life, hiring stalkers, and other forms of persecution. 

We have empathy for her. Initially, we believed her too. 

We spent weeks helping her get her “nefarious employer to finally pay her” and commiserated with her over how badly they mistreated her. 

Then she started accusing us of strange things.

You’ve seen Ben’s evidence, which is largely the word of two people and a few misleadingly cropped screenshots. Below, we provide extensive evidence (contracts, recordings, screenshots, etc) demonstrating that the post’s claims are false, misleading, or are catastrophizing normal things. This post is a summary; we also include a ~200 page appendix of additional evidence. We also present a hypothesis for how Ben got so much wrong.

Two ways you can read this: 1) stop whenever you’re convinced because you’ve seen enough falsehoods that you no longer think their remaining claims are likely to be true, or 2) jump to the specific claims that are most important to you, and look at the evidence we provide for them. You can see summary tables of the key claims and evidence here, here, and here

Our request as you read on: consider this new evidence you haven’t seen yet with a scout mindset, and reflect on how to update on the accuracy of the original claims.

It’s messy, sorry. Given the length, we’re sure we’ve made mistakes - please do let us know. We’re very happy to receive good faith criticism - this is what makes EA amazing.

Finally, we want to note that we have a lot of empathy for Alice and Chloe. We believe them when they say they felt bad, and we present a hypothesis for what caused their negative emotions.

Short summary overview table

ClaimWhat actually happened
Alice claimed: they asked me to travel with illegal drugs.

- False. It was legal medicine - from a pharmacy. 

- Ben knew this and published it anyway.
Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Alice claimed: I was running out of money, so I was scared to quit because I was financially dependent on them (“[I] had €700 in [my] account”* etc.)

- Alice repeatedly misrepresented how much money she had. She actually had a separate bank account/business generating (according to her) ~$3,000 a month in passive income.

- Alice told us she was an independent business owner, so she either lied to Ben, Ben misled his readers about this, or she lied to us about the business.
Evidence/read more 

Chloe claimed: they tricked me by refusing to write down my compensation agreement

- False. We did write it down. We have a work contract and interview recordings. And when she realized this accusation was false, instead of apologizing, she tried to change the topic - “it’s not about whether I had a contract or salary.”*

- We told Ben we had proof, and he refused to look at it and published this anyway.
Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Alice claimed: they paid me next to nothing and were financially controlling

We were the opposite of “financially controlling”*:

- We gave her almost complete control over a ~$240,000 budget we had raised.

- We even let her choose her own pay.

  • She chose to pay herself an annualized ~$72,000 per year - more than anyone else at the org, and far more than the ~minimum wage she earned in previous jobs. 
  • This is more than most people make at OpenPhil, according to Glassdoor. 
  • This puts her in the top 1% of the world’s income. 
  • This doesn’t even include her business profits.

Evidence/read more 

Alice/Chloe claimed Nonlinear failed to pay them. Later, they denied ever claiming this.

- Alice/Chloe accused us many times of not paying them - a serious accusation. We proved this was false. 

- Ben tried to walk this back last minute, saying “I no longer believe this is true”*

- However, he didn’t remove all the references to this accusation - each one is proof that they were going around telling people this falsehood.

- Even our friends thought we didn’t pay Alice anything (due to the rumors that Alice spread).

- So they lied, got caught, and are now lying again by saying they never told the first lie.

- Instead of apologizing and questioning Alice/Chloe’s other claims based on them being caught telling him provably false and damaging information, Ben shifted the topic - “the real issue is about the wealth disparity between her and Emerson”*

Evidence/read more

Alice claimed: They refused to get me food when I was sick, starving me into giving up being vegan

False. People heard this and thought we were monsters. We ran around for days getting her food, despite all 3 of us being sick or injured. We also had vegan food in the house that she liked, which Kat offered to cook for her (but she declined the offer).

Evidence/read moreevidence #2evidence #3

Alice claimed: we were not able to live apart from them

- Strange, false accusation: Alice spent 2 of the 4 months living/working apart (dozens of EAs can verify she lived/worked in the FTX condos, which we did not live at)

Evidence/read more

Chloe claimed: they told me not to spend time with my romantic partner 

- Also a strange, false accusation: we invited her boyfriend to live with us for 2 of the 5 months. We even covered his rent and groceries.

- We were just about to invite him to travel with us indefinitely because it would make Chloe happy, but then Chloe quit.

Evidence/read more

Alice/Chloe claimed: we could only talk to people that Kat/Emerson invited to travel with us, making us feel socially dependent

- False. Chloe herself wrote the invite policy explicitly saying they were encouraged to invite friends/family.

- They regularly invited people who joined us (e.g. Chloe’s boyfriend joined for 40% of the time)

Evidence/read more

Alice claimed: they told me not to see my family, making me socially dependent and isolated

- Bizarre, false accusation given that Alice spent 1 of the 4 months with her family

Kat encouraged her to set up regular calls with her family, and she did.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Alice/Chloe claimed: I was paid $1,000 per month (and kept implying this was all she was paid, saying it was “tiny pay” or “low pay”)

- The $1k/month was a stipend on top traveling the world all-expenses-paid, which was the majority of the value (~$58k of the ~$70k estimated value of the compensation package)

- It’s not the same as a salary, but it’s the comp Chloe signed up for and we clearly communicated. And when Alice asked for pure cash, we said “sure” and even let her choose how much she paid herself.

- It’s also misleading. Imagine somebody goes to the EA Hotel and then loudly shouts, “they only paid me $100 a month”. The biggest thing the EA Hotel provides is room & board. 

Evidence/read more


Alice/Chloe painted a picture of poverty and isolation, which simply does not match the exotic, socially-rich lifestyle they actually lived.

Alice/Chloe were the opposite of isolated - here they’re living, co-working, and partying with with dozens of EAs in condos in the Bahamas. Chloe traveled the world all-expenses paid - the $1,000 stipend was a small part of her compensation package. This is not “next to nothing” for a recent uni grad, working for a charity, as an assistant.
The gang going for a hiking adventure with AI safety leaders. Alice/Chloe were surrounded by a mix of uplifting, ambitious entrepreneurs and a steady influx of top people in the AI safety space.
Campfire singalongs on a tropical beach under a moonlit sky. Smores, stories, laughter.
Alice, Chloe, and her boyfriend working in the pool. Chloe claimed we told her not to see her boyfriend, but we literally invited her boyfriend to live with us for 2 of the 5 months. We even paid his rent and groceries and were about to invite him to travel with us indefinitely.
The gang doing pool yoga. Later, we did pool karaoke. Iguanas everywhere.
Alice and Kat meeting in “The Nest” in our jungle Airbnb.

 

ClaimWhat actually happened
Alice: You didn’t pay me! 

- We paid Alice consistently on time and she herself often said “Thanks for paying me so fast!”

- Once she accused us of not paying but she just hadn’t checked her bank account

- Another time she accused us of not paying her for “many months” when she’d received her stipend just 2 weeks prior. 

- She said she had to “strongly request” her salary, when really, she just hadn’t filled out the reimbursement system for months

- We have text messages & bank receipts and she’s still telling people this.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2evidence #3

Chloe claimed: I was expected to do chores around the house because I was considered low value

- This was part of her job - she was an assistant. We were very upfront, and have interview recordings showing she knew this before she accepted the job.

- Imagine applying to be a dishwasher, hating washing dishes, then writing a “tell all” about how you felt demeaned/devalued because the restaurant “expected” you to wash dishes.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2evidence #3

Chloe: I felt like they didn’t value me or my time (she implied she spent all her time doing assistant work)

- Chloe spent just ~10% of her time on assistant work (according to her own time tracking), the rest was high level ops & reading

- We allocated 25% of her time to professional development (~$17,000 a year)

- This is basically unheard of for any job, much less an assistant.

- She got to read/develop any skills she wanted 2 hours a day (leadership, M&E, hiring, etc) - a dream to many EAs.

- Kat showed so much gratitude that Chloe actually asked her to stop expressing gratitude. She said it made her feel Kat only valued her for her work. So Chloe accuses us of both valuing her work too much and too little. 

- It’s not that Kat didn’t value Chloe’s assistant work, it’s that Chloe didn’t seem to value assistant work, so constantly felt diminished for doing it (despite having agreed to do it when we hired her)

- Base rate: ~50% of people feel undervalued at work.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2evidence #3evidence #4

Alice: Kat threatened my career for telling the truth

- False. Alice had spent months slandering Kat by spreading falsehoods that were damaging our reputation (see the numerous pages of evidence below).

- Kat reached out multiple times, trying to hear her side, share her own, and make some attempts at conflict resolution. Alice refused.

- However, despite being attacked, Kat had not defended herself by sharing the truth about what really occurred (which would have made Alice look very bad)

- Kat communicated to Alice: Please stop attacking me. I don’t want to fight. If you don’t stop attacking me, I’ll have to defend myself. I haven’t yet told the truth about what you did, and if I do, it will end your career (paraphrased)

       - Alice painted herself as the victim and Kat out as the attacker, despite Alice being the attacker for months, who had been harming Kat by telling lies.

- Why didn’t Kat defend herself? 

1) She felt compassion for Alice. She was clearly struggling and needed professional help, not more discord.

2) She was terrified of Alice. Alice had accused 28+ people of abuse - wouldn’t you be scared knowing that? She was worried Alice would escalate further. Which she did anyway.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2evidence #3

Saying “if you keep sharing your side, I’ll share mine - and that will end your career” is unethical and retaliatory

- Everybody agrees that if somebody is spreading damaging falsehoods about you that it can be good and ethical to share your side and correct the record.

- If the truth would hurt the slanderer’s own career, you should still be able to share the truth

- In fact, warning the slanderer first is often preferable to going public with the truth without warning them - it at least gives them a chance to stop.

- The question is: did Alice spread falsehoods or “just share her negative experience”? (numerous pages of evidence below)

There’s a double standard here: if you share your experience and you’re lower status, that’s “brave”, but if you do the same thing and you’re higher status, that’s “retaliation”. This epistemic norm will predictably lead to inaccurate beliefs and unethical outcomes. 

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

This post is long, so if you read just one illustrative story, read this one

Ben wrote: “Before she went on vacation, Kat requested that Alice bring a variety of illegal drugs across the border for her (some recreational, some for productivity). Alice argued that this would be very dangerous for her personally.”

This conjures up vivid images of Kat as a slavemaster forcing poor Alice to be a cocaine smuggler, risking life in prison. Is it true? 

Parts of the story Alice didn’t share:

  • Kat requested Alice bring legal medicine from a pharmacy - specifically antibiotics and one pack of ADHD medicine - not illegal drugs. These medicines are cheap and legal without a prescription in other parts of Mexico we’d visited, and she was already going to a pharmacy anyway. 
  • After arriving, Alice learned that they require a prescription there. When she told Kat and Drew this, they both said “oh well, never mind!” - it wasn’t a big deal. But then Alice just went and got a prescription anyway.
Us asking Alice to pick up some antibiotics and one pack of ADHD medicine (which we thought didn’t need a prescription in Mexico. It turns out it does in some but not all states.) We say: don’t worry about it, take care of yourself. Alice just got a prescription anyway.
 

Alice never argued this would be “very dangerous for her personally”:

  • In direct contradiction of her story, thinking traveling with legal medicine would be too dangerous, she flew with psilocybin mushrooms for herself to Mexico.
  • Not only that, while in Mexico, she did an actual drug deal for herself - she went out and illegally purchased, then traveled internationally with, actual recreational drugs (cannabis), again completely contradicting her story.
  • In fact, Alice never told you that she traveled with actual illegal drugs - cannabis/LSD/psilocybin - for herself across most borders we know of. And Kat was the one warning her not to do that! For example, Alice bought psilocybin for herself just before flying out and Kat expressed concern about her traveling with that.
  • In contrast to her “I’m a sweet, innocent girl who would never take such legal risks as traveling with drugs” framing, Alice was literally an ex-drug dealer and manufacturer. She told us she used to make a lot of money growing and distributing marijuana and psilocybin, but she was smoking so much of her own product that she stopped making money. 

So, she traveled across both international borders with actually illegal drugs for herself on these flights, and accused us of asking her to travel with -- legal medicine.

Alice took a small request - could you swing by a pharmacy and grab some cheap antibiotics/ADHD medicine? - and she twisted it into a narrative of forcing her to risk prison as a drug mule, that had commenters rushing for their pitchforks. 

And it’s worse than that - Ben’s post implied that we largely agreed on the facts of the story, so people condemned us viciously in the comments! But he knew we didn’t agree - when he told us this story we literally laughed out loud because it was so absurd.

We shared much of this information with Ben - he knew it was legal medicine, not illegal drugs - yet he still published this misleading version. We were horrified that Ben published this knowing full well it wasn’t true. We told him we’d share these exact screenshots with him, but he refused to look at them.

It would be bad enough if Alice told this story to one person, but she was going around telling lots of people this! We were hearing from friends Alice started telling stories like this just minutes after she met them, completely unprompted. Saying that the only reason she wasn’t succeeding was because Kat was persecuting her, that we refused to pay her, forced her to do demeaning things, etc. 

Ben looked into this because Alice/Chloe spent 1.5 years attacking usand we didn’t defend ourselves by sharing our side. People only heard stories like the one above.

No wonder people treated us like lepers, disinvited us from events, etc. Can you imagine what that would feel like? For 1.5 years, I’ve lived with fear and confusion (“Why is she still attacking me?”), sleepless nights, fear of what Alice’s next attack might be (justified, apparently), and a sludgy, dark, toxic desolation in my chest at being rejected by my community based on false rumors.

The only thing that gave me hope during this entire thing was believing that EAs/rationalists are good at updating based on evidence, and the truth is on our side. 

What is going on? Why did they say so many misleading things? How did Ben get so much wrong?

Ben’s hypothesis - “2 EAs are Secretly Evil”: 2 (of 21) Nonlinear employees felt bad because while Kat/Emerson seem like kind, uplifting charity workers, behind closed doors they are ill-intentioned ne’er do wells. (Ben said we're "predators" who "chew up and spit out" the bright-eyed youth of the community - witch hunter language.)

If what Alice and Chloe told Ben is true, then this hypothesis has merit. Unfortunately, they told him falsehoods. For instance, Alice falsely claims that she couldn’t live/work apart and yet did so for 2 of the 4 months.

Why would she say something so false that she must know is false?

Maybe they’re deliberately lying? We mostly don’t think so, because they wouldn’t keep lying about things we can easily disprove with evidence. Like, Chloe said we tricked her with a verbal contract when she knows we sent her a work contract and we recorded her interviews. So why would she say that?

Maybe they’re just exaggerating and trying to share an emotional truth? Like, Alice felt starved and uncared for, and she’s trying to share that by bending the truth (even though she knows that Kat offered to cook her food, and ended up going out to get her food even though Kat was sick also)?

The thing is, they bend the truth far beyond what anyone would consider normal. For example, with the “they starved me” thing, Alice told Drew she was “completely out of food” just one hour after Kat (also sick) had offered to cook her any of the vegan food in the house that Alice usually loved and ate every day. 

Kat reminding Alice about all of the vegan food in the house, which Kat offered to cook for her.
Alice, one hour later, says she’s “completely out of food”

This is quite extreme. And there are dozens of similar examples.

So what is going on? Below, we present relevant information to support an alternative hypothesis:

“2 EAs are Mentally Unwell”: They felt bad because, sadly, they had long-term mental health issues, which continued for the 4-5 months they worked for us.
 

Relevant mental health history

- Alice has accused the majority of her previous employers, and 28 people - that we know of - of abuse. She accused people of: not paying her, being culty, persecuting/oppressing her, controlling her romantic life, hiring stalkers, threatening to kill her, and even, literally, murder.

- They both told us they struggled with severe mental health issues causing extreme negative emotions for much of their lives. Alice said she’d had it for ~90% of her life. She told us that she’d been having symptoms just 4 months before joining us. But she told us then, as she tells people now, she’s totally better and happy all the time. 

- If she’s been suffering extreme negative emotions for most of her life, it could be that we caused the emotions this time. But it’s more likely a continuation of a longstanding issue.

- She was forced to spend a month in a mental hospital. Shortly after, while still getting her bachelor’s, Alice started advertising herself as a life coach to make money. She has offered herself to EAs as a “spiritual guru” claiming she has achieved “unshakeable joy”.

- During the period she started accusing us of strange things, she was microdosing LSD every day, only sleeping a few hours a night for weeks, speaking incoherently, writing on mirrors, etc.

- She, sadly, claimed to have six separate painful health issues. (When she’s in pain she seems to see ill intent everywhere.)

Relevant instances of acting erratically

1) Alice attempted to steal a Nonlinear project, one that she and 6 other people at Nonlinear had worked on for months. She locked us out of the project and was going around EA claiming it was solely her invention. We told her she could use it if she at least gave Nonlinear some credit for it - it would be insulting to all her colleagues who worked hard on it not to. She kept refusing to share any credit - not even a tiny mention.

2) Alice created a secret bank account and a separate organization (without telling us), and attempted to transfer $240,000 from our control despite being repeatedly told it was not her money and telling people she wasn’t sure if it was her money. However, we do not think she had malicious intent. Our best guess as to why she did this is that she was having an episode and lost touch with reality.

3) While at Nonlinear, Alice worked on a project. Then, weeks after she quit, she continued working on it without telling us, and then demanded we pay her for those weeks she worked after she quit.
4) While at Nonlinear, Alice asked Chloe to help her with a project. Then, weeks after they both quit, Alice demanded we retroactively pay Chloe extra money.

