Friday, January 21, 2022

Billionaires Play Big Role in Funding of New Think Tank Institute for Progress (IFP)

Get ready to learn another think think tank acronym: IFP.  It stands for Institute for Progress, a new Washington, DC-based think tank that has been launched by Caleb Watney and Alec Stapp.  

Its mission is to "accelerate scientific, technological, and industrial progress while safeguarding humanity's future."  The founders say they will spend most of their initial attention on three key areas: 1) Metascience, 2) Immigration, and 3) Biosecurity.

Mr. Watney, the Co-CEO, was the director for innovation policy at the think tank Progressive Policy Institute (PPI).  Before that, he worked as a technology policy fellow at the R Street Institute and as a graduate research fellow at the Mercatus Center.

Mr. Stapp, the other Co-CEO, was the director of technology policy at PPI, a research fellow at the International Center for Law and Economics, a technology policy fellow at the Niskanen Center, and a graduate research fellow at the Mercatus Center. 

Scholars at the think tank include senior biosecurity fellow Nikki Teran, who previously worked with the Committee on International Security and Arms Control at the National Academy of Science, the Council on Strategic Risks, and the Open Philanthropy Project.  Another scholar is senior immigration fellow Jeremy Neufeld, who previously worked at the Niskanen Center.

There are currently three external board members: Tamara Winter, who formerly worked at the Charter Cities Institute and the Mercacuts Center; Dan Correa, a former Obama Administration official who was CEO of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) and worked at Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute as well as the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF); and Zachary Graves, a visiting fellow at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School who formerly worked at the Cato Institute and R Street Institute.

IFP, whose new website can be found here, only accepts funding from individuals and foundations.  It is currently funded with the support of Open Philanthropy, Emergent Ventures, Patrick Collison, John Collison, and Sam Bankman-Fried.

Facebook co-founder Dustin Muskowitz and wife Cari Tuna are the main funders of Open Philanthropy, an entity which supports numerous think tanks.  George Mason University's Mercatus Center houses Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program which was launched with a $1 million grant from the Thiel Foundation.  That foundation was created and funded by billionaire Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook.

Patrick Collison and his brother John Collison are Irish billionaires who co-founded online payment processor Stripe.  Sam Bankman-Fried, another billionaire, is the founder and CEO of FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange.

The IFP founders note that Tyler Cowen, head of the Mercatus Center, played a big role in their thinking.

IFP joins a crowded field of policy shops in Washington, which has more than 400 think tanks large and small.