Introduction to effective altruism

Effective altruism is an approach that combines cognitive empathy and reflection : compassion guided by facts and reason. It is about dedicating a significant part of our lives to the improvement of the world and to rigorously seeking to identify ways to do the most good.

The values ​​of effective altruism

  • Open-mindedness

    Examine the different causes and possible actions and act in the way that produces the greatest positive impact.

  • Critical thinking

    Use reason and available data to identify the most effective approaches.

  • Global compassion

    Include in our sphere of moral consideration all conscious life.

Acting is good. Acting effectively is better.

Effective altruism does not mean ignoring compassion, on the contrary. Compassion is precisely why we do not want to be content to do good but rather we seek to do the most good.

Why help one person, when you can help a thousand?

Some actions have more than a thousand times more impact than others. For example, raising a guide dog costs more than 200.000 Danish kroner *.  A guide dog can, of course, have a very positive effect on the life of a visually impaired person, but one can also wonder about the alternative uses that are possible with this amount of money. Treating someone with trachoma in a developing country, thus avoiding blindness, costs only between 150 and 400 Danish kroner. The same amount therefore allows us in one case to provide a guide dog to one person and in the other to preserve the sight of hundreds of people.

*  The Association Guide Dogs of America estimated $ 19,000 cost of training a dog, which must be added training for the blind person, bringing the total cost to $ 38,000. Other US associations offering guide dogs to blind people provide similar estimates, for example $ 50,000 for Seeing Eye and $ 40,000 for Guiding Eyes. It seems plausible that the orders of magnitude be comparable in France, although we do not have at this stage figures to corroborate it. The figure of $ 40,000 is notably quoted by Peter Singer (2013), The why and how of effective altruism, ted.com .