• Doing Good Better

    Effective Altruism and How You Can Make a Difference

     

     

     

    Do you care about making the world a better place? Perhaps you buy ethical products, donate to charity or volunteer your time in the name of doing good. But how often do you know what impact you really have?

     

    In my book, I argue that many ways of making a difference achieve little, but that, by targeting our efforts on the most effective causes, we each have an enormous power to make the world a better place.

     

    Learn more here.

  • ABOUT

     

    Hi! I'm Will MacAskill, an Associate Professor in Philosophy at Lincoln College, Oxford. 

     

     

    I've cofounded two non-profits: 80,000 Hours, which provides research and advice on how you can best make a difference through your career, and Giving What We Can, which encourages people to commit to give at least 10% of their income to the most effective charities. These organisations helped to spark the effective altruism movement.

     

    You can read a profile of me here.

     

    For speaking engagements, please contact Pablo Stafforini.

     

    For press inquiries, please email press@williammacaskill.com.

  • RESEARCH

    For a full list of papers, see my Academia profile.

    The Journal of Philosophy, forthcoming

    Ethics, vol. 123, no. 3 (April, 2013), pp. 508-520

     

    In this paper I introduce a new problem for 'maximise expected value' accounts of decision-making under moral uncertainty: that, given non-zero credence in theories that posit large amounts of incomparability, the expected value of almost all options is undefined.

     

    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, vol. 17, no. 2 (April, 2014), pp 269-283

     

    In this paper I defend the idea that deliberately pursuing a lucrative career in order to donate a large proportion of one's earnings is typically ethically preferable to a career within the charity sector.

     

    DPhil dissertation, March, 2014

     

    What ought you to do when you don't know what you ought to do? I argue broadly in favour of the idea that we should treat moral uncertainty and empirical uncertainty analogously, with expected utility theory providing the correct formal framework. I provide some modifications to this idea in order to overcome some problems, and then chart its implications for practical ethics and decision theory.

     

  • TEACHING

    Oxford University, Trinity 2016

    Oxford University, Trinity 2016

    Oxford University, Hilary 2016

    Oxford University, Michaelmas 2015

    Oxford University, Michaelmas 2015

    Cambridge University, Michaelmas 2014

  • PROJECTS

    Founder and President

     

    80,000 Hours was founded in October 2011 to help people like you use the 80,000 hours you’ve got in your career to make a difference: we provide life-changing one-on-one career coaching to exceptional individuals, produce in-depth research on the careers that do the most to solve the world’s most pressing problems, and have a global community of like-minded world-changers.

     

    Co-founder and Vice-president

     

    Giving What We Can is an international society dedicated to eliminating poverty in the developing world. Our members come from many different walks of life, but are united in the belief that global poverty is one of the most important problems in the world today, and in the desire to do something about it. We see that our comparative wealth can prevent a significant amount of suffering if only we allow it to do so, and thus we have each taken the Pledge to Give: we will give at least 10% of our incomes to wherever we think it will do the most to relieve suffering in the developing world.

     

  • WRITING

    Next Avenue

    December 18, 2015

     

    The author of 'Doing Good Better' is no fan of following your passion.

     

    Quartz

    December 4, 2015

     

    “Couple decides to give majority of their earnings to charity” is hardly a headline that you’d expect people to take umbrage at. But when you replace “couple” with “Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan,” suddenly everyone goes crazy.

     

    The Guardian

    December 2, 2015

     

    The birth of their first child has prompted the Facebook tycoon and his wife Priscilla Chan to announce a $45bn charitable foundation. William MacAskill and Deborah Orr respond to the news.

     

    Quartz

    December 2, 2015

     

    Mark Zuckerberg and his partner Priscilla Chan announced yesterday that over the course of their lifetime they will donate 99% of their Facebook shares, currently valued at $45 billion, to their newly formed charitable foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

     

    The Independent

    December 1, 2015

     

    If Black Friday feels like an alien invader from the homeland of consumer excess then today may be the perfect antidote.

     

    The Guardian

    November 19, 2015

     

    Donations to human charities dwarf those to animal charities. But the money we get could be used more effectively if people weren’t so sentimental about pets.

     

    Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

    November 17, 2015

     

    It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that nothing you do ever really matters. In a world still plagued by war, poverty and devastating natural disasters, you might believe that no one person can actually make a difference. But you’d be wrong.

     

    The New Yorker

    October 20, 2015

     

    Divestment campaigns have the potential to do good, but only with caveats.

     

    Quartz

    October 9, 2015

     

    Julia Wise is a social worker and her husband, Jeff Kaufman, is a software engineer. In 2013, their combined income was just under $245,000, putting them in the top 10% of US households. And yet, excluding taxes and savings, they lived on just $15,280, or 6.25% of their income.

     

    Quartz

    September 25, 2015

     

    As Peter Hurford entered his final year at Denison University, he needed to figure out what he was going to do with his life. He was 22, majoring in political science and psychology. He knew he wanted a career that would both be personally satisfying and would make a big difference to the world, but he had no idea where to start.

