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

Sometimes donors anticipate that they will save a life for a lot lower than $5,000, they usually’re shocked to come across our estimate. But most come to share my perception that $5,000 to avoid wasting a life is a discount. We intention to be totally clear about what goes into our cost-effectiveness estimates—together with the counterarguments, caveats, assumptions, greatest guesses, and ethical judgments. This transparency offers them the boldness to present extra.

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

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

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

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

When 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 avoid wasting 100 strangers?”

Exactly. But I believe there are sufficient challenges on this planet that we want each particular person targeted on the world the place they suppose they will have the most important influence. I’m glad there are quite a lot of nice minds targeted 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 you constructed the nonprofit GiveWell after working at Bridgewater, an funding fund that’s [checks notes] for-profit, sure?

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

I selected the reason for clear water in Africa. I don’t understand how or why I selected it. I most likely thought one thing like, Water is a primary human want. Giving cash to supply entry to scrub water appeared like a superb factor to do. In the early days of GiveWell, we seen that diarrhea and dehydration are among the many main causes of dying. Why? How? I simply obtained completely obsessive about this: We stay in a world the place individuals with out clear water die of diarrhea. But clear water has not been a superb we will ship but. To be trustworthy, I nonetheless want we may do extra to supply individuals with water that received’t trigger illness.

Why is that tough?

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