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Hello, I'm actually only a 17 year-old-boy living in Taiwan. Most of you would want me to focus on studying for now, but in Taiwan, we need to decide and prepare for exams for college majors. I'm considering if I should study medicine+ basic CS or a CS-specialized route plus some basic biology. My parents are doctors and scientists(working on diabetes) , they aren't familiar with EA, I need stronger arguments to convince them, too. Also, med is the most competitive major in Taiwan.

First, I need to claim my cause area priortization view(for now, may change in the future): I think animal welfare(especially wildlife)>global health> extinction risks. S-risks of AI is important, too. But there hasn't been signs show that AI probably has sentience, so I'll consider to focus on this if it was really found that AI have sentience. I'm not a strong longtermist, also I don't think extinction is a bad thing for future humanity(sorry if you feel disrespect). I think I'm more fit on researching rather than advocating. Also, I think my talent for CS and medicine is the same now. In my opinion, the most impactful career I choose now is bioinformatics researcher in academics or industry.

The picture below is the main pros and cons of studying medicine(I wrote it as neatly as I can). In sum, medicine is a better job in Taiwan because Taiwan is a small-market country, and CS engineers in Taiwan can only ETG(earn to give), it's hard to get works on EA-aligned topics in Taiwan for CS engineers. The best way to have positive impacts is moving abroad to America, I plan to have a master or even PhD degree there, but it's still hard because of immigration visa policy(I need to go back Taiwan if I'm fired and losing jobs for 2 months, tech-jobs are not stable, easily to get fired)and my bad socializing skills.


I hope you to look at my pros and cons list carefully , and criticize&correct about this. I definetely agree that CS is more likely to be useful than biology, not to mention medicine. EAs choose CS majors more. CS gives you a wider career path. The most important questions are: 1.Can you really easily change your companies with CS? Likewise, if we work in BioNTech as an engineer for bioinformatics, can you switch to Google/Facebook(Meta)/Open AI easily? I think you need to be different specalitists even if you work as a software enginner in different companies. I suspect that it's easy to change career routes to a totally different cause area only by your CS and math skills.

2.How do our cause priortization changes by time? In 1960, global health, animal welfare, nuclear, biorisks have already been important cause areas. Medicine is still important now. But AI and climate risks are new cause areas. Are there any more examples that the cause areas always change fast?

Sorry, too many questions on one post, I've posted lots of questions on EA forum recently, all aimed to answer this major decision question . I've been thinking of this super hard every hours. I'm afraid I'm on the wrong way , so hope you can give me useful advices, I'll also very grateful if you'd like to discuss with me on phone, thanks!!!




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I'm a doctor and I think there's a lot of underappreciated value in medicine including:

Clout: Society grants an inappropriate amount of respect to doctors, regardless of whether they're skilled or not, junior or senior. If you have a medical degree people respect you, listen to you, take you more seriously.

Hidden societal knowledge: Not many people get to see as broad a cross-section of society as you see studying medicine. You meet people at their very best and worst, you meet incredibly knowledgeable people and people that never learnt to read, people who have lived incredible lives and people who have been through trauma that you couldn't imagine. You gain an understanding of how broad the spectrum of human experience is. It's humbling and grounding.

Social skills: Medicine is a crash course on how not to be cripplingly socially awkward (not everyone passes with flying colours). You become better at relating to people, making them feel comfortable, talking about difficult topics, navigating conflict. These are all highly transferable skills.

Latent medical knowledge: There's a real freedom in being comfortable knowing when and when not to go to the hospital. Some people go to the Emergency Department every time they have a stomach ache, just in case. Learning medicine means you have a general idea about what problems are actually worth worrying about.

Job security: You can be pretty sure you'll always have a job no matter what (until GPT-6 arrives, but that applies to anything).

Opens doors: Studying med doesn't mean you need to be a doctor. You can use the insider knowledge of the medical field in med tech (not many doctors can code, useful combo), or to work in medical research (make some malaria vaccines) or global health.


I don't feel like my work as a doctor is directly very impactful (I mostly do hospital paperwork). But I gave 50% of my income in my first year and I'm giving 10% of my income since. In this way you can have a lot of positive impact.

Hello Ben(what if you could give 20% of your income? Would it be double more impactful)

1.Thanks for answering, there are fewer people in EA working at biology field.

2.ETG is really somethink we can conisder about, according to Toby Ord's podcasts on 80000 hours, he said talent gaps are much needed instead of funding gaps, most EA comapnies would rather get a great worker rather than getting $100000 donation,(but things like animal welfare may be different, its funding gaps are bigger). You should also consider careers like biology professor, if you're a go... (read more)

To answer your question about CS (I'm a programmer): Generally, I think your impression that it's easy to change jobs and subfields is right. My coworker at a web app company used to do some kind of bioinformatics thing, for example. Many CS jobs care less about credentials, so self-study is usually an option.

More generally: Do you have a sense of what you want to do, like what you would actually find more interesting? This is important even just in terms of maximizing impact IMO, and of course it also matters for its own sake.

Also, echoing comments on your other post -- this stuff is inherently uncertain, you realistically won't be able to perfectly plan out your career, and that's fine.


Hello Ben: Thanks for your answering a lot. I really need for advices about this. If you'd like to, maybe you can share more opinion about my other considerations on the article. I still don't have strong enough arguments to make a decision now.

1.Thanks for your sharing about changing fields in bioinformatics to web app developing. 

I don't know about CS, but I think there are a lot of subfields in CS: Such as software, hardware, informatics, firmware.. Even software engineers has specailities at different programming languages. Any kinds of careers ne... (read more)

Ben Dean
1. If you already have a technical background like bioinformatics or maybe even hardware, I think you could learn the sort of web development stuff they do at big tech companies in a few months of self-study or less, at least at a junior level. A lot of programming and CS skills are very general and transferable. ML researcher is more specialized and a master's / PhD would probably help. But you might be able to skip the postgraduate degree by e.g. getting an ML ops job first, or just with lots of self-study. Note that I only have experience in software / web dev. I'm not sure what the answer to your question about career change at 50 is... I'm sure it's possible, but I have heard it gets harder to find software jobs because of ageism 2. Hm, I think the question about cause areas changing is really hard, and I don't know the answer. Fair enough! It is good that you are interested in a lot of fields
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