All of Geoff_Anders's Comments + Replies

It was published this evening. Here is a link to the letter, and here is the announcement on Twitter.

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

Yes, here:

Zoe - I don’t know if you want me to respond to you or not, and there’s a lot I need to consider, but I do want to say that I’m so, so sorry. However this turns out for me or Leverage, I think it was good that you wrote this essay and spoke out about your experience.

It’s going to take me a while to figure out everything that went wrong, and what I did wrong, because clearly something really bad happened to you, and it is in some way my fault. In terms of what went wrong on the project, one throughline I can see was arrogance, especially my arrogance, which... (read more)

Edit: I got a request to cut the chaff and boil this down to discrete actionables. Let me do that.

  1. Will you release everyone from any NDAs

  2. Will you step down from any management roles (e.g. Leverage and Paradigm)

  3. Will you state for the record, that you commit to not threaten* anyone who comes forward with reports that you do not like, in the course of this process

I get the sense that you have made people afraid to stand against you, historically. Engaging in any further threats, seems likely to impede all of our ability to make sense of, and come ... (read more)

I recognize it took some courage to talk about this in the first place, and I don't want to discount that. I am glad that you said something. ...but I also don't want to lose track of this thread. Edit: I got a request to boil this down, so I separated it to that thread. And reading the room? I think there is, broadly speaking, a lot of fear of you. And I think part of why that is true, is because you cultivated that. You have noticed that you made some errors which blinded you to the consequences of some of your actions, and I think that's a good start? I hope you might be able to agree with me that this attitude of fear, is probably blinding you to the reporting of any further harms. I recognize processing takes time, and there hasn't been a lot of time yet. But also, I think somebody needed to say this to your face, and it might as well be me. How do you want to help wind down this aura of fear, which I think is still blinding not just most of us, but also YOU, to a lot of the full reality of what happened? (And it might well be, that you will help with this by saying almost nothing and going after no-one. But if so? I think it would help, if you briefly committed to that outright.)
I appreciate hearing from you about some of what you probably got wrong. I'm pretty sure that a lot of this started out relatively benignly, and spiraled? I agree with your impression that arrogance was at least one of several pressures that made it hard to see that things were going in a bad direction. A lot of invisible guard-rails were dropped or traded away over time, and the absence of a certain amount of reality-checking made it very hard to fix after things had veered off the rails. I hope your account contributes to making people less likely to make similar errors in the future. (I would also be very unhappy, if I ever saw you having a substantial amount of power over people again though, fwiw.)
-23[comment deleted]2y

Hi everyone. I wanted to post a note to say first, I find it distressing and am deeply sorry that anyone had such bad experiences. I did not want or intend this at all.

I know these events can be confusing or very taxing for all the people involved, and that includes me. They draw a lot of attention, both from those with deep interest in the matter, where there may be very high stakes, and from onlookers with lower context or less interest in the situation. To hopefully reduce some of the uncertainty and stress, I wanted to share how I will respond.

My curre... (read more)

Separately, I’m going to write a letter in my role as Executive Director of Leverage Research on the topic of harms from our previous psychology research and the structure of the organization.

Geoff, has this letter been published yet? And if not, when will it be published?

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

* For Geoff or Reserve: What is the relationship between Leverage and Reserve, and related individuals and entities? * For everyone: Under what conditions does restitution to ex-Leveragers make sense? Under what conditions does it make sense for leadership to divest themselves of resources? * For everyone: In arguendo, what could restitution or divestment concretely look like? Edit: I was going to leave the original comment, to provide context to Vaniver’s reply. But it started receiving upvotes that brought it above “-1", making it a more prominent bad example of community norms. I think the upvotes indicate importance in the essence of the questions, but their form were ill-considered and rushed to judgement. In compromise, I've tried to rewrite them more neutrally and respectfully to all involved. I may revisit them a few more times.

Given what the post said about the NDA that people signed when leaving, it seems to me like explictely releasing people from that NDA (maybe with a provision to anonymize names of other people) would be very helpful for having a productive discussion that can integrate the experiences of many people into public knowledge and create a shared understanding of what happened. 

Author of the post here. I edited the post by:

(1) adding an introduction — for context, and to make the example in Part I less abrupt

(2) editing the last section — the original version was centered on my conversations with Rationalists in 2011-2014; I changed it to be a more general discussion, so as to broaden the post's applicability and make the post more accessible

Good point. I think they are prima facie orthogonal. Empirically, though, my current take is that many deep psychological distortions affect attention in a way that makes trying to manage them primarily on short time scales extremely difficult compared to managing them on longer time scales.

