What Is Effective Altruism?

I would rather have it said, 'He lived usefully,' than, 'He died rich.'

- Benjamin Franklin, Letter to his mother (1750)

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While most appeal to our emotions when fundraising, someone wanting to have the greatest positive impact could equally apply reason, mathematics and moral philosophy when deciding who, and what, they donate to.

Effective altruism is a social and philosophical movement that tries to provide a rational framework for deciding how we should spend our money and time (including which careers we should pursue) in order to do the most good.

Australian philosopher Peter Singer is a vocal champion of the movement, and has recently written a book on effective altruism called The Most Good You Can Do.

Listen to Peter Singer on Effective Altruism

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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 actually doing it, is a difficult problem.

This essay is an introduction to effective altruism — the use of high-quality evidence and careful reasoning to work out how to help others as much as possible. Its purpose is to help you figure out how you can do the most good.

History contains many examples of people who have had a huge positive impact on the world.

Irena Sendler saved 2500 Jewish children from the Holocaust by providing them with false identity documents and smuggling them out of the Warsaw ghetto. Norman Borlaug’s research into disease-resistant wheat precipitated the ‘Green Revolution’. He has been credited with saving hundreds of millions of lives. Stanislav Petrov prevented all-out nuclear war simply by being calm under pressure and being willing to disobey orders...

Continue reading the Centre for Effective Altruism's Introduction to Effective Altruism

Further Reading

Effective altruism is a philosophy and social movement that aims to apply evidence and reason to determine the most effective ways to benefit others. Effective altruism encourages individuals to consider all causes and actions and to act in the way that brings about the greatest positive impact, based upon their values. It is the broad, evidence-based approach that distinguishes effective altruism from traditional altruism or charity.

While a substantial proportion of effective altruists have focused on the nonprofit sector, the philosophy of effective altruism applies more broadly to prioritizing the scientific projects, companies, and policy initiatives which can be estimated to save lives, help people, or otherwise have the biggest benefit. People associated with the movement include philosopher Peter Singer, Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz, Oxford-based researchers William MacAskill and Toby Ord and professional poker player Liv Boeree...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Effective Altruism

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Related Topics

 Animal EthicsClimate Change | ConsequentialismEmpathy | Ethics | Consumerism | Global Catastrophic Risks | Moral Psychology

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