Complexity, creeping normalcy and conceit: sexy and unsexy catastrophic risks
Article publication date: 29 November 2018
Issue publication date: 11 March 2019
This paper aims to consider few cognitive and conceptual obstacles to engagement with global catastrophic risks (GCRs).
The paper starts by considering cognitive biases that affect general thinking about GCRs, before questioning whether existential risks really are dramatically more pressing than other GCRs. It then sets out a novel typology of GCRs – sexy vs unsexy risks – before considering a particularly unsexy risk, overpopulation.
It is proposed that many risks commonly regarded as existential are “sexy” risks, while certain other GCRs are comparatively “unsexy.” In addition, it is suggested that a combination of complexity, cognitive biases and a hubris-laden failure of imagination leads us to neglect the most unsexy and pervasive of all GCRs: human overpopulation. The paper concludes with a tentative conceptualisation of overpopulation as a pattern of risking.
The paper proposes and conceptualises two new concepts, sexy and unsexy catastrophic risks, as well as a new conceptualisation of overpopulation as a pattern of risking.
Kuhlemann, K. (2019), "Complexity, creeping normalcy and conceit: sexy and unsexy catastrophic risks", Foresight, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 35-52. https://doi.org/10.1108/FS-05-2018-0047
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