Ineffective Altruism, Apocalypse, and Human Genetic Enhancement

Biopolitical Times
View of Nauru airport, which barely fits on land

"File:View of Nauru airport.jpg" by Cedric Favero
is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The first part of the title is shamelessly borrowed from Quartz, which published this on July 21, 2023:

Sam Bankman-Fried seemed unprepared for the end of his FTX crypto exchange, but he’d certainly started planning for the end of civilization. 

Well, of course, if you are committed to “longtermism” and “effective altruism” then such contingency planning seems, at first blush, to be rather, or at least somewhat, or possibly, sensible. So, what to do?

According to new court filings, Bankman-Fried had chalked out how he would purchase the island nation of Nauru. Come the great fire or flood, he would move himself and his colleagues in the effective altruism movement into a bunker there, to wait out the apocalypse. 

Quartz details Nauru’s ecological devastation from phosphate mining and its exceedingly dodgy reputation for money laundering. Oh, right. That would be a feature, not a bug.

Émile Torres, the philosopher and activist who coined the acronym TESCREAL to cover the eugenics-embracing “weird ideologies” that include so-called effective altruism and longtermism, spotted the Quartz piece and commented on Twitter:

OMFG. Just when you think that the EA movement couldn't get any f*cking worse. It’s appalling that anyone still takes the movement seriously.

Hard to disagree. Torres also reprinted part of an FTX memo, included in the court documents, that mentioned “some event where 50%–99.99% of people die” and the need to ensure “that most EAs survive.” 

As an added bonus, the geniuses in the EA bunker would develop “sensible regulation around human genetic enhancement, and build a lab there.” Hmmm. The adjective sensible here is a dead giveaway; minimal is more likely what they have in mind but perhaps less obviously appealing. 

The memo further noted off-handedly that “probably there are other things it’s useful to do with a sovereign country, too.” What such things might be is left to the reader’s imagination.

But even Torres initially may have missed the cherry on the icing of the cake of ridicule, supplied neatly by Zanzi Tangle, friend of LLMs:

This is so inane. 

Even if you ignore the moral connotations, Nauru is highly vulnerable to sea level rise. It's the worst place to buy if you *actually* want to survive a climate disaster.

It's like they care more about the supervillain *aesthetic* than any practicality.