those posts all go out of their way to say they’re new to EA. I feel pretty differently about someone with an existing cause discovering EA and trying to fundraise vs someone who integrated EA principles and found a new cause they think is important.
I don’t love the phrase “EA principles”, EA gets some stuff critically wrong and other subcultures get some stuff right. But it will do for these purposes.
I did some math here, but now think that I was terribly optimistic and I took people’s self-reports about helpfulness too seriously. Maybe it’s still useful as an upper bound.
SBF was an EA leader in good standing for many years and had many highly placed friends. It’s pretty notable to me that there weren’t many comments like Jonas’s for SBF, while there are for Owen.
I think these cases are too different for that comparison to hold.
One big difference is that SBF committed fraud, not sexual harassment. There’s a long history of people minimizing sexual harassment, especially when it’s as ambiguous. There’s also a long history of ignoring fraud when you’re benefiting from it, but by the time anyone had a chance to comment on SBF he had already incontrovertibly failed, in public, at an epic scale.
Additionally, even in the most generous interpretation of the overall situation, Owen seems extremely bad at assessing how his advances are received. Jonas’s comment doesn’t mention any source of information other than Owen himself, who even if he’s not actively lying, is not a reliable source of information. Maybe I’m wrong and Jonas has more sources, in which case I would love for him to give more details on that.
Owen very much doesn’t seem to me like that either
Part of me wants to ask what you’re basing that on. And on one hand, I do think specifics are better than general assessments (which I explain in more detail here). On the other, I think trying to relitigate this on the forum is likely to go poorly, and isn’t worth it given that EV has laid down a reasonable plan.
Surely there are a lot of other hypotheses as well, and Jonas’s evidence is relevant to updating on those?
There are of course infinite hypotheses. But I don’t think Jonas’s statement adds much to my estimates of how much harm Owen is likely to do in the future, and expect the same should be true for most people reading this.
To be clear I’m not saying I estimate more harm is likely- taking himself off the market seems likely to work, and this has been public enough I expect it to be easy for future victims to complain if something does happen. I’m only saying that I think large updates based on Jonas’s statement are a mistake for people who already know Owen was an EA leader in good standing for many years and had many highly placed friends.
If I was completely unfamiliar with EA and Jonas’s comment was the first piece of information I got, that would probably shift my probability weights for what happened. Although it’s still consistent with a lot of harm being done by accident, and with harm done being difficult to estimate.
But for anyone who knows Owen’s place in EA, Jonas’s comment is a high level assessment that is only useful insofar as you trust his judgment. I contend that that kind of trust should only come from observing someone in detail over a prolonged period, and few people are likely to have that about Jonas. Not because of anything specific to him, it just takes a lot of time and intimacy to develop that kind of justified trust. There are a handful of people I’d defer to in this situation and I’ve had high-information engagement with them for years.
In contrast, lyra’s comment contains a lot of details I can use to inform my own reasoning. She was also in a better position to notice Owen’s harms, and to hear about them second hand. Hher comment has half the karma of Jonas’s (and had 1⁄3 when I wrote my original comment), which I think indicates systemic bad judgment and probably excess deference to professional reputation, even accounting for the fact that lyra’s comment is anonymous.
This looks great, thanks for doing it
It’s important to point out how this case is atypical
I want to distinguish between “he is not the kind of deliberate predator you typically think of when you hear about sexual harassment” and “he is different than most people who sexually harass others”.
I think that “well-meaning person does damage through neglect rather than malice or deliberate disregard” is a fairly typical case; maybe more common than deliberate predation. You can do a lot of damage through neglect alone, especially when you underestimate your power in a situation. So while I think it is very good to push back against the assumption that harm came from deliberate malice, and provide evidence for a given situation, this is almost orthogonal to expectations of future harm.
Those all seem like good changes, but they also feel like what Nate Soares described as “I wish I had bet on 23” errors. What could have been done to help the team notice things needed to be handled differently, before such a costly failure?
