Last updated: 4th October, 2023

<aside> 💡 Sections


1. Ways to frame your introduction to EA

a. EA as a two-pronged approach

Effective altruism is a movement united by the question, “Using the resources I have, how can I do the most good?”. This requires two things: (i) working out how to do the most good, and then (ii) acting on your answers. Many people in EA are focused on research, be it academic or other, whilst many others in EA are focused on the doing. Some examples could be working in political advocacy, running an organisation or working in operations for a charitable organisation.

b**. You probably already agree with EA**

Here are four ideas that you probably already agree with. Individually, they each might seem a bit trite or self-evident. But taken together, they have significant implications for how we think about doing good.

  1. It’s important to help others;
  2. Everyone should be valued equally;
  3. Helping more is better than helping less;
  4. Our resources are limited, so we should prioritise how we use them.

So if we agree that these four ideas embody important values — and I think that they do — then there are big implications for how we should act. The best options for improving lives are sometimes hundreds of times better than the average. That might mean the difference between helping one person, and helping hundreds of people for exactly the same amount of time or money. Therefore, we should first focus on the causes where we can help the most people with our limited time and money, not just on those that we happen to have already heard about.

c**.** EA is a response to our empathy, compassion and care towards others

Most of us want to make a difference - to do something - when we see suffering, injustice and death. But working out what that ‘something’ is, let alone actually doing it, is difficult, and the challenge can be disheartening. EA is a response to this challenge. It is a research field using 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. You could frame as EA as having three parts:

  1. Desire to make the world as good a place as it can be
  2. The use of evidence and reason to find out how to do so, and
  3. The willingness to take action.