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Ethics of Career Choice, Prof Singer's Practical Ethics Course


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Which careers are the most ethical? In a guest lecture for Peter Singer's Practical Ethics Course, Will Crouch addresses the question: which career should you pursue if you want to do the most good in the world?

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Ethics of Career Choice, Prof Singer's Practical Ethics Course

  1. 1. 80 000 hours <ul><li>Will Crouch </li></ul><ul><li>Faculty of Philosophy </li></ul><ul><li>University of Oxford </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>
  2. 2. Why Think about Career Choice? <ul><li>We’ll each spend 80 000 hours of our lives working. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Career choice is one of the most important decisions we’ll ever make. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>I wanted to make the most of those hours. </li></ul><ul><li>So I used my training ethics to try to work out how best to use them. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Why Think about Career Choice? <ul><li>I didn’t care whether it is obligatory or merely permissible to pursue an altruistic career. I just wanted to know how to do what’s best. </li></ul><ul><li>But, remarkably little has been written on this aspect of the ethics of career choice. </li></ul><ul><li>So I started with the standard public discourse of ‘ethical careers’ </li></ul>
  4. 4. The Standard View <ul><li>Make a difference. </li></ul><ul><li>How can I make the most difference? How much good could I do, if I really tried? </li></ul><ul><li>With my money? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>I found out that one can save a life for £300. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>By donating 50% of my expected future income to the very most cost-effective causes, I can expect to save over 3000 lives. </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Making the most difference <ul><li>With my career? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Perhaps, if I were to pursue a different career, I could do even more good? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>I’m going to look at the standard view of ethical career choice. </li></ul><ul><li>I’m going to suggest that, through high-impact ethical careers, you can make an even bigger difference. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Making the most difference <ul><li>I’m going to give four arguments why you can do more good through professional philanthropy than through a ‘direct benefitting’ career. </li></ul><ul><li>I’ll also suggest that some influencing careers and research careers can be high-impact, and I’ll introduce you to the community that we’ve created. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Categorising Career Paths
  8. 8. <ul><li>Suppose I became a developing world doctor . </li></ul>Charity Work <ul><li>If so, then I would save lives on a regular basis: </li></ul>
  9. 9. Charity Work <ul><li>That ’ s pretty cool! </li></ul><ul><li>But could I do more? </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>What if I became an altruistic banker , pursuing a lucrative career in order to donate my earnings? </li></ul><ul><li>Even if I leveled-out low in the ranks of investment banking, my lifetime earnings would still be ~£6m. </li></ul>How Much Could I Earn?
  11. 11. <ul><li>Using this money, I could pay for several developing-world doctors: </li></ul>Professional Philanthropy
  12. 12. <ul><li>That means I ’ d save several times as many lives: </li></ul>Professional Philanthropy
  13. 13. Professional Philanthropy
  14. 14. Professional Philanthropy <ul><li>And there are further reasons in favour of this route. </li></ul>
  15. 15. #2: Doing Something Different <ul><li>First, making a difference requires doing something that wouldn ’ t have happened anyway. </li></ul><ul><li>If I don ’ t become that doctor, someone else would do the same work instead of me: </li></ul>
  16. 16. Doing Something Different <ul><li>Similarly, if I turned down professional philanthropy, another banker would take my place. </li></ul><ul><li>But they would donate very little. The result would be fewer doctors. So almost everyone saved by my donations would have died. </li></ul>
  17. 17. #3: Flexibility <ul><li>Second, money can be used to further almost any cause. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Flexibility <ul><li>This means that I could fund only those causes I believe to be the very best. </li></ul><ul><li>In contrast, as a charity worker, I ’ d be much more restricted in where I could work. </li></ul><ul><li>Some causes are thousands of times more effective with their resources than others, so this is a big deal. </li></ul>