I think what Jonas has written is reasonable, and I appreciate all the work he did to put in proper caveats. I also don’t want to pick on Owen in particular here; I don’t know anything besides what has been publicly said, and some positive interactions I had with him years ago. That said: I think the fact that this comment is so highly upvoted indicates a systemic error, and I want to talk about that.
The evidence Jonas provides is equally consistent with “Owen has a flaw he has healed” and “Owen is a skilled manipulator who charms men, and harasses women”. And if women (such as myself) report he never harassed them, that’s still consistent with him being a serial predator who’s good at picking targets. I’m not arguing the latter is true- I’m arguing that Jonas’s comment is not evidence either way, and its 100+ karma count has me worried people think it is. There was a similar problem with the supportive comments around Nonlinear from people who had not been in subservient positions while living with the founders, although those were not very highly upvoted.
“If every compliment is equally strong evidence for innocence and skill at manipulation, doesn’t that leave people with no way to prove innocence, or in this case improvement?” Yes, it is very hard to prove a negative, or that you’ve genuinely improved instead of merely hiding things better. I don’t know what the right way to handle that is, although I can point to a few things I think would have made Jonas’s comment more valuable.
As written, this comment contains only Jonas’s interpretations (and appropriate caveats- still really appreciate those). Those are valuable to the extent people have informed trust in Jonas in particular. But if he had shared specifics, people have a chance to evaluate themselves. This could include things Owen had said or done, or what Jonas hopes to gain from Owen’s return. I also think providing unrelated positives is good for contextualizing people; it has to be done carefully to avoid presenting it as a counterargument, but I think Jonas could pull it off.
A relevant question here is “what would I give up to get that feedback?”. This is very sensitive to the quality of feedback and I don’t know exactly what’s on offer, but… I think I’d give up at least 5% of my grants in exchange for a Triplebyte-style short email outlining why the grant was accepted, what their hopes are, and potential concerns.
Complaints about lack of feedback for rejected grants are fairly frequent, but it seems relevant that I can’t get feedback for my accepted grants or in-progress work. The most I have ever gotten was a 👍 react when I texted them “In response to my results I will be doing X instead of the original plan on the application”. In fact I think I’ve gotten more feedback on rejections than acceptances (or in one case, I received feedback on an accepted grant, from a committee member who’d voted to reject). Sometimes they give me more money, so it’s not that the work is so bad it’s not worth commenting on. Admittedly my grants are quite small, but I’m not sure how much feedback medium or even large projects get.
Acceptance feedback should be almost strictly easier to give, and higher impact. You presumably already know positives about the grant, the impact of marginal improvements is higher in most cases, people rarely get mad about positive feedback, and even if you share negatives the impact is cushioned by the fact that you’re still approving their application. So without saying where I think the line should be, I do think feedback for acceptances is higher priority than for rejections.
I reached out to Linch about doing a dialogue about grant applications. Hopefully we’ll get to do so after eag.
I don’t think this post engages with the core argument Linch makes, much less refutes it. You have some reasons more feedback is nicer than less feedback, but don’t quantify the benefits, much less the costs.
That said, I had a rejection from SFF that implies a system I’d love to see replicated. From memory, it was ~”you are not in the top N% of rejections, and therefor we will not be giving detailed feedback”. This took no extra work to generate (because SFF already ranks applications), and gave me a fair amount of information about where I stood. I ended up giving up on that project in that form, and that was the right decision.
But I agree with your point that no-info rejections combine poorly with “when in doubt, apply”, and would love to see people stop doing the latter.
This seems like a good argument against not asking, but a bad argument against getting people information as early as possible.
You’re not wrong, but I feel like your response doesn’t make sense in context.
The post generally ends up stronger, because it’s more accurate
Handled vastly better by being able to reliably get answers about concerns earlier.
