Will MacAskill Interview (Full Episode) | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast) | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Will MacAskill Interview (Full Episode) | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast)".


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Intro (00:00)

Optimal, minimal. At this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Can I ask you a personal question? No, I would have seen an appropriate coming. What if I did the opposite? I'm a cybernetic organism. Living tissue over a metal entoskeleton. Lady Tim in Paris show. This episode is brought to you by Wealthfront, and this is a very unique sponsor. Wealthfront is a massively disruptive, in a good way, set it and forget it investing service, led by technologists from places like Apple and world famous investors. It has exploded in popularity in the last two years, and they now have more than $2 and 1/2 billion under management. In fact, some of my very good friends, investors in Silicon Valley, have millions of their own money in Wealthfront. So the question is why? Why is it so popular? Why is it unique? Because you can get services previously reserved for the ultra wealthy, but only pay pennies on the dollar for them. And this is because they use smarter software instead of retail locations, bloated sales teams, et cetera. And I'll come back to that in a second. I suggest you check out wealthfront.com/tim. Take the risk assessment quiz, which only takes two to five minutes, and they'll show you for free exactly the portfolio they'd put you in. And if you just want to take their advice, run with it, do it yourself, you can do that. Or as I would, you can set it and forget it, and here's why. The value of Wealthfront is in the automation of habits and strategies that investors should be using on a regular basis, but normally aren't. Great investing is a marathon, not a sprint, and little things that you may or may not be familiar with, like automatic tax loss harvesting, rebalancing your portfolio across more than 10 asset classes, and dividend reinvestment add up to very large amounts of money over longer periods of time. Wealthfront, as I mentioned, since it's using software instead of retail locations, et cetera, can offer all of this at low costs that were previously completely impossible. Right off the bat, you never pay commissions or account fees. For everything, they charge 0.25% per year on assets above the first $15,000, which is managed for free if you use my link, wealthfront.com/tim. That is less than $5 a month to invest a $30,000 account, for instance. Now, normally, when I have a sponsor on this show, it's because I use them and recommend them. In this case, it's a little different. I don't use Wealthfront yet because I'm not allowed to. Here's the deal. They wanted to sponsor this podcast, but because of SEC regulations, companies that invest your money are not allowed to use client testimonials. So I couldn't be a user and have them on the podcast. But I've been so impressed by Wealthfront that I've invested a significant amount of my own money, at least for me, in the team and the company itself. So I am an investor and hope to soon use it as a client. Now back to the recommendation. As a Tim Ferriss Show listener, you'll get $15,000 managed for free if you decide to open an account. But just start with seeing the portfolio that they would suggest for you. Take two minutes, fill out their questionnaire at wealthfront.com/tim. It's fast. It's free. There's no downside that I can think of. Now I do have to read a mandatory disclaimer. Wealthfront Inc. is an SEC registered investment advisor. Investing in securities involves risks, and there is the possibility of losing money. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Please visit wealthfront.com to read their full disclosure. So check it out, guys. This is one of the hottest, most innovative companies coming out of Silicon Valley, and they're killing it. They've become massively popular. Just take a look, see what portfolio they would create for you, and you can use that information however you want. wealthfront.com/tim. This podcast is brought to you by Misen and Main. Don't worry about the spelling. All you need to know is this. I have organized my entire life around avoiding fancy shirts because you have to iron them, you sweat through them, they smell really easily, they're a pain in the ass. Misen and Main has given me the only shirt that I need. And what I mean by that, and Kelly Starrett loves these shirts as well, is that you can trick people. They look really fancy, so you can take them out to nice dinners, whatever, but they're made from athletic sweat-wicking material. So you can throw this thing into your luggage in a heap or on your kitchen table like I did recently, and then pull it out, throw it on with no ironing, no steaming, no nothing, walk out, and you could probably wear this thing for a week straight or make it your only dress shirt and take it on trips for weeks at a time. Never wash it. It will not smell. You will not sweat through it. You've got to check these things out. So go to 4hourworkweek.com, all spelled out, 4hourworkweek.com/shirts. Check it out, 4hourworkweek.com/shirts, and you'll see some of my favorite gear, including the one shirt that I've been traveling with. Hello, ladies and germs. This is Tim Ferriss, and welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show. I am looking out over a highway from a hotel next to JFK because I forgot my passport in California and missed my flight. In any case, on this show, it is always my job to try to deconstruct world-class performers and identify the routines, the habits, the decisions that help them to become who they are. In this episode, we have a really fun guest, Will McCaskill. Will McCaskill is an associate professor in philosophy at Lincoln College, which is at Oxford. He is 28 years old, which makes him likely the youngest associate-- in other words, tenured professor of philosophy in the world. He is co-founder of the Effective Altruism Movement, which I'm a huge supporter of, and author of Doing Good Better. He has pledged to donate everything he earns over 36k, roughly, per year to whatever charities he believes will be most effective. He has co-founded two well-known nonprofits, 80,000 Hours and Giving What We Can. And we'll get into both of those. But more important, we will talk about the lessons he's learned, how to evaluate doing good, how to hack doing good, as you would in business. And he has been exposed to business. He's one of the few nonprofit founders who have gone through Y Combinator, which is effectively the Harvard Navy SEAL equivalent for startup incubators based in Silicon Valley. And his stories are just fascinating. We talk about many different things. We cover a lot of ground, everything from artificial intelligence to why following your passion in a career is often a mistake, how on earth he became a tenured professor at his young age, thought experiments like Pascal's Wager versus Pascal's Mugging. And even if you have no interest in nonprofits, charities, this will help teach you how to think more effectively, how to evaluate things more effectively. We'll also talk about some specifics, why donating to disaster relief or purchasing things through ethical consumerism are generally not a great way to do good. But we talk about his story, his decisions, and there is a lot to be learned. So say hello to him on the interwebs. Will is @willmacaskill, @-w-i-l-l-m-a-c-a-s-k-i-l-l, on Twitter. And please enjoy our conversation. Thanks for listening. Will, welcome to the show.

Discussion On Effective Altruism And Moral Philosophy

Lincoln College at Oxford University (07:06)

Thank you for having me on. I really appreciate you making the time. And where do we find you on the planet Earth at this moment? I'm in Oxford in the United Kingdom at the moment. And now you are an associate professor in philosophy at Lincoln College. Is that right? Yeah, Lincoln College, Oxford University. And is Lincoln College-- it's not a residential college. So for instance, at Princeton, they have different residential colleges. What is the significance of the colleges within Oxford? Yeah, it's a really big thing, actually. So almost all your teaching goes on in college. You live there. You eat there. Most of your friends are there while you're a student at the university. And actually, all the colleges predate the university. So that's really the core of your life at Oxford. And then you get examined and go to lectures at the university itself. And when you receive a degree, is it from a particular college?

What is effective altruism? (07:57)

Do you have to attribute it to the college, or is it simply Oxford? No, the degree is just from university. Got it. So let's then begin. You do quite a few things. When someone asks you, what do you do, how do you answer that question? That's right. So depending on whether I want to be low key or not, I'll tell them I'm associate professor of philosophy at Oxford University. But I'm also one of the co-founders of the effective altruism movement, where that's a community of people who are dedicated to using their time and money as effectively as possible to make the world a better place. And to that end, I co-founded a couple of nonprofits, Giving What We Can, which encourages people to give at least 10% of their income to the most effective charities, and 80,000 Hours, named after the number of hours you typically work in your life, which is about giving advice to people to ensure that if they want to pursue a career with a big impact they can do as much good as they can. And how do you answer the question, what makes your brand of altruism effective? And maybe we can back into that, where there was a tweet I saw at one point from Bill Gates, and it was a data nerd after my own heart, and he linked to an article about you. I think it was a profile in The Atlantic. That's exactly right. So if you're talking to a skeptic and they say, OK, well, what makes it effective? So the key is that we take a kind of scientific approach to doing good. So that's using high quality evidence, really good data, thinking about the outcomes that your actions do, rather than just what's a really sexy intervention or what makes you feel good, but actually what's helping people the most. And drawing on years of research now, as well as using careful, reflective, self-critical reasoning in order to work out what those things aren't just making any difference, but are making the most difference. And what are some common mistakes?

Common mistakes in giving money time to a cause. (09:49)

And just so people listening understand this, this isn't a disguised sell for nonprofit donations on my part. This is a conversation that I wanted to have with you because we have a mutual friend in Ryan Holiday, and he is himself a philosopher of sorts, huge fan of stoic philosophy, as am I. And he's a fan of yours. And I was very interested in Connect. So just so those people who are wondering if this is a dressed up sales pitch, it is not. What are common mistakes that people make when giving? And I've had many of my own struggles with providing time and money to various causes and nonprofits. Maybe we'll dig into some of them specifically. What are common mistakes or misallocation of resources that you see very commonly? So yeah, I think the biggest mistake of all is just not really thinking or doing any research about where you're donating. So I mean, imagine if someone came up to you in the street and told you about this company that they'd set up or that they were representing and that you should really invest in this company. Then they tell you about how great the company is. And then ask you right there on the street, well, are you going to make an investment? Sounds like Silicon Valley right now. Well, yeah, maybe it's a little bit different in the day. Certainly here in Oxford, people would be-- Generally not a good idea. Generally not a good idea. But yet we're happy to do that when it comes to charities. We're happy to spend our money to try and help others, but without ever actually doing the research to work out what's going to actually have the biggest impact. And there are evaluators now like GiveWorld.org that are doing this research for us so that we can actually follow their recommendations, because it does take quite a bit of time. How does GiveWorld.org compare to, say, Charity Navigator or something like that? Yeah, there are really big differences. So Charity Navigator focuses just on the financials and just on the aspects of the charity itself, where one core part of it is how much does the charity spend on overheads? What's the percentage spent on ministration? But that's not a great metric, because imagine you've got some really lousy program. You're giving away donuts to hungry police officers or something, something that's not going to do very much good. But you've got this amazingly low overhead. You're spending almost nothing on administration. Well, you're still going to be a lousy charity. You can't make a lousy charity good by having a very low overhead. Right. Got it. So you're looking at the operational efficiencies, but whether something is efficient or not, it can still be very ineffective. Yeah, that's exactly right. So you've got to look at what program the charity is implementing as well. And there, there's absolutely huge differences. So three quarters of social programs, when put to the test using trials, are found to have no effect at all. They just don't actually improve people's lives. Some are even actively harmful.

To give or not to give money to disaster relief? (12:59)

But then among the ones that are good that do make a difference, there's still a vast discrepancy. The best ones are hundreds of times as good as merely ones that just do some amount of good. And it seems like you are a skeptic of disaster relief. Is that a fair statement? Or how would you unpack that? Yeah, so I mean, I think funding disaster relief, it should happen for sure. When there's a massive crisis like the Haitian earthquake, money should be going to it. And a lot of money, in fact. But then the question is, what should you as an individual donor do? And natural disasters, because they get so much press coverage and so much media attention, they're massively overfunded compared to what I call ongoing natural disasters like the 400,000 people who die of malaria every year. But that gets far less media coverage. And in fact, even in the case of the Japanese earthquake, the Japanese Red Cross issued a statement saying, we do not want any money. We do not need money. We're the fourth richest country in the world. We have the resources to deal with this problem. But yet, they still got $5 billion in donations, which was about the same as-- got allocated to Haiti, which is one of the poorest countries in the world. Understood.

Youngest Tenured Professor of Philosophy in the World (14:12)

And let's take a step back for a minute, because I know we could really dig into the tactics and science and numbers behind what you do. But you are currently 28. Is that right? That's right. And you are a tenured professor of philosophy. Where does that put you on the spectrum of tenured professors of philosophy worldwide, age-wise? Age-wise. It's hard to verify, but I suspect I might be the youngest in the world. And to what do you attribute that? Why you? It's a competitive-- it's a very competitive field, as I understand it, the philosophy. I want to ask a question about this, but philosophy post grads having the highest GRE scores out of any subject. So what are the factors that contributed to you becoming tenured at such a young age? Yeah, so I definitely think it's not, because I'm the smartest person. I'm very confident I'm not. I know lots of people who have exceptionally high IQs around these places. And also not, I think, because I put in the most number of hours because I do so much other stuff as well. But I think the two things are just-- one is actually understanding-- really thinking about what your goals are and understanding how is it best to achieve those goals, which seems like that's pretty common sense. You'd think everyone would do that. But actually, most people don't. Most people spend, for example, years and years slugging away just on their dissertation, their PhD, even though that's normally read by about four people in the world. Rather than focusing, say, on publishing really good articles, which are read by much more people and much more important in terms of doing well in a career. And then the second aspect is just absolutely a ruthless application of the 80/20 rule, which obviously you talk about in your book. But just the idea that of the stuff that you do, most people do, almost all the value comes from a very small number of activities. And again, I think a lot of people in academia use a lot of the time used up with busy work. So they attend conferences, they go to seminars, they do a lot of reading that doesn't ultimately contribute to what they're really trying to do, which is come up with new ideas, new arguments, and really put that forward.

