Ajeya Cotra

Primary tabs

Share your identification with effective altruism:
Ajeya Cotra's picture


How much do you plan to donate?: 
I'm currently signed up for the GWWC pledge at 10%, I expect that this will increase substantially once I graduate
To which causes?: 
Animal welfare
Existential risk and far future causes
Rationality education and EA movement building
For how long?: 
Throughout my life
Selected past donations: 
Against Malaria Foundation; GiveWell (itself)2013
Donations I've helped influence: 
AmountToDonated byWhenAny details
Past donations: 

Elsewhere on the web

Your views and values

Moral philosophy: 
Consequentialist/utilitarian (or think that this covers the most important considerations)
Causes you think you should devote resources to: 
Animal welfare
Cause prioritization
Meta charities which direct resources to these causes
EA movement building
Actions you're taking to support these causes: 

Under cause prioritization and meta charities, I'm currently working for GiveWell and Open Philanthropy to try and get an understanding of how that work is done and what causes I feel are important and underserved. Working there has helped me narrow which object-level causes are probably most worth working on personally.

I put animal welfare down in addition to cause prioritization and meta charities because it is the one cause for which I see relatively little focused, high impact, high profile attention. Global poverty has the Gates Foundation, GiveWell traditional, and plenty of medium-large individual donors. Certain kinds of far future concerns have lots of government attention (biosecurity, nuclear security, climate change), others have attention from high profile billionaires such as Elon Musk and Peter Thiel (artificial intelligence, space colonization), and the ones that have less of both seem for the most part less important or less tractable (supervolcanoes, geomagnetic storms). I do believe virtually all causes listed above are worthwhile, and I could see further research swinging me in another direction (most likely to valuing existential risk more), but it seems that animal welfare is among the most neglected.

I haven't currently done direct work on animal welfare besides being vegan and encouraging people I know to be vegan, and committing to donating money this year to some animal welfare cause. I plan to scale this up substantially in the future, and would welcome suggestions on how best to do that.

For EA movement building, I lead a student group on effective altruism at UC Berkeley, and our focus for the next semester is getting UC Berkeley students to take the GWWC Pledge. Currently all club members (8-11 people) have taken the pledge. 

Hours a month spent on these activities: 
160 hours for this summer, probably less (around 60) over the school semester.
Other social movements identified with: 
Animal Rights
Causes and communities you're interested in: 
Animal welfare
Existential risk and far future causes
Global poverty
Prioritization research
Mental health, Happiness interventions, Empathy interventions, Metaethics research

You and EA

Year you first heard the term 'Effective Altruism': 
Groups you're a member of: 
The 'Effective Altruists' Facebook group
Giving What We Can (you've taken the pledge)
Local EA group
Which factors were important in 'getting you into' Effective Altruism, or altering your actions in its direction?: 
The online EA community
Giving What We Can
80,000 Hours
Organisations you've volunteered or worked for: 
Number of friends who'd describe themselves as Effective Altruists: 
6-10 friends
How you first heard about 'Effective Altruism': 
What can the Effective Altruism community help you with? : 

Figuring out how to align my values and motivation, finding good opportunities to make a really leveraged impact, figuring out which causes are most neglected relative to their value, developing my reasoning skills and rationality, connecting me with job opportunities or business partners.

What could you bring to the Effective Altruism community?: 

As of now, I'm working to get my bearings, contribute to GiveWell and Open Phil in my work during the summer, and introduce UCB students from diverse backgrounds to EA. Over the long term, I hope to help make animal charities a higher profile in EA and the world at large, and give effective altruists more and better job opportunities and giving opportunities in animal welfare.

Your career

Planned career path: 
Confidence that you'll take this career path: 
34%-66% chance I will take this path in the future.
Current occupation or career: 

CS student at UC Berkeley interning as a summer research analyst at GiveWell.

General quantitative reasoning, writing and communication, teaching (of technical and non-technical subjects), curriculum design, team organization and motivation.


Highest level of education completed or currently pursuing: 
Undergraduate degree (bachelor’s)
United States
Berkeley, CA
Religious beliefs: 
Atheist, agnostic or non-religious
Political views: 
Centre left
Full-time student?: 
Might you be able to let EAs stay with you at the moment?: