Last week, news broke that the giant crypto exchange firm FTX and its overly close sister company, Alameda Research, were likely abusing user funds, leading to a loss of $10 billion and the bankruptcy of a crypto empire. The founder of the companies, 30-year-old MIT grad Sam Bankman-Fried, had been painted by the media as a crypto wunderkind, a “Luke Skywalker” bringing sophisticated financial vehicles to the unregulated market of decentralized trading — as well as being a true believer in the concept of “effective altruism,” a philosophy popular in Silicon Valley in which one donates their wealth to better humankind through the most efficient means possible.
Instead, “SBF,” as he is widely known, appears to have been defrauding his users by siphoning off an alleged $10 billion in assets to invest in VC projects through Alameda Research. Whether he is in fact guilty of those allegations is up to the SEC, the DOJ, the CFTC, and Bahamian law enforcement, all of which are investigating the implosion. But at the very least, the scandal seems to be why Alameda has shut down, FTX has filed for bankruptcy, and Bankman-Fried remains supervised by American federal authorities.
As reporters picked over the FTX-Alameda scandal, several other revelations about SBF and his squadron of yes-men gamer nerds emerged. The FTX org chart was basically 10 mathletes in a trenchcoat — a “gang of kids in the Bahamas,” as one source told CoinDesk last week. They were allegedly so high on prescription stimulants they could drop fruit-based finance metaphors in VC meetings while playing League of Legends at the same time. They lived in the Bahamas, presumably for tax reasons, and in the same house, presumably for sex reasons. They shared a therapist. And they were allegedly entangled in some kind of polycule, perhaps to maintain what one member supposedly called an “imperial Chinese harem,” wherein everyone had “a ranking of their partners,” knew where they fell in the pecking order, and conducted “vicious power struggles for the higher ranks.” Had this gotten more attention earlier, perhaps fewer people would have sent them their life’s savings.
The “harem” quote seemingly came from Bankman-Fried’s “protégé,” roommate, and alleged ex-girlfriend Caroline Ellison, via yet another revelation: two Tumblr accounts rumored to be hers. On Saturday, the Twitter account @AutismCapital, which has been breaking several verified scoops, linked Ellison to a Tumblr called “worldoptimization,” which has been active since 2014. Subsequently, other armchair investigators uncovered “worldoptimization-lifeadvice,” a Tumblr from 2018 seemingly run by the same person. Both of these blogs were deleted yesterday.
Ellison, a chipmunk-cheeked Harry Potter superfan, was the CEO of Alameda Research and allegedly knew about the company’s secret borrowing. Like Bankman-Fried, Ellison worked at the secretive trading firm Jane Street after college. Like Bankman-Fried, she was also into effective altruism. It’s unclear whether she will face criminal action, though it can’t hurt that her father, MIT professor Glenn Ellison, used to report directly to SEC Chairman Gary Gensler. Ellison was also evidently an online girlie, and may have managed the two Tumblrs in addition to being a standout student at Newton North High School and Stanford, respectively. Though the blogs are gone, their legacy lives on in the Wayback Machine, as well on a website that compiled all their posts.
We reached out to Ellison to confirm the blogs’ authenticity, and while she did not immediately respond, there is fairly compelling evidence to suggest that she was involved. The administrator of “worldoptimization” apparently went to Stanford, majored in math, spent a fair amount of time in San Francisco (where Alameda was once headquartered), started working at a cryptocurrency exchange, left America for that job, moved to Hong Kong, practices polyamory, and really loves Harry Potter — all things that point to Ellison. More convincingly: In March of 2021, WorldOptimization announced that they had started a Twitter account. It linked to Ellison’s profile @carolinecapital, which was opened the same month.
If the blogs do belong to Ellison, they provide some crucial insight into the now-silent executive, who may be on the run — including some unsettling observations about race science, polyamory, and “enjoying Matt Yglesias’s Substack.” Could this be Caroline’s blog? We can’t say for sure. But let’s take a closer look at the person we’ll refer to as “WorldOptimization” (she describes herself as a woman, so we’ll do the same).
