- That we are currently headed for another financial industry disaster even worse than 2008 (overwrought expectations often take the form of "much like the surprise we most recently experienced, only even more extreme").
- That global warming has caused or will cause disaster X (droughts, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, ...)
- A whole witch's brew of "much like what just happened" fears were the many terrorist disaster fears that sprouted like the plague in the years after 9/11: suitcase nukes, the "ticking-time bomb" excuse for legalizing torture, envelopes filled with mysterious white powders, and on and on.
- On the positive daydream side, Eric Drexler's "molecular nanotechnology" predictions of the 1980s: self-replicating robots, assemblers that could make almost anything, etc. -- a whole new industrial revolution that would make everything cheap. (Instead, it was outsourcing and a high-tech version of t-shirt printing that made many things cheap, and "nanotechnology" became just a cool buzzword to use when talking about chemistry).
- A big hope of some naive young engineers during the previous high oil price era of the late 1970s: solar power satellites made from lunar materials, with O'Neill space colonies to house the workers. Indeed, a whole slew of astronaut voyages and industries in space were supposed to follow after the spectacular (and spectacularly expensive) Apollo moon landings -- a "much like recently experienced, only more so" daydream.
- The "Internet commerce will replace bricks-and-mortar and make all the money those companies were making" ideas that drove the Internet bubble in the late 1990s. Indeed, most or all of the bubbles and depressions in financial markets may be caused by optimistic and pessimistic Pascal fads respectively.
Monday, July 23, 2012
Pascal's scams (ii)
Besides the robot apocalypse, there are many other, and often more important, examples of Pascal scams. The following may be or may have been such poorly evidenced but widely feared or hoped-for extreme consequences (these days the fears seem to predominate):