All of Freyja's Comments + Replies

I wanted to add a (possible, additional) factor in that I didn’t see included, although I don’t know how you would test it. Guess: because of the size and interconnectedness/maturity of SF’s homeless network, it might be easier to be less isolated/more connected while homeless in SF than in other places. It seems clear that in some parts of SF (I’m thinking of particular streets in SOMA and the Tenderloin, and at Civic Center) the people who live on the streets are connecting with each other and also often enjoying each other’s company. They look like frie... (read more)

Hi Cathleen. As someone inadvertently but meaningfully once tangled up in this story who you probably don’t know, I have a deep admiration, gratitude and respect for this post and your decision to write it and post it publicly. I read all of it, and might yet read it again. It helped to make sense of the story and the parts relevant to me in a way that is, in real time, updating and improving my understanding of how different people with different personalities can participate in the same situation and come out of it with different struggles and different earned wisdom. Yours is a perspective I’ve been missing, so thank you for having the courage and grace to share it.


I really appreciate Cathleen being willing to talk about it, even given the reasonable expectation that some people are going to... be jerks about it, misinterpret things, take things out of context, and engage in ways she won't like. Or even just fail to engage in ways that would be good for her?

I don't always see eye-to-eye with Cathleen, but she poured a lot into this project. She is not exaggerating when she conveys that she was responsible for a really giant pile of ops and maintenance tasks at Leverage.

(I'm not sure how Leverage handled her ... (read more)

Upvoted because Anna articulated a lot of what I wanted to say but didn’t have the energy or clarity to say with such nuance.

Thank you for keeping that promise; I imagine it wasn’t easy to write.

I wouldn’t, but I also wouldn’t consider that to be the case for many of the speculative startups I’ve worked at, in hindsight.

I consider ‘wasting millions of dollars’ to be a shitty thing to do, but also unfortunately common. I think focusing on whether the money was wasted is distracting (and perhaps dismissive) away from the stories being told.

This may be a crux; Walter may just value personal suffering versus use of economic resources differently to me.

I feel like if you read Zoe’s medium post, read the parts where she described enduring cPTSD symptoms like panic attacks, flashbacks and paranoia consistently for two years after leaving Leverage, and then rounded that off to ‘she felt useless and bailed’ then, idk dude, we live in two different worlds.

That was quite insensitive, I agree, but I think that Walter is asking, from the perspective of Leverage's mission, what exactly they actually did in that direction. Like, only the productivity part, not the work environment part.

If you ignore the abuse and demons and whatever, and only consider "money spent" and "things produced"... that kind of perspective. (Imagine a parallel universe, where no abuse happened, you never heard about the demons, you just sent $10000 to support Leverage because you liked the sales pitch. Would you now consider it money well spent?)

I would also be very interested in a timeline for this.

I really don’t know about the experience of a lot of the other ex-Leveragers, but the time it took her to post it, the number and kind of allies she felt she needed before posting it, and the hedging qualifications within the post itself detailing her fears of retribution, plus just how many peoples’ initial responses to the post were to applaud her courage, might give you a sense that Zoe’s post was unusually, extremely difficult to make public, and that others might not have that same willingness yet (she even mentions it at the bottom, and presumably she knows more about how other ex-Leveragers feel than we do).

I’m someone with a family history of psychosis and I spend quite a lot of time researching it—treatments, crisis response, cultural responses to it. There are roughly the same number of incidences of psychosis in my immediate to extended family than are described in this post in the extended rationalist community. Major predictive factors include stress, family history and use of marijuana (and, to a lesser extent, other psychedelics). I don’t have studies to back this up but I have an instinct based on my own experience that openness-to-experience and ris... (read more)

You might not be able to say this, but I’m wondering whether it’s one of the NDAs Zoe references Geoff pressuring people to sign at the end of Leverage 1.0 in 2019,

It seems like one of the problems with ‘the Leverage situation’ is that collectively, we don’t know how bad it was for people involved. There are many key Leverage figures who don’t seem to have gotten involved in these conversations (anonymously or not) or ever spoken publicly or in groups connected to this community about their experience. And, we have evidence that some of them have been hiding their post-Leverage experiences from each other.

