Alice Crary is University Distinguished Professor at the Graduate Faculty, The New School for Social Research in New York City. In June 2020, she gave a public talk at Oxford University on why one should not be an 'effective altruist'. The transcript is here: https://www.oxfordpublicphilosophy.com/blog/letter-to-a-young-philosopher-dont-become-an-effective-altruiststrong-strong .
I have summarized her talk below. If there is something unclear from my summary, I ask that readers take a look at the link to understand the argument in more detail before commenting.
I myself am a committed EA, but I found the reasoning in this talk perhaps more compelling than any other broad external critique of EA that I have read before.
Effective altruism (EA) is a movement founded on a commitment to "do the most good", created by philosophers like William MacAskill and others. It is misguided, and one can see this most clearly when combining an "institutional" and "philosophical" critique, as below.
The "institutional critique"
EA seems to cause actual damage by misprioritizing giving towards important charitable causes in areas like animal welfare, anti-racist public health, food access programs, and other causes. This has been reported by people within the charity sector in those areas.
In and of themselves, they're subjective opinions by people who, while they may be considered subject matter experts, are certainly not dispassionate or disinterested, in that they're already leaders of charitable organizations with particular approaches. But this might be worth coming back to after understanding the philosophical critique.
The "philosophical critique"
EA focuses on "doing the most good", taking a "god's eye moral epistemology" that ignores one's own standpoint. In other words, it evaluates a universe-level abstract moral target without consideration of one's particular moral obligations. If there exist particularistic moral obligations for specific individuals, these are missed by the "god's eye moral epistemology" of EA. EA aims to do "the most good" the most efficient way possible. But by taking the "god's eye view" you miss the particularistic moral obligations which individuals have, which, by dint of being part of the world of good that can be done, must be part of "the most good". You've paid attention to the demand on an individual for benevolence, but you haven't paid attention to the other moral obligations that are present.
To add my own thoughts to this part: This might be compelling even if you are a consequentialist. In spite of consequentialism, it's difficult to deny at least some particularistic moral obligations that individuals have - the duty to care for one's own children; the duty to repay monetary or social debts owed; the duty to treat others with equity and fairness. If you concede that much, you might concede the need to grapple with particularistic moral obligations even if you are a consequentialist, and you might concede that EA's current approach of trying to understand "the most good" has not grappled with those obligations.
The "combined critique"
The philosophically myopic nature of EA can explain where they've gone wrong institutionally. If you consider the obligations on individuals and groups outside of simple benevolence and wellbeing, such as justice, fairness, and equity, you discover you need to grapple with social phenomena that require some "particular modes of affective response" to see clearly.
Alongside feminist and critical race theorists, you discover that to properly grapple with concerns of justice, you need to understand the nature of social structures and relations in our current world, which seem oppressive and unjust. By ignoring these concerns, EA hasn't just made a philosophical mistake, but one that misguides it substantially on the particular moral demands of our time. This causes the substantial errors observed in the "institutional critique".