By Giving What We Can Cambridge | Posted June 27th, 2013
In early May, Peter Singer visited Cambridge to give a talk on effective altruism and Giving What We Can at the Cambridge Union. Before the talk, a team from Giving What We Can Cambridge took the opportunity to discuss effective altruism and effective careers with Professor Singer.
In the second part of the interview, published below, Singer answers questions on effective careers.
Applying effective altruism to career choices – the idea behind “effective careers”
GWWC: How would you define an effective career?
Peter Singer: An effective career is one in which you seek to make the biggest possible beneficial impact on the world. That would be the most effective career but not many people will reach this. What you see instead is people striving for the most effective career and changing their career choices in order to have a bigger impact, if not the biggest. Overall this is adding another dimension to what effective altruism is all about.
GWWC: Is there a set of stable criteria that identifies a career as effective or good? Or does it differ from person to person? Because ultimately it is very hard to anticipate what impact these big life choices will have. With all that in mind what advice would you give to university students and young people interested in making these decisions?
Peter Singer: The main advice is to think about your career as something you are going to spend a large amount of time and energy on – 80,000 hours – and therefore not just to fall into one career or the other but to make a conscious choice to end up in a career where you can make a significant difference, and expect to get some satisfaction and well-being from doing so. But that’s very general advice, I can’t give advice to students saying either you should become a doctor to go and help people abroad who need health-care, or you should become a scientist so that you can discover renewable energy that doesn’t emit greenhouse gases, or you should go into finance so that you can earn a lot of money and donate to these organisations. That decision is going to depend on the individual’s talent and character. Each individual has to think for himself or herself “what can I contribute and where can I have the greatest impact” and then commit to doing so.
The entire interview is here.