A Selfish Argument for Making the World a Better Place – Egoistic Altruism

A Selfish Argument for Making the World a Better Place – Egoistic Altruism


Until recently, the vast majority of the world population worked on farms and the total production of the world’s economy was mostly the total agricultural output. And this output was limited by the fixed size of the land. The total output of the economy did not change a lot year by year. The size of the pie was fixed; the world was a zero-sum game. In such a stagnating world, the only way to get better off is if someone else gets worse off. if you take a bigger piece of the pie, someone else’s gets smaller. If you want more food, then conquering, plundering, and stealing are great strategies. Your neighbors loss is your gain. This was the state of things for thousands of years. Societies invaded each other constantly to get more pie. Economic inequality was extreme. Some had all the pie they wanted, while others had to live with the crumbs. Then, the Industrial Revolution happened and everything changed. We developed machinery, better crops, better fertilizers. Agricultural output skyrocketed, but we didn’t just produce more food – every industrial sector exploded in terms of productivity. From 1700 to 1870, the production of iron in Britain increased 137 fold. The Industrial Revolution led to a previously unimaginable increase in economic output. This altered the nature of our societies. Economic growth changed the world from a zero-sum game to a positive-sum game. We had found a way to create a bigger pie – but not only a bigger pie, but a pie that was growing bigger each year. More people could have more at the same time. This development is spreading and continuing today. Antibiotics kill bacteria. Power plants deliver energy. Cell phones connect us. Planes let us travel cheaply. Fridges store food. Continuous progress in all sectors of the economy seems normal to us today, but the change from stagnation to economic growth really was the most drastic shift in human history. How was this possible? At the very core of this massive transformation stand new ideas that lead to innovation. Innovation has many different definitions, but in the context of this video, we mean better solutions to existing problems and solutions to problems we didn’t know we had. The more you innovate, the more complex and interesting problems you discover as your wishes and needs evolve. The average citizen in Norway 250 years ago might have wanted some really good shoes. 150 years ago, maybe a bicycle. 80 years ago, a car. 30 years ago, cheap air travel. And so on. Once we get what we want, we don’t stop; we can see how we can improve things even more, and how to make things even better. The new positive-sum world has existed for 0.1% of human history and we have yet to get used to it. It has a consequence that feels really unintuitive. In a positive-sum world, it’s in your personal selfish best interest that every human on planet earth is well off. It’s good for you if people in obscure parts of countries you’ve never heard of are prospering. There is a genuine selfish argument for making the world a better place. In a positive-sum world, the more people are well-off, the better your own life is. This is because of the nature of innovation; it is fundamentally driven by supply and demand. The supply increases when more people have the freedom and education to contribute. They become inventors, researchers, engineers or thinkers that come up with new ideas. The demand for ideas increases as people get richer, and can pay for new solutions. They increase the size of the market for innovations. Innovation follows incentives. So naturally, if many people want and can pay for something, it will get the innovators attention and energy. Improving the lives of those who are worst off has a multiplying effect. It increases demand for ideas while at the same time, making it easier for ideas to be produced. Let’s take an example that interests all of us – a cure for cancer. If there are 1 billion people in the world that have the wealth to pay for cancer treatments, innovation will follow this demand. So hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested in medical research. This had a huge effect, but we’re still nowhere near to curing all forms of cancer. Today, every sixth person in the world dies of cancer, and you might be one of them. Now, imagine if demand were higher. Imagine instead of 1 billion people being able to pay for a cure for cancer, there were 4 billion or 7 billion. Imagine how far medicine could have developed if we’d invested 7 times as much in curing cancer. On top of that, there’s so much human potential being wasted right now. The work of a poor farmer in a developing nation is not useful to you. But if he becomes better off, his children might spend their time in university developing things that are useful to you. Instead of having some hotspots of innovation in the developed world, we would have many hotspots all over the world. The research output of humanity would be many times what it is right now. Could we have cured cancer by now if that were the case? Well, maybe. If we spent 7 times as much on research, had 7 times as many people working on it, and a global network of medical research, things would certainly be further ahead than they are now. And this is the core of the argument: the more people want the same thing that you want, the more likely you are to get it. That is what it means to live in a positive-sum world. You don’t gain more pie if poor places stay poor. Instead, you get more pie if poor places get richer, contribute ideas, and grow the global pie. Do you like space travel? Imagine there were billions of people in Africa and Asia with their own space programs, and demand for satellites and moon bases and cities on Mars. Do you like being alive? A few billion people paying for medical research could literally save your life. It’s in your interest for people around the world to become better off. The faster we get to this version of the world, the better for you personally. No matter what your motivation is, working on a better world is a very good thing to do – for others, and for you. This video was a collaboration with Max Roser and Our World in Data, and supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. If you want to help us stay afloat and make more videos, you can support us on Patreon or get some of our fancy posters.

