My students and I explored some of the works by philosopher Peter Singer. We read his chapter called “Rich and Poor”, his chapter entitled “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” and his book The Most Good You Can Do. What follows are our reading notes along with personal comments and ideas for writing. The title of each piece will appear followed by the page number of each reading note. Ideas for writing are indicated by the initials W.I. (for writing idea). The entire class contributed to these notes, so you may hear many voices and opinions while reading. Use these notes to learn more about Singer’s philosophies, the content of three of his works or for study notes.
Honors Comp II
Reading to Write
- Close reading at the word/sentence/paragraph level
- Knowing what is an example of a larger point
- Knowing which words in a sentence you can omit for clarity
- Drawing the ideas
- Using a dictionary
- Taking thinking AND reading notes
- What ideas are Singer’s and which are not
- Philosophy requires patience and time to decipher
When you see a bullet point below with W.I. for “writing idea” this indicates there is something within the text you could take on for a quarterly project.
- If you like one of these ideas, place your last name in brackets under the idea of your choosing and tell us how you will tackle your writing idea.
- You may come up with your own ideas. If so, place your last name within brackets at the point you see your “in” and indicate the topic you are going to explore.
- As you become responsible for updating reading notes, use the bulleted W.I. technique to que others there is a germ of an idea for writing. When updating reading notes, use normal text arial 14 style/size font. Indicate titles and subheadings by following capitalization rules and set the title or subheading apart from the notes by one extra space. You will also be asked to make personal comments within the reading notes. Follow the last name in brackets technique to include your personal thoughts. Let’s set the gradebook to record two personal comments per article and chapter.
General writing ideas:
- To what extent do you agree with the author
- Exploring definitions
- Google Scholar has vetted scholarly articles to help research
Peter Singer: Rich and Poor
Singer is the most famous ethicist in the world. His views on euthanasia and healthcare rationing make him one of the most controversial philosophers. He is an ardent Utilitarian.
Writing idea: what is a utilitarian? Where did this concept begin? Who else has written about utilitarian views? What utilitarian views are found in this Singer piece?
Singer describes that hunger is a problem across the world. He uses some quotes from Robert McNamara, President of the World Bank.
Writing idea (W.I.): Who is Robert McNamara and what has he written about world hunger?
The concept of relative vs. absolute poverty
W.I.: The economics of world hunger and food distribution
W.I.: What other definitions of poverty can we find? Who is defining these terms?
W.I.: Explore poverty across your own lifespan. What have you seen or endured?
W.I.: Poverty observed through travel
Absolute poverty is poverty by any standard. Poverty at the absolute level…is life at the very margin of existence. As McNamara says “beneath any reasonable definition of human decency. Absolute poverty is responsible for the loss of countless lives, especially among infants and young children.” Malnutrition affects health, growth and learning capacity. It contributes to deficiency diseases. The food value is further reduced by hookworm and ringworms. Absolute poverty involves inadequate food, shelter, clothing, sanitation, health services and education. Something like 800 million people–almost 40% of the people of developing countries–live in absolute poverty. It no longer makes the news.
W.I.: Create and film a news story on absolute poverty
In America we produce grain to feed animals, but we do not send the grain to the people who are starving. People in rich countries are responsible for the consumption of far more food than those in poor countries who eat few animal products.
W.I.: Explication: discover and explain this or other forms of food insufficiency and distribution problems
Solution: If we stopped feeding animals on grains, soybeans and fishmeal the amount of food saved would–if distributed to those who need it–be more than enough to end hunger throughout the world. The problem is essentially one of distribution rather than production. The poorer nations themselves could produce far more if they made more use of improved agricultural techniques. So why are people hungry? Poor people cannot afford to buy grain grown by American farmers. Poor farmers cannot afford to buy improved seeds, or fertilizers, or the machinery needed for drilling wells and pumping water.
W.I.: Is there a codified hierarchy of poverty? Who created it? When? Have others created different categories?
A solution is to transfer wealth, product and tolls to those in need. “Absolute affluence” is affluence by any reasonable definition of human needs. They can spend money on luxuries. Its defining characteristic is a significant amount of income above the level necessary to provide for the basic human needs of oneself and one’s dependents. He lists countries who could help with poverty; who have enough to share. He follows with the percentage of income they actually share.
The Moral Equivalent of Murder?
If these are the facts, we cannot avoid concluding that by not giving more than we do, people in rich countries are allowing those in poor countries to suffer. If, then, allowing someone to die is not intrinsically different from killing someone, it would seem that we are all murderers.
[Observe that the paragraph after the next really begins the philosophical question. We are going down a road of thought to see where it will go.]
How is a murderer different from a big spender?
A murderer acts with malice; a big spender acts with indifference.
It is very difficult to obey a rule which commands us to save all the lives we can. Although it is difficult, not doing so still results in death. We are allowing some to die who might have been saved. Saving every life would require a degree of moral heroism utterly different from what is required by mere avoidance of killing.
With murder, there is certainty of harm. To give leads to an uncertainty of it helping. Singer says it like this: a third difference between a murderer and a big spender is the greater certainty of the outcome of shooting when compared with not giving aid.
Fourth, when people are shot there are identifiable individuals who have been harmed. When I buy my color television, I cannot know who my money would have saved if I had given it away. (You know who you have shot vs. an unknown recipient of help.)
A murderer is responsible for a death whereas the big spender is not responsible for hunger.
Singer goes deeper into analysis of the murderer vs. the big spender and asks if these attitudes are justified. Knowingly poisoning itself is reprehensible even if we don’t know who we kill. The lack of knowing how the money will be used is not a sufficient reason not to give.
W.I. Is there an entire theory of consequentialism? Research.
If a consequence of my spending money on a luxury item is that someone dies, I am responsible for that death. Consequentialists will say that as a result of living in today’s world we are responsible for today’s world.
Non-consequentialists have a theory of rights.
W.I. Explore the works of John Locke or Robert Nozick regarding non-consequentialism
Yes, individuals dwelling only in their own worlds cannot harm others, but that is not how the real world works. If we consider people living together in a community, it is less easy to assume that rights must be restricted to rights against interference. If you have a right to life, so does the other. Despite a lack of malice, those who kill deserve not only blame but also severe punishment.
W.I.: Do you believe the above statement? If you kill accidentally or without forethought, planning or malice, should you be punished as much as the reverse?
Not to kill is a minimum standard of acceptable conduct we can require of everyone, to save all one could possibly is not something that can realistically be required.
The Obligation to Assist: The Argument for an Obligation of Assist
If it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance, we ought to do it. Although this sounds solid, we don’t follow this principle by helping people in poverty.
Most non-consequentialists hold that we ought to prevent what is bad and promote what is good. I assume that absolute poverty, with its hunger and malnutrition, lack of shelter, illiteracy, disease, high infant mortality and low life expectancy, is a bad thing. And I assume that it is within the power of the affluent to reduce absolute poverty, without sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance.
Not to help would be wrong, so helping is something everyone ought to do.
This is the argument for an obligation to assist:
First premise: If we can prevent something bad without sacrificing anything of comparable significance, we ought to do it.
Second premise: Absolute poverty is bad.
Third premise: There is some absolute poverty we can prevent without sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance.
Conclusion: We ought to prevent some absolute poverty.
W.I.: What is universalizability? How does it relate to world hunger?
Then Singer argues with his own argument!
Objections to the Argument: Taking Care of Our Own
Some people will ask why help those overseas when we need to help people here first. Singer says the question is not what we usually do, but what we ought to do, and it is difficult to see any sound moral justification for the view that distance, or community membership, makes a crucial difference to our obligations.
To allow one’s own kin to sink into absolute poverty would be to sacrifice something of comparable significance; and before that point had been reached, the breakdown of the system of family and community responsibility would be a factor to weigh the balance in favor of a small degree of preference for family and community. This small degree of preference is, however, decisively outweighed by existing discrepancies in wealth and property.
Do we have the right to not share our private property?
W.I.: See here Thomas Aquinas: what would he say?
W.I.: How would a socialist answer this question?
A theory of property rights can insist on our right to retain wealth without pronouncing on whether the rich ought to give to the poor.
Population and the Ethics of Triage
In times of war with too few doctors the patients are divided into three categories: those who would probably survive without medical assistance, those who might survive if they received assistance, but otherwise probably would not, and those who even with medical assistance probably would not survive. We would aid those countries where our help might make the difference between success and failure in bringing food and population into balance.
If a country seems to fall into the third category of triage, should we assist them? Make an argument for or against
Population growth cannot be ignored and it cannot grow indefinitely. It will be checked by a decline in birth rates or a rise in death rats. Those who advocate triage are proposing that we allow the population growth of some countries to be checked by a rise in death rates–that is, by increased malnutrition, and related diseases; by widespread famines; by increased infant mortality and by epidemics of infectious diseases. The consequences of triage on this scale are so horrible that we are inclined to reject it without further argument.
By combining the triage theory and consequentialist ethics we find: only if the greater magnitude of the uncertain benefit outweighs its uncertainty should we choose it. The same principle applies when we are trying to avoid evils. The policy of triage involves a certain, very great evil: population control by famine and disease.
Singer makes suggestions regarding what we can do about population growth.
Population growth is therefore not a reason against giving overseas aid, although it should make us think about the kind of aid to give. Instead of food handouts, it may be better to give aid that hastens the demographic transition. The obligation to assist is not reduced.
We have no obligation to assist countries whose governments have policies which will make our aid ineffective. We will help more people in the long run by using our resources where they are most effective.
Leaving It to the Government
I would agree that the governments of affluent nations should give much more genuine, no strings attached, aid than they give now. Refusing to give privately is wrong for the same reason that triage is wrong: it is a refusal to prevent a definite evil for the sake of a very uncertain gain. Singer suggests ways we can work with government.
W.I.: Explore what government agencies are doing to help with overseas aid
Too High a Standard?
If we were to set a more realistic standard, people might make a genuine effort to reach it. This setting a lower standard might actually result in more aid being given. It would mean that in order to do the maximum to reduce absolute poverty, we should advocate a standard lower than the amount we think people really ought to give. Of course we ourselves–those of us who accept the original argument, with its higher standard–would know that we ought to do more than we publicly propose people ought to do, and we might actually give more than we urge others to give. There is no inconsistency here, since in both our private and our public behavior we are trying to do what will most reduce absolute poverty.
What level should we advocate? A round percentage of one’s income…perhaps 10%.
