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What is the best, state-of-the-art therapy for depression? Do most meat eaters think it’s wrong to hurt animals? How likely do Americans think climate change is to cause human extinction? How do we make academics more intellectually honest, so we can actually trust their findings? How can we speed up social science research 10-fold? Do most startups improve the world, or make it worse? Why is research in top journals less reliable?

If you’re interested in these questions, this interview is for you.

A scientist, entrepreneur, writer and mathematician, Spencer Greenberg is constantly working to create tools to speed up and improve research and critical thinking. These include:

  • Rapid public opinion surveys – which he has used to learn public opinion on animal consciousness, farm animal welfare, the impact of developing world charities and the likelihood of extinction by various different means;
  • Tools to enable social science research to be run en masse very cheaply by anyone;
  • ClearerThinking.org, a highly popular site for improving people’s judgement and decision-making;
  • Ways to transform data analysis methods to ensure that papers only show true findings;
  • Ways to decide which research projects are actually worth pursuing.

In this episode of the show, Spencer discusses all of these and more. If you don’t feel like listening, that just shows that you have poor judgement and need to benefit from his wisdom even more!


Almost all Americans report believing that animals are conscious and feel pain. Almost all believe that it’s wrong to hurt cats and dogs. Fewer but still a majority think that it’s wrong to hurt farm animals. The main stated defence of meat consumption in answers to Spencer’s survey, was that many claim not to be sure whether animals suffer in farms. People report believing that developing world charities are much more cost-effective than they in fact are. Most Americans report believing that human extinction in the next century is incredibly unlikely – implausibly so in our view

Spencer has designed an app to deliver cognitive behavioural therapy to people with depression around the world at low cost. The early testing has been conducted carefully and is very promising. Spencer has also helped build a tool to allow non-technical people to rapidly produce high quality surveys for psychology research, that anyone can use online.

Spencer and Rob think plenty of startups are actually harmful for society. Spencer explains how companies regularly cause harm by injuring their customers or third parties, or by drawing people and investment away from more useful projects.

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About the show

The 80,000 Hours Podcast features unusually in-depth conversations about the world's most pressing problems and how you can use your career to solve them. We invite guests pursuing a wide range of career paths — from academics and activists to entrepreneurs and policymakers — to analyse the case for and against working on different issues and which approaches are best for solving them.

The 80,000 Hours Podcast is produced and edited by Keiran Harris. Get in touch with feedback or guest suggestions by emailing [email protected].

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