In a review of William MacAskill’s book “Doing good better,” Amia Srinivasan writes about the conservative aspects of effective altruism as a social movement:
The subtitle of Doing Good Better promises ‘a radical new way to make a difference’; one of the organisers of the Googleplex conference declared that ‘effective altruism could be the last social movement we ever need.’ But effective altruism, so far at least, has been a conservative movement, calling us back to where we already are: the world as it is, our institutions as they are. MacAskill does not address the deep sources of global misery – international trade and finance, debt, nationalism, imperialism, racial and gender-based subordination, war, environmental degradation, corruption, exploitation of labour – or the forces that ensure its reproduction. Effective altruism doesn’t try to understand how power works, except to better align itself with it. In this sense it leaves everything just as it is. This is no doubt comforting to those who enjoy the status quo – and may in part account for the movement’s success.
This article from The Economist is worth a read to understand their position on brain research and the use of primates in studies:
And were laboratories in China and Japan to come up with treatments for neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s as a result of their studies of monkeys’ brains, it would be near impossible for Western countries to refuse to buy them to treat their citizens. Leaving others to do the dirty work of generating knowledge using means you consider to be unethical, while at the same time encouraging it by adding to demand is not taking the moral high ground. It is hypocrisy. Better for Western countries to carry out the necessary but troubling research them- selves, working to the standards they deem necessary.
Philosopher Peter Singer writes in a Project Syndicate about a medical doctor Texas that facing criminal persecution because he “refused to let a vial of vaccine expire and sought out eligible recipients before the doses would have to be discarded.” In the article Singer makes some interesting reflections on ethical and rule based systems.
An article on refugee abuse made me think of Judith Butler on the Abu Ghraib prison questioning what it “means to become ethically responsive, to consider and attend to the suffering of others, and, more generally, of which frames permit for the representability of the human and which do not”.