I care about the world, and want to do the most good, while having a high level of life satisfaction.
I am good at science and technology and want to get better at using these skills to change the world.
I am not currently concerned about having a proven philosophical basis for everything that I do, because I am sceptical that finding solid ethical foundation has a good enough cost benefit ratio.
It seems right to maximise positive impact and not do things that make things feel bad, if you can avoid it.
My personal utility function takes into account the wellbeing of all other intelligent life, both living and not yet born, valuing diversity of minds, and happiness over suffering.
I roughly think that actions should be taken with regard to maximising expected value, with little regard for the virtue of the action itself. I don’t consider morality to be objective. When making a potentially controversial decision of the form the ends justifying the means, my utility function takes into account the disturbance from the norm that may be caused by taking too controversial a decision, and if this has the potential to reduce net utility down the track then an action which looks positive from a naïve utilitarian POV may still be avoided. i.e. I’d throw the switch on the trolley problem, unless that would result in me going to jail and being able to save less net lives over my life.
I want intelligent life to be able to flourish for the majority of the lifespan of the universe. Understanding the rules of the universe, the secrets of existence, and having valuable fun lives are more desirable to me than a lifeless universe.
I think death is not a desirable phenomenon and I seek to end its pervasiveness.
I’ve got a good grasp of basic engineering, and use science to look at the world analytically.
I can use the scientific method, and rationality training, to uncover previously unknown pieces of truth, and ensure that the beliefs I hold map as close as possible with truth.
I can use science to make the world better.
I could choose to work on many things that we do not yet know that are important to solve, such as:
I like to take problems and work on them to improve things. As well as making things better, this challenge also gives me satisfaction, a feeling of importance, and pride.
Because there are so many problems out there, I should choose the ones I work on very carefully, so that I can maximise the difference that I make.
I feel pretty good about how I work with people and technology and think this puts me at an advantage, so I should attempt to tackle more challenging problems than otherwise.
I have a technical background in materials, mechanics, design and manufacturing, thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, project management, risk, work methods, and simulation.
I’ve done some pretty cool things on big projects, but haven’t managed people professionally very much. I feel like I am able to take on much more responsibility and be really effective, but don’t know how successful I would actually be at this, until I try some more challenging projects.
I’ve worked for 3+ years on some large scale research projects on high speed rail business cases worth in the order of $100B, with timescales over 50 years.
I've worked on shop floors with train maintenance staff to understand what they do and how they can do things better. I've turned this into instructions that helped train operations increase by ten the daily number of trains available.
I've built and maintained simulations of massive power infrastructure upgrades, learning about verifiability, error minimisation, dataset maintainability, and turning the results into reports that inform big purchases.
I've seen how $10M+ projects are managed in detail over long (8 month) periods of time, and dealt with both small issues and delays and the big scope changes and bureaucratic hurdles.
I’ve used computational physical models to learn what is going on in mechanical structures and translate this into predictions of how parts in the real world are going to behave.
I’ve presented high level concepts in accessible formats to senior management, conveying relevant information to guiding their decision making process.
I’ve worked independently on projects starting from only a vaguely defined goal, taking on the responsibility of making sure I fully understand the problem from the stakeholders perspective, and finding and building an optimal solution that add value and exceed expectations.
I’ve managed data collection, analysis, and result interpretation for big sets of data.
I’ve had successes in identifying unrecognised low-risk, high-reward business opportunities and have developed my own proof of concepts in order to inform risk averse managers.
I care about personal satisfaction, happiness, impressiveness, health and lifespan, personal relationships, sense of contribution and feeling important.
I want to live comfortably, and able to surround myself with interesting people.
I don’t mind hard work when it is interesting, but want to be able to eventually have a good balance with family.
I want to live a happy, healthy life, surrounded by people I care about and who care about me, working on challenges that I can persevere on until successful, grow and develop my abilities and my potential, and receive recognition and reward for my successes. I want to love and be loved, have a variety of experiences, and appreciate beauty in the world.
I want as many other diverse minds as possible to have the ability to experience a fun and happy life with many of their values being satisfied.
I want to minimise the number of beings who suffer or have negative experiences.
I am trying to find a crossover between things that I am good at and things that I think are really important to the world.
I could research or work on these problems myself, or alternatively I could probably get quite good at earning money if I tried hard, which is likely to be just at least as useful as pure research in making a difference to the world.
Make a thing that directly improves quality of life. I could work for companies that are doing good things for society, or start one of my own.
I could try to work for Non Government Organisations, companies like google.org, tech companies that provide beneficial social services, or engineering projects that lower the costs of things that people need in order to have a quality life.
I could try to make existing giant companies more ethical from the inside, or help existing ethical companies be better at what they do. This might only be a high impact option if my role would not be replaceable by a similarly altruistic person.
There are an excess of organisations out there trying to do good, many of who are not relatively effective. In the event that adding yet another good meaning organisation is really the best thing to do, I could take on a leading role in defining the problem, researching the field, filling the gaps, and ensuring a highly effective strategy. I assume that the default expected value of this option would be in the same order of magnitude as the earning to give start-up idea presented below.
Many organisations are actively seeking ways to improve their effectiveness. I could focus on improving and empowering existing altruists. Building the Effective Altruist community in Melbourne over the last 4 months has had this as an explicit goal, and has been intended to generate fast feedback as to how difficult and beneficial this could be. I could potentially take these skills to MIRI, CFAR, FHI, Leverage, or other organisations that want to grow and remain effective, but I would have to prioritise learning organisational effectiveness in the short term.
Choose careers based mainly on future earning potential, so that I can fund high impact work and research that I wouldn’t be able to achieve myself.
