Toby Ord in Oxford, 2019
Toby David Godfrey Ord
18 July 1979
|Education||University of Melbourne|
Balliol College, Oxford
Christ Church, Oxford
|Institutions||Balliol College, Oxford|
Giving What We Can
Future of Humanity Institute
Centre for Effective Altruism
|Thesis||Beyond Action: applying consequentialism to decision making and motivation (2009)|
|Doctoral advisors||John Broome|
|Normative ethics, practical ethics, existential risk, moral uncertainty|
Toby David Godfrey Ord (born 18 July 1979) is an Australian philosopher. He founded Giving What We Can, an international society whose members pledge to donate at least 10% of their income to effective charities, and is a key figure in the effective altruism movement, which promotes using reason and evidence to help the lives of others as much as possible. He is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute, where his work is focused on existential risk. His book on the subject—The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity—was published in March 2020.
Ord attended the University of Melbourne, where he initially studied computer science. On completing his first degree, he switched to studying philosophy to pursue his interest in ethics: "At this stage I knew that I wanted to make a large positive difference in the world and it seemed that studying ethics would help."
For his graduate studies, Ord moved to the University of Oxford, where he obtained a B.Phil., and a D.Phil. in philosophy. Having submitted his doctoral thesis, 'Beyond Action: applying consequentialism to decision making and motivation', Ord was retained as a junior research fellow by Balliol College, Oxford.
Since 2014, Ord has been at Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute, where he holds the position of a Senior Research Fellow. Ord describes his focus as "the big picture questions facing humanity." He is a trustee of the Centre for Effective Altruism and of 80,000 Hours.
Ord's work has been primarily in moral philosophy. In applied ethics, he has worked on bioethics, the demands of morality, and global priority setting. He has also made contributions in global health, as an advisor to the 3rd edition of Disease Control Priorities Project. In normative ethics, his research has focused on consequentialism, and on moral uncertainty.
Ord's current main research interest is existential risk. His book on the topic — The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity — was published in March 2020. The New Yorker characterizes Ord's research motivation as follows:
A concern for existential risk seemed, to Ord, to be the next logical expansion of a broadening moral circle. If we can learn to value the lives of people in other places and circumstances equally to our own, then we can do the same for people situated at a different moment in time. Those future people, whose quality of life and very existence will be intimately affected by our choices today, matter as much as we do
Giving What We Can
At Oxford, Ord resolved to give a significant proportion of his income to the most cost-effective charities he could find. Following a number of enquiries from people interested in making a similar commitment, Ord decided to set up an organisation geared towards supporting like-minded donors.
In 2009, Ord launched Giving What We Can, an international society whose members have each pledged to donate at least 10% of their income to the most cost-effective charities. The organisation is aligned with, and part, of the effective altruism movement. Giving What We Can seeks not only to encourage people to give more of their money to charity but also stresses the importance of giving to the most cost-effective ones, arguing that "research shows that some are up to 1,000 times as effective as others." By February 2020 Giving What We Can had grown to over 4,500 members, who have pledged over $1.5 billion to charities.
Ord himself decided initially to cap his income at £20,000 per year, and to give away everything he earned above that to well-researched charities. A year later, he revised this figure down to £18,000. This threshold rises annually with inflation. As of December 2019, he had donated £106,000, or 28 percent of his income. Over the course of his career, he expects his donations to total around £1 million.
- 2020 – The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity, Toby Ord, ISBN 0316484911
- 2020 – Moral Uncertainty, William MacAskill, Krister Byvist, & Toby Ord, ISBN 0198722273
Journal articles (selected)
- 2019 – Ord, Toby (2019). "An upper bound for the background rate of human extinction". Scientific Reports. 9 (1): 11054. Bibcode:2019NatSR...911054S. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-47540-7. PMC 6667434. PMID 31363134.
- 2018 – Sandberg, Anders; Drexler, Eric; Ord, Toby (2018). "Dissolving the Fermi Paradox". arXiv:1806.02404 [physics.pop-ph].
- 2015 – Ord, Toby. "Moral Trade" (PDF). Ethics. 126.
- 2014 – Beckstead, Nick; Ord, Toby. Managing Existential Risk from Emerging Technologies (PDF) (Report). Government Office for Science.
- 2014 – Ord, Toby (6 February 2014). "Global poverty and the demands of morality" (PDF). In Perry, J (ed.). God, The Good, and Utilitarianism: Perspectives on Peter Singer. CUP. ISBN 978-1107050754.
- 2013 – Ord, Toby. The Moral Imperative toward Cost-Effectiveness in Global Health (PDF) (Report).
- 2010 – Ord, Toby; Hillerbrand, Rafaela; Sandberg, Anders (2008). "Probing the improbable: methodological challenges for risks with low probabilities and high stakes" (PDF). Journal of Risk Research. 13. arXiv:0810.5515. Bibcode:2008arXiv0810.5515O.
- 2006 – Bostrom, Nick; Ord, Toby (2006). "The reversal test: eliminating status quo bias in applied ethics" (PDF). Ethics. 116 (4): 656–79. doi:10.1086/505233. PMID 17039628.
- Ord, Toby (3 March 2020). The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1526600219.
- MacAskill, Will (7 July 2016). Doing Good Better. Penguin Random House. ISBN 9781783350513.
- "Hachette Book Group, Toby Ord". Hachette Book Group. 9 July 2019. Archived from the original on 7 February 2020. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
- "Future of Humanity Institute, Team". Future of Humanity Institute. Archived from the original on 24 December 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
- The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity. Hachette. 9 July 2019. Archived from the original on 7 February 2020. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
- "Giving What We Can, Our Members". Giving What We Can. Archived from the original on 27 March 2012. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
- "Toby Ord CV" (PDF). Retrieved 9 December 2012.
- "Toby Ord CV" (PDF). Retrieved 23 February 2020.
- "Toby Ord". Archived from the original on 24 December 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
- "Centre for Effective Altruism, Team". Centre for Effective Altruism. Archived from the original on 29 April 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
- "80,000 Hours, Meet The Team". 80,000 Hours. Archived from the original on 29 April 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
- Hutchinson, Michelle (13 May 2014). "Toby Ord and DCP3". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
- Purtill, Corinne. "How Close Is Humanity to the Edge?". The New Yorker. Retrieved 27 November 2020.
- Tina Rosenberg (5 December 2012). "Putting Charities to the Test". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
- "Giving What We Can, Recommended Charities". Giving What We Can. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
- "Giving What We Can". Giving What We Can. Archived from the original on 7 February 2020. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
- Javier Espinoza (28 November 2011). "Small sacrifice, big return". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
- "This man has donated at least 10% of his salary to charity for 10 years running". Vox. Archived from the original on December 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
- "Toby Ord: Why I'm giving £1m to charity". BBC. 13 December 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
- Susanna Rustin (24 December 2011). "The Saturday interview: Toby Ord and Bernadette Young on the joy of giving". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 June 2014.