This flow chart can help you figure out the best way to practice altruism

December 17, 2015

Deciding how best to help your fellow humans can be tough. The number of available causes to support and ways to get involved can be overwhelming. That's where this handy flow chart from the Global Priorities Project comes in. It simplifies the process of choosing how to do good for others into a series of short questions about your background, philosophy, and preferences. By completing it, you can get a sense of:

 

  • What cause to prioritize, such as global health or human rights

  • How to support that cause, such as via direct work or movement-building

  • How to choose which specific methods for improving the world you should back

 

The overall chart consists of three smaller flow charts, each of which addresses one of the above concerns via a handful of multiple-choice questions, such as:

 

  • Do you have an overriding obligation to a specific cause?

  • Is it possible to permanently improve society?

  • Should we focus on projects that involve numerically measurable goals?

  • Are you interested in using indirect methods (such as political activism or research) to achieve your goals?

 

By the end, you'll have suggestions for causes to support and ways to get involved. You can see a zoomable version of the chart here, or fixed-size versions here (large) and here (small). There's also a small version of it at the end of this post.

 

The Global Priorities Project, which created the flow chart, is a collaboration between the Center For Effective Altruism and Oxford's Future Of Humanity Institute, two academic think tanks that work on determining the most efficient ways for people and institutions to use their resources to help others and improve humanity's prospects in the long run. Though these two organizations count some leading intellectuals in this field among their members, the chart's authors nonetheless concede that this flow chart shouldn't be taken as gospel because of the incredible degree of complexity involved. As creators Owen Cotton-Barratt and Daniel Kokotajlo put it:

 

"The flowchart can’t represent the full complexity of the question, and shouldn’t be followed blindly. It is mapping out how different answers to the question nodes will tend to lead to supporting different causes. The question nodes represent matters on which we think there may be a reasonable level of disagreement; we have tried to be neutral on these questions, although we may present the case for one side or another in future work...This isn’t a final version, and we are still actively looking for input and disagreements – you can send them toflowchart@prioritisation.org."

 

Despite these limitations — which may be improved upon in future versions, as the authors also note that they plan to iteratively revise their work — this flow chart may prove to be a very useful starting place for those who want to get involved in helping others, but who feel a little intimidated by the dizzying array of options available.

 

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