We’ve released "a new intro essay for a general audience: "What is effective altruism?"
An earlier post shared the essay and mentioned that there were still some changes to make. The essay is now finished and we’d be excited for people to share it on social media and with friends.
The goal of the essay is to accurately get across what effective altruism is, rather than to be as inspiring as possible to new people who might get involved.
Our hope is that this is the go-to explanation of what effective altruism is for someone who has already heard about the idea, and wants to better understand what it involves (e.g. someone actively searching “effective altruism” on google).
We also imagine it being useful to people outside of the community such as journalists or university professors, and wanted to present EA in a way that’s clear and puts our best foot forward to those kinds of audiences.
In order to serve these aims, we decided to lead with a clear description of what EA is, followed by concrete examples of EA work, then the values that define EA, and then an FAQ responding to common misunderstandings or objections.
In contrast, a more inspirational article might have started with a striking example or story. But we think this is better left to a wide range of articles with strong but narrow appeal, rather than the central explanation of what EA is. (Though we also think a relatively direct explanation can be inspiring to at least some readers, especially those with the most affinity for the ideas.)
The article also doesn’t aim to give people a ‘full’ understanding of EA. Instead, we imagine people clicking through to materials in the resources pages, like Doing Good Better, the 80k intro to EA podcast series, or the handbook / introductory course
This project took several months; we’ve spent time figuring out appropriate aims for the essay, drafting the key messages we wanted to get across, and working through several iterations of drafts from a number of authors.
Some of the things we especially struggled with included: striking a balance between being engaging & concise, but also clear & defensible; figuring out which canonical examples to use and how to illustrate them visually; deciding how to frame the four values & several sentence description of EA.
I’m really grateful to everyone who helped with this project, and to Ben Todd for writing the final version of the essay.
Feedback is welcome, especially from people who didn’t know much about EA prior to reading the essay. We might not work on significant changes in the near future, but expect to make iterations in the coming year or two, so we’re collecting all the feedback we receive for then.