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On Thinking About World Issues

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

You are one person with one mind with fixed bandwidth for thinking about things. When your mind is confronted with a big issue in the world, it's natural to see things in binary terms. Should I worry about this – yes or no? Your brain needs to do this because the world is complicated and you have a lot of things to think about. So your mind establishes a heuristic about the topic. Either, "I don't have to worry about this," or "I should worry about this". This mental shortcut is normal and natural. But there's a problem.

What if everyone agreed with you? What if everyone used the same heuristic about a world issue that you are?

Perhaps if everyone adopted the view of "I should worry about this," there would be dramatic overreaction, maybe even hysteria, as we throw unnecessary amounts of resources at the perceived issue. Other issues may become exacerbated as they get caught up in the collateral damage and starved of resources.

On the other hand, if everyone agreed "I don't have to worry about this," the problem would become increasingly severe. If we all smell a hint of smoke but agree it's not worth worrying about, it may not be long until the fire becomes an inferno. It's probably not good if everyone sees things the same way.

But what if people think differently about world issues? When people make up their minds about whether or not something is worth worrying about, they tend to vehemently disagree with people who have come to the opposite conclusion (see political parties). Throw in some ego, pseudo-science, social media, and tribalism and we have a recipe for useless bickering and time wasting that we can observe in governments and the general public.

An alternative solution may be this:

"I don't have to worry about this, but I'm glad other people do."

In other words, you may not see something as being an issue, and that's fine – but it's only fine because someone else saw it as an issue and took action to fix it before it became a problem for you.

If enough people think of an issue as something to worry about, we'll probably be fine. However, if everyone is complacent, that's when we might have a real issue. So it's probably a good thing that people tend to see things differently. Think of this next time you encounter opposing viewpoints.

How can you apply this thinking to:

  • Climate change

  • Food scarcity

  • Violence

  • Water shortages

  • Government control

  • Drug use

  • Pollution



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