I wrote this (lengthy) response to a lot of the post-FTX/SBF criticisms of EA, particularly focused on evaluating the ethical framework of EA. I do not think these criticisms touch the intellectual project of EA. It is a bit late posting this (I wrote it December 2022), but now that EA is getting back in the news with the SBF trial, I figured I would post it here. This can be downloaded as a Word document or PDF, and here is the abstract: 

Effective altruism (EA) has been in the news recently following the crash of a cryptocurrency exchange and trading firm, the head of which was publicly connected to EA. The highly-publicized event resulted in several articles arguing that EA is incorrect or morally problematic because EA increases the probability of a similar scandal, or that EA implies the ends justify the means, or that EA is inherently utilitarian, or that EA can be used to justify anything. In this post, I will demonstrate the failures of these arguments and others that have been amassed.  Instead, there is not much we can conclude about EA as an intellectual project or a moral framework because of this cryptocurrency scandal. EA remains a defensible and powerful tool for good and framework for assessing charitable donations and career choices.

Let me know your thoughts, complaints, concerns, etc. 

29

2
0

Reactions

2
0
Comments4
Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 10:55 AM

I've thought about this a bit, and in the last part of my writeup on deconfusing EA, also written in the wake of the FTX blowup, I conclude that we need to be careful about not using EA as a motte-and-bailey, and I think that you've done some of that - the philosophical ideas may be untainted, and I argue for that claim, and more strongly, that EA as philosophy is effectively universal - but the community and its beliefs are a real part of EA, and were at least closely connected with parts of the failure that occurred.

Thank you for the reply! I don't think I disagree - the community is a real part of what EA is, and the EA community was closely connected with the FTX scandal. My only goal in responding was to argue that this connection tells us nothing about the correctness of the underlying moral framework. And it seems as though you agree with that as well. 

I would guess people have different targets in mind when criticizing or defending EA: for some, it's the community, while for some, it's the framework (and for some, it's both). I personally am much more concerned about the EA framework, as I think the community can always be restructured and adjusted to fit the framework. There probably is/was needed adjustment in the wake of the FTX scandal. I'm perfectly happy to say that. In the article I said, 

"I won’t say EA as an organization or community is blameless here. But that doesn’t change the EA framework as being the best (and correct) framework for evaluation of charity effectiveness."

So at the end of the day, I welcome calls for changes to the EA community or movement, including as it relates to FTX/SBF. I just think it should be made extra crispy clear that these FTX/SBF-related criticisms (at least the ones I have seen) do not have interesting implications about the intellectual project or moral framework espoused by EA, which was my goal to defend in the article. The EA movement can always survive by sifting itself and readjusting to be in alignment with the fundamental intellectual and moral commitments in the case of any community-based failings. 

What do you think?

I definitely agree - and I should have said this in my first reply, but I think that overall this was fantastic!

Cool, and thank you very much!