I always find this a bit hard to answer, because I often feel really uncertain about the big / important questions, such that it’s hard to know what my view exactly is or how it changes. Here are a few things I’ve been surprised about recently though:
The research in ‘Destined for War’ on how one superpower overtaking another has usually led to a war throughout history, and its conclusion that the US and China need to work hard at avoiding that trap. I don’t think I would otherwise have thought about war as being in some sense the ‘default’ outcome of China’s growth surpassing that of the US. It definitely made me more worried about that relationship.
I would have thought there were a lot of resources going into peace building, and that many of those would be focused on avoiding great power war. But talking to people about this area it seems like there is less work being done on it than I would have thought. (That’s not to say we should work on it, it maybe means that only governments can really do anything on this, and there’s no point philanthropists putting money towards it.)
I had thought that if you wanted to work in a particular area in government in the UK as a civil servant (eg on biotechnology) you should aim to get a job in the most relevant department for that and stay there. But from talking to people it seems that it’s actually well thought of to have experience with multiple departments, and it can be easier to move up quickly by moving around. That doesn’t feel intuitive to me compared to getting more specific expertise.
I’ve been finding it interesting seeing what biases I’ve had from being around academia so much. One that was particularly noticeable to me was that coming out of a philosophy PhD onto the philosophy job market you expect to apply for at least 10s of jobs, plausibly over 100, and to get almost none (or in fact none) of them. Obviously, that makes applying for jobs a gruelling and thankless task, but I think there’s some sense of it being less personal because everyone is applying to tonnes of things and getting rejected by the vast majority of them. That culture seems pretty different from what some people experience coming out of university.