Danny Donabedi

77 karmaJoined Nov 2022


It’s sad you’re getting downvoted. A manor and 25 acres of nothingness adds nearly nothing to EA when some other space, for instance the hall of a large parish or church, even abandoned ones, could have been (on an as needed basis) rented out / purchased instead— for a fraction of the cost — when conferences or workshops are needed.

Imagine the extent of scrutiny the manor's purchase would face in early EA. It wouldn’t be pretty.

Moreover, if SBF viewed fraudulent behaviour for the purposes of EA as “high-risk high-reward” it signals there are norms within EA that are in dire need of clarification and/or change.

That’s my concern as well.

Just as concerning is how EA (leadership) may have reacted if the events that transpired at FTX were identical but SBF ended up turning billions of profit instead of sustaining immense loss. What would be our reaction to that?

In this alternative universe, I’d imagine he’d receive only a bit of censure, instead being rewarded with significant praise by EA leadership for his willingness to take on risk and make 51 EV bets. Community members might assert that it doesn’t matter what he did so long as the consequences ensured he was going the greatest good possible. They would be captivated, enchanted by promises of further funding.

These condemnations are because SBF committed fraud and lost. If he did all that and won the jackpot, I imagine his reception here would be rather different.

There is nothing wrong with a"did anybody know" approach and you, under any circumstances, should not be pressured away from pushing that line of inquiry and questioning, even by influential EAs. The rational move is to be skeptical of (though not accusatory towards) anyone who doesn't wish to investigate that possibility and what it might implicate. 

If they have nothing to hide and did not break anyone's trust, they have nothing to fear. 

"They tell you to do your thing but they don't mean it. They don't want you to do your own thing, not unless it happens to be their thing, too. It's a laugh, Goober, a fake. Don't disturb the universe, Goober, no matter what the posters say.” - Robert Cormier, the Chocolate War

Yes, we should. People hesitate or are averse to bringing issues up with authorities/communities due to fears of being punished. As groups collectivize and become increasingly memetically homogeneous, that which coincides with the solidification of power/influence/financial structures and hierarchies, dissent of any form becomes decreasingly tolerated. It becomes safer/easier to criticize EA as an outsider than as member who simultaneously want to grow in EA, be well received by potential EA organization employers, and rise up the oft unstated hierarchies that developed as EA blossomed. 

Until this debacle, SBF was lionized beyond comparison by the major community organizations. And moreover, he was closely associated with EA giants via the foundation/future fund and other projects. He had excellent PR presence due to the constant EA affiliated media attention. He was 80k's paragon of earning to give. 

That's not to say figures like him were untouchable (nothing in EA is untouchable fortunately), but criticizing the most popular embodiment of success would result in online backlash at best or at worst, damage to the critic's career capital. In a situation similar to Stuart's, that is precisely why Sven's essay on conflicts of interest in EA was anonymous. It's also why it didn't even get honorable mention in the essay competition. Even if the criticisms themselves were valid and justified, the PR risks of promoting dissent made sure it wasn't given a prize. Demands for greater transparency or accountability from EA vanguards in the wake of recent developments may also be viewed instinctively or intuitively as threats to harmony. 

Not everyone enjoys having beloved paragons and prophets criticized. Not everyone likes having their faith or trust in institutions shattered, let alone challenged. Not everyone maintains a cynical, skeptical attitude towards those in authority positions. During EA training newcomers certainly aren't prepared for such developments, perhaps because events like such are not expected to ever come up in the first place. 

It remains a problem the community has faced since day one, although much of it is attributable due to hierarchical and tribalistic human psychology rather than EA itself. While EA has better epistemics and remains more open to criticisms than the average ideological movement, harshness or cynical sternness, used to be (in EA's early days), much more commonplace and welcomed than it is now. As EA has grown and become more of a community, intra-group harmonic cohesion became increasingly prized and promoted. Those who elicit controversy by means of intellectual dissent (rather than conforming) are at a higher likelihood of being downvoted. 

Spouting off this stuff isn't productive on my end. I don't have a solution, but there needs to be better ways to increase reception towards contrarian/unpopular takes, minimizing unjustified repercussions for dissenters. Those who are harshest or most skeptical among EAs should not be dismissed as impediments to progress. I have faith EA has the capacity to ameliorate this. 

I understand, but I never said that diversification wasn’t good. Again, I commended the recommendation for diversification.