  19. 19. #4: Uncertainty <ul><li>Moreover, we should be uncertain about which activities do the most good with the resources we give them. We might discover new evidence or opportunities which mean we should change our mind. </li></ul><ul><li>As a charity worker, it’s difficult to shift the field in which you work. </li></ul><ul><li>But a professional philanthropist can switch causes very easily. </li></ul>
  20. 20. <ul><li>So should we all go into lucrative careers, and become professional philanthropists? </li></ul><ul><li>Or could we do even more good again? </li></ul>Professional Philanthropy
  21. 21. Categorising Career Paths
  22. 22. Research <ul><li>Some researchers have done huge amounts of good. </li></ul><ul><li>Norman Borlaug, in developing disease resistant wheat, directly saved 250mn people. </li></ul><ul><li>Even taking into account replaceability, his impact is likely in the tens of millions. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Categorising Career Paths
  24. 24. <ul><li>And maybe we can influence others to do good in their lives? Some people have certainly had a huge impact in this way… </li></ul>Influencing others
  25. 25. <ul><li>So consider, now, the canny persuader . </li></ul><ul><li>She encourages others to pursue a high-impact ethical career. </li></ul><ul><li>Over her lifetime she persuades 100 people to become professional philanthropists. </li></ul>Influencing others
  26. 26.
  27. 27. <ul><li>If you became an altruistic banker, by donating 50% to Against Malaria Foundation, you could save about 10 000 lives </li></ul><ul><li>So if you could become a canny persuader, you could save a million lives. </li></ul><ul><li>Which would look like this: </li></ul>Influencing Others
  28. 28.
  29. 29. Objections? <ul><li>You probably have some objections to what I’ve argued. </li></ul><ul><li>So let’s consider and think about them. </li></ul>
  30. 30. Causing Harm? <ul><li>Don’ t many lucrative careers cause harm? </li></ul><ul><li>Many lucrative careers are really pretty innocuous. </li></ul><ul><li>And even for those careers which are harmful: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Does the harm outweigh the tens of thousands of lives you’ll save? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Who would have been in your place if you don’t take that job? </li></ul></ul>
  31. 31. Causing Harm? <ul><li>Let’s think about a real-life example… </li></ul><ul><li>Oskar Schindler ran Nazi munitions </li></ul><ul><li>factories and used his earnings to </li></ul><ul><li>buy 1200 Jewish lives. </li></ul>
  32. 32. <ul><li>Are you supporting an unjust system? </li></ul><ul><li>But remember that you can fund any cause. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If the most important cause is ending capitalism, you could fund anti-capitalist campaigning. </li></ul></ul>The system... <ul><li>Engels became a partner at a factory, a job which he hated, in order to fund Marx ’ s research and printing </li></ul>
  33. 33. Integrity? <ul><li>What about my integrity (Williams)? </li></ul><ul><li>It’s an important consideration. But, of all the lucrative careers, you should be able to find one that doesn’t violate your integrity. </li></ul><ul><li>And for those that do, think: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can you change the projects you have? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Is your loss of integrity sufficient to outweigh the thousands of lives you can save? </li></ul></ul>
  34. 34. Getting corrupted? <ul><li>Won’t you burn out or get corrupted if you pursue a lucrative career – and then end up donating nothing? </li></ul><ul><li>Well, not if you’re part of a community of people who share your ideals.. . </li></ul>
  35. 35.
  36. 36. <ul><li>We ’ re researching which careers enable us to do the most good. </li></ul><ul><li>We ’ re publicising our findings and advocating that people put these ideas into practice. </li></ul><ul><li>We ’ re building a community of people with shared aims. We ’ ll help one another to be successful in our chosen high-impact ethical careers. </li></ul>80 000 hours
  37. 37. Tech Entrepreneurship Law and Politics Cost-Effectiveness Research Current Members...
  38. 38. <ul><li>If you are convinced to any extent by the arguments given above, stay here after the lecture for pizza and more information! </li></ul>