240 episodes

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.

80,000 Hours Podcast Rob, Luisa, Keiran, and the 80,000 Hours team

    • Education
    • 4.8 • 265 Ratings

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.

    #190 – Eric Schwitzgebel on whether the US is conscious

    #190 – Eric Schwitzgebel on whether the US is conscious

    "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 looking at itself and trying to understand itself. So we’re kind of this bright spot of reflectiveness in the cosmos, and I think we should celebrate that fact for its own intrinsic value and interestingness." —Eric Schwitzgebel
    In today’s episode, host Luisa Rodriguez speaks to Eric Schwitzgebel — professor of philosophy at UC Riverside — about some of the most bizarre and unintuitive claims from his recent book, The Weirdness of the World.
    Links to learn more, highlights, and full transcript.
    They cover:
    Why our intuitions seem so unreliable for answering fundamental questions about reality.What the materialist view of consciousness is, and how it might imply some very weird things — like that the United States could be a conscious entity.Thought experiments that challenge our intuitions — like supersquids that think and act through detachable tentacles, and intelligent species whose brains are made up of a million bugs.Eric’s claim that consciousness and cosmology are universally bizarre and dubious.How to think about borderline states of consciousness, and whether consciousness is more like a spectrum or more like a light flicking on.The nontrivial possibility that we could be dreaming right now, and the ethical implications if that’s true.Why it’s worth it to grapple with the universe’s most complex questions, even if we can’t find completely satisfying solutions.And much more.Chapters:
    Cold open (00:00:00)Luisa’s intro (00:01:10)Bizarre and dubious philosophical theories (00:03:13)The materialist view of consciousness (00:13:55)What would it mean for the US to be conscious? (00:19:46)Supersquids and antheads thought experiments (00:22:37)Alternatives to the materialist perspective (00:35:19)Are our intuitions useless for thinking about these things? (00:42:55)Key ingredients for consciousness (00:46:46)Reasons to think the US isn’t conscious (01:01:15)Overlapping consciousnesses [01:09:32]Borderline cases of consciousness (01:13:22)Are we dreaming right now? (01:40:29)Will we ever have answers to these dubious and bizarre questions? (01:56:16)Producer and editor: Keiran HarrisAudio engineering lead: Ben CordellTechnical editing: Simon Monsour, Milo McGuire, and Dominic ArmstrongAdditional content editing: Katy Moore and Luisa RodriguezTranscriptions: Katy Moore

    • 2 hr
    #189 – Rachel Glennerster on how “market shaping” could help solve climate change, pandemics, and other global problems

    #189 – Rachel Glennerster on how “market shaping” could help solve climate change, pandemics, and other global problems

    "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 cost. So you actually want low price, getting out to lots of people.
    "But it shows you that the market is not going to reward people who do the investment in preparation for a pandemic — because when a pandemic hits, they’re not going to get the reward in line with the social value. They may even have to charge less than they would in a non-pandemic time. So prepping for a pandemic is not an efficient market strategy if I’m a firm, but it’s a very efficient strategy for society, and so we’ve got to bridge that gap." —Rachel Glennerster
    In today’s episode, host Luisa Rodriguez speaks to Rachel Glennerster — associate professor of economics at the University of Chicago and a pioneer in the field of development economics — about how her team’s new Market Shaping Accelerator aims to leverage market forces to drive innovations that can solve pressing world problems.
    Links to learn more, highlights, and full transcript.
    They cover:
    How market failures and misaligned incentives stifle critical innovations for social goods like pandemic preparedness, climate change interventions, and vaccine development.How “pull mechanisms” like advance market commitments (AMCs) can help overcome these challenges — including concrete examples like how one AMC led to speeding up the development of three vaccines which saved around 700,000 lives in low-income countries.The challenges in designing effective pull mechanisms, from design to implementation.Why it’s important to tie innovation incentives to real-world impact and uptake, not just the invention of a new technology.The massive benefits of accelerating vaccine development, in some cases, even if it’s only by a few days or weeks.The case for a $6 billion advance market commitment to spur work on a universal COVID-19 vaccine.The shortlist of ideas from the Market Shaping Accelerator’s recent Innovation Challenge that use pull mechanisms to address market failures around improving indoor air quality, repurposing generic drugs for alternative uses, and developing eco-friendly air conditioners for a warming planet.“Best Buys” and “Bad Buys” for improving education systems in low- and middle-income countries, based on evidence from over 400 studies.Lessons from Rachel’s career at the forefront of global development, and how insights from economics can drive transformative change.And much more.Chapters:
    The Market Shaping Accelerator (00:03:33)Pull mechanisms for innovation (00:13:10)Accelerating the pneumococcal and COVID vaccines (00:19:05)Advance market commitments (00:41:46)Is this uncertainty hard for funders to plan around? (00:49:17)The story of the malaria vaccine that wasn’t (00:57:15)Challenges with designing and implementing AMCs and other pull mechanisms (01:01:40)Universal COVID vaccine (01:18:14)Climate-resilient crops (01:34:09)The Market Shaping Accelerator’s Innovation Challenge (01:45:40)Indoor air quality to reduce respiratory infections (01:49:09)Repurposing generic drugs (01:55:50)Clean air conditioning units (02:02:41)Broad-spectrum antivirals for pandemic prevention (02:09:11)Improving education in low- and middle-income countries (02:15:53)What’s still weird for Rachel about living in the US? (02:45:06)Producer and editor: Keiran HarrisAudio Engineering Lead: Ben CordellTechnical editing: Simon Monsour, Milo McGuire, and Dominic ArmstrongAdditional content editing: Katy Moore and Luisa RodriguezTranscriptions: Katy Moore

