Introductory EA Program
4 October – 28 November 2021
The Introductory EA Program introduces the core ideas of effective altruism. Over the course of eight weeks, you’ll have weekly 1-hour discussions with a cohort of 3-5 participants and one facilitator. Before attending each discussion, you’ll complete a set of readings (and sometimes a brief written exercise).
We highly recommend this program if you:
- Find our Introduction to Effective Altruism interesting, and want to explore those ideas in more depth. (See the list of topics below.)
- Want to make a hugely positive impact through your career, giving, or volunteering.
- Can commit at least 2 hours a week to readings and exercises.
- Can attend at least 7 out of the 8 weekly discussion sessions.
The topics we’ll cover each week:
Week 1: The Effectiveness Mindset
Over the course of Weeks 1 and 2, we introduce you to the core principles of effective altruism. This week, we’ll investigate our opportunities to do good, come to terms with the tradeoffs we face in our altruistic efforts, and explore tools that can help us find unusually impactful opportunities.
Week 2: Differences in Impact
In Week 2, we continue to explore the core principles of effective altruism. We give you tools to quantify and evaluate how much good an intervention can achieve; examine the drastic differences in expected impact between interventions; and uncover these differences through research, so that you can find the most promising opportunities.
Week 3: Expanding Our Compassion
This week focuses on your own values and the practical implications that these views have. We explore which groups we ought to grant moral consideration, with a particular focus on animal welfare.
Week 4: Longtermism
Most cost-effectiveness analyses only account for the short-term effects of an intervention, rather than long-term effects. Because the latter can be much more impactful, and because the "future people" they affect will have lives as valuable as our own, some people see this short-term focus as a major issue.
This week, we explore a different approach to finding interventions: "longtermism", which calls for us to focus on improving the long-run trajectory of human civilization.
Week 5: Existential Risk
We are capable of helping to build a better future for trillions of people. But the loss of human civilization could obliterate that potential. If we want to do as much good as we can, and create better lives for our descendants, we should consider ways we could destroy ourselves — and figure out how to stop them from happening.
In Week 5, we'll define "existential risk", explore strategies for addressing it, and examine why this work might be both important and neglected.
Week 6: Emerging Technologies
One way to look for opportunities to accomplish as much good as possible is to ask: “Which developments might have an extremely large or irreversible impact on human civilization?” We'll examine two technological trends that could create existential risks in the not-so-distant future: transformative artificial intelligence and advances in biotechnology.
Week 7: What Might We be Missing?
Effective altruism isn't a fixed set of ideas. We want to keep improving our work, so that we can get closer to finding the best ways to do good. Criticism, whether from inside or outside of the movement, has been essential to its development.
Here, we cover prominent critiques of EA — the ideas, and the way they've been implemented. In some cases, we also share counterarguments.
Note that some of these critiques come from earlier points in the movement's history, and may not be as relevant to the present-day movement. However, we still see them as useful to know about — and many are still worth considering! (Like any movement with ambitious goals, EA has a lot to work on.)
Week 8: Putting it into Practice
We can't improve the world just by learning about it. At some point, we also have to take action — whether by donating or through our work. In this final week, we hope to help you apply the principles of effective altruism to your own life, and to critically reflect back on the rest of the fellowship.