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Effective altruism


Effective altruism is a philosophy and social movement that applies evidence and reason to determining the most effective ways to improve the world. Effective altruism encourages individuals to consider all causes and actions, and then act in the way that brings about the greatest positive impact, based on their values. It is this broad, scientific 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 much more broadly, e.g., to prioritizing the scientific projects, companies, and policy initiatives which can be estimated to save and improve the most lives. Notable people associated with the movement include philosopher Peter Singer, Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz, Oxford based philosopher William MacAskill and researcher Toby Ord.

Effective altruism differs from other philanthropic practices because of its emphasis on quantitatively comparing charitable causes and interventions, with the goal of maximizing certain moral values. In this way it is similar to consequentialism, which some leaders of the movement explicitly endorse.

Although there is a growing emphasis on effectiveness and evidence among nonprofits, this is usually done with a single cause in mind, such as education or climate change. Effective altruists, however, seek to compare the relative importance of different causes.

Effective altruists attempt to choose the highest priority causes based on whether activities in each cause area could efficiently advance broad goals, such as increasing human or animal welfare. They then focus their attention on interventions in high priority areas. Several organizations are performing cause prioritization research.

Some priorities of effective altruists include: poverty in the developing world, the suffering of animals in factory farms, wild animal suffering, and humanity's long-term future.



  • Nick Bostrom has written about the "astronomical waste" in terms of value lost to future generations due to delayed or botched technological development today.
  • In his Ph.D. thesis, philosopher Nick Beckstead has highlighted the overwhelming importance of the far future and therefore of any steps we can take in the present that would affect the trajectory of the far future.
  • Animal Charity Evaluators, an organization which evaluates nonprofit organizations aimed at advocacy and reform for animal welfare
  • Good Ventures, a private foundation co-founded by Cari Tuna and Dustin Moskovitz. which has close ties with Givewell.
  • Innovations for Poverty Action, a research non-profit which has carried out rigorous randomised control trials on several interventions recommended by GiveWell, including deworming, free mosquito net distribution, and unconditional cash transfers.
  • The Life You Can Save, a movement which advocates fighting extreme poverty by donating to 16 charities which it considers highly effective charities.
  • The book The Life You Can Save, in which he argues that people should use charity evaluators to determine how to make their donations most effective
  • The book The Most Good You Can Do, that describes the philosophy and social movement of effective altruism and argues in favor of it.
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Wikipedia

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