Could GiveWell create a cryptocurrency to raise a lot of money?

by spreadlove56832 min read30th Apr 20215 comments

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Blockchain
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Perhaps a cryptocurrency should be made that automatically donates money to GiveWell, much like coins such as SafeMoon automatically redistribute part of transaction fees to existing holders. I believe if GiveWell were to launch this coin themselves, people may buy it while chasing profits just based on the repute/clout that GiveWell has + the mission statement and philosophy of GiveWell. I am admittedly new to reddit.com/r/cryptomoonshots and am not an expert in the sector, but charity coins seem to be a common theme there. A problem is that not much is known about the developers and if the coins are a scam / rug pull. If GiveWell were to put a page on their website confirming that a coin was developed by them and isn't a scam / rug pull, I feel retail investors would jump in while chasing profits. You could tell people to just Google "Charity Evaluators" and that GiveWell is the 2nd result to come up, along with telling people about GiveWell's philosophy/mission statement. GiveWell's cryptocurrency would probably be the most reputable charity coin to have ever been created. If EAs go upvote posts and spread the word about this coin on Reddit, etc perhaps this could help jump start this coin too. Meme coins and speculative coins (basically pyramid schemes) seem to be huge right now from my just listening in on retail trader Facebook groups. See the recent success of SafeMoon, SafeMars, SafeTesla, Elongate, Dogelon Mars, Shiba Inu, and others. It seems to me to be peak euphoria. Admittedly I don't know much about these projects, but I think it's just retail mania, just like Dogecoin. With EAs upvoting, we could easily get to the top of reddit.com/r/cryptomoonshots since the most upvoted post ever was from a few days ago with only 2.1k upvotes (which was about a charity coin, by the way). See https://www.reddit.com/r/CryptoMoonShots/comments/mv1dcj/happy_is_here_just_launched_with_a_20k_market_cap/ I believe this also has the potential to spread the word about GiveWell / Effective Altruism. Also, it could generate a lot of money for the EA community who would know about it first. EAs could then redirect this money towards beneficial causes. Although, perhaps it would be a bad look for mostly EAs to know about this before everyone else. We can discuss alternative deployment strategies in the comments, etc. Cons are that it might associate GiveWell/EA with the sleazy topic of pump and dump crap coins. Although if it was pitched as a fundraiser with full disclosure that not everyone is going to get rich off of it, perhaps it would be fine. Also, perhaps these coins take an army of paid shills promoting the coin across different media platforms to get going, which I don't think GiveWell / EA would want to engage in. I'm not sure if the EA community ourselves could spread the word enough to get it going, or if it would take off naturally based on its own merits. Lastly, someone more knowledgable than me was of the opinion that it would just lock up EA investor money in liquidity (the liquidity pool, I assume). Perhaps encouraging EAs to not invest in it (maybe in a note on the GiveWell web page about the currency), and/or just not informing EAs of the coin until they learn about it naturally would solve this problem, or perhaps this could be mitigated in other ways.

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There are many reasons this wouldn't be a good idea, some of which you identified. The first two:

  1. It's completely separate from GiveWell's mission and brand; it has nothing to do with their work
  2. It has nothing to do with effective altruism, and runs counter to many of the things EA tries to promote (we're interested in careful reasoning, long-term thinking, and real-world impact; your use of terms like "pyramid scheme" and "peak euphoria" show why this side of the crypto market doesn't represent those ideals)

In general, the EA movement aims to be exceedingly moral, transparent, and trustworthy, and to hold individuals/organizations in the movement to high standards. Creating speculative investment vehicles in order to take money from people who make foolish decisions just doesn't fit EA at all.

While I don't like this idea, I should emphasize that you didn't do the wrong thing by sharing it here (rather than e.g. on Reddit, or by trying to implement it yourself without asking anyone first). It's not a bad thing to consider unusual fundraising ideas: projects like EA Giving Tuesday have been quite successful despite not looking like standard fundraising. But if the outline of your idea sounds at all like "manipulating people into supporting charity" or "adding overhead cost and risk to a standard fundraiser" (which seem to be the two options for an "EA coin"), that's not a good sign.

For what it's worth, awareness of EA in the crypto community is quite high, largely thanks to the charitable giving of longtime community member Sam Bankman-Fried (founder of FTX).

