Thought provoking: the planet’s smartest people have a narrow cone of vision…

This is an article I reprinted because I found that it comes at the right juncture: where people are asked to decide if they are going to be the cause of their own evolution, or if they are going to assume the worry for themselves... Worry means no action. It's a pretense. It is the only recourse of the cowardly, impotent, and ineffective.

The 150 Things the World's Smartest People Are Afraid of

Afraid Of What? By Brian Merchant

vice_630x420Every year, the online magazine Edge--the so-called smartest website in the world, helmed by science impresario John Brockman--asks top scientists, technologists, writers, and academics to weigh in on a single question. This year, that query was "What Should We Be Worried About?", and the idea was to identify new problems arising in science, tech, and culture that haven't yet been widely recognized.

This year's respondents include former presidents of the Royal Society, Nobel prize-winners, famous sci-fi authors, Nassem Nicholas Taleb, Brian Eno, and a bunch of top theoretical physicists, psychologists, and biologists. And the list is long. Like, book-length long. There are some 150 different things that worry 151 of the planet's biggest brains. And I read about them all, so you don't have to: here's the Buzzfeedized version, with the money quote, title, or summary of the fear pulled out of each essay. Obviously, go read the rest if any of the below get you fretting too.

What keeps the smartest folks in the world awake at night? Here goes:

  1. The proliferation of Chinese eugenics. 1 – Geoffrey Miller, evolutionary psychologist.
  2. Black swan events, 2 and the fact that we continue to rely on models that have been proven fraudulent. – Nassem Nicholas Taleb
  3. That we will be unable to defeat viruses by learning to push them beyond the error catastrophe threshold. – William McEwan, molecular biology researcher
  4. That pseudoscience will gain ground. – Helena Cronin, author, philosopher
  5. That the age of accelerating technology will overwhelm us with opportunities to be worried. – Dan Sperber, social and cognitive scientist
  6. Genuine apocalyptic events. The growing number of low-probability events that could lead to the total devastation of human society. – Martin Rees, former president of the Royal Society
  7. The decline in science coverage in newspapers. – Barbara Strauch, New York Times science editor

