Highlighting – Michael Dello-Iacovo, Ph.D student and CEO of Effective Altruism Australia

A new series for 2017 highlighting amazing and inspiring millennials pushing boundaries, making, doing and being good for people and planet.

An inspiring young man, we came to Michael through Effective Altruism Australia. He’s incredibly generous with his time, helping us to understand how much more effective we can be with our giving as a business and as individuals.

Who are you?

Michael Dello-Iacovo.

What do you do everyday, or at least most days?

Most days I’m a PhD student at the University of New South Wales, working to understand asteroids and other planetary bodies and the benefits and risks they pose, especially the risk of asteroid impact and what we might do about it.

I’m also the acting CEO of Effective Altruism Australia, an organisation working to alleviate poverty as effectively as possible, and helping Australians to find effective giving opportunities.

Why do you do it?

I feel a strong, deep call to help people and make the universe as good a place as it can be. This comes from a desire to have a purpose in life and to make a difference.

I certainly do it for the love of the work as well – I have a deep passion for things space related and love science fiction – but the main driver behind what I do is to find ways of improving the world as effectively as possible by using my interests and talents.

It takes a special kind of person to work as a touch practitioner. Why do you do it?

The motto for my practice is I want to make ‘room for you’ and touch is like a big smile. It is one of the quickest things to make somebody feel good and show that he or she is important.

One of the caps you wear is that of acting CEO, Effective Altruism Australia. Can you tell us a little of the personal journey that has led you to become such a generous philanthropist and vocal advocate for effective charities?

I first heard about effective altruism early 2015 when I saw a video by Peter Singer, one of the founders of the movement, talking about the movement and why it’s important to think about how effective your charitable actions are, and this guided a lot of my thinking.

But prior to that, my desire to help others came from my desire to find purpose. A lot of my friends were very concerned about climate change and I became active in understanding the risks and advocating for solutions.

This eventually lead me to become worried about poverty and the other causes that worry a lot of effective altruists, like animal suffering and the risk of human extinction. I initially became involved in effective altruism in my home town of Adelaide, where I started a local chapter with a friend. I worked on this for 15 months before leaving my full time job in the resources industry and moving to Sydney in 2016 to work on my PhD.

Around that time I had started volunteering for Effective Altruism Australia as a public engagement officer, and I was later offered the role as acting CEO to help move the organisation forward and grow us into a strong force in alleviating poverty effectively.

We have now raised over $500,000 for top poverty interventions, and I am immensely glad of the opportunity to be involved with such a great team.

How does what you do contribute to the greater good of your community, or thinking big, the planet!?

The benefit of what I do at Effective Altruism Australia is easy to communicate. I try to raise awareness about the importance of doing your research before donating or supporting charities, to make sure you have as much positive impact as possible. When some charities are thousands of times better than others, it’s easy to see why this is critical.

The benefit of what I do with my PhD research is a little harder to demonstrate. I believe that space has a great potential for the future benefit of humanity, but it also poses a great risk, especially through asteroids impacts and other events.

Whilst major asteroid impacts are very unlikely to occur, they cause massive damage when they do. As a result, the risk is very high. In fact, you are more likely to be killed by an asteroid than by a shark. And a very large asteroid has a small chance of wiping out all of humanity, which would mean a countless number of future generations wouldn’t have the chance to exist.

The piece I play in this puzzle is small, and there are certainly other risks that people argue are more likely, such as nuclear warfare, but I believe I am still having a positive impact through this work.

And very importantly, because you’re a ‘normal’ super human and like to do normal super human things too, what is the most normal thing about you?

I like to watch Youtube videos about things I find interesting, and will sometimes play a few video games or board games in my downtime with friends.

And lastly, if someone wants to get involved or get in touch with you or your organisation, can they do that? How?

People can either contact myself at michael@eaa.org.au or Effective Altruism Australia at info@eaa.org.au. Our website with more information is at www.effectivealtruism.org.au.