Effec­tive Altruism

TagLast edit: 1 Oct 2020 18:37 UTC by Ruby

Effective Altruism (EA) is a movement trying to invest time and money in causes that do the most possible good per unit investment. EA was at one point called optimal philanthropy).

The basic concept behind EA is that you would really struggle to donate 100 times more money to charity than you currently do—but (assuming you are approximately utilitarian), spending a little time researching who to donate to could have an impact on roughly this order of magnitude. The same argument works for doing good with your career or volunteer hours.


Despite a broad diversity of ideas within the EA community on which areas are most pressing, there are a handful of criteria that are generally agreed make an area potentially impactful to work on (either directly or through donation). These are:

From this, we can see a vast number of charities do not meet all or indeed any of these criteria. A major issue with EA is that some areas are much easier to track progress in than others (think tracking the cost per life saved of malaria nets vs existential AI risk, for instance). What is clear, however, is that some of the more effective charities (of those which are easy to track) have far more benefit over the average charity than people think—perhaps as much as 10,000% as effective.

A large portion of the EA community are by and large, longtermist. This refers to the idea that, if there are many future generations (100s, 1000s or more), and their lives are as valuable as ours, then even very small impacts on all of their lives—or things like moving good changes forwards in time or bad ones back—far outweigh impacts on people who are currently alive. Because this concept is less broadly-accepted than charity for currently-alive people, longtermist solutions are also generally considered to be neglected. Longtermist interventions generally focus on S-risks or X-risks.

Examples of longtermist interventions include AI safety, pandemic preparedness, and nanotechnology security. Examples of other popular EA interventions include global poverty alleviation, malaria treatments, and vitamin supplementation in sub-saharan Africa.

The Effective Altruism movement also has its own forum, The EA Forum. It runs on the same software as LessWrong.

Notable Posts


External Resources

The Effec­tive Altru­ism Handbook

RyanCarey24 Apr 2015 0:30 UTC
22 points
13 comments2 min readLW link

Pur­chase Fuzzies and Utilons Separately

Eliezer Yudkowsky1 Apr 2009 9:51 UTC
129 points
89 comments4 min readLW link

Money: The Unit of Caring

Eliezer Yudkowsky31 Mar 2009 12:35 UTC
149 points
132 comments4 min readLW link

A cri­tique of effec­tive altruism

benkuhn2 Dec 2013 16:53 UTC
93 points
154 comments12 min readLW link

Map Of Effec­tive Altruism

Scott Alexander3 Feb 2020 6:20 UTC
16 points
1 comment1 min readLW link

Effec­tive al­tru­ism is self-recommending

Benquo21 Apr 2017 18:37 UTC
85 points
68 comments27 min readLW link

Why you should at­tend EA Global and (some) other conferences

Habryka16 Jul 2015 4:50 UTC
26 points
6 comments3 min readLW link

Some blindspots in ra­tio­nal­ity and effec­tive altruism

Remmelt Ellen19 Mar 2021 11:40 UTC
28 points
26 comments12 min readLW link

Four Fo­cus Areas of Effec­tive Altruism

lukeprog9 Jul 2013 0:59 UTC
61 points
57 comments5 min readLW link

How to Save the World

Louie1 Dec 2010 17:17 UTC
97 points
135 comments7 min readLW link

Another Cri­tique of Effec­tive Altruism

jsteinhardt5 Jan 2014 9:51 UTC
26 points
109 comments6 min readLW link

Ge­offrey Miller on Effec­tive Altru­ism and Rationality

Jacob Falkovich15 Jun 2018 17:05 UTC
18 points
0 comments1 min readLW link

Effec­tive Altru­ism and Every­day Decisions

jefftk16 Sep 2019 19:00 UTC
21 points
6 comments1 min readLW link

Op­ti­miz­ing Fuzzies And Utilons: The Altru­ism Chip Jar

orthonormal1 Jan 2011 18:53 UTC
131 points
49 comments3 min readLW link

The Real Standard

orthonormal30 Mar 2020 3:09 UTC
16 points
1 comment2 min readLW link

Choos­ing the Zero Point

orthonormal6 Apr 2020 23:44 UTC
140 points
20 comments3 min readLW link

Effec­tive Altru­ism’s Ul­ti­mate Goal: Erad­i­cate Hu­man Suffer­ing.

