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

Every year, the online magazine Edge–the so-called smartest website in the world–asks the top scientists, technologists, writers, and academics to weigh in on a single question. This year, that question 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 phsycists, psychologists and biologists. And the list is long. Like, book-length long. Tthere are some 130 different things that worry 151 of the planet’s biggest brains. And I read it, 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. 

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

1. The proliferation of Chinese eugenics. – Geoffrey Miller, evolutionary psychologist.

2. Black swan events, 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, philospher

5. That the age of accelerating technology will overwhelm us with opportunities to be worried. – Dan Sperber, social and cognitive scientist (more…)

Cost of Mistakes

Overconfidence is a very serious problem, but you probably don’t think it affects you. That’s the tricky thing with overconfidence: the people who are most overconfident are the ones least likely to recognize it. We tend to think of it as someone else’s problem.

When it comes to investing, however, we all have a problem.

As we become more and more confident we become willing to take on more and more risk. Why? We start seeing risky behavior as, well, less risky. But the reality is that as the level of overconfidence increases, the cost of our mistakes increase as well. (more…)

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