2138 karmaJoined Oct 2022


Feel free to DM me anything you want to share but don't want to or can't under your own account(s), and I can share them on your behalf if I think it's adding value to the discourse/community.

The corollary is that views shared on this account don't necessarily reflect my own personal views, though they will usually be worded to sound like they are.



Leaving this comment up for myself and as a PSA, as the original post by Jacy was deleted shortly after this comment was posted.

Edit: received a message saying the link is broken. I'm not sure why this is, but I think this is an issue if you click the link but not if you copy+paste the link. Screenshot below in any case if this issue persists for others.

I hear about and see non-trivial levels of grift.

Can you share more?

I stand behind that framing, in that I think Alice and Chloe are substantially more reliable sources of evidence than Kat and Emerson. 

Given Chloe is not involved in this claim, do you also stand behind the framing that Alice is more reliable than Kat/Emerson?

If you think writing an 100 word summary of all of this content is as easy as downvoting, you're probably significantly overrating the value of your original comment.

I disagree, I think it's entirely possible to upvote things you disagree with, or to upvote the post, read it and update negatively, which is presumably not what you meant here by "people changed their minds".

I think this is a very poor way to make this estimate for most reasonable interpretations of "people changed their minds 🥹🥳". One charitable interpretation is that you genuinely believe post upvotes to represent people who agree or have updated positively, but this would be surprising to me.

One uncharitable interpretation is that this is a way of implying a consensus where it doesn't exist, and conflating "good epistemics" with "people who agree with me". ("75% of people agree with us! I'm so grateful that EA epistemics are trustworthy"). Doing this may create some social pressure to conform both to the majority and to people who apparently have "good epistemics", especially given this claim came alongside the link to the EA Forum post on your FB post, and your call for action at the bottom including voting behavior. This is subtle and not necessarily what you intended, but I thought worth pointing out because the effects may exist regardless of your intentions.


On the uncharitable case:
I think there are other examples in the post that seem reasonable at first glance but can be interpreted or misinterpreted as similar cases of creating some kind of social pressure to take the Nonlinear position. Some of these are are raised in Yarrow's comment.

Others include:

  • "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."
  • "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.
  • "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."
  • Most of the rest of the section titled "So how do we learn from this to make our community better? How can we make EA antifragile?")
  • "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."


On the charitable case:
I think it's fairly obvious that using post upvotes is a poor way of indicating support for the Nonlinear position, because there are a lot of reasons for upvotes (or downvotes) that are unrelated to whether voters agree or disagree with the post itself. 

Skimming some comments quickly (moved to footnote for ease of reading).[1]

There are obviously problems with aggregating votes which make these hard to interpret, but even if you take a looser definition, like "75% of readers now have a better net impression of Nonlinear than after Ben Pace's post", this still feels very unclear to me without cherry picking comments. I'm not expecting NL to have attempted to modelling consensus with agreevotes, but I think it's clear even on skimming that opinions here are mixed (this doesn't discount the possibility of multiple NL staff agree/disagreevoting many of these posts or comments), and ceteris paribus make it more surprising that the 75% claim was made.

  1. ^

    Yarrow's comment

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

    has 68 agreevotes and 24 disagreevotes. 


    Lukas' comment:

    "I updated significantly in the direction of "Nonlinear leadership has a better case for themselves than I initially thought",

    "it seems likely to me that the initial post indeed was somewhat careless with fact-checking.",

    "I'm still confused about some of the fact-checking claims", "I still find Chloe's broad perspective credible and concerning (in a "this is difficult work environment with definite potential for toxicity" rather than "this is outright abusive on all reasonable definitions of the word"). The replies by Nonlinear leadership didn't change my initial opinion here by too much"

    has 34 agree-votes and 4 disagreevotes.


    Ollie's comment:

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

    has 78 agreevotes and 31 disagreevotes


    Muireall's comment/spot check:

    From my perspective, this is between "not responsive to the complaint" and "evidence for the spirit of the complaint". It seems an overreach to call "They told me not to spend time with my boyfriend..." a "sad, unbelievable lie" "discrediting [Chloe] as a reliable source of truth" when it is not something anyone has cited Chloe as saying. It seems incorrect to describe "advised not to spend time with 'low value people'" as in "direct contradiction" with any of this, which instead seems to affirm that traveling with Nonlinear was conditioned on "high potential" or being among the "highest quality people". Finally, having initially considered inviting Chloe's boyfriend to travel with them would still be entirely consistent with later deciding not to; encouraging a visit in May would still be consistent with an overall expectation that Chloe not spend too much time with her boyfriend in general for reasons related to his perceived "quality".

    has 20 agreevotes and 3 disagreevotes

    Geoffrey's comment:

    Whatever people think about this particular reply by Nonlinear, I hope it's clear to most EAs that Ben Pace could have done a much better job fact-checking his allegations against Nonlinear, and in getting their side of the story.

    has 53 agreevotes and 11 disagreevotes


    Vipulnaik's comment

    "For the most part, an initial reading of this post and the linked documents did have the intended effect on me of making me view many of the original claims as likely false or significantly exaggerated. But my own take is that the post would have been stronger had these changes been made prior to publishing. Curious to hear if others agree or disagree."

    has 24 agreevotes and 2 disagreevotes


    Peter's comment:

    "Personally, I have updated back to being relatively unconcerned about bad behaviour at Nonlinear"

    has 9 agreevotes and 15 disagreevotes


    Kerry's comment:

    "to the main charges raised by Ben, this seems about as close to exonerating as one can reasonably expect to get in such cases"

    has 30 agreevotes and 26 disagreevotes


    Marcus' comment:

    "Overall, I think Nonlinear looks pretty good here. I definitely think they made some mistakes, especially adding members to their work+travel arrangements, but on the whole, I think they acted pretty reasonably and were unjustly vilified."

    has 14 agreevotes and 13 disagreevotes

    John's comment:

    I think the preliminary takeaway is that non-linear are largely innocent, but really bad at appearing that way. They derailed their own exoneration via a series of bizarre editorials, which do nothing but distract, borne out of (seemingly) righteous indignation

    has 12 agreevotes and 13 disagreevotes


In the same comment at the bottom:

"Did some napkin math guesstimates based on the vote count and karma. Wide error bars on the actual ratio."

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

I think ultimately this is just "how much do you trust Sam's testimony about himself (e.g. how plausible is it that he thinks it's OK to take billions of customer money). Given his willingness to be misleading or lie about other things (e.g. whether or not Alameda received special treatment, the frugal image etc), this might be some reason to discount his own testimony. 

I also think generally with large scale financial fraud you should expect that it is much easier to have nonzero idea of the fraud occurring than have zero knowledge of the fraud occurring; it seems not super relevant to me whether this is something SBF "let happen" or defrauding as an action was what SBF was actively pursuing, though you may disagree.

Fair point about reputational harms being worse and possibly too punishing in some cases. I think in terms of a proposed standard it might be worth differentiating (if possible) between e.g. careless errors, or momentary lapses in judgement that were quickly rectified and likely caused no harm in expectation, versus a pattern of dishonest voting intended to mislead the EAF audience, and especially if they or an org that they work for stand to gain from it, or the comments in question are directly harmful to another org. In these latter cases the reputational harm may be more justifiable.

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