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

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

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Comment author: TheOtherDave 25 December 2010 08:59:43PM 2 points [-]

(nods) For me, it's not a pragmatic question of whether I donate or not: after ~20 years in a mutually monogamous relationship, I am confident that my donating blood reduces the percentage of infected blood in the supply, regardless of my gender, and that's the metric that matters.

But I spent some time trying to make sense of the arguments pro and con, a few years back, and mostly came to the conclusion that I didn't trust anyone's arguments.

It is certainly true that if you divide the community of potential donors into two groups, and the frequency of blood-born pathogens is higher in group A than group B, and your filtering mechanisms aren't 100% reliable, then the blood supply is N% safer if you remove group A from potential donors.

It is equally certainly true that you can do that division in thousands of different ways, and each way of doing that division gets you a different N.

I was hoping to find a comparison of estimated Ns for different plausible policies, and perhaps a recommendation for the best policy.

What I found instead was that defenders of the existing policy were making the first argument and saying "See? The policy makes the blood supply N% safer! We have to keep doing it, to do otherwise would be unsafe!" while at the same time disregarding questions about how large N actually was (i.e.., how many lives were actually at stake? 1000? .001? Somewhere in between?) and whether a different policy might get you a much larger N, while opponents of the policy were disregarding the first argument altogether.

Comment author: wedrifid 25 December 2010 09:20:30PM 0 points [-]

But I spent some time trying to make sense of the arguments pro and con, a few years back, and mostly came to the conclusion that I didn't trust anyone's arguments.

My conclusion is somewhat related. I have no particularly good reason to believe that I am better able to establish blood donation and usage policy than the Red Cross or the medical practitioners. I just give them my blood and they can use it or not as they see fit. I'd do it just for the health benefits anyway.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 25 December 2010 09:53:40PM 1 point [-]

For my own part, I appreciate that the Red Cross (and etc.) is trying to satisfy multiple constraints, only one of which is the actual safety of their blood supply, and I don't object to that. But the constraints that apply to them in articulating a policy don't necessarily apply to me in donating blood.

Comment author: wedrifid 25 December 2010 09:57:17PM *  1 point [-]

On the other hand you have constraints that they do not have, not least of which is the lack of scaling benefits for your research and decision making efforts.

We are left with an optimal approach of considering what we know of our own blood that the collection agency does not (or is forbidden from discriminating on). We can approximate whether this knowledge would make the blood more suitable or less. Only if 'less' do we need worry about how significant that extra knowledge is.

Comment author: TobyBartels 30 December 2010 07:44:39AM 0 points [-]

We also need to worry if the answer is ‘more’ and because of that we decide to lie on the answer form so that we can donate.

I kind of get the impression that TheOtherDave is doing that, or at least would condone it under circumstances very much like his.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 30 December 2010 05:25:37PM *  0 points [-]

I don't do it, mostly because I'm so irritated by the policy that I've worked my way into a completely counterproductive "F--k it, then, donate your own f--king blood, see if I care" kind of sulk about it. I'm not proud of this, but there it is.

Yes, I condone it... indeed, I endorse it... in situations very much like mine.