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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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Erica_Edelman
3mo198
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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
2mo
> 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
2mo
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.

7
Rebecca
2mo
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.

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

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.

Once again, where is the board?

Two of the biggest questions for me are whether or not Nonlinear had a board of directors when Alice and Chloe worked for them and, if they did, whether an employee would know the identities and contact information of the board members and could feel reasonably safe approaching board members to express concerns and seek intervention. I can't find evidence they had a board at the time of the complaints or do now a year and a half after Alice and Chloe stopped working with them. The only reference to a board of directors I see in the Google Doc is Lightcone's board, which seems telling on a few levels.

Nonprofit boards are tasked with ensuring legal compliance, including compliance with relevant employment law considerations, and including above board practices in unconventional and riskier structures like Nonlinear chose to operate through. This situation looks very different if a legitimate board is in place than if employees don't have that safeguard.

Though I'm sad about the hurt experienced by many people across the Nonlinear situation, I'm personally less concerned with the minutiae of this particular organization and more about what structures, norms, and safeguards can be established across the EA ecosystem as a whole to reduce risk and protect EA community members going forward. Boards and institutional oversight are a recurring theme, from FTX to Nonlinear (to maybe OpenAI?) and I'm personally more skeptical of any organization that does not make its board information readily apparent.

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Habryka
2mo
It seems that at least during the relevant period, Nonlinear was at least partially fiscally sponsored by Rethink Charity. Rethink Charity's board is, I think, based on this blog post from 2019:  I don't know what fraction of Nonlinear's operations were fiscally sponsored by Rethink, and I feel kind of embarrassed for just noticing this now (I found out by looking at the grants made in the 2022-H1 Survival and Flourishing Funds grant round). I think talking to the Rethink Board would have been a great thing to do in this whole situation, I just totally missed this. Update: Pinging Ozzie on that list, it seems Rethink Charity ceased operations in the U.S. and its board is therefore no longer active. It was however active during the central period our investigation covered. I might see whether I can get takes from the old board members, but it seems like there is no longer an active board. Leaving trace of previous comment: Oh, huh, I didn't realize this, but I think a good chunk of Nonlinear's activities might be fiscally sponsored by Rethink Priorities, which would make the following people Nonlinear's board: 

Hey just some notes on how nonprofit fiscal sponsorship stuff works (I have worked in ops for charities for a while now) -- 

  • Not sure if the grant acceptance was your only evidence, but the fact that RC was the receiving charity for a grant in 2022 doesn't necessarily mean they are fiscally sponsoring Nonlinear (or were at the time). I can think of a few reasons related to bank set up times, international transactions, etc. that a charity might ask another charity to receive the grant for them, although it is a bit weird. 
  • If RC is the fiscal sponsor, it looks like most of RC's fiscal sponsorship projects are Model C. There are a bunch of different fiscal sponsorship models with different implications for the relationship. Model C means they are basically just a pass-through for funds, so Nonlinear would have had to have its own governance board, if one exists. 
  • Depending on what exactly Nonlinear is, from a legal perspective, it may not have a board. As far as I can tell, they have no information about their corporate structure on their website; they list several "advisors" but that doesn't seem to be a governance board. If Nonlinear doesn't have a board, that reflects
... (read more)
4
owyongsk
2mo
Hi there, SoonKhen, the former Executive Director of Rethink Charity USA here. I can confirm that Nonlinear was previously fiscally sponsored by Rethink Charity under a Model C sponsorship. A Model C fiscal sponsorship functions more like a grantor-grantee relationship; more information about it can be found here. In Model C sponsorships, the projects fiscally sponsored by Rethink Charity were not projects of Rethink Charity itself, but rather belonged to the fiscal sponsees. Our responsibilities included accepting grants and, according to the agreement and project budget, disbursing grants to sponsees, as well as monitoring their progress through reports they submitted. The board of Rethink Charity was not the board of Nonlinear.
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Habryka
2mo
(There appears to be a link missing)
1
owyongsk
2mo
Sorry Habryka! Can't believe I missed it. I've added the link above.
4
Habryka
2mo
As I mentioned, I did ping Ozzie. He did confirm that RC provided fiscal sponsorship (and more recently since I posted my comment also brought up the model C sponsorship). I was also involved in that SFF round and so could confirm that Nonlinear was using RC as a fiscal sponsor and not just a passthrough entity. Appreciate the other info.
8
Habryka
2mo
Ok, what is the crazy downvoting going on here? Sorry for confusing Rethink Priorities and Rethink Charity before I edited it, but it still seems really relevant and a direct answer to the question at hand that Nonlinear was indeed fiscally sponsored by Rethink Charity, and people seem to keep downvoting it, which makes no sense IMO. 

I think it's bad to repeatedly accuse people of things they didn't do, or having responsibilities they didn't have, and then write "Oops, sorry!", and we should do less of this.

You could have easily checked in with them, as with Macaskill last time, so that RP didn't have to rush in immediately with a correction, since otherwise way fewer people will see the correction than the original claim/accusation (if any). It lowers this forum's epistemics, wastes people's time, and stains accused people's reputation for no reason.

