brianwang712 comments on When to focus and when to re-evaluate - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: brianwang712 24 March 2018 10:24:57PM 1 point [-]

I wonder how much the "spend 1 year choosing and 4 years relentless pursuing a project" rule of thumb applies to having a high-impact career. Certain career paths might rely on building a lot of career capital before you can have high-impact, and career capital may not be easily transferable between domains. For example, if you first decide to relentlessly pursue a career in advancing clean meat technology for four years, and then re-evaluate and decide that influencing policymakers with regards to AI safety is the highest-value thing for you to do, it's probably going to be difficult to pivot. There's a sense in which you might be "locked in" to a career after you spend enough time in it. My sense is that, for career-building in the face of uncertainty, it might be best to prioritize keeping options open (e.g., by building transferable career capital) and/or spending more time on the choosing phase.

Comment author: Joey 25 March 2018 08:35:00PM 5 points [-]

I am more skeptical about transferable career capital. I tend to see people doing impressive things even in unrelated fields as providing a lot of career capital. E.g. A lot of EAs would hire someone who had done a successful project in another EA cause vs just doing something less related but more transferable. E.g. going into consulting.

Also generally in line with the argument above, I tend to see that doing great focused work leads to better outcomes than “building generalized career capital” with the idea of eventually using it in a high impact direction. The most common outcome I see with EAs doing that is them spending a bunch of time saving/building career capital and then them leaving the EA movement, having caused pretty minimal good in the world. Additionally, doing impressive things in the EA movement is a way to both build career capital and do good at the same time.

That being said, I think it’s somewhat a different question of what to factor in. You might decide after one year that the best thing to do is X (e.g. get a degree) which sets you up better for your next plan revaluation point 4 years later with minimal re-evaluation until you have gotten your degree.