Some people in the rationalist community are concerned about risks of physical violence from Ziz and some of her associates. Following discussions with several people, I’m posting here to explain where those concerns come from, and recommend some responses.
TLDR (details and links in the post body)
- Over the past few years, Ziz has repeatedly called for the deaths of many different classes of people.
- In August of 2022, Ziz seems to have faked her own death. Ziz’s close associate Gwen Danielson may have done the same thing in April of 2022.
- In November of 2022, three associates of Ziz (Somnulence "Somni" Logencia, Emma Borhanian, and someone going by the alias "Suri Dao") got into a violent conflict with their landlord in Vallejo, California, according to court records and news reports. Somni stabbed the landlord in the back with a sword, and the landlord shot Somni and Emma. Emma died, and Somni and Suri were arrested. Ziz and Gwen were seen by police at the scene, alive.
- To the best of my knowledge, Pennsylvania police believe, based on a lot of circumstantial evidence and investigation, that one or more of Ziz, Michelle "Jamie" Zajko, or Daniel Blank murdered Jamie’s parents in Pennsylvania around December 31st, 2022. The police strongly suspect a conspiracy between the three to commit the murders, or related activities between the three involving a high level of coordination.
- The police investigation is currently ongoing. The police have confiscated many of the weapons and communication devices owned by the three, and have issued many search warrants, but do not yet feel that they have enough concrete evidence to charge Ziz, Jamie, or Daniel.
- Ziz is currently in police custody on charges related to obstructing a PA police investigation. Daniel, Jamie, and Gwen are not in custody (as far as I know), and I don’t know their locations.
- I don’t know of any concrete plans by Ziz or her associates to do anything else violent, but it seemed like a good idea to raise a loud alarm about all of this now. People should speak up (or at least tell a friend) if they have information, and should take whatever safety precautions make sense for their situation in case more violence occurs at some point in the future.
Even seemingly minor pieces of information might be helpful here, since they could add up to a clearer picture when combined with other information that also seems minor. If you want to share information privately, you can email me at [email protected], or submit information anonymously through this form.
This is a complicated situation that I don’t fully understand, and it’s likely that I’m getting some facts wrong. I’ve talked to a lot of people in an attempt to piece together what happened, and I’ll try to update this post with corrections or important details if they’re brought to my attention.
Please keep in mind, as I am trying to keep in mind myself, that every observation is evidence for more than one hypothesis, that things are often not what they seem, and that it’s useful to make the effort to think about both what’s appropriate to do in the world where your best guesses are true, and what’s appropriate to do in the world where your best guesses are wrong. Split and commit is better than seeking confirmation of a single theory.
For identification purposes:
Top row, left to right: Ziz, Gwen Danielson, Somnulence "Somni" Logencia
Bottom row, left to right: Daniel Blank, Michelle "Jamie" "MJ" Zajko, "Suri Dao"
-California stabbing and shooting
-Statements by Ziz
-Statements by friends of Ziz
In the course of writing this, I felt torn between a desire to be frank about just how abusive and dangerous a person I think Ziz is (since that’s my actual view, and I want to warn others), and a desire to speak more reservedly (since a more neutral presentation will make it likelier that people with sympathy for Ziz read this post and update).
I’ve decided to go with the more neutral approach, but I first wanted to make it clear what my take is. Please tell me why I’m wrong, if you think I’m wrong. I also want to be clear that a lot of the facts are still unclear to me, no one has been charged for the Pennsylvania murders, and no one has yet been convicted of any crime.
The full story of Ziz’s dealings is difficult to summarize. In short, Ziz was a member of the rationalist community with her own versions of some of the standard interests rationalists have: existential risk, decision theory, and cognitive hacks that she thinks improve people’s quality of thinking, as well as farm animal welfare and political activism.
The website zizians.info (by "Apollo Mojave") alleges that, among other things, the psychological hacks Ziz pushes (involving heavy sleep deprivation and encouragement of multiple personality "splitting") and the ways she pushes them often has a destabilizing and extreme effect on people, and that this heavily contributed to Maia Pasek (aka: SquirrelInHell) committing suicide in 2018.
This matches the impression I’ve gotten from other people familiar with Ziz’s social group, though Tumblr user donttrythisathome claims that the author of zizians.info is an unreliable source. Another person objected that donttrythisathome may be Jamie Zajko, or someone else who is trying to hide some close ties to Ziz. Ziz’s own version of what happened with Maia is here.
In 2021, another of Ziz’s acquaintances, Jay "Fluttershy" Winterford, committed suicide as well. In a July 2022 blog comment, Ziz claimed to have caused a recent suicide, presumably Fluttershy’s:
Since posting this, I have been tortured, survived 7 assassination attempts, 3 more attempts to do me permanent bodily harm. 4 people individually decided they had the sole rights to be my deathlove archnemesis, as if they’d be alone. Accidentally exposed themselves to <100th of my hell and one commited suicide, others utterly mentally cracked.
(I don’t know what most of this quote means, and I don’t know what "survived 7 assassination attempts" could refer to.)
Ziz developed a small but passionate group who came to believe that Anna Salamon, CFAR, Eliezer Yudkowsky, MIRI, and the larger rationalist community had become corrupt and lost their way. I won’t weigh in on Ziz’s worldview or her specific accusations against others (sexual misconduct and blackmail paying by MIRI, transphobia by CFAR, etc) in this post, though I have no objection to others writing about them.
In November of 2019, Ziz and three of her friends (Emma, Somni, and Gwen) came to protest at CFAR’s annual alumni reunion, which Ziz and Gwen had been banned from. A San Francisco Chronicle reporter wrote (deadnaming Ziz and Somni):
Sonoma County authorities are investigating a bizarre protest against a Berkeley nonprofit focused on rational thought after four people dressed in black robes and Guy Fawkes masks were arrested for allegedly barricading off a wooded retreat where the nonprofit group was holding an event.
The county sheriff’s office on Monday identified those detained at Westminster Woods in Occidental as Jack Lasota [Ziz], 28, of Berkeley; Gwen Danielson, 25, a transient; Emma Borhanian, 28, of Albany; and Alexander Leatham [Somni], 24, whose city of residence is unknown.
