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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Effective Altruism

   
Author Topic: Effective Altruism
Raymond Arnold
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I've been meaning to write a lengthy post about this for a while. I still haven't gotten around to it. But I think that a fair number of people have put some thought into this, and maybe I should start with some open-ended questions about what people here do/think.

Do you make any concerted effort to make the world a better place? Either by donating money or time, investing in important projects, or something else?

If so, what originally motivated you to do so, and has that motivation changed over time? Do you focus on helping your community or the world at large? Does the difference matter to you?

Have you put any thought into how to make your contribution as effective as possible?

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Mucus
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My donations are relatively modest.

I do look up management expenses for charities, read columns by authors such as Dambisa Moyo who wrote Dead Aid describing the efficiency (or lack thereof) particular types of aid, and other relevant matter such as the widespread corruption in Chinese orphanages/bureaucracy which force parents to give up children for profit.

I do try to steer my consumer dollars as well (and participate in Kiva) While not really charity, if my purchases can help migrant workers get a leg up by working in manufacturing as opposed to say, clothing then I try to do that too.

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Destineer
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I give about 1.5% of my income to charity. Hope to increase that after I get promoted (knock on wood) next year.

International aid is much more effective at saving lives than domestic charity--statistically speaking, people in the US just don't need as much help, and it's much more expensive to actually help Americans in need.

I don't normally give to charities that aren't recommended by http://www.givewell.org/

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TomDavidson
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I donate 5% of my income and try to give at least 10 hours a month to labor -- usually Habitat for Humanity or a soup kitchen.
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SteveRogers
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Provided the work and school schedule I have, I don't have much time for volunteering for anything other than school groups. But I try to do what I can when I do have the time (food drives with Boy Scouts and stuff with church). It's only a small gesture, but I try to give blood as often as I am able.
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Corwin
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I did donate regularly to a couple of charities when I was in France. Haven't done that since coming back to Romania a year ago, but I need to start doing that again.

The reason I started donating was pretty simple: I've had times in which without help from friends I would have had major setbacks in my life, or when friends of mine were in major need of help. And I thought I'd extend this to other people, not necessarily ones I know, because my "major" setbacks may be nothing compared to what other people have to endure.

As for local vs world at large, I opted for the world when in France for the same reasons for which I decided to extend this beyond friends. I haven't thought much about how effective my contribution is. I'll have to do that once I start looking into charities over here.

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Darth_Mauve
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You know who feeds more people, heals more sick, provides more homes for the homeless and leads in most charitable causes from environmental protection to sheltering abused children to creating works of art and maintaining historical places?

You US Taxes.

Perhaps we shouldn't worry to much about avoiding or lowering them.

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Blayne Bradley
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I donate to my political party.
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Mucus
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I do the political "donation" thing too, but between the hefty tax credit (~75% back) and a healthy dollop of self-interest, it didn't really cross my mind.
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Samprimary
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I volunteer labor hours to good charity causes, I give to the red cross. Most importantly and directly though I force my friends to go to the doctor when they would not otherwise — because they can't afford to even when critically ill — and then work out a way to collect money among all of us with means and defray as much of the costs of our horrific medical system as possible.

This gets a little hard to do when stitches, antibiotics, or even basic treatment for strep goes into multiple thousands of dollars, or a five minute head scan just to be sure that there is no brain bleeding during a terrifyingly acute sudden onset visual migraine event (in a previously asymptomatic person) comes back with a $8,000 price tag, risking pushing a productive individual with no debt problems into her first medical bankruptcy. Sometimes we're just completely dry on the charity front and there's nothing we can do.

We also do a sort of a food drive / emergency couch surf network for the lots of us who get slammed the hardest by job volatility.

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Destineer
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My hat is off to you, Tom. 5% is awesome, especially since I know you have a family.
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Kwea
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I give to my church, which runs soup kitchens, rehab groups, and vocational rehab/training groups. I also donate clothing and toiletries. I work as a hospice nurse, and I have given families blankets, medical supplies (things that hospice doesn't provide), food, and the occasional toy.

I also donate blood as often as I am allowed, and usually do it though plasma or platelets, so it can help more people than a simple whole blood donation. I was mugged while in the Army, and received blood... without it I'd be dead. My mom, sister and father have all received blood as well. Without a viable blood supply, my nieces would not have been born, and my sister would be dead several times over.

I use to play my flute at nursing homes, but I stopped years ago. I am learning guitar, in part for myself...I miss music...and in part for my child to be. I loved singing with my family, and loved sharing music with people, so it's a way to do something for others that also feeds my soul/spirit.

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Raymond Arnold
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Glad to see a lot of people working to help.

Still a few days away from putting my thoughts together, but the basic gist is: I've spent the last year putting thought into what I can be doing to have the biggest impact I possibly can, given my time and energy constraints. I'm trying to do so in a fairly "cause-neutral" way, looking at the big picture and what my underlying values actually are, without getting too attached to particular projects yet.

I don't have anything resembling a solid answer to that question, but I am working with an organization that's trying to give people the tools they need to answer it for themselves, and a community of people who care about the same question to give each other support, and hopefully collaborate.

