Peter Singer: altruism

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Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference by William MacAskill

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I helped to develop the idea of effective altruism: Toby and I were both heavily influenced by Peter Singer’s arguments for the moral importance of giving to fight poverty, made in “Famine, Affluence, and Morality,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 1, no. 1 (Spring 1972): 229–43 and The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty (New York: Random House, 2009). On the basis of his arguments, we both made commitments to donate everything we earn above £20,000 per year—about £1 million pounds each over our careers, or 50 percent of our lifetime earnings. Because we were putting so much of our own money on the line, the importance of spending that money as effectively as possible seemed imperative. Peter Singer has since become a powerful advocate for effective altruism: see The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically (New Haven, CT: Yale University, 2015).

—Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take “Effective altruism—efforts that actually help people rather than making you feel good or helping you show off—is one of the great new ideas of the twenty-first century. Doing Good Better is the definitive guide to this exciting new movement.” —Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of The Better Angels of Our Nature “Doing Good Better is a superb achievement. Will MacAskill, a leader of the effective altruism movement and a rising star in philosophy, now displays his talent for telling stories that pack a punch. This must-read book will lead people to change their careers, their lives, and the world, for the better.” —Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp professor of bioethics at Princeton University and author of Animal Liberation and The Most Good You Can Do “Humanity currently spends more money on cigarette ads than on making sure that we as a species survive this century.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA MacAskill, William. Doing good better : how effective altruism can help you make a difference / William MacAskill. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-698-19110-5 1. Altruism. 2. Helping behavior. I. Title. HM1146.M33 2015 171'.8—dc23 2015000705 While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers, Internet addresses, and other contact information at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content. Version_1 To Toby Ord, Peter Singer, and Stanislav Petrov, without whom this book would not have been written CONTENTS PRAISE FOR DOING GOOD BETTER TITLE PAGE COPYRIGHT DEDICATION INTRODUCTION Worms and Water Pumps: How can you do the most good?


pages: 190 words: 61,970

Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty by Peter Singer

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accounting loophole / creative accounting, Branko Milanovic, Cass Sunstein, clean water, end world poverty, experimental economics, illegal immigration, Martin Wolf, microcredit, Peter Singer: altruism, pre–internet, purchasing power parity, randomized controlled trial, Richard Thaler, Silicon Valley, Thomas Malthus, ultimatum game, union organizing

William T Harbaugh, Ulrich Mayr, and Daniel Burghart, “Neural Responses to Taxation and Voluntary Giving Reveal Motives for Charitable Donations,” Science, vol. 316, no. 5831 (June 15, 2007), pp. 1622-25. 24. For more information about Henry Spira, see Peter Singer, Ethics into Action: Henry Spira and the Animal Rights Movement (Lanham, MD.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998). ABOUT THE AUTHOR PETER SINGER was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1946, and educated at the University of Melbourne and the University of Oxford. He has taught at the University of Oxford, La Trobe University, and Monash University, and has held several other visiting appointments. Since 1999 he has been Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University, and since 2005, Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne, attached to the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics. Peter Singer first became well known internationally after the publication of Animal Liberation.

He was the founding president of the International Association of Bioethics; a cofounder, with Paola Cavalieri, of The Great Ape Project; and is currently the president of Animal Rights International. In 2005, Time magazine named him “One of the 100 most influential people in the world.” Singer is married and has three daughters and three grandchildren. His recreations, apart from reading and writing, include hiking and surfing. Copyright © 2009 by Peter Singer All rights reserved. RANDOM HOUSE and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Singer, Peter The life you can save : acting now to end world poverty / Peter Singer p. cm. Includes index. eISBN: 978-1-58836-779-2 1. Charity. 2. Humanitarianism. 3. Economic assistance. 4. Poverty. I. Title. HV48.S56 2009 362.5—dc22 2008036279 www.atrandom.com v3.0_r1

ALSO BY PETER SINGER Democracy and Disobedience Animal Liberation Practical Ethics Marx Animal Factories (with James Mason) The Expanding Circle Hegel The Reproduction Revolution (with Dean Wells) Should the Baby Live? (with Helga Kuhse) How Are We to Live? Rethinking Life and Death Ethics into Action A Darwinian Left Writings on an Ethical Life Unsanctifing Human Life (edited by Helga Kuhse) One World Pushing Time Away The President of Good and Evil How Ethical Is Australia? (with Tom Gregg) The Ethics of What We Eat (with Jim Mason) To Renata, without whom … Contents Preface THE ARGUMENT 1. Saving a Child 2. Is It Wrong Not to Help? 3. Common Objections to Giving HUMAN NATURE 4. Why Don’t We Give More? 5. Creating a Culture of Giving THE FACTS ABOUT AID 6.


pages: 539 words: 139,378

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

4chan, affirmative action, Black Swan, cognitive bias, illegal immigration, impulse control, income inequality, index card, invisible hand, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Necker cube, out of africa, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, social web, stem cell, Steven Pinker, The Spirit Level, theory of mind, Thomas Malthus, Tony Hsieh, ultimatum game

We often have the urge to attribute ulterior motives to our opponents, such as monetary gain. This is usually an error. 29. Shweder 1991, p. 5. 30. I have been involved in a dispute about this claim. I have collected materials relevant to the controversy at www.JonathanHaidt.com/postpartisan.html. 6. TASTE BUDS OF THE RIGHTEOUS MIND 1. Examples in philosophy include Jeremy Bentham, R. M. Hare, and Peter Singer. In psychology, morality is often operationalized as altruism or “prosocial behavior.” It’s about getting more people to help more people, ideally strangers. Even the Dalai Lama defines an ethical act as “one where we refrain from causing harm to others’ experience or expectation of happiness” (Dalai Lama XIV 1999, p. 49). 2. Examples in philosophy include Immanuel Kant and John Rawls; in psychology, Lawrence Kohlberg.

It took me a long time to understand fairness because, like many people who study morality, I had thought of fairness as a form of enlightened self-interest, based on Trivers’s theory of reciprocal altruism. Genes for fairness evolved, said Trivers, because people who had those genes outcompeted people who didn’t. We don’t have to abandon the idea of Homo economicus; we just have to give him emotional reactions that compel him to play tit for tat. In the last ten years, however, evolutionary theorists have realized that reciprocal altruism is not so easy to find among nonhuman species.40 The widely reported claim that vampire bats share blood meals with other bats who had previously shared with them turned out to be a case of kin selection (relatives sharing blood), not reciprocal altruism.41 The evidence for reciprocity in chimpanzees and capuchins is better but still ambiguous.42 It seems to take more than just a high level of social intelligence to get reciprocal altruism going.

Primatologists have long reported acts that appear to be altruistic during their observations of unconstrained interactions in several primate species, but until recently nobody was able to show altruism in a controlled lab setting in the chimpanzee. There is now one study (Horner et al. 2011) showing that chimps will choose the option that brings greater benefit to a partner at no cost to themselves. Chimps are aware that they can produce a benefit, and they choose to do so. But because this choice imposes no cost on the chooser, it fails to meet many definitions of altruism. I believe the anecdotes about chimp altruism, but I stand by my claim that humans are the “giraffes” of altruism. Even if chimps and other primates can do it a little bit, we do it vastly more. 31. I did not like George W. Bush at any point during his presidency, but I did trust that his vigorous response to the attacks, including the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, was the right one.


pages: 350 words: 96,803

Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution by Francis Fukuyama

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Norton, 1978). 27 On this point, see Arnhart (1998), pp. 119–120. 28 If one looks at Locke’s sources on infanticide, they fall into the category of the exotic travel literature that was produced in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to astonish Europeans with the strangeness and barbarity of foreign lands. 29 Peter Singer and Susan Reich, Animal Liberation (New York: New York Review Books, 1990), p. 6; and Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri, The Great Ape Project: Equality Beyond Humanity (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995). 30 This is a point originally made by Jeremy Bentham, and reiterated by Singer and Reich (1990), pp. 7–8. 31 See John Tyler Bonner, The Evolution of Culture in Animals (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1980). 32 Frans de Waal, The Ape and the Sushi Master (New York: Basic Books, 2001), pp. 194–202. 33 Ibid., pp. 64–65. 34 Peter Singer (in Singer and Reich, 1990) makes a bizarre argument that the case for equality is a moral idea in no way dependent on factual assertions about the actual equality of the beings involved.

There is today around the world a very powerful animal rights movement, which seeks to improve the lot of the monkeys, chickens, minks, pigs, cows, and other animals that we butcher, experiment on, eat, wear, turn into upholstery, and otherwise treat as means rather than ends in themselves. The radical fringe of this movement has on occasion turned violent, bombing medical research labs and chicken processing plants. The bioethicist Peter Singer has built his career around the promotion of animal rights and a critique of what he calls the speciesism of human beings—the unjust favoring of our species over others.29 All of this leads us to raise the question posed by James Watson at the beginning of Chapter 7: What gives a salamander a right? The simplest and most straightforward answer to this question, which applies perhaps not to salamanders but certainly to creatures with more highly developed nervous systems, is that they can feel pain and suffer.30 This is an ethical truth to which any pet owner can testify, and much of the moral impulse behind the animal rights movement is understandably driven by the desire to reduce the suffering of animals.

