PurposeThis paper aims to consider few cognitive and conceptual obstacles to engagement with global catastrophic risks (GCRs).Design/methodology/approachThe 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.FindingsIt 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/valueThe 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.
foresight – Emerald Publishing
Published: Mar 11, 2019
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