“Effective altruists today feel betrayed by one of their own”

In Washington, November 13, 2022.

IHe had already been the liquidator of the largest bankruptcy in American history, that of Enron, in 2001. But John Ray, appointed to pilot the bankruptcy filing of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange platform, affirms never seen such a black hole. As the dust settles, the financial community takes the measure of the extent of the scandal. According to FinancialTimesmore than 3 billion dollars (2.92 billion euros) would be missing to reimburse its customers, individuals and financial institutions, some of whom had placed up to 200 million in the case.

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The founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, whose fortune amounted to almost 30 billion at the beginning of the year, has nothing left. Which is a shame since he had promised to donate all of his property to charities. “SBF”, as he is nicknamed, was a follower of the “effective altruism” movement (efficient altruism).

Founded in 2011 by his mentor, William MacAskill, professor at Oxford, this thought is inspired by the work of the Australian utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer, a great defender, in particular, of the animal cause. His thesis aims to rationalize humanitarian aid by always seeking the donation that will be the most effective, scientifically measured, whether it concerns individuals close to home or on the other side of the world. The weekly The Economist tells how William MacAskill pushed “SBF” to get into finance according to the principle of optimization, which means that by earning more, you can give more.

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The latter went beyond the expectations of his master. But effective altruists today feel betrayed by one of their own, who nevertheless lived in community in his house in the Bahamas with nine other defenders of this philosophy, who wants to think far back in time and space.

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He had however chosen with cryptocurrencies the field at the forefront of digital, the one that still brings together many crusaders of the libertarian Internet. In his fascinating book Decode. A counter-history of digital (Books, 262 pages, 20 euros), political scientist Charleyne Biondi recounts the genesis of digital culture from the hippie pioneers of San Francisco to the hacker rebels of the Chaos Computer Club, via Google. All share the same faith in technology and the same mistrust, even hatred, of the state and its bureaucracy. A vision of radical freedom reminiscent of that of the Founding Fathers of the United States, who enshrined in the Constitution their distrust of state centralization. But today, it is the State that has the wind in its sails and pushes back to the Greek calendars the dreams of the liberation of the individual through technology.

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