The tradeoff between writing a claim instantly or spending some time to confirm its correctness usually favours the latter. If I were on the board of RP, having my name on this thread could be damaging, and I would feel lucky that it got corrected immediately. I downvoted because I want to see fewer comments like that.

Just for context, I posted this comment after I messaged a Rethink board member who told me: 

"So the Rethink Board delegates authority to govern non-linear to a specific sub-board.  I’ll find out who is on that sub-board." 

I really feel like given that response, I sure felt justified in my epistemic state that Rethink Priorities was indeed the appropriate organization. It turned out to be a miscommunication, which is unfortunate, but I did actually try to confirm this before posting.

8
Jeff Kaufman
2mo
You messaged a 'Rethink' board member as in a Rethink Priorities board member or a Rethink Charity board member? They seem to have fully disjoint boards. (That these are both "Rethink" while independent is not great branding, and I think they should expect continued confusion until one of them renames.) EDIT: I see below you say you talked to Niel of RP, so it sounds like he was just wrong in his response to you?

Yeah, Rethink Priorities, and yeah he was just wrong, which confused me. To be clear, I don't think this was his fault, I asked the question in a kind of leading way, and he responded very quickly, and so I model this more as an unfortunate miscommunication.

I just got very excited and posted immediately because I thought that maybe there would be some way out of this that doesn't primarily route through the court of public opinion which my guess was everyone would appreciate.

Yeah, Rethink Priorities, and yeah he was just wrong, which confused me. To be clear, I don't think this was his fault, I asked the question in a kind of leading way, and he responded very quickly, and so I model this more as an unfortunate miscommunication.

Confirming that I was wrong about this in my communication with Oli.  Also agreeing with Oli here on the context in which those comments were made.  

I have made a note in my reflective journal entry on this event to be more careful with my comms in circumstances such as this one.  

That's rough! It sounds like you did the right thing (checking with an RP board member before saying NL was under RP) and then the harsh response was because others couldn't tell you'd done the right thing.

My guess is if you had posted a second comment with the true information people would have downvoted the first incorrect one, upvoted the second, and the net would be negative (because people are very averse to false information being shared).

I feel like I shared very relevant information in either case, and IMO it feels like a reasonable mistake to make to think that Rethink Charity is the same as Rethink Priorities, given that they were indeed the same organization in the past. 

I also messaged Niel from the Rethink board who himself said to me things that sounded like it confirmed that Nonlinear was fiscally sponsored (happy to share the text in DMs), so I feel like my epistemic state was really quite reasonable.

Hi,

(writing as the COO of Rethink Priorities).

Nonlinear is not, and has never been fiscally sponsored by Rethink Priorities. RP has never had a legal or financial connection to Nonlinear.

In the grant round you cite, it looks like the receiving charity is listed as Rethink Charity. RP was fiscally sponsored by RC until 2020, but is no longer legally connected to RC. RC is a separate legal entity with a separate board. RP and RC do not have a legal connection anymore, and have not since 2020.

4
Rockwell
2mo
@abrahamrowe, I'm curious if you have insights on the larger point about good governance across the EA ecosystem. As evidenced by EV's planned disbanding, sponsorship arrangements have a higher potential to become fraught. The opacity of the relationship between Rethink Charity and Nonlinear might be another example. (I.e. This is further indication Nonlinear employees wouldn't have had the same protection and recourse mechanisms as employees of more conventionally governed 501c3s, especially those of established 501c3s sizeable enough to hire 21 staff members.) Given RP is growing into one of the larger fiscal sponsors through your Special Projects Team, it might be worth further commentary from the RP team on how you're navigating risk and responsibility in sponsorship arrangements. Given RP's track record of proactive risk mitigation, I imagine you all have given this ample thought and it might serve as a template for others.
2
abrahamrowe
2mo
Edited to remove my comment since it is off topic. I'm happy to talk about this though if people want to in other contexts! I definitely think this is a pretty important question, and looking into how fiscal sponsorship arrangements are working in reality is important, as I imagine there is high variance in how effective oversight mechanisms are (though I think RP has done this well).
7
Habryka
2mo
I do think that's a reasonable question, but given that Rethink Priorities has indeed never sponsored Nonlinear (and it was just Rethink Charity), I do think that can happen in a different thread, or feels a bit off-topic for this discussion.
8
Habryka
2mo
Oops, sorry! I did indeed think that you were still part of the same legal structure! Correcting myself, then I guess the following is Nonlinear's board (the board of Rethink Charity)?  Will also update my other comment to correct for this.

Yes, I've been wondering who's on Nonlinear's board for the better part of a year!

TL;DR: In this comment I share my experience being coached by Kat.

I care about the world and about making sure that we develop and implement effective solutions to the many global challenges we face. To accomplish this, we need more people actively working on these issues. I think that Kat plays an important role in facilitating this.

