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Some Scary Shit

Here are 150 things that spook the world's smartest people.
Brian Merchant
Κείμενο Brian Merchant

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 concerns arising in science, tech, and culture that haven't yet been widely identified.

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--there are some 130 different things that worry 151 of the planet's biggest brains. 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

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 don’t do politics. –Brian Eno, musician

Read the rest over at the new