How to do the most good possible | The Economist
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How to do the most good possible | The Economist


Doing good… Give me the knife …is increasingly about more than giving away money I have a spare kidney. Why not share it? A new movement is driving people to choose altruistic careers We’re just seeing a general upswing in… …care about ethical career choice And altruists are looking further than ever before into the future We’re trying to make sure humanity survives Katie Acosta is about to go under the knife People either think I’m kind of completely nuts or… …some saint of a human being She’s giving away one of her kidneys I have a spare kidney… …why not share it? But Katie isn’t giving her organ to a friend or family member… …but to save the life of a complete stranger She’s in good hands I will be what’s called a “non-directed” donor So I’m giving to somebody that I don’t know who they are yet It’s a possibility that I’ll never meet them Most kidney donations in America… …come from people who have just died… …but Katie is part of a rising altruistic trend The number of living kidney donors… …has increased by 16% since 2014 And from 2017 to 2018… …donations to complete strangers rose by 31% It’s just a feeling of purpose This idea that something I’m doing… …could have such a big impact on someone else’s life But for living donors like Katie… …saving a stranger’s life is not without risks Nearly one in 3,000 people die from the procedure So that’s the kidney right there. That’s the one he’s gonna be taking out We are going to prepare the kidney for transplant This will most certainly either save someone’s life… …or increase their quality of life sort of exponentially And the cost at least to me is nothing when you think about… …you know, the kind of effect it can have on someone’s life Like Katie an increasing number of young people in Britain… …say they want to lead more altruistic lives Research suggests that almost two-thirds of British millennials… …want to work for a company that makes a positive difference We’re just seeing a general upswing in… …care about ethical career choice This Oxford University professor co-founded 80,000 Hours… …a charity that gives career advice to altruistically minded people It’s part of the effective-altruism movement… …that takes a scientific approach to calculating ways of doing good The kind of old-fashioned career advice was… …this idea of just, you should follow your passion You figured out what cause you really care about… …and then you go and work in that sector Whereas I think the most important thing… …is to figure out what problems are most important And then secondly what does that cause need Increasingly the charity is suggesting careers in new fields… …such as AI and synthetic biology, that are shaping the world’s future Some of the areas like novel technologies are much more in need… …of just very talented and sensible and altruistic people… …and so what we tend to recommend is people going into policy careers… …often research careers and often working directly in non-profits… …in some of these key-cause areas So far the charity says it has helped 3,000 people make major changes… …in their career plans, affecting 80m hours of work time The effective-altruism movement also encourages people to… …give away a minimum of 10% of the money they earn Now I’ve made the decision to donate most of my income… …over the course of my life. In fact, everything above… …£25,000 per year after tax Over 4,000 people have signed up to Professor MacAskill’s initiative… …“Giving What We Can”. And so far over $126m has been donated It’s just becoming much more the norm that people think… …yes everyone on this planet is equal in their moral worth This thinking is leading some in the effective-altruism movement… …towards a new focus… …the lives of people who will be born in the centuries to come We need to save humanity, end of story Funded by wealthy philanthropists… …these scientists are researching threats to the survival of the human race We are trying to look at risks and problems… …that may be facing us now that may have a long-term effect… …on the far-term future This team at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute… …works in an area known as existential risk They identify dangers both natural and man-made… …that could wipe out humankind altogether I work with mathematical models to look at pandemic risk… …that could be a threat to our species And try to decide on different counter-measures How would we prevent deliberate biological events from occurring How would we deal with pandemics that might be much larger… …than something we’ve ever prepared for? These scientists argue that altruism could be most effective… …when focused on the value of human life in the far future So why should we care about people who might live in a thousand years time? Just as we shouldn’t be discriminating against people who are… …physically far away in space from us… …we shouldn’t discriminate against people who happen to be far away in time The future human population dwarfs the current population enormously If we look around us the world is valuable But it was valuable yesterday and it will be valuable tomorrow… …so we better make sure tomorrow comes

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