Others may be able to give more without difficulty. No figure should be advocated as a rigid minimum or maximum; but it seems safe to advocate that those earning average or above average incomes in affluent societies, unless they have an unusually large number of dependents or other special needs, ought to give a tenth of their income to reducing absolute poverty. By any reasonable ethical standards this is the minimum we ought to do, and we do wrong if we do less.
V.9 Famine, Affluence, and Morality
269 It’s not an impossible idea to get rid of the poverty and destitution faced by millions.
On a personal/local level, people aren’t doing much
W.I.: Investigate the human tendency toward inaction
India will be forced to choose between letting the refugees starve or diverting funds from her own development program, which will mean that more of her own people will starve in the future.
270 There is nothing unique about this situation except it magnitude. Bengal is simply chosen as an example…this happens all the time.
(Singer’s thesis): What are the moral implications of a situation like this? In what follows, I shall argue that they way people in relatively affluent countries react to a situation like that in Bengal cannot be justified; indeed, the whole way we look at moral issues–our moral conceptual scheme–needs to be altered, and with it, the way of life that has come to be taken for granted in our society.
I begin with the assumption that suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, and medical care are bad.
If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it.
If it were acted upon, our world would be fundamentally changed. The principle takes no account of proximity or distance. Secondly, the principle makes no distinction between cases in which I am the only person who could possibly do anything and cases in which I am just one among millions in the same position. We cannot discriminate against someone merely because he is far away.
A large part of what they should be doing as individuals is to try to convince the government to give more aid
Mentions we haven’t responded in any significant way, while he doesn’t define “significant”
If significant means give everything to refugees, poverty-stricken, etc. then that seems outrageous as it would just turn the formerly well off into the ones living In poverty.
Large governments aren’t doing enough either
Even the most generous countries have only given enough money to support them for a few days.
Countries put more money into their own infrastructure and projects than foreign aid.
This puts the home country in a bind between saving those in need today and further causing problems in the future or not helping the needy today and being more able to prevent and fix the problem in the future by having more money
If we can help someone without doing something worse and making a huge sacrifice, it’s our job to do it.
By saying this, we should help everyone no matter where they are.
By someone being near us, it’s easier to help them and aid them as we can see what they need.
[271, 272] We all have a moral responsibility. Why do we have to choose to save a life in another country opposed to our own country where millions are fighting hungry and don’t have a place to call home.
Now that there is world news and travel we can help those far as well as near
Why must we seek attention more than anything? No one will act on their own free will. NO one takes actions when someone else is closer.
All people are equally responsible. We cannot count on everyone to give. By giving more than five I will prevent more suffering than I would if I gave just 5 dollars.
W.I.: Write about how even one person’s action can make an enormous change.
If everyone does what he ought to do, the result will not be as good as it would be if everyone did a little less than he ought to do, if only some do all they ought to do. (It is best if everyone gives a little.) In order to know how much to give everyone would have to give the same amount at the same time.
“If it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything else morally significant, we ought, morally, to do it.”
The result of everyone doing what he really ought to do cannot be worse than the result of everyone doing less than he ought to do. We see giving money as charity, not duty.
W.I.: The difference between duty and charity
“Supererogatory” is an act which it would be good to do, but not wrong not to do. We ought to give money away, and it is wrong not do so.
W.I.: We are more focused on getting new clothes and new cars than giving to charity and helping those in need.
The outcome of this argument is that our traditional moral categories are upset. The traditional distinction between duty and charity cannot be drawn.
W.I.: What is your moral responsibility?
273 “It might, nevertheless, be interesting to consider why our society, and most other societies, do judge differently from the way I have suggested they should.” As a philosopher trying to spread his own views and ideas, he seems unable to derive from the idea of most people having good morals, and almost justifying anything less.
Singer mentions J. O. Urmson, a British utilitarian philosopher of the late 19th century. Utilitarianism is “an action is right if it tends to promote happiness and wrong if it tends to produce the reverse of happiness… one theory of utilitarianism is the theory of Justification of Punishment stands in opposition to the “retributive” theory, according to which punishment is intended to make the criminal “pay” for his crime. According to the utilitarian, the rationale of punishment is entirely to prevent further crime by either reforming the criminal or protecting society from him and to deter others from crime through fear of punishment.” Henry R. West britannica.com
The moral point of view requires us to look beyond the interests of our own society.
The statement from J. O. Urmson’s article is this: “the imperatives of duty, which tell us what we must do, as distinct from what it would be good to do but not wrong to do, function so as to prohibit behavior that is intolerable if men are to live together in society.”
The possibility that by spreading the idea that we ought to be doing very much more than we are to relieve famine we shall bring about a general breakdown of moral behavior seems remote. If the stakes are an end to widespread starvation, it is worth the risk.
Just as singer related his topic to another Philosopher/ Author I will do the same. In his book Social Problems: Second Edition Joel Best he describes Social Construction as the way people assign meaning to the world, such as which actions are considered “tolerable” in different societies and cultures. Even moral standards differ through cultures, this is another example of social construct.
The conclusion, regardless of circumstances, remains that “we ought to be preventing as much suffering as we can without sacrificing [seems like the notes drop off here]
Page 274 Part V Utilitarianism
Singer brings up the fact that, to a certain degree, most people are self-interested with very few of us (people in general) being likely to do everything we ought to do.
W.I: What defines the degrees of self-interest? Yet another triage?
W.I: Singer gave many examples of Contemporary Western moral standards. What moral standards can be found in other cultures and countries?
Some people say the government should be in charge. Others say we actually need population control. This point, like the previous one, is an argument against relieving suffering that is happening now, because of a belief about what might happen in the future.
275 Singer mentions that the proper “conclusion that should be drawn is that the best means of preventing famine, in the long run, is population control.”
How much should we all give? Looking at the matter purely from the point of view of overseas aid, there must be a limit to the extent to which we should deliberately slow down our economy.
Mentioned “a strong and moderate version of the principle of preventing bad occurrences.”
The moderate version saying that we should want to help stop bad occurrences from coming to pass unless it would make the situation worse. The only difference from moderate and strong is that in the strong version we lower ourselves to a level of minimal work (“marginal utility”). Singer taking the side of the strong version saying “I can see no good reason for holding the moderate version of the principle rather than the strong version.”
The Most Good You Can Do
4 Effective altruists do things like the following:
Living modestly and donating a large part of their income–often much more than the traditional tenth, or tithe–to the most effective charities;
Researching and discussing with others which charities are the most effective or drawing on research done by other independent evaluators;
Choosing the career in which they can earn most, not in order to be able to live affluently but so that they can do more good;
Talking to others, in person or online, about giving, so that the idea of effective altruism will spread;
Giving part of their body–blood, bone marrow, or even a kidney–to a stranger.
Effective altruism is a philosophy and social movement which applies evidence and reason to working out the most effective ways to improve the world.
5 If doing the most you can for others means that you are also flourishing, then that is the best possible outcome for everyone.
6-8 What is Altruism?
To quote Webster an Altruist is “a person unselfishly concerned for or devoted to the welfare of others”. Singer digs deeper under the surface of altruist, examining every conceivable aspect of it and breaking it down.
6 People tend to be more willing to give to people with a story and a name, rather than to a face in a crowd. He then goes into how many people generously give to the Make-A-Wish foundation to make a child’s dreams of becoming Bat-Kid come true, but are then reluctant to give money to save multiple lives from malaria in another country.
I agree with him when he says that this is because of an “emotional pull”. People seem to feel compelled to give when the child is known and acknowledged as his or her own person rather than one of the many. In my opinion people may sometimes feel they can’t make a lasting difference if they give to many different people as opposed to giving all you can to one specific person.
Although Effective Altruists will also feel compelled to give into an emotional pull, they don’t because they know that their donations are better suited elsewhere where it does more good.
Effective altruists will feel the pull of helping an identifiable child from their own nation, region, or ethnic group but will then ask themselves if that is the best thing to do.
7 They give to the cause that will do the most good, given the abilities, time and money they have available.
What exactly is “the most good”?
According to Singer, even the most effective altruists will have varying opinions. Some will argue that the most good is done when there is more happiness and less suffering whereas others will say that the most good is done simply when everything is equal.
Both arguments are very compelling and understandable. Happiness is good for obvious reasons and then you have equality, which is good because everyone gets the same and no one is overabundant in one thing while others are dying for it. I personally feel that out those two options, id say that the most good would be when we live in a world with more happiness and less suffering. I say this simply because believe everyone wants to be happy and not suffer.
Does all suffering count?
Yes. According to Singer, Effective Altruists regard all suffering as bad no matter how far away they are or even what species they are. Animal suffering is not disregarded simply because they are animals, though they are measured differently on much suffering they an tolerate.
8 One thing that stood out to me was how at the top of page eight Singer states “Effective Altruists can accept one’s own children…ahead of the children of strangers.”
I was surprised at how Singer chose to word this sentence.
The word “accept” shows, in my mind, that there was hesitation.
Another thing he says a few sentences later really had me thinking. Singer says “…it’s not possible to love people without having greater concern for their [owns own children] than others.”
I had never thought of it that way, that to love, you have to love some more than others. Otherwise you wouldn’t love anyone because your feelings for everyone would be the same.
It is important to keep in mind that Effective Altruists are still people, they are still human and cannot put other first every second of every day or their life. They, like everyone else, take time out for themselves.
(9-11) Peter Singer, author of “The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically,” claims that investing resources into the arts would be a worthy goal, had we already overcome major issues in our world. In the next paragraph, Singer goes on to say, “Unfortunately, most people, even (…) professional philanthropy advisors don’t believe in thinking too much about the choice of causes to support. So it isn’t likely everyone will become an effective altruist anytime soon.” I’ve found that, in this sentence, Singer fails to mention the definition of an effective altruist, mentioned previously, leaving me to feel as if I were being persuaded.
The original characteristics of an effective altruist which are excluded in, what seems to be, a persuasive attempt to become one myself:
- “Things like the following-”
- “Choosing the career in which they can earn most, not in order to be able to live affluently but so that they can do more good”
- “Talking to others about giving, so that the idea of effective altruism will spread”
- “Giving part of their body; blood, bone marrow, or even a kidney to a stranger.”
These are reasons I do not wish to refer to myself as an “effective altruistic.” This is not because of reasons such as these which seem harmless:
- “Living modestly and donating a large part of their income often much more than the traditional tenth, or tithe to the most effective charities”
- “Researching and discussing with others which charities are the most effective or drawing on research done by other independent evaluators”
In terms of getting more people to claim effective altruism, these are great points. I see the problem when a person claims the belief system and never knew the other parts. It almost sounds like a cult, by definition of both cult and effective altruism, with the attempt to get their numbers up for active members.