    • 2 hr 48 min
    #188 – Matt Clancy on whether science is good

    #188 – Matt Clancy on whether science is good

    "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, that aggregates up, and maybe after 10 years, we’re a year ahead of where we would have been if we hadn’t done this kind of stuff.
    "Now, suppose in 10 years we’re going to discover a cheap new genetic engineering technology that anyone can use in the world if they order the right parts off of Amazon. That could be great, but could also allow bad actors to genetically engineer pandemics and basically try to do terrible things with this technology. And if we’ve brought that forward, and that happens at year nine instead of year 10 because of some of these interventions we did, now we start to think that if that’s really bad, if these people using this technology causes huge problems for humanity, it begins to sort of wash out the benefits of getting the science a little bit faster." —Matt Clancy
    In today’s episode, host Luisa Rodriguez speaks to Matt Clancy — who oversees Open Philanthropy’s Innovation Policy programme — about his recent work modelling the risks and benefits of the increasing speed of scientific progress.
    Links to learn more, highlights, and full transcript.
    They cover:
    Whether scientific progress is actually net positive for humanity.Scenarios where accelerating science could lead to existential risks, such as advanced biotechnology being used by bad actors.Why Matt thinks metascience research and targeted funding could improve the scientific process and better incentivise outcomes that are good for humanity.Whether Matt trusts domain experts or superforecasters more when estimating how the future will turn out.Why Matt is sceptical that AGI could really cause explosive economic growth.And much more.Chapters:
    Is scientific progress net positive for humanity? (00:03:00)The time of biological perils (00:17:50)Modelling the benefits of science (00:25:48)Income and health gains from scientific progress (00:32:49)Discount rates (00:42:14)How big are the returns to science? (00:51:08)Forecasting global catastrophic biological risks from scientific progress (01:05:20)What’s the value of scientific progress, given the risks? (01:15:09)Factoring in extinction risk (01:21:56)How science could reduce extinction risk (01:30:18)Are we already too late to delay the time of perils? (01:42:38)Domain experts vs superforecasters (01:46:03)What Open Philanthropy’s Innovation Policy programme settled on (01:53:47)Explosive economic growth (02:06:28)Matt’s favourite thought experiment (02:34:57)Producer and editor: Keiran HarrisAudio engineering lead: Ben CordellTechnical editing: Simon Monsour, Milo McGuire, and Dominic ArmstrongAdditional content editing: Katy Moore and Luisa RodriguezTranscriptions: Katy Moore

    • 2 hr 40 min
    #187 – Zach Weinersmith on how researching his book turned him from a space optimist into a "space bastard"

    #187 – Zach Weinersmith on how researching his book turned him from a space optimist into a "space bastard"

