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kybernetikos comments on Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others... - Less Wrong

130 Post author: Yvain 24 December 2010 09:26PM

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Comment author: kybernetikos 25 December 2010 05:58:08AM *  16 points [-]

Most of us allocate a particular percentage to charity, despite the fact that most people would say that nearly nothing we spend money on is as important as saving childrens lives.

I don't know whether you think it's that we overestimate how much we value saving childrens lives, or underestimate how important xbox games, social events, large tvs and eating tasty food are to us. Or perhaps you think it's none of that, and that we're being simply irrational.

I doubt that anyone could consistently live as if the difference between choice of renting a nice flat and renting a dive was one life per month, or that halving normal grocery consumption for a month was a childs life that month, etc. If that's really the aim, we're going to have to do a significant amount of emotional engineering.

I also want to stick up for the necessity of analysing the way that a charity works, not just what they do. For example, charities that employ local people and local equipment may save fewer people per dollar in the short term, but may be less likely to create a culture of dependence, and may be more sustainable in the long term. These considerations are important too.

Comment author: DanielLC 07 March 2014 08:38:09PM 2 points [-]

I doubt that anyone could consistently live as if the difference between choice of renting a nice flat and renting a dive was one life per month, or that halving normal grocery consumption for a month was a childs life that month, etc.

Then don't. Use two-level utilitarianism. Live like this for a brief amount of time, during which you decide how to live the rest of the time. Work out how much you can cut your budget before you start earning less or the risk of giving up goes to high, and live like that for a period before you go back and check to see if it's working well again.