13 Something that stood out to me in this book was even the author argued that we should be giving more than half our income, he did not do it himself.
They were trying to ease into giving marginal unity.
When he first wrote the article him and his wife were only donating half of their income. Even though that percentage was low at the beginning him and his wife are now giving one-third of their income
“One of the things that made it psychologically difficult to increase our giving was that for many years we were giving away a bigger slice of our income than anyone we knew.”
A man by the name of Zell Kravinsky had given up almost his entire 45 million dollars real estate fortune to charity. He did not put any of this money in his children or wife’s trust fund, but he donated it to help others while he lived off of $60,000 a year.
Scientific studies to show that a person that would not donate their kidney valued their life 4,000 times more than the person than that of a stranger. That high of a number is shocking.
The work of Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, professors of economics at MIT, who founded the Poverty Action Lab to carry out “social experiments”–by which they meant empirical research to discover which interventions against poverty work and which do not. Now known as the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, or J-PAL.
W.I.: Explore their work
15 Innovations for Poverty Action
16 Give Well, an organization that has taken the evaluation of charities to a new level
18 In 2009 Ord and Will MacAskill founded Giving What We Can which was created to end poverty in the developing world. The members of the organization would pledge to give 10 percent of their income to fund the relief efforts. They organization had 644 members who had pledged to give that percentage. If all went according to plan the organization would raise 309 million dollars for charity. Founded another organization – 80,000 Hours – a global community seeking to change the world.
19 The Life You Can Save – Book – 2009. Website set up so people could pledge 10 percent. Website grew. Everything has a purpose. The book affected even Charlie Bresler – Who would later become the president of Men’s Warehouse. Now the unpaid executive director of The Life You Can Save.
20 2013 – Budget of $147,000 had moved up to $594,000 – more than 400 percent “return on investment’
Title page Part Two: How To Do The Most Good
3 Living Modestly to Give More
The definition of Modest: (of an amount, rate, or level) relatively moderate, limited, or small.
It is possible to do an immense amount of good without earning a lot.
This doesn’t necessarily mean “living on rice and beans and never going out to a movie” as source states. Living modestly means, not the bare minimum, but nothing excessive or completely unnecessary. Singer, along with Julia and her husband Jeff Kaufman, understand that lower incomes can give just as much without sacrificing anything of comparable significance.
W.I.: Learn more about Giving Gladly
Poorness is objective in itself. However, wealthier people often feel poor in comparison to those with even more wealth. Seeing that Julia and Jeff Kaufman were already living modestly and giving with a lower income, it was not hard for them to give more as they earned it.
24 It shows first a graph of how Julia and her husband, Jeff, expenses looked like between August 2013 and July 2014. It talked about how they achieved saving so much and being able to give so much to charity such as taking the bus instead of owning a car as well as only renting part of a house. Knowing that the future held other financial obstacles they still donated half of their income.
25 It also starts off with a graph but instead it shows the “budget for a single person living in the Boston area on 35,000 a year.” We also see that julia provides us a list of the budget breakdown and how it would look realistically showing that most of it going to rent, only 10% being donated as well as saved.
26 If living on a median income you could donate, save money for the future and still have enough to live comfortably.
W.I.: Do you agree with the statement above?
We are told that Julia isn’t Catholic yet has mentioned words spoken by Ambrose, a fourth-century archbishop of Milan who became known as one of the four original Great Doctors of the Roman Catholic Church.
W.I.: Investigate Ambrose.
He states that when you give to the poor “ You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his,. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself.” As this radical view over time became apart of Christian traditions, the Roman Catholic Church never denied it and at times would repeat it to others. Pope Paul VI even quoted a part of what Ambrose said into his encyclical.
27 Julia, a Catholic, reads in the Bible of a time Jesus spoke. Jesus told the man that he is to go and sell everything and give it to the poor. Julia began to do just that.
W.I. Investigate Aaron Moore: Australian international aid worker and artist
28 Questions then arise: How far is too far? Is creating your own misery or saving someone else’s life more important? We can not give everything.
29 “Everyone has boundaries. If you find yourself doing something that makes you bitter, it is time to reconsider.” This also reflects on the balance between giving too much and not enough. Julia found that her decision to not have a child was making her bitter. Julia soon understood that she would be more successful to the world with her personal happiness.
W.I.: Learn more about George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends
30-32 At the very end of page twenty-nine and into the beginning of thirty, the author is telling a story of a woman who become so deeply engulfed in helping others that she was sacrificing things in her own life that gave her any source of happiness. She deprived herself of every little ounce of joy because she told herself that her joy wasn’t as important as giving those extra few dollars for ice cream to a woman who needed to feed her children.
Although it is good to help others, sometimes it’s okay to put yourself first, healthy even.
Set a budget for giving, but also for yourself.
If you deprive yourself of all happiness just to bring another happiness than you’re not really doing any good, your simply switching sides the person who’s miserable.
There needs to be a healthy balance of giving and keeping:
The giver should not be giving simply because they feel they HAVE to or even in such excess that it deprives them of happiness and the simple joys in life.
You also shouldn’t stop others from giving things to you if that makes them happy (ex. Christmas and birthday gifts) Its okay to buy ice cream or accept a gift every now and then.
Although life should not be all about you, your happiness matters just as much as another’s.
Nearing the end of page thirty and onto thirty-one, Singer elaborates more on a story he told pages before about the same woman who deprived herself of ice cream as well as life’s other little joys. Her and her husband wanted to have a child but for some time she was adamant about not having a child because it would take away too much time and money that they could use to help others in need. This decision changed over time due to some factors:
By not having a child in order to giveaway more money than that extra money would have more weight to them then the other money they give. (On page 31 the woman (Julia) says “I’m happy donating 50 percent of my income over my life, but if I also chose not to have a child simply to raise that amount to 55 percent, then that final 5 percent would cost more than all the rest…”
Something I found slightly disturbing is how Singer tries to justify having a child as though it is a bad thing to create life with your spouse.
Singer talks about how hopefully the child will do more good than bad in its life and therefore be worth having it. That, to put it frankly, infuriated me. How would the child feel when he grew up and found out that his parents had to weigh his existence on whether or not he’d be good and raise more money than the cost to be alive.
Yes, children are expensive but their worth it and no one should deprive themselves of a child simply to donate EXTRA money.
Julia also mentions that she “rejects the idea that her responsibility is limited to doing the best for her own child.” This makes me think that Julia does not see children as a blessing but as a burden.
My question is, if she’s so concerned about how the child will ruin her way of life, then why even have one? You should have a child because YOU want to and because you can take care of it and provide it with everything it needs to become the best version of itself, not simply because you’re hoping it will pay the cost of itself.
Having a child can increase empathy because you can then really feel the struggle and responsibility it takes to protect and care for another.
Other Effective Altruists: Rhema Hokama
-starting giving when she got her first paycheck
-started donating 2 percent
-set up a “donation account” that she adds into and at the end of the year donates everything in that account to a worthy cause
-doesn’t own a car and packs her own lunches at college to save money
33: Rhema Hokama made a lot of money, lives like her childhood home in Hawaii with a working-class family.
W.I. Learn more about R. Hokama
34: Celso Vieira; thought to have a mental disability as a child, but they turned out to be a genius. Vieira gives to charities such as ‘Innovations for Poverty Action.’
W.I.: Investigate The Life You Can Save
35: Priya Basil grew up in Kenya, in what she calls “A bubble of privilege,” came from India. She has been both rich and poor.
W.I. Explore the writings of P. Basil
36 A woman named Priya is aware that people in our life and the situations in our life play a big role in determining our values and behavior
Believes altruism needs to be needs to be watched challenged and nurtured, or it’ll become “stale” or “automatic”
It is also easy to be caught up with yourself and being “All about me”. Priya mentions that it is hard not impulsively shop.
Priya donates 5 percent of her income to effective charities. Even though due to her income she meets the requirements she plans to donate 10 percent.
In addition to giving, Priya and her partner co-founded in the organization called authors for peace Is involved in another political initiative called Writers Against Mass Surveillance. She believes by working to help one Society you increase the chance of all the societies excelling.
W.I. : Learn more about Authors for Peace
37 Priya explains that even if you live in a household that earns less than the average income, you can still donate 10 percent and make a huge difference in a person’s life who would make roughly 1 percent of the median income
39 Everyone can donate to charity, but the more money you make the more you’re able to donate.
W.I. Explore John Wesley, the founder of Methodism
W.I.: write about the idea of purposely becoming rich to be able to donate a lot to charity, and who does this.
Jim Greenbaum born in 1958 was another man who did this. He has committed to donating 85 percent of his 133 million dollars before he dies. The rest of his fortune will be donated when he dies. Unlike other people committed to donating everything, he lives a luxurious lifestyle. Many wealthy people have committed to donate almost all their money before they die.
W.I.: write about some of the richest people in the world who have committed to donate almost all their money such as Bill Gates, Jim Greenbaum, or Matt Wage
W.I.: Is it wrong to take a higher paying job over a job working for charity if you are going to donate a lot of money to charity?
W.I.: is it more effective to work for a charity or to work somewhere else that pays much more but you will donate enough money to charity to pay for two employees?
As a charity worker you are largely replaceable. Working in finance, however, you earn much more than you need and give half of your earnings to the charity, which can us that money to employ two extra workers it would not, without your donation, have been able to employ at all. Whereas you would have been replaceable as a charity worker, you are not replaceable as a donor.
42 Change is a good thing. When you donate you should be certain that the charity you donate to is effective with its proceeds. Millennials connect with like minded people over social media to share their ideas and experiences.
43 Many people believe charity is very important no matter how you give.
Effective altruism – “Effective altruism is a philosophy and social movement that uses evidence and reasoning to determine the most effective ways to benefit others.”
Philipp Gruissem is an example of effective altruism. “Raising for Effective Giving.”
W.I.: Animal Charity Evaluators: tries to find the most effective charities helping animals.
W.I.: University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute investigates the problem of how to allocate scarce resources among different global needs.
W.I.: Raising for Effective Giving (explore)
44 “1. Modern animal agriculture causes an immense amount of suffering. 2. We are responsible both for what we do and for what we refrain from doing. 3. We have the means to reduce the suffering caused by modern animal agriculture. 4. It is imperative for each of us to do so.”
