2172Joined Oct 2019


Some specific examples of EA leaders putting SBF on a pedestal that I found with a bit of brief digging:

  • At the time FTX blew up, SBF was featured on 80k’s homepage. Also, if you clicked “start here” on that homepage (the first link aside from a subscription form) you were brought to an article that featured SBF as one of three individual profiles.
    • Both of these mentions linked to a more in depth profile of SBF that had been created in 2014 and regularly updated, and clearly “puts him on a pedestal” (“This approach — where he donates a significant proportion of his income to organisations aiming to make the world a better place as effectively as possible — is allowing Sam to have a pretty staggering impact.”)
  • When Will wrote about how the EA Funding situation had changed, he praised SBF not just for his donations but also his personal virtue “I think the fact that Sam Bankman-Fried is a vegan and drives a Corolla is awesome, and totally the right call.” 
  • In Will’s appearance on the 80k podcast, he uses SBF as the exemplar of earning to give, and says convincing SBF to pursue ETG was “really the important impact.” He also uses SBF to illustrate “fat tails” of impact. On another 80k podcast, 80k staff talks about SBF to illustrate the impact of their 1:1 team.
  • In a talk at EAG London 2021, Ben Todd argues “that the recent success of Sam Bankman-Fried is an additional reason to aim high.” (Ben also mentions SBF in a variety of posts discussing EA’s funding levels, but that seems to me like an unavoidable part of discussing that issue and less like putting him on a pedestal.)

All those examples come from the period after concerns about SBF had been raised to EA leaders. Prior to that, there are plenty more examples especially for 80k (e.g. SBF was on the 80k homepage from late 2014 to late 2017.)

As far as I can tell, EA leaders started promoting SBF in 2014 or so, seeing him as a great example of altruistic career choice in general, and of ETG (a counterintuitive model of altruistic career choice that originated in EA) specifically. Then leaders kept promoting SBF despite the warnings they got from Alameda co-founders, and continued to do so until FTX blew up.

Thank you for pulling this together Chana, I really appreciate it! I found your list very informative, and expect the internal and external reviewers will as well.

FWIW, this makes me view Owen’s statement/apology, which makes no mention of his role and associated influence at CEA, considerably more negatively. The following statements seem particularly incomplete/misleading :

I was employed as a researcher at that time. My role didn’t develop to connecting people with different positions until later, and this wasn’t part of my self-conception at the time… I in fact had significant amounts of power. This was not very salient to me but very salient to her… I was aware that hard power (like employer relationships or grantmaking) mattered, but I was pretty blind to the implications of the soft power that came from being older and more central in the community.

Yeah, while I thought Naia provided a bunch of specifics the thing about Will threatening Tara is definitely an area where I'd find more specifics very informative.

Thanks for providing status updates on this Chana!

I saw a comment on another thread that raised questions for me about another specific aspect of Owen’s historical role at CEA. Jonas Vollmer wrote “Nick (together with Owen) did a pretty good job turning CEA from a highly dysfunctional into a functional organization during CEA's leadership change in 2018/2019.” 

I’m not sure if Jonas’ impression is accurate, and if so whether he’s referring to Owen’s role on the selection committee that picked Max as Executive Director or if there was involvement beyond that. So I hope the information you’re collecting will be able to address that.

Yeah I would certainly think/hope investigators would've talked to the most knowledgeable people and already uncovered everything in the Time article. 

Some miscellaneous takeaways from this article…

New (to me) information included:

  • The specificity of Naia’s allegations (the part about “Will basically threatened Tara” seems particularly important/bad)
  • The quotes from the planning document for the meeting between SBF and other Alameda execs. These give important specifics, and seem highly credible (since the four other members of the management team all agreed with them).
  • Holden being one of the people who was told about concerns with Sam (not shocking to me, and I think Holden was in a worse position to act on this info than e.g. Will, but still an update)
  • CEA doing “an internal investigation relating to CEA and Alameda” sometime in 2019. I’d love to know more about this, e.g. did the full board review the findings? Who besides Will conducted the investigation?


Thoughts after reading the article and comments: 

  • I agree with Nathan that “The 80k interview feels even worse researched/too soft than I previously thought”
  • I think EA dodged a bullet in that FTX collapsed relatively soon after CEA had shored up a deficiency in PR expertise (which was done largely in anticipation of Will’s book release as I understand it). I imagine that CEA’s response, while imperfect, would have been significantly worse if that PR capacity were not in place. I also think it’s fair to wonder whether CEA leadership should have added PR expertise sooner given what they apparently knew about SBF (even if you think getting in bed with a  possibly sketchy billionaire is the right move, giving yourself more protection if he does turn out to be really sketchy seems reasonable way to hedge risk.)
  • I’m really glad Ben West is planning to write something in the relatively near future as I think some sort communication from CEA/EVF leadership is overdue.

Seems like we're in for a very slow investigation. Per Will, looks like "a minimum of 2 months" before the investigation is completed.

I’m also curious about the thinking on this. By having Michael act as a grantor, SFF isn’t just overlooking his history of sexual misconduct. It is also potentially enabling further misconduct, since it is giving him power and he has a track record of abusing power.  

Thanks Anthony, I appreciate the support!

Despite any downvotes (which I anticipated), I think this is an important issue and I hope the community health team responds. And FWIW I'm open to the idea that their response could make me feel less concerned about CFAR than I currently do. 

Load more