Thanks to Ed for this Wikipedia reference.
(Concluded from yesterday)
Most narrowly construed, effective altruism is about making one’s donations in a way that does the most good. There are two related aspects to this: how much to donate and what to donate to. Charity evaluator GiveWell focuses largely on the latter question, by identifying the best giving opportunities and the extent of room for more funding available to them. Giving What We Can aims to address both aspects: its pledge encourages people to commit to a minimum amount they should donate, and its top charity recommendations help people determine where to donate.
Many effective altruists go further than donating a large fraction of their present income by seeking to increase their earnings.
Selection of one’s career is an important determinant of the amount of good one does, both directly (through the services one provides to the world) and indirectly (through the ways one directs the money earned based on the career). 80,000 Hours seeks to provide career advice to people with effective altruist goals to help them maximize their positive impact, and claims that careers should be selected based both on the immediate impact (including impact through the job and by donating money earned) and building career capital (that can be used to do other things later).
Effective altruism is in principle open to helping in whichever areas will do the most good. In practice, people in the effective altruist movement have prioritized a few specific focus areas:
- Global poverty alleviation
- Animal welfare
- The far future, including global catastrophic risks.
- Building the effective altruism movement
Global poverty alleviation
Global poverty alleviation has been a focus of some of the earliest and most prominent organizations associated with effective altruism. Charity evaluator GiveWell has argued that the value per unit money is greatest for international poverty alleviation and developing world health issues, and its leading recommendations have been in these domains (Against Malaria Foundation, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, Deworm the World Initiative, and (earlier) VillageReach in global health, and GiveDirectly for direct unconditional cash transfers). Giving What We Can, The Life You Can Save and other organizations also focus on global poverty alleviation to greater or lesser extents, as did Peter Singer‘s book The Life You Can Save (the origin of the organization), which argued that we have moral imperative to donate more because of the extreme poverty that exists in our midst.
While much of the initial focus was on direct strategies such as heath interventions, cash transfers, micropayments and microloans, there has also been interest in more systematic social, economic, and political reform that would facilitate larger long-term poverty reduction.
Many effective altruists believe that reducing animal suffering is a worthwhile goal, and that, at the current margin, there are low-cost ways of accomplishing this. The main organization in this area that is also connected with effective altruism is Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE, formerly called Effective Animal Activism), which evaluates and compares various animal charities.
There is significant variation in the degree to which effective altruists concern themselves with the welfare of non-human animals. Most oppose practices such as factory farming; many promote vegetarian or vegan diets. Some are additionally concerned about reducing wild animal suffering, even to the extent of the suffering of non-vertebrates such as insects. On the other hand, some effective altruists are not concerned with the welfare of non-human animals at all, or are concerned but do not think that vegetarianism or veganism are necessarily required. Some effective altruists support compassionate stewardship of Nature to prevent or reduce the suffering of free-living nonhuman animals.
Far future and global catastrophic risks
Some effective altruists believe that the far future is extremely important. Specifically they believe that the total value of any meaningful metric (wealth, potential for suffering, potential for happiness, etc.) summed up over future generations, far exceeds the value for people living today, an argument that has been highlighted in the work of two philosophers closely associated with the effective altruism movement:
- 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.
Furthermore the importance of addressing existential risks such as dangers associated with nanotechnology, biotechnology, the development of artificial general intelligence and global warming is often highlighted and the subject of active research. Bostrom states:
|“||There is more scholarly work on the life-habits of the dung fly than on existential risks [to humanity].||”|
Some organizations that work actively on research and advocacy for improving the far future, and have connections with the effective altruist movement, are the Future of Humanity Institute, Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, and Future of Life Institute. In addition, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute is focused on the more narrow goal of developing friendly artificial intelligence before unfriendly artificial intelligence.
Building the effective altruism movement
Some effective altruists seek to have a large impact by growing the effective altruist community or by improving its understanding how to effectively allocate future funds and resources.
Charity evaluator GiveWell started in 2007. Its focus is on identifying the most promising causes and charities to donate to, and most of its recommendations have been in the area of developing world health and poverty alleviation. GiveWell is a part of the effective altruism movement, and its ability to move funds has been improved by the promotional efforts of other effective altruist organizations.
In September 2011, GiveWell announced GiveWell Labs for exploration of more speculative causes In August 2014, a name change to “Open Philanthropy Project” was announced. The Open Philanthropy Project would be a collaboration between GiveWell and Good Ventures, a philanthropic foundation founded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna.
Giving What We Can
Giving What We Can (GWWC) is a community of people interested in maximizing the good they can do in the world through donations. Founded in November 2009 by moral philosopher Toby Ord, the organization’s focus is on causes related to the alleviation of global poverty. Although GWWC does some in-house research evaluating causes and charities, it largely relies on research by other organizations such as GiveWell. The Giving What We Can pledge requires people to donate at least 10% of their income to the causes that they believe are the most effective. Giving What We Can is run by the charity the Centre for Effective Altruism.
80,000 Hours is an Oxford, UK-based organization that conducts research on careers with positive social impact and provides career advice. The group emphasizes that the positive impact of choosing a certain occupation should be measured by the amount of additional good that is done as a result of this choice, not by the amount of good directly done. It considers indirect ways of making a difference, such as earning a high salary in a conventional career and donating a portion of it, as well as direct ways, such as scientific research. 80,000 Hours is run by the charity the Centre for Effective Altruism.
A number of other charitable organizations have been associated with the effective altruism movement:
- Animal Charity Evaluators, a charity evaluator for animal-related charities.
- Charity Science, a charity that fundraises for GiveWell-recommended charities.
- Future of Humanity Institute, a research centre focused on predicting and preventing risks to human civilization.
- 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.
- Instituto Ética, Racionalidade e Futuro da Humanidade, a Brazilian organization that encourages effective giving and investigates how technology can help future generations.
- The Life You Can Save, a movement which advocates fighting extreme poverty by donating to highly effective charities.
While they do not all necessarily identify with the movement, a number of other organizations have also sought to establish metrics for determining social impact in a similar manner to effective altruism:
- Acumen Fund’s best available charitable options (BACO) analysis which compares net outputs over the time of an investment with the best charitable option 
- Center for High Impact Philanthropy’s cost-per-impact, a “back of the envelope” estimate that links desired outcomes to costs of delivering a program 
- REDF’s Social Return on Investment (SROI)
- Against Malaria Foundation (AMF)
- Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI)
- Deworm the World Initiative (DtWI)