W.I.: Hampton Creek Foods.
W.I.: Humane League.
W.I.: Mercy for Animals.
W.I.: Population Services International.
45 The Psychology of Earning to Give
This page introduces Jason Trigg, an MIT computer science graduate giving half of his salary to the Against Malaria Foundation. Given this information about his educational background, one can only assume he has an outstanding paycheck. The 2013 article mentioned is titled Join Wall Street. Save The World. It Revealed that Trigg is a programmer that went to work for a hedge fund in order to earn more money to give.
Although Trigg really seems to be doing the most good that he can, David Brooks from The New York Times “Brooks urged caution. He warned, first that our daily activities change us, and by working in a hedge fund your ideas can slip so that you become less committed to giving.” A Hedge Fund is “a limited partnership of investors that uses high risk methods, such as investing with borrowed money, in hopes of realizing large capital gains.” or an investment partnership. So far, Jason does not seem to be changed as brooks said.David Brooks also warned that choosing a career just for the money can be corrosive. His last warning, Brooks said “turning yourself into a means rather than an end… a machine for the redistribution of wealth.” He explained that this objection is a moral issue, but it can happen and should be mentioned.
46 Matt Wage is another student who chose finance over another career. Although Jason Trigg only chose the path for money, Wage seems to enjoy is and finds his work “interesting.” Brooks and Wage agreed that this path could “[turn yourself into] a machine for redistribution of wealth.” Matt wage explains this as selfishness and jealousy, using ferraris against charities. A clearly selfish choice that most people would make. Matt knows this can happen to him and created a strategy to fight his own implied selfishness; publicity.
Next is Jim Greenbaum, another businessman. Although the first two examples in this section seemed satisfied with their career, Jim Greenbaum said that his initial years were frustrating, because it took longer than expected to earn enough money to help others, but said it did not make him any less committed. Jim also is an advocate for balance between comfort and good like several others have agreed, and others less.
47 Ben West makes an interesting point for page 47. He points out that “even from a selfish perspective, earning to give allows you to have things that believe make them happy, like money and a high-status job, while still getting the fulfillment that comes from knowing you are helping to make the world a better place.” Although this is a good thing, I disagree. It is not selfish to feel good about helping others. Singer mentioned Ian Ross and Alex Foster next, and they are on somewhat different pages when it comes to giving. Ross says there’s no risk for burnout and will continue to give, but Foster was much more enthusiastic. Foster said that this period of his life/career is extremely fulfilling, even with a reduced social life. And on the very different page lies Aveek Bhattacharya, who sees earning to give as an experiment. On this note, Singer brings Brooks back up to warn that earning to give is NOT for everyone. Aveek seems like a very good example of this. However, even a lack of enthusiasm can do good to others. Maybe less good, but some good is better than no good. On the worst side to this, if someone is not enthusiastic they CAN become corrosive effect on them.
49 To fit into the ethos of the organization in which they want to succeed, people earning to give may have to disguise their views about the intrinsic value of their work. It is also true that some of those who change their career in order to earn to give have stepped aside from their own projects and have instead taken the career required by “utilitarian calculation.”
Those who earn to give are, to a greater extent than most people, living in accord with their values; they live so as to do the most good.
50 No doubt capitalism does drive some people into extreme poverty–it is such a vast system that it would be surprising if it did not–but it has also lifted hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty. It would not be easy to demonstrate that capitalism has driven more people into extreme poverty than it has lifted out of it; indeed there are good grounds for thinking that the opposite is the case.
51 Singer refers to the title of the book, “Do the most good you can.” Singer sets himself apart from an effective altruist. He shows how his view on “doing the most good” may be different in his eyes than in the eyes of an effective altruist.
I notice that Singer is very controversial in the philosophical world, and he is not afraid to tell the reader when his view differs from others.
W.I.: An idea for an argument paper: “…you will probably also think that it is wrong to be involved in financial activities that harm some people, even if that brings about an equivalent benefit to many more.”
52 Singer approaches the idea of “ Well, If I didn’t do this bad thing someone else would have anyway.” i.e.- The guards at Auschwitz were at no fault because if they did not guard than someone else would have. [Would delete due to it being a more harsh example of the idea below] Add this:
52 Your choice to work for the bank will have good consequences, for it will have made you a better-informed, more credible opponent of the bank’s actions.
53 If one held that investment banks and similar corporations are engaged in wrongdoing, one might see this as a sufficient reason for not going into the finance industry. (Or you could think the opposite.)
A Brookings Institution study has pointed out that millennials are much more concerned about corporate social responsibility.
54 Millennials want their daily work to be part of, and reflect, their societal concerns.
W.I. Is the above statement true?
Singer quotes another in saying that employees want “their daily work to be a part of, and reflet, their social concerns.” I believe this quote is saying that people want the work that they do to reflect their morals, values, social concerns and beliefs.
Example- Someone who is against abortion, most likely would not be working in an abortion clinic (unless to end it from the inside) .
Some people only get jobs to earn money so that they can give it away.
55 Other Ethical Careers
Will MacAskill does not claim that earning to give is always or even usually the best option. Rather, he thinks we should see it as a baseline against which to compare other possible ethical careers.
Singer goes on to talk about “the ability to find work one is interested in.” He understands that to do something well you have to at least somewhat enjoy what you do, otherwise you won’t try to do better or make an effort.
Staying committed to giving away a large chunk of your money is struggle.
Singer uses “earning to give” as a baseline by which to weigh all other jobs.
In simple terms, if he makes more money for others by influencing others to give, than he would by making money himself then he is doing better than he could have at a regular 9-5 job. Working for a meta charity can do more good than a regular one.
W.I. What are meta charities? What do they do? Examples?
56 The Bureaucrat
The more skills you have that set you apart from the crowd, the more irreplaceable you are.
Just because you don’t like what a company is doing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work there, you can make a difference.
Singer talks about a man who initially didn’t want to pursue a job at a bank because he didn’t like what the bank was doing, but singer suggested he take the job. Years later singer gets a reply telling him about how he works at the bank and the differences he’s made for the better.
57 There are very big differences in the cost-effectiveness of different ways of improving the health of people in developing countries, so even with a fixed budget, better choices can make a huge difference.
Medical researchers, biologists
58 There may be better prospects of making an impact in a relatively uncrowded field. 80,000 Hours recommends “Prioritization Research,” which it describes as “activity aimed at working out which causes, interventions, organisations, policies, etc. do the most to make the world a better place.”
Organizers and Campaigners
Starting an organization
59 There are situations in which if one particular person had not started a novel organization, none of the benefits brought about by the organization would have been achieved.
W.I. Research Janina Ochojska, the Polish EquiLibre Foundation or Polish Humanitarian Action, or (PAH)
60 Ochojska rejects the idea that you can only care and donate to the people that live nearby rather than help people farther away.
PAH helps run educational programs to help make students understand the needs of others in 3rd world countries. To my surprise, it is the leading Non-governmental polish provider of assistance and humanitarian relief. Learning more than US $5 million.
Dharma Master Cheng Yen saw a woman being carried down the mountains of Hualien County. When they arrived they were told they had to pay for medical treatment. Not having any money, the family had to carry her back again.
After the incident Cheng Yen then started an organization with 30 houswifes where they put donated a few cents to families in need.
61 The organization was called Tzu Chi meaning “compassionate relief”
Overtime the word spread and funds were raised to build hospitals. This lead to Tzu Chi founding medical schools and nursing schools to teach the local people
One feature that was interesting is that when they received cadavers they would treat them with the utmost respect and would even meet the family and friends of the person to learn more about them.
Tzu Chi is now a big organization with 7 million members…they have also rebuilt 51 schools.
62 Tzu chi has become a major recycler. They get volunteers to collect bottles and other recyclables that are turned into carpets and clothing.
All meals served in Tzu Chi hospitals, schools, universities, and other institutions are vegetarian.
They distribute $10 million dollars worth of visa debit cards after an earthquake and Tsunami hit Japan; each card has 600 dollars on it
This organization teaches to show love and compassion to others, whether they are rich or poor. Even though they won’t be as big as other organizations they will alway continue to inspire people worldwide to show compassion and love to others.
63 Students from MIT and Harvard (Michael Faye, Paul Niehaus, Jeremy Shapiro and Rohit Wanchoo) studied where donations went and what was more effective. They studied charities that distributed money themselves, and also agencies in which you donated straight to those who needed it. They discovered that the money that was directly donated was typically used for good things. They also discovered that people prefer to donate to the less fortunate directly.
GiveDirectly is among its top three recommended charities.
W.I: write about donating to a charity and having them do what they want with it vs. directly donating to the less fortunate.
These same students tried to find an organization that offered direct giving but none did. To solve this problem, they made their own charity: GiveDirectly, which allows donors to donate directly to the needy and see where it goes.
W.I.: write a biography on GiveDirectly and how it works.
64 Henry Spira worked for most of his life defending and helping the weak and oppressed. He began to fight for animals rights after inheriting a cat from a friend. During his life He led a successful campaign that convinced Revlon and Avon beauty products to stop product testing on animals.
W.I: write about companies that still continue to test on animals and what is being done to try to stop this.
W.I: write about Spira and all that he did for the animal rights movements.
65 A Wide-Open Choice
W.I: write about the career you think you could do well that would help the maximum amount of people/do the most good.
67 Giving a Part of Yourself
In January 2013 Peter Singer received an email from a college student who donated his kidney after reading The Life You Can Save which had stated that none of Peter Singer’s students have ever donated a kidney so Chris Croy, a student at St. Louis Community College, in Meramec, Missouri proved Singer wrong. Croy stated that a means to aid others is to donate organs. Will giving your organ aid more than affecting your own life?
W.I. What good does giving an organ do?
W.I. The process of donating an organ
W.I. Kidney donation.
W.I. Argument against donating a kidney.
Donating organs changes peoples’ lives and lets them live their life. Zell Kravinsky’s donation. “In 2014 the waiting line for a kidney was one hundred thousand and still growing. The waiting list a deceased donor can be five years, and in some states is closer to ten years. On average fourteen people die on the waiting list each day.” Some of the people on the list would have still died even with the transplant but receiving a kidney transplant adds an average of ten years of life to the recipient.
W.I. What it’s like to be on the waiting list.
W.I. How can receiving a kidney change a person’s life and how much longer they get to live.
