80,000 Hours is a London-based organisation that conducts research on which careers have the largest positive social impact and provides career advice based on that research. It provides this advice on their website and podcast, and through one-on-one advice sessions. The organisation is part of the Centre for Effective Altruism, affiliated with the University of Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. The organisation's name refers to the typical amount of time someone spends working over a lifetime. It was one of the nonprofits funded by startup accelerator Y Combinator in 2015.
According to 80,000 Hours, some careers aimed at doing good are far more effective than others. They evaluate problems people can focus on solving in terms of their 'scale', 'neglectedness' and 'solvability', while career paths are rated on their potential for immediate social impact, on how well they set someone up to have an impact later on, and on personal fit with the reader.
The group emphasises that the positive impact of choosing a certain occupation should be measured by the amount of additional good that is created as a result of that choice, not by the amount of good done directly.
It considers indirect ways of making a difference, such as earning a high salary in a conventional career and donating a large portion of it, as well as more direct ways, such as scientific research or shaping government policy.
The moral philosopher Peter Singer mentions the example of banking and finance as a potentially high impact career through such donations in his TED Talk, "The why and how of effective altruism," where he discusses the work of 80,000 Hours.
80,000 Hours's primary focus is on advising talented graduates between the ages of 20 and 40.
It advocates long-termism, the view that the most important moral implications of our actions are their impacts on future generations, due to the large number of people who will or could exist in the future. Accordingly, the organization spends significant resources considering interventions perceived to have persiting effects over time, such as preventing nuclear warfare or a particularly severe pandemic, improving relations between China and the United States, or enhancing decision-making in large organisations.
80,000 Hours has promoted the idea that pursuing a high-earning career and donating a significant portion of the income to cost-effective charities can be an effective philanthropic strategy for some people. John Humphrys criticised this idea on the BBC Today programme, saying that people interested in becoming wealthy tend to be selfish and that idealistic young people will become cynical as they age.
This idea was also criticised in the Oxford Left Review, where Pete Mills wrote that lucrative careers perpetuate an unjust system. In addition, he argues that because the likelihood of bringing about social change is difficult to quantify, 80,000 Hours is biased toward quantifiable methods of doing good.
The effective altruism movement, of which 80,000 Hours is a part, has been criticised by Ken Berger, the founder of Charity Navigator for its efforts to objectively compare and prioritise charitable causes, which he believes to be a subjective process that is the responsibility of individual donors. William MacAskill responded to this article justifying the need to figure out which charities do the most good.
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