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Course title

Introductory EA Program


5 July – 29 August 2021

Time zone


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This program acts as a rapid introduction to effective altruism. Over the course of eight weeks, you’ll have weekly 60-minute discussions with a personally tailored cohort of 3-5 participants and one facilitator. In preparation for each discussion, you’ll be assigned about 1 hour of readings, videos, and/or other learning materials to go through, which you can find in our curriculum.

If you’re not sure whether this is something you’re interested in, we recommend reading our Introduction to Effective Altruism article or watching this TED talk on effective altruism.

This next round of the Intro Program is being hosted by the Stanford EA team. After this round, it will be run by CEA contractors, Yi-Yang Chua and Emma Abele. Starting in August, Yi-Yang and Emma will run rounds starting the first week of every month so that you can participate whenever is best for your schedule.

Below is an overview of the topics we will cover each week:

Week 1: The Effectiveness Mindset
Over the course of Week 1 and 2, we aim to introduce you to the core principles of Effective Altruism. This week we’ll investigate what opportunities to do good we have available to us, come to terms with the tradeoffs we face in our altruistic efforts, and explore tools that can help us find unusually high impact opportunities.

Week 2: Differences in Impact
In Week 2 we continue to explore the core principles of Effective Altruism. We focus on giving you tools to quantify and evaluate how much good an intervention can achieve; introduce expected value reasoning; and investigate differences in expected cost-effectiveness between interventions.

Week 3: Expanding Our Compassion
This week focuses on your own values and the practical implications that these views have. During Week 3 we explore who our moral consideration should expand to, with a particular focus on farmed animals as a case example.

Week 4: Longtermism
In Weeks 1 and 2 we discussed attempting to quantify the impact of altruistic interventions. However, most cost-effectiveness analyses can only take into account the short-run effects of the interventions, and struggle to take into account long-run knock-on effects and side effects. This criticism has been made forcefully against early effective altruist attempts to evaluate interventions based on cost-effectiveness.
This week we’ll explore a different approach to finding high-impact interventions - ‘longtermism’ - which attempts to find interventions that beneficially influence the long-run course of humanity.

Week 5: Existential Risk
This week we’ll cover the definition of an existential risk; examine why existential risks might be a moral priority; and explore why existential risks are so neglected by society.

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 civilisation?” During this week, we’ll explore a few technological trends which might have relevance for existential risk. This week, understandably, can’t cover all the major considerations for what the future will be like, but we aim to cover two key emerging technologies that might be less well known - transformative artificial intelligence and advances in biotechnology.

Week 7: What Might We be Missing?
This week, we’ll read and discuss critiques of effective altruism, and criticisms of how some people try to implement EA. We are dedicating a week to this because, to whatever extent we are wrong, it would be good to know. Honestly reckoning with strong counter arguments (from both within and outside of the EA community) can help us avoid confirmation bias and groupthink, and get us a little closer to identifying the most effective ways to do good.

Week 8: Putting it into Practice
One of the main ways in which we can affect the world for the better is through our careers. For this final week we hope to help you apply the principles of effective altruism to your own life and also critically reflect back on the rest of the fellowship.