FTX EA Fellowships

Announcing a new program: FTX EA Fellowships!

FTX is a cryptocurrency exchange headquartered in the Bahamas, founded with the goal of making money to give to effective causes. We’re looking to

• support people doing exciting work

• kickstart an EA community in the Bahamas

To those ends, we’re looking for applications from people already working on EA jobs or projects that can be done from the Bahamas.

For fellowship recipients, we’ll provide:

• travel to and from the Bahamas

• housing in the Bahamas for up to 6 months

• an EA coworking space

• a stipend of $10,000 Round 1 applications close 1115. We’ll get back with responses by 121, and accommodations will start in January. This is just an initial default schedule: happy to accept off-cycle applications or people who wouldn’t be able to move until later as well. We plan to accept somewhere between 10-25 applicants in the first round, depending on interest and capacity constraints. The application is here. (If you don’t need a fellowship but might want to come hang out in the Bahamas, fill out this form.) We may follow up to do an interview over video chat after reviewing initial applications. If you have any questions feel free to email fellowships@ftx.com. • Can you give some examples of exciting work that you’d find exciting enough to accept, and your selection criteria/​heuristics? • To some extent TBD: this is a bit experimental. That said, some examples of who I’d imagine this might be a good fit for: • people working on PhD writing or research that can be done remotely • EA group organizers who want to spend time coworking with each other in person • people founding startups and looking for space from their current routines But also just excited to see what applications we get! • Can you say more about the motivation behind building an EA community in the Bahamas? • FTX moved there due primarily to the friendly regulatory environment: on crypto specifically, they’re basically the first country in the world to put out a comprehensive framework for crypto regulation, while most countries have been working on this for years and will probably still be working on it for years to come. More generally, the government seems excited about encouraging tech/​innovation and cutting back on red tape. It’s a fairly small country, and I think if a lot of EAs move there EA could end up being a somewhat influential force in the country: as is I think there’s a decent chance of a lot more crypto moving there and it becoming somewhat of a crypto/​fintech hub. Other nice things: easy travel to the US, low tax, beaches! (It’s not perfect and actually shares many of the downsides people often talk about re: the Bay Area :P cost of living/​housing is pretty high, crime rate is high, and transit/​amenities aren’t the best. But I’d guess the benefits make it worth having an EA community there.) • FWIW I’d also want to watch out for a “town/​gown” dynamic developing over time where the newcomers and locals basically don’t interact, which could cause various problems down the road. I’m sure FTX has thought about this, but I’d love to see the vision of “an EA community in the Bahamas” include people who are from the Bahamas as well. • Genunely curious—what problems do you refer to? • The term “town/​gown” refers to the sometimes-awkward dynamic between students/​academics and the local population in college towns. These two groups often find themselves at odds politically or culturally (students and professors are often wealthier and more liberal than locals; university land purchases and urban planning can be controversial). When two communities coexist geographically but rarely interact, this often leads the bigger/​older community to impose restrictions and inconveniences on the smaller/​newer community (since it usually dominates local politics). It can also create an awkward dynamic where people in the smaller/​newer community don’t feel comfortable leaving their “space” to go for walks, travel, shop, etc., because they see themselves as surrounded by strangers, interact awkwardly with people outside of their bubble, etc. This seems bad for a community’s growth and flourishing. If the FTX community were meant to be small and apolitical, with people rotating in and out often, I’d see the town/​gown dynamic as nearly nonexistent (since this just looks like tourism, and tourism rarely breeds conflict of this type AFAIK). But if many people end up living there long-term and trying to influence local elections/​shape the local economy, and the easiest picture for local opposition to draw is “Bahamians vs. outsiders”, I can imagine that creating conflict and making it harder for the FTX community to enjoy friendly policies/​low taxes in the long term. By contrast, if interested/​talented university students and young professionals in the Bahamas end up getting invited to events and hanging out with the FTX community, and eventually working on local policy together, that seems like a more sustainable way for “influence” to happen — no “outside takeover” framing, and people from the innovative/​welcoming host country gain access to opportunities they might not have otherwise. ***** With the project just starting out, worrying about these long-term dynamics seems like a secondary or tertiary concern. But EA is partly about preparing for long-term dynamics, so it doesn’t seem beyond the pale to bring up the issue as something to consider. Meta: I like that Samuel asked Ian to clarify (and invite Ian to say more if my views differ from his). I don’t like the number of downvotes Ian got on a comment that expressed a reasonable concern + mentioned a known problem in community building. The comment could have been more clear, but to me, that’s an invitation to ask for clarification rather than downvote. • Thanks for your reply, this makes sense. • It appears that FTX/​Alameda is aware of this, at least implicitly. According to their About Us page, the Alameda team has two traders who are Hong Kong locals, presumably related to Alameda’s past stint in Hong Kong. • If any of the accepted FTX EA fellows think that Bahamas living is prohibitively expensive, email me at email[dot ]linch[at ]gmail.com with roughly a) how much money you need to feel comfortable/​excited to go, b) by what timeframe you need it and c) optionally, why, and I’ll try (83% probability?) to reimburse you, within reason. I’m reasonably optimistic that I can get this covered by either FTX Foundation, or the EA funds, or somewhere else, later. If not, I’ll just eat the costs myself. I’m unilaterally doing this in a personal capacity because there was some discussion on costs of living. It may not actually be a significant factor for anyone, but if it is, I think it feels pretty dumb for our movement that some people may be worried about costs of living in the same situation as when the CEO of a billion-dollar EA trading firm is personally reviewing applications. It’s possible this situation(“accepted to FTX EA fellowship” + “10k subsidy and free housing insufficient to defray CoL concerns”) describes exactly zero people, but it’s hard to know this before I put the offer out. • Thank you very much for this offer. Would this also apply for people who will be accepted. Are travelling in January. And after living for one week do the calculations and see that the expense for ~6 month would be too much? I am personally surprised by the debate around cost of living but I am also aware that I come from a naive perspective because I can live/​survive of less than 1,000$ per month (including rent and food) in Berlin, Germany.

