Doing Good Better

Doing Good Better

Effective Altruism and How You Can Make A Difference

Book - 2015
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Penguin Putnam
Most of us want to make a difference. We donate our time and money to charities and causes we deem worthy, choose careers we consider meaningful, and patronize businesses and buy products we believe make the world a better place. Unfortunately, we often base these decisions on assumptions and emotions rather than facts. As a result, even our best intentions often lead to ineffective—and sometimes downright harmful—outcomes. How can we do better?

While a researcher at Oxford, trying to figure out which career would allow him to have the greatest impact, William MacAskill confronted this problem head on. He discovered that much of the potential for change was being squandered by lack of information, bad data, and our own prejudice. As an antidote, he and his colleagues developed effective altruism, a practical, data-driven approach that allows each of us to make a tremendous difference regardless of our resources. Effective altruists believe that it’s not enough to simply do good; we must do good better.

At the core of this philosophy are five key questions that help guide our altruistic decisions: How many people benefit, and by how much? Is this the most effective thing I can do? Is this area neglected? What would have happened otherwise? What are the chances of success, and how good would success be? By applying these questions to real-life scenarios, MacAskill shows how many of our assumptions about doing good are misguided. For instance, he argues one can potentially save more lives by becoming a plastic surgeon rather than a heart surgeon; measuring overhead costs is an inaccurate gauge of a charity’s effectiveness; and, it generally doesn’t make sense for individuals to donate to disaster relief.

MacAskill urges us to think differently, set aside biases, and use evidence and careful reasoning rather than act on impulse. When we do this—when we apply the head and the heart to each of our altruistic endeavors—we find that each of us has the power to do an astonishing amount of good.

Random House, Inc.
An up-and-coming visionary in the world of philanthropy and cofounder of the effective altruism movement explains why most of our ideas about how to make a difference are wrong and presents a counterintuitive way to think about how each of us can do the most good possible.

Most of us wish we could make a difference in the world. We donate our time and money to organizations and causes we think will make an impact, choose careers we deem meaningful, and patronize businesses and buy products we think make the world a better place.

Unfortunately even those who make doing good a priority—donating a portion of their income or time to causes they deem worthy—often end up doing very little to effect change. Why? Because we rarely have enough information to make the best choices. You wouldn’t invest in a company without knowing how your money would be spent, but we often invest in charities because we feel good about doing so and assume our contribution will be put to good use. But, like for-profit companies, not all altruistic endeavors are created equal.

While studying philosophy and figuring out which career to pursue in order to have the greatest impact, William MacAskill confronted this problem head on. As a result, he developed the concept of effective altruism, a practical, data-driven approach to making a difference.

Effective altruists operate by asking five key questions before they decide on what action to take: How many people benefit, and by how much? Is this the most effective thing you can do? Is this area neglected? What would have happened otherwise? What are the chances of success, and how good would success be? Through these, he shows that many of our assumptions about how to do good are misguided. For instance, he argues that one can potentially save more lives by working on Wall Street than becoming a heart surgeon; measuring overhead costs is not the best way to determine a charity’s effectiveness; and individuals should stop donating to cancer research.

Though some will find his statements controversial, MacAskill forces us to think differently, set aside biases, and use evidence and careful reasoning so that each of us can do the most good possible.

Baker & Taylor
Suggests that most altruism can actually be harmful due to lack of information, bad data, and prejudice, and instead argues for focusing on evidence and reasoning when considering altruisic actions.

Publisher: New York, N.Y. :, Gotham Books,, [2015]
ISBN: 9781592409105
1592409105
Characteristics: viii, 258 pages ; 22 cm

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