5) Alice repeatedly lied about getting job offers to try to extort more money out of us. That or else she made them up as a part of her pattern of delusions. She’s groundlessly claimed to have 4 fabricated job/funding offers that we know of. 
6) She also fabricated 6 serious falsehoods on her resume - that we know of.
7) She went around offering grants of our money and refused to even tell us who she offered them to, or how much. It was a nightmare. After weeks of trying to reason with her, we gave her a deadline to respond. She interpreted the deadline as abuse. We then found out that most of the money she’d offered to people was illegal for us to give (likely not on purpose).

Evidence/read moreevidence #2evidence #3evidence #4

Key pattern: Alice/Chloe confuse emotions for reality

Example: Alice was saying we literally made her homeless - a very serious accusation. We reminded her of the proof that this was false, and she said “It doesn’t matter, because I felt homeless.”

But it really does matter. This is a key pattern of Alice/Chloe’s - they think that feeling persecuted/oppressed means they were persecuted/oppressed, even if they weren’t.

Evidence/read more  


Why share this? If we refute their claims point by point without explaining the patterns, it’s hard not to think “but they felt bad. Surely you did something bad.” There needs to be a plausible alternative hypothesis for why they felt oppressed.

This info is relevant because mental health issues, particularly having delusions of persecution, explain what happened better:

  • Hypothesis 1: actual persecution
  • Hypothesis 2: delusions of persecution

To support Hypothesis 2, we simply must share relevant mental health history.

Of course, just because somebody has frequent delusions of persecution doesn’t mean that they’re all false. We agree. That’s why this doc contains numerous pages of evidence to counter their unsupported claims.

And just because somebody has mental health issues doesn’t mean they’re less worthy of compassion. If they are mentally unwell, knowing that allows us to actually help them. If somebody is experiencing delusions, going after whatever “demon” they claim to see won’t actually help them. 

If you learn that someone has made many false accusations, which follow a similar pattern to their previous delusions, and many are quite implausible (e.g. hiring stalkers is a weird accusation), then those patterns are relevant. And if somebody was mentally unwell most of their life, then that’s a relevant explanatory factor for why they felt bad.


Ben admitted in his post that he was warned in private by multiple of his own sources that Alice was untrustworthy and told outright lies. One credible person told Ben "Alice makes things up." 

We are horrified we have to share all this publicly, but Ben, who refused to look at our evidence, left us no choice. We do not want Alice’s accusations to destroy yet more people’s lives and more drama is the last thing EA needs right now, so we do not intend to expand the scope of accusations in this post, but we think it’s important to share a flavor for Alice’s past with the specifics redacted. 

However, we want to make sure it’s clear, this is just the tip of the iceberg for the lives Alice has ruined.

Here is an illustration of how many people we know Alice has accused:

  1. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  2. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  3. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  4. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  5. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  6. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  7. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  8. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  9. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  10. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  11. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  12. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  13. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  14. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  15. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  16. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  17. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  18. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  19. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  20. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  21. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
  22. Alice accused [Person] of [abusing/persecuting/oppressing her] 
     
  23. Alice accused [a previous employer] of [refusing to pay her, stalking her, toxic culture, making her do unethical/illegal things, assault and murder. Yes, she literally accused her former boss of murder.]
  24. Alice accused [a previous employer] of [abuse, toxic culture, sexism]
  25. Alice accused [a previous employer] of [abuse, toxic culture, doing illegal/unethical things, refusing to pay her]
  26. Alice accused [a previous employer] of [being a cult, toxic culture, doing illegal/unethical things]
  27. Alice accused [a previous employer] of [abuse]
  28. Alice accused [a previous employer] of [child abuse, assault, threatening to kill her]

 

  1. Alice lied about [serious thing] on her resume
  2. Alice lied about [serious thing] on her resume
  3. Alice lied about [serious thing] on her resume
  4. Alice lied about [serious thing] on her resume
  5. Alice lied about [serious thing] on her resume
  6. Alice lied about [serious thing] on her resume

 

  1. Alice [____] involving [police]
  2. Alice [____] involving [police]
  3. Alice [____] involving [police]

Continuing the pattern, the only public writing I can find of hers outside of social media and the forum is her publicly accusing a person of persecution.

Within weeks of joining us, she accused five separate, unrelated people of abuse. This should have been a major warning sign, but we just thought she’d been unlucky. We hadn’t known her long enough yet to spot the pattern and we were trusting.

These are just the ones we know of from a very shallow investigation. How many would we find if we spent 6 months investigating her? Then we contacted each of these people she accused of abuse and only shared their side? What do they think of Alice?

What would they think if they heard that she was once again accusing a former employer of oppressing her?

We actually completely understand why Ben and most people believed her when she accused us of things - because we believed her too. Within just weeks of first arriving, she told us how:

  • Her current employer was refusing to pay her and she’d been waiting for months for payment. 
  • They had “unclear boundaries” and were disorganized and unprofessional. 
  • They promised her control of projects then reneged later.
  • Her previous employer was culty and unethical. 
  • Her boyfriend was trying to control her by pressuring her to stop practicing the type of poly she preferred (“no rules” relationship anarchy) 

And we just believed her, because 1) we didn’t hear the other side and 2) who lies about things like that?

Also, Alice is one of the most charming people we’ve ever met. She stares deeply into your eyes and makes you feel like the most special person, like you’ve been friends forever. It’s so easy to believe her when she says these people have been being mean to her for no reason. She believes it herself and makes you feel protective of her.

We ourselves were trying to help her get paid by her “evil employer who was refusing to pay her” and congratulating her for “escaping from her culty ex-employer”. 

And then she started accusing us of the same kinds of things.

Of course, she could be just very unlucky. But it’s very rare to be that unlucky. If one person is a jerk to you, then that person’s probably a jerk. If everybody’s “mysteriously mean” to you for “no reason” - she kept saying this - maybe it’s not the other people.

And anybody who knows her will notice that she appears to have endless stories of people “bullying/oppressing/mistreating” her, often for what seem to be strange reasons or no reason at all (e.g. she was “bullied” in university for “being too happy”. She almost got a kid expelled from school for this.)

Alice would randomly get texts saying “You ruined my life. I wish I had never met you.” Apparently Alice had destroyed that person’s marriage. She claimed to have done nothing wrong, as is her pattern.

We also wish we had never met Alice. She seems to hop from community to community leaving a trail of wreckage in her wake. 

Shortly after being forced to spend a month in a mental hospital, while still in university, Alice started advertising herself as a life coach to make money. She said she stopped because she’d ruined multiple peoples’ lives. At least, this is what she told us. 

It looks like she’s started up again. At a recent EAG she told people that she had figured out “unshakeable joy” years ago and offered to teach EAs. Just before she started accusing us of things that made no sense, she was again offering to be a “spiritual guru” to an EA in the Bahamas. She did not follow through because she spent the next months, according to her, “mentally all over the place”. 

In other words, during the same time she’s claiming she was miserable, subjected to the worst experience of her life, she was at the same time offering to teach EAs her secret to “unshakeable joy”.

Many people reached out to us privately after Ben released his article who were afraid to come to our defense publicly because it’s dangerous to defend a witch burning on a pyre lest ye be accused of being a witch yourself. Many EA leaders are quietly keeping their heads down since FTX, because visibility in EA has become dangerous. 

We had to redact quotes here because, as one person said, “I’m worried Alice will attack me like she’s attacking you.”

Alice has similarities to Kathy Forth, who, according to Scott Alexander, was “a very disturbed person” who, multiple people told him, “had a habit of accusing men she met of sexual harassment. They all agreed she wasn't malicious, just delusional.” As a community, we do not have good mechanisms in place to protect people from false accusations.

Scott wrote a post saying that some of Kathy's accusations were false, “because those accusations were genuinely false, could have seriously damaged the lives of innocent people.” 

Of note, we tried to handle this like Scott, who minimized what was shared in public “in order to not further harm anyone else's reputation (including Kathy's)”. This is why we avoided publicly saying anything for the last 1.5 years. Also, once we learned about her history of accusations, we were terrified of Alice, because… well, wouldn’t you be? 

Multiple people have actually recommended I get a restraining order on her. Unfortunately, given her previous behavior, it’s unlikely that would help.

Scott said: “I think the Kathy situation is typical of how effective altruists respond to these issues and what their failure modes are. … the typical response in this community is the one which, in fact, actually happened - immediate belief by anyone who didn't know the situation and a culture of fear preventing those who did know the situation from speaking out. I think it's useful to acknowledge and push back against that culture of fear.”

As Scott said “If someone says false and horrible things to destroy other people's reputation, the story is "someone said false and horrible things to destroy other people's reputation".”  

“Suppose the shoe was on the other foot, and some man (Bob), made some kind of false and horrible rumor about a woman…Maybe he says that she only got a good position in her organization by sleeping her way to the top. If this was false, the story isn't "we need to engage with the ways Bob felt harmed and make him feel valid." It's not "the Bob lied lens is harsh and unproductive". It's 'we condemn these false and damaging rumors.'"

We need to carefully separate two questions: 1) is Alice deserving of sympathy? and 2) did Alice spread damaging falsehoods? 

For 1) Yes, we feel sympathy for Alice. Seeing secret ill-intent everywhere must be horrible. We hope she gets professional help. 

But if she’s going around saying that we forced her to travel with illegal drugs, we starved her, we isolated her on purpose, we refused to pay her, and other horrible false things, then the story isn’t that she felt isolated or she felt scared, the story is that she told false and damaging rumors. 

And we need to not mix up our laudable compassion for all with our need to set up systems to prevent false accusations from causing massive harm. In addition to a staggering misallocation of the community’s time, Alice, Ben, and Chloe hurt me (Kat) so much I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, and I cried more than any other time in my life. My hands were shaking so badly I couldn’t type responses to comments. I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone. 

Why didn’t Ben do basic fact-checking to see if their claims were true? I mean, multiple people warned him?

In sum, Ben appears to have believed Alice/Chloe, unaware of their history, prematurely committed to the “2 EAs are Secretly Evil Hypothesis”, then looked exclusively for confirming evidence. 

Crucially, by claiming that they were afraid of retaliation, despite the fact that they’d been attacking us for 1.5 years without us retaliating, Alice/Chloe convinced him that he shouldn’t give us time to provide evidence, that he should just take them at their word. As a result, he shot us in the stomach before hearing our side.

His “fact-checking” seems to have been mostly talking to Alice and Chloe, Alice/Chloe’s friends, and a few outsiders who didn’t know much about the situation.

Imagine applying Ben’s process after a messy breakup: “I heard you had a bad breakup with your ex. To find the truth, I’m going to talk to your ex and her friends and uncritically publicly share whatever they tell me, without giving you the chance first to provide counterevidence, because they told me I shouldn’t let you. Also, I paid them a total of $10,000 before looking at your evidence, so it may be difficult to convince me I wasted all that time and money.”

One example of Ben’s bias: one source told Ben lots of positive things about us. How much of that did Ben choose to include? ~Zero. 

A few more examples: 

ClaimWhat actually happened
Ben implied: Kat/Emerson didn’t write things down because they’re dangerously negligent

Actually, when we heard this, we said “What?  Yes we did. Just give us time to show you.” (He did not.)

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Ben: After my call with Kat/Emerson I sent over my notes. Emerson said “Good summary!” (implying Kat/Emerson largely agreed with the facts of the article) 

- We were horrified to see that Ben cut off the second part of Emerson’s statement - “Some points still require clarification” and “You don't want to post false things that if you'd waited a bit, you'd know not to include. This draft is filled with literally dozens of 100% libelous and false claims - and, critically, claims that we can prove are 100% false.”

- This was especially damaging because many people thought the story was complete, instead of just being one side. People were so angry at us for things “we admitted to” (we didn’t!)

Evidence/read more

Ben: these are consistent patterns of behavior, so you should avoid Nonlinear because of these patterns

- Ben was so committed to his hypothesis, he didn’t speak to any of the people who worked for us in the 1.5 years since Alice/Chloe left to see if any of these patterns were actual patterns. 

- 100% of them left overall positive reviews.

Evidence/read more

Ben: Alice was the only person to go through their incubator program

- False. Ben’s “fact-checking” appears to mostly have consisted of asking Alice/Chloe’s friends, he thought Alice was the only person we incubated. Actually, there were 6 others, 100% of whom reported a positive experience. He talked to 0 of them.

- Alice & Chloe knew this was false and did not correct it.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Ben: Emerson’s previous company had a bad culture


 

- Actually, people liked working for Emerson. His anonymous Glassdoor ratings were similar to the 57th best place to work.
- Ben quoted a bunch of horrible Glassdoor reviews -- but they weren’t about Emerson. We refuted this in the EA Forum thread itself. Then we refuted it in another thread on LessWrong. Then we told Ben directly. Then a prominent EA told Ben directly, hours before posting, and finally he hastily made changes. 

- However, not only did he not apologize, despite the facts changing massively, he kept the vibe/conclusion the same. And still, after all this, he included false information!
- Looking exclusively for negative information will lead to predictably wrong conclusions. For example, look at these negative reviews of Google (“toxic”, “exploitative”, “poor salary”) - would you predict that 97% of employees said it was a good place to work? 

- Side note: the EA Forum, months later, banned someone for  sockpuppeting the original unsubstantiated gossip EA Forum thread (based on Alice/Chloe’s falsehoods) - the sockpuppets created even more false consensus.

Evidence/read more

 Acknowledging the elephant in the room: a number of reviewers advised us to at least point to the common hypothesis that Ben white-knighted for Alice too hard, given both their personalities and Alice’s background. We’ll leave the pointer, but don’t think it’s hugely appropriate to discuss further.

Longer summary table

Below you’ll find another longer summary. It’s not comprehensive - the full appendix correcting all the falsehoods (200+ pages) is here. We cover many things in the full appendix that aren’t linked to here.

It’s messy, sorry. We were originally going to literally go sentence by sentence to point out all the inaccuracies, then that got too complicated. There were just too many because Ben didn’t wait to see our evidence. Many claims are partially rebutted in different places and it’s hard to see the big picture.

Ben Gish galloped us by just uncritically sharing every negative thing he heard without fact-checking. Gish galloping means “overwhelming your opponent by providing an excessive number of arguments with no regard for the accuracy or strength of those arguments. Each point raised by the Gish galloper takes considerably more time to refute or fact-check than it did to state in the first place, which is known as Brandolini's law.

Read on to consider which hypothesis seems more plausible:

2 EAs are Secretly Evil Hypothesis: 2 (of 21) Nonlinear employees felt bad because while Kat/Emerson seem like kind, uplifting charity workers publicly, behind closed doors they are ill-intentioned ne’er do wells. (Ben said we're "predators" who "chew up and spit out" the bright-eyed youth of the community - witch hunter language.)

2 EAs are Mentally Unwell Hypothesis: They felt bad because, sadly, they had long-term mental health issues, which continued for the 4-5 months they worked for us.
 

ClaimWhat actually happened
“Chloe was only paid $1k/month, and otherwise had many basic things compensated i.e. rent, groceries, travel” Ben describes this as - “next to nothing” and “tiny pay” (they kept implying they were only paid $1,000, so many people walked away with that impression)

- We offered a compensation package: all-expenses-paid (jetsetting around the Caribbean) plus a $1,000 a month stipend on top, working for a charity, as a recent college grad. 

- We estimated this would be around $70,000, but there was never a plan to make it “add up”. It was simple: “We pay for everything - you live the same lifestyle as us.”

- This is “next to nothing”? What happened to EA?

  • This is more than Holden earned running GiveWell in year 3. 

- She was living what for many is a dream life. She was so financially comfortable she didn’t even have to think about money 

- She somehow turns this into blaming Emerson for her forgetting about her own savings. We don’t think she had to spend a penny of her stipend and 100% of it went into her savings. 

Base rate: even among workers who are overpaid, 94% are not completely satisfied. Everyone wants more money.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Alice: I was paid next to nothing!

- Alice was in the top 1-0.1% of income globally - working for a charity! - yet she was paid “next to nothing”. 

- She was allowed to choose how much she got paid and she chose $72,000, annualized. She also had a separate business making, according to her, around $36,000 a year. That adds up to $108,000 annualized income.

- Even before she got the pay raise just 3 months into her job, her comp was $12k stipend, room, board, travel, and medical adding up to around $73k total per year, plus $36k per year from her business. That’s $109k total, living virtually the same lifestyle as us. 

- This was a huge increase in pay for her - her previous jobs were ~minimum wage.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Alice: They asked me to help around the house even when I was sick. This is abuse!

She neglected to mention that 

  1. She was just a friend living rent-free at the time
  2. Everyone in the house was sick/injured 
  3. When she complained about having to help out, we said she didn’t have to

Evidence/read more

Chloe’s first story: I was packing and Kat/Emerson just sat there on their laptops, working on AI safety instead of helping

This was her job. She was explicitly hired to do “life ops” so that Kat and Emerson could spend more time on AI safety. She knew this before she took the job and we have interview transcripts proving it. 

Evidence/read more

Chloe’s second story: Emerson snapped at me

Emerson shouldn’t have done that. But also, Chloe snapped at Emerson sometimes too. It was a really stressful travel day for everybody. This was not an ongoing pattern and the only time we recall this happening. Kat checked in the next day and Chloe said she actually loved the chaos of traveling and it was just that she’d had a bad sleep the night before.

Evidence/read more

Chloe’s third story: Kat threw out all of my hard work right in front of me, showing that my work hours are worth so little

- Chloe got the wrong product and Kat just hadn’t told her till then because she was trying to protect her feelings since she’d worked so hard on it. Chloe knew this and still published this story.

- Chloe got so much appreciation from Kat that Chloe actually asked her to do it less.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Chloe: I had unclear work boundaries and was pressured into working on a weekend (implies this was a regular occurrence)

“My boss offered me an all-expenses-paid trip to the Caribbean island St. Barths, which required one hour of work to arrange the boat and ATV rentals (for me to enjoy too). But it was one hour on a weekend, so I complained, and it never happened again.”

