TED Talk – Peter Singer: The Why And How of Effective Altruism

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In 2013 philosopher Peter Singer held a TED talk on the intriguing idea of effective altruism.

The simple premise of this idea is that with altruism both the heart and the head need to be involved in order to truly make a difference and make the world a better place.

While empathy and compassion for other people’s suffering is a prerequisite for altruism, if altruistic action isn’t undertaken in a purposeful, effective manner it does little more than placate your conscience, in other words it at best fulfills your personal need for self-actualization.

Peter Singer does a great job at explaining this in far more detail in this video:

One of the interesting insights from this talk is that contrary to popular belief the most effective way for most people to help others is not to give up their career and fully devote their time to a charitable effort but to pursue a successful career, at the same time avoid consumerism and frivolous spending and give a lot of their excess income to charity organizations that really make an impact.

A few points to get started with this and find organizations proven to have a meaningful impact on the world are Singer’s own organization The Life You Can Save and GiveWell, both of which research and evaluate the effectiveness of charity organizations.

Another good place to find ways to effectively help people – in this case in the developing world – is Kiva. Though technically not a charity itself but a microlending platform providing microloans to business owners and founders in developing countries, Kiva has tremendous impact on empowering people to create a sustainable living and economic growth for both themselves and the communities they live in. Kiva also puts a lot of effort into vetting the various organizations involved in the process in terms of ethics and effectiveness.

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