Optimizing for Goal Output (16:35)

And so I think I've been just a lot more proactive and goal oriented in terms of the approach I take to my work. So let's get into detail with that, because I know people love the details. And not surprisingly, a lot of people listening love 80/20, the 80/20 principle, and they're all applications of that. So if we rewind to your undergraduate, were you studying philosophy undergrad? Yeah, that's right. I was at Cambridge University as an undergrad. And what did the trajectory look like? What were the inflection points or key moments between that point and getting tenured? Yeah, so I think it was a lot less effective as an undergrad. I was still trying to discover how to do things effectively. And I made some big mistakes. I remember trying to train myself to only sleep four hours a night, and that was a disaster. That was the worst year of my life. Then I realized, no, actually sleeping well and exercising well was really important in terms of having good performance. One thing I realized as an undergrad was just that you can just make so much progress just by finding someone smarter than you and learning from them. And that's exactly what I did. Someone who's now a close friend of mine just knew absolutely everything, and so I spent hours just talking to him. So he's Andreas Morgensen. He also got a professorship at Oxford. In the philosophy department. In the philosophy department, that's right. So we've ended up having a very similar career trajectory. And I've been a zombie and eaten his brains at every stage of the way. But then in terms of the big inflection points, I think really came-- I mean, both through-- it was only when I moved to Oxford to do my post-glad work that I started to get a lot more serious about this. Also realizing getting funding to do philosophy post-glad is pretty hard. But then realizing a lot of scholarships out there that most people have never heard of that actually don't therefore get that many applicants. So if you apply for them, you can actually have a pretty good chance. And then managed to get funding for my PhD and extend it by a little bit more than other people do through a combination of, I think, eight different scholarships in the end. And so doing that. And then the big thing was just from the outset of starting a PhD, thinking, OK, well, philosophy is incredibly competitive. If I do want to do this as a career, then I've really got to know what's actually expected of you like on what basis are you going to get hired as a professor? And the answer is weirdly disconnected from what you typically do as a grad student. At least in philosophy, people basically judge you on the quality of your best 5,000 or 10,000 words of work, whereas your dissertation is kind of 80,000 words or something. And so if you want to really do well, then it's just about making that highest quality stuff as good as possible and then trying to get it published in the very best journals. So it's really about optimizing for your kind of peak output rather than just being this kind of big journalist.

Wills dissertation and best 5000-10000 words (19:57)

Got it. What was your dissertation about? And what was your best 5,000 to 10,000 words about? So dissertation was about ethical uncertainty. So if you're unsure about what you ought to do, so maybe you think, OK, well, I think it's OK to eat meat, but I'm unsure about that. There are these vegetarians around, and they have these arguments and so on. And you're like, well, I don't quite know what to do. How should you act in light of that? How should you take uncertainty into account? And this is quite a strategic choice of topic as well because almost it's a very important topic, but almost nothing has been written about it. So I could read everything that had been written on it in about two weeks, whereas many people choose to pursue PhDs on something that's already had a huge amount of work done. And so that was what the PhD was on. And in particular, I argued that even if you're unsure about your values, you should treat that uncertainty in the same way as if you're unsure about matters of fact or what's going to happen. So in the same way as if you wouldn't speed around a blind corner, if there was some risk of a child playing in the street, even if you thought there was probably no one there, you still wouldn't want to risk it. In the same way, if you think, well, maybe something is wrong, I think it probably isn't, but it's a risk. And if it was, it would be very long. I think you should take that same course of action. You should again kind of play safe, as it were. Sort of the Pascal's Wager for life kind of thing. It's a little bit, yeah. It doesn't involve infinite amounts of value, though that's interesting too, but a little bit like Pascal's Wager for life. And then what about your peak or your best 5,000 to 10,000 words? Was it the same subject or something completely different? Yeah, so it was the same subject as well. And this is all quite distinct from my effective altruism stuff, but it was the same subject. And in particular, I saw there was this analogy between that sort of decision and a bunch of work that had been done in economics. So again, this is something where you can make a lot of progress by doing research, just by combining two different fields, because the number of combinations of fields is far, far greater than the number of fields themselves. And so I argued that this problem was kind of like the problem of voting. So in just the same way, there's this problem of if you've got all these people with different preferences, how do you kind of aggregate that into one social preference or one will of the people, as it were? And there's just a ton of work done on that in economics that's really interesting and often quite technical. And I said that was kind of the same as the decision under ethical uncertainty. It's like you've got all these different ethical viewpoints and they're like different voters. And if you want to be able to make a decision between them in light of that kind of uncertainty, you can treat them as like voters. And you can use all the same technical apparatus that had been developed in economics and apply it to that case of ethical uncertainty. You mentioned Andreas Morgensen.

Wills philosophy idols (23:10)

What other philosophers are your, idols is a strong word, but role models, people you really look up to, if you had to, alive or dead, if you had to put sort of your top, your top five or fewer philosophers on a list, who would they be? - Yeah, so there are two that really stand out. The first one on the, he's more of a kind of academic, is Derek Parfit. - How do you say, Derek Parfit? - Parfit, yeah, P-A-R-F-I-T. And he spent his entire life at All Souls College in Oxford, which is elite even within Oxford. - What was the name of the college? - All Souls College. - All Souls? - All Souls, yeah. - That's intense. - The way you get into All Souls College, and Andreas achieved this as well, is you have to sit 15 hours of exams, and you have to answer questions that can be on any topic, like is China overrated? Why democracy? How many people should there be? And then the final three hour exam is just on a single word. - Sounds horrible. Sounds very uniquely philosophical too, I mean in terms of academia. - It's crazy, it's known as the hardest exam in the world. But it gives you seven years of funding, and you can do whatever you want in those seven years. - What's the name of the exam? - It's called the All Souls Prize Fellowship, I think. - Okay, so Derek is one. - He is one, and he's now 70. And he wrote a book called Reasons and Persons, which I think is one of the most important books written in the 20th century. - Could you say that one more time? - Reasons and Persons. - Reasons and Persons. - Yeah, and it argues a whole number of things, but two of the big things are, one is the idea that there isn't really a continuing self over time. So the difference, there's nothing kind of fundamental, fundamentally distinct, different between Will McCaskill, age 28, and Will McCaskill, age 70, versus Will McCaskill, age 28, and Tim Ferris, right now. There's only a kind of matter of degree between those things. And that has a whole number of implications. And actually, interestingly, it's actually quite similar to big, sane, and Buddhist thought. And apparently his book has been used as a text in certain Buddhist temples. They chant to it. He didn't realize this for like 30 years or something. - And then he showed up and there was some effigy to Derek Parfit sitting on a throne in a cave in Tibet. Well, I mean, it does resonate, certainly, with the certain discussions of self, right? Whether it's a contemporary like Sam Harris, who's a PhD in neuroscience, but also a very experienced meditator who wrote Waking Up, or texts that are thousands of years old, I mean, the concept of a static self is something that's challenged a lot in Buddhist thought, among others. So you have Derek, who's your number two?

Peter Singer, and the distinctions between degrees of morality (26:19)

- Number two then has to be Peter Singer. And I'm surprised-- - I was gonna ask you about him, yeah. - Yeah, he's a big influence, both in terms of my thought and in terms of how I'm approaching my life, the decisions I'm making, in terms of my own career. And he has two really big important arguments. One is for the moral importance of non-human animals and treating them much better than we treat them as we do at the moment. And then also the importance of fighting global poverty, especially for we and us in rich countries using, he really argued it should be most of your income, but donating that away to charities that will help improve lives or save lives among the poorest people in the world, where he argues that if you were walking past a shallow pond and a child was drowning in that pond and you could run in and save the child and it would ruin your expensive suit that you were wearing and it cost you a couple of thousand dollars as a result, you'd obviously go and do that. You'd be, in technical terms, an asshole if you didn't. He doesn't say that, that's my interpretation of the argument. But if so, then what's the difference between that and the life that you can save in Malawi right now by distributing insecticide-affected bed nets to save the child from malaria? And he argues that isn't a difference. And he was immensely influential, so sold millions of books and caused a large number of people to really change their lives, including myself. - Now, do you, so I am a Peter Singer fan, and I think that most people who are not, most people who protest against or picket against Peter Singer haven't read his work.

The "Trolley scenario", and why many good people do not donate money (28:03)

And certainly he has controversial stances, but I remember when he came to Princeton to teach and there were people picketing and rolling out their disabled children and so on because they were, I think, sort of adopting bastardized versions of what he had said from media. As much as I like Peter, I would propose, well, you know what, this isn't about me. Let me ask you, do you think it's really the same? In so much, walking in with a suit and rescuing a drowning child versus saving a potentially sort of faceless child across the world, of which there are potentially millions, right? And the reason I bring it up is not to say that people shouldn't do it, but I had a conversation with, well, actually, I suppose it was a Q&A of sorts with Sam Harris about the, I think it's called the trolley scenario, and I'm not sure. - Oh, yeah, yeah. - Do you know what I'm talking about, right? - Yeah, but-- - So those people who are not familiar with this, the hypothetical thought exercise, which is going to have a lot of real implications when we're using autonomous vehicles and programming AI and so on, so philosophy is suddenly a lot more relevant, or some of these thought exercises more relevant than they maybe would have been imagined to become. You have, and please correct me if I'm wrong, and I think I'm just paraphrasing this, but if you had a railroad track and you could flip a switch for it to go down one track that was split to the left and another that was split to the right, there's one kind of fat man on the left, and then there are four people on the right, and you have to throw the switch. Do you throw the switch to the one person or the four? And people say, of course, that they would switch it to the one, but then the second scenario, I think, and there may be more, is if you had to push the fat man off of a bridge so he landed on the track and was an obstacle that then prevented four people from dying, would you do it? And all of a sudden, the percentages change very dramatically, right? And even though the utilitarian philosophical outcome is on paper the same, right? So, and this is, I know I'm kind of brain vomiting at you, but this is something I've really grappled with. So, Peter Singer had a cover story, I believe it was the New York Times magazine, Sunday edition, huge piece on basically redistributing wealth for greater good, and yet I couldn't necessarily point to a huge change in donation behavior after that article. So why don't more people donate, right? Because if I looked at my 10 friends, a given 10 friends who I would consider good human beings who have money, they would save the drowning child, but they're not going to send, if for the same reason that I think that they're afraid of opening the floodgates, if they donate to one child, does it not then follow they should donate all of the money that they have to save not one child, but as many as they can afford to save? And then they get themselves into a very hairy, position where they feel like they can't enjoy the fruit of their labor because of the guilt that they feel. Does that make sense? - Yeah. - So how do you address that? I mean, this is something that I've grappled with, and I know friends of mine, I mean, I have friends who've had to like, basically check out and basically do therapy who've been in nonprofits for a long time, because they get to a point where they'll like, have dinner with a friend and they're like, for the amount you spent on that bottle of wine, like you could have saved a life in Malawi, and the friend's like, that's a real dickish thing to say. - Yeah, yeah, I know a lot of people who have worked in nonprofits and gotten very disillusioned, very burnt out. - Yeah, so how do you think of addressing that?

How to present charitable donations as an opportunity rather than an obligation (32:35)

- Yeah, and so actually it is kind of indicative, 'cause Peter Singer was making these arguments since the early '70s really, and there wasn't that much uptake of them until Toby, so Toby ordered another academic at Oxford, and I set up Giving What We Can, and that was in 2009, and we were saying, okay, give 10%, and yeah, I think there were a number of changes, so like, one is just that, you know, we emphasize this concrete number, 10%, and some people go further than that, some people give 50%, I may need to give away most of what I earn over the course of my life. So that was one thing. Second was presenting it as just this amazing opportunity rather than this moral obligation, so. - Yes, that's right. - Wait, Peter, that's right. - Yeah, that's right. Yeah, the way Peter presents this is just, yeah, you're this asshole if you don't do this, and then people are like, well, fuck you. And that's just kind of, I mean, it's a kind of natural human reaction, whereas actually, most people really want to do good with their lives. You know, if you could be that person rescuing that learning child, or if you could knock down a door to a burning building and save someone from inside, you'd feel like a hero, you'd feel great about yourself, and actually, that's the situation within, within this situation, where you can do huge amount of good that little cost to yourself, maybe even actually giving the psychological evidence and benefiting yourself, because giving has a whole host of benefits to the giver as well as to the receiver. So it's actually this amazing opportunity we have.

Why don't we give? (34:03)

And then secondly, I think the reason we don't give is just 'cause a lot of psychological biases. So I remember when I was thinking about this, I just thought, well, I just don't want to be a sucker. You know, everyone else is getting ahead, being really ambitious, I was ambitious myself. I don't want to be holding myself back by spending all this time on nonprofit stuff and giving my money away and going behind, falling behind my peers. Whereas we've built up this community, the effective alcoholism community, where everyone's kind of self-reinforcing, you get really praised for doing more good or doing it more effectively, and it's this really warm, welcoming, it's kind of new peer group, a new part of your identity. And I think that can really help overcome a lot of the reservations that people have. And then I think the final thing is just in terms of the impact people have. So obviously there's a huge debate about how effective aid is and I think it's reasonable for someone who's only vaguely heard about this stuff to think, oh yeah, well, if you just donate, doesn't all the money get wasted? Because it's true that in very many cases, the money is squandered, the money is wasted, there's no impact. But then by us actually doing research and saying, no, look, if you do this, if you pay, give money to Against malaria Foundation, distribute long lasting insecticides, feeded bed nets, the three and a half thousand dollars, statistically speaking, you will save a life. Huge number of trials have been conducted on this to show the efficacy of bed nets. We can answer all your questions. Then it's like, okay, this isn't just this kind of Pascal's mugging situation where maybe I'll save a life, I don't really know what's going on. Actually, I know exactly what my money's gonna go and do. And it's still, the child you save, you still never know, but they become a little bit less faceless. It's a little bit more concrete what you're actually gonna achieve. - Did you say Pascal's mugging?