My error was thinking it was a claim about the median EA portfolio. My apologies.That said, the rest of my post still stands uncorrected. I should not be downvoted nor silenced to inquire if 80k (and others) provided financial advice that later proved catastrophic. 80k provided all sorts of awesome advice but is responsible enough to look back and identify where things were off the mark.

This is important to prevent future errors of this scale. I’m just asking and inquiring, rather than accusing. That’s why I asked Robert if it was the case. It may not be. There should be no harm or censuring in asking, but apparently I was wrong.

There were some financial predictions made about future returns, amidst a backdrop of optimism, and the worst possible outcome wasn’t considered and there was no warning. Most of the time this isn’t an issue. This time it was.

Elsewhere on the sight, SBF (via FTX) was the prime example of how to earn to give. Now a new paragon is needed for that strategy.

As Robert himself wrote, people were too quick to trust. Today the optimal strategy influential figures have adopted is to distance themselves from SBF’s projects. I don’t blame them for this. Wouldn’t you do the same? But there are lessons that need to be learned .

I’m not critiquing them. I’m sharing what I know was said and am asking for increased transparency on what other financial advice was provided. That’s it. Do you take fault with that?

I don’t know you are trying to paint me as the ‘bad guy’ here. If you wish to defend the financial advice provided by 80k, you are free to do so. As my initial comment plainly stated, I don’t know how they came to the conclusion as to what the mainstream EA investment  portfolio looked like. 

I applauded them for promoting diversification, but was skeptical of their forecasts on FB/FTX returns. I don’t know on what basis, evidence, or reasoning they made those forecasts. I’d demand the same from my stockbroker if he made those same statements. 

It’s valuable to be strict, even at the risk of being called harsh. My comment and my inquiry is  in line with EA consequentialism. There are always consequences, foreseen and unforeseen, for putting out statements and recommendations. It may seem marginal to you, but people’s savings are at stake and 80k has earned a spot as of influencer for their reliable work. But no group is flawless and it is important to identify mistakes.

Robert,  I wish to understand. At any time did 80,000 recommend readers or EAs to invest their savings in FTX crypto?

If memory serves right, there was an official 80,000 post composed by Benjamin Todd that recommended asset diversification away from what was regarded as the current EA investment portfolio, which was described as being highly tilted towards Facebook and FTX, and decentralized finance and big U.S. tech companies. In hindsight, it was optimal advice and I hope EAs listened to it. 

However, by sheer virtue of associating the EA portfolio with FTX (I'm not sure how that conclusion was reached or what data it was based off of), I posit readers were instead led to mimic the behavior of others and also invest in EA-led FTX. A 'follow the leader' kind of behavioral mimicry whereas the intention was 'Do as I say, not as I do'. 

Unfortunately, in the same post financial advice and forecast was provided, "a major driver of the stock of capital will be the investment returns of Facebook, Asana, FTX, and Ethereum"...  

What projections was this based off of? On what basis or data was this forecast (expecting positive returns) made? After all, who is to say FTX or Eth will even produce future returns at all (rather than say go to zero)? That’s what I want to know.

Even a passing sentence like this may have influenced others to invest in these entities hoping to see returns they could donate to effective charities.


Those who have invested in these entities have lost much of their savings and capital. And the losses are irreparable. Like yourself I feel terrible for these individuals. A possible (but short term) tech stock crash and crypto was mentioned in the article, but it was nowhere as close or bad as what happened.

It is concerning that parties  that championed SBF's organization (and privately invested in crypto there) will now  hastily attempt to dissociate themselves from it for self-preservation / reputation salvaging purposes. It's only natural and expected to make genuine public statements of apallment, but when the dust settles, it is opportune to take responsibility and identify what went wrong. 

Readers would certainly appreciate a thorough compilation of any and all financial advice 80k hours gave its readers with respect to FTX and crypto, if at minimum, to identify errors and avoid suboptimal financial advice in the future... even if it turns out no such financial advice was given. 

Edit: Some minor additions were made, like modifying the last sentence of the final paragraph to emphasize this is a question, not a charge. This is an honest inquiry, not an accusation. Don’t make it out to be one. 

Edit 2: I did not expect such hostility from posing questions. Unfortunate, and noted. 

Moreover, Sven Rone is a pseudonym. The author used a pen name astheir views were unpopular and underappreciated at the time; they likely feared career repercussions if they went public with it. It's unfortunate that this was the environment they found themselves in.