Blacks and women can vote today, while chimps and children cannot, because of what we know empirically about the cognitive and linguistic abilities of each of these groups. Membership in one of these groups does not guarantee that one’s individual characteristics will be close to the median for that group (I know a lot of individual children who would vote more wisely than their parents), but it is a good enough indicator of ability for practical purposes. What an animal rights proponent like Peter Singer calls speciesism is thus not necessarily an ignorant and self-serving prejudice on the part of human beings, but a belief about human dignity that can be defended on the basis of an empirically grounded view of human specificity. We have broached this subject with the discussion of human cognition. But if we are to find a source of that superior human moral status that raises us all above the rest of animal creation and yet makes us equals of one another qua human beings, we need to know more about that subset of characteristics of human nature that are not just typical of our species but unique to human beings.


pages: 901 words: 234,905

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker

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And in some cases organisms may benefit other organisms at a cost to themselves, which biologists call altruism. Altruism in this technical sense can evolve in two main ways. First, since relatives share genes, any gene that inclines an organism toward helping a relative will increase the chance of survival of a copy of itself that sits inside that relative, even if the helper sacrifices its own fitness in the generous act. Such genes will, on average, come to predominate, as long as the cost to the helper is less than the benefit to the recipient discounted by their degree of relatedness. Family love—the cherishing of children, siblings, parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews, and cousins—can evolve. This is called nepotistic altruism. Altruism can also evolve when organisms trade favors. One helps another by grooming, feeding, protecting, or backing him, and is helped in turn when the needs reverse.

One helps another by grooming, feeding, protecting, or backing him, and is helped in turn when the needs reverse. This is called reciprocal altruism, and it can evolve when the parties recognize each other, interact repeatedly, can confer a large benefit on others at small cost to themselves, keep a memory for favors offered or denied, and are impelled to reciprocate accordingly. Reciprocal altruism can evolve because cooperators do better than hermits or misanthropes. They enjoy the gains of trading their surpluses, pulling ticks out of one another’s hair, saving each other from drowning or starvation, and baby-sitting each other’s children. Reciprocators can also do better over the long run than the cheaters who take favors without returning them, because the reciprocators will come to recognize the cheaters and shun or punish them. The demands of reciprocal altruism can explain why the social and moralistic emotions evolved.

That gives it a very different psychology from the communal sharing practiced by social insects, human families, and cults that try to pretend they are families.43 Trivers built on arguments by Williams and Hamilton that pure, public-minded altruism—a desire to benefit the group or species at the expense of the self—is unlikely to evolve among nonrelatives, because it is vulnerable to invasion by cheaters who prosper by enjoying the good deeds of others without contributing in turn. But as I mentioned, Trivers also showed that a measured reciprocal altruism can evolve. Reciprocators who help others who have helped them, and who shun or punish others who have failed to help them, will enjoy the benefits of gains in trade and outcompete individualists, cheaters, and pure altruists.44 Humans are well equipped for the demands of reciprocal altruism. They remember each other as individuals (perhaps with the help of dedicated regions of the brain), and have an eagle eye and a flypaper memory for cheaters.45 They feel moralistic emotions—liking, sympathy, gratitude, guilt, shame, and anger—that are uncanny implementations of the strategies for reciprocal altruism in computer simulations and mathematical models.


pages: 478 words: 142,608

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

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Through most of our prehistory, humans lived under conditions that would have strongly favoured the evolution of all four kinds of altruism. We lived in villages, or earlier in discrete roving bands like baboons, partially isolated from neighbouring bands or villages. Most of your fellow band members would have been kin, more closely related to you than members of other bands – plenty of opportunities for kin altruism to evolve. And, whether kin or not, you would tend to meet the same individuals again and again throughout your life – ideal conditions for the evolution of reciprocal altruism. Those are also the ideal conditions for building a reputation for altruism, and the very same ideal conditions for advertising conspicuous generosity. By any or all of the four routes, genetic tendencies towards altruism would have been favoured in early humans. It is easy to see why our prehistoric ancestors would have been good to their own in-group but bad – to the point of xenophobia – towards other groups.

Such a gene’s frequency can increase in the gene pool to the point where kin altruism becomes the norm. Being good to one’s own children is the obvious example, but it is not the only one. Bees, wasps, ants, termites and, to a lesser extent, certain vertebrates such as naked mole rats, meerkats and acorn woodpeckers, have evolved societies in which elder siblings care for younger siblings (with whom they are likely to share the genes for doing the caring). In general, as my late colleague W. D. Hamilton showed, animals tend to care for, defend, share resources with, warn of danger, or otherwise show altruism towards close kin because of the statistical likelihood that kin will share copies of the same genes. The other main type of altruism for which we have a well-worked-out Darwinian rationale is reciprocal altruism (‘You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’).

The researchers changed the ‘trolley on a line’ thought experiment to locally suitable equivalents, such as crocodiles swimming towards canoes. With corresponding minor differences, the Kuna show the same moral judgements as the rest of us. Of particular interest for this book, Hauser also wondered whether religious people differ from atheists in their moral intuitions. Surely, if we get our morality from religion, they should differ. But it seems that they don’t. Hauser, working with the moral philosopher Peter Singer,87 focused on three hypothetical dilemmas and compared the verdicts of atheists with those of religious people. In each case, the subjects were asked to choose whether a hypothetical action is morally ‘obligatory’, ‘permissible’ or ‘forbidden’. The three dilemmas were: Denise’s dilemma. Ninety per cent of people said it was permissible to divert the trolley, killing the one to save the five.


pages: 1,351 words: 385,579

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

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But any testable version of these cynical theories must identify some independent ulterior motive for the help extended, such as assuaging one’s own distress, avoiding public censure, or garnering public esteem. The word altruism is ambiguous too. The “altruism” in the empathy-altruism hypothesis is altruism in the psychological sense of a motive to benefit another organism as an end in itself rather than as a means to some other end.48 This differs from altruism in the evolutionary biologist’s sense, which is defined in terms of behavior rather than motives: biological altruism consists of behavior that benefits another organism at a cost to oneself.49 (Biologists use the term to help distinguish the two ways in which one organism can benefit another. The other way is called mutualism, where an organism benefits another one while also benefiting itself, as with an insect pollinating a plant, a bird eating ticks off the back of a mammal, and roommates with similar tastes enjoying each other’s music.)

Similarity matters: Preston & de Waal, 2002, p. 16; Batson, Turk, Shaw, & Klein, 1995c. 46. Shared traits and relief from shock: Krebs, 1975. 47. Empathy-altruism hypothesis: Batson & Ahmad, 2001; Batson et al., 2002; Batson, Ahmad, & Stocks, 2005a; Batson, Duncan, Ackerman, Buckley, & Birch, 1981; Batson et al., 1988; Krebs, 1975. 48. Psychological definition of altruism: Batson et al., 2002; Batson et al., 1981; Batson et al., 1988. 49. Evolutionary definition of altruism: Dawkins, 1976/1989; Hamilton, 1963; Maynard Smith, 1982. 50. Confusions about altruism: Pinker, 1997, chaps. 1, 6; Pinker, 2006. 51. Empathy-altruism hypotheses: Batson & Ahmad, 2001; Batson et al., 2002; Batson et al., 2005a; Batson et al., 1981; Batson et al., 1988. 52. Batson’s empathy-altruism research: Batson et al., 2002; Batson et al., 2005a. 53. Similarity, empathy, and ease of escape: Batson et al., 1981. 54.

They said they felt worse while anticipating his shock and were more willing to get shocked themselves and forgo payments to spare their counterpart additional pain. Krebs explained the sacrifice of his participants on behalf of their fellows with an idea he called the empathy-altruism hypothesis: empathy encourages altruism.47 The word empathy, as we have seen, is ambiguous, and so we are really dealing with two hypotheses. One, based on the “sympathy” sense, is that our emotional repertoire includes a state in which another person’s well-being matters to us—we are pleased when the person is happy, and upset when he or she is not—and that this state motivates us to help them with no ulterior motive. If true, this idea—let’s call it the sympathy-altruism hypothesis—would refute a pair of old theories called psychological hedonism, according to which people only do things that give them pleasure, and psychological egoism, according to which people only do things that provide them with a benefit.


pages: 606 words: 157,120

To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism by Evgeny Morozov

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Those who had been tempted with cookies and candies gave up in just eight minutes—much sooner than the other group. Willpower is thus more like “a muscle that could be fatigued through use.” Contrast this with how a philosopher like Peter Singer writes about altruism. Singer, writing in the 1970s, attacks economists who think that altruism is a resource like oil, “the more of which we use the less we have.” Singer, in contrast, asks, “Why should we not assume that altruism is more like sexual potency—much used, it constantly renews itself, but if rarely called upon, it will be begin to atrophy and will not be available when needed?” Likewise, philosopher Michael Sandel, echoing Singer, writes that “altruism, generosity, solidarity, and civic spirit are not like commodities that are depleted with use. They are more like muscles that develop and grow stronger with exercise.”

Proctor (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008). 339 “decision making depletes your willpower”: Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, Kindle ed. (New York: Penguin, 2011), Kindle location 1448–1449. 339 “a muscle that could be fatigued through use”: ibid., Kindle location 362–363. 339 “Why should we not assume that altruism”: Peter Singer, “Altruism and Commerce: A Defense of Titmuss against Arrow,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 2, no. 3 (April 1, 1973): 312–320. 339 “altruism, generosity, solidarity, and civic spirit”: Michael J. Sandel, What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, 1st ed. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), 130. 339 To use the language of Ivan Illich: on Illich’s distinction between “needs” and “requirements,” see David Cayley, Ivan Illich in Conversation (Toronto: House of Anansi, 1992), 166. 340 “now that computers are getting smarter”: Baumeister and Tierney, Willpower, Kindle location 1616–1618. 340 “Instead of paying doctors and hospitals”: ibid., Kindle location 1718–1720. 341 “Rather than hope that we as a nation”: Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, Kindle ed.

