It’s not easy being an optimist in 2012. There’s just too much to worry about: a global economic downturn, climate change, overpopulation, nuclear proliferation, failing education systems, you name it. We are bombarded with bad news all the time, and we eagerly eat it up because our brains are gluttons for fear and danger.
As Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler note in their important and captivating new book, Abundance: Why the Future Will Be Much Better Than You Think, our pessimism is generated by a set of neurons located deep in the brain called the amygdala which collectively function as “an early warning system, an organ always on high alert,” whose job is basically to prevent us from becoming some large carnivore’s lunch.
Our present-day concerns about survival are less immediate, and more probabilistic, the authors argue. As our senses today are assaulted by “a gargantuan avalanche of data,” it becomes very difficult to distinguish “the critical from the casual.” As a result, “bad news sells because the amygdala is always looking for something to fear.”
What’s the Big Idea? If our brains are programmed to make us all nervous wrecks, then life in the 21st century further exacerbates this problem…