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  8. Exploding stars, the eventual collapse of the Sun, and the problems with the human id that prevent us from dealing with them. -- John Tooby, founder of the field of evolutionary psychology
  9. That the internet is ruining writing. – David Gelernter, Yale computer scientist
  10. That smart people--like those who contribute to Edge--won’t do politics. –Brian Eno, musician
  11. That there will be another supernova-like financial disaster. –Seth Lloyd, professor of Quantum Mechanical Engineering at MIT
  12. That search engines will become arbiters of truth. --W. Daniel Hillis, physicist
  13. The dearth 3 of desirable mates is something we should worry about, for "it lies behind much human treachery and brutality.” –David M. Buss, professor of psychology at U of T
  14. “I’m worried that our technology is helping to bring the long, postwar consensus against fascism to an end.” –David Bodanis, writer, futurist
  15. That we will continue to uphold taboos on bad words. –Benhamin Bergen, Associate Professor of Cognitive Science, UCS
  16. Data disenfranchisement. –David Rowan, editor, Wired UK
  17. That digital technologies are sapping our patience and changing our perception of time. –Nicholas G. Carr, author
  18. An “underpopulation bomb.” –Kevin Kelly, editor-at-large, Wired.19. That funding for big experiments will dry up, and they won’t happen. –Lisa Randall, Harvard physicist
  19. “I worry that as the problem-solving power of our technologies increases, our ability to distinguish between important and trivial or even non-existent problems diminishes.” –Evgeny Morozov, contributing editor, Foreign Policy
  20. Not much. I ride motorcycles without a helmet. –J. Craig Venter, genomic scientist
  21. Catharsis is a transcendent joy that—can you repeat question? –Andrian Kreye, editor, German Daily Newspaper
  22. “I've given up asking questions. l merely float on a tsunami of acceptance of anything life throws at me... and marvel stupidly.” (complete answer)--Terry Gilliam
  23. “We should be worried about the new era of Anthropocene—not only as a geological phenomenon, but also as a cultural frame.”–Jennifer Jacquet, clinical assistant professor of environmental studies, NYU
  24. Cultural extinction, and the fact that the works of an obscure writer from the Caribbean may not get enough attention. –Hans Ulrich Obrist. curator, Serptine Gallery
  25. The Danger Of Inadvertently Praising Zygomatic Arches. --Robert Sopolsky, neuroscientista8ffd
  26. That we will stop dying. –Kate Jeffery, professor of behavioural neuroscience
  27. That there are an infinity of universes out there, but that we are only able to study the one we live in. –Lawrence M. Krauss, physicist/cosmologist
  28. The rise of anti-intellectualism and the end of progress. “We’ve now, for the first time, got a single global civilization. If it fails, we all fail together.” –Tim O’Reilly, CEO and founder of O'Reilly Media
  29. We should worry about several "modern" States that, in practical terms, are shaped by crime; States in which bills and laws are promulgated by criminals and, even worse, legitimized through formal and "legal" democracy. – Eduardo Salcedo-albaran, Colombian philosopher
  30. “We should worry that so much of our science and technology still uses just five main models of probability—even though there are more probability models than there are real numbers.” –Bart Kosko, information scientist
  31. “It is possible that we are rare, fleeting specks of awareness in an unfeeling cosmic desert, the only witnesses to its wonder. It is also possible that we are living in a universal sea of sentience, surrounded by ecstasy and strife that is open to our influence. Sensible beings that we are, both possibilities should worry us.” Timo Hannay, publisher
  32. Men. –Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist
  33. The social media-fication of science writing. –Michael I. Norton, Harvard Business School prof
  34. Humanity’s unmitigated arrogance. –Jessica L. Tracy, professor of psychology
  35. That technology may endanger democracy. –Haim Harari, physicist
  36. Don’t worry—there won’t be a singularity. –Bruce Sterling, sci-fi author67a4
  37. Mutually-assured destruction. –Vernor Vinge, mathematician, computer scientist, author
  38. “The diversion of intellectual effort from innovation to exploitation, the distraction of incessant warfare, rising fundamentalism” may trigger a Dark Age. –Frank Wilczek, MIT physicist
  39. We need institutions and cultural norms that make us better than we tend to be. It seems to me that the greatest challenge we now face is to build them. –Sam Harris, neuroscientist
  40. "I worry that we don't really understand quantum phenomena” –Lee Smolin, physicist
  41. That Americans are homogenizing and exporting their view of a normal mind around the world. –P. Murali Doraiswamy, professor of psychiatry