willfranks25 Apr 2018 12:12 UTC
−1 points
11 comments7 min readLW link

The Growth of My Pes­simism: Tran­shu­man­ism, Im­mor­tal­ism, Effec­tive Altru­ism.

diegocaleiro28 Nov 2015 11:07 UTC
15 points
74 comments9 min readLW link

Anti-trib­al­ism and pos­i­tive men­tal health as high-value cause areas

Kaj_Sotala2 Aug 2018 8:30 UTC
24 points
5 comments2 min readLW link

Salary or startup? How do-good­ers can gain more from risky careers

adamzerner5 Feb 2014 22:54 UTC
7 points
11 comments1 min readLW link

The Value of The­o­ret­i­cal Research

paulfchristiano25 Feb 2011 18:06 UTC
50 points
53 comments3 min readLW link

Pur­chas­ing re­search effec­tively open thread

John_Maxwell21 Jan 2015 12:24 UTC
19 points
15 comments1 min readLW link

So you say you’re an al­tru­ist...

John_Maxwell12 Mar 2009 22:15 UTC
12 points
107 comments1 min readLW link

To­tal­i­tar­ian eth­i­cal systems

Benquo3 May 2019 19:35 UTC
33 points
12 comments3 min readLW link

Op­ti­mal Philan­thropy for Hu­man Beings

lukeprog25 Jul 2011 7:27 UTC
49 points
88 comments7 min readLW link

Please Take the 2018 Effec­tive Altru­ism Sur­vey!

peter_hurford2 May 2018 7:58 UTC
14 points
0 comments1 min readLW link

Why I’m Skep­ti­cal About Un­proven Causes (And You Should Be Too)

peter_hurford29 Jul 2013 9:09 UTC
41 points
102 comments11 min readLW link

The Un­in­tu­itive Power Laws of Giving

jefftk2 Apr 2013 2:10 UTC
39 points
20 comments2 min readLW link

Against Cry­on­ics & For Cost-Effec­tive Charity

multifoliaterose10 Aug 2010 3:59 UTC
8 points
189 comments11 min readLW link

Why does Ap­plied Div­inity Stud­ies think EA hasn’t grown since 2015?

KatjaGrace9 Mar 2021 10:10 UTC
51 points
1 comment3 min readLW link

Re­sponses and Tes­ti­monies on EA Growth

AppliedDivinityStudies10 Mar 2021 22:57 UTC
67 points
3 comments15 min readLW link

What are all these chil­dren do­ing in my ponds?

dominicq3 Apr 2021 20:16 UTC
81 points
15 comments3 min readLW link

Tak­ing Char­ity Se­ri­ously: Toby Ord talk on char­ity effectivess

jefftk10 Apr 2013 0:59 UTC
25 points
15 comments37 min readLW link

Peter Singer and Tyler Cowen transcript

jefftk6 Apr 2012 12:25 UTC
55 points
34 comments31 min readLW link

Im­prov­ing lo­cal gov­er­nance in frag­ile states—prac­ti­cal les­sons from the field

rockthecasbah29 Jul 2020 1:54 UTC
16 points
3 comments6 min readLW link

Cash trans­fers are not nec­es­sar­ily wealth transfers

Benquo1 Dec 2017 10:10 UTC
59 points
36 comments11 min readLW link

Why We Can’t Take Ex­pected Value Es­ti­mates Liter­ally (Even When They’re Un­bi­ased)

HoldenKarnofsky18 Aug 2011 23:34 UTC
115 points
252 comments17 min readLW link

Jaan Tal­linn’s Philan­thropic Pledge

jaan22 Feb 2020 10:03 UTC
73 points
1 comment1 min readLW link

2017 AI Safety Liter­a­ture Re­view and Char­ity Com­par­i­son

Larks24 Dec 2017 18:52 UTC
41 points
5 comments23 min readLW link

The Case for The EA Hotel

Matt Goldenberg31 Mar 2019 12:31 UTC
56 points
26 comments10 min readLW link

[Question] Does anti-malaria char­ity de­stroy the lo­cal anti-malaria in­dus­try?

