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Should you be willing to....
- Work in a morally questionable part of finance in order to make large donations to charity (where you think the donations will have a greater positive impact than the harms done by the work)?
- Work in a factory farm and make the conditions less bad, causing less suffering overall?
Join a political campaign you think might be harmful in order to gain connections (where you think the connections will let you have more positive impact than the harm done by working for the campaign)?
- Work at a lab developing dangerous biotech so that you can blow the whistle if you see something particularly dangerous happening?
This post sets out 80,000 Hours’s views on these issues. In summary:
- We believe that in the vast majority of cases, it’s a mistake to pursue a career in which the direct effects of the work are seriously harmful, even if the overall benefits of that work seem greater than the harms.
- We think that this position is justified even if all you value, morally, are the consequences of your actions, but we also think that we should put weight on the common-sense view that the ends don’t always justify the means.
- Having said that, it’s important to bear in mind that all careers will involve some degree of negative impact. The question to think about is not whether your career involves making others worse off, but how much it does and in what way. We think you should be wary of treating classes of career paths monolithically, and instead should pay close attention to the specifics of the job in which you would be working.