Dan Gardner’s Risk—The Science and Politics of Fear

Fear has grown a lot in our society. There are no snakes around us and no giant dinosaurs that would eat us for supper yet the bombarding and ear-piercing news of climate change, terrorism, crime news, nuclear apocalypse constantly make us bite our nails.

Very handful of books actually look at this problem and the growing fear society we are collectively creating today. This is one of them. We need to read this book because we are in the 21st century and fear shouldn’t be an emotion that chases us in reality and dreams. Instead, we should feel more grateful, thankful and positive. So, let’s dive in ASAP

  • Risk Society. Ulrich beck talks about this risk society with cancers, nuclear disasters, famines, and all horrors we could imagine. Sure, risks are there and have been throughout history. Beck opines that as technology advances we spread more risk and cause eventually a steep fall of civilization. But do we?

    Modern society cures cancer and many nations already abandoned nuclear power programs. In other words, technology is making our lives better and safer. All these stupid fears media pump into our brains rarely happen and even if they happen we know how to tackle them.

    “Put all these numbers together and what do they add up to? In a sentence: We are the healthiest, wealthiest, and longest-lived people in history. And we are increasingly afraid. This is one of the great paradoxes of our time.” —Gardner.
  • Ignore the old software. Dan says that brains haven’t changed a lot. Hence we fear more of lizards than car accidents. We entered the modern age and the brave new worlds, but brain primal fears still are hanging out in neurons. Since Stone Age, our brain has just increased by 200 cubic centimetres. Old fears had a purpose and were useful but now discard them. They are built into our software even though we don’t need them. For instance, monkeys raised in laboratories which never saw a snake backs away.
  • Use system 1 less. Daniel Kahneman in his Thinking fast and slow describes two brain systems. System 1 is largely driven by gut and intuition which passes out judgement without thinking much. System 2 uses the conscious part and is slow and deliberate which makes it less prone to miscalculation. So the logic is to use more of System 2. As Pascal says—“The heart has its reasons for which reason knows nothing of.”
  • Availability heuristic. When you are exposed a lot of times to a particular piece of information then you are influenced by it easily without thinking. More bad weather news makes you consider the possibility of dying in the next hurricane or being killed by an earthquake. But less available news like flu, sugars though very dangerous are less frightening for you.
  • Prefer data over stories. People want stories and anecdotes than hard data. Hence people still believe that mobile phones cause cancer, we have flat earth, angels exist. The author gives an example. In the 1990s rumours without scientific evidence and temper began to spread that breast implants cause cancer and were termed as toxic breasts and ticking bombs. The result was—the company was wiped out in lawsuits and no evidence ever came to light proving its correctness.

    Next time, a panic strikes, you better get your numbers right.
  • Politicians and Pharmaceutical companies have something in common. Yes, both breed fear in their farms. Former to get power and latter to get money. Politicians fake a danger and go to war. Pharmaceutical companies use fear and convince that you need nasty pills and manipulate data about the efficacy of a drug. And politicians are ready to target minorities.

    And now they have a powerful friend—The fourth estate in the name of media.

So always remember this quote that the author puts in the very beginning which I leave at the very end—

“Fear is implanted in us as a preservative from evil; but its duty, like that of the other passions, is not to overbear reason, but to assist it.”

3 Ideas from Brendon Burchard To consider Now

Brendon Burchard is regarded as the world’s leading high-performance coach and an excellent writer who topped the New York Times list of best-selling books 3 times. He is often quoted, googled, watched, and googled on the internet by productive bees who want the best in their life.

His online courses, videos crossed millions and Oprah Winfrey considers him as one of the most influential personal growth gurus of all time. Most people know him through the Brendon show, a wonderful podcast if you want to listen.

There’s a ton to learn from him and here are a few of my favorites—

  • 1)Owning Ambitions 100%

Brendon says that most people never own their ambitions 100%. This is a powerful idea and a truth. We usually own it a 50-60-70%. For instance, you want to write a book, run a blog, make YouTube videos and inspire millions of people online and you invest your resources and time on it but we do it half-heartedly. We don’t accept it but deep down you know it in your bones. I failed many times to do hard things like building a rock-solid body, write a novel. Sure, there are many reasons why I failed but after a lot of reflection, I think Brendon is right.