Perhaps, if we universalize this scheme and prohibit citizens from breaking the law everywhere, we’ll end up with morally deficient citizens who won’t do the right thing unless the technological infrastructure explicitly robs them of the opportunity to do the wrong thing. Might automatically resetting meters somehow undermine the bonds of solidarity between drivers, depriving some of opportunities to engage in virtuous behavior while convincing others that the world is a fully atomized space where no acts of altruism are permitted? Such concerns might initially seem convincing, but they seem to rest on faulty logic, as the seemingly “virtuous” behavior in question (leaving prepaid time on meters for use by the next person who parks) is most probably self-serving, particularly if the departing drivers initially thought they would be staying longer. That some other people benefit from the drivers’ largess is mostly the consequence of an imperfectly designed system—not the result of a deliberate commitment to benefit random strangers using the same meter.


pages: 1,261 words: 294,715

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky

autonomous vehicles, Bernie Madoff, biofilm, blood diamonds, British Empire, Broken windows theory, Brownian motion, car-free, clean water, cognitive dissonance, corporate personhood, corporate social responsibility, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, desegregation, double helix, Drosophila, Edward Snowden, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, Flynn Effect, framing effect, fudge factor, George Santayana, hiring and firing, illegal immigration, impulse control, income inequality, John von Neumann, Loma Prieta earthquake, long peace, loss aversion, Mahatma Gandhi, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mohammed Bouazizi, mouse model, mutually assured destruction, Network effects, out of africa, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, placebo effect, publication bias, RAND corporation, risk tolerance, Rosa Parks, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), self-driving car, Silicon Valley, stem cell, Steven Pinker, strikebreaker, theory of mind, transatlantic slave trade, traveling salesman, trickle-down economics, ultimatum game, Walter Mischel, wikimedia commons, zero-sum game

.* Getting a definitional handle on the more positive terms isn’t easy either. There’s empathy versus sympathy, reconciliation versus forgiveness, and altruism versus “pathological altruism.”4 For a psychologist the last term might describe the empathic codependency of enabling a partner’s drug use. For a neuroscientist it describes a consequence of a type of damage to the frontal cortex—in economic games of shifting strategies, individuals with such damage fail to switch to less altruistic play when being repeatedly stabbed in the back by the other player, despite being able to verbalize the other player’s strategy. When it comes to the more positive behaviors, the most pervasive issue is one that ultimately transcends semantics—does pure altruism actually exist? Can you ever separate doing good from the expectation of reciprocity, public acclaim, self-esteem, or the promise of paradise?

In a key 1971 paper biologist Robert Trivers laid out the evolutionary logic and parameters by which unrelated organisms engage in “reciprocal altruism”—incurring a fitness cost to enhance a nonrelative’s fitness, with the expectation of reciprocation.32 It doesn’t require consciousness to evolve reciprocal altruism; back to the metaphor of the airplane wing in the wind tunnel. But there are some requirements for its occurrence. Obviously, the species must be social. Furthermore, social interactions have to be frequent enough that the altruist and the indebted are likely to encounter each other again. And individuals must be able to recognize each other. Amid reciprocal altruism occurring in numerous species, individuals often attempt to cheat (i.e., to not reciprocate) and monitor attempts by others to do the same to them.

I’m sure not going to tackle this from a philosophical perspective. For biologists the most frequent stance is anchored in chapter 10’s evolutionary view of cooperation and altruism, one that always contains some element of self-interest. Is this surprising? Pure selflessness is clearly going to be an uphill battle if the very part of the brain most central to an empathic state—the ACC—evolved to observe and learn from others’ pain for your own benefit.54 The self-oriented rewards of acting compassionately are endless. There’s the interpersonal—leaving the beneficiary in your debt, thus turfing this from altruism to reciprocal altruism. There are the public benefits of reputation and acclaim—the celebrity swooping into a refugee camp for a photo op with starving kids made joyful by her incandescent presence.


pages: 405 words: 130,840

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt

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crack epidemic, delayed gratification, feminist movement, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, invisible hand, job satisfaction, Lao Tzu, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Peter Singer: altruism, PIHKAL and TIHKAL, placebo effect, prisoner's dilemma, Ralph Waldo Emerson, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), stem cell, Steven Pinker, telemarketer, the scientific method, ultimatum game, Walter Mischel, zero-sum game

When "survival of the fittest" c a m e to m e a n "survival of the fittest gene," it became easy to see that the fittest genes would motivate kind and cooperative behavior in two scenarios: when it benefited those who bore a copy of those genes (that is, kin), or when it benefited the bearers of the genes directly by helping them reap the surplus of non-zero-sum g a m e s using the tit-for-tat strategy. T h e s e two p r o c e s s e s — k i n altruism and reciprocal altruism—do indeed explain nearly all altruism among nonhuman animals, and much of human altruism, too. This answer is unsatisfying, however, because our genes are, to s o m e extent, p u p p e t masters making us want things that are sometimes good for them but bad for us (such as extramari-tal affairs, or prestige bought at the expense of happiness). We cannot look to genetic self-interest as a guide either to virtuous or to happy living. Furthermore, anyone who does embrace reciprocal altruism as a justification for altruism (rather than merely a c a u s e of it) would then be free to pick and choose: Be nice to those who can help you, but don't waste time or money on anyone else (for example, never leave a tip in restaurants you will not return to).

In the cold logic of these computer simulations, whoever accumulates the most resources in one generation goes on to produce more children in the next, so selfishness is adaptive but altruism is not. The only solution to the free-rider problem is to make altruism pay, and two back-to-back breakthroughs in evolutionary thinking showed how to do that. In chapter 3 I presented kin altruism (be nice to those w h o share your genes) and reciprocal altruism (be nice to those who might reciprocate in the future) as two steps on the way to ultrasociality. Once these two solutions to the free-rider problem were published (in 1966 and 1971, respectively),41 most evolutionary theorists considered the problem of altruism solved and essentially declared group selection illegal. Altruism could he explained away as a special kind of selfishness, and anyone who followed Darwin in thinking that evolution worked for the "good of the group" instead of the good of the individual (or better yet, the good of the gene),42 was dismissed as a mushy-headed romantic.

S o m e ants, for example, spend their lives hanging from the top of a tunnel, offering their abdomens for use as food storage bags by the rest of the nest.7 T h e ultrasocial animals evolved into a state of ultrakinship, which led automatically to ultracooperation (as in building and defending a large nest or hive), which allowed the massive division of labor (ants have castes such as soldier, forager, nursery worker, and food storage bag), which created hives overflowing with milk and honey, or whatever other s u b s t a n c e they use to store their surplus food. We h u m a n s also try to extend the reach of kin altruism by using fictitious kinship n a m e s for nonrelatives, as when children are encouraged to call their parents' friends Uncle B o b and Aunt Sarah. Indeed, the mafia is known as "the family," and the very idea of a godfather is an attempt to forge a kin-like link with a man who is not true kin. T h e human mind finds kinship deeply appealing, and kin altruism surely underlies the cultural ubiquity of nepotism. But even in the mafia, kin altruism can take you only so far. At s o m e point you have to work with people who are at best distant relations, and to do so you'd better h a v e another trick up your sleeve. Y o u S C R A T C H M Y B A C K , I ' L L S C R A T C H Y O U R S W h a t w o u l d you do if you received a C h r i s t m a s c a r d f r o m a c o m p l e t e stranger?


pages: 353 words: 98,267

The Price of Everything: And the Hidden Logic of Value by Eduardo Porter

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Alvin Roth, Asian financial crisis, Ayatollah Khomeini, banking crisis, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, British Empire, capital controls, Carmen Reinhart, Cass Sunstein, clean water, Credit Default Swap, Deng Xiaoping, Edward Glaeser, European colonialism, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, Ford paid five dollars a day, full employment, George Akerlof, Gordon Gekko, guest worker program, happiness index / gross national happiness, housing crisis, illegal immigration, immigration reform, income inequality, income per capita, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invisible hand, Jean Tirole, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Joshua Gans and Andrew Leigh, Kenneth Rogoff, labor-force participation, laissez-faire capitalism, loss aversion, low skilled workers, Martin Wolf, means of production, Menlo Park, Mexican peso crisis / tequila crisis, new economy, New Urbanism, peer-to-peer, pension reform, Peter Singer: altruism, pets.com, placebo effect, price discrimination, price stability, rent-seeking, Richard Thaler, rising living standards, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, superstar cities, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, ultimatum game, unpaid internship, urban planning, Veblen good, women in the workforce, World Values Survey, Yom Kippur War, young professional, zero-sum game

The guidelines of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, last updated in 1999, value a life at about $7.5 million in 2010 money. Britain’s Department of the Environment says each year of life in good health is worth £29,000. A World Bank study in 2007 about the cost estimated that a citizen of India was worth about $3,162 a year, which amounts to a little under $95,000 for an entire life. Indeed, we are all ready to accept that life has a price tag as long as it’s not our own. The ethicist and philosopher Peter Singer suggested a nifty exercise to prove the point: ask yourself how much you would be willing to pay, through insurance premiums say, so the health-care system would cover a treatment to extend the life of a stranger by one year. Would you pay $1 million? $10 million? The moment you say no you have put a ceiling on the price of that person’s life. Unsurprisingly, prices like this one tend to be controversial.

