Excitement, hope, and fulfillment

Last year, I helped a friend clean his apart­ment. The task seemed oner­ous at first, but I wound up en­joy­ing it; we listened to mu­sic as we picked up lit­ter, scrubbed the bath­room, and grad­u­ally turned his apart­ment into a space that he would be happy com­ing home to.

That was one of the best days I had all year.

I’m not alone: many peo­ple who give and work for the benefit of oth­ers do so partly be­cause they en­joy it and find it satis­fy­ing.

Some peo­ple might in­ter­pret this to mean that EA is a self­ish prac­tice, or that we aren’t truly be­ing al­tru­is­tic when we feel good as a re­sult.

But I don’t see it that way. If helping oth­ers felt bad — if all we could think about af­ter­wards was the time or money we’d “wasted” — we’d live in a world with less giv­ing and more suffer­ing. I choose to em­brace ex­cite­ment, hope, and per­sonal fulfill­ment as im­por­tant facets of effec­tive al­tru­ism.

Per­spec­tives on ex­cite­ment, hope, and fulfillment

Will MacAskill, in­ter­view with Dy­lan Matthews (2015)

Here’s how much good you can do. If you’re on only a lit­tle more than the typ­i­cal in­come in the United States, just by giv­ing 10 per­cent of your in­come you can save a life ev­ery sin­gle year.

Imag­ine if you smashed down the door to a burn­ing build­ing and res­cued a child. That would stay with you for the rest of your life. You can do that ev­ery sin­gle year just by donat­ing to these char­i­ties. It demon­strates that we can make an ex­traor­di­nary differ­ence.

Jo Duyvestyn, on her sup­port for the Fred Hol­lows Foun­da­tion (2019)

My bike tire was flat, my drink bot­tle leaked in my bag, and our house flooded over the week­end and is now very stinky… but on the bright side, I’m not blind, and soon at least 10 other peo­ple won’t be ei­ther.

Why I want hu­man­ity to sur­vive (An­drew Critch, 2015)

Some of us have lived the joy of fal­ling in love for a decade, or a cen­tury. But not longer. No one has yet loved for a mil­len­nium. No one has yet rem­i­nisced about the early days of a friend­ship on an­cient Earth be­fore we colonized the stars. No one has yet kept a promise for an aeon. But we might. Some of us might live lives of rap­ture and de­vo­tion deeper and longer than any­thing we can now imag­ine.

I hope — and I even con­sider it plau­si­ble — that if we sur­vive, thrive, and in­no­vate, we might sus­tain suffi­cient peace and abun­dance among us that these dreams could be made re­al­ity. In fact, I sus­pect dreams that I would find even more com­pel­ling could be con­ceived, as even our ca­pac­ity for hope and imag­i­na­tion might grow.

It will take brilli­ance. It will take hard work. It will take con­science. And to be hon­est, I don’t know if we’ll ever get there.

But I sure as hell don’t want us to give up now.