With just 60% ownership and liking, dreams are hard to come by. So never do this mistake. Chase your dreams only if can own them 100%. Here’s a nugget for you—
“personal power is directly tied to personal responsibility, which most people avoid.”(Brendon Burchard)

  • 2)Guilt is good

Brendon comments that guilt is a sign of learning and the first indication that you have a growth mindset. Trust me if you don’t feel guilty after binge-watching that Tv series all night, there’s something seriously wrong with you. Or you failed to make that blog post deadline possible, you should think and feel about it. That’s how you realize what your next baby steps are.

I always feel bad when I procrastinate on my Wednesday essay day. But guilt makes sure that I write the next day itself. Own guilt and achieve your dreams by course correction.

  • 3)Teach to generate positivity

“You have a clean slate every day you wake up. You have a chance every single morning to make that change and be the person you want to be. You just have to decide to do it. Decide today’s the day. Say it: this is going to be my day.”—Brendon Burchard.

Every morning is a choice to bring positivity to your life. No one can come inside your head and clean it. And positive thoughts won’t come unintentionally. You have to do it deliberately. That’s because the human brain is hardwired to create fear and anxiety. So the machine’s job is to constantly chase you down with 0% probability issues.

This man is worthy to be followed and take note of him. Go ahead. Great ideas can move you, only if you let them.


My Brother’s Gift changed My Life—It’s a book.

My brother gave me “On the shortness of life” book to read a while ago. This book though a short one changed the course of my river. Seneca’s brilliant words pierced like a thunderbolt though I’m not a stoic as such.

I never knew that there’s such thing called as the “Art of living” until I met this great thinker. It inspired me, it brought an existential crisis to me, and in a way crucified and resurrected me.

And it also brought a sense of urgency to my hibernated-slumber life. And every page of the book washed my soul and put me in deep meditation and contemplation. Here are a few of them for you to burn the flame—

  • 1)Life is not short.

This sounds contradictory to the title of the book but this is the first truth that Seneca hammers on your head. He says—

“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.”

We waste so much time on things that don’t matter or on things that don’t matter now. We feed on Insta posts, drink YouTube scrolls, and sleep on Netflix-ing. If that’s not enough, we binge-envy on others and reflect for far too long on why life sucks though we exactly know why it does.

In fact, we tik tok our lives and finally think on the death bed—How has life gone by?

That’s why Lucius Annaeus Seneca pushes you to grab hold of your time and act like a mortal who is a simple slave to the silly fates.

  • 2)What is the proof for a long life?

“Often a very old man has no other proof of his long life than his age.”—Seneca.

This is a saintly saying if you think about it. Long-life doesn’t mean we add more numbers to our life but add more meaning to them. Consider Indian freedom fighter Bhagat Singh who was hanged at 23 or Bruce Lee who died due to Cerebral edema(That’s what Wikipedia says) at 32, they didn’t become oxygenarians or nonagenarians but their life was well spent.

Both changed the world in ways we cannot. And that matters a lot. Mere existence and sleepwalking to our tombs won’t do any good either to us or anybody.

Every living minute of our life should have some wonder and awe like a shining star.

  • 3)Choose your parents

I’m talking about intellectual parents, not birth-parents. Seneca says that we can choose to be educated by brilliant minds and great thinkers of history.

History is full of philosopher kings and queens, realists and stellar rebels who can teach us a lot. In other words, you can choose your mentor and be a mentee by sitting in libraries or swimming in the pools of wisdom.

Pick the classics and have talks with Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir and forge yourself under their guidance and light.

“You should rather suppose that those are involved in worthwhile duties who wish to have daily as their closest friends Zeno, Pythagoras, Democritus and all the other high priests of liberal studies, and Aristotle and Theophrastus. None of these will be too busy to see you, none of these will not send his visitor away happier and more devoted to himself, none of these will allow anyone to depart empty-handed. They are at home to all mortals by night and by day.”—Seneca.

This is the true “Walking with the dead,” we all should do.


Ban all great books and ideas

Having read all these books, it seems we are more likely to become parrots and mouthpieces.

By standing on the shoulders of giants since childhood, we pretty much forgot we too have legs to stand.

Now, creativity has become good editing with new ideas rarely born.

We take pride in paraphrases, quotes and the dead wisdom of greats or even rent out thinking for cheap.

It’s high time we stop living on great ideas or books and live on our neurons, no matter how mundane they are.

Reclaim your cognitive rights.