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Do you ever feel that maybe you shouldn't talk about things you don't understand?

Working a prop trading firm is nowhere near "making rich people richer via gambling in the financial markets".

Furthermore, the majority of software/engineering jobs out there are not doing "something more beneficial to society". How many companies are really just ad-driven, marketing-driven.

Yes, it would be nice if the entire world could focus on "something like curing cancer", but other things need to get done. And the majority of people have bills to pay.

I am very similar to the OP, except I bailed halfway through the PhD, because I realized that, in academia, I will work 80 hours a week for $40k, or I can go into finance and work half that and make multiples more.

I can now donate/spend my money to causes like "curing cancer" or "making art" and let somebody who really wants to devote their life to that craft do so.

Yes!!! You will undoubtedly make a greater impact by earning as much as you can and donating it to causes later in life.

Some people think research or science is the only path to a better society but in all honesty it may just take paying people in a poor country to plant trees.

Indeed. Research may be the thing that directly betters the society, but in current economy, one can often do more by applying their skills on the market and using the gains to fund researchers. I think things are fine as long as we have both researchers and people funding research, each working to the best of their specialized skills.

That said, research is seriously underfunded.

For some reason, I always feel like the following quote from Emo Philips encapsulates this sentiment really well (and it's a sentiment I feel quite often):

"When I was a little boy, I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised, the Lord, in his wisdom, doesn't work that way. So I just stole one and asked Him to forgive me."

Sometimes to get what you want you have to sell out or otherwise find an unorthodox means to your desired end state.

Linus Torvalds. Richard Stallman. Martin Luther King, Jr. Nikola Tesla. Dr. John Snow.

I assume this should this be read in ascending order of importance ;-).

The contributions, conditions of those contributions, and the rewards and incentives for pursuing those contributions matter vastly more than the order of sequencing.

The list is extremely partial. I'd be much happier seeing other contributions to it than sniping about significance.

Your left hand is inarguably taking, or helping take, more than your right hand is giving.

Who said anything about standard issue ad-driven, marketing-driven software engineering jobs? Wasn't the alternative in this case brain/epilepsy neurology research?

I think everyone would agree that saying "I can't believe you work at Google/Facebook/Twitter instead of curing cancer" would be ridiculous.

Yet, every time finance work is mentioned, someone brings up "I can't believe you work in finance instead of curing cancer."

Guess what? I don't want to work on curing cancer. I used to. I went to school for biomedical engineering and wanted to work on big problems. I realized I would rather do as little work as possible (but still be challenged), and spend time with my family and friends. And I'll happily give money to people to cure this problems.

And those big problems that I wanted to work on before? Well, I'm sure there's somebody that really cares about that. The best way I can help is using my time in ways that I enjoy, and giving my money to those who will actually enjoy finding that cure.

A friend of mine almost died from some disease when she was in her teens. She survived, and is now a researcher for that specific field. She has a personal interest in that research, even if it means she might have to sacrifice other things. And she was also the one who convinced me to bail from the PhD program. She said "if you can imagine yourself doing anything else, do something else."

That's when I realized academic research is long, painful work, but you have to be excited for it. If I'm not excited, I should do something else, and then give money or help increase funding to make it less painful for those who still want to be there.

I begrudgingly agree. It is similar to me to a star athlete making millions. Most people aren't happy that we value athletes over teachers, but free market, yada yada yada. I get paid well to solve puzzles every day. It's fun, and I can buy groceries without using a credit card. I wish I could make a living with a reasonable amount of stress doing research, but we have arrived at the point where we can't do that. Supply is out-stripping demand for PhDs, so prices fall.

tl;dr - Go short on PhD salaries!

Looks like the purpose of my comment went totally over your head.

I was simply addressing the absurdity that our smartest minds are incentivized to go into finance rather than work on the most difficult and important problems in the world. The modern day Albert Einstein is probably working at a hedge fund. If we allocated humanity's resources differently, then we could be so much more technologically advanced.

>the majority of software/engineering jobs out there are not doing "something more beneficial to society" ... other things need to get done. And the majority of people have bills to pay.

This is a big problem in itself.

It's less of a problem when you consider that it's not true. Most software gets written to solve a real problem. No, not at Snapchat or whatever, but at most places.

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