Mark Olson

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    Mark Olson commented  · 

    Realizing now I basically misinterpreted your comment, since you were referring to specifically the podcast. I also think it would be really cool to have somebody on the show who could speak to the non-extraordinary EA's out there. Maybe somebody who can speak to the importance of value-added roles (see point (2) in my above comment). Idk. A podcast they've already done that seems to point in that direction is #35 – Tara Mac Aulay on the audacity to fix the world without asking permission. But I don't listen to all the podcasts, so you're better informed than me.

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    Mark Olson commented  · 

    Dear Jonah,
    Thank you *so much* for posting this! I strongly identify with this sentiment as a smart-and-curious-but-definitely-not-extraordinary chemist/biochemist. First, I'd strongly recommend that anyone else who agrees with this read "Doing Good Better" by William MacAskill (2015). A lot of it is review for those already familiar with the basic tenets of 80,000 Hrs, but it adds some other useful points. I also think that 80,000 Hours *does* actually have some suggestions for the ordinary people out there, although most suggestions do seem to be aimed at the superstars.

    Here are the ideas that come to my mind, based on reading that book and just mulling it over myself:
    Tl;dr:
    1. Earning to give
    2. Value-added roles in an EA org
    3. Telling other people (especially smarter, better positioned people) about EA

    Longer answer:
    1. Earning to give is a great option if you feel like you couldn't make a meaningful contribution to any EA causes. In fact, the book observes that sometimes it's better to earn to give even if you think your skills could be somewhat useful in an EA cause. For example, if you would only be 10% better in some EA position than whoever they would have hired instead, your net impact in that role is only 10% of the total impact of the role.
    There are also lots of good-paying jobs out there for people who aren't extraordinarily brilliant. The book mentions that some professional jobs pay good money even to non-college graduates. You can also make a lot of money as, e.g., an accountant if you are willing to sacrifice your life on the altar of work.

    2. Value-added roles in an EA organization. These include things like graphic designer, advertising person, probably HR person, anybody who helps improve company culture, low-level functionary, maybe salesperson or canvasser. Cell-based and plant-based meat substitutes are a great EA cause area (benefits animal welfare, potentially reduces global warming and other environmental degradation, still pretty few people working there) that could use every one of those roles that I just mentioned. You don't need to be I myself am aiming to be a low-level production assistant in a cell-based meat company because I recognize that I'm not smart or quick enough to realistically make a big impact in the upper echelons of this cause area.

    3. Telling other people (especially smarter, better positioned people) about EA. This might be the most effective one of all actually. You can do the math yourself and see that if you can get just one or two people who make a lot of money or have a lot of good-doing potential to take the Giving What We Can pledge or join an EA org, you are indirectly responsible for all the good they do assuming they wouldn't have joined otherwise.

    Well, that's all I got. Thanks again!

    Mark Olson supported this idea  · 

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