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After a frenetic level of commentary during February and March, the war in Ukraine has faded into the background of our news coverage. But with the benefit of time we're in a much stronger position to understand what happened, why, whether there are broader lessons to take away, and how the conflict might be ended. And the conflict appears far from…
 
Wind back 1,000 years and the moral landscape looks very different to today. Most farming societies thought slavery was natural and unobjectionable, premarital sex was an abomination, women should obey their husbands, and commoners should obey their monarchs. Wind back 10,000 years and things look very different again. Most hunter-gatherer groups t…
 
On January 1, 2015, physicist Max Tegmark gave up something most of us love to do: complain about things without ever trying to fix them. That “put up or shut up” New Year’s resolution led to the first Puerto Rico conference and Open Letter on Artificial Intelligence — milestones for researchers taking the safe development of highly-capable AI syst…
 
In this episode of 80k After Hours, Fin Moorhouse reads his problem profile on space governance. Here’s the original piece if you’d like to learn more. If you want to hear more from Fin, you should check out his podcast Hear This Idea, which showcases new thinking in philosophy, the social sciences, and effective altruism. And you can see a bunch o…
 
If a business has spent $100 million developing a product, it's a fair bet that they don't want it stolen in two seconds and uploaded to the web where anyone can use it for free. This problem exists in extreme form for AI companies. These days, the electricity and equipment required to train cutting-edge machine learning models that generate uncann…
 
“We’re leaving these 16 contestants on an island with nothing but what they can scavenge from an abandoned factory and apartment block. Over the next 365 days, they’ll try to rebuild as much of civilisation as they can — from glass, to lenses, to microscopes. This is: The Knowledge!” If you were a contestant on such a TV show, you'd love to have a …
 
In this episode of 80k After Hours, Rob Wiblin interviews Clay Graubard and Robert de Neufville about forecasting the war between Russia and Ukraine. Links to learn more, highlights and full transcript. They cover: Their early predictions for the war The performance of the Russian military The risk of use of nuclear weapons The most interesting rem…
 
Imagine you lead a nonprofit that operates on a shoestring budget. Staff are paid minimum wage, lunch is bread and hummus, and you're all bunched up on a few tables in a basement office. But over a few years, your cause attracts some major new donors. Your funding jumps a thousandfold, from $100,000 a year to $100,000,000 a year. You're the same gr…
 
The good news is deaths from malaria have been cut by a third since 2005. The bad news is it still causes 250 million cases and 600,000 deaths a year, mostly among young children in sub-Saharan Africa. We already have dirt-cheap ways to prevent and treat malaria, and the fraction of the Earth's surface where the disease exists at all has been halve…
 
In nature, animals roar and bare their teeth to intimidate adversaries — but one side usually backs down, and real fights are rare. The wisdom of evolution is that the risk of violence is just too great. Which might make one wonder: if war is so destructive, why does it happen? The question may sound naïve, but in fact it represents a deep puzzle. …
 
If you were offered a 100% chance of $1 million to keep yourself, or a 10% chance of $15 million — it makes total sense to play it safe. You’d be devastated if you lost, and barely happier if you won. But if you were offered a 100% chance of donating $1 billion, or a 10% chance of donating $15 billion, you should just go with whatever has the highe…
 
Everybody knows that good parenting has a big impact on how kids turn out. Except that maybe they don't, because it doesn't. Incredible though it might seem, according to today's guest — economist Bryan Caplan, the author of Selfish Reasons To Have More Kids, The Myth of the Rational Voter, and The Case Against Education — the best evidence we have…
 
Since the Soviet Union split into different countries in 1991, the pervasive fear of catastrophe that people lived with for decades has gradually faded from memory, and nuclear warhead stockpiles have declined by 83%. Nuclear brinksmanship, proxy wars, and the game theory of mutually assured destruction (MAD) have come to feel like relics of anothe…
 
If someone said a global health and development programme was sustainable, participatory, and holistic, you'd have to guess that they were saying something positive. But according to today's guest Karen Levy — deworming pioneer and veteran of Innovations for Poverty Action, Evidence Action, and Y Combinator — each of those three concepts has become…
 
Russia's invasion of Ukraine is devastating the lives of Ukrainians, and so long as it continues there's a risk that the conflict could escalate to include other countries or the use of nuclear weapons. It's essential that NATO, the US, and the EU play their cards right to ideally end the violence, maintain Ukrainian sovereignty, and discourage any…
 
In this episode of 80k After Hours — Rob continues to interview his 80,000 Hours colleagues Michelle Hutchinson and Habiba Islam about the 1-1 team. Links to learn more, highlights and full transcript. This is the second of a two-part interview. You can find the first part on the original 80,000 Hours Podcast feed. In this part, they cover: Whether…
 
