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August 8th, 2019
For the most part, it seems that we fear the wrong things in the modern world.
We fear taking a chance with a business idea for risk of feeling like a failure. But the total predicted fallout of climate change is a met with a shrug of shoulders and a couple of words about the size of problems a person can tackle.
Fear most certainly was one of evolutions most brilliant inventions. In many situations, it has kept us safe. But fear is a bit of a water hose on full blast with no one holding it: all sorts of unnecessary things get drenched in fear, and many things that we should have fear don’t get touched at all. At least, this is the case in the modern era where the dangers of life are far less obvious.
Modern life has arisen in large part because of the development of the neocortex, and the abilities it has bestowed upon us to radically change our environment. This change in environment has likewise shifted the dangers. An obvious, but difficult to manage one is obesity. While being obese today presents great danger to a person’s health, ten thousand years ago this was not an issue what-so-ever, and going down the rabbit-hole of avoiding hunger feels very natural.
The neocortex, which is largely responsible for civilization, is also the only practical tool we now have to identify real dangers. Since we’ve created an environment that is no longer in sync with our intuitions, the identification of real danger requires the counter-intuitive process of carefully thinking through situations.
This is not easy.
But given the situation we’ve created for ourselves, it’s our only choice. And those who don’t put in this difficult, thoughtful work are bound to pay the price when real dangers manifest.