Jessica Wen

Co-Founder @ High Impact Engineers
709 karmaJoined Jul 2022Working (0-5 years)
highimpactengineers.org

Bio

Participation
3

Co-founder of High Impact Engineers. Background in materials science and mechanical engineering. Also chat to me about community building, career decisions, etc.

How others can help me

I'd like to connect to other physical (non-software) engineers or professional community builders. I am particularly interested in gathering data on what engineers think is missing in the EA community, and where the EA community is missing engineers. I would like to gather data on what physical technologies are being developed or have been developed for different EA cause areas.

How I can help others

Reach out if you have a non-software engineering background, especially if you're doing or would like to do direct work in EA. I can share resources to help with career planning, connections to people with similar backgrounds, and ideas for projects or other ways to contribute your skills.

Sequences
1

How Engineers can Contribute to the World's Most Pressing Problems

Comments
52

Thanks for your comment Ulrik! Some thoughts on your bullet points:

- I think there probably are opportunities to do biosecurity work in LMICs (e.g. Africa CDC's Biosafety and Biosecurity initiative, the Southeast Asia Strategic Multilateral Dialogue on Biosecurity) but these seem mostly policy-based rather than focused on technical interventions (likely because there's just more private and public money for developing technical interventions in high-income countries).

- 80k mentioned that they would be adding more technical governance jobs (i.e., more roles in semiconductors/chips) in the near future, so hopefully the geographical bias might shift somewhat. However, my intuition is that the US will continue to be a hotspot for jobs in this sector because of the sheer size and concentration of semiconductor companies (and maybe because of the higher likelihood of actually affecting governance/regulations/standards?)

- We did some mapping of engineering disciplines to cause areas, which you can see here and on our Resource Portal (it is by no means comprehensive – we even miss out nuclear!) Turns out mechanical engineers are pretty useful in a lot of cause areas. Hope that's helpful!

Thanks for this interesting series! I've also been subscribed to The Global Prosperity Institute's newsletter, which releases interesting analyses of different approaches/policies to increase growth. At least one of the founders is a long-time EA, and the analyses are interesting to read!

As much as I love the summaries from the summary bot, I think this one missed the mark. The reason why we talk with people 1 to 1 about whether they should do a PhD is because there is so much nuance and variation depending on personal fit, career goals, industry circumstances, impact goals, etc. This summary does a bad job at conveying these nuances.

For example, point 2 mentions that doing a PhD limits finances, which is a short-sighted way of putting it, especially considering that over a lifetime, PhDs make back the earnings that they lose over the time that they are doing a PhD, and jobs requiring a PhD are often much more highly paid.

Point 3 feels pretty blanket-statement-y about scaring away employers when really there is only a minority of employers who are scared away (they probably won't be if you're willing to take the pay that they're offering).

Point 6 also feels too strongly worded – I don't think you can ever know if there are no better impact opportunities. Also, not everyone wants to go into entrepreneurship so this last consideration wouldn't apply.

I know this summary is AI-generated but I think a more nuanced and less strongly worded summary could be created.

Thank you for your positive feedback! I am not aware of a particular directory of these experts, but I'd be happy to connect you to our contacts working on reducing nuclear risks.

Thanks for linking to HI-Eng! We do in fact recommend HVAC as an impactful career for people who want to work on Indoor Air Quality to slow pandemic spread. It's great to hear about the experience of an actual HVAC engineer!

I think it's commendable that you shop at charity shops and donate proceeds from selling items, and that you're thinking about their effectiveness. I think these charities that run shops in the UK are unlikely to rank highly on cost-effectiveness because they probably score quite low on the Neglectedness aspect (they're recognisable brands, which means that more people are likely to know them and therefore donate to them), and a lot of these charities do local community work (and therefore tends to be less cost-effective than funding charity work overseas).

My approach when I buy clothes and other stuff from charity shops is mostly to reduce the harm from buying this stuff new rather than to contribute to a specific charity. Interested in your thoughts!

As someone who studied materials science, I enjoyed this post and appreciated the effort you spent on making technical work legible for laypeople.

As a general comment, I would like to see a technical/mechanistic breakdown of other threat models for how AI could cause doom very soon – I would be surprised if this was the only example of a theoretical threat that is practically very unlikely/bottlenecked due to engineering reasons.

Congratulations George! After my recent visit to China (my first since I went vegan) I was truly blown away by how convincing a lot of the tofu meat substitutes are. Even my meat-eating brother was surprised. I'm glad that you're trying to bring this to Western audiences!

I will note that the UK e-book is not free, but I coughed up the £1.63 for it anyway ;)

Perhaps this isn't the place to discuss this, but despite the excellent fake meats in China, they really haven't taken off and meat consumption and production are at an all-time high. How much better do meat substitutes have to be for people to choose them over animal meat?

I was planning on writing something similar for my experience as a co-founder of High Impact Engineers, but your post covers a lot of my thoughts and experience. Thanks for sharing!

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