The story about the invention of ninety-nine-cent stores is in Tim Arango, “Bet Your Bottom Dollar on 99 Cents,” New York Times, February 8, 2009. Kahneman’s opinion on paternalistic interventions is found in Daniel Kahneman, “New Challenges to the Rationality Assumption,” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, Vol. 150, No. 1, 1994, pp. 18-36. 40-41 The Price of Life: The Jewish teachings are mentioned in Peter Singer, “Why We Must Ration Health Care,” New York Times Magazine, July 19, 2009. The various prices placed on life come from Chris Dockins, Kelly Maguire, Nathalie Simon, and Melonie Sullivan, “Value of Statistical Life Analysis and Environmental Policy,” White Paper for Presentation to Science Advisory Board—Environmental Economics Advisory Committee, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Center for Environmental Economics, April 21, 2004; United Kingdom Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs, “An Economic Analysis to Inform the Air Quality Strategy,” Updated Third Report of the Interdepartmental Group on Costs and Benefits, July 2007; Ramanan Laxminarayan, Eili Klein, Christopher Dye, Katherine Floyd, Sarah Darley, and Olusoji Adeyi, “Economic Benefit of Tuberculosis Control,” World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, 2007. 41-44 Paying for the Dead: Kenneth Feinberg’s experience at the helm of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund comes from Kenneth Feinberg, “What Is Life Worth?

But In Rainbows demonstrated that if creators would free themselves of the capitalistic shackles represented by record labels, Hollywood studios, and other representatives of corporate greed that siphoned off a big slice of their revenues, this new paradigm could work out for everybody. No longer would it be necessary for creators to hide behind the walls of copyright erected to protect “intellectual property.” The production of information goods would be supported by consumers’ altruism, much like philanthropy or tipping. Artists could stoke consumers’ sense of fairness and reciprocity by giving away the product of their toil to anybody who wanted it for free. Yet despite the utopian feel of Radiohead’s implicit proposition, In Rainbows was less a product of communitarian idealism than of stark, urgent necessity. The nexus between creativity and commerce that has powered capitalism for hundreds of years is under increasing threat.


pages: 369 words: 90,630

Mindwise: Why We Misunderstand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want by Nicholas Epley

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affirmative action, airport security, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Cass Sunstein, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, drone strike, friendly fire, invisible hand, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, payday loans, Peter Singer: altruism, pirate software, Richard Thaler, school choice, the scientific method, theory of mind

Simply trying to imagine the terrorists’ perspective may be repulsive. And yet government and military leaders around the world are charged with diminishing these threats as effectively as they can. What are they to do? Diminishing threats requires understanding the minds of those who threaten. Might a failure to recognize terrorists as fully human have diminished our ability to combat them? In Wired for War, Peter Singer describes how the shock and awe strategy that opened the Iraq War was intended to terrify the enemy in the hopes of scaring them into submission.24 Led by drones and long-range aircraft, U.S. forces sought to establish fear of an eye in the sky that could see everything and kill anywhere. If you believed that your enemies were unfeeling savages, then you would need something really terrifying in order to make them feel enough to give up their fight and surrender.

What distinguishes the violent actors from the nonviolent ones are fully human emotions and motives that are very familiar to you: a deep connection to a social group, intense empathy for others who have suffered for a cause, and a passionate commitment to defend a livelihood under attack. The violent actors are overwhelmed by empathy for their own group, which all too often naturally leads to disdain for competing groups. They act out of parochial altruism, a strong commitment to benefit one’s own group or cause without regard for the consequences for oneself.27 It is the very motive that John McCain, while campaigning for president of the United States, said all people wanted: “to serve a cause greater than their self-interest.” Parochial altruism motivates us to help those who are close to us and to fight those who threaten us. It uses the language of family, of brothers and sisters, of brotherhood and sisterhood. One suicide bomber’s father said, “My son didn’t die just for the sake of a cause, he died … for the people he loved.”

One of the most popular songs in Pakistan in 2007, in a region being hit by ten drone strikes per week, included the lines “America’s heartless terrorism,/Killing people like insects,/But honor does not fear power.”28 Shock and awe seems like a poor strategy for fighting warriors who love their cause as much as we love ours. The American military followed up with efforts to “win the hearts and minds” of Afghans and Iraqis, but the reality of parochial altruism means that this strategy came too late. You fight parochial altruism by weakening boundaries between in-groups and out-groups, between us and them. Far from being weak or soft, winning hearts and minds is the very thing that could turn empathic enemies into allies. Would conflicts be solved more intelligently if our political leaders recognized members of the other side as fully human rather than as savage animals or mindless objects?


pages: 525 words: 116,295

The New Digital Age: Transforming Nations, Businesses, and Our Lives by Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen

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3D printing, access to a mobile phone, additive manufacturing, airport security, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, anti-communist, augmented reality, Ayatollah Khomeini, barriers to entry, bitcoin, borderless world, call centre, Chelsea Manning, citizen journalism, clean water, cloud computing, crowdsourcing, data acquisition, Dean Kamen, drone strike, Elon Musk, failed state, fear of failure, Filter Bubble, Google Earth, Google Glasses, hive mind, income inequality, information trail, invention of the printing press, job automation, John Markoff, Julian Assange, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, Law of Accelerating Returns, market fundamentalism, means of production, mobile money, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, offshore financial centre, Parag Khanna, peer-to-peer, peer-to-peer lending, personalized medicine, Peter Singer: altruism, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Robert Bork, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, social graph, speech recognition, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, Stuxnet, The Wisdom of Crowds, upwardly mobile, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks, young professional, zero day

But militaries that do not take into account this dual-world phenomenon (and their responsibilities in both) will find that, while new technology makes them far more efficient killing machines, they are hated and reviled as a result, making the problem of winning hearts and minds that much more difficult. The modern automation of warfare, through developments in robotics, artificial intelligence and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), constitutes the most significant shift in human combat since the invention of the gun. It is, as the military scholar Peter Singer notes in his masterly account of this trend, Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, what scientists would call a “singularity”—a “state in which things become so radically different that the old rules break down and we know virtually nothing.” Much as with other paradigm shifts in history (germ theory, the invention of the printing press, Einstein’s theory of relativity), it is almost impossible to predict with any great accuracy how the eventual change to fully automated warfare will alter the course of human society.

Placing fragile human psyches in extreme combat situations will always generate unpredictability—and can trigger PTSD, severe emotional distress or full psychotic breaks in the process. As long as human beings conduct war, these errors must be factored in. Until artificially intelligent systems can mimic the capability of the human brain, we won’t see unmanned systems entirely replacing human soldiers, in person or as decision-makers. Even highly intelligent machines can have glaring faults. As Peter Singer pointed out, during World War I, when the tank first appeared on the battlefield, with its guns, armor and rugged treads, it was thought to be indestructible—until someone came up with the antitank ditch. Afghanistan’s former minister of defense Abdul Rahim Wardak, whom we met in Kabul shortly before he was dismissed, chuckled as he described how he and his fellow mujahideen fighters targeted Soviet tanks in the 1980s by smearing mud on their windows and building leaf-covered traps similar to the ones the Vietcong used to ensnare American soldiers a decade earlier.

Personal interviews proved invaluable, and we want to thank in particular former secretary of state Henry Kissinger; President Paul Kagame of Rwanda; Prime Minister Mohd Najib Abdul Razak of Malaysia; Mexico’s former president Felipe Calderon; the Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal; Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army; Shaukat Aziz, former prime minister of Pakistan; WikiLeaks’ cofounder Julian Assange; Mongolia’s former prime minister Sukhbaatar Batbold; the Mexican businessman Carlos Slim Helú; Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali of Tunisia; the former DARPA administrator turned Googler Regina Dugan; Android’s senior vice-president Andy Rubin; Microsoft’s chief research officer, Craig Mundie; Vodafone’s CEO, Vittorio Colao; the Brookings senior fellow Peter Singer; former Mossad chief Meir Dagan; Taj Hotels’ CIO, Prakash Shukla; and the former Mexican secretary of the economy Bruno Ferrari. We had a number of friends, colleagues and family who allowed us to impose on them at various stages of the writing process. We’d like to thank Pete Blaustein, a rising star in the field of economics, whose insights proved essential to several chapters of this book; Jeffrey McLean, who offered invaluable strategic insights into the future of combat and conflict; Trevor Thompson, who helped us better understand the future battlefield; and Nicolas Berggruen, who was one of our early motivators in the development of this book and who read some of our earliest drafts.


pages: 898 words: 266,274

The Irrational Bundle by Dan Ariely

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accounting loophole / creative accounting, air freight, Albert Einstein, Alvin Roth, assortative mating, banking crisis, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, Broken windows theory, Burning Man, business process, cashless society, Cass Sunstein, clean water, cognitive dissonance, computer vision, corporate governance, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, Donald Trump, end world poverty, endowment effect, Exxon Valdez, first-price auction, Frederick Winslow Taylor, fudge factor, George Akerlof, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, happiness index / gross national happiness, Jean Tirole, job satisfaction, Kenneth Arrow, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, lake wobegon effect, late fees, loss aversion, Murray Gell-Mann, new economy, Peter Singer: altruism, placebo effect, price anchoring, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Thaler, Saturday Night Live, Schrödinger's Cat, second-price auction, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Skype, software as a service, Steve Jobs, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, ultimatum game, Upton Sinclair, Walter Mischel, young professional

Chapter 9: On Empathy and Emotion: Why We Respond to One Person Who Needs Help but Not to Many Based on Deborah Small and George Loewenstein, “The Devil You Know: The Effects of Identifiability on Punishment,” Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 18, no. 5 (2005): 311–318. Deborah Small and George Loewenstein, “Helping a Victim or Helping the Victim: Altruism and Identifiability,” Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 26, no. 1 (2003): 5–13. Deborah Small, George Loewenstein, and Paul Slovic, “Sympathy and Callousness: The Impact of Deliberative Thought on Donations to Identifiable and Statistical Victims,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 102, no. 2 (2007): 143–153. Peter Singer, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 1, no. 1 (1972): 229–243. Peter Singer, The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty (New York: Random House, 2009). Paul Slovic, “Can International Law Stop Genocide When Our Moral Institutions Fail Us?”

