The Biggest Risk

Reported by: |Updated: April 1, 2020

While many risks stir up the market, the coronavirus has shaken it, and shaken it badly. Not just the market, but the entire world’s economy. Not just the economy, but tourism and education and conferences and parties and everything else. I would not be surprised if next we hear of elections being affected as well.

The coronavirus death toll of 4635 as of 3 March is miniscule compared to deaths from other causes such as road accidents, food poisoning, murder, etc. Yet, the panic from this virus is unprecedented. Thankfully, mankind is smart enough to control this pandemic, future pandemics, and also many other big risks.

What I worry is how mankind will handle risks for which it is not smart enough. Clearly mankind is not infinitely smart. One risk that is top of mind for everyone is war, which can escalate to nuclear war and kill millions and billions. No amount of smartness is known to be able to solve this problem. Another risk is climate catastrophe. Here too, the smartest people are unable to visualize a solution, forget about implementing it. You can imagine many more such mega-risks.

Does this mean that we are in the same situation as dinosaurs – are we doomed!

I believe that beyond smartness, we still have one more tool for risk management, and that is wisdom. Wisdom is the intangible smartness that we have accumulated over thousands of generations. One of the first principles of wisdom is that prevention is better than cure. I see mankind so obsessed with cure that hardly any attention is being paid to prevention. Why do our leaders ignore prevention? Well, it is precisely because prevention has its costs and no popular leader will get elected for this unpopular objective. Climate catastrophe is a notable example!

So, where is our wisdom lacking? I see that mankind’s progress has made us increasingly anthropocentric, meaning that we have become largely focused on and obsessed with people and have minimized our attention to other important things out there. What are most people interested in – himself, herself, relations, friends, enemies, celebrities, politicians, etc. Media and social media narrow our attention further. How many people watch Discovery Channel or read Nature magazine?

The narrow focus on people, money, technology and data has become mankind’s biggest risk, and particularly the financial sector’s. Widening our focus will be the wisest risk mitigation measure. The coronavirus was a preventable disaster that should open our eyes.