Why I’m Asking For Money

Imagine you are walking down a back alley. In front of you a child gets run over by a car and is suffering immensely. The car doesn’t stop. you walk past the child, and pretend like nothing ever happened. is this immoral? Is it less immoral if you increase the distance between yourself and the child to halfway across the world? No. Deaths caused by world poverty can be viewed this way. I think world poverty is one of the largest weakest links in the current global order.[1]

Current cost-effectiveness measurements for the worlds most quantifiably effective charities put the cost of a life at $3,500. Being able to help these charities by donating while also being able to support oneself/family is strong support for “earning to give.”[2]

For some types of people, like myself, earning-to-give is not psychologically sustainable. It can be unfulfilling and makes you feel like a detached god. This is why I transitioned towards applying my skills in the non-profit space.[3]

I have since found a lot of reason behind GiveWell’s Can’t Buy Capacity argument. The argument is that building capacity within effective non-profit spaces is very difficult. If you are earning-to-give, but have a skill set that is in high demand within an effective non-profit space, then you cannot unconditionally employ a consequentialist disposition.

I think that this reasoning can be generalized beyond just GiveWell. I think the next most pragmatic thing is to effectively apply the skills most valued by industry. I am interested in applying these skills as a utilitarian consequentialist. Currently that means trying to solve world poverty. By our current definition of the term, many think this is possible within a couple decades, and I think data driven technologies will have a large impact on its solution in the longer run.

Why I’m Not Getting Money: Capitalism is Neutral [4]
Capitalism is neutral for me because I have the resources to be self sustainable if I were more self-interested. If i create something of value, then I would probably have more/easier access to money. But i’ve never bargained for my salary, or asked for money in a professional environment. I’m not sure if this is because it makes me uncomfortable, or if being more aggressive about money conflicts with my values (my value here being the argument that someone who is both a software engineer and data scientist who is actively engaged in optimizing the positive impact of resource use should be allowed to live in abundance). But my current position (powering up my data science skills) probably won’t be rewarded by the market, because its not currently creating anything of value.


[1] By ‘global order’ i mean nothing more than the social system that considers everyone in the world. Acting within this system over national egoism is the central differentiator for a global citizen. By ‘weakest link’ i mean that it is the space that has the largest explicit support for needing to be fixed.

[2] Earning-to-give is where one takes a job making the most money possible (e.g. quant finance or tech entrepreneurship), and then donates most of it to the most quantifiably effective charities. Most people who earn-to-give are consequentialists: Instead of working for a charity, they’d rather donate money, which they view as more useful to the nonprofit than if that same person came and worked for them. For example, the non-profit could employ 5 people with the money donated from one person.

[3] B Corps provide a strong counter argument to working strictly in the non-profit space. However, my interest in subsistence markets seems to exist below this natural market ‘threshold’.

[4] From the position of those who are exploited, capitalism is not neutral. There are two kinds of effects with respect to the morality of consumption (the fuel of capitalism). There is positive duty, which is the idea of helping someone else because you have the resources to help them. Then there is negative duty, which is the idea that in the process of consumption (here it might be more appropriate to call it ‘externalities’) we are in fact harming others (an example could be that the world’s poor have to co-live in a degrading environment, with the wealthy burning through all the worlds natural resources).


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