Peter_Hurford comments on Survey of EA org leaders about what skills and experience they most need, their staff/donations trade-offs, problem prioritisation, and more. - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 11 October 2018 06:35:26PM *  8 points [-]

Continuing on the EA talent paradox (“EA orgs need talent but many EAs can’t get hired at EA orgs”), I’m confused why 80,000 Hours is continuing to bemoan earning to give. I get that if someone could be an FHI superstar or earn to give at $50K/yr they should go join FHI and I get that there are many awesome career paths outside of EA orgs and outside ETG that should be explored. Maybe in the past ETG was too much of an easy auto-default and we want to pressure people to consider more of their options. But ETG is an easy auto-default for a reason and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that ETG is genuinely the highest impact option for >50% of the population of people who are EA enough to, e.g., fill out the EA Survey!

It seems pretty discouraging to EAs to make them feel bad about what is a genuinely a really great option. I think we may have overcorrected too strongly against ETG and it may be time to bring it back as a very valid option among the top career paths, rather than “only for people who can donate $1M/yr or more” or “the auto-default for everyone”.


Edited to add that it looks like 80K seems to actually promote ETG in the way I recommend - see https://80000hours.org/articles/high-impact-careers/#5-otherwise-earn-to-give - but I don't think this is communicated very clearly outside that section of that article. In general, I get the sense that ETG has become depressing and low-status in EA when it was once high-status, and I'd like to see that trend reversed at least somewhat.

Comment author: 80000_Hours 12 October 2018 06:27:06AM 7 points [-]

Hi Peter,

It sounds like you mostly agree with our take on earning to give in the high impact careers article. That article is fairly new but it will become one of the central pages on the site after a forthcoming re-organisation. Let us know if there are other articles on the site you think are inconsistent with that take - we can take a look and potentially bring them into line.

We agree with you that earning to give can be a genuinely great option and don’t intend to demoralize people who choose that path. As we write in that article, we believe that “any graduate in a high income country can have a significant impact” by earning to give.

That said, we do stand by our recommendation that most people who might be a good fit to eventually enter one of our priority paths should initially pursue one of those paths over earning to give (though while maintaining a back-up option). Those paths have higher upside, so it’s worth testing out your potential, while bearing in mind that they might not work out.

Many of the best options on these paths require substantial career capital, so often this won’t mean starting a direct impact job today. Instead, we think many readers should consider acquiring career capital that can open up these paths, including graduate school in relevant disciplines (e.g. AI/ML, policy, or international relations) entry level policy jobs (e.g. as a Congressional staffer, or working as an early employee at a startup to gain skills and experience in operations. We hope to release an article discussing our updated views on career capital soon.

Of course, these paths aren’t a good fit for everyone, and we continue to believe that earning to give can be a great option for many.

It’s also worth emphasizing that our advice is, of course, influenced by our views on the highest priority problems. We tried to make that clear in “high impact careers” by including a section on how our recommendations would change if someone is focused on global health or factory farming. In that case, we believe “earning to give, for-profit work and advocacy become much more attractive.”