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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  • 1) We research the question, “ how can I use my time and money in order to most benefit people? ” 2) We publicise our findings and advocate that people put them into practice. 3) We ’ re building a community of people with shared aims. Our mission is to help our members and provide a platform for us to help and connect with each other, in order that are as successful as we can possibly be, such that it all trickles into the causes that we ’ re all supporting, maximising our impact as a group. Together we will provide: Help with applications Job opportunities Internships Investment opportunitiesAdviceMentorshipsOffice space and funding for start-upsSupport from a group of like-minded people
  • 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>