“We are always in triage. I fervently hope that one day we will be able to save everyone. In the meantime, it is irresponsible to pretend that we aren’t making life and death decisions with the allocation of our resources. Pretending there is no choice only makes our decisions worse."

- Holly Elmore, explaining the need to prioritize given our limited resources.

In this chapter we’ll explore why you might want to help others, why it’s so critical to think carefully about how many people are affected by an intervention, and come to terms with the tradeoffs we face in our altruistic efforts.

Key concepts in this chapter include:

  • Scope sensitivity: saving ten lives is more important than saving one, and saving a billion lives is a lot more important than saving ten.
  • Tradeoffs: Because we have limited time and money, we need to prioritize between different ways to improve the world.
  • Scout mindset: We’ll be better able to help others if we’re working together to think clearly and orient towards finding the truth, rather than trying to defend our own ideas. Humans naturally aren’t great at this (aside from wanting to defend our own ideas, we have a host of other biases), but if we want to really understand the world, it’s worth seeking the truth and trying to become clearer thinkers.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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"Pretending there is no choice only makes our decisions worse."

I love this!

Our organization has been exploring how to do more effective altruism by focusing more geographically and population-specific.   This requiring us to say No to those we have said Yes to before.  We need to find better ways to communicate this so that those we are saying No to understand our logic and those we are saying Yes to understand the impact we hope can be achieved by working together.

I am happy to have a clearer understanding in ways of how I can make meaningful impact towards giving help the right way.

"Seeking the truth and saving more lives without being bias"

I give you a thumb up.

The chapter prompts readers to adopt a collaborative and truth-seeking approach for effective altruism. The call to prioritize clarity of thought and the pursuit of truth resonates as a fundamental principle for comprehending and positively impacting the world around us.

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