Since I have not followed or analyzed all the recent developments surrounding Nonlinear in detail, I cannot and will not provide my opinion on these developments. 

However, I think it’s still useful to share my experience ... (read more)

Apologies for the repeat, I asked these questions on LessWrong but didn’t get an answer so I'm trying here.

  1. When did Chloe sign her contract? The document says she was sent it 6 days after starting, but not when she signed it.
  2. What was the agreement on medical care? At points you describe Emerson’s covering Alice’s expenses as generous and voluntary, but elsewhere say medical expenses were a part of compensation.
Will Aldred
3moModerator Comment132
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Pinned by Will Aldred

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)
-2
Kerry_Vaughan
3mo
Out of curiosity, if, after reviewing the available evidence, it appears that Alice and Chloe indeed fabricated a number of accusations against Nonlinear and exhibited a pattern of behavior of doing similar things elsewhere, would you reverse the request to keep them anonymous? If what Nonlinear is saying is true, then Alice and Chloe have the potential to be very destructive to others in the community.
9
Ben Millwood
2mo
I think if we deanonymise now, there's a strong chance that the next whistleblower will remember what happened as "they got deanonymised" and will be reluctant to believe it won't happen to them. It kind of doesn't matter if there's reasons why it's OK in this case, as long as they require digging through this post and all the comments to understand them. People won't do that, so they won't feel safe from getting the same treatment.

I would strongly caution against doing so. Even if it turns out to be seemingly justified in this instance (and I offer no view either way whether it is or not), I cannot think of a more effective way of discouraging victims/whistleblowers from coming forward (in other cases in this community) in future situations. 

I think norms should strongly push against taking seriously any public accusation made anonymously in most circumstances. I feel like we have taken a norm that was appropriate to a very limited set of circumstances and tried to make a grand moral principle out of it, and it doesn't work. Giving some anonymity to victims of sexual assault/harassment, in some circumstances, makes sense because it's a uniquely embarrassing thing to be a victim of due to our cultural taboos around sex.  Anonymity might be appropriate for people revealing problems at their current employer. Or it might be appropriate in industries that are generally more amoral, for conduct I would expect most employers to want to commit--e.g. I would want people to be able to anonymously disclose that a doctor is biased in favor of prescribing drugs pushed by the pharma sales rep who buys him the fanciest lunches, because I think most doctors want to supplement their incomes by taking pharma bribes. But if people have legitimate fears about retaliation by unrelated employers within the EA ecosystem then we have lost the plot so thoroughly that we should probably burn the whole thing down. 

 

If someone is ... (read more)

I don't know who Chloe is in real life (nor Alice for that matter), but based on what I've read, it seems really really off to me to say that she has the potential to be destructive to others in the community. [Edit: I guess you're not outright saying that, but I'm reading your comment as "if all that Nonlinear are saying about Chloe is true, then...," and my take on that is that apart from their statements of the sort of "Chloe is so mentally unhealthy that she makes things up" (paraphrased), none of the concrete claims are obviously red flags to me. It's certainly not great to say things in misleading ways, but it can happen in the heat of battle. Also, I want to flag that we haven't heard Chloe's reply to Nonlinear's presentation, so I don't consider it established that she's less reliable than, e.g., the typical person, or Nonlinear themselves. On the compensation dispute for instance, I can see interpretations where it made sense for Chloe to feel misled – see also the fact check exercise someone has done.]

 I think something has gone wrong for someone to even bring up this point. (I can see where you're coming from regarding Alice, if claims about her are correct.) I feel... (read more)

It's a fair point that we should treat Alice and Chloe separately and that deanonymizing one need not imply that we should deanonymize the other.

Yeah. 

Let's assume Nonlinear are completely right about how they describe Chloe and Alice. I'd summarize their perspective as follows:

Alice-as-described-by-Nonlinear is likely to be destructive in other contexts as well because that is a strong pattern with her generally. :(

By contrast,

Chloe-as-described-by-Nonlinear is significantly less likely to be destructive in other contexts. While Nonlinear claim that Chloe is entitled, it's still the case that her beef with them is largely around the tensions of living together (primes her to expect equal-ness and friendship) combined with her having to do tasks for them that make her feel like her time isn't being valued. (Plus things around the vagueness of her role and her being repeatedly negatively surprised by things they expect of her or ways they treat her.)

Even if you take Nonlinear's account at face value, it seems like you'd have a lot of uncertainty about the claim "Chloe is likely to be destructive in other contexts." 

Lastly, I again want to flag that I don't consider it established that Chloe is entitled or unreliable. ((To some degree, the same caveats may also apply to claims about Alice, but I haven't focused on t... (read more)

-12[anonymous]3mo

There's a human cognitive bias that may be relevant to this whole discussion, but that may not be widely appreciated in EA yet: gender bias in 'moral typecasting'.

In a 2020 paper, my UNM colleague Tania Reynolds and coauthors found a systematic bias for women to be more easily categorized as victims and men as perpetrators, in situations where harm seems to have been done. The ran six studies in four countries (total N=3,317). 