One of 80,000 Hours' main services is our free one-on-one careers advising, which we provide to around 1,000 people a year. Today we speak to two of our advisors, who have each spoken to hundreds of people -- including many regular listeners to this show -- about how they might be able to do more good while also having a highly motivating career. B…
 
Today we're launching a new podcast called 80k After Hours. Like this show it’ll mostly still explore the best ways to do good — and some episodes will be even more laser-focused on careers than most original episodes. But we’re also going to widen our scope, including things like how to solve pressing problems while also living a happy and fulfill…
 
In this episode of 80k After Hours, Habiba Islam reads Benjamin Todd’s article “Be More Ambitious: a rational case for dreaming big (if you want to do good)”. Here’s the original article if you’d like to learn more. You might also want to check out these pieces: A (free) weekly career planning course for positive impact How much risk to take? Expec…
 
In this episode of 80k After Hours, Keiran Harris interviews 80,000 Hours advisor (and former high school teacher) Alex Lawsen about his advice for students. Links to learn more, highlights and full transcript. They cover: When half-assing something is a good idea When you should actually learn things vs. just trying to seem smart Why you should sh…
 
In this episode of 80k After Hours, Rob Wiblin and Keiran Harris are interviewed by Kearney Capuano and ​​Aaron Bergman of the new podcast ‘All Good’ about what goes on behind-the-scenes at the 80,000 Hours Podcast. Links to learn more, highlights and full transcript. We cover: The history and philosophy of The 80,000 Hours Podcast The nuts and bol…
 
If you read polls saying that the public supports a carbon tax, should you believe them? According to today's guest — journalist and blogger Matthew Yglesias — it's complicated, but probably not. Links to learn more, summary and full transcript. Interpreting opinion polls about specific policies can be a challenge, and it's easy to trick yourself i…
 
In 2014 Taiwan was rocked by mass protests against a proposed trade agreement with China that was about to be agreed without the usual Parliamentary hearings. Students invaded and took over the Parliament. But rather than chant slogans, instead they livestreamed their own parliamentary debate over the trade deal, allowing volunteers to speak both i…
 
Rebroadcast: this episode was originally released in September 2018. In Stanley Kubrick’s iconic film Dr. Strangelove, the American president is informed that the Soviet Union has created a secret deterrence system which will automatically wipe out humanity upon detection of a single nuclear explosion in Russia. With US bombs heading towards the US…
 
Rebroadcast: this episode was originally released in June 2018. How broken is the world? How inefficient is a typical organisation? Looking at Tara Mac Aulay’s life, the answer seems to be ‘very’. At 15 she took her first job - an entry-level position at a chain restaurant. Rather than accept her place, Tara took it on herself to massively improve …
 
Rebroadcast: this episode was originally released in December 2019. What is it like to be you right now? You're seeing this text on the screen, smelling the coffee next to you, and feeling the warmth of the cup. There’s a lot going on in your head — your conscious experience. Now imagine beings that are identical to humans, but for one thing: they …
 
Rebroadcast: this episode was originally released in June 2019. It can often feel hopeless to be an activist seeking social change on an obscure issue where most people seem opposed or at best indifferent to you. But according to a new book by Professor Cass Sunstein, they shouldn't despair. Large social changes are often abrupt and unexpected, ari…
 
Andrew Yang — past presidential candidate, founder of the Forward Party, and leader of the 'Yang Gang' — is kind of a big deal, but is particularly popular among listeners to The 80,000 Hours Podcast. Maybe that's because he's willing to embrace topics most politicians stay away from, like universal basic income, term limits for members of Congress…
 
If a rich country were really committed to pursuing an active biological weapons program, there’s not much we could do to stop them. With enough money and persistence, they’d be able to buy equipment, and hire people to carry out the work. But what we can do is intervene before they make that decision. Today’s guest, Jaime Yassif — Senior Fellow fo…
 
If there's a nuclear war followed by nuclear winter, and the sun is blocked out for years, most of us are going to starve, right? Well, currently, probably we would, because humanity hasn't done much to prevent it. But it turns out that an ounce of forethought might be enough for most people to get the calories they need to survive, even in a futur…
 
If modern human civilisation collapsed — as a result of nuclear war, severe climate change, or a much worse pandemic than COVID-19 — billions of people might die. That's terrible enough to contemplate. But what’s the probability that rather than recover, the survivors would falter and humanity would actually disappear for good? It's an obvious enou…
 
Quantum mechanics — our best theory of atoms, molecules, and the subatomic particles that make them up — underpins most of modern physics. But there are varying interpretations of what it means, all of them controversial in their own way. Famously, quantum theory predicts that with the right setup, a cat can be made to be alive and dead at the same…
 
