Link Roundup: December 2022

If Professional Investors Missed this | Jeff Kaufman – Background: Last month, the cryptocurrency exchange FTX collapsed, because its founder Sam Bankman-Fried had apparently been dipping into customer funds.  Bankman-Fried had a lot of ties to the EA movement so I was curious what EA folks were saying about it.  EA is not happy about it, and in fact they are directly impacted, with many promised charity grants now gone.  There’s a question of whether EA ought to have seen the red flags, and the answer is maybe yes, maybe no.

From an external perspective, it looks like EA is being pretty naive about allowing billionaires to use their movement to launder their own reputations.  And Bankman-Fried should have been suspicious from the start, as a cryptogrifter who places a lot of focus on AI risk.  Perhaps it was impossible to foresee quite how far Bankman-Fried’s nefariousness extended, but it feels like this was a “reap what you sow” situation.

Penises, Privilege, and Feminist & LGBTQ+ Purity Politics | Julia Serano – Serano outlines a theory of how sex is seen as a contamination event, and describes its impact on bisexual and trans people.  I also appreciated the explanation of “cultural feminism”.

Why It’s Rude to Suck at Warcraft | Folding Ideas (video, 1:24 hours) – The central question of this video haunts me: why do we consider it rude to suck at any video game?  How do ethical norms and requirements emerge in completely new contexts?  It’s wild to see these norms go to extremes in the context of the World of Warcraft raiding scene.  When you’re playing with 20 people at a time, there’s enough collective drive to succeed that it’s your social responsibility to do everything you can to optimize.  This includes watching professional streamers, copying strategies, using game-changing mods, and putting in many hours for a miniscule chance of finding an item that simulations show is only a 0.6% improvement.  Furthermore, players are engaged in an arms race with developers, to the extent that all this optimization is essentially required to complete newer content.

I’ve never been in a WoW raid, but in many other games I’m familiar with the pattern of looking up guides, watching experts, and basically role-playing as Spike.  I don’t think the issue is as simple as “optimizing the fun out of the game”–optimizing is a major part of what makes it fun, and I presume many WoW raiders feel similarly.  What makes it less fun for me, is if someone else is doing the optimization for me, be it a writer of a guide, or a fellow player who wants our team to succeed.

Why some tech CEOs are rooting for Elon Musk | The Verge – Tech CEOs are looking for excuses to reduce workforce, and dispose of DEI.  For them, Elon Musk’s performance at Twitter is an inspiration.  I guess they’re willfully ignoring fact that Twitter is by all appearances going down in flames.  May all the other garbage CEOs go down with him.

Just How Pagan is Christmas Really? | Tale of Times Forgotten – The answer is not very much at all.  The idea that Christmas traditions are pagan originally came from fundamentalist protestants in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.  But most Christmas traditions that we’re familiar with today are too recent to have pagan origins.

About the Protests, and About Zero Covid | Tell me why the world is weird – Perfect Number is an American living in Shanghai, so she provides an interesting perspective about the ongoing protests in China against zero covid.  It turns out, you don’t hear about them much inside China, because of the censorship.


  1. says

    Thanks for linking to my blog! ^_^

    Also, the link about FTX and ethical altruism was really interesting. I think when I’ve read about the EA movement before, it sounded to me like “it’s okay for rich people to make tons of money by exploiting workers/ avoiding taxes through legal loopholes, because then they donate to charity, and their decisions about how to use money to do the most good are far superior than, you know, if they paid people fairly.” (Like you said “allowing billionaires to use their movement to launder their own reputations”.) Reading through a bunch of posts on Jeff Kaufman’s blog, I see it can be a much more positive and reasonable thing than that.

  2. says

    @Perfect Number,
    I’m only on the margins of EA, but I’d say it’s a mix of good and bad. I have two major criticisms of EA. First, I find their ethical philosophy to be dubious in the details. Second, I don’t like how highly they prioritize AI reseach as a charitable cause. I wrote a longer perspective about EA here.

    But even assuming they were wasting like half of their money on philosophically dubious nonsense, a community whose purpose is to encourage charity still seems like a net good for the world. I donate to GiveWell myself, and you don’t need to be EA to do that. I’m a lot more positive about EA than most other bloggers on FTB are.

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