William MacAskill is a co-founder and president of the Centre for Effective Altruism and the youngest ever appointed associate professor in philosophy at Oxford University. He is one of the founding members of Effective Altruism, a social movement that promotes the use of evidence and reason to help others by as much as possible with our time and money.

How did you (Macaskill) start this movement? 

It started with that I was extremely concerned by the problem of extreme poverty, and I was very convinced by the arguments of Peter Singer. He argues that our refraining from giving, you know, a few thousand dollars to a charity that could save the life of someone in a poor country is morally no different than simply walking past a child that is drowning in a shallow pond. Either way you’re refraining from doing an action that you know will save a child’s life. And I found that argument incredibly compelling and it really weighed on me.

Are there any other misconceptions [about Effective Altruism] that you might wish to address?

Absolutely. [One is that] Effective Altruism is only focused on poverty, whereas a key part of Effective Altruism is cause agnosticism, which means trying to figure out what is the cause where you can have the highest impact.

It’s also the case that people tend to think that Effective Altruism is just focused on donations. Again, it is much broader than that. Certainly there is a lot of focus on how people can use their careers to do good, but there’s also thought on, with the cause areas that we think of most highly, what is the best research that could be done to generate value, and what are the best policies that we could be promoting?

Read more about effective altruism by Joshua Monrad and Sebastian Quaade at The Politic.