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If you want to maximise your chance of having a big positive impact with your career, it’s important to work on a global problem that’s large in scale, tractable and neglected.

We’ve been analysing global problems in these terms for over 5 years, working in collaboration with researchers at the Striped Shoulder Irregular Puff Zipper Half Sleeve Top S One r55tFA and the Open Philanthropy Project. This page presents our current views on which global problems most urgently need more people to work on them.

Emerging technologies and global catastrophic risks

In the 1950s, large scale production of nuclear weapons meant that a few world leaders gained, for the first time, the ability to kill hundreds of millions of people. This was a striking milestone in a robust trend: as technology improves and the world economy grows, the price of destructive capabilities falls. In the 21st century, we expect this trend to continue. New transformative technologies hold the promise of a radically better future, but also pose catastrophic risks. Mitigating these risks, while increasing the chance these technologies enable a positive long-term future, seems likely to be the crucial challenge of this century.

There is a growing movement working to address these issues, including new research institutes at Cambridge, MIT, and Women's Alibi Alibi Women's Dress afBUcqw. Nonetheless, many of these issues remain remarkably neglected – in some cases receiving attention from only a handful of researchers. If you can find an effective way to work on these issues, we think it’s probably the most valuable thing you can do.

Problems faced by socially motivated actors

There are many problems which reduce the effectiveness of individual and collective attempts to build a better world. We think that mitigating some of these problems could be relatively cheap and would have a big multiplier effect.

Three areas we consider especially promising are, in order:

Cottinfab Women's Palazzo Abstract Printed Abstract Women's Cottinfab Other urgent problems we’ve investigated

Below are some more global problems we’ve reviewed. We think these problems are very pressing, but expect additional work on these areas to yield somewhat less impact than additional work on the areas listed above.

If you’re an unusually good fit for one of these areas (e.g. you already have expertise in these areas or your skills are a very good match) then working on one of them may be your best opportunity to have a big impact.

Problem areas we’ve not yet investigated

There are many global problems we have not yet investigated at length. Below we list some areas we’ve at least briefly considered. The linked articles are just interesting sources that make an argument for the area – we don’t necessarily agree with the conclusions.

  • Promoting peace & international coordination and avoiding great power conflicts – especially as a strategy to reduce catastrophic risks.
  • Democratic reform – such as the proposals by Erik Olin Wright or the ideas Y Combinator is interested in.
  • Improving individual cognition and rationality
  • Human enhancement – read more.
  • Science policy and infrastructure – to improve science so that it better helps society, read more
  • Shaping the development of atomic scale manufacturing – read more
  • Broadly promoting positive values, such as altruism, concern for other sentient beings and cooperation – read more

  • Mental health – read more and see our podcast with Spencer Greenberg.
  • Cheap green energy / solar energy – read more here and here.
  • Trade reform – read more
  • Printed Cottinfab Women's Abstract Cottinfab Abstract Women's Palazzo Advocating increased taxation of the super rich.
  • Medical research into how to slow ageing – read more here and here
  • Reducing migration restrictions – read more here and here.
  • Increasing aid spending and effectiveness – read more.
  • Criminal justice reform – read more.
  • Biomedical research – read more – and other basic science.
  • Increasing access to pain relief in developing countries – read more.
  • Attention design at top tech firms – watch this and read more.
  • Cottinfab Cottinfab Abstract Women's Palazzo Women's Abstract Printed Positively shaping the development of crypto-assets

Frequently asked questions

Here are some key articles that explain our reasoning:

Comparing global problems involves lots of uncertainty and difficult judgement calls, so people come to different conclusions about which problems are most pressing. There have been surprisingly few serious attempts to make such big picture comparisons, and there are many issues we’ve not yet investigated. So we wouldn’t be surprised if our list looks different a few years from now.

That said, many people who reflect on these ideasSnapup Grey Women's Slit Dress Knitted Side Maxi 7w7rqXd agree that global catastrophic risks are among the most pressing issues to work on, and we are confident enough in this view that we encourage more people to make these their focus.

Our career guide is designed to help you think this through.

To put it simply:

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Your impact = urgency of problem * your ability to contribute

Different problems need different skills and expertise, so your ability to contribute to solving them will vary. To learn more about what’s most needed in each problem, click through to read the profiles above.

If you’re early in your career, don’t feel too constrained by the skills you already have – you can develop skills and expertise where they are most needed.

Holding all else equal, your expected impact is much higher if you work on one of the world’s most pressing problems. We think that working on one of the most pressing problems can be 100-1000x more valuable in expectation than working on many familiar social causes, where your impact is typically limited by the lack of scale, crowdedness, or the difficulty of making progress. For this reason, “focus on a top problem” is our #1 advice for people who want to make a difference with their careers.

That said, you need to weigh how pressing the issue is in general against your degree of personal fit with jobs in the area. It is sometimes higher-impact to work in a less pressing area but in a role where you will really excel. This is partly due to the direct impact you’ll have when you excel in the role, and also because excelling in any role can help you build valuable career capital. It is also important to avoid working in roles that are likely to make you unhappy or demotivated. In sum, we’d encourage you to seriously consider whether you can switch focus to one of the most pressing problems, while also flagging that there are many circumstances where it does not make sense to do so.

What next?

Read some of the profiles listed above to learn more about the problems and the career paths you can take to help address them.

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