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Humbled Crypto Boss Bragged About Not Reading Books

To an outsider, the name Sam Bankman-Fried might seem like a pseudonym, too on-the-nose to be real. The 30-year-old entrepreneur and philanthropist, known by his initials SBF, became one of the youngest billionaires in the world after founding the cryptocurrency exchange FTX. In the 90s hip-hop parlance, one could say he made “bank, man.” But after FTX collapsed amidst solvency concerns and he lost approximately $16 billion in net worth, SBF now appears, rather appropriately, “fried.”

As proof of his lack of business savvy, Washington Post columnist Molly Roberts recently mentioned the fact that SBF once spurned the practice of reading books. Not certain books, but books, period. He said, “I would never read a book. I don’t want to say no book is ever worth reading, but I actually do believe something pretty close to that. ... If you wrote a book, you (failed), it should have been a six-paragraph blog post.”

Roberts says that such impatience is characteristic of his overall approach, a philosophy he identifies as “effective altruism.” This is defined as making as much money as possible, as quickly as possible, in order to give it all away. According to Roberts, SBF’s unwillingness to hoard the money is laudable, but he used it to justify a series of high-risk speculative bets that eventually proved to be his economic undoing.

Roberts explained:

SBF was also immersed in a type of effective altruism known as longtermism, where that ultimate outcome you’re seeking is hundreds of thousands or even millions of years away. So, instead of buying bed nets for children dying of malaria today, you’re trying to prevent the hypothetical next pandemic or the overheating of the earth. ... (This way of thinking is an) obsession with the future [that] disconnects you from the present.

Roberts concludes her analysis this way: “Why not scam a few bucks today to save a few billion lives in the 23rd century? That’s not just skipping to the end of the book—it’s skipping to the end of the entire series.”

Possible Preaching Angle:

Those who spurn instruction and consideration in favor of efficiency and haste, cut themselves off from needed wisdom and hasten their own destruction.

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