All four were arrested late Friday on suspicion of felony child endangerment, false imprisonment and conspiracy as well as misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest, wearing a mask while committing a crime and trespassing.
On its Facebook page, the Center for Applied Rationality posted: Friday afternoon, "four people wearing black robes and Guy Fawkes masks blocked the entrance to the alumni reunion venue in order to protest CFAR and MIRI, for reasons we don’t fully comprehend," one organizer wrote. "The owners of the venue were understandably freaked out by this, and so called the police, who ordered the entire site evacuated."
"From what I can tell, these actions seem like aggressive but non-violent protest theatre," the organizer said. "If you feel worried, and no longer wish to attend the reunion, I think that is totally reasonable, and certainly do not blame you. … We will not allow a precedent to be set that nonsense like this will achieve its disruptive aim."
Police said the suspects arrived in a box truck, shuttle bus and Toyota Prius and used the vehicles to block the entrance and exit while dressed in black-hooded robes, black gloves, black silicone shoe covers and Guy Fawkes masks made popular by the movie "V for Vendetta" and the decentralized Anonymous hacktivist group.
Two of the individuals carried walkie-talkies, one wore a body camera and another carried pepper spray, officials said. Deputies found a written protest plan.
Wood said police received a report that one of the individuals might have a gun, which prompted a heavy response, including a SWAT team and a helicopter. No weapon was found, but the four protesters were physically and verbally combative with police officers at the scene and at sheriff’s headquarters, Wood said.
A group of two dozen children were on the ropes course at the time.
I’ll add a standard warning here to keep in mind Gell-Mann Amnesia, though in this case the description in the article basically matches what I’ve heard from others who were at the scene.
The sheriff’s report says "The suspects had blocked both entrances to the camp with vehicles, preventing anyone from leaving."
Ziz’s group brought flyers laying out their claims and demands.
My assumption is that they didn’t intend to do anything violent, but that blockading all the exits understandably panicked people, since this trapped many people on the grounds, and the (coincidental) effect of trapping a group of children who happened to be there at the time caused people to overreact. The Press Democrat quotes Sheriff’s Lt. Brandon Cutting comparing the law enforcement response to the way people would respond to "an armed person at a schoolyard."
The CFAR staff who were present claim that they didn’t contact the authorities in response to the protest and didn’t report a gun, which is consistent with the fact that Westminster venue staff say they called the cops themselves. It’s not surprising that they were spooked, since they had less context on who this group of masked people were and why they were there.
I don’t know why it was reported at the time that "individuals might have a gun," since none was found. Someone told me that a Westminster employee might have worried that the protesters could have guns, and this was misinterpreted as a claim that a gun had actually been seen.
After the incident, Ziz, Gwen, Somni, and Emma circulated the claim that CFAR must have been responsible for calling the police, presumably because they distrusted CFAR and so it fit with their model that the people they distrusted would be behind anything bad that happened. A day or two before the protest, in response to emails from Ziz, a CFAR representative contacted the police expressing a concern that banned individuals might show up at the reunion. It’s possible that this had an effect on the police response, though I don’t know what effect that might have been.
Ziz, Gwen, Somni, and Emma also reported being severely abused and mistreated by police when they were taken into custody. In an April 2020 blog post, Gwen wrote:
Police arrived with their guns out and we were immediately arrested (within about 10 minutes of us arriving), after which we were sexually assaulted (in my case, i was groped and had my pants pulled down and then sat on by an officer in a mounting position), two of us were gawked at by a group of about a dozen police looking at our naked bodies after pinning us down and cutting off our clothes ("Ha! I told you it was a man.") and one had pictures taken of them front and back naked and pinned down, we had multiple types of serious and/or permanent medical harm intentionally inflicted on us (including hypothermia, concussion), we were starved for multiple days (I did not eat for five days, until bail was posted) having been denied vegan food as a bargaining tactic (as well as water, sleep, hormones, and medical care), were tortured and were repeatedly denied ability to speak with a lawyer (and had eg hypothermia inflicted on us and our clothes cut off (separate events) for asking to speak to a lawyer).
I don’t get the impression that Gwen is the sort of person who generally lies about things like this, though I could be wrong. Some aspects of this account sound like other accounts of police misconduct I’ve heard in the US, and I think the overall US prison and jail system is needlessly cruel in many ways, so these cruelties seem entirely possible to me.
No matter what crime someone may have committed (and no one has yet been convicted of a crime), I don’t believe they could ever deserve to be mistreated as they allege, and I think that their allegations of such deserve to be treated seriously.
I do see a pattern of Ziz and Gwen being loose, sloppy, and mistaken about details in a lot of what they write, and I get the sense that they commonly leave out details that most people would consider highly relevant, if those details would change or weaken the narrative they’re telling. So I wouldn’t be surprised if parts of this account are exaggerated or framed in a misleading way.
If anything at all like this happened, however, then the people responsible should clearly be brought to justice. If anyone lied about the protesters in order to incite a more extreme police response, then that should come to light as well. Hopefully people reading this can help gather and share information about bad behavior directed at Ziz, Gwen, etc, and not just bad behavior done by them.
At some point after the arrests, Somni’s charges for the alumni reunion protest were suspended pending an evaluation for mental competency. (I don’t know why. Her later charges for the November 2022 altercation, described below, have not been suspended. Tumblr user loving-n0t-heyting, who has been trying to help Somni in jail, protests against this effort and blames it on Somni’s lawyers.)
Details for the charges against Emma, Gwen, Somni, and Ziz from the protest can be found on the Sonoma Superior Court’s web portal.
On November 15th, 2021, Emma, Gwen, Somni, and Ziz initiated a federal civil rights lawsuit against Sonoma County, Westminster Woods, two Sonoma Deputies, and the Executive Director and School Program Coordinator of Westminster, alleging violations of their First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the California Ralph Civil Rights Act of 1976, and the California Tom Bane Civil Rights Act. All public documents from this court case, Danielson v. Sonoma County, can be found on courtlistener.com.
Emma, Gwen, Somni, and Ziz’s bail was initially set at $50,000 each. Emma’s family helped her pay hers on November 16th. A reporter for The Press Democrat writes that on November 19th, "Judge Mark Urioste lowered their $50,000 bail to $10,000 because the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office reduced two of the felonies to misdemeanors." Gwen, Somni, and Ziz subsequently posted their bail.
