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© 2019 by Vortex Foundation

“The 150 Things the World’s Smartest People Are Afraid of” - Eduardo Salcedo-Albaran on States shaped by crime.

April 2, 2013

 

Every 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. – 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

 

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

 

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 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

 

20. “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

 

21. Not much. I ride motorcycles without a helmet. –J. Craig Venter, genomic scientist

 

22. Catharsis is a transcendent joy that—can you repeat question? –Andrian Kreye, editor, German Daily Newspaper

 

23. “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

 

24. “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

 

25. 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

 

26. The Danger Of Inadvertently Praising Zygomatic Arches. --Robert Sopolsky, neuroscientist

 

27. That we will stop dying. –Kate Jeffery, professor of behavioural neuroscience

 

28. 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

 

29. 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

 

30. 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

 

31. “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

 

32. “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

 

33. Men. –Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist

 

34. The social media-fication of science writing. –Michael I. Norton, Harvard Business School prof

 

35. Humanity’s unmitigated arrogance. –Jessica L. Tracy, professor of psychology

 

36. That technology may endanger democracy. –Haim Harari, physicist

 

37. Don’t worry—there won’t be a singularity. –Bruce Sterling, sci-fi author

 

38. Mutually-assured destruction. –Vernor Vinge, mathematician, computer scientist, author

 

39. “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

 

40. 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

 

41. "I worry that we don't really understand quantum phenomena” –Lee Smolin, physicist

 

42. That Americans are homogenizing and exporting their view of a normal mind around the world. –P. Murali Doraiswamy, professor of psychiatry

 

43. The future of science publishing. --Marco Iacoboni, neuroscientist

 

44. That the new digital public sphere isn’t really so public. –Andrew Lih, journalism professor

 

45. “I further postuate we should in fact be "Worried" not just about a single selected problem, but about all possible problems.” –Richard Foreman, playwright and director

 

46. Stress. –Arianna Huffington, aggregationist extraordinaire

 

47. “We should be worried that science has not yet brought us closer to understanding cancer.” Xeni Jardin, Boing Boing

 

48. That we will literally lose touch with the physical world. –Christine Finn, archaeologist.

(...)

 

Read more: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/what-150-of-the-worlds-smartest-scientists-are-worried-about#ixzz2RLtw5i25 

 

 

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02/04/2013

 

 

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