Imagine, for instance, that you have underlying resignation that causes your S1 to put 5x the search power into generating plausible failure scenarios than plausible success scenarios. This might be really hard to detect on the 5 second level, especially if you don&apos... (read more)

I think I'm willing to concede that there is something of an empirical question about what works best for truth-seeking, as much as that feels like a dangerous statement to acknowledge. Though seemingly true, it feels like it's something that people who try to get you commit bad epistemic moves like to raise [1].

There's a tricky balance to maintain here. On one hand, we don't want to commit bad epistemic moves. On the other hand, failing to acknowledge the empirical basis of something when the evidence of its being empirical is presente... (read more)

Very much so. Not a bid for further explanation, just flagging that I'm not sure what you actually mean by this, as in which concrete moves which correspond to each. To me the empirical question is whether a person ought to be willing to take all possible hits to their morale for the sake of their epistemics. I have a consequentialist fear—and I think consequentialist means we're necessarily talking empiricism—that any exceptions/compromizes may be catastrophic. . . . It's possible there's a kind of meta-debate here going on, with some people (including me) sometimes having underlying consequentialist/empirical beliefs that even engaging in consequentialist/empirical arguments about trading off against epistemics would have overall bad consequences and/or an empirical belief that anyone who would offer such arguments readily must not really care about epistemics because they're not [naively] treating them as sacred enough [1]. I hadn't formulated this in that way before, so I'm glad this post/discussion has helped me realize that arguably "it's consequentialism/empiricism all the way up", even if you ultimately claim that your epistemological consequentialism cashes out to some inviolable deontological rules. [1] Not treating them as sacred enough therefore they don't really care, therefore can't be trusted - this is my instinctive reaction when encounter, say, post-rationalist arguments about needing to consider what's useful, not just what's true. Maybe it's not always fair. . . . I had a revealing exchange with someone a few months ago about conversation norms on LessWrong. I was stating the necessity of considering the consequences of your speech and how that should factor into how one speaks. In course of that debate, they said [paraphrasing]: I think this response was a mistake, not in least because their rigidity meant we couldn't discuss different consequences of different policies or even what tradeoffs I thought I was making (fewer than they did)

I currently think we are in a world where a lot of discussion of near-guesses, mildly informed conjectures, probably-wrong speculation, and so forth is extremely helpful, at least in contexts where one is trying to discover new truths.

My primary solution to this has been (1) epistemic tagging, including coarse-grained/qualitative tags, plus (2) a study of what the different tags actually amount to empirically. So person X can say something and tag it as "probably wrong, just an idea", and you can know that when person X uses that tag, the idea is... (read more)

Hi everyone! For those who don’t know me, I’m Geoff Anders. I’ve been the leader of a community adjacent to the rationalist community for many years, a community centered around my research organization Leverage Research. I engaged mostly with the rationalist community in 2011-2014. I visited SingInst in March 2011, taught at the Rationality Boot Camp in June and July 2011, attended the July 2012 CFAR workshop, and then was a guest instructor at CFAR from 2012-2014.

For the past many years, I’ve been primarily focused on research... (read more)

Welcome! Looking forward to seeing more of your ideas written up, a few of them have been quite valuable to me over the years, and it seems great to make them available to a wider audience.
Quite interested about this, hopefully you write more about it. Welcome!

Here are instructions for setting up the defaults the way some people have found helpful:

  1. Open yEd.
  2. Create a new document.
  3. Click the white background; a small yellow square should appear on the canvas.
  4. Click the small yellow square so as to select it.
  5. Click and drag one of the corners of the yellow square to resize it. Make it the default size you'd like your text boxes to be. You will be able to change this later.
  6. Make sure the yellow square is still selected.
  7. Look at the menu in the lower right. It is called "Properties View". It will show you
... (read more)

For at least 2 years prior to January 2009, I procrastinated between 1-3 hours a day reading random internet news sites. After I created my first CT chart, I made the following prediction: "If I design a way to gain information about the world that does not involve reading internet news sites that also does not alter my way of achieving my other intrinsic goods, then I will stop spending time reading these internet news sites." The "does not alter my way of achieving my other intrinsic goods" was unpacked. It included: "does not al... (read more)

cogsci folk and good random human psychologists would have predicted no change in my internet news reading behavior.

