The Non-Stop Disaster Narrative (2-minute video)

November 22, 2010 at 3:29 pm

We’re always alarmed about something. Over-population. Global cooling. Acid rain. The turn-of-the-century computer bug. Global warming.

Many of us appear to have a deep psychological need to believe the end is nigh, that the sky is falling. It’s as though we require an external threat to animate us. It’s as though we can’t make it through a single day without believing that everything’s headed straight to hell in a handcart – and that someone (for instance, oil companies and coal interests) should be blamed and shamed.

250 years ago Jean-Jacques Rousseau considered it Nature’s law that half of all children would die before reaching their eighth birthday – from disease, accidents, infection, exposure, or poor nutrition. That’s how precarious life was back then. Every second child’s birth was soon followed by their death. Every parent’s experience was a sorrowful one. Yet here, in our safe, clean, healthy, affluent moment in history we endlessly whine, complain – and worry.

We really do need to lighten up.

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It was a ton of fun making the above video. You can make your own, for free, by visiting XtraNormal.com. The full script appears below:

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Female Robot: I have been studying the humans. They are always worried about potential disasters.

Male Robot: Yes. The humans need to lighten up. In the 1960s, a best selling book said their population was increasing too fast. It said it would be impossible to grow enough food. It said millions were going to starve to death.

FR: That did not happen.

MR: Their next worry was global cooling. Some humans said a new Ice Age had begun. They said it was irresponsible not to take action.

FR: But no catastrophe occurred.

MR: Then the humans were told that acid rain was decimating their forests. There would be nothing left within a few decades.

FR: But their forests survived. Many are now larger than ever.

MR: Then the humans were warned that the Y2K computer bug would disable their world when the year 2000 arrived. Businesses would be destroyed. People would lose their jobs. Banking and pension records would vanish. They were told that if they were not frightened they were not well informed.

FR: None of those things actually happened.

MR: Now the humans are worried about global warming. They are told that their children and their grandchildren will pay a terrible price.

FR: But the amount of recent recorded warming is tiny. Fractions of one degree. And it is not certain that the human measurements are even accurate.

MR: The humans enjoy drama. They like to believe in urgent problems and dire consequences. Perhaps it makes them feel alive. Perhaps it makes them feel special.

FR: It is strange. No matter how many times the disaster predictions fail, the humans still believe each new prediction that comes along.

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Entry filed under: ethical & philosophical, historical perspective, predictions that failed. Tags: , .

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