(Ever since a seminal paper by Gray & Wegner (2009), there's been a fast-growing literature on moral typecasting. Beyond t... (read more)

Where is the evidence people are seeing this as primarily E vs A&C rather than K vs A&C? The post is written by Kat, and the comments on this and other recent posts are from Kat…

I don't think it's productive to name just one or two of the very many biases one could bring up. I would need some reason to think this bias is more worth mentioning than other biases (such as Ben's payment to Alice and Chloe, or commenters' friendships, etc.).

David - I mention the gender bias in moral typecasting in this context because (1) moral typecasting seems especially relevant in these kinds of organizational disputes, (2) I've noticed some moral typecasting in this specific discussion on EA Forum, and (3) many EAs are already familiar with the classical cognitive biases, many of which have been studied since the early 1970s, but may not be familiar with this newly researched bias.

One of the big disputes here is over whether Alice was running her own incubated organization (which she could reasonably expect to spin out) or just another project under Nonlinear. Since Kat cites this as significant evidence for Alice's unreliability, I wanted to do a spot-check.

(Because many of the claims in this response are loosely paraphrased from Ben's original post, I've included a lot of quotes and screenshots to be clear about exactly who said what. Sorry for the length in advance.)

Let's start with claims in Ben's original post

Alice joined as the sole person in their incubation program. She moved in with them after meeting Nonlinear at EAG and having a ~4 hour conversation there with Emerson, plus a second Zoom call with Kat. Initially while traveling with them she continued her previous job remotely, but was encouraged to quit and work on an incubated org, and after 2 months she quit her job and started working on projects with Nonlinear. 

and

 One of the central reasons Alice says that she stayed on this long was because she was expecting financial independence with the launch of her incubated project that had $100k allocated to it (fundraised from FTX).

... (read more)
3
Kat Woods
2mo
It doesn’t. It lists her as the “Project Manager of the Idea Market”.  We list her as an incubatee as well because the plan was always that she’d use the Idea Market (a product that prioritizes charity ideas) to figure out what charity to start. While she was building it, she’d gain valuable experience and mentorship while building something high impact in expectation.  There was never any expectation that it was hers or that she’d spin out with the Idea Market. I’m confused. Why do you believe this?  “[Alice] gave Nonlinear (on their request) full ownership of the organization” This sentence clearly indicates Alice thought she “owned” the organization, not that it was a project under Nonlinear with the possibility of being spun out later.  She also falsely stated that we requested it. It was ours the entire time. When she requested if she could have it and the $240,000, we said no. Then she started telling false and misleading claims about us to the community.  “from the funds allocated for her incubated organization” This sentence also shows that she believes it was an incubated organization, not a project under Nonlinear with the possibility of being spun out later.  I think maybe part of your reasoning is that she might think she’s a fiscally sponsored organization? You say “He represents Alice as claiming that her organization was fiscally sponsored by Nonlinear and shared a bank account and operational resources, but operated independently and planned to spin out in the future” I haven’t seen evidence for that in any of Ben’s writing and it would certainly be the first I heard of it. Where does he say that it’s a fiscally sponsored org?  Seems like something you could consider, but in terms of hypotheses, very unlikely unless they’re actually claiming that that’s the case and can provide evidence for that.  As it is, we have meeting minutes describing Alice as the project manager of the Productivity Fund. This on its own should be more than enoug

Okay, I think it would be helpful to clarify some definitions. 

I read your use of "separate organization" to mean a fully independent organization not operating under the legal entity of Nonlinear at all. That's because you talk about Alice using Nonlinear's bank account, ops support, etc. as evidence that she does not have a separate org, while these things would all be perfectly normal for an incubated or fiscally sponsored org. Ben never claims, and never claims that Alice claimed, that she had a fully independent entity of this type. When he says she "gave Nonlinear ownership" of the organization, I did not read that as him saying that she transferred legal control of an indendent entity,  but ceded practical control of the project she was incubating inside Nonlinear. I think this is more consistent with the other quotes from Ben's document, where he says that the organization was indeed using Nonlinear's bank account and being incubated by Nonlinear. 

I was using fiscally sponsorsed and incubated interchangeably, and apologize for any confusion that may have caused. In my parlance, these would be equivalent – an incubated org is understood to be under the control... (read more)

Places I think people messed up and where improvement is needed

The Nonlinear Team

  1. The Nonlinear team should have gotten their replies up sooner, even if in pieces. In the court of public opinion, time/speed matters. Muzzling up and taking ~3 months to release their side of the story comes across as too polished and buttoned up.
  2. Not being selective enough about who they took into a very unorthodox work/living environment. I don’t think this type of work/living arrangement is always bad (though I do think that NL shouldn’t try it again, nor do I think a nomadic lifestyle is the most effective one generally). Still, I do think it needs to grow a lot more organically and have lower commitment tests that build up to this arrangement. Taking in a new employee to this environment is ill-advised. I’m happy to see that Nonlinear no longer lives with or travels with their employees.
  3. I think Emerson’s threat of a libel lawsuit encourages a bad norm. He went to it far too fast and it escalated things too quickly.