69 Alexander Berger works for GiveWell, an altruistic organization that has been referred to throughout this document as well as “ The Most Good You Can Do” but he went beyond his already altruistic lifestyle and followed Chris Croy’s trend and decided to altruistically donate his kidney. Berger donated 15-20% of his income regularly, which is something that singer has stressed throughout the book as well as his article from “Famine, Affluence, and Morality.”
Along with starting a doner chain, Croy became vegan. I figured since he cares so deeply for other lives that he would be very strict about dairy and eggs and such. Ironically, this is not the case! He said that “…trying to be very strict about these things discourages people from becoming vegan and so causes more suffering than it prevents.”
70 Croy says that he didn’t think giving his kidney was all that good. He only took 25 years into consideration. That, to me, is still a whole lot of good. ESPECIALLY at the risk of his own health. He didn’t even think it was enough good considering everyone else that had followed his altruistic doner path. I disagree with Croy about it being not good enough, however I do agree with singer when he says “Going to a hospital to have surgery that does no good to you and carries a risk of harm, however small, in order to benefit a stranger seems to take altruism to a very high level.” However, I am not in total disagreement with altruistic kidney donation or other donations such as blood, plasma, bone marrow, stem cells, etc. I find it fascinating that one can continue to give apart of themselves altruistically even after death. I plan to sign up to donate and have my organs harvested after my death. I even have a little heart icon on my driver’s license. ❤️
71 Singer points out that blood, plasma, bone marrow, and stem cells can grow back whereas a kidney cannot. Even so, I still believe that donating one of your kidneys to someone in desperate need is more than okay as long as it does not bring any huge risks for yourself.
Apparently, altruistic organ donation was regarded as psychological! Singer said that this was all up until 2001. That was only 18 years ago. Genuine compassion and empathy for lives seems to be even more rare and outlandish than I thought. Or, in 2001 it was at least. In the UK, it was illegal to donate one’s kidney altruistically. Upon further research, I assumed that this was only illegal because the boom of organ trafficking in the United Kingdom, especially for kidneys. The sources I researched were dated around 2012, so I am not yet certain about this theory.
Chapter Seven: Is Love All We Need?
75 Singer approaches the theory of “All we need is Love” He asks if effective altruists are motivated by universal love.
Effective altruists are sufficiently concerned about the welfare of others to make meaningful changes in their lives. Effective altruists donate to charities that, instead of making an emotional appeal to prospective donors, can demonstrate that they will use donations to save lives and reduce suffering in a way that is highly cost-effective. In order to be able to do more good, effective altruists limit their spending or take a different career path so that they will have more to give or will be more useful in some other way. They may also donate blood, stem cells, bone marrow, or a kidney to a stranger.
What motivates them?
W.I. Who is David Hume?
David Hume- explains that there is no such passion in human minds as the love of mankind
76 Hume relates the love of each other to genetic selection itself. He explains that these two ideas go hand in hand. Our love promotes the survival of genes like ours.
It is easy to see why we would help kin or business partners.
W.I. Who is Frans de Waal?
Waal explains that typically humans do not treat all humans the same, but favor kin/ people they know rather than a stranger.
Maybe love does not motivate effective altruists, but in fact empathy motivates them.
77 Singer now leaves the idea of love motivating altruists, and moves to empathy motivating an effective altruist.
Empathy- the ability to put oneself in the position of others and identify with their feelings and emotions.
Interpersonal Reactivity Inventory has four distinct categories. Empathic concern, (the tendency to experience feelings of warmth, compassion, and concern for other people; Personal distress, (one’s own feelings of personal unease and discomfort in reaction to the emotions of others; Perspective taking (the tendency to adopt the point of view of other people; and Fantasy (the tendency to imagine oneself experiencing the feelings and performing the actions of fictitious characters.).
W.I. Explain the four types of Interpersonal Reactivity Inventory and how they relate to altruism.
78 It is easier to feel emotional empathy for one identifiable child than it is to feel that for thousands of children in a circumstance like the one identifiable child. I think this may be due to the fact that it is more likely that you can help one specific child than it is that you can save all the thousands of hurting children. When you don’t feel like you can make a difference it depresses you and you don’t even want to try. I also feel it is easier to identify with one child more than thousands, the same way it is easier for a mother to love her child more than others. When that child is there, and you see it and it has a name and a story then it somehow seems to make it more real than the thousands of other unidentifiable children in need. Effective altruism does not require and is often opposed to letting emotions lead what we feel is the most good because empathy can lead us to make decisions that are not the most possible good we could do.
Effective altruists are sensitive to numbers and to cost per life saved or year of suffering prevented. If they have 10,000 to donate, they would rather give it to a charity that can save a life for 2,000 than one that can save a life for 5,000 because they would rather save five lives than two.
“Paul Bloom, a professor of Psychology at Yale University, has suggested that if we think about our own responses, most of us will realize that we do [let our emotions lead us].”
79 Most of the time our reactions are not equivalent with the amount of pain we are reacting to. Imagine that 2000 people have died. We would most likely feel sad. Now imagine imagine that 20,000 people just died. We probably feel worse about that but its not likely that we feel 10 times worse than we did for the 2,000 who died.
Effective altruists share a lot of moral judgments with utilitarians. Singer tells a story about a runaway trolley heading for 5 people. The trolley will kill the five people unless YOU divert it, in which case it will only kill one. The people in the studies who answered with a utilitarian judgement normally had low levels of empathy. In my opinion, although it is sad, if I HAD to make a choice, I would let the five die and save the one. I know it sounds crazy but I just couldn’t physically divert the train knowing that i would be the actual cause of someone’s death. I just couldn’t do it.
80 Although empathy is good, there is no way to get everyone in the world to empathize with everyone else in the world, it’s just not possible. What everyone needs to realize is that just because you may not feel empathy for someone doesnt mean your life is worth any more than theirs. You child’s life is worth the same as a strangers. Everyone’s life is worth the same. Bloom states that “To the extent that we can recognize the numbers as significance, it’s because of reason, not empathy.” The strongest objection to this claim comes from Hume’s view that “reason can never initiate an action because all action starts with passion or desire.” I personally agree with Hume more on this. If you really think about it, reason itself stems from desire. It can be one’s desire to be reasonable. Every action we have, every move we make, we do because something in us wants to. Whether or not the decisions we make are correct or “reasonable”, we make them because we desire to or because of how we feel.
81 Essentially saying that all people are equals, unless one being is doing more good than the other; (Utilitarianism.) This idea is considered by Sidgwick, the last Utilitarianist of the nineteenth century and quoted by Singer, to be ‘rational/logical’ thought.
82 The same principles used by both Sidgwick & Bloom lead them to a similar idea of universal ‘brotherhood.’ Humans aren’t purely rational; if we were we would be driven to do the most good for the sole purpose of doing the ‘most’ good.
83 Human beings who practice self-respect are allegedly more ‘rational’ and are more empathetic.
85 Chapter 8: One Among Many
Bernard Williams argued that human beings are not the kind of creatures who can take “the point of view of the universe. He also mentions that there is no exercise that consist of stepping outside yourself or your point of view to evaluate the dispositions, projects, and affections that constitute the substance of life.
Effective altruists seem to have completed what WIlliams thought could not be done. They are able to detach themselves from personal considerations. While this detachment is not total, it does make a difference to how they live. It is based on reasoning of a kind.
Living from a point of view that is independent of their own “dispositions, projects and affections.”
86 Effective altruists have a few commonly expressed dispositions that they would consider misguided grounds for giving. One example is “I give to breast cancer research because my wife died of breast cancer”. “The point of view of the universe” has an influence on one’s behavior that will vary person to person. Effective altruist decide on their overall view while they are still young; before they were engrossed in different projects or gained close personal attachments.
“By modifying and redirecting our passions, it can play a critical part in the process that leads us to act ethically.
87 Numbers turn people into altruists. It goes into detail regarding several people who took a look at the numbers and realized how big of a difference they can make
W.I: find a statistic about altruism and charitable donations and see how it changes your opinion on what you can do
W.I: write about one of the altruists discussed on this page and how numbers changed their perspective
People value their own lives and those that are closest to them more then distant abstract people
This would make sense as people are more likely to donate if they have a face or an individual person they’re donating to.
People tend to think of individual people, not as a statistic
W.I: write about how people tend to think more of personal people/individuals/people close to them rather than a group as a whole or statistic.
If our capacity to reason also enables us to see that the good of others is, from a more universal perspective, as important as our own good, then we have an explanation for why effective altruists act in accordance with such principles. Like our ability to do higher math, this use of reason to recognize fundamental moral truths would be a by-product of another trait or ability that was selected for because it enhanced our reproductive fitness–something that in evolutionary theory is known as a spandrel.
When they talk about why they act as they do, they often use language that is more suggestive of a rational insight than of an emotional impulse.
88 Effective altruists look how to help the most people, rather than an individual person. These people tend to donate to bigger, more effective organizations that got to help many people, while other smaller, less-effective organizations allow you to see how you’re making a difference directly, do less good and help fewer people
People with backgrounds in math and analytical reasoning tend to be the msot effective altruists.
W.I: write about how a background involving math would make you a more effective altruist
89 A study showed that including numbers and statistics increased the donations given by large donors but decreased the number of small donors.
Effective altruists are strongly influenced by analytical data such as statistics and facts
It is telling that effective altruists talk more about the number of people they are able to help than about helping particular individuals.
My favorite example of the combination of effective altruism and numeracy is the website Counting Animals, which has the subtitle “A place for people who love animals and numbers” and a home page stating that “nerdism meets animal rights here!”
People with a high level of abstract reasoning ability are more likely to take the kind of approach to helping others that is characteristic of effective altruism.
W.I: write about why these effective altruists are influenced by this information so much
90 Karlan and Daniel Wood. Freedom from Hunger, a U.S. based charity, they use fundraising-letters. The Standard letter comes with information about the individual who is benefiting by the Freedom from Hunger’s work. “Scientific evidence that shows the effectiveness of Freedom from Hunger increased the number of donations of large donors but decreased the number of donations received from small donors.” “Warm Glow donators.” Effective Altruists – Charitable effectiveness, analytical information, they allow their reasoning abilities to override and redirect their emotion is consistent. Joshua Greene. People use two distinct processes when making moral judgments.
W.I. What processes happen when making moral judgments.
W.I. What’s the most effective way to give your money in a charity.
W.I. What charity is the best at its job.
