It’s easy to see that was wrong in hindsight.

But imagine he had managed to keep the ball rolling a few years/decades, producing billions for good causes in the meantime and promoting at the higher level. And that vanished little by little without much attention — yet another promise failing.

The main “victims” would have been a bunch of wealthy celebrities and investors (and yes, also tens of thousands of small customers; mostly relatively rich human beings living in wealthy countries). I can see how the positive impact could outweigh all those losses.

I’m not saying he did the right thing. (For one, we don’t know yet what he did, exactly. Of course, if rumours of funds being siphoned out of turn out to be true, and SBF and his circle are behind that, the guy is a monster.) I’m just saying we all face analogous (if also much lower-stake) trade-offs routinely, and we make decisions estimating odds and computing expected value (perhaps unconsciously) all the time.

@tripu I think it's good to remember ethics is about balance. In a sense, everyone is a consequentialist/utilitarian in a way -- we would lie to ourselves otherwise -- because people usually brush their teeth in the morning expecting lasting dental health, work and save for retirement, and so on. One of the oldest tenets of wisdom is to properly weight the far future against the near future, and to value other beings. We are all consequentialists, although we should be wise about it.

@tripu I think you focus too much on #EffectiveAltruism there, leading you to hand wave the deeply unethical behavior of #SBF, misappropriating customer deposits on #FTX to bail out his failing #Alameda hedge fund.

And if only the story ended there. But #SBF was the second biggest donor to the Democratic party, and was pushing for regulations in the US to entrench #FTX monopoly. Textbook regulatory capture which would have been disastrous, I have no doubt about that.


I’m focusing on the reputation angle here because that’s the angle I care most about — more than the future of regulation, political corruption, or the specific shape of the fraud.

But those are very important too, no doubt.

@tripu we all face those trade offs daily, but surely not with other people's money!


As individuals, we do face analogous trade-offs daily. From time to time, we even face trade-offs involving other people’s lives, well-being and property, indirectly — and sometimes, very directly.

Institutions you are part of and fund (and supposedly govern with others through democracy) routinely do. UN, NATO, WTO, EU, your country, your region, your city: they start wars, defend other countries, incarcerate people, pardon criminals, decide on asylum claims, deny treatment for certain illnesses, provide public pensions, cut taxes, expropriate private property, retire the custody of minors, perform abortions, etc all the time.

If all that seems too far removed from your sphere of influence: What are you trading, if not convenience, safety and human lives (your own, and others’), every time that you decide whether to drive or not after having had a drink or two at the pub? Whose health are you protecting (or not) by bothering to wear a mask on public transport or to shut yourself away at home while you are contagious (or not), if not other people’s health? Whose money are you playing with if you support any taxation at all and defend laws to prosecute tax evaders, if not other people’s money?

I think we can claim quantitative differences ( had a much higher responsibility), but not qualitative ones.

@tripu Sure, maybe the way I read your post sounded different. "Yes, this drunk driver ran over a crowd of pedestrians, but imagine if he didn't and only slightly bumped another car, no one would have noticed. We all face these types of decisions every day". Yes, we all risk something every minute of every day, but there are reasonable and unreasonable risks and no one would be outraged for a reasonable risk that goes wrong. Anyway, as you say, we don't even know exactly what he's done.


Anyway, as you say, we don’t even know exactly what he’s done

Yeah. That was more true a few days ago. It’s starting to be clearer by the day, by SBF’s own words 😞

There are reasonable and unreasonable risks and no one would be outraged for a reasonable risk that goes wrong

If only! Embedded in my larger point was the idea that unfortunately society tends to judge people and institutions based on actual outcomes and not on probable outcomes. For good, and for bad.

eg: when a nuclear accident happens, the media, politicians, etc all rush to attack nuclear power and to find who to blame for deciding to build and keep running the nuclear station. That happens even when that was a very rare, unfortunate accident, and when the right answer would be: “ah, the plant was OK, we just were unlucky! Still nuclear is the best alternative.”

And the opposite is true, also: a politician who cuts funding for epidemic preparedness, or issues a lot of additional debt, or does a similarly risky thing, will rarely be criticised (let alone impeached or prosecuted) if he simply gets lucky and the (unwise) gamble turns out favourably for the country.

I hate that.

wrt , it seems to me we’re judging according to what happened, not to what was most likely to happen (getting way with it in the end, with no victims?). I think both should count, somehow — not sure exactly how, though.

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