I’ve been becoming increasingly aware of the fact that to a large extent the world is ran by a handful of individuals. And sure, it would be great to be one of them, but most of us will never have a chance to be a president, a prime minister, or a minister of foreign affairs. And for the sake of our personal happiness, it’s a good thing.
Yet power is centralised not only on the international or state level. Anyone who has ever worked on any collaborative project knows that, in the end, the project’s success is up to the commitment and devotion of a very motivated handful of individuals.
The Open Philanthropy Project is ran by 6 full-time staffers. The project’s goal is to figure out how to invest the $8 billion fortune of Dustin Moskovitz (one of the co-founders of Facebook) and his wife, Cari Tuna in the most efficient way possible, in order to improve the lives of as many people as possible. In other words, 6 people will be trying to figure out how best to save the world.
One could say that there are millions of people in universities all around the world, and hundreds of thousands more at various institutes, think-tanks and other research organisations doing this very thing.
Yet that is exactly where the problem lies: we are creating new research every day in a multitude of highly specialised disciplines; what is missing is someone bringing it all together and comparing the relative usefulness of different ideas, policies, drugs and technologies, in improving the state of the world.
The Open Philanthropy Project’s task is a herculean one. But why not try it? Doing this research will not fix all of the world’s problems, and chances are that they will not find the “best” way to spend the available funds. Pah, the “best” way doesn’t exist! Yet, in this case doing something is better than doing nothing. A random allocation of funds would be unlikely to be as successful as an allocation that has been given some thought.
I’m a big fan of interdisciplinary approaches. Specialisation is fantastic, but the last step of specialisation should be centralisation.