Gwen and Ziz have had active arrest warrants out in California since April of 2022 and October of 2022, respectively, for not showing up to court. In a court hearing on Zoom on February 17th, 2023, a lawyer representing Ziz, Gwen, and Somni reported that April of 2022 was also when he was (falsely) told that Gwen had committed suicide.
On August 22nd, Jessica Taylor wrote:
I have heard from a documentary production company that Gwen Danielson (blog: everythingtosaveit.how) has likely killed herself (delaying a trial involving Gwen), although no body has been found yet.
Jessica shared a screenshot of a court document indicating that Gwen’s lawyer, Jerold Friedman, "believes that Ms. Danielson may have committed suicide and would like time to investigate."
On September 7th, an obituary was released for Ziz, saying that Ziz died "on Aug. 19 after a boating accident." Ziz was reported to have fallen out of a boat, and the Coast Guard failed to recover her body. Ziz’s last online comments were in July, shortly before this incident, which suggests that Ziz probably deliberately faked her death and went off the grid for some reason.
A November 3rd court document says:
On October 20, 2022, Defendants filed and served a "Suggestion of Death Upon the Record of Plaintiffs Gwen Danielson and Jack Lasota [Fed. R. Civ. P. 25]" attached as Exhibit A. That notice was based upon information provided by Plaintiffs’ counsel Jerold Friedman advising of the presumed deaths of Plaintiffs Lasota and Danielson. Mr. Friedman reported that he had been unable to communicate with Ms. Danielson and that she was rumored to have committed suicide. Mr. Friedman further reported that Mr. Lasota fell off a boat into San Francisco Bay. There were witnesses and a U.S. Coast Guard search, but no body was found. Mr. Lasota had not responded to his counsel’s efforts to communicate.
A November 11th court document suggests that Jerold Friedman believed that Ziz was dead, but was more skeptical about Gwen’s alleged death.
In February of 2023, a state trooper told someone I know that Ziz had faked her own death once before in Alaska (where Ziz grew up). It seems like this was separate from the San Francisco Bay incident, unless one of the sources is mistaken about where the August 19th, 2022 boating incident actually took place.
California stabbing and shooting
On November 13th, 2022, Somni, Emma, and someone I don’t know using the name "Suri Dao" (not their legal name) got into a violent conflict with their landlord when they found out he was planning to have them evicted by force.
An SFist reporter wrote on November 22nd (deadnaming Somni):
Lind apparently pulled out a gun, and either before or after he was stabbed through with a sword — McMillan said Lind came to his door with a sword sticking out of his back, with the tip coming out of his chest — Lind apparently fired on two of the squatters. One of them, a 31-year-old woman whose name has not yet been released by police [Emma], subsequently died from her injuries.
One of the other two present at the time was arrested, and KTVU now reports, the two have been formally charged with their friend’s death, and with aggravated mayhem and the attempted murder of Lind — who remains hospitalized and recovering.
The two individuals charged are Suri Dao, 21, and Alexander Jeffrey Leatham [Somni], 27.
The situation was created, according to Lind’s daughter, Dina Morrill, after Lind had opened up his property to RVs and containers, allowing people to live there cheaply. As the Chronicle reports, he also lived in a trailer on the property, and Morrill tells the paper that her father always "thinks the best of people" and "What he thought was a good idea turned into a nightmare."
Lind’s son, Carl Lind, previously told KTVU that the squatters had stopped paying rent years ago, but the eviction was held by the COVID eviction moratorium.
"He just wanted this as a place to let artists or wood workers, electricians, to be able to come and live in a little trailer and have a container where they could work and put their tools and have a safe place," Carl Lind tells NBC Bay Area.
McMillan told NBC Bay Area that he’d been trying to remove the troublesome squatters for three years.
"He had an agreement that [the squatters] were going to fix up their vehicles, and then they were going to leave," Morrill explains to the Chronicle, but the squatters didn’t hold up their end of the agreement, and began overtaking the whole property as their own.
In addition to the sword through his torso, Lind also suffered a laceration to his eye, and his son said he was likely to lose that eye. The family set up a GoFundMe for Lind, saying he was on a fixed income.
The SFist article claims it isn’t known whether the stabbing happened before or after the first gunshot, but this contradicts McMillan’s claim, quoted in KTVU on November 15th:
"He had a samurai sword stuck to his back with about a foot of it sticking out in front, his face cut up all over," said his friend Patrick McMillan.
Carl Lind said of his father, "The truth is, they jumped him."
But at some point, McMillan said the property owner opened fire with a gun.
"After they attacked him he got his gun out and shot two of them, killed one of them. The other one had three shots to the chest," McMillan said.
The San Francisco Chronicle version says:
McMillan said that Lind shot the two people as they attacked him.
The burst of violence apparently stemmed from an eviction battle that had recently escalated, McMillan said, adding that he believed Solano County sheriff’s deputies were scheduled to move several people from the property on Tuesday morning.
Lind had purchased the lot at the edge of the Napa River, filling it with 20-foot trailers and shipping containers so he could rent them to people who couldn’t afford the cost of housing in Vallejo, McMillan said. Besides providing a cheap dwelling, Lind wanted tenants to have space to start a business, according to McMillan.
The group he was attempting to evict lived in a cluster of trailer trucks, McMillan said, and initially paid rent, but stopped at some point during the pandemic. After McMillan took steps to remove them, they began brandishing knives and throwing rocks onto Lind’s trailer from a nearby hill.
On the night of the attack, McMillan said he saw individuals running through the yard with headlamps. At some point, a distressed Lind called and said people were pummeling his door and windows with rocks. McMillan believes that multiple people tackled Lind and stabbed him.
An earlier article in SFist says:
The craziness unfolded on Sunday, starting around 2:30 a.m.
Sometime Saturday night or early Sunday, according to these neighbors, the squatters found out that they were set to be forcibly evicted by the sheriff on Tuesday morning.
Patrick McMillan, who lives in a motor home on the property, told KTVU that the individuals "were throwing rocks and stuff" and trying to bang down the door of the 80-year-old property owner, Curt Lind, whose home was on the lot, because they were angry about the eviction.
