The Effective Altruism Handbook

by Aaron Gertler4 min read16th Jul 20215 comments

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Introduction to effective altruism
Frontpage

Effective altruism is about helping others as much as you can.

This is really difficult, but we’re making progress. And there are many outstanding ways to help. In fact, you can do much more good than you might realize.

While the mission is simple, the details aren’t. People have written entire bookshelves of content on ways to increase your impact, drawing from many different disciplines.

To help you learn the basics, we took some of the best writing and made this handbook. Think of it as the textbook you’d get in your first college course. It explains the core ideas of EA, so that you can start applying them to your own life.


Since you're interested in this topic, we'd also like to offer you two free books on EA: Will MacAskill's Doing Good Better and Toby Ord's The Precipice. Both books are part of the Handbook, though they are optional — you can start reading now without them.

Get started

Take the online course

Would you like to meet others interested in effective altruism, and discuss these ideas with an experienced facilitator? 

The Introductory Program is a free seminar-based course that covers the same content as the Handbook. We adapted it from programs run by groups at Oxford, Berkeley, and other top universities. New courses start once a month.

Apply for the online course

Read the book

Would you rather go at your own pace and get started right away? Read on! 

The Handbook consists of “sequences” of posts on a single theme. They’ll make more sense if you read them in order, but feel free to skip around.

You can access all the content on this page (see the table of contents on the left). Or you can read from the beginning:

Start reading

If you want to start with just one article, make it our brief intro essay. (The Handbook starts with a more detailed introduction.)

Note: The Handbook is a work in progress! We're still working to add more content, more summaries, and other useful features. We'd welcome your feedback.

Ask a question

Maybe you don’t want to read a whole book, but you’ve got a more specific question. If so, you can ask it on the Forum

You can also see this article for other ways to get a question answered.

 

Table of Contents

1. The Effectiveness Mindset

Why is it so important to focus on "effective" altruism?

This sequence shows that despite our limited resources, we can accomplish incredible things when we think carefully before taking action.

2. Differences in Impact

How can we tell which actions do the most good?

This sequence covers ways to measure your impact and find especially promising issues to work on.

3. Expanding Our Compassion

Who should we care about helping?

This sequence examines the moral progress we've made as a species, and argues that we can do a lot of good by focusing on groups whose welfare is still neglected.

4. Longtermism

How should we think about the long-term impact of our actions?

This sequence makes the case that some of the most important work we can do involves trying to improve the long-term future of civilization.

5. Existential Risk

What can we do to prevent the worst possible outcome for humanity?

This sequence explores the possible end of human civilization, and how we can work to safeguard the future of our species.

6. Emerging Technologies

How should we prepare for technology that could reshape our existence?

This sequence looks at two ways in which future technology could pose an existential threat to humanity, and how we can address those threats.

7. What Might We Be Missing?

What are some potential problems with effective altruism, and how should we respond?

This sequence covers prominent critiques of EA, as well as responses and counterarguments from people within the movement.

8. Putting it into Practice

Once we’ve learned the basics, how can we take action?

This sequence suggests ways to get more deeply involved in effective altruism — with your career, your donations, or your free time.

Notes on the Handbook

Some of the articles in the Handbook were written a while ago, so certain elements might be out of date (e.g. statistics). If you see anything that seems especially off, feel free to let us know.

Some articles are listed as coming from "EA Global" or "EA Handbook" rather than a named author. We use the former to collect transcripts of talks from an EA Global conference, and the latter for content written by someone without a Forum account.

This resource was assembled by the Centre for Effective Altruism. We were inspired by an early version of the EA Introductory Program, and we're grateful to the people who made that possible.

Suggestions and feedback

Notice a mistake? Think we should add something?

You can share suggestions and feedback through this form. When you do, someone from CEA will get an email immediately, and we really appreciate your thoughts.

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5 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 2:35 PM
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Thanks for the post! Do you think that a kindle version of the EA Handbook would be useful in order to effectively reach a wider audience? 

At some point, I'd love to have an ebook version certain content from the Handbook. Right now, it's very much "under construction" (I'm still getting feedback on the content from many people), so that's not an immediate priority. But perhaps creating a PDF with a few of the most important essays would make sense to do sooner (as we did with the very first edition). Thanks for giving me something to consider!

Thanks for the info, Aaron! I would also find a PDF or eBook format useful. I upload them onto a non-backlit digital tablet to make reading easier on my eyes. Even just the ability to view all of the articles on one internet page would be super helpful - we could then "print" to pdf and upload it onto our readers from there :)

What is the relationship between this handbook and the one hosted at https://www.effectivealtruism.org/handbook/ ?

The handbook at the above link is available in epub, mobi, and pdf formats, which seems to answer the requests in the comments here. Is it an older version? The cover indicates that it is the second edition, but sadly does not include a revision date.

Thanks for asking! 

This is the previous version, which was pitched at a slightly more advanced audience than was probably ideal (and covers a lot less ground overall). We'll soon add a redirect that sends people from that page to this page.