80000 Hours II: Personal Priorities and Pressing Issues

Published in Career - 2 mins to read

The first two sections in the 80000 Hours career plan are to consider what a fulfilling, high-impact career looks like for me, and to spend some time considering which global problems I think are most pressing.

Fortunately the first part I found relatively straightforward. I want work that’s intellectually stimulating and emotionally rewarding, with enough flexibility to allow me to do the things in I love (simple things - run, cook, read) outside of work, and to have a work environment that feels capable of withstanding any spells of poor mental health that I might have, which might come in the form of being relatively low-stress and with supportive colleagues. I don’t have any other particular moral considerations; there are of course industries I wouldn’t work in, but those are ones that I think have a negative social impact in the first place, and if I was presented with evidence to the contrary then I’d happily reconsider.

The second question was a lot harder to provide an initial answer to. I really don’t know which problems are most pressing globally, apart from the incredibly obvious climate change. There is a list of problem areas that 80000 Hours and other effective altruism sites provide that includes things like AI safety, pandemic prevention, governance of outer space, nuclear threat and global priorities research. The two that stick out to me as being especially important, threatening and interesting are climate change and AI safety, and those are the two that I think it’d be most viable for me to direct my career towards, but equally these already have a lot of resources devoted to them, so any potential impact I could have might be smaller. I also understand remarkably little about those two, let alone the rest of the list which is even less in popular culture.

For now I have primarily decided to keep my focus on those two areas, and to try to learn more about the specific issues involved with them, rather than trying to learn about 10 different problems at once. Hopefully at some point I’ll be able to share what I’ve found here.

See other posts in the Effective Altruism series