Disclosure: I applied.

• Hi, you say you will provide “housing in the Bahamas for up to 6 months”.

Is there a certain minimum length of stay required (in terms of months)?

• Haven’t decided on a minimum, was figuring we’d see how long people want to stay/​what their other commitments are and work around that

• I think this would be extremely attractive if it allowed, say 3-6 month intensive “work together” periods, especially if these could be coordinated among teams that are usually remote.

• If I ended up spending some time in the Bahamas this year, do you have a guess as to when would be the optimal time for that?

• probably sometime February-April?

• fellows starting to come in ~1.5 months, so before then there will be fewer EAs and less infrastructure set up before then (though still some)

• I expect highest density of people being here from current round of fellowships/​visits to be from late January through late May, more uncertainty after that

• weather is best in December-March, worst in June-September (unless you like hurricanes)

• For people interested, a friend of mine visited the Bahamas/​FTX recently and had very positive things to say about both.

• Interesting! It sounds like you’ll have more rounds of this program later. E.g. in a year? How likely is that, would you now say?

• BTW we now think we’ve gotten back to everyone! We are still working through our remaining interviews so haven’t finalized all the decisions yet, but everyone who applied should at least have heard back with a yes/​no/​interview. If you haven’t, feel free to reach out on here or via fellowships@ftx.com!

• Just noting that applications close tomorrow, and want to say we really appreciate all the applications!

We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number and quality of the applications and expect it’ll take a bit of time to go through them all; still planning to get back to everyone one way or another by 121 but don’t be alarmed if you haven’t heard back yet or don’t hear back right away.

• Just wanted to inform that sending mails to fellowships@ftx.com returns “Delivery Status Notification (Failure)”

• oops sorry, should work now!

• How are the Visa issues sorted? I’m under the impression that Bahamas only lets you in for 1 year of remote work?

• PSA to anyone new to FTX or Alameda. FTX and Alameda have very small teams (FTX, Alameda), high net worth, and a commitment to EA principles. Caroline Ellison (who posted this) is co-CEO for Alameda, that is how small their org is. Hence team members likely have limited time yet could be quite influential to the EA cause. Personally connecting with them could be very useful, especially if it leads to further collaboration.

(Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.)

P.S. I personally would be interested in this once I complete my degree.

• Hey—I tried emailing fellowships@ftx.com but it looks like the address is not accepting emails. I’ll send a DM to you via the EA Forum instead.

• Hello! I’m new to this community, though my husband, Alex , is Less Wrong OG. We live in Ottawa, Canada with our 2 kids (4 and 7) and this winter is getting us down. I’m a rehabilitation physician, Alex is an epidemiologist by training, currently in leadership at Bluedot. Alex works in EA, I’m more in the earn to give category. We are thinking of this opportunity for winter 2023.

A few questions:

1. Where is the community centred? Is the co-working space close to accommodations? We would need family friendly accommodations.

2. Are there any schools close by where our neuro atypical kid could attend? Going out on a limb to suggest other EAs may have atypical kids. We are raising second gen EA kids.

Suggestion: It may be nice to have a local resource person to help answer questions of community members: e.g where should one go to the dentist, or get a haircut, find a babysitter.

• What does the housing look like?

• Should we have received a confirmation that our application was successfully received?

• I haven’t received anything on my side. I think a confirmation by email would be nice, yes. Otherwise, I’ll send the application a second time just in case.

