Sam Bankman-Fried, the billionaire founder of crypto exchange FTX, intends to give away the vast majority of his wealth in accordance with the philosophy of “effective altruism,” which he learned in college. He is motivated by “effective altruism,” a philosophy based on mathematical decision-making.
Despite running a multibillion-dollar global crypto exchange, the 30-year-old drives a Toyota Corolla, lives like a college student, and wants to make as much money as possible so that he can give more away.
“You run out of really effective ways to make yourself happier by spending money pretty quickly,” Bankman-Fried told Bloomberg. “I’m not interested in a yacht.” The Economic Club of New York has hosted kings, prime ministers, and presidents, as well as Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com Inc. and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase & Co.
The comments made by central bankers at the 115-year-old organization have influenced markets. Sam Bankman-Fried, a 30-year-old cryptocurrency billionaire, is likely the first to play a computer game while giving a presentation.
Bankman-Fried appears schlubby as usual as the featured guest one morning in February, reclining on a gaming chair in blue shorts and a grey T-shirt advertising his cryptocurrency exchange, FTX, his mop of curly hair flattened by his headphones. He’s calling from his office in the Bahamas via Zoom.
Given the insane speed and riskiness of his ascension to the top echelons of the financial world, almost anything else must seem like a walk in the park in comparison.
Then he discovered a seemingly too-good-to-be-true pricing anomaly in Bitcoin and decided that the right path for him would be to make a lot of money to give away. Bankman-Fried is now one of the world’s wealthiest people, with a fortune of more than $20 billion, according to the information provided by Bloomberg Billionaires Index, after venture capitalists recently invested in FTX and its U.S. arm for a total of $40 billion.
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He laughs as he shows a graph that shows FTX growing faster than his main competitors, such as Binance. The market is enormous. FTX is only the third-largest cryptocurrency exchange by volume, but on a good day, it handles $15 billion in trading.
Users are buying and selling Bitcoin, Ether, Dogecoin, and hundreds of other strange cryptocurrencies instead of Microsoft Corp. shares.
Bankman-Fried now declares that pandemic preparedness is his top priority. He believes that a future disease outbreak could be as lethal as Ebola and as contagious as Covid-19.
He’s funding an advocacy group led by his younger brother that is urging governments to spend more, and he’s given $5 million to the nonprofit investigative journalism organization ProPublica to cover the subject.
“We should expect pandemics to become worse and more frequent over time, simply because of the possibility of lab leaks,” he says.
I ask Bankman-Fried if he ever has second thoughts about devoting his entire life to making money and giving it away. Before responding, he presses his face into his hands for a few seconds.
“It’s not a decision that I constantly reevaluate because I don’t think it’s good for me to constantly reevaluate anything,” he says. “It doesn’t feel like a decision to me anymore, minute by minute.”