The Effective Altruism Handbook

Lots of peo­ple want to help oth­ers but lack in­for­ma­tion about how to do so effec­tively. Thanks to the grow­ing effec­tive al­tru­ism move­ment, lots of es­says have been writ­ten around the topic of char­ity effec­tive­ness over the last five years. And many of the key in­sights are gath­ered to­gether in the Effec­tive Altru­ism Hand­book, which has be­come available to­day.

The Effec­tive Altru­ism Hand­book in­cludes an in­tro­duc­tion by William MacAskill and Peter Singer fol­lowed by five sec­tions. The first sec­tion mo­ti­vates the rest of the book, giv­ing an overview of why peo­ple care about effec­tive­ness. The sec­ond through fourth sec­tions ad­dress tricky de­ci­sions in­volved in helping oth­ers: eval­u­at­ing char­i­ties, choos­ing a ca­reer and pri­ori­tiz­ing causes. In the fi­nal sec­tion, the lead­ers of seven or­ga­ni­za­tions de­scribe why they’re do­ing what they’re do­ing, and de­scribe the kinds of ac­tivi­ties they con­sider es­pe­cially helpful.

A lot of con­ver­sa­tions have gone into pick­ing out the ma­te­ri­als for this com­pila­tion, so I hope you en­joy read­ing it! Or, for those who are already fa­mil­iar with its con­cepts, shar­ing it with friends.

The Effec­tive Altru­ism Hand­book can be freely down­loaded here.

There are also epub and mobi ver­sions for read­ers us­ing ebook de­vices, al­though their for­mat­ting has not been ed­ited as care­fully.

Thanks to all of the au­thors in this com­pila­tion for writ­ing their es­says in the first place, as well as for mak­ing them available for the Hand­book. Thanks to Alex Ver­meer from MIRI, whose ex­pe­rience and as­sis­tance in pro­duc­ing a LaTeX book was in­valuable. Thanks also to Bas­tian Stern, the Cen­tre for Effec­tive Altru­ism, Peter Orr (for proofread­ing), and Lau­ryn Vaughan for cover de­sign. Also, thanks kindly to Agata Sa­gan who is helping by mak­ing a Pol­ish trans­la­tion! It is always good to see use­ful ideas spread to a more lin­guis­ti­cally di­verse au­di­ence.

Lastly, here’s the full table of con­tents:

  • In­tro­duc­tion, Peter Singer and William MacAskill


  • The Drown­ing Child and the Ex­pand­ing Cir­cle, Peter Singer

  • What is Effec­tive Altru­ism, William MacAskill

  • Scope Ne­glect, Eliezer Yud­kowsky

  • Trade­offs, Ju­lia Wise


  • Effi­cient Char­ity: Do Unto Others, Scott Alexander

  • “Effi­ciency” Mea­sures Miss the Point, Dan Pallotta

  • How Not to Be a “White in Shin­ing Ar­mor”, Holden Karnofsky

  • Es­ti­ma­tion Is the Best We Have, Katja Grace

  • Our Up­dated Top Char­i­ties, Elie Hassenfeld


  • Don’t Get a Job at a Char­ity: Work on Wall Street William MacAskill

  • High Im­pact Science Carl Shulman

  • How to Assess the Im­pact of a Ca­reer Ben Todd


  • Your Dol­lar Goes Fur­ther Overseas, GiveWell

  • The Haste Con­sid­er­a­tion, Matt Wage

  • Prevent­ing Hu­man Ex­tinc­tion, Nick Beck­stead, Peter Singer & Matt Wage

  • Speciesism, Peter Singer

  • Four Fo­cus Areas of Effec­tive Altru­ism, Luke Muehlhauser


  • GiveWell, GiveWell

  • Giv­ing What We Can, Michelle Hutchinson

  • The Life You Can Save, Char­lie Bresler

  • 80,000 Hours, Ben Todd

  • Char­ity Science, Xio­mara Kikauka

  • The Ma­chine In­tel­li­gence Re­search In­sti­tute, Luke Muehlhauser

  • An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors, Jon Bockman