I didn’t want to know more about Caroline Ellison after all

We’re learning more about Caroline Ellison, Sam Bankman-Fried’s partner in crime. Some of it is kind of cute. She was a math nerd!

The daughter of esteemed economists — her father, Glenn Ellison, is currently the head of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her mother, Sara Fischer Ellison, is an economics department lecturer at the university — she grew up outside of Boston, in a household filled with numbers. While other kids were playing with Lego, Ellison was learning about Bayesian statistics before middle school; one year, rather than write her father a birthday card, she presented him with an economic study of stuffed animal prices at Toys ‘R’ Us. “We definitely got exposed to a lot of economics,” Ellison previously told Forbes in an interview.

A natural mathematician, high school was a laboratory for Ellison’s love of numbers and she competed multiple times in the Math Prize for Girls, the national contest that draws the country’s brightest young minds. But her interests went far beyond math, and as a senior, she received an honorable mention in a linguistics olympiad. She also loved books—her parents read her the first Harry Potter book when she was 3, she said, then she read the second one on her own at age 5. (She has apparently described herself as a Ravenclaw.)

So far, that’s cool — I can’t hold the Harry Potter fandom against her, since lots of people got into that in her youth. But then her biography takes a darker turn.

By the time Ellison arrived at Stanford as a math major in 2012, her professional ambitions were taking shape, and while adjusting to college life, she took to Tumblr to publish her daily musings. The now-deleted blog, called WorldOptimization, is unsigned but a close associate confirmed that it was hers. In it, she wrote that “the sexual revolution was a mistake” and that she believed “women are better suited to being homemakers and rearing children than doing Careers.” She also mused about race science, in one post saying the “genetic differences there are massive” when it comes to Indian people from different provinces and castes — which has become a source of discrimination in Silicon Valley. And at the top of her list of “~cute boy things~” was “controlling most major world governments.”

Oh god. So she wasn’t so bright after all. Just another privileged white person with a battery of misconceptions and a poor understanding of the sciences.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    So I have been mistaken when I have found writing a blog too intimidating because of the quality concerns.
    I could just write down my worst brain farts and maybe pad the blog with quotes from Mussolini… or George Wallace, if you want am American connection.

  2. drsteve says

    One of my greatest joys this holiday season has been visiting my little sister at her newly renovated home in upstate Pennsylvania.

    She’s also both a math and fantasy nerd, and being in her mid-30s was also just the right age to get into Harry Potter. . .but she’s a much bigger fan of His Dark Materials. I’m particularly proud of having introduced her to the trilogy as a Christmas gift when she was in middle or high school.

    Nowadays she’s putting her data skills to work in the progressive wing of PA Democratic Party politics, and most recently contributed to the success of the Shapiro campaign.

    As far as race science goes, she has some Native American ancestry (uniquely in our family, since both of us were adopted), and she’s excited to soon start reading one of my more recent gifts: The Mismeasure of Man.

    So, I guess all of this is just to say that I didn’t mind hearing all this about Ellison because it reminds me of how fortunate I am to have people in my own life who are of better character in every way. 🙂

    Happy holidays to all, and may all of your reconnections with loved ones be as merry as mine!

  3. asclepias says

    I always find it odd when women who are attending college come forth with musings like “women are better-suited to be at home and in the kitchen.” Are they planning to do anything with their degrees after they graduate? If so, don’t they see the irony?

  4. microraptor says

    @3: Oh no, you see they are an exception, it’s just everyone else who’s naturally this way.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    Maybe she could start a new blog together with Jeremy Clarkson, once she is out of prison.
    (The Brits know what I mean)

  6. says

    I’m guessing her mathematics education has given her a familiarity with imaginary numbers. So, imaginary money would seem to be a logical extension.

  7. billseymour says

    Back when I was in high school (in the early 60s), there was a joke going around that girls went to college to get their MRS degree.  I thought that was bigoted even as a kid.

  8. Matt G says

    Wow, the parents are quite accomplished. Should we feel sorry for them, or did they play some role in the “values” she developed?

  9. raven says

    At least Ellison is bright enough to cop a plea and throw the other guy under a bus.
    She has already pleaded guilty to 7 criminal counts with a potential 110 years in prison.

    I’ve been very casually watching FTX implode.
    Sam Bankman-Fried and Caroline Ellison plus the rest all look to me like children who have been given a few billion dollars to play with.
    I’m sure it was fun for a while.

    They aren’t actually children as Caroline Ellison is 28 and SBF is 30, but they act like they never bothered or had to…grow up.


    Ellison has pleaded guilty to seven counts against her in a charging document called an information, which prosecutors unveiled this week. The government has portrayed Ellison and Wang as active henchmen in Bankman-Fried’s alleged scheme to use FTX customer funds to bring money into his separate firm Alameda, according to a civil complaint filed on Wednesday by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

    The criminal counts against Ellison, including for wire fraud and conspiracy, mirror those against Bankman-Fried. But unlike his charges, hers weren’t a product of a grand jury indictment, as her cooperation and plea relieved prosecutors of taking that step.

    The counts against Ellison carry a maximum penalty of 110 years, if the sentences for each were to be stacked up. But her cooperation could secure her a much lighter sentence, perhaps even no jail time at all, depending on how useful prosecutors find her help, and what the judge decides.

    “It would be nothing close to what they’d be exposed to if they were to go to trial,” said Andrey Spektor, a white collar partner at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP and former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn. Spektor was referring to the kinds of sentences that cooperators can expect.

  10. says

    Pardon the partially repeated comment:
    Sadly, intelligence is not wisdom and often very intelligent people are amoral or immoral. PZ’s article on Caroline Ellison is a case in point. The rtwingnut and xtian terrorist cults everywhere have both very intelligent and very stupid amoral and immoral people. But, their greed, ambition and aggression is what makes them so dangerous.
    Stay safe friends. Brace yourselves for a new year full of destructive weather and destructive factions.

  11. says

    In our book Omniascendence (tm & copr 2016) we stipulate that “Money is not the root of all evil. it is the fertilizer that causes evil to grow and spread.”

  12. says

    Point granted, although if I can go to a store and exchange it for food, which I did this morning, it seems real enough to me.
    I’ve always regarded money as a fairly abstract concept, maybe one reason why I never made a lot in my life. Actually, numbers are kind of abstract, too, when you really think about it. And “abstract” is a really weird-looking word when you stare at it too long.

  13. StevoR says

    The people aquiring the goods in exchange for the gods are getting the better deal for sure!

    Oh & Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it and have great solstice festival holiday season to those who don’t.

  14. says

    Not a day goes by where I don’t count my blessings that, back when I was in my 20s posting stupid shit (on campus and Usenet newsgroups), the internet had yet to be commercialized, companies like Tumblr didn’t exist yet, disk space was very, very, very expensive and thus, essentially none of my various musings made the threshold to be deemed worth keeping around anywhere — except in my own files; I go back, look at them every so often, and imagine what I would have been like if I’d wound up in charge of a hedge fund in that same timeframe.

    It would not have been pretty.

  15. says

    So she wasn’t so bright after all. Just another privileged white person with a battery of misconceptions and a poor understanding of the sciences.

    False dichotomy. One of many examples: Alonzo Church was a raging racist.

  16. says

    Which money is NOT imaginary?

    This question reflects profound ignorance. That the value of money is socially determined does not make money imaginary.