[ExI] 80000hours (Was: Life @ Playstation)

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Tue Nov 20 11:28:59 UTC 2012

On 20/11/2012 10:06, Ben Zaiboc wrote:
> Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote
>> I was interviewed by people from 80 Thousand Hours today (
>> http://80000hours.org/ ). This is an organisation that tries to figure
>> out how to make one's career have maximum impact
> Neat, but one thing was inexplicably missing on the "What kind of job helps the most people?" page:  Teaching!

Hmm, how do you estimate the benefit here to get to the "obvious" category?

Obviously there are individual differences (they spend quite some time 
on that), but even a good teacher will on average inspire just on the 
order of 10-100 students per year. Even assuming that is always life 
changing for every single student, over a 40 year career that just helps 
400-4000 people. Maybe online teaching can hypothetically give you a few 
orders of magnitude more.

There is an apple and orange problem here of course. It is easiest to 
quantify health improvements: you can count the number of saved lives, 
or number of achieved QALYs. So inventing a vaccine obviously has a big 
effect (I have met some people in the "millions saved" league... wow), 
and just donating in the right way to charity (see Giving What We Can)  
can save ~15,000 lives over a career. This is not the same as improving 
human happiness, where we have less comparison opportunities (inventing 
a new dessert makes us happier, and so does defeating tyrannies - but 
how to compare?). And reducing xrisk or increasing overall human 
rationality and capability are on their own, hard to judge, scales.

Teaching is not unimportant, but unless you are super-inspiring in 
person-to-person interaction you should likely work hard on spreading it 
online or create scalable institutions.

Anders Sandberg,
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Faculty of Philosophy
Oxford University

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