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Complexity, creeping normalcy, and conceit: sexy and unsexy catastrophic risks

Kuhlemann, K; (2019) Complexity, creeping normalcy, and conceit: sexy and unsexy catastrophic risks. Foresight , 21 (1) pp. 35-52. 10.1108/FS-05-2018-0047. Green open access

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Abstract

PURPOSE: This paper aims to consider few cognitive and conceptual obstacles to engagement with global catastrophic risks (GCRs). // DESIGN/METHODOLOGY/APPROACH: 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. // FINDINGS: 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. // ORIGINALITY/VALUE: 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.

Type: Article
Title: Complexity, creeping normalcy, and conceit: sexy and unsexy catastrophic risks
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1108/FS-05-2018-0047
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1108/FS-05-2018-0047
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Environmental politics, Risk assessment, Cognitive biases, Existential risk, Global catastrophic risks, Overpopulation
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Political Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10060670
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