Part 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.)

If you think we've missed an important piece of criticism, please let us know.


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<— Part 6: Emerging Technologies

—> Part 8: Putting it into Practice

Photo credit: Sigmund

The Essentials

These readings cover, in order:

  • The most common criticisms from outside the movement
  • An early attempt to evaluate the movement's weaknesses from within
  • A heated academic debate on the merits of EA
  • A thought experiment which poses a challenge to expected-value theory; how should we think about unlikely events with very high potential impact?
Further Reading

These readings cover, in order:

  • Two critiques initially published on the EA Forum, both of which inspired lengthy discussion within the community
  • A rebuttal to the common idea that effective altruism only values change that is easy to quantify, rather than "systemic change"
  • An argument that almost all "EA criticism" attacks ideas associated with effective altruism, rather than the core idea
  • The usual exploratory content (even more criticism! Hurrah!)
Interactive Exercise