Viliam5 Jan 2019 19:04 UTC
60 points
16 comments1 min readLW link

One Life Against the World

Eliezer Yudkowsky18 May 2007 22:06 UTC
79 points
83 comments3 min readLW link

One Million Dollars

jefftk19 Dec 2019 2:10 UTC
61 points
1 comment1 min readLW link

Elon Musk donates $10M to the Fu­ture of Life In­sti­tute to keep AI benefi­cial

Paul Crowley15 Jan 2015 16:33 UTC
78 points
52 comments1 min readLW link

Against EA PR

ozymandias21 Sep 2017 1:23 UTC
48 points
6 comments6 min readLW link

The Craigslist Revolu­tion: a real-world ap­pli­ca­tion of tor­ture vs. dust specks OR How I learned to stop wor­ry­ing and cre­ate one billion dol­lars out of nothing

Kevin10 Feb 2010 3:15 UTC
53 points
226 comments2 min readLW link

Who Wants To Start An Im­por­tant Startup?

ShannonFriedman16 Aug 2012 20:02 UTC
56 points
410 comments4 min readLW link

Giv­ing What We Can, 80,000 Hours, and Meta-Charity

wdmacaskill15 Nov 2012 20:34 UTC
58 points
185 comments4 min readLW link

Creat­ing Welfare Biol­ogy: A Re­search Proposal

ozymandias16 Nov 2017 19:06 UTC
20 points
5 comments4 min readLW link

AidGrade—GiveWell fi­nally has some competition

Raemon22 Jan 2013 15:41 UTC
65 points
28 comments1 min readLW link

Ap­ply for Emer­gent Ventures

Zvi13 Sep 2018 21:50 UTC
40 points
6 comments3 min readLW link

EA Global SF 2018

epiphi23 Apr 2018 18:34 UTC
19 points
0 comments1 min readLW link

Ro­bust­ness of Cost-Effec­tive­ness Es­ti­mates and Philanthropy

JonahS24 May 2013 20:28 UTC
55 points
37 comments6 min readLW link

Ben Hoff­man’s donor recommendations

Rob Bensinger21 Jun 2018 16:02 UTC
41 points
19 comments1 min readLW link

Could we send a mes­sage to the dis­tant fu­ture?

paulfchristiano9 Jun 2018 4:27 UTC
37 points
23 comments3 min readLW link

Is the best char­ity (ex­clud­ing SIAI)?

syllogism26 Feb 2011 13:37 UTC
52 points
61 comments2 min readLW link

I’m Not An Effec­tive Altru­ist Be­cause I Pre­fer...

ozymandias28 Dec 2016 22:39 UTC
11 points
0 comments1 min readLW link

The Iso­la­tion As­sump­tion of Ex­pected Utility Maximization

Pedro Oliboni6 Aug 2020 4:05 UTC
7 points
1 comment5 min readLW link

EA Tourism: Lon­don, Black­pool and Prague

Jsevillamol7 Aug 2018 10:41 UTC
36 points
1 comment2 min readLW link

OpenPhil’s “Up­date on Cause Pri­ori­ti­za­tion /​ Wor­ld­view Diver­sifi­ca­tion”

Raemon31 Jan 2018 5:39 UTC
13 points
0 comments1 min readLW link

Max­i­miz­ing Your Dona­tions via a Job

Alexei5 May 2013 23:19 UTC
163 points
58 comments22 min readLW link

Earn­ing to Give vs. Altru­is­tic Ca­reer Choice Revisited

JonahS2 Jun 2013 2:55 UTC
48 points
154 comments8 min readLW link

Frac­tional Re­serve Charity

Alicorn7 Jun 2019 5:14 UTC
33 points
4 comments5 min readLW link

Com­ments on Power Law Distri­bu­tion of In­di­vi­d­ual Impact

Ben Pace29 Dec 2017 1:49 UTC
20 points
22 comments8 min readLW link

[Question] What would be a good name for the view that the value of our de­ci­sions is pri­mar­ily de­ter­mined by how they af­fect causally-dis­con­nected re­gions of the mul­ti­verse?