According to McMillan, Lind called police, but they never showed.
Several hours later, around 7:30 a.m. Sunday, McMillan said Lind came knocking on his door covered in blood.
"I heard banging on the door and went and it was Kurt and he said ‘I’m dying,’" McMillan tells KTVU. "I saw him with a sword sticking through his back and it came out his chest about here and a flap of his face cut off. Blood."
(Repeating the reminder about Gell-Mann Amnesia.)
On November 18th, Jessica Taylor wrote in a series of tweets:
From the Danielson et al v. Sonoma County et al. hearing today: Summary of claims made with uncertainty by plaintiff lawyer Friedman:
"On Monday Nov 14, LaSota [Ziz] was found alive and well at the scene of a crime….
The crime was that Leatham [Somni] attacked and injured her landlord with a samurai sword. The landlord shot Leatham 3 times and shot Borhanian. Friedman was told Borhanian died, not confirmed….
Leatham is in the hospital and may be charged with attempted murder of the landlord and murder of [Emma] Borhanian. No news on Danielson, no confirmation or refutation of suicide. No direct contact with Friedman."
Somni was charged with two counts of murder and one count of aggravated mayhem (Case ID VCR240529), as was Suri (Case ID VCR240530). Later, Somni was also charged with two counts of escape or attempted escape (Case IDs FCR366555 and VCR240872).
It appears that one of the murder charges is for attempted murder of the landlord, while the other is for Emma’s death, apparently under the provocative act murder doctrine or perhaps the felony murder rule.
In the February 17th, 2023 Zoom court hearing, the lawyer representing Ziz, Somni, and Gwen said that a California state trooper reported seeing Gwen alive at the Vallejo crime scene the day after the event. The lawyer also said that Gwen was on the Vallejo lease.
Someone I know contacted the police to learn more, and was told that Solano County law enforcement encountered Ziz at the scene, and were aware that Ziz had skipped bail and had a warrant out for her arrest. Bizarrely, however, they didn’t arrest Ziz. Allegedly Ziz said she was in pain and that she needed to go to the hospital, and the police didn’t want the extra trouble of waiting for Ziz to be discharged.
Ziz also wrote in April of 2021, plausibly commenting on the squatting situation:
PSA: housing in places like the Bay Area is a hierarchy of rent-seekers, and the rent-seekers above landlords rule by rules surplus, selective enforcement, fear uncertainty and doubt, corruption, it’s all a complex… and it makes landlords incredibly vulnerable to blackmail, from someone who can do even a little bit of investigative work. It’s bad praxis to pay them rent.
On February 1st, 2023, a 6 ABC reporter wrote about a double homicide of a couple in Chester Heights, Pennsylvania, who were found dead in their home on January 2nd, 2023: Richard and Rita Zajko. Pennsylvania State Police released a statement that the homicides did not appear to be a "random act of violence." On February 3rd, a CBS Philadelphia reporter wrote "the Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed to me the cause of death for both Richard and Rita Zajko was (a) "gunshot wound.""
On January 13th, Ziz was found in Pennsylvania and arrested for "obstructing administration of law or other governmental function" and "disorderly conduct."
Someone I know was keeping an eye out for when Ziz resurfaced and reached out to Pennsylvania police to ask what had happened. An officer responded, saying they suspected that the Zajkos were murdered by a conspiracy of Ziz and two others: the Zajkos’ daughter Jamie Zajko, and Daniel Blank (both people who have spent many years around the rationality community). However, the officer said that the investigation was still underway and that much of their evidence was circumstantial, making it uncertain whether they would charge Ziz, Daniel, or Jamie for the homicides. In the meantime, Ziz was in jail for charges (that I think) are related to obstructing the PA investigation, and Daniel and Jamie remained at large.
I’m missing a lot of the details of what happened here, but apparently the police said that it sounds like Jamie and Blank may have gotten radicalized from Ziz and that there seems to be a shift in behavior in the last two years. This is not inconsistent with my model of Ziz, and I have no particular reason to doubt the current direction of the Pennsylvania investigation, besides my general concern that many non-rationalists working on problems like this are likely to skip over hypotheses or data that I’d consider important. This concern and the vagueness of the descriptions I’ve heard leaves me rather uncertain about what exactly happened, and about how much weight to put on the police’s leading hypothesis.
A lot of people I’ve talked to expressed shock at Daniel Blank being a suspect. One of Daniel’s friends told me, "I cannot understate, if I asked myself who of my friends would be likely to kill someone, he is possibly the lowest person on the list." To the extent that this violates people’s models of Daniel, this is some reason to doubt the police’s hypothesis. The person I talked to said that Daniel "is very prone to being sucked in by charismatic and manipulative Dark Triad types," and considered it likely that Daniel either is uninvolved or is being manipulated or coerced by others.
Some members of the group apparently spent time together in Orleans County, Vermont before the murders. The group arrived in Pennsylvania around the time of the murders.
Oliver Habryka says that he used to be part of a friend group with Jamie Zajko in 2012–2017, "and she expressed in many conversations as part of that friend group a very strong hatred for her parents (seemingly justified), and listed many concrete instances of abuse (like them forcing her to die her hair blond, despite this causing substantial scalp irritation in a way that was quite painful). I remember a lot of those conversations, sadly I do not have any logs that express this directly."
While I was reviewing this post, it was pointed out to me that the Tumblr user plumofdiscord is almost certainly Jamie Zajko. Jamie is a friend of Ziz, and a 2017 plumofdiscord essay (that she later deleted) discusses "trying to measure miRNA expression in the brain from miRNA in blood plasma" at an Ivy League school. The description matches a 2018 paper on miRNA that Jamie Zajko co-authored at a hospital affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania.
In a post that has since been deleted, published February 10th, 2022, plumofdiscord wrote:
On Jan 31st and again on Feb 2nd, Ziz and I had two multi-hour phone calls where she theorized about my motives, and where we repeatedly got off track arguing over whether Alice, a friend of mine, deserved to die or not.
