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Episodes

#10 Classic Episode - Dr Nick Beckstead on spending billions of dollars preventing human extinction

2/2/2019
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Rebroadcast: this episode was originally released in October 2017. What if you were in a position to give away billions of dollars to improve the world? What would you do with it? This is the problem facing Program Officers at the Open Philanthropy Project - people like Dr Nick Beckstead. Following a PhD in philosophy, Nick works to figure out where money can do the most good. He’s been involved in major grants in a wide range of areas, including ending factory farming through...

Duration:01:52:03

#51 - Martin Gurri on the revolt of the public & crisis of authority in the information age

1/28/2019
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Politics in rich countries seems to be going nuts. What's the explanation? Rising inequality? The decline of manufacturing jobs? Excessive immigration? Martin Gurri spent decades as a CIA analyst and in his 2014 book The Revolt of The Public and Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium, predicted political turbulence for an entirely different reason: new communication technologies were flipping the balance of power between the public and traditional authorities. In 1959 the President...

Duration:02:31:10

#8 Classic episode - Lewis Bollard on how to end factory farming in our lifetimes

1/16/2019
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Rebroadcast: this episode was originally released in September 2017. Every year tens of billions of animals are raised in terrible conditions in factory farms before being killed for human consumption. Over the last two years Lewis Bollard – Project Officer for Farm Animal Welfare at the Open Philanthropy Project – has conducted extensive research into the best ways to eliminate animal suffering in farms as soon as possible. This has resulted in $30 million in grants to farm animal...

Duration:03:14:53

#9 Classic episode - Christine Peterson on the '80s futurist movement & its lessons for today

1/7/2019
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Rebroadcast: this episode was originally released in October 2017. Take a trip to Silicon Valley in the 70s and 80s, when going to space sounded like a good way to get around environmental limits, people started cryogenically freezing themselves, and nanotechnology looked like it might revolutionise industry – or turn us all into grey goo. In this episode of the 80,000 Hours Podcast, Christine Peterson takes us back to her youth in the Bay Area, the ideas she encountered there, and what...

Duration:01:19:40

#50 - Dr David Denkenberger on how to feed all 8b people through an asteroid/nuclear winter

12/27/2018
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If an asteroid impact or nuclear winter blocked the sun for years, our inability to grow food would result in billions dying of starvation, right? According to Dr David Denkenberger, co-author of Feeding Everyone No Matter What: no. If he's to be believed, nobody need starve at all. Even without the sun, David sees the Earth as a bountiful food source. Mushrooms farmed on decaying wood. Bacteria fed with natural gas. Fish and mussels supported by sudden upwelling of ocean nutrients - and...

Duration:02:57:03

#49 - Dr Rachel Glennerster on a year's worth of education for 30c & other development 'best buys'

12/20/2018
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If I told you it's possible to deliver an extra year of ideal primary-level education for under $1, would you believe me? Hopefully not - the claim is absurd on its face. But it may be true nonetheless. The very best education interventions are phenomenally cost-effective, and they're not the kinds of things you'd expect, says Dr Rachel Glennerster. She's Chief Economist at the UK's foreign aid agency DFID, and used to run J-PAL, the world-famous anti-poverty research centre based in MIT's...

Duration:01:34:12

#6 Classic episode - Dr Toby Ord on why the long-term future matters more than anything else

12/14/2018
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Rebroadcast: this episode was originally released in September 2017. Of all the people whose well-being we should care about, only a small fraction are alive today. The rest are members of future generations who are yet to exist. Whether they’ll be born into a world that is flourishing or disintegrating – and indeed, whether they will ever be born at all – is in large part up to us. As such, the welfare of future generations should be our number one moral concern. This conclusion holds...

Duration:02:13:37

#15 Classic episode - Prof Tetlock on chimps beating Berkeley undergrads & when to defer to the wise

12/7/2018
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Rebroadcast: this episode was originally released in November 2017. Prof Philip Tetlock is a social science legend. Over forty years he has researched whose predictions we can trust, whose we can’t and why - and developed methods that allow all of us to be better at predicting the future. After the Iraq WMDs fiasco, the US intelligence services hired him to figure out how to ensure they’d never screw up that badly again. The result of that work – Superforecasting – was a media sensation in...

Duration:01:24:09

#48 - Brian Christian on better living through the wisdom of computer science

11/22/2018
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Please let us know if we've helped you: Fill out our annual impact survey Ever felt that you were so busy you spent all your time paralysed trying to figure out where to start, and couldn't get much done? Computer scientists have a term for this - thrashing - and it's a common reason our computers freeze up. The solution, for people as well as laptops, is to 'work dumber': pick something at random and finish it, without wasting time thinking about the bigger picture. Bestselling author...

Duration:03:15:28

#47 - Catherine Olsson & Daniel Ziegler on the fast path into high-impact ML engineering roles

11/2/2018
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After dropping out of a machine learning PhD at Stanford, Daniel Ziegler needed to decide what to do next. He’d always enjoyed building stuff and wanted to shape the development of AI, so he thought a research engineering position at an org dedicated to aligning AI with human interests could be his best option. He decided to apply to OpenAI, and spent about 6 weeks preparing for the interview before landing the job. His PhD, by contrast, might have taken 6 years. Daniel thinks this highly...

