Edge: What Should We Be Worried About?

The Edge Foundation is an organization of science and technology intellectuals.  Its main activity is a website, edited John Brockman. The site is an online magazine of sorts exploring scientific and intellectual ideas.  The Edge motto is “to arrive at the edge of the world’s knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.”

In recent years, Edge has posed an annual question to its members.  The question and member answers are provided on-line and ultimately collated into a book.  As you may have seen, this year’s Edge question is “What *should* we be worried about?”  Since most Edge members are scientists, it shouldn’t be surprising that the answers generally focus on science and scientific issues.  However, several answers have particular relevance to finance, the markets an investing. 

These include Nassim Taleb, Martin Rees (as Tadas Viskanta notes in his answer, he fears or state of denial re catastrophic risks), Seth Lloyd (“Don’t worry about the end of the universe or our sun collapsing into a black hole. But if banks leverage to the hilt again, then you should worry about hearing another big sucking sound.”), David Rowan (who worries about “Big Data” and its impact on markets), Randolph Ness (who fears economic chaos due to “catastrophes caused by our dependency on fragile complex systems”),  Victoria Stodden (who worries about data verification),  Peter Schwartz (who, like Ness, worries about cascading crises), Satyajit Das, who worries about a world without economic growth), Gary Marcus (who is afraid of unknown unknowns), Daniel Goleman (who worries about our blind spots), Charles Seife (who fears regulatory capture and its consequences) and Aubrey De Grey (who fears society’s parlous inability to reason about uncertainty).

I encourage you to read them all.  They are fascinating, engaging and more than a bit troubling. 

In a related story, various Wall Street types proffer the charts that most worry them here.  However, since I didn’t think that market and finance subjects received sufficient attention in the Edge responses and since I was curious as to what they would say, I asked a number of my friends how they would answer this year’s Edge Question.  Their answers appear in the posts that follow.  A few required stand-alone posts while others are aggregated. 

I hope that additional readers will share their thoughts, fears and worries in the Comments.

The Edge Question series:


8 thoughts on “Edge: What Should We Be Worried About?

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