Your model of human psychologists needs updating, then. Books on hypnotism that I read when I was 11 discuss needs substitution, secondary gain, etc. that would be relevant to making such a prediction. Any good human psychologist knows to look for what gains a behavior produces.

Of course, maybe you meant "good (random human) psychologists", not "good, random (human psychologists)" - i.e., psychologists who study th... (read more)

If I recall correctly, I was saying that I didn't know how to use CT to predict simple things of the form "Xs will always Y" or "Xs will Y at rate Z", where X and Y refer to simple observables like "human", "blush", etc. It would be great if I could do this, but unfortunately I can't.

Instead, what I can do is use the CT charting procedure to generate a CT chart for someone and then use CT to derive predictions from the chart. This yields predictions of the form "if a person with chart X does Y, Z will occur"... (read more)

These predictions frequently do not overlap with what existing cognitive science would have one expect.

What is an example of a case you've actually observed where CT made a falsifiable, bold, successful prediction? ("Falsifiable" - say what would have made the prediction fail. "Bold" - explain what a cogsci guy or random good human psychologist would have falsifiably predicted differently.)

The way I could have evidence in favor of CT would be if I had created CT charts using the CT procedure, used CT to derive predictions from the charts, and then tested the predictions. And I've done this.

See, this is an example of what I mean about the CT website equaling "not understanding 'evidence'".

What you've described is primarily evidence for "more detailed models of a specific human make more accurate and surprising predictions than using a generic model of humanity."

It is almost no evidence for CT's actual theory.

By comparis... (read more)

The keywords in psychology for this distinction are nomothetic vs. idiographic (which are useful as search terms, or for talking with a small subset of people). Nomothetic approaches deal with general trends among a large number of people, and cover most psychology research (e.g. people who are high in Conscientiousness tend to have more successful careers). Idiographic approaches try to engage with a particular individual's psychology in detail. From what I've read, I'd call CT an idiographic approach to motivated reasoning and defensiveness, with promising potential applications.
6Paul Crowley11y
Maybe lead with the evidence next time someone asks you about CT?

Connection Theory is not the main thing that we do. It's one of seven main projects. I would estimate that about 15% of our current effort goes directly into CT right now. It's true that having a superior understanding of the human mind is an important part of our plan, and it's true that CT is the main theory we're currently looking at. So that is one reason people are focusing on it. But it's also one of the better-developed parts of our website right now. So that's probably another reason.

I can usually do any type of work. Sometimes it becomes harder for me to write detailed documents in the last couple hours of my day.

We've tried to fill in step 3 quite a bit. Check out the plan and also our backup plan. We're definitely open to suggestions for ways to improve, especially places where the connection between the steps is the most tenuous.

I'd actually read your plan before posting my comment (though not the backup one). I found it very hard to follow and somewhat nebulous, but maybe it's just me. There, and on the backup plan, you say things like "Study field X and extract all useful information", which is a statement that I'm finding very difficult to call anything other than "hubris". In addition, the sheer complexity of your flowchart is daunting, and I question its utility. Shouldn't you at least find out whether your Connection Theory works at all, and if so, whether it has practical applications, before drawing boxes about things like "design optimal societies" ?

Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with Ayn Rand's ideas on psychology.

For a given value of 'unfortunate'. :)

There are no Objectivist influences that I am aware of.

I didn't notice any Objectivist influences looking through the high-level claims on the Leverage website, but their persuasive style does remind me quite a bit of Objectivism's: lots of reasonable-sounding but not actually rigorous claims about human thinking, heavy reliance on inference, and a fairly grandiose tone in the final conclusions. I'd credit this not to direct influence but to convergent evolution. To Leverage's credit, Connection Theory does come off as considerably less smug, and the reductionism isn't as sketchy. Now, none of this is a refutation -- I haven't gone deep enough into Leverage's claims to say anything definitive about whether or not any of this stuff actually works. Plenty of stuff that I'd consider true reminds me of Objectivism's claims, or of those of other equally pernicious ideologies. But it's definitely enough to inform my priors, and it should shed light on some potential signaling problems in the presentation.
Maybe you are not aware of them? Your denial would be more convincing if you compared and contrasted CT ideas and objectivist ideas.

