Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Boris Yakubchik
1

Boris, thanks so much for taking the time to write a response!

If I take a step back and look at my critique and introduction to EA (and the other people who have commented, which has also been very insightful), I think my problem lies with how black-and-white Singer seems to paint the world, yet his own examples seem to not fit. That’s what I was trying to illustrate, and I’m glad over the course of these discussions that there exists lively debate in the EA community on some of these very issues that I talked about.

Ok, now to respond!

The art museum is admittedly a bad example. What about a science museum though or a museum dedicated to human rights issues? The point being that raising awareness is difficult to quantify, but can have a large amplifying effect. To what degree is it more impactful than direct giving? Honestly this is so situationally dependent on what you’re comparing that it’s difficult to say. But suffice to say that I can believe there are situations where giving to raise awareness has a greater expected value than giving directly. Again my disappointment was that (as I read it) Singer made this very hard line.

That’s why the kidney example is there. Do I think that we should ban all donations because of the possibility that someone will be a bad apple? Of course not, it’s contextual. But Singer seems to say we should always encourage all donations because it will always work out well. that’s what I’m reacting to.

With the eyesight example, I think my issue is more on the size vs % of the pie argument. On this, admittedly I have a different outlook than the rest of the world, and this paragraph is filled with caveats where if we have differences in perspective, it will be a fruitless discussion. I would rather have 100% of a small pie than 1% of a large pie. That is to say, I find modernity with its seemingly endless opportunities yet real institutional barriers exhausting sometimes (the argument that the poor are not poor because they don’t work hard, but because of systemic issues that keep them poor). Of course, you may or may not believe that statement; that is a different debate. If you believe it, then the example is to say that I don’t think giving money to improve the percentage points of a large pie (by restoring eyesight you’re restoring more opportunities) that someone can access is always the best use of money (vis-a-vis, as I originally stated, issues of awareness, via the museum example). Certainly you could argue, well, we’re not saying give eyesight to people who don’t want eyesight! But (and this was the footnote in my critique), aid often works like this: we, in the developed world, provide services to uplift those in poverty, and those services may be designed by us as we imagine those in poverty to need. (Again, you may or may not agree with this, and that’s a separate debate.)

Like what you read? Give James Dong a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.