Effective altruism is a philosophy and social movement that aims to apply evidence and reason to determine the most effective ways to benefit others. I am a co-founder of the Berlin-based Effective Altruism Foundation (Stiftung für Effektiven Altruismus) and its projects Raising for Effective Giving (REG), Foundational Research Institute (FRI), and Sentience Politics. Over the last years I have given a number of talks at universities about effective altruism, rationality and my own research, some of which you can find below.
Against Naive Effective Altruism (2017)
I argue that effective altruism poses dangers by allowing for the possibility to be misinterpreted or applied in an unreflective way. Human cognition has its limits and an explicit attempt of doing the most good can therefore sometimes go wrong. An unreflective application of effective altruism can, for example, lead to a disregard of important interpersonal values, bad life choices and psychological harm, unbalanced views, and in the worst case to forms of fanaticism. Being aware of these dangers and their underlying psychological biases can help us develop respective countermeasures.
Dysrationalia: The IQ-RQ gap and what to do about it (2016)
Why do some smart people make stupid decisions? In this talk, I argue that intelligence tests do not appropriately measure rational thinking and decision-making. Studies suggest that the correlation between IQ and a hypothetical »rationality quotient« is weaker than expected. A deeper understanding of the psychology of rational thinking will help us better assess and improve rationality, which is crucial to achieving our personal and moral goals.
The Psychology of Effective Altruism (2016)
Effective altruism (EA) is about helping as much as we can, while counting everyone equally. Most people would agree that this seems like a good idea. Why, then, do so many people object to EA? In this talk, I offer some insights into why EA can seem counter-intuitive, why it can feel demanding, and what we can do to overcome these psychological barriers. The talk was held on April 21, 2016 as a part of a tutorial on rationality and ethics at Humboldt University of Berlin.
Psychological Costs of Moral Progress (2015)
Even though our moral values have improved throughout history, moral progress has been uneven. People support causes that aren't costly to support because they are commonly accepted by their group. Actually having an impact, however, is often socially and psychologically costly. Moral progress is made by those few courageous intellectuals who push the boundaries of morality forward at personal risk until a point is reached where society will follow.
Effective Altruism: Impact through Rationality (2012)
This talk, held at the University of St. Gallen (HSG, Switzerland), introduces the idea of Effective Altruism and explains how we can make our careers count by having maximum positive impact on the world. It describes how we can best achieve our goals through the application of rationality; takes a look at cognitive biases that prevent us from getting there efficiently; shows why positive impact is likely a considered goal that we all share; and argues that helping the world might also be a chance to help ourselves.