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 the opportunity to significantly improve the world.
Rather than just doing what seems right, we focus on using evidence and careful analysis to find the very best causes to work on.
We recommend reading more at effectivealtruism.org.
The first step to improving the world is to figure out how the world actually works. As a result, aspiring 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. Giving What We Can was launched in 2009, and was the first organisation to focus on building a community devoted to doing good effectively; 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 the effective altruism movement 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: Giving What We Can now has over 4,500 members who together have already donated $126 million.
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 been advocated prominently by philosophers William MacAskill, Hilary Greaves, Derek Parfit, and Peter Singer. The movement was brought to a wider audience through Singer’s 2013 TED talk and recent book, The Most Good You Can Do and, likewise, through MacAskill’s 2014 book Doing Good Better and 2018 TED talk.
History of EAGxAustralia
An effective altruism conference has been held in Australia every year since 2015, in either Sydney or Melbourne. The conferences have steadily grown in size, reaching 390 attendees in 2019. In 2020, the conference will be held in Canberra for the first time.
Guiding Principles of Effective Altruism
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.
Scientific Mindset 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.
Openness 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.
Integrity 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.
Collaborative Spirit 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.