  42. The future of science publishing. --Marco Iacoboni, neuroscientist
  43. That the new digital public sphere isn’t really so public. –Andrew Lih, journalism professor
  44. “I further postulate we should in fact be "Worried" not just about a single selected problem, but about all possible problems.” –Richard Foreman, playwright and director
  45. Stress. –Arianna Huffington, aggregationist extraordinaire
  46. “We should be worried that science has not yet brought us closer to understanding cancer.” Xeni Jardin, Boing Boing
  47. That we will literally lose touch with the physical world. –Christine Finn, archaeologist.575
  48. “We should all be worried about the gaping psychological chasm separating humanity from nature” –Scott Sampson, dinosaur paleontologist.
  49. That we are becoming too connected. –Gino Segre, professor of physics & astronomy
  50. That we will worry too much. –Joseph LeDoux, neuroscientist
  51. “What worries me is that we are increasingly enmeshed in incompetent systems, that is, systems that exhibit pathological behaviour but can't fix themselves.” –John Naughton, Edge editor
  52. Too much coupling. –Steven Strogatz, professor of applied mathematics, Cornell
  53. That the internet will end up benefiting existing power structures and not society in general. –Bruce Schneier, security technologist
  54. That this year’s Edge topic has been poorly chosen. –Kai Krause, software pioneer
  55. That we will see the end of fundamental science –Mario Livio, astrophysicist
  56. The paradox of material progress. –Rolf Dobelli, journalist and author
  57. That we will become like rats stuck in a blue marble trap. –Gregory Benford, prof of physics and astronomy
  58. That humankind will stop pursuing close observation. –Ursula Martin, computer scientist
  59. “What worries me is the ongoing "greying" of the world population, which is uneven globally but widespread.” --David Berreby, journalist and author
  60. “We should be worrying about a growing dominance of the Fourth [pop] Culture and how it may directly or indirectly affect us all." –Bruce Parker, professor
  61. The coming fight between engineers and druids. –Paul Saffo, technology forecaster
  62. “As someone fairly committed to the death of our solar system and ultimately the entropy of the universe, I think the question of what we should worry about is irrelevant in the end.” –Bruce Hood, mondo-bummere0d4
  63. A scarcity of water resources. –Giulio Boccaletti, physicist
  64. That we "are inarticulately lost in Modernity. Many of us seem to sense the end of something, perhaps a futile meaninglessness in our Modernity.” -- Stuart A. Kauffman, professor of biological sciences, physics, and astronomy
  65. “I worry about the lost opportunity of denying the world's teenagers access to education.” Sarah-Jayne Blakemore
  66. Augmented reality. –William Poundstone, journalist.
  67. That big data and new media will mean the end of facts. --Victoria Stodden, computational legal scholar, statistics professor
  68. That we will spend too much time on social media. --Marcel Kinsbourne, neurologist
  69. That Idiocracy is looming. –Douglas T. Kenrick, psychology professor
  70. That the gap between news and understanding is widening. --Gavin Schmidt, NASA climatologist
  71. “I worry we have yet to have a conversation about what seems to be a developing "new normal" about the presence of screens in the playroom and kindergarten” --Sherry Turkle, pshcyhologist, MIT
  72. “That we will become irrationally impatient with science” --Stuart Firestein, professor who is working as hard as he can, dammit
  73. That we will get our hopes up for interstellar space travel, because it’s not going to happen. --Ed Regis, science writer
  74. That global cooperation is failing and we don’t know why. --Daniel Haun
  75. That we worry too much. –Joel Gold, psychiatrist
  76. “I worry more and more about what will happen to the generations of children who don't have the uniquely human gift of a long, protected, stable childhood.” --Alison Gopnikef373
  77. That synthetic biology will spiral out of control. –Seirian Summer, lecturer in behavioral biology
  78. The death of mathematics. --Keith Devlin, mathematician
  79. That we will outsource too many skills to machines. –Susan Blackmore, psychologist
  80. “We should be worried about online silos. They make us stupid and hostile toward each other.” –Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia
  81. That we worry too much. –Gary Klein, scientist at MacroCognition
  82. That the human species will lose the will to survive. –Dave Winer, Blogging and RSS software pioneer
  83. The surplus of testosterone caused by a gender gap in China. –Robert Kurzban, psychologist
  84. “A worry that is not yet on the scientific or cultural agenda is neural data privacy rights” --Melanie Swan, systems-level thinker, futurist
  85. Armageddon. –Timothy Taylor, archaeologist
