Re: extropians-digest V5 #278

From: Bill Douglass (
Date: Sun Oct 08 2000 - 19:19:39 MDT

On Sunday, 08 Oct 2000 Nick Bostrom <> wrote:

>Dan asked whether he should pursue a career in philosophy of biomedical
>engineering. He seemed especially concerned about speeding the development
>of a cure for ageing.
>I think you could work effectively for the abolishment of ageing along
>either of these career paths. In biomedical engineering you may be doing
>hands-on work, but in philosophy you could try to influence society,
>funding bodies, ethics committees and other groups that affect where the
>research money goes. Its not obvious where your impact would be greatest.
>Indeed, you could probably help the cause even by, say, running a Russian
>prostitution rack - simply getting rich and donating and investing the
>money in the right ways should work.
>Here is my advice: Think comparative advantage. Ask yourself, what are you
>most talented in? Go for that. It will give you the best chance of being
>both happy and effective in your life.

Nick, I think the "comparative advantage" approach is a good one. The
problem is, for many of us, it's much easier said than done. How does one
go about finding out what areas one has a competitive advantage in? I've
been through a barrage of tests with a recognized authority in this area
("career counseling"; psychological evaluation), and was pretty disappointed
with the recommendations that emerged.

The area of consulting with individuals, to help them figure out what their
strengths and weaknesses are, and advise them on a good career path
accordingly, seems to me to be far from an exact science, and in much need
of improvement. Indeed, if someone could figure out how to do it well, and
establish a good track record, such could be a very lucrative, scaleable

When the leaders of Taiwan decided it was time to get serious about economic
development they hired Western consulting firms to evaluate and report on
the islands' areas of competitive advantage, and then promoted those
industries accordingly. As much as top-down approaches to development such
as this bother me, I have to admit that Taiwan has done pretty well by this
approach. Paradoxically it seems that, at least for some people, it's more
difficult to discern an individual's areas of comparative advantage than a
whole country's.

By the way, starting a Russian prostitution racket is one of the least
extropic business ideas I can imagine, in part because it would almost
surely result in the untimely death of the entrepreneur, by murder. Such
has been the fate of many Russian entrepreneurs who have been successful
enough to get the attention of their competitors. (Of course I recognize
this wasn't a serious suggestion).

Best wishes,

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