Re: Fwd: Proposal on extropian philantropy

From: Rob Sweeney (
Date: Wed Feb 16 2000 - 15:01:17 MST

Stirling Westrup wrote:
> Sasha Chislenko wrote:
>> Nick wrote:
>> >(1) A clearinghouse for important, underfunded science. People could
>> >go to a web site, find appealing science and make donations. The
>> >organization would be a middle man making it very easy for both
>> >philanthropists and scientists to use the site and provide the
>> >"non-profit" legal status needed for tax purposes, etc.
>A friend of mine recently made a suggestion to me that we might
>consider going
>into this buisiness (although he was thinking that it should support as many
>charities as possible, suitably categorized). What do folks think of the
>viability of this idea?

Regarding the charity clearinghouse concept, I spent quite a bit of
time dreaming up ways to handle this - my thinking was more oriented
toward providing a, uh, less consumptive approach to the holiday
gift giving frenzy (after returning from Third World travel 2 days before
Christmas and feeling obligated to hit the malls so as to not offend
anyone I got to thinking..). After the holidays passed I lost
interest and did nothing on the subject for a year, then this past
year I started looking into it again. There are now many websites
that offer lists of charities to donate to and handle the donation
process in some way or another. - there was one in particular which
was professionally-executed to the point that it convinced me to drop my
own efforts, oddly, I can't seem to find evidence of it on the web anymore!

I wanted to include a few other things that these sites don't seem to
(specifically, political donations, and Amazon-style
wishlists), but the problem looked solved enough that it didn't seem worth
my while to pile in. (I'm happy to talk about this off the list if
anyone's interested)

The "underfunded science" notion is interesting, but a couple of things
jump out at me. It's been a while since I've been close to the
grant-grubbing process, but don't most universities try hard nowadays
to control >applications< of their research? I guess it just bugs
my capitalist sensibilities to think about contributing philanthropically
to something that someone else is going to take advantage of and profit

> >(3) An philanthropic incubator or venture fund. This is perhaps the
> >most novel idea. People will not be giving away their money, but
> >will be making an investment in a good thing that might or might not
> >pay off. The problem with this is that you may have to focus more on
> >profits in some cases than you'd like. The benefit is a potentially
> >huge endowment through the IPOs of some of the ventures.
> This is the idea that I have been leaning towards. I'm just enough of a
> Libertarian that I think that most charities could be better replaced by
> institutions that make investments in the infrastructures that
> charities merely prop up. In a similar manner, if I'm going to give money to strangers,
> I would like to think that there *might* be a profit in it somewhere. Still, we
> all know how being profit centered can stifle innovation, so I curious to
> see if anyone on this list have any ideas on how to provide scientists the
> freedom to fail, while being able to capitalize on any successes.

I've been trying to dredge up relevant history, but wasn't this sort of
the idea behind Genentech? A sort of marriage between researchers and
venture capital around trying to profit from research in a specific
domain (recombinant DNA tech in this case) ?

(ps: obligatory delurk - I've been reading off and on, mostly on, for
around a year.. thanks for lots of neat stuff)

Rob Sweeney: Information Ecology.,
Time is a warning.

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