How to Apply Effective Altruism in Your Life to Eradicate Misery
Well, hello! Welcome to this Effective Altruism guide!
I hope this article will inspire you and that you’ll use it as a guide to contributing in the most efficient way to help persons in need.
«Ever were we freer than under the German Occupation.»
– Jean-Paul Sartre
Passivity means that you are not active, you prefer not to choose.
By being passive, you indirectly make the choice to let things happen without your intervention. If you stay passive, you contribute and indirectly collaborate with things you would normally not agree to support.
We tend to underestimate the consequences of our daily choices. We think that it won’t change anything, or that there are no others options possible.
However, the more limited the choices, the more they tend to have serious outcome.
So basically, according to Sartre: doing nothing against injustices = letting them last. We are accomplice.
Every single action, even a tiny one, has an impact on others. So don’t forget, be conscious and mindful.
Upon these words, let’s get to the heart of the matter: Effective Altruism
WHAT IS IT?
Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Effective altruism is a philosophy and social movement that uses a scientific approach to find the most effective ways to make the world a better place.
Effective altruists consider all possible causes and actions and then act in the way that has the greatest positive impact. It is this evidence-based approach that distinguishes effective altruism from traditional altruism or charity.
So to sum up, effective altruism is about seeking the best ways to help others, and to put them in place.
It’s hard to talk about it without mentioning Peter Singer, one of the philosophers who contributed the most to this movement. He is utilitarian, that is, he considers the moral value of an action to be determined by its happy consequences on as many as possible. He made an amazing Ted Talk that will be perfect to introduce this topic and to help you understand what this movement matters.
So here some important points he mentioned:
Giving can result in improving self-esteem and as happiness helps us go out of the infinite cycle of work and consumption, By giving, one contemplates the effects of his actions on the world. Indeed, according to Peter Singer, happiness can not be reduced to an accumulation of pleasure (=hedonism)
The notion of work with Sisyphus myth: for him, to be effective, you have to make a great amount of money. Binary logic between those who make a job that earns little but is useful and those who work in a dispensable field but earn more. Is it better to do useful work or to earn more and give more?
Shocking video about the girl being crushed: “Is it enough to have a good conscience to act morally?” A good conscience is not a reliable indicator of morality.
For Peter Singer, to be moral, it’s not enough to do no harm, nor to prevent things from going worse. We must actively commit ourselves to improve the world. For example, we can start by stopping spending money on useless goods and rather using it to give to the ones in need. It is a moral duty to be generous, but that is not enough. We must not give to give, but to have concrete results in the world and to relieve suffering. We often find ourselves excuses: but we can all give to our measure, no need to be a millionaire.
EFFECTIVE ALTRUISM VALUES
Commitment to others
Spirit of collaboration
Effective altruism does not mean ignoring compassion, on the contrary. Compassion is precisely why we do not want to be content to do good, but rather to do as much good as possible.
The first objective of this movement is to develop the altruistic spirit in people whose daily life is not troubled by tragic events, to help those who suffer.
Many interventions have a weak impact, even negative, and the most effective are not necessarily the ones we would head towards at first. The US organization GiveWell, which evaluated the effectiveness of Dozens of possibilities of intervention, for example, revealed that three dollars are enough to save a life of malaria.
From these analyzes, effective altruists build models of actions that encourage everyone to maximize the number of lives saved by donation.
HOW TO CONCRETELY APPLY EFFECTIVE ALTRUISM?
1. Reflect on how you want to contribute, which cause really matters
If there is already a specific cause you want to support, it’s important to evaluate it to understand how you can have the most impact.
So, how to evaluate a cause?
How many people are affected by the problem, and how badly is their well-being degraded?
Potential for improvement
What fraction of the problem can we hope to solve by increasing the resources allocated to it?
How many resources are already allocated to solving the problem?
Where can I help the largest number of victims regardless of my affective preferences? (ex for an animal cause: majorities give to the dogs, but fishes are way more victims)
We cannot help everyone, we have to do case by case: where can I maximize generosity?
2. Choose wisely a good association to donate
It’s really a good thing to be willing to donate, but it’s not just about having a good conscience: this money has to do its job properly. That’s why it is really important to analyze associations before and verify if they are not contradictory.
For instance, one can not fight against injustice while perpetuating another (giving meals containing meat to the poor = supporting injustice toward animals and contributing strongly to pollution)
Another example used in the video: In developed countries, $ 40,000 is needed to train guide dogs. However, treating trachoma, infectious disease-causing blindness, costs only 40 dollars. Obviously, it is better to donate to treat trachoma. (consequently avoiding guide dogs association in this case)
But for that, you need money… (and every single dollar counts!)
3. Find a job that will fulfill you
As mentioned in this video, the website 80000hours.com will give you tips about finding a job that will give you joy. If you can be happy while working, I’m sure you’ll be rewarded and be more apt to earn money. (I didn’t say you will become a billionaire by doing your dream job, but at least you will have found your life balance. Maybe some effective altruists won’t agree with me and would have answered it’s better to be a billionaire with whatever job. Why not, it’s just a question of point of view)
Moreover, I’ve noticed that people who were less fulfilled with their life were less inclined toward giving to others. Just my observation so correct me if I’m wrong!
If the website 80000hours didn’t help you in finding an inspiring job, I can’t recommend you enough to go check and fill your own ikigai, that’s how I find what was really important for me in life.
4. Share this philosophy with others for greater results
Not everyone agrees on this one, but I know someone who did it and I think it’s a wonderful idea: for a birthday present, why not donating to an association with the name of the Birthday person? So that you can give him/her the receipt of the donation and tell that he contributed to help to improve this cause.
That’s just an example among others, but I believe no holds are barred!
5. Stay interested in how the world evolves and our current issues
It’s not always joyful I agree. For your mental health, I do not recommend you to watch the news every day either. However, it’s important to find more about the big issues of our generation, which are the most urgent cause to support and anticipate how to prevent disasters from happening.
6. Be ready to change your old habits
Once you are informed, it’s important to not turn a blind eye to an issue you are not comfortable with. For example, I personally think that you cannot call yourself an environmentalist if you still eat meat. Cattle farming is one of the main sources of pollution, so it’s kind of contradictory.
However, I wish to say that I don’t like labels either, but that’s another debate.
You have to be willing to grow and evolve. Yes, it can take time. But you can start by stop wasting money on useless things for example. Maybe at the beginning, you will feel like you’re depriving yourself of pleasure, but trust me, when you will realize that it was to contribute to something even bigger, you’ll way happier.
7. Always keep hope
Finally, hope. I believe it’s a delicate topic because when you start to inform yourself about what’s wrong in the world, you can quickly feel overwhelmed….
But I consider that we cannot help things grow and improve if we don’t focus on the positive side of the process. Hope is what makes us happy and determined. So I would say that the goal here, is to find yourself in the perfect balance between being determined and positive about our future, but still being aware of its issues and not turn a blind eye to them.
WHAT TO TAKE AWAY?
If you find the effective altruism movement too extreme, it does not prevent you from inspiring yourself of its philosophy: it’s a nice thing to give, but what if your gift had a real impact?
Charity ain’t giving people what you wants to give, It’s giving people what they need to get.
-Terry Pratchett, “Hogfather”
Hope you enjoyed and learned something new! I would love to know what you think about this movement or if you apply it in your life?
This article was also inspired by a Philosophy lesson I had in High School, so thank you teacher if you read it, I’m grateful for this discovery ♥
Once again, if you see any English mistakes, I’d glad if you could let me know!