HER FAVORITE COLOR IS GRAY
In 2015, when WorldOptimization posted a quiz that outlined her favorite color, TV shows (Game of Thrones, Arrested Development, Silicon Valley, Downton Abbey, The West Wing, 30 Rock, Sherlock, Girls), store (H&M), and nicknames: “Car” or “Scoog.”
SHE LIKES LIS SMITH
WorldOptimization maintained an active Goodreads account, where she evidently read Matt Yglesias’ book (whom SBF wanted to recruit for a Substack competitor) and Pete Buttigieg’s old campaign manager’s memoir, Any Given Tuesday, writing:
A fun, dishy political memoir. I appreciated getting more of a view into who works on campaigns, what they’re like, what motivates them, how they think, and what they do.
She gave it three out of five stars.
SCALIA LIVED IN HER OLD HOUSE
In 2020, WorldOptimization detailed her “most interesting celebrity encounter story,” which was that she “used to live in a house Antonin Scalia used to live in.”
SHE READ GOSSIP GIRL FANTASY FAN FICTION
In one of the most recent posts, WorldOptimization linked to a fan-fiction story called “Worth The Gossip.” It was an apparent crossover between the characters of Gossip Girl and the world of Worth the Candle — a nine-part fantasy web series from “rational fiction” author Alexander Wales (also known by his handle, cthulhuraejepsen) — which WorldOptimization read and loved in 2019. She posted the link without context, so it’s unclear whether she wrote it herself. But it does appear to be the first attempt from its author, who goes by “infinite_librarian.” The story also comes with an Archive of Our Own warning: “Underage.”
SHE USED TO BE TRAD
WorldOptimization, as she details in multiple posts, used to be trad (as in, traditional in a vaguely Catholic, red-pilled, conventional gender role-having, reactionary kind of way). Specifically, as one 2021 post details, she was “somewhat of a ‘women are better suited to being homemakers and rearing children than doing Careers’ trad,” and a “the sexual revolution was a mistake” trad. That all evidently changed in a “dramatic deconversion,” over the course of “one night in a several-hour-long conversation.”
She has since become “a bit more agnostic on culture/society,” which you can see on display in a post from the previous month. “Honestly this is so uncool but I love it when fiction has representation of literal girlbosses,” she wrote, “like women managing people and running stuff. I’m like omg it me.”
HER TYPE IS GUYS WHO CONTROL “MOST MAJOR WORLD GOVERNMENTS”
Here’s a post from February 2021:
SPEAKING OF THOSE GUYS, SHE DABBLES IN RACE SCIENCE
This past January, WorldOptimization took it upon herself to defend the legacy of European kinship structures (sic):
She tagged the post “hbd cw,” likely a “content warning” for “human biodiversity,” the alt-right euphemism for a whitewashed and modernized eugenics, which claims there are “scientifically proven (and therefore apolitical) genetic differences between groups of humans.” WorldOptimization, who occasionally outlines more progressive views on her blog, doesn’t appear to ascribe to the HBD outlook, though she did post about it at least eight times. However, she does evidently “appreciate” HBD, as outlined in this post from 2020:
SHE UNDERSTANDS THE RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF THINGS
In 2021, WorldOptimization lamented the fact that she didn’t “spend nearly enough time thinking about the relative importance of things, you know?” Fortunately, she spent some more time mulling it over and produced this chart, ranking topics by QALYs — or “quality-adjusted life year,” or the metric used to assess quality of life in economic and medical intervention terms, where one QALY is equivalent to “1 year of life in perfect health.”
SHE IS NOT A CRYPTO TRUE BELIEVER
This past March, WorldOptimization weighed in on Ellison’s industry: crypto. “I didn’t get into this as a crypto true believer,” she wrote, “but like, I have also come to see a real and pressing need for crypto, prob best expressed in this thread (‘there are no constitutional rights in substance without freedom to transact.’)” At the same time, she conceded: “yeah it’s mostly scams and memes when you get down to it.”
SHE APPRECIATES ARCHIVES
In June, WorldOptimization mourned the gradual erasure of records and information, lost to time, physical ruin, or digital obsolescence:
So hopefully, she’ll appreciate blogger MilkyEggs’s archive of every WorldOptimization post.