Natália Mendonça9 Aug 2020 17:55 UTC
25 points
18 comments1 min readLW link

Self-Similar­ity Experiment

Telofy15 Aug 2020 13:19 UTC
12 points
0 comments10 min readLW link

80,000 Hours: EA and Highly Poli­ti­cal Causes

The_Jaded_One26 Jan 2017 21:44 UTC
46 points
25 comments7 min readLW link

The High Im­pact Net­work (THINK) - Launch­ing Now

Raemon8 Aug 2012 2:29 UTC
44 points
17 comments3 min readLW link

Be­com­ing an EA-in­fluencer on YouTube etc.

culturechange16 Aug 2020 8:09 UTC
12 points
1 comment1 min readLW link

Effi­cient Charity

multifoliaterose4 Dec 2010 10:27 UTC
42 points
185 comments9 min readLW link

The new Effec­tive Altru­ism fo­rum just launched

habryka8 Nov 2018 1:59 UTC
27 points
6 comments1 min readLW link

Q for GiveWell: What is GiveDirectly’s mechanism of ac­tion?

Eliezer Yudkowsky31 Jul 2013 20:02 UTC
31 points
28 comments8 min readLW link

An­nounc­ing The Effec­tive Altru­ism Forum

RyanCarey24 Aug 2014 8:07 UTC
44 points
11 comments2 min readLW link

Re­sponses to ques­tions on donat­ing to 80k, GWWC, EAA and LYCS

wdmacaskill20 Nov 2012 22:41 UTC
34 points
20 comments13 min readLW link

Defeat­ing Mun­dane Holo­causts With Robots

lsparrish30 May 2011 22:34 UTC
34 points
28 comments2 min readLW link

Fund­ing can­ni­bal­ism mo­ti­vates con­cern for overheads

Thrasymachus30 Aug 2014 0:42 UTC
40 points
4 comments3 min readLW link

Oxford Pri­ori­ti­sa­tion Pro­ject Review

[deleted]13 Oct 2017 23:07 UTC
10 points
6 comments23 min readLW link

Are long-term in­vest­ments a good way to help the fu­ture?

Dacyn30 Apr 2018 14:41 UTC
10 points
50 comments3 min readLW link

Plant Seeds of Rationality

lukeprog10 Mar 2011 17:51 UTC
45 points
77 comments1 min readLW link

Ca­reer choice for a util­i­tar­ian giver

juliawise8 Aug 2011 2:10 UTC
38 points
29 comments3 min readLW link

Long-term Dona­tion Bunch­ing?

jefftk27 Sep 2019 12:40 UTC
23 points
21 comments2 min readLW link

A case for strat­egy re­search: what it is and why we need more of it

Siebe20 Jun 2019 20:22 UTC
23 points
19 comments20 min readLW link

What are your ques­tions about mak­ing a differ­ence?

Benjamin_Todd12 Aug 2012 23:14 UTC
28 points
43 comments1 min readLW link

Please Take the 2019 EA Sur­vey!

peter_hurford30 Sep 2019 21:21 UTC
21 points
5 comments1 min readLW link

When can Fic­tion Change the World?

Timothy Underwood24 Aug 2020 13:47 UTC
77 points
18 comments11 min readLW link

A Re­fu­ta­tion of (Global) “Hap­piness Max­i­miza­tion”

fare25 Aug 2020 20:33 UTC
−2 points
4 comments15 min readLW link

[Link]: GiveWell is aiming to have a new #1 char­ity by De­cem­ber

Normal_Anomaly29 Nov 2011 3:11 UTC
29 points
4 comments1 min readLW link

The Values-to-Ac­tions De­ci­sion Chain

Remmelt Ellen30 Jun 2018 21:52 UTC
25 points
6 comments10 min readLW link

[link] Join Wall Street. Save the World

Pablo31 May 2013 16:49 UTC
36 points
16 comments3 min readLW link

What Is Op­ti­mal Philan­thropy?

alyssavance12 Jul 2012 0:17 UTC
39 points
35 comments5 min readLW link

[Question] How much do ma­jor foun­da­tions grant per hour of staff time?