Ben Pace

  1. I think it is pretty reasonable to assume that ~1000-10000 hours and possibly more were spent by the community due to his original post (I am including all the reading and all the
... (read more)
Habryka
3mo44
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I think Ben really messed up with not letting Nonlinear respond. I think it would have been reasonable for Ben to give Nonlinear, say, exactly one week to provide the evidence they wanted with a promise to read/review it and decide if he felt it was worthwhile to edit the post before publishing.

I will again link to my original comments on this issue: 

I don’t have all the context of Ben’s investigation here, but as someone who has done investigations like this in the past, here are some thoughts on why I don’t feel super sympathetic to requests to delay publication:

In this case, it seems to me that there is a large and substantial threat of retaliation. My guess is Ben’s sources were worried about Emerson hiring stalkers, calling their family, trying to get them fired from their job, or threatening legal action. Having things be out in the public can provide a defense because it is much easier to ask for help if the conflict happens in the open.

As a concrete example, Emerson has just sent me an email saying:

Given the irreversible damage that would occur by publishing, it simply is inexcusable to not give us a bit of time to correct the libelous falsehoods in this document, and

... (read more)

How about you email them something like 
"We are afraid of undue retaliation but also think it would be good for you guys to provide some counter-evidence for us to include. Therefore, we are going to delay publishing the post by 168 hours from the time of this email to give you time to collect evidence and send to us before we post. We don't commit to updating the post based on your evidence but will consider it to make the post as truthful as possible. However, if we get the sense that you are spending this time threatening people and preparing retaliation instead of gathering evidence/screenshots, we will post immediately"

I also want to add that it's not like Lightcone is some feeble powerless organization. Lightcone (and by extension, you + Ben) have a decent amount of power/status in EA. What exactly are you afraid of Emerson/Nonlinear doing?

As i said, I think Emerson threatening the libel lawsuit was dumb.

I don't think we were in a position to reliably find out about them retaliating and threatening people. A lot of our sources were very afraid and IMO had decent evidence to back up why they were afraid. 

Also, to be clear, we did share most of our evidence with them before publication, and we did give them a round to respond, which is what like half of Ben's post consists of (the whole summary of Nonlinear's response to the evidence we were presenting was unsurprisingly the result of us sharing the evidence with them). We didn't share the full post, since that included some information that seemed too risky to share, and some of our sources only wanted shared directly publicly and not to Nonlinear first.

I don't understand how the thing that you are asking us to do is that different from what we did. At least in my Slack I have an email we were planning to send out 7 days before publishing (Ben can confirm whether indeed this email was sent out, but I am at 90% it happened): 

I'd be interested in having a zoom call sometime in the next few days along with a Lightcone teammate of mine (Robert, CC'd) to understand your perspective on these things. We're available basically 11a

... (read more)

I am not an effective altruist, but I am broadly adjacent and I work on stories about sensitive and complex situations with competing information from various parties regularly. I am coming to this fresh, not having heard of Nonlinear or Lightcone prior to yesterday.

Of all responses in this saga, I confess this is the one I'm least sympathetic to. Lawsuit threats are distinctly unfriendly. Here's another thing that's distinctly unfriendly: publishing libelous information likely to do irreparable damage to an organization without giving them the opportunity to proactively correct falsehoods. The legal system is a way of systematizing responses to that sort of unfriendliness; it is not kind, it is not pleasant, but it is a legitimate response to a calculated decision to inflict enormous reputational harm.

So you would have lost 40 hours of productive time? Respectfully: so what? You have sources actively claiming you are about to publish directly false information about them and asking for time to provide evidence that information is directly false. A lot of time, when people do that, they provide a different gloss on the same substantive information, and your original story can go ah... (read more)

So you would have lost 40 hours of productive time? Respectfully: so what? You have sources actively claiming you are about to publish directly false information about them and asking for time to provide evidence that information is directly false. 

Also, I think it is worth Oli/Ben estimating how many productive hours were lost to the decision to not delay; it would not surprise me if much of the benefit here was illusory.

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Habryka
2mo
I think it's a bit messy, but my guess is indeed the additional time cost of this has been greater. Though to be clear, I never argued anywhere that this was the primary reason for making this decision, and wouldn't want someone to walk away with that impression (and don't think anyone is claiming that here, but not sure).

It feels really cruxy to me whether you or Ben received any actual evidence of whether Alice or Chloe had lied or misrepresented anything in that 1 week.

Because to me the actual thing I felt from reading the original post's "Response from Nonlinear" was largely them engaging in some kind of justification or alternative narrative for the overall practices of Nonlinear... but I didn't care about that, and honestly it felt like it kind of did worse for them because it almost seemed like they were deflecting from the actual claims of abuse.

To me, if you received 0 evidence that there were any inaccuracies in the accusations against Nonlinear in that 1 week, then I think they really dropped the ball in not prioritizing at least something to show that you shouldn't trust the original sources. Maybe they just thought they had enough time to talk it out, and maybe it really was just like, woah, we need to dig through records from years ago, this is going to take longer than we expected.

