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  • Jim Armstrong

Solving problems and finding opportunities shouldn't go on diets




Proverbial personal New Year's resolutions can range from losing a few pounds and gaining more confidence to stopping and smelling the roses and seizing the moment and making a million. This January gumption is all well and good (well not 'all' – University of Scranton research says only 8% of people reach their New Year's goals). Whether you make a personal New Year's resolution or not, there are challenges we, as members of humanity, face in 2018 that call for us to become part of something bigger than ourselves.


According to 80,000 Hours, a nonprofit focused on helping people do work in areas that matter to them (their name comes for the projection we each have 80,000 hours in our career), the most urgent global issues, ranked in importance based on their survey work are:


• Risks from artificial intelligence

• Promoting effective altruism

• Global priorities research

• Improving institutional decision-making

• Factory farming

• Biosecurity

• Nuclear Security

• Developing world health

• Climate change (extreme risks)

• Land use reform

• Smoking in the developing world


Challenges that are on the 80,000 hours radar but not yet rated are:


• Science policy and infrastructure

• Mental health

• Cheap green energy/solar energy

• Foreign policy and peace – especially as strategy to reduce catastrophic risks

• Trade reform

• Advocating increased taxation of the super-rich

• Democratic reform

• Medical research into how to slow aging

• Reducing migration restrictions

• Promoting human rights

• Increasing aid spending and effectiveness

• Criminal justice reform

• Biomedical research

• Human enhancement

• Expanding moral concern through humanities

• Attention design at top tech firms

• Positively shaping the development of crypto-assets


Surprisingly, here are problems that seem important, but 80,000 Hours believes they would be rated below what is already listed:


• Economic empowerment of global poor

• Education in poor countries

• Certain types of education in rich countries

• Overpopulation and resource scarcity

• General effort to speed up technological and economic growth, as opposed to differential technological development


This is quite a collection of issues. You can see that a lot of these challenges, problems and opportunities are interconnected. Anything strike a chord with you? If so, dive in and be resolved to do something that can move the needle a little or a lot. Imagine if just 8% of us did this what an impact it would have. What if if 80% of us did? It's possible if we make sure we don't put our 'what if' thinking on a diet and starve our imagination and compassion . . . food for thought and action.


As for me, I aim to work with nonprofits and businesses who want to do something about racial disparity and equity and on human rights issues and women's rights in particular. I hope to use my talent and interests to create compelling messages around these topics – they could take the form of posters, ads, videos, web content, emails, speeches – whatever I can do to spread the word on behalf of an organization and the work they are doing to make a difference and encourage others to support their work. I will also continue to work on our Climate Changers project and present it as an agent for change by creating messages about the uplifting and hopeful actions individuals are taking around the world to address climate change.


If your organization is focused on an urgent problem or solution that impacts the human condition and the health of the planet, lets explore how we can work together.


Happy New Year!



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