Elie Hassenfeld Q&A: ‘$5,000 to Save a Life Is a Bargain’

Elie Hassenfeld Q&A: ‘$5,000 to Save a Life Is a Bargain’ post thumbnail image

The organizations we advocate supply one of the best bang for the buck. That usually means saving the lives of youngsters below 5 who would in any other case die from preventable illnesses.

And look, the factor that motivated me to do that work is considering the folks I’m closest to. If my youngsters want antibiotics, I am going across the nook to CVS. Actually each time I do this, I believe how unfair it’s that not everybody can.

OK, however the individuals who seek the advice of GiveWell’s analysis usually are not the needy. They’re donors, a lot of them extraordinarily wealthy. What do donors flip to GiveWell for?

They flip to us for confidence. They want confidence that there’s some distinction being made with their cash. A lot of our donors report this sense: There are such a lot of issues I may do on the market. How can I ever decide who’s reliable in making an impression?

Typically donors anticipate that they’ll save a life for a lot lower than $5,000, they usually’re stunned to come across our estimate. However most come to share my perception that $5,000 to save lots of a life is a discount. We goal to be absolutely clear about what goes into our cost-effectiveness estimates—together with the counterarguments, caveats, assumptions, finest guesses, and ethical judgments. This transparency offers them the boldness to provide extra.

It’s true that within the US we focus so intently on high quality of life that we could not recognize that now we have lives within the first place, that comparatively few of our kids die as infants. However aren’t a number of the folks saved by, say, malaria nets, going to have actually onerous lives?

It is a unhappy actuality about issues, that we don’t even take into consideration how fortunate we’re. And should you reverse the query you requested, it could possibly sound such as you’re mainly questioning if one is perhaps very rich and have nice bodily well being and nonetheless be sad. Clearly you may be.

Why have so many EAs turned their consideration from stopping illness to cooking up E book-of-Revelation situations involving AI?

Many EAs proceed to work on world well being. However the fast development in highly effective AI programs ought to increase actual considerations for everybody. Myself included.

Once I began getting within the philosophy of EA, there was some freaky stuff.

You imply these scary questions, like, “Would you let your mother die to save lots of 100 strangers?”

Precisely. However I believe there are sufficient challenges on the planet that we’d like each individual centered on the realm the place they assume they’ll have the largest impression. I’m glad there are a number of nice minds centered on AI and the broader questions in EA. Me, personally, I can convey one thing to serving to people who find themselves struggling proper now.

So that you constructed the nonprofit GiveWell after working at Bridgewater, an funding fund that’s [checks notes] for-profit, sure?

Sure. And to start with there have been a number of tales about Holden and me, how “hedge fund veterans” had been turning to philanthropy. However we had been solely 26, and we’d been on the fund for just a few years. Very quickly Holden and I had been speaking with associates about methods to give cash away.


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