80,000 Hours Podcast

80,000 Hours Podcast

Unusually in-depth conversations about the world's most pressing problems and what you can do to solve them. Subscribe by searching for '80000 Hours' wherever you get podcasts. Produced by Keiran Harris. Hosted by Rob Wiblin and Luisa Rodriguez.


November 22, 2023 158 mins

"We do have a tendency to anthropomorphise nonhumans — which means attributing human characteristics to them, even when they lack those characteristics. But we also have a tendency towards anthropodenial — which involves denying that nonhumans have human characteristics, even when they have them. And those tendencies are both strong, and they can both be triggered by different types of systems. So which one is stronger, wh...

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Is following important political and international news a civic duty — or is it our civic duty to avoid it?

It's common to think that 'staying informed' and checking the headlines every day is just what responsible adults do.

But in today's episode, host Rob Wiblin is joined by economist Bryan Caplan to discuss the book Stop Reading the News: A Manifesto for a Happier, Calmer and Wiser Life — which argues that reading the n...

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"Rare events can still cause catastrophic accidents. The concern that has been raised by experts going back over time, is that really, the more of these experiments, the more labs, the more opportunities there are for a rare event to occur — that the right pathogen is involved and infects somebody in one of these labs, or is released in some way from these labs. And what I chronicle in Pandora's Gamble is that there have b...

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"One [outrageous example of air pollution] is municipal waste burning that happens in many cities in the Global South. Basically, this is waste that gets collected from people's homes, and instead of being transported to a waste management facility or a landfill or something, gets burned at some point, because that's the fastest way to dispose of it — which really points to poor delivery of public services. But this is ubi...

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"One of our earliest supporters and a dear friend of mine, Mark Lampert, once said to me, “The way I think about it is, imagine that this money were already in the hands of people living in poverty. If I could, would I want to tax it and then use it to finance other projects that I think would benefit them?”

I think that's an interesting thought experiment -- and a good one -- to say, “Are there cases in which I think that...

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"If we carry on looking at these industrialised economies, not thinking about what it is they're actually doing and what the potential of this is, you can make an argument that, yes, rates of growth are slowing, the rate of innovation is slowing. But it isn't.

What we're doing is creating wildly new technologies: basically producing what is nothing less than an evolutionary change in what it means to be a human being. But ...

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"There have been literally thousands of years of breeding and living with animals to optimise these kinds of problems. But because we're just so early on with alternative proteins and there's so much white space, it's actually just really exciting to know that we can keep on innovating and being far more efficient than this existing technology — which, fundamentally, is just quite inefficient. You're feeding animals a bunc...

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"If you and I and 100 other people were on the first ship that was going to go settle Mars, and were going to build a human civilisation, and we have to decide what that government looks like, and we have all of the technology available today, how do we think about choosing a subset of that design space?

That space is huge and it includes absolutely awful things, and mixed-bag things, and maybe some things that almost ever...

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"Now, the really interesting question is: How much is there an attacker-versus-defender advantage in this kind of advanced future?

Right now, if somebody's sitting on Mars and you're going to war against them, it's very hard to hit them. You don't have a weapon that can hit them very well. But in theory, if you fire a missile, after a few months, it's going to arrive and maybe hit them, but they have a few months to move a...

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"Imagine a fast-spreading respiratory HIV. It sweeps around the world. Almost nobody has symptoms. Nobody notices until years later, when the first people who are infected begin to succumb. They might die, something else debilitating might happen to them, but by that point, just about everyone on the planet would have been infected already.

And then it would be a race. Can we come up with some way of defusing the thing? Ca...

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September 22, 2023 79 mins

Today’s release is a reading of our Great power conflict problem profile, written and narrated by Stephen Clare.

If you want to check out the links, footnotes and figures in today’s article, you can find those here.

And if you like this article, you might enjoy a couple of related episodes of this podcast:

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Effective altruism is associated with the slogan "do the most good." On one level, this has to be unobjectionable: What could be bad about helping people more and more?

But in today's interview, Toby Ord — moral philosopher at the University of Oxford and one of the founding figures of effective altruism — lays out three reasons to be cautious about the idea of maximising the good that you do. He suggests that rather than “...

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September 4, 2023 281 mins

An audio version of the 2023 80,000 Hours career guide, also available on our website, on Amazon and on Audible.

If you know someone who might find our career guide helpful, you can get a free copy sent to them by going to 80000hours.org/gift.

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Mustafa Suleyman was part of the trio that founded DeepMind, and his new AI project is building one of the world's largest supercomputers to train a large language model on 10–100x the compute used to train ChatGPT.

But far from the stereotype of the incorrigibly optimistic tech founder, Mustafa is deeply worried about the future, for reasons he lays out in his new book The Coming Wave: Technology, Power, and the 21st Centu...

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"Do you remember seeing these photographs of generally women sitting in front of these huge panels and connecting calls, plugging different calls between different numbers? The automated version of that was invented in 1892.

However, the number of human manual operators peaked in 1920 -- 30 years after this. At which point, AT&T is the monopoly provider of this, and they are the largest single employer in America, 30 y...

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"There's no money to invest in education elsewhere, so they almost get trapped in the cycle where they don't get a lot from crop production, but everyone in the family has to work there to just stay afloat. Basically, you get locked in. There's almost no opportunities externally to go elsewhere. So one of my core arguments is that if you're going to address global poverty, you have to increase agricultural productivity in ...

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In July, OpenAI announced a new team and project: Superalignment. The goal is to figure out how to make superintelligent AI systems aligned and safe to use within four years, and the lab is putting a massive 20% of its computational resources behind the effort.

Today's guest, Jan Leike, is Head of Alignment at OpenAI and will be co-leading the project. As OpenAI puts it, "...the vast power of superintelligence could be very...

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Over on our other feed, 80k After Hours, you can now find 20-30 minute highlights episodes of our 80,000 Hours Podcast interviews. These aren’t necessarily the most important parts of the interview, and if a topic matters to you we do recommend listening to the full episode — but we think these will be a nice upgrade on skipping episodes entirely.

Get these highlight episodes by subscribing to our more experimental podcast ...

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Back in 2007, Holden Karnofsky cofounded GiveWell, where he sought out the charities that most cost-effectively helped save lives. He then cofounded Open Philanthropy, where he oversaw a team making billions of dollars’ worth of grants across a range of areas: pandemic control, criminal justice reform, farmed animal welfare, and making AI safe, among others. This year, having learned about AI for years and observed recent ...

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In Oppenheimer, scientists detonate a nuclear weapon despite thinking there's some 'near zero' chance it would ignite the atmosphere, putting an end to life on Earth. Today, scientists working on AI think the chance their work puts an end to humanity is vastly higher than that.

In response, some have suggested we launch a Manhattan Project to make AI safe via enormous investment in relevant R&D. Others have suggested th...

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