3 July 2009 • 7:00 am

Evolution and Your Brain; Strategic Planning and Dental Floss

Our brains are not helping us as strategic planners. That’s my take-away from an interesting op-ed column yesterday by New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof. Kristof summarizes some academic research that tells us what may be obvious to many; that the human brain is not very good at judging risk. Evolution has made us far better at responding to immediate threats, like snakes or enemies with clubs, than to prospectively greater dangers in the future. According to Kristof, this hypothesis is worthy of note given our apparently tepid response to the risks of climate change compared with the apparently terrifying prospect of former Guantánamo Bay inmates being transferred to high-security prisons on U.S. soil.