During our last phone call, Ziz informed me that the only way I could gain her trust and make up for what I did to her was to murder Alice, preferably sometime soon, (Ziz helpfully suggested I use a gun with a potato as a makeshift suppressor, and that I might destroy the body with lye), and then told me that after I should video call Ziz and show her the body before I destroy it so she could get proof positive that I’d really done it. And if I didn’t do it, Ziz planned to drive across the entire continental United States to murder me. I (stupidly) asked her if she meant murdering Alice metaphorically, cause I had a hard time believing what I was hearing, and she said that it’d be hard to provide proof of that.
Ziz has indicated to me that anything less than murdering Alice will be seen as me attempting to pay less than Ziz believes the situation warrants. So instead, I’m writing this, so if Alice and I die or vanish, everyone knows who is responsible, and to let Ziz know that I have friends who will avenge me. Murdering Alice or me is now tantamount to committing suicide-by-proxy.
I don’t want Ziz to die, her friends to die, or for Alice and I to die. I’m aiming for the worlds where we all live. So I don’t want Ziz to kill me and thus kill herself.
I have no intent on interfering with Ziz’s work, except for the part where she’s decided to murder myself and Alice, because I don’t feel that murdering Alice or myself is justice. She is free to retreat behind "it was just revenge trolling." Maybe I misheard her and she meant I should kill Alice in minecraft. So long as Alice and I are alive, that’s a possible explanation.
So to all who would read this: I am not suicidal. Alice and I would not and never will do some kind of murder-suicide pact. We’re not going to disappear. If you can’t video call us, then something’s wrong. This counts for today, tomorrow, six months from now, and three years from now. Ziz, like myself, does not forgive or forget, not even after years have passed. This post will be scheduled to re-post itself occasionally, just so no one forgets.
"Alice" is Alice Monday, who Ziz once described as her mentor. Plumofdiscord: "Ziz has got this whole Sith thing going on where she thinks Alice was her mentor, and guess what do Siths do to their mentors." Many different people have accused Alice of severe abuse and bad behavior over the years, and the accusations I’ve looked into seem credible.
Plumofdiscord wrote a followup on February 18th, 2022. She also wrote of her parents, on May 12th, 2021:
It was less "stand up tall" and more, "if you talk about this you’ll embarrass yourself more than us. We abuse you because you need to be abused to be good, and if anyone finds out it would be humiliating for you. And they might take you away from us and put you in foster care where you’ll be raped and beaten every night. You don’t want that, do you? Also we are friends with the local judge, and will know if you report us. And if you ever try to run away again, I’ll kill you. I mean it."
They were like comic book villains in their devotion to evil.
On August 5th, 2021, she wrote:
i’d never heard of a vegan before, and had grown up being viscerally upset at my family because they kept sneaking corpses of rabbits into my food, because they wanted to make sure i’d be just as complicit as them. (when i’d say, "i don’t want to eat that," they’d say i ate it before and was a hypocrite. i was not allowed to leave the table under threat of physical violence until i finished everything on my plate, and got more lectures than i can count on how animals "don’t have feelings," and "were put on this earth by god for us to eat, so you’re disrespecting the almighty," that "cows need to be regularly milked or their udders hurt," and that my empathy for them was a sign that i was going to become a dangerous mentally ill person, and that if i talked like i did they’d end up "needing to" lock me up, with the implication that the state would help/agree with them. i think the exact phrases they used were something like, "cart me off to the (crazy) farm.")
This lends a fair amount of support to the police account from my perspective, though it may not be independent evidence if police have seen the same posts.
A rationalist told me that Jamie Zajko’s parents had at least several million dollars worth of assets and Jamie was their only child, so the police may see her as a suspect because of the financial incentive instead. Another person I spoke with said that they thought it was more likely that Ziz would have a financial motive in this than that Jamie would.
If the homicides turn out to be connected to Ziz’s supposed attempt to fake her own death in August, then this would be further evidence that Ziz is willing to put in serious effort over the course of months to plan things like this (though this already seemed the case to me from Ziz’s personality and history.)
Statements by Ziz
To provide a more complete picture of why I’m worried about Ziz or her associates doing violent things in the future, I’ve collected excerpts Ziz has written over the years.
In a blog post from November 13th, 2019, Ziz recounts an argument with Gwen that she considered escalating to killing Gwen:
At one point I sort of took a step back and saw the extent they were using me. I told them so, I was angry. I expressed this made us working together in the future a dubious proposition. They became desperate, "repentant", got me to help with a "mental upgrade process" about this. According to the script, they said shit went down mentally. They said they fused with their money vampirism. And as a fused agent they would mind control me in that way somewhat, but probably less. I said no, I would consider that aggression and respond appropriately. They pleaded, saying they had finally for the first time probably actually used fusion and it might not stick and I would ruin it. I said no. They said they’d consider my response aggression, and retaliate.
Well, they were essentially asserting ownership of me. And if they didn’t back down, we then had no cooperative relationship whatsoever, which meant boat and finance hell would drag on for quite some time, be very destructive to me accomplishing anything with my life. I guess I was essentially facing failure-death-I-don’t-much-care-about-the-difference here.
I said if they were going to defend a right to be attacking me on some level, and treat fighting back as new aggression and cause to escalate, I would not at any point back down, and if our conflicting definitions of the ground state where no further retaliation was necessary meant we were consigned to a runaway positive feedback loop of revenge, so be it. And if that was true, we might as well try to kill each other right then and there. In the darkness of Caleb’s bridge at night, where we were both sort of sitting/lying under things in a cramped space, I became intensely worried they could stand up faster. (Consider the idea from WWI: "mobilization is tantamount to a declaration of war"). I stood up, still, silent, waiting. They said I couldn’t see them but they were trying to convey with their body language they were not a threat.
In another blog post from the same day, Ziz writes about being sexually assaulted, and considering killing her attacker for game-theoretic reasons (being the kind of person who kills assailants might make it less likely that you’ll get assaulted, because people might be able to predict this fact about your personality).
A part of me said to retaliate for timeless reasons. I knew he had more muscles. But with a surprise attack, I could very quickly have more eyes, or more functional windpipes. With determination, I could probably kill him and evade the law. But, I didn’t predict I’d be determined. Why not? Collapse the timeline, right? But there was always noise, friction, a cost to fighting. What if he couldn’t in the past predict I’d do that? Because, what would I be killing or dying to protect? My "sexual purity"? Feh. His future victims? Not my cause area.
