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Introductory EA Program

The handbook has 8 chapters with exercises for reflection.

We'll cover all chapters in 6 sessions.


People involved in effective altruism tend to agree that, partly due to uncertainty about which cause is best, we should split our resources between problems. But they don’t agree on what that split should be. People in the effective altruism community actively discuss and disagree about which causes to prioritize and how, even though we have learned a lot over the last decade. We hope that you will take these ideas seriously and think for yourself about which ways to help are most effective.


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Over the course of Session 1 and 2  we aim to introduce you to the core principles of effective altruism: opportunities to do good, tradeoffs we face in our altruistic efforts, and tools for finding unusually high-impact opportunities.

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How can we think more clearly about how to help individuals as much as possible? Here, we are introduced to important conceptual tools such as the importance-neglectedness-tractability framework.

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Radical Empathy

29 Feb 2024

Can reflection lead us to better understand our genuine values? What are the implications of these values? This week focuses on the scope of our compassion, and whether we can learn from the failures of past generations to better account for the interests of all morally relevant beings.

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“With the advent of nuclear weapons, humanity entered a new age, where we face existential catastrophes—those from which we could never come back. Since then, these dangers have only multiplied, from climate change to engineered pathogens and [transformative] artificial intelligence. If we do not act fast to reach a place of safety, it will soon be too late.”—Toby Ord

Future Glitch

“We are looking ahead, as is one of the first mandates given us as chiefs, to make sure and to make every decision that we make relate to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come. ... What about that seventh generation? Where are you taking them? What will they have?”

—Oren Lyons (1980)

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This week, we’ll consider: What are some of the various claims about how AI poses an existential risk? What are the different ways of getting involved to reduce these risks?

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The goal of this week is to introduce participants to some criticisms of effective altruism and related ideas, including utilitarianism, the repugnant conclusion, and large-scale systemic change. We hope this week will provide an opportunity for participants to ask about any questions, concerns, and disagreements they haven’t been able to bring up so far, and for there to be a productive discussion about the importance of critical thinking in EA, and how to approach criticisms.

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You probably won’t be ready to make a major change just yet - you might want to read and reflect more before you do that. So instead we’ll help you to think through some of your key uncertainties, generate tests for those uncertainties, and plan out how you can make sure you follow through on your intentions.

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