Excitement, hope, and fulfillment

by Aaron Gertler1 min read27th May 20201 comment


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Last year, I helped a friend clean his apartment. The task seemed onerous at first, but I wound up enjoying it; we listened to music as we picked up litter, scrubbed the bathroom, and gradually turned his apartment into a space that he would be happy coming home to.

That was one of the best days I had all year.

I’m not alone: many people who give and work for the benefit of others do so partly because they enjoy it and find it satisfying.

Some people might interpret this to mean that EA is a selfish practice, or that we aren’t truly being altruistic when we feel good as a result. 

But I don’t see it that way. If helping others felt bad — if all we could think about afterwards was the time or money we’d “wasted” — we’d live in a world with less giving and more suffering. I choose to embrace excitement, hope, and personal fulfillment as important facets of effective altruism.

Perspectives on excitement, hope, and fulfillment

Will MacAskill, interview with Dylan Matthews (2015)

Here's how much good you can do. If you're on only a little more than the typical income in the United States, just by giving 10 percent of your income you can save a life every single year

Imagine if you smashed down the door to a burning building and rescued a child. That would stay with you for the rest of your life. You can do that every single year just by donating to these charities. It demonstrates that we can make an extraordinary difference.

Jo Duyvestyn, on her support for the Fred Hollows Foundation (2019)

My bike tire was flat, my drink bottle leaked in my bag, and our house flooded over the weekend and is now very stinky… but on the bright side, I'm not blind, and soon at least 10 other people won't be either.

Why I want humanity to survive (Andrew Critch, 2015)

Some of us have lived the joy of falling in love for a decade, or a century. But not longer. No one has yet loved for a millennium. No one has yet reminisced about the early days of a friendship on ancient Earth before we colonized the stars. No one has yet kept a promise for an aeon. But we might. Some of us might live lives of rapture and devotion deeper and longer than anything we can now imagine.

I hope — and I even consider it plausible — that if we survive, thrive, and innovate, we might sustain sufficient peace and abundance among us that these dreams could be made reality. In fact, I suspect dreams that I would find even more compelling could be conceived, as even our capacity for hope and imagination might grow.

It will take brilliance. It will take hard work. It will take conscience. And to be honest, I don’t know if we’ll ever get there.

But I sure as hell don’t want us to give up now.

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