Effective Altruism is a social movement based around one simple question:
“How can I do the most good?”
Most of us want to make a difference. We see suffering, injustice and death, and are moved to do something about them. But working out what that ‘something’ is, let alone doing it, is a difficult problem.
Which cause should you support if you really want to make a difference? What career choices will help you make a significant contribution? Which charities will use your donation effectively? If you don’t choose well, you risk wasting your time and money. But if you choose wisely, you have a tremendous chance to improve the world.
Rather than just doing what feels right, we focus on using evidence and careful analysis to find the very best causes to work on.
The first step to improving the world is to figure out how the world actually works. As a result, effective altruists tend to care a good deal about epistemic rigor and high-quality evidence. Effective altruists also like to figure out where they are wrong and are willing to change their minds based on good evidence and solid reasoning.
History Of The Movement
Interest in Effective Altruism has been growing for some time. GiveWell has been investigating charity effectiveness since 2007, and the rationalist community LessWrong has been discussing how we can correct human biases in order to do more good since 2006.
Launched in 2009, Giving What We Can worked to create the world’s first wide-reaching Effective Altruist community; its members pledge to give at least 10% of their income to the world’s best charities. Co-founder Toby Ord went further, pledging to give everything he earned over £18,000 per year.
Substantial media coverage followed, with pieces on Effective Altruism appearing in major news outlets in the UK (The Sunday Times, The Guardian, BBC News) and the United States (The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, MSNBC). All this attention attracted like-minded people from across the globe: by its third birthday, Giving What We Can had over 250 members and over $100 million pledged.
At the same time, people became increasingly interested in doing more than just giving. This led to the founding in February 2011 of 80,000 Hours, which focuses on using your career to do the most good possible, and the creation of the Centre for Effective Altruism in December 2011 as an umbrella for a number of different organizations.
Effective Altruism has received the support of figures such as Paul Brest, former Dean of Stanford, and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. Philosopher Peter Singer is an enthusiastic advocate for the cause, bringing it to an even wider audience through his 2013 TED Talk and his recent book, The Most Good You Can Do.
History of EAGxAustralia
Effective Altruism GlobalX Australia will be occuring for the third time in 2017. This annual gathering of the effective altruism community in Australia and the largest EA gathering in the southern hemisphere. In 2017 it will be the first year that the conference has been held in Sydney.
Guiding Principles of Effective Eltruism
Commitment to Others
We take the well-being of others very seriously, and are willing to take significant personal action in order to benefit others. What this entails can vary from person to person, and it’s ultimately up to individuals to figure out what significant personal action looks like for them. In each case, however, the most essential commitment of effective altruism is to actively try to make the world a better place.
We strive to base our actions on the best available evidence and reasoning about how the world works. We recognise how difficult it is to know how to do the most good, and therefore try to avoid overconfidence, to seek out informed critiques of our own views, to be open to unusual ideas, and to take alternative points of view seriously.
We are a community united by our commitment to these principles, not to a specific cause. Our goal is to do as much good as we can, and we evaluate ways to do that without committing ourselves at the outset to any particular cause. We are open to focusing our efforts on any group of beneficiaries, and to using any reasonable methods to help them. If good arguments or evidence show that our current plans are not the best way of helping, we will change our beliefs and actions.
Because we believe that trust, cooperation, and accurate information are essential to doing good, we strive to be honest and trustworthy. More broadly, we strive to follow those rules of good conduct that allow communities (and the people within them) to thrive. We also value the reputation of effective altruism, and recognise that our actions reflect on it.
We affirm a commitment to building a friendly, open, and welcoming environment in which many different approaches can flourish, and in which a wide range of perspectives can be evaluated on their merits. In order to encourage cooperation and collaboration between people with widely varying circumstances and ways of thinking, we resolve to treat people of different worldviews, values, backgrounds, and identities kindly and respectfully.
To Infinity and Beyond
The Effective Altruism movement continues to grow and flourish. We hope that you’ll join us in making the world the best place we possibly can.