Crowdfunding lives

Crowds sometimes choose inefficient ways to save lives.

Crowds sometimes choose inefficient ways to save lives.

A week ago, two climbers from Utah disappeared in a Pakistan mountain range. The two had already attempted to climb that particular peak last year, but a nearly-fatal accident prevented them from reaching the summit.

Since their disappearance, the internet has successfully crowdsourced over $100,000 to mount a rescue mission.

According to the impact calculator at The Life You Can Save, 100 grand could at the very least save dozens of lives if donated to the right charity. But we haven’t seemed to figure out how to make these causes feel quite as urgent as two blokes stop on top of a mountain.

Economists aren’t really supposed to judge people’s preferences, and it’s unlikely that the plight of the mountaineers is displacing money that otherwise could have been used to de-worm people or give them cash transfers. In fact, there is some (hopefully soon to be released) evidence that even big charity appeals lead to a net increase in people’s propensity to give. But it would be nice if that urgent, empathetic urge to give could be activated in the deeply impersonal world of effective altruism.

One thought on “Crowdfunding lives

  1. Richard

    September 10, 2016 at 11:40am


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