Whatever the ethics of this particular case, this anecdote is some additional evidence about how Ziz thinks about killing people.
In an email sent to Eliezer Yudkowsky shortly before the CFAR alumni reunion in November of 2019, Ziz wrote:
There is one crime in my religion thought to be punishable by hell. And that is lifting an evil god to heaven, feeding your fellow sentient beings to it in order to reach heaven yourself. (Timelessly, a disincentive must exceed the expected benefit. The harm equal to harm done is only a Schelling point.)
Having absorbed the emotion into psychopathic compute and decided not to back down, I do not fear hell. I will burn down all evil gods on their thrones; see them in hell if I must. And I stake my soul, and much more importantly the multiverse on justice without compromise or concession (but with spycraft). If you want to make it out of this universe alive, I suggest you do the same.
A mass email sent by Ziz to CFAR alumni on the same day warned "If you do not want to die, you need to learn how to escape containment." and "If you do not want to die with this plague consuming our world, then turn your hopes back to the hard-to-define things that generated these institutions that no longer deserve them."
Ziz uses "If you do not want to die, do this" language a lot, and it’s hard for me to believe this is an accident. "I will kill you unless you do this" would be unambiguous, and "an xrisk will kill us unless you do this" would be too. Ziz consistently chooses phrasings that can be read either way.
After the 2019 alumni reunion, Anna Salamon wrote in a Facebook group:
Shortly before the protest, Ziz made remarks on Discord stating that "If MIRI attempts to silence me using governmental force. That would be physical violence." and "If they escalate to physical violence, we are prepared to perform self-defense." (Someone then asked Ziz "by self-defense, do you mean going to court?", but she did not answer.) (The context of her remarks was that someone on Discord had suggested that MIRI could sue her for libel. Ziz’s remarks unnerved me and some other CFAR staff partly because we had banned her from the reunion, and we thought she might take our enforced "please leave our reunion" request as "attempting to silence me using governmental force". She had previously made similar remarks in the final paragraphs of her blog post "punching evil".)
More than one person showed me the quote or told me about the quote. I shared it with some friends to get their interpretive help. More than one person, upon seeing the quote (or the combination of the quote with the email that Ziz sent out around the same time to ~500 people), expressed fear for our physical safety.
The "punching evil" post, written in February of 2019, says:
And if the state has been seized by vampires such that we are afraid to warn each other about vampires, the state has betrayed an obligation to us and is illegitimate. If a vampire escalated to physical violence by hijacking the state in that way, there would be no moral obligation not to perform self defense.
Months later, on June 19th, 2020, Ziz wrote approvingly of Nakam, a failed attempt to murder millions of Germans in revenge for the Holocaust, by attempting to poison water mains:
I think the world would be better if Nakam had succeeded. If that was the way things were. Imagine a world where e.g. the Armenian genocide had been avenged. What (sic) the Germans have done the Holocaust then?
I consider it particularly well targeted for an operation of that importance conducted by so few people. Almost the entire adult population was willfully contributing to the war economy, and was algorithmically-knowingly complicit. And a decision theoretic algorithm must fail deadly in a circumstance where capability for precise targeting is disabled by the initial attack. Otherwise you can just be traumatized into accepting a timeline.
I think the Jewish resistance was not represented by the Allies. And the allies had no right to accept surrender on their behalf. And Britain did a great wrong by defending from Nakam peace without justice.
Regarding this, someone said, wouldn’t actually poisoning the water supply play into Nazi propaganda? That’s making mistake of interpreting propaganda as beliefs, rather than a coordination point. I think it’s actually putting a stake straight to the heart of Nazi propaganda. Imagine if the Nazis who invented that lie knew that they would be bringing it upon themselves for real. The more scary, the the threat, the better to coordination point. But if they, and all the people signing on in their hearts to pretending to believe it knew that as they summoned that demon, something else also was born… I think historians perfectly capable of picking up on that.
Justice cannot be carried out from a place of omnipotence or perfect discernment. There is no omnipotence. That’s the frame of "punishment", rather than vengeance. Of setting someone’s reward function as an unmoved mover. A skyhook benevolent authority.
The last time I talked about this with "rationalists", iirc one of them said they read about vengeance, and it just lead to cycles of infinite destruction. I asked them if their reading consisted of Romeo and Juliet. It had. Actually. From what I’ve heard, cycles of vengeance tended to be iteratively de-escalating.
Romeo and Juliet seems like some pretending to be wise BS to me.
Note that Abba Kovner was only briefly imprisoned when he was caught. It’s a strong and old survival imperative for humans to actually recognize justice when they see it. And also for the guilty side to gaslight about whether it is obvious, or whether we need to all just create, not destroy and focus on the future.
I think if nongoods took vengeance, even in a disorganized fashion, without crippling self-doubt about whether they were justified, then vampireland would not have come about.
Zombie hordes reacting to political action constantly pull attention to whether someone was peaceful (which is warped towards submissive to vampireland) rather than whether they are justified. It’s a concept of peace that grandfathers in the violence of supporting an empire by obedience, of paying your taxes, etc.
On April 22nd, 2021, Ziz said that she had tried to stop someone she knew from a mass killing:
An actual self-declared "death knight", tried very hard to convince me and then us to join them in service of the "Goddess of rape and death", straight up declared intentions to kill us, did a bunch of really horrible shit. Like. Said they were going to do a bunch of even more horrible shit. I spent about 7 months, most of every day in a desperate (and mutual) mental battle, of trying to get in their head, somehow understand this death drive thing I couldn’t simulate in my own mind that made no sense and out predict them like all our lives and the world depended on it.
I’m only talking so much on my blog all of a sudden because the death knight recently gave up on taking others with their suicide.
They said they were going planning to bomb "rationalists’" Secular Solstice among other things. Wanted to attribute this to me, part of a plan to make me have no choice but turn into a death knight. Thank fuck mass gatherings have been postponed. Or I’d have had an even more overconstrained problem to solve stopping that on top.
This is rather disturbing, and I don’t know how much to trust Ziz’s summary of what happened. The person Ziz is talking about may be Fluttershy, who was close to Ziz and committed suicide shortly before these comments.
