William MacAskill is a name that resonates profoundly in the world of philosophy, effective altruism, and global priorities research. His contributions to the field and his unique approach to life have made him a figure of interest for many. Here are 17 stunning facts about this Scottish philosopher.
Early Life and Ambitions
Born as William David Crouch on 24 March 1987 in Glasgow, Scotland, MacAskill’s journey into altruism began early. At just 15, after learning about the AIDS epidemic, he decided to work towards becoming wealthy to donate half of his earnings.
Inspired by Peter Singer
At 18, MacAskill read Peter Singer’s 1972 essay “Famine, Affluence, and Morality”, which became a significant influence on his philosophical and charitable pursuits.
MacAskill’s academic journey is impressive. He earned his BA in philosophy from Jesus College, Cambridge, followed by a BPhil from St Edmund Hall, Oxford. He later received a DPhil from St Anne’s College, Oxford, even spending a year at Princeton University.
Effective Altruism Pioneer
MacAskill is one of the originators of the effective altruism movement. This approach emphasizes using evidence and reasoning to determine the most effective ways to benefit others.
MacAskill has been associated with esteemed institutions like Emmanuel College, Cambridge, Lincoln College, Oxford, and the Global Priorities Institute.
Co-founder of Notable Organizations
He co-founded “Giving What We Can”, “Centre for Effective Altruism”, and “80,000 Hours”, all of which aim to maximize the positive impact of charitable actions.
MacAskill penned “Doing Good Better” in 2015, which emphasizes the importance of data and scientific reasoning in charitable actions. He also wrote “What We Owe the Future” in 2022 and co-authored “Moral Uncertainty” in 2020.
Name Change for Equality
Advocating for gender equality, MacAskill (originally Crouch) and his then-wife, Amanda Askell, both changed their last names to “MacAskill”, which was her maternal grandmother’s maiden name.
Mental Health Advocate
Open about his struggles, MacAskill has experienced both anxiety and depression, shedding light on the importance of mental health discussions.
Vegetarian for Animal Welfare
MacAskill’s concern for animal welfare led him to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle.
In 2018, MacAskill delivered a TED talk on effective altruism, further popularizing the concept.
Advisor to Longview Philanthropy
His expertise is sought after, with MacAskill serving as an advisor to Longview Philanthropy.
Connection with Elon Musk
In 2022, MacAskill played a liaison role between Elon Musk and Sam Bankman-Fried during Musk’s attempt to acquire Twitter. Musk even described MacAskill’s “What We Owe the Future” as closely matching his philosophy.
MacAskill’s research often delves into decision-making under normative uncertainty, which was also the topic of his DPhil thesis.
Global Priorities Research
As the Director of the Forethought Foundation for Global Priorities Research, MacAskill plays a pivotal role in determining global priorities.
MacAskill was previously married to Amanda Askell, with whom he co-authored articles on ethical debates. They separated in 2015.
As of 2022, MacAskill resides in Oxford, continuing his research and contributions to philosophy and effective altruism.
William MacAskill’s life and contributions serve as an inspiration for many. His dedication to effective altruism, combined with his academic achievements and personal experiences, make him a multifaceted individual worth knowing about. Whether it’s his books, his organizations, or his personal beliefs, MacAskill’s impact on the world is undeniable.