To the extent that the critic wants the public view to end up balanced and isn’t just trying to damage the criticizee
Assumes things are on a roughly balanced footing and unanswered criticism pushes it out of balance. If criticism is undersupplied for large orgs, making it harder makes things less balanced (but rushed or bad criticism doesn’t actually fix this, now you just have two bad things happening)
If the critic does get some things wrong despite giving the criticizee the opportunity to review and bring up additional information, either because the criticizee didn’t mention these issues or refused to engage, the community would generally see it as unacceptable for the crtiticizee to sue the critic for defamation
I’m asking the potential criticizee to provide that information earlier in the process.
People talk about running critical posts by the criticized person or org ahead of time, and there are a lot of advantages to that. But the plans I’ve seen are all fairly one sided: all upside goes to the criticized, all the extra work goes to the critic.
What I’d like to see is some reciprocal obligation from recipients of criticism, especially formal organizations with many employees. Things like answering questions from potential critics very early in the process, with a certain level of speed and reliability. Right now it feels like orgs are very fast to respond to polished, public posts, but you can’t count on them to even answer questions. They’ll respond quickly to public criticism, and maybe even to polished posts sent to them before publication, but they are not fast or reliable at answering questions with implicit potential criticism behind them. Which is a pretty shitty deal for the critic, who I’m sure would love to find out their concern was unmerited before spending dozens of hours writing a polished post.
This might be unfair. I’m quite sure it used to be true, but a lot of the orgs have professionalized over the years. In which case I’d like to ask they make their commitments around this public and explicit, and share them in the same breath that they ask for heads up on criticism.
I’ve talked about this a bit in the post you cited, and happen to have recently commented on it. I haven’t dug into the genetics or tried to quantify the effect because I don’t expect the data to be very actionable at this stage. We’re years from having specific treatments based on genetics, most studies are very bad, and I think self-reports and veg*nism attrition rates should be enough to convince people that people vary widely and you need to plan for that in full generality.
The fact that Deck and his parent sued doesn’t really imply anything about Emerson’s character
It may not prove anything about Emerson’s character, but that’s not the same as providing no evidence. Especially since your assertion that Deck was obligated to continue posting remains unsubstantiated.
[...] was actually handling my own contract for a partnership with a Generative AI startup to co-develop and deploy AI character voice chat onto our platforms w ~ 1 million users
I’m sorry, what’s the relevance here? I can imagine wanting to explain the delay, although I don’t think that was necessary. But the details of the work and the size of the platform?
I would find the existence of vegan cultures to be substantial evidence, if they existed. I do find the existence of lactovegetarian cultures compelling; that is part of why I think milk is a pretty sufficient meat replacement for some people. But AFAICT there aren’t any vegan cultures. There are vegan traditions making up a minority of certain cultures (although there are allegations that it’s more aspirational than obeyed, and because I think it only takes small amounts of meat to gain the nutritional benefits they count as omnivore for my purposes), and there are cultures that can’t afford meat and start eating it once they do (and their health improves with it, although of course wealth can improve health lots of ways).
But the existence of successful lactovegetarian cultures doesn’t make lactovegetarianism a health choice for members of east Asian, sub-Saharan African, or Native American cultures whose members are overwhelmingly lactose intolerant. It doesn’t even make it a healthy choice for northern Europeans with lactose intolerance, even though they’re an anomaly in their culture.
There is some interesting work being done now on genetic differences between vegetarians and omnivores. I don’t put a lot of credence in any one finding at this point, but it makes sense that cultures would adapt their genetics around what food was available to them, and those adaptations would affect the optimal diet of their descendants. It would be weird if that didn’t happen.
FDD, if you want to quantify and make a case for your belief that people who struggle to eat well on a vegan diet are vanishingly rare, I would welcome that, and have laid out what evidence I would find most convincing.
genetics is of course more complicated than this. Continents are not good places to draw genetic lines, there are cultures within those groups that have high rates of lactose tolerance, although off the top of my head they’re all pastoralists and so decidedly not vegetarian.