Evidence for Connection Theory

by Evan_Gaensbauer1 min read28th May 201913 comments


Leverage Research

Connection Theory (CT) is the original philosophy underpinning Leverage Research, a research think tank focused that has worked with the effective altruism movement, and the rationality community, in the past on community-building, and existential risk reduction. CT was developed by Leverage's executive director, Geoff Anders. Since there are few if any other publicly available online resources for understanding or evaluating CT, I thought I would share this document.

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This document appears to be from 2011. Does anyone know whether Leverage Research still endorses this? Are they still working on this “Connection Theory”? (What are they up to, in general…?)

I'm writing an article that will be cross-posted on LW that will cover the following:

  • What Leverage might be doing.
  • The reasons why it might be hard to figure out what they're doing.

By that I mean there are a variety of reasons Leverage is apparently not much of a public-facing organization (some of those reasons seem either truer or better than others, as a lot of it is based on rumours about Leverage). I'll lay those out. I will try to figure out what Leverage is currently doing, and try to communicate it. I'm not confident I'll succeed at this.

CT was always Geoff Anders' baby, so I don't think it mattered as much whether the rest of Leverage endorsed it or not. I wouldn't bet on Geoff still endorsing this, but as far as I can tell, while the philosophy Leverage is working off of isn't called "Connection Theory", it is something that evolved out of it. So, I expect CT is still at least somewhat representative of Leverage's current philosophy. I'm also aware of and sorry for this unclear and illegible info, which are just the weeds one has to get used to wading through in pursuit of info about Leverage.

It would help a lot to include a link to some description of what CT actually claims, before I read a description that asserts it should be evaluated based on evidence + elegance (and mentions, but doesn't seem to define, usefulness).

I only skimmed the document, but I couldn't tell if CT is about prediction of success of interventions, or the interventions themselves.

For context, finding information from Leverage Research about Leverage Research, or their, you know, research, online has often been historically difficult for those who have gone looking for it. It has a tendency to seemingly disappear from the internet, or at least its prior web address, after a couple years. So, while I don't know where one is right now, I intend to scrounge up a link to what CT actually claims. This document was one I hadn't seen before. Since I think I might write something up about CT later, I thought I'd throw up this link now. If/when I find a link to a description of CT, I'll come back here and ping you. I'll probably throw such a link up as another link post.

Edit note: Made it into an actual link post.

Thanks. I was expecting a big block with the word 'Link Post' somewhere, instead of just the chain link. I'm only used to looking for that icon in the comments section to link to comments. It's just that in the comments the icon is so small I could never tell if it was supposed to be an image of a chain link.

[Writing this four months after habryka's comment was published.] I'm confused. I don't see any 'chain link', other than the usual permalink between the timestamp and the karma score. Evan did say that the icon was very small, but at least on my computer, the icon is not merely hard to see—it's invisible.

I'm mentioning this primarily because it's potential evidence of a bug in the code, which the admins may want to fix. But I'm also personally interested in the post to which the original comment refers.

This has since been changed. Link posts are now identified by the initial paragraph saying "This is a linkpost for X". No small hidden link icons.

Ah! I interpreted your 'Edit note' as replacing the original comment and noting that its contents had been turned into a post. In other words, I didn't understand you were referring to Evan's post, but thought instead that the comment was self-referential. Maybe 'Admin note' is more appropriate for these comments? In any case, not very important.

Ah, I see. Sorry for the confusion. I usually say "Mod note" these days.

By my understanding, leverage is working on human effectiveness. How to take a human and make them more effective at what they are doing.

There's a broad brush of choosing high leverage people to apply their efforts of effectiveness training and a broad brush of what counts as their effectiveness methodologies.

I am thinking of it as coaching from a perspective of "what works" above "what is proven", so branching into the post rationality area.

For example, if a person is learning piano. And they have maxed out deep work hours, and teacher hours, and relevant study programs, and expertise training. At some point teaching small stuff like posture, reading skills, memory, productivity, start to become effective techniques to add to the pile. As does maybe meditation, diet, and seemingly unrelated fields like social relationship management to better enable happiness and well-being while maximising piano learning. At some point the pollution in the air becomes a relevant factor, the development of the surrounding society, and more.