Evidence/read more

Chloe: I was put into complex situations and told I could do it

- This is not actually bad

- We said in the job ad that you would be a good fit if "It’s hard to phase you. You like the challenge of tackling complex problems instead of feeling stressed out about them" 
- Complex situations she herself cites: ordering a taxi, asking for a ride, packing suitcases.

- This is some of the best public evidence of her being mentally unwell. These are not overwhelming tasks for most people.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Alice: they told me not to talk to locals!

Strange accusation. She asked “How can I increase my impact?” and we said, “you might try spending less time with random bartenders and more time with all the high-level EAs Kat introduced you to”. 

She continued to talk to locals all the time she was with us, which was totally fine by us. 

Evidence/read more

Alice: the Productivity Fund ($240,000) was mine

- We have in writing in multiple places that Alice was the project manager of the Productivity Fund, a project under Nonlinear. 

- We never did anything to make her think it was hers. She was still attending Nonlinear weekly meetings. We were still reimbursing her for expenses. We never sent her the money. We never sent her a grant agreement. We told her to not make a separate bank account for the money (she did anyway in secret). We threw a party and toasted her promotion (not grant or new charity) in front of many people. We told her if she wanted to do something outside of the scope of the project, she’d have to get our permission. Chloe, our operations manager, was handling all of her ops. 

- The only thing she has to show it was “hers” is her word, where she remembers a conversation very differently than Emerson or Kat. 

- This is one of at least 4 separate times we know of where she’s said she was offered money/employment when she wasn’t. 

Evidence/read moreevidence #2evidence #3

Alice/Chloe complain about “unclear boundaries” as if we kept them unclear as part of a nefarious plot.

If they wanted clear boundaries, they should have applied to Bureacracy Inc, not a tiny nomadic startup with a tiny budget. Our job ad said to expect “flexibility, informality” and “startup culture”.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Chloe: A tiny startup with a tiny budget did very little accounting!

- Chloe was literally hired to do accounting

- We did all of the accounting that we are legally and practically required to do, to the best of our knowledge

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Chloe: I gained no professional advancement from my 5 months there!


 

A strange accusation given that:
1) She landed a highly competitive ops job at a top EA org just ~2 months after leaving, despite being a recent college grad with no other ops experience outside of Nonlinear.
2) We let her read whatever she wanted for 2 hours a day (paid) to advance her career (this is 25% of the workday, so that’s like us investing $17,000 a year in her professional growth)

Evidence/read more

Alice: I couldn’t work for months afterward, I was so upset. 

- We have multiple text messages of her telling us that she’d been working that entire time. She told us she hadn’t even taken weekends off. 

- Perhaps relevant: she was trying to get more money from us by saying she’d continued working. But when talking to Ben, she’d get money saying that she hadn’t worked. 

- Either way, she lied to Ben or she lied to us. 

Evidence/read more

Alice/Chloe: Emerson told us stories of him being a shark

- Emerson shared stories about how he almost died in shark attacks to help Alice/Chloe defend themselves against shark attacks. They then painted Emerson as a shark. 

- A different Nonlinear team member heard the same stories, but spent weeks taking notes and was grateful!

Evidence/read more

Alice: I got constant compliments from the founders that ended up seeming fake.

Strange accusation. Alice was in a dark place and interpreted compliments as evidence that Kat/Emerson were secretly evil.

Evidence/read more

Alice: Emerson said, "how much value are you able to extract from others in a short amount of time?" - he openly advocates exploiting people!

He said “to have productive conversations, ask good questions to maximize learning/value per second”

Evidence/read more

Chloe: I was pressured into learning to drive

- Chloe was an enthusiastic consenting adult for the independence it gave her (“I was excited to learn how to drive”)

- She regularly drove on her own for fun

- She was told many times that she didn’t have to drive if she didn’t want to. We’d just pay for Ubers for her. She always insisted she did. 

- We spent 1 hour a day for 2 months patiently teaching her in parking lots. She had tons of supervised practice. 
- She was about to go home to get her license

- Ben said she risked “substantial risk of jail time in a foreign country” (sounds terrifying). False, it was just a $50 fine, the same amount you’d be fined for jaywalking (we told him this. The article is filled with falsehoods he refused to correct).

- She once decided to stop driving. She didn’t even tell Kat/Em because it was so not a big deal. She just told Drew, and he was like “cool”. She started driving around a week later because she missed driving. Drew didn’t talk to her about it and Em/Kat didn’t even know so there was no pressure to start again.
- Ben says she had a “minor collision”, framed to seem scary/serious, but she just scraped a pole driving slowly in a parking lot.

Evidence/read moreevidence #2

Ben: Alice/Chloe are “finally” speaking out. They couldn’t speak out for fear of retaliation. and didn’t want anyone to know until.

- False. Alice/Chloe spent the last 1.5 years telling many people in EA, which seriously damaged Nonlinear's reputation. 

- Chloe and Alice have been attacking us that whole time - without us retaliating against them! They report being worried about us hiring stalkers, doing spurious lawsuits, or otherwise legally dubious actions. None of those things happened.

Evidence/read more 

Ben: 12 years ago in a dispute Emerson used “intimidation tactics”

- Someone tried to steal Emerson’s company, throwing his 25 employees on the street, with a legal loophole. Emerson said he would countersue and actually share his side (he hadn’t). Ben frames this as Emerson is the evil attacker, not the defender. Everything Emerson does is “intimidation” tactics, it doesn’t matter if he’s the one getting knifed in the chest. 

- This is another instance of the double-standard: somebody is allowed to sue Emerson & share their side, but if Emerson does the same, Ben frames it as unethical and "retaliatory". 

Evidence/read more, evidence #2

Ben: “I think standard update rules suggest not that you ignore the information, but you think about how bad you expect the information would be if I selected for the worst, credible info I could share”

- The most common criticisms ex-employees have of their orgs is low pay, feeling not valued enough by management, and a “toxic” work culture. 

- Most of Ben's article is totally run-of-the-mill criticisms (but presented as very serious) 

Base rate: even among overpaid workers, 94% are not completely satisfied with their pay. Everyone wants more money.

- Base rate: ~50% of people feel undervalued at work.

- Base rate: 71% of EAs claim to have a mental illness.

- The probability that 2 (of 21) people who work for any EA org felt this way is extremely high

Evidence/read more

“But you threatened to sue Lightcone if they didn’t give you a week to gather your evidence”

- We did that because we had tried everything else, yet Ben kept, unbelievably, refusing to even look at our evidence. What were we supposed to do? He was about to publish reputation-destroying things he would know were false if he just waited to see the evidence.

- Despite the fact that he published numerous things he knew were false (e.g. verbal agreementaccountingvegan foodlegal medicine, & many more), we decided not to sue because we think that would increase p(doom). 

Evidence/read more

What are we doing differently in the future?

- We’ve spent ages analyzing this and trying to figure out what happened and what we can do differently. 

- We asked Alice and Chloe multiple times to share their side and do some conflict resolution and they refused

- The accusations are almost entirely false, misleading, or catastrophizing normal things, so we cannot improve on that front. 

Nevertheless, some things we are doing differently are:

- Not living with employees & all employees being remote.

- Not using that compensation structure again. 

- Hiring assistants who’ve already been assistants, so they know they like it.

Evidence/read more

Alice/Chloe: Nonlinear, a charity startup, had an entrepreneurial and creative problem-solving culture. However, this is actually a bad thing, because sometimes that leads to people feeling pressured and overwhelmed

- Accurate. We did have a culture of “being entrepreneurial and creative in problem-solving”. The fact that they applied to work at a startup and considered this to be bad is strange. Others have said this is the best part about being around us, our “contagious mindset around problem-solving

-The things they feltpressured” into are disproven elsewhere. 

Evidence/read moreevidence #2evidence #3evidence #4evidence #5

“But Alice seems so open and nice”

Why does Alice get away with telling falsehoods so much? 

- It takes months to catch her in enough falsehoods to see the pattern. In the meantime, she seems so joyful.

- She bounces from jobs/communities quickly. Her longest job is 13 months, so by the time you start catching on, she’s already gone.

- She (well, part of her) believes what she says and she’s genuinely kind, so she’s convincing.

- She builds trust by quickly telling you things that seem very personal - “wow, she must really like and trust me to be telling me all this!” - about how other people have oppressed her, which triggers protective instincts.

Evidence/read more

To many EAs, this would have been a dream job

Alice/Chloe/Ben painted a picture of Alice/Chloe having terrible jobs and they barely survived those few months they were with us. Now, I do not deny that Alice and Chloe suffered, and I deeply wished they hadn’t. But a lot of people would have loved these jobs. Look at the job ad - “you get paid to see the world and live in endless summer, since we only stay in places where it’s warm and sunny.”

Clearly aspects of the job didn’t work for Alice (wanted 100% control and nothing less) and Chloe (found being an assistant to be beneath her). However, I’d like to describe the job to the people who would have liked it.

Chloe beat out 75 other “overqualified” (which she described herself as being) EAs who applied for Chloe’s job - getting an EA job is hard. 

Imagine a job where you’re always in beautiful, sunny, exotic places. Part of the year is spent in various EA Hubs: London, Oxford, Berkeley, San Francisco. Part of the year you explore the world: Venice, the Caribbean, Rome, Paris, the French Riviera, Bali, Costa Rica.

You’re surrounded by a mix of uplifting, ambitious entrepreneurs and a steady influx of top people in the AI safety space. In the morning, you go for a swim with one of your heroes in the field. In the evening, a campfire on a tropical beach. Jungle hiking. Adventure. Trying new foods. Surfing. Sing-a-longs. Roadtrips. Mountain biking. Yachting. Ziplining. Hot tub karaoke parties. All with top people in your field.

Your group has a really optimistic and warm vibe. There’s this sense in the group that anything is possible if you are just creative, brave, and never give up. It feels really empowering and inspiring. 

Alice using her surfboard as a desk, co-working with Chloe’s boyfriend. 
Office in Italy
The gang celebrating… something. I don’t know what. We celebrated everything.
Alice and Chloe working in a hot tub. Hot tub meetings are a thing at Nonlinear. We try to have meetings in the most exciting places. Kat’s favorite: a cave waterfall.
Alice’s “desk” even comes with a beach doggo friend! 
Chloe and Drew are on top of the world.
Working by the villa pool. Watch for monkeys!
Roadtrip through the Swiss Alps
Sunset dinner with friends… every day!
Even after Alice had been spreading horrible falsehoods about us, instead of “retaliating”, we threw a party for her.
Chloe’s office in paradise. To help her grow, we let her spend 2 hours a day (paid) learning about whatever she wanted to advance her career - very unusual for any job, much less being an assistant.
Bioluminescent bay adventure. Chloe’s unofficial title was “Chloe, Fun Lord of Nonlinear, First of Her Name”   

Chloe’s job was a lot of operations people’s dream job. She got to set up everything from scratch, instead of having to work with existing sub-optimal systems. She was working on big, challenging operations puzzles that were far above the usual entry-level admin stuff that you’d get as a person who just graduated from uni. 

About 10% of the time was doing laundry, groceries, packing, and cooking - and she has to do many of those things for herself anyways! At least this is on paid time, feels high impact, and means she’s not sitting in front of the computer all day. Also, everybody starts somewhere, and being in charge of setting up all of the operations for an org is a pretty great place to start, even if it does also include doing some pretty simple tasks. As a job straight out of university, this is a pretty plush job. And getting a job in EA is hard.

And she gets two hours a day of professional development. Paid! She spends the time learning things like management, lean methodology, measuring impact, etc. She gets to choose basically whatever it is she wants to learn. Getting paid to read whatever you want for 2 hours a day would be a dream for many EAs.

Even more people would have loved Alice’s job, especially entrepreneurial types. When Alice arrived, just as a friend, she was encouraged to read a book a day on entrepreneurship, to quickly skill up. She started working with us building a product that seemed likely to be very high impact. Especially since it was a project that was meant to help do decentralized, automated prioritization research, so she’d be able to use the product herself to find the idea she wanted to start. 

She had tons of freedom on strategy and she was very quickly given more responsibility. Within a few weeks of starting, she was managing an intern. She received hours of mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs every single day. She was quickly introduced to a huge percentage of all the major players in the field, to help her design the product better. 

Then, within just a few months of starting, she was given nearly complete control of $240,000 - so much control that she could also choose how much she got paid! Imagine being quickly given so much financial and strategic freedom. As long as it falls within the scope of the department, you have control over nearly a quarter million dollars. Whatever you want to pay yourself out of that budget, you can. If you do a good job, that $240,000 could rapidly expand to $2-3 million a year.

Especially given that there’s a chance in half a year or so that you could spin out and be an entirely separate organization. Or hand it off to somebody else after gaining invaluable experience launching a really big project, all the while with the guidance and guardrails of an experienced entrepreneur. 

Sure, it’s an unorthodox payment arrangement. But, man, you are certainly living a glamorous lifestyle. Always in sunny, exotic, places. Living in beautiful homes. Going on adventures in bioluminescent bays, yachting, kayaking, and snorkeling in tropical reefs. And you’re living that glam life while working for a charity. Not bad. 

And, I mean, you had been considering living at the EA Hotel, where you’d be living in much less nice conditions, wouldn’t see the sun for half the year, and wouldn’t get nearly the exposure to experienced entrepreneurs and top people in the field. Maybe you’d get a stipend of max $150 a month. 

Anyways, for you, it’s not about the money. You’re an aspiring charity entrepreneur, for goodness sake! That’s not a career you go into for the money. It’s about the impact and the life you’re living. And you want a job where you’re seeing the world and doing your best to save it. 

Sure, maybe when you’re older, you’ll get a job that pays more and stays in one place so you can put down more roots, but right now you’re young. You want to explore. You’re living the dream and seeing the world.

You could maybe get a job with higher pay, though your previous jobs were ~minimum wage, and Nonlinear is paying you a lot more than that, so maybe not. But none would involve the travel. None would involve the adventure.

You want to go snorkeling in tropical reefs with EA leaders but also work in Oxford and have deep conversations with your favorite EA researchers at lunch. You want to pet the cats in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul while you’re also building something really high impact. You want to be investing so much into your personal growth that you get to spend a quarter of your time just learning. You want adventure and impact. 

Again - this doesn’t mean everybody would like the job. However, to paint this job as “inhumane” or as if Alice was “a fully dependent and subservient house pet” - is a dark, paranoid view of the warm, positive, uplifting environment we created.

Alice was constantly given more and more responsibility. She was given more freedom than almost any EA job and then told everybody she was kept in metaphorical shackles. She made Ben (and everybody else in the community she spent the last year telling) think that she was essentially a slave, kept under the oppressive hold of a controlling and isolating group of abusers. 

[Emerson’s note: Kat paid herself $12,000 a year - half of minimum wage - for most of her charity career because she took the drowning child argument seriously. Not $1,000 a month on top of all-expenses-paid travel, adventures, villas, and restaurants - $1k/month total.  In Canada’s most expensive city. Sharing a single always-damp towel with her partner. Kat doesn’t usually bring this up because she doesn’t want to make people feel bad who won’t or can’t do the same, but I think it’s important information about her character. Say what you will about her, but she deeply cares about altruism.] 

But through some combination of mental illness, daily LSD use, and a society that uncritically rewards anyone claiming to be a victim, she turned financial freedom into financial servitude. She turned gratitude into manipulation. 

Yes, Alice suffered. Chloe did too. Nobody is doubting that. The question is what caused the suffering. Because for most people, having to work for an hour on a weekend, then clearing it up with your boss and it never happening again isn’t a cause for months of depression. 

For most people, having a separate business bringing in $3,000 a month and being able to choose your own pay is financial freedom, not servitude. 

For most people who applied to these jobs, they would be considered great jobs. And if they found out they didn’t like it, they’d just quit and do something else. They wouldn’t demand a public lynching.

Sometimes people are depressed and see everything as bad and hostile. Sometimes people are sleep deprived, taking LSD every day, in chronic pain, and start seeing plots everywhere. Sometimes people have been struggling with mental health issues for their entire life. 

This was not an objectively bad job that caused them psychological harm. It was a woman who kept forgetting she was an assistant and feeling outraged when asked to do her job. She felt she was overqualified and turned that resentment on her employers. It was a woman who’s struggled with severe mental illness for over 90% of her life and continued to do so while she was with us. 

Sharing Information on Ben Pace

Since the article was published, an alarming number of people in the community have come forward to report worrying experiences with Ben Pace, and report feeling frightened about speaking out because of what Ben might do to them.

As just one example, one woman had a deeply traumatic experience with Ben but is afraid to say anything, because he runs LessWrong and is surrounded by so many powerful people in the community who would defend him. She’s worried if she comes forward that he’ll use his power to hurt her career, both directly by attacking her again, or indirectly, by making sure none of her posts get onto the front page. (We’ve heard multiple reports of people having a conflict with one of the Lightcone team and then suddenly, their posts just never seem to be on the front page anymore. We don’t know if this is true.) 

She asked me to not share it with Ben because she’s frightened of him, but she said it was finally time to be strong and speak up now, as long as she was fully anonymized. She couldn’t live with herself if she allowed another person to be hurt by Ben the way Ben hurt her. I ask you to please respect her privacy and if you know her, not bring this up unless she does. 

She’s been struggling with mental health issues since he attacked her, unable to sleep or eat. She still, after all this time, just randomly breaks down crying on sidewalks. She even considered leaving effective altruism. She no longer feels safe at Lightcone events and no longer goes to them, despite missing the many good people in the rationalist community. It’s shaken her trust in the community and talking about it still makes her visibly upset. 

She told me to not talk to Ben about it, because he takes absolutely no responsibility for the harm he’s done, and has explicitly told her so. And he shows a friendly face to people, which is how he gets away with it, all the while professing simply an interest in truth. But he’ll be smiling at you and friendly, all the while having the intention to stab you in the back. One source reported that “Ben is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

People who knew what happened to this woman confirmed that what Ben had done to her was “horrifying” and “they couldn’t believe he would do that to a person”. They were shocked at his lack of concern for her suffering and confirmed that he would probably really hurt her career if she came forward with her information. 

