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About Effective Altruism

Published 25th September 2019

Contents

These resources will give you a solid understanding of what effective altruism is, and the approaches EAs take towards improving the world.

Introductory Article

For a concise and fascinating summary of why EA is so important, check out this introductory article by the Centre for Effective Altruism (15 minute read).

Introductory Videos

Prefer a video introduction?

  • Try this TED talk: “What are the most important moral problems of our time” by William MacAskill in 2018 (12 minutes). MacAskill outlines how we might work out what the most pressing problem is, and explains why existential risks—those that may derail civilisation permanently or cause human extinction—may be the most important cause for us to work on.
  • Or, this TEDx talk: “Effective Altruism” by Beth Barnes in 2015 (6 minutes). Barnes provides an inspirational view of what we could achieve if the richest 10% of people gave 10% of their income.

World Income

If you watched Beth Barnes’ talk above, you’ll know what could happen if the richest 10% donated effectively. Now use this online app to work out where you lie in the world’s income distribution.

Philosophy

EA is rooted in moral philosophy. For a philosophical introduction to the movement, read this section of the Norton Introduction to Ethics, by William MacAskill in 2019.

William MacAskill’s 2015 book Doing Good Better is an entertaining and excellent introduction to EA - it mostly focuses on global poverty and effective charity, but also provides a review of other cause areas, and introduces how to use your career to make a large difference.

Cause Prioritisation

Cause-impartiality— the concept that we should choose our cause area based on how much impact we could make— is one of the unique aspects of effective altruism.

80,000 Hours explains a common approach to choosing a cause area to work on in this entertaining video.

Online Course

If you like doing online courses, try Peter Singer’s Coursera course on effective altruism. This course is mostly focused on ethics and global poverty.

Podcasts or Videos

Is listening your preferred way of taking in info?

The “Doing Good Better” podcast has three episodes that introduce EA, focusing on how we can make a difference for those living in extreme poverty.

In the 80,000 Hours Podcast, Rob Wiblin interviews experts from a range of fields about how best to tackle many of the world’s most pressing problems. These podcasts range from 1 to 3 hours long, and can get very in-depth, so start by choosing episodes on topics you are most interested in.

Or, if you are looking for videos, see this collection of videos from various organisations.

Careers

80,000 Hours explains their key ideas about how to have a large impact in your career. This article contains plenty of links to help you think more deeply on this topic.

Criticisms of Effective Altruism

While most of the above links advocate for EA, it is also worth learning what effective altruism might have wrong. The Centre for Effective Altruism has compiled a list of a few common objections to effective altruism, and responses to these objections.

More Reading

The Centre for Effective Altruism has compiled an excellent reading list of articles covering EA principles and promising cause areas if you want to learn more. Many of these articles are available in the EA Handbook, which you can download in pdf, epub or mobi format.

Or, if you want to dive more deeply into a topic within EA, check out these reading lists.


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