On Effective Altruism

I couldn't post this entire 2000 character response on Threads, so here it is:

I just spent the last hour down the rabbit hole reading about TESCREAL, Moskovitz's essay, and EA website / Open Philanthropy.

As explained to my mom: Modern day EA seems to be a reflection of "Gospel of Wealth," an idea first penned by Andrew Carnegie. It argued that the wealth generated during the Gilded age should be broadly redistributed, and not only Carnegie did so with libraries, universities, etc, but he also encouraged all his peers to do so, and the Rockefeller and Vanderbilts actually did so.

They were able to make impact scale proportional to the new economics of scale that industrialism provided. And today, we reap all of the consequences of their industry and philanthropy to this day.

Since the Internet Age has created wealth and impact of unprecedented magnitude, the Internet Age philanthropists are looking to find a Second Act to "maximize" their impact given that they had a taste of it in their First (for-profit) Act.

I have only thought of this problem all for an hour, and it is clear that the EA community and Muskovitz have thought about EA far deeper and for far longer, and I do appreciate references to humility and continuous improvement, etc.

With that said, the part that I still struggle with is a conversation I had with the Head of a Family Office (Top 50, non-US): all philanthropy is a vote against the government, and a true vote towards libertarianism. Otherwise you would pay the taxes, full. But you don't, because you think your dollars can be do better than the government would.

But let's say you have paid all the taxes, in full, in support for your government, and still have substantial wealth to put to good use.

Then the next part I struggle to contemplate with is the cultural or societal structure in which EA is carried out with. If you askĀ  the richest person in Saudi Arabia acting within Islamic values, in China acting within Confucian values, or India acting within Hindu values, I think the EA handbook would come out quite differently than the one produced in the West / techliterati.

I'd actually be fascinated to see the output of EA Handbooks from global philanthropists, and as much as we may fear, disagree, or object an EA handbook from a different culture (let alone different person within your own culture/community), I think the differences only highlight the deep challenges in defining the "greatest good" in utilitarism or the "effective" in EA.

So to sum up, in my hypothetical explanation to my mom, I'd say we are all individual atoms in this universe bumping into each other. Sometimes one simple bump can be the activation energy for cascading effect, and all EA boils down to is a few single atoms with a ton of bumping energy stressing out on how to bump, who not to bump, what the bump ramifications are.

Might as well just focus on being effectively altruistic in our day-to-day lives.