Sam Bankman-Fried is rapidly gaining a reputation as “the most generous billionaire”. On the one hand, we could say that’s not a very difficult thing to be; once you’re a billionaire there isn’t a lot of competition in the generosity department. On the other hand, the 29-year old founder of FTX echange is quite unique in that he genuinely wants to do useful things with his money (for people other than himself).
Let’s leave aside his choices of what to support (climate change and covid nonsense to mention a couple) and focus instead on the changes enabled by new technologies that he and others represent.
Most billionaires do fake “philanthropy” by setting up foundations which they then dump all their money into, avoiding taxes but keeping control over their money. Bankman Fried, in contrast, actually gives money away. Why is he so different from most other billionaires?
The main answer is Bitcoin.
The advent and subsequent rise in the use of Bitocin has taken the usually well sewn-up world of finance by surprise. For a short period of time it has been possible for normal people to get lucky and make large amounts of money. In Fried’s case it was in the exchange market. Normally us plebs lose money on the markets, that’s what plebs are for.
The profits are made by the big guys, who have everything worked out already. If you turn out to be really clever and good at playing the game, the big guys might give you a job, so you can earn money for them, but that’s about it. With the rise of Bitcoin came a whole bunch of normal people with normal appetites and normal desires who became almost as rich as the super-rich.
Not being psychopaths, some of these people understood some basic human attributes because they themselves posessed them. They knew that helping others can bring you far more happiness than any amount of money or effort spent trying to please yourself. And the science backs them up too.
Social giving makes us happier
The best way, of course, is to help someone you know directly. People usually feel good when they make a charitable donation, but they feel even better if they make the donation directly to someone they know or in a way that builds social connection. Research published in the International Journal of Happiness and Development (yes it’s real!) investigates for the first time how social connection helps turn generous behavior into positive feelings on the part of the donor.
In other work, psychologists Elizabeth Dunn and Lara Aknin, along with Michael Norton of Harvard Business School, report that the benefits of helping others “are evident in givers old and young in countries around the world, and extend to not only subjective well-being but also objective health.”
Two other studies found that those who reported at least 200 hours of volunteer work per year were 40 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure.
There is an almost endless supply of this research if you take the time to dig it up. Sam Fried is tapped in to a different level of being than most of his fellow billionaires, that’s why he is so unlike them, so much more “normal”. To keep your soul in the face of such huge riches takes spiritual stamina. Instead of letting the money take him down, he is using it to bring others up.
Perhaps, as bitcoin takes down the banks and the corruption of the rulers that is now beginning to be seen by all, we will see more and more normal people among the wealthy, and fewer and fewer psychopaths. For the world to be a better place, that’s all that’s needed.