A reading club with a view to the future

298 John Brockman: What Should We Be Worried About?

Leading thinkers share their concerns about the future of humanity and the potential risks posed by scientific and technological advancements.

John Brockman: What Should We Be Worried About?


"What Should We Be Worried About?" is a collection of essays edited by John Brockman, in which over 150 leading scientists, intellectuals, and thinkers share their concerns and fears about the future of humanity. From artificial intelligence to genetic engineering, and from climate change to political polarization, this book provides a thought-provoking and often unsettling glimpse into the potential risks and challenges that we may face in the years to come.


Title: What Should We Be Worried About?

Author: John Brockman

Publishing year: 2014

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Length in hours: 13 hours and 52 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. Many of the scientific and technological advancements that are transforming our world also pose significant risks and challenges that we need to be aware of and prepared for.
  2. Our ability to address these risks and challenges is limited by our political and economic systems, which often prioritize short-term interests over long-term sustainability and resilience.
  3. We need to cultivate a culture of critical thinking and skepticism, in order to navigate the complex and uncertain landscape of the future.
  4. Our social and psychological biases and blind spots can also impede our ability to anticipate and address potential risks and challenges.
  5. Ultimately, the future of humanity is in our hands, and we have the power to shape it for the better or for the worse, depending on the choices we make and the actions we take.
John Brockman: What Should We Be Worried About?

5 funny quotes

  1. "I'm worried that we'll run out of things to worry about."
  2. "I'm worried that we're not worried enough about the things we should be worried about."
  3. "I'm worried that I'll never get the hang of this newfangled technology."
  4. "I'm worried that my cat is plotting to take over the world."
  5. "I'm worried that we'll never find out what happens at the end of 'Game of Thrones'."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "There are many potential catastrophes that could befall us, from asteroid impacts to supervolcano eruptions to pandemics to nuclear war to runaway global warming. Yet despite this danger, we are not doing enough to prepare for them."
  2. "The rise of artificial intelligence is perhaps the greatest challenge we face as a species. We need to ensure that AI is aligned with our values and goals, and that it does not pose an existential risk to humanity."
  3. "The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few is a major threat to democracy and social stability, and could lead to a dystopian future of widespread inequality and oppression."
  4. "The consequences of climate change are already being felt around the world, and if we don't take decisive action now, the future looks bleak for both humanity and the planet."
  5. "The rise of misinformation and fake news is eroding our trust in institutions and undermining our ability to make informed decisions about our future."

5 dilemmas

  1. Balancing the benefits and risks of advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence and genetic engineering.
  2. Addressing the growing threat of climate change while also maintaining economic growth and development.
  3. Ensuring the safety and security of nuclear weapons and materials, while also preventing their proliferation.
  4. Balancing individual freedoms and privacy with the need for security and surveillance in the face of terrorism and other threats.
  5. Addressing the political and economic inequalities that are driving social unrest and political polarization around the world.

5 examples

  1. Elon Musk and his warnings about the potential dangers of artificial intelligence.
  2. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and their reports on the impacts of global warming.
  3. Google's DeepMind and their development of advanced AI systems.
  4. Ray Kurzweil and his predictions about the future of technology.
  5. Bill Gates and his efforts to combat global health issues.

Referenced books

  1. "The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  2. "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman
  3. "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined" by Steven Pinker
  4. "The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains" by Nicholas Carr
  5. "The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology" by Ray Kurzweil

Share a quote

"The biggest threat to humanity is not external, but internal - our own shortsightedness and greed."

John Brockman: Know This
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