Decisions Around Charitable Donations

Pascals mugging versus Pascals wager (35:54)

- I might have said Pascal's mugging, but do you know about that book? - No, I don't, I'd love to hear that though, because that should be the title of your next book, I think. - Okay, oh my God, I would love to hear about Pascal's mug. That scenario is where it's the same as Pascal's wager, except without infinite amounts of value at stake. It's not about heavy or heavy. - And we should probably, could you just briefly explain Pascal's wager, so for people who are not familiar or would like to get reacquainted, we have that as a baseline before we get to Pascal's mugging? - I love that we've got onto this. So Pascal's wager, that's the idea that you should go to church, because maybe you think it's incredibly unlikely that God exists. Let's say it's, you know, you think it's just almost no chance, one in a billion chance or something, but the payoff's just so great, 'cause it's an infinite amount of happiness. If you take a one in a billion chance multiplied by positive infinity of happiness, well, that's, you know, still, you know, plus infinity in expectation amount of happiness that you're gonna get, whereas the cost of going to church, just not that great. And so, you know, if you're really kind of even just out for yourself, just looking to maximize your own happiness, then you should try and believe in God and you should try and go to church, just because the potential payoff is so great. So that's kind of his idea, that's Pascal's idea from 17th century. Pascal's mugging is a slightly more updated version where Blaise Pascal is coming out of a pub and this kind of eerie figure approaches him and says, "Give me all the money in your wallet." And Pascal's like, "No." And the mugger says, "Well, okay, "I know you're Blaise Pascal. "I know that you think that the way to make decisions "is to look at the probabilities of outcomes "and their values and take that all together. "And if you give me the money in your wallet, "then I will come back tomorrow "and give you any finite amount of, you know, "happiness or money or anything you could possibly want." And Pascal's like, "No." And it's like, "Yeah, but look into my eyes. "I'm like this kind of slightly creepy figure. "You don't know that I'm not this alien "or someone with superhuman powers. "You can't be absolutely certain of that. "So you should still, by your own logic, "you should still give me this money." And it kind of a thought experiment goes to show that Pascal would have to say, even in cases that aren't involving kind of infinities or heaven and hell, you should still do actions that seem pretty crazy to us, like giving this mugger money on this tiny, tiny-- - Right, if there's a possibility of asymmetrical reward, then you should take the bet. - Yeah, that's meant to be the argument. But it seems ridiculous, so something's gone wrong. - Right, well, I mean, yeah, well, using that, right, everyone should invest in speculative startups, right? - Yeah, that's right. Pascal's mugging, I love it. I would love for a drunk hipster to try to mug someone with that approach in the mission. I'd be curious to see how that turns out. - Definitely, well, certain infinities in the Bay, it might work. - Yeah, it might, it might. Depends on who you catch, I guess, coming out of their juice bar or whatever. I got us off track just a little bit, but in terms of why people don't give more, right, I think that we could look at the negative examples, right?

How does one decide where to donate money? (39:25)

So the guilting approach doesn't work very well, because, like you said, it just provokes a go fuck yourself response. I think rightly so, quite frankly. I mean, I think it's a very naive and insulting way to kind of go about it, which doesn't have, for someone who's thought about things so rationally, it's surprising to me that Singer takes that approach because it flies in the face of any type of negotiation research or behavioral modification research. That's kind of funny. But if I look at, for instance, the causes that I've been involved with on some level, and I have not looked at them on givewell.org, but I've tried to do the amount of due diligence that I could with the bandwidth that I have, whether it's, say, DonorsChoose, that does a lot of work with education, or CharityWater, for instance, they both do a very good job of concretizing the abstract, so they send you photographs, updates, letters, et cetera, to make you feel like you are rescuing that drowning child in your own suit. What, and just to come back for a second, the mosquito nets that you mentioned, is that the type of conclusion someone could come to on givewell.org, or are there other sites that they should check out? And we usually do this at the end of the show, but since we're on it, what other resources can people use, given their busy lives? The people who have the most resources to allocate to something like this are usually also the busiest, right? I think that's another challenge. - Yeah, yeah. - So what's the most elegant way, time-efficient way, to figure these things out for oneself? - Yeah, so if you're busy, by far the best thing is just givewell.org, where they just have these four top recommended charities. So they just try and find out what are the charities that are doing the most good that we know of. And those charities are Against Malaria Foundation, which distributes bed nets, saving life about three and a half thousand dollars. So the best charities often have the worst names. And so a couple are D-Worm the World Initiative, and the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, which when I first researched it five years ago, I could not pronounce. And then, which, and they deworm school children. So people don't really know about this, but over a billion people worldwide suffer from these parasitic worm infections in their guts. And they don't kill as many people as HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and so on. But they do just make huge numbers of people, especially kids, sick, and therefore they don't go to school, they earn less, they're less productive later on in life. And they're incredibly cheap to treat, so they cost about 50 cents per child. And then the final charity I recommend is Give Directly, which simply transfers cash directly to the poorest people in the world. You know, the very poorest people living in Kenya. And about 90% of the money that you give ends up in the mobile phone bank account of those extremely poor people, which they then can then spend on whatever way they believe is gonna most benefit themselves. And so it's the ultimate charity if you're really worried about white knights coming over to try and help the problems of some other country they don't really understand. And the people who receive the money tend to spend it on assets like tin roofs and livestock. So yeah, that's the best place to donate. It's a look if you want just incredibly well researched like set of recommendations. - So I want to, because I think that there are people listening who will have some questions like those I'm going to ask. I'm going to challenge, I'm gonna ask questions that I think might push on a couple of places. The first is, are there any organizations or resources like givewell.org that are less human centric? And the reason I ask is that the ROI seems to be measured by the number of human lives saved. Are there other organizations or people who have evaluated causes, cause-driven, nonprofits, NGOs, whatever they might be, that are not focused on the number of human lives saved? - Yeah, so there's one I actually helped to set up called Animal Charity Evaluators. And that's applying the same sort of, attempting to have the same sort of level of vigor and research. But if you just, if who you want to help are just animals, where should you donate? And they're a much smaller operation than GiveWell, but again, you can check them out for their sort of recommendations. In terms of if you're thinking about the environment, there I'm just less sure, actually. GiveWell are starting to broaden their research, what they do, so they're working with a foundation called Good Ventures, which is set up by Carrie Tuna and Dustin Moskowitz, who's one of the Facebook co-founders. And there they're looking into a much wider variety of causes beyond just global health and global development, including things like climate change, fundamental research, policy reform, especially immigration reform and criminal justice reform, and trying to look for, comparing across all different causes you could be interested in, what are those that are particularly great in scale, so it's just a very big problem, particularly neglected, so there aren't very many other like philanthropists or actors trying to solve this problem, so it's not very crowded, or particularly tractable, so there's just really great programs that haven't yet been funded, but that we know are gonna make a really big difference. And some of the ones they're championing are, improving conditions of animals and factory farms, improving immigration policy, improving criminal justice policy to reduce the number of people who are incarcerated, while at the same time maintaining the same level of, better levels of public safety, and then also risks of kind of global catastrophe from new technologies or from climate change or from developments in biology and so on.

Kenya's college fund and education structures (45:21)

- Got it, thank you.

Arguing for focusing on the Poorest (46:09)

Related question, or quandary maybe, for I think a lot of people listening, so if you look at a given high need population, let's just say we're looking at, you gave Kenya as an example, we're looking at Kenya. The reflex seems to be to help the poorest of the poor. Are there philosophers or philanthropists out there that you respect who disagree with that? In other words, people who say, you could give $10 to the 10,000 poorest people in Kenya, but I prefer to try to identify the, say, 200 most promising young students who could become the leaders of tomorrow, and break the cycle of poverty in this country through policy reform and this, that, and the other thing as engineers, blah, blah, blah. But it's a much more expensive per person proposition, probably, right? Maybe they have to be sent to the US or Cambridge or Oxford for education, for instance. How are people thinking about that, and is there anyone who, it's politically safe to say, we want to focus on the poorest of the poor. No one's going to rake you over the coals publicly for that. Right? - Yeah. - Are there people who take the opposite approach, whose arguments you think have some validity or that are interesting? - Yeah, so I think there are a couple of good arguments here. So one is, yeah, so in terms of the argument for focusing on the poorest, it's just because of diminishing marginal returns for money and the fact that, so in rich countries, if you're earning above about $10,000 per year, you're in the richest, 15%, 10% of the world's population, even taking account of the fact that money goes further overseas, and if you're earning above about $50,000 per year, then you're in the richest 1% of the world's population. And the poorest people in the world are only on about 60 cents per day, or the equivalent of what $1.50 could buy in the US. And for that reason, you just, additional resources to them just make such a much bigger impact than additional resources to people in richer countries. In my book that just came out, Doing Good Better, I talk about this as the 100-fold multiplier. A dollar, to me, is gonna do less than a hundredth as much good as a dollar going to some of the poorest people in the world. I think there are a couple of ways in which there can be things that focus on people that are already competitively well off that can do a huge amount of good. And that's, one is kind of through research and innovation, so if you're increasing that. So, huge amount of good has been done in the past through developments in science and technology and medical research. So, mobile phones got developed by Motorola in the '70s, and now across sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of people own a mobile phone. So you do get this kind of, over the long term, trickle-down effect as a result of research and innovation. And that tends to get underfunded by the market. And then a second thing is if you can kind of harness these incredible resources, which are these very talented, or very ambitious, or more well-off people, and kind of direct them in a way that's gonna do more social good. So that's, I mean, the approach to 80,000 Hours takes my nonprofit advisors on career choice. Now we, explicitly, with a small operation, we need to focus, and so we focus on those elite students, the kids coming out of Ivy League schools. Not because we think it's important, comparatively important to make Harvard grads a little bit better off, but rather because they're the people that are really gonna be the leaders of tomorrow, they could be shaping the world. You want them to be doing more to improve the world, both by having more kind of motivation to do good, and using that motivation as effective a way as possible. And so those are the couple of ways in which I think you can do a lot of good by focused on, focusing on areas other than the very poorest of the poor at the moment.

Giving driven by pure selfinterest (50:55)

- And there's an organization that I'm involved with called QuestBridge that people can check out if they're interested, that I think is sort of along these lines, and it complements, in a way, the underserved students that I work with vis-a-vis, donors choose, but Reid Hoffman and others are on the advisory board for QuestBridge, so people interested can check that out. Did an interview with Reid Hoffman for this podcast that discusses that on some level. If we wanted to convince people to help others, but to do it through pure self-interest, how would you go about doing that, and what would the form of giving look like? So in other words, if you can prove to someone they will be happier if they give enough to save the life of one person per year, for instance. I think we're gonna get into Andreas a bit. I think that would go a long way to, and I know this sounds maybe cynical and terrible, but I don't think that saving a life is enough to get millions of people to donate money. It sounds terrible, but I think that appealing to self-interest is the Trojan horse necessary to open them to that experience. What would it look like? And I started thinking about this very specifically over the last year also because I'm involved with various cause-driven companies, both nonprofit and for-profit. And I took my family, took my parents and siblings on a trip to Iceland last year. It was the first time that we'd taken a family trip in 15 years or so. And the anticipation of that was so much fun and made it so much more valuable to the entire family, all of the brainstorming and the researching and the sharing of photos and so on. Before it happened that I started thinking of how that type of structure could be wrapped around something like cause-driven companies, whether nonprofit or for-profit. So if somebody really wanted to get just pure self-interest, I want to improve my quality of life, my optimism, my self-reported wellbeing, blah, blah, blah, how should they do it? Yeah, so I think, I mean, the psychology evidence itself does suggest actually that giving, I mean, it suggests a couple of things.

