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These scientists share their top concerns

Each year, the scientific online magazine ‘Edge’ asks a question in which top scientists, researchers, professors, and journalists share their opinion.

This year, Edge asked ‘What Should We Be Worried About?” Responses were quite diverse, and ranged from worrying about the end of the world, to an increasing drop in the human attention span.

We’ve listed a few of our favorite answers below.

The Underpopulation Bomb
Kevin Kelly, the editor of Wired magazine, predicts that by the year 2050, our population will peak at approximately 9.2 billion. However, he also states that once we reach that peak, our population will then begin significantly decreasing in numbers.

Kelly states that science has worried about overpopulation for many years, but that, “curiously, the charts never show what happens on the other side of the peak.” According to him, due to lowering fertility rates across the globe, we will soon reach an unsustainable level of growth.

The Anthropocebo Effect
Jennifer Jacquet, Clinical Assistant Prof. at NYU states that humans are a “global geological force”, and that we began down this road in 1800. It is called the Anthropocene, and “is characterized by steep line graphs that look like Mount Everest sliced in half: human population, water use, biodiversity loss…”

Jacquest states that humans are the dominant driver of environmental change, and that the Anthropocebo Effect is a psychological condition that “makes us accept human destruction as inevitable.” She worries that we fail to realize the consequences of such an effect on the human psyche.

The Loss of Death
Kate Jeffery, Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience at University College in London, worries that we will reach a state of existence in which we no longer experience death. Such an event could be driven by the creation of artificial bodies in which to place our brains, or medicine that increases our lifespan to hundreds of years, if not eternity. Such an immortalization would have dire repercussions to population, natural resources, and psychology.

The Human-Nature Divide
Scott Sampson, a paleontologist, worries that humans have not successfully learned how to relate with nature. He states that, since we are not rational beings, that we have not made enough of an effort to live alongside nature, rather than simply use its resources without thinking. Sampson would like to see 2013 as the year we finally focus on changing our lifestyle to include mutual existence with nature.

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