[ September 08, 2012, 05:20 PM: Message edited by: Raymond Arnold ]

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GinetteB
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I am trying to do some peacebuilding. In my opinion, declaring human rights is not enough. It's useless if there is no protection against violation. So I made a simple draft of a basic law for humanity and posted it on Facebook, hoping people will at least think about what it takes to have peace. Here is my draft:

ONE BASIC LAW FOR THE WORLD

THE HUMAN RIGHTS
1. Freedom of body
Respect for each others body: No physical violence, no violation of, or a serious danger to, anothers health
2. Freedom of heart
Respect for what others love: No destruction, stealing or using without permission of what another loves and belongs to them by right or possession
3. Freedom of mind
Respect for each others conscience, nobody can be forced to do something, not in accordance with their own conscience: No terror, blackmail, unwanted custody. Continuous severe verbal abuse by means of commanding, threatening, insulting is considered terror.
Victimizers will be punished getting the choice between emprisonment or mental health care.
THE HUMAN DUTIES
To take good care of the body
To take good care of the heart
To take good care of the mind
To be able to fulfill the human duties, sufficient food, shelter, protection and education should be available to all. Acting out preferences and using possessions that have been proven to be a serious danger to others, are forbidden. Severe refusal to take necessary education or mental treatment to an extent it becomes a serious danger to others, can lead to forced education and/or mental health care.
THE HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY
To help each other
To report all violations against human rights and human duties immediately
To obey The Law

All cultural, political and religious laws and rules, containing explicit descriptions of obligatory or forbidden actions, while those actions do not form a danger to, or are a violation of, the human rights, duties and responsibilities, have to be changed to remove those actions.
Every human is subject to the Law. Those, having responsibility as leaders, and in this position violate the Law by ordering physical violence towards others, by exposing others to severe health risks, by destroying or stealing others food, shelter and possessions, by terrorising, blackmailing or taking others in unwanted custody, or by continously commanding, threatening and insulting, will be punished. It follows from the human responsibility, every human knowing of such violations, should report them immediately.
And from this basic Law all else follows naturally.

***
The world suffers from a global disease, called 'violence' and we are treating the symptoms, not the cause. Long ago, we should have found methodes to prevent violence and to treat victimizers with mental health care instead of traumatized victims. It's like bringing water to the sea, and the disease spreads and spreads. It has to stop.

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Kwea
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Good luck with that.
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Destineer
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quote:
Originally posted by Kwea:
Good luck with that.

+1
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Szymon
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This heart and loving thing doesn't sound good. It should be called "property".

The second and third part sound a little naive.

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GinetteB
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Did I ask for your opinion Szymon? This is an inventarisation of altruistic initiatives. Please state your own.
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Aros
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quote:
Originally posted by GinetteB:
Did I ask for your opinion Szymon? This is an inventarisation of altruistic initiatives. Please state your own.

Doesn't posting it here infer solicitation of opinion?

I like the Wiccan Rede, it's rather succinct. Derived from John Stuart Mill (harm principle) and St. Augustine (First Epistle of John), it states "An it harm none, do what you wilt". Rather libertarian, if you think about it. As Mill argued, "...the sole purpose of law should be to stop people from harming others and that should people want to participate in victimless crimes, crimes with no complaining witness, such as gambling, drug usage, engaging in prostitution, then they should not be encroached in doing so."

To tie it back to the conversation, François Rabelais said "DO AS THOU WILT because men that are free, of gentle birth, well bred and at home in civilized company possess a natural instinct that inclines them to virtue and saves them from vice. This instinct they name their honor". I think that a lot of people are driven to donation or service through religion, but a lot of people are driven by a natural sense of honor and self-derived moral obligation.

Where was I going with this? <shrug>

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by GinetteB:
Did I ask for your opinion Szymon?

Yeah, you did.

Welcome to Hatrack.

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GinetteB
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Ok. Then maybe I could come up with an advice unasked for too? I think many threads here could greatly improve if everybody would ask themselves these two questions first before posting: Is it useful? Is it kind?
[Smile]

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Strider
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I think the "useful" criteria has to go. There's no requirement or expectation of usefulness for all posts at Hatrack. Especially in fluff threads. [Smile]

And I think "kind" would be better off replaced by "respectful". Those two concepts seem to pull apart, and the 'kind' criteria might be overly restrictive, when what we care about seems to be more about respect* anyway.

*Noting that respect is for people, and not necessarily for their beliefs.

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Szymon
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Ginette, I meant no disrespect.

I thought that my post was useful to the extent that you learned that there is a person who might find your Laws naive.

I completely disagree with your social-oriented Laws. It's a utopia. You have a society with a goverment that can give everyone shelter, food, clothes, education and everything for free (because it has to be for free, 'cause everyone is entitled to it by Law). This is something very futuristic. Science fiction.

In such society, the basis of our economy - limited resources - is strongly shaken. Thing like that would alter societies as we know them. Why would anyone want to work? Because of passion? Would everyone become an artist? A scientist? Politician? But what politics are for, when there is nothing left to do?

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