effective altruism

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pages: 293 words: 81,183

Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference by William MacAskill

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barriers to entry, basic income, Black Swan, Branko Milanovic, Cal Newport, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, clean water, corporate social responsibility, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, effective altruism, en.wikipedia.org, end world poverty, experimental subject, follow your passion, food miles, immigration reform, income inequality, index fund, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, job automation, job satisfaction, labour mobility, Lean Startup, M-Pesa, mass immigration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microcredit, Nate Silver, Peter Singer: altruism, purchasing power parity, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, randomized controlled trial, self-driving car, Skype, Stanislav Petrov, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, The Future of Employment, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, universal basic income, women in the workforce

Utilitarianism is the view, roughly speaking, that one is always required to do whatever will maximize the sum total of well-being, no matter what. The similarity between effective altruism and utilitarianism is that they both focus on improving people’s lives, but this is a part of any reasonable moral view. In other respects, effective altruism can depart significantly from utilitarianism. Effective altruism doesn’t claim that you are morally required to do as much good as you can, only that you should use at least a significant proportion of your time or money to help others. Effective altruism doesn’t say that you may violate people’s rights for the greater good. Effective altruism can recognize sources of value other than happiness, like freedom and equality. In general, effective altruism is a much broader and more ecumenical philosophy than utilitarianism. the “fifty dollars for five books” figure is accurate: Charities’ claims about what your donation will buy are often highly misleading, representing a best-case figure, or a figure that doesn’t take into account “hidden” costs.

But by focusing on what was effective rather than what was emotionally appealing, they produced outstanding results, significantly improving the lives of millions of people. Kremer and Glennerster exemplify a way of thinking I call effective altruism. Effective altruism is about asking, “How can I make the biggest difference I can?” and using evidence and careful reasoning to try to find an answer. It takes a scientific approach to doing good. Just as science consists of the honest and impartial attempt to work out what’s true, and a commitment to believe the truth whatever that turns out to be, effective altruism consists of the honest and impartial attempt to work out what’s best for the world, and a commitment to do what’s best, whatever that turns out to be. As the phrase suggests, effective altruism has two parts, and I want to be clear on what each part means. As I use the term, altruism simply means improving the lives of others.

Even a relatively small monthly donation to these charities will have a big impact. 2: Write down a plan for how you’re going to incorporate effective altruism into your life. Get a pen and paper, or open up a document, and make some notes about the changes you plan to make. Make the plan specific and concrete. If you think you’re going to start giving, write down what proportion you intend to start giving and when. If you’re going to change what you buy, write down what changes you plan to make and by when. If you’re going to pursue a career that makes a difference, write down which dates you’re going to set aside in order to find out more information relevant to your next steps. 3: Join the effective altruism community. Go onto efffectivealtruism.org and sign up to the effective altruism mailing list. That way you can learn more about effective altruism and about how to get involved in the community, and read stories of people putting effective altruism into practice.


pages: 48 words: 12,437

Smarter Than Us: The Rise of Machine Intelligence by Stuart Armstrong

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artificial general intelligence, brain emulation, effective altruism, Flash crash, friendly AI, shareholder value, Turing test

We don’t usually associate cancer cures or economic stability with artificial intelligence, but curing cancer is ultimately a problem of being smart enough to figure out how to cure it, and achieving economic stability is ultimately a problem of being smart enough to figure out how to achieve it. To whatever extent we have goals, we have goals that can be accomplished to greater degrees using sufficiently advanced intelligence. When considering the likely consequences of superhuman AI, we must respect both risk and opportunity.2 * * * 1. See also Luke Muehlhauser, “Four Focus Areas of Effective Altruism,” Less Wrong (blog), July 9, 2013, http://lesswrong.com/lw/hx4/four_focus_areas_of_effective_altruism/. 2. Luke Muehlhauser and Anna Salamon, “Intelligence Explosion: Evidence and Import,” in Eden et al., Singularity Hypotheses. About the Author After a misspent youth doing mathematical and medical research, Stuart Armstrong was blown away by the idea that people would actually pay him to work on the most important problems facing humanity.

