Seven Questions With Peter Singer
Complicated as Singer’s ethics can be, I do think he continually poses questions not easily answered. Therefore, attempting to answer them has value.
Impact has a interesting interview with him:
IMPACT: What criteria should one use to identify a ‘best buy’ in global health?
➤ PS: What I would look for is expected utility gained per dollar spent. Utility here means: how much do we improve the quality of life of those affected? Usually in the health area, that will mean how much we reduce suffering or prevent death. Expected utility means the total utility multiplied by the probability that it will achieved. So if the utility that a program will achieve is 100, but the chance that it will succeed is only 0.25 and otherwise it will achieve nothing, then the expected utility is 25.
IMPACT: In your model of philanthropy, where does advocacy fit in? Would funding a policy change that could save millions of lives be equal to funding specific health interventions?
➤ PS: That kind of advocacy might be better than funding specific health interventions, but again, it depends on the probability that the gain will be achieved, and of course, that is very hard to predict. Still, there is no alternative rational way of deciding other than to try to form an estimate, and calculate the expected utility of the advocacy on that basis, so we must do the best we can, and learn from experience what works and what doesn’t.
There is much more at the link, and it is worth a read.