Waking Up With Sam Harris #44 — Being Good and Doing Good (with William MacAskill)

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Oxford philosopher William MacAskill about effective altruism, moral illusions, existential risk, and other topics.

William MacAskill is an Associate Professor in Philosophy at Lincoln College, Oxford. He was educated at Cambridge, Princeton, and Oxford. He is one of the primary voices in a movement in philanthropy known as “effective altruism” and the cofounder of three non-profits based on effective altruist principles: Giving What We Can, 80,000 Hours, and the Centre for Effective Altruism. William is the author of Doing Good Better: Effective Altruism and a Radical New Way to Make a Difference.

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  • Brandon Smith

    1:22:21 William talks about museums and the arts getting vast amounts of funding already, but the same can be said of things like fighting Malaria. The U.S government spent $600 million dollars in 2013 on fighting Malaria. Perhaps the fact that we keep sinking a vast amount of wealth into problems and seeing no results is a reason why people are reluctant to join their meager steams of income with the river already flowing there.

  • Brandon Smith

    The Picasso argument make no sense to me, because it assumes there is no other way to acquire the bug nets then through the sale of the Picasso. If you don't save the Picasso you can still find another means of buying the bug nets, however you are likely the only means of saving that child's life.

  • Martin Rutley

    I think it’s not unfair to say there is a kind of Western dementia under which we’re more or less comfortably able, for example, to sit and watch sports, our favourite TV shows, movies, listen to our favourite music, when we know undoubtedly there are human beings capable of suffering to exactly the capacity we are capable of suffering – and through entirely know fault of their own – living near intolerably terrible lives, It is purely a result of
    luck that we are not living such lives.

  • german axl

    SAM, it would be wonderful to have youtube automatic subtitules on this videos cause me and my altruistic-intended friends are not capable to follow the whole conversation on detail. thank you

  • Arephid1

    Listening to this podcast is nothing short of intellectual masochism and I love it.

  • Gay Salmons Tricycle Bicycle Plate

    That ending. Wow motherfucker

  • Gay Salmons Tricycle Bicycle Plate

    You don't know who I am. But Sam Harris would always save me over you . HAHAHA

  • Fudgy McFudgerson

    yet again I am reminded of this incredible golden age a select few of us are born into today. We eat better than kings could have imagined – have healthcare that again a king would 'die' for… ;D

    Thanks Sam – I truly love the podcast and you continue to have an impact on my life.

  • Carlos Garcia del Conde

    it's like

  • AngelOfPodreness

    I would love to know what is this kind of equation of wellfare MacAskill says he is working on!

  • Radical Whiggery

    What is the music that's at the beginning.

  • pvrhye

    My thought is that a world where everyone abandoned self interest to the betterment of others might not ultimately necessarily result in the more prosperous world.

  • Kathy Borthwick

    Sam I am a fan and one the few women in the world I am sure that is deeply in love with physics ! I am an evaluator! I know that you believe that Trump is a bombastic ego-centric not particularly intelligent man although I am sure that you would consider him clever! However, what I will say will likely not make any difference with you , but at least hear me out! I have family that have worked for Trump for a number of years but only in the capacity of entry level occupations! I have never met the man! Family members, my aunt and her two sons have a cleaning contract at a fairly prestigious hotel that is owned by Trump but operated by his son! They claim that they met Trump Sr. On a few occasions over the last 19 years! When my aunt' husband passed away, Trump reportedly helped her financially but he primarily helped her by allowing her ( Marie Demaris) to take over my uncle's cleaning contract as opposed to putting it out for auction again! Marie claims "Trump cares for his staff" !

  • Sports Radio

    great video

  • Phelan

    Who else heard about this "play-pump" stuff here for the first time and already thought after a few seconds, "Hold on, how did they solve the issue of the pumping actually needing quite a bit of 'additional' work, probably so much that the children would quickly lose interest – or did they actually solve that?"

  • Daniel Ziv

    When giving to a starving African who will never be able to feed himself or create enough wealth to even sustain his own life, how are you benefiting the world? Aren't you just creating an adult which would otherwise die? this adult will give birth to 5 more children who are starving because their father has no idea how to create the wealth required to live or have the restraint to not have them, also he is denied condoms by his country. You then died having saved a 100 starving Africans who have created 5000 starving Africans that no one can feed. Isn't there a way to give in away that will allow the African to create enough wealth to live comfortably like you? Shouldn't we just conquer them and bring the same American revolution we had to their continent? With wealth creating Capitalism? instead of this noble altruistic cause which really benefits 100 Africans but creates 5000 of them? of course what i'm saying is completely divorce from their suffering and inconsiderate but isn't it right?

  • Derrick Lombu

    I share Sam's sentiment that this is one of the best talks he's hosted on his podcast. Great discussion on a pressing topic.

  • dochmbi

    I had a strange dream yesterday, I had spent the evening listening to Sam speaking, probably had a lot to do with it. I was somewhere in the Finnish countryside with Sam, at a typical mökki, we were in the sauna and went swimming in a lake and I remember having discussions that were of personal nature. How homoerotic :D