100 thoughts on “A Selfish Argument for Making the World a Better Place – Egoistic Altruism

  1. The problem is, when supply increases, the want for profit increases too. So, if somebody makes one pie, to have a profit, they will sell it, instead of just distributing it. If there were a precisely fixed cost for everything, then nobody would have a profit, and it is in human DNA to have more. As long as people want profit, instead of seeing the bigger picture, the world will never be the way in the video.

  2. Topic: how an unyielding socialist government, large in size and scope, will stymie innovation. Begin.

  3. i’m not gonna lie is it cure for cancer one wasn’t about funding it’s about how much we don’t know about cancer just like the black death when it hit ancient Athens in the Peloponnesian war they didn’t know anything about it or a cure they funded towards it it doesn’t matter how many people fun toward something at depends on how much we know about it we can find as much as we want but that doesn’t mean we know how to fix it 😏 I just outsmarted the smartest

  4. Basically help others to help yourself.
    A very, very good argument, and It is my Idea of living: i help every person i think might be helpful to me in the future. I know it is selfish but would you really go out of your way just to help someone you never met before and probably never will meet again? I know some ppl would, but thats my point. Helping people blindly isnt the very good thing its made out to be. If you think about It, you should actually focus on helping people that are close to you and will be able to help you in the future.

  5. This is a tremendously stupid and ignorant video and argument.

    It is misusing "selfishness" as a proxy for transfer of wealth from some sectors to others without proper incentive structures.

    The argument of selfishness as a driver of cooperation has todo with symmetry, the cost of extracting value from others thru violence, therefore the higher evolutionary payoff of cooperation. Without a tangible payoff (economic or genetic), forced or one way cooperation thru wealth transfers and investment without tangible returns is not incentive compatible. Therefore, actually deteriorates economic output.

    Pls learn about evolutionary game theory before making ignorant 'hope and kindness' based videos.

  6. We should cap the income of the super rich immediately, who simply sing, act or play sports for a living, and use that excess money to start solving the problems we face on a daily basis. Better spent on that than sports cars, alcohol and drugs for a few selfish people.

  7. I love myself some capitalism, but this one felt out of character for Kurzgesagt. Seems a little empty not to address pitfalls and barriers such as corruption, regime change, and cultural tension.

  8. Taking the money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was a mistake. Should have stuck with the individual contributions, guys.

  9. It brings feelings of envy. Wanting a better version of something which costs more money that a more well off person can afford. Leading to a sense of being unfulfilled..

  10. Cancer is not part of the equation, it's the answer. Increased funding for research would only yield more crime and corruption at the expense of taxpayers. Quit fearing the reaper.

  11. Sorry, I don't know English, so I use google translation.
    I am from Taiwan. The world I know in Taiwan is mostly a zero-sum game. So I am very touched when I see your film. If there is a youtube movie, I will vote for this film.

  12. You are right. I am studying Msc Biotech and I am from remote area Nepal . I am given scholarship to study Msc by Indian government. Good thing is that world will be better place with education and plastic ban.

  13. The reason, why other nations can't contribute to innovation, science and technology, is (besides climate problems) the USA itself. This war-crazy nation has been bombing and robbing other nations over the past centuries, creating more problems than they solve.

  14. Bro, stop insulting my continent, Asia. We have much more potential than any other continent but you selfish people took all the wealth away from us!

  15. This have a name: capitalism! I imagine a world without colectivism , socialism and Estate(democratic and monarchical), but that have individualism and anarcocapitalism. This is a utopia? Well, in my opnion, utopia is the belief that the human is essentially good and that makes sense that a group of thiefs rule the country.

  16. The odds of becoming a millionaire in the USA are 22% and another study suggested that if one individual were to constantly read financial books/sites/etc there is a 65% chance.

