Optimizing For Impact
Some opportunities for doing good can be vastly more promising than others, and we strive to use our limited time and resources to achieve as much impact as we can. This goal is fundamental to how we operate and has three direct implications that are worth highlighting.
Helping others do “as much good as possible”
The core question all our efforts try to answer is: “how can I use my career to help others as much as possible?” Our audience (that’s you!) may have different views on what that means, and may want to take other considerations in their choice of career. But we believe that, in many circumstances, some opportunities allow you to do much more good than others, even with the same resources and even without significant sacrifices to other considerations. That’s why we’ll often encourage you to search for a career that does as much good as you can, and not just some good.
Relying on evidence, analysis and expertise
Guidance is only as good as the sources it is based on, and unreliable advice can be not only useless but harmful. We base our advice on existing research and interviews with leading experts in the field, and are explicit about our uncertainties (of which there are many).
Measurement and evaluation
Our belief in evidence isn’t limited to the career paths we comment on, but applies to our work as well. We are committed to measuring and evaluating the impact of our work carefully and transparently.
Even among those trying to maximize their positive impact, there’s a wide variety of views. Many will disagree on what doing good means (ethical views), what kinds of evidence are reliable (epistemic views), or what the evidence says (empirical views). We welcome this diversity, and aim to provide information and advice that can be easily adapted according to your own values, priorities and views.
Worldview diversification is the view that when faced with unresolved questions with deep uncertainty, it makes sense to consider and act according to a diverse portfolio of worldviews. In our case, career recommendations depend on your personal circumstances (which you know but we often don’t), and on answers to deep philosophical questions that we may have opinions on – but not definitive answers to. As a result, we believe we can provide more value by providing advice for a wide range of worldviews – including different views on who we are obligated towards, what types of interventions are likely to work, or what helping others really means. This allows us to help a wider audience increase their impact (according to their priorities) and allows us to “hedge our bets” and help make the world a better place even though we don’t know all the answers.
Some questions though have been decisively answered. We do not take into consideration multiple points of view regarding questions that have reached a consensus of scientific opinion (e.g. is the climate changing?), or even philosophical questions that achieve consensus among philosophers who’ve investigated them (though, admittedly, this is a rarer occurrence…)
When dealing with open questions, we’ll try to direct you towards what we consider to be strong and important considerations. In some cases, most of them may point towards some specific worldview and we’d urge you to consider them. Naturally, our advice will try to be relevant to many sensible worldviews, but may still be more relevant to some than to others.
We’re a young organization trying to tackle some extremely difficult questions. If we waited until we’re absolutely certain about what we say or how we interact with you, we’d need to work for decades before we could start giving advice (and even then would probably not be able to collect the evidence we need on what advice is helpful in practice). As a result, we prefer to take an experimental approach – you will likely see quite significant changes in the upcoming months and years, both in the content of our advice and in how we present it.
To fully (and responsibly) implement this approach, we’d like to ask you, the reader, for two things. First, don’t just take our word for it. Your career path is too important to decide on just because we said so. All our recommendations come with justifications. If our justifications persuaded you – then great. But our content should be used as additional information to use with your judgement, not as a replacement for it.
Second, for our advice to be truly useful, we’ll need lots and lots of feedback. If you’re reading this, then congratulations – you’re one of our early adopters. Your feedback can significantly influence how we help hundreds of people after you. Please take the time to share your feedback with us. Knowing both what you’ve found valuable, and finding out what you think is missing / wrong / inaccurate / unclear – is incredibly useful for us.
If you have feedback for us, we’d love to hear from you.