1116Joined Nov 2014


Thanks, Howie for posting this. Glad to see an experienced and trustworthy hand at the wheel during a difficult time.

A bleg I have would be for some EA with a bit of time on their hands to take a look at the publicly available UK charitable inquiry incident reports to see what % result in regulatory action (and/or findings of wrongdoing) as well as other useful details as precedent. I think this would be helpful in giving a sense of what to expect for EV UK going forward and what steps should be taken in advance. Based on my very quick and rough perusal of the first  five reports listed on the site, it looks like all five inquiries identified misconduct and resulted in regulatory action. 

It looks like the Commission does have an ability not to publish finished reports, so it's possible those are an unrepresentative sample of inquiries, but (on a very very preliminary glance) the outlook does not seem especially promising. 

I wrote this up a couple days ago and haven't gotten a chance to post it -- sorry if this is repetitive with other comments made since then.

I admit my reasoning here my be unduly sketchy: I'm trying to act on the view that EA forum commenting should be mainly recreational. But I was fairly surprised to see my opinion on this FAQ differed sharply from the other comments I read. On the one hand, signing off on a grant to a Holocaust denialist doesn't mean you're a bad person or your foundation isn't doing good work. On the other, it's a serious lapse in judgment that deserves some sort of root-cause analysis and attempts to fix the problem, which I don't see in the current FAQ, which I find to be an (understandably) one-sided PR document.  That's fine as far as it goes, but for me personally a good faith attempt to prove this was an isolated incident needs to go deeper and has to at the very least involve publicly posting the November correspondence rejecting the grant prior to the December media inquiry.

I admittedly don't understand Swedish politics or culture and may be misunderstanding the nature of Nya Dagbladet's political positioning or of the various documents disclosed. But as someone who's run nonprofits for a while, every time I've received a letter like what Future of Life Institute provided Nya Dagbladet, I've received a donation. (Query if FLI has ever issued a letter like this without making a donation). I don't know how much FLI has under management or how it makes grant decisions, but $100K is 1-2 years of someone's salary, so foundations I've worked with have always been very careful not to send clear messages of grantmaking like that unless a final decision had been reached. 

Picture this in an Open Philanthropy context. In my experience,  one way Open Phil has provided grants is by making a recommendation to Silicon Valley Community Fund (SVCF), which then handles the logistics of making the grant (including due diligence). Imagine that Open Phil sent a recommendation to SVCF to make a $100,000 grant to Infowars (a far-right purveyor of mistruth) and then decided against providing the money after diligence. That would be alarming! On the one hand, good that the diligence process caught it, on the other, how the hell did they decide that an InfoWars grant  would be a good idea? 

By my read, the FLI/Nya Dagbladet case seems similar. The FAQ claims that Tegmark was not aware of the organization's far-right sympathies, which seems either (a) a sign of a poor process at FLI or (b) untrue (given that Tegmark's brother had written for  Nya Dagbladet on multiple occasions and Tegmark had apparently appeared on a podcast featured on their website and hosted by the same brother). Either way, why is FLI making $100,000 grants (or telling grantees its making grants) to an outlet tied to Holocaust deniers?

My nonprofit 1Day Sooner has received funding from Jaan Talinn (a major funder of FLI), and we appreciate that funding and his overall generosity for good causes. And I do endorse the principle that charitable giving is praiseworthy and should be incentivized (i.e. a foundations' decision-making doesn't have to be perfect for it to be valuable and the default framing of attention towards charitable giving should be positive and not negative). I also respect Max Tegmark and find him to be a brilliant scientist. But I worry this could be a place where the discussion of the EA Forum involves tribal affinity politics around an effective altruist identity and is blinded via high trust to a more natural explanation that requires a deeper fix.

Thanks for this comment! My argument about community building's particular role  is that I think there were certain "community building" efforts specifically that caused the existence of FTX. The founder was urged to work in finance rather than on animal welfare, and then worked at CEA prior to launching Alameda. Alameda/FTX were seen as strategies to expand the amount of funding available to effective altruist causes and were founded and run by a leadership team that identified as effective altruist (including the former CEO of the Center for Effective Altruism). The initial funding was from major EA donors.  To me the weight of public evidence really points to Alameda as having been incubated by Center for Effective Altruism in a fairly clear way. 

It's possible that in the absence of Alameda/FTX's existence its niche would have been filled by another entity that would have done similarly bad things, but it seems hard for me to imagine that without institutional EA's backing FTX would have existed.

