Big Thinkers on the Only Things Worth Worrying About | Brain Pickings | The Edge

 

I’ve given up asking questions. I merely float on a tsunami of acceptance of anything life throws at me… and marvel stupidly.

Terry Gilliam’s philosophy on worrying.

According to social and cognitive scientist Dan Sperber, our worries about worrying are ushering in a new age of anxiety, the consequences of which are debilitating. He says, “Worrying is an investment of cognitive resources laced with emotions from the anxiety spectrum and aimed at solving some specific problem. It has its costs and benefits, and so does not worrying. Worrying for a few minutes about what to serve for dinner in order please one’s guests may be a sound investment of resources. Worrying about what will happen to your soul after death is a total waste. Human ancestors and other animals with foresight may have only worried about genuine and pressing problems such as not finding food or being eaten. Ever since they have become much more imaginative and have fed their imagination with rich cultural inputs, that is, since at least 40,000 years (possibly much more), humans have also worried about improving their lot individually and collectively — sensible worries — and about the evil eye, the displeasure of dead ancestors, the purity of their blood — misplaced worries.

A new kind of misplaced worries is likely to become more and more common. The ever-accelerating current scientific and technological revolution results in a flow of problems and opportunities that presents unprecedented cognitive and decisional challenges. Our capacity to anticipate these problems and opportunities is swamped by their number, novelty, speed of arrival, and complexity.

What Dan Sperber is particularly worried about is, “that humans will be less and less able to appreciate what they should really be worrying about and that their worries will do more harm than good. Maybe, just as on a boat in rapids, one should try not to slowdown anything but just to optimize a trajectory one does not really control, not because safety is guaranteed and optimism is justified — the worst could happen — but because there is no better option than hope.”

Writer Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock says we should worry about our species losing its soul. “Our collective perceptions and cognition is our greatest evolutionary achievement. This is the activity that gives biology its meaning. Our human neural network is in the process of deteriorating and our perceptions are becoming skewed — both involuntarily and by our own hand — and all that most of us in the greater scientific community can do is hope that somehow technology picks up the slack, providing more accurate sensors, faster networks, and a new virtual home for complexity. We should worry such networks won’t be able to function without us; we should also worry that they will.”

via Big Thinkers on the Only Things Worth Worrying About | Brain Pickings.

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