It’s hard to believe, but until recently there had never been a large field trial that addressed these simple and obvious questions: 1. When ordinary people wear face masks, does it actually reduce the spread of respiratory diseases? 2. And if so, how do you get people to wear masks more often? It turns out the first question is remarkably challeng…
 
We recently launched a new podcast feed that might be useful to you and people you know. It's called Effective Altruism: Ten Global Problems, and it's a collection of ten top episodes of this show, selected to help listeners quickly get up to speed on ten pressing problems that the effective altruism community is working to solve. It's a companion …
 
Our failure to make sure all kids globally get all of their basic vaccinations leads to 1.5 million child deaths every year. According to today’s guest, Varsha Venugopal, for the great majority this has nothing to do with weird conspiracy theories or medical worries — in India 80% of undervaccinated children are already getting some shots. They jus…
 
Preventing the apocalypse may sound like an idiosyncratic activity, and it sometimes is justified on exotic grounds, such as the potential for humanity to become a galaxy-spanning civilisation. But the policy of US government agencies is already to spend up to $4 million to save the life of a citizen, making the death of all Americans a $1,300,000,…
 
If you’re living in the Niger Delta in Nigeria, your best bet at a high-paying career is probably ‘artisanal refining’ — or, in plain language, stealing oil from pipelines. The resulting oil spills damage the environment and cause severe health problems, but the Nigerian government has continually failed in their attempts to stop this theft. They s…
 
Holden Karnofsky helped create two of the most influential organisations in the effective philanthropy world. So when he outlines a different perspective on career advice than the one we present at 80,000 Hours — we take it seriously. Holden disagrees with us on a few specifics, but it's more than that: he prefers a different vibe when making caree…
 
Will the future of humanity be wild, or boring? It's natural to think that if we're trying to be sober and measured, and predict what will really happen rather than spin an exciting story, it's more likely than not to be sort of... dull. But there's also good reason to think that that is simply impossible. The idea that there's a boring future that…
 
Chris Olah has had a fascinating and unconventional career path. Most people who want to pursue a research career feel they need a degree to get taken seriously. But Chris not only doesn't have a PhD, but doesn’t even have an undergraduate degree. After dropping out of university to help defend an acquaintance who was facing bogus criminal charges,…
 
Big machine learning models can identify plant species better than any human, write passable essays, beat you at a game of Starcraft 2, figure out how a photo of Tobey Maguire and the word 'spider' are related, solve the 60-year-old 'protein folding problem', diagnose some diseases, play romantic matchmaker, write solid computer code, and offer que…
 
If you wanted to start a university department from scratch, and attract as many superstar researchers as possible, what’s the most attractive perk you could offer? How about just not needing an email address. According to today's guest, Cal Newport — computer science professor and best-selling author of A World Without Email — it should seem obsce…
 
The effective altruist research community tries to identify the highest impact things people can do to improve the world. Unsurprisingly, given the difficulty of such a massive and open-ended project, very different schools of thought have arisen about how to do the most good. Today's guest, Alexander Berger, leads Open Philanthropy's 'Global Healt…
 
When the first person with COVID-19 went to see a doctor in Wuhan, nobody could tell that it wasn’t a familiar disease like the flu — that we were dealing with something new. How much death and destruction could we have avoided if we'd had a hero who could? That's what the last Assistant Secretary of Defense Andy Weber asked on the show back in Mar…
 
History is filled with stories of great people stepping up in times of crisis. Presidents averting wars; soldiers leading troops away from certain death; data scientists sleeping on the office floor to launch a new webpage a few days sooner. That last one is barely a joke — by our lights, people like today’s guest Max Roser should be viewed with si…
 
It can be tough to get people to truly care about reducing existential risks today. But spare a thought for the longtermist of the 17th century: they were surrounded by people who thought extinction was literally impossible. Today’s guest Tom Moynihan, intellectual historian and author of the book X-Risk: How Humanity Discovered Its Own Extinction,…
 
In 2003, Saddam Hussein refused to let Iraqi weapons scientists leave the country to be interrogated. Given the overwhelming domestic support for an invasion at the time, most key figures in the U.S. took that as confirmation that he had something to hide — probably an active WMD program. But what about alternative explanations? Maybe those scienti…
 
Today's episode is one of the most remarkable and really, unique, pieces of content we’ve ever produced (and I can say that because I had almost nothing to do with making it!). The producer of this show, Keiran Harris, interviewed our mutual colleague Howie about the major ways that mental illness has affected his life and career. While depression,…
 
For a chance to prevent enormous amounts of suffering, would you be brave enough to drive five hours to a remote location to meet a man who seems likely to be your enemy, knowing that it might be an ambush? Today’s guest — Leah Garcés — was. That man was a chicken farmer named Craig Watts, and that ambush never happened. Instead, Leah and Craig for…
 
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