David Hornbein

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Transcript for Geoff Anders and Anna Salamon's Oct. 23 conversation

"6 Karma across 11 votes" is, like, not good. It's about what I'd expect from a comment that is "mildly toxic [but] does raise [a] valid consideration" and "none of the offenses ... are particularly heinous", as you put it. (For better or worse, comments here generally don't get downvoted into the negative unless they're pretty heinous; as I write this only one comment on this post has been voted to zero, and that comment's only response describes it as "borderline-unintelligible".) It sounds like you're interpreting the score as something like qualified approval because it's above zero, but taking into account the overall voting pattern I interpret the score more like "most people generally dislike the comment and want to push it to the back of the line, even if they don't want to actively silence the voice". This would explain Rob calibrating the strength of his downvote over time.

Petrov Day Retrospective: 2021

While the Petrov Day ritual might be innocuous, it is a scary precedent if LessWrong/EA Forum organizers freely shape the moral symbolic landscape this way, without the checks and balances of broader community discussion.

I think this is fair. and this makes me realize that the LessWrong team has more power (and therefore more responsibility) than we previously credited oursevles with. We set out to build culture, including ritual and tradition, but it’s another matter to start defining the boundaries of good and bad. I think possibly this should be done, but again probably with more community consultation.


I don't find this precedent scary. IMO forum moderators (and other leaders of voluntary easy-to-exit communities) should generally be bold and decisive in shaping the communities they're responsible for. Maintaining a space like LW requires leaders with freedom of action and the ability to make controversial moves. Community discussion has its place, but that place should be as a source of feedback and advice to a person/team with ownership, not a line-item veto. By all means incorporate reactions and complaints into the design of future events iff you feel it's warranted, but your wording here makes me suspect that you might be feeling too beholden to the loudest unhappy people, and I encourage you not to worry too much about that. (There will always be some unhappy people!)

The LW team has earned its power and responsibility by creating this space. If you hadn't, we wouldn't be here.

My experience at and around MIRI and CFAR (inspired by Zoe Curzi's writeup of experiences at Leverage)

While "Vassar's group" is informal, it's more than just a cluster of friends; it's a social scene with lots of shared concepts, terminology, and outlook (although of course not every member holds every view and members sometimes disagree about the concepts, etc etc). In this way, the structure is similar to social scenes like "the AI safety community" or "wokeness" or "the startup scene" that coordinate in part on the basis of shared ideology even in the absence of institutional coordination, albeit much smaller. There is no formal institution governing the scene, and as far as I've ever heard Vassar himself has no particular authority within it beyond individual persuasion and his reputation.

Median Group is the closest thing to a "Vassarite" institution, in that its listed members are 2/3 people who I've heard/read describing the strong influence Vassar has had on their thinking and 1/3 people I don't know, but AFAIK Median Group is just a project put together by a bunch of friends with similar outlook and doesn't claim to speak for the whole scene or anything.

Zoe Curzi's Experience with Leverage Research

I'm personally interested, and also I think having information like this collected in one place makes it much easier for everyone to understand the history and shape of the movement. IMO an employment history of those orgs would make for a very valuable top-level post.

Common knowledge about Leverage Research 1.0

No comment on your larger point but 

Saying that someone is in a cult (though I note that most people have been pretty careful not to use quite that terminology) isn't an accusation. Not at the person in question, anyway.

"You are in a cult" is absolutely an accusation directed at the person. I can understand moral reasons why someone might wish for a world in which people assigned blame differently, and technical reasons why this feature of the discourse makes purely descriptive discussions unhelpfully fraught, but none of that changes the empirical fact that "You are in a cult" functions as an accusation in practice, especially when delivered in a public forum. I expect you'll agree if you recall specific conversations-besides-this-one where you've heard someone claim that another participant is in a cult.

Common knowledge about Leverage Research 1.0

Geoff Anders was the first one to teach it at CFAR workshops, I think in 2013. This is the first time I've heard claims of independent invention, at the time all the CFAR people who mentioned it were synced on the story that Anders was a guest instructor teaching a technique that Leverage had developed. (Andrew Critch worked at CFAR at the time. I don't specifically remember whether or not I heard anything about goal factoring from him.)

Anna and Oliver discuss Children and X-Risk

Also the Curies, the Coris, the Durants, and others. What these all have in common is that they worked together on the same project. Offhand I can't think of any couples like this where both made historically-significant contributions to different projects.

Anna and Oliver discuss Children and X-Risk

Oh also, woman politicians in living memory seem much less likely to have kids than woman politicians "from history". I would guess this is a consequence of the shift away from explicitly hereditary political power rather than a consequence of feminism or the pill or anything, but it's hard to untangle different hypotheses because there were so few woman politicians between the advent of industrialization and recent rise from ~1970-1990.

Anna and Oliver discuss Children and X-Risk

At conservative estimates, I've looked into dozens of significant pre-industrial people, dozens of significant people between the Industrial Revolution and 1970, and >100 significant post-1970 people. Among historically significant people and leaders-of-fields who get articles and books written about them, there has not been any change in who has kids large enough to jump out at me, except that in the past ~20 years there have been somewhat more openly gay entrepreneurs in the West.

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