I was originally planning to write this post reflecting on 2016 and my year-end donations (I know, better late than never). But given the political climate in the U.S. right now, I’m feeling pretty shaken. I don’t usually write about politics, but I decided I needed to share a few thoughts.
[Note: for those who don’t know my background; I am an effective altruist, and I earn-to-give. This means I entered into the tech industry so I could donate 33% of my pre-tax income to high-impact charities every year. I also blog openly about it.]
I first started earning-to-give when I landed my first job in the tech industry in June 2015. In 2015 I donated a total of $21,200.
In 2016, my donations totaled $50,600. My finances this year were little more complicated, but that was my best estimate of 33% of my pre-tax income. (That income does not include RSUs; whenever I can liquidate them, I will also donate 33% of their value.)
Below are the organizations I donated to and why.
The Against Malaria Foundation
Donation: $12,650 (25%)
The Against Malaria Foundation distributes low-cost anti-mosquito bednets in parts of Africa that are ravaged by malaria. AMF has been repeatedly ranked by Givewell as the dollar-for-dollar most impactful charity in the world.
It’s important to make speculative and high-risk altruistic investments. But there is some straightforward value in just rewarding and spreading the word about organizations that rock at saving lives (and in the worst case, to have no doubt that one’s donations are having real positive impact). I also donated to them in 2015, and good chance I’ll donate again in 2017.
Donation: $12,650 (25%)
.impact is a grassroots EA organization that maintains a lot of Effective Altruism’s infrastructure, including the EA Forum (which I highly recommend). One of their most exciting projects is LEAN (Local Effective Altruism Network), which helps to seed and support university EA organizations. I also donated to them in 2015.
Young people have already shown that in many ways they are going to be the primary vector for change in this world. And as those young people come into power, I’d love to see more of them thinking rigorously about how to do good.
In short, I think influencing more young people to think critically about effectiveness is one of our best levers for ensuring a positive future.
Donation: $25,300 (50%)
My largest donation this year was to 80,000 Hours (80K). 80K is an organization that advises young people on how to do the most good with their careers. They analyze different career paths, balancing career capital with altruistic aims.
80K actually strongly affected my own trajectory when I was considering career pursuits. Reading through their career guide on tech entrepreneurship influenced my original decision to enter into the tech industry.
80K has had had impressive growth and has done a lot of good for influencing more students on the path to altruistic lives. There’s a big talent gap in effective altruism right now, and 80K seems like the best investment for filling that gap. I’m excited to see what they can do in 2017.
So that wraps up my donations. Now I’d like to do what I normally never do, and say a few words about the political climate in the U.S.
Authoritarianism, walls, and the “Muslim Ban”
Far more capable minds than mine have spilled enough ink on this topic, so I’m going to keep my words brief.
Things are moving faster than anyone expected. But history has seen this before. Our environment is likely to change fast, and unpredictably.
Keep your eyes open. Be vigilant. Know your power and use it wisely, and where you have none, stay safe.
It’s a scary and saddening time. History books will struggle to make sense of this. And when we are old, we will look back and talk with shame about the barbarism that America, for a time, succumbed to.
But I am optimistic. When I see the protests happening across the U.S. and around the world, the international condemnation of these regressive and protectionist policies, when I see the power and fury of a culture founded on inclusion and love—it gives me confidence.
The world is changing. Though we may have stumbled, we are going to take two steps forward.
I, for one, am going to keep fighting in my own way.
I hope you do the same.