On a Tuesday in mid-December, a group of young professionals in their twenties and thirties met in a unitarian church in Minneapolis on the eve of a blizzard. The group included two software engineers, three supply chain planners, a dietician, and a Papa John’s pizza deliveryman. The group was brought together by a pledge they’d made to give away 5–10% of their income. This signaled their commitment to effective altruism (EA), a research field and social movement whose proponents argue that people in high-income countries have a moral obligation to use their resources to reduce global “net suffering.”
In addition to the recurring sum of money many of them donated out of each paycheck, the group had raised an additional $1,400 that month for a “donor lottery.” That evening, the Effective Altruists of the Twin Cities were using a random number generator to decide the winner, who, after a debate on the merits of different causes, would decide which “effective charity” that money would go to. The leader of the group, Papa John’s employee Puggy Knutson, got in front of the room and pulled up a random number generator on Google Chrome.