Self-Reported Wellbeing (53:41)

One is just that money is actually way less important than we'd think to making ourselves better off. The relationship between higher levels of income and higher levels of happiness is really very low indeed. Whereas other things like having a really good community around you is actually very important to, having a group of friends that really like you is very important to being better off. And so one thing is just, yeah, if you want to like start doing good, especially like the effective altruism community, suddenly you find you've got like thousands of new friends who really want to support you and make you do better than life. And that's, I think, one reason why the people who have, like in my peers who have started giving, actually feel, including myself, just actually feel really good about this decision. Another thing is just the direct effect of giving. You get a kind of warm glow. So people do tend to feel, like and they've done little psychology experiments on this as well, looking at people who donate rather than spending money on themselves. And people tend to feel happier, but after having donated, they feel better about themselves. - Is there any particular type of donation or type of cause that has the most significant impact in that respect? Does that make sense? Like is it, for instance, is the, and I know we don't want to do this, but if we put efficacy aside, like is there, what are the characteristics of the donation that has the most persistent effect on happiness, self-reported well-being, happiness, all that stuff? Is it the like flipping through the pamphlet to find, choose between the goat or the chicken or the fill in the blank for the kid who's pictured in the back? Is it something else? What are the characteristics of a sort of selfishly fulfilling charitable giving event? - Yeah, so I don't know if there's any of us searched on this, but I suspect it would be, if I'm honest, not exactly the sort of things I tend to promote, it would be things where it's very, you know, the donation's quite public, but not in a way that comes across as sanctimonious, but just that people know you're doing a lot of good and where you get the kind of positive feedback as a result, so probably donations within your own community or where you can see the kind of tangible benefits of what you're doing. That's gonna be a really big factor. And then I guess if donations, if you're part of like a peer network where you've got a number of people kind of all doing the same thing, that's also gonna be, and those people who are kind of self-reinforcing, so also saying like, yeah, that's really awesome what you're doing, you're this really good person as a result, I suspect that's also gonna be one of the biggest ones in terms of increasing your level of happiness.

Insights On The Non-Profit Sector And 80,000 Hours

A Plea to Nonprofits: Stop Doing This... (56:40)

Whereas purely, I suspect that donating to someone just on the street where you never hear from them again, that's gonna be among the worst because that's, you know, that tends to sell you by making you feel guilty for the time and then you donate in order to alleviate the guilt rather than this positive kind of ongoing thing where you get consistent feedback, whether that's from the community or from the people you can actually see who you're benefiting. - Well, it's a negative reinforcer, right, as opposed to a positive reinforcer. And if you look at dog training or really any mammalian training, that doesn't produce a lot of enthusiasm. - Yeah, that's exactly right. Cavets work and sticks don't, at least not in a long run. And the kind of worry I have about fundraising in general is that you get this competition between charities and you get this base to the bottom where they hold up bigger and bigger sticks and that means that people just end up getting annoyed or fatigued by these constant requests for donations. - Well, right, and we're gonna talk about Y Combinator in a second, but I want to make sure we come back to this because I think many people, more people would be willing to get involved with charities or nonprofits if they felt they would stop getting annoyed. And that's, or that there wouldn't be incessant follow up with guilt, guilt, guilt, like every letter they receive. I think a lot of people don't want to open the door to that type of haranguing and kind of incessant barking, so to speak, so they'd never take the first step. Does that make sense? - Yeah, no, that's exactly right. - Well, you know what, let's just cover it now. If you could make a plea or a suggestion to people involved with nonprofits out there and say, stop doing this, this and this, start doing this, this and this, what would be on those lists? - Yeah, I mean, one thing for sure, so I used to work as a, in the UK, we call them chuggers or charity muggers. Yeah, people who are on the street who then harass you for it's kind of $10 a month. People seem to really hate that, as I know, having done it. And I think that's something that's like particularly, particularly damaging. Another is these pictures that you get of children in poverty with bloated stomachs and flies in their face. And it does a couple of bad things. One is just that it makes people really not want to get involved, 'cause it's these kind of horrific images that very naturally you want to steer away from. And then also just paints this really bleak picture and kind of quite the disrespectful picture of people in poor countries as those who are just helpless. Whereas I think if you were, like you say, doing positive reinforcement, so instead you're like, hey, this person donated $1,000 and was able to deworm two whole schools, isn't that amazing? That's like much more compelling. And if you could get charities to kind of band together to have that approach, then I think you'd do a lot more good. And then I think the second thing would be, in terms of the amounts that are asked for, I think there's also a race to the bottom in terms of different charities wanting to ask for less and less, because if you've got a choice, oh, one advert's asking me to give $10 a month and others asking me to give $2 a month, I've got the same feeling of guilt and I could resolve it either way, then I'm gonna donate for $2 a month. But I think that's just not an appropriate reaction if the images they're showing you are of these starving children. And so again, I'd rather if we campaigned to say, the amount you should give is 2%, like everyone should give 2%, and then it's up to you where you give it, but that's what you should be aiming to do. And then it's just this one-off thing, it's just this one campaign. You don't get asked in all these, 'cause I mean, this is part of classic bit of social psychology, is you wanna disaggregate costs, and sorry, disaggregate benefits and aggregate costs, where kind of getting asked to make a donation as a kind of cost can be a bit unpleasant, but then you want the benefits, the kind of rewards you get to be as recurring as possible. And so having different charities saying, look, this is the standard, 2% of your income, or maybe you could try for more, but that I think would be a decent amount to publicly say.

It's very helpful 8220 8000 Hours on Y Combinator and the application process. (01:01:10)

Then I think people could, and you can make a huge difference with this. I think people could really get behind that, and would start to have a more positive view of charity and to try to help others. - Let's segue to Y Combinator. So Y Combinator, for those people who are unfamiliar, is, it's like the Harvard All Souls Navy Seals of startup accelerators, and they would dislike the term incubator, but a lot of people have a better familiarity with that. People apply, very few get accepted, and there's some huge companies that have come out of it, Dropbox, et cetera. You participated in Y Combinator as a nonprofit, which I think is unexpected to many people, or seems like a mismatch. Can you describe how you came to apply and get accepted to Y Combinator? Tell me the story of how that happened. - Yeah, so the charity was 80,000 hours. That's the career advice one that went to Y Combinator. We had been doing research into different career paths, and one we recommended really highly, actually, was tech entrepreneurship, and that was for a few reasons. One is 'cause we think that early on in your careers, you should be really just trying to think about the longterm.

80,000 Hours' mission and background. (01:02:53)

You should think about trying to build up yourself as a person, your skills, your network, your credentials, how much you're learning, and trying to run a startup is one of the best things you can possibly do for that, or being in the early stages of a startup as an early employee. Also has potentially great payoffs in terms of the good you can do through entrepreneurship. I can tell you about some really amazing companies that are doing incredible things to improve the world. And then also, if you do get really big, if you have founded a Dropbox or an Airbnb or something, then you have huge financial resources that you can use to make an absolutely massive difference, like as Bill Gates has done. And so we were promoting that quite heavily, and that meant that when Y Combinator started to say, okay, we wanna do nonprofits, we're gonna open the doors to nonprofit applications where they'll just give a grant instead of an investment. A lot of people then contacted us, and we thought, yeah, this is just a perfect fit. We have the same sort of mentality, so the nonprofit space can be very stale, very unambitious, very unoriginal, whereas we wanna be really big. We think we can give the best advice in the world for people who wanna make a difference with their careers, and we think we wanna reach everyone who's graduating from university. So we have big aims, we're focused on numbers. We actually are thinking in quite a similar way to a for-profit startup.

One-minute applications, and how to capture the big picture in one sentence. (01:04:26)

Y Combinator does seem like a really pretty good home. So we made the application, and it's a very funny process because there's the application form in a one-minute video. So everything is incredibly condensed in terms of what the partner is actually reviewing. The application form in a one-minute video of yourself. And we just got drunk and filmed it. - Oh, no. It won't be long. - What are you supposed to put in the one-minute interview, or the one-minute, excuse me, video, you incepted me. What is the content of that one-minute video supposed to be? - Yeah, so in that one-minute video, you talk about, I mean, you can talk about anything. Sometimes it's just a conversation between the founders. But for us, we talked about, actually included the warmup that we were doing to get ourselves psyched up. It got worth 20 seconds, it was just us singing. But then talking about what exactly 80,000 Hours does, what's the problem, how are we gonna grow, why do we think we're a team that's good enough that we're actually gonna be able to become an absolutely massive organization. That was kind of how we approached it. But the key thing is just, and this is amazing how often founders fail to do this, is just actually conveying what you do. Because you get the curse of knowledge where you're so invested in this project that you've got so much detail and so much on your mind, but then when you actually try and convey it to someone who isn't as familiar, then you completely bastardize it and people have no idea what you actually do. - Yeah, you drown them in the minutia and they can't see the big picture. - Yeah, exactly. And this is something that the Y Combinator partners were so good at. Every single week we just have to give the one sentence description of what we do. And for us it's 8,000 Hours gives career advice for people who wanna make a big social impact in their lives. So just actually explaining that and explaining exactly how you do it is just, was absolutely the key thing. - And when were you at Y Combinator then? - So yeah, we were the summer batch, so just the last three months of the summer, basically June, July, August. - June, July, August 2015. - That's exactly right. - What were the most important things you learned or skills you developed at Y Combinator? - Yeah, so the whole thing felt like this exhilarating learning experience, a whole new lens on how you build something to get very big. So a lot of great pieces of advice. One is just to focus on the product basically exclusively. You'll constantly be tempted to spend your time doing things that make yourself look cool to your friends and family, but that aren't actually making a better product and that aren't therefore helping with growth. So you tend to do less, you'll be tempted to hire a lot of people 'cause then you can say, "Oh well, we've got 20 people on the team." Whereas hiring actually just takes a lot of time away from just trying to build a better product. The other thing is just focusing, picking your metric. So for us, that's the number of people, ultimately that's just the number of people whose plans we've changed in a very significant way. And focus on growing that metric by 10% every week. So we'd been growing at something like kind of doubling in size of the year and that makes us in the top 1% of charities I think. 10% every week, that's 142 times of the year. So it's a totally different kind of level of ambition. And that really gives you focus so that you're insured on doing just what's gonna make your company or in our case, Chavity, bigger than better every single week and just doing whatever it takes hit that 10% growth target. - Yeah, that focus on product in all of, I have about 40 angel investments now and if you look at that sample set and pick out the biggest winners, and some of them are on paper still but a lot of them have already had large liquidity events. All of them ruthlessly focused on product to the extent that if I brought them an amazing press or business dev, business development opportunity, partnership of some type, they would say, that looks great but we're heads down on product, just not the right time but we'll be sure to reach out in five months, six months.

For-profit start-ups focused on having a huge impact. (01:08:49)

And it's that ability to say no to focus on product which as you know in this day and age is the best approach to marketing and customer acquisition that you can take since word travels organically if you take that approach. Easily the most common denominator when you look at the home runs in my portfolio. - I'm gonna come back to YC in a second but you mentioned startups making a big difference and one of the startups I'm involved with for instance is Duolingo and Duolingo now has, I wanna say, 100 million plus users who are learning languages for free on Duolingo and the founders include Luis Van An who was the effectively creator of Captcha and ReCaptcha which was sold to Google and it's a very brilliant model. I mean they're pulling real content offline or from clients who are paying to have things translated and using the crowd to translate while simultaneously teaching them different languages. So ostensibly you end up in two very interesting positions. You have hundreds of millions of people learning languages more effectively than through paid programs for free, indefinitely and then you also have the ability to generate revenue through translation and certification and other things and then you also have the ability to rapidly translate. So you could crowdsource say, turning Wikipedia into some lesser known language in 50 hours of total time which would be of course thousands or tens of thousands of hours of human time but it would be simultaneous through this program. So they are I think going to have and are having a huge impact. What are startups that come to mind for you for profit that are having a huge impact? - Yeah, I mean I think that's a great example and one of the things with for profits is you can just get so big and get so big so quickly. So being able to reach 100 million people, it's absolutely phenomenal and quite hard to do if you're functioning as a nonprofit 'cause you can't really have the fund base. My favorite example of a for profit company making a really big impact, again set by someone in the effective autism community is also like a combinator alumnus is called Wave and it makes remittances cheaper basically. So globally remittances that are sending money from a country that you've immigrated to back to your home country which is typically poorer but to your family there, there's an absolutely huge deal. So it's about half a trillion dollars are sent in remittances every single year and compare that to overseas development aid spending, it's actually remittances are several times as great. But if you're a Kenyan in Maryland and you wanna send money back to Kenya, it's a real hassle. You have to go to a Western Union, the Western Union takes 10% and what Wave are doing is enabling you to send money mobile to mobile so it's much easier and they'll also only take 3% and they're growing phenomenally fast at the moment. They've already got thousands of users and tens of thousands of users and are moving millions of dollars even though they only just set this up, only launched about six months ago. And the potential there, if you just do the math, if they're able to really make a significant change to the amount of money that's being flown, that's flowing to poorer countries and remittances, it's just tens of billions of dollars every single year going from richer countries to poorer countries and kind of not getting taken by these middlemen companies. So it's got an absolutely astonishing kind of opportunity to have a really big impact. - So if you reflect back on your time at YC, as the kids call it, what were the most common debates you had with other participants in YC or with the partners?

