The Effective Altruism Handbook

by RyanCarey2 min read24th Apr 201513 comments

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Effective Altruism
Personal Blog

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

I. WHAT IS EFFECTIVE ALTRUISM?

  • The Drowning Child and the Expanding Circle, Peter Singer 
  • What is Effective Altruism, William MacAskill 
  • Scope Neglect, Eliezer Yudkowsky 
  • Tradeoffs, Julia Wise

II. CHARITY EVALUATION

  • 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

III. CAREER CHOICE

  • 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

IV. CAUSE SELECTION

  • 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

V. ORGANIZATIONS

  • 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

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13 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 9:08 PM
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I guess the page behind the bitly got changed by now – any chance somebody has an active link to download the handbook? Thanks!

The epub and mobi links both lead to "page not found".

Also having problems with the links within the PDF. They are blacked out though they still function as links. Same problem with the AI to Zombies ebook I think.

Otherwise very excited to read this!

Fixed the links to the epub and mobi!

Blacked out pdf links are new to me - what's the reader?

Sumatra PDF 3.0 on Windows 8.1 x64. I believe the problem is the same one this user had with the AI to Zombies ebook.

I'll be reading the epub personally (which works fine in Sumatra) on my Ipad so it doesn't bother me, but I thought I would mention it as Sumatra is a relatively popular reader and if this ebook is produced by the same team as the rationality ebook then it seems to be a recurring problem.

For what it's worth, I used xelatex and some of Alex Vermeer's code, but I can't see why any would effect the links, and can't find any suggestions for why this would occur in Sumatra. I'll just sit on this for now, but if more people have a similar issue, I'll look further. Thanks.

People have complained about Sumatra not working with MIRI's PDF ebooks, too. It was hard enough already to get our process to output the links we want on most readers, so we decided not to make the extra effort to additionally support Sumatra. I'm not sure what it would take.

The epub and mobi links both lead to "page not found".

same

Also having problems with the links within the PDF. They are blacked out though they still function as links.

I dont experience this, May be problem with your viewer?

[-][anonymous]6y 1

Mostly stuff I've seen before but I guess that's to be expected. One thing I'd love to see tackled is comparing investing in for-profit companies in poor countries vs donating to charity and also investing your retirement to maximize profit vs investing to target poor countries. Even just a blurb about what's wrong with Wal-Mart criticisms or buying local movements might be nice. Just generally what to do with the money you're not donating since that's most of your spending anyway I think would be excellent. I'm not sure about this myself, but don't see a lot of discussion about it.

Good point, I think Will MacAskill addresses the question of ethical consumerism fairly thoroughly in his latest book, so maybe something in that vein could be included in a future edition of this compilation.

The thing about investing in for-profits could be interesting too.

I'm having problems with the .mobi. My Kindle does not recognise the file, and send by email did not work also.

Looking foward to reading it.

Not sure why that is. I've made a azw3 version for newer versions of Kindle. Does this help you? http://bit.ly/eahazw3

Great. I didn't read the book yet, but where I think we fail the most, is underestimating the investment into new technologies. It is often through new technologies that we can solve a problem at large, and often, to develop these new technologies may require much less than buying the existing technology solutions in bulk,... if we could be just a little more creative in our altruism. So, I would like to propose another term: Effectively Creative Altruism (ECA).

ECA would rely thinking how to solve a problem once and for all, and not in some isolated case. For example, an effectively creative thinker who is strongly upset about the harm that mosquitoes transmitting malaria do, would tend to come up with more general solutions, like genetically modified mosquitoes, that pass on deadly genes, and destroy them all.

An ECA thinker would, instead of seeing the simple numbers of how much investment saves how many lives according to current best statistics, would consider, what technology under development would save many more lives, if it received the little money it needs to get developed and scaled.

For example, how much do we need until we can mass-produce and introduce use the paper microscopes.

While a simple Effective Altruist relies on well-known statistics, an Effectively Creative Altruist would rely on as-of-yet unrejected hypotheses that follow from well-founded creative reasoning, and donating for such innovation, and that require that little bit of financial support and effort to verify.

My point is -- we should not reject great ideas, because they have no statistical evidence yet.