Introduction to Effective Altruism

EA Global London – Fall 2019

Effective Altruism, EA, is changing the way we do good. It is about answering one simple question: “How can we use our resources to help others the most?”


Most of us want to make a difference. We see suffering, injustice and death, and are moved to do something about them. But working out what that ‘something’ is, let alone actually doing it, is a difficult problem. It would be easy to be disheartened by the challenge.

Effective altruism is a response to this challenge. It is a research field which uses high-quality evidence and careful reasoning to work out how to help others as much as possible. It is also a community of people taking these answers seriously, by focusing their efforts on the most promising solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

An outstanding opportunity to do good

History contains many examples of people who have had a huge positive impact on the world:

  • Norman Borlaug conducted research into disease-resistant wheat, helping to bring about the ‘Green Revolution’; he has been credited with saving hundreds of millions of lives.
  • Stanislav Petrov prevented all-out nuclear war simply by staying calm under pressure and being willing to disobey orders.
  • Grace ElderingPearl Kendrick, and Loney Gordon worked through the Great Depression to develop a vaccine that has since prevented millions of deaths from whooping cough.
  • Irena Sendler and Paul Rusesabagina risked their own lives to save thousands of people from genocidal regimes…

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