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Those were in fact some of the cases I had in mind, yes, thank you - I read the news too. And what one learns from reading about them is how those are exceptional cases, newsworthy precisely because they reached any verdict rather than settling, driven by external politics and often third-party funding, and highly unusual until recently post-2016/Trump. It is certainly the case that sometimes villains like Alex Jones get smacked down properly by libel lawsuits; but note how wildly incomparable these cases are to the blog post that Spartz is threatening to sue over. Look, for example, at Jones's malicious behavior even during the trial, or to take the most recent case, Giuliani, his repeated affirmation of the libelous and blatantly false claims. Look at the kinds of claims being punished in these lawsuits, like claiming that the Sandy Hook shooting was completely fake and the victims' relatives are fabricating their entire existence. (You're going to analogize this to Pace saying 'Nonlinear may not have treated some employees very well'? Really?) Look at how many of the plaintiffs are private citizens, who are in no way public figures. That this rash of victories for the good guys involves lawsuits does not redeem the general abuse of lawsuit

(1) This is a response to you writing "you can count on one hand the sort of libel lawsuit which follows this beautiful fantasy". Sarcastically stating "I read the news too" doesn't help you- how obvious these are just makes it worse! You now seem to have entirely abandoned that standard without changing your mind. I can very easily start listing more libel cases that match the new distinctions you're drawing, to the extent that they are clear enough; is there any point to me doing so? What is the evidence that would convince you that you're wrong?

(2) One reason I'm confident that you don't care about the distinctions you're drawing is that the cases I cited already meet some of the standards you've now proposed, and you didn't care enough to check. In particular, you wrote that "those are exceptional cases, newsworthy precisely because they reached any verdict rather than settling". This is false, and you provided no justification or evidence for it. I cited six cases; none of them have reached verdicts. Dominion v. Fox, Khalil v. Fox, and Coomer v. Newsmax all did settle; Smartmatic v. Fox and Andrews v. D'Souza are still outstanding and so hasn't reached a verdict. Weisenbach v. Project Veritas doesn't appear to have been updated since 2022, but there has been no verdict that I can find. (Given that I've already presented you with cases satisfying one of the distinctions you drew above, are you now convinced that you were wrong?)


None of which Ben Pace has done, and which is part of why I say he would have excellent odds: it's unclear what damage has been done to Nonlinear, he had good grounds for his claims, has not said anything which would rise to the level of 'actual malice' against a public figure like Spartz, and was "well-intentioned".


it's unclear what damage has been done to Nonlinear

Do you believe that unclear damages mean that you can't win a lawsuit? If so, that's untrue; damages are often also in dispute. (Did you mean to claim that there was zero damage done? That is different from what you wrote, and is false.)

he had good grounds for his claims

The legal term relevant here is "negligence"; "good grounds" is not the relevant legal terminology. He was negligent in publishing without giving Nonlinear time to reply or updating based on Spencer Greenberg's evidence; in particular, Habryka stated that they had received evidence that claims in the post were false before they published. [ETA: Habrya comments on this here.] Why do you believe that this wasn't negligent, if that's what you meant by writing "had good grounds for his claims"? Or did you mean something else?

has not said anything which would rise to the level of 'actual malice' against a public figure like Spartz, and was "well-intentioned".

You haven't explained why you think that Spartz is a public figure; again, I find your lack of clear reasoning frustrating to deal with. In this specific case, searching for comments on 'public figure' by you in an attempt to figure out what you were thinking, I found a comment by you which did explain your reasoning:

He [Emerson Spartz] very obviously is one [a public figure]. As habryka points out, he has a WP entry backed by quite a few sources about him, specifically. He has an entire 5400-word New Yorker profile about him, which is just one of several you can grab from the WP entry (eg. Bloomberg). For comparison, I don't think even Eliezer has gotten an entire New Yorker profile yet! If this is not a 'public figure', please do explain what you think it would take. Does he need a New York Times profile as well? (I regret to report that he only has 1 or 2 paragraphs thus far.)

Now, I am no particular fan of decreeing people 'public figures' who have not particularly sought out fame (and would not appreciate becoming a 'public figure' myself); however, most people would say that by the time you have been giving speeches to universities or agreeing to let a New Yorker journalist trail you around for a few months for a profile to boost your fame even further, it is safe to say that you have probably long since crossed whatever nebulous line divides 'private' from 'public figure'.