91 When confronted with moral judgments one will have a gut reaction telling that person what is right or wrong. Intuitive responses are quick and easy and yield good results, but sometimes will lead you astray. Emotional Point-and-shoot mode. Utilitarian Judgment. Nonutilitarian judgment.
W.I. Nonutilitarian judgment.
W.I. Utilitarian Judgment
W.I. Are intuitive responses always right and if not what is the reason.
The most controversial aspect of this model is that it links moral judgments characteristically based on the idea that something is just wrong in itself, independently of its consequences, to the instinctive, emotionally based point-and-shoot mode of reaching a moral judgment and links characteristically utilitarian judgments to the manual mode, which draws on our conscious thought processes, or reasoning, as well as on emotional attitudes. An early piece of evidence for this view came from a study in which Greene and his colleagues asked people to make judgments about trolley problems and similar moral dilemmas while images were being taken of their brain activity. The study showed increased activity in brain areas associated with cognitive control before a subject made a utilitarian judgment but not before making a non utilitarian judgment. This suggestive finding has since been supported by a wide variety of further evidence.
92 Experiments have shown that cognitive loading has shed light on the realm of brain where these functions are being processed. These experiments used various methods on the participants like having the participant memorize a series of numbers or letters. Other experiments involved the participants being shown a picture of a single person that would be harmed if that participant did not choose to act so as to save the larger group of people, the most likely response of the participant was the feeling of empathy for the person shown in the picture. These studies bolster as well the more specific claim that associates characteristically consequentialist judgments with greater use of conscious reasoning processes. Holden Karnofsky. GiveWell.
W.I. Cognitive Loading
W.I. Holden Karnofsky
W.I. The human mind and what we think
93 As page 92 deals with cognitive loading in a textbook sense, 93 makes it hypothetical. Holden Karnofsky (above) is the cofounder of GiveWell. Singer makes a hypothetical situation in which Karnofsky would have to choose between his passion of soup kitchen or his current position at GiveWell. Singer suggests that reason, in this case, trumps that of passion even though a desire for good is present in both situations. He also uses an example of an animal rights activist named Harish Sethu who argues that motivation is not just one side of the other, but emotion and reason together.
WI: Write an argumentative essay defending each example and then choose your own path.
94 Singer has already mentioned that people are more likely to help someone they can recognize. Sethu pays homage to that ideology, but he flips it. He says that the recognition of a larger universe of animal suffering that he sees in a video “does not dampen his emotional response, as it does in people who are told about a group of children in need rather than one child.” Sethu recognizes that it is a whole social issue, and does not happen to only one animal. This makes his wish go give more even stronger, yet when it comes to other people, we give less money and resources or more people who need it. Rather than more money and resources or more people that need it.
Abstract reasoning essentially means that the answers can be found in gray areas, and are not always just black or white. Singer argues that this is conducive to effective altruism. “Have people’s abstract reasoning abilities suddenly improved?” I don’t think that is the case. I don’t think it was the abilities that improved, I think it related more to cultural and societal improvements that made altruism more common and good.
95 Steven Pinker believes the invention of the printing press improved our reasoning and spread ideas and information to a much larger proportion of the population. He argues that better reasoning has a positive moral impact.
97 Chapter 9: Altruism and Happiness
97 Check out the blog post “Excited Altruism.”
Effective altruists do not generally see what they are doing as a sacrifice.
98 Studies of the relationship between income and happiness or well-being indicate that for people at low levels of income, an increase in income does lead to greater happiness, but once income is sufficient to provide for one’s needs and a degree of financial security, further increases have either much less impact on happiness or no impact at all.
99 Singer continues on the idea of “Does money equal happiness” or more accurately does lack of money equal lack of happiness? Singer found that in the former study the bad mood was highly exaggerated, and in the latter people largely underestimated how happy people at the lower incomes would be.
Singer then approaches “Does having more material things make us happier?”
He concludes that using your income to buy more stuff does not make us happier, but using it to help others does.
Americans today have three times the amount of space, per person than they did in 1950. They pay a total of 22 billion a year to rent extra storage space. Are they happier for having so much stuff?
100 Singer finds a correlation; he finds that people who are happier are more likely to give help to others. In the same way, giving makes people feel happier.
There is a positive correlation between having donated to charity in the past month and being at a higher level of happiness. This creates a positive feedback loop that leads to more spending on others and greater happiness.
W.I. Do a study and investigate how happy people think they are in relation to how much they give.
101 W.I. Sue Rabbitt Roff investigate her studies on how donors self-esteem is affected.
On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best, an average score of 9.8 was given in rating the overall donation experience while an average score of 10 was given to willingness to do it again.
Self-esteem is important for happiness. I think that self-esteem is important for happiness; I think that it allows happiness. If you have no self-esteem could you really be truly happy?
W.I. Richard Keshen’s concepts for self esteem
102 Everyone’s life and well being is regarded as equal to your own. You cannot ignore the interests of others or you are basically saying that their life isn’t as valuable as yours. Effective Altruists are not actually sacrificing anything because they do not regard what they do as “sacrificing” but rather something that they want to do. They see this as one element of the core of their identity.
103 If they are not sacrificing anything can they really be called “effective altruists?” The answer is yes. Just because one is also gaining happiness from the act of giving to others does not change the fact that they are indeed, helping. Take exercise for example. A majority of people hate working out; they complain it’s painful, time consuming, and oftentimes expensive, but some people love it. They work out all the time and find great joy in it. The fact that they love it has no change in the fact that it helps their health and well-being anymore than it changes the fact that it helps those who hate it. Altruists can be defined by their interests, not the loss of them.
W.I. The difference between Egoism and Altruism
104 The difference between Egoism and Altruism is unimportant when you keep in mind the interest of others. You shouldn’t label someone as an Altruist or an Egoist based of the joy they receive from the good that they do, but rather the increased well being of the person/people they chose to help. If you are doing the most possible good you can, it doesn’t really matter if you benefit from it or not.
105 Part Four: Choosing Causes and Organizations
107 Chapter 10 Domestic or Global?
How can we tell if we are being the most effective with our time, money and efforts? The field of philanthropy has, as a whole, been extremely reluctant to tackle these comparative questions. Finding the answers involves not only questions of fact that are difficult to establish but also controversial value judgments. Let us use the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors as an example. It is one of the world’s largest philanthropic service organizations.
108: A website created by Rockefeller Advisors features a section called “Your Philanthropy Roadmap”. The goal is to start helping donors create thoughtful and effective giving program. It includes charts that give information about various areas that might give health and safety, education, arts culture and heritage.
Animal welfare does not fit the environment category because much of the suffering human inflicts on animals .
It also fails to indicate that intendcing donors living in affluent countries must choose whether to give to an organition that acts domestically or one with a focus beyond thatir country’s borders. Giving to reduce global poverty does not even appear as a category.
109: Among the various projects, the leaflet wants to seek to improve health care for the global poor and improve health care in america. In 1988 Ted Turner gave a third of his wealth to health programs focused on the world’s biggest killer diseases; mainly in developing countries.
The Initiative has been very successful drawing in funding from non profit organizations such as Gates Foundation. 1.1 billion children have been given a combined vaccine that prevents measles and rubella. Deaths from measles have fallen 78%, the cost of the vaccine is one dollar.
Lucile Packard gave 40 million donation to establish a hospital in Palo Alto, California. The Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital has been in the news for its success in achieving difficult separations of conjoined twins.
110 In 2007 the hospital separated two girls both Costa Rica who share deliver. The cost estimated at somewhere between 1 million and 2 million. One of the girls needed heart surgery for a heart defect and the other needed an operation to reconstruct her chest cavity. The hospital paid for operations and the doctors donated their time.
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors describe the costs of a child living in a ICU and it is really shocking. The million dollars used could help many children in a developing country.
What Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors does not say, in describing these two projects, is that the cost of saving a child’s life in an intensive care hospital in the U.S. is typically thousands of times higher than the cost of saving the life of a child in a developing country. It doesn’t seem all that difficult to judge that is is better to use a million dollars to save the lives of hundreds of children by protecting them from measles than to use it to separate one pair of conjoined twins or save one extremely premature infant. It costs about 40,000 to supply one person in the U.S. with a guide dog…
111 but the cost of preventing someone from going blind because of trachoma, the most common cause of preventable blindness, is in the range of 20-100 dollars.
Even though America has many poor people, and people living in poverty, the poverty experienced is relative. Compared to people living in extreme poverty, they’re living lavishly.
Poverty in the US is almost 6000 a year per person while extreme poverty is around 500 dollars.
A dollar and twenty-five cents a day is what more than a billion people live on, virtually all of them in developing countries. The World Bank’s figure is at “purchasing power parity.”
People in poverty in America have clean water, free schooling, free health care, housing, and food stamps. While people in extreme poverty have to watch their kids die and walk miles for water.
W.I: write about what you’d buy if you had $1.53 (extreme poverty per day) and you had to make it last all day
112: Malnourished Children in the US are placed into care and are nursed back to health. Children living in extreme poverty however have no access to healthcare and often die from easily treated diseases
The author says that he’s not saying being poor in America isn’t hard and that we shouldn’t worry about them, but that there’s simply a big difference between being poor in America/rich nations and in extreme poverty poor countries
W.I: compare and contrast being poor in a rich country vs a poor country Relative poverty vs extreme poverty
113: People in extreme poverty can do a lot more with less money
It is more effective and helpful to donate money to people living in extreme poverty
Example: Would 1000 dollars make a bigger difference to a family who makes 2500 dollars a year or one who makes 24,000 a year?
W.I: write about what you could buy for 1000 in a developed country vs an impoverished country
The charity GiveDirectly makes one-off cash grants of about 1,000 U.S. dollars to African families living in extreme poverty. This could be six months to a year’s income.
114 Giving a $1000 dollars in the US might be the equivalent of a month’s income. If the family is on SNAP benefits they won’t have to use that money on food whereas is they weren’t on SNAP benefits the family would have to use the $1000 on food. We will do more good donating to organizations working to help people living in extreme poverty in poor nations. Robert Wiblin. Altruistic arbitrage. In the business world, if two identical products are selling at different prices in different markets. Philanthropy is not focused on effectiveness as the financial sector is focused on profit.
115 The life of a poor American is far higher than the cost of making such a difference to the life of someone who is poor by global standards. “Target groups you care about that other people mostly don’t, and take advantage of strategies other people are biased against using.”
117 Chapter 11 Are Some Causes Objectively Better than Others?
A potential donor should be asking where can I do the most good?
