Humans are really good at pattern recognition but really bad at figuring out which patterns actually matter. This impacts how we live as individuals and as a collective – be it a local neighbourhood or as a country. We look at patterns that threaten us and overreact to some (like removing our freedoms in the name of fighting terror) or under react to other threats like climate change.
â€œWe donâ€™t expect any of the events that we describe to happen in any 10-year period. They mightâ€”but, on balance, they probably wonâ€™t,â€ Sebastian Farquhar, the director of the Global Priorities Project, told me. â€œBut thereâ€™s lots of events that we think are unlikely that we still prepare for.â€
For instance, most people demand working airbags in their cars and they strap in their seat-belts whenever they go for a drive, he said. We may know that the risk of an accident on any individual car ride is low, but we still believe that it makes sense to reduce possible harm.