Second Conference on Effective Altruism in Prague

“So, as the name suggests, it’s about altruism, which is about helping the world and making it a better place, but it’s also about doing it effectively, especially when we have limited resources. In short, one could say that it is a question of doing as much as possible with the limited resources at our disposal. And in practice, effective altruism both tries to understand that – there’s a lot of philosophy and research on how to do the most good with limited resources. And then the second part is actually doing it, and that means doing the work, working for organizations that are improving the world in an effective way.

Effective Altruism Conference 2022 |  Photo: Irena Kotíková Archive

The Effective Altruism community seems to have a surprisingly strong presence in the Czech Republic – for example, if you look at where EA conferences have taken place in the past, it’s mostly in English-speaking countries in cities like London, San Francisco , Oxford and Boston. However, Prague has just held its second EA conference – how do you explain the popularity of EA ideas in Czechia and how this strong Czech EA community was born?

“I would say that we owe our success to our founding parents. I was not one of them, I lived in the United States when the community in the Czech Republic was created. But around 2016, the community around the people who started Czech Effective Altruism decided that they didn’t want the group to just brainstorm and discuss ideas, although of course that’s very important, but they also wanted whether to do and be active and create things.

Effective Altruism Conference 2022 |  Photo: Irena Kotíková Archive

“And that’s how the first conference came about in 2016, when they decided to organize a conference and bring people to Prague and organize a space where people can learn more and s also involved. And that continued over the years – there were many projects that the group incubated and many events that they organized. And I think that created a lot of momentum for people to s really get involved and see what they can do instead of just discussing theory and ideas.

“I think that’s at the heart of our success. People in the Czech Republic who are effective altruists are just very proactive and they take action, so I think that’s the main reason why.

You hosted the second EA conference in Prague last weekend. What were the highlights?

Effective Altruism Conference 2022 |  Photo: Irena Kotíková Archive

“I am very proud to say that we hosted over 400 people from 40 countries, so the conference was truly global. Our keynote speaker was Dr Owen Cotton-Barratt from the Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford, who lectured on key challenges to effective altruism like: how do we actually know we are making the world a better place? How can we measure it? How to explore new possibilities? So that was very inspiring.

“And we’ve just had great feedback. We think people really found the conference useful – they made a lot of new connections, maybe new projects will come out of the conference, so that’s very exciting.

Berta D. Wells