We’re excited to announce the launch of Probably Good, a new organization that provides career guidance intended to help people do as much good as possible.
For a while, we have felt that there was a need for a more generalist careers organization than 80,000 Hours — one which is more agnostic regarding different cause areas and might provide a different entry point into the community to people who aren’t a good fit for 80K’s priority areas. Following 80,000 Hours’ post about what they view as gaps in the careers space, we contacted them about how a new organization could effectively fill some of those gaps.
After a few months of planning, asking questions, writing content, and interviewing experts, we’re almost ready to go live (we aim to start putting our content online in 1-2 months) and would love to hear more from the community at large.
How You Can Help
The most important thing we’d like from you is feedback. Please comment on this post, send us personal messages on the Forum, email us (omer at probablygood dot org, sella at probablygood dot org), or set up a conversation with us via videoconference. We would love to receive as much feedback as we can get.
We’re particularly interested in hearing about things that you, personally, would actually read // use // engage with, but would appreciate absolutely any suggestions or feedback.
Probably Good Overview
The most updated version of the overview is here.
Following is the content of the overview at the time this announcement is posted.
Probably Good is a new organization that provides career guidance intended to help people do as much good as possible. We will start by focusing on online content and a small number of 1:1 consultations. We will later consider other forms of career guidance such as a job board, scaling up the 1:1 consultations, more in-depth research, etc.
Our approach to guidance is focused on how to help each individual maximize their career impact based on their values, personal circumstances, and motivations. This means that we will accommodate a wide range of preferences (for example, different cause areas), as long as they’re consistent with our principles, and try to give guidance in accordance with those preferences.
Therefore, we’ll be looking at a wide range of impactful careers under different views on what to optimize for or under various circumstantial constraints, such as how to maximize impact within specific career paths, within specific geographic regions, through earning to give, or within more specific situations (e.g. making an impact from within a large corporation).
There are other organizations in this space, the most well-known being 80,000 Hours. We think our approach is complementary to 80,000 Hours’ current approach: Their guidance mostly focuses on people aiming to work on their priority problem areas, and we would be able to guide high quality candidates who aren’t. We would direct candidates to 80,000 Hours or other specialized organizations (such as Animal Advocacy Careers) if they’re a better fit for their principles and priority paths.
This characterization of our target audience is very broad; this has two main motivations. First, as part of our experimental approach: we are interested in identifying which cause areas currently have the most unserved demand. By providing preliminary value in multiple areas of expertise, we hope to more efficiently identify where our investment would be most useful, and we may specialize (in a more informed manner) in the future. The second motivation for this is that one possibility for specialization is as a “router” interface - helping individuals make preliminary decisions tailored to their needs and context, and then connecting them to specific domain experts (or specialized organizations).
We believe the three main source of impact for this project are:
- The direct impact of directing a larger audience towards highly impactful careers.
- The indirect impact of directing more people towards doing as much good as they can and towards the Effective Altruism community.
- The semi-direct impact of taking people one step further in an incremental process towards even more impactful careers in the future.
You can see more details about why we believe this project will be impactful here.
Following are the core principles we believe this project should work by:
- Optimizing for impact: Both the management of the project itself, and the guidance that it provides, should attempt to do as much good as possible. We should never be content with “just doing good” and always seeking to use evidence and careful analysis to see how we, and the career paths we recommend, can do as much good as possible.
- Agnosticism: We recognize there can be a diversity of moral and epistemic views, even among those trying to maximize for positive impact, and we aim to err on the side of inclusivity. When unresolved philosophical, epistemic, or empirical questions affect our recommendation (which is often), we will try to highlight which assumptions make a path promising, or not. That being said, we do not intend to be agnostic about questions for which there is well-established empirical evidence, or views that are a consensus within the relevant professional or academic community.