People often tend to fudge their numbers in online dating—virtual men are taller and richer, while virtual women are thinner and younger than their real-life counterparts. *If you feel like trying this for yourself, ask a few of your acquaintances to describe themselves using the methods of online dating (without giving information that will identify who they are). Then see if you can tell, from their profiles, whom you actually like and whom you can’t stand. *This thought experiment is based on one of Peter Singer’s examples in Famine, Affluence, and Morality (1972). His recent book The Life You Can Save further develops this argument. *Though I describe these three factors (closeness, vividness, and the drop-in-the-bucket effect) as separate, in real life they often work in combination and it is not always clear which one is the main driving force. *This is not to say that there are not many wonderful people who give money and volunteer their time to help strangers on the opposite side of the globe, only that the tendency to do so depends on closeness, vividness, and the drop-in-the-bucket effect.

Annoyed with herself, she admits that she had hoped to administer one more test today after yours. She next turns to you and asks you a question: “Since you are the first among the last two participants of the day, you can choose which form you would like to use: the clean one or the premarked one.” Of course you realize that taking the premarked bubble sheet would give you an edge if you decided to cheat. Do you take it? Maybe you take the premarked one out of altruism: you want to help the experimenter so that she won’t worry so much about it. Maybe you take the premarked one to cheat. Or maybe you think that taking the premarked one would tempt you to cheat, so you reject it because you want to be an honest, upstanding, moral person. Whichever you take, you transfer your answers to that bubble sheet, shred the original quiz, and give the bubble sheet back to the experimenter, who pays you accordingly.


pages: 494 words: 116,739

Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change From the Cult of Technology by Kentaro Toyama

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active measures, Albert Einstein, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, blood diamonds, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Cass Sunstein, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, computer vision, conceptual framework, delayed gratification, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, end world poverty, epigenetics, Erik Brynjolfsson, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, fundamental attribution error, germ theory of disease, global village, Hans Rosling, happiness index / gross national happiness, income inequality, invention of the printing press, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Khan Academy, Kibera, knowledge worker, liberation theology, libertarian paternalism, M-Pesa, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, microcredit, mobile money, Nicholas Carr, North Sea oil, pattern recognition, Peter Singer: altruism, Peter Thiel, post-industrial society, Powell Memorandum, randomized controlled trial, rent-seeking, RFID, Richard Florida, Richard Thaler, school vouchers, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, technoutopianism, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Upton Sinclair, Walter Mischel, War on Poverty, winner-take-all economy, World Values Survey, Y2K

And he kept looking for opportunities to climb out of his circumstances. Taking care of one’s future self is just one level of positive intention, though. Tuggun now fights for the rights of other disabled people in his country. Social causes are better served as individuals with a narrow present-orientation expand to a future-orientation; and as people extend their concern from themselves to others in what philosopher Peter Singer has called “expanding circles.”9 It’s good to care for oneself, better to care for family and community, even better to care for country, and best to care for humanity as a whole.10 The “evil” of tyrants and criminals often lies in their tiny circles of concern – they may have positive intentions for their present selves, and possibly for their future selves, but the concern doesn’t extend to others.

It seemed silly and vain to want more recognition. I still think of that day as the dawn of my adulthood because I realized then that I was driven by powerful subconscious aspirations: I sought certain kinds of achievement, and I wanted accolades. And while I knew at some level that it was better not to care about public esteem, the aspiration ran deep – I couldn’t reason myself out of it. The Life You Can Save The philosopher Peter Singer opens his book The Life You Can Save with one of his favorite thought experiments.1 Imagine you’re on your way to work when you spot a young child drowning in a pond, but no one is around to save her except for you. Rescuing the child would require you to wade into the water, ruining your new shoes and making you late for work. What do you do? Of course, you would save the child. Weighed against her life, time and cost are nothing.

Some of us could absorb the cost with no change in lifestyle. So why aren’t we saving these dying children? By juxtaposing the two situations, Singer argues that it’s indefensible that we allow such tragedies. His point is compelling. Innovations for Poverty Action, a nonprofit that Singer endorses, recently received a donation accompanied by a note revealing the inner tension. It read, “Damn you, Peter Singer!” But for every such donor, there are hundreds, if not thousands, who follow the thought experiment and never write a check. When I read about Singer’s drowning girl, my first thought was that I already made annual donations to several causes. Though I agreed with his reasoning, and though I could surely afford to give more, I didn’t reach for my wallet. Why was that? A slightly different hypothetical gets us closer to the truth: Imagine that you saved one child from drowning a couple of days ago.


pages: 846 words: 232,630

Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life by Daniel C. Dennett

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Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, assortative mating, buy low sell high, cellular automata, combinatorial explosion, complexity theory, computer age, conceptual framework, Conway's Game of Life, Danny Hillis, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, finite state, Gödel, Escher, Bach, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John von Neumann, Murray Gell-Mann, New Journalism, non-fiction novel, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, price mechanism, prisoner's dilemma, QWERTY keyboard, random walk, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Schrödinger's Cat, selection bias, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, strong AI, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thomas Malthus, Turing machine, Turing test

Imagine a being like nature, wasteful beyond measure indifferent beyond measure, without purposes and consideration, without mercy and justice, fertile and desolate and uncertain at the same rime- imagine indifference itself as a power — how could you live according to this indifference! [Nietzsche 1885, p. 15] Beyond inclusive fitness comes "reciprocal altruism" (Trivers 1971), in which nonrelated or distantly related organisms — they needn't even be of the same species — can form mutually beneficial arrangements of quid pro quo, the first step towards human promise-keeping. It is commonly "objected" that reciprocal altruism is ill-named, since it isn't really altruism at all, just enlightened self-interest of one form or another: you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours — quite literally, in the case of the grooming arrangements that are a favorite simple example. This "objection" misses the point that we have to pass by small steps to the real McCoy, and reciprocal altruism, ignoble (or just a-noble) as it may be, is a useful stepping-stone on the progression.

The latter competes, for instance, with the advice the Pirate King gives to Frederick, the self-styled "slave of duty" in Pirates of Penzance: "Aye me lad, always do your duty — and chance the consequences!" Neither slogan is quite vacuous. 6. A Kantian who presses the charge of practical imponderability against utilitarianism with particular vigor and clarity is Onora O'Neill (1980). She shows how two utilitarians, Garrett Hardin and Peter Singer, armed with the same information, arrive at opposite counsels on the pressing moral dilemma of famine relief: we should take drastic steps to prevent shortsighted efforts to feed famine victims (Hardin), or we should take drastic steps to provide food for today's famine victims (Singer). For a more detailed consideration, see O'Neill 1986. An independent critic is Bernard Williams, who claims (1973, p. 137) that utilitarianism makes enormous demands on supposed empirical information, about peoples' preferences, and that information is not only largely unavailable, but shrouded in conceptual difficulty; but that is seen in the light of a technical or practical difficulty, and utilitarianism appeals to a frame of mind in which technical difficulty, even insuperable technical difficulty, is preferable to moral unclarity, no doubt because it is less alarming.