Short answer: Yes, CT is falsifiable. Here's how to see this. Take a look at the example CT chart. By following the procedures stated in the Theory and Practice document, you can produce and check a CT chart like the example chart. Once you've checked the chart, you can make predictions using CT and the CT chart. From the example chart, for instance, we can see that the person sometimes plays video games and tries to improve and sometimes plays video games while not trying to improve. From the chart and CT, we can predict: "If the person comes to beli... (read more)

Any updates?
But what quality of work? Organizing my closet is very different than reading a dense academic paper with full concentration.

For example, I've been able to work for more than 13 hours a day, with only occasional days off, for more than two years. I attribute this to CT and I expect we'll be able to replicate this. If we end up not being able to, that'll be obvious to us and everyone else.

It's not an infrequent occurrence that someone comes up with a self-help technique that works for himself, but then doesn't work nearly as well for others - but then if he's say selling a book he may still be able to find 5 people out of 500 on which it works to add their testimony on the bac... (read more)

Do you have html for those documents? PDF is OK for me, but my guess is html is more openly accessible.

Oops, I forgot to answer your question about how central Connection Theory is to what we're doing.

The answer is that CT is one part of what some of us believe is our best current answer to the question of how the human mind works. I say "one part" because CT does not cover emotions. In all contexts pertaining to emotions, everyone uses something other than CT. I say "some of us" because not everyone in Leverage uses CT. And I say "best current answer" because all of us are happy to throw CT away if we come up with something be... (read more)

Hi Luke,

I'm happy to talk about these things.

First, in answer to your third question, Leverage is methodologically pluralistic. Different members of Leverage have different views on scientific methodology and philosophical methodology. We have ongoing discussions about these things. My guess is that probably two or three of our more than twenty members share my views on scientific and philosophical methodology.

If there’s anything methodological we tend to agree on, it’s a process. Writing drafts, getting feedback, paying close attention to detail, being sy... (read more)

I do believe Peirce is either rolling over in his grave, or doing whatever the opposite of that is.

::follows various links::

Is CT falsifiable? There's no obvious way to determine a person's intrinsic goods except by observing their behavior, but a person's behavior is what CT is supposed to predict in the first place. If a person appears to be acting in a way that contradicts the Action Rule, then "CT is wrong" and "CT is fine; the person had different intrinsic goods than I thought they did" are both consistent with the evidence.

Oops, I forgot to answer your question about how central Connection Theory is to what we're doing. The answer is that CT is one part of what some of us believe is our best current answer to the question of how the human mind works. I say "one part" because CT does not cover emotions. In all contexts pertaining to emotions, everyone uses something other than CT. I say "some of us" because not everyone in Leverage uses CT. And I say "best current answer" because all of us are happy to throw CT away if we come up with something better. In terms of our projects, some people use CT and others don't. Some parts of some training programs are designed with CT in mind; other parts aren't. In some contexts, it is very hard to do anything at all without relying on some background psychological framework. In those contexts, some people rely on CT and others don't. In terms of our overall plan, CT is potentially extremely useful. That said, CT itself is inessential. If it ends up breaking, we can find new psychological tools. And we actually have a backup plan in case we ultimately can't figure out much at all about how the mind works.
Geoff, Thanks for your clarifications! Especially: "I believe (Connection Theory) is false; my concern is with how useful it is." That sentence sounds very different than the opening paragraph of your Connection Theory page; you may want to tweak the wording on that page.

Hi everyone. Thanks for taking an interest. I'm especially interested in (a) errors committed in the study, (b) what sorts of follow-up studies would be the most useful, (c) how the written presentation of the study could be clarified.

On errors, Michaelos already found one - I forgot to delete some numbers from one of the tables. That error has been fixed and Michaelos has been credited. Can anyone see any other errors?

On follow-up studies, lessdazed has suggested some. I don't know if we need to see what happens when nothing is presented on AGI; I think ... (read more)

I appreciate the credit and have sent you a message with my name, but I have to let you know that while Version 1.2 contains the fix, version 1.3 appears to have reverted back to the unfixed version as if it was made off of version 1.0 instead of 1.2.

Thanks for pointing this out. There was in fact an error. I've fixed the error and updated the study. Some of the conclusions embedded in tables change; the final conclusions reported stay the same.

I've credited you on p.3 of the new version. If you want me to credit you by name, please let me know.

Thanks again!