No — we don’t think everyone in our audience — let alone everyone in the world — should work on our top list of problems (even if everyone totally agreed with our views).
First, the pressingness of a problem is only one aspect — though a very important one — of our framework for comparing careers.
Different people will find different opportunities within each problem, and will have different degrees of personal fit for those opportunities. These other factors also really matter — you may well be able to have 100 times the impact in an opportunity that’s a better fit, and this can easily make it higher impact to work on an issue you think is less pressing in general.
Moreover, as our audience expands, we need to think more in terms of a ‘portfolio’ of effort by our readers, which creates additional reasons for members to spread out (we cover this in more detail in our article on coordination). Two of the most important such reasons are:
- As more people work on an issue, it gets less neglected, and there are diminishing returns to additional work. This means that a group of people that’s large compared to the capacity of an issue to absorb people will start to run out of fruitful opportunities to make progress on that issue, making it better for new people to spread out into other areas.
- If you work with others, there is value of information in exploring new world problems — if you explore an area and find out that it’s promising, other people can enter it as well.
Among people who follow our advice, we aim to help a majority shoot for one of the top world problems we list above, but we’d also like 10–20% to work on the second longer list, and perhaps another 10–20% to work on the others.
If we consider the world as a whole, not just our readers, it’s even more obvious they shouldn’t all work on our top-ranked issues. The world wouldn’t function if everyone tried to work on AI safety and preventing pandemics. Clearly, we need people working on a wide range of issues, as well as keeping society running and taking care of themselves and their families.
However, in practice it’s safe to assume that what most of the world will do will remain unaffected by what we say. (If that changes, we’ll change our advice accordingly!) So we focus on finding the biggest gaps in what the world is currently doing, to enable our readers to have as much impact as they can.