• When trying to access either of the forms I get:

• oops thank you, should be fixed now?

• Yep!

• Both forms say “This form can only be viewed by users in the owner’s organisation.”

• fixed now hopefully?

• Yep!

• Has anyone considered this in general for remote EA work? (not only Earning to give)

There are several EA Jobs (researching at Rethink Priorities, tech stuff....) that could be done remotely. So one option might be paying a salary and living expenses to these employees in a low cost country and have their own community. If they want they could even live together with like minded EAs

• Some of my RP colleagues and I are considering having a contingent or informal work retreat in the Bahamas, yes.

Note that the Bahamas is close to uniquely bad from a “saving money” perspective. If you just want warm weather, fast internet, and good beaches, Thailand is probably a lot better.

• It’s a more America-friendly time zone though.

• Cool idea! I think my original question was more oriented to “saving EA money”, either because the employees decide to do it voluntarily, or because the EA organisation decides to “open a branch” in a low cost country where the employees are paid less but can maintain a similar standard of living (with more sunshine) while keeping the quality and quantity of their work.

• I am considering the option of working on an EA-related full-time project that I will start in December in part remotely as a digital-nomad, especially in order to know people from other EA communities mainly all around Europe.

• Thanks for offering these fellowships! I have a couple questions:

1. Are they still ongoing; is there a new form people can use to apply?

2. Would you be open to supporting small remote EA orgs’ ~weeklong staff retreats in the Bahamas?

• Hey all, one of my friends involved with EA pointed me to this fellowship a few days ago. I saw the application deadline already passed, but I submitted one anyway. Was wondering if it was possible to still be considered.

• Why is the stipend 10K? How are these numbers chosen? Funds are not exactly tight on this scale. I understand that EA wants to filter for dedicated people. But I feel like these really low pay/​stipends should be justified a little more explicitly. Wouldn’t it make sense to offer more money since ’moving to the Bahamas for 6 months is not exactly a low-cost decision for many people? [I am aware the EA hotel gets people despite a lack of very generous stipends]

• It’s 10k plus travel plus housing plus co-working space, so it sounds like other than food basically the whole 10k would be disposable income. Potentially the housing provides food also. I’m not sure what cost of living is like in the Bahamas but that hardly sounds like “really low pay”

• Yep definitely not intended to impose a financial strain on anyone! Since travel, housing, and office space will be paid for, we intended $10k as a reasonable amount for expenses above that. But it wasn’t chosen super carefully, so we can run some numbers and increase it if it seems like more will be helpful. • I’m not sure what cost of living is like in the Bahamas My friend said that prices in the Bahamas for things like groceries and restaurants were ~20-50% higher than the Bay Area, which I did not expect. • Groceries Prices in Nassau are 21.76% lower than in San Francisco, CA • Restaurant Prices in Nassau are 5.53% lower than in San Francisco, CA (Though these figures may still be higher than some people were expecting.) • I saw the same chart when I was doing my own (light) research, but I’m more inclined to trust my close friend’s anecdotes than a random website’s data, sorry. • Possibly ex-pats have different consumption baskets to the locals those statistics are measuring. • Would you be interested in translating our disagreement into a bet? • Sure happy to make a 1:1 bet that a survey of FTX EA fellows from the Bay Area to the Bahamas (excluding myself if I decided to go) will find that the average person would consider their meals not covered by FTX to be on average more expensive in the Bahamas than their prior meals in the Bay Area. Can go up to$250

• Wait, “more expensive” ≠ 20–50% more expensive. How much probability density do you put in that range?

• You made a positive claim (assuming you’re taking that website literally) that it’s noticeably cheaper, I made a positive claim that it’s noticeably more expensive. 1:1 bet in the middle seems fair.

How much probability density do you put in that range?

Hmm 14 hours ago I’d have said maybe 60%, but now I’m down to 35% because you seemed confident and maybe looked into it more than I had.

• Yeah, that’s fair. Sorry if my comment came across as overly confrontational.

