Effective altruism

Peter Singer, the Australian utilitarian who wrote The Life You Can Save (2009), just came out with a new book last month — The Most Good You Can Do.

“Effective altruism is based on a very simple idea:  we should do the most good we can.  … I may have left the impression that to be an effective altruist requires making choices that, to most people, seem extreme:  donating half of one’s income to effective charities, choosing the career that will enable one to earn more in order to be able to give more, donating a kidney to a stranger.  … Once there is a critical mass of effective altruists, it will no longer seem odd for anyone to regard bringing about “the most good I can do” as an important life goal.”

He challenges David Brooks’ New York Times editorial about Jason Trigg (a MIT computer science grad who works for a hedge fund, and others like him, for whom “making gobs of money is the surest way to save the world”) and Melissa Berman’s defense of the Rockefeller Philanthropy booklet that said, “What is the most urgent issue?  There’s obviously no objective answer to that question.”

I found myself at times exasperated and inspired; it’s thought-provoking. Thanks to my kids for introducing it to me.

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