By Clara Colombatto
In a recent conversation over Skype, renowned ethicist Peter Singer encouraged a group of Duke students to “think from the point of view of the universe” and use their education to alleviate suffering in low-income countries.
Singer, the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, has published numerous books on ethics and animal rights and spoke to Duke students about effective altruism on October 22.
Altruism is not about ethical pureness and spiritual nobility, Singer said; rather, he believes individuals should focus on the ultimate result of their actions. This is effective altruism–helping others while making sure one’s efforts are well directed and the best use of time and resources.
As an example, Singer pointed out that $40,000 could train one guide dog for a blind individual, but that same amount could prevent blindness for 100 people in a low-income country.
Research shows that not all charities are created equally–some are a hundred or even a thousand times more effective than others. Give Well is an agency that assesses the impact of charities, and of hundreds companies screened, the agency recommends only three: Against Malaria Foundation (AMF), which provides insecticide-treated nets in sub-Saharan Africa; GiveDirectly, which distributes cash to extremely poor individuals in Kenya; and Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI), which assists African governments with treatment of neglected tropical diseases.
The Skype conversation was organized by the Duke chapter of The High Impact Network (THINK), a group that promotes effective altriusm. THINK organizes meet-up groups at universities and cities around the world to help members increase their positive impact in the world and create networks for support and collaboration.
The Duke chapter was founded by juniors Andrea Tan, Sheetal Hegde and Lainey Williams. The group unites students from different backgrounds–from public policy to neuroscience for discussion and service, including a partnership with Durham Urban Ministries to support student outreach and service.