LarissaRowe

Active in the EA community and lurking on LessWrong for many years.

Currently thinking about how to build successful intellectual communities, coordinate groups of people and make progress in new or underdeveloped scientific fields. This is part professional (working at Leverage Research https://www.leverageresearch.org/), part personal curiosity.

Wiki Contributions

Comments

Zoe Curzi's Experience with Leverage Research

Geoff is answering chat questions at the moment (at least until 11 AM PT) so if you have any questions you should consider joining.

Common knowledge about Leverage Research 1.0

Update from Leverage Research: a reminder about our AMA & other ways to get updates
For anyone in this thread who still has questions about Leverage Research, I just wanted to remind you about the AMA we are running at our virtual office tomorrow (Saturday, October 2, at 12 PM PT). 

The event is open to anyone interested in our work and is designed to allow people to ask questions about our history, current work, and future plans. See this comment for further details.

Beyond that, we're currently exploring different ways to ensure we hear from people who were part of the Leverage 1.0 ecosystem about their experiences, especially before we release some of our psychology tools and as we write our FAQ on our history (see this post for more details on these two initiatives). This includes looking into neutral third-party moderators and ways of gathering anonymous feedback. If you want to stay up to date on the steps we're taking, or our current work in general, subscribe to our quarterly newsletter or follow us on Twitter.

Updates from Leverage Research: History and Recent Progress

Reminder: AMA and Open Virtual Office with Leverage Research on Saturday, October 2, 12 PM PT.
Just a quick reminder that anyone interested in learning more about Leverage Research's history, current work, and future plans can join us in our virtual office tomorrow (Saturday, October 2nd) at 12 PM PT for AMA with me and our Executive Director Geoff Anders.

For more info and to get the link to join the event, join the Facebook event, fill in this Google Form or follow us on Twitter.

Common knowledge about Leverage Research 1.0

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.

Updates from Leverage Research: History and Recent Progress

I am not sure whether it is still necessary for me to reply to this given that the post has been heavily downvoted and the original poster of the "common knowledge facts" about Leverage has edited their post to note that they regret their mention of Geoff's dating history in the thread as it has taken people clearly off in the wrong direction.

Just in case anyone is reading this without the relevant context and has any doubts:

No. I am not in, nor have I ever been in, anything remotely resembling "a non-platonic relationship with the Executive Director of Leverage Research, Geoff Anders".  I am in a committed, long-term, monogamous relationship with Kerry Vaughan, who also works at Leverage Research but is someone that I met and began dating at my previous job, well before either of us started work at Leverage. During hiring it was public knowledge we were in a long-term relationship.

I like and greatly respect Geoff Anders as a manager, colleague, and friend. I find the various insinuations being made on this forum particularly sad because, out of various communities I've been involved in and different work environments I've been in, the people I've interacted with at Leverage Research (both my current colleagues and the people I've met who worked at Leverage in the past) are amongst the most thoughtful and respectful people I've come across.

Now, I am prepared to answer questions of this type occasionally and share details of my personal life because of my professional role at Leverage Research and because not everyone reading this comment will have the context. That said, it is important to note that I agree with Ben Pace's comment that this question and questions like it are in general inappropriate. I do not think it should be the case that any community can demand such personal information of their community members, let alone individuals who are only forced to interact with said community because others have written misleading posts about them.

Common knowledge about Leverage Research 1.0

Hi BayAreaHuman, 

I just posted an update on behalf of Leverage Research to LessWrong along with an invite to an AMA with Leverage Research next weekend, as it seems from the comments that there isn’t a lot of common knowledge about our current work or other aspects of our history. I encourage people to read this for additional context, and I hope the OP will be able to update this post to incorporate some of that.

I also want to briefly address some of the items raised here.

 

Information management policies

Leverage Research has for a long time been concerned about the potential negative consequences of the potential misuse of knowledge garnered from research. These concerns are widely shared for research in the hard sciences (e.g., nuclear physics), but are valid as well for the social sciences. 

Starting in 2012, Leverage Research had an information management policy designed to prevent negative intended consequences from the premature dissemination of information. Our information policy from 2012-2016 required permission for the release of longform information on the internet. We had an information approval team, with most information release requests being approved. In 2016, the policy was revised, in part to give blanket permission for the sharing of longform information on the internet unrelated to their work at Leverage. Based on our ED’s recollection, in no case was permission withheld for the online publication of regular personal information.

Our information management policy aimed to balance simplicity and usability with effect and certainly did not get everything right. One of the negative consequences of our information policy, as we have learned, is the way it made some regular interactions with people outside of the relevant information circles more difficult than intended. We intend to learn from this experience and do better with information management in the future.
 

Dangers and harms from psychological practices

As mentioned in my update post, we are very concerned about potential harms to individuals from experimenting with psychological tools and so--when we begin to distribute some of these tools to the public--we will include in the release descriptions of the wide variety of potential near-term and long-term dangers from psychological experimentation that we are aware of.

The post mentions “hearing people who did lots of charting within Leverage report that it led to dissociation and fragmentation, that they have found difficult to reverse.” We believe that the tools we will release to the public, including Belief Reporting and basic charting, are generally safe, and will do our best to alert people to the potential dangers.

If anyone has experienced negative effects from psychological experimentation, including with rationality training, meditation, circling, Focusing, IFS, Leverage’s charting or Belief Reporting tools (or word-of-mouth copies of these tools), or similar techniques please do reach out to us at contact@leverageresearch.org. We are keen to gain as much information as possible on the harms and dangers as we prepare to release our psychology research.
 

Dating policies

From 2011–2019, Leverage did not focus on the development of standard professional norms or policies. We had an employee handbook covering equal employment opportunity, sexual and other forms of harassment, company conduct, and complaints procedures, but had no policy (and still have no policy) on who should date whom. It is true that our Executive Director had three long-term consensual relationships with women employed by Leverage Research or affiliated organizations during their history. Managing the potential for abuses by those in positions of power is very important to us. If anyone is aware of harms or abuses that have taken place involving staff at Leverage Research, please email me, in confidence, at larissa@leverageresearch.org or larissa.e.rowe@gmail.com

Following 2019, Leverage began to prioritize the development of professional standards. We expect to develop policies on dating in the workplace and other topics as part of this effort. As the HR representative at Leverage Research, developing these standards further is my responsibility.

 

Charting/debugging was always optional

The post claims that “Members who were on payroll were expected to undergo charting/debugging sessions with a supervisory "trainer", and to "train" other members.” This is inaccurate, and I’m not sure how this misunderstanding could have occurred.

Neither charting nor debugging was ever required of any person at any time at Leverage, either as part of their work or prior to being hired as part of the hiring process. Many individuals chose to be charted because of their interest in it, either for work or self-improvement-related reasons. But charting — as well as other psychological interventions—were and should remain strictly voluntary. Individuals who were uninterested in charting could have (and did) study other topics.

I hope this, along with my LessWrong forum post, helps to answer some of the questions and concerns raised here. If you have any questions not answered by this comment, my post, or other materials online please feel free to email me (larissa@leverageresearch.org) or join us at our virtual office next weekend.


 

Studying Early Stage Science: Research Program Introduction

Thanks for sharing this. If anyone is interested in more on this sort of topic, I (on behalf of Leverage Research) am currently in the very early stages of experimenting with sharing thoughts that come out of our research and interesting articles we find on social media. I'd expect people here to potentially have useful feedback and thoughts on the kinds of topics we end up thinking about. For example, I was recently looking at the role of thought experiments in science.
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