Changes to how 80,000 Hours prioritises the world’s problems

80,000 Hours re­cently rewrote its ap­proach for com­par­ing prob­lems against one an­other. This is how we give peo­ple ad­vice on which prob­lems are most ‘press­ing’, and so are most promis­ing for peo­ple aiming to have a large so­cial im­pact with their ca­reer. We recom­mend check­ing it out.

This frame­work is a work in progress and is likely to be fur­ther iter­ated in fu­ture.

The biggest changes since the last ver­sion are:

  • Redefin­ing ‘solv­abil­ity’ from a qual­i­ta­tive scor­ing sys­tem to ‘the % of the prob­lem ex­pected to be solved’ by a ‘dou­bling of re­sources ded­i­cated to solv­ing the prob­lem’. For a prob­lem where progress is easy, a dou­bling of the re­sources al­lo­cated to fix­ing it might re­duce the dam­age it does by 10-100%. For one where progress is slow, it might only solve an ad­di­tional 1%. This ad­just­ment makes the model math­e­mat­i­cally clean and re­quire fewer as­sump­tions, though as­sign­ing scores for solv­abil­ity re­mains difficult.

  • We down­graded the value of eco­nomic growth in the rich world, but added a new yard­stick for pro­mot­ing eco­nomic growth in the de­vel­op­ing world to re­flect its higher hu­man­i­tar­ian value.

  • When eval­u­at­ing ‘ne­glect­ed­ness’ we now only mea­sure the re­sources that are al­lo­cated with the in­ten­tion of solv­ing a prob­lem, rather than also those which might ac­ci­den­tally do so (which proved im­prac­ti­cal). The full doc­u­ment ex­plains why this is OK.

  • We’ve added ad­di­tional de­tails about how to as­sign scores, to en­sure con­sis­tent stan­dards across prob­lems.

  • The un­der­ly­ing math­e­mat­ics are now prop­erly ex­plained.

In de­sign­ing the frame­work we’ve benefit­ted from the work of Owen Cot­ton-Bar­ratt at the Fu­ture of Hu­man­ity In­sti­tute in par­tic­u­lar.

You could po­ten­tially use this pro­cess to write your own pro­files of prob­lems you or oth­ers in the com­mu­nity might work on, and we would be in­ter­ested to see the re­sults.

We also re­cently rewrote our pro­file of global pri­ori­ties re­search—that is, pri­ori­tis­ing differ­ent global prob­lems as a pro­fes­sion. We hope it’s now eas­ier to take ac­tion af­ter read­ing it. If you can see your­self con­duct­ing that re­search in your ca­reer, let us know and we might be in touch.