Even in that comment, you never actually stated what you believe the standard for being a public figure is, or gave any legal citations to support that standard.[1] However, there's at least enough detail to say that your claim is wrong; it's absolutely not true that having a magazine profile is the level of fame required to make you a public figure. Waldbaum v. Fairchild Publications describes the standard for general public figures[2] as follows:

a person can be a general public figure only if he is a "celebrity" - his name a "household word" - whose ideas and actions the public in fact follows with great interest

To give a concrete example, musician Dr. Luke owns two publishing companies, has been nominated for numerous Grammys, and has had plenty of magazine articles written about him, including one specifically in the New Yorker; courts have also repeatedly held that he isn't a general public figure.


This is a double bait and switch: Nonlinear is just Spartz who can spend his money on whatever he likes, while the 'EA community' is not the one being specifically threatened, and even comparing Nonlinear and Lightcone is misleading, because Lightcone has many other ongoing responsibilities (such as spending money to maintain the website this is being written on or renovate buildings) and it would presumably be Pace personally being sued as well.

My comment was not misleading. I was explicitly responding to a quote, which I directly quoted in my comment right above what you responded to, where you stated that "[lawsuits] are cynically used to burn money based on the fact that rich people have a lot more money than poor people". This is about "rich" vs. "poor". The rest of the quote is "money has log utility, so when they burn $10k+ to burn your $10k+, they come out way ahead in punishing you, and the goal is not even to win the lawsuit, it's to force you to a settlement when you run out of money. Which you will before they do, and in the case of Spartz suing Lightcone, it's not like Lightcone has a ton of idle cash they can burn on a defense of their claims".[3]

Some libel threats fall under your analysis; others do not. I have already given many examples of lawsuits that do not- Fox News, for example, is not likely to simply run out of money, nor is it poorer than its various legal opponents. Your analysis of this specific case is wrong; Habryka has explicitly stated that Lightcone has enough money to defend a libel suit. He also said that Lightcone would probably be able to fundraise from the EA community for a defense.


I found this extremely frustrating to reply to. I personally regard most of the concrete claims you made in the original comment as being not just wrong, but both obviously wrong and unsupported. You seem to have abandoned actually defending them, and indeed even noted how obvious my counterarguments were- "yes, thank you - I read the news too". (You didn't change your mind in response, though!)

Judging by the timestamps, you wrote your long response very quickly. It's taken me much, much longer to write this reply, and I'm only a small fraction through replying so far. (I'll reply to the rest later, I guess, ugh ugh ugh.) There's a very obvious reason why you were so much faster: you didn't bother to defend your specific previous claims or to check if the new stuff you tossed out was actually right. It would have taken you ~10 seconds to verify if any of the lawsuits named reached a verdict, instead of wrongly making up that they all had; it's taken me much longer to check all of them and write up a reply. It would have taken you ~5 minutes[4] to find the legal definition of public figure, instead of making up your own. It's taken me far longer to find a different comment that actually explained what you were talking about, and to then lookup and write a response myself, including even finding a specific person who was both the subject of a New Yorker article and had been determined to not be a public figure. This is a gish gallop.

  1. ^

    The linked comment is in response to a comment by an attorney who correctly stated the standard for being a public figure and correctly stated that Spartz isn't a public figure... which you ignored when you made up your own uncited standard for what a public figure is. (It's also a pretty devastating indictment of LW that the attorney commenting with a correct definition and application of "public figure" received considerably less karma/agreement than you making up your own incorrect standard, which gave a more popular answer.)

  2. ^

    There's also the category of "limited purpose public figure". Spartz also probably (but not definitely) isn't one; all of the citations you gave- and probably almost all of his publicity, judging by his Wikipedia page- don't relate to Nonlinear or AI broadly, or their treatment of interns specifically.

  3. ^

    The new argument that you've made here might or might not be true; you've tossed it out without sufficient justification. Nonlinear would also like to spend money on other things, and I don't know how to compare their resources, preferences, and alternative expenditures vs. Lightcone; you haven't even tried. (Note that your argument requires a significant difference.)