Co-founder debates of the past. (01:13:05)

- Yeah, that's a good question. Yeah, I mean, one thing that was very common was how much time to spend on things that are gonna grow your user base rather than product. So I said the advice, just always focus on the product. But then there's always gonna be exceptions and you always wonder, well, is this one of these exceptional cases? And that was just definitely a recurring issue 'cause it's kind of hard to make the judgment call of, well, actually we've already got this thing and you're gonna have to do some amount of distribution. So that was a really kind of ongoing thing. Actually, as well, maybe a lot of the biggest debates were just, so Paul Graham is the founder of Y Combinator and he has these essays. And Paul Graham is something of this kind of guru or God amongst the Y Combinator startup community. And he has these teachings through his essays. And then when do you deviate from the teachings of-- - When do you violate the scripture? - That's exactly right. That was the ongoing thing. So similarly, another piece of advice was, don't take any investment during the period of Y Combinator. It's just a distraction, just focus on growing and then do all that after demo day, which is the big presentation when you pitch to 450 investors in a big boom. But then people would get approached by angel investors or VCs and the question would be, well, should actually we be taking this? It looks pretty good. So again, there'd be ongoing debates about when should they violate these rules. And Paul Graham even acknowledges this. He says, every single year he gives the same advice to startup companies. Every year everyone ignores it. And then every year they say later, oh, I really wish you'd listened to this advice. And so that was kind of played out in many different ways actually. Similarly for the recruitment as well, that's something where they say, you wanna have this exceptionally high bar for who you hire. And you either wanna be spending all your time is gonna hire because getting the best team, especially the early team is just so vital. It's the most important thing that if you're gonna be doing it, it has to be absolutely full time. And the Airbnb founders, it was six months before they hired their first employee just 'cause they wanted them to be so good. But again, there'd always be this question as well, we could do more if we hired someone now. Is this one of these exceptional cases where we should violate that rule? So that was the kind of theme in terms of the debates that were things that were on people's minds. - Yeah, that's another one where Pascal's mugging will kick you in the nuts, right? Because if you're like, well, there's a 1% chance that they could be the Michael Jordan of exactly what I need so let me hire them. I mean, that's a very, that's like a kamikaze run at a ship, so you have to be very careful. Where do favorite, where do some of your favorite philosophical frameworks have trouble in the real world?

Impact Of Philosophical Motivations And Silicon Valley'S Growth

Implementing philosophical motivations. (01:16:30)

- Yeah, I think there's, I think all over the place probably. So I mean, a big thing is just, there's so, like the real world is just so messy. So if you've got this idea, okay, I just wanna do the most good, I wanna help as many people as possible by as much as possible, then actually implementing that is like much harder to do. So in the early stages, for example, of giving what we can when we were doing research into charity effectiveness, we make kind of certain assumptions about, say the quality of academic evidence where there's this body of kind of research from economists that we were really pretty happy just to trust, like, 'cause we're like, look, these are the scientists, they really know what they're talking about, they're giving these numbers, we're happy to go with those numbers. And it turned out actually like loads of the search that we kind of came happy, you really couldn't trust them in the way that it would have been hoped for. Instead, you just gotta go a lot more with, you know, very in-depth independent investigations of the evidence yourself. And that was something where you've got this kind of philosophical motivation, and then you make an assumption, which is that the people doing the experimental work and empirical work, that you can just kind of trust what they're doing. Turns out that's really sadly not the case. Science is a lot more broken than you'd think kind of coming into it. And so that was maybe like, yeah, one case where you make certain assumptions about how best to do goods. But actually, when you have to start confronting the really messy real world, things get a lot more complicated.

Silicon Valley's unquenchable desire for growth. (01:18:27)

- Did you ever find, I don't know what accent that was that I just threw out, but that's okay. Did you ever find when surrounded by startup founders at Y Combinator that you felt demotivated in any way because you've pledged to donate everything you earn over around $36,000 per year to whatever charities you believe will be most effective? Did you, do you find that that is ever a demotivator, the lack of that financial incentive? And I only ask because the ambitious set, the smart and ambitious set who make it into Y Combinator, they're not one dimensional from a financial standpoint, but many of them want to build large companies to get exceptionally, exceptionally rich, among other things, right? And there are case studies of what, there are case studies of the incredible realities you create for yourself if you win one of those lottery tickets or if you can execute well enough to become one of those lottery tickets. What was your experience like? - Yeah, so I think in terms of my personal motivation, it's almost the opposite, I think. Since I decided, okay, I really want to make, use my life to make a big impact, including making this commitment to give away most of my income, that's made me way more motivated, 'cause now it's not just kind of me on the line, it's like all these people that I'm aiming to help. It's like, you know, I could, not all the time, 'cause I'd burn out, but sometimes it's the feeling of kind of urgency you get in like a war situation or something, like, whoa, no, this is a crisis, it's an emergency, you've gotta do something. And if I was just out for doing myself, then I'd be, I think, much happier to have a somewhat more relaxed life. But I do feel, definitely during Y Combinator, I'd feel envious of a for-profit companies, because in some ways, so the two ways I think, just, yeah, three ways maybe. One is just how quickly you can grow, because you can get investment. So the top Y Combinator companies were getting $3 million of investment two days after Demo Day, whereas if you're a non-profit, then you're just having to go around soliciting donations. It takes, you know, we have really great donors who are just very rational, and it's not as arduous, nearly as arduous for us as it is for many other non-profits but even still, it's just much slower as a process for growing. Second is in terms of the scale you can reach. I think something like only 50 charities have grown to more than $50 million of revenue in the last 40 years, whereas, you know, Airbnb is just less than 10 years goes to a $20 billion company. Many other examples of this as well. And given the kind of scale of our ambition, that's also something that makes me think, yeah, actually that's a really pretty good model. And then, yeah, the final thing is, in terms of the sort of talent you can affect in as well, working as a non-profit, you have the kind of, you just not, it's much harder to be able to pay competitively to try and get in those people who are just super ambitious themselves. So then you've got a much smaller pool of people, those people who are just motivated, who are much more motivated by the kind of impact they're gonna have. And that's like, you know, an extra difficulty as well. So it definitely made me appreciate the benefits of kind of for-profit models if you're wanting to have a really big impact. - If you look at, this is another question I think a lot of people wrestle with, give now or give later.

Compound investing in impact (01:22:28)

And the reason I ask is that if people were to survey the philanthropists currently most famous for rationally giving and making an impact, you would find people like Gates, for instance, right? But the reality of Gates is that, and no offense, Bill, but he was a predator who became an icon, who became a philanthropist. You would not consider him an altruist for the first few decades of his career. And so there are people, I actually had someone say to me not too long ago, you know, Mother Teresa was a narcissist. Bill Gates with the strike of the pen can do, you know, a hundred times more than she ever did in her lifetime. And therefore, if you have even a small likelihood of developing the sort of dynastic wealth of someone like a Gates, you're better served rather than kind of shaving off speed by donating along the way to focus all of your efforts on building an empire that you can then use for the greater good. And no doubt, this is not the first time that you've heard this type of thinking. How do you respond to that? Or how do you contend with that type of thinking? - So actually, it's such an interesting question. Actually, I often, when I'm giving talks, I often kind of judge audiences by whether this question comes up, this is a good audience. But no, it's so interesting. So I think like, yeah, I mean, firstly, I think you can do, as Gates did, just a huge amount of goods by what I call learning to give and have promoted that, where you aim to do good through your ability to donate rather than through direct contribution of your labor. And I think, you know, it's not the right path for everybody but I think a lot more people should consider it than we currently do. In terms of then when should you be donating? I think there's just a few reasons on either side. So if you've got these amazing investment opportunities that are just gonna really pay off, then you should definitely take them. Where going to college is the clearest example. If you're age 18 and coming out of high school, then you know, you could just start earning money and donating it right away, but that would be a real mistake. Definitely get a degree, especially if you can go to a good university just because of the impact it has for the rest of your life. And actually in general, when we give advice at 80,000 hours we think that people really under invest in the long term because, with their careers. Because most of the, you know, most of your hours that you're gonna be spending working is gonna be after the age of 30. And also that's when you're more influential. So when you're in, like you're running an organization rather than interning for it. Where there's a lot of people who wanna do good, immediately go and work in a non-profit. Where they're not gonna get as good training or skills, network credentials, money as they would in other places like the for-profit world or sometimes further education as well. So I think a lot of the time actually people should be investing more than they do. When it comes to the idea of just, okay, I'm already earning a lot, but I'm just gonna invest it all again in building up my own organization. I'll donate it at the end of my life. You know, alarm bells ring for me a bit because a lot of people say that and they never actually follow through. - Oh, I'm sure, yeah. - And so I think like minimally you should start donating a pretty significant percentage just to get yourself in the habit of it just so you know you're not telling yourself this lie. I think there are other thoughts as well. So like donating has its own sort of compounding. It's like a sort of investment. So when someone in Kenya buys a metal roof, they get this amazing return on that investment. It's like 14% per year or something. So if you're giving to that poor household in Kenya who then buys the metal roof, that money that you've given compounds over time. You don't see it because the effects are kind of diffuse, but you've made the whole country that little bit richer than a way that compounds just in the same way as if you put it in a bank. On the other hand though, you also just might really not know what the best ways of doing good are. And so you might want to wait until you've just got better information or you have like better views or actually able to think about this. And I think that's maybe with a lot of entrepreneurs kind of what's going on. Maybe you feel this yourself as well.

What worked for Bill Gates might not work for you (01:27:18)

I've got so much going on. If I want to do a really good job of philanthropy, that takes time. And so I'm just not able to think about this. I'm gonna have to punt it to a later stage. And so I do think there's a reasonable argument to be made there, but maybe the things you could do is start kind of binding yourself to the mast a little bit. Maybe you can make some public commitments, make some like big declarations publicly such that you know that if you back out with them, it's gonna be really embarrassing. Or you can take a pledge. So I'm an advisor of an organization called the Founders Pledge, which encourages people, which provides you with a contract. So you can legally bind yourself to give at least 2% of your income or 2% of the profits that you make when you exit your company. And I think that's again one of these things where you can say, okay, to begin with, I'm just gonna focus on building this thing as much as possible. But I know that I've actually locked down my intention so that I'm gonna follow through on this later on. - That's the Founders Pledge. - Founders Pledge, let's think. - How many people have made that pledge to date? That's a contractual obligation? - That's a contractual obligation. - Who is the counterparty? Who are you contractually obligated to? - So the way that works is, you still can donate anywhere ultimately, but it has to have an entity in the contract just for legal purposes. So you donate to this organization, the Founders Pledge itself, that would then be distributed the money wherever you wanted it to go. - I see. - You don't have to make a decision about where the money goes until you've actually made the donation. - They act as a trustee of sorts. - That's right, kind of intermediate. - Got it.

Following Your Passion Can Be a Mistake. (01:29:00)

I've read you write, "Following your passion can be a mistake." Could you elaborate on that? - Yeah, so when it comes to career advice, there's all these slogans that go around, the chief of which is follow your passion. And the idea is like, it's kind of like the idea of having a soulmate or something. So you just look inside yourself and you've got this calling and it's like, oh, I should be an artist. And then you see that calling inside yourself and that's what you should go and do and that's the way to be happy. And I just think this is terrible advice. And that's for a number of reasons. So one is just that, actually one is just that most people don't have work-related passions. So there was one study at the time but most people were really passionate, passionate study of students. But they were passionate about things like arts, music, sports, things that are incredibly difficult to actually work in. Precisely because everyone's passionate about them and so everyone wants to pursue them. So it's not really taking the world or what the world needs into account. And it sets you up for kind of anxious soul searching or then trying to pursue this thing that just statistically speaking, you're probably not gonna be successful at. But I think it also just misconstrues the nature of finding a satisfying career and satisfying job where the biggest predictor of job satisfaction is mentally engaging work. So that's the nature of the job itself. It's not actually got that much to do with you. Though obviously that is important to some extent. It's whether the job provides a lot of variety, gives you good feedback, allows you to exercise autonomy, contributes to the wider world. Does it actually, is it meaningful? Is it actually making the world better? And also whether it allows you to exercise a skill that you've developed. And then that's the final thing where you might think following a passion, you tap that as well, do something you're good at. But the thing is if you're just starting out on work, you're probably just not that good at many things that are work related. When I was graduating, I hadn't done any, really done any management or fundraising or marketing or any sort of, anything of the skills that actually get used day to day in a work life. And so what you should be thinking when you're first coming out of university is, should be thinking like an experimental scientist or investigative journalist or something. You should be thinking, well, what are my hypotheses about the things I could become good at? And then actually going into the world and then testing that, finding out, hey, like maybe I could become good at coding and that's something that the world really needs at the moment, it's just huge demand for coders. And then actually going out and finding that. Because people's preference, that's the final thing, is just people's preferences and passions change massively in ways that people systematically underpredict. So if you think back 10 years, what were you like 10 years ago? What were the things you're really passionate about? Probably quite different from the things you're passionate about now. But yet when we think in 10 years time, we think, oh no, I'm just set, I'm the same person now. And so really what you wanna be doing to begin with is building up a broader way of skills, figuring out what are the things I can become good at. And that's the much better way to lead to kind of a successful and effective life. - I agree on all those points.

