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.

Episodes

June 7, 2024 120 mins

"One of the most amazing things about planet Earth is that there are complex bags of mostly water — you and me – and we can look up at the stars, and look into our brains, and try to grapple with the most complex, difficult questions that there are. And even if we can’t make great progress on them and don’t come to completely satisfying solutions, just the fact of trying to grapple with these things is kind of the universe...

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"You can’t charge what something is worth during a pandemic. So we estimated that the value of one course of COVID vaccine in January 2021 was over $5,000. They were selling for between $6 and $40. So nothing like their social value. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that they should have charged $5,000 or $6,000. That’s not ethical. It’s also not economically efficient, because they didn’t cost $5,000 at the marginal...

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"Suppose we make these grants, we do some of those experiments I talk about. We discover, for example — I’m just making this up — but we give people superforecasting tests when they’re doing peer review, and we find that you can identify people who are super good at picking science. And then we have this much better targeted science, and we’re making progress at a 10% faster rate than we normally would have. Over time, tha...

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"Earth economists, when they measure how bad the potential for exploitation is, they look at things like, how is labour mobility? How much possibility do labourers have otherwise to go somewhere else? Well, if you are on the one company town on Mars, your labour mobility is zero, which has never existed on Earth. Even in your stereotypical West Virginian company town run by immigrant labour, there’s still, by definition, a...

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"I work in a place called Uttar Pradesh, which is a state in India with 240 million people. One in every 33 people in the whole world lives in Uttar Pradesh. It would be the fifth largest country if it were its own country. And if it were its own country, you’d probably know about its human development challenges, because it would have the highest neonatal mortality rate of any country except for South Sudan and Pakistan. ...

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"The constraint right now on factory farming is how far can you push the biology of these animals? But AI could remove that constraint. It could say, 'Actually, we can push them further in these ways and these ways, and they still stay alive. And we’ve modelled out every possibility and we’ve found that it works.' I think another possibility, which I don’t understand as well, is that AI could lock in current moral values. ...

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Many of you will have heard of Zvi Mowshowitz as a superhuman information-absorbing-and-processing machine — which he definitely is. As the author of the Substack Don’t Worry About the Vase, Zvi has spent as much time as literally anyone in the world over the last two years tracking in detail how the explosion of AI has been playing out — and he has strong opinions about almost every aspect of it.

Links to learn more, summ...

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March 28, 2024 51 mins

Today’s release is a reading of our career review of AI governance and policy, written and narrated by Cody Fenwick.

Advanced AI systems could have massive impacts on humanity and potentially pose global catastrophic risks, and there are opportunities in the broad field of AI governance to positively shape how society responds to and prepares for the challenges posed by the technology.

Given the high stakes, pursuing this ca...

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"When a friend comes to me with a decision, and they want my thoughts on it, very rarely am I trying to give them a really specific answer, like, 'I solved your problem.' What I’m trying to do often is give them other ways of thinking about what they’re doing, or giving different framings. A classic example of this would be someone who’s been working on a project for a long time and they feel really trapped by it. And some...

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"[One] thing is just to spend time thinking about the kinds of things animals can do and what their lives are like. Just how hard a chicken will work to get to a nest box before she lays an egg, the amount of labour she’s willing to go through to do that, to think about how important that is to her. And to realise that we can quantify that, and see how much they care, or to see that they get stressed out when fellow chicke...

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"The question I care about is: What do I want to do? Like, when I'm 80, how strong do I want to be? OK, and then if I want to be that strong, how well do my muscles have to work? OK, and then if that's true, what would they have to look like at the cellular level for that to be true? Then what do we have to do to make that happen? In my head, it's much more about agency and what choice do I have over my health. And even if...

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The World Economic Forum’s global risks survey of 1,400 experts, policymakers, and industry leaders ranked misinformation and disinformation as the number one global risk over the next two years — ranking it ahead of war, environmental problems, and other threats from AI.

And the discussion around misinformation and disinformation has shifted to focus on how generative AI or a future super-persuasive AI might change the gam...

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Mental health problems like depression and anxiety affect enormous numbers of people and severely interfere with their lives. By contrast, we don’t see similar levels of physical ill health in young people. At any point in time, something like 20% of young people are working through anxiety or depression that’s seriously interfering with their lives — but nowhere near 20% of people in their 20s have severe heart disease or...

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"I think at various times — before you have the kid, after you have the kid — it's useful to sit down and think about: What do I want the shape of this to look like? What time do I want to be spending? Which hours? How do I want the weekends to look? The things that are going to shape the way your day-to-day goes, and the time you spend with your kids, and what you're doing in that time with your kids, and all of those thi...

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Back in December we spoke with Nathan Labenz — AI entrepreneur and host of The Cognitive Revolution Podcast — about the speed of progress towards AGI and OpenAI's leadership drama, drawing on Nathan's alarming experience red-teaming an early version of GPT-4 and resulting conversations with OpenAI staff and board members.

Links to learn more, video, highlights, and full transcript.

Today we go deeper, diving into:

  • What AI...
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Rebroadcast: this episode was originally released in January 2021.

You wake up in a mysterious box, and hear the booming voice of God: “I just flipped a coin. If it came up heads, I made ten boxes, labeled 1 through 10 — each of which has a human in it. If it came up tails, I made ten billion boxes, labeled 1 through 10 billion — also with one human in each box. To get into heaven, you have to answer this correctly: Which w...

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Rebroadcast: this episode was originally released in October 2021.

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 $1,300,000,000,000,000...

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    Rebroadcast: this episode was originally released in September 2021.

    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 send in the...

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    December 31, 2023 113 mins

    Happy new year! We've got a different kind of holiday release for you today. Rather than a 'classic episode,' we've put together one of our favourite highlights from each episode of the show that came out in 2023

    That's 32 of our favourite ideas packed into one episode that's so bursting with substance it might be more than the human mind can safely handle.

    There's something for everyone here:

    • Ezra Klein on punctuated e...
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    Rebroadcast: this episode was originally released in May 2021.

    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, anxiety, ADHD ...

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