Mars Climate Orbiter Mishap Investigation Board Phase I Report. Pasadena, CA: NASA, November 10, 1999. ftp://ftp.hq.nasa.gov/pub/pao/reports/1999/MCO_report.pdf. Metz, Cade. “Google Mistakes Entire Web for Malware: This Internet May Harm Your Computer.” The Register, January 31, 2009. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/01/31/google_malware_snafu/. Muehlhauser, Luke. “Four Focus Areas of Effective Altruism.” Less Wrong (blog), July 9, 2013. http://lesswrong.com/lw/hx4/four_focus_areas_of_effective_altruism/. Muehlhauser, Luke, and Louie Helm. “The Singularity and Machine Ethics.” In Eden, Søraker, Moor, and Steinhart, Singularity Hypotheses. Muehlhauser, Luke, and Anna Salamon. “Intelligence Explosion: Evidence and Import.” In Eden, Søraker, Moor, and Steinhart, Singularity Hypotheses. Murdico, Vinnie. “Bugs per Lines of Code.”


pages: 669 words: 210,153

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Timothy Ferriss

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Airbnb, Alexander Shulgin, artificial general intelligence, asset allocation, Atul Gawande, augmented reality, back-to-the-land, Bernie Madoff, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, Black Swan, blue-collar work, Buckminster Fuller, business process, Cal Newport, call centre, Checklist Manifesto, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, Columbine, commoditize, correlation does not imply causation, David Brooks, David Graeber, diversification, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, effective altruism, Elon Musk, fault tolerance, fear of failure, Firefox, follow your passion, future of work, Google X / Alphabet X, Howard Zinn, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jeff Bezos, job satisfaction, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, Lao Tzu, life extension, lifelogging, Mahatma Gandhi, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Mason jar, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nicholas Carr, optical character recognition, PageRank, passive income, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, peer-to-peer, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Singer: altruism, Peter Thiel, phenotype, PIHKAL and TIHKAL, post scarcity, premature optimization, QWERTY keyboard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, rent-seeking, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, selection bias, sharing economy, side project, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, Skype, Snapchat, social graph, software as a service, software is eating the world, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, superintelligent machines, Tesla Model S, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas L Friedman, Wall-E, Washington Consensus, Whole Earth Catalog, Y Combinator, zero-sum game

“If you earn $68K per year, then globally speaking, you are the 1%.” * * * Will MacAskill Will MacAskill (TW: @willmacaskill, williammacaskill.com) is an associate professor of philosophy at Lincoln College, University of Oxford. Just 29 years old, he is likely the youngest associate (i.e., tenured) professor of philosophy in the world. Will is the author of Doing Good Better and a co-founder of the “effective altruism” movement. He has pledged to donate everything he earns over ~$36K per year to whatever charities he believes will be most effective. He has also co-founded two well-known nonprofits: 80,000 Hours, which provides research and advice on how you can best make a difference through your career, and Giving What We Can, which encourages people to commit to give at least 10% of their income to the most effective charities.


pages: 1,737 words: 491,616

Rationality: From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, anti-pattern, anti-work, Arthur Eddington, artificial general intelligence, availability heuristic, Bayesian statistics, Berlin Wall, Build a better mousetrap, Cass Sunstein, cellular automata, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, correlation does not imply causation, cosmological constant, creative destruction, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dematerialisation, discovery of DNA, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, effective altruism, experimental subject, Extropian, friendly AI, fundamental attribution error, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hindsight bias, index card, index fund, Isaac Newton, John Conway, John von Neumann, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Pasteur, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, money market fund, Nash equilibrium, Necker cube, NP-complete, P = NP, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Pierre-Simon Laplace, placebo effect, planetary scale, prediction markets, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Rubik’s Cube, Saturday Night Live, Schrödinger's Cat, scientific mainstream, sensible shoes, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Singularitarianism, Solar eclipse in 1919, speech recognition, statistical model, Steven Pinker, strong AI, technological singularity, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the map is not the territory, the scientific method, Turing complete, Turing machine, ultimatum game, X Prize, Y Combinator, zero-sum game

Though Yudkowsky was moved to write these essays by his own philosophical mistakes and professional difficulties in AI theory, the resultant material has proven useful to a much wider audience. The original blog posts inspired the growth of Less Wrong, a community of intellectuals and life hackers with shared interests in cognitive science, computer science, and philosophy. Yudkowsky and other writers on Less Wrong have helped seed the effective altruism movement, a vibrant and audacious effort to identify the most high-impact humanitarian charities and causes. These writings also sparked the establishment of the Center for Applied Rationality, a nonprofit organization that attempts to translate results from the science of rationality into useable techniques for self-improvement. I don’t know what’s next—what other unconventional projects or ideas might draw inspiration from these pages.