Indefinite Pessimism, and the Global Risk Society

“The theory of world risk society addresses the increasing realization of the irrepressible ubiquity of radical uncertainty in the modern world.”

Since 1973 only 3,282 americans have been killed by terrorism in the United States. You are literally 6,000 times more likely to be killed by eating too much Macdonalds. Terrorism, however, dominates the media landscape and our national consciousness. This indefinite pessimism about the future is unfounded in reality, but predominates our modern condition.

Beck’s article was presented a fascinating theory, that we live in a world risk society. A society dominated by our fears of unknown risks. I believe that he is absolutely correct. It seems that now we are firmly dominated by what the venture capitalist Peter Thiel calls “indeterminate pessimism.”  I included a diagram below that presents four distinct ways of viewing the world, (as interpreted by Thiel) that can be applied to any context in viewing the future. The worldview of indeterminate pessimism is a world dominated by insurance, and risk. It states that we don’t know what’s going to happen, so we can’t really plan for it, we just have to mitigate our risk. This is perhaps the worst way to view the world. How can we create the future and build more technology (I define technology as doing more with less) and drive towards a brighter future, if we can’t even conceptualize a better one? This indeterminate pessimism (what Beck calls the risk society) is more than anything a main tenant and driver of neoconservative thinking, and contributed to the Iraq war. Something I highlight below.thiel

Neoconservatism and its drive for the Iraq war comes from a sense of despair. The sense that America had to do “something” to combat these unknown unknowns. It should be known that one can challenge this view of neoconservatism. They do have in some sense a grand plan for America, (like the PNAC article we read), so one could make an arguement that they lean more toward determinate pessimism. It is difficult to say, however, and will have to be something I think about.

Here I attached a quick TED talk by Thiel about his views of global risk. It is quick and enlightening!


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