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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!).


Topic contributions

When it comes to voting (not public) I would say pro-platforming-Hananiah sentiment is more heavily upvoted in general

Agree with this, which is part of why I expect a bigger skew here in terms of representation. If public contributions are balanced, and voting contributions are less balanced, then my guess is the overall bias of the discussion is towards the side that gets relatively more support when contributions are public, and relatively less support when contributions are private)

(I have lots of takes here, but my guess is I shouldn't comment. Overall, agree with you that it's a tricky situation of the law. I disagree that there aren't small changes that would help. For example, I think if the Religious Liberty and Charitable Donation Protection Act of 1998 could have considered foundations or corporations as part of its definition of "natural person", that would have been a substantial improvement. But again, I sadly can't comment here much, which I find really annoying, also in parts because I find this part of the law quite fascinating and would love to talk about it)

  • You don't appear to be majorly used for safety-washing
  • You don't appear to be under the same amount of crazy NDAs as I've seen from OpenAI and Anthropic
  • You don't seem to have made major capabilities advances
  • You generally seem to take the hard part of the problem more seriously and don't seem to be institutionally committed in the way Anthropic or OpenAI seems to me to only look at approaches that are compatible with scaling as quickly as possible (this isn't making a statement about what Google is doing, or Deepmind at large is doing, it's just saying that the safety team in-particular seems to not be committed this way)

To be clear, I am concerned many of these things will get worse with the Deepming/Brain merger, and a lot of my datapoints are from before then, but I think the track record overall is still quite good.

Lightcone Infrastructure Inc. has so far never done anything. It's a nonprofit that I incorporated with the intent of being a home for future projects of mine, but doing anything with it was delayed because of the whole FTX thing. The most real thing it has done is me depositing $50 in its bank account.

To be clear, my best guess is based on my experiences talking to hundreds of community builders and student group organizers over the years, is that the general sentiment amongst organizers is substantially more towards the "I don't think we should micromanage the attendance decisions of external events" position than the forum discussion. 

This kind of stuff is hard to get an objective sense off, so I am not confident here, but I think the biases in what positions people feel comfortable expressing publicly clearly go more in the direction of outrage "complaining about who attended" [1] here.

My best guess there is also a large U.S./EU difference here. My sense is the European (non-German, for some reason) EA community is substantially more leaning towards controlling access and reputation tightly here. You can also see this in the voting patterns on many of the relevant posts which wax and wane with the U.S./EU time difference.

  1. ^

    (edit: "outrage" seems like a bad choice of words due to connotation, so I am replacing it with something more neutral)

I don't think I can comment on this because it risks breaking legal privilege, though I am not confident (also, sidenote, I really really hate the fact that discussing legal strategy in the US risks breaking privilege, it makes navigating this whole situation so much worse).

As a relevant clarification: Lightcone Infrastructure is a fiscally sponsored project of CFAR. In-general FTX has directed all of its communications at CFAR, and made no distinction between CFAR and the fiscally sponsored projects within it. 

Why is the escrow deposit still sitting somewhere? Some quick online research (so take it with a grain of salt) makes it sound like the escrow process usually takes 4 to 8 weeks in California—so this seems significantly long, in comparison.

I am also confused (and very frustrated by this). The key thing to understand here is that the escrow was due to be returned right around the time when FTX went bankrupt (the sale was completed on the 4th of November, FTX filed for bankruptcy November 11), so this meant that none of my contacts at FTX were there to facilitate the return of the escrow, and there was presumably enough chaos for multiple weeks that the escrow's company's attempt to reach out to North Dimension Inc. at their usual address and contact information were unsuccessful. After a few weeks the escrow company asked Lightcone for advice on how to return the funds and we gave them the contact information we had. 

Can you clarify when you received these grants and the escrow money? The complaint filed by FTX (documents here, for anyone interested) have the dates of transfers as March 3, July 8, July 13, August 18, September 20, and October 3, all in 2022—so well within the timeframe that might be subject to clawbacks, and well within the bankruptcy lookback period. (For a comparison point, EV US and EV UK paid the FTX estate an amount equal to all the funds the entities received in 2022.)

Yes, the rough timeline here is accurate (I didn't double check the exact dates and am not confirming that in detail here). All the funds were received in 2022.

Why would you not proactively return this money or settle with the FTX estate, given the money came from FTX and could have been originally obtained in fraudulent ways? My prior is that you (Oliver Habryka) have written multiple times on the Forum about the harm EA may have caused related to FTX and wish it could have been prevented, so somehow it seems strange to me that you wouldn't take the opportunity to return money that came from FTX, especially when it could have been obtained in harmful, unethical ways. 