     

    The Washington Post

    September 10, 2015

     

    We shouldn’t decry those earning to give. In the eyes of these people, there’s a catastrophe happening every day: 20,000 children dying from poverty, even though it costs just $3,500 to save one. In that context, asking “Will I be a better person if pursue this career?” rather than “Will I do the most good?” seems like moral narcissism.

     

    The Guardian

    September 4, 2015

     

    Donations can be helpful but are unsustainable in this instance, whereas political action could bring about real change.

     

    99U

    August 28, 2015

     

    Don't follow passions. Instead ask yourself: If you were to invest the time, how good would you become at this career, compared to other careers you might choose?

     

    Vox

    August 17, 2015

     

    We asked more than 100 subjects to guess which of these 10 interventions we described would help, which would have no effect, and which would do harm. If they couldn’t guess any better than a chimpanzee choosing at random, we would expect them to get three or four out of 10 correct on average (because there are three options). In reality, people got four out of 10 — just a tiny bit better than chance. One person managed eight out of 10, and nobody did better than that.

    Vox

    August 3, 2015

     

    An interview with Dylan Matthews about what effective altruism is, and why it suggests that getting a PhD in economics or starting a tech company could be better for the world than going to work for a charity.

     

    The Chronicle of Philanthropy

    August 3, 2015

     

    Investing now so you can donate more later on what may sound like a smart strategy, but there are some good reasons not to wait.

     

    Vox

    July 31, 2015

     

    An interview with Dylan Matthews about why choosing not to consume eggs or chicken can make a really significant difference.

     

    Boing Boing

    July 30, 2015

     

    Out of everyone who ever existed, who has done the most good for humanity? It's a difficult question.

     

    Quartz

    July 28, 2015

     

    Language pedants aren’t the saviors of the English language: more often than not, they are the ones doing the murdering. 

     

    Time

    July 24, 2015

     

    If we really want to do good, we need to focus on our ability to reason.

     

    Quartz

    August 18, 2014

     

    The ice bucket challenge is a symbol for much that’s wrong with contemporary charity: a celebration of good intentions without regard for good outcomes. It is iconic for what I call donor-focused philanthropy—making charitable giving about the giver, rather than about those who need help.

     

    Quartz

    August 14, 2014

     

    Via the ice bucket challenge, celebrities and the general public have fun and receive publicity; at the same time, millions of dollars are raised for a good cause. It’s a win-win, right? Sadly, things are not so simple.

     

    Quartz

    April 30, 2014

     

    An exchange between Peter Buffett and Will MacAskill.

     

    Quartz

    August 1, 2013

     

    Modern-day philanthropy is merely a means of buying indulgences: giving those who created problems such as global poverty an easy conscience and a better brand. The mega-philanthropists makes themselves out to look like altruists, but really it’s all a facade, serving to hide the world’s real need for deep, systemic change. Or so says Warren Buffet’s son, Peter Buffett, in an op-ed for the New York Times.

     

    Quartz

    June 5, 2013

     

    One of the most basic concepts in science is that correlation does not imply causation—even though it is sometimes highly suggestive of it. For example, in post-war Germany, as the stork population fell, so did the human birth rate. But as I was deeply troubled to learn, storks do not cause babies—rather, economic growth led to both destruction of stork habitat, and to declining fertility rates. So it goes with vegetarianism and longevity.

     

    Quartz

    May 16, 2013

     

    Homeopaths Without Borders (HWB) has provided homeopathic care and education in Guatemala, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Sri Lanka. Since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, it has focused efforts there, too. Besides minor ailments, HWB also treats malaria, typhoid, cholera, dengue fever, advanced diabetes, and educates about the “beneficial effects” of these treatments. Laugh or cry? I can’t decide.

     

    Quartz

    April 18, 2013

     

    “Follow your passion” is the stupidest career advice I’ve ever heard. Why? Because my passion in life is for singing bad karaoke. My friend Dodgy Dave’s passion is for dealing crack cocaine. Some of my friends have many passions. Most of my friends have none.

     

    Quartz

    April 3, 2013

     

    There’s a formula to the typical business book: look at some successful companies, analyze them, make some true generalizations of those companies, and then advise others to do the same. The trouble is, this is basically useless.

     

    The Atlantic

    March 5, 2013

     

    More than 50% of Americans think the woman should be legally required to take her husband’s name in heterosexual marriages. The reason typically given is that having the same name increases a sense of family identity. But why should that mean that the woman takes the man’s name in heterosexual marriages.

     

    Quartz

    February 27, 2013

     

    Few people think of finance as an ethical career choice. Top undergraduates who want to “make a difference” are encouraged to forgo the allure of Wall Street and work in the charity sector. And many people in finance have a mid-career ethical crisis and switch to something fulfilling. Yet, while researching ethical career choice, I concluded that it’s in fact better to earn a lot of money and donate a good chunk of it to the most cost-effective charities—a path that I call “earning to give.”

     

  • MEDIA

  • CONTACT

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