12314Joined Sep 2014


Project lead of LessWrong 2.0, often helping the EA Forum with various issues with the forum. If something is broken on the site, it's a good chance it's my fault (Sorry!).


I remember this number came up in conversations at some point, so don't have any source. Plausible the number is lower by a factor of 2 (I actually was planning to change that line to reflect my uncertainty better and edit to "on the order of $400MM grants" since $600MM wouldn't have surprised me, and neither would have $200MM). 

Even though call-out culture may be popular or expected in other contexts, it is not professional or appropriate for the Comms Head of CEA to initiate an interaction with an EA org by publicly putting them on blast and seemingly seconding what could be very damaging accusations (as well as inventing others by speculating about financial misconduct). Did you try to contact FLI before publicly commenting to get an idea of what happened (perhaps before they could prepare their statement)?

For what it's worth, this seems like the wrong way around to me. I don't know exactly about the role and responsibilities of the "Head of Comm", but in-general I would like people in EA to be more comfortable criticizing each other, and to feel less constrained to first air all criticism privately and resolve things behind closed doors.

I think the key thing that went wrong here was the absence of a concrete logical argument or probabilities about why the thing that was happening was actually quite bad, and also the time pressure, which made the context of the conversation much worse. Another big thing was also jumping to conclusions about FLI's character in a way that felt like it was trying to apply direct political pressure instead of focusing on propagating accurate information.

The word "responsible" implies some sort of causal relationship between the ideology and the action

No, it implies a causal relationship between the community and the action. I don't see any reason to constrain blame to "being caused by the ideology of the community". If members of the community cause it, and the existence of the community had a pretty direct effect, then it sure seems like you should hold the community responsible.

In your last paragraph, you sure are also conflating between "ideology" and "social network". It seems really clear that the social network of EA played a huge role in FTX's existence, so it seems like you would agree that the community should play some role, but then for some reason you are then additionally constraining things to the effect of some ill-specified ideology. Like, can a community of people with no shared ideology literally not be blamed for anything? 

I reviewed most of the executive team during my manifold betting and didn't actually come across anybody who I could find had a history of EA affiliation besides SBF (though you may know more than me).

That... seems really confused to me. Caroline was part of EA Stanford, almost all the early Alameda staff was heavily-involved EAs (including past CEA CEO Tara MacAulay). I know less about Nishad but he was definitely very heavily motivated by an EA philosophy while he was working at FTX, had read a lot of the LessWrong content, etc. 

There is also this explicit quote by Nishad from before the collapse: 

According to FTX’s director of engineering Nishad Singh, Alameda “couldn’t have taken off without EA,” because “all the employees, all the funding—everything was EA to start with.”

It seems really quite beyond a doubt to me that FTX wouldn't have really existed without the EA community existing. Even the early funding for Alameda was downstream of a bunch of EA funders.

I likewise don't understand what you're finding weird about my position? If Eliezer Yudkowsky robbed a bank, that wouldn't make LessWrong "responsible for a bank robbery"

I mean, if Eliezer robbed a bank, I think I would definitely think the rationality community is responsible for a bank robbery (not "LessWrong", which is a website). That seems like the only consistent position by which the rationality community can be responsible for anything, including good things. If the rationality community is not responsible for Eliezer robbing a bank, then it definitely can't be responsible for any substantial fraction of AI Alignment research either, which is usually more indirectly downstream of the core people in the community.

I actually didn't know that. Is this counting the Anthropic investment or did FTXFF really give-away give-away that much money?

The Anthropic investment alone is $500MM, this is in addition to that.

The unabomber does feel kind of weird to blame on environmentalism. Or like, I would give environmentalism a lot less blame for the unabomber than I would give us for FTX.

Yeah, doesn't seem like a totally crazy position to take, but I don't really buy it. I bet a lot of people would take a probability of having violence inflicted on them in exchange for $8 billion dollars, and I don't think this kind of categorical comparison of different kinds of harm checks out. It's hard to really imagine the scale of $8 billion dollars, but I am confident that Sam's action have killed, indirectly via a long chain of actions, but nevertheless directly responsibly, at least 20-30 people, which I think is probably more than any ecoterrorism that has been committed (though I am not that confident about the history of ecoterrorism, so maybe there was actually something that got to that order of magnitude?)

I don't really understand the distinction here. If a core member of the EA community had founded Facebook, recruiting for its leadership primarily from members of EA, and was acting throughout as a pretty prominent member of the EA community, I would also say that "EA had a substantial responsibility in causing Facebook". But actual Facebook was founded before EA was even a thing, so this seems totally non-comparable to me.

And while I don't really buy your character-assessment, I don't really see what this has to do with the blame analysis. If EA has some prominent members who are sociopaths, we should take responsibility for that in the same way as we would take credit for some prominent members who are saints. 

Separately, this part seems confidently wrong: 

grander part of that money on consumption goods like mansions for himself and his coconspirators

I am quite confident Sam spent <$100MM on consumption, and the FTX Future Fund has given away on the order of $400MM in grants, so this statement is off by around a factor of 2, and more likely by a full order of magnitude, though that depends a bunch on how you count political contributions and other stuff that's kind of ambiguously charity vs. helpful to Sam.

For instance, the environmentalist movement has at times engaged in ecoterrorism, which is (I think pretty clearly) much worse than anything anyone in EA has ever done

Alas, I do think this defense no longer works, given FTX, which seems substantially worse than all the ecoterrorism I have heard about (and IMO also the capabilities research that's downstream of our work, like RLHF being the primary difference between Chat-GPT and GPT-3, but that's a longer argument, and I wouldn't want to bring it up as a commonly-acknowledged point)

Huh, not sure what you mean. Sure seems like the FTX fraud was committed by prominent EAs, in the name of EA principles, using the resources of the EA movement. In as much as EA has caused anything, I feel like it has caused the FTX fraud. 

Like, by the same logic you could be like "EA didn't cause millions of dollars to be allocated to malaria nets". And like, yeah, there is something fair about that, in the sense that it was ultimately individual people or philanthropists who gave money to EA causes, but at the end of the day, if you get to take some credit for Dustin's giving, you also have to take some blame for Sam's fraud.

Load More