Thursday, March 9, 2017

Thoughts on 'extreme altruism,' focusing on nondirected kidney donors

Here's an interesting article about altruism, non-directed kidney donors, and the difficulty of studying them (but maybe they are the opposite of psychopaths):
The Selfless Biology of the Extreme Altruist
What is the opposite of a psychopath? What is the limit of human goodness?
by Tanya Basu
(the url is as informative as the headline:

The article focuses on one particular non-directed donor, but also discusses some altruism researchers (and has a slightly confused view of economics).

Here are some sentences that particularly caught my eye:

"In 2015, Brooks and his wife were on a summer road trip. They were listening to Freakonomics, the NPR podcast spun off from the best-selling pop-economics book, when an episode called “Make Me a Match” came on. It was a profile of the Stanford economist Al Roth, whose Nobel Prize-winning work considered kidney donation matching as an economic market, maximizing its efficiency and potential. Roth’s work was unique because it looked at this unique market as an example of how non-monetary systems could run efficiently purely by matching, no system necessary. Brooks — otherwise a smooth talker — stammers when describing the power of that podcast, saying he felt he’d “been struck by lightning” when he first heard it. He shudders with emotion describing the realization that he, too, should donate his kidney."
"By September, he’d matched with a patient on the National Kidney Registry; by November, he’d given up his spare kidney to a total stranger (he later learned her name was Danielle). In February 2016, he founded Donor to Donor which matches non-direct donors with those looking for a kidney, citing his experience as an epiphany in shaping his life’s purpose. Before meeting me at the Yale Club, he’d convinced a potential donor to go through with the operation. He described the feeling of doing so as being something like getting a good grade."

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