Magazine article The Futurist

Knowing What to Really Fear

Magazine article The Futurist

Knowing What to Really Fear

Article excerpt

The Real Story of Risk: Adventures in a Hazardous World by Glenn Croston. Prometheus. 2012. 294 pages. $19.

Our biology has hard-wired us to anticipate visible, immediate threats, such as a hungry saber-toothed tiger, but it has not at all prepared us for the wholly different types of hazards that we face in the twenty-first century, says biologist Glenn Croston. He examines the basic human perception of risk and explains why we can be terrified of very unlikely dangers, such as shark attacks, but be so obtuse regarding the all-too-likely menaces of heart disease, climate change, and impending worldwide financial meltdowns.

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Croston illustrates the evolutionary basis for many recognizable idiosyncrasies of human reason: He shows where superstitions and conspiracy theories come from, why we tend to polarize into ideological groups, and why sexual attraction and desire for love often sabotage our common sense. He also describes why we are ill-adapted to take actions that will not reward us until decades later and why we have difficulty with "slow-motion" threats that take a long time to materialize. …

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