If focussing on earning a high salary within a traditional career structure, I could do a lot better than the public service. Finance or mining could become legitimate options, although these would involve trading off my other values (ethics, social, impressiveness, problem importance) against a higher income. The effects of a higher income shouldn’t be understated, if I find a career path that improves my salary by 10k per year for the next 36 years, earning $10M salary over my life wouldn't be impossible. Applying a 5% interest rate and conservatively assuming 50% is saved for altruistic causes, this would result in $5M to spend, and $10M to donate by the time I am 60.
I believe I could have a small advantage of coming up with good ideas. The comparative advantage of having a network of rationalists, and a bag of rationality tools at my disposal probably increase the odds that I would succeed at a start-up above the average entrepreneur.
Assuming the average start-up has a 10% chance of making $1M revenue (expected annual value of $300k to a founder), then if I was really really good at it I’d be looking at maybe $600k/year expected. My uncertainties on these estimates are ridiculous, but the order of magnitude estimate indicates serious effort should go into this consideration.
To insure against the possibility of failing to remain philanthropic later in life, it might be worth considering Giving Now, as opposed to Giving Later. Working at an ethical company would probably pay less, but would also result in highly likely, moderate scale social impact on the world. Assuming a salary that flattens off at $110k, applying a 5% interest rate and conservatively assuming 50% is saved for altruistic causes, this would result in $2M to spend, and $5M to donate by the time I am 60, along with increased social goods.
Apply skills directly to working out how to improve the world, either though formal studies, or by working with smaller research bodies.
Getting a PHD and working on cutting edge research in a field that seeks to answer my fundamental questions would lead to a different lifestyle than a cooperate career, but could potentially result in an outcome that aligns the closest with what I care most about. The Oxford Future of Humanity Institute could be a place to pursue this further.
Extensive research would create a better understanding about the fields that I am interested in, and would make sure that my subsequent years would not be wasted on less relevant, avoidable side projects.
There is also a possibility that other people with similar values to me would be able to increase their effectiveness as a result of the research.
A number of years of effort is expected to be required. This investment would be need to either greatly increase the probability that my future work goes towards optimal causes, or significantly accelerate my potential business progression or likelihood of start-up success.
There are potentially other people with similar values who are also considering this option, so my marginal impact will be reduced slightly. The opportunity cost for me, and my natural advantages, seem to indicate that I would not have a comparative advantage over my peers in doing a PHD.
Instead of working within the constrains of standard academia, it may be possible to do similar research independently. This would likely be more suitable for smaller scale, fast turnaround research projects into things like understanding how to filter for altruism, improve cause selection, or implement intelligence amplification.
Leverage Research, GiveWell, or Giving What We Can are options in this space.
The risks here are that research is undertaken without a through understanding of the state of the field, and the impact of the research is significantly less than anticipated.
Get heaps of others involved, using their own lives to achieve things that align closely with my own values. If leverage is applied correctly this becomes potentially the highest impact option.
The most structured way to align my work on world improvement would be through organisations such as Give Well, 80,000 hours, and Giving What We Can. Here I could make progress on growing the movement of people dedicated to helping the world in the most effective way, as well as working on overcoming things that are blocking more rapid growth.
Convincing others to focus their own lives on causes that I care about will likely have an effect larger than what I could achieve by working directly on the problem. There is currently a decent growth trajectory of the Effective Altruism movement to assist and take advantage of.
Working with other NGOs and Not For Profits to improve their cause selection, and individual effectiveness. The good that many climate change and global health organisations does could be greatly increased if they were better at setting the right goals, and achieving them.
Experience over the last few months has indicated that leaders of other organisations are harder to influence than I anticipated.
The drawback is that these organisations are not likely to influence the causes which I think will have the biggest impact on humanity.
There are a number of things I should consider when making long term plans, including short verses long term plans, flow through effects and the haste consideration, expected value, my risk aversion, compounding effects, the trade-off between my values, and the consideration of how my value might change and the effect each option may have on these values.
Whatever I do, making sure I am on an optimal learning gradient will lead to the biggest potential for impact down the line.
The most conservative career plans involve finding a higher up position within large corporations. In order to quickly ascend to these positions, I would need to focus my learning and development on things like MBAs, project management, and leadership.
I think I am most likely to be good at leading other people like me do great things. I should make sure I get better at this in any role that I am doing.
Make it more likely that the right causes are being researched and worked on by other people.
These people might not match my personality type as much and might share drastically different values to me.
I want to know the best people to help me build things that will make the biggest impact, and learn what skill I am missing that have the highest value.
I could be good at this, and I would enjoy the image of myself having invented things. I am not sure if I am more skilled at this than my peers, but should probably try to continue learning about how to achieve things.
I have done Science, and could potentially use these skills for direct research or business. I don’t feel like an academic who would want to read extensive literature all day, but I could still get better at this with practice.
Being connected to a community I am able to grow makes me feel important, recognised, and increases the quality of life of the people I care about.
I could take a year off without seeking income in order to grow as a person, surround myself with ideas, enjoy life, and find out more about what drives me.
I could forgo a salary for a year or longer and put all my effort into things that improve the value of lives of other people who have similar goals to myself. This would make it more likely that more people would commit to doing large amounts of good with their own lives, if their lives have a really good standard of living. By building, supporting, and maintaining a really awesome community for people I would get benefits of being active and being around people, at the cost of income.
The things that I value are often not equally important. I think it would be difficult to come up with a ranking or comparison of my values.
Making other things suffer less and be more happy
Pursuing and succeeding at valuable and challenging goals
Being recognised for the good things I do
Having a diversity and variety of life experiences and emotions
Seeing that I have become better over time, more able to achieve my goals
Having deep interpersonal connections
The most obvious places to go next are San Francisco, Oxford, or Melbourne, to work on optimising for earning, learning, or building movements.