  4. ^

    Arguably, it would have taken you zero minutes; the comment I linked was a response to an attorney who told you the correct answer.


This is a combative comment which fails to back up its claims.

how surely only noble and good people ever sue over libel

if you really believe lawsuits are so awesome and wonderful

He did not say this. This is not reasonable for you to write.

you can count on one hand the sort of libel lawsuit which follows this beautiful fantasy.

This is not true. This is obviously not true. A successful and important libel case (against Giuliani) was literally headline news this week. You can exceed five such cases just looking at similar cases: Dominion v Fox; Smartmatic v Fox; Coomer v Newsmax; Khalil v Fox; Andrews v D’Souza; and Weisenbach v Project Veritas. This is extremely unreasonable for you to say.

They are cynically used to burn money based on the fact that rich people have a lot more money than poor people

Nonlinear certainly doesn’t have more money than the EA community. Nonlinear plausibly (?) doesn’t have more money than Lighthouse; at a minimum, it’s not a significant difference.

which they would generally win, BTW

<argument needed>

It’s very unclear to me whether Lighthouse would win; your confidence here seems unreasonable; but more importantly, “no, that’s not true” is just not a useful thing to say here. (You’re responding to a post that did have many good citations of cases; seems like most people think it’s plausible they’d lose.)

And a lawsuit is a way to destroy someone, not counter-argue them.

In the most blandly literal sense possible, lawsuits are arguments.

what goes on inside a court has only a questionable relationship to counterargument to begin with, which is why a decent chunk of rationality is about explaining why legal norms are so inappropriate for rational thinking

You have again not given any argument for this.

The rules under which lawsuits proceed are deliberately setup in an attempt to get at the truth. Specific requirements- from the prohibition on hearsay; to the requirement of a neutral and unbiased jury; to the requirement that both sides be able to examine and respond to evidence and arguments- are both truthseeking and not generally followed outside of the court system.

“My ingroup’s internet discussions are so great that they’re not only better than the outside society’s way of determining contested questions, they invalidate their use” is a dangerously culty belief. I think it is particularly bad in this context, since the initial post had specific failures that the legal system would have handled correctly. (eg not giving Nonlinear time to respond; it’s possible that I’ll feel like the eventual outcome here is reasonable, IDK, but the initial post had clear issues.) But at a minimum, if you’re saying that people be “shunned, demonized, and criticised” (!), you really ought to say specifically why/how the courts would be unreliable in this case.


IMO, both U.S. and UK libel suits should both be very strongly discouraged, since I know of dozens of cases where organizations and individuals have successfully used them to prevent highly important information from being propagated, and I think approximately no case where they did something good (instead organizations that frequently have to deal with libel suits mostly just leverage loopholes in libel law that give them approximate immunity, even when making very strong and false accusations, usually with the clarity of the arguments and the transparency of the evidence taking a large hit).

(Unavoidably political, as lawsuits often are)

A central example of the court system broadly, and libel lawsuits narrowly, promoting better epistemics are the allegations that the 2020 election was fraudulent.

It is certainly not true that there are always loopholes that give immunity, see e.g. Fox News' very expensive settlement in Dominion v. Fox News.

More broadly: "Trump, his attorneys, and his supporters falsely asserted widespread election fraud in public statements, but few such assertions were made in court." The false allegations of fraud were dependent on things like hearsay, false claims that opponents weren't given a chance to respond to, and vague or unsupported claims; virtually all discussion on the internet, and this post in particular, feature all three; the court system explicitly bans these. (Note that people who can't support their case under legal standards of evidence often just settle or don't bring a case in the first place.)


I'm not disputing that specific people at Skunk Works believed that their tech was disliked for being good; but that's a totally insane belief that you should reject immediately, it's obviously self-serving, none of those people present any evidence for it, and the DoD did try to acquire similar technology in all these cases.

Again, this is a direct quote on procurement incentives from a guy who was involved on both the buy and sell side of the SR-71 back in the day.

This is quote from, per you, somebody from the CIA. The CIA and Air Force are different organizations; he was presumably not involved in the Air Force's decision not to acquire the F-12B. We have definitive proof that the Air Force's procurement decisions weren't necessarily opposed to high performing planes, since they had planned on acquiring different, but similarly capable, planes.