The Dangerous Myth of the Dream Job. (01:32:26)

I think that there's another bullet, which is, I wrote an article years ago, I think it's just called The Dangerous Myth of the Dream Job and I think the other issue, well, there are two issues that I'll underscore. The first is, as you said, humans are very bad at predicting what will make them happy. Extremely famously, statistically bad. There's a great book by Daniel Gilbert called Stumbling Upon Happiness that goes into some depth on this. Now, that's great, pretty depressing conclusion. How do you address it? I think the second bullet is realizing that one of the best ways to extinguish your passions sometimes if you are using it to be synonymous with hobbies, let's say you surf on the weekends, you wake up on a Saturday and you surf every Saturday, you love surfing, therefore you think you should follow that as your passion. Very different, that experience and the purpose of that experience is very different from waking up at six every morning to take investment bankers out to surf every morning from Monday to Friday, right? And so I think people overestimate the persistence of their enthusiasm in that switch from optional activity, electional to obligatory. - And being in philosophy, I'm very familiar with this. So I'm one of the, I'm really lucky in terms of the position I got. There's far more people wanting to do philosophy than as a career that actually make it. And you see so many people like this who go into it 'cause they really love this subject, they just wanted to learn, they found it incredibly intensely satisfying. And then they find out that actually in the real world of work to do this, they've just gotta jump through loads of hoops and do loads of networking and bureaucracy and admin just as if they were in any other job. And it can be really pretty satisfying, you can end up, it can be really actually pretty tragic where you end up hating the thing that you used to love the most above everything else. - Which is very common, extremely common.

Personal Lifestyle And Health Routines

Book Recommendations (01:34:48)

So you are a very effective young man, I would say. - Thank you. - You're welcome, it's objectively, I think it's pretty easy to objectively assess. You've achieved many things that it would take people a lifetime to achieve, if they achieve it at all. So congratulations first and foremost. But the question I'd love to ask is, what book or books do you give the most to other people as gifts? - Yeah, so we talked a bit about moral philosophy, that was Peter Singer and Derek Parfit. So I definitely give them. Then, but for, in terms of just improving your life and just being more effective, the two I'd mention, one is Mindfulness by Mark Williams and Danny Perlman. And having had Sam Harris on the show, obviously your listeners will know about this, but mindfulness meditation is the most, I don't know, it's kind of like this magic bullet technique that kind of science has just recently conned onto. Where in effect, you train yourself to be more in control of your thoughts and emotions by realizing that the current thoughts and emotions are not you, they don't define you. They're like propaganda, and it's up to you to choose how you react to them. And our instinctive way, which is to fight with them, is actually counterproductive. Instead, you want to accept them with warm and welcome kind of curiosity almost, and then that means you have the ability to deal with them as you like. And that's got the most amazing evidence base in terms of, basically seems to improve everything, but in particular, mood and self-control. - Who are the authors of this again? - Mark Williams, a professor at Oxford in psychology, who is the real kind of champion of-- - You're really part of the Oxford mafia. - I know, I know, it's also nepotistic. That was a coincidence though. It's actually one of the few authors I've written to just to say, "Look, this book has just significantly improved my life. You should be very happy at what you've achieved." And then Danny Perlman, I think his name is, who is kind of journalistic, but also promoter of these ideas. And it's just a really good course for it. I liked it because I'm a big science fan, so I hear something like meditation and I get a little bit freaked out. It sounds a bit hippie for me. Whereas this is just, it's almost comically dull. In fact, I mean, they give these kind of guided meditations and you're used to hearing this kind of female, high-pitched, to-be-me voice. And instead you get this broad, midlands English accent saying, "Now, sit on a rug or a chair or on a bed and close your eyes." And it's really very kind of surprising when you first listen to this. - So it's just like the worst dad bedtime story ever, but effective nonetheless? - But then really good if you feel kind of intuitively a bit skeptical of that sort of thing, because it's a very friendly, very kind of accessible introduction to mindfulness meditation. And it provides you with a course over eight weeks. We do a series of guided meditations. And I did that course and it's one of the things I think has had a really significant impact on my life. - What is, do you have a daily meditation practice now? - I actually don't, but I'm gonna start again. I mean, I think there's two things. Yeah, I think I'm gonna start again just after, probably just after the gym, as I go to the gym first thing every morning. And then after that point, just do, you know, it can just be 20 minutes breathing. We first focus on your breath and then extend that feeling of awareness to your whole body. I still meditate if I'm feeling stressed or anxious about something. It's a really nice kind of go to. You know, go to activity that you can do to kind of put yourself, kind of reset yourself. But then also the other thing is just it starts to affect your entire approach to life. So, you know, you'll start to feel the rising panic and you're much more in tune with your bodily reactions that then turn into thoughts. And then again, you can kind of catch those bodily reactions to begin with. Again, kind of slow down your breathing. Focus on the breath and then realize that it's up to you how you want to respond. And that can be very powerful 'cause it means you have much more choice about your emotional reactions to things. - What was the second book? - So the second book is The Power of Persuasion by Robert Levine. So I'm really in favor of meta skills. Just these kind of general purpose skills that can improve your effectiveness in all areas of life. And just the ability to be convincing, to sell ideas and to persuade other people is one of the most important of these skills, I think. I like to think of myself as taking laziness and making it into a virtue because, you know, why do something when someone else could do it? If you can make that into a virtue, then suddenly you find you have all these volunteers helping you with this thing you're trying to create and they turn into employees and then they're the way doing the sort of stuff that you could have instead just been slugging away in yourself for years. - So The Power of Persuasion. - The Power of Persuasion. And I don't think it became that popular but it's the best book on persuasion that I know of, actually. - Levine. - Yeah, and it's quite a lot more in depth than things like Kealdini's Power of Persuasion and some of the other books and that sort of thing. But it's incredibly interesting and really lays out different principles for, like the key ideas for persuading someone. So like norms of reciprocity or escalating commitment. Also, and also just really shows how being persuasive, a lot is often just about being a really nice authoritative, genuine, honest person. So the key aspects of being persuasive are honesty, honesty and authority. And many people, they think, oh, well I wanna become someone who can be persuasive. They then turn into these kind of sleazy, second time car salesman types. And that's exactly the wrong thing to do. Instead, it's actually about being this transparent person who really knows their stuff. And yeah, I found that kind of very useful, especially as someone who is trying to, my life is about selling people on certain ideas, ideas of effectualtivism. - Well, I think everyone's lives are about selling other people on their ideas. - Yeah, yeah, basically. I mean, it comes up absolutely everywhere. And it's just very far, very in depth and really goes to the level of breaking down into like really concrete principles. Like earlier I mentioned, you wanna aggregate harms and disaggregate benefits. So it's more enjoyable for you to win $50 one day and $25 the next than it is to win $75 one day. Whereas if that was a cost, then it would be, you'd prefer to just lose $75 at once rather than have two distinct losses. So again, it goes to the level of very specific, very specific recommendations. And then also has amazing case studies of, it does go to the best stories of working with the very best salespeople in all different areas of life. So it is the best book that I've read on that topic. - I'll have to check it out. Your morning ritual, you mentioned working out first thing in the morning. What does the first 60 to 90 minutes of your ideal day look like? - Yeah, so in terms of morning routine, I think the biggest, I think maybe the single piece of productivity advice or productivity improvement I made was sleeping enough.

Morning Routine (01:43:56)

People's need for sleep just varies massively from person to person. Some people can just sleep four hours a night and they're very lucky, I'm not one of those people. And coming to accept that was very important.

Effectively managing time. (01:44:16)

So I aim to sleep nine hours a night. And then when I wake up, it's really about getting up and going. - When do you wake up? What's your normal range? - Yeah, I typically, typically about 9 a.m. So I'm not a super low-level either. Really not much of a morning person actually. So typically about 9 a.m. And then, yeah, it's just about getting up and going. So I eat things that I can hold in my hand. I really hate cereal, I hate things where I have to like spend a lot of my time. 'Cause also the morning is my peak time in terms of mental performance. And so I typically eat breakfast bars, which I'm sure you're gonna chastise me for for being unhealthy. But that's what I do in the morning, go to the gym. Again, then that's probably the second most important piece of productivity advice is just like it will exercise. Again, because I feel like in terms of my life and what I've contributed, almost all of it is in terms of the highest quality work I'm producing about how many hours I'm producing. So the thought of like, oh, I can sleep less and then produce more hours is just completely false economy. Instead it's just how can I produce the highest quality work? And for that, again, just exercising in the morning is the most important thing. - What type of exercise, what does your routine look like?

A morning workout routine with scoliosis. (01:45:46)

- Yeah, so now, so I've suffered from fairly severe back pain over the last year and a half. So that's changed things quite a lot. And now, so my favorite exercise, which I was able to do when I was in Cambridge, but not here 'cause I don't have a machine, is called the Jacob's Ladder. Do you know it? - I do, yeah, maybe you could describe it for folks. - I think you can describe it. So it's wooden bars forming a ladder that are on kind of conveyor belts. So they're constantly going down, you're constantly climbing up. So it's at about 45 degrees, so it's not vertical. If you know if you've ever just tried to climb up a ladder, you get tired pretty quickly. And you're attached to the machine so that you're able to set the pace as well. So it's kind of like a treadmill except you're just climbing up these bars. And it's great for me because it's low impact. I can't do high impact stuff at the moment. But it's incredibly tiring. I remember when I first did it, I could do about two minutes and then I would be completely conked out. And then I would build that up, I built that up over time. And it's the most, you feel like an entire body is just completely spent by the end of it. Yeah, so it's my favorite exercise. Yep. - And then how long does that work out last? - About an hour. I initially, if my back's bad, then I try and focus it to more like an hour and a half. But that's, a lot of that time is spent doing physio exercises. - How did you hurt your back? - Yeah, I don't actually know. I think most cases of back pain actually don't have a clear problem, but I think it was bad posture. So my best guess as to what's going on is anterior pelvic tilt. So where your pelvis just tilts forward too much and you're gonna stick out your belly like kind of beer belly style. And so for there, the key is to really strengthen your glutes and your abs, stretch out your hip flexors and your lower back so that you're strengthening the muscles that are pulling your pelvis back and stretching out those that are pulling it forward. And you get all these problems from sitting all day. I would have terrible posture as well. So I don't do that a lot using ergonomic kneeling chair, experiment with standing desk. And in general, learning a lot about posture because really I think the kind of common conceptions of what good posture consists in are just completely wrong actually. Yeah, people think it's about sitting up very straight and very rigidly, whereas actually it's more about getting the curve of your spine right. So having your hips tilted too far forward so that your lower spine makes your belly stick out, that's a very common problem. And then also having your shoulders kind of punched forward and then your neck and head up kind of like a duck, another very common problem. And so actually if you wanna test your posture, you can just stand against a wall and you should only have two inches between, so just standing up straight against a wall. You should only have two inches between your spine and the wall and between the kind of curve of your neck and the wall. And for almost everyone who does that, they'll find that especially at the neck, there's just much bigger gap than there should be. - Yeah, that's also hard if you have a horse ass like I do, like a Kim Kardashian ass. But so for the back, a couple of things that might be helpful, where do you feel the pain in your back?

The four simplest solutions to banish back pain. (01:49:32)

And this could be referral pain and not, the sensation of pain might not be the location of the pathology, but where do you feel the pain the most? - Yes, it's very lower back. - Very lower back. So a couple of things that you might find interesting to play with there if it's the low back would be number one, and you can check out Kelly Starrett, maybe you've seen his stuff, Mobility WOD, he's been on the podcast as well, but try to get the head of your femur to seat at the back of your pelvis. So by sitting constantly, it tends to get pushed to the front of the hip capsule, and it causes all sorts of issues, and soft tissue changes and whatnot. So if you look at exercises, they're pretty easy to do, just like on your hands and knees, and you lift one leg up and move your weight around as you apply it to one leg. But if you were to look up sort of seating the femur in the pelvis and Kelly Starrett, I think that could be very helpful. And then secondly, have you considered using or used inversion tables or gravity boots so that you can-- - No. - So I've found this to just be tremendously valuable where I'm decompressing my spine and putting myself into a state of traction. I try to do it at least once per day, and most frequently I'll do that at night. So I'll hang from my, try this out, because I've talked about this before on the podcast, and I've had literally dozens of men specifically, but my audience is, or the people who listen to the podcast are about 80% male, come back and say that they've eliminated years of back pain doing this. And I'm not a doctor, of course, this isn't medical advice, but if you hang from your hands in the morning and then invert yourself at night for a short period of time, and if you can't invert, there are other options, but you could look at teeter hang-ups, T-E-E-T-E-R, they're different models, but teeter hang-ups, I use the boots, there are risks involved with hang-ups that unlike Batman from a bar with boots on, obviously. You could use the inversion table, I just use the boots. And if you can't do either of those due to space constraints or travel or whatever, there's also a device called the Lynx, L-I-N-X, which allows you to put your lower back into traction on the ground, and it's very small, I have one about 15 feet from me behind my couch.

Debunking quadruped lumbar traction. (01:52:05)

And making it a habit just as an experiment to hang twice a day, once from your hands, and then again from your feet if possible, particularly for that iliopsoas, pelvis, low back complex, I think you could find, that would be a worthwhile experiment. - This is great, I thought I knew all of the back pain remedy tricks, but you've educated me. I'm gonna try this one out. - You could also, if you want to enjoy some masochism, but potentially reverse some of the soft tissue issues that you have, no doubt, in your pelvis, from the sitting and the sort of kyphosis lordosis, that upper back rounding, and then the anterior pelvic tilt, that sway back position, is you could find an ART practitioner. I'm sure there are, I don't know, there's probably one at the very furthest from you, or maybe it's farthest, I'm gonna screw those up, London. But ART is active release technique, and they'll basically take, they'll form their hand into, their fingers into a ridge hand, and dig it three or four inches into your pelvis, and have you move your leg around. It's extremely uncomfortable. But that can have a tremendous effect on mobility, and the gliding of adjacent tissues, and things like that. So those would be worth checking out. But I don't want to make this about me spouting off, but since I know a lot of people who've suffered from low back pain, and I previously suffered from low back pain, which I do not suffer from anymore, that would be a suggestion. And the other thing is, what I've found is, standing at a standing desk all day long is very challenging, particularly if you're moving from location to location. If I ensure that I walk an hour a day, which we're really evolved to do, we've made a lot of compromises from an evolutionary standpoint, to be able to walk for long distances, that also helps to keep that hip complex, functioning normally. And you're getting, at that point, sort of a high volume of low intensity stretching, which is very valuable. So this would be my two cents. - Well, it's a big deal. I mean, so many people, it's like a plague or something, number of people who suffer from back pain, and then it just can be completely debilitating.

