What specialist knowledge is valuable?

Many highly specific areas of knowledge seem applicable to solving the world’s most pressing problems, especially risks posed by biotechnology and artificial intelligence.

In particular we’d highlight:

  • Subfields of biology relevant to pandemic prevention. Working on many of the possible technical solutions to reduce the risk of pandemics will require expertise in parts of biology. We’d particularly highlight synthetic biology, mathematical biology, virology, immunology, pharmacology, and vaccinology. This expertise can also be helpful for pursuing a biorisk-focused policy career. (Read more about careers to prevent catastrophic pandemics.)
  • AI hardware. Specialised hardware is a crucial input to the development of frontier AI systems. As a result, we expect expertise in AI hardware to become increasingly important to the governance of AI systems. (Read more about becoming an expert in AI hardware).
  • Economics. Understanding economics can be valuable in a huge range of impactful roles when combined with another skill set. For example, economics research is crucial for conducting global priorities research and improving decision making in large institutions. And a knowledge of economics can also support you in building policy and political skills, particularly for policy design and governance research.
  • Other areas we sometimes recommend include history, knowledge of China, and law.

Of course, whatever skill set you focus on, you’ll likely need to build some specialist knowledge — for example, if you focus on policy and political skills, you’ll need to gain specialist knowledge in the area of policy you’re working in. Similarly, if you build software and tech skills, you could consider gaining specialist knowledge in machine learning or information security. The idea of the above list is just to highlight areas we think seem particularly valuable that you might not otherwise consider learning about.

How should you get started building specialist knowledge?

Each area is very different, so it’s hard to give any specific advice that applies to all of them.

Besides the articles on specific areas linked above, we’d suggest checking out:

All our career reviews relevant to building specialist knowledge

Read next:  Explore other useful skills

Want to learn more about the most useful skills for solving global problems, according to our research? See our list.

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