The scandal surrounding Sam Bankman-Fried is a dire warning about the potential of effective altruism’s power and influence
Sam Bankman-Fried’s recent alleged fraud raises familiar questions about the reliability and regulation of cryptocurrency. But it also calls into question “effective altruism”, an intellectual movement in philanthropy. If the movement doesn’t change course, one of the most ambitious charitable drives in recent history will end up like so many others: a lab and playground for wealthy donors.
Bankman-Fried was a junior at MIT when he first encountered William MacAskill, a founder of effective altruism. MacAskill pitched him about the “earning to give” strategy – trying to make as much money as one can in order to maximize one’s charitable donations. On MacAskill’s advice, Bankman-Fried began his career trading securities before being hired by the Center for Effective Altruism. Afterwards, he began FTX, an international crypto exchange. Alongside it were the FTX Future Fund and the FTX Foundation, philanthropic organizations committed to effective altruism and staffed by prominent effective altruists, including MacAskill.
Olúfẹ́mi O Táíwò is associate professor of philosophy at Georgetown University. He has written for publications including the Guardian, the New Yorker and the Nation