What kind of Character is Sam Bankman-Fried

A friend sent me this article documenting Sam Bankman-Fried’s now well known text exchange with Vox journalist Kelsey Piper. I couldn’t help but think of Alasdair MacIntyre’s characters. As MacIntyre put it in After Virtue:

What is specific to each culture is in large and central part what is specific to its stock of characters. So the culture of Victorian England was partially defined by the characters of the Public School Headmaster, the Explorer and the Engineer; and that of Wilhelmine Germany was similarly defined by such characters as those of the Prussian Officer, the Professor and the Social Democrat.

Characters have one other notable dimension. They are, so to speak, the moral representatives of their culture and they are so because of the way in which moral and metaphysical ideas and theories assume through them an embodied existence in the social world.

What ‘characters’ does Sam have in his mind. I’m not too sure what characters exist at all in our culture (at least those at the height of people’s aspirations) other than Apex billionaires and apex politicians/anti-politicians.

Kelsey Piper: so you kinda don’t believe in, like, ‘doing unethical shit’, as anything other than a judgment we bestow upon the losers? Sam Bankman-Fried: a month ago CZ was a walking example of “don’t do unethical shit or your money is worthless.” now he’s a hero. is it because he’s virtuous? or because he had the bigger balance sheet, and so he won Kelsey Piper: well I can see why you didn’t give that answer in interviews Sam Bankman-Fried: heh

Kelsey Piper: so the ethics stuff - mostly a front? people will like you if you win and hate you if you lose and that’s how it all really works? Sam Bankman-Fried: yeah. I mean that’s not *all* of it. but it’s a lot. the worst quandrant is “sketchy + lose.” the best is “win + ???.” “clean + lose” is bad but not terribel

MacIntyre suggests that the ‘characters of today are the therapist and the manager:

The manager represents in his character the obliteration of the distinction between manipulative and nonmanipulative social relations; the therapist represents the same obliteration in the sphere of personal life. The manager treats ends as given, as outside his scope; his concern is with technique, with effectiveness in transforming raw materials into final products, unskilled labor into skilled labor, investment into profits. The therapist also treats ends as given, as outside his scope; his concern also is with technique, with effectiveness in transforming neurotic symptoms into directed energy, maladjusted individuals into well-adjusted ones. Neither manager nor therapist, in their roles as manager and therapist, do or are able to engage in moral debate.

But all Sam Bankman-Fried has is his quadrant. Like he says, it’s a bummer than he ended in the worst of the four.

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john walker
john walker
1 year ago

the character type that springs to mind is a kind of Obadiah Slope; very ambitious-grandiose, manipulative and quite dishonest

John Walker
1 year ago

seems vert apt to all of this Why the Bezzle Matters to the Economyhttps://carnegieendowment.org/chinafinancialmarkets/85179