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Session 01 - Part 1

The Effectiveness Mindset

“We are always in triage. I fervently hope that one day we will be able to save everyone. In the meantime, it is irresponsible to pretend that we aren’t making life and death decisions with the allocation of our resources. Pretending there is no choice only makes our decisions worse."

Holly Elmore

Required materials

Introduction to Effective Altruism (22mins)

What is Effective Altruism? What are some examples of effective altruism in practice? What values unite effective altruism?


Four ideas you already agree with (7mins)

You may agree with these four ideas. While they may seem pretty intuitive, how do they compare to the values you hold?


The world is much better. The world is awful. The world can be much better (6mins)

Can all three statements be true at the same time? Progress over time shows that it was possible to change the world in the past. But what do we know about what is possible for the future? 


On caring (12mins)

The unexciting inky zeroes on paper: What does 1,000,000,000 feel to you?


Scope insensitivity: failing to appreciate the numbers of those who need our help (6mins)

Explore one of the cognitive biases that contribute to our inclination to underestimate the significance of larger numbers or wider contexts.


Why you think you're right - even when you're wrong (video 11mins)

Perspective is everything, especially when it comes to examining your beliefs. Are you a soldier, prone to defending your viewpoint at all costs -- or a scout, spurred by curiosity? 


What cognitive biases feel like from the inside (6mins)

Cognitive biases are systematic errors in thinking that occur when people process and interpret information. These biases can affect decision-making and judgments, leading to distorted perceptions and irrational behaviors. 


Purchase fuzzies and utilons separately (6mins)

There is this very, very old puzzle/observation in economics about the lawyer who spends an hour volunteering at the soup kitchen, instead of working an extra hour and donating the money to hire someone...


We are in triage every second of every day (5mins)

Triage is a process used in medical emergencies and disasters to determine the priority of patients' treatments based on the severity of their condition. It involves sorting and prioritizing injured or sick individuals, as well as disaster survivors, according to their need for emergency care.

More to explore

Further introductions to EA

  1. Introduction to EA | Ajeya Cotra | EAGxBerkeley 2016 (Video - 30 mins.)

  2. Doing Good Better - Introduction through to the end of Chapter 3 (50 mins.)

  3. Effective Altruism: An Introduction - 80,000 Hours - Ten curated episodes from The 80,000 Hours Podcast. (Ten 1.5 hour - 4 hour podcasts)

  4. Effective altruism as I see it (7 mins.)

  5. No matter your job, here’s 3 evidence-based ways anyone can have a real impact - 80,000 Hours (20 mins.)

  6. Other-centered ethics and Harsanyi's Aggregation Theorem (107 min)


Essays on caring

  1. The value of a life - Minding Our Own Way - Disentangling the difference between the value of a life and what it costs to save a life in our broken world. (15 mins.)

  2. Excited altruism - GiveWell - Where does our own passion and excitement fit in? (10 mins.)


Trade offs

  1. Tradeoffs - How can we balance our own needs with the needs of others? (5 mins.)

  2. Famine, affluence, and morality (15 mins.) Note that many people in effective altruism disagree about exactly how demanding these ideas are.

  3. Sustainable motivation - How can we stay motivated when facing massive problems (24 min talk)?


Thinking carefully

  1. Minimal trust investigations (18 mins.)

  2. Double crux: a strategy for mutual understanding (17 mins.)

  3. Outline of Julia Galef’s “Scout Mindset” (20 mins.)

  4. Humans are not automatically strategic (5 mins.)

  5. Beware of surprising and suspicious convergence (22 mins.)

  6. Crucial Considerations and Wise Philanthropy (25 mins) - talk by Nick Bostrom on the almost overwhelming difficulty of knowing what kind of impacts actions have.

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