    "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 train out. On Mars, you might not even be in the launch window. And even if there are five other company towns or five other settlements, they’re not necessarily rated to take more humans. They have their own oxygen budget, right?
    "And so economists use numbers like these, like labour mobility, as a way to put an equation and estimate the ability of a company to set noncompetitive wages or to set noncompetitive work conditions. And essentially, on Mars you’re setting it to infinity." — Zach Weinersmith
    In today’s episode, host Luisa Rodriguez speaks to Zach Weinersmith — the cartoonist behind Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal — about the latest book he wrote with his wife Kelly: A City on Mars: Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought This Through?
    Links to learn more, highlights, and full transcript.
    They cover:
    Why space travel is suddenly getting a lot cheaper and re-igniting enthusiasm around space settlement.What Zach thinks are the best and worst arguments for settling space.Zach’s journey from optimistic about space settlement to a self-proclaimed “space bastard” (pessimist).How little we know about how microgravity and radiation affects even adults, much less the children potentially born in a space settlement.A rundown of where we could settle in the solar system, and the major drawbacks of even the most promising candidates.Why digging bunkers or underwater cities on Earth would beat fleeing to Mars in a catastrophe.How new space settlements could look a lot like old company towns — and whether or not that’s a bad thing.The current state of space law and how it might set us up for international conflict.How space cannibalism legal loopholes might work on the International Space Station.And much more.Chapters:
    Space optimism and space bastards (00:03:04)Bad arguments for why we should settle space (00:14:01)Superficially plausible arguments for why we should settle space (00:28:54)Is settling space even biologically feasible? (00:32:43)Sex, pregnancy, and child development in space (00:41:41)Where’s the best space place to settle? (00:55:02)Creating self-sustaining habitats (01:15:32)What about AI advances? (01:26:23)A roadmap for settling space (01:33:45)Space law (01:37:22)Space signalling and propaganda (01:51:28) Space war (02:00:40)Mining asteroids (02:06:29)Company towns and communes in space (02:10:55)Sending digital minds into space (02:26:37)The most promising space governance models (02:29:07)The tragedy of the commons (02:35:02)The tampon bandolier and other bodily functions in space (02:40:14)Is space cannibalism legal? (02:47:09)The pregnadrome and other bizarre proposals (02:50:02)Space sexism (02:58:38)What excites Zach about the future (03:02:57)Producer and editor: Keiran HarrisAudio engineering lead: Ben CordellTechnical editing: Simon Monsour, Milo McGuire, and Dominic ArmstrongAdditional content editing: Katy Moore and Luisa RodriguezTranscriptions: Katy Moore

    • 3 hr 6 min
    #186 – Dean Spears on why babies are born small in Uttar Pradesh, and how to save their lives

    #186 – Dean Spears on why babies are born small in Uttar Pradesh, and how to save their lives

    "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. Forty percent of children there are stunted. Only two-thirds of women are literate. So Uttar Pradesh is a place where there are lots of health challenges.
    "And then even within that, we’re working in a district called Bahraich, where about 4 million people live. So even that district of Uttar Pradesh is the size of a country, and if it were its own country, it would have a higher neonatal mortality rate than any other country. In other words, babies born in Bahraich district are more likely to die in their first month of life than babies born in any country around the world." — Dean Spears
    In today’s episode, host Luisa Rodriguez speaks to Dean Spears — associate professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin and founding director of r.i.c.e. — about his experience implementing a surprisingly low-tech but highly cost-effective kangaroo mother care programme in Uttar Pradesh, India to save the lives of vulnerable newborn infants.
    Links to learn more, highlights, and full transcript.
    They cover:
    The shockingly high neonatal mortality rates in Uttar Pradesh, India, and how social inequality and gender dynamics contribute to poor health outcomes for both mothers and babies.The remarkable benefits for vulnerable newborns that come from skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding support.The challenges and opportunities that come with working with a government hospital to implement new, evidence-based programmes.How the currently small programme might be scaled up to save more newborns’ lives in other regions of Uttar Pradesh and beyond.How targeted health interventions stack up against direct cash transfers.Plus, a sneak peak into Dean’s new book, which explores the looming global population peak that’s expected around 2080, and the consequences of global depopulation.And much more.Chapters:
    Why is low birthweight a major problem in Uttar Pradesh? (00:02:45)Neonatal mortality and maternal health in Uttar Pradesh (00:06:10)Kangaroo mother care (00:12:08)What would happen without this intervention? (00:16:07)Evidence of KMC’s effectiveness (00:18:15)Longer-term outcomes (00:32:14)GiveWell’s support and implementation challenges (00:41:13)How can KMC be so cost effective? (00:52:38)Programme evaluation (00:57:21)Is KMC is better than direct cash transfers? (00:59:12)Expanding the programme and what skills are needed (01:01:29)Fertility and population decline (01:07:28)What advice Dean would give his younger self (01:16:09)Producer and editor: Keiran HarrisAudio engineering lead: Ben CordellTechnical editing: Simon Monsour, Milo McGuire, and Dominic ArmstrongAdditional content editing: Katy Moore and Luisa RodriguezTranscriptions: Katy Moore

