EA Reading List

This list aims to provide an overview of the core ideas of effective altruism. EAF doesn’t necessarily endorse everything that’s said in those pieces*, but we think it’s a useful selection of content if you’re interested in learning more.

Core ideas and concepts

  • Introduction to Effective Altruism: An accessible introduction to some core frameworks used in effective altruism, some promising causes that are being considered, and what effective altruism might mean for you.
  • Prospecting for Gold: Discusses a series of key effective altruist concepts, such as heavy-tailed distributions, diminishing marginal returns, and comparative advantage, illustrating them with metaphors.
  • Do Unto Others: Compares doing good to an Arctic exploration and shows why both require awareness of opportunity costs and a hard-headed commitment to investigating the best use of resources.
  • EA Concepts: An encylopedia of some concepts that are often used or referenced in effective altruism.

Cause prioritization

Global Health and Development

Animal Welfare

  • Animal Welfare: Sets out why you might want to work on improving animal welfare – and why you might not.
  • The Case Against Speciesism: Argues that we should take the wellbeing of animals into consideration and covers some common objections.
  • Wild Animal Suffering: Argues that we should care about the suffering of animals in the wild using the scale, tractability and neglectedness framework.

The Long-Term Future

Risks from Advanced Artificial Intelligence

  • What Does (and Doesn’t) AI Mean for Effective Altruism?: Discusses what strategy effective altruists ought to adopt with regards to the development of advanced artificial intelligence. Argues that we ought to adopt a portfolio approach – i.e., that we ought to invest resources in strategies relevant to several different AI scenarios.
  • Altruists Should Prioritize Artificial Intelligence: Argues that if we want our actions to have an influence on the very long-term future, we should consider focusing on outcomes with AI. As smarter-than-human artificial intelligence would likely aim to colonize space in pursuit of its goals, focusing on AI means focusing on the scenarios where the stakes will be highest.
  • Potential Risks from Advanced AI: Presents Open Philanthropy Project’s work and thinking on advanced artifical intelligence. Also gives an overview over the field, distinguishing between strategic risks and misalignment risks.

Further relevant reading

*if you’re interested in EAF’s particular views on cause prioritiziation, we recommend Max Daniel’s talk on s-risks given at EA Global Boston 2017, or EAF’s plans for 2019.