On reflection, getting an accurate sense of the costs of food in Nassau is probably quite useful for many FTX Fellowship applicants, whereas I doubt many are interested in seeing you and I arrange the terms of a public bet. So although I was the one who proposed the bet and am still interested in it (and am happy to go up to $250 and rely on a survey of FTX EA fellows as you suggested), I am now more inclined to just share my estimates and see how much they disagree with yours or those of others, and perhaps explore the reasons for that disagreement. So, without doing basically any research, and relying solely on the link I provided above and the links Stefan later shared, I’d say my best estimate is that food in Nassau is roughly as expensive as food in the Bay Area. Again very roughly, I’d say there’s a 50% chance that food in Nassau is between 25% less expensive and 25% more expensive as in the Bay, and maybe a 90% chance that it’s less than 50% more expensive. This doesn’t take into account the fact that you seem to trust your friend’s estimates, which may cause me to update a bit in your direction. • Thanks for your estimates! I’m also sorry if I appeared confrontational, but upon reflection I appreciate the pushback! Taking a step back, isn’t this all a bit weird? Given that there’s going to only be a projected 10-25 fellows, and that a CEO of a billion-dollar trading firm is personally spending time to evaluate applications, I really don’t think it makes sense, taking the broad view, for people who get the offer to decide not to go due to financial costs. But of course that’s the “view from above”, and individual EAs may be substantially liquidity or otherwise constrained. Hopefully this will not deter people from applying, and accepted fellows can provide feedback on whether they think the location would be a financial hardship, and I’m optimistic that either FTX or the rest of the EA movement can figure this out. • Isn’t housing more relevant than groceries? A typical household spends about 3x as much on housing than on all consumption goods combined (IIRC). And that site says housing in Nassau is a lot cheaper than in SF. • Oh wow, that is a pretty big update. • Isn’t the$10k additional to the salary that you’ll keep receiving from your employer?

• Assuming you have an employer

• I think the “Already working on EA jobs /​ projects that can be done from the Bahamas” is the answer here. To my read, this isn’t trying to fully fund someone’s work, but rather to incentivize someone to do the work from the Bahamas . If you were self-funding a project from savings, this doesn’t suddenly provide you a full salary, but it still probably looks very good as it could potentially eliminate your cash burn.

• Sure, but “already working on an EA project” doesn’t mean you have an employer.

• If it’s an EA project and you need support, I’d apply to EA Funds, and tell FTX that you’re interested and say you’re still seeking funding. Even if they have the money, they also aren’t throwing cash at anything that moves—and FTX isn’t the best placed group to evaluate EA projects. And I’d note that EA funds also aren’t particularly funding constrained—but if they were, it would make more sense for FTX to give them money instead of trying to evaluate projects and fund people directly.

• -Makes money to give to causes

-Is in the Bahamas

-Supports people doing work

-Will pay $10,000 + housing for 6 months This is really not enough information • You know what helps me evangelize the EA movement to friends? When a movement I’ve talked about being steadfastly committed to moral rigor launches a “fellowship” for people to work remotely in the Bahamas because it’s crypto-friendly?! This is insanely tone-deaf. Ridicule and charges of hypocrisy directed at this effort will be much deserved. Purporting to carry a great moral burden means taking great pains to act with moral propriety and to head-off PR minefields like this one. • Hmm, even though I’m someone who’d be excited to go to the Bahamas and am happy to subsidize others interested in doing so, I agree that from the outside this is a really funny situation, and I think it’s reasonable to laugh at ourselves a little for it. But ultimately, we are a movement primarily bottlenecked not by small-donor$s, PR, or appearance of moral rigor, but by a) lacking the strategic clarity to confidently know what we’re doing and b) having enough people to act on the directions that we are moderately confident about what’s right to do.

Building a community of people next to the richest company in EA seems like a reasonable bet for us to get better at both.

• There is much that could be said in response to this.

1. The tone of your comment is not very constructive. I get that you’re upset but I would love if we could aim for a higher standard on this platform.

2. The EA community is not a monolithic super-agent that has perfect control over what all its parts do—far from it. That is actually one of the strengths of the community (and some might even say that we give too much credit to orthodoxy). So even if everyone on this forum or the wider community did agree that this was a stupid idea, then we could still do nothing about it since it is FTX’s money and theirs to do with what they want. It does not make sense to talk about this in terms of “the EA community” launching this fellowship in the same way that it does not make sense to say that “the EA community” thinks that [cause XYZ] is the most important one. You could of course argue that the post received a lot of positive attention and that indicates support from the wider community and that would be a good argument, but it’s far from being equivalent to everyone (or even the majority) of the EA community agreeing that this is the best way to spend a few million marginal dollars (ballpark estimate I just made up).

3. You are getting the direction of causality wrong. FTX moved to the Bahamas because it is crypto-friendly. That makes sense because FTX is a crypto exchange. Afaict, they want to build an EA community there because that’s where they are located which also makes sense from their perspective (I don’t necessarily agree it’s the best place for this kind of project but I can at least understand the reasoning).

4. You seem to be mixing two arguments here. One is the “PR disaster” angle which might be valid regardless of the actual merits of the project. The other one seems to be an argument against the actual merits of the project, but you don’t provide actual arguments on the object level, so I don’t know what to respond here.

• How are you reconciling the energy inefficiency and implications of the crypto space with the goals of EA around climate change?