Home Technology What is Effective Altruism, the philosophy of a 35-year-old that Musk likes (and Bankman-Fried)

What is Effective Altruism, the philosophy of a 35-year-old that Musk likes (and Bankman-Fried)

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What is Effective Altruism, the philosophy of a 35-year-old that Musk likes (and Bankman-Fried)

While Ftx of Sam Bankman-Fried on November 11 it declared bankruptcy, starting the biggest crash in the history of cryptocurrencies, a young philosopher wrote on Twitter: “For years our community has stressed the importance of integrity, honesty and respect. If the allegations against Sam are true, then Sam didn’t listen to me. One of our community must always oppose the reasoning ‘The end justifies the means’”. To write is William MacAskill. 35 years old, thinker rather than philosopher, born in Glasgow but well rooted in Silicon Valley.

He is the founder of a current of thought. Effectvie Altruism (effective altruism). Abbreviated, EA. And that’s how EA is known among its members. 7,000 prominent profiles from Silicon Valley: startup founders, digital entrepreneurs, cryptocurrency exchange managers. MacAskill over the last 10 years has allegedly convinced thousands of people to look for high-paying jobs in finance and technology, to accumulate large sums and then donate them to certified charities.

Earn a lot but donate to live well

Effective altruism. Earn to donate (money and time). To unleash the full power of the rational mind in business, not to fatten one’s bank account, but to do good to others. MacAskill met Bankman-Fried while studying at MIT in Boston. The first, a Scot, would have convinced him there of the goodness of his principles. Which over the years have also touched Elon Musk.

When did his book come out? What we owe the futureMusk said he feels particularly close to his ideas. MacAskill at 24 had already crowned part of his brilliant career by obtaining a professorship at Oxfordwhere he still teaches. In line with his principles, he gives away half of his salary every year. He would live on just over £26,000, he told Time, sharing his flat with two friends to cut costs.

The relationship between Bankman-Fried and MacAskill

MacAskill considered Bankman-Fried one of his best followers. He also served on the board of directors of a foundation connected to FTX. Good relations, so much so that they tried to get him and Musk to talk during the purchase of Twitter, while Tesla’s number one was looking for financial support (he will eventually find it in the founder of Binance, Changpeng Zhao, another prominent personality of the crypto world).

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But the reckless actions of Bakman-Fried created a collapse of 32 billion and vaporized the 15.6 billion dollars of the entrepreneur’s personal assets. The effect, at the moment, is a storm on the crypto exchange market with injuries to the $850 billion sector.

During his rise, many media highlighted a curious aspect: despite all the money he earned in a few years, Bankman-Fried drove an old Toyota Corolla. He often said that he would donate all his billions to him, even when he financed political parties in Washington and shook hands in the most important salons of American finance. The reason was his connection to the philosophy of Effective Altruism.

The Effective Altruism Network: Billionaires and Influencers

He and the other acolytes (all apparently rich, all white, all or almost all American) tried to follow MacAskill’s principles of rationalism to the letter. Before the Bankman-Fried empire unraveled, EA had access to a network of approximately 46 billion dollars of funding and was in the midst of a reorganization to try to change public policy globally. But today, with the collapse of Bankman-Fried, the whole movement seems to be at a crossroads. His very survival in jeopardy.

But who is part of EA? An Oxford researcher close to but critical of MacAskill spoke about it in a podcast released in April: Adherents are “in journalism, in academia, in Big Tech, and they coordinate around this idea of ​​aligning values” . Which, of course. What they want to achieve, however, is not at all.

A modern revision of 17th century Utilitarianism. And math

We started talking about effective Altruism in 2011. Philosophically it has its roots in 17th century Utilitarianism. Its first and most authoritative exponent is the philosopher Jeremy Bentham: thought that an action is good if and only if it is useful, i.e. if it produces the highest possible degree of happiness for the greatest possible number of people.

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One of his more modern arguments calls for richer nations to donate income to help poorer nations. The advent of technological giants (and the easy money that has been around for over twenty years) has led MacAskill to rethink some of the principles of utilitarianism in more modern terms.

He accentuated the mathematical matrix of rational choices, focusing on the exact measure of the potential improvements of an action with respect to the quality of life. Also passing through decisions in the economic field. This is somewhat the fundamental distinction between classical utilitarianism and its evolution into effective altruism: effectiveness is given by the mathematical accuracy of the calculation of the possible consequences of each of our actions. Which makes it something other than good morals for the masses. It makes it something more elitist.

Long-termism, an offshoot of effective Altruism

Related to the philosophy of effective altruism is longtermism. A vision of the world that at times borders on religion, which has its roots in transhumanism and utilitarian ethics. In extreme summary it states that in the future there could be so many people in the digital world, living their lives in vast computer simulations for millions or billions of years, that one of our most important moral obligations today is to take actions that ensure existence of as many of these people as possible.

How does that translate into real terms? Those who follow this philosophy undertake to do everything necessary to accelerate the triumph of the human race over the ecosystem, colonize planets, create new, virtual ones, to allow all these humans, digital and otherwise, to live. According to Nick Bostrom – father of longtermism and director of the Future of Humanity Institute – the number of these humans could easily reach a figure that is impossible to pronounce: 1 followed by 58 zeros. Actually the number is not important. What is important is that they are many, many, in disproportionate numbers. All to ensure the existence and livelihood of the human race in the future. Long-termism, a key concept of effective Altruism, is a commitment to guarantee the future of the human race in all its forms. It also seems to have the appreciation of Elon Musk, who has repeatedly railed against the decrease in the birth rate in the most advanced states.

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Landing in the Bay Area. The “like” of Musk and Gates

The theses of the EA immediately began to take root also in the San Francisco Bay. First through some theorists skeptical of Artificial Intelligence, including Nick Bostrom, author of an international bestseller such as Super Intelligence. Then among the billionaires of Silicon Valley, convinced by the theses of MacAskill and Bostrom.

Super Intelligence has been a book loved and commented on by Elon Musk e Bill Gateswhich for years have been pointing the spotlights against the advent of supercomputers, potentially capable of threatening the very existence of the human race.

EA expands its network through foundations and new philanthropy projects. Bankman-Fried becomes one of the main faces in the new American economy. Today his fall, which has its roots in avarice and cunning applied to the new finance, risks being a problem for MacAskill’s philosophical principles and the network that supports him.

Now the movement risks dissolving

And according to the Washington Post, a damnatio memoriae has already started against the former number one of FTX. Phrases such as: he never understood or shared our principles, he lived in an attic in the Bahamas, he misunderstood what were the precepts of our thinking which would already be the strong points of the exponents of the movement.

The latest tweet on MacAskill’s wall summarizes the situation: “I know that many, even within our community, are concerned about possible misuse of our ideas. And that they could cause harm. I thought these concerns were exaggerated, improbable. Maybe I was wrong.”

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