Duration:02:04:49

#46 - Prof Hilary Greaves on moral cluelessness & tackling crucial questions in academia

10/23/2018
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The barista gives you your coffee and change, and you walk away from the busy line. But you suddenly realise she gave you $1 less than she should have. Do you brush your way past the people now waiting, or just accept this as a dollar you’re never getting back? According to philosophy Professor Hilary Greaves - Director of Oxford University's Global Priorities Institute, which is hiring - this simple decision will completely change the long-term future by altering the identities of almost...

Duration:02:49:12

#45 - Tyler Cowen's case for maximising econ growth, stabilising civilization & thinking long-term

10/17/2018
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I've probably spent more time reading Tyler Cowen - Professor of Economics at George Mason University - than any other author. Indeed it's his incredibly popular blog Marginal Revolution that prompted me to study economics in the first place. Having spent thousands of hours absorbing Tyler's work, it was a pleasure to be able to question him about his latest book and personal manifesto: Stubborn Attachments: A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals. Tyler...

Duration:02:30:46

#44 - Dr Paul Christiano on how we'll hand the future off to AI, & solving the alignment problem

10/2/2018
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Paul Christiano is one of the smartest people I know. After our first session produced such great material, we decided to do a second recording, resulting in our longest interview so far. While challenging at times I can strongly recommend listening - Paul works on AI himself and has a very unusually thought through view of how it will change the world. This is now the top resource I'm going to refer people to if they're interested in positively shaping the development of AI, and want to...

Duration:03:51:50

#43 - Daniel Ellsberg on the institutional insanity that maintains nuclear doomsday machines

9/25/2018
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In Stanley Kubrick’s iconic film Dr. Strangelove, the American president is informed that the Soviet Union has created a secret deterrence system which will automatically wipe out humanity upon detection of a single nuclear explosion in Russia. With US bombs heading towards the USSR and unable to be recalled, Dr Strangelove points out that “the whole point of this Doomsday Machine is lost if you keep it a secret – why didn’t you tell the world, eh?” The Soviet ambassador replies that it was...

Duration:02:44:01

#42 - Dr Amanda Askell on moral empathy, the value of information & the ethics of infinity

9/11/2018
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Consider two familiar moments at a family reunion. Our host, Uncle Bill, takes pride in his barbecuing skills. But his niece Becky says that she now refuses to eat meat. A groan goes round the table; the family mostly think of this as an annoying picky preference. But if seriously considered as a moral position, as they might if instead Becky were avoiding meat on religious grounds, it would usually receive a very different reaction. An hour later Bill expresses a strong objection to...

Duration:02:46:28

#41 - David Roodman on incarceration, geomagnetic storms, & becoming a world-class researcher

8/28/2018
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With 698 inmates per 100,000 citizens, the U.S. is by far the leader among large wealthy nations in incarceration. But what effect does imprisonment actually have on crime? According to David Roodman, Senior Advisor to the Open Philanthropy Project, the marginal effect is zero. * 80,000 HOURS IMPACT SURVEY - Let me know how this show has helped you with your career. * ROB'S AUDIOBOOK RECOMMENDATIONS This stunning rebuke to the American criminal justice system comes from the man Holden...

Duration:02:18:00

#40 - Katja Grace on forecasting future technology & how much we should trust expert predictions

8/21/2018
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Experts believe that artificial intelligence will be better than humans at driving trucks by 2027, working in retail by 2031, writing bestselling books by 2049, and working as surgeons by 2053. But how seriously should we take these predictions? Katja Grace, lead author of ‘When Will AI Exceed Human Performance?’, thinks we should treat such guesses as only weak evidence. But she also says there might be much better ways to forecast transformative technology, and that anticipating such...

Duration:02:11:16

#39 - Spencer Greenberg on the scientific approach to solving difficult everyday questions

8/7/2018
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Will Trump be re-elected? Will North Korea give up their nuclear weapons? Will your friend turn up to dinner? Spencer Greenberg, founder of ClearerThinking.org has a process for working out such real life problems. Let’s work through one here: how likely is it that you’ll enjoy listening to this episode? The first step is to figure out your ‘prior probability’; what’s your estimate of how likely you are to enjoy the interview before getting any further evidence? Other than applying...

Duration:02:17:29

#38 - Prof Ng on anticipating effective altruism decades ago & how to make a much happier world

7/25/2018
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Will people who think carefully about how to maximize welfare eventually converge on the same views? The effective altruism community has spent a lot of time over the past 10 years debating how best to increase happiness and reduce suffering, and gradually narrowed in on the world’s poorest people, all animals capable of suffering, and future generations. Yew-Kwang Ng, Professor of Economics at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, was independently working on this exact question...

Duration:01:59:29

#37 - GiveWell picks top charities by estimating the unknowable. James Snowden on how they do it.

7/16/2018
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What’s the value of preventing the death of a 5-year-old child, compared to a 20-year-old, or an 80-year-old? The global health community has generally regarded the value as proportional to the number of health-adjusted life-years the person has remaining - but GiveWell, one of the world’s foremost charity evaluators, no longer uses that approach. They found that contrary to the years-remaining’ method, many of their staff actually value preventing the death of an adult more than...

Duration:01:44:05