Sometimes, a few of our efforts to improve the world cause overwhelmingly more impact than others. Smallpox eradication, the abolitionist movement, germ theory, the scientific revolution, the Green Revolution – projects like these symbolize what's possible. And yet, many projects barely move the needle or even cause mildly negative impact.
Attempts to do good follow a heavily skewed distribution: where the top few projects save and improve many, many more lives than others. It appears that the expertise of individuals follows a similarly skewed distribution. For example, a small percentage of entrepreneurs are able to launch multiple billion-dollar companies; a small percentage of scientists make paradigm-shifting contributions.
The Human Advancement Project explores the hypothesis that the extreme expertise of certain individuals is not simply attributable to chance. It is often more attributable to the motivational and cognitive processes characteristic of such individuals, and the special circumstances that lead to the development of these processes.
Under this paradigm, a major determinant of whether projects that reliably fall at the peak of the skewed impact distribution mentioned above is whether those projects have top talent behind them. Our mission to create more high impact projects by training more high impact individuals.
Toward this end, we conduct interviews with talented people – everyone from mathematicians to venture capitalists to film directors. Over these interviews, we attempt to understand the most effective learning and problem-solving skills we can find. We then apply this understanding to equip ambitious, altruistic people with tools to consistently work on projects at the peak of the skewed impact distribution.