Raemon5 May 2019 19:57 UTC
22 points
4 comments1 min readLW link

Re­search is polyg­a­mous! The im­por­tance of what you do needn’t be pro­por­tional to your awe­some­ness

diegocaleiro26 May 2013 22:29 UTC
35 points
43 comments2 min readLW link

(How) should we pur­sue hu­man longevity?

Milan Cvitkovic24 Oct 2020 19:13 UTC
21 points
22 comments1 min readLW link

REVISED: A drown­ing child is hard to find

Benquo31 Jan 2020 18:07 UTC
20 points
36 comments1 min readLW link

Now is the time to elimi­nate mosquitoes

James_Miller6 Aug 2016 19:10 UTC
33 points
89 comments1 min readLW link

[LINK] EA Has A Ly­ing Problem

Benquo11 Jan 2017 22:31 UTC
19 points
34 comments1 min readLW link

The Effec­tive­ness of Devel­op­ing World Aid

multifoliaterose12 Sep 2010 21:56 UTC
33 points
51 comments7 min readLW link

Dead Aid

PhilGoetz17 Mar 2009 14:51 UTC
2 points
18 comments1 min readLW link

[Question] Why should EA care about ra­tio­nal­ity (and vice-versa)?

G Gordon Worley III9 Dec 2018 22:03 UTC
14 points
13 comments1 min readLW link

Altru­ist Co­or­di­na­tion—Cen­tral Station

MBlume27 Mar 2009 22:24 UTC
7 points
13 comments1 min readLW link

Another Call to End Aid to Africa

Eliezer Yudkowsky3 Apr 2009 18:55 UTC
11 points
38 comments1 min readLW link

Cel­e­brat­ing All Who Are in Effec­tive Altruism

Gleb_Tsipursky20 Jan 2016 1:31 UTC
25 points
39 comments6 min readLW link

Euro­pean Master’s Pro­grams in Ma­chine Learn­ing, Ar­tifi­cial In­tel­li­gence, and re­lated fields

Master Programs ML/AI14 Nov 2020 15:51 UTC
25 points
8 comments1 min readLW link

Jobs and in­tern­ships available at the Cen­tre for Effec­tive Altruism

tog7 Feb 2014 12:16 UTC
26 points
0 comments4 min readLW link

Giv­ing Tues­day 2020

jefftk30 Nov 2020 22:30 UTC
28 points
0 comments1 min readLW link

How a billion­aire could spend their money to help the dis­ad­van­taged: 7 ideas from the top of my head

Yitz4 Dec 2020 6:09 UTC
12 points
12 comments6 min readLW link

Please Take the 2020 Effec­tive Altru­ism Survey

peter_hurford7 Dec 2020 22:18 UTC
20 points
0 comments1 min readLW link

[LINK] The most im­por­tant un­solved prob­lems in ethics

jefftk17 Oct 2012 20:03 UTC
34 points
46 comments1 min readLW link

Ap­ply to Effec­tive Altru­ism Funds now

Jonas Vollmer13 Feb 2021 13:36 UTC
24 points
5 comments2 min readLW link

Don’t en­courage pris­on­ers dilemmas

Yair Halberstadt16 Feb 2021 6:33 UTC
8 points
7 comments2 min readLW link

So­cietal Self-control

aaronb5020 Feb 2021 3:05 UTC
2 points
0 comments10 min readLW link

Men­tor­ship, Man­age­ment, and Mys­te­ri­ous Old Wizards

Raemon24 Feb 2021 22:00 UTC
79 points
13 comments3 min readLW link

Why Hasn’t Effec­tive Altru­ism Grown Since 2015?

AppliedDivinityStudies9 Mar 2021 1:43 UTC
62 points
29 comments9 min readLW link

[Question] Peo­ple are gath­er­ing 2 mil­lion USD to save a kid with a rare dis­ease. I feel weird about it. Why?

hookdump2 Apr 2021 23:00 UTC
2 points
4 comments1 min readLW link
No comments.