But if you did receive some evidence that maybe Alice and Chloe had lied or exaggerated at all... to me that would absolutely justify waiting another week for more evidence, and being much more cautious abou... (read more)

8
Habryka
3mo
Ben had a call with Kat in which they disputed lots of things, which indeed Ben summarized in the final post and included. I don't think there was anything substantial that Ben knew that didn't make it into the post when the post was written. I did not (and continue not to) take Kat and Emerson's character judgement of Chloe and Alice at face value, and I don't think them claiming that things were inaccurate was appropriate reason to delay publication (I think in basically all of my hypotheses they would claim that, so it's really very little bayesian evidence). Ben summarized his epistemic state on the trustworthiness of various parties reasonably well in the post:  Ben was really extremely exceptionally transparent about his epistemic state in this situation, including in the trustworthiness of the reports. So you can judge for yourself whether publishing given that epistemic state was reasonable (with the alternative I think not really being a delay, but likely substantial retaliation towards our sources, and us running out of time we had budgeted for this project, which I think should be treated as a high-likelihood of the original post never being published at all)

It's misleading to frame the argument as "them claiming things were inaccurate was appropriate reason to delay publication." The appropriate reason to delay publication was their evident willingness to compile specific counter-evidence within a week. Of course subjects of hostile articles will always claim inaccuracies, but it matters whether they can credibly claim ability to provide contrary information. "Very last-minute screenshots" simply should not be a thing when working on an investigative piece of this magnitude—if you're doing investigative work, you have a duty to do it right, not call it short based on the "time [you] had budgeted" and publish whatever you have. 

Here's my standard: epistemic disclaimers do not matter much when it comes to articles impugning reputations. What matters is presenting all available information accurately to the best of your ability. Your claim that the alternative was not a delay simply does not hold water: whether the alternative was a delay or no publication at all was fully within your control. There's no reason to suspect any retaliation would be greater without publication than with publication; your time budget is nobody's concern but your own. If the post contained a single meaningful falsehood at publication that could have been prevented by reviewing the information the subject of the article was actively preparing for you, publication at the chosen time was unreasonable no matter how many disclaimers Ben included.

4
Habryka
2mo
This is a universal statements that's clearly inaccurate. The relevance of the falsehoods to the central case really matters (if it turns out that a source got a number off by a single irrelevant digit, or it go the name of a city wrong that could have just been omitted, etc.). Any article of this size will have some inaccuracies in them. I agree that there should still be a pretty harsh tradeoff towards accuracy, though in situations like this with very credible evidence that information was being heavily suppressed from being shared (which I still believe), it is also a high priority to get anything out.  It would be terrible if someone had evidence of fraud at FTX, but didn't have the time to publish it because in order to make their case they had to spend thousands of hours getting each individual detail of their story exactly right.  Separately, it is totally normal, and I don't see an alternative, that sometimes the thing you do is directly and accurately report what a source has told you. You don't endorse what the source said, but you just directly state it. Journalists aren't responsible for the accuracy of every single thing their sources say, they are responsible for accurately citing reporting what their sources say. If you have another source disputing your first source, you accurately summarize that contradicting source too. Sometimes people say wrong things. Sometimes the fact that they say wrong things is even materially relevant to the story. It clearly must be possible to write an article that includes the sentence "this source says X" even if X is wrong, or if you think there is only a 50% chance that X is true. 

"Meaningful" covers cases like the ones you mentioned. I stand by my words.

Journalists are responsible, to the best of my understanding, for the accuracy of every single thing they say, which includes the things their sources say. If a source says something a journalist knows to be false and the journalist reports that claim, knowing it to be false, they are not fulfilling their duty. As far as I can observe, this aligns with the legal standard (as I discuss here) as well as the ethical standard. 

When you amplify someone's claims, you take responsibility for those claims. When you amplify false claims where contradictory evidence is available to you and you decline to investigate that contradictory evidence, you take responsibility for that. 

If someone had evidence of fraud at FTX, they should have published specifically the limited set of evidence they were confident in and could independently verify. If they lacked the time to build a more cohesive, complete story, they should have found someone who had that time.

People live and die on their reputations, and spreading falsehoods that damage someone's reputation is and should be seen as more than just a minor faux pas. I understand the environment that makes EAs want to overcorrect on this right now, but due diligence is not optional when whistleblowing. 

-5
Habryka
2mo
  1. The Nonlinear team should have gotten their replies up sooner, even if in pieces. In the court of public opinion, time/speed matters. Muzzling up and taking ~3 months to release their side of the story comes across as too polished and buttoned up.


Strong disagree. 

A) Sure, all else equal speed would have been better. But if you take the hypothesis that NL is mostly innocent as true for a moment. Getting such a post written about you must be absolutely terrible. If it was me, I'd probably not be in a good shape to write anything in response very quickly. 

