Participating in the Arete Fellowship transformed the way in which I perceive everyday actions. We started the fellowship by learning about the concept of effective altruism and the significance it can bear on underprivileged communities. We broke down the process of donating to charity and evaluated various charities’ methodologies in distributing resources. Then, we thought about ways people can set aside money to donate by considering the financial choices we make on a day-to-day basis. We also discussed other ways people can become a part of the effective altruism movement, such as through supporting certain businesses, choosing certain careers, and shaping research projects with an effective altruism mindset.
The two most influential concepts I learned were expected value theory and systemic change. Expected value theory states that the net effect of a particular action can be estimated from the “sum of the value of each potential outcome multiplied by the probability of that outcome occurring” (effectivealtruism.org). Not only can expected value theory predict the effect of an action, but it also provides a basis for comparing the effects of several actions before they are done. Expected value theory is a fundamental tool for achieving the largest impact and maximizing cost-effectiveness. The biggest critique of effective altruism is that it ignores deep-rooted institutions and in society that bear great significance on people’s lives, such as government. There are arguments that effective altruism relies too-heavily on an “earning to give approach,” in which tangible changes to people’s lives are a direct result of other’s monetary donations. Instead, people argue that the focus of philanthropy should lie in systemic change through influencing policymakers, for example. While it is true that policy changes can benefit the lives of the poor, maximizing the effects of policy changes relies on the principles of effective altruism. The principles of effective altruism should be considered in any change to inflict a positive effect on the lives of the less fortunate to increase its impact.
Effective altruism is a very important movement because it determines the most effective ways to engage in philanthropy and thus benefit others. I plan to pursue a career in either medicine or chemical research and will consider the effects of my career on the community I work in. If I pursue chemical research, I will aim to select projects that work toward ameliorating issues that most directly affect the lives of populations. I am grateful for the perspective the Arete Fellowship has given me to understand the impact I can have on the world.