  86. There’s nothing to worry about, even though the Large Hadron Collider hasn’t turned up any new discoveries. --Amanda Gefter, editor
  87. “What I worry most about is that we are more and more losing the formal and informal bridges between different intellectual, mental and humanistic approaches to seeing the world.” --Anton Zeilinger, physicist
  88. That we worry too much. –Donald D. Hoffman, cognitive scientist
  89. The Growing Gap Between The Scientific Elite And The Vast "Scientifically Challenged" Majority -- Leo M. Chalupa, ophthalmologist and neurobiologist
  90. “I worry about the prospect of collective amnesia.” –Nogra Arikha, historian of ideas
  91. That we worry too much. –Brian Knutson, associate professor of psychology
  92. That we do not understand the dynamics of our emerging global culture. –Kirsten Bomblies, assistant professor of organismic and evolutionary biology9960097
  93. “We should worry about losing lust as the guiding principle for the reproduction of our species.” –Tor Norretranders, science writer
  94. That we worry too much, but about fictional violence. –Jonathan Gottschall, English professor
  95. “We should be worried about the consequences of our increasing knowledge of what causes disease, and its consequences for human freedom” –Esther Dyson, Catalyst, Information Tech Startups
  96. Natural death. --Antony Garrett Lisi, theoretical physicist
  97. “What worries me is that the debate about gender differences still seems to polarize nature vs. nurture, with some in the social sciences and humanities wanting to assert that biology plays no role at all, apparently unaware of the scientific evidence to the contrary” -- Simon Baron-Cohen, psychologist
  98. The demise of the scholar. --Daniel L. Everett, linguistic researcher
  99. The Unavoidable Intrusion Of Sociopolitical Forces Into Science. --Nicholas A Christakis, physician
  100. "I am worried about who gets to be players in the science game—and who is left out.” –Stephon H. Alexander, physicist
  101. The fact that so many people choose to live in ways that narrow the community of fate to a very limited set of others and to define the rest as threatening to their way of life and values is deeply worrying because this contemporary form of tribalism, and the ideologies that support it, enable them to deny complex and more crosscutting mutual interdependencies—local, national, and international—and to elude their own role in creating long-term threats to their own wellbeing and that of others.” --Margaret Levi, political scientist
  102. That we will be unable to facilitate effective synergies. --Stephen M. Kosslyn, Robin S. Rosenberg, psychologists, synergy fans
  103. I’m not worried about Super-AIs ruling the world. --Andy Clark, philosopher and cognitive scientist
  104. The posthuman geography that will result when robots have taken all our jobs. –David Dalrymple, MIT researcher47e64
  105. That aliens pose a danger to human civilization. --Seth Shostak, SETI astronomer
  106. That the role of microorganisms in cancer is being ignored by the current sequencing strategies employed by the medical community. –Azra Raza, M.D.
  107. That humankind’s social and moral intuitions will stifle technological process. –David Pizarro, psychologist
  108. “The illusion of knowledge and understanding that can result from having information so readily and effortlessly available.” -- Tania Lombrozo, assistant professor of psychology
  109. The end of hardship inoculation –Adam Alter, psychologist
  110. The exploding number of illegal drugs. –Thomas Metzinger, philosopher
  111. Superstition. –Matt Ridley, science writer
  112. That historically entrenched institutions will prevent technological progress. --Paul Kedrosky, editor17173
  113. That “in one or two generations children will grow up to be adults who will not be able to tell reality from imagination.” --Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, psychologist
  114. That we worry too much. –Virginia Heffernan, Yahoo News correspondent
  115. “We should be worried about how we go about finding the wisdom to allow us to navigate developments as we begin to improve our ability to cheaply print human tissue, grow synthetic brains, have robots take care of our old parents, let the Internet educate our children” –Luca De Biase, journalist
  116. That genomics may fail us when it comes to mental disorders. --Terrence J. Sejnowski, computational neuroscientist
  117. “What really keeps me awake at night is that we face a crisis within the deepest foundations of physics. The only way out seems to involve profound revision of fundamental physical principles." –Steve Giddings, theoretical physicist
  118. “The most worrying aspect of our society is the low index of suspicion that we have about the behavior of normal people.” –Karl Sabbagh, writer, TV producer
  119. “Many people worry that there is not enough democracy in the world; I worry that we might never go beyond democracy.” –Dylan Evans, CEO of Projection Point