- Experimental approach: We’re trying to build something but we don’t yet know how well it will go. We want to be ruthless in our willingness to criticize strategies we’ve used so far (including ones outlined in this document, if necessary), admit our approach has not been working, and change course. This also means that we have to strive to be both careful and transparent in measuring our own impact and evaluating ourselves.
You can see more details about these core principles here.
Following are the areas we were considering focusing on in our early stages. Much like everything else in this document, we are very interested in feedback about them and are willing to change them:
- Introductory materials: We believe that introductory materials, and specifically ones focused on an introductory career guide, as well as guides for individuals in specific circumstances, can have significant direct impact but have a much larger indirect (community-focused) impact.
- Career profile pages: These would be similar to the 80,000 Hours career profiles. We would especially focus on producing profiles which fall within the areas that 80,000 Hours isn’t prioritising working on. We believe this is high value that can be gained with relatively little effort.
- One-on-one career advice: Though this effort has a smaller reach, we believe it is worth working on early for three reasons. First, we believe personalized high-quality recommendations for the most talented top candidates have an outsized impact. Second, we believe it is critical for our ability to understand our audience better and evaluate our work. Lastly, it is an area we already have the experience and infrastructure to easily support.
You can see more details about our short term plans here.
We are always in the process of trying to improve our understanding of our most critical points of uncertainty. We have a long list of open questions relating to our strategy, but we believe these are a few of the most critical ones:
- How do we define and maintain a consistent agnostic worldview?
- How do we evaluate our success - both in the short term, and in the long term (we believe these should have two distinct answers)?
- What audience will maximize our impact?
- What should our team building focus on - what roles do we need, what type of people do we want, how do we find them, how do we onboard them, and at what velocity (maybe not at all yet)?
- For each of our identified risks, how likely and severe are they, what are the best ways to mitigate them, and how will we identify if they materialize?
You can read more about our open questions here.
You can find the rest of our preliminary documents (also linked throughout this document) here:
Probably Good was founded by Omer and Sella Nevo - two brothers committed to enacting large-scale positive change. After several years providing impact-driven career advice locally, we wanted to try and fill in gaps in impact-driven evidence based career guidance globally.
Omer was the co-founder and CEO of Neowize, a YC-backed startup, which was acquired by Il Makiage, where Omer currently acts as VP of Research & Development. He is also a co-founder of Effective Altruism Israel.
Sella is the head of Google’s Flood Forecasting Initiative. He also teaches Applied Ethics and Information Security at Tel Aviv University, is a Venture Partner at the Firstime VC advising on impact-driven investments, and is the founder and head of the board of Effective Altruism Israel.
Thank you for your time and feedback!
- We’d truly like to thank Brenton Mayer, Elie Hassenfeld, Joey Savoie, Julia Wise and Michelle Hutchinson for all the help, advice and guidance so far. We could not have hoped for help from people more supportive, insightful or helpful.
Naturally, all mistakes and views expressed in this post are our own.
Could you say why you chose the name Probably Good, and to what extent that's locked-in at this stage?
I may be alone in this, but to me it seems like a weird name, perhaps especially if a large part of your target audience will be new EAs and non-EAs.
Firstly, it seems like it doesn't make it at all clear what the focus of the organisation is (i.e., career advice). 80,000 Hours' name also doesn't make its focus clear right away, but the connection can be explained in a single sentence, and from then on the connection seems very clear. Whereas if you say "We want to give career advice that's probably good", I might still think "But couldn't that name work just as well and for just the same reason for donation advice, or AI research, or relationship advice, or advice about what present to buy a friend?"
This is perhaps exacerbated by the fact that "good" can be about either morality or quality, and that the name doesn't provide any clues that in this case it's about morality. (Whereas CEA has "altruism" in the name - not just "effective" - and GiveWell has "give" in the name - not just "well".)
In contrast, most other EA orgs' names seem to more clearly gesture at roughly wh... (read more)
First of all, thank you for the feedback! It's not always easy to solicit quality (and very thoroughly justified) feedback, so I really appreciate it.