There's also a more gnarly philosophical issue here, in terms of the "insane" belief you're pointing to. I find it fairly plausible that individual commanders might have incentives that are different from those of the Navy, or the Air Force, as a whole, and that this might drive procurement decisions.

I am very confident that the book-length sequence you linked to doesn't contain a justification for the claim that "individual Air Force commanders hate fast planes". But if it does, please provide the actual justification instead of linking to a ~150 page book ("go read the sequences").

ETA: I may have misunderstood your point; if you instead meant literally just to justify the sentence you wrote, that principal-agent problems are possible, then I don't disagree; that does absolutely nothing to justify the specific claimed principal-agent problem.


Your discussion of Skunk Works is significantly wrong throughout. (I am not familiar with the other examples.)

For example, in 1943 the Skunk Works both designed and built America’s first fighter jet, the P80 Shooting Star, in just 5 months. Chief engineer Kelly Johnson worked with a scrappy team of, at its peak, 23 designers and 105 fabricators. Nonetheless, the resulting plane ended up being operationally used by the air force for 40 years.

The P80 was introduced in 1945; the US almost immediately decided to replace it with the F-86, introduced in 1949. The phrase "operationally used by the air force for 40 years" is only technically true because rather than scrap existing P80 production, they were modified slightly and used as training aircraft.

Our ship had a four-man crew — commander, helmsman, navigator and engineer. By contrast, a frigate doing a similar job had more than three hundred crewmen. ... Our stealth ship might be able to blast out of the sky a sizable soviet attack force, but in terms of an officer’s future status and promotion prospects, it was about as glamorous as commanding a tugboat. At the highest levels, the Navy brass was equally unenthusiastic about the small number of stealth ships they would need to defend carrier task forces. Too few to do anyone’s career much good in terms of power or prestige.

This is wrong. Their stealth ship wasn't able to "blast out of the sky a sizable soviet attack force", or to do literally anything; it was just a testbed for exploring automation and stealth hulls, totally incapable of doing anything. Skunk Works didn't actually successfully build anything here! (The stealth design was later used on the Zumwalt class of destroyers, which had unrelated issues.)

Not sure where he got the 300 crew figure from? Even beyond the fact that the Sea Shadow wasn't actually designed to do anything (and so would need more specialized crew to do so), the Sea Shadow was only a tenth of a the size of the frigates it's being compared with. (The Navy has since tried to use similar automation to reduce the crew of newer ships; the Gerald Ford class of aircraft carriers represent the realistically achievable reduction in crew via automation: 3,200 -> 2,600 or so, so ~20%.) (Note that this also trivially falsifies the claim that the Navy rejects automation to reduce crew sizes?)

"The Navy rejected our ship design because it was totally too good, you just gotta believe me, even though we've never ever successfully produced ships" is an insane thing for you to accept with zero evidence.

Yet Lockheed could barely sell [the SR-71]. As described by a CIA engineer inside the Skunk Works:

> ... But I never gave him much chance to sell a lot of those airplanes because they were so far ahead of anything else flying that few commanders would feel comfortable leading a Blackbird wing or squadron. I mean this was a twenty.-first-century performer delivered in the early 1960s. No one in the Pentagon would know what to do with it.

This is totally wrong. You are again putting forth the insane claim that people rejected Skunk Work's technology because of how good it was, with zero actual evidence of why the SR-71 wasn't mass produced.

The SR-71 (Mach 3.3, 85,000 feet) wasn't significantly better than planned contemporary planes like the B-70 (Mach 3.1, 77,350 feet) or the F-108 (Mach 3, 80,100 feet). Both of those planes were cancelled, because the development of missiles meant that flying higher and faster was no longer a viable strategy; since then, military planes like the the F-18 (Mach 1.8, 50,000 feet), and the F-35 (Mach 1.6, 50,000 feet) have often been lower and slower. This is a deliberate choice: unmanned, one-way missiles can always go faster than a manned plane. Most of the SR-71's advantages come not from it being inherently better than any possible missile, but from it being faster and higher than the planes early SAM's were intended to target; mass production and usage in other roles would inherently make this go away.

(To be clear, Skunk Works was successful and build many things successfully; it's specifically your claims and examples that are wrong. In particular, you left out most of their successful planes like the F-117.)


