Effective altruism

Effective altruism

The Life You Can Save’s mission of changing the culture of giving in affluent countries, and increasing donations to high-impact charities, stems from the effective altruism movement.

What is effective altruism?

Effective altruism, or EA, is about doing the most good. Effective altruists use evidence and analysis to determine the best issues to work on, and which interventions have the greatest potential for impact. Their research is guided by three questions:

1. Is the issue large in scale? How many people are affected, and to what extent?

2. Is the issue highly tractable? How much progress can we make with additional resources?

3. Is the issue neglected? How many resources are already being directed toward the problem?

Based on this analysis, effective altruist researchers have identified a number of focus areas with outstanding potential for impact, including fighting extreme poverty, alleviating animal suffering, and working to improve the long-term future.

How can I get involved in effective altruism?

Effective altruism emphasizes generosity: using the time and resources you can spare to do as much good as you can. Some of the ways people do this include working in high-impact careers or pledging a percentage of income to highly effective charities. Others limit their use of animal products.
Joining forces as a group or community is a powerful way to create a culture of giving and support high-impact charities. EA groups take a variety of shapes depending on the region and participants, from small social groups to larger professional networks. Find a group near you at Local Effective Altruism Network.

 Peter Singer. Photo courtesy of Leif Tuxen

Who is Peter Singer and how has he inspired effective altruism?

Peter Singer is widely regarded as the world’s most influential living philosopher. He is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University, Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne’s School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, and founder of The Life You Can Save, an organization named for one of more than fifty books he has written, co-authored, edited, or co-edited.
He is also known as the “father of effective altruism” due to his founding influence on the development of EA and argument that we should be doing much more to improve the lives of those with very little. Learn more about Peter Singer >

Take Peter Singer’s free online course on effective altruism

William MacAskill

Who is William MacAskill and how has he inspired effective altruism?

William MacAskill is an Assistant Professor in Philosophy at the University of Oxford and a Research Fellow at Oxford’s Global Priorities Institute. He researches the foundational concepts of effective altruism, with a focus on how we should act when we don’t know which course of action is best. In 2016, Professor MacAskill wrote Doing Good Better, an excellent practical guide to increasing impact through effective giving. Using examples from the philanthropic sector, he shows that charities differ widely in their impact and cost-effectiveness. He urges readers to consider not only what they can accomplish through a donation, but also what they could have accomplished by giving elsewhere instead.