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.
“We don’t expect any of the events that we describe to happen in any 10-year period. They might—but, on balance, they probably won’t,” Sebastian Farquhar, the director of the Global Priorities Project, told me. “But there’s lots of events that we think are unlikely that we still prepare for.”
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.