Hey there! My name is Quinn McHugh and, in the summer of 2019, I’ll be attempting a semi-solo, self-supported bicycle tour across the USA while spreading awareness about Giving What We Can, 80,000 Hours, and a philosophy and social movement called effective altruism.
If you’d like to support this cause, please consider getting involved, making a donation, taking the Giving What We Can pledge, or sharing this information with your own network. My circle of influence only stretches so far, so your willingness to help spread this message is much appreciated.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or take a look at the About the Tour page on this website. On tour, I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to respond (phone battery life is a precious resource), but I’ll be sure to get back to you after the trip in mid-September.
Thanks for reading! 🙂
Give me the 411
What is effective altruism?
In a nutshell, effective altruism seeks to answer one simple question: how can we use our resources to help others the most?
Rather than just doing what feels right, the philosophy utilizes evidence and careful analysis to identify and prioritize the very best causes to support that will ultimately yield the most impact. These causes may include, for example, improving the lives of factory farmed animals, mitigating threats such as climate change and nuclear war, preventing malaria-related deaths through the distribution of low-cost bug nets, preparing for the arrival of disruptive technologies such as advanced artificial intelligence or designed pathogens, or simply giving money directly to people living in extreme poverty to help transform their lives.
Causes, like the ones above, are assessed based on their importance (e.g. how many lives are affected), their neglectedness (e.g. is the problem being addressed by others?), and tractability (e.g. how easy is it to solve?). Based on these three metrics and in-depth research performed by organizations such as GiveWell, the effectiveness of these causes can be determined, hence the “effective” part of effective altruism.
Interested in learning more? I highly recommend listening to “Peter Singer on Effective Altruism”, an episode of the Philosophize This! podcast by Stephen West. It’s likely the best synopsis of the effective altruism that I’ve heard to date.
What is Giving What We Can?
Giving What We Can is an organization that promotes effective altruism and inspires everyday people to donate significantly and as effectively as possible. The organization is most known for creating the ‘Giving What We Can’ Pledge, which is a non-binding pledge that an individual will donate 10% of their total income to effective, charitable organizations over the course of their lifetime.
Now I know what you’re thinking: 10% is a lot of money. You’re right! It is a lot. That money, however, can go towards causes that are making significant and measurable impacts across the globe. To put this in perspective, if a typical US citizen making the median income ($30,240/year according to the US Census Bureau 2015 statistics) gave just 10% of their income to the right nonprofit organizations, then every year, that single person could:
- Distribute at least 1,100 mosquito nets, protecting up to 2,200 people and preventing about one death in expectation, or
- Treat at least 4,200 people for neglected tropical diseases.
Let that sink in for a moment… One person… could be you or me… giving just 10% of their income could result in 4,200 people per year being treated for neglected tropical diseases through the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative. 4,200. Imagine if 4,200 people suddenly showed up at your door on New Year’s day and lined up just to say “thank you” for enabling them to live healthier and happier lives. You’d be feel like a damn hero.
To quote the following page:
“Over the course of a lifetime we could leave an incredible legacy of diseases prevented or cured, and lives extended. We can do all of this without leaving our countries, without changing our careers, and living within our means.“
As citizens of developed countries, it’s difficult to perceive the incredible amount of power we hold based on geographical location and how we choose to spend our money. Giving What We Can, among other effective altruism organizations, strives to encourage individuals to utilize that power in ways that make positive impacts on the world.
Since determining the efficacy of charities can be burdensome for many, Giving What We Can provides the ability for anyone to donate to effective charities through a number of Effective Altruism Funds. Effective Altruism Funds help donors (people like you and me) pool their money into charitable funds managed by philanthropy experts to fund the best, most effective causes. Of course, members are still free to donate to specific charities of their choice or effective charities recommended by philanthropic organizations, such as GiveWell, the Centre for Effective Altruism, and the Open Philanthropy Project.
Okay, so what about 80,000 Hours?
80,000 Hours is an organization that aims to help people lead fulfilling and high-impact careers by providing career advice for talented people who want to have a social impact. The organization offers a free, evidence-based career guide and puts out a periodic newsletter, a podcast, and a wealth of other resources meant to help students and professionals alike find work that is both satisfying and impactful.
Why you should care (a personal anecdote)
Writing from my own personal experience, I feel as though many people are aware of the many vast and complicated problems of the world, such as global poverty, climate change, lack of education, food and water scarcity, and general inequality, but I feel as if there’s a far fewer number that realize they have the power to make significant contributions towards resolving these issues all without having to change their careers, sacrifice their personal relationships, or compromise their own general happiness.
As citizens of developed countries, we can can be the solution to these problems. We just have to realize it.
For this reason, I encourage you to pour through the resources I’ve provided on this page and consider how you can increase your own positive impact on the world, whether that be through your work or your donations. If you are currently working and are able to allocate a portion of your income to fund effective charities, consider taking the Giving What We Can pledge, linked below, and become a member of a community of over 3,000 people who believe in giving effectively.