Effective Altruism Summit: Day 1

Effective Altruism Summit: Day 1

effective altruism

I am living in a house in the San Francisco Bay Area with 75 other effective altruists. If our hosts had simply shut us in and left us to our own devices for a week, I would still have paid good money to be here (well, maybe not in one house…I am quite appreciative of the extra house they have down the road for bedtime). I have met so many inspiring people so far and had so many useful conversations already. I eagerly await the day when I can walk into any city in the world and expect to find a community this wonderful!
In fact, our hosts have planned an exciting schedule to help us get the most out of each other's company, both socially and professionally. On Sunday, we all did some icebreakers and then heard introductions from eight of the effective altruists organizations represented at the summit (there are many more!): Giving What We Can, The Life You Can Save, The High Impact NetworkEffective Animal Activism80,000 Hours, the Center for Applied Rationality, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute and Leverage Research. They cover an interesting mix of approaches to effective altruism, from effective philanthropy to the development of high-impact technology and science to the growth and improvement of the effective altruism movement itself. In the evening, Peter Singer delivered a talk via Skype, sharing some of his thoughts about movement-building. Here are some of the key lessons I took away from his talk:
1. You only need there to be one charity with proven effectiveness for the Child in the Pond argument to work. It is hard to deny that GiveWell have proven the Against Malaria Foundation's effectiveness sufficiently to make the argument applicable.
2. It is very important to remember that not everyone thinks like you! Be careful to present effective altruist ideas to new audiences in an accessible way. (A useful strategy I use to avoid giving people too much new information at once or thinking “These people are so silly for not agreeing with me” is to remind myself that I was once in their shoes, knowing very little about effective altruism and finding many of the ideas unintuitive at first.)
3. Avoid infighting. I often recall this Monty Python scene to vividly remind me of the silliness of this (warning: strong language). 

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About the author:

Holly Morgan

Holly Morgan is a former Executive Director at The Life You Can Save and a former Director of Community at Giving What We Can; while a philosophy student in Oxford, she played a key role in getting both of these organizations and the wider Effective Altruism movement off of the ground.

The views expressed in blog posts are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Peter Singer or The Life You Can Save.