This makes me update about how violent some of the conversations in this network are (whether or not Ziz is at fault, and whether or not this talk amounted to a morbid fantasy as opposed to a concrete plan). I’ve also updated that Ziz may be less likely to harm large groups of people, at least if they’re rationalists.
In blog comments in August of 2021, Ziz argued for "airlocking" a wide variety of people:
On August 12th, 2021, Ziz argued for "airlocking" a wide variety of people:
If you’re playing Among Us, and red and orange say they just saw blue kill green, and blue says, "who is the culprit here, in my opinion it’s not me or red or orange, they’ve been deceived, set up", then fucking airlock blue right away. I could say the same thing if it was just red who accused blue.
Thrown Out the Airlock on TV Tropes explains, "Throwing someone out a spacecraft or orbital space station’s airlock without a spacesuit, or as some universes call it, "spacing", or simply "airlocking", is a common method of killing someone in science fiction works involving space travel. This one is usually reserved as a last-ditch effort to get rid of a bad guy."
Ziz followed up in additional August comments:
"Aren’t we all a little bit impostor? No one’s perfect."
"I want to be redeemed from being an impostor."
"I’m trying not to sabotage the ship and blow us all up but…"
"If we kill impostors, we will be just like them."
"But what if impostors’ false faces as crewmates have feelings?"
"You have to talk to the part of people that isn’t an impostor. That’s what cooperation, that’s what morality is built out of."
"I think that it’s intellectually compelling that math can only model a world where the impostors win, and that’s a foundation of all logical thought."
"How impostors work is infohazardous, so you don’t want to think too much about it, or you will probably become an impostor."
"If you don’t forgive your brother for being an impostor, your heavenly father won’t forgive you."
"If you airlock impostors, they will have no way out but to double down, and become super-motivated to win as impostors."
"If you want to airlock all impostors, you’re basically saying you’ll airlock everyone but yourself."
"We can’t just airlock all the impostors! Who will keep the ship running and prevent a nuclear meltdown?"
"You’re just collapsing everything into a zero-sum frame! [Why don’t we consider taking a variable-sum frame with people whose win condition is, equally, killing everyone, or blowing up the ship and killing everyone including themselves. We could, for instance, have a little bit more everyone dying, but we could in exchange, e.g., have a better time beforehand.]"
These are all "Among Us" versions of real quotes from LessWrongians, by the way. Including the thing about false faces having feelings.
The "Among Us" reference creates some ambiguity about what Ziz is literally recommending, which seems obviously deliberate.
In an August 22nd, 2021 comment, Ziz wrote:
I get so many people lining up to commit "suicide by Ziz".
"Suicide by Ziz" links to the "suicide by cop" Wikipedia page, which begins: "Suicide by cop or suicide by police is a suicide method in which a suicidal individual deliberately behaves in a threatening manner, with intent to provoke a lethal response from a public safety or law enforcement officer to end their own life."
In November and December of 2021, Ziz wrote:
Reminder: "vegan basilisk" is a term invented by my enemies that falsely promises that ignorance of what I’m doing would buy mercy. That’s not how decision theory works .
When I was younger and the world seemed brighter, I was proud of the handful of people I’d convinced to be vegan through arguing philosophy of ethics. Now I’m proud of the number of people who have gone vegan because they are afraid of me.
On November 27th, 2021, Ziz commented approvingly ("I am so fucking glad to finally have an equal") on a post by Nis called Killing Evil "People" that says:
If you truly irreconcilably disagree with someone’s creative choice, i.e. their choice extending arbitrarily far into the past and future, ultimately your only recourse is to kill them.
The schelling way to communicate that someone is an evil imposter is to kill them as vengeance.
The causal prioritization of which evil "people" to kill first is those "who" are most harmfully deceiving people "they" are good when "they" are not, where you are otherwise unable to correct this through communication.
There are entire anarchist blogs dedicated to ‘hit reports’, usually about destroying property or freeing animals. Why not just names?
In a January 4th, 2022 comment, Ziz wrote:
Step 1: be obviously actually evil.
Step 2: create an unlikely explanation where you’re actually not.
Step 7: Die monster, DIE. You think I can’t fucking see what you’re doing?
In a February 18th, 2022 comment:
"I know we both said we were antifascists and actually I’m a fascist–"
*Beep* "Airlock 2 venting sequence initiated."
Drown in the freezing void.
In a July 22nd, 2022 comment:
To which the only correct answer is absolute violence. I’ve wasted enough time countering epicycles around this simple fact that every evil rationalist threw at me, and more time surviving the violence they did to me, because this post was such a truth bomb.
If you’re double evil, I’m not gonna bother to finish explaining, just die.
Other comments from July 22nd:
Since posting this, I have been tortured, survived 7 assassination attempts, 3 more attempts to do me permanent bodily harm. 4 people individually decided they had the sole rights to be my deathlove archnemesis, as if they’d be alone. Accidentally exposed themselves to <100th of my hell and one commited suicide, others utterly mentally cracked. Spread an endless series of moustache-twirling lies about me that become "community" consensus in my silence. BARCSD repeating year after year; an endless rolling interrogation by a mob at war with me that still sees fit to demand I answer them. One fascist recently renewed their public statement of hunting me. Hundreds more want me dead. 2 and 2/3 years later and the danger to me only grows worse. Whatever coordination humanity has has betrayed me.
Whoever’s in a cooperative relationship, transitively, with that mob, is at war with me. And perhaps you should really think about how it is I’m still alive and growing more hateful if you think numbers will keep you safe for long.
They collaborated with the state, framed me, resulting in me being tortured, resulting in my would-be-killers having that much more advantageous circumstances to attack.
There is no buffer where it just comes out of my "meaningless happiness" or whatever constructs zombies make to justify shit. There is no attack on me that isn’t measured in blood.
And every attack on me is an attack on the world.
You will die, and so will all your lies. I have seen the light leaving your eyes.
Don’t trust anyone over 30 with a kill count of 0.