Singer alludes to a leaflet from the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the welfare of others through generous donations of money.
WI: explore RPA more deeply and the most good they have achieved.
Those wanting to do the most good should ask WHERE can I do the most good, rather than asking what is the most urgent issue. Singer compares his own situation here: he wrote about poverty and liberation of animals in “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” and “Animal Liberation” even though more urgent issues were happening at the time like the Vietnam war and threats of the Cold War. Although he supported these issues, he knew that he alone could do even more good somewhere else.
118 He chose to write “Animal Liberation” because not enough people were doing enough for this cause, giving him the chance to do the most good for the treatment of animals. If there were more people contributing the same amount to the same cause, he would no longer be giving the most impact there and his efforts could be put to use somewhere else. Singer points out that these efforts are not the most good or the biggest impact in the moment, but will be in the long run.
119 (An extended example. This section can be cut.) Numbers are not always black and white. He mentions helping a museum opening a new wing compared to curing blindness. The wing would cost $50 mil and appeal to a million people over the years, but $100,000 can cure a thousand people of blindness in developing worlds for 15 years. Morally you should help the blind who have more need, instead of the museum even though the number is greater.
WI: Are there any situations where morals are less relevant, or that the impact of the less moral option does a greater amount of good?
120 The Harvard philosopher Thomas Scanlon. When we are faced with the needs of those who are “severely burdened,” the sum of the smaller pleasures of the many have no “justificatory weight.”
W.I. Does art (making or viewing) depend on economic status? Does every level of wealth enjoy art? Is art relevant in upper classes along with people who can’t even provide basic needs for themselves?
125 If the price of trying to persuade people to donate to the cause that does the most good is that they give less, that price may be worth paying. Singer then approaches; How would we decide? We would have to figure of the amount of good in a dollar, depending on the charity of choosing.
Singer makes an analogy to explain that getting rid of the problem is WAY better than finding a way to deal with the problem.
126 Giving isn’t about the amount of money you give, it’s about the amount of good that comes out of it. You could give 1000 dollars to one organization but if giving 500 to another does more good than you ought to give your money to the second organization even if you are giving less. GIVING LESS doesn’t always mean DOING LESS. Sometimes giving to the wrong charities (even if they aren’t necessarily doing harm) causes harm. Giving to a charity that does only a very limited amount of good, for example, may cause more harm than good because when you examine the fact that donations can be tax deductible and are therefore coming out of the pockets of hard working taxpayers drawing money away from organizations that do more good. You should never give simply for the sake of giving, you should give for the sake of doing the most good. Sometimes things intended for good can cause harm if they aren’t properly thought through.
Should donors be directed on where to give? A donor might, for example, give half as much, but the charity may do a hundred times as much good per dollar it receives; then persuading the donor to give to the more effective charity will lead to benefits fifty times greater than leaving the donor to follow her or his initial personal convictions.
127 Most people just want to do the most good they can with what they have and telling them that there is “obviously no objective answer” to the question of giving can dampen their desire to give altogether causing the reverse effect of what you want.
129 Chapter Twelve: Difficult Comparisons
130 In the United Kingdom the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, known as NICE, uses such methods in order to recommend to the National Health Service authorities which drugs and treatments they should provide free of charge to British residents who can benefit from them. To reach this conclusion, NICE, for each treatment it considers, draws on estimates of the cost of gaining a quality-adjusted life-year, or QALY.
131 In order to set priorities, WHO wanted to estimate the global burden of various diseases. WHO uses the Disability-Adjusted Life-Year, or DALY. One DALY represents one year of life in full health. A year of life with a disability is discounted according to the severity of the disability. The extent of the discounting is decided by various methods involving interviews with samples of the population.
132 A large team of researchers did a study and found results in distinct cultures. For example they used blindness to equate the amount of healthy years of healthy life a person has. This was a hypothetical study. The researchers believe since blindness cause less deaths than starvation, then people should focus on feeding the starving. It is not difficult to find grounds for disagreeing with the discount rate for blindness and and the method used to evaluate “healthy states.”
For $1000,000, untreated blindness causes the loss of 1,000 x 0.2 = 200 DALYs per year, while starvation threatens to cause the loss of 500 DALYs per year. On these figures, we should feed the starving.
On the other hand there psychological research cast a doubt on the judgement by people with good health about what it would be like to suffer from different health condition.
133 Holden Karnofsky asks us to imagine different scenarios for the same cost, we could accomplish them. Holden noted that some people agreed with his view and others did not. He says “ it’s possible that we would agree if we new more about the lives of the people in developing countries”. Holden believes the best solution to get people to donate is telling them exactly the number of people their helping. For example, $100,000 can restore health to x people, or save the lives of y infants.
Any disagreement on these fundamental value questions will lead to disagreement about the cost-effectiveness of different health care interventions, and converting the benefits of those interventions into a single figure like the DALY obfuscates the disagreement rather than resolving it.
134 This allows the donors to donate with their values in consideration. Toby Ord says there are problems with the DALY approach, but supports their attempts. He believes should continue to construct a single measure of well being, even if we won’t reach it in the near future.
There has been research going into developing ways of measuring the benefits of health care interventions. In the initial years of Give Well it did consider some charities that assist poor in the United States, but they soon stopped because they realized helping the global poor would be better.
137 Chapter 13: Reducing Animal Suffering and Protecting Nature
While they’re a good cause, rescuing animals shouldn’t be our top priority, because they go to a small portion of the animals that suffer in the U.S.
Only a small portion of pets are abused while 9.1billion animals are slaughtered each year. That’s 55 times as many farm raised animals as there are pets.
Hundreds of millions of animals don’t die from slaughter but from suffering
W.I. write about animal cruelty and how people are trying to stop it
W.I. write about how animals raised for slaughter are treated
There is a straightforward reason for not giving the highest priority to charities that rescue abused animals. The suffering of abused pets amounts to a tiny fraction of the suffering we inflict on animals.
138: The Animal Activists’ Handbook. Matt Ball. Bruce Friedrich. “Every year, hundreds of millions of animals-many times more than the total total number killed for fur, housed in shelters, and locked in laboratories combined- don’t even make it to slaughter. They actually suffer to death.” The total number of animals killed in shelters each year is around 4 million, for fur 10 million, and in laboratories 11.5 million, making a total of approximately 25.5 million.
Animals killed for food are so badly treated that they die before they ever get to slaughter.
W.I. Animal experimentation
W.I. How many animals die because of humans
Harish Sethu has done the numbers for the U.S. on his website Counting Animals. There are thousands of organizations in the U.S. working to help dogs and cats and relatively few working for farmed animals. Animal Charity
139: Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE). Sterilizing dogs and cats, curtailing the spread of disease among them, and finding a good home for some animals it is possible to reduce the suffering of the animals. ACE – The most effective way to help animals is to be an advocate for farm animals.
Convince people to reduce or eliminate their consumption of animal products saves animals at a fraction of this cost.
How can we compare the good achieved by helping animals with the good achieved by other charities? Here, two separate questions are often confused. One is a factual question: Do animals suffer as much as humans? The other is ethical: Given that an animal is suffering as much as a human, does the suffering of the animal matter as much as the suffering of the human? The answer to the ethical question should be yes.
Robert Wiblin. Animal Liberation. Speciesism is a form of discrimination against the interests of those who are not “us,” where the line between us and the outsider is drown on the basis of something that is not in itself morally relevant.
W.I. Whats is gained by those animals suffering
W.I. Are modern amenities worth the killing of thousands of animals
W.I. What is Speciesism
140: Rejection of speciesism isn’t the end of the debate, it’s about the moral weight we should give to an animal suffering. Defenders of the way we treat animals usually point out that humans are more rational or autonomous or self-aware or capable of reciprocating than nonhuman animals. Some find it offensive to compare the suffering of humans with that of animals. Presumably they believe that human suffering is always incomparably more important than the suffering of animals.
We wrong animals whenever we give less weight to their interests than we would, in the same circumstances, give to a human with similar capacities.
W.I. The suffering of animals compared to human suffering
141 The argument is since animals have lower awareness and mental capacity, that they therefore are not on the same level as humans and there suffering is in the lower degree. Singer says that this goes beyond species bias because it is based on mental capacities. Because he says that the argument is based on that same mental capacity, some argue that humans with similar mental level also can’t compare their suffering with actual human suffering. This argument puts mentally disabled people as less than human. Other animals are kind and lovable, but humans pride ourselves on our intelligence so to put one in the category as not to have that intelligence is of the greatest insults because it is morally wrong. Since it seems immoral to choose one species suffering over the other, Singer says that the area of uncertainty seems to be the best. Without having to choose whose suffering outweighs the other, ethical altruists can help both causes even though they might not be aware which one does the MOST good, or they can make the most DIFFERENCE.
142 Do levels of awareness determine levels of suffering? A farm animal that has grown up in a slaughter farm has no knowledge or awareness of what there life could be like without the suffering; they are not aware that they are suffering compared to other animals not in the same type of environment. Does this make their suffering less? I don’t think it does. There is no sound criteria that says one cause is better or worse than the other. Altruists believe in different causes, the support for different causes creates an argument of which cause is better or more good. One side of this argument says that animals have less capacity to suffer than humans because they have a different level of awareness, while the other sides believe that either human suffering is less than that of animals, or that they are on a similar level.
Vegan Outreach is a nonprofit organization to end violence towards animals, especially in the slaughtering scene. They hand out leaflets to spread the idea of veganism and give statistical data of suffering. Other organizations use their leaflets for their own organization like The Humane League which is a protection non profit organization, also aiming to stop violence towards animals, specifically animals being raised for food. Their advertisements have helped many animals, because people have started agreeing with the leaflets and stopped buying and eating animal meat and products.
ACE (Animal Charity Evaluators) also use leaflets to forward this movement to stop animal cruelty.
143 ACE gives more statistical evidence to readers about how much it costs to help these animals and how little it takes. These inexpensive ways to divert suffering are as little as .06 CENTS. Although ACE is an animal advocacy organization, they still say that animals are only capable of a portion of the suffering that humans can endure, this portion being only one tenth.
WI: why does ACE believe animals only suffer 1/10? Research and develop an answer.
144 Spreading information about factoring farming would still have excellent value compared to the most effective charities helping humans. Even if your goal were solely to slow down climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, you could do that more effectively by donating to organizations that are encouraging people to go vegetarian or vegan than by donating to leading carbon-offsetting organizations.