    A study done to right the book 'Millionaire next door' explain how wealth people in the USA make wiser decisions financially. Examples like wealth people buying the same cars as those that are middle class to low class. Middle to low class individuals actually owned the same amount or more TVS than that of the upper class.

    700 000 people in the USA in 2017 jumped into the wealthy bracket (net worth of a million and up).

    Capitalism is by far the best system we know of. If you don't want to be poor. Dedicate yourself and you will not be poor. Make wise decisions.

  17. There is just one thing you are missing. Our Planet has limits, and therefore only a limited amount of "pies" could be produced. Right now, we are eating the pies of future generations. What we need is to change the way the "pies" are being accumulated. That's what socialism is all about: using extra produced resources for well being of all of the "pie eaters" (for example – cancer research), instead of using the pies to own 30 mansions and 100 cars.

  18. I love this video. I get MAD when people say "there will always be poor". Why? For what reason? There are poor because we dont care about them. We could end poverty.

  19. And then we made artificial scarcity , also based on arbitrary boundaries, which hurts those at the bottom. sigh

  20. Or we could not have a profit based economic system in the world…. oh snap! Anyone call for the Starfleet federation?

  21. Funding doesn't always get the resources you need. By simply investing more doesn't get better results. It depends on the facilitator's leadership to resolve issues.

    The medical research field is extremely economic compared to other fields of research. Who are wasteful when using money.

  22. We need to get rid of the psychopathic spider at the center of the web stopping this from becoming a reality. Refer to David Icke's work!

  23. Naive belief to think we need more people or funds to find the cure for cancer. The pharmaceutical and medical industries have no interest in that. In the same way oil and fuel producers have no interest in green energy. In the same way our food pyramid is a complete mess and it’s getting us all chronic autoimmune diseases. And you say universities are important? They’re just another financial scheme to format people and generate revenue. So ye, basically, our species is nothing more that a bunch of selfish scum. We need a few more thousands of years until natural selection gets rid of greed.

  24. I actualy saw the pie thing at a friends birthday party saddly the guy died at 16 dew to denv anyway back to the story also btw his name was bob(im not joking that was his actual name and the kid had some deforimitys but they were things u wouldnt get bullied for u see he had extra 2 hands but they took him 4 years for him to be able to use them cuz the humans body was evolved to have 2 arms he had 4 so the other 2 werent responding to the brain he managed to controll them by traing and he almoust blew upp his brain cuz he was well when u poop u sometimes push hard well he pushed so hard he almoust blew upp his own brian)bob did have deformity(he was part of the family)his deformity got him bullied cuz he his eye was about 2 cm upp from his eye his ears were like lizard and seals ears and his leg was missing its missing pecus it had to be amputated why cuz the leg was so deformed that he had to get it removed his bones were out of place and did not look like bones and was causing blood stops his family didnt love him but his brother did anyway i had cake but when ever he tryed to get cake or talk to someone he was always rejected and pushed away btw hes dead cuz of cancer and suicide he got cancer and killed him self cuz he wanted reunite with his bro faster anyway i went to him and helped him i gave him my cake but then his mom came to him and beat him upp i recorded not for youtube but for evididence for the police the kid was rushed to a hospital and survived his mom was sentenced to death and my family took them under our wing my dad was a dr and was on break so i called him to do something and that something was fix the kid he did what he could some stuff like the eye could not be fixed but the ears and he got a prosthetic that i kept for memorys and it was his dieing wish that he wrote before killing him self he had a fresh start although just an fyi my dad sliped and cut a scar over his eye that he sewed and opologised and did not need to he got super popular at my school and got the nickname scar joe he got good grates and his live was good he felt happy but when his bor died he fell apart he couldnt focus and got bad grates and got diacnosed with cancer and drove to a motel and hanged him self he had a good life and seeing him dead made me cry i whent to my room and locked my self form the outside word only going out to eat and drink i got help from my therapist peter he got my live back on track but every time i see that prosthetic i cry btw i put the prosthetic on his tomb and prayed to him and told him how i feel i still see his angel from time to time in dreams i hear him talking like hes talking to me through my brain i still have memorys

  25. Too bad united KINGDOM in 2019 needs so much goooold and diamooonds so we cant have even more progress in research 😛

  26. Actually, it is not positive sum game. Our products come mainly from the earth. The more we have, the more Mother Nature loses. Thus, it is still a Zero sum game.

