I’m quite involved in the Effective Altruism (EA) community, a group of people interested in the question, “Given limited resources and opportunity costs, what actions (e.g.: careers, donations) will do the most ‘good’?” I don’t agree with every idea in this community, but the people are often fascinating, and the concentration of interesting, curious people is unmatched.
Besides the community, EA also gives a framework of principles for doing good and finding meaningful work. I want to do work that matters.
I expect to be most productive doing STEM work—either directly, or somewhat abstracted. I am trying to find my place without being “just another engineer”. Maybe something not-quite-direct-engineering is more valuable?
At first glance, some areas that look appealing include brain computer interfaces, graphene research, and a theory of everything in physics. Right now I am technically doing brain computer interface research. However, I also find that with BCI research I might just want to work at Neuralink (which is much less appealing now that Max Hodak left). Which also makes me wonder whether I want to work on interesting projects, or work with interesting people—who just so happen to work on interesting projects. This I am unsure.
Note: reading Range: Why Generalist Triumph in a Specialized World ~ David Epstein eased my otherwise anxiety to “specialize early”. This is an Amazon affiliate links so I’m required to say, “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”
If you have ideas for or contributions to my philosophy here, please reach out. Also, if this led you to rethink your path, let me know! I’m interested.
Six of the six people I’ve shared this article with did not read it. In my opinion, it’s quite inciteful so I imagine that my recipients saw its length, thought to themselves ”I‘ll do this later’, and later never came. To avoid this fate yourself, I recommend starting with this podcast (also mentioned in the Key Ideas article) as it’s less overwhelming.
Posted 2020 July, last updated 2021 May 6.
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