Elie Hassenfeld Q&A: ‘$5,000 to Save a Life Is a Bargain’


The organizations we suggest supply the most effective bang for the buck. That usually means saving the lives of youngsters underneath 5 who would in any other case die from preventable ailments.

And look, the factor that motivated me to do that work is considering the individuals I’m closest to. If my kids want antibiotics, I’m going across the nook to CVS. Actually each time I try this, I feel how unfair it’s that not everybody can.

OK, however the individuals who seek the advice of GiveWell’s analysis will not be the needy. They’re donors, a lot of them extraordinarily wealthy. What do donors flip to GiveWell for?

They flip to us for confidence. They want confidence that there’s some distinction being made with their cash. A lot of our donors report this sense: There are such a lot of issues I might do on the market. How can I ever decide who’s reliable in making an impression?

Typically donors anticipate that they’ll save a life for a lot lower than $5,000, and so they’re shocked to come across our estimate. However most come to share my perception that $5,000 to save lots of a life is a cut price. We goal to be totally clear about what goes into our cost-effectiveness estimates—together with the counterarguments, caveats, assumptions, greatest guesses, and ethical judgments. This transparency offers them the arrogance to offer extra.

It’s true that within the US we focus so intently on high quality of life that we might not respect that we now have lives within the first place, that comparatively few of our youngsters die as infants. However aren’t a number of the individuals saved by, say, malaria nets, going to have actually onerous lives?

It is a unhappy actuality about issues, that we don’t even take into consideration how fortunate we’re. And in the event you reverse the query you requested, it could actually sound such as you’re principally questioning if one may be very rich and have nice bodily well being and nonetheless be sad. Clearly you may be.

Why have so many EAs turned their consideration from stopping illness to cooking up E book-of-Revelation eventualities involving AI?

Many EAs proceed to work on international well being. However the fast development in highly effective AI techniques ought to increase actual considerations for everybody. Myself included.

Once I began getting within the philosophy of EA, there was some freaky stuff.

You imply these scary questions, like, “Would you let your mother die to save lots of 100 strangers?”

Precisely. However I feel there are sufficient challenges on the earth that we’d like each individual targeted on the realm the place they suppose they’ll have the largest impression. I’m glad there are plenty of nice minds targeted on AI and the broader questions in EA. Me, personally, I can convey one thing to serving to people who find themselves struggling proper now.

So that you constructed the nonprofit GiveWell after working at Bridgewater, an funding fund that’s [checks notes] for-profit, sure?

Sure. And at first there have been plenty of tales about Holden and me, how “hedge fund veterans” have been turning to philanthropy. However we have been solely 26, and we’d been on the fund for only some years. Very quickly Holden and I have been speaking with mates about how you can give cash away.

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