I'm pretty negative on how you fail to discuss any specific claim or link to any specific evidence, but you spend your longest paragraph speculating about the supposed bias of unnamed people.

You haven't really written enough to be clear, but I suspect that you have confused concentration camps with death or extermination camps? Regardless, the recent UN report did pretty specifically support claims of concentration camps- see points 37-57

I also found that, controlling for rents, the partisanship of a state did not predict homelessness (using the Partisan Voting Index)


This is not a useful way of looking at this; homelessness would be almost entirely controlled by city, not state, policies. State partisanship in large part measures not how blue or red the states' cities are, but rather how urban or rural the state as a whole is.

This, and the Bahrain/UAE cases, seem more likely to be driven by concerns about whether/how well the Chinese vaccines work?

On the other hand, look at the US wars in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. The outcomes of these wars were determined much more by political forces (in both of the relevant countries) than by overwhelming force.

Insurgencies aren't a good comparison for conventional wars like the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

The overall thrust here seems like an application of Clausewitz's maxim that "war is the extension of politics by other means". However, the specific politics suggested seem very unrealistic.

  • You suggest ways to impact Azerbaijan's internal politics by targeting harm to specific groups. I see no reason to believe that Armenia had any substantial ability to deal much harm to Azerbaijan at all, so this isn't relevant. In general, it would be much harder for Armenia to advance to deal significant damage to Azerbaijan's homeland than it would be to defend.
  • Assassinations are practically universally a bad way to change a country's politics; they usually result in a direct backfire.
  • Your advice seems to lack object-level knowledge of the conflict itself; in particular, Azerbaijan is not a liberal democracy; its current leader has been in power for decades, and won ~86% of the vote in the most recent election.
  • The second Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was indeed a populist war: the two main causes were racial conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and the result of the First Nagorno-Karabakh war, in which Armenia overran and occupied Nagorno-Karabakh. "We will end racism against us" is not in fact a realistic short-term plan; it would take decades to have relevance. Resolving the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh would presumably involve returning Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan; this is not a good plan for retaining Nagorno-Karabakh! More generally, you can usually prevent a war by just giving in, and maybe Armenia should have given that they lost the war. It's also not politically realistic, given Armenia's domestic politics.
  • Your plans for improving Armenia's popularity in Azerbaijan (a) wouldn't stop the war, (b) likely wouldn't help end the war, and (c) are irrelevant to actually existing war, since they assume that Armenia is overrunning Azerbaijan, occupying their citizens, taking significant numbers of prisoners, etc.
  • It is not clear to me how Armenia would go about creating a recession or a famine in Azerbaijan?
  • Pretty much all of these plans are underspecified outcomes, not realistic plans. For example, for "we should do propaganda" you haven't specified what Armenia should have actually done for it to matter. *In practice*, actually Azerbaijan had an *overwhelming* advantage in propaganda, making use of new channels like TikTok and Youtube to quickly disseminate videos of military successes.

So how should Armenia have retained Nagorno-Karabakh?  Given that Azerbaijan is about 3 times its size, and that it has substantial oil reserves that can be used to fund military spending, Armenia would have little chance on its own. Even worse, Azerbaijan is supported by their co-ethnics in Turkey, which is vast and wealthy in comparison to both states; Armenia would not realistically have been able to disrupt this relationship.

Armenia would need a powerful patron to counter this. Three options:

  • Iran supported Armenia in the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, but developed closer ties with Azerbaijan more recently. I don't know how realistic blocking this would be, I'm not very familiar with regional politics.
  • Russia has also historically backed Armenia, but didn't intervene until late in the conflict (Russian peacekeepers are now in the region). This was likely for two reasons: first, Russia is already somewhat overstretched, with concerns in ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, and Libya. Second, Armenia's 2018 Revolution brought to power a more democratic government that leaned away from Russia and towards the West. The answer here would be for Armenia to become a more dependent Russian client state, although this may have been impossible for domestic political reasons. Armenia will likely now pursue this strategy.
  • Armenia has an extensive diaspora in the West, which it used to mobilize political support; using the diaspora and the Armenian realignment towards the West to secure military aid and security guarantees could have been useful, although in practice I don't think Armenia could have secured anything of much significance.
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