Understanding Lower Back Pain And Personal Beliefs

Why most go-to exercises for lower back pain are dead wrong. (01:54:55)

I've lost months of productivity as a result. - So what I would, you can speak to your PT about this, but I think that oftentimes the reason people have low back pain and then cannot squat is because they don't squat enough in the first place. So the hanging, if you were to do that for a week, see how you feel, and then find a good Olympic weightlifting coach, not powerlifting coach, find a good Olympic weightlifting coach who can train you to do overhead squats. And it may take a long time for you to get to the point where you can do proper overhead squats, where you're not losing lower back stability, but that can be a complete game changer. I mean, I'm 38 and my hips and knees have, are better than they've been in probably 15 years. And I directly attribute that to regular deloading and decompressing of the spine, as well as a regular squatting practice where I'm squatting every day, even if it's just for five repetitions with 45 pounds on the back or in front of me or overhead. So that's a rather massive digression, but that's okay. - Well, you may have, yeah. - Let me know how it goes. - Yeah, you may have given me months of extra work, so I'm pretty happy. I've taken away a lot of pain. - Yeah, I hope it helps. I know how debilitating it can be. Do you have any evening rituals, any evening routines for winding down? - Yeah, actually I really don't have an evening routine.

Sleep routines. (01:56:36)

I mean, except in so far as, I always take an hour or two off before going to bed because I used to work until I wanted to fall asleep, but that's just, again, this false economy because it means you just wake up much less energized. And again, it's just eating into peak productivity time. I travel a lot, so if I need to reset my sleep, then I take melatonin. And then I focus a lot on getting high quality sleep if I can, so most important there, just being completely shutting out light so that you're not waking up in the middle of the night at all. But in terms of something to decompress myself, normally just the regular things of seeing friends or reading, generally trying to avoid watching TV or anything that's kind of bright and natural light.

Decompression. (01:57:23)

- Speaking of bright and natural light, what are your favorite documentaries or movies? - So I think by far my favorite documentary maker is Louis Falou. Don't know how popular he is in the US. He's a bit of a UK institution. Have you heard of him before? - I've heard of him, but I couldn't name any of his work. - Okay, so he, I mean, the most interesting is Louis Falou's Wild Weekends. He tends to go to places in the US to these weird subcultures, and he does exceptionally well at becoming involved in those subcultures. So examples are neo-Nazis, survivalists at the Westboro Baptist Church, swingers, off goes to prisons, yeah, porn, cosmetic surgeons, and the Black Power movement. And he comes across just so bumbling and naive that the people he's filming then completely reveal everything about their own lazy lives. - And that's Louis Thoreau, T-H-E-R, go ahead. - T-H-E-R-O-U-X, that's right.

The power and perversity of norming. (01:58:48)

And it's incredibly powerful because you see him interacting with these neo-Nazis, and they're grilling him on whether he's Jewish, and he just keeps telling him he doesn't want to answer. And you see them, the parents are getting their children to dance around the swastika as kind of morning playtime. And you think, wow, I'm so happy I'm not one of these people and so enlightened, 'cause they're so mind-killed, they're so completely captured by the sit-alone ideology. But it makes you think, wow, well what are maybe the things I believe just because of the people that I'm surrounded by? All these kind of cultural things, because they're just completely convinced of this worldview of people who are looking for UFOs all day, or people who are certain that the government is gonna come and crack down, or the West for the Baptist Church thinks literally everyone is going to hell apart from them. And it makes you think, yeah, well maybe the things that I believe myself that are just in the future will be looked back upon as crazy as I'm going to be. You know, looking at these communities and thinking that they're crazy. - Oh, I think it's no maybe at all. I think it's 100% certain.

Lousordo documentaries. (02:00:05)

I mean, I think everybody should take the approach of good doctors, or I should say the sort of perspective of good doctors, which is 50% of what we know is wrong, we just don't know which 50%. - Yeah, that's exactly right. And I think most people don't tend to act that way. They're much more too accepting of the status quo. - Oh yeah, and it's just like the quote that I always use, and no doubt should implement more in my own life, although I try quite hard, is when you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect. That's Mark Twain, but most people interpret that to mean the majority of say the US, whatever their nationality happens to be. And I would just say, no, no, no. Even the majority of your friends, if you have a narrative that you're telling yourself, and it's within a peer group, even if it's 10 people, 20 people, you should really examine that. You know, have a regular check-in. - I think politics is the one that's the key, that's the biggest influence here, where, I don't know, people will identify very strongly as very left-wing or very right-wing. But it always strikes me as a very strange thing to do, because there's this package of very different ideas associated with the left or associated with the right, that don't have any of those emblems to each other. Like why on earth should your views on abortion be related to your views on optimal taxation policy? There's completely distinct issues, yet they come in these packages. And I think it's because people, you know, we're all monkeys about walking around wearing suits. We, you know, we want to form tribes, and then we start forming tribes based around, say, political identities. But then that means you'll just start to buy a package of views, rather than just looking at each one on their own merit. - Oh, I think, yeah, that may be a whole separate conversation. I think humans can learn a lot about themselves and their biases by reading at least one book on chimpanzee behavior. There's one in particular that's popped up a lot in my reading about animal training and evolutionary biology and whatnot, because I have a new puppy, adopted at Rescue Puppy, and it's called Chimpanzee Politics, Power and Sex Among Apes, written by Frantz de Waal, W-A-A-L, and this book apparently was used by, and I think he's mentioned this publicly several times, Newt Gingrich in amassing power and overcoming opponents in his political career. So it's, I think the parallels are fascinating, and it's easy to convince ourselves that we are passionate about a particular position because the position has merit, whereas in reality, I think a lot of it is just a hardwired desire to fight and dominate and be right and so on, which you can trace back to chimpanzee behavior or find parallels. And it's depressing, but I think also helpful at the same time.

Clarifying his billboard message to Bill Gates. (02:03:16)

- Yeah, it's a really useful lens, I think. - If you could have one billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say? - Good question. So I think it would be outside the Gates Foundation, or maybe outside Bill Gates' house, I don't know where that is, but in Seattle, where ultimately he's gonna donate $100 billion. And it would say, Bill, you have talked like, yeah, you've spoken about the risks and potential upside from in the long run developments of artificial general intelligence, yet you're not doing anything about it yet. You haven't gotten involved. You have the power to make a massive difference here. You should do something about it. I think that's what it would say. - So artificial intelligence, generalized artificial intelligence.

Discussion On Ai And Existential Threats

The potential ramifications of A.I. (02:04:23)

- Human level and then greater than human level artificial intelligence, that's it. - I did not see that coming at all. - You did not see that coming. I was late on into the interview, it's a whole other-- - Yeah, yeah, this is act three. - I think debate in the media, but yeah, I think just this is, and like another Oxford professor, Nick Boston, writing about this in a book called Super Intelligence. - Oh yeah, very, very famous book. - Yeah, very important book. Where sometimes I think we just have, it's very hard to predict the future. Sometimes I think you have a bit of an inkling into you're able to make really pretty educated guesses about what are gonna be really big transformative technologies in the future. The sort of things like development of fission that has huge potential for power and also huge potential for harm through use of nuclear weapons. I think the case of development of artificial intelligence, it's not gonna happen tomorrow. We're thinking about like 30 years or 50 years or by the end of the century. But it's clearly, it's really pretty likely it's gonna be one of the most, or the most important development of the century when it does happen. Like in the case, if we could have known about nuclear weapons or development of fission much earlier, we could have had policies in place such that we're really prepared for that and we wouldn't have maybe had a nuclear arms race. The world would have been a much better place. I think that's the situation we're potentially in with developments of artificial intelligence as well. - So I was planning on wrapping up after another two minutes but I can't let this one go. So you're hanging out with, you mentioned Nick, super intelligence. You're surrounded by or you have access to some very smart people who have thought a lot about this. Seems like you have as well. What percentage of those who are most educated about the potential implications, ramifications of AI are strongly concerned that it's summoning the demon? - Oh, summoning the demon. Yeah, I mean, summoning the demon's quite an extreme way of putting it. - It is, well, yeah, I mean. - That's the best I've seen. Elon Musk. - Right, that's Elon Musk, yeah. - Get my tea. So it depends exactly on who the reference class is but on some accounts it's the large majority actually where then the media just completely distorts the debate because the media loves to distort debates where if you're framing it as this is a really important issue, it's not something that's gonna happen tomorrow. It's something that's like a long-term speculative issue but obviously we need to have like a sensible rational approach to this and like a proactive approach such that we're like, you know, we're aware of what's coming and have taken precautions so that we use this new technology in a way that is gonna lead to the good outcomes and avoid bad outcomes. Then the rate of agreement is just kind of very high indeed. If instead you were saying something now though which is like, well, AI is gonna happen in 20 years and then it's gonna be terminator scenario and we're all gone for sure, that's a much smaller percentage of people. - So let me rephrase my question.

Will competitive drives override any real safeguards in the A.I. field? (02:08:04)

So, which is totally different question so I'm kind of cheating but. - Okay. - Aha. Given your, so you're in a somewhat, you're in a very interesting position because you've had the perspective and experience of watching people behave what could be considered very irrational, irrationally. In other words, they would rescue the drowning child but they won't donate that amount of money for a similar nearly guaranteed outcome, right? And then you have, for instance, this is more from my experience but I've had a lot of exposure to lawyers and attorneys in the legal world over the last decade or so. And you'll find people who are genuinely, I would say good people who started out with very altruistic, world improving agendas and yet now they are say, defending child molesters in the Catholic Church or their job is to find holes in the depositions of these victims or, I mean it sounds fucking terrible and it is or their job is to help big oil companies avoid lawsuits and problematic legislation when there are violations of EPA regulations, right? I mean like, from my perspective, just horrific like evil shit. And they're able to rationalize doing it, right? Like everyone is entitled to due process, right? That's kind of the catch all brush aside that you hear. And, but it's like they go from that to a point where this is maybe a separate podcast but I'm all fired up now. They go from being a hesitant participant in that to maybe now they're a senior partner and they're like, oh there's an oil spill, fantastic. Can you imagine how much work we're gonna have now, right? And these are people who outside of that compartmentalization act in very good ways. So I guess part of my concern, or not it's not only a concern, like my question for you is given how you've observed these quirks of human nature, do you think people who are at the forefront of AI who have the possibility of changing the world in such a fundamental way, not only for other people but to generate wealth that is almost beyond comprehension for themselves, do you think that drive and greed and arms race, because there are competing teams, right, trying to get to this point in many countries where you have a generalized artificial intelligence, do you think that competitive drive and desire to win and generate wealth, et cetera, will override the voice in the back of their head saying, you need to figure out the safety precautions and the safety net before we get anywhere close to this technology taking off? In the same way that you talked about the nuclear arms race, right? - Yeah. - What's your perspective? - Yeah, yeah, so yeah, sadly, I mean, this is just, it's a classic tragedy of the commons where if you're gonna have multiple people trying to build the same thing and where whoever gets their first wins basically is just, you know, has much more power. And then some people think, oh yeah, we should be doing this like more cautiously, that would slow progress, but we'd be having greater chance of positive upside and fewer risks. Then they're just gonna kind of lose the race. And yeah, sadly, I think it's not, and maybe you can even have that even if everyone's acting altruistically, maybe they disagree slightly on how things should be done and that's enough for them kind of not to trust each other in the absence of coordination. And there, again, it's just not even a matter of people getting corrupted, perhaps, as you talk about the people, you know, the lawyers being happy about an oil spill being, but just as a matter of economic incentives. - Right. - Then you can get these, yeah, race dynamics. And you know, that was the case, it was exactly the case between the US and Russia with nuclear weapons and definitely not saying it's a perfect analogy at all, but there there was the Bavech Plan, which was a proposal after the Second World War for complete, kind of a complete abandonment of all nuclear weapons and all fissile material would be kind of kept to check on by United Nations. And basically, all parties were in favor of this 'cause it's the best outcome for everyone. But it still wasn't able to happen just 'cause there wasn't sufficient trust between the two countries. And yep, then we get this incentive, this kind of arms race. And that's, I think, why we kind of want, you know, and not just for AI, other sorts of risky technologies as well, you know, the ability to develop pathogens, ability to do geoengineering. We're on the frontier of developing many different technologies that have very large potential websites and very large potential costs. And in each case, we wanna have, you know, coordinated approach so that we can ensure that we don't get those sort of base dynamics, I think. - What existential threat to mankind worries you the most?