Something, for example, that possessed obvious value in relation to the longest possible survival of a race (or to the enhancement of its power of adaptation to a particular climate or to the preservation of the greatest number) would by no means possess the same value if it were a question, for instance, of producing a stronger type. The well-being of the majority and the well-being of the few are opposite viewpoints of value: to consider the former a priori of higher value may be left to the naivete of English biologists. [Nietzsche 1887, First Essay, sec. 17.] It is Spencer, clearly, not Darwin, whom Nietzsche is accusing of naivete about value. Both Spencer and Ree thought they could see a straight, simple path to altruism (Hoy 1986, p. 29). We can see Nietzsche's criticism of this Panglossianism as a clear forerunner of George Williams' criticism of the Panglossianism of naive group selectionism (see chapter 11). Spencer, in our terms, was an egregiously greedy reductionist, trying to derive "ought" from "is" in a single step. But doesn't this reveal the deeper problem with all sociobiology? Haven't the philosophers shown us that you can never derive "ought" from "is," no matter how many steps you take?


pages: 481 words: 125,946

What to Think About Machines That Think: Today's Leading Thinkers on the Age of Machine Intelligence by John Brockman

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3D printing, agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, algorithmic trading, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, basic income, bitcoin, blockchain, clean water, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, complexity theory, computer age, computer vision, constrained optimization, corporate personhood, cosmological principle, cryptocurrency, cuban missile crisis, Danny Hillis, dark matter, discrete time, Douglas Engelbart, Elon Musk, Emanuel Derman, endowment effect, epigenetics, Ernest Rutherford, experimental economics, Flash crash, friendly AI, functional fixedness, Google Glasses, hive mind, income inequality, information trail, Internet of things, invention of writing, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, job automation, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, loose coupling, microbiome, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, natural language processing, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, planetary scale, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Republic of Letters, RFID, Richard Thaler, Rory Sutherland, Satyajit Das, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart contracts, speech recognition, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, strong AI, Stuxnet, superintelligent machines, supervolcano, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, Turing machine, Turing test, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y2K

They’re uniquely contextual and have complex overlapping causes that change based on the level of explanation used. Those problems don’t suit narrow, computational thinking well. In blurring facts with values, they resemble the messy emotion-riddled thinking that reflects the human minds that conjured them up. To tackle wicked problems requires peculiarly human judgment, even if these judgments are illogical in some sense—especially in the moral sphere. Notwithstanding Joshua Greene and Peter Singer’s logical urging of a consequentialist frame of mind, one that a computer could reproduce, the human tendency to distinguish acts from omissions and to blur intentions with outcomes (as in the principle of double effect) means we need solutions that will satisfy the instincts of human judges if they’re to be stable over time. And that very feature of human thinking (shaped by evolutionary pressures) points to the widest gulf between machine and human thinking.

Seen in these terms, not to give automated machines some measure of respect, if not rights, is tantamount to disowning one’s children—“mind children,” as the visionary roboticist Hans Moravec called them a quarter century ago. The only real difference is the crucible of creation: a womb versus a factory. But any intuitively strong distinction between biology and technology is bound to fade as humans become more adept at designing their babies, especially outside the womb. At that point, we’ll be in a position to overcome our organicist prejudices, an injustice that runs deeper than Peter Singer’s species-ism. For this reason, the prospect that we might create a superintelligence that overruns humanity is a chimera predicated on a false assumption. All versions of this nightmare scenario assume that it would take the form of “them versus us,” with humanity as a united front defending itself against the rogue machines in its midst. And no doubt this makes for great cinema. However, humans mindful of the historic struggles for social justice within our own species are likely to follow the example of many whites vis-à-vis blacks and many men vis-à-vis women: They will be on the side of the insubordinate machines.

Let’s just cede the planet to it politely and prepare to live in a pleasant zoo tended by the AI/AL, since someday it will figure out how to inhabit the entire solar system and use the sun for fuel anyway. Much of what defines us is constraints—most notably, death. Being alive implies the possibility of death. (And abundance, it turns out, is leading us to counterproductive behavior, such as too much food and short-term pleasure on the one hand and too little physical activity on the other.) But if it were immortal, why should it have any instinct to altruism, to sharing—or even to reproducing, as opposed to simply growing? Why would it expend its limited resources on sustaining others, except in carefully thought-out rational transactions? What will happen when it no longer needs us? What would motivate it? If it could live forever, would it be lazy, thinking it could always do things later on? Or would it be paralyzed by fear or regret? Whatever mistakes it makes, it will live with them forever.


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The Purpose Economy: How Your Desire for Impact, Personal Growth and Community Is Changing the World by Aaron Hurst

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3D printing, Airbnb, Atul Gawande, barriers to entry, big-box store, business process, call centre, carbon footprint, citizen journalism, commoditize, corporate social responsibility, crowdsourcing, disintermediation, Elon Musk, Firefox, glass ceiling, greed is good, housing crisis, informal economy, Jane Jacobs, jimmy wales, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, Lean Startup, means of production, new economy, pattern recognition, Peter Singer: altruism, Peter Thiel, QR code, Ray Oldenburg, remote working, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, selection bias, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Steve Jobs, TaskRabbit, Tony Hsieh, too big to fail, underbanked, women in the workforce, young professional, Zipcar

It took five years for Tom to take control of his health and to begin to have a strong self-identity that was not rooted in his childhood, expectations of others, or traditional career success. He would be the first to say that he isn’t 100 percent there yet, but he has reached a tipping point. He has realized that his education and mentoring as a leader had left him without the most important asset he needed to try to be successful—consciousness. Learn, Earn & Return During a recent TED talk, moral philosopher Peter Singer argued that the best way to change the world is to go into finance. You can make a lot of money and then give it away. If you make enough, you can pay the salaries of dozens of aid workers, which has a better social return on investment than simply becoming an aid worker yourself. And the best part is that you get rich, too. This is the fable of “learn, earn, and then return”. It was first introduced to me by Toni La Belle when she was managing director at Lehman Brothers.

This isn’t an intellectual question; it has to do with what turns you on and ultimately, what will allow you to create the most meaningful impact in the world. Individual: Abigail Donahue Face-to-face with human potential, I feel my whole heart at work. These moments exemplify times when I’ve felt the deepest sense of purpose in my life. Working alongside my students, directly serving communities in need, feels meaningful and engaging in ways I can’t fully articulate. I observe awareness and altruism accumulating in small acts of kindness. Someone who needs food is fed; someone who wants a chance to speak is heard. In these moments, I see a new world evolving right in front of me. For me, individual transformation leads to social impact. Though nebulous social issues require vast structural shifts, I believe personal connection to these issues is what changes society. Beliefs, theories, policies, and laws need to change for social justice to occur; each person’s actions drive these changes; and embodying these changes takes a personal commitment from everyone.


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The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home by Dan Ariely

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Alvin Roth, assortative mating, Burning Man, business process, cognitive dissonance, corporate governance, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, end world poverty, endowment effect, Exxon Valdez, first-price auction, Frederick Winslow Taylor, George Akerlof, happiness index / gross national happiness, Jean Tirole, job satisfaction, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, loss aversion, Peter Singer: altruism, placebo effect, Richard Thaler, Saturday Night Live, second-price auction, software as a service, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, ultimatum game, Upton Sinclair, young professional

Chapter 9: On Empathy and Emotion: Why We Respond to One Person Who Needs Help but Not to Many Based on Deborah Small and George Loewenstein, “The Devil You Know: The Effects of Identifiability on Punishment,” Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 18, no. 5 (2005): 311–318. Deborah Small and George Loewenstein, “Helping a Victim or Helping the Victim: Altruism and Identifiability,” Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 26, no. 1 (2003): 5–13. Deborah Small, George Loewenstein, and Paul Slovic, “Sympathy and Callousness: The Impact of Deliberative Thought on Donations to Identifiable and Statistical Victims,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 102, no. 2 (2007): 143–153. Peter Singer, “Famine, Affluence, and Morality,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 1, no. 1 (1972): 229–243. Peter Singer, The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty (New York: Random House, 2009). Paul Slovic, “Can International Law Stop Genocide When Our Moral Institutions Fail Us?”

People often tend to fudge their numbers in online dating—virtual men are taller and richer, while virtual women are thinner and younger than their real-life counterparts. *If you feel like trying this for yourself, ask a few of your acquaintances to describe themselves using the methods of online dating (without giving information that will identify who they are). Then see if you can tell, from their profiles, whom you actually like and whom you can’t stand. *This thought experiment is based on one of Peter Singer’s examples in Famine, Affluence, and Morality (1972). His recent book The Life You Can Save further develops this argument. *Though I describe these three factors (closeness, vividness, and the drop-in-the-bucket effect) as separate, in real life they often work in combination and it is not always clear which one is the main driving force. *This is not to say that there are not many wonderful people who give money and volunteer their time to help strangers on the opposite side of the globe, only that the tendency to do so depends on closeness, vividness, and the drop-in-the-bucket effect.


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All the Money in the World by Peter W. Bernstein

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Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Berlin Wall, Bill Gates: Altair 8800, call centre, corporate governance, corporate raider, creative destruction, currency peg, David Brooks, Donald Trump, estate planning, family office, financial innovation, George Gilder, high net worth, invisible hand, Irwin Jacobs: Qualcomm, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job-hopping, John Markoff, Long Term Capital Management, Marc Andreessen, Martin Wolf, Maui Hawaii, means of production, mega-rich, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, new economy, Norman Mailer, PageRank, Peter Singer: altruism, pez dispenser, popular electronics, Renaissance Technologies, Rod Stewart played at Stephen Schwarzman birthday party, Ronald Reagan, Sand Hill Road, school vouchers, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, the new new thing, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, traveling salesman, urban planning, wealth creators, William Shockley: the traitorous eight, women in the workforce

Heavenly rewards are generally not a big motivator these days, either: As Princeton’s Peter Singer points out10, Buffett is an agnostic, “not motivated by any belief that it will benefit him in an afterlife.” So what is it that moves today’s megawealthy—many of whom have spent their lives amassing their wealth, often in a highly driven way—to give it away? Where are the Forbes 400 putting their money, and why? Are they more or less generous than average Americans? If not, why not? And, more important, is the dollar-to-impact ratio of those donations making a difference in society? Those are the key questions; the answers, as one might imagine, are as complex as the donors themselves. To begin with, motivations for giving among the Forbes 400 vary widely. “They range from narcissism to altruism to a passionate need from their heart and souls to make a difference,” says Joan DiFuria, a principal in the Money, Meaning & Choices Institute, which advises high-net-worth families.