She knows of at least one other person who’s had really worrying experiences with him. Where deep and preventable harm was happening and he just didn’t seem to care. He actually blamed the person who was being hurt! She hasn’t brought it up with the person much because she doesn’t want to stir up old hurts. She can tell it still hurts them, but they’ve managed to move on and remember the things they really care about. 

She had heard about what had happened to this person before, but she thought it was probably just a one-off thing and it wouldn’t happen to her. She wishes she had paid more attention so she could have avoided her own traumatic experience. She’s still suffering. She’s still lying awake each night, replaying, over and over, the nightmare of what Ben did to her.

Another person reports “I wish I had never met Ben. He hurt me more than I even thought was possible. I highly recommend not being friends with him and if you see him at a party, I would just subtly avoid him. I hope he gets better and stops doing to others what he did to me, but as far as I’ve heard, he’s still completely in denial about the harm he’s caused and has no intention of changing.”

---

This information above is true to the best of my knowledge. What other worrying things might I find if I spent months investigating like Ben did?

However, this is completely unfair to Ben. It’s written in the style of a hit piece. And I believe you should not update much on Ben’s character from this. 

  • Like Ben did to us, I did basically no fact-checking.
  • Like Ben did to us, I assumed ill-intent.
  • Like Ben did to us, I unfairly framed everything using emotional language to make Ben seem maximally nefarious. 
  • Like Ben did to us, I uncritically shared anonymous accusations. Since they’re anonymous, Ben can’t even properly defend himself, which is why courts don’t accept anonymous hearsay. 
    • Ask legal history scholars what happens when courts allow anonymous hearsay: kangaroo courts and mob justice.
  • Like Ben did to us, I didn’t give him a proper chance to respond to these accusations before publishing them.
  • I mentioned none of his many very good qualities.
  • I interviewed none of the people who like Ben, and exclusively focused on the testimonies of a small number of people who don’t like him.
    • I even left out the good things these people said about Ben, like he did to us. It reads very differently when it’s not just negative.
  • I used culture-war optimized language (victim/oppressor) to turn people’s brains off. 
  • I used wording that was technically accurate but implied “a lot of people are saying”, like Ben did to us.

I’m not yet worried about these “patterns” about Ben because I don’t know if they are patterns. I haven’t heard his side. And I refuse to pass judgment on someone without hearing their side. 

Further, through using emotional and one-sided language, I made it sound like it was incredibly obvious that what Ben did was awful and you’d be a monster to disagree. However, given what I know about these allegations, I think 35-75% of EAs would think that they’re not nearly as bad as the witnesses made them out to be. The other 35-75% would think it was clearly and deeply unethical. It would depend on each allegation and how it was presented. 

It would be a matter of debate, not a matter of public lynching.

At least, it would be if we presented it in an even-handed manner, investigating both sides, looking for disconfirming evidence, and not presuming guilt until proven innocent.

Also, in case you’re worried about these people, they all say they’re OK. All of the situations are either being taken care of or have ended and they’re no longer suffering and do not want to pursue further actions to prevent Ben from doing it to other people. 

I could do this for anybody. Just to give one example: almost everybody has had “bad breakups” and if you only speak to “disgruntled exes” you will get a warped, distorted view of reality.

I don’t think Ben should even have to respond to these. It would also be a very expensive use of time, since in his follow-up post, he said he’s now available for hire as an investigative journalist for $800,000 a year. 

At that hourly rate, he spent perhaps ~$130,000 of Lightcone donors’ money on this. But it’s more than that. When you factor in our time, plus hundreds/thousands of comments across all the posts, it’s plausible Ben’s negligence cost EA millions of dollars of lost productivity. If his accusations were true, that could have potentially been a worthwhile use of time - it's just that they aren't, and so that productivity is actually destroyed. And crucially, it was very easy for him to have not wasted everybody’s time - he just had to be willing to look at our evidence.

Even if it was just $1 million, that wipes out the yearly contribution of 200 hardworking earn-to-givers who sacrificed, scrimped and saved to donate $5,000 this year.

I am reminded of this comment from the EA Forum: “digging through the threads of previous online engagements of someone to find some dirt to hopefully hurt them and their associated organizations and acquaintances is personally disgusting to me, and I really hope that we don't engage in similar sort of tactics…though I don't think it's a really worry because the general level of decency from EAs at least seems to be higher than the ever lowering bar journalists set." 

As a community, if we normalize this, we will tear ourselves apart and drown in a tidal wave of fear and suspicion. 

This is a universal weapon that can be used on anybody. What if somebody exclusively only talked to the people who didn’t like you? What if they framed it in the maximally emotional and culture-war way? Have you ever accidentally made people uncomfortable? Have you ever made a social gaff? Does the idea of somebody exclusively looking for and publishing negative things about you make you feel uneasy? Terrified? 

I actually played this game with some of my friends to see how easy it was. I tried to say only true things but in a way that made them look like villains. It was terrifyingly easy. Even for one of my oldest friends, who is one of the more universally-liked EAs, I could make him sound like a terrifying creep.

I could do this for any EA org. I know of so many conflicts in EA that if somebody pulled a Ben Pace on, it would explode in a similar fashion. 

But that’s not because EA orgs are filled with abuse. It’s because looking exclusively for negative information is clearly bad epistemics and bad ethics (and so is not something I would do). It will consistently be biased and less likely to come to the truth than when you look for good and bad information and try to look for disconfirming evidence. 

And it will consistently lead to immense suffering. Knowing that somebody in the community is deliberately looking for only negative things about you, then publishing it to your entire community? It’s a suffering I wouldn’t wish on anybody. 

EA’s high trust culture, part of what makes it great, is crumbling, and “sharing only negative information about X person/charity” posts will destroy it.

----

In the preceding pages and our extensive appendix we presented evidence supporting an alternative hypothesis:

2 EAs are Secretly Evil Hypothesis: 2 (of 21) Nonlinear employees felt bad because while Kat/Emerson seem like kind, uplifting charity workers, behind closed doors they are ill-intentioned ne’er do wells.

2 EAs are Mentally Unwell Hypothesis: They felt bad because, sadly, they had long-term mental health issues, which continued for the 4-5 months they worked for us. 

Below we share concluding thoughts.

So how do we learn from this to make our community better? How can we make EA antifragile?

Imagine that you are a sophomore in college. It’s midwinter, and you’ve been feeling blue and anxious. You sit down with your new therapist and tell him how you’ve been feeling lately. 

He responds, “Oh, wow. People feel very anxious when they’re in great danger. Do you feel very anxious sometimes?”

This realization that experiencing anxiety means you are in great danger is making you very anxious right now. You say yes. The therapist answers, “Oh, no! Then you must be in very great danger.”

You sit in silence for a moment, confused. In your past experience, therapists have helped you question your fears, not amplify them.  

The therapist adds, “Have you experienced anything really nasty or difficult in your life? Because I should also warn you that experiencing trauma makes you kind of broken, and you may be that way for the rest of your life.”

He briefly looks up from his notepad. “Now, since we know you are in grave danger, let’s discuss how you can hide.

Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind

EA is becoming this therapist.

EA since FTX has trauma. We’re infected by a cancer of distrust, suspicion, and paranoia. Frequent witch burnings. Seeing ill-intent everywhere. Forbidden questions (in EA!)  Forbidden thoughts (in EA!)

We’re attacking each other instead of attacking the world’s problems.

Anonymous accounts everywhere because it’s not safe anymore, too easy to get cancelled. 

People afraid to come to the defense of the accused witch lest they be accused (as Scott Alexander said).

High impact people and donors quietly leaving, turned off by the insularity and drama.

Well, did a bunch of predators join overnight or is it more that we have trauma?

If you were new to EA and you looked at the top posts of all time and saw it was anonymous gossip from 2 (of 21) people who worked for a tiny charity for a few months, what would you think this community values? What is its revealed preference? 

Would that community seem healthy to you? If you weren’t already part of this community, would that make you want to join?

People spent hours debating whether a person in a villa in a tropical paradise got a vegan burger delivered fast enough - would you think this community cared about scope sensitivity and saving the world (like we normally do)?

“First they came for one EA leader, and I did not speak out -- 

because I just wanted to focus on making AI go well.
 

Then they came for another, and I did not speak out --

because surely these are just the aftershocks of FTX, it will blow over.

 

Then they came for another, and I still did not speak out --

because I was afraid for my reputation if they came after me.
 

Then they came for me - and I have no reputation to protect anymore.”

So, what do we do? We have a choice to make:

Are we fragile - continuing to descend into a spiral of PTSD madness with regular lynchings? 

Are we resilient - continuing to do good despite the trauma?

Or are we antifragile - can we experience post-traumatic growth and become stronger? 

Can this be the last EA leader lynching, and the beginning of the EA community becoming stronger from what we’ve learned post-FTX? If we want to do the most good, we must be antifragile. 

Alice, Chloe, or Ben mean well and are trying to do good, so we will not demand apologies from them. We are all on the same team. We wish them the best, we hope they’re happy, and we hope they learn from this.

As Tim Urban of Wait But Why said: “In a liberal democracy, the hard cudgel of physical violence isn't allowed. You can't burn villains at the stake. But you can burn their reputation and livelihood at the stake. This is the soft cudgel of social consequences. It only works if everyone decides to let it work. If enough people stand up for the target and push back against the smear campaign, the soft cudgel loses its impact.”

Conclusion: a story with no villains

I wish I could think that Alice, Ben, and Chloe were villains. 

They hurt me so much, I couldn’t sleep. I cried more than any other time in my life.

My hands were shaking so badly I couldn’t type responses to comments, and people attacked me for this, saying my not responding immediately was evidence I was a witch.

Alice, Ben, and Chloe show absolutely no remorse and I don’t predict they’re going to stop. They’re in too deep now. They can’t change their minds. 

Although I certainly hope they do. If they updated I think the community would applaud them, because that takes epistemic courage similar to Geoffrey Hinton updating on AI. 

And yet, despite all the harm they’ve done to me and the community, I can see their good intentions clear as day. So why are they hurting us if they have such good intentions? 

Most harm done by good people is either accidental or because they think they’re fighting the bad guys. And they’ve full-on demonized us. 

Demonizing somebody is the best way for good people to hurt other good people. Hence them calling us “predators”, going after the “bright-eyed” youth of the community, “chewing them up and spitting them out”.  This is the language of a witch hunter, not a truthseeking rationalist.

Chloe explicitly says she can’t empathize with us at all. Reflect on this.

I don’t think they’re villains. But they think we are. And you’re allowed to do all sorts of things to people if they’re bad. 

And that’s just what happened. Alice/Chloe had been telling everyone, Ben heard about it, and… monsters don’t deserve fair trials! They’ll just use their time to manipulate the system. And the two young women were afraid of retaliation! 

Sure, they’d been telling lots of people in the community their false narratives for over a year and none of their strange fears of us “hiring stalkers” or “calling their families” had happened. But that doesn’t matter. You don’t stop while saving a community to check and see if there’s actually a witch. He’s the hero saving the collective from the nefarious internal traitors who must be purged. 

Chloe isn’t a villain. She’s a woman who didn’t like her entry level job and wanted more money. She was a fresh graduate who felt entitled to something better. She struggled with mental health issues and blamed her feelings of worthlessness and overwhelm on Emerson and I. She took totally normal things and catastrophized them. Her story probably wouldn’t have been a scandal if it weren’t for our community’s PTSD around FTX. 

Alice isn’t a villain. She’s an incredible human being who has struggled with mental health issues her entire life, and one of the symptoms is delusions of persecution - people trying to control her. This is why we’re #27 and #28 on her list of 28 people she’s accused of abuse (that we know of). 

Imagine being able to choose how much you got paid and having a whole separate income stream (unrelated to your job) and yet feeling financially controlled? Imagine seeing ill-intentions everywhere? 

That sounds horrible. I genuinely hope she gets the help she needs. 

And finally, we’re not villains either. We paid our team what we said we’d pay them. We set it up so that they socialized with more people than the average person. We valued their time so much that we paid for Chloe to spend two hours a day doing professional development. I valued Chloe’s time so much that she asked me to stop sharing my gratitude as much. When Alice asked for a raise 3 months into her job, we let her choose her pay. We continue to have good experiences with the vast majority of people we work with. 

We were not faultless. Emerson should not have snapped on that travel day and he should have apologized immediately. I should have scheduled a weekly meeting right after the conference instead of not properly talking to Alice about work stuff for three weeks, letting the misunderstanding last for so long. 

But overall, it wasn’t that the job was bad or they were mistreated. They felt oppressed for some other reason. Maybe it was that Chloe hated being an assistant and found normal assistant work demeaning. Maybe it was because Alice was microdosing LSD nearly every day, sleeping just a few hours a night, and has a lifelong pattern of seeing persecution everywhere. Maybe it’s just because they’ve both struggled to be happy most of their lives and continued to do so for the 4-5 months they were with us. We’ll leave it to them and their loved ones to figure it out.

This combined poorly with our community being traumatized by FTX, being hyper-vigilant for another potential SBF. It also combined with poor epistemics because of the (unfounded) concern about retaliation. And it certainly didn’t help that Ben had already committed to paying them $10,000 before seeing our evidence.

This was a tragedy of errors. It was a bunch of well-intentioned and fallible humans trying to do good in the world. A recipe for trouble, really. 

And there will be other conflicts in EA. I know of countless EA conflicts that if somebody pulled a Ben Pace, only looking for negative information attacking one side, would explode in a similarly spectacular fashion.

This doesn’t mean EA is rife with abuse, it just means that EA is rife with humans

Humans with strong moral emotions and poor social skills on average. We should expect a lot of conflict. 

We need to find a better way to deal with this. Our community has been turning on itself with increasing ferocity, and we need to find a better way to recover from FTX. 

Let’s do what EA does best: optimize dispassionately, embody scout mindset, and interpret people charitably. 

 

Remember:

Almost nobody is evil.

Almost everything is broken.

Almost everything is fixable.

 

Let’s fix this. 

If you are disturbed by what happened here, here are some ways you can help

How do we prevent the methodology of exclusively seeking and publishing negative information, without fact checking, from becoming an acceptable norm? This methodology will predictably lead to incorrect conclusions because wild accusations will always be more viral than boring bank receipts and work contracts. Because looking for disconfirming evidence is vital for truth-seeking and scout mindset. 

Currently, the original post is one of the most upvoted posts of all time on EA Forum and LessWrong, so now one of the first things people see about EA is a gossip column whose claims have been debunked. This reflects poorly on our ethics, epistemics, and priorities.

  1. Consider if your vote on this post, the original post (EA ForumLessWrong), and Ben’s victory lap post (EA ForumLessWrong), reflect your beliefs.
  2. Contribute to the discourse in the comments. It can be scary to say what you believe in these sorts of threads, but that’s also why it’s especially impactful to do so. 
  3. Given what they have done, a number of people expressed to us that they think Alice/Chloe are a danger to the health of the community and should not be anonymized. We will leave that to the community to decide.
  4. Publicly or privately say that you would respect Ben massively if he updated on this new information. Right now, he paid $10,000 and received massive karma, so the psychological pressure for him to dig in and never change his mind is immense. However, if Ben pulled a Geoffrey Hinton and was able to update based on new information despite massive psychological pressure against that, that would be an act of impressive epistemic virtue. As a community, we want to make it so that people are rewarded for doing the right but hard thing, and this is one of those times.

Acknowledgments

A big thank you to Spencer Greenberg, Neel Nanda, Nuño Sempere, Geoffrey Miller, Vlad Firoiu, Manuel Allgaier, Luca De Leo, Matt Berkowitz, River Bellamy, and others for providing insightful feedback (though they do not necessarily agree with/endorse anything in this post).

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Will Aldred
4moModerator Comment132
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Hey folks, a reminder to please be thoughtful as you comment.

The previous Nonlinear thread received almost 500 comments; many of these were productive, but there were also some more heated exchanges. Following Forum norms—in a nutshell: be kind, stay on topic, be honest—is probably even more important than usual in charged situations like these.

Discussion here could end up warped towards aggression and confusion for a few reasons, even if commenters are generally well intentioned:

  • Some of the allegations this post responds to, and the new allegations in the post, are serious and upsetting. People who have gone through similar experiences may find engaging with this topic especially stressful.
  • Power dynamics and alleged mistreatment is rightly an emotionally loaded topic, and can be difficult to discuss objectively.
  • Differences in personal culture and experiences can lead to hard-to-articulate disagreements over acceptable versus unacceptable behaviour.

Regarding this paragraph from the post:

Given what they have done, a number of people expressed to us that they think Alice/Chloe are a danger to the health of the community and should not be anonymized. We will leave that

... (read more)
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Kerry_Vaughan
4mo
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Brief update: I am still in the process of reading this. At this point I have given the post itself a once-over, and begun to read it more slowly (and looking through the appendices as they're linked).

I think any and all primary sources that Kat provides are good (such as the page of records of transactions). I am also grateful that they have not deanonymized Alice and Chloe.

I plan to compare the things that this post says directly against specific claims in mine, and acknowledge anything where I was factually inaccurate. I also plan to do a pass where I figure out which claims of mine this post responds to and which it doesn’t, and I want to reflect on the new info that’s been entered into evidence and how it relates to the overall picture. 

It probably goes without saying that I (and everyone reading) want to believe true things and not false things about this situation. If I made inaccurate statements I would like to know that and correct them.

As I wrote in my follow-up post, I am not intending to continue spear-heading an investigation into Nonlinear. However this post makes some accusations of wrongdoing on my part, which I intend to respond to, and of course for... (read more)

NL: A quick note on how we use quotation marks: we sometimes use them for direct quotes and sometimes use them to paraphrase.

