What programmes will 80,000 Hours provide (and not provide) within the effective altruism community?

There are many career services that would be useful to the effective altruism community, and unfortunately 80,000 Hours is not able to provide them all.

In this post, I aim to sum up what we intend to provide and what we can’t, to make it easier for other groups to fill these gaps.

80,000 Hours’ online content is also serving as one of the most common ways that people get introduced to the effective altruism community, but we’re not the ideal introduction for many types of people, which I also list in the section on online articles.

You can see our full plans in our annual review.

Target audience

Our aim is to do the most we can to fill the key skill gaps in the world’s most pressing problems. We think that is the best way we can help to improve the lives of others over the long term.

We think that the best way to do this is – given our small team – to initially specialise on a single target audience, and gradually expand the audience over time.

Given this, most of our effort (say 50%+) is on advice and support for English-speaking people age 20-35 who might be able to enter one of our current priority paths.1

We also aim to put ~30% of our effort into other ways of addressing our priority problems (AI, biorisk, global priorities research, building EA, nuclear security, improving institutional decision-making, extreme climate risks) or potential priority problems, some of which we might class as priority paths in the future. 20% of our effort goes into a wider range of roles and problem areas.

We think a wider range of people could consider our priority paths than is often assumed. For instance, some people have worried that this is aimed at too narrow an audience, say, people who attended one of the best 20 universities in the world. But one of our top paths is ‘AI policy’; we take this to include some junior roles in government and politics, and many people take these roles who haven’t attended a top 20 university. Another priority path is working at EA organisations, and the latest EA survey found that about half of the staff at those organisations did not attend a top 20 university.

We also aim to be useful to a broader range of readers than those who might pursue a priority path – as I’ll explain later – and we think much of our content is indeed relevant to them.

Still, this audience is clearly much narrower than everyone we’d like to get involved in effective altruism, and everyone already within effective altruism who could benefit from help with their career.

We also intend to expand the scope of this audience over time as our team grows (especially by extending the age range we focus on), though this will proceed gradually over a matter of years.

This means we need other groups to focus on other audiences. Some of the bigger gaps include:

  • People interested in problem areas pursued by those focused on near-term impacts, such as global health and factory farming; we don’t include career paths in these areas within our priority paths.
  • People who would prefer materials written in a language that’s not English, and those who want career advice specific to non-English speaking countries, especially outside the US and UK.
  • People older than 35, and especially over 40.
  • People younger than 20, and especially under 18.
  • People who are looking for advice on where to donate, or want to do part-time advocacy, but don’t want to significantly change their careers.
  • People who could make an impactful career change but not within our priority paths or nearby options.

Right now this problem is acute because according to the most recent EA survey (as yet unpublished) 80,000 Hours has become the biggest way people find out about and get involved in effective altruism, but it’s not the ideal introduction for everyone.

Programmes

Each of our programmes is a little different in what it covers, so here is a breakdown by programme:

Online articles

  • Our main focus here is on the key ideas page and the main articles it links to (e.g. problem profiles, priority path write ups).
  • We aim this content at the core target audience above, but because we write about many big picture considerations, much of what we write is relevant more broadly.
  • We can distinguish the following types of content that we intend to create:
    • Big picture considerations relevant to everyone (e.g. career capital; decision making; longtermism)
    • Content about our priority problem areas, priority paths, potential priority paths or niche paths, and relevant career capital options.
    • Some (but less) content aimed more broadly than the above (e.g. we feature the ‘5 categories of high-impact career’, which includes earning to give).
  • We don’t intend to create new detailed articles about animal welfare or global health. You can see our old articles on these subjects here and here.
  • The key ideas page is not the ideal introduction to effective altruism for everyone, so we’d like to see people develop alternative introductions focused on different target audiences.

The podcast

  • We intend to put most of our effort into interviews relevant to our priority problem areas and potential priority areas.
  • However, we expect around ~20% of episodes to cover a wider range of problem areas of interest to the effective altruism community, e.g. we’ve had 7 interviews about international development, and 5 on animal welfare and factory farming.
  • Many of our interviews are also exploratory or of general interest (e.g. Bryan Caplan on the value of education, or David Chalmers on philosophy of mind).

The job board

  • We have one person whose main focus is the job board. Last year we reviewed 20,000 job listings and posted 1,000 of the most promising. In 2020, we intend to publish a similar number (1-3K). Currently we put most of our effort into sourcing opportunities within our priority problem areas.
  • However, we also put about 20% of time into other problems. We list a significant number of jobs within global health and ending factory farming.
  • We hope to start listing more roles in biosecurity and climate change this year.
  • We have limited ability to cover jobs in non-English speaking countries (though we do cover some in China as part of our China specialist priority path), so we’d encourage effective altruism groups in those countries to start their own lists.
  • We are keen to link to other job boards that may be of interest to our audience.

Advising

  • We expect to advise around 200-300 people over 2020 (compared to about 200 in 2019). We hope to expand this over the coming years, but it’s unlikely we’ll grow our advising capacity by more than 50% per year.
  • Because advising is costly (on average 3-4 hours per person from start to finish with our current process), almost all of these people will be in our core target audience i.e. people who have a 5%+ chance of being able to succeed within a priority or nearby path.
  • There seems to be more demand for advising than this within the community. As some indication, we currently are only able to speak to about 20% of those who apply, and in addition we’re able to give very little coverage to those interested in paths outside of our priority paths.
  • We’re currently considering both broader and narrower versions of advising (where we might speak to more people but spend less time per person, or vice versa); though whichever direction we go in, there are likely to be gaps in this area for some time.

Headhunting

  • We have two people working on headhunting, and this is not enough to cover the most promising roles within our priority problem areas, so we don’t intend to expand beyond those areas for some time (despite hopefully adding another headhunter within about a year).
  • This means there’s a gap to provide headhunting within other problem areas.

Other career organisations

We’re happy to see people start other career-related organisations that fill the gaps we’re leaving, and to some extent this is already happening.

For instance, both an advising programme aimed at undergraduates and an animal advocacy focused careers organisation were recently launched.

If you’d like to start something related to careers in effective altruism, let us know and we can let you know what else is going on in the area. Drop an email to [email protected]urs.org.

We may not be able to provide much help, and unfortunately it’s often hard to judge whether we’ll be willing to link to something until after we’ve seen it. That said, we may be able to link to you and send people your way.

Hopefully this post clarifies what we don’t expect to do, and the gaps it would be great to see others work to cover.

Notes and references

  1. Say have a 5%+ chance of success in at least one of the paths if it was their best option.