Before diving into the specifics, I'll say that on the one hand - the name could definitely change if we keep getting feedback that it's suboptimal. That could be in a week or in a year or two, so the name isn't final in that sense.
On the other hand, we did run this name quite a few people (including some who aren’t familiar with EA). We tried (to the best of our ability) to receive honest feedback (like not telling people that this is something we're setting up or letting someone else solicit the feedback). Most of what you wrote came up, but rarely. And people seemed to feel positively about it. It's definitely possible that the feedback we got on it was still skewed positive, but it was much better for this name than for other options we tried.
Now, to dive into the specifics and my thoughts on them:
* The name doesn't make the function clear: I think this is a stylistic preference. I prefer having a name that's more memorable, when the function can be explained in a sentence or two right after it. I know the current norm for EA is t... (read more)
In addition to the other points brought up, I wanted to add that "probably good" has ~4 million google search results, and the username/url for "ProbablyGood" has already been taken on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. This may make the name especially difficult to effectively market.
For what it's worth, I liked the name specifically because to me it seemed to advertise an intention of increasing a lot of readers' impact individually by a moderate amount, unlike 80000's approach where the goal is to increase fewer readers' impact by a large amount.
I.e. unlike Michael I like the understatement in the name, but I agree with him that it does convey understatement.
I continue to like how thoughtful you two seem to be! It seems like you've already anticipated most of what I'm pointing to and have reasonable reasons to hold your current position. I especially like that you "tried (to the best of [your] ability) to receive honest feedback (like not telling people that this is something [you're] setting up or letting someone else solicit the feedback)."
I still think this name doesn't seem great to me, but now that's with lower confidence.
(Also, I'm just reporting my independent impression - i.e., what I'd believe if not updating on other people's beliefs - and don't mean to imply there's any reason to weight my belief more strongly than that of the other people you've gotten feedback from.)
I'll again split my responses into separate threads.
FWIW: 75 upvotes (as of now) for Michael's post seem strong evidence that at least a significant fraction of forum readers find the name "weird" or "off-putting" at first glance. In most cases, that might be enough for people not to look into it more (e.g. if it's one of hundreds of posts on their Facebook timeline).
Even if the other half of people find the name great, I think I'd rather go for a less controversial name which no-one finds weird (even if fewer people find it great).
Finding a good name is difficult - all the best and let us know if we can help! You could e.g. solicit ideas here on in a Facebook group and run polls in the "EA polls" group to get better quantitative feedback.
We’re definitely taking into account the different comments and upvotes on this post. We appreciate people upvoting the views they’d like to support - this is indeed a quick and efficient way for us to aggregate feedback.
We’ve received recommendations against opening public polls about the name of the organization from founders of existing EA organizations, and we trust those recommendations so we’ll probably avoid that route. But we will likely look into ways we can test the hypothesis of whether a “less controversial” name has positive or negative effects on the reaction of someone hearing this name for the first time.
I want to briefly second (third?, nth?) this. I'm potentially pretty excited about more EA oriented career advice/coaching/mentoring from an EA perspective, but I think I'd feel kind of embarrassed about referring someone to an organisation called "Probably Good".
When I saw the title of this post I thought it was evaluating whether or not another career guidance organisation would be good or not, and concluding yes. I was pretty surprised to discover this was not the case. That confusion might be kind of funny to some people, I guess, but I don't think it bodes terribly well. In general I think jokey org names are a pretty bad idea.
The quality of this conversation is awesome!
I think Probably good is a great name. What are some other good names you have considered so far? Does anyone have alternative ideas ?
My first understanding of the name was something like "this is a website that will help me have a career that will probably have a good impact", where probably meant something like ~70%-ish. I thought this wasn’t very ambitious, but it also had something intriguing, so I felt curious to learn more.
I’d like my career to be (almost) guaranteed to have some good consequences. I think my odds of doing some good with my career if EA didn’t exist at all would be above 95%. (As many people interested in EA, I already wanted to do good when I discovered the movement.)