Singer discusses the effects of global warming
145 Slowing climate change would be a very important goal, one that would bring huge benefits to the global poor and to all future generations. An action that has only a tiny chance of changing that outcome can still have very high expected value.
Does Nature Have Intrinsic Value?
147 Intrinsic value of nature- Most effective altruists have not shown interest in. Singer believes that intrinsic value is to be found only in conscious experiences.
149 Chapter 14 Choosing the Best Organization
Meta Charities- organizations that evaluate other charities. Most people who give to charities are giving out of an emotionally based reasoning. Others give because they are asked by someone they know. In both cases sufficient research is usually not present.
150 Donors have an excuse for not looking into the charities and organizations they donate to; it is a lot of work. Before GiveWell, people would go to the website Charity Navigator. Charity navigator is a program that evaluates charities. Although this sounds good, it does has its disadvantages. One disadvantage is that its ratings are superficial. At the moment Charity Navigator doesn’t even tell you anything about the outcome of the charities. Many time people use Charity Navigator to look at one figure: the percentage of a charity’s revenue that is spent on administration and fundraising, rather than on its programs. In extreme cases this can be very helpful, especially when deciding when NOT to give to a charity.
151 In a few cases the proportion of revenue spent doesn’t tell us anything. Just because a charity spends little to nothing on administration and fundraising doesnt mean its a good charity to donate to. In some cases a large amount of the donations can go to administration and fundraising and it helps the charity to make the most out of every dollar it gets.
152 Instead of evaluating all types of charities, GiveWell focuses on charities that help the poor. GiveWell decided that aiming to help poor people in developing countries would be more cost affluent than affluent countries and therefore stopped reviewing charities that don’t assign the global poor. Because GiveWell only reviews a small amount of organizations (in comparison to other charity review sites), it is able to give better, more deeply research reviews. In the absence of evidence, GiveWell writes reviews on charities but doesn’t recommend them. GiveWell does not focus on specific organizations but rather on specific types of interventions because GiveWell contends that the highest quality of evidence comes from academic research which focuses on the type of intervention. One could describe GiveWells mode of investigation as identifying interventions with a plethora of evidence showing positive outcomes, and then narrowing in on specific organizations within the decided specific interventions.
Give Well’s first identifying interventions for which their is rigorous evidence that they have positive effects, and then investigating organizations that focus narrowly on these demonstrably beneficial interventions. Directing a donation to a specific project thus won’t necessarily affect whether or not the project will go ahead or even its scale. In 2013 GiveWell recommended only three charities, two of which specialize in treating parasitic worm infections that cause children to develop anemia and slow their progress in school, which the third is GiveDirectly founded to give cash grants directly to very poor people. These interventions have been evaluated by randomized controlled trials.
154 Providing information to parents about the increased wages of those who stay at school is by far the most cost-effective way of improving education and
155 results in an amazing 20.7 additional years spent at school!
156 There are limited resources make it impossible for Heifer International to provide the option of giving to everyone who could benefit from it. Niehaus proposed instead of giving people cash grams, it would be more beneficial to give poor people cows because it would lead to a better outcome in the end.
Randomized controlled trials of drugs and medical treatments are required even though they are “experiments with people’s lives”. The trials, however, comply with guidelines set by international research organizations. In the long run these treatments save people’s lives. Failing to use the resource available to save people’s lives is much worse. There are drawbacks and limitations to the randomized controlled trials. For some aid interventions, getting trained people to remote villages is the largest part of the budget. If randomization is to be done, which will be necessary in some situations, then twice as many villages need to be visited to get the baseline measurement which will be doubling the cost of the project.
157 Oxfam America wanted to do a randomized trials of its “Savings for Change” program, this encouraged women in rural villages in Mali to set up saving schemes from which each member could borrow money when needed. However, Donors were worried that their donations were going only to the research being done. The study found benefits in this plan like food security but not in education, it also helped in women empowerment. The major limitation of randomization is they can only be used for certain inventions. Oxfam puts resources into both direct aid and advocacy work.It believes that its advocacy work is better grounded because it regards itself as vital to try combat the causes of poverty.
158 Oxfam has always taken an interest in extracting industries like oil and mining, which often deprives the poor of the land and pollute the rivers which local people rely on for fishing, drinking water, and irrigation. When big quantities of oil and gas were discovered, Ghana knew that it would not benefit the poor of the country.
Oxfam supported research reports and public forums that use the revenue from the oil industry to help raise public awareness to the issue. The attention helped Ghana get the money they deserved. In 2014 they received approximately $777 million in oil revenue. WIth vast majority of this money directed at “Poverty-focused agriculture”.
159 Oxfam, an international organization working to end poverty. They work with oil companies to get them to donate to farms and those in poverty. Because it involves so much money, even getting them to donate 1 percent is a huge sum. It indicates a return on investment of 580 percent.
W.I. write about Oxfam and what they do
They also work to stop large food companies methods of land acquisition, sustainable use of water, climate change, and exploiting women
One of their big battles is fighting against big brand foods driving poor people off land they’ve lived on their whole lives.
160 An example of this^ is a people in brazil had been living in the sirinhaem river estuary since 1914, in 1998 sugar cane companies forced them to move out, threatened them with violence, and burned their homes down.
When oxfam brought this to the public’s eye , coca-cola and other big 10 food brands denounced this practice
They have all committed to zero tolerance policies of this practice
W.I. write about the sirinhaem river estuary people and their conflict with the Usina Trapiche sugar cane company
161 People like political advocacies because they help the causes of poverty too
Many times when a poverty stricken country gets money, they don’t fix the poverty or help them. The money goes into the extremely wealthy and government officials. Because they don’t get any of the money, and know they can get it if they take over the government, the risk for revolt is increased.
Many organizations are part of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which works to make sure that money from resource rights goes into the right hands and not into leaders pockets
Working to change unfair trading practices that disadvantage developing countries is one way in which we can try to address at least some of the causes of poverty.
W.I. write about what the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative does
W.I. write about how the angolan government pocketed 34 billion dollars over the course of 8 years that should’ve gone to help their poverty stricken
162: Angola. Financial flows of $34 billion between 2000 and 2008. Nine times what it received in official development assistance during the same period. The rich rule over the poor. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. EITI- works alongside governments and companies to implement an international standard requiring transparency both from the governments of resource rich countries concerning what what they recieve and what happens to it. ONE. In 2011 ONE campaigned for nations to increase their pledges to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations. June 2011- $4.3 billion dollars in total was raised, more than hundred times ONE’s total expenditure of $29 million that year. Bono the lead singer of U2, the largest advocacy-only organization that is focused on extreme poverty.
W.I. What is the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations and what does it do?
W.I. What all goes into giving a vaccine and immunizations?
163: How much money should ONE claim? The campaign was money well spent. ONE conducted another campaign in 2011, it appealed to the UN for a humanitarian emergency in the Horn of Africa. ONE also successfully persuaded the European Commission to propose a law requiring transparency in the extractives industry. In 2012 ONE became somewhat obsolete because of budget cuts in the European government. GiveWell has a partnership with Good Ventures, a philanthropic foundation set up by Cari Tuna and her husband. Dustin Moskovitz. Open Philanthropy Project – goal of investigating a much wider range of giving opportunities that GiveWell does when it evaluates and recommends specific charities. OPP and GiveWell have funded many scientific research studies focused on reducing global catastrophic risk, and attempting to reform the criminal justice system in the U.S.
W.I. What government gives the most to people in need and why? What impact does it have on those people and does it do any good? If so how?
164 If the advocacy organizations do have an impact, then the return investment “would likely be very large.” In other words, we do not, at present, know enough to say whether policy advocacy offers better or worse value for money than direct aid programs.
W.I. The difference between direct aid and policy advocacy.
W.I. What is the best way to give your money?
165 Singer explains that dinosaurs became extinct due to a massive collision wiping out the species, and points out that it might be our turn next. He describes how rare the occurrence is, but I am very confused regarding how this can relate to choosing the best organization. Maybe he is leading up to an organization that is researching ways to prevent these collisions?
Chapter 15: Preventing Human Extinction
Nick Bostrom speaks of the term existential risk, or a situation in which “an adverse outcome would either annihilate Earth-originating intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential.”
166 Nick Bostrom is focused on “intelligent life” such as ourselves, but not a specific species. Where is the line drawn? Some of the ways we could become extinct: a large asteroid, nuclear war, a pandemic of natural origins, a pandemic caused by bioterrorism, global warming, (which is very current) 167 a nanotech accident, physics research producing hyperdense “strange matter”, or a superintelligent unfriendly artificial intelligence [Gremillion] What is nasa’s plan to prevent these catastrophic events? How can we help them do the most good for our planet and our lives?
172 Prior existence view: that if people or, more broadly, sentient beings, exist or will exist independently of anything we choose to do, we ought to make their lives as good as possible; but we have no obligation to try to bring about the existence of people who, but for our actions, would not have existed at all. There is no obligation to reproduce.
173 There is a philosophical debate as to the extent of the efforts we should make to reduce the risk of extinction. Bostrom’s calculations say that reducing existential risk should take priority over doing other good things.
174 Altruistic dollars are scarce so effective altruists tend to donate more to reducing need than the actual needs themselves. Unrestricted altruism is not common enough today for us to have the ability to waste it on the more frivolous needs. This isn’t to say that every need isn’t important, but some are definitely more detrimental than others. On that note, it is important to encourage others to be effective altruists as there is a greater likelihood of those effective altruists becoming concerned about existential risk than someone who wasn’t previously an effective altruism would. The problem of how to minimize known existential risks has no known solution. This is true only for most existential risks.
175 Some effective altruists have shown interest in the development of artificial intelligence.
W.I. The dangers of artificial intelligence
176 The development of artificial intelligence was bad for the chimps but good for humans. Animal suffering is offset by the fact there by the decreased suffering of humans, there is hope for the future of increased happiness for both humans and animals together. If you have a clear idea in one specific area of how to reduce existential risk, it is much better for you to focus on that one area of which you have knowledge and do limited side work in other areas, than to dedicate yourself to areas you have no knowledge about.
177 Take steps to reduce the risk of human extinction when those steps are also highly effective in benefiting existing sentient beings. For example, eliminating or decreasing the consumption of animal products will benefit animals, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and lessen the chances of a pandemic resulting from a virus evolving among the animals crowded into today’s factory farms, which are an ideal breeding ground for viruses.
178 Educating and empowering women by giving them greater say in national and international affairs. Educating women and growing healthier children.