I think I did a poor job of distinguishing what I call "institutional EA" (or "EA community building") from EA (or "EA as an idea"). But basically, there's a difference between the idea of attempting to do good using evidence (or whatever your definition of EA might be) and particular efforts to expand the circle of people who identify as/affiliate with effective altruists. The former is what I'm calling EA/idea of EA and the latter is community building. 

As might be obvious from this description, there are many possible ways to do EA community building, which might have better or worse effects (and one could think that community building efforts on average will have positive or negative effects). My claim is that it is plausible that the set of EA community building efforts conducted to date plausibly may have had net negative effects.

Thanks for sharing this! Sorry if I'm being dense or unnecessarily persnickety, but was Will aware or unaware the draft was intended to be confidential when he read it? I'm realizing that when I first read the post, I thought the answer must be "aware" (because there was a blinking "keep confidential" at the top of the email), but now see that which email was forwarded is unclear, so maybe my initial understanding was inaccurate. 

Apologies if I'm just being paranoid in light of recent events (and I hate to reopen/relitigate an unpleasant past incident, recognize that no one's perfect and mistakes happen, etc.), but I find this story (or at least my original understanding of the story) unsettling and the context seems important.

Is there more context on the Guzey/Wise/Macaskill breach of confidentiality thing that's worth being aware of? (Lots of the relevant posts/commentary have been deleted). Because on its face  it seems bad, and I'm a bit surprised I hadn't come across it.

Thanks for writing this! I find it a really great resource and am glad to see the stuff you/RP are working on. I'd make a minor suggestion  to make the topics of all the speedruns public even if you don't end up releasing them (or default making the topics public and then give a reason for the ones you don't). I think it's of general interest (or like at least I'm curious) and also I'd imagine you could run into a sort of sampling problem if the subject of the unpromising or negative ones were just never revealed.

I'm honestly more than a bit surprised to see there being doubts on the propriety of publishing this. Like on the facts that Kelsey gives, it seems obvious that their relationship is journalist-subject (particularly given how experienced SBF is with the press). But even if you were to assume that they had a more casual social relationship than is being disclosed (which I do not), if you just blew up your company in a (likely) criminal episode that is the most damaging and public event in the history of the social movement you're a part of, and your casual friend the journalist just wants to ask you a series of questions over DM, the idea that you have an expectation of privacy (without your ever trying to clarify that the conversation is private) does not seem very compelling to me. 

Like, your therapist/executive coach just gave an interview on the record to the New York Times. You are front page news around the world. You know your statements are newsworthy. Why is the baseline here "oh this is just a conversation between friends?" (Particularly where one of the parties is like "no we are totally not friends")

I don't mean for my tone to be too harsh here, but I think this article is clearly in the public interest and I really just don't see the logic for not publishing it. 

Edit: I threw the below together pretty quickly and now think it was wrong (because i hadn't reviewed the whole statute closely). Sorry about that...

"For what it’s worth (and I haven’t been licensed/practiced as an attorney in a while) , My intuition is the charitable exception here seems pretty solid (for the grants that took the form of charitable donations to 501c3s/other charitable entitities. The key question to me doesn’t seem like if granting entity was a 501c3/foundation but whether the recipient was a charity/purpose of the donation was charitable. (The money given to individuals may be dicier but 1. I think it’s still fine and 2. It’s not that much in absolute terms such that I can’t imagine a bankruptcy trustee going hard after it). "

This looks great! Very excited you're putting this on. I think building local capacity in low and middle income countries is extremely important for EA, and this seems like a great initiative. 

Just to nitpick on a somewhat minor point:  December 1st is really soon! I feel like a lot of EA events are announced very shortly before they happen, and I imagine this limits their impact and the people who are able to attend. Maybe it's just something I'm sensitive to because it's a mistake I've made before with 1Day Sooner (and I'm sympathetic to the desirability of moving quickly to accomplish important things sooner than later), but I think EA's status as a youth movement (and perhaps some other psychological factors) may generate these short lead times for events that then in turn become inaccessible to older people with families and other life commitments or people who are currently less into EA but might be really valuable to engage. 

To throw out a potentially dumb suggestion: one possibility in this case could be to schedule and announce (pre-event or pre-the new year) a follow-on retreat in like June  (basically a copy of this but just later) as a way of both using this upcoming event as an anchor to a broader project and allowing people to register interest who won't consider applying for an event in a month. 

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