80,000 hours

www.eightythousand.org 1 80,000 Hours How to do The Most Good in Your Career Will Crouch Faculty of Philosophy University of Oxford [email protected]

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We each typically spend 80,000 hours of our lives working. How can one use them to do as much good as possible? This presentation outlines some crucial considerations.


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80,000 Hours

How to do The Most Good in Your Career

Will Crouch

Faculty of Philosophy

University of Oxford

[email protected]

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Why Think about Career Choice?

80,000 Hours might sound like a long time.

But it’s finite. And there are some big problems out there. 18 million a year die of easily preventable

diseases; 1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25/day.

50 billion land animals are killed every year. Mistakes we make now (like climate change)

could easily affect 10 trillion future people .


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Why Think about Career Choice?

Really, 80,000 hours is no time at all.

So we’ve got to prioritise. That means thinking hard and thinking rationally about how best to use those hours.


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Why Think about Career Choice?

It would be nice if there was quality advice out there on this issue. If you want to go out for a meal, there are

thousands of restaurant reviewers. If you want to give to charity, there are several

charity evaluators.

Choosing a career is a far bigger issue than either of these. But, there aren’t any career evaluators. Rather, all you typically get is this slogan:


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Why Think about Career Choice?

Make a Difference


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Making the most difference

This talk will discuss what making a difference means.

And it’ll discuss how you can make the most difference in your life.

Thinking about these issues led me to pledge to give 50% of my income, change my research focus, and set up 80,000 Hours. Hopefully it’ll encourage you to take action, too.


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Categorising Career Paths


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Crucial Considerations

1. Replaceability

2. Making things happen

3. Flexibility

4. Having evidence-based ethical aims


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#1: Replaceability

Making a difference requires doing something that wouldn’t have happened anyway.


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Suppose I became a developing world doctor.


#1: Replaceability

If so, then I would save lives on a regular basis:

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#1: Replaceability


If I don’t become that doctor, someone else would do the same work instead of me:


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#1: Replaceability

In contrast, as an influencer, professional philanthropist, or researcher, you are often making a difference that wouldn’t have happened anyway.


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Case Study: Viktor Zhdanov

In the 20th century, smallpox killed over 300 million people.

That’s more than all wars, political famines and genocides combined.

Were it not for this man, it would not have been eradicated when it was.


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#2: Making Things Happen

Ethically, I shouldn’t care that it’s me saving lives; I should just care that lives get saved.

Often I can pay or influence people to do more good than I personally could have done myself.

(If you can convince one other person to do what you would have done, then you’ve done your life’s work!)


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By convincing others on college campuses, I could persuade several people to become developing world doctors:



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By taking a lucrative career and donating the proceeds, I could do the same.


Professional Philanthropy

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Case Study: Norman Borlaug

Norman Borlaug, in developing disease resistant wheat, directly saved 250mn people.

Even taking into account replaceability, his impact is likely in the tens of millions. Even though he wasn’t on the front line.


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#3: Flexibility

You shouldn’t be certain that the causes you think are most important now are the ones you think will be most important in the future

You might change your mindYou might gain new evidenceThe opportunities might change

So, other things being equal, you should pursue careers that are flexible with respect to causes


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#3: Flexibility

The earn-and-donate strategy is the clearest example of this.


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#4 Going with the evidence

Some causes are thousands of times more effective with their resources than others.

E.g. even within developing world health: $1mn spent treating Kaposi’s Sarcoma provides

the benefit of 33 years of healthy life. $1mn spent distributing insecticide-treated

bednets provides the benefit of 40 000 years of healthy life.

So picking the right one is a big deal.


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Case Study: Bill Gates

Donated over $30 billion.

But first commissioned substantial research into intervention cost-effectiveness

Ignoring the money he’s influenced, he’s saved upwards of 25 million lives.

If he’d used that money in his home country, he’d have saved 1/1000th that number.


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What does this mean for you?


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Finance Management Consultancy Actuarial Work Engineering Medicine and Surgery


Potential Paths: #1 Pro Phil

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Politics Civil Service Lecturing Teaching Campaigning Grant-making Resource Allocation


Potential Paths: #2 Influence

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Development economics Cost-effectiveness research Certain areas within ethics Certain areas within agriculture and

healthcare Certain areas within technology


Potential Paths: #3 Research

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Within these categories, I’d recommend going back to some clichés (with some modifications):

Keep your options openGo with what you could become good atGo with what you could become passionate

aboutGo with a career where you won’t burn out or

lose your ethical ideals


Potential Paths

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Supports its members through a vibrant community of like-minded people.Provides careful research into the most effective ways to make a difference.Advises and encourages members to help you be successful in your chosen career.Hosts events for members to help you be a better effective altruist.


80,000 Hours

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Tech Entrepreneursh


Law and Politics



Current Members...

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If you are convinced to any extent by the arguments given above, please come and speak with me afterwards.

[email protected]