B) Taking their time to write one long thorough rebuttal is probably better for everyone involved than several rushed responses. I think this reduces the total time me and every other concerned observer will spend on this drama.

Ben Pace
3mo217
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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)

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

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?

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 basic takeaway from all of this is not who is right/wrong so much as that EA professional organisations should act more like professional organisations. While it may be temporarily less enjoyable I would expect overall the organisations with things like HR professionals, safeguarding policies, regular working hours, offices in normal cities and work/life boundaries to be significantly more effective contributors to EA

I’m less interested in “debating whether a person in a villa in a tropical paradise got a vegan burger delivered fast enough” or “whether it’s appropriate for your boss to ask you to pick up their ADHD medication from a Mexican pharmacy” or “if $58,000 of all inclusive world travel plus $1000 a month stipend is a $70,000 salary”? Than in interrogating whether EA wouldn’t be better off with more “boring” organisations led by adults with significant professional experience managing others, where the big company drama is the quality of coffee machine in the office canteen.

While it may be temporarily less enjoyable I would expect overall the organisations with things like HR professionals, safeguarding policies, regular working hours, offices in normal cities and work/life boundaries to be significantly more effective contributors to EA

Strong disagree here. I don't think people realize how cumbersome this type of stuff can be, especially for small organizations and how important it is to not just work during regular working hours in normal offices. HR professionals usually only exists for organizations with >20 people. I don't know anyone who is highly effective and gets everything done between 9 and 5 from Mon-Fri.

Than in interrogating whether EA wouldn’t be better off with more “boring” organisations led by adults with significant professional experience managing others, where the big company drama is the quality of coffee machine in the office canteen.

Really? Those are the companies/organizations that are just surviving off inertia and usually die in 5-50 years accomplishing/changing nothing in the mean time but continuing to churn out some widgets, eventually to be replaced by a new company doing it better.

4
MichaelStJules
2mo
I think you probably do, or at least know of them, but might not know how they work. Many people at some of the EA charities I've worked at/interned for had pretty regular hours and did/do impressive work. Some did/do work a lot more than most people or had irregular hours, of course. Lewis Bollard said he worked 8 hours/day, and it sounds like they were pretty regular and in-office: Many EAs also have kids, and work relatively regular hours to accommodate that. When you have to fit everything into regular hours, you can find ways to make those hours more productive and focused, e.g. being more strict about avoiding distractions.
1[comment deleted]2mo

Churning out widgets is accomplishing something if the product is useful or brings pleasure. The implication otherwise feels snobby to me. And the point of EA is to accomplish stuff, not to be at the cutting edge of innovation (though obviously those two goals are related.) 

9
MarcusAbramovitch
3mo
Fair. I think EA has grand aspriations though and wants the impact of Apple/Google/Microsoft and not Bob's Shoe Store
dirk
3mo18
14
0

Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all large organizations led by experienced managers, and to the best of my knowledge all three have "HR professionals, safeguarding policies, regular working hours, offices in normal cities and work/life boundaries".

I completely agree with this. I've seen many worse scenarios play out in other organizations due to unprofessionalism, mostly due to lack of experience and the tendency to bootstrap and work in startup mode. While that approach is helpful in some cases, it causes a lot of dysfunction across many organizations and I'd like to see more efforts put into instituting professional norms within EA organizations. This is only a well publicized event - there are many worse ones that I've witnessed that aren't highlighted here. But that brings up another point that a few other commenters mentioned - are we creating an environment that: A) encourages the "move fast and break things" lack of professionalism approach But then: B) condemns them for making mistakes It seems to me that we cannot believe both. Either we supposed the first approach and accept that mistakes will be made, or we do not tolerate mistakes, but then discourage unprofessionalism. That, it seems to me, is the systemic issue surrounding this particular one.

I think it's valuable to have social experiments. However, I do think the social experiment of living and working with your employees while traveling has now been experimented with and the results are "it's very risky". I've been doing it with Emerson and Drew for years now and it's been fine, but I think we have a really good dynamic and it's hard to replicate.  

As for HR professionals, we had only 3 full-time people at the time, so that would have been too early/small for us to have one. 

For safeguarding policies, Chloe was working on creating those. But yeah, she was our first full-time employee where we could even have policies, so it was understandable not to have them yet. 

For regular working hours, we did. Chloe only ever worked once on a weekend and never again (she said she didn't like it, and we set up a policy to never do it again). 

For offices in a normal city, I don't think that should matter much. Rethink Priorities is fully remote last I checked and in all sorts of cities and it's fine. 

As for work/life boundaries, I think the biggest thing was to no live with employees, which we are no longer doing. It's worked in the past for me but I think it's just too risky. 