Will's take on existential threats to humanity. (02:14:00)

Or is most underrated? Those are two different questions, but I'll make it two questions anyway. - Yeah, so I guess, until recently I would have said, actually, yeah, okay, I have an answer for most undulated. For, you know, what is me the most, so yeah, development of new pathogens. So once we start being able to build viruses and bacteria, then it'll become very easy to potentially build pathogens that could kill billions of people in the entire world, or just almost everyone in the world. You know, that's very worrying, as is AI. Those are kind of, those are the two big ones, I think. In terms of most underrated, I think are the ones we don't even know about. - Right. - We, you know, predicting future technology is extremely difficult to do. Everyone basically agrees with this. And many of the developments that have happened over the last 50, 100 years, they've been completely unpredictable 50 or 100 years before that. And we should expect, again, there's gonna be developments that happen over the next 50 or 100 years that, you know, no one's even thought of at the moment. And so I think that means, but you can still make some sorts of progress on like mitigating those risks, 'cause there's some things you can do like greater political coordination across the world. It's just gonna be really good across a very wide range of scenarios. You know, having research institutes working on really the frontiers of technological development, doing horizon scanning to try and identify sort of risks like this. Those are some of the things that we could be doing to try and mitigate these unknown unknowns. But that's exactly the sort of thing we're gonna be biased against, is it's like you're spending money doing something that you don't even know what it's gonna help with. It's like quite an abstract kind of sell.

The value of planning your career from a young age. (02:16:11)

So I suspect the biggest risks are ones we haven't even thought of. - Right, yeah, the black swans. Just a couple more questions. What advice would you give to your, you're only 28, so what advice would you give to your 20 year old self? - To my 20 year old self? The biggest, I think there's, yeah, let's see, the two, I think. So one is emphasizing, yeah, you have 80,000 working hours in the course of your life. It's incredibly important to work out how best to spend them. And what you're doing at the moment, 20 year old Will, is just kind of drifting and thinking, not spending very much time thinking about this kind of macro optimization. You might be thinking about, you know, how can I do my coursework as well as possible, kind of micro optimization, but not really thinking about, okay, what are actually my ultimate goals in life and how can I optimize towards them? Analogy I use is, you know, if you're going out for dinner, it's gonna take you a couple of hours. You might spend five minutes working out where to go for dinner. Seems reasonable to spend sort of 5% of your time on how to spend the remaining 95%. If you did that with your career, that would be 4,000 hours or two working years. And actually I think that's pretty legitimate as a thing to do, spending that length of time is gonna work out how should you be spending the rest of your life. - Now do you spend that, do you spend, are those two contiguous years or are those four years of total time divided?

How Will thinks about big decisions. (02:17:35)

- Yeah, I think four years of total time weighted towards the front of your career, I think. But I think we should be spending a lot of time, and I do this, any sort of big decision I make, I spend a very large amount of time thinking about, you know, is this the best thing I could be doing? What other things could I be doing instead? Are there ways I can change my plans? - What's your process for thinking that through? Do you have, like you sit down with a particular pad of paper and go through a particular set of questions? How do you, what is the thinking process for big decisions? - Yeah, so I'll create a Google Doc that I share with friends or people I particularly respect. We'll then provide comments and we'll often do several iterations of this. There's a framework, so the 80,000 hours, which is what 80,000 hours promotes as well, where, 'cause I'm thinking about the impact I can ultimately make, you can break that down into kind of three components. Impact you have, so this is for job decisions, but it actually applies quite widely. Impact you'll have on the job, where you can think about impact you'll have through your direct labor, through your ability to advocate for important causes, through your donations as well, but then also impact later on in life, where that's skills, credentials, network. Then also, how does this keep my options open? So academia's a great example of this. If you leave academia, it's very hard to come back, whereas if you go and do something before going into academia, doing a PhD, it's easy to transition back in. Similarly, if you go into a for-profit, then you can transition to non-profits quite easily, much harder to do it, vice versa. And then also how much do you learn about yourself in the course of this work? Then the third aspect's personal fit, so how uniquely good am I at doing this compared to other people? And so that's the kind of framework, basically just like a big checklist, that I'll use if I'm evaluating different sorts of large-scale pieces of work I could be doing. - Can people find this framework on the 80,000 Hours website?

The 80,000 Hours website (02:19:54)

- Yeah, so on the 80,000 Hours website, you'll get it as soon as you go in. - What is the website? - Career guide, so just 80,000hours.org, 80,000, it's number, hours.org. Then there's a career guide, and actually we've built an interactive tool to help you apply this framework, and you'll learn career decisions. It takes about 30 minutes to do, for how to choose that. And we'll also recommend you ideas as you go through, because I think we don't often think about this in a very structured way at all, that it's the most important decision of our lives. - No, I should, I think I'm gonna do that in the next 24 to 48 hours, because it's like I have a habit of just, at random moments, I'll have two glasses of wine and ask my girlfriend, "What should I do with my life? "What do you think?" - You know, it's kind of, I mean, I'm playing a little bit. I mean, it's not the only way that I approach trying to make these decisions, but I haven't had a structured way of assessing impact of some of these larger options. And I think the-- - If you want any career advice as well, we do specialize in that, so happy to give you a one-on-one. - I appreciate it. I'm not sure if you could consider anything I've done a career, but-- - Well, that's the thing, actually, that's one of the mistakes we think people make is thinking about careers. Really, you should just be thinking about stages in your life, because very few people nowadays just do one thing and then stick at it for the rest of their life. - Yeah, definitely. - You wanna be much more flexible in that. - Yeah, and keeping the options open is a really interesting point. We're gonna wrap up in a minute, so we won't get into it. This particular conversation, but spoke a lot with Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, about this and how he approaches his life from what he calls a systems perspective as opposed to a goals perspective. And the systems is always, in effect, ensuring that even if a given project or stage fails, the skills and relationships and so on that he develops, in addition to the way in which he sequenced things, like you mentioned, allows him to be as good off, as well off or better off afterwards, even if it's a strikeout on some other levels. What, this is the last question, what ask or request do you have of people listening?

Conclusion And Miscellaneous Topics

Last ask/request (02:22:18)

I mean, I'm gonna throw one out there just to, because it addresses a pet peeve of mine. If you're a founder who claims to be building something to change the world, and if you're not able or not willing to contribute to any causes right now, then sign the founder's pledge. 2% is nothing. It's 2,000 out of a million dollars. It's nothing. It's trivial. So I would just say, if that's your line, to ensure you're not lying to yourself and other people, just sign the pledge. I don't see any downside to it that I can perceive. So that would be one ask of mine. But what would your ask or request be of the audience and where can they learn more about what you're up to and find your work online, and you for that matter? - Great, so key ask is go into effectivealtimism.com, and you can sign up for the Effective Altimism newsletter there. That's also, if you're interested, you can buy my book on that as well, Doing Good Better. It's all about the ideas we talked about, at least some of the ideas we talked about, about doing the most good. Beyond that, if you want to do good with charity, see givewell.org for top recommended charities. If you want to do good for your career choice, 80,000hours.org, again, sign up for the newsletter. And if you're really feeling inspired and you want to make an even bigger commitment on that founder's pledge, giving what we can is a pledge of 10% or more. And you can join the community, and it's a really worthwhile thing to do that will make your life more meaningful and also have a huge impact at the same time. But key of those is effectivealtimism.com. - And Will, how do you pronounce your last name correctly? - McCaskill. - Okay, and so for people who are gonna misspell this, if you wanted to say hi to Will on Twitter, it's @willmaccaskill, M-A-C-A-S-K-I-L-L. So kinda like maccaskill, I guess, if you wanted to try to split those up. But Will McCaskill and then Facebook is, facebook.com/wdcrouch. That's a whole separate question that I want you to get into. And then LinkedIn and so on. And for everybody listening, of course, the links that we discussed, the links that Will just mentioned, those will all be in the show notes. The books, the movies, the wild weekends with Louis Theroux will all be found at fourhourworkweek.com. Spell it all out, fourhourworkweek.com/podcast. And Will, this has been great fun. I really appreciate you taking the time. - Yeah, I've really enjoyed it.

Thank yous (02:25:15)

Thank you. - Thanks. And everybody listening, thank you for listening. And until next time, please experiment often, consider the impact of what you're doing. Don't miss spend your 80,000 hours and check it out, 80,000hours.org and everything else that Will mentioned. Thanks so much.

End (02:25:32)

Hey guys, this is Tim again. Just a few more things before you take off. Number one, this is Five Bullet Friday. Do you want to get a short email from me? Would you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little morsel of fun before the weekend? And Five Bullet Friday is a very short email where I share the coolest things I've found or that I've been pondering over the week that could include favorite new albums that I've discovered. It could include gizmos and gadgets and all sorts of weird shit that I've somehow dug up in the world of the esoteric as I do. It could include favorite articles that I've read and that I've shared with my close friends, for instance. And it's very short. It's just a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off for the weekend. So if you want to receive that, check it out. Just go to fourhourworkweek.com. That's fourhourworkweek.com all spelled out. And just drop in your email, and you will get the very next one. And if you sign up, I hope you enjoy it. This podcast is brought to you by Misen and Main.

Mizzen+Main (02:26:41)

Don't worry about the spelling. All you need to know is this. I have organized my entire life around avoiding fancy shirts, because you have to iron them. You sweat through them. They smell really easily. They're a pain in the ass. Misen and Main has given me the only shirt that I need. And what I mean by that-- and Kelly Starrett loves these shirts as well-- is that you can trick people. They look really fancy. So you can take them out to nice dinners, whatever. But they're made from athletic sweat-wicking material. So you can throw this thing into your luggage in a heap or on your kitchen table like I did recently, and then pull it out, throw it on with no ironing, no steaming, no nothing, walk out. And you could probably wear this thing for a week straight or make it your only dress shirt and take it on trips for weeks at a time. Never wash it. It will not smell. You will not sweat through it. You've got to check these things out. So go to 4hourworkweek.com-- all spelled out-- 4hourworkweek.com/shirts. Check it out-- 4hourworkweek.com/shirts. And you'll see some of my favorite gear, including the one shirt that I've been traveling with. This episode is brought to you by Wealthfront.


And this is a very unique sponsor. Wealthfront is a massively disruptive, in a good way, set it and forget it investing service, led by technologists from places like Apple and world-famous investors. It has exploded in popularity in the last two years, and they now have more than $2 and 1/2 billion under management. In fact, some of my very good friends, investors in Silicon Valley, have millions of their own money in Wealthfront. So the question is, why? Why is it so popular? Why is it unique? Because you can get services previously reserved for the ultra wealthy, but only pay pennies on the dollar for them. And this is because they use smarter software instead of retail locations, bloated sales teams, et cetera. And I'll come back to that in a second. I suggest you check out wealthfront.com/tim. Take the risk assessment quiz, which only takes two to five minutes, and they'll show you for free exactly the portfolio they put you in. And if you just want to take their advice, run with it, do it yourself, you can do that. Or as I would, you can set it and forget it. And here's why. The value of Wealthfront is in the automation of habits and strategies that investors should be using on a regular basis, but normally aren't. Great investing is a marathon, not a sprint, and little things that you may or may not be familiar with, like automatic tax loss harvesting, rebalancing your portfolio across more than 10 asset classes, and dividend reinvestment add up to very large amounts of money over longer periods of time.

Automatic Tax Loss Harvesting (02:29:00)

Wealthfront, as I mentioned, since it's using software instead of retail locations, et cetera, can offer all of this at low costs that were previously completely impossible. Right off the bat, you never pay commissions or account fees. For everything, they charge 0.25% per year on assets above the first $15,000, which is managed for free if you use my link, wealthfront.com/tim. That is less than $5 a month to invest a $30,000 account, for instance. Now, normally, when I have a sponsor on this show, it's because I use them and recommend them. In this case, it's a little different. I don't use Wealthfront yet because I'm not allowed to. Here's the deal. They wanted to sponsor this podcast, but because of SEC regulations, companies that invest your money are not allowed to use client testimonials. So I couldn't be a user and have them on the podcast.

SEC & Testimonial Use (?) (02:29:57)

But I've been so impressed by Wealthfront that I've invested a significant amount of my own money, at least for me, in the team and the company itself. So I am an investor and hope to soon use it as a client. Now back to the recommendation. As a Tim Ferriss Show listener, you'll get $15,000 managed for free if you decide to open an account. But just start with seeing the portfolio that they would suggest for you. Take two minutes, fill out their questionnaire at wealthfront.com/tim. It's fast. It's free. There's no downside that I can think of. Now I do have to read a mandatory disclaimer.

Disclaimer Punctuation (02:30:33)

Wealthfront Inc. is an SEC registered investment advisor. Investing in securities involves risks, and there is the possibility of losing money. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Please visit wealthfront.com to read their full disclosure. So check it out, guys. This is one of the hottest, most innovative companies coming out of Silicon Valley, and they're killing it. They've become massively popular. Just take a look, see what portfolio they would create for you, and you can use that information however you want. wealthfront.com/tim. And until next time, thank you for listening.

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