The best books on how to have a positive social impact with your career

Benjamin Todd Author Of 80,000 Hours: Find a Fulfilling Career That Does Good
By Benjamin Todd

Who are we?

We’re a nonprofit that aims to help people have a positive social impact with their careers. Since you have, on average, 80,000 hours in your career, what you decide to do with that time might be your biggest opportunity to make a difference. Over the past ten years, we’ve conducted careful research into high-impact careers, and have helped thousands of people plan a career that has a high positive impact. 


We wrote...

80,000 Hours: Find a Fulfilling Career That Does Good

By Benjamin Todd,

Book cover of 80,000 Hours: Find a Fulfilling Career That Does Good

What is our book about?

Based on years of research alongside academics at Oxford, this book aims to help you find a career you enjoy, you’re good at, and that tackles the world’s most pressing problems. 

Our book is full of practical knowledge and tools to help you plan a career that's fulfilling and does good, including: what makes for a dream job, and why “follow your passion” can be misleading; how to set yourself up for success at every stage of your career; how to compare global problems in terms of their scale and urgency; and when to challenge the conventional wisdom to achieve maximum impact.

Get a free paperback copy on the 80,000 Hours website here. 

The books I picked & why

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The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity

By Toby Ord,

Book cover of The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity

Why this book?

The central metaphor of the book is that humanity stands at a precipice. With new technology, we are rapidly gaining the ability to destroy ourselves, and the threat of an existential catastrophe looms large over our generation. But, if we get things right, we might be able to enjoy a long and flourishing future. 

Toby’s book is the best resource we know of on what you need to know about these risks, and how you could have a high positive impact by working to prevent them.


Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Help Others, Do Work That Matters, and Make Smarter Choices about Giving Back

By William MacAskill,

Book cover of Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Help Others, Do Work That Matters, and Make Smarter Choices about Giving Back

Why this book?

For those of us who want to live an ‘ethical life’ and help others, it’s not always easy to know what to do. Will gives one answer: the principles of effective altruism. The book sets out a practical guide to increasing your impact through your charity, volunteering, purchases, and choice of cause. We think it’s a really valuable tool to understand how you can have a positive impact.


The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don't

By Julia Galef,

Book cover of The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don't

Why this book?

If we want the ways that we try to help others to actually work, then we need to be able to see the world clearly and look at evidence in a clear-headed, unbiased way. Doing this isn’t easy, and Julia provides one really helpful tool to do so in this book. 

The book centres around the distinction between the ‘solider’ – who must defend himself and his tribe against attacks – and the ‘scout,’ who needs to see what’s really true about the territory in order to be of any use. When we communicate, too often we inhabit the solider mindset of defending our beliefs and ourselves, rather than being open to understanding what’s actually the case.


The Alignment Problem: Machine Learning and Human Values

By Brian Christian,

Book cover of The Alignment Problem: Machine Learning and Human Values

Why this book?

One example of an especially pressing threat facing humanity is the rapid development of artificial intelligence. If we want this new technology to go well, it needs to be ‘aligned’ – that is, it should have or act on the same values as us. 

In this book, Brian sets out why aligning artificial intelligence is an extremely tricky issue and one which deserves more attention from talented and dedicated people.


What We Owe the Future

By William MacAskill,

Book cover of What We Owe the Future

Why this book?

Future generations might be very much impacted by the actions we take today: with climate change, nuclear war, or the changes in global values. But we often don’t take their interests into account. 

In this book, Will argues that positively influencing the fate of future generations is a key moral priority of our time and that there are things we can do today to make them better off. This may be one of the most important books of our time.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in artificial intelligence, skepticism, and 21st century?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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