0
niplav
3mo
Was this practice clearly delineated as an experiment to the participants?
7
Franziska Fischer
3mo
Phrasings like  "if $58,000 of all inclusive world travel plus $1000 a month stipend is a $70,000 salary" for what is evidently a fully paid, luxurious work & travel experience to top EA hubs including costs covered for a partner, tanks the quality of the comment. You make it sound like they were offering a McKinsey-like 80 hour gloabl travel slavery. Nonlinear's offering seems to resemble more a global travel experience for "young silicon-valley EAs" while hustling on a project they find valuable and networking with top EA managers. Regardless of where the exact truth lies, this unreflected strawman characterisation makes it hard to read your comment as well thought through. On direct response to the takeaway, I think there's space and need for both, rigid organisations governed by all sorts of boards and unions as well as dynamic social experiment-like orgs trying out new stuff. They probably have different target groups and it seems perfectly desireable to have a world where we got both options.

Phrasings like 
"if $58,000 of all inclusive world travel plus $1000 a month stipend is a $70,000 salary"
for what is evidently a fully paid, luxurious work & travel experience... tanks the quality of the comment.

Huh? No, that is a succinct and accurate description of a disputed interpretation, and I think Nonlinear's interpretation is wrong there. They keep saying in their defense that they paid Alice (the equivalent of) $72,000 when they didn't - it's really not the same thing at all if 80% of it is comped flights, food, and hotels. At least for me, the amount of cash that would be an equivalent value to Alice's compensation package is something like $30-40,000.

4
Robi Rahman
3mo
Though the degree of un-professionalism displayed by all parties involved in this saga is startling, I actually think EA has a great mix of "boring" orgs and fast-and-loose startup-y ones. One organization having ridiculous drama like this, once every few years, out of hundreds of EA orgs existing without incident, might be the right level where we're balancing mistakes vs excessive bureaucracy. (On the other hand, you could argue the FTX disaster was caused by this kind of thing, and that much harm, even once, outweighs the benefits of reduced bureaucracy in a thousand other orgs.)
Roko
3mo-107
4
38

This is a bit tangential/meta, but looking at the comment counter makes me want to express gratitude to the Community Health Team at CEA. 

I think here we see a 'practical demonstration' of the counterfactuals of their work:
- insane amount of attention sucked by this
- the court of public opinions on fora seems basically strictly worse at all relevant dimensions like fairness, respect of privacy or compassion to people involved

As 'something like this'  would be quite often the counterfactual to CH to trying to deal with stuff ...it makes it clear how much value they are creating by dealing with these problems, even if their process is imperfect

While I agree that the discussion here is bad at all those metrics, I'm not sure how you infer that the CH team does better at e.g. fairness or compassion.

2
Jan_Kulveit
2mo
Based on public criticisms of their work and also reading some documents about a case where we were deciding whether to admit someone to some event (and they forwarded their communication with CH). It's a limited evidence, but still some evidence.  

The evidence collected here doesn’t convince me that Alice and Chloe were lying, or necessarily that Ben Pace did a bad job investigating this. I regret contributing another long and involved comment to this discourse, but I feel like “actually assessing the claims” has been underrepresented compared to people going to the meta level, people discussing the post’s rhetoric, and people simply asserting that this evidence is conclusive proof that Alice and Chloe lied.

My process of thinking through this has made me wish more receipts from Alice and Chloe were included in Ben’s post, or even just that more of the accusations had come in their own words, because then it would be clear exactly what they were claiming. (I think their claims being filtered through first Ben and then Kat/Emerson causes some confusion, as others have noted).

I want to talk about some parts of the post and why I’m not convinced. To avoid cherry-picking, I chose the first claim, about whether Alice was asked to travel with illegal drugs (highlighted by Kat as “if you read just one illustrative story, read this one”), and then I used a random number generator to pick two pages in the appendix (following the lead ... (read more)

I've been talking to Nonlinear and Lightcone trying to understand how much time LC gave NL for 'adversarial' fact checking on the final claims. Here's what I've ended up with for the timeline; dates are ET since that's where I am:

  • September 2nd (~5d before), LC reached out to NL to set up a meeting. (source)

  • September 4th (~3d before), LC shares a high level summary of the claims, an overview of which is public.

  • Later on September 4th (~2.5d before), the call happens. NL asks for a week to pull together evidence counter to claims in the draft. (source)

  • September 5th (~2d before), LC says they intend to write a draft that week, and will send it to NL for feedback before publishing. Their wording is ambiguous on whether that's the timeline for publishing or drafting ("I intend to write a public update this week").

  • Later on September 5th (~1.5d before), NL repeats their request for more time.

  • September 6th (21hr before), LC shares a draft of their post with NL. This includes additional accusations. (source) Note that NL and LC disagree on how much this added: NL claims this introduced many new accusations (source), while LC claims they'd already shared all the important o

... (read more)
Holly_Elmore
3mo176
43
17
8
3
6
2

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
2mo
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.
3
Habryka
3mo
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)
-2
Habryka
3mo
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).

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
3mo
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
2mo
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
2mo
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
2mo
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
2mo
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
2mo
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
3
ElliotJDavies
2mo
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.

3
ElliotJDavies
2mo
Oh thanks for flagging, I will retract it now 

That is correct. 

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
2mo
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
2mo
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.

3
Habryka
2mo
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).