Sam Bankman-Fried is a feature, not a bug.

Imagine a philosophy so focused on the ends that it becomes blind to the means. This is the seductive trap of Effective Altruism (EA), a doctrine born to the rationalist cradle, promising to solve the world's woes through a calculator. Into this world stepped Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), a popularly proclaimed prodigy who wore the EA badge proudly as he built his crypto empire. But when that empire crumbled, it laid bare the chilling truth: EA, in its cold calculus, can justify the unjustifiable in pursuit of an ill-defined "greater good."

Bankman-Fried's journey into Effective Altruism began in the hallowed halls of MIT, where (if we are to believe a narrative constructed at least in part by himself) he was ensnared by its compelling vision of rational philanthropy. EA offered a structured, data-driven approach to benevolence, promising to maximise the impact of each charitable dollar and provide an answer to everything from climate change to social inequality. For SBF, the burgeoning crypto market wasn't just a financial frontier; it was a golden avenue to achieve the lofty ideals of EA. Through his twin ventures, Alameda Research and FTX, he sold the idea of an empire vast enough to channel unprecedented resources towards altruistic causes. And we bought it. We lapped it up. Journalists and YouTubers called him the world's most generous, humble billionaire. 

If it were ever sincere, SBF's initial altruistic narrative gradually morphed into a veneer, masking a relentless pursuit of personal wealth and influence. The façade of invincibility crumbled when a sudden rush of withdrawals precipitated a liquidity crisis, laying bare a staggering shortfall where billions in customer funds should have been secured. The aftermath was cataclysmic, a maelstrom that left in its wake a trail of ruin and shattered lives.

FTX's theft and Alameda's speculative trading were not only illegal; they were symptomatic of the darker, more utilitarian undercurrents of EA. This approach, which championed the ends over the means, saw regulatory norms, laws and basic concepts of human morality (thou shalt not fucking steal etc.) not as safeguards but as hurdles. In FTX's high-stakes gamble, the chips were the trust and life savings of countless customers, unwittingly caught in the crossfire of SBF's ambition and EA's ethical blind spots.

Bankman-Fried, once hailed as a forward-thinking visionary, was exposed as a charlatan. His actions painted a picture of a financial hooligan who not only gamed the system but did so with a cavalier disregard for the consequences. His manipulations extended into the political arena, where he wielded his wealth for personal influence via donations and lobbying, embodying the hubris of a 'spoiled capitalist man-child' masquerading as a philosopher-king.

In Discord servers and Telegram chats, crypto builders are recognising that SBF's end is a tolling bell for the coming end of their industry's "Wild West" ethos. Within the EA community, there's a growing recognition of the need to reconcile its quantitative focus with ethical integrity. But in neither camp are we seeing the degree of self-reflection that the immolation of their champion should call for. EA's obsession with the ends created a fertile ground for exploitation by those with questionable motives. It will do so again. Without a foundational commitment to ethical principles, both EA and crypto will continue as a vehicle for justifying the unjustifiable.

EA is a philosophy of benevolence by numbers. It tells us to use evidence and rationality to pinpoint and tackle the globe's gravest problems, promising maximum impact per dollar donated. Figures like Peter Singer champion this cause, preaching a gospel of suffering reduction through strategic giving. This numbers game has its critics. It neglects the undercurrents of systemic issues and, more alarmingly, tends to sidestep moral quandaries. Its message is unsettling: any means can be justified, so long as the end is noble enough. 

Michael Lewis, along with a cadre of others, have astonishingly aligned themselves with the EA bamboozlers, steadfastly standing by their erstwhile idol even as he stands convicted of financial crimes of staggering magnitude. Their unwavering allegiance to SBF, even in the face of overwhelming evidence and the seismic fallout of his actions, speaks to a troubling suspension of disbelief. It's as if the sheer scale of the deception, rather than eliciting condemnation, has paradoxically deepened their fascination, solidifying SBF's mythic status. This curious phenomenon, where observers become so captivated by the narrative of a fallen 'tweaker' genius that they lose sight of the actual human and financial toll of his actions, is perhaps best left unexplored. Delving into their delusions risks lending them a credence they do not deserve, detracting from the urgent lessons that must be gleaned from this debacle.

Those who still defend EA as a philosophy believe that SBF was an accident, an outlier, an anomaly. This could not be further from the truth. SBF is, in fact, the perfect poster child for a philosophy of excess in the name of moral superiority, a living embodiment of the dangerous hubris that can arise when ethical boundaries are blurred in the pursuit of a greater good. His actions were not deviations from the EA script; instead, they were its logical extension. In effect, SBF is a feature of Effective Altruism, not a bug. In the unbridled quest to maximise impact, EA inadvertently laid the groundwork for a culture where the end justifies any means, where moral trade-offs are not just tolerated but often encouraged. SBF's saga is a stark reminder of the perils inherent in a philosophy that loses sight of the ethical compass in its relentless pursuit of utilitarian outcomes.

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