The only thing to worry about is worry itself (and densely networked self-selecting intellectuals…)

or so tweeted on Jan 14 Mark Lynas of various fame including a Six Degrees” book I analyzed numerically a few years back, and recent GMO repentance.

One should be forgiven for finding the juxtaposition peculiar to say the least. Shouldn’t Mark be wary of scares, having just discovered years of activism were not based on science?

Or perhaps he belongs to the category of people that really need to find a worry to be scared about, if only to be activists about something. I suggested

It is actually the right time for making such a guess. Edge.org has chosen angst for its 2013 theme

2013 : WHAT *SHOULD* WE BE WORRIED ABOUT?

(Twitter hashtag: #edgeq13)

There are 152 contributions at that site, too many to mention and probably too many to make a wager about too. Here’s an initial list:

  • Chinese eugenics
  • Black swans
  • Ingenuous viruses
  • Rejection of Darwinism applied to humans
  • Misplaced worries
  • Catastrophic risks
  • Misinformation about science
  • Planetary catastrophes
  • Collective delusions
  • Internet drivel
  • Abandoning politics
  • Debt implosion
  • Search engines as arbiters of truth
  • Shortage of valuable mates
  • Tech fascism
  • Censorship
  • Data-controlling power
  • Loss of patience
  • Underpopulation
  • End of big experiments
  • Tools too strong for our own good
  • Infectious diseases
  • Search for ecstatic experiences
  • Pessimism that makes us accept human destruction as inevitable
  • Cultural homogenisation
  • Misunderstanding free will
  • Prolonged lifespans
  • Limits in science
  • Anti-intellectualism
  • Criminal-controlled states
  • Misunderstanding of probability
  • Missing out on non-human sentience
  • Myths about men
  • Science by social media
  • Public lying and cheating
  • The Singularity
  • Nuclear war
  • Squandered opportunities
  • Wrong incentives
  • Misunderstanding of quantum mechanics
  • Enforced global psychiatric standards
  • Too much focus on novel findings in science

On the positive side, it’s not just a collection of miserabilism. I particularly liked this one:

Unfriendly Physics, Monsters From The Id, And Self-Organizing Collective Delusions
John Tooby
Founder of field of Evolutionary Psychology; Co-director, Center for Evolutionary Psychology, Professor of Anthropology, UC Santa Barbara

[…]Because intellectuals are densely networked in self-selecting groups whose members’ prestige is linked (for example, in disciplines, departments, theoretical schools, universities, foundations, media, political/moral movements, and other guilds), we incubate endless, self-serving elite superstitions, with baleful effects: Biofuel initiatives starve millions of the planet’s poorest. Economies around the world still apply epically costly Keynesian remedies despite the decisive falsification of Keynesian theory by the post-war boom (government spending was cut by 2/3, 10 million veterans dumped into the labor force, while Samuelson predicted “the greatest period of unemployment and industrial dislocation which any economy has ever faced”). I personally have been astonished over the last four decades by the fierce resistance of the social sciences to abandoning the blank slate model in the face of overwhelming evidence that it is false. As Feynman pithily put it, “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” […]