A

aprilsun

19 karmaJoined Jul 2023

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I’m not going to outline it here since I imagine the audience for this are already familiar - if someone has a good summary, please drop it in the comments.

I quite liked this summary from New York Magazine earlier today but YMMV:

Since November 11, 2022, the day that Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange FTX collapsed and his hedge fund Alameda Research collapsed and his personal $26 billion turned out to have been vaporous, the twitchy 31-year-old, maybe-genius, maybe-scammer failed to raise $8 billion to save the company, gave a lot of weird interviews denying he did anything intentionally wrong, tried to blame his ex, was charged with eight counts of fraud and conspiracy, spent a week in a Bahamian jail, had enough of that, got extradited to the U.S., pleaded not guilty in New York, moved in with his parents in California on a $250 million bond, got accused of witness tampering, talked with Michael Lewis, got yelled at by a judge for violating bail terms to watch the Super Bowl, witnessed his former executives flip on him, started a Substack, got hit with four more charges, gave interviews to the rest of the journalists he hadn’t already gotten around to, successfully got a charge on illegal campaign contributions dropped on a technicality, got charged with another count of bribing Chinese officials, had a few charges separated to a different criminal suit, leaked his ex’s diary, got incarcerated again on the grounds that he “attempted to tamper with two witnesses,” complained about not getting his food or medicine while in jail (fair), complained about not having enough computer time in jail (ehhhhh), and got personally sued about three dozen times in the federal courts.

At last, his trial starts on Tuesday, October 3, 2023. It is expected to last about six weeks. He is being judged here on seven charges concerning financial fraud. He faces more than 100 years in jail.

This looks amazing!!

Honest question though (sorry): Do people think there's a moral difference between Lightcone's campus ("house party venue...crossed with Disneyland") and EVF's abbey ("castle")?

There are obviously multiple reasons why the EVF purchase looks worse at first glance:

  • Large English venues generally look more extravagant
  • EVF is - for better or worse - closely associated with ideas like frugality, charity, sacrifice, etc., while Lightcone explicitly owns their engagement in "the capitalist enterprise" for the greater good
  • Lightcone spoke about the campus prominently even before it was open for bookings, with their preferred framing and explanation, before critics had the opportunity to do it for them
  • EVF was already in some people's bad books

Many EAs also made the meta objection that bad optics should have been reason enough not to do it. But this was partly self-fulfilling the more loudly and hyperbolically the objection was voiced, and hopefully we can all agree that the extent to which optics should guide our decisions is at least a hotly contested topic in EA (rather than a scandalous signal of incompetence when an org leans one way rather than the other).

So I'm curious if community opinion is generally that the EVF purchase was "bad" and the Lightcone purchase was "good"?

If so, and if the explanation is that third wave EA is too large for majority opinion to be that much more nuanced than the public's, I want to double-check that orgs are very aware of this now so that they can factor it in to future decisions.

And if people think that the EVF purchase was bad for another reason, I think that would also be helpful to know.[1]

  1. ^

    Sorry if I've missed something obvious and important here! This is all just one person's impression of how two similar initiatives played out and it's very plausible to me that I've missed a key part of the picture.

1 - Oh I see. So who knew that Sam and Caroline continued to date while claiming that FTX and Alameda were completely separate?

2 - You link to a video of a non-EA saying that Sam drives a corolla and also has a shot of his very expensive-looking apartment...what about this is misleading or inaccurate? What did you expect the EAs you have in mind to 'disclose' - that FTX itself wasn't frugal? Was anyone claiming it was? Would anyone expect it to have been? Could you share some of your many actual examples?

3 - (I don't think you've addressed anything I said in this section, so perhaps we should just leave it there.)

4 - Perhaps, but as I indicated, it looks like it wouldn't have made much difference anyway.

5 - (Okay, it looks like we should just leave this one there too.)

As you've linked me to this comment elsewhere, I'll respond.

  • I'm not sure why EAs who knew about Caroline and Sam dating would have felt the need to 'disclose' this? (Unless they already suspected the fraud but I don't think I've seen anyone claim that anyone did?)
  • Sam and FTX seem about as frugal as I'd expect for an insanely profitable business and an intention to give away the vast majority of tens of billions of dollars, too frugal if anything (although I actually think my disagreeing with you here is a point in favour of your broader argument -- the more Sam splurged on luxuries, the less it looks like he was motivated by any kind of altruism)
  • What financial and other support did FTX receive after the early Alameda split by people who were 'warned'? (There may well be a substantial amount, I just don't think I've heard of any.) I'll note, though, that it's easy to see as 'warnings' now what at the time could have just looked like a messy divorce.
  • Admittedly I don't know much about how these things work, but yet again this looks like hindsight bias to me. Would this have been a priority for you if you had no idea what was coming? If the firewalling was delayed for whatever reason, would you have refused to award grants until it had been? Perhaps. But I don't think it's obvious. Also wouldn't they still be vulnerable to clawbacks in any case?
  • Again, I just don't think I know anything about this. In fact I don't think I knew Sam was under government investigation before November. I'd be curious if you had details to share, especially regarding how serious the allegations were at the time and which meetings he was invited to.

Interesting. I think I know EA as well as you do and know many EAs who know EA as well as you do and as I said, you're the person most committed to this narrative that I could think of even before you made this post (no doubt there are others more pessimistic I haven't come across, but I'd be very surprised if it was 25%+). I also can't think of any who have left, but perhaps our respective circles are relevantly skewed in some way (and I'm very curious about who has!).

Point taken, though, that many of us have 'conflicts of interest,' if by that you mean 'it would be better for us if EA were completely innocent and thriving' (although as others have pointed out, we are an unusually guilt-prone community).

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