Some efforts to improve the world can be much more impactful than others. Smallpox eradication, the abolitionist movement, development of germ theory, and the Green Revolution are just a few examples which illustrate what’s possible when people come together to solve pressing problems. But those projects are few and far between. At the other end of the spectrum, many well-intended initiatives are ineffective or even counterproductive. Discerning between the good and bad is the perennial challenge every generation faces, and yet the coming century is poised to be the most consequential yet: how we maneuver such challenges over the next hundred years may drastically affect the trajectory of humankind.
Duke Effective Altruism would like to invite applications for the second year of the Arete Fellowship, a selective new program that will offer an accelerated introduction to Effective Altruism (EA) for students who are highly motivated to think rationally about their potential to have a positive impact on the world.
Princeton philosopher Peter Singer laid much of the theoretical groundwork that supports the Effective Altruism movement. You can find his TED talk on the Why and How of Effective Altruism here.
EA is both a philosophy and a network of people, centered around the desire to find ways to do the most good possible given the world’s limited resources and our own limited time, energy, and talents. We think something incredible is true: there are extraordinary opportunities to change the world that most people don’t realize exist. There are important insights that can enable rationally-minded people to increase their impact by many orders of magnitude.
EA has two distinct components:
The Arete Fellowship offers a deep, semester-long dive into the Effective Altruism movement.
EA is multifaceted, so its principles have different consequences for different individuals; each of us has unique interests and skills to offer. Given limited time, EA Duke is looking to invest significant time in a small number of individuals, keen to learn how they can have a significant impact on society with their lives and careers (which turns out to be both rarer and easier than most people think!).
This is not an introduction to the infrastructures of philanthropy, university policy or foreign aid, nor is this a course in activism. Our objective is to change the way you think about philanthropy and impact, and to help you leverage your own skills and interests—whether you’re a computer wizard, legal buff, biohacker or policy wonk—to solve problems that can improve, or even save, the lives of hundreds of people around the world (problems often neglected by traditional philanthropy).
The organizers of Duke EA are majoring and minoring in computer science, biology, statistics, mathematics, philosophy, political science, economics, neuroscience and more. The Fellowship will plug you in to a network of people from diverse backgrounds and interests—both at Duke and beyond—who share the same ambition to do good better. Please join us!
The Fellowship takes place over the course of 9 weeks. Each week consists of a set of study resources and a discussion meeting. The resources take approximately one hour to complete and must be finished in preparation for the weekly discussion. Additionally, Fellows will be able to schedule a time for 1-on-1 career consulting anytime after week 6.
Time and location of the discussion meeting is TBA. For reference, last year’s discussion meeting took place on Saturdays from 12:30pm - 2:00pm in West Union (the Brodhead Center).
Along with communication of information, one of the primary goals of the fellowship is to build community within the class of fellows. To this end, the fellowship will feature a large number of social events including dinners, game nights, and parties. Food, transportation, and activity costs will be covered.
We expect fellows to embody these four traits:
A central part of the EA mindset is taking seriously ideas that may seem counterintuitive or even uncomfortable. Some of the most exciting opportunities to do good exist precisely because they are not mainstream and remain unexploited. As such, fellows should expect to have their beliefs and plans challenged.
During the Fellowship we will cover a wide range of fields and methodologies. No subject knowledge is required—the program is designed to be self-contained, so fellows should not worry if they are not familiar with, say, philosophy, economics, synthetic biology, or artificial intelligence. EA is cerebral in some ways, but this Fellowship is not just a fun intellectual exercise—we hope fellows will be eager to incorporate these ideas into their daily lives and long-term plans.
Participants should treat the Fellowship like a house course with one hour of homework and an hour and a half of “class-time” per week. To complete the Fellowship, fellows must also write a 500 word blog post on a topic of their choice.
While we want fellows to respect the commitment they are making to the Fellowship, we do not want to discourage good candidates from applying because they think they are too busy. Past Fellows have reported that the program is manageable to do with all other activities and classes.
Fellows must complete materials and attend meetings weekly. If a fellow cannot attend a meeting, they should let Duke EA organizers know beforehand, and we will try to set up another time to discuss the week’s materials 1-on-1. Fellows are required to attend at least half of the social events during the semester, though most attend them all!
Fellows may list the Fellowship on their résumé, and are invited to join Duke Effective Altruism. Additionally, all Arete alumni can request a peer reference or letter of recommendation from their Fellowship leaders at any time and are encouraged to take advantage of this. Fellowship leaders are dedicated to helping alumni have the opportunities that will make them more effective altruists throughout their lives.
The Fellowship takes place over 9 weeks. Weeks 1-7 have a set curriculum, week 8 is a discussion of Fellow-submitted topics, and our ninth and final week will be graduation and debrief.
The Arete Fellowship has been an invaluable part of my Duke career, and I cannot imagine what my time at Duke would look like without it. The fellowship provided me with a unique insight on how I can play a role in solving some of the world’s biggest problems, and challenged the ways in which I thought about the world and my place in it. — Thomas Huck, Class of 2022
All applicants must complete an application and, if selected, an interview. Interviews and admission will be rolling.