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June 21, 2008

PHIL BOWERMASTER ON FEAR OF THE FUTURE: "The memeplexes which have grown out of our fear of the future -- pessimism, cynicism, fatalism, misanthropy -- seem to be gaining in influence. I wrote recently about longstanding debate between Paul Ehrlich, who is lauded for his consistently wrong predictions of catastrophe, and Julian Simon, who was essentially ignored in the face of his fact-based assessments of human progress and correct predictions of more of the same. Whether we're talking about Paul Ehrlich or Bill Joy or Al Gore, a doomsayer is a person with a serious point of view, someone who is to be respected. And whether we're talking about Julian Simon, Robin Hanson, or Ray Kurzweil, a doomslayer is a crackpot who needs to be taken down a peg."

Plus this: "If our fixation with disaster and intolerance of risk continue to grow at the same pace as our overall improvement of the world, the happiest era in the history of humanity might turn out to be the most miserable. (Arguably, we are experiencing something like that even today.)"

I'll just add that we're likely to be told to fear the wrong things -- those with an easy media hook or those that benefit clever interest groups -- rather than things that are in fact dangers that need to be addressed.

UPDATE: Related thoughts here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Rand Simberg: "Hey, how about if we save the earth by migrating into space?"

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