Effective Altruism Handbook - Now Online

A lot of people want to do good but lack a clear idea of where to learn more about how to do it effectively. Thanks to the growing effective altruism movement, lots of essays have been written around the topic of charity effectiveness over the last five years. And many of the key insights are gathered together in the Effective Altruism Handbook, which has become available today.

The Effective Altruism Handbook includes an introduction by William MacAskill and Peter Singer followed by five sections. The first section motivates the rest of the book, giving an overview of why people care about effectiveness. The second through fourth sections address tricky decisions involved in helping others: evaluating charities, choosing a career and prioritizing causes. In the final section, the leaders of seven organizations describe why they're doing what they're doing, and describe the kinds of activities they consider especially helpful.

A lot of conversations have gone into picking out the materials for this compilation, so I hope you enjoy reading it!

The Effective Altruism Handbook can be freely downloaded here.

There are also epub and mobi versions for readers using ebook devices, although their formatting has not been edited as carefully.

Thanks to all of the authors in this compilation for writing their essays in the first place, as well as for making them available for the Handbook. Thanks to Alex Vermeer from MIRI for helping massively by offering his experience and assistance with working in LaTeX to produce this kind of book. Thanks also to Bastian Stern, the Centre for Effective Altruism, Peter Orr (for proofreading), and Lauryn Vaughan for cover design. Also, thanks kindly to Agata Sagan who is helping by making a Polish translation! It is always good to see useful ideas spread to a more linguistically diverse audience.

Lastly, here’s the full table of contents:

  • Introduction, Peter Singer and William MacAskill


  • The Drowning Child and the Expanding Circle, Peter Singer 
  • What is Effective Altruism, William MacAskill 
  • Scope Neglect, Eliezer Yudkowsky 
  • Tradeoffs, Julia Wise


  • Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others, Scott Alexander
  • “Efficiency” Measures Miss the Point, Dan Pallotta
  • How Not to Be a “White in Shining Armor”, Holden Karnofsky
  • Estimation Is the Best We Have, Katja Grace
  • Our Updated Top Charities, Elie Hassenfeld


  • Don’t Get a Job at a Charity: Work on Wall Street William MacAskill
  • High Impact Science Carl Shulman
  • How to Assess the Impact of a Career Ben Todd


  • Your Dollar Goes Further Overseas, GiveWell
  • The Haste Consideration, Matt Wage
  • Preventing Human Extinction, Nick Beckstead, Peter Singer & Matt Wage
  • Speciesism, Peter Singer
  • Four Focus Areas of Effective Altruism, Luke Muehlhauser


  • GiveWell, GiveWell
  • Giving What We Can, Michelle Hutchinson
  • The Life You Can Save, Charlie Bresler
  • 80,000 Hours, Ben Todd
  • Charity Science, Xiomara Kikauka
  • The Machine Intelligence Research Institute, Luke Muehlhauser
  • Animal Charity Evaluators, Jon Bockman

Comments (14)

Comment author: NilsEnevoldsen 24 April 2015 11:33:07PM 4 points [-]

"Because of Toby’s pledge to give everything he earned above $18,000 per year"

Typo. Should read $28,000.

Comment author: RyanCarey 25 April 2015 12:30:19PM 0 points [-]


Comment author: HelenToner 28 April 2015 11:13:47PM 3 points [-]

This is awesome, Ryan! Well done on working so hard to pull it together, and on actually pulling it off.

Comment author: AABoyles  (EA Profile) 26 April 2015 08:23:25PM 3 points [-]

Excellent work! I've just finished it and posted it on GoodReads.

Comment author: RyanCarey 26 April 2015 08:39:55PM *  0 points [-]

Thanks, that's helpful! Have you any suggestions for improving the book?

Comment author: AABoyles  (EA Profile) 27 April 2015 02:24:58PM 1 point [-]

Honestly, no. It covers the high points of the movement with excellent pacing. The essays are concise, readable, and interesting. There's no superfluous content. It's great all around.

Comment author: RyanCarey 27 April 2015 02:52:48PM 0 points [-]

Thanks very much!

Comment author: AABoyles  (EA Profile) 29 April 2015 01:19:16PM 0 points [-]

Also, props for compiling it in LaTeX. The typesetting is beautiful. :)

Comment author: RyanCarey 29 April 2015 05:02:47PM 0 points [-]

Thanks! Credit to Alex Vermeer from MIRI for giving me some basic scripts to help me get started :)

Comment author: [deleted] 02 October 2015 10:27:50AM 1 point [-]

The first four chapters of the French translation are here. The rest is in the works.

Comment author: rohinmshah  (EA Profile) 27 May 2015 01:21:01AM 1 point [-]
  1. I love the choice of content and organization. I'm impressed you were able to keep it fairly short.

  2. Initially I was daunted by the size of the handbook (135 pages is a lot for something I expected to be an introduction), but actually it's not that big - the font is huge. It may be worth it to reduce the font size so that it doesn't seem as big.

  3. The handbook uses ICCIDD for the organization that's now called IGN.

Comment author: RyanCarey 27 May 2015 09:46:45AM *  0 points [-]

Thanks, I guess you're right that I should reduce the font, and I'll fix the ICCIDD mention.

Comment author: Julia_Wise 05 May 2015 08:00:04PM 1 point [-]

Well done! Any plans for a print edition? I'd love to be able to hand it out at meetups.

Comment author: Michelle_Hutchinson 05 May 2015 09:01:33PM 2 points [-]