Well, the key problem was that by the time FTX went bankrupt, and it became clear there was a lot of fraud at FTX, the money had been spent or committed in contracts, there wasn't much opportunity left to return the funds. Indeed, by early 2023 when the liabilities from our renovation project had cleared and everything was paid, Lightcone had completely ran out of money and indeed was financially in the red until around Q3 2023.

I did fundraise explicitly for money to return to the FTX creditors during our 2023 fundraising, from both the Open Philanthropy project and the Survival and Flourishing Fund, our two biggest funders. Open Philanthropy declined to give us any funds for settlement or return purposes. SFF didn't explicitly tell us whether the money they gave us was for settlement or return purposes, but we only received barely enough money from them during the 2023 grant round to cover our existing liabilities (and the settlement we offered FTX in a settlement was greater than the amount I think one could conceivably say we fundraised for it). 

If Lightcone had been in a position to return funds proactively I likely would have done it. 

Did you in fact ignore FTX's attempts to contact you in 2023, as the complaint says? And if so, why?

Yes, or like, some of them. The central reason here was just that everyone I talked to told me to get representation by a lawyer before talking to FTX, since given that the funds had already been spent, there was a quite high chance there would be some kind of suit or more complicated settlement. 

I decided I would be very thorough in my choice of lawyer due to the high stakes, and so I took a long time (multiple months IIRC) interviewing different bankruptcy lawyers. During that time I asked every lawyer I interviewed about how we should respond to the FTX communications. I think literally every lawyer said that we should wait on responding, on the basis of there still being a huge amount of uncertainty and lack of clarity about whether the FTX estate is actually in a position to settle these claims, and that before that issue is cleared, there wouldn't be much use in talking to them and all information I gave them would be used against me. 

I now honestly think the lawyer's advice to not respond was kind of a mistake (and more broadly think that the type of excuse of "my lawyer told me so" is a bad excuse for immoral behavior in-general, though I personally don't feel that much guilt about my decision-making process here, since it is a very high-stakes situation, there was consensus among many lawyers I talked to about this, and I did not have any experience whatsoever in navigating legal situations like this).

I also think it's worth pointing out that in bankruptcy cases, especially regarding clawbacks, the question of whether you have a legal obligation to return the money isn't a question of whether you currently have the $5M of FTX money sitting around or whether you've already allocated or used it. Demonstrating that you've spent the funds on legitimate charitable activities might strengthen your case, but that doesn't guarantee protection from clawback attempts.

Yep, I am well aware. My current take is that bankruptcy law is kind of broken here, and indeed, there are multiple judges who upon delivering judgements against nonprofits that seemed unfair even to them (but where the bankruptcy law gave them little choice) have called for bankruptcy law to be changed to be more protective of nonprofits here.

Lightcone doesn't have $5M of FTX money! I've generally been very transparent about this and e.g. can see a breakdown of our FTX funding in e.g. this old comment of mine (and also some others that I could probably dig up). 

Lightcone Infrastructure (fiscally sponsored by CFAR) has received around $4M in grants from FTX. By the time FTX collapsed almost all of the grant funding was spent on the programs that FTX wanted to support (the relevant work was mostly on the Lightcone Offices, LessWrong and the AI Alignment Forum). We offered FTX a settlement of a large fraction of Lightcone's assets and cash reserves (~$700k / ~$900k and more than what wasn't already spent or legally committed by the time FTX collapsed), which they rejected without any kind of counter offer. Now they filed a formal complaint, which we'll fight.

The article and the FTX complaint also includes an additional $1M, which was an escrow deposit that FTX covered for us. We never had any ownership over that money and it's just sitting with the title company somewhere, and I don't know why the FTX estate hasn't picked it up. We have tried to put them in contact. I am sad to see they are still including it in their complaint, since as far as I can tell there is really no way in which Lightcone has or ever had that money.

Happy to try to answer any other questions people might have (though commenting on ongoing litigation is a bit messy).

Yep, I wasn't intending to disagree with all the stuff you said. Overall your complaint seems quite reasonable to me, I just had one local comment (which did seem relevant to the overall conclusion).

Therefore, I fail to understand how this essay pertains to our current discussion unless the contentious racist beliefs are also truthful, which the commenter has not substantiated.

Thanks! This feels like a more substantive response that seems potentially productive to engage with. Your previous comment felt to me like it was more just kind of ignoring the details of Richard's comment.

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