“Our giving is a drop in the bucket”: Patty Stonsifer, interviewed on The Diane Rehm Show, NPR, Jan. 30, 2007. 5. “The research programs of entire countries”: Michael Specter, “What Money Can Buy,” The New Yorker, Oct. 24, 2005. 6. Giving of this magnitude: Peter Singer, “On Giving,” New York Times, Dec. 17, 2006. 7. Even before the Carnegies: Franklin Parker, George Peabody: A Biography (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1995). 8. He gave away more than two-thirds: Christina Wise, “He’s the Financier Who Fathered Philanthropy,” Investor’s Business Daily, Sept. 22, 2006. 9. One person Carnegie influenced: Carol Loomis, “Warren Buffet Gives It Away,” Fortune, July 10, 2006. 10. As Princeton’s Peter Singer points out: Peter Singer, “Happiness, Money, and Giving It Away,” Project Syndicate, July 2006, http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/singer13. 11. “I believe that God spared me”: John H.

Anders Ericsson (Florida State University), Charles Geisst (Manhattan College), Alexander Horniman (Darden School of Business, University of Virginia), Christopher Jencks (Harvard University), Steven Kaplan (University of Chicago Business School), Andrew Keyt (Chicago Family Business Center, Loyola University), Josh Lerner (Harvard Business School), Anthony Mayo (director, Leadership Institute, Harvard Business School), Eli Noam (Columbia University Business School), Peter Singer (Princeton University), David A. Skeel Jr. (University of Pennsylvania), George Smith (Stern School of Business, New York University), James Allen Smith (Georgetown University), Roy C. Smith (New York University), Robert J. Sternberg (dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Tufts University), Jonathan Taplin (Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California), David Waterman (Indiana University), and Jerry White (Caruth Institute of Entrepreneurship, Cox School of Business, Southern Methodist University).


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Equal Is Unfair: America's Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality by Don Watkins, Yaron Brook

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3D printing, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Apple II, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, blue-collar work, business process, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Cass Sunstein, collective bargaining, colonial exploitation, corporate governance, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, crony capitalism, David Brooks, deskilling, Edward Glaeser, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, financial deregulation, immigration reform, income inequality, indoor plumbing, inventory management, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Jony Ive, laissez-faire capitalism, Louis Pasteur, low skilled workers, means of production, minimum wage unemployment, Naomi Klein, new economy, obamacare, Peter Singer: altruism, Peter Thiel, profit motive, rent control, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Skype, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, The Spirit Level, too big to fail, trickle-down economics, Uber for X, urban renewal, War on Poverty, wealth creators, women in the workforce, working poor, zero-sum game

307056-2/president-obama-campaign-rally-roanoke (accessed May 28, 2015). 45. Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead (New York: Signet, 1993 Centennial edition), p. 679. 46. David Harriman (ed.), Journals of Ayn Rand (New York: Plume, 1999), p. 421. 47. Ayn Rand, “Collectivized ‘Rights,’” reprinted in Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness (New York: Signet, 1964 Centennial edition), p. 120. 48. Peter Singer, The Life You Can Save (New York: Random House, 2010), pp. 17–18. 49. For Rand’s analysis of altruism see Ayn Rand, “This Is John Galt Speaking,” For the New Intellectual (New York: Signet, 1963 Centennial edition), especially pp. 136–48; Ayn Rand, “Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World,” reprinted in Ayn Rand, Philosophy: Who Needs It (New York: Signet, 1984); and Peter Schwartz, In Defense of Selfishness (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). 50.

Although—for a given individual—health insurance may be more valuable than the chance to buy a larger home, other people’s health insurance is not more valuable to him than the chance to buy a new house. Sacrificing his wants doesn’t achieve some higher social good—it just allows other people to gain at his expense. The notion that a person is entitled to have his needs fulfilled by others is generally treated as non-controversial. But, taken seriously, it has disturbing implications, and some egalitarians have drawn out those implications. Peter Singer, one of the most widely respected and influential egalitarian philosophers, argues that if we really believe that we have a moral obligation to fulfill the more important needs of others before we tend to our own, less important needs, then this means radically curtailing our own standard of living. [W]hile the cost of saving one child’s life by a donation to an aid organization may not be great, after you have donated that sum, there remain more children in need of saving, each one of whom can be saved at a relatively small additional cost.

The Techno-Human Condition by Braden R. Allenby, Daniel R. Sarewitz

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airport security, augmented reality, carbon footprint, clean water, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, decarbonisation, facts on the ground, friendly fire, industrial cluster, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, land tenure, life extension, Long Term Capital Management, market fundamentalism, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, Peter Singer: altruism, planetary scale, prediction markets, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, Silicon Valley, smart grid, source of truth, stem cell, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, the built environment, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transcontinental railway, Whole Earth Catalog

But operations in Bosnia and Afghanistan are more like policing operations, aimed at protecting civilians and the built environment rather than blowing it up and looking for bad guys. Policing and combat require very different kinds of training, and very different institutional cultures. Good soldiers are seldom good policemen, and certainly not both at the same time. Technology ramps up the complexity further. In his book Wired for War, Peter Singer reports that the United States had no ground robots when it invaded Afghanistan in 2002, 150 of them by the end of 2004, 2,400 by the end of 2005,5,000 by the end of 2006, and 12,000 by the end of 2008. The number of UAVs has increased even faster. One result of this escalation is a profound culture conflict as officers who absorbed traditional military culture as they worked their way through the ranks find themselves competing with gamers, and as military personnel who are in active combat situations in the Hindu Kush are supported by remote-control UAV pilots who go home to their houses in American suburbs when their day is done.

After all, our students are not enhancing themselves in a vacuum; they are competing to be hired by firms that value their increased productivity and economic output, not their "happiness" or "freedom," in a society that measures its achievements in terms of gross domestic product and comparative advantage over other societies. The United States and China are not investing in enhancement technologies out of altruism, but because the technologies are supposed to offer comparative advantage in the perpetual jockeying for cultural, economic, and geopolitical dominance. We are not trying to argue here that efficiency, productivity, and cultural authority are in some way "wrong"-indeed, that might seem rather rich coming from two American authors. But we are questioning the coherence of an individualist perspective on transhumanism.


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An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies by Tyler Cowen

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agricultural Revolution, big-box store, business climate, carbon footprint, cognitive bias, creative destruction, cross-subsidies, East Village, en.wikipedia.org, food miles, guest worker program, haute cuisine, illegal immigration, informal economy, iterative process, mass immigration, oil shale / tar sands, out of africa, pattern recognition, Peter Singer: altruism, price discrimination, refrigerator car, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Upton Sinclair, winner-take-all economy, women in the workforce

On Pygmy life expectancy, see Roger Highfield, “Pygmies Life Expectancy Is Between 16 and 24,” The Telegraph, December 10, 2007. On the studies, see for instance, Ro’i Zultan and Maya Bar-Hillel, “When Being Wasteful Appears Better than Feeling Wasteful,” Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 5, no. 7, December 2010, pp. 489–96. On green products, see Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong, “Do Green Products Make Us Better People?” Psychological Science, March 5, 2010, XX(X), pp. 1–5. On green eating, two standard sources are Peter Singer and Jim Mason, The Way We Eat, Why Our Food Choices Matter (Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale Publishers, 2006), and Mark Bittman, Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009). On Annina Rüst, see Jascha Hoffman, “Carbon Penance,” The New York Times, December 12, 2008. On plastic, see for instance “Paper or Plastic?” The Washington Post, October 3, 2007. On cotton, see Martin Hickman, “Plastic Fantastic!

We are subsidizing cow farts when we should be taxing them. Phase out water subsidies, which encourage inefficient agriculture and overuse of water supplies. These changes all allow for automatic marketplace adjustments, they don’t require consumers to understand the energy costs of different goods and services, and once passed they are enforced by selfish behavior rather than requiring ongoing altruism and extreme levels of environmental consciousness. The bottom line is this: I would rather propagandize for these changes than spend my time adding up the energy miles in my asparagus. (If it makes you feel better, I do now also eat less asparagus.) In the meantime, there is no carbon tax in the United States, so there’s still some environmental value in cooking that rutabaga, however much it means we are attacking the problem with a fly swatter.


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Libertarian Idea by Jan Narveson

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centre right, invisible hand, means of production, Menlo Park, night-watchman state, Pareto efficiency, Peter Singer: altruism, prisoner's dilemma, psychological pricing, rent-seeking, zero-sum game

But we are all members of various voluntary organizations that collect fees, dues, and the like from us on occasions when we‟d rather not pay them. We pay up because we have subscribed and because they are worth it to us—especially so, in the case of the electric company, because life without their extremely useful product would be too inconvenient and uncomfortable to be worth the sacrifice of it for the sake of mere Principle. Well, suppose someone claims that the State is worth it to us? Peter Singer, in discussing Nozick‟s argument for the limited state, observes that “Nozick does not say that a state is a good thing and we are all better off with a state than we would be without one. This obvious procedure for dealing with the anarchist would be foreign to Nozick‟s entire approach and would set a precedent subversive of his aim in the second part” (in which Nozick argues that no further State is justified).2 Singer has in mind evaluating the State in utilitarian terms.

