EDIT 17 Nov 2022: Retracted due to someone reminding me that both is not merely an option, but one with at least some precedent. Oops.
The following is just here for historical purposes now:
Context: In a recent interview with Kelsey Piper, Sam Bankman-Fried was asked if his "ethics stuff" was a front for something else:
[Kelsey:] you were really good at talking about ethics, for someone who kind of saw it all as a game with winners and losers
[SBF:] ya ... I had to be it's what reputations are made of, to some extent I feel bad for those who get fucked by it by this dumb game we woke westerners play where we say all the right shiboleths and so everyone likes us
One comment by Eli Barrish asked the question I'm now re-asking, to open a discussion:
The "ethics is a front" stuff: is SBF saying naive utilitarianism is true and his past messaging amounted to a noble lie? Or is he saying ethics in general (including his involvement in EA) was a front to "win" and make money? Sorry if this is super obvious, I just see people commenting with both interpretations. To me it seems like he's saying Option A (noble lie).
Let me be clear: this is an unusually important question that we should very much try to get an accurate, precise answer to.
EA as a movement is soul-searching right now, and we're trying to figure out how to prevent this, or something similar-but-worse, from happening again. We need to make changes, but which changes are still unknown.
To determine which changes to make, we need to figure out if this situation was: A. "naive utilitarian went too far", or B. "sociopath using EA to reputation-launder".
Both are extremely bad. But they require different corrections, lest we correct the wrong things (and/or neglect to correct the right things).
Note: I'm not using "sociopath" in the clinical sense, at least not checking for that usage, but more as the colloquial term for "someone who is chronically incapable of empathy / caring about others at the level of 'feeling sad when they feel sad'".