The FTX Future Fund was a team of 5 people, who directed >$100m of donations in 9 months — and then ignominiously dissolved upon FTX’s collapse.
In the wake of such a noisy media spectacle, it’s easy to forget about the wisdom, dedication, and impact of the Future Fund.
The regrantor program: gave 100 individuals budgets to grant. An experiment in decentralization, in using local knowledge of people in the community. Money is power; giving individuals discretionary budgets changes the default expectation from “ask for permission” to “you have permission, now spend it wisely”
Example of wisdom: Future Fund did not allow the regrantors to “out” themselves, aka announce that they were a regrantor. They were explicitly trying not to hand out badges of approval (the way e.g. EAG admittance can become), and cause power imbalances.
Open call: This was an application process where they opened the gates to anyone to submit ambitious projects.
They took epistemics very, very seriously. Which is to say, they had reams of analysis on their overall grantmaking strategy, and funded cutting-edge tech like Squiggle to do concrete evaluations. They wrote up their ideas and decisionmaking in a clear, concise, public fashion that is unmatched in EA. Like, go look at their June 2022 report, where they go through each of their expectations and how they performed against it. That level of candor is incredibly rare.
The Future Fund allowed us to dream big. Doing good changed from “a thing that somebody else does and I fund”, but rather “a thing I could dedicate my life to.” People launched projects, started orgs, wrote diatribes because of the entire ecosystem that FTX was encouraging. An ecosystem has knock-off effects; beyond the direct projects getting started, the relationship between the projects matters.
For example, Future Fund sponsored the Atlas Fellowship, and also Future Forum, each of which incubated projects and people to talk to each other.
My relation with the Future Fund
I’m a relative outsider to EA; a year ago, I wasn’t even aware of the existence of the EA community, let alone have any friends in the space.
- Getting funding first through a regrantor, then through the charity program
- Helping the future fund directly with their program, at their office
- Seeing an unreleased project, dreaming about impact certs
There's a future-fund shaped hole in the longtermism funding space.
As AI heats up, where are the ideas and the work on alignment? How about all the other stuff in the future?