460 karmaJoined Oct 2018


@Kat Woods 

I'm trying to piece together a timeline of events. 

You say in the evidence doc that

days after starting at Nonlinear, Alice left to spend a whole month with her family. We even paid her for 3 of the 4 weeks despite her not doing much work. (To be fair, she was sick.)

Can you tell me what month this was? Does this mean just after she quit her previous job or just after she started traveling with you?

FWIW, that was not obvious to me on first reading, until the comments pointed it out to me.

Mostly I find it ironic, given that Ben says his original post was motivated by a sense that there was a pervasive silencing effect, where people felt unwilling to share their negative experiences with Nonlinear for fear of reprisal.

Why might humans evolve a rejection of things that taste to sweet? What fitness reducing thing does "eating oversweet things" correlate with? Or is it a spandrel of something else?

If this is true, it's fascinating, because it suggest that our preference for cold and carbonation are a kind of specification gaming!


Ok. Given all that, is there particular thing that you wish Ben (or someone) had done differently here? Or are you mostly wanting point out the dynamic?

I want to try to paraphrase what I hear you saying in this comment thread, Holly. Please feel free to correct any mistakes or misframings in my paraphrase.

I hear you saying...

  • Lightcone culture has a relatively specific morality around integrity and transparency. Those norms are consistent, and maybe good, but they're not necessarily shared by the EA community or the broader world.
  • Under those norms, actions like threatening your ex-employees's carrer prospects to prevent them from sharing negative info about you are very bad, while in broader culture a "you don't badmouth me, I don't badmouth you" ceasefire is pretty normal.
  • In this post, Ben is accusing Nonlinear of bad behavior. In particular, he's accusing them of acting particularly badly (compared to some baseline of EA orgs) according to the integrity norms of lightcone culture. 
    • My understanding is that the dynamic here that Ben considers particularly egregious is that  Nonlinear allegedly took actions to silence their ex-employees, and prevent negative info from propagating. If all of the same events had occurred between Nonlinear, Alice, and Chloe, except for Nonlinear suppressing info about what happened after the fact, Ben would not have prioritized this.
  • However, many bystanders are likely to miss that subtlety. They see Nonlinear being accused, but don't share Lightcone's specific norms and culture. 
  • So many readers, tracking the social momentum, walk away with the low-dimensional bottom line conclusion "Boo Nonlinear!", but without particularly tracking Ben's cruxes.
    • eg They have the takeaway "it's irresponsible to date or live with your coworkers, and only irresponsible people do that" instead of "Some people in the ecosystem hold that suppressing negative info about your org is a major violation."
  • And importantly, it means in practice, Nonlinear is getting unfairly punished for some behaviors that are actually quite common in the EA subculture. 
  • This creates a dynamic analogous to "There are so many laws on the book that technically everyone is a criminal. So the police/government can harass or imprison anyone they choose, by selectively punishing crimes." If enough social momentum gets mounted against an org, they can be lambasted for things that many orgs are "guilty" of[1], while the other orgs get off scott free.
  • And furthermore, this creates unpredictability. People can't tell whether their version of some behavior is objectionable or not. 
  • So overall, Ben might be accusing Nonlinear for principled reasons, but to many bystanders, this is indistinguishable from accusing them for pretty common EA behaviors, by fiat. Which is a pretty scary precedent!

Am I understanding correctly?

  1. ^

    "guilty" in quotes to suggest the ambiguity about whether the behaviors in question are actually bad or guiltworthy.


Crostposted from LessWong (link)

Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems like it should take less than an hour to read the post, make a note of every claim that's not true, and then post that list of false claims, even if it would take many days to collect all the evidence that shows those points are false.

I imagine that would be helpful for you, because readers are much more likely to reserve judgement if you listed which specific things are false. 

Personally, I could look over that list and say "oh yeah, number 8 [or whatever] is cruxy for me. If that turns out not to be true, I think that substantially changes my sense of the situation.", and I would feel actively interested in what evidence you provide regarding that point later.  And it would let you know which points to prioritize refuting, because you would know which things are cruxy for people reading.

In contrast, a generalized bid to reserve judgement because "many of the important claims were false or extremely misleading"...well, it just seems less credible, and so leaves me less willing to actually reserve judgement.

Indeed, deferring on producing such a list of claims-you-think-are-false suggests the possibility that you're trying to "get your story straight." ie that you're taking the time now to hurriedly go through and check which facts you and others will be able to prove or disprove, so that you know which things you can safely lie or exagerate about, or what narrative paints you in the best light while still being consistent with the legible facts.

(2) I think something odd about the comments claiming that this post is full of misinformation, is that they don't correct any of the misinformation. Like, I get that assembling receipts, evidence etc can take a while, and writing a full rebuttal of this would take a while. But if there are false claims in the post, pick one and say why it's false. 

Seconding this. 

I would be pretty interested to read a comment from nonlinear folks listing out everything that they believe to be false in the narrative as stated, even if they can't substantiate their counter-claims yet.

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