I had missed that; thank you for pointing it out!

While using quotation marks for paraphrase or when recounting something as best as you recall is occasionally done in English writing, primarily in casual contexts, I think it's a very poor choice for this post. Lots of people are reading this trying to decide who to trust, and direct quotes and paraphrase have very different weight. Conflating them, especially in a way where many readers will think the paraphrases are direct quotes, makes it much harder for people to come away from this document with a more accurate understanding of what happened.

Perhaps using different markers (ex: "«" and "»") for paraphrase would make sense here?

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Kat Woods
4mo
Fair point! I've moved the note about quotation marks to the top of the appendix to help avoid misunderstandings. Sorry about that! This is just a massive post and a million details and I just missed this. Hopefully now it'll be better. 

The "«" and "»" suggestion is one that could be done mostly with a search-and-replace – having the more at the top of the appendix is not enough if it also applies to the post itself. This significantly affects how trustworthy I would consider the post to be (and I say that as someone sympathetic to your situation).

My attention continues to be on the question of whether my post was accurate and whether this post debunks the claims and narratives shared in mine. To minimize public attention costs and also to preserve my own sanity, I am aiming to engage with Nonlinear’s response in a way that focuses only on the clearest and most direct critiques of my post. I’m currently focusing on 2-3 of the claims in their response that most contradict my post, investigating them further, and intend to publish the results of that.

Once I’ve finished that process and shared my thinking (including making edits to my original post to correct any mistakes), I’ll engage more with the rest of the comments and what the appropriate norms are and whether I should’ve done things substantially differently, but in the meantime I think my efforts are better spent figuring out what is actually true about the relationship Nonlinear had with its employees.

I am trying to avoid writing my bottom line, and reduce any (further) friction to me changing my mind on this subject, which is a decent chunk of why I’m not spending time arguing in the comments right now (I expect that to give me a pretty strong “digging in my heels” in... (read more)

I’m currently focusing on 2-3 of the claims in their response that most contradict my post, investigating them further, and intend to publish the results of that.

I hope that while you’re investigating this, you talk to us and ask us for any evidence we have. We’re more than happy to share relevant evidence and are willing to set reasonable deadlines for how long it’ll take for us to send it to you. 

We also don’t want to waste more people’s time on going back and forth publicly about the evidence when you can easily check with us first before publishing. 

I also recommend you talk to us and see our evidence before you write the post. If you’ve already written the post, it’s hard to update afterward when you get more information. And it’s hard to write an accurate post before you’ve seen all the relevant information. 

We did not share all of the relevant evidence because it was already hundreds of pages long and we tried to prioritize. We have more evidence that might be relevant to your post. 

I am trying to avoid writing my bottom line, and reduce any (further) friction to me changing my mind on this subject, which is a decent chunk of why I’m not spending time arguing in the comments right now (I expect that to give me a pretty strong “digging in my heels” incentive).

I think this is smart and appreciate it. 


 

I strongly think much of the commentary could have been removed in favour of adding more evidence

I read this post and about half of the appendix.

(1) I updated significantly in the direction of "Nonlinear leadership has a better case for themselves than I initially thought" and "it seems likely to me that the initial post indeed was somewhat careless with fact-checking."

(I'm still confused about some of the fact-checking claims, especially the specific degree to which Emerson flagged early on that there were dozens of extreme falsehoods, or whether this only happened when Ben said that he was about to publish the post. Is it maybe possible that Emerson's initial reply had little else besides "Some points still require clarification," and Emerson only later conveyed how strongly he disagreed with the overall summary once he realized that Ben was basically set on publishing on a 2h notice? If so, that's very different from Ben being told in the very first email reply that Nonlinear's stance on this is basically "good summary, but also dozens of claims are completely false and we can document that." That's such a stark difference, so it feels to me like there was miscommunication going on.)

At the same time:

(2) I still find Chloe's broad perspective credible and concerning (in a "... (read more)

I still find Chloe's broad perspective credible and concerning [...] it's begging the question to self-describe your group with "Your group has a really optimistic and warm vibe. [...]" some of the short-summary replies to Chloe seemed uncharitable to the point of being mean. [...] I thought it's simply implausible that the most Nonlinear leadership could come up with in terms of "things we could've done differently" is stuff like "Emerson shouldn't have snapped at Chloe during that one stressful day" [...] Even though many the things in my elaboration of "(2)" are negative about Nonlinear, I want to emphasize again that this post made me update positively about them [...]

I just noticed that Kat posted the following on Facebook Dec 13 @11:34 PST (after older thoughtful messages such as this one, and the ones from Yarrow, David Mathers, OllieBase, etc). It seems like Kat disregarded the community's concerns and doubled down on her original PR strategy (including painting Alice and Chloe with the same brush):

𝗔𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱 𝟳𝟓% 𝗼𝗳 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲 𝘂𝗽𝘃𝗼𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗼𝘀𝘁, 𝘄𝗵𝗶𝗰𝗵 𝗶𝘀 𝗮 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗴𝗼𝗼𝗱 𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻* 🥹🥳

Two mentally unwell ex-employees told dozens of falsehoods

... (read more)

Yeah, at least several comments have much more severe issues than tone or stylistic choices, like rewording ~every claim by Ben, Chloe and Alice, and then assuming that the transformed claims had the same truth value as the original claim.

I'm in a position very similar to Yarrow here: While I think Kat Woods has mostly convinced me that the most incendiary claims are likely false, and I'm sympathetic to the case for suing Ben and Habryka, there was dangerous red flags in the responses, so much so that I'd stop funding Nonlinear entirely, and I think it's quite bad that Kat Woods responded the way they did.

Overall, there just feels like too little engagement with the possibility that Chloe's experience was maybe predictable and not out of the ordinary, i.e., that Chloe wasn't entitled or disgruntled to react the way she did.

To give some more context on this:

Let's take the claim that it was discouraged to talk to friends or family (this was one of the things were I thought Nonlinear's reply seemed more convincing than I would have expected, but still leaves me with uncertainty rather than settling everything for sure). 

Nonlinear links to a screenshot with a policy named "Internal: policy for inviting guests." The policy mentions "friends and family." Nonlinear frame this as follows. Chloe was lying to claim that she was discouraged from talking to them, because the policy says otherwise. Because she was lying about it, we should discount what she says on other issues. 

I'm thinking "maybe, but there are other possibilities." 

Firstly, I'm curious what the following phrase is about "the above roughly reflects the priority list as well." Is "the priority list" a separate thing? Or is this talking about a ranking of priorities from top to bottom? Even if there's no intended ... (read more)

This on its own, maybe. But Chloe's boyfriend was invited to travel with us for 2 of the 5 months she was with us, and we were about to invite him to travel with us indefinitely, free of charge. That's a hard to fake signal that she was more than welcome to invite friends and family. 

We also show text messages of us encouraging them to invite people over. We even have text messages showing me encouraging Chloe to see her boyfriend sooner and her saying no. Alice invited multiple friends to travel with us. When Chloe quit one of her friends was visiting us for 2-4 weeks (can't quite remember). To be fair, that friend we invited. But if she'd invited him, we would have been thrilled.

Their portrayal of us saying that only me and Emerson could invite people to travel with us is clearly established to be false. 

On this point, your reply seems very compelling to me. ((Though it's at least imaginable that Chloe would point out ways in which this is misleading – e.g., maybe her bf had "EA potential" or got along well with Emerson or you and some other friends of hers didn't, and maybe someone made comments about her other friends. Idk.))

I think it's important to not hold people to unreasonable standards when they try to present a lot of evidence. If this (the invites allowed list) is one of only few instances where it's overstated how important a particular piece of evidence is, then that's still totally compatible with a high degree of objectivity!

I overall felt like there were some other places where I was uncertain how much to update, while your wording "wanted" me to make a very big update. But I also think these things can be hard to judge.

Yarrow B.
4mo200
97
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I closely read the whole post and considered it carefully. I'm struggling to sum up my reaction to this 15,000-word piece in way that's concise and clear.

At a high level:

Even if most of what Kat says is factually true, this post still gives me really bad vibes and makes me think poorly of Nonlinear.

Let me quickly try to list some of the reasons why (if anyone wants me to elaborate or substantiate any of these, please reply and ask):

  • Confusion, conflation, and prevarication between intent and impact.
  • Related to the above, the self-licensing, i.e. we are generally good people and generally do good things, so we don't need to critically self-reflect on particular questionable actions we took.
  • The varyingly insensitive, inflammatory, and sensationalist use of the Holocaust poem (truly offensive) and the terms "lynching" (also offensive) and "witch-burning".
  • Conflation between being depressed and being delusional.
  • Glib dismissal of other people's feelings and experiences.
  • The ridiculous use of "photographic evidence", which feels manipulative and/or delusional to me.
  • Seeming to have generally benighted views on trauma, abuse, power dynamics, boundaries, mental health, "victimhood", resilience,
... (read more)

In my experience, observing someone getting dogpiled and getting dogpiled yourself feel very different. Most internet users have seen others get dogpiled hundreds of times, but may never have been dogpiled themselves.

Even if you have been dogpiled yourself, there's a separate skill in remembering what it felt like when you were dogpiled, while observing someone else getting dogpiled. For example, every time I got dogpiled myself, I think I would've greatly appreciated if someone reached out to me via PM and said "yo, are you doing OK?" But it has never occurred to me to do this when observing someone else getting dogpiled -- I just think to myself "hm, seems like a pretty clear case of unfair dogpiling" and close the tab.

In any case, I've found getting dogpiled myself to be surprisingly stressful, relative to the experience of observing it -- and I usually think of myself as fairly willing to be unpopular. (For example, I once attended a large protest as the only counter-protester, on my own initiative.)

It's very easy say in the abstract: "If I was getting dogpiled, I would just focus on the facts. I would be very self-aware and sensitive, I wouldn't dismiss anyone, I wouldn't... (read more)

I agree with the points made in this comment. It's important to remember that people getting dogpiled on can feel pretty awful about it. It reminded me of this Sam Harris podcast interview with a documentary fillmmaker who described her experience of being "cancelled" as being worse than her experience of being kidnapped.

That said, I don't know how well they address the original comment they're replying to. The post we're looking at was posted three months after the impetus for it, so while I do see that the whole experience is very stressful and can make it difficult to be charitable on the spot, the extended period to craft a reply means it's possible to overcome one's initial impulses and figure out how to respond. Ultimately, if this post chooses to adopt certain rhetorical tactics (for good or bad), I think Kat and the Nonlinear term do need to take responsibility for these tactics. And to my understanding, they have -- for instance, in this comment Kat says that some of the controversial decisions around inclusion of stuff in the post were things that the team discussed and decided on.

Apart from the 3 month period, this also had multiple reviewers. It would quite surprising if none or only a few of these pushbacks by Yarrow or others in the comment section were raised. So (along with Kat's comment that there was a lot of internal debate) I think it is better to model these decisions as intentional and considered, rather than due to "loss of equanimity".

To add on to this vibe of "getting dogpiled is an unusually stressful experience that is probably hard to imagine accurately", I feel a bit strange to be reading so many "reasoned" comments about how specific improvements in replies/wordings could have been decisively accurate/evident, as though anything less seems like a negative sign.

I relate to that logically as an observer, but at the same time I don't particularly think the whole sea of suggestions are meaningfully actionable. I think a lot of time and thought went into these posts, virtually any variant would still be vulnerable to critique because we have limited time/energy, let alone the fact that we're human beings and it's more than okay to produce incomplete/flawed work. Like what expectations are we judging others by in this complex situation, and would we really be able to uphold our own expectations, let alone the combined expectations of hundreds of people in the community? It's insanely hard to communicate all the right information in one go, and that's why we have conversations. Though this broader discussion of "what's the real story" isn't one that I consider myself entitled to, nor do I think we should all be entitled to it just because we're EAs.

This is a really good comment. It gets at a tough issue. Someone wise once told me: when we feel unsafe, we want to be right. A consequence of this is that if we want someone to admit wrongdoing, or even just to admit the validity of a different perspective, we have to make it safe for them to do so. We can't just dogpile them. It's clear that Kat feels unsafe and wants to be right. And, in a way, we are dogpiling her.

However, it also must be said that someone admitting wrongdoing, or admitting the validity of a different perspective, isn't the only goal for a community faced with an instance of alleged harm. Preventing future harm is an even more important goal. If someone credibly accused of doing harm to another person can't overcome their need to be right, the community must explore different options for preventing other people from coming to harm in the future. These options include (but aren't limited to) exclusion from the community.

I agree with this. I think overall I get a sense that Kat responded in just the sort of manner that Alice and Chloe feared*, and that the flavor of treatment that Alice and Chloe (as told by Ben) said they experienced from Kat/Emerson seems to be on display here. (* Edit: I mean, Kat could've done worse, but it wouldn't help her/Nonlinear.)

I also feel like Kat is misrepresenting Ben's article? For example, Kat says

Chloe claimed: they tricked me by refusing to write down my compensation agreement

I just read that article and don't remember any statement to that affect, and searching for individual words in this sentence didn't lead me to a similar sentence in Ben's article on in Chloe's followup. I think the closest thing is this part:

Chloe’s salary was verbally agreed to come out to around $75k/year. However, she was only paid $1k/month, and otherwise had many basic things compensated i.e. rent, groceries, travel. This was supposed to make traveling together easier, and supposed to come out to the same salary level. While Emerson did compensate Alice and Chloe with food and board and travel, Chloe does not believe that she was compensated to an amount equivalent to the salary discus

... (read more)

My read on this is that a lot of the things in Ben's post are very between-the-lines rather than outright stated. For example, the financial issues all basically only matter if we take for granted that the employees were tricked or manipulated into accepting lower compensation than they wanted, or were put in financial hardship.

Which is very different from the situation Kat's post seems to show. Like... I don't really think any of the financial points made in the first one hold up, and without those, what's left? A She-Said-She-Said about what they were asked to do and whether they were starved and so on, which NL has receipts for.

[Edit after response below: By "hold up" I meant in the emotional takeaway of "NL was abusive," to be clear, not on the factual "these bank account numbers changed in these ways." To me hiring someone who turns out to be financially dependent into a position like this is unwise, not abusive. If someone ends up in the financial red in a situation where they are having their living costs covered and being paid a $1k monthly stipend... I am not rushing to pass judgement on them, I am just noting that this seems like a bad fit for this sort of position, which... (read more)

I feel like this response ignores my central points ― my sense that Kat misrepresented/strawmanned the positions of Chloe/Alice/Ben and overall didn't respond appropriately. These points would still be relevant even in a hypothetical disagreement where there was no financial relationship between the parties.

I agree that Ben leaves an impression that abuse took place. I am unsure on that point; it could have been mainly a "clash of personalities" rather than "abuse". Regardless, I am persuaded (partly based on this post) that Kat & Emerson have personalities that are less honest, kind and self-reflective than typical EAs, so that probably few EAs would be happy working for Nonlinear as "part of the family". But to judge properly, I think I'd have to hear what other remote/former employees think about NL.

what it said was "These people are predators who chew up and spit out bright eyed altruists."

I think there should be a norm against treating paraphrases as quotes. What it said was "I expect that if Nonlinear does more hiring in the EA ecosystem it is more-likely-than-not to chew up and spit out other bright-eyed young EAs who want to do good in the world. I relatedly think that the EA ecosystem doesn’t have reliable defenses against such predators."

I feel like this response ignores my central points ― my sense that Kat misrepresented/strawmanned the positions of Chloe/Alice/Ben and overall didn't respond appropriately.

And I disagree, and used one example to point out why the response is not (to me) a misrepresentation or strawman of their positions, but rather treating them as mostly a collection of vague insinuations peppered with specific accusations that NL can only really respond to by presenting all the ways they possibly can how the relationship they're asserting is not supported by whatever evidence they can actually present.

For goodness sake, one of your points is in the distinction between "told" and "advised." What, exactly, do you expect NL to say to clarify that distinction that's more important than the rebuttal of pointing out they invited the boyfriend to travel with them for 2 months? "No, we didn't say that, nor did we advise it?" There's no evidence they did say it or "advise" it in the first place! How does a simple denial better rebut either the claim itself or the underlying implications?

These points would still be relevant even in a hypothetical disagreement where there was no financial relationship betw

... (read more)
6
DPiepgrass
4mo
I expect them to say "advised". This isn't Twitter, and even on Twitter I myself use direct quotes as much as possible despite the increased length, for accuracy's sake. Much of this situation was "(s)he said / she said" where a lot of the claims were about events that were never recorded. So how do we make judgements, then? Partly we rely on the reputations of everyone involved―but in the beginning Kat and Ben had good reputations while (after Ben's post) Alice & Chloe were anonymous, with only Chloe appearing to have a good reputation. So what then? Well, the community verifies what it can. The miswordings were verifiable. It reminds me of a weird final exam I once took, which was worth something like 2/3 of my total grade and had 10 questions. 9 were about material that wasn't taught in the class at all! So I answered about 1.3 of the 10, and... got a B+ in the course! How?? Presumably the instructors realized they made a mistake afterward and couldn't just fail everyone, so they graded people based on that one question and a few quizzes. That's kind of like this. When much of the story is invisible to us, we judge based on what's visible. How can we do otherwise? So Kat could've taken advantage of that by posting an impeccable defense that functionally countered the original narrative. They suggested K&E lacked honesty? Well, Kat could demonstrate perfect honesty in all verifiable respects. They suggested K&E were retributive? Kat could've conveyed a strong sense of kindness. The fact that she didn't do these things reads as her "real" personality showing. "A leopard can't change its spots." Sorry, it's just that in the past I've talked to lots of climate dismissives and I've become sensitive to their many tactics even in unrelated situations. One of them is misquoting.

