Igor Kurganov: Effective Altruism, Applied Rationality, and the Importance of Elon Musk

Igor Kurganov: Effective Altruism, Applied Rationality, and the Importance of Elon Musk

Lee Davy sits down with Igor Kurganov to talk about the right balance of work, rest and play; an update on his effective altruism journey, and why he believes Elon Musk is so important to humanity.

I caught up with Igor Kurganov during a break in the $3,000 No-Limit Hold’em Six-Handed event where he was sharing a table with his girlfriend Liv Boeree.

Igor Kurganov: Effective Altruism, Applied Rationality, and the Importance of Elon Musk Now that’s a dilemma.

But there are more pressing matters in the mind of Igor Kurganov these days. He is a founder member of the non-profit organization: Raising for Effective Giving (REG), and so I questioned him on effective altruism, how we could change our children’s education to benefit from these new ideologies, and who he believes are the most successful people in the world.

This is what he had to say.

Where have you been?

“I don’t like to come to the series, and stay too long, because I get too drained before the bigger events. I need to concentrate on them, and so I would rather have a holiday before hand. This time I went to the British Virgin Islands. It was a non-poker vacation, so that was good. It doesn’t happen too often.”

Do you find that right balance of work and play?

“I would like to tell you that I do, but I don’t – not all of the time. When I was learning heads-up, for example, I wanted to learn more and think about it more often. But since I’ve gotten more involved in other projects it’s easier to not think about poker. Instead I think about ethics, start ups, and other things.”

I was talking to Talal Shakerchi who told me that it was necessary for him to make sacrifices in order to be so successful, so sometimes being imbalanced is also important, right?

“In poker, you can only hang on for a fairly short amount of time if you don’t learn and remained focused on your mind, body, and poker skills. Everyone has sacrifices. But you can also look at it as a question of timing. Now Talal has the opportunity to play poker, which is a great hobby of his, and spend time with his family. That’s doable because of those early sacrifices.”

In Peter Singer’s book: “The Most Good You Can Do.” He openly talks about Philipp Gruissem being an effective altruist. That’s great for poker, right?

“I don’t think the poker world is really aware of it. Putting that out into the popular media is good for poker. It changes the image away from this pure addiction thing, where drunks play, to something that is entertainment for the mind. This is where we want to go. Alex Dreyfus is doing some important work towards that with the launch of the Global Poker League. That project will take the game out of the gambling world and into a mind sport realm.”

Where is your state of mind in terms of your journey into effective altruism?

“I’ve been on the journey for at least two years. I’ve always been interested in altruism and thinking about how we can have more people feeling well in general. This is why I read about Buddhism very early in life. I learned about Effective Altruism two years ago, so I’m only beginning to understand the ideas that come with it. It’s an evolving subject and one of the things that is evolving is the thought of what are the most impactful causes? We need to do some good today, but we also need to create a platform for the future, so people can make better decisions. As we evolve we may learn better ways to spend the money, so it’s wise not to spend it all today. I am interested in looking at the indirect help, over time, more than the direct help today.”

Are you touching on the need to teach this to our children through the educational system?

“I have thought about the school system. I do believe that it will change over time. There will be more subjects designed to create people who can make rational decisions in their life, instead of giving them information in an area, which they will never be interesting in, the only purpose of which is to prove they are capable of learning.

“Elon Musk has created a school for his children, and a few others. There are no grades, and no classes according to age. Instead classes are designed around interests they have, and how deeply they have progressed in those interests. It encourages children to want to learn more. Hopefully this will be the way in 10-20 years time. Topics like how to withstand scarcity or tough situations will be taught more. There are ways. There is a charity we are supporting called CFAR (Centre for Applied Rationality) and they hold rationality workshops. It’s a skill that’s very important, and something that can be taught.”

When you think of the word success, who are the first people that spring to mind and why?

“Elon Musk is the first. He is such an extremely hard worker. It’s said he works 100hrs per week, and is achieving some of the most important things for humanity. I don’t know how happy Elon Musk is, but he is creating so much happiness for everyone else. Also figures like Jesus, who have spread very good mindsets and ideas, and Eckhart Tolle, who is also spreading wonderful ideas, and has been successful at influencing people.”