So I’d be even more interested in a website which can probably help me do even better than I would have done without its advice.
I’m not sure that “Probably better” would be a better name than “Probably good”. I feel like it preserves the modesty and the catchiness, while also making it sound a little more ambitious. It could also be in line with your experimental approach, trying to make the quality your advice better as you gain experience.
What do you think ? :)
Very excited about this! I'd especially be interested in seeing career paths that could start making a significant difference in people's lives this century, as that's something 80k is moving away from - I'd be interested in advice about neglected areas within global health and climate change, for example.
The way I imagine this going wrong most easily is you getting overwhelmed with requests for career coaching in areas you don't know very much about. I hope that you'll set clear expectations about what you will/won't be able to provide with your career coaching, how many people you'll be able to coach, and how you'll choose those people.
Sella, thanks for the post. I think this is a very interesting idea (and I am guessing that other non-US/UK EA groups may think so as well). I see it as doing relative optimization in a much larger space rather than absolute optimization within a small group (people who actually have a chance of going into 80,000 Hours's highest-impact paths).
In that sense, Probably Good reminds me of what Elijah explained here about what the ImpactMatters team is trying to do under their new roof at Charity Navigator:
I agree this is an important question that would be of value to other organizations as well. We’ve already consulted with 80K, CE and AAC about it, but still feel this is an area we have a lot more work to do on. It isn’t explicitly pointed out in our open questions doc, but when we talk about measuring and evaluating our counterfactual benefits and harms, this question has been top of mind for us.
The short version of our current thinking is separated into short-term measurement and long-term measurement. We expect that longer term this kind of evaluation will be easier - since we’ll at least have career trajectories to evaluate. Counterfactual impact estimation is always challenging without an experimental set up which is hard to do at scale, but I think 80K and OpenPhil have put out multiple surveys that try to and extract estimates of counterfactual impact and do so reasonably well given the challenges, so we’ll probably do something similar. Also, at that point, we could compare our results to theirs, which could be a useful barometer. In the specific context of our effect on people taking existing priority paths, I think it’ll be interesting to compare the chosen career paths ... (read more)
The case for limiting scope to certain cause areas, fields and/or locations
> What cause areas and career paths do we want to focus on? Do we want to start with specific fields and slowly grow, or do we want to provide shallow introductions more broadly and slowly deepen our content? (from your open questions)
I have supported some 30 people with their career planning, and in my experience, good career advice is both really valuable and quite difficult to give. High impact career paths are complex, difficult to evaluate and change often. If you try to cover all cause areas globally, you might not be able to give good advice, so I would argue for narrowing down the scope now already.
For instance, 80,000 Hours has narrowed its scope to its "priority cause areas" (longtermist causes) and effectively also to jobs in the UK & the US, partly as some of the best opportunities might be in those countries and partly because they know these countries best. Also, they partner with experts in the various cause areas to ensure accurate content.
Possible ways to narrow scope:
- location: focus on general career coaching for people in Israel who are not yet set on a cert... (read more)
I read your Overview and several of the other materials and feel there is a lack of examples. Your idea seems large and abstract, and even after reading a bunch of your materials, I don't feel that I really understand what your career guidance is -- or especially what it isn't.
The only hook I have to compare this to is 80000 Hours, and the comparison you seem to be pointing at is "80k but for more kinds of people". Instinctively, this feels too broad: 80k is presumably doing well in part because they chose to focus instead of do everything. To help with this, it might make sense to answer strategic questions like: if you were to merge with 80k, would it be better or worse for the world? why did 80k choose their focus one way, and why are you choosing differently? What sorts of impact can you make that 80k will never be able to achieve?