In a July 25th, 2022 comment:
When a death knight was saying they were gonna bomb Solstice (and presumably the next as-overlapping-as-possible mass gathering (lol if that’s ever gonna happen due to covid) if that didn’t work out) and attributing their motive to my philosophy, leaving a giant public trail of falsely declaring me their leader, guaranteeing I’d be blamed when they inevitably got suicidal and got caught, even if they didn’t just outright attribute it to me, I gave a damn to stop them, rather than just running, because there were still probably as far as I knew single goods concentrated in the remains of the rationality community. Even indistinguished from the mob that tormented me and worse put risk to my life. A list of candidates rapidly shrinking around Eliezer Yudkowsky.
In a July 27th, 2022 comment:
I hate that I did a goddamn nonviolent protest.
As far as I can tell, these comments and a few others are the last things Ziz wrote online before her "boating accident."
Statements by friends of Ziz
Quoting Emma Borhanian in May of 2020:
In an April 2020 blog post, Gwen Danielson still seemed to think that CFAR was in some way behind the SWAT and therefore responsible for Ziz, Gwen, Somni, and Emma’s resulting arrest and mistreatment. Gwen also accused Anna of inciting violence against Ziz and Gwen:
Anna Salamon has advised people repeatedly, in a manner that is clear but maintains plausible deniability, which I’ll discuss later, to disregard lessons of rationality and their own judgment with respect to the ideas of me, Ziz and the others who attended the protest, defer their judgment to the authority figures of the community, and use violence against us.
Anna’s exact words:
I hope we look for algorithms to apply here that would be looked on favorably by Eliezer’s "cognitive trope therapy."
Taking this at face value, Anna is recommending for people to not use rationality techniques or their own judgment to think about what we say, defer judgment to her and others in the community’s establishment, and use violence.
She keeps on saying again and again that everyone is right to be afraid and to use violence against us.
This suggests that Gwen, Ziz, and their associates are more likely to direct violence at Anna and CFAR, if they see this as revenge for violence that Anna or CFAR did to them.
On the other hand, Gwen’s 2020 post includes a number of passages that express indignation at the idea that her, Ziz, Somni, and Emma’s intentions at the alumni reunion were violent. She describes Ziz, herself, etc as "nonviolent protesters," and expresses indignation at the idea the Ziz is "potentially violent." All of this updates me somewhat away from the hypothesis that Gwen’s goals (and to a lesser extent Ziz’s) are violent.
Gwen also wrote that, at least prior to the CFAR alumni reunion, she and Ziz had "mostly moved on from the rationalist community," though their writing post-reunion suggests some amount of continued focus on the community.
I also care about whether Anna or others in fact did the things Gwen is claiming, telling people "to not use rationality techniques or their own judgment to think about what we say, defer judgment to her and others in the community’s establishment, and use violence." The example Gwen cites seems wrong to me: I think cognitive trope therapy is a good tool to have in the toolbox and doesn’t at all prescribe the things Gwen is saying. ("Use violence against people who criticize me" and "blindly follow authority and refuse to look into criticisms of the authority" do not sound like the action of a hero in a fantasy novel.)
Somni and Suri are currently in custody without bail. Ziz is in custody with a $50,000 bail. Gwen was apparently last seen in California, and Daniel and Jamie in Pennsylvania.
I do not know how likely it is that any of these people will do something seriously violent in the future, or how likely it is that some other person I don’t know about will do such a thing. My main advice is:
- If you know anything else about the situation, or if you learn anything in the future, share information publicly or by emailing [email protected] or via the information form. Even information that seems small or obvious could be useful.
- Consider what safety measures make sense for your situation, and your sense of the magnitude and nature of the risks. This might include being more cautious about sharing your home address, locking your front door, carrying pepper spray, or other measures.
- Make sure that others are informed of the risk who might need to take physical safety measures or who might have useful information to contribute.
- As long as this situation remains uncertain and unresolved, if Ziz shows up to a rationalist community coworking space or similar, ask her to leave and call 911 immediately. Don’t sit around talking and invite her in and hope this works to deescalate the situation.
- Be sane, and don’t throw your epistemology in the garbage. If witches exist, witch hunts still aren’t an effective way to detect them, because witch hunts destroy our ability to gather and process evidence. Witch hunts also push against any possibility of partial deescalation in cases where that does make sense.
- Talk to your friends. Put suggestions out there, figure out better advice to replace this list, and share it around.
An acquaintance commenting on a draft of this post says:
I’m not sure where to put it or what to say, but I’d be happier if somewhere there were a sentence reminding people of the affordance to hold some amount of uncertainty and space for openness for empathy and conversing with the people discussed in the post. An example scenario I’d want to avoid is: Person A is in some crazy situation, and has done some wrong things such as abetting murder, but is not, like, hellbent on wreaking havoc of their own volition. And then Person A reaches out to Rita the Rationalist. And Rita is like "you’re crazy get away from me". And this happens a few more times, and Person A is driven to more splitting-like behavior, where they’re more pressured to view rationalists as unified and as an enemy. Or Person A reads how everyone is now discussing how oh yeah they were always a bit of a creep or something, etc.
Much of the point of such a statement might be better accomplished by any actual friends reaching out to the people involved. Seems like talking very likely wouldn’t work, but worth trying more, since this stuff is causing this much somewhat-wasted motion.
I think it would be a bad idea to treat everyone who has ever been socially adjacent to Ziz as an outcast merely for that reason, so I agree on that count, while also expecting that people who engage with Ziz will see outcomes similar to the ones of people who have engaged with Ziz in the past (at best).
Another acquaintance comments:
Risk of becoming the latest cult member. I think it’s great if Rita the Rationalist reaches out to her friend Daniel Blank or whoever. I think it’s great if she keeps an open mind about whether they really committed a crime. I think it’s great if she tells them she cares about them etc., in honest/open-hearted ways, offers a listening ear, actually listens and doesn’t just tell on them if the relationship is appropriate to that kind of trust, etc. AND: I’d really strongly recommend that in such a situation, especially if she is trying to pass their ITTs on ideology and so on, she find some good friends who care about her and are totally outside the Zizians and ideally also maybe totally outside the rationalist community in at least some cases, so that they aren’t part of the politics, and tells them everything that is happening,especially any power-y or secretive-feeling interactions between them and Ziz in particular, and listens to what they have to say also, so as to keep more threads of perspective. Goal is to be able to think about the whole thing. Cults fester in secrecy. Reach out, be open-hearted, friends don’t let friends be secretive.