Peter Singer – Effective Altruism, an Introduction

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effective altruism is both a philosophy
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and an emerging movement the philosophy
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is really the idea that we should use
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our lives to do the most good that we
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can and in working out what’s the most
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good we can do we should use our
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capacity to reason to think to gather
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evidence and to weigh up that evidence
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so that it’s not just a kind of
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impulsive or emotional response to
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problems in the world but it’s a
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thoughtful carefully worked-out one and
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the emerging movement consists of people
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who are involved in this there’s no
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single organization but there are a lot
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of different organizations and groups
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and a lot of individuals around the
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world they contact each other through
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the internet and they’re all involved in
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discussing and acting on the idea of
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doing the most good in their lives
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one of the big questions that effective
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altruists have to ask themselves of
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course is if I want to do the most good
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in the world to which cause should I
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devote myself or to which selection of
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causes which is going to be the one to
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give priority to to do the most good
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and there’s a lot of discussion going on
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about this I think that a number of
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causes seem to be very strong candidates
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so for instance helping the global poor
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not before in your own community if
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you’re living in a wealthy country but
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rather seems to be much more cost
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effective to help the poor in some of
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the world’s poorest countries
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that’s one cause a number of people are
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concerned about the suffering of animals
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I think that we can cost effectively
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reduce the vast amount of suffering that
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we inflict on animals so that’s a second
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cause there are people who are concerned
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about the longer-term future I think we
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don’t give enough weight to the
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interests of
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we don’t exist yet but we’ll exist and
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they’re concerned about causes like
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climate change for example which
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obviously is going to affect people more
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in a century or two than it does people
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now but they’re also some of them are
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concerned about preventing even quite
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small risks of human extinction because
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they think that if we give full weight
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to the future that we ought to be
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concerned about the possible
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non-existence of many many many future
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generations of human beings who would
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otherwise come into existence and live
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good lives and they think that that’s a
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cost so it’s an ongoing discussion but
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these are some of the prominent causes
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and it’s interesting that some of the
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things that I didn’t mention some of the
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major things that people give to
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charitably
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for example giving to locally in their
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own community perhaps giving to museums
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and art galleries and other cultural
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institutions most effective altruists
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don’t think that they are a high
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priority even giving to the poor in
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affluent countries tends to be seen as
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West’s cost-effective than giving to the
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global poor giving to your university or
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educational institution which is
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particularly popular in the United
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States is not seen as a high priority
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giving you a religious institutions
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generally also not seen as a priority
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because these are things that are seen
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as not doing the most good
Peter Singer on Effective Altruism & Cause Prioritization – this is a short from of a longer interview I did recently with Peter Singer – the longer form is forthcoming! Also see Peter Singer lecture on Ethics, Utilitarianism & Effective Altruism: Audio: https://archive.org/details/PeterSing… Video: http://youtu.be/KA6Urc-zSCw Effective altruism is a philosophy and social movement which applies evidence and reason to working out the most effective ways to improve the world. Effective altruists consider all causes and actions, and then act in the way that brings about the greatest positive impact. It is this broad evidence-based approach that distinguishes effective altruism from traditional altruism or charity. Effective altruism sometimes involves taking actions that are less intuitive or emotionally salient. The philosopher Peter Singer is a notable supporter of effective altruism. http://centreforeffectivealtruism.org/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effectiv… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Si…

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