No problem. I thought maybe if GiveWell was exceedingly straightforward and included something in their page about the crypto saying something like "Let us be very clear, this is a speculative investment with zero intrinsic investment value. More people will lose money than will gain money by investing in this coin. We advise you not to invest in it. However, if people are going to invest in speculative coins anyways, at least this one will save thousands of lives." then it might be reasonable, but I understand if people are of the opinion that it has too many reputation downsides/risks for GiveWell.

Holy crap you guys, what a terrible idea to offhandedly reject and ignore. Spreadlove's version of the idea isn't exactly what I would propose, and the post's formatting leaves something to be desired, but... look.

Today I was looking at top cryptocurrencies by market cap. XRP, in third place, stood out at $94 billion. There is a fixed amount of it, 100 billion tokens, of which the founders "gifted" 80 billion to their own company (and the rest, I assume, to themselves?). It's set up to that whenever you buy it, you're making the founders richer. I am considering buying some myself, despite the fact that I have no interest whatsoever in helping those founders earn billions of dollars.

If there was a  cryptocurrency that enriched the poor instead of the wealthy, I'd hop on that train right now, today, and I think a lot of non-EAs would do that too. And here you are saying no, we shouldn't do that?

Unlike Bitcoin and Ethereum, XRP is designed above all to facilitate transactions—to process transactions as quickly and efficiently as possible. This should make it better as a currency than Ethereum and  (obviously) Bitcoin. I don't know the technical details or the social details of the deals they're making with financial institutions, but I do think cryptocurrency has some potential value as an efficient medium of exchange—a system in which transaction costs are secure and competitive. When I buy something with a credit card, I do so despite the fact that Visa and affiliates are most likely getting a cut of 2.5% or more.

If a cryptocurrency could be used to cut transaction costs to, say, 15 cents, that's a genuinely valuable thing, not simply a "speculative investment vehicle". 5 cents would be substantially better still. I've dreamed for as long as 20 years of being able to pay 10-20 cents to read an article / web page, or on the flip side, to charge 10-20 cents for my own blog posts (if I ever became popular), and still today I hate the subscription model because it centralizes power and says "well, you paid us $8/mo., you may as well get your money's worth and get all your news from us". 5 cent transactions would make my dream possible (though, yes, it doesn't strictly need to be a distributed trustless blockchain system).

In addition, while speculation is rampant, the technology is young enough that it is still plausible to create a new system that is superior (in terms of cost, efficiency, security and human-centric safety) than most/all of the top 20 coins. In particular I think there is a very strong need for better trust systems. Simply put, we need a coin that is more easily safeguarded from theft, while simultaneously making it easier to avoid permanently losing one's coins.

GiveWell doesn't have the necessary expertise to build a best-in-class  crypcur (can I call it crypcur? "Crypto" ought to refer to cryptography), but you know who I bet would have some good ideas about how to build an altruistic crypcur? Sam Bankman-Fried. Would love to hear his thoughts on this. And if he doesn't have good ideas himself, he's probably already hired some people who would. But, a negative-scoring post is likely to be immediately forgotten and Sam's probably not going to notice this or comment.

But me, I imagine a 'public benefit corporation' or something, that would reserve the first $F per year of token sales for R&D costs, operating costs and marketing (where F is a floor amount such $1 million, plus maybe an amount proportional to the logarithm of the coin's popularity), so that in the beginning the money raised would only be used to support the initial cost of development and so on, but as it becomes more popular, more and more money goes to effective charities.

Hi spreadlove5683, very interesting! You put it out nicely and I understand your points.  I have a similar idea and would like to realize this. I think Aaron is right that EA/GiveWell can not promote a cryptocurrency like this but they do accept a lot of cryptocurrency coins. Vitalik Buterin donate Eth to GiveWell for instance.  

 

I think there is a very high demand for a coin that somehow makes sure that an x amount is donated to GiveWell automatically.  You can make smart contracts to make sure this is done properly. Also you must do something with the supply side. 

 

@Aaron, is this something? Investing & charities can go together. 

 

Hava a good day!

 

Timop

What makes you think there is high demand for a cryptocurrency like the one you describe?

If I want to donate to GiveWell, I give them money, and they send me a receipt so I know it reached them. If I want to donate "automatically", I can set up recurring donations.

What would a smart contract help me achieve, as a GiveWell donor, that I can't achieve by donating money?