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Honestly, I think it is fine to relay second-hand information, as long as it is minimally trustworthy - i.e., heard from multiple sources - and you clearly caveat it as such. This is a forum for casual conversation, not an academic journal or a court of law. In this case, too, we are dealing with a private matter that is arguably of some public interest to the movement. It would be great if these things were fully transparent in the first place, in which case we wouldn't have to depend on hearsay.

With that said: now we have heard the figure of $10m, it would be nice to know what the real sum was.

EDIT: Having just read Torres' piece, Halstead's letter to the editor, and the editorial note quoting Will's response, there is no indication that anyone has disputed the $10m figure with which the piece began. Obviously that does not make it true, but it would seem to make it more likely to be true. One thing I had not realised, though, was that this money could have been used for the promotion of the book as well as its writing.

One view is that SBF's actions are a sample of one and therefore cannot justifiably be the premise for the kind of wide-ranging criticisms fielded against effective altruism on this forum and elsewhere over the last week. I think this is wrong-headed, however. The point is not that SBF's fraud in and of itself proves the existence of these problems, it is merely that it highlights problems which can be independently justified. For example, it highlights that that this is a fairly hierarchical movement that vests a lot of power in the hands of a small number of people, with few mechanisms to hold them accountable and transparent to the community at large. 

Across a wide range of domains, crises are productive moments where the legitimacy of the existing order of things breaks down and there is a space for new, open and critical thought. If you are happy with the current incarnation of the movement no doubt that is regrettable, but clearly, many people are not. Obviously some fraction of criticism - this is the internet, after all - is not thoughtful, constructive or made in good faith. But to say that criticism at a time of crisis is equivalent to seeing someone on their knees and curb stomping them is, I think, an extremely dangerous attitude. What you are effectively advocating for is a rally-around-the-flag effect.

I agree that some people are being too harsh on the 'leaders' of effective altruism, and especially Will. He was one of a great many people who were deceived. I don't think the problem is one of his or any one else's individual character. I think the problem is how the movement is organised. I would add that how it is organised is probably not entirely independent from utilitarian and rationalist philosophy.

"Will's book got about $10 Million in funding"

Wait, what!? What's your source of information for that figure? I get hiring a research assistant or two, but $10m seems like two orders of magnitude too much. I can't even imagine how you would spend anywhere near that much on writing a book. Where did this money come from?


I have to say this reads as authentic, but I can't completely exclude the possibility that he is actually only saying all this to try and protect the reputation of effective altruism, because, if he were an effective altruist, that would be how he could 'do the most good possible'. It's also difficult to know how much credence to give to the words of a serial liar. What possible reason does he have to smear himself like this before an imminent court case?

Obviously I don't think that's likely... it's just difficult to know how to judge this.


I have to say that I don't find these reasons especially convincing. It might help if you clarified exactly who you were speaking for and what you mean by the short-term, i.e., days or weeks?

Legal risk. I am assuming that you are not suggesting that any of these figureheads have done anything illegal. In which case the risk here is a reputational one: they don't want their words dragged into legal proceedings. But that seems like a nebulous possibility, and legal cases like this can take years in any case. Surely you are not saying that they won't address the subject of FTX or SBF over that entire span lest a lawyer quote them? Or am I misreading you somehow?

Lack of information. I agree there's still uncertainty, but there is certainly enough information for the the movement to assess its position and to take action. SBF and an inner circle at FTX/Alameda committed a fraud whose basic contours are now well-known, even if the exact timeline, motivations and particulars are not yet filled in. As this forum proves, that raises some blindingly obvious questions about the governance, accountability and culture of the movement.

People are busy. People are always busy, and saying 'I'm too busy' generally means 'I'm choosing not to prioritise this'. It's not an explanation so much as a restatement of an unwillingness to speak.

To be clear, I am not writing this because I think the leadership should try and set out a comprehensive position on the debacle as soon as possible. I don't think that. 

Can I simply concur by point out an example from just yesterday. A woman by the name of Keerthana Gopalakrishnan posted on the forum relating her experience of being sexually harassed at EA events. The general response was not one of empathy, or an attempt to understand how the movement might address this serious problem. Instead, it was to prod, poke and question, invigilating her every claim as if it were a philosophy essay. The apparent assumption being that there is only one genre of writing - analytic, rationalistic - and anything short of that, no matter how important, is beneath consideration. I think it was nothing short of disgraceful.

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