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How the collapse of FTX put the effective altruism movement in jeopardy

CEO of FTX Sam Bankman-Fried testifies during a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee at Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill December 8, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
CEO of FTX Sam Bankman-Fried testifies during a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee at Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill December 8, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Sam Bankman-Fried and the colossal collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange — FTX. Beneath it all, there’s something called the effective altruism movement.

“The idea is to sort of combine the head and the heart to try to get people to do more good, more effectively,” professor Richard Chappell says.

That is, donate to charities and causes that have been shown through research to do the ‘most good.’ But you’ve got to make a lot of money first, in order to give it away.

Bankman-Fried has become the poster child of this movement.

But after allegedly going down the path of massive fraud, money laundering, and campaign finance violations, has the cryptocurrency mogul jeopardized the movement?

“I hope we recover from it,” Chappell adds. “And people will realize that having a donor that’s a bad person who has made huge mistakes doesn’t mean that it’s not actually important to help people who need help.”

Today, On Point: What exactly is effective altruism? Can it — and should it — survive?

Guests

Molly White, software engineer who maintains the blog Web3 is Going Great, a site documenting the scams and crashes of the crypto world. (@molly0xFFF)

Richard Chappell, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Miami. He identifies as a member of the effective altruism movement. (@RYChappell)

Also Featured

Jeff Kaufman, member of the effective altruism movement in Boston.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.