  120. Not population growth, but prosperity growth—the prospect of the entire world consuming resources like Americans and Westerners do. –Laurence C. Smith, geography professor
  121. That we’ll begin to treat technology like magic. –Neil Gershenfeld, MIT physicist
  122. The rise in genomic instability. –Eric J. Topol, M.D., professor of genomics7d4c4c
  123. That authorities and companies will soon be able to read people’s brains. –Stanislas Dehaene, neuroscientist
  124. That economic growth will halt. –Satyajit Das, financial expert
  125. “I worry that free imagination is overvalued, and I think this carries risks.” –Carlo Rovelli, theoretical physicist
  126. That we worry too much. –James J. O’Donnell, classical scholar
  127. That we worry too much. –Robert Provine, neuroscientist
  128. That we won’t have enough robots to do all the jobs we’ll need them to do in coming decades. –Rodney A. Brooks, roboticist
  129. That we will have no Plan B when the internet inevitably breaks down. –George Dyson, science historian
  130. The Singularity. That we “are curiously complacent about life as we know it getting transformed. What we should be worried about is that we're not worried.” –Max Tegmark, MIT physicist
  131. “There are known knowns and known unknowns, but what we should be worried about most is the unknown unknowns.” –Gary Marcus, cognitive scientist
  132. That the brain is unable to conceive of our most serious problems. –Daniel Goleman, psychologist
  133. “We should be worried that scientists have given up the search for determining right and wrong and which values lead to human flourishing just as the research tools for doing so are coming online” –Michael Shermer, publisher, Skeptic magazine
  134. The loss of our collective cognition and awareness. –Douglass Rushkoff, media analyst
  135. The decline of the science hero. –Roger Highfield, Director, Science Museum Group
  136. That we are unable to identify “the good life.” –David Christian, historian
  137. Electric tattooing on Facebook and beyond. –Juan Enriquez
  138. Federal regulatory capture—ie, the fox watching the hen house in industries like oil and coal extraction. –Charles Seife, journalism professor
  139. “Society's Parlous Inability To Reason About Uncertainty” –Aubrey De Grey, Gerontologist
  140. That knowledge is getting too fast. –Nicholas Humphrey, prof. at the London School of Economics
  141. The "Nightmare Scenario" For Fundamental Physics. Peter Woit, mathematical physicist6c04
  142. The homogenization of the human experience. –Scott Atran, anthropologist
  143. That we won’t be able to understand everything. –Clifford Pickover, math author
  144. That we worry too much, and “package our worries” in a deleterious fashion. –Mary Catherine Bateson, professor emerita
  145. That because of climate change, resource shortages, drones, or other unanticipated reasons, a major war will arise. –Steven Pinker, psychologist
  146. Stupidity. –Roger Schank, psychologist
  147. I have stopped worrying about the problem of free will, because it will never be settled. –Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education
  148. That science is in danger of becoming the enemy of humankind. –Colin Tudge, biologist, editor at New Scientist
  149. That we will be unable to live without the internet. –Daniel C. Dennet, philosopher

Footnotes

  1. Eugenics (/ju??d??n?ks/; from Greek eu, meaning "good/well", and -gen?s, meaning "born") is the belief and practice of improving the genetic quality of the human population.[2][3] It is a social philosophy advocating the improvement of human genetic traits through the promotion of higher reproduction of people with desired traits (positive eugenics), and reduced reproduction of people with less-desired or undesired traits (negative eugenics).[4]
  2. What are Black Swan events?

    A Black Swan event is an event in human history that was unprecedented and unexpected at the point in time it occurred. However, after evaluating the surrounding context, domain experts (and in some cases even laymen) can usually conclude: “it was bound to happen”. Even though some parameters may differ (such as the event’s time, location, or specific type), it is likely that similar incidences have had similar effects in the past.

  3. scarcity, lack

Author: Sophie Benshitta Maven

award winning architect, magazine publisher, transformational and spiritual coach and teacher, self declared Avatar

1 thought on “Thought provoking: the planet’s smartest people have a narrow cone of vision…”

  1. Thank you, Sophie. I spent a long time waiting for a magical revelation from above. Maybe you are what I have been waiting for: someone to help me bridge the present and the possible. A certain passivity has threatened to do me in…it’s one aspect of depression. I say F@#k it!!!

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