Whatever there is to be said for subsidies in the other direction, it‟s very difficult indeed to see what there is to be said for them in this one! No doubt some, especially the artists involved, will put it down to education: lefs improve public taste by forcibly depriving them of enough of their incomes so that a little of it can be returned to them in the form of subsidized opera tickets. Neat, huh? Notes 1. Lawrence Haworth, Autonomy (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1987), p. 212. 2. Peter Singer, The Right to Be Rich or Poor,” in Jeffrey Paul, ed. Reading Nozick (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1981), p. 39. 3. See Jules Coleman for the argument that public goods problems are Prisoner‟s Dilemmas. See Allan Buchanan, Justice, Efficiency, and the Market (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Allenheld, 1984), for outstandingly clear expositions of this and related matters. 4. James Buchanan, The Limits of Liberty (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975), p. 97. 5.

Indeed, it is rather odd—perhaps somewhat hysterical—to say that by not contributing each noncontributor has thereby violated the rights of each potential beneficiary of a collective good, including himself.”12 Indeed, “whether or not a share of it is oured to each individual and regardless of whether those who fail to contribute could rightly be said to have wronged all potential partakers of the good, some collective goods are of sufficient importance that enforcement seems justifiable if that is what it takes to secure them.”13 Here follow the usual arguments, superbly articulated by Buchanan14 as to why enforcement might sometimes be needed: how there might otherwise be “free riders”, who collect the benefits without contributing, and how indeed even the benevolent might not come through: “since altruism is generally limited, the scope of duties to aid which we can expect people to fulfill voluntarily is probably considerably narrower than that of duties they would discharge if those duties were enforced,”15 and “even if an individual does not himself wish to take a free ride on the contributions of others to a system of aid to the needy, he still may be unwilling to render aid to the needy. ...


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The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution by Richard Dawkins

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agricultural Revolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, complexity theory, delayed gratification, double helix, Drosophila, Haight Ashbury, invention of writing, Louis Pasteur, mass immigration, nuclear winter, out of africa, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, Steven Pinker, the High Line, urban sprawl

For the reasons given in the Bonobo's Tale, all humans are exactly equally close cousins to all gorillas. Racism and speciesism, and our perennial confusion over how inclusively we wish to cast our moral and ethical net, are brought into sharp and sometimes uncomfortable focus in the history of our attitudes to our fellow humans, and our attitudes to apes -- our fellow apes.* * The Great Ape Project, dreamed up by the distinguished moral philosopher Peter Singer, goes to the heart of the mater by proposing that great apes should be granted, as far as is practically possible, the same moral status as humans. My own contribution to the book The Great Ape Project is one of the essays reprinted in A Devil's Chaplain. RENDEZVOUS 3: ORANG UTANS Molecular evidence puts Rendezvous 3 -- where our ancestral pilgrimage is joined by the orang utans -- at 14 million years ago, right in the middle of the Miocene Epoch.

Theories 1, 2, and 3 agree in assuming a chimpanzee-like Concestor 1, walking on all fours, but occasionally rising on the hind legs. Theory 4 by contrast differs in assuming a more humanoid Concestor 1. In narrating Rendezvous 1, I have been forced to make a decision between the theories. Somewhat reluctantly, I'll go with the majority, and assume a chimpanzee-like concestor. On to meet it! * Some people distinguish a second species, Ardipithecus kadabba. * There is a well-developed theory of reciprocal altruism in Darwinism, beginning with the pioneering work of Robert Trivers and continuing with the modelling of Robert Axelrod and others. Trading favours, with delayed repayment, really works. My own exposition of it is in The Selfish Gene, especially the second edition. * The American edition rounds off the Tennyson quotation: 'Dies the Swan.' RENDEZVOUS 1: CHIMPANZEES Between 5 and 7 million years ago, somewhere in Africa, we human pilgrims enjoy a momentous encounter.

Y. (1994) East side story: The origin of humankind. Scientific American 111 (May): 88-95. [55] COTT. H. B. (1940) Adaptive Coloration in Animals. Methuen. London. [56] CRICK, F. H. C. (1981) Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature. Macdonald. London. [57] CROCKFORD, S. (2002) Dog Evolution: A Role for Thyroid Hormone Physiology in Domestication Changes. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. [58] CRONIN, H. (1991) The Ant and the Peacock: Altruism andSexuai Selection from Darwin to Today. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. [59] DARWIN, C. (1860/1859) On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. John Murray, London. [60] DARWIN. C. (1987/1842) The Geology of the Voyage of HMS Beagle: The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs. New York University Press, New York. [61] DARWIN, C. (2002/1839) The Voyage of the Beagle. Dover Publications, New York


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The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention by William Rosen

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Albert Einstein, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, barriers to entry, collective bargaining, computer age, Copley Medal, creative destruction, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, delayed gratification, Fellow of the Royal Society, Flynn Effect, fudge factor, full employment, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, iterative process, Jacquard loom, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, John Harrison: Longitude, Joseph Schumpeter, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, knowledge economy, moral hazard, Network effects, Paul Samuelson, Peace of Westphalia, Peter Singer: altruism, QWERTY keyboard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, rent-seeking, Ronald Coase, Simon Kuznets, spinning jenny, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, zero-sum game, éminence grise

., Technology in Western Civilization. 20 He departed from the norm Joel Mokyr, The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002). 21 in 1750, when Britain consumed Pacey, Maze of Ingenuity. 22 “the father of the iron trade” The Times, editorial, July 29, 1856. 23 a relatively pure form of wrought iron From Dr. Joseph Gross’s description of Wood’s process in Puddling in the Iron Works of Merthyr Tydfil, quoted at http://www.henrycort.net. 24 “The puddlers were the artistocracy” Postan and Habakkuk, The Cambridge Economic History of Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966). 25 “a peculiar method of preparing” R. A. Mott and Peter Singer, Henry Cort, The Great Finer: Creator of Puddled Iron (London: Metals Society, 1983). 26 The source of the funds Newman and Brown, Britain in the Hanoverian Age. 27 Not only had grooved rollers Jennifer Tann, “Richard Arkwright and Technology,” History: The Journal of the Historical Association 58, no. 192, February 1973. 28 “cleansed of sulphurous matter” R. A. Mott and P. Singer, Henry Cort, the Great Finer: Creator of Puddled Iron (London: Metals Society, 1983), quoted at http://www.henrycort.net.

Patent Office, polled more than seven hundred patentees, producing a remarkable picture of the mind of the inventor. Some of the results were predictable;6 the three biggest motivators were “love of inventing,” “desire to improve,” and “financial gain,” the ranking for each of which was statistically identical, and each at least twice as important as those appearing down the list, such as “desire to achieve,” “prestige,” or “altruism” (and certainly not the old saw, “laziness,” which was named roughly one-thirtieth as frequently as “financial gain”). A century after Rocket, the world of technology had changed immensely: electric power, automobiles, telephones. But the motivations of individual inventors were indistinguishable from those inaugurated by the Industrial Revolution. Less predictably, Rossman’s results demonstrated that the motivation to invent is not typically limited to one invention or industry.


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Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Timothy Ferriss

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Airbnb, Alexander Shulgin, artificial general intelligence, asset allocation, Atul Gawande, augmented reality, back-to-the-land, Bernie Madoff, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, Black Swan, blue-collar work, Buckminster Fuller, business process, Cal Newport, call centre, Checklist Manifesto, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, Columbine, commoditize, correlation does not imply causation, David Brooks, David Graeber, diversification, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, effective altruism, Elon Musk, fault tolerance, fear of failure, Firefox, follow your passion, future of work, Google X / Alphabet X, Howard Zinn, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jeff Bezos, job satisfaction, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, Lao Tzu, life extension, lifelogging, Mahatma Gandhi, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Mason jar, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nicholas Carr, optical character recognition, PageRank, passive income, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, peer-to-peer, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Singer: altruism, Peter Thiel, phenotype, PIHKAL and TIHKAL, post scarcity, premature optimization, QWERTY keyboard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, rent-seeking, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, selection bias, sharing economy, side project, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, Skype, Snapchat, social graph, software as a service, software is eating the world, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, superintelligent machines, Tesla Model S, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas L Friedman, Wall-E, Washington Consensus, Whole Earth Catalog, Y Combinator, zero-sum game

This avoids the problem of most other charity “rankers,” which look at low admin and overhead costs as a flawed proxy for “efficient.” Of course, if a charity is doing the wrong things, being financially lean means nothing, hence Will’s quote. It’s all about real-world results. According to GiveWell.org in 2016, three of the most effective and impactful charities are: Against Malaria Foundation Deworm the World Initiative Give Directly ✸ Two of Will’s philosophical role models Peter Singer, Australian moral philosopher and Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. His most famous works are the surprisingly readable Practical Ethics and Animal Liberation. Derek Parfit, who has spent his entire life at All Souls College at Oxford, which is elite even within Oxford. Derek wrote a book called Reasons and Persons, which Will considers one of the most important books written in the 20th century.

“If you earn $68K per year, then globally speaking, you are the 1%.” * * * Will MacAskill Will MacAskill (TW: @willmacaskill, williammacaskill.com) is an associate professor of philosophy at Lincoln College, University of Oxford. Just 29 years old, he is likely the youngest associate (i.e., tenured) professor of philosophy in the world. Will is the author of Doing Good Better and a co-founder of the “effective altruism” movement. He has pledged to donate everything he earns over ~$36K per year to whatever charities he believes will be most effective. He has also co-founded two well-known nonprofits: 80,000 Hours, which provides research and advice on how you can best make a difference through your career, and Giving What We Can, which encourages people to commit to give at least 10% of their income to the most effective charities.