    • 1 hr 18 min
    #185 – Lewis Bollard on the 7 most promising ways to end factory farming, and whether AI is going to be good or bad for animals

    #185 – Lewis Bollard on the 7 most promising ways to end factory farming, and whether AI is going to be good or bad for animals

    "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. And I think in particular there’s a risk that if AI is learning from what we do as humans today, the lesson it’s going to learn is that it’s OK to tolerate mass cruelty, so long as it occurs behind closed doors. I think there’s a risk that if it learns that, then it perpetuates that value, and perhaps slows human moral progress on this issue." —Lewis Bollard
    In today’s episode, host Luisa Rodriguez speaks to Lewis Bollard — director of the Farm Animal Welfare programme at Open Philanthropy — about the promising progress and future interventions to end the worst factory farming practices still around today.
    Links to learn more, highlights, and full transcript.
    They cover:
    The staggering scale of animal suffering in factory farms, and how it will only get worse without intervention.Work to improve farmed animal welfare that Open Philanthropy is excited about funding.The amazing recent progress made in farm animal welfare — including regulatory attention in the EU and a big win at the US Supreme Court — and the work that still needs to be done.The occasional tension between ending factory farming and curbing climate changeHow AI could transform factory farming for better or worse — and Lewis’s fears that the technology will just help us maximise cruelty in the name of profit.How Lewis has updated his opinions or grantmaking as a result of new research on the “moral weights” of different species.Lewis’s personal journey working on farm animal welfare, and how he copes with the emotional toll of confronting the scale of animal suffering.How listeners can get involved in the growing movement to end factory farming — from career and volunteer opportunities to impactful donations.And much more.Chapters:
    Common objections to ending factory farming (00:13:21)Potential solutions (00:30:55)Cage-free reforms (00:34:25)Broiler chicken welfare (00:46:48)Do companies follow through on these commitments? (01:00:21)Fish welfare (01:05:02)Alternatives to animal proteins (01:16:36)Farm animal welfare in Asia (01:26:00)Farm animal welfare in Europe (01:30:45)Animal welfare science (01:42:09)Approaches Lewis is less excited about (01:52:10)Will we end factory farming in our lifetimes? (01:56:36)Effect of AI (01:57:59)Recent big wins for farm animals (02:07:38)How animal advocacy has changed since Lewis first got involved (02:15:57)Response to the Moral Weight Project (02:19:52)How to help (02:28:14)Producer and editor: Keiran HarrisAudio engineering lead: Ben CordellTechnical editing: Simon Monsour, Milo McGuire, and Dominic ArmstrongAdditional content editing: Katy Moore and Luisa RodriguezTranscriptions: Katy Moore

    • 2 hr 33 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
265 Ratings

265 Ratings

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Nina

Is Nina AI? Is that accent Dublin, Berlin, Kansas City?

Garden Perfect ,

Lies

This is a podcast dedicated to , ‘The Spirit of the Age’, meaning the global elites agenda.

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Essential listening for all

Delightful podcast - very educational for anyone interested in the world, not just people interested in effective altruism. The hosts are incredibly well prepared and have a lot to add to the conversation without making it about them. While the long (many hour) nature of the conversations allows you to really get a deep understanding of the guests views, something that is rare for interviewees of this caliber.

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