“Effective Altruism” Is Woke, Sanctimonious, Fraudulent, and Ineffective

(p. A1) Sam Bankman-Fried said he wanted to prevent nuclear war and stop future pandemics. And he publicly pledged to use his vast and growing wealth to do so.

But the collapse of Mr. Bankman-Fried’s firm, FTX, and the revelations that he mixed FTX’s money with that of its customers, have upended those declared lofty philanthropic goals.

Run by self-described idealists spending the wealth of their billionaire patron to make the world a better place, Mr. Bankman-Fried’s FTX Foundation and its flagship Future Fund touted deep pockets, ambitious goals and fast turnarounds.

Now Mr. Bankman-Fried’s fortune has disappeared, and the self-described philosopher-executives running the organizations have resigned. Grant recipients are scrambling for cash to plug the shortfall and fretting about the provenance of FTX’s largess after the company’s lawyers said this week that a “substantial amount” of assets were missing and possibly stolen.

. . .

(p. A6) Mr. Bankman-Fried often claimed philanthropy was his primary motivation for amassing a fortune. “It’s the thing that matters the most in the end,” he said in an April interview on the “80,000 Hours” podcast.

Mr. Bankman-Fried has said his law-professor parents instilled in him an interest in utilitarianism, the philosophy of trying to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

. . .

Will MacAskill, then a philosophy graduate student, pitched Mr. Bankman-Fried on the idea of effective altruism, a way of applying some utilitarian ideas to charitable giving.

. . .

Mr. Bankman-Fried had considered different career paths, he said in the “80,000 Hours” interview, but Mr. MacAskill suggested he could do the most good by making a lot of money and giving it away, a popular idea in the community.

. . .

Future Fund pledged hundreds of grants worth more than $160 million by September [2022], according to its website.  . . .

Its two largest public grants, of $15 million and $13.9 million, were awarded to effective altruism groups where Mr. MacAskill held roles. Mr. MacAskill, now a professor at Oxford University, wasn’t paid for his involvement in those organizations “other than expenses,” a spokeswoman for one of them said.

. . .

Mr. MacAskill distanced himself from FTX as it was crumbling. In a string of tweets, he accused Mr. Bankman-Fried of personal betrayal and abandoning the principles of effective altruism. He was also one of the Future Fund staffers who quit.

Last week, Mr. Bankman-Fried exchanged messages with a writer at Vox, a news organization that Building A Stronger Future had also pledged to fund.

“You were really good at talking about ethics,” she said.

“I had to be,” Mr. Bankman-Fried responded. He went on to explain it as “this dumb game we woke westerners play where we say all the right shiboleths [sic.] and so everyone likes us.”

For the full story, see:

Rachel Louise Ensign and Ben Cohen. “FTX’s Collapse Wiped Out Founder’s Philanthropic Aims.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Nov. 25, 2022): A1 & A6.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added. The bracketed [sic.] is in the original.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date November 24, 2022, and has the title “Sam Bankman-Fried Said He Would Give Away Billions. Broken Promises Are All That’s Left.”)

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