In your Principles doc, you write about "Agnosticism", and say:
Could you say a bit about how broad a set of cause areas you expect to cover/mention, and how you'll make those decisions? E.g., might you also discuss things like psychedelics (arguably a subset of mental health), anti-aging, and macroeconomic policy? (I don... (read more)
I'm excited about more efficient matching between people who want career advice and people who are not-maximally-qualified to give it, but can still give aid nonetheless. For example, when planning my career, I often find it helpful to talk to other students making similar decisions, even though they're more "more qualified" than me. I suspect that other students/people feel similarly and one doesn't need to be a career coach to be helpful.
The advice I would most want that I haven’t gotten from 80000 Hours’ existing literature is a general strategy for pursuing an impactful career subject to the constraint of not leaving the city I live in. Maybe there is no useful generic advice to give on that question and it entirely depends on which city. But if that’s not the case, then maybe your experience giving career advice within Israel could lead to better guidance than 80K, who seem to have an implicit assumption that of course you’d be willing to move to SF or London if you want an impactful career.
This seems really interesting. I really like how clear, concise, and well-structured the linked docs are. And I like how thoughtfully you're approaching this and the potential risks involved, and how you're actively seeking feedback both from some key individuals and from the community at large.
I'll split my various questions and bits of feedback into separate comments, to help responses and discussion remain organised/easy-to-follow :)
There's one potential risk that occurs to me and that I think wasn't addressed in the linked docs: A career org that (1) was very broad in its focus, and/or very accepting of different views, but (2) still funnelled people into EA, could potentially erode some of the focus or good distinctive elements of the EA community as a whole in a way that reduces our impact. By being relatively broad, Probably Good might risk causing some degree of that sort of "erosion".
(Note that I'm not saying this is likely, or that it would outweigh the positive impacts of Probably Good - just raising it as something worth thinking about.)
To illustrate by taking it to an extreme, if 9 out of 10 people one met in the EA community (e.g., at EA events, in Forum discussions) were more like the average current non-EA than the average current EA, it would be a loss less obvious why there's an EA community at all, and probably more likely that the community would just dissolve into the broader world, or that more distinctive sub-communities would splinter off. It would also be harder and less motivating to coordinate, find ideas relevant to my interests and plans, get useful feedback from the community, etc... (read more)
Very excited to see what comes of this!
The thing that caught my eye is the one-on-one career advice. I suppose I'm probably not the only one who submitted an application for a one-on-one session with 80,000 Hours a long time ago only to not yet have been contacted. It's understandable that given their popularity it might take them a long time to get to me or I don't meet their criteria for high-fit in one of their topic areas, so your extension of this service would be appreciated, especially for someone like me who is new to the EA space but eager to get more involved.
An analogy (U.S.-ba... (read more)
Sounds like a great attempt to fill a very salient gap! We will be discussing your project at the EA Auckland meetup tomorrow night (Tuesday 6.30pm utc+13). Let me know if you have any interest in zooming into chat.
Really excited that you are doing this!
Meta-level comment: Many of the shared google docs were not commentable - would it make sense to make the comment-friendly? I personally would find it easier to leave feedback that way.
To what extent do you expect to 'accept' people's preferred cause areas versus introduce people to ideas that may help them make the most informed decision on what cause area they should focus on.
For example, if someone comes to you and says "I want to work on global health" will you say "that's great here's our advice on that cause area" or might you say "that's great although just to check have you engaged with the EA literature on cause areas and understand why some people don't prioritise global health e.g. due to cluelessness on the expected impacts o... (read more)
I would personally be excited about a filtering tool similar to the 80000 Hours job-board, that lets you filter resources for background, cause area, role type, etc. (E.g. "If your background is in economics, and you are particularly interested in animal welfare, we would recommend the following resources" )
I would distinguish the different concreteness levels of career advice/career-relevant information, maybe like this:
1. Genera... (read more)
In the Impact doc, you write:
This seems to me like an overstatement?
These people could get guidance from e.g. local EA groups, talking to people from EA orgs focused on these areas (e.g., at online EA conferences), or finding other EAs or non-EAs who work in these areas and talking to them (e.g., h... (read more)
In your Short-term Plans doc, you write:... (read more)