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Answer by Sol3:22

It's a pretty logical thought if you really think AI is as dangerous as nuclear weapons!

This post clearly oversells charter cities, which are probably a non-starter for real governance competition and extreme poverty alleviation (vide https://devpolicy.org/why-charter-cities-have-failed-20190716/ and https://chartercitiesinstitute.org/blog-posts/honduras-repealed-its-charter-city-law-what-happened-and-what-happens-next/ ). The reason is simple: you can't manage the expropriation risk and bad governance problems of the host country. You can only really make a charter city work, at best, in a lower-middle-income autocratic country with a long history of stable governance. 

Morocco would be a perfect candidate in many ways: the same family has been running the show for 400 years, with a brief interlude as a French protectorate (although even then the Sultans remained in office and oversaw the Kingdom's spiritual affairs). But Morocco is also doing quite well economically anyway, with respectable growth and industrialization powered by French car companies setting up production there. So while a Moroccan charter city would be very cool and potentially quite viable so long as you all make your annual bay'ah, this is perhaps more of a "let's all get rich" thing and less of an EA cause area (although of course there are huge benefits to the world from LMICs getting richer faster, so maybe it stacks up quite well anyway vs other interventions? What do I know).

Instead, though, why not think bigger? Couldn't a major Western corporation fairly easily buy out the entire ruling class of a particularly dysfunctional but formerly well-governed state blessed with many natural endowments? Let's say Anthropic becomes one of the world's largest companies: you'd imagine that it could easily purchase Zimbabwe from ZanuPF, since its GDP is only around $25 billion or so, and restore the place to at least the same levels of relatively enlightened governance it profited from under previous administrations. Such a move would I think be very popular locally, especially if it enjoyed formal backing from the US government and came with concomitant economic benefits. Dario Amodei has been looking a little portly and sallow recently: I think some time in the sun experiencing the glories of Zimbabwe's wilderness would do wonders for his constitution.

EA is just a few months out from a massive scandal caused in part by socially enforced artificial consensus (FTX), but judging by this post nothing has been learned and the "shut up and just be nice to everyone else on the team" culture is back again, even when truth gets sacrificed on the process. No thinks HLI is stealing billions of dollars of course, but the charge that they keep quasi-deliberately stacking the deck in StrongMinds' favour is far from outrageous and should be discussed honestly and straightforwardly.

This is an ancillary point, but IMO it would be very unfair to focus too much on what Will personally did or did not know about FTX. There were plenty of other opportunities for other people with far less personal involvement to partially figure this one out, and some did so before the site's failure. 

My own major redflag about FTX, for instance, was the employment of Dan Friedberg as their chief regulatory officer, a known liar and fraud-enabler from his involvement with the UltimateBet superusing scandal. Friedberg's executive role at FTX was public record, while the tapes that confirmed the degree of his involvement in the thefts at UltimateBet were leaked in 2013 and were widely publicized in the poker community. Some prominent EAs are even former professional poker players (Igor Kurganov and Liv Boeree). 

Even just a few months before FTX's failure, enormous redflags were emerging everywhere. Due to the bankruptcy proceedings of crypto lender Voyager, it became public knowledge in July 2022 that Alameda Research owed them $377 million at the time of bankruptcy. The obvious conclusion was, that like Voyager's other outstanding debtor Three Arrows Capital, Alameda was insolvent (which we now know was in fact the the case). All this was public record and easy to find if you paid a bit of attention to crypto (i.e it was reported in the crypto press), which surely many EAs did at the time.

tl;dr This idea that only a small caste of elite EAs with access to privileged information about FTX could have made some good educated guesses about the potential risks does not stack up: there was plenty in the public record, and I suggest that EA collectively was very happy to look the other way as long as the money was flowing and SBF seemed like a nice EA vegan boy. No doubt Will & other elite EAs deserve some blame, but it would be very easy to try to pin too much on them.

The cynical explanation is that because all of these orgs are small ,they're also weak and very likely to remain entirely dependent on the funder. Larger orgs would be much more likely to start their own fundraising teams and seek to diversify their revenue sources. 

Like many problems in EA, this one is 100% at the door of OpenPhil. There is absolutely nothing to stop them funding fewer organizations with more money per organization, rather than overseeing this sprawling empire of countless tiny orgs. The real question is why OpenPhil prefers it this way?

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