It sounds like what you would be more convinced by is a short, precise refutation of the exact things said by the original post.

But I feel the opposite. That to me would have felt corporate, and also is likely impossible given the way the original allegations are such a blend of verified factual assertions, combined with some things that are technically true but misleading, may be true but are hearsay, and some things that do seem directly false.

Rather than "retaliatory and unkind," my main takeaway from the post was something like "passive-aggressive benefit of the doubt" at worst, while still overall giving me the impression that Kat believed Ben was well intentioned but reckless. There are some parts that border on or are bad faith, like presuming that Ben's reactions to evidence against his conclusions must be X or Y thing to justify posting anyway...

But even given that, I think the readers insisting this post should have just stuck to sterile fact-disputing can be both correct on some level, while still lacking in empathy of what it's like to be in the position NL has been put in. I'm not saying it's a perfect post, but the degree of tone policing in the face of claims like "they starved me" is kind of bizarre to me.

Sorry, it's just that in the past I've talked to lots of climate dismissives and I've become sensitive to their many tactics even in unrelated situations. One of them is misquoting.

No worries, very understandable!

I care about the strict facts and I want to know how to contextualize the things that there's no way for them to refute by simple "no we didn't."

While I agree that these are both helpful, I would have been most excited to see a clear separation between careful direct refutations ("here are several clear examples where Ben's post contained demonstrably false claims") and fuzzier context ("here is an explanation why this specific claim from Ben's post, while arguably literally true, is pretty misleading").

(But this is hard!)

9
Daystar Eld
4mo
Agreed that would have been better!
2
Habryka
4mo
Which financial claims seem to you like they have been debunked? When I read through the summary of the financial situation in Ben's original post, the content seems to hold up quite well:  If you think these claims have been debunked, can you say where and in which way they are wrong?  There is one small thing in here that Nonlinear dispute, but do not provide hard evidence for, which is that her outstanding salary/reimbursements were paid back this quickly in part due to her strongly requesting it. I currently still believe this is true, though of course Nonlinear disputing it is some evidence.  However, I don't see any evidence against any of the other claims in these two paragraphs. This still seems like a quite good summary of the situation. Edit: I think Jeff below makes a valid point that it matters a good amount whether the late payment was for "salary" or "reimbursement" and I would consider the claim that it was reimbursement instead of salary a relatively direct contradiction with the relevant sentence.

Which financial claims seem to you like they have been debunked?

  1. The original post uses the low amount of money in Alice's bank account as a proxy for financial dependence and wealth disparity, which could often be an appropriate proxy but here elides that Alice also owned a business that additionally produced passive income, though there's disagreement about whether this was in the range of $600/month (your estimate) or $3k/month (what NL claims Alice told them and shows a screenshot of Emerson referencing).

  2. Being owed salary is very different from being owed reimbursements. We have a very strong norm (backed up legally) of paying wages on time. Companies that withhold wages or don't pay them promptly are generally about to go out of business or doing something super shady. On the other hand, reimbursements normally take some time, and being slow about reimbursements would be only a small negative update on NL.

  3. NL claims the reimbursements were late because Alice stopped filing for reimbursement, and once she did these were immediately paid. If NL is correct here (and this seems pretty likely to me) then this falls entirely on Alice and shouldn't be included in claims

... (read more)

Another debunked financial claim: Ben's original post has:

Chloe's salary was verbally agreed to come out to around $75k/year. However, she was only paid $1k/month, and otherwise had many basic things compensated i.e. rent, groceries, travel.

Nonlinear provided screenshots of:

  • An employment agreement stating $1k/month + expenses
  • NL texting Chloe before she started that the stipend was $1k/month and Chloe confirming
  • A transcript of the employment interview where NL told Chloe it was a $1k/month stipend + expenses, which they thought was about as valuable as a $70k/year salary.
0
Habryka
4mo
Thank you! I think in as much as the reimbursement claim is true, I agree with you that presenting it as "salary" was not to the level of accuracy that I think should be aimed for in posts like this, and I agree changes the interpretation of the facts a good amount.  I do think we currently just have Kat's word to go for it, and I am curious whether I can get some confirmation or clarification from Alice on this, but I am currently also reasonably confident that the payment should be described as reimbursement and not salary. I also am quite sad that Ben didn't include mention of Alice's side business in the post. I think it was definitely worth including. My current model is that NL is heavily exaggerating the size of that side-business, but it still would have been good to include (and we have notes from a call that mention the side business, so we did know about it). I also think nothing in the post directly contradicts that or heavily implied the absence of such a business (especially given that my current belief is that it basically didn't make any money).

Consider the hypothesis that Alice lied to us about how much money the business was making. (I actually remember her telling me it brought in $5,000 a month. We chose the $3,000 because that seemed more charitable and was what Emerson remembers her telling him). Or that she lied to you about how much it made. Or both. 

Everybody already agrees that she gives unreliable testimony. There's also a clear motive. When she's talking to you, she's trying to seem maximally like a helpless victim, because otherwise she wouldn't get the $5,000 or the support. When she was talking to us, she was trying to seem maximally successful as an entrepreneur so we would incubate her. 

5
Habryka
4mo
Again, we did not promise any payment for anything until quite late in the process, and I think this came up before any kind of reward for any of this was discussed. I think this is misrepresenting the situation pretty badly. I do not think such generalizations should currently assumed to be common-knowledge. I think a huge fraction of the testimony she has given is accurate. There are a few places in which things Alice says do seem contradicted by things you are showing and saying.  The same is also true in reverse, where many claims in your post and appendix about (for example) stuff that Ben knew at different points in time, or claims you are making about what Ben or Alice or Chloe said are also demonstrably false.  In-aggregate I would still very substantially update if Alice claimed that something was true. I also do not think she lives up to my standards of precision and accuracy, but I would definitely not describe that in a kind of blanket statement as you do here. Yes, I am considering that. I think it's quite plausible she exaggerated how much money her business was making. I think that's bad, but also isn't something particularly terrible (I've seen many people do it over the years, and I think it's pretty bad, but sadly also not uncommon). I also think it's plausible you are misremembering or distorting the numbers she told you.  My current best guess is that she said some vague things to you about how much money it was making, which were probably exaggerated. Given the broader context and evidence, I would be quite surprised if the $3000 or $5000 is correct, and that she lied to Ben about by substantially downplaying how much money came from the business, though it is not impossible (I would give it like 10%-15%).

FWIW I think I don't care how much money she actually made. I care how much money she said she made to NL, and how much she told Ben that she told NL she was making.

If she insinuated high to NL to get the job and then did not own up to that when talking to Ben, that is very hard for me to forgive. Even setting aside the idea that NL might not have hired her in the first place if she accurately represented both her skills and her financial dependence, thus avoiding this whole mess in the first place... it basically treated Ben as an arrow to be fired at people who she felt wronged by, and once again led in an additional way to this whole more recent mess.

And unless I'm misremembering, there's at least a bit of evidence that Emerson believed she was making ~36k a year and said as much to her, which presumably was not corrected by her after, but even if it was... yeah, it doesn't look great for Alice here, by my lights.

Edited above comment to clarify:

By "hold up" I meant in the emotional takeaway of "NL was abusive," to be clear, not on the factual "these bank account numbers changed in these ways." To me hiring someone who turns out to be financially dependent into a position like this is unwise, not abusive. If someone ends up in the financial red in a situation where they are having their living costs covered and being paid a $1k monthly stipend... I am not rushing to pass judgement on them, I am just noting that this seems like a bad fit for this sort of position, which I think NL has more than acknowledged, and if they misled NL about their financial security, that further alleviates NL of some responsibility.

Sorry for not making that more clear. To be extra clear, my takeaway here is "Ben seems like he was led to believe a particular narrative by selective information and the usual emotional spin of only hearing one side." Not "Ben got specific facts wrong."

Perhaps something missed from your list. The lack of moral seriousness regarding the value of the money being spent. I can imagine my global development and animal welfare colleagues, would be pretty displeased to learn that nonlinear has received over 500,000 USD in funding. 

From reading into this discussion, including the linked appendix document. There's no reason for me to think that they were ready to receive this amount of money, or likely to use it effectively.

I agree with this though it is unfortunately much the same in lots of longtermism/AI safety. Also, if I am not mistaken, Emerson funds a lot of Nonlinear himself.

4
Vaipan
4mo
I don't understand why people downvote you, if not out of bad faith. Cause they give no evidence that money is used well. And so far you are the only one pointing this out. So unless these people work in these communities and feel personally attacked, there's no point downvoting the truth.  If anyone can provide evidence that this hot tub money was used for good purposes I'd love to see it. Otherwise don't be dishonest and don't downvote.

I down voted because it isn't directly relevant to the dispute. High-spending in longtermist EA communities is a question that has been frequently discussed on this forum without consensus views. I don't think restarting that argument here is productive.

2
ElliotJDavies
4mo
Thanks for providing context here, similar to Vaipan, I wasn't sure why people were disagree/downvoting me. 
Erica_Edelman
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I'm a professional nanny and I've also held household management positions. I just want to respond to one specific thing here that I have knowledge about.

It is upsetting to see a "lesson learned" as only hiring people with experience as an assistant, because a professional assistant would absolutely not work with that compensation structure.

It is absolutely the standard in professional assistant type jobs that when traveling with the family, that your travel expenses are NOT part of your compensation.

When traveling for work (including for families that travel for extensive periods of time) the standard for professionals is:

  • Airfare, non-shared lodgings (your own room) and food are all covered by your family and NOT deducted from your pay. Ditto any expenses that are required for work such as taxis, tickets to places you are working at. etc.

-Your work hours start when you arrive at the airport.(Yes, you charge for travel time)

  • You charge your full, standard hourly rate for all hours worked.

  • You ALSO charge a per diem because you are leaving the comfort of being in your own home / being away from friends and pets and your life.

  • You are ONLY expected to work for the hours tha

... (read more)

This got a lot of upvotes so I want to clarify that this kind of arrangements isn't UNUSUALLY EVIL. Nanny forums are filled with younger nannies or more desperate nannies who get into these jobs only to immediately regret it.

When people ask my opinion about hiring nannies I constantly have to show how things they think are perks (live in, free tickets to go places with the kids) don't actually hold much value as perks. Because it is common for people to hold that misconception.

It is really common for parents and families to offer jobs that DON'T FOLLOW professional standards. In fact the majority of childcare jobs don't. The educated professionals don't take those jobs. The families are often confused why they can't find good help that stays.

So I look at this situation and it immediately pattern matches to what EDUCATED PROFESSIONALS recognize as a bad situation.

I don't think that means that NL folks are inherently evil. What they wanted was a common thing for people to want. The failure modes are the predictable failure modes.

I think they hold culpability. I think they "should have" known better. I don't think (based on this) that they are evil. I think some of their responses aren't the most ideal, but also shoot it's a LOT of pressure to have the whole community turning on you and they are responding way better than I would be able to.

From the way they talk, I don't think they learned the lessons I would hope they had, and that's sad. But it's hard to really grow when you're in a defensive position.

1
Elizabeth
4mo
> When people ask my opinion about hiring nannies I constantly have to show how things they think are perks (live in, free tickets to go places with the kids) don't actually hold much value as perks.   Off topic: I understand thinking housing would be valued by employees, but do people honestly think that tickets to children’s activities are valuable to caretakers? Like even if someone would value the activity in their off hours, which seems like a big if, surely the parents understand that it’s not a leisure activity when you’re watching small children?  
1
Erica_Edelman
4mo
Switch "watching children" with "working as an assistant" and you'll see why I don't think travel /activity expenses is at all a valuable payment method, even to people who would otherwise enjoy those activities.

In my reading of the post and the appendix, the point Kat seemed to be making was not that professional assistants would be cheaper, but that professional assistants would have a better upfront idea of what they were getting into, and therefore be less likely to retroactively feel that this was a bad decision. This is consistent with the idea that having that upfront idea could also come with demanding higher compensation upfront before entering into the arrangement; what Kat was trying to guard against was regretting it after agreeing to it.

In a section of the appendix Kat says that she currently has a (remote) assistant charging $50/hour and it seems to be working well:

Although now we don’t actually recommend people hire EAs as assistants, since feeling overqualified is too common to be worth it. We currently have a remote assistant on Upwork for $50/hr who’s been an assistant for years and knows she likes it.

9
Rebecca
4mo
It sounds like most of the things objected to were physical or otherwise in-person tasks, so I don’t think this makes sense as a comparison.

Just wanted to ask a quick question: It sounds like you’re describing the conditions when someone who normally works with a family is asked to come on a trip with them, rather standards terms for nanny’s travelling with digital nomad families? (Which may not be common enough to be a thing).

I guess the reason I’m asking is because those are two quite distinct asks: one is asking you to uproot your normal life, with the nanny still presumably having to pay rent on their usual place.

In contrast, the other ask is looking for people who are keen on a particular lifestyle and who can avoid paying rent altogether.

Anyway, please let me know if I’m wrong here.

I do not think it is necessarily morally wrong to try to find a win win situation where you employ someone who really just has a passion for travel. But I think it is a generally bad idea. That situation tends towards exploitation, and it is hard to see it when you are in your own point of view.

This job also required that a young person just out of college choose to spend over 80% of their "income" on a luxurious travel budget.

Yes, but also there is a similar issue for live in nannies, where a professional live in nannies will not charge that much less hourly even when room and board are provided by the family. (They will charge slightly less) This is because it is not actually fun or nice to live with your bosses, and having a live-in is considered more a perk for the FAMILY than the nanny.

Meanwhile many well-meaning but uninformed bosses think their room is worth a lot of money to the nanny because it is expensive to the family.

For example, I live in the Bay and I would RATHER pay $1000/mo to rent a room in grouphouse than stay in my bosses' extremely expensive fancy house for free, even though my bosses' mortgage for that room is very expensive to them.

Similarly, a boss spending $5000 to take you to Costa Rica is not giving you $5000 of value. You aren't choosing where you are going or what the money is spent on. Maybe they really value beachfront property, but if you were in charge of expenses you'd rather choose a less expensive Airbnb but put more towards experiences or whatnot. Your bosses want to go to the theater but you don't really like the theater. They pay $100 on a ticket for you, but you w... (read more)

Also children and sometimes bosses do not understand that sometimes you are off the clock and not working. So children will want your attention and engagement if you are around even when you're "off", and bosses might not respect your time off and ask you to do little tasks or last minute jobs when you aren't working.

If you were away at your own house, then your time off is completely yours, but if you're a live in then they might pull stuff like "Hey could you watch the kids for half an hour so I can run pick up some milk?" and next thing you know they consider your "time off" to be just a suggestion.

Agreed. If you're calculating equivalent compensation, you need to apply a steep discount to work-provided perks to adjust for the restrictions. That said, it also makes sense to take into account the benefits of networking/career capital in order to figure out whether the whole deal offered is fair. I'll leave that for others to debate, was just trying to get clarification on your specific point.

Disclaimer: Previously interned remotely at Non-Linear

Holly_Elmore
4mo176
43
18
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To recap, I thought Ben’s original post was unfair even if he happened to be right about Nonlinear because of how chilling it is for everyone else to know they could be on blast if they try to do anything. It sounded like NL made mistakes, but they sounded like very typical mistakes of EA/rationalists when they try out new or unusual social arrangements. Since the attitude around me if you don’t like contracts you entered is generally “tough shit, get more agency”, I was surprised at the responses saying Alice and Chloe should have been protected from an arrangement they willing entered (that almost anyone but EAs/rationalists would have told them was a bad idea). It made me think Ben/Lightcone had a double standard toward an org they already didn’t like because of Emerson talking about Machiavellian strategies and marketing.

Idk if Emerson talking about libel was premature. Many have taken it as an obvious escalation, but it seems like he called it exactly right because NL’s reputation is all but destroyed. Maybe if he hadn’t said that Ben would have waited for their response before publishing, and it would have been better. I think it’s naive and irresponsible for Ben/Lightcone to... (read more)

Since the attitude around me if you don’t like contracts you entered is generally “tough shit, get more agency”, I was surprised at the responses saying Alice and Chloe should have been protected from an arrangement they willing entered

Where is "around you" where this is the norm? FWIW I think it's a terrible one.

Rationality/the Bay. I heard it the most regarding polyamory. The good version of it is "people have the freedom to agree to things that could be bad for them or that might turn out bad for the average person".

-1
Guy Raveh
4mo
Reflecting a bit, I'll admit that I liked it as a norm in my department in uni ("You want to take a class but don't have the prerequisites? No problem, it's your responsibility to understand, not ours"), but still think it has no place in broader society - and in personal and romantic relationships in particular.
8
DPiepgrass
4mo
In part based on Ben's followup (which indicated a high level of care) and based on concerning aspects of this post discussed in other comments here, I'm persuaded that Ben's original post was sufficiently fair (if one keeps in mind the disclaimer that the post was "not from a search to give a balanced picture"), and that most EA orgs don't need to be afraid of unusual social arrangements as long as they're written down and expectations are made clear. (Edit: the discussion between spencerg and Habryka makes me think Ben's writeup not only could have, but should have, been worded more carefully. Still, I agree with the above paragraph.)
3
Habryka
4mo
FWIW, my model is also that the original post was received in a too witch-hunty manner, but also I don't have any great ideas how to share the evidence to all the relevant parties without causing too much of a witch-hunt. I think all the specific statements that Ben made in his post were pretty well-calibrated (and still seem mostly right to me after reading through the evidence), so it's not like the post called for a witch-hunt. I've been thinking about whether there is some kind of informal court or arbitration system that would allow the social pressure here to be less driven by people trying to individually enact social enforcement, but by something that has more deliberation and moderation built-in, but I don't yet have a blueprint for something that could work and also wouldn't take thousands of hours. If you have any concrete suggestions or edits for Ben's post on what he could have done to make the effects be less witch-hunty, then I would be curious about that (though, to be clear, my overall assessment continues to be that working with Nonlinear is a bad idea, they should not have tables at EAG, should not receive central EA Funding, and young EAs should be reliable warned before engaging with them more, but like, not more than that. I don't want people to try to actively harm Kat or Emerson, and I think it's fine for them to work among themselves, build up an independent reputation and work on stuff they care about, and in as much as that happened, I am sad)

I’m surprised to hear you say this Habryka: “I think all the specific statements that Ben made in his post were pretty well-calibrated (and still seem mostly right to me after reading through the evidence)”

Do you think Ben was well calibrated/right when he made, for instance, these claims which Nonlinear has provided counter evidence for?

