z1 Borgen Project
A young man decided to devote his life to saving the lives of people in poverty-stricken countries. Thus, he completed his doctorate of philosophy at University of Oxford and became a trader at a Wall Street firm. Although the logic in this plan is not immediately clear, in the scheme of effective altruism, it makes perfect sense.

Effective altruism is “a philosophy and social movement which applies evidence and reason to determining the most effective ways to improve the world”. It is a trend, primarily among young people, to live their best life while also giving the most they can to help other people. It is not sacrificing, but flourishing.

The Oxford grad and trader, Matt Wage, made it his goal to give a sufficient amount of his annual salary to save the lives of the millions of children around the world who die annually from preventable diseases. He realized that, as a trader, he would be able to give a larger amount of money away, and within a year of work, he was donating a six-figure sum to highly effective charities. He is able to lead a stable, comfortable life in a promising career while helping hundreds of people across the globe.

Philosophy plays a major role in the workings of effective altruism because it challenges the relationship between impulse and reason: are we guided entirely by impulse and only later apply reason as a hollow justification, or do we decipher our reasoning before even considering out actions? How does logic play into charitable acts? Is it a guiding principle some possess and other do not, or do generous people simply give as a matter of impulse? Like many things in philosophy, there are no simple answers, but it is enough to challenge popular notions of behavior through benefiting oneself while also helping others.

Effective altruists also challenge conventions in that they are highly selective in where they let their money go. Rather than spreading funds across many different charities, they donate to just one or two organizations they know are highly effective and make the most of their funds. This requires thorough research into the progress and activity of different organizations and a strong passion for one or two causes.

Effective altruists also employ logic in funneling their donations. They believe that rather than donating to causes that attract people through emotional sway, people should donate funds to causes that most need them and will most effectively use them. This promotes charitable organizations to attract donors through demonstrated transparency and efficiency rather than eliciting emotional responses.

As Millenials enter the workforce, many are considering careers that allow them to give back while living modest lives. They are directing the course of their lives in the interest of others, while giving back to their own communities through hard work and human capital. In this way, they are leading industrious lives and helping others do the same. They employ both logic and emotion and shed optimistic light on the future of charity and goodwill.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: TED, Boston Review
Photo: 101 Fundraising