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Inst comments on Open Thread #36 - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Inst 19 May 2017 09:44:48PM 0 points [-]

Also, a more general question. Why brand it effective altruism instead of efficient altruism? Remember the old story about the starfish drying up on a beach, and a man throwing them back into the ocean? A passerby comments: "You can't get them all before they're gone, you won't make a difference". The altruist throws yet another one back into the ocean, and retorts "I did for that starfish". The altruism seen there is probably not efficient; with a standard wage he could have made a greater difference for 6-sensed humans instead of 2-sensed starfish, but it is definitely effective.

I always have to catch myself when I want to say efficient altruism instead of effective altruism, because old-fashioned "buying food for starving neighbors" is definitely effective, but it's not as efficient as donating to third-worlders.

Comment author: [deleted] 20 May 2017 07:37:46AM *  0 points [-]

Effective and efficient have a quite different nuance. See, e.g.. In short, effectiveness implies the desirability of the goal that is aimed or achieved, while something that is harmful or bad can be efficient. The term 'efficient' is value-neutral in a way 'effective' is not. For example, there are efficient ways to slaughter animals, but that is not what people who are opposed to the killing of animals (especially for food, etc.) call 'effective'.

Comment author: Inst 20 May 2017 10:58:22AM 0 points [-]

Effective altruism, by its terminology, arouses what I see as unnecessary contention. By calling EA effective altruism, by implication, it implies that altruism outside the EA framework is not effective. By calling it efficient, it accepts that most altruism is effective, but privileges EA as efficient. In contrast, by claiming efficiency, it intrinsically appeals to some of the best-heeled philanthropists in the business field.