William MacAskill
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William MacAskill

William MacAskill (born William Crouch,[1] 24 March 1987) is a Scottish philosopher, ethicist, and one of the originators of the effective altruism movement.[2][3] He is Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of Oxford, a researcher at the Global Priorities Institute at Oxford[4] and Director of the Forethought Foundation for Global Priorities Research.[5]

MacAskill is also the co-founder and president of 80,000 Hours,[6] the co-founder and vice-president of Giving What We Can,[7] and the co-founder of the Centre for Effective Altruism.[8]

He is the author of the 2015 book Doing Good Better: Effective Altruism and a Radical New Way to Make a Difference.[9]


MacAskill earned his BA in philosophy at Jesus College, Cambridge, his BPhil at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and his DPhil in philosophy at St Anne's College, Oxford in 2014 (spending a year as a visiting student at Princeton University), supervised by John Broome and Krister Bykvist.[10] He then took up a junior research fellowship at Emmanuel College, Cambridge,[11] before taking an associate professorship at Lincoln College, Oxford.[12]

MacAskill's research has two main focuses. The first addresses the issue of how one ought to make decisions under normative uncertainty; in addition to a DPhil on the topic,[10] he has published on this issue in Ethics,[13]Mind,[14] and The Journal of Philosophy.[15]

His popular writing has been published in The New Yorker, The Guardian, The Independent, Time, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post.[16]

He has been an advisor to former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.[17] Bill Gates described him as 'a data nerd after my own heart.'[18]

Doing Good Better

MacAskill's second research focus is on effective altruism. His book on the topic, Doing Good Better, was published in 2015, and reviewed favorably in The London Review of Books,[19]The Guardian,[20] and The New York Times.[21]

In it, he argues that many of the ways people think about doing good achieve very little, but that by applying data and scientific reasoning to the normally sentimental world of doing good, opportunities to have a huge positive impact can be found.

In the book MacAskill makes controversial claims such as the fact that fair trade does very little to help the poorest farmers, that boycotting sweatshops might make things worse for the global poor and that people who pursue high-income careers such as plastic surgeons or wall street bankers could do more good than charity workers.

MacAskill's argument that young idealists can consider working for Wall Street has been the subject of a New York Times op-ed by David Brooks.[22] Brooks argued that, while effective altruists may start earning to give in order to realise their deepest commitments, their values may erode over time, becoming progressively less altruistic. In addition, Brooks objected to the view on which altruists should turn themselves "into a machine for the redistribution of wealth."

Talks and media appearances

In 2016, MacAskill appeared on the podcast "Making Sense" with Sam Harris,[23] as well as the "Tim Ferriss Show" with Tim Ferriss.[24]

In 2018, MacAskill gave a TED talk on effective altruism at the TED conference in Vancouver, which was released on the 12 September 2018.[25]

Personal life

MacAskill (born Crouch) argued that men should consider changing their last names when they get married; he and his fiancée changed their name to "MacAskill", her maternal grandmother's maiden name.[1]

He lives in Oxford.[26]


  • Doing Good Better - Effective Altruism and a Radical Way to Make a Difference. Guardian Faber, London 2015, ISBN 978-1-78335-049-0.


  1. ^ a b MacAskill, William. "Men Should Consider Changing Their Last Names When They Get Married". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2013.
  2. ^ Thompson, Derek 25 The Greatest Good The Atlantic. June 2015
  3. ^ Diver, Tony (1 March 2017). "While the papers whine about Oxbridge debauchery, student altruism gets ignored". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2017.
  4. ^ "People". Retrieved 2018.
  5. ^ "Abous us". Retrieved 2019.
  6. ^ "Meet the Team". Retrieved 2015.
  7. ^ "The Team". Retrieved 2015.
  8. ^ "The history of the term 'effective altruism'". Effective Altruism Forum. Retrieved 2018.
  9. ^ William MacAskill (2015). Doing Good Better - Effective Altruism And a Radical Way to Make a Difference . Guardian Faber, ISBN 978 1 78335 049 0
  10. ^ a b MacAskill, William (2014). Normative Uncertainty (DPhil thesis). University of Oxford.
  11. ^ "New People" (PDF). Oxford Philosophy Magazine. 2015. p. 7.
  12. ^ "Members: The Senior Common Room 2015-16" (PDF). Lincoln College Record 2015-16. p. 9.
  13. ^ MacAskill, William (2013). "The infectiousness of nihilism". Ethics. 123 (3): 508-520. doi:10.1086/669564.
  14. ^ MacAskill, William (2016). "Normative Uncertainty as a Voting Problem". Mind. 125 (500): 967-1004. doi:10.1093/mind/fzv169. ISSN 0026-4423.
  15. ^ MacAskill, William (2016). "Smokers, Psychos, and Decision-Theoretic Uncertainty". Journal of Philosophy. 113 (9): 425-445. doi:10.5840/jphil2016113929. ISSN 0022-362X.
  16. ^ "Press". William MacAskill. Retrieved 2019.
  17. ^ FHI, Future of Humanity Institute-. "Future of Humanity Institute". The Future of Humanity Institute. Retrieved 2019.
  18. ^ "Effective Altruism: A Better Way to Lead an Ethical Life". Intelligence Squared. Retrieved 2019.
  19. ^ Srinivasan, Amia (24 September 2015). "Stop the Robot Apocalypse". London Review of Books. pp. 3-6. ISSN 0260-9592. Retrieved 2018.
  20. ^ Shariatmadari, David (20 August 2015). "Doing Good Better by William MacAskill review - if you read this book, you'll change the charities you donate to". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018.
  21. ^ "Effective Altruism: Where Charity and Rationality Meet". Retrieved 2018.
  22. ^ Brooks, David. "The Way to Produce a Person". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013.
  23. ^ "Waking Up Podcast #44 -- Being Good and Doing Good | Sam Harris". Sam Harris. Retrieved 2018.
  24. ^ Tim Ferriss (4 January 2016), Will MacAskill Interview (Full Episode) | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast), retrieved 2018
  25. ^ MacAskill, Will, How can we do the most good for the world?, retrieved 2018
  26. ^ "William MacAskill (@willmacaskill) | Twitter". twitter.com. Retrieved 2019.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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