Our 20 most popular pieces of research

I recently wanted to see what content we’ve written in the past are still popular with readers. Our most visited pages are articles in our career guide, or tools like our career quiz, problem quiz and career decision tool, around which the site is designed. And of course anything that was released recently tends to attract a lot of readers. So let’s look at the others.

These are the pieces we’ve written that i) were most visited over the last three months, and ii) were written more than six months ago, iii) not a tool or part of our career guide. Enjoy!

  1. What are the 10 most harmful jobs?*
  2. Problem profile: Why Bill Gates and others are concerned about AI, and what to do about it

  3. To find work you love, don’t (always) follow your passion*

  4. Career review: Why an economics PhD might be the best graduate program

  5. Career review: If you want to change the world for the better, should you work in a think tank?

  6. Artificial Intelligence safety syllabus

  7. Which skills make you most employable?*

  8. Problem profile: Why helping to end factory farming could be the most important thing you could do

  9. Is global health the most pressing problem to work on?

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Try the new 80,000 Hours ‘Career Recommender’ – it could change your life

We just added a new and very cool feature to our website: the ‘career recommender’.

It takes about 3 minutes to use and might end up significantly changing the course of your career.

Our goal is to ask you just a questions and then tell you in what careers you can have the greatest social impact.

If that sounds ambitious, that’s because it is! But the thousand of people who have already used it during testing it have found it surprisingly useful.

It should at least throw up options you should seriously consider before you do something else. So:

  1. Use the Career Recommender.
  2. Once you’re done, it can email you your suggestions so you can read more about them later.
  3. Share it on social media and perhaps change the lives of your friends and family for the better.
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Would you get these results? Try it and find out!

We expect the career recommender to remain a core part of our career guide in the future. It’s already useful, but it will become much more so over time as our research expands and we:

  • ‘Review’ and rate a wider range of paths, especially those in which people can achieve great things without having to have far above average quantitative or language skills.
  • Change the questions to more precisely measure people’s skills.
  • Check that it gives good answers for any possible set of inputs.

Stay informed of significant updates by signing up to our twice monthly research newsletter.

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Effective altruists love systemic change

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Effective altruists are out working every day to fix society’s systemic problems. It’s time to definitely rebut the claim that we don’t care about systemic change.

Yesterday we put to rest the idea that 80,000 Hours, and effective altruists more generally, are only enthusiastic about ‘earning to give’. While some people should earn to give, we expect the right share is under 20%, and think that ‘earning to give’ is now more popular among the people who follow our advice than it ideally would be.

Today I want to put to rest another common misunderstanding about effective altruism and 80,000 Hours: that we are against systemic change.1

Despite being the most widespread critique of effective altruism, the idea is bizarre on its face. We are pragmatists at heart, and always looking for any ways to more effectively make the world a better place.

Why couldn’t pursuing broad-scale legal, cultural or political changes be the most effective approach to making the world a better place? The answer is simply that they could!

So there is nothing in principle about the idea of maximising the social impact of your work that rules out, or even discourages, seeking systemic change.

What about in practice, though? Here are some systemic changes people who identify as effective altruists are working on today:

  • Most of the recent Open Philanthropy Project research and grants, on immigration reform, criminal justice reform, macroeconomics, and international development, are all clearly focussed on huge structural changes of various kinds.
  • The OpenBorders.info website also researches and promotes the option of dramatic increases in migration from poor to rich countries.
  • A new startup called EA Policy, recommended for support by my colleagues at EA Ventures, is trialling making submissions to open policy forums held by the US government over this summer.
  • Our colleagues at the Global Priorities Project research the most important policy priorities for governments, and how they can establish better cost-benefit and decision-making processes.
  • One of GiveWell’s main goals from the beginning, perhaps it’s primary goal, has been to change the cultural norms within non-profits, and the standards by which they are judged by donors. They wanted to make it necessary for charities to be transparent with donors, and run projects that actually helped recipients. They have already significantly changed the conversation around charitable giving.
  • Giving What We Can representatives have met with people in the UK government about options for improving aid effectiveness. One of the first things I wrote when employed by Giving What We Can was about appropriate use of discounts rates by governments thinking about health services. Until recently one Giving What We Can member, who we know well, was working at the UK’s aid agency DfID.
  • Some 80,000 Hours alumni, most of whom unfortunately would rather remain anonymous, are going into politics, think-tanks, setting up a labour mobility organisations or businesses that facilitate remittance flows.
  • Several organisations focussed on existential risk (FHI, CSER and FLI jump to mind) take a big interest in government policies, especially those around the regulation of new technologies, or institutions that can improve inter-state cooperation and preclude conflict.
  • 80,000 Hours alumni and effective altruist charities work on or donate to lobbying efforts on animal welfare, such as Humane Society US-FARM, or are activists working for dramatic society-wide changes in how humans view the moral importance of non-human animals.

It looks to me like it’s more accurate to say that effective altruists <3 systemic change.

We’re not done though.

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How to find out earnings for different jobs

When you’re thinking about earning money to donate it to charity, you need compare different jobs on how much you’ll earn over your lifetime. We have an on-going project to help you work out which career path has the highest expected earnings for you. In this post I’m going to guide you through one of the best sources of earnings information – salary.com – and show you how to use it.

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5 ways to be misled by salary rankings

Suppose that you plan, like many members of Giving What We Can or the Giving Pledge, to give a significant portion of your income to highly effective causes, and as one factor in your career decision you want want to assess how much you will be able to donate in various fields.

National wage and employment surveys, such as the UK Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings or the US Occupational Employment Statistics database provide good places to start. However, typical salary is an imperfect measure of career earnings. This post discusses five ways in which the national surveys can mislead at first glance, particularly for the most financially rewarding areas, in hopes of providing some protection to the casual explorer and explaining how in-depth analysis can help.

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