“She [Alice] was sick with covid in a foreign country, with only the three Nonlinear cofounders around, but nobody in the house was willing to go out and get her vegan food, so she barely ate for 2 days. Alice eventually gave in and ate non-vegan food in the house” (from my reading of the evidence this is not close to accurate, and I believe Ben had access to the counter evidence at the time when he published)

“Before she went on vacation, Kat requested that Alice bring a variety of illegal drugs across the border for her (some recreational, some for productivity). Alice argued that this would be dangerous for her personally, but Emerson and Kat reportedly argued that it is not dangerous at all and was “absolutely risk-free” (from my reading of the evidence Nonlinear provided, it seems Alice was asked to buy ADHD medicine that they believed was lega... (read more)

Do you think Ben was well calibrated/right when he made, for instance, these claims which Nonlinear has provided counter evidence for?

Yes, indeed I think in all of these quotes Ben basically said pretty reasonable things that still seem reasonably accurate to me even after reading the whole appendix that Nonlinear provided.


She [Alice] was sick with covid in a foreign country, with only the three Nonlinear cofounders around, but nobody in the house was willing to go out and get her vegan food, so she barely ate for 2 days. Alice eventually gave in and ate non-vegan food in the house” 

You start with the one that I do think I made the biggest update on, though I also think most of the relevant evidence here was shared back during the original discussion. I am still kind of confused what happened here, and am hoping to dig into it, but I agree that there are some updates for me (and I assume others) here, and I currently think Alice's summary is overall pretty misleading. 

To be clear, in the quoted section Ben is summarizing what Alice told him, and Ben's original post also directly includes this summary from Kat: 

Second; the semi-employee said that she wasn't supported

... (read more)

You say: "This is inaccurate. I don't think there is any evidence that Ben had access to that doesn't seem well-summarized by the two sections above. We had a direct report from Alice, which is accurately summarized in the first quote above, and an attempted rebuttal from Kat, which is accurately summarized in the second quote above. We did not have any screenshots or additional evidence that didn't make it into the post."

Actually, you are mistaken, Ben did have screenshots. I think you just didn't know that he had them. I can send you proof that he had them via DM if you like.

Regarding this: "As Kat has documented herself, she asked Alice to bring Schedule 2 drugs across borders without prescription (whether you need a prescription in the country you buy it is irrelevant, what matters is whether you have one in the country you arrive in), something that can have quite substantial legal consequences (I almost certainly would feel pretty uncomfortable asking my employee to bring prescription medications across borders without appropriate prescription)."

It sounds like you're saying this paragraph by Ben: 

"Before she went on vacation, Kat requested that Alice bring a variety of i... (read more)

Actually, you are mistaken, Ben did have screenshots. I think you just didn't know that he had them. I can send you proof that he had them via DM if you like.


Sure! DMd you. I might also ping Ben, though want to mostly give him space and time to write a reply and not have to worry about stuff in the comments for now.

It sounds like you're saying this paragraph by Ben: 

"Before she went on vacation, Kat requested that Alice bring a variety of illegal drugs across the border for her (some recreational, some for productivity). Alice argued that this would be dangerous for her personally, but Emerson and Kat reportedly argued that it is not dangerous at all and was “absolutely risk-free”

is an accurate characterization of this sentiment: she was asked to pick up ADHD medicine in a place where it was believed not to require a prescription, and bring it back to a place where it does require a prescription, but then was told not to worry about it when it was found that it does require a prescription where she was going to pick it up.

To me, the former does a really bad job of capturing the latter, sounding WAY worse ethically. But I'd be curious to know if others agree with me or if they

... (read more)

Agree that my epistemic state on this point is also something close to this.

Summarized would be "something like asking her to bring the drugs probably happened, and if so was a mistake that I'd hope was learned from, but the major issue would be if she was pressured to do it, and I'm unsure if I trust the person reporting enough to decide either way without evidence."

[Edit: I know this is probably a frustrating thing for others to read, but seems worth saying anyway... since making the above comment I've had private information shared with me that makes me more confident NL didn't act in an abusive way regarding this particular issue.]

-2
Habryka
4mo
Ok, I pinged Spencer. He sent me screenshots of text messages he sent Ben that he sent ~2 hours before publication of the post (in the middle of the barrage of comms that Nonlinear was firing off at the time, which included the libel threats), and which Kat posted to the comment thread less than 48 hours after the messages were sent to Ben. I stand by my summary that everything Ben knew at the time of writing the post, made it into the post. Of course if you send something 2 hours before the post is published, late at night, it's not going to make it into the post (but it might very well make it into a comment, which it did).

Ben made a bunch of other changes the day of publication. I know that because I pointed out errors in his post that day, and he was correcting them based on me pointing them out (e.g., all of his original quotes from glassdoor that he claimed were about Emerson were not actually about Emerson, which he didn't realize until I pointed it out, and then he rushed to find new quotes to correct it). I'm sure he had a lot on his mind at that time, so I don't think it's egregious that he didn't add mention of the fact that he had screen shot counter evidence about the "no food while sick stuff", but it clearly seems to me to be a mistake on his part to not adjust the post or at least acknowledge it in the post. And I know he received the screenshots because he acknowledged getting them. You're saying it made it into a comment as though Ben gets credit for that - but wasn't it Kat who posted that comment? He also chose to rush the post out that night despite knowing there was counter evidence. I was honestly shocked he was trying to rush the post out that night because of all the errors I was finding in his post, which I expressed to Ben that day.

Update: I only just saw this point you made,... (read more)

7
Habryka
4mo
Sorry, I had assumed that Nonlinear had shared with you the document we shared with them before publication of the post. My Slack records indicate Ben had two calls with you in the week before publication, and my guess based on the feedback I see from you paraphrased and copied in the Slack, is that you were aware of the claims in the post.  I might be wrong here and the Slack records could just align in a kind of confusing way (I can't find the date of your first call with Ben, but am confident there was one more than 24 hours before publication), in which case I apologize.
1
Habryka
4mo
Yes, Ben was making changes the day of the publication, I don't think I said otherwise?  I also think sending something 2 hours before publication is again different from that (like clearly we can at least agree that if you had sent it 15 minutes before the publication time that it would not have been reasonable to say that Ben had access to information during the writing of the post that didn't make it into the post?). I really would not describe the post as being "rushed out". The post had been worked on for over 1000 hours. I also think you are overstating "all the errors you were pointing out". You pointed out two things which to me still seem relatively minor. I think if Kat hadn't posted the screenshots in a comment, Ben would have left a comment or edited the post. We really tried pretty hard to include anything that was sent to us, and I think Ben managed to include a lot of information and epistemic nuance in the post, while still maintaining the basics of readability and clarity.

The post had been worked on for over 1000 hours
 

Is it just me or does the number keep going up with every retelling?

When we did a postmortem on it, somewhat over 1000 hours is how high the total staff cost seemed to us, and that was a few months ago.

I think it's totally plausible that in a few places I or someone else on the team used a lower number that they felt more confident in. In-general the structure of "over X" is something I usually use when I am not sure about X, but want to give a quick lower bound that allows me to move ahead with the argument, so it seems totally possible that in another context I would have said "multiple hundreds of hours" or "300+" hours or something like that, because that was enough to prove the point at hand.

Edit: Oh, I see the links now, didn't see them when I first wrote the comment. 

I kept wanting to just share what I'd learned. I ended up spending about ~320 hours (two months of work), over the span of six calendar months, to get to a place where I was personally confident of the basic dynamics (even though I expect I have some of the details wrong), and that Alice and Chloe felt comfortable with my publishing.

I think the key difference with that quote and my number is that it just includes Ben's time, as opposed to total staff time. For example, it o... (read more)

Thanks. I didn't mean my comment to come across as a "gotcha" question fwiw (not saying that you said it was a gotcha question, but I realized after I commented that it'd be a reasonable interpretation of my comment).

For what it's worth, I find it extremely plausible that a post like this both took an inordinately large amount of time, and that people will systematically underestimate how much it took before they started doing more accurate time-tracking.

1
Habryka
4mo
It does seem very sad that the voting on this post seems a bit broken (it also seemed broken on the original Nonlinear post). Like, do people think I am lying about the amount of hours it took? I would be happy to provide the data that I have, or have someone else who is more independent to the Lightcone team provide an estimate. It seems very weird to downvote an answer to a straightforward question like that. 

Hmm, well Ben said "(for me) a 100-200 hour investigation" in the first post, then said he spent "~320 hours" in the second. Maybe people thought you should've addressed that discrepancy?️ Edit: the alternative―some don't like your broader stance and are clicking disagree on everything. Speaking of which, I wonder if you updated based on Spencer's points?

6
Linch
4mo
Apologies, that was my fault. I wrote the comment and then I realized that I was demonstrating poor reasoning transparency, so then I hunted down the relevant links. My guess of chronology was that I had the hyperlinks added in after you started commenting, but before your reply was visible. Sorry if that burned extra time on your end. :)
8
Habryka
4mo
Ah, cool, I was really surprised when I saw the links on refresh, but they fit so naturally into the comment that I thought they clearly must have been there in the first place.  No worries, it cost me like 3 minutes. 

if you send something 2 hours before the post is published, late at night, it's not going to make it into the post.

This would make sense to me if Ben had been working to an external deadline, but instead this is directly downstream from Ben's choice to allocate very little time to draft review and ensuring he had his facts right. It sounds like Spencer sent these text messages <24hr after being sent the draft; how quickly would he have needed to turn around his review to count?

9
Habryka
4mo
To be clear, we were working to a substantial degree to an external deadline, since publishing this post required coordinating with many (5-10) external sources and witnesses, with many of them having a strong preference for a concrete time for the post to be published and they can plan around, so they can get ready for any potential retaliation and fallout.  There was wiggle room in that date and time, but by the time Spencer sent this, the post and publish-date was really quite locked in. I think 24 hours before publication would have been enough to include them. Maybe even 12 hours. As I mentioned in other places, we did send Nonlinear (and Spencer) a list of the relevant claims in the final post, including this one, so I think the fact that the literal draft was only shared 24 hours in advance is irrelevant. Spencer and Nonlinear knew the claims we were planning to put into the post on this matter roughly a week in-advance. For example, in the call that Nonlinear cancelled with us a day before publication, that would have been a pretty good time to share such evidence with us, and if they had given additional evidence then, it would have made it into the post. But separately from that, I am not sure what you mean by "count". Spencer claimed that "we had screenshots that didn't make it into the post". I think a reasonable reader would infer from that when the post was being written, we had access to those screenshots. By the time Spencer sent these screenshots, the post was no longer being written in any meaningful way.

To be clear, we were working to a substantial degree to an external deadline, since publishing this post required coordinating with many (5-10) external sources and witnesses, with many of them having a strong preference for a concrete time for the post to be published and they can plan around, so they can get ready for any potential retaliation and fallout. 

I don't really see how this is a defense. The fact that you have promised some third parties to do X does not justify you in doing X if X would otherwise not be morally acceptable. And publishing harmful statements about someone that you have good reason to think are false does not seem morally acceptable.

Yes, this does seem like deciding in advance what side you're on and who deserves consideration like determining when the post goes up.

It is a defense that in as much as I think anyone working on a post similar to this, mostly independently of skill level, would end up having to make promises to sources of this type, in order to be able to share concerning information publicly. 

Of course, if you think posts of this whole reference class are bad, and it was bad for us to even attempt to make a post that tries to publicize the extensive rumors and concerns that we heard about Nonlinear, then I think it's not a defense.

But if you think people should attempt to spread that kind of information and share it with more parties, then I think this will somewhat inevitable come with constraints like having to keep publication deadlines and coordinating the many stakeholders involved in such a thing.

Like, what is the alternative that you propose we should have done instead? Not made any promises to our sources at all about doing things that protect them from retaliation and limiting the costs on them? I think in that case you don't get to talk to sources, or you only get to do it for a bit as people get burned and hurt and stop talking to you.

And publishing harmful statements about someone that you have good reason to think are false does not seem morally acceptable.

I am pretty sure Ben has published no harmful statements about someone that he thought were false. Indeed, as I have said many times, he seems to have been exceptionally careful with the epistemic states he attached to his statements in his post.

I'm well aware of the difficulties of balancing competing stakeholders giving you feedback late on posts and trying to hit publication timing targets. I think you had several valid options:

  1. Never make commitments about publication date and time in the first place. 
  2. Make commitments, but be clear they are provisional. When you receive this information, email your sources saying "hey guys, really sorry but we just received some last-minute info that we need to update on. We'll circle back to coordinate a new launch date that works for you."
  3. Give Spencer a reasonable deadline to respond, committing to take into account feedback received before this deadline.
  4. Delete that section and publish on the original schedule.
  5. Edit the section and publish on the original schedule. 
0
Habryka
4mo
I mean, to be clear, we did this the first time Nonlinear disputed the relevant section.  I think this section is really quite clear. We have one report from Alice saying that she quit being vegan. We directly include, in the next paragraph, the fact that Nonlinear disputes this. I really don't think we misled anyone. The screenshots sent did not actually materially change anything in the paragraphs above, indeed both of the paragraphs are still fully accurate (and in as much as Alice claimed that she did not get food while indeed getting food, that is IMO an important part of the story that seems important for other people to be able to cross-check). I think the choice of "you have some sources, you cite the sources while being really quite clear that you don't fully trust your sources, and when a thing gets directly disputed by another source you say that directly" is a reasonable thing to do. Again, as I've said an enormous number of times, we never had an intention of fully litigating all of these claims before publication, which would have been completely infeasible time-wise.  The alternative to Ben's post would have probably been a series of fully anonymous posts with extremely vague high-level accusations that would have been extremely hard to respond to. We tried to make the claims concrete and provide an interface to aggregate information at all.  Like, what kind of edit would you have preferred us to do instead of the above? 

I think this section is really quite clear. We have one report from Alice saying that she quit being vegan. We directly include, in the next paragraph, the fact that Nonlinear disputes this. I really don't think we misled anyone.

I strongly disagree. Alice's and Nonlinear's perspectives are portrayed with very different implicit levels of confidence in those paragraphs. Alice's perspective is stated as a fact -- "nobody in the house was willing to go out and get her vegan food," not "Alice says nobody in the house was willing to go out and get her vegan food." In contrast, Nonlinear's perspective is shared as "[Nonlinear] says [x]." 

I think most readers who trust Ben to be truthful would assume, from the way those paragraphs were worded, that Alice had much better evidence to support her claims, and that Nonlinear was doing some slightly deceitful reputational management by countering them. But that isn't what turned out to be the case:

  • Nonlinear has evidence that on December 15, they had oatmeal, peanuts, almonds, prunes, tomatoes, cereal, an orange, mixed nuts, and quinoa (which Kat offered to cook) in the house.
  • On the same day, Kat had successfully purchased mashed potatoes f
... (read more)
-1
Habryka
4mo
Yeah, sorry, I think I was too strong in my language above, though my sense is you are also interpreting my answer to be about a somewhat different question than the one I perceived Larks as asking. To clarify where I think we are on the same page: I am pretty unhappy about that section, and wouldn't ask Ben to write something different given what I believe today.  The thing I was responding to was whether we misrepresented the evidence that we did have at the time.  On that topic, I do think it was a mistake to omit as many of the "Alice/Chloe claims that X" in the post as we did, and fall back into a neutral third-party way of summarizing the claims, and given that we did, I think it makes sense to hold Ben and Lightcone more responsible for the veracity of statements that did not include an explicit "Alice/Chloe alleges X". I also think that there is a pretty reasonable case to be made that we should have waited longer on getting more evidence from Nonlinear. I felt conflicted on this topic then, and feel conflicted now. I really hate that the situation we were in made it quite hard for us to wait longer for Nonlinear to respond to us. I am still not fully sure whether I would wait if I was in this situation again, since the considerations against waiting were also quite strong, though overall I am leaning slightly that waiting would have been the better option (I do not think this forgives or excuses Nonlinear's attempts at intimidation and threats of retaliation). However, overall on the question of "did we accurately summarize the evidence available to us", I think Ben's post and this section is doing pretty well.  I agree that we frame Alice and Chloe's evidence as more trustworthy, and in-aggregate, across the whole post, I stand behind that framing, in that I think Alice and Chloe are substantially more reliable sources of evidence than Kat and Emerson. I agree that in this situation I think this went the wrong way around and it looks to me like the ve
5
pseudonym
4mo
Given Chloe is not involved in this claim, do you also stand behind the framing that Alice is more reliable than Kat/Emerson?
3
Habryka
4mo
I am substantially less confident in that claim, though yeah, I would still overall say I believe it (it's not super well-operationalized so not super clear what a probability would mean, but like, I guess I am at ~80% that if I knew all the facts and had arbitrary insight into Alice's, Kat's and Emersons' life that I would overall expect Alice to be reporting more accurately than Kat and Emerson)

I'm not sure if Spencer sent you all the screenshots or just some of them, but something along the lines of:

Alice quit being vegan while working there. She was sick with covid in a foreign country, with only the three Nonlinear cofounders around, who she alleges refused to go out and get her vegan food, so she barely ate for 2 days. Alice eventually gave in and ate non-vegan food in the house. She also said that the Nonlinear cofounders marked her quitting veganism as a ‘win’, as they thad been arguing that she should not be vegan.

