Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Will You Help Me Reduce Suffering?

We live in a world where our actions can have a huge impact on the health, well-being, and even existence, of those who suffer. 
Help me help others.

In one sentence: If you donate to the highly ranked charity the Against Malaria Foundation, I will match your contribution, effectively doubling your donation. 

  • What is malaria? Malaria is a debilitating and sometimes fatal disease. $4 buys one bed net. Each bed net will not only reduce a person's chance of catching malaria, but for every ~150 bed nets purchased, one life is saved!  You can donate now here.

For those seeking more details, the following text elaborates why I am doing this and explains how I will double your donation to save even more lives.
In short, suffering is bad, and reducing suffering is good.  That is my assertion, but I elaborate in this talk on why we should help people.

But how should we do it?

I think it makes sense to examine who suffers the most, which interventions actually work, and what is the largest impact for money spent. While I'm highly concerned with the suffering of others, I'm also very concerned about the evidence that donating to a charity or cause does any good.
Using this logic, I believe it makes the most sense to fight malaria by buying anti-malaria mosquito bed nets from the Against Malaria Foundation. 

Why Malaria? Because:   
  • 1-3 million people die of malaria each year, most of them children.  
  • 500,000,000 people become ill from malaria each year.  
  • Malaria is the number one killer of pregnant women.  
  • Malaria has huge economic costs for numerous countries.  
  • More information here.
Why Mosquito Nets? 
Malaria is transmitted by certain mosquitoes when they bite. The mosquitoes typically bite between 10 o'clock at night and two in the morning, so if we can protect people in affected areas when they sleep at night we have a very good chance of preventing them from contracting malaria. A long-lasting insecticidal bed net is both a mechanical barrier against malaria-carrying mosquitoes that bite at night, and something that kills mosquitoes on contact. More information here.
Why the Against Malaria Foundation?
Given these top rankings by reputable organizations, I think it means that the Against Malaria Foundation is one of the best charities on Earth.

Further, t
he Against Malaria Foundation donations are Tax Deductable in Canada, the United States, UK and various other countries (check here). This means that, depending on your country/region, you might be able to deduct 20-50% of your donation from your taxes.

Okay, so what am I offering?

The Initiative:  I've read numerous books and articles on development and charities, and I'm sufficiently impressed by the Against Malaria Foundation (and GiveWell) that by the end of 2013, I am offering to match your donations up to a total maximum of $20,000 (Can).  If you donate $100, I will match it so the Against Malaria Foundation receives a total of $200.
To repeat, if you donate to the Against Malaria Foundation, I will match your contribution, effectively doubling your donation (up to a total maximum of $20,000 by December 31, 2013). That's enough for an additional 5000 bed nets!

The Process: You donate to the Against Malaria Foundation on a fundraising page I have set up on their website here.
Then, I prove that I have matched it on a this different fundraising page.  You can see I started the process off with a donation of $5000 as a gesture of goodwill and to prove my commitment.

I will monitor donations and increase my donations accordingly. Simple as that. 
Let’s save lives together!
Darren McKee

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Decent, barely worthwhile due to the idea of time passing differently on Earth vs. in space if fighting a war that requires traveling at relativistic speeds.

Rendevous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

Entertaining and worthwhile.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest Philosophers by Will Durant

Impressive in depth and breadth!

Monday, January 07, 2013

Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury (and Bruce Patton)

A book about "negotiating agreement without giving in."  This is one of those books everyone should probably read as it provides good advice on a) not bargaining over positions; b) separating people from the problem; c) focus on interests, not positions; d) invent options for mutual gain; e) insist on using objective criteria, and then trying address various concerns and questions.
Short, straightforward, and sensible.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Books Finished in 2012

Legend: * Good/worthwhile; ** A truly great book/you should read this; - Didn't like/unfinished (due to dislike)
In reverse chronology...

 The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
 The Honest Truth about (Dis)Honesty by Dan Arielly
*The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
-Anti-Fragile by N. N. Taleb
*The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
*Superman - The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero by Larry Tye
 Jung: A Very Short Introduction by Anthony Stevens
*Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Desisle
- The Satanic Verses by Salmon Rushdie
*Superman: Birthright by Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu

- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
*Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie - A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss
 Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander
**Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson
*The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
 A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace
*How to be Black by Baratunde Thurston
 Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick
*On Killing by Dave Grossman
**The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker

**Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
*Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow
 At Home: A brief history of private life by Bill Bryson
 Why is Sex Fun? by Jared Diamond
*This is a Book by Demetri Martin
 Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace
**Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley/Read by Avery Brooks
*The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tuft
- In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy
*Feynman by Ottaviani & Myrick

 While Mortals Sleep by Kurt Vonnegut
*Cultural Connectives by Rana Abou Rjeily
 Artemis Fowl (book 1) by Eoin Cofler
- Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
*The End of Food by Paul Roberts
 Free Will by Sam Harris
 The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch
- Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
*The Information by James Gleick

*The Heart and the Fist by Eric Greitens
**Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
*Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis by Alanna Mitchell
- Real Ultimate Power: The Official Ninja Handbook Book by Robert Hamburger
 Self Comes to Mind by Antonio Damasio
- Foundation and Empire by Issac Asimov
- Burning Chrome by William Gibson Foundation by Issac Asimov
 Uncertainty by David Lindley
*Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

Saturday, January 05, 2013

More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon

A superb work of science fiction!