  27. Wow, this is one of the few videos where Kurzgesagt is not trying to kill or destroy us or the universe. Nicely done

  28. Doesn't this pose some issues regarding unsustainable growth? The planet is finite. Do we have the resources necessary for people globally to live like people in the most advanced nations live today?

  29. if we stay with the pie analogy: look at "wealth" distribution worldwide. has it really changed? some are thriving in the bigger piece of the pie they got while others don't even have the power to win back their piece of the pie. the analogy only stands for half the planet. you may make the argument that even the poorest of poor can afford industry commodities like the internet and gadgets but what good is that if you don't have water and food? there is a subsociety on the planet that does not at all profit from the huge pie there is.

  30. ain't our world is basically a single Minecraft world that doesn't have renewable resources that cause no loss??

  31. Im making the world a better place because of selfishness, i mean, no one would be going through this mess if we all just banded together to make sure that wouldnt happen. Im a person who deserves to live their best life; and in making things better for me to live my best life its just 500% easier to make things so that people can live theirs too.
    It wouldnt be a knockdown fight to the top over other humans if their was no fight to begin with, even if im solely interested in improving my own life- i have to admit that doing so would be alot easier if everyone around me thought about everyone around them.
    Selfish empathy, I call it. I want people around me to be happy and prosper so that i can feel good about being happy and prospering. Treat others how you would like to be treated.
    Understand that humans dont HAVE to fight each other for resources/the concept of money is LITERALLY made up.
    Passion and desperation are the two driving forces of humanity, we will create what we need until we die. It is law.

  32. This video makes me so happy but at the same time disappoints me. It’s so enlightening to think that good karma will come back for us if we help others, but it’s incredibly saddening to realize that so many people in power are living so far in the past.

  33. Thank you Kurzgesagt for showing people how the masses of poor people escape poverty. By spreading the free market to other developing countries and having good education, billionaires will have a vast untapped labor force. Just look at what is happening in India right now. The free market and big tech companies establishing IT centers in India coupled with their culture, which puts a high emphasis on education (gurus are treated like extra parents [also, look it up]) has caused India unprecedented growth at about 7%. Also, when foreigners visit, it also helps the economies of developing countries for street vendors and other sellers to sell foreigners their goods and increase demand for them. This is why war and oppressive Communist and Fascist governments have high poverty rates and very little visitors from foreigners from most countries. Focus more on increasing the size of the global pie than trying to get somebody else’s or trying to exclude another group from accessing the pie due to arbitrary reasons (race, gender, orientation, etc.). This is why consumerism is good (so people in poverty can start buying goods and products in ever increasing amounts) and the ordinary guy should have an impact in the economy rather than a small group of people (who think they are above humans) deciding what the people want in a planned economy. Planned economy = economic dictatorship; free market economy = economic democracy.

  34. Video disproves itself: If an innovator gets demand by someone that have money, isn't that implies that somebody must have big portion of the pie?

  35. Guys guys guys,i'm sorry to break it to you but earth is finite and innovation seems to slow down.Also,humans are territorial by nature,which slows our progress as a species.The way i see it,we will not be able to accomodate for our growing population in the future.Going to space of course seems like an option,but concider this:if our population growth rate increases even more,innovation will not manage to catch up,leading to one and only outcome:the strong will destroy the weak,in search for a bigger piece of the "pie" that really,stoped growing.The positive is that when the population decreases due to the inevitable wars,the remaining humans will have a head start in technology.This may lead to us colonizing space and solving the pie problem.But,in essence,if we want to go to space we need to kill each other.I am talking purely scientifically please dont take this as a sign of mental illness or something 😁

  36. So you mean… fuck sportsmen and give their money to scientists? NOICE

    Also, keep shouting and take my organs.

  37. Mmmmm poor farmers in 3rd world aren't useless "for you". US and UE have cheap food and people who can spend in non-food products thanks to them…

  38. I dont think er lade the pie bigger I think we just took in more players to get nothing out of us getting more

  39. However if you take this in an economic perspective, this could alter a depression. Too much production and expansion could lead to wasted products, creating layoffs for huge poverty to rise.

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