So I think making the claim that the MIRI/CFAR related experiences were ‘worse’ because there exists evidence of ... (read more)

It's a guess based on limited information, obviously. I tagged it as in inference. It's not just based on public information, it's also based on having talked with some ex-Leverage people. I don't like that you're considering it really important for ex-Leverage people to say things were "really bad" for them while discouraging me from saying things about how bad my own (and others') experiences were, that's optimizing for a predetermined conclusion in opposition to actually listening to people (which could reveal unexpected information). I'll revise my estimate if I get sufficient evidence in the other direction.

I am also mad at what I see to be piggybacking on Zoe’s post, downplaying of the harms described in her post, and a subtle redirection of collective attention away from potentially new, timid accounts of things that happened to a specific group of people within Leverage and seem to have a lot of difficulty talking about it.

I hope that the sustained collective attention required to witness, make sense of and address the accounts of harm coming out of the psychology division of Leverage doesn’t get lost as a result of this post being published when it was.

Hi Geoff—have you posted the brief response comment anywhere yet?

Yes, here:

I would also be interested in knowing a timeline for the response.

Also, for the extended Leverage diaspora and people who are somehow connected, LessWrong is probably the most obvious place to have this discussion, even if people familiar with Leverage make up only a small proportion of people who normally contribute here.

There are other conversations happening on Facebook and Twitter but they are all way more fragmented than the ones here.

I originally chose LessWrong, instead of some other venue, to host the Common Knowledge post primarily because (1) I wanted to create a publicly-linkable document pseudonymously, and (2) I expected high-quality continuation of information-sharing and collaborative sense-making in the comments.

This is great, and straightforward, and I’m glad you joined the conversation. Thank you.

I think the fact that it is now a four person remote organization doing mostly research on science as opposed to an often-live-in organization with dozens of employees doing intimate psychological experiments as well as following various research paths tells me that you are essentially a different organization and the only commonalities are the name and the fact that Geoff is still the leader.

I have a sincere question for you, Kerry, because you seem to be upset by the approach commenters here are taking to talking about this issue and the people involved, and people here are openly discussing the character of your employer, which I can imagine to be really painful.

If your sister or brother or your significant other had become enmeshed in a controlling group and you believed the group and in particular its leader had done them serious psychological harm, how would you want people to talk about the group and its leader in public, after the fact?... (read more)

0Kerry Vaughan1y
Assuming something like this represents your views Freyja, then I think you’ve handled the situation quite well.  I hope you can see how that is quite different from the comment I was replying to which is someone who appears to have met Geoff once. I'm sure you can similarly imagine how you would feel if people made comments like the one from orthonormal about friends of yours without knowing them.

Yup. I have known all of these things since 2018-2019, and know or know of maybe a few dozen people who also know these things. I’m glad this bare minimum is being discussed openly, publicly.

Secondhand, I have a very negative view of at least some parts of what happened in Leverage 1.0. My best guess is that the relationships and events that some people have (mostly privately) described as controlling or abusive were not evenly distributed across the whole organisation. So it would have been straightforward for someone to be working at Leverage and never s... (read more)

Hi Freyja, I just wanted to reply to this to let you know that it is totally plausible to me that some people who were involved in Leverage 1.0 or any affiliated organizations might have had pretty bad experiences, especially towards the end. I haven't heard any specific cases personally, but by all accounts, there were some pretty intense group dynamics and I can very much imagine that could have been quite harmful to people. I’m not saying this is the same and I don’t want to speak for anyone else’s experience, but I’ve been involved in intense ideological work cultures in the past myself. When everyone involved cares deeply about something, it can be really horrible when it goes wrong. This is why it's very plausible to me that something similar might have happened here. I really don’t want anyone's negative experiences to get lost or overlooked because of the tribal fight taking place between Leverage and some of the people who don’t like us. I said in my post [] that I want to defend the people in Leverage 1.0 who feel like they’ve been constantly harassed and maligned over the years. But I want to defend them from disingenuous attacks. That does not include hearing from anyone from Leverage 1.0 with a genuine negative experience. I want to ensure that people who had negative experiences can have their voices be heard, that any wrongdoings and harms are addressed, and that we as an organization learn and improve. I’m going to send you a private message on LessWrong in case you would like to talk about any of this. I understand if you decide you don’t want to spend the emotional energy or don’t feel comfortable talking to me, but if there is anything I can do that would make it okay for you, or people you’re in touch with, to have a conversation with me, I’d like to try.