(Nonlinear disputes this, and sent dated screenshots suggesting and says that they did go out and buy her some vegan burgers food and had some vegan food in the house that they cooked for her. They agree that she quit being vegan at this time, and say it was because being vegan was unusually hard due to being in Puerto Rico. Alice disputes that she received any vegan burgers; we did not ask her to comment on the screenshots.)

1
Habryka
4mo
The screenshot Ben received at the time is one of the ones that Kat linked in this comment:  https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/32LMQsjEMm6NK2GTH/sharing-information-about-nonlinear?commentId=Ejbe8ukX6FhrfRv5C  Importantly the screenshot only covered events on December 15th. Here is the relevant screenshot:  Kelsey Piper in the thread summarizes these screenshots (together with some other screenshots that Kat shared) as follows: My guess is this aligned with Ben's interpretation at the time. The screenshots were relevant evidence, but they did not directly disprove anything in the original article.  Kat then shared further screenshots in the comments, which importantly were not shared with Ben beforehand (unless Spencer failed to forward them to me in my DM with him yesterday), that demonstrated that on the next day Kat did successfully bring her food.  However, the story, in the above screenshot, on December 15th, is that indeed Alice did not get food, despite her requesting it. The screenshots that Spencer sent us appear to fail to include the most relevant part of the conversation, which is that they did indeed fail to get her vegan food that day during that trip. (Edit: Kat disputes this below, sharing some additional screenshots that seem to show that Kat did get food for Alice later that day, which seems important to get right. Though I don't think Spencer's screenshot demonstrated this). Here are the edits I currently agree would have been better, though I think they are minor enough that I don't currently see it as a major error to not have included them:  I really encourage you to look at the screenshots, Kelsey's summary, and Kat's original comment on the Nonlinear post and explain to me how these screenshots falsify part of the post. As we later received more screenshots, it seems like we actually received confirmation that the conversation on that date did indeed not result in Alice getting food. (Edit: Kat shares some additional screen

I'm a little bit confused about Kelsey's summary - it contains a line about rejecting burgers because they were 'fast food' that doesn't seem to be in the original. So I don't think it can reflect Ben's state of mind in that way.

If you only had the one screenshot (9:53 to 10:28 timestamps), I agree that you can't infer that Kat cooked for 'Alice', nor is there proof that the discussed burger trip actually took place, though I think they strongly imply it will - certainly Alice seems to think it has been agreed and will occur. However, I find your comment about 15th vs 16th unconvincing because 'Alice' explicitly claims a 2 day duration, so food the next day would also contradict this (assuming the 15th is the first day).

Here is another possible version that reflects just the one screenshot:

Alice quit being vegan while working there. She was sick with covid in a foreign country, with only the three Nonlinear cofounders around, who she alleges refused to go out and get her vegan food, so she barely ate for 2 days. Alice eventually gave in and ate non-vegan food in the house. She also said that the Nonlinear cofounders marked her quitting veganism as a ‘win’, as they thad been arguing

... (read more)
8
Habryka
4mo
Just to be clear, that burger trip did indeed not happen that day, if I understand it correctly. What instead happened is that Kat went out a few hours later and got Alice mashed potatoes at a store (which is not really hinted at at all in the screenshots).
4
Habryka
4mo
Yeah, I think this version is reasonable and I would have preferred to post this version (and somewhat think that we should have updated it ASAP, even after publication).

on December 15th, is that indeed Alice did not get food,

This is false. Alice got food on December 15th. She got food 2.5 hours after she asked. Actually, she never asked me, I just offered when it seemed like she was struggling. 

It says December 16 at 12:14am because I was in Europe at the time, so it's showing the European time zone. It was Dec 15 at 7:13pm in the local time when this occurred. 

She brought up being hungry at 4:53pm. I immediately offered to cook her the food in the house. When she didn't want any of the food in the house or food from any non-fast food restaurant within a 12 minute drive of home, I went out, while sick myself, and got and cooked her food. The only vegan food that fit her criteria in the store. 

The only complaint she can legitimately say is that we did not get her Panda Express as fast  as she would have liked (we got it for her the next day). She waited 2.5 hours for food. And she could have had it sooner if she'd wanted any of the food in the house, which she usually ate nearly daily and enjoyed. She just didn't want that food. She wanted fast food and didn't get it as fast as she preferred.

I'm currently back on the same time zone, so here's the same screenshot, but showing the right time zone dates and times

3
Habryka
4mo
Thank you! This definitely seems like highly relevant evidence. Can you clarify whether Kelsey's summary of the December 15th conversation is accurate or inaccurate? It's totally possible that I am misreading the screenshots, though my best interpretation was indeed the interpretation that Kelsey made in the screenshots. I would be happy to correct the statement above if I am wrong here. I do think this issue seems somewhat separate from the question of "did the screenshots that were shared with us materially affect the things Ben wrote?".  To be clear, this is relevant in as much as the original screenshot was evidence of there being more things you could share here, though I currently maintain that I don't think the screenshots that were shared with us showed any material error (given that Kelsey also walked away with the same impression of them being consistent).  I also totally care about just setting the record straight and getting the object-level issue right here, and in as much as there isn't anything very weird going on with the screenshots you sent, I think you provided pretty decent proof here and am changing my mind on the December 15th issue (and think if you had shared those screenshots with us instead, I think it's pretty likely Ben would have somehow made sure that they made it into the post).

Kelsey's summary was wrong in a number of important ways. 

  • She missed the fact that we did indeed succeed in getting her vegan food (I found at the nearby store, despite being sick myself). 2.5 hours after we first offered. And it would have been faster if she'd wanted any of the food in the house, or chosen a restaurant that had vegan options for Emerson and Drew to go to. 
  • It doesn't mention the vegan food that was in the house already that I offered to cook (Alice ate oatmeal almost every day and she loved quinoa. Later when I cooked some up for her, she loved it, like usual, cause quinoa is the Queen of All Foods). 
  • It doesn't mention that Drew said he would go to any restaurant within a 12 minute drive from our place and she just... didn't choose a restaurant. She only wanted fast food. So they ended up choosing a restaurant that didn't happen to have vegan options aside from the usual fries.
  • A quick look at Google Maps shows that there was over 20 restaurants that fit that criteria in the area. It wasn't restrictive at all. 
  • She frames it as they didn't get her the food she wanted "because they [didn't] want to get fast food." It's important to note that Emerso
... (read more)
3
ElliotJDavies
4mo
I'm waiting for Ben, or someone else, to make a table of claims, counter claims, and what the evidence shows. Because nonlinear providing evidence that doesn't support their claims seems to be a common occurance.  Just to give a new example, Kat screenshots herself replying "mediating! Appreciate people not talking to loud on the way back [...] " here, to provide evidence supporting that there was not a substantial discussion that occurred. However, I can only interpret the use of "mediating!" to indicate that there was in-fact a substantial amount of discussion at play.  Edit: Retracted as correctly pointed out by @Sean_o_h , I read meditation as mediation. 

Uh, the word in that screenshot is "meditating". She was asking people to not talk too loudly while she was meditating.

That is correct. 

3
ElliotJDavies
4mo
Oh thanks for flagging, I will retract it now 
2
Elizabeth
4mo
Can you clarify what you mean by “very little time”? Haybrka reports spending 1000+ staff hours, and even Ben’s much more conservative estimate of 100-200 hours doesn’t feel fair to me to describe as “very little”  

Sorry, I'm trying to talk about the amount of time for 'adversarial' fact checking: when Nonlinear knew the accusations and could provide specific counter evidence. I agree he put a ton of time into the project overall.

Just a note that standard practice on these kinds of jobs is that you get a credit card to make purchases with, and are never using your own money that is later reimbursed.

A big reason for this is the massive mismatch in what money is worth. Employers might think covering a $100 grocery trip until you get reimbursed is not a big deal, but to an employee that might have been their own food money or rent.

The standard answer is you either let your employee borrow your credit card, or you give them their own credit card. You can put a lower limit on it to protect yourself, and can also see the credit card statement (which can be paired with receipts if you don't trust them not to add on extras. I was always careful that my families get all the receipts but they generally just threw them away because they trusted me)

1[comment deleted]4mo
4
ElliotJDavies
4mo
My model has been there should be social enforcement for both poor epistemic practices and rude/unkind communication.  I have been an active commenter in both posts, with a goal of social pressure in mind (i.e. providing accountability and a social pressure to not behave inappropriately towards/with your employees).  I'd be interested to hear meta level criticisms of my approach (e.g. "social pressure is inherently bad"). Because, whilst I don't want witch hunting that employs poor epistemic practices, I do think social pressure plays an important role in stabilising communities. Perhaps someone can change my mind on this? If you do change my mind, I'll certainly comment a lot less.

To me it seems like everyone individually applying social pressure is hard to calibrate. Oli seems to be saying that he and Ben did not intend the level of social consequences NL has felt based on what they shared, but rather an update that NL shoudn’t be a trusted EA org. I think that it’s hard to control the impression that people will get when you provide a lot of evidence even if it’s all relatively minor, and almost impossible to control snowballing dynamics in comment sections and on social media when people fear being judged for the wrong reaction, so it just might not be possible for a post like Ben’s to received in a calibrated way.

This sounds right, but the counterfactual (no social accountability) seems worse to me, so I am operating on the assumption it's a necessary evil. 

I live high trust country, which has very little of this social accountability, i.e. if someone does something potentially rude or unacceptable in public, they are given the benefit of the doubt. However, I expect this works because others are employed, full time, to hold people accountable. I.e. police officers, ticket inspectors, traffic wardens. I don't think we have this in the wider Effective Altruism community right now. 

Muireall
4mo176
30
4
18

I drew a random number for spot checking the short summary table. (I don't think spot checking will do justice here, but I'd like to start with something concrete.)

Chloe claimed: they told me not to spend time with my romantic partner 

- Also a strange, false accusation: we invited her boyfriend to live with us for 2 of the 5 months. We even covered his rent and groceries.

- We were just about to invite him to travel with us indefinitely because it would make Chloe happy, but then Chloe quit.

Evidence/read more

This seems to be about this paragraph from the original post:

Alice and Chloe report that they were advised not to spend time with ‘low value people’, including their families, romantic partners, and anyone local to where they were staying, with the exception of guests/visitors that Nonlinear invited. Alice and Chloe report this made them very socially dependent on Kat/Emerson/Drew and otherwise very isolated.

There aren't any other details in the original post specifically from Chloe or specifically about her partner, including in the comment in Chloe's words below the post. The only specific detail about romantic partners I see in the original post is about Alice, and it pl... (read more)

I feel like I'm confused by what you would find more convincing here given that there was no evidence in the first place that they did say something like that?

Like would them saying "No we didn't" actually be more persuasive than showing an example of how they did the opposite?

Or like... if we take for granted that words that someone might interpret that way left their mouth, at what point do we stop default trusting the person who clearly feels aggrieved by them and seems willing to exaggerate or lie when they then share those words to others?

There are plenty of context in which the thing alleged is not at all abusive, and plenty of contexts where it is. Without reason to believe they were actually keeping them isolated, I'm not sure how much weight to put on it.

I feel like I'm confused by what you would find more convincing here given that there was no evidence in the first place that they did say something like that?

Like would them saying "No we didn't" actually be more persuasive than showing an example of how they did the opposite?

Or like... if we take for granted that words that someone might interpret that way left their mouth, at what point do we stop default trusting the person who clearly feels aggrieved by them and seems willing to exaggerate or lie when they then share those words to others?

I'm not sure if you meant to reply to a different comment, but yes, exactly.

I think what you're asking is, supposing Nonlinear has after all done nothing remarkable with respect to anyone's romantic partners, how do I come to believe that? How does Nonlinear present counterevidence or discredit Chloe in exactly the right way such that I'm swayed towards the true conclusion? If they deny it, it's just their word. If they show me a text conversation, well, no one actually said that they didn't have that text conversation, so it's not responsive to the complaint. There's basically no winning. It's genuinely, upsettingly unfair.

I mean, in some se... (read more)

Very valuable contribution. Crowd sourcing this type of effort seems good.

Maybe! I'm hoping it at least saves people some energy. It's too late for me, but I confess I'm ambivalent myself about the point of all this. Spot-checking some high level claims is at least tractable, but are there decisions that depend on the outcome? What I care about isn't whether Nonlinear accurately represented what happened or what Ben said. I was unlikely to ever cross paths with Nonlinear or even Ben beforehand. I want people to get healthy professional experience, and I want the EA community to have healthy responses to internal controversy and bad actors.

Something went wrong long before I started looking at any particular claim. Did they discourage Chloe from spending time with her boyfriend? Was it maybe a unreasonable amount of time, though? Are they being sincere in saying they were happy to see her happy? Is it toxic passive-aggressive behavior to emphasize that they felt that way even though she was distracted and unproductive with him around? Did they fail to invite him on all-expenses-paid world travel? Is Ben Pace a good person?

Like, huh? How did we even get here? Don't ask your employees to live with you. Don't engage in social experiments with your employees. Don't make their romantic partnerships your business. Don't put people in situations where these are the questions they're asking. My own suspicion is that everyone, even Nonlinear, would have been better off if Nonlinear had just let this lie and instead gone about earning trust by doing good work with normal working relationships.

"My own suspicion is that everyone, even Nonlinear, would have been better off if Nonlinear had just let this lie and instead gone about earning trust by doing good work with normal working relationships."

I think I'm not sure this is actually possible without having addressed the original claims. The overriding take I felt from the community after Ben's post was that they were in exile limbo until their side of the story was shared.

4
Muireall
4mo
Isn't Emerson independently wealthy and Nonlinear mostly self-funded? It's not totally clear to me how that limbo keeps them from getting things done. I guess I don't fully understand what Nonlinear does—I suppose they "incubate" projects, mostly remotely helping with mentoring and networking? I find the idea a little bewildering together with how they describe their activities, but being on the outs with the EA/AI safety community would be a pretty central obstacle. So that's fair and I was probably venting a bit intemperately. I think something like what Stephen Clare outlines is probably better.

I don't think Nonlinear can get much done if no one wants to work with them. "Incubating AI x-risk nonprofits ​by connecting founders with ideas, funding, and mentorship" (site) is not really compatible with 'exile'.

-4
Muireall
4mo
Yeah. Still, I think there's something I'm groping towards here, which is, like, maybe they should do something else? Sure, you don't get to be a power broker if you're in exile. But I don't see how they were ever going to be able to argue their way back. Even with the perfectly worded response it won't suddenly make sense to trust them as mentors again; it's always going to take time and concrete actions to regain confidence. If that means they have to do something other than connecting people with ideas, funding, and mentorship, maybe they should just get started on that other thing.

It at least allows people who now trust them again to choose to work with them and have things to point to as to why.

1
DPiepgrass
4mo
That may be, but they valued their community connections and the pay-related disputes suggest that their funding was limited.

I think this comment will be frustrating for you and is not high quality. Feel free to disagree, I'm including it because I think it's possible many people (or at least some?) will feel wary of this post early on and it might not be clear why. In my opinion, including a photo section was surprising and came across as near completely misunderstanding the nature of Ben's post. It is going to make it a bit hard to read any further with even consideration (edit: for me personally, but I'll just take a break and come back or something). Basically, without any claim on what happened, I don't think anyone suspects "isolated or poor environment" to mean, "absence of group photos in which [claimed] isolated person is at a really pretty pool or beach doing pool yoga." And if someone is psychologically distressed, whether you believe this to be a misunderstanding or maliciously exaggerated, it feels like a really icky move to start posting pictures that add no substance, even with faces blurred, with the caption "s'mores", etc.

In my opinion, including a photo section was surprising and came across as near completely misunderstanding the nature of Ben's post. It is going to make it a bit hard to read any further with even consideration

In addition to the overall tone of this post being generally unprofessional. 

Yeah, I don't necessarily mind an informal tone. But the reality is, I read [edit: a bit of] the appendix doc and I'm thinking, "I would really not want to be managed by this team and would be very stressed if my friends were being managed by them. For an organisation, this is really dysfunctional." And not in an, "understandably risky experiment gone wrong" kind of way, which some people are thinking about this as, but in a, "systematically questionable judgement as a manager" way. Although there may be good spin-off convos around, "how risky orgs should be" and stuff. And maybe the point of this post isn't to say, "nonlinear did a reasonably sufficient job managing employees and can expect to do so in the future" but rather, "I feel slandered and lied about and I want to share my perspective." 

I'll commit to not commenting more now unless I've gotten something really wrong or it's really necessary or something :') 

-7
Kat Woods
4mo
OllieBase
4mo165
92
42
8

I'm disappointed that much of this document involves attacking the people who've accused you of harmful actions, in place of a focus on disputing the evidence they provided (I appreciate that you also do the latter). I also really bounce off the distraction tactics at play here, where you encourage the reader to turn their attention back to the world's problems. It doesn't seem like you've reflected carefully and calmly about this situation; I don't see many places where you admit to making mistakes and it doesn't seem like you're willing to take ownership of this situation at all.

I don't have time to engage with all the evidence here, but even if I came away convinced that all of the original claims provided by Ben weren't backed up, I still feel really uneasy about Nonlinear; uneasy about your work culture, uneasy about how you communicate and argue, and alarmed at how forcefully you attack people who criticise you. 

I'm disappointed that much of this document involves attacking the people who've accused you of harmful actions, in place of a focus on disputing the evidence they provided 

The vast majority of what they gave is disputing the evidence. There is a whole 135 pages of basically nothing but that. You then even refer to it saying:

I don't have time to engage with all the evidence here

How can both these be true at once? Either it's a lot so you don't have time to go through it all or they haven't done much in which case you should be able to spend some time looking at it?