Saturday, November 21, 2015

Hmm …

… Better ways to help | TLS. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

If the aim is to do good as effectively as possible, a measure of value is needed to compare the effects on people’s lives of different acts or policies designed to help them. In the calculations of the effective altruism movement this measure is sometimes provided by the concept of the quality- adjusted life year, or QALY – a concept developed originally to compare the effects of treatments for debilitating medical conditions. A year of life in good health has a value of one QALY. So if you save from death an adult with a life expectancy of thirty years in good health you have produced thirty QALYs. And if you cure someone of a disease that would otherwise reduce the quality of his life by 25 per cent over the next eight years, you have produced two QALYs. (The 25 per cent reduction is established if the victim would be willing to accept a treatment that would free him from the disease for four years, but shorten his life by one year.) This metric, though crude, can be extended to compare the value of other material benefits and disadvantages that affect